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Introductory note: on Buffyforums, there's a season three rewatch and I'm writing a bit about Dead Man's Party. To try to get into the POVs of the Sunnydale characters, I wrote this.

I'm doing well in general, but I'm still fragile -- so if you don't like it, well, you know, be gentle! I include this disclaimer (and would prefer not to link to *this* version, though linking to the AO3 version is okay should I post it there) because I know how divisive this episode is, even if I'm only talking about it glancingly.

The POV style is somewhat inspired by [livejournal.com profile] beer_good_foamy's excellent Building Character, which is also of a much higher level of artistry and is strongly recommended.

Disclaimer: Not mine.
Takes place: Sunnydale, around the first week of school in s3, before "Dead Man's Party."
Characters: Giles, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Joyce.
Word count: ~2500

Giles

After the incident with Angel, I was recommended bedrest by the typically charlatan American doctors. It was hard to drive for a few weeks, however, and in those first few weeks of searching for Buffy I nearly got into an accident. I decided after some consideration not to inform the Council that my slayer had disappeared. I pored over the old diaries for any hint of what others had done when a slayer had disappeared, and as expected there were no records of it. I wondered how many times a Watcher was faced with this same predicament, and, like me, failed to record that anguish for eternity out of shame and failure.

And then I considered that none of them could quite understand my current situation: Buffy Anne Summers, already at her young age having saved the world multiple times over, had to kill her lover. It is immaterial that her lover happened to be a creature of darkness. In the moments in which Drusilla appeared to me in Jenny’s guise I felt my rational mind stripped away from me and I would have given anything to be back with her.

It is possible, I suppose, that young Miss Rosenberg’s spell was successful. Perhaps once we are in a somewhat less intense state of crisis I should do a survey of her powers. Regardless, it is unlikely that a novice could practice a spell so far beyond her ability, and it is easy to attribute her experience of—how did she put it?—“something going through me” as mere mystical superstition from someone totally inexperienced. Unless…. A mental note to consider the possibility of what Willow’s success would have entailed for Buffy, and I could recognize some devastation. When Buffy is back, there will be time to determine the exact cause of her departure, and perhaps the exact emotional wounds, and provided I can maintain her trust we should be able to work together to turn these into more effective tools for the fight.

It does become exhausting to travel all over this ridiculously large country. Had she only disappeared back home…. I do not believe for a moment that Buffy could have survived the Master’s assault, defeated the Judge, and saved the world from the threat of Acathla and found herself bested by some mediocre specimen. She is out there and she is alive; it is a matter of finding her. That I have not done so is my failure. But it will not be long.

Xander

OK, a week gone by since she got back and only two or three fights with Cordelia. Things got tense for a little while last week when Cordy said point blank to me why we bother doing this slaying thing while the slayer is gone. “I mean, don’t the vampires like follow her stake or whatever?” We do it, Cordelia, because we care. We’re her friends. “Oh please, just because I lowered myself to date you because of hormones and the lack of other prospects doesn’t mean little vampire queen is going to.” Yeah, like I care what she thinks of me. None of this is about me, Cor. But I realize she’s got a point and I should make a little bit of effort. It is, I guess, a little easier to know what I’ve got with Cordy when she is not here breathing over my shoulder. Now if only Cordy could go away for a few months again it’d probably be love.

We’ve staked a few vamps. Willow is finally starting to quiet up about you-know-who now that school is back in session. Giles looks tired, man, like a broken man, and last week he didn’t even yell at me for shelving the books wrong. I was worried and I checked with Willow to see if maybe I accidentally figured out how to do it right, and Willow patted me on the arm and said maybe she should handle this stuff from now on, which I think means that Giles’ not yelling at me really is a bad sign. Willow says that she visits with Mrs. Summers with a gift basket or something every other week, dropping off more and more smelly “protection spells.” She doesn’t talk about it but when she comes back with that forlorn look I can sort of tell.

Look, I get Will’s present tense rules and all but time to move on. Buffy’s gone. She came to Sunnydale, she saved our lives a bunch of times, but eventually we’re gonna have to fend for ourselves. If she can’t handle a little vamp dusting just because he used to be her honey, and hey maybe I could have been better about that but look let’s face it, forget it Jake it’s Sunnydale. Willow’s demon robot boyfriend didn’t exactly make her run for the hills did he? You tell someone how much you care, you fight along someone for a few months, eventually it starts to feel as if you really matter for once, but of course you don’t. She’s out there doing who knows what and who knows who, and if she’s lying in a gutter dead maybe she should have stayed in touch with the guy who would risk everything to go and bring her back to life. But hey. We’re alone out here. And it’s great that for a bit of time it seemed like we weren’t, but, let’s face it, we always have been.

Fine with me.

Willow

I think Xander gets my present tense rule, or at least after I explained it to him a few times and looked around and finally found his old grammar book still in its original packaging somewhere in his basement—didn’t I buy him that?—and anyway he’s been good about it, and Oz is Oz. Buffy’s definitely coming back, and it’s just a matter of keeping things right for her so that when she gets back she’ll be like HEY GUYS and we’ll be like BUFFY! and tackle hugs and mochas, well, okay she wasn’t there when I started drinking mochas but I’m sure she’d approve, she’s got this big sweet tooth. And Xander gets grumpy when I mention her sometimes and he gets all weird looking when I mention Angel and I get it, I do, I definitely am not happy with the guy but Xander has to maybe realize that it’s not for us to judge, I mean, we don’t have a soul on/off switch and it’s not like Xander is Mr. Perfect when he has evil spirits messing with him. I mean, okay, so probably my spell didn’t do anything, Giles is right that I’m an amateur witch and so I shouldn’t expect etc. etc. but I keep thinking, if Oz went all wolf for some reason and I found out I were gonna have to kill him and then were going to die and then I found out I could save him and then we had a chance to go away together I’d…well, okay, so maybe I would want Buffy to come along anyway but you know what I mean. And if she did kill Angel, it takes time to grieve, I’ve learned all about the grieving process, definitely, and she was kicked out of school and there was the murder charge and— That’s way too much.

OK, those vampires? Turn out to be a lot scarier than I thought but also not. I mean, look, still here! And hey, sometimes we get one and it’s just this rush, like I’m doing something! I matter! And then it fades pretty fast, and it is maybe not worth all the time I almost die, but still. I wonder if that’s what Buffy feels like all the time? But then the rush kind of comes down the next day and there are aches all over. I keep trying to find spells that help with that but nothing that’s anywhere near my power level, and the one time I tried I ended up getting this rash and my whole body smelled like sulphur for a week. Which had the effect that none of the vamps wanted to come anywhere near me when we tried patrolling, which is good because no one going near my neck but bad because I was trying to chase them to stake them and they would just run away and then they’d rrrr and go after Oz or Xander so, you know, not trying that again. It was kind of a drag that first week or two before I could get out of the wheelchair and Oz came every day when my parents were out which was most of the day but I still don’t quite want them to see him because they might not understand, I mean, his hair which is. And Xander brought over some packed lunches. But there’s a lot of guy-time and I kind of wished that… I mean, I invited Cordelia over, but it turned out that we didn’t have much in common except talking about how dumb Xander was and I went along with it but I kind of started feeling bad about that after a while even though it was nice that someone else noticed the way his eyebrows don’t line up right, or maybe Cordelia was just humouring me which, wow, character growth!

It is weird not teaching again. Snyder said that the district superintendent basically said that they have to pay me if I’m going to teach a whole class again, so they are going to cut out funding for the class entirely and possibly the entire computer cluster. I tried to say something but then he started pretending like he couldn’t hear me. I mean, it’s fine, it gives me more time to focus on researching magic and asking Giles, when he’s around and not off looking for Buffy, about slaying and trying to find controlled studies on what foods tend to make dogs happier so I can plan a big surprise treat series for Oz’ next birthday which happens to be a full moon, and I don’t really miss the sweat that comes from being in front of a whole group of people which is kind of terrifying in a way that nearly dying every night because of vamps isn’t as much. But I guess what I really miss in history class is taking an extra set of notes for when Buffy’s sleeping or hasn’t shown up because she’s had some big slay-event and seeing her smile when I give it to her, or hanging out and sharing things, and for once having a friend who I don’t have to spend hours reassuring of his manliness every time we go shopping and I think Oz might be cooler about it than Xander was but it doesn’t seem like it’s worth a risk and it’s okay, I’m sure Buffy misses me, she’s just got reasons.

I do wonder sometimes if maybe she’s, y’know. The d word. But Giles basically tells me that there’s no way, and I believe him—I mean, look at how Xander and Oz and me and apparently Cordelia now are doing, and Buffy’s a superhero and we’re just us. She’s definitely alive out there, and I mean, if she’s not, well, I mean, no, there’s no point even thinking about that. So she’s going to come back, and she’s okay, and she’ll be back and obviously she’ll say why she’s been gone so long and it will be because of reasons we’ll understand and she’ll be impressed by what we’re doing and she’ll be so happy to see us and she’ll say how she wanted to reach us but couldn’t because she was, like, undercover or something maybe. And she’ll be so happy that I, I mean, we, took care of slaying and stuff for her and then we can go back to normal.

Cordelia

So you know what’s weird? I got into school and I saw Willow and I’m so proud of myself that I didn’t say anything about her silly shorter haircut which please, and then I talked to Xander Harris and there’s a big nothing. Of course there is, what was I expecting? And I took out some books from the library from Giles and he talked for a while about something, I wasn't really listening, and then later on I go to classes and teachers prattle on. And then eventually I’m settling in at home to plan out my outfits for the next few weeks and make some catalogue orders and Willow calls me and tells me that they’re going vamp hunting, and can I please come along, as if I don’t have anything better to do, and I’m like, well, why are you even doing this?

Willow said, “Well, you know, we’re trying to fill in for Buffy until she comes back….”

And I said, “Wait. Buffy’s gone?” I knew there was something different about school this year!

Joyce

After we finished reading it, I found out that they’re making a movie of Deep End of the Ocean for later this year. Pat says it’s not a good idea to see it.

The first few weeks, I just kept the door closed to her room entirely. I took a few weeks off at the gallery of course because Mr. Giles said that it’s best to stay home while he goes out looking for her because she could come home at any time, and I couldn’t miss the phone call. I stopped sleeping and stopped moving and time just seemed to slow, and then the call finally came that I was past due on the rent for the space and if I didn’t start making more money soon they were going to close it down. So, I went back to work, pretending it matters, because if she comes back I have to have a house for her to come back to. And then a lady comes in and tells you she’s interested in tribal art and you realize that you’re actually interested in the questions she’s asking and you’re not just on autopilot, and for a second you’re alive again, and then the pain comes back all over again.

The first few times at work and eventually at the book club, Willow and Xander agreed to take care of the phone in case she called, and Willow started leaving little gift baskets. She kept bringing them even after they stopped coming over to watch the phones because it seems more and more obvious that she’s never going to call. The police shrugged when they come by and said that they know now that they got the wrong woman and that the murder charges were dropped. I screamed and screamed at them until my voice is hoarse and they just keep shrugging and then they left and I cried, and then the next day felt like the same as if the police never came. There’s no Buffy to say to, “Look, you can stay here now, you’re safe.” I’m the one who kicked her out.

Hank came over a few times; in fact, he’s come over more times in the past few weeks than in the entire time since we moved to Sunnydale, like it’s easier for him when Buffy’s not there. He kept getting this tone in his voice as if, obviously he’ll be there for her if she comes back, but, underneath that, we all kind of figured it would end like this, and maybe it’s better that it’s finally happened. I felt so angry I almost threw a plate at his head, but then he didn't actually say it. Maybe it wasn’t him who almost said it but me.

Date: 2014-08-28 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunclouds33.livejournal.com
I told you before that I think this is great- and I still think it's great! The Giles entry is interesting. It's like he's used to writing in formal, Watcher-diary tones but this *is* his personal diaries. "young Miss Rosenberg" v. "Willow". Determine Buffy's exact emotional wounds v. how to turn those effectively into "tools" for the fight.

Date: 2014-08-28 08:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Thank you! I tried to get that tension with Giles -- of emotion sneaking through the intellect, and utility sneaking through the emotion.

Date: 2014-08-28 07:35 pm (UTC)
kikimay: (The hardest thing in the world)
From: [personal profile] kikimay
I think you perfectly captures all the characters' voices and the ending with Joyce's POV is really touching and sad. Good ficlet.

Date: 2014-08-28 08:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Thank you! Rereading, I feel worried I didn't quite get Joyce's voice right (I don't quite know how Joyce would think, the language she would use...) but I am glad that the content there came across as I intended.

Date: 2014-08-28 09:35 pm (UTC)
gillo: (Ensemble)
From: [personal profile] gillo
Excellent voices - a really effective exploration of their feelings.

Date: 2014-08-28 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Thank you! :)

Date: 2014-08-28 10:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ceciliaj.livejournal.com
Cordelia! I loved this <3. It was the perfect before school read.

Date: 2014-08-29 12:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
It is unbecoming, how proud I am of the Cordelia section :D. I'm glad you loved! <3

Date: 2014-08-29 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ever-neutral.livejournal.com
You did a great job capturing everyone's voices, especially Xander/Willow/Cordy. NGL, the Cordy section is MY FAVE and provided great comic relief to offset the subtle gloom of everyone else's sections. < / 3

Date: 2014-08-29 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Thank you! I do find the teenagers easier to write for than the grownups, which, I wonder what that says about my maturity level, lol. I'm glad you liked, and as I said to ceciliaj above I am WAY TOO PROUD of the Cordy section. :D

Date: 2014-08-29 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Love this! Great character voices, that stuck-in-between feeling of everyone trying to find [a way to]/[an excuse to not] move on. And that final line... Oh, Joyce. </3

Date: 2014-08-30 12:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Yay! Yeah, it's...interesting, because it's similar to the summer between s5 and s6 (part of why I credited Building Character as an influence). But it's also very different, because there is literally nothing the Scoobies can do to bring Buffy back, and there is also less chance of *actually* grieving since she's still out there and can return at any time.... And I think it says a lot about the coping strategies we see over and over from these guys, that Willow tries to postpone grief indefinitely with foolish optimism and keeping busy, Giles retreats into duty and gets cut off from others, Xander gets mad and bitter, and Joyce's desire to be a loving mother runs up against the huge gulf of understanding between her and her daughter.

Date: 2016-09-17 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kartoffel-klaus.livejournal.com
I hope I don't violate any etiquettes or rules since no one has commented this fic for two years.

Just wanted to express kudos. This was a really great read! Excellent voices and exploration of their thoughts and feelings, especially of Willow, Giles and Xander. This fic screams for a companion about the time between S5/6. :)

Date: 2016-09-17 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Thank you! No violation of etiquette. :)

I will think about the companion for between s5 and 6. See beer good foamy's fic (which I linked to at the top of this post) for something similar.

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