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Chapter Text

Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here
-Hurt, Nine Inch Nails


         Ethan knew Rupert was in town, somewhere, but that’s all he’d been able to dig up.

         He’d found himself in California on a freelance job, and simply couldn’t resist the draw of a rumoured supernatural hotspot. The air was full of otherworldly energy, presumably helped along by the high concentration of demons, even above-ground. He’d been approached by what he assumed was a vampire on his first night in town, quickly dispatching it by hurling a ball of flames into its chest. As he began to set up shop the next day, Ethan could taste the potential here. Even if he didn’t find Rupert, there was fun to be had in Sunnydale.

        He finished setting up the altar in his back room, kissing both of Janus’ faces before wheeling out a newly-enchanted rack of costumes to a collection of young people. God bless the procrastinators. A blonde teenager caught his eye as he emerged; she was gazing longingly at a red and pink period-style gown, a particular beauty amongst the mostly mediocre off-brand costumes he’d amassed. She reached to touch it.

        “Please, let me,” he suggested, affecting a warm smile after his sudden appearance seemed to have spooked the girl. Two others looked on, clearly waiting for the blonde to lead.

        Her eyes were wide. “It’s--”

        “Magnificent, I know.” He lifted the dress off of the display and held it to the girl’s shoulders. Ethan was directly behind her, but from the way she looked at herself in the mirror he could tell it was if he didn’t exist. Excellent.

        “My, meet the hidden princess,” he said softly in her ear. “I think we’ve made a match, don’t you?”

        The girl’s eyebrows knitted together as she turned around and tried to hand him the dress. “I’m sorry,” she sighed, “there’s no way I can afford this.”

        Of course, his goal here wasn’t to make money, and even if it was, the dress wasn’t that expensive. It would even be worth taking a loss for the delight that was to come.

        “Nonsense,” he insisted. “I feel quite moved to make you a deal you can’t refuse.”