Chick Flick
by glossolalia

It is exactly like a bad movie. Seriously. Xander's whole life has been a bad movie, sure, but he'd gotten used to the blood(sucking)-and-gore horror genre. Monster pops up; you shriek; fight ensues; hopefully most of you emerge alive if not unscathed.

This, however, is a whole new kind of bad movie. The kind that are supposedly for women, chick flicks, yet he's never met a woman who liked them. A journey of self-discovery. One soul's quest for independence, with lots of cross-fades and pseudo-symphonic music. Where nothing much happens but you gain a new respect for the simple beauties of mundane human existence.

All because the line-up at Fat Burger moved slower than honey. Slower than a dead man's piss. Slower than...really fucking slow. All he wanted was one more strawberry-banana shake before they left California for good. By the time it was freezing his palm and he'd hurried back out to the sidewalk, the bus was gone.

The street crawled with traffic, neon signs burned wanly in the afternoon sun, and he looked up and down, back and forth. No bus. Bus gone.

Every single elementary-school nightmare swooped back down on him then. Missed the bus. All alone. No one knew where he was. No change in his pocket to call home, Mom's at work anyway, and it's too far to walk home 'cause he's not allowed to cross the big streets alone. Or, in the current, slightly updated version, 'cause home's been smashed and buried in a crater a hundred miles from here.

So he laughed. He had to laugh. Laughed until he snarfed frigid chemi-berry granules because damn if this wasn't the scariest thing that had ever happened to him and the most ordinary problem he'd had in years, all at once, tied up together.

They weren't coming back for him. He knew that immediately, implicitly, instantly. That bus was heading as fast it could possibly shake and sputter towards the state line. The detour to LA had been a mistake from the get-go. He'd told them that, harangued Giles until he was hoarse, but no one listened.

Then they saw Angel's new digs. The big phallic black granite thing. Buffy and Faith and Kennedy got sick from slayer-tingles just looking out the window at it. Kennedy may or may not have heaved; accounts varied. They were on their way toward Nevada just like that, never looking back.

Given that avalanche of tingles and nausea, he figured it wouldn't be the best idea to go see Angel himself. Which neatly side-swiped any question of whether he wanted to in the first place. He spent the last dregs of change in his pocket only to find that Cordy's number was disconnected.

In the phone booth, he finished the shake. In the space of a couple minutes, it had metamorphosed from the farewell-SoCal treat he thought it was going to be into a welcome-to-your-new-life sludge. He wished -- not for the first time, but definitely more fervently than ever -- that Spike was around. "Hey, man," he'd say. "Check us out. Left behind. Really put out to pasture this time. Pasture-ized. Get it?" Then Spike would cuff him on the back of the head, he'd see stars and little twittering bluebirds, and everything would be all right.

Nice daydream. Nice how he left out that part where he'd been one of the ones to leave Spike and Anya behind. While he's not the brightest bulb on the block, over the years Xander has managed to figure out that many superstitions are true. Especially the ones that involve paying for your mistakes. Call it karma or sin or whatever, everyone has a version of the story where what you do comes back to haunt you. Often, of course, in unexpectedly ironic forms.

He walked down the block, heading for the garbage can to toss his cup, as he worked out the fact that getting left behind was payback for those he left behind. That's when the fear slid away and this new thing settled in.

Dump him in LA, let him make his way, see if he can't redeem himself: That's the basic plot of things in the new movie. The hitch being that he's not a hero. He's always been a follower, a loyal if bumbling foot soldier, so this journey of self-discovery? For the birds. Unsure where to start, or what signs to follow, he couldn't discover himself on his way out of a paper bag. He's not even Samwise, toting bags for the guy on the journey. More like Samwise's dim brother, contentedly harvesting tobacco for Saruman's minions back home. Xandumb, maybe.

No more horror going boo!. No more adrenaline or larger-than-life mission. Just him, just sleepwalking through endless long days, repeating himself like squares on an empty calendar page. He goes to work, does the morning shift at the diner, naps, then the evening shift here at Gray Matter Comics and Games.

This place is some sort of hell all on its own, massive payback for every time he wished for another guy around. He's here, keeping the kids in line, making change, trying not to go crazy from the constant blaring rat-a-tat-tat of pixelated death while he reads the over-priced back issues as much as he wants. Such are his evenings.

He isn't afraid for the first time in almost ten years and he just wishes something -- anything -- would happen.


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