First, huuuuuge smoochies to ponders_life for hosting a nice party last night and letting me borrow her Buffy S6. Since I'm an anal retentive nutjob, I sort of need to re-watch it so I can get characterizations right and I can't necessarily get it from the Buffy Dialogue Database. So there I was contemplating my Netflix cue and ponders_life saved my bacon.
Anyway, this part is shortish, but I was looking at the story strategically (Did I just use "strategically" for this story? Yikes.) and I really need to post it this way due to the next two parts.
And have I mentioned..."Animal Farm?" Heh. You guys totally crack me up. What a perfect name the kidnappers. Special thanks to damocleaze for starting that one. Also, welcome all the new people for friending. ^_^
Plus...South Park today. What's not to love?
Continued from Part 8
Xander was out of sorts.
He didn’t sleep all that much the night before and what sleep he did have was disturbed at best.
Plus, he was up before noon for the second day in a row, so sitting with a bag of half-eaten McDonald’s breakfast on his lap at 10 a.m. was not a happy-making situation. What was even worse was that his unwilling hosts tried to wake him at the godforsaken hour of 8 a.m. and were rewarded with the threat that he’d slowly gut them alive if they tried that again. He didn’t remember either wake-up attempt or threat, so he must’ve been half asleep when he snarled at them.
Then there was fact he didn’t get his training regimen in, something he usually did right after breakfast if only so he could get it out of the way. While he normally grumbled and growled about training, not being able to do it threw him off in a bad way.
The less said about the crash of disappointment he felt when he realized that he didn’t wake up in Cleveland, the better.
Instead he was in the shotgun seat of a new-ish minivan with the legend “Harris Custom Furniture and Installation” emblazoned on the side and being driven through the town’s surprisingly busy streets. After dropping Anya off at a storefront with the same words painted on the windows, other Xander volunteered to take him to the local library in the vain hope he’d find something that might set him in the right direction.
“Probably not anything there,” other Xander’s voice floated from his blindside, “but it’s a start, right?”
Xander fought the urge to turn around so he could see other him by constantly reminding himself that other Xander didn’t know he was blind to his left and that it was best if it stayed that way.
There was a sigh from other Xander. “We’re going to have to figure out what to do with you tonight.”
“Hope it’s better than your plan last night,” Xander said as watched the scenery outside the passenger window stop-n-go. “Leaving me unguarded? Hella stupid.”
“Oh?” came the taut reply.
“What if I was a big bad, hunh? You left me alone in an unlocked room. What were you thinking?”
There was a pause. “I guess I wasn’t after what happened with the…I mean…you know what I mean.”
“No. I don’t know what you mean. Anyone who knows anything about your family would’ve known how to react to a bottle of Wild Turkey. So your cute little test doesn’t prove a damn thing.”
“What exactly is your problem here? That we don’t treat you like monster?”
“You should be more careful is all,” Xander grumbled. He felt petty bitching about it, especially since he knew that he was putting other Xander in a no-win situation. He added, mostly because he really didn’t know when to shut up and couldn’t resist pointing out how stupid other Xander was being, “You left Haley vulnerable while you and Anya were downstairs. I could’ve taken her out long before you two went to bed and you would’ve never known until it was too late.”
There was a sharp intake of breath to his left followed by a flat statement. “I’d kill you.”
“Even if you managed to catch me, Haley would still be just as dead.”
An exhalation of frustrated breath. “What is it with you and the violence? And what the hell do you want from me?”
Xander stared out the windshield. “Sorry, it’s just…sorry. I’m weirded out and weirdness just goes hand-in-hand with better-safe-than-sorry and more than a little macho stupidity. You’re right. I don’t mean to make everything sound like life and death. And you’re right, I would’ve been just as furious if you locked me in the basement on the off-chance I was evil.”
“All right. What do you think we should do with you, since you’re all expert guy.”
“You’re not locking me in the basement,” Xander said quickly.
That got him a nervous laugh that grated right across his nerves. “With you on that, even if our basement actually is more finished than the old homestead.”
“There are homeless shelters that are more finished than the old homestead,” Xander agreed. “And I should know.”
Xander silently cursed. Other Xander never had to make the cross-country flight from California to Ohio. During that trip, whenever they landed in a city that was big enough, he, Giles, Robin, and Andrew would crash at a local homeless shelter to help save money while the girls stayed at a cheap motel. Faith even led a few raids on soup kitchens and food pantries when the money started getting really tight just to save on food bills while he hauled everyone to various Salvation Army and Goodwill stores for clothes. Even after they landed in Cleveland, but before Giles managed to shake some funds loose and they found the brownstone, the four of them along with Faith made occasional use of some dicey SROs while the girls camped out in a dive. Considering that every single one of the girls by themselves could kick the collective ass of the male wing of the Slayer Party without breaking a nail, it was a pretty useless show of chivalry on the guys’ part.
“I travel a lot and sometimes the wallet gets lost in a scuffle,” Xander lied. “Until I get money wired to me, I sometimes have to make do.”
“Jesus,” other him quietly breathed, although Xander wasn’t sure if it was out of pity or horror. Probably a mixture of both.
“It sounds worse than it is. Usually I’m snug in my own bed,” Xander backpedaled. “Really, it was only a couple of times, tops.”
“Right, ’cause that sounds soooo much better.”
He supposed if he owned his own big home in a nice little town that looked like it had its share of money floating around it probably would sound pretty sad to him, too. Before he dug himself any deeper, he switched gears. “So. Party tonight, right?”
“I’d invite you since it’s your birthday too, but…”
“It’s a little too hard to explain about your twin cousin who looks almost like you except ten years or so younger. Gotchya,” Xander nodded. “A little too Patty Duke with a one degree of separation from…”
“The Adams Family,” other him finished with a chuckle.
“Right on,” Xander grinned as he turned to look at other Xander. “Look, I’ll think of something to make myself scarce. Just give me a watch and tell me when I can sneak back in and it’ll be good.”
“We’ll do our best to make sure no one has to stay overnight, otherwise you will have to sleep in the basement and I don’t think anyone wants that,” other Xander promised.
“Well, don’t let anyone get behind the wheel who shouldn’t on my account.”
“Now that I can guarantee.”
Xander turned back to the windshield, still smiling. This felt good. Something on which him and other Xander—dream guy, nightmare guy, or hallucinated guy—could agree. Pity it was rooted right in their similar experiences with Tony and Jessica.
The minivan pulled up to a curb and slowed to a stop. “Town library,” other him said with forced cheer.
Xander’s heart sank as he looked at the charming, but small municipal building. There was about as much chance of finding anything helpful in there as there was of him finding an evil, giant, talking rabbit hiding in the stacks.
“I know what you’re thinking,” other Xander sounded sympathetic. “If you don’t find anything, we could always haul you out to the university tomorrow. Anya and I just thought you might want to start here.”
“I don’t suppose you’d have Giles’s number?”
He could hear other Xander nervously drumming something—probably the dashboard or steering wheel—with his fingertips. “No. I’m sorry. I can’t help with that. I don’t know where he is. We’ve…we’ve been out of touch for years. I don’t even know how to begin finding him.”
“How about the Watcher’s Council? Or a Watcher? Singular?” Xander pressed as his heart sank even more at the news.
“Sorry, no. And you really might want to save that as a last resort even if you do find a lead to the Council.”
Xander turned around and saw that other Xander was staring at his fingers as they beat a tattoo on the dashboard.
“Why?” Xander finally asked.
Other Xander turned and gave him a tight smile. “Not sure how Giles would react if he found out you, I mean sort-of me, was looking for him. Like I said, I haven’t spoken to Giles in years.”
Xander was willing to lay down good money that other Xander hadn’t spoken to Giles since Buffy and Dawn died and Willow got locked up. Regardless, if other Xander didn’t know how to reach Giles, going that route for help was blocked. Since he really doubted that the Watcher’s Council had a listed phone number, he had no way to track down the Council on his own. And that’s assuming it even existed in dreamland.
Which left him, his crappy research skills, and a town library. Great. He might as well plan on staying awhile and start paying other him and Anya rent.
Other Xander reached over and opened the glove compartment. “Here’s my business card. Once you’re done, just call the number. I have to do an installation this afternoon, so if I’m not there Anya will pick you up.”
“It’s no big. I can walk.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake. It’s, what, a little over a mile? Not like I’m walking across the state.”
“I really don’t think…”
“Please. I know. California. Car culture. I get it. I got it. I grew up here. It’s not like anyone’s going to think I’m an easy pick-up because I’m walking a little over a mile. I’m not wearing my party dress and kinky black pumps for a start.”
Other Xander’s mouth dropped open and a squeak came out of it.
“Kidding, kidding,” Xander held up a hand. “Sheesh. I never walk around in kinky black pumps. They make my calves look fat.”
Other Xander blinked multiple times at that as he began nervously looking around.
“You know, for someone who looks like me? You’re really easy. Besides, don’t get all judgmental until you see the dress.”
Other Xander’s expression switched to irritated. “If you’re finished yanking my chain fashion-boy, I was going to say that it’s not a great idea if you’re walking around less than a mile from where my business if located. What if someone who knows me drives by you, pulls over, and starts asking about tonight’s party, hmmmm?”
“Ah.” He saluted other him with the business card. “I’ll call.”
“Oh, before you go in, I should warn you. Jules the reference librarian knows me.”
“You hang out in the library,” Xander said with disbelief.
Other Xander rolled his eyes. “Sometimes I have to research some designs for my clients and this is a good place to start. I buy enough trade books and magazines, the last thing my bottom line needs is for me to buy books that are useless.”
“So, how well are we talking? Attending your birthday party well? Or regular customer well?”
“Regular customer. Don’t sweat it. Just tell her you have a client that’s into the wacky supernatural and you’ll at least get in the right area.”
“The Bavarian Illuminati, Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Temple of Set, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, that sort of thing, right?” Xander asked.
Other Xander was doing that blink-y thing again. “Should I be worried that all those just rolled off your tongue?”
He stopped himself from saying, I totally blame Giles because he’s making me learn this stuff since he figured that wouldn’t go over well. “I’ll try not to freak your librarian out. No order of anything or temple of something or other will cross my lips.”
Other Xander relaxed. “Thank you.”
Xander got out of the minivan, hoping he didn’t look awkward or clumsy enough to prompt a question from other him. Once he was on firm footing on the sidewalk, he thumped the side of the minivan and it pulled away.
He quickly walked up to the library, hoping that no one would recognize him. His luck held and he got inside without so much as a hello from a complete stranger. Once he saw the library interior he was half tempted to call his other self and say that he should just turn right around and pick him up because this was going to be a spectacular waste of his time. The library was simply too small to house the kind of books he probably needed to find.
Although if he did that he’d have nothing to do all day, so the choice was clear: spin his wheels doing god knows what or spin his wheels under the guise of doing something to better his situation. I’ll take door number two, Monty! he grimly thought as he approached the reference desk.
A 40-ish woman looked up from her keyboard and squeaked, “Xander! Don’t tell me you’re researching a new design already.”
Geez, would’ve been nice if other me mentioned what this Jules looked like because this could be her or it could be a co-worker. “Unh, yeah. A client is looking for something occult-y for a…um…dining room table.”
The woman frowned with distaste. “Honestly, some people.”
“Yeah, but the customer’s always right and he’s willing to pay, so what can you do, right?” Xander nervously replied.
“Such foolishness. The things some people believe,” she commented as she got to her feet. “Well, we don’t have much of that sort of thing here. We don’t have a call for it and it isn’t worth the aggravation from people who take offense to Huckleberry Finn.”
“Fabulous,” he remarked. Just what he needed, confirmation that he was wasting his time.
“Don’t worry. If you don’t find what you need in the e-catalog, I’m certain we can get it on interlibrary loan,” she patted his arm. She suddenly froze and her hand rested on his bicep.
Oh-oh. This is a bad sign. “Something wrong?” he asked lightly.
A surprised look crossed her face. “You’ve been working out?”
“Unh, heh. Yeah. A little. Getting up there in age. Thrity-five today, right? Anya wants me fit-ish before I hit 40. Been eating a lot of vegetarian, let me tell you. Not fun when the wife goes on a health kick. And you know Anya. She gets something in her head…”
The librarian laughed like she did know what Anya could be like. “Well, she’s a wise woman. Whatever she’s doing it’s working. You look at least 10 years younger.”
“Oh, you know. Eat right. Exercise. Fresh air. Lots of water. No coffee.”
The librarian leaned forward conspiratorially and added, “Hair dye, plastic surgery.”
“Unh, wha? Excuse me?”
“Hello? Twenty-first century? California?” the librarian said cheerfully. “Everyone does it. I had dermal regeneration last year. You remember.”
“Oh, right.” Xander felt foolishly in over his head since it had never occurred to him to be even thinking about this kind of thing. “Hair dye. Anya’s idea. I think she owns stock in Revlon, I swear. And um, okay, I’ll cop to maybe consulting with a plastic surgeon, but I’m not admitting to going through with it.”
“Men are so vain,” the librarian chuckled. “C’mon. I’ll take you to the religion section, maybe you’ll find some pointers there.”
Download (good for seven days): Quiet Mountain Town from South Park