TACOS (Part One of Summer of Gifts)
I know this makes me sound like the callous bitch I am trying not to be any more, but I really wish Buffy could have managed to die a couple of days later. Or at least, that we didn't find out for a while...
Just through brood mode into clear bright air - I mean, Angel making Judy Garland jokes, got to be a first, and then we walk in the lobby, and there's Willow with her whiny eyes and quivering lip, so off he goes to his private stash of fine brandy even before she's said anything. Because he knows, just from her being there.
I do too, I guess..
And, of course, I am totally aware that, by going off to save me, he wasn't around get called to save her, or die with her. Thanks a lot, Powers That Be, for setting up that little coincidence. So that's why I spent days shovelling manure or being poked with sharp instruments by priests.
Just to clear Angel's appointment diary. And make me feel really guilty.
He stands there with the bottle gulping it down as if it were life's blood and he was about to Scourge Europe again. Wes, bless him, in spite of having his O!God! I failed again face on, drags him over to a sofa, and makes Angel share the bottle with him and Gunn. Wesley chugs that bottle as if it were beer - only the slightest sign of a wince from the burn as it slides down.
Don't know why Gunn is drinking as well - he didn't even know her.
They are allowed to be sloppy depressed drunks faced with bad news, but we are supposed to take it like strong silent women, or something. It really does not make a whole lot of sense.
It's not like I don't care. I liked Buffy, mostly, and she saved my life often enough that I had to notice. I mourn for her in my own way, which, as it happened, involves putting the kettle and the coffee machine on and passing the boys clean glasses to drink from before they swigged themselves into collapse.
I'm listening, and I'm mourning, but I'm also doing things that need doing.
Someone has to take care of things.
Cordelia doesn't change, does she?
Years of fighting evil and it doesn't change her at all. Visions of suffering victims and big evil - you would think it would make some difference to her and make her at least pay attention to what is going on around her.
I'm telling Angel about the death of his one true love and she is doing things in the kitchen and, well OK, bringing me a coffee which is nice and remembering that I take milk and no sugar which is pretty much standard these days, but probably not guesswork, or is that a side-effect of the vision thing?
And helping this other woman - I don't know where she fits in - to the sofa by me - woman looks shell-shocked or something, and Cordelia actually asks her whether she wants coffee or a herb tea, and the woman has to think about it.
'Coffee's real,' she says like this was some huge discovery. 'I didn't just make it up.'
'Oh, wow!' she says. 'And they're drinking hooch - that's real too? Coffee for me though. Thick and sweet and no milk at all. Whee!'
Actually, I'm wrong - Cordelia is being really sweet to this woman and now I think of it, why is Cordelia wearing that outfit? She's all semi-clothed and so on and sequins and spangles - Cordelia ran away to join the circus? If it wasn't Cordelia, I'd be noticing she was a babe; Bad Willow, stop it.
'So anyway,' I go on, 'what we didn't know was the truth about Dawn.'
So Dawn isn't really real, and all our memories are fake? So that makes the incident with the water bombs all right - great. That child had a knack for destroying my clothes a bit like her sister's for killing the evil. OK, so if none of this ever actually happened, where is the green silk she managed to spill pizza all down at Buffy's birthday party when Buffy fell through the door fighting vampires.
I suppose it's like the cat in the box that is only dead when you look at it, but if you don't look at it for ages has been dead for weeks and is all yukk!
Willow goes on telling the story and Angel does this growl in his throat when she talks about how helpful Spike has been lately. What's with that - vampires taking up the good fight as a hobby? I still don't plan to stand with the blond creep's teeth near my throat any time soon.
Suddenly, with the usual blinding pain, I'm slumped on the sofa and off in a vision. Willow and me, naked together, with our limbs wrapped round each other interestingly and both of us making interesting squeaky noises - eeeuw! do I really sound like that?
Which is odd, because visions are always of bad things, not of things that are just so never going to happen.
And everyone looks at me, and I say vision, and they say what, and I say, don't know, it was sort of confusing. Because there is just not a chance that I am going to say what I just saw. Particularly not with Willow in the room. Particularly not to a room full of increasingly drunk guys who would just get off on the idea.
And I certainly don't know Fred well enough to talk about personal stuff to her.
Willow and Fred are all over me with wet cloths and glasses of water. The boys obviously care, but now there are girlies to do the looking after, I guess they feel they can go on drinking.
I knew she had these visions, but I had no idea they were like that. I haven't seen Cordelia look in that much pain since she had a metal spike through her and we all thought she was going to die.
Same old Cordy, though.
'I want to get back to my apartment; I want a shower; I want my own clothes; and I want them NOW!!!!!' she screams.
Then, quite quietly, she adds, 'Willow. Fred. Why don't you come back and freshen up? And leave the boys to it for the night?'
'Will there be fast food?' the strange woman called Fred says. 'I remember fast food.'
'Tacos,' Cordy says gently.' We'll get tacos.'
'That's good,' Fred says. 'Tacos are good. I like tacos because they are a set of boundary zones. You have your lettuce and your cheese and your meat and they sort of scoozle into each other all soft in the hardness of the taco, and they are these three things and there is this fourth thing that combines them but stays separate.'
She looks at me as if she has only just noticed I was there.
'I was a particle physicist before,' she says.
' Well,' I say, 'I have to stick around and wait for Tara, who said she had things to do in LA, and her mother's aunt or somebody like that to see - I really, really don't get on with her family- and would catch up with me tomorrow. So as long as we get back over here to meet up in the morning, why not?'
I mean, Cordy and I are grownup women and fellow fighters against the evil and I really have to get over being scared down to my socks that this is the first time since kindergarten that she ever asked me round to her place, and she looks much too ill to say horrid things, and someone has to drive, and Cordy is looking really sick and this Fred is clearly completely tonto. Besides, Angel and Wesley and this other guy, Gunn, are into a getting loaded boy-bonding thing, and it will be embarrassing in the morning when they have hangovers, but not as embarrassing as watching them get them.
So we say 'Goodnight' and Cordy leans on me and Fred out to the car. And I find myself wondering again who Fred is and what on earth Cordeia is dressed as and I suppose she always had cleavage like that, that you could get lost in, but you didn't notice it in her cheerleading costumes much, and I never looked at cheerleaders anyway.
Big pain and weakness are back, not that they ever go away. Being helped around by wiry women with nice softnesses where the strong bits stop, you suddenly remember how nice that feels, and how unlike big strong boys it is. Women just smell different. And nicer.
And damn. I really thought I had got past that for good and all, that Groo was not just a possible end to visions, but also a way not to, not to even slightly, think about women that way.
Still, if it's going to be anyone, mad girl and Willow probably pretty safe bets. Fred won't notice my glance straying and Willow is safest of all - someone who has hated me for years and already has a girlfriend. I did rather totally put my foot in it with her the other week too; a whole year, and nobody bothered to tell me about either her or Harmony.
Fighting evil, here, need information.
Then Fred squeaks at us and pulls back towards the door, so fast she takes me off balance and Willow with me, leaving us sprawling on the steps. Sort of comfortably curved into each other except for the bruised knee and the twisty ankle.
'So sorry,' she says - well - I should think so - 'Can't do it. Can't do it.
And suddenly I lost impetus. There was going to be a plot about magical uses of dead slayers and a backstory about a German slayer in 1918 Berlin, whose Scoobies grew up to be Brecht and Weill and Lenya and Dietrich. It was going to be Dietrich/Lenya slash - well, OK, they actually did have an affair around then - and it was going to involve Spike and Dru in Berlin. And Spike was going to be the original for Mackie Messer - which is Mack the Knife to you folks. Only Brecht didn't turn up and know the others for several more years and it just didn't work without him.
What I miss is the Cordy/Willow stuff I was going to write - this was going to be a sequel to Faith by Nights and so I was going to get to write the scene where Willow tells Cordy off for her remarks in Disharmony. And Cordy says, well, but I didn't know you were gay, and I was covering my own ass, because well, I wouldn't ever have slept with Harmony, but um er I did have an affair back in Sunnydale. And Willow suddenly puts it all together and goes 'omigod!!!! You. Slept.
With. Faith.' That bit would have been fun, but I realized I was not up for the long haul. And bits of the sex stuff I wrote will probably get cannibalized into the last chunk of 5 untrue things. If I ever get that finished.
Oh, and there is this - which was obviously part of some Sandman stuff:
There is strange weather in the heart of Desire. Sudden flurries of breeze bring with them the hopeful tang of rain on newmown grass or the stale regret of old perfume. There is the pressure of awaited thunder and the chill of frost on the lips. Amid it all, Desire sleeps, dreamlessly, the face in sleep less that of an androgyne than that of a child. The innocence is that of an absence, where it should be that of a blessing.
No idea where that was going...
This was part of a sequel to my story in Villains:
There were clouds of dust on the high-road from Sanshandibar; someone's army was approaching and it was doing so in its own arrogant time. Dragons were dancing triumph above it, the pale blue dragons of the Knights of Virtue. Things had obviously gone very badly indeed, Big Katia reflected.
It was three days after Samhain, after all, and her Dark Master's amulet had been ominously silent since the day before it.
He and all the other Dark Lords had been so keen on fighting the Last Battle on Samhain itself, so very very sure that the Forces of Light would have entered the same date in their diaries. Trouble was, the Knights of Virtue had priorities above and beyond the etiquette and convenience of necromancy.
The military life is one of those occupations where there is no particular pleasure to be gained from having told people so; you always end up paying too highly for the privilege...
Still, being the last desperate stand has consolations of its own, and it is having told people so that usually gets you stuck far enough in the disgrace of the rear to make proper preparations for one.
'Good work, soldier,' Big Katia said in as kind a voice as possible to the youngster whose watch it was, and who had been standing stiffly to attention ever since she took over his spy- glass. 'Stand easy.'
He relaxed slightly, but also blushed at being spoken to. Heaven knows what the older soldiers tell them about me, Big Katia thought. Still, it probably help create esprit de corps, so one pretends one has not noticed.
'Carry on,' she continued,' let me know if there is any sign of our side.'
If things had gone badly at Ixat, Dark troops might just have escaped up through Rask and be coming here on the road through Caradol and Luria. There might still be a retreat for her to cover, though it was looking less likely.
In a way, it would be better from her point of view if there weren't. A split command would complicate things, she thought, as she climbed down the stairs of the watchtower and out into the shade of the inn's walled courtyard.
The blushing manticore had always been one of Katia's favourite inns, not only for its dark wines. The landlord's vineyards grew on a few high terraces of topsoil pocketed among crags; the inn commanded the roads west and south down from the one pass between the mountains. Unless you wanted to make a detour around the Northern oakforest, or had some magical way of fording the Mira at the Kaynahmian gorges, this was the only way to the old weapons markets of the North. The high walls and watchtowers were the relic of a time when this had been rather more than an inn. Bandit monks had built it, and used a surface of piety to stick a thumb in the windpipe of empire; the empire had used it as a staging post for couriers; during the Interregnum generations of innkeepers had graduated to local tyrannies and left it as portion to their younger sons.
'Horsemen from the West,' the young soldier shouted. Big Katia was pleased to see that the only reaction from the soldiers she had stationed around the walls was to stiffen into alertness; she went down the vaulted ramp to the large gate that was the only way into the inn - she had seen, had from time to time taken, fortresses more sloppily planned than this inn.
I always meant to write more about Big Katia, barbarian exswordswoman, who, I should point out, appeared in print in the very early 90s and is not a Xena parody, not even a bit.
And then there was a Tara story, and Lilah and Joyce in heaven and I would stick those here, but Word Perfect won't let me access them right now.
In other news, I saw 'Elephant' today, and really did not like it, for reasons that I will work out at greater length and let you know....