I haven't had much of a chance to even look at comments for the last part (I apologize), let alone answer. It's been a busy couple of days.
hjcallipygian is in town, so I've been hanging with him and annakovsky and her friend (whose LJ name I don't know and I dislike giving people's real names in a public forum without their permission). Thursday night it was hanging in Harvard Square for dinner and then a trip to see Batman Begins. I feel left out of the squee-age among people on my FList, mostly because I wasn't terribly impressed. The CGI bats made me giggle like a loon and I kept worrying about Bruce Wayne needing a rabies shot. Then at the height of the movie when Bats calls on his batty friends to help him with the crisis, I kept thinking, I hope he brought enough rabies shots for the entire city. Yeah. Can't take medical writer out of the girl, I guess.
But, any movie that has Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman usually ends up having a soul despite its best efforts. I totally dig those two. Plus, Gary Oldman as Gordon. Wooo-hooooo! Surprising casting, yet so perfect at the same time. He unexpectedly added soul to what I thought was a pretty odd movie. As for Liam Neeson...unh, yeah. Wasn't horrendously impressed. But then again, Caine and Freeman and Oldman pretty much had me loving them.
The artistic direction was great, the fight scenes were horribly shot (I couldn't even figure out who was hittng who and who was doing what...ARRGHHH!). I liked that fact that the Bruce Wayne personna got a little love. Have a hate on for Katie Holmes' character for getting shoe-horned into the Bat-verse. Plus, she lacked, ummm, something. Her character didn't grab me at all, and considering the other secondary characters grabbed me just fine, I blame the actress.
Bale was great as Bruce Wayne, but when he put on the Batman suit, he just...I don't know. He lacked presence. Although, props to the script writers for bringing out Batman's geek side with his interest in and love of technology to give him the edge. And at long last, someone remembers why Bruce Wayne has a death-grip on Wayne Enterprises...it's all about Batman.
Yeah. The movie was good brain candy and I'm probably over-analyzing it. But nothing beats a good post-movie rant from Bat-fan hjcallipygian. Made the price of admission sooooo worth it.
So, yesterday me and hjcallipygian were on our own, so we headed to the New England Aquarium (PENGUINS! I GOT TO WATCH THEM FEED THE PENGUINS! WHEEEEE!) with a side-trip to Salem and a visit to Borders because, hey, bookstore! Never say no to a bookstore.
By the time we got to Salem, most of the town had shut down. Oh, pooh. Half the fun of Salem is seeing the Blessed-Be Wannabes, the Goth Kids, and the Emo People wandering around and oooing about the aura of the place. I say this with exasperated love, as someone who lived in the area for five years and actually worked a year in a New Age Book Store there.
But, we got to hang out in the old cemetary with all those Old New England grave inscriptions. Heh. Sadly, two of my favorite graves—one in which a father apologizes for accidentally killing his son and another where the family accuses a doctor of mudering their loved one—aren't in that cemetery. But some of my favorite hits are there: the guilt-ridden sea captain who has a poem for his dead wife on her grave and the "Monument to the Liberal Arts Student Who Can't Wait to Tell You That He Is Just Awesome."
Heeee! I love those graveyards from the 1600s.
At any rate, we stumbled across the statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as "Samantha" on Bewitched that was put up just this week and caused all sort of pissed-off reactions among the locals. Although Bewitched did film a couple of episodes in Salem and at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, the television show really doesn't have anything to do with the town. The fact is, some people really take the witch-hunts of 1692 very seriously (and by the way, it happened in neighboring Danvers, not Salem...I'll forestall my very long rant on that for another day), and the feeling among some is that cute Elizabeth on her broom kinda undercuts the seriousness of what happened.
I will not rant about the use of spectral evidence then to convict the innocent to the gallows, nor will I rant how spectral evidence has been used through out history to persecute "Communists" during the McCarthy era or "Terrorists" in the Age of Bush. How ironic that in all three instances people were locked up for very long periods of time without knowing what they were accused of, being unable to answer their accusers directly, and having limited access to legal help.
Okay, maybe a little rant.
At any rate, having seen the statue in all its awful, cheese-tastic glory in a prominent spot on one of the main roads into town, I can definitely sympathize with people who'd like nothing more than for the statue to come to an untimely fate. Not only is it ugly, it strikes me as pretty insulting, especially if you're a descendant of one of the accused or the accusers. No wonder why people in Salem fought the damn thing tooth-and-nail and no wonder why they'd like to tear the statue down with their bare hands.
Remember, history is important. And people react badly when you minimize a traumatic event in the local history, even if it happened more than 300 years ago. They don't appreciate being patted on the head and told they're overreacting. It just gets them even more angry.
I suspect that that the statue is going to be targeted for some "redecoration" by the locals when Salem officials start getting lazy about keeping an eye on it. I won't be shedding any tears when it happens, that's for sure.
At any rate, I'm going to be out of touch again for a few days, in deference to Father's Day and visiting the 'rents.
Now for more Water
I'm posting the next part. It's short (for me). Just a little fall-out for your voyeristic pleasure.
For all previous story parts, go here.
“She really is alive on the other side,” Buffy numbly said from her chair.
“B…” Faith began.
“They had a kid?” Buffy asked.
“Kid called Anya mom,” Faith said.
“This is quite the turn up,” Giles agreed.
Willow remained miserably pale and silent. Faith could see the witch was doing everything she could not to cry. She may have known the details of that other reality, but actually seeing it in living color probably drove home just how much she gave away in her deal to get Cyclops back in one piece. A deal, as it turned out, that didn’t have to be made if the kidnappers had only told the truth from the beginning.
“God, this is beyond awful,” Buffy said.
You have no fucking clue how bad, Faith thought. She tried focusing B on the upside. “Stop worrying. He wants to get his ass out of there.”
“I don’t see why,” Buffy said. “I mean, if I saw Spike…” her voice trailed off. “Okay, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“This ain’t about you, B.”
“I didn’t say it was,” Buffy protested. “I’m just saying I can only imagine how much this must be killing him. On second thought, maybe he really does want to get out of there.”
“Well, we’re making good progress,” Willow finally said. “We’re on the right track, since we can actually find him now and communicate.”
“Yeah, but G looks even more wiped than he was before we did that spell and you look like someone just died,” Faith said. “How much damage is the retrieval going to do to you two?”
“We’re not leaving him,” Willow hotly retorted.
Faith held up her hands in surrender. “Not saying you should. But maybe you should resist the temptation to check in on him.”
“We weren’t—” Willow began.
“Faith’s right,” Buffy sighed. “I know you, Will. You’ll be sneaking in here at night to cast spells so the two of you can talk. We can’t afford to have you do that.”
“Willow is well aware that she needs to be in top form for the spell to get Xander back,” Giles said.
The quartet fell into silence, which Faith broke with a dour, “Happy birthday, Cyclops. Hope you like your present, because you can’t return it.”
“We’ll get him back,” Willow said. “Our jobs just got that much easier because we know we can find him, even though we really don’t know what makes that other reality different.”
“We know that one of the differences is that Xander married Anya,” Buffy said quietly.
Giles pinched his nose with a sigh. “And that may be the only reason why she’s alive.”
“Poor Xander,” Buffy said softly.
The trip to the motel was made in silence. Xander could sense Rupert and Faith wanted to ask questions and why not? As far as they were concerned he’d just passed the sniff test. He wondered what finally put him over the top. The fact that Buffy and Dawn were alive and Willow was sane? Or was it Faith vouching that yes, he was the real deal?
It was enough to kill whatever sentimental feelings he had for the good old days in Sunnydale. He was too used to Giles treating him like a competent adult and his friends accepting the fact that he could not only take care of himself, but also help take care of a houseful of newbie Slayers.
Funny how much his life had changed in less than a year. The fact he’d so quickly gotten used to it was nothing short of amazing.
While such a realization might be liberating for some people, Xander just hurt like hell.
Not hell. Not a hallucination. Not a nightmare. Not a dream.
That left him only with real. Everything he said, everything he did hurt real people and shattered their lives. Whatever kind of relationship other him and Anya had, he’d managed to destroy because he dug up the nasty secrets and tossed it in their faces without a thought to the consequences. He didn’t even want to think about what would happen if other him found out what he did with Anya. If he was lucky other him would whistle up D’Hoffryn.
And if Rupert was to be believed, his very presence may have screwed over an entire reality. He slunk lower into his seat. He’d pulled up some pretty impressive fuck-ups in his time; fuck-ups that cost innocent lives. As fuck-ups went, he’d never reached this kind of low. He was almost afraid to find out what he could manage as an encore, because he knew he could always find that lower place.
When they reached the motel, Rupert said, “We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
“Thought you might want to,” Xander said dully. “Surprised you’re trusting me not to run.”
Rupert gave him a speculative look. “If you were the man we left behind, I would. You are quite different in that regard.”
Xander tried not to show the hurt as he turned away. It didn’t help that Rupert believed he was justified in making that crack, but he heard other him mention something about Anya being pregnant when Rupert and Faith showed up out of nowhere just expecting other him to drop everything and go. Looked to him that they both were pretty justified, not that anyone would listen to him if he said so.
Oh, goody. I’ve learned to spot a losing battle before opening my fat mouth, Xander wearily thought. Then again, maybe he just wasn’t in the mood for yet another rousing argument and string of abuse from Ton—Rupert. He meant Rupert.
He left Rupert and Faith in the parking lot where they were no doubt talking about him behind his back again. He tromped to his room, pressed his thumb against the lockpad, opened the door, and flicked on the light.
“Well,” he said, “it’s not a complete hole.”
To be brutally honest, the last thing he wanted to do was spend quality time with himself. He wasn’t in the least bit tired, a surprise because he was so exhausted before knocking on the Harrises’ door. He blamed it on too many months of working vampire hours, although he suspected that he was too afraid of getting a healthy dose of guilt-ridden nightmares if he tried to sleep.
He tossed his coat on the table, reached behind him to push the door shut, and flopped down on the bed.
No matter how hard he tried, he just felt that same hurting dullness that he started feeling after he got in car. Either he was so overloaded that he emotionally shut down or—and isn’t this a scary thought—he was too used to weird crap like this happening to him. Okay, so weird badness usually happened on Buffy’s birthday and not his, but still.
What does this say about me? I’m told that a bunch of people want revenge on my dead ex-fiance and that they sent me here to hold me ransom and I’m all, ‘That makes sense! Did you happen to tell them that she’s already dead, so they’re a little late?’
Jesus. No wonder why the other him hates his guts.
The thing that bothered him the most was that, despite all the assurances that this was real, he still felt that sickening sense of unreality. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. He didn’t want it to be real.
Probably why I’m feeling numb because— he choked off the thought because finishing it meant going with the crazy. He’d been acting crazy and out-of-control enough. Last thing he needed was to dig himself deeper.
What he really needed was a little quality violence to get his mind off things. Nothing put things into perspective like some heart-stopping fear.
The thought caused him to cringe. Where the hell did that come from? Great. Somehow he’d decided that killing would make things right again. That was messed up even for him. He accused the other him of hunting? He does it every goddamn night and what does he call it? Patrol. Training. Helping the Slayers. Doing his fucking job.
“Looks like I’m not as honest with me as I thought,” he said to the ceiling.
He heard a knock on the door.
“Go away! I said tomorrow!” Xander shouted without moving.
To his surprise, the motel door swung open. “You forgot to make sure that was shut all the way,” Faith said. “Can I come in?”
“Tough,” the Slayer said as she entered and shut the door behind her. “Anyone who’s head is so messed up they leave a motel door cracked open don’t deserve to be alone.”
“So shut it as you leave.”
Faith chunked her way across the carpet before plopping down in a nearby chair. “You heard her. You get hurt, my ass is grass.”
“I’m going to get hurt in my own palatial motel room?”
“Could fall in the shower. Or something fugly with fangs could’ve just waltzed through that door and had themselves a snack.”
Xander snorted. Obviously someone decided he needed a babysitter. At a guess, Rupert decided he wasn’t so trustworthy after all, since he seriously doubted Faith in this or any other dimension was the worrying type. And could he just say that having Faith sitting in a chair just watching him was freaking him out?
“Go away,” he finally said.
“Then you stay. I’ll leave.”
“I’ll just follow you.”
Xander growled and gave up. Out of the corner of his right eye, he saw Faith follow his gaze to the ceiling. “What’s so interesting up there?” she asked.
Xander turned his head to look at her. “I’m contemplating the fact that I’m a sociopath.”
Faith tilted her head in such a way that Xander was reminded of an inquisitive dog. “Sociopath, hunh?”
“I gotta be one, I figure.” Xander turned his head back so he was once again contemplating the ceiling. “I mean, look at all the shit that’s rained down on my head in the past few days and the only thing I want to do right now is go out and kill something really, really hard.”
Faith choked back a laugh. “Lemme see if I get where you’re coming from. You’re pissed off and you wanna blow off some steam? And you figure that something’s gotta be wrong with you for that?”
“I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t want to go kill something. Hit something, sure. Drink up the town, you bet. Kill something? Not normal.”
There was a creak indicating that Faith had moved. The bed dipped and her face interposed itself between him and the ceiling. “Just curious, but do you feel bad about wanting to kill a nasty just because?”
“Figured. That settles it. You ain’t a sociopath, ’cause I gotta tell ya, back when I did time I knew some bulls like that and they didn’t feel bad about shit. Other people just weren’t real to them.” She paused. “Ummm, did that other me do time? ’Cause where you’re from it might be all different and I just said a really stupid thing that makes me look wicked bad.”
“You did time,” Xander confirmed.
Xander looked away.
“Damn. Still a screw up even there. Guess I was hoping—”
“You made mistakes. You’re not a screw-up.”
Xander knew what she as going to ask probably before even she did.
“So…” Faith hesitated, which was uncharacteristic for her. Correction. Uncharacteristic for his Faith. He really didn’t know when it came to this one. She took a breath and dove in, “So, you and me never butted heads, hunh?”
“Did it involve a one-night stand with a near-strangling at a later date?”
“Yup. Here, too.”
If he didn’t know any better, he’d think that he just landed a surprise right cross on Faith’s face.
It took a little bit for her to find her voice. “So, lemme get this straight. The me on the other side of the mirror pulled the same shit on you and you’re her Watcher? And she acts like you two are all friendly? That has got to be the biggest what the fuck I’ve ever heard.”
“Not really. I mean on the Watcher bit. More like we work together to train newbies. She’s her own Slayer and doesn’t really need me.”
“So why did she—”
“Knowing Faith? She probably picked up that no one was exactly riding the love roller coaster for me and was trying to establish my street cred. Makes life easier for me and maybe gets me home that much faster.”
“So you two are friends,” Faith said doubtfully.
Xander frowned at that. “It’s a little complicated.”
“No fucking duh. You two ain’t screwing, are ya?”
Xander sat up and stared at her like she’d grown a breast in the middle of her forehead.
“Hey, can’t blame a girl for askin’, right?” Faith shrugged. “When a guy says, ‘It’s complicated’ when it comes to anyone else it usually means he’s sticking his dick where it don’t belong. Besides,” she added with a slightly feral grin, “I got me weak spot for bad-ass demon hunters with mad skills, so it almost makes as much weird-ass sense as you two working together.”
“Well that explains Robin.”
“Robin? Tall African-American guy? Taller than me, anyway. Bald? Goatee?” Xander prompted.
Faith was clearly coming up blank.
“The last-ever Sunnydale High School principal?” That familiar sense of the unreality slip added an edge of desperation to his voice. “His sainted mommy was a Slayer?”
Faith’s face brightened. “No shit! That dude? Yeah, I think I kinda remember him. He got nailed shortly after Rupes dragged my sorry ass to Sunnydale. You know, I remember now because they found his guts waving from the high school flagpole. Made the news even in L.A., if I heard right. His mother was a Slayer? You gotta be fucking kidding me. Didn’t think it was possible before we expanded the Slayer population beyond one or two.”
Xander could feel the color drain from his face. Yet another person dead. Okay, he wasn’t crazy about Robin and they’d never be on each others’ speed dial, but that wasn‘t the point. That’s it. No more asking about anybody. I don’t think I’ll be able to take any more.
“I’ll have to tell Amanda since she went to school there. She might remember him better than me,” Faith was shaking her head as if to say, ‘Don’t that beat all.’
Oh, good. At least one person other than Anya survived on this side that didn’t survive on his. Didn’t make him feel any better, but it was something.
“So, you saying me and this Robin guy are screwing?” Faith asked.
“Were. You broke up.”
“Lemme guess. Another complicated?”
“Waaaaay more complicated involving Robin’s idea that Watchers and Slayers shouldn’t be dating. I’m just a co-worker and I happen to live in the same house, so my complicated—”
“Is learning how to trust me, I mean her.”
Xander picked at the bedspread. “I trust her to watch my back in a fight.”
Faith gave him a nod. “More than either one of us deserves.” She hopped to her feet. “You know, I could kill something right about now.”
Xander hauled himself off the bed and asked, “Can I watch?”
Continued in Part 30
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