1512: Heroes and Villains – Chapter Five, Part OnePosted: August 24, 2016
Title: Heroes and Villains
Author: Horrible’s Igor
Media: Television / Movies
Topic: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer / Kitchen Sink
URL: Heroes and Villains
Critiqued by TacoMagic and Eliza
Heyo, patrons! Some news for you all: in a strange turn of events, the FF.net posting of ‘Heroes and Villains’ vanished shortly after I finished writing last-week’s riff. I’d like to take credit, but, honestly, it’s far more likely that he just went back, read it, and pulled it down as an old shame or as something that doesn’t remotely fit in with established canon.
See, there otherwise hasn’t been any activity on his account for almost nine months, so who knows what’s going on with him right now.
“Regardless, you actually remembered to make a copy this time, didn’t you?”
That I did, so the destruction of ‘Heroes and Villains’ will continue unabated. So, if you are reading this, Igor: sorry, dude. Along those lines though, unfortunately the formatting of the fic was lost when I made the plain-text backup of it. That means Ike will be sitting the rest of the riffs out.
*Ike stomps angrily out of the room*
“I feel bad for the little guy.”
I think Ghostie was riffing something that he can sink his teeth into, so I wouldn’t worry too much for him.
“Recap! Last time Elsa finally arrived at Willow’s volcano lair and promptly had a meeting with Willow. The short version of which was that we all finally learned what Willow’s organization does!”
“And that was pretty much it. This week we pick back up with Jimmy Marlowe.”
11:31 P.M. September 2014. Sunnydale. One man, one vampire.
Hey look, a scene tag!
“Ghostie will be so happy!”
“Wait, wait!” the vamp screamed as he writhed beneath the man’s grip, his voice high for such a fearsome face. “Don’t stake me!”
“Does that ever actually work?”
More often than you’d expect.
Professor Marlowe regarded him with a cold stare. “Why not?”
Marlowe has a good point here: You stake vampires. End of story.
“I have info for you!” the vampire shouted.
Marlowe tilted his head, unyielding. “Oh really?”
If Marlowe was unyielding, he’d have already staked the vampire. He’s obviously yielded enough to let the vampire state his case. Words still mean things.
“Yes, yes, I swear!”
“Willow!” the creature gasped. “She’s back!”
Weirdly, that does actually fit here.
Marlowe’s eyes widened in surprise. “What?”
‘The person who I’ve never met is back!? Madness!’
“Yes!” the vampire pleaded. “She sent me!”
“Willow Rosenberg, send a vampire at me?” Marlowe questioned incredulously. “Why?”
“She wanted to eliminate any errant OCs that might Stu out and steal her thunder.”
That seems more plausible than whatever other explanation we’re going to get.
The vampire laughed, a note of hysteria straining it hideously.
He must have just realized that there is no justifiable reason for Willow to want to kill this guy. Whoever he is.
Yes, thank you, I do know his name.
“She ain’t good anymore!” it revealed, “She’s gone bad again! Look, she gave me this to show you!” He reached into his coat, careful to move slowly so as not to have himself ended prematurely, and pulled out an envelope of parchment, Professor Marlowe written in an elegant cursive hand on the front.
“Most people just use the mail service.”
Some people just like the hands-on touch that only hired goons can provide.
Marlowe took it, flipping it over to reveal a wax seal embossed with a coat of arms that sported a willow tree with a banner reading “SALIX” cutting through the middle.
Just as subtle as the first time we saw it.
He slid a finger under the flap, breaking the seal and unfolding the letter, but did not deign to release the vampire from his hold.
“Looks like Jimmy has a few extra arms.”
There are worse people to have on your side than Goro.
“Professor Marlowe,” he began, sarcasm lacing his tone, “How good it is to hear you’re still around. Still teaching Noir California? I was in the neighborhood recently and thought I’d send you this as a token of my friendship, and also-” he paused very quickly as he reached the next part- “also as a warning: stay out of anything you might hear regarding Buffy. While I know you care about your students, this is not something you would survive. Not now that I’m back. Sincerely- Dark Willow.” For a moment he stared at it, then let out a harsh bark of laughter. “And I’m supposed to believe this?” he asked the vampire, turning back to him.
Whoa there, Jim, we’re the ones making fun of how nonsensical this is. You work your side of the street, man.
“She said to read the back!” it replied fearfully, raising its hands up as if to stop him. Marlowe flipped it over, somehow making the gesture say “And what’s this going to say?”
Of all the lazy bullshit! If you can’t describe how he’s doing something, don’t make him do it! If you honestly can’t picture and then describe how he ‘somehow’ flips a letter over while making that gesture suggest a more complex thought, then maybe don’t fucking write him doing something so asinine!
“Do I need to get the spray bottle?”
Not yet, but we’re getting into that territory.
What he read, however, was definitely eye-catching.
But the author has issues writing something that’s actually eye-catching, so we need to be told that this is important.
“Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, 2003. I was Gerda, she was Kai.” His face blanched, and he was quiet for what felt like an age.
“That sounds like a drama production. That being the case, why is she telling him information that anyone with a show program could know?”
Because this fic can’t logic. Just like it can’t setting, plot, or be specific.
“Your face is getting all twitchy.”
It’s fine. This chapter is just somehow way lazier than the four that came in front of it. And that’s a really low bar to have squeezed under.
“You see?” the vampire asked with panic, eyes darting about frantically. “I’m for real here!”
Which means your job as messenger is fulfilled.
“Yup! Stake him, Jimmy.”
“Oh yes…” Marlowe agreed, his words heavy with dread, “Yes you are… Go.” He stood up, relinquishing his hold on the creature. “Tell her I received her message, and I will heed her words.”
“Why are you letting it go!? That’s still a vampire! A vampire who just handed you a letter letting you know its boss is evil!”
I guess he’s sorta fine with letting a creature of the night go free to someday kill again. He does need the vampire to let Willow know that he knows that she knows that he’s a major player in the plot.
“Jimmy is lawful stupid, isn’t he?”
Looking that way, yeah.
It didn’t need telling twice, sprinting back the way it came through the cemetery. Marlowe sat back up on the headstone, staring through the words on the back into empty space, lost in another time.
“He’s sitting on the headstone and staring at the text on it? That can’t be a comfortable position.”
Not to mention hell on his back as his age.
“How old is he, again?”
Old. Which, for this fic, is probably anywhere north of forty.
“‘I was Gerda, she was Kai… Oh dear… What on Earth could’ve happened?” He looked at the hazy sky, staring at the stars shining through the thin clouds and the moon casting its silvery light over the landscape, and then back at the browned parchment in his hand. The letter warned him to stay out of anything he heard about Buffy- something he wouldn’t survive, he recalled.
Isn’t she in his class already, though?
But if he wouldn’t he also doubted it would end well for her.
“If he wouldn’t what?”
Stay out of anything he heard about Buffy.
“Like her working at the doublemea-”
YOU FOOL! Willow has to kill Jim now!
He fought with himself for a short while, debating whether he should actually listen- but it was obvious.
Great, another idiot with voices in his head joins the fic.
He shook his head, standing. “I can’t let this happen… But I’m no match for her…” And then another thought struck him, and compared to the last decision, this one was even more suicidal: “I need the Slayer.”
So after what I guess was a debate, he predictably decides to just not do what the letter says. Glad he needed to waste a few hundred words on what was really a forgone conclusion anyway. Tension is just that thing which other fics do.
With a heavy heart, but with his mind clear and his head high, he altered his course and began making his way to 1630 Revello Drive.
“I’d say it’s pretty rude that he’s just going to head over the Slayer’s place in the middle of the night, but she is the Slayer, so she’s basically working third-shift anyway.”
Actually, why would he expect to see her at home in the middle of the night?
“Yeah! You’re right! He should be looking for her in places where she’d likely be patrolling.”
Like the graveyard?
“Like the grave- hey!”
3:00 P.M. April 2003. Sunnydale. One class, one professor.
Cause that’s not going to get fucking annoying or anything.
“Does this mean we get to see the play?”
Or something. I dunno where the author thinks he’s going with this. I’m know sure he knows, either.
“And remember,” Marlowe called out as the class began to leave, packing their things and exiting through the doors, “Final exams are in three weeks! Study hard, go over old material, and for goodness’ sake, remember to get your rest! Nothing spells disaster like falling asleep halfway through your tests!”
Really, if you’re pulling all-nighters to study, usually you’re worried enough about the test to not fall asleep during it even if you are really tired. Sleeping through it, maybe, but not falling asleep in the middle. Really, it’s more that a tired brain is likely to make stupid mistakes and not be able to recall pertinent information compared to a well rested one.
“Maybe it was supposed to be a joke.”
If it was, it wasn’t a very good one.
A few people laughed at that one, one student even flashing a thumbs-up before leaving the room.
“See, it was a joke.”
And not good one.
“Marlowe doesn’t seem the kind to have good jokes.”
Mmm, fair enough.
He watched the class pour through the doors to his left, almost falling into a staring trance when someone tapped at his shoulder.
“Speaking of tired brains.”
He started, turning around to see Willow standing behind him, hair red and eyes tired, but bright. “Oh- hello, Willow,” he stammered, “Sorry, I was just-“
Zoning the fuck out. Don’t worry, man, it happens.
“Never pass up the opportunity for a good zone out.”
“Oh, no, i-it’s fine,” she apologized, “You were- you were doing your thing where you do the wistfully watching people leave, a-and I just sorta-“
Not even Willow talks like this, and she’s got a very quirky way of talking sometimes.
“No, it’s quite alright,” he smiled, regaining his composure. “Did you have a question?”
“Well, not so much a question, exactly, more like a- a notice,” she replied, shifting her books under her arm. “Things are getting a little ‘eek’ at Buffy’s, so I- I wanted to just let you know that I probably won’t be able to come to class for a few weeks.”
“She should probably drop it then.”
In a few weeks, it won’t matter. The whole class is getting dropped.
“Literally. Because the city becomes a crater.”
“Oh- yes, of course,” Marlowe remembered, “Apocalypse, and all that.”
Yeah, you might want to get in on that whole ‘evacuating the city’ thing.
“Yeah…” Willow nodded, “But I’ll be here for finals!… I hope.”
“You know, this is Willow we’re talking about here. He should just give her the final right now. She’d probably pass without any problem.”
Mm- good,” Marlowe responded. “How is everyone holding up there?”
“Oy… it’s getting a bit tense there,” Willow admitted, “Buffy’s cracking down hard- and Xander actually lost an eye a few days ago. I’m amazed I had any free time today.”
Uh, why are we sharing information about the Buffy crew with a random English professor? Yeah, yeah, the fic knows that he’s some kind of demon hunter or watcher or something, but for all Willow is supposed to know, and for all the audience has actually been told, he’s just a professor who knows how to stake a vampire. In Sunnydale, that wouldn’t be all that abnormal.
“Oh my god,” Marlowe breathed, “Are you sure you don’t want any help from me?”
“Yes, Jimmy, they really need somebody who can instruct them in the finer points of California’s regional literature. That definitely will help.”
“Oh- no, we’ve already got Principal Wood from the high school helping, and I think if we tack on another person Buffy might lose it big-time,” Willow answered, shaking her head. “But thanks anyways.”
“Absolutely,” Marlowe replied.
Because Buffy hates having people around to help.
“That does raise a good point, though. This character is basically an elderly photo-copy of Robin Wood. Why does the fic need him?”
Because the author needed an OC, even if it is just a reskinned version of an existing character.
“I’m really sad Wood never did much in the comics.”
Yeah, I’m not sure why the writers swept him under the mat after the show. I guess too much of his character arc was solved and they didn’t know where to go from there.
“And it also sucks because the other Potentials think that Buffy’s being a little too hard on everyone lately,” the girl continued, “Being all like “From now on, I’m your leader as in ‘Do what I say'” and other not-so-nice things… Morale is reaching lower and lower lows.”
“This is fair. Buffy did need to step into the role of a leader, but she goes full Sergent Slaughter and is very overbearing at first.”
Basically your standard newbie leader. They don’t know how to lead, so they just crack down real hard and try to micromanage every damn thing. She eventually gets over it.
“The way I see it,” Marlowe said, picking up the book on his desk, “It seems as though through having to be in this position of power, she’s almost forced to see the worst in things everywhere.
As opposed in seeing the good parts about the looming end of the world.
Time enough at last.
The stress is getting to her. It’s like with The Snow Queen.”
Jigga-wha? How is the Snow Queen anything at all like what Buffy is dealing with?
“I think Jimmy is trying to say that Buffy wants to kidnap a young boy because he has troll splinters in him.”
That’s certainly a … different interpretation of the seventh season.
He held up the book, which, incidentally was a collection of Hans Christian Andersen stories. “Where Kai has pieces of of a mirror that shows only the worst stuck in his eye and heart, so he can’t see anything good.”
“Not sure that it’s a very good comparison. Buffy is fighting the very end of the world. Everything does suck for her right now as she’s facing impossible odds with no real framework of support against a foe that wants to destroy everything. Kay just got ugly shards in his face and became a jerk because of them.”
“Oh yeah!” Willow exclaimed, “And then his friend Gerda melted his heart and the piece in his eye came out when he burst into tears, and they managed to spell ‘eternity’ and get out of the Snow Queen’s castle!”
“This totally naturally sounding dialogue brought to you by PCC brand Plot Shoehorns! If your plot doesn’t want to fit, we’ll make it fit!”
Is there anyone around here that doesn’t work for the PCC!?
“That’s the story,” Marlowe grinned.
So we gathered. Amazing how bringing it up doesn’t make it fit the situation any better.
Willow sighed. “I wish it was that easy with Buffy- that I could just show up and give her a big warm hug and make everything better.”
“You should probably hug her anyway.”
Oh no, we don’t need Syl getting all up in here.
“Well- if it’s any consolation,” Marlowe offered, “Once it’s over, she’ll be back to normal. This is just a trying time.”
Or you’ll all be dead and won’t care anyway!
“Yay! No negative outcome possible!”
“I know,” Willow nodded. “…I better go- lots to do.”
“Fare thee well, Gerda,” Marlowe smiled as as she went for the door.
This scene really does capture the desperate hopelessness that Buffy and Co. had to deal with.
We’re not even a quarter of the way through the fic.
“I think I need a hug.”
Only if you promise not to cover me in glitter for the remainder of the riffs.
“Naw, turns out I’m good to go without the hug.”
“I’ll tell Kai that,” she laughed, and the door gently clicked shut behind her.
Dude has a pretty sharp mind to remember this pretty banal exchange over a decade later. Honestly, I’d have been hard-pressed to remember it past a few weeks, especially with all the shit that goes down later in the year.
“His life must not be very eventful.”
Not necessarily a bad thing given how short eventful lives tend to be in the Buffy-verse.
Then we cut to Buffy:
The TV droned on as Buffy sat in shock on the couch, the letter sitting on the coffee table before her, the thick parchment refusing to disappear and prove that she was dreaming.
I’m hoping it disappears to. If it does, then the whole fic might vanish.
“Well, it sorta did vanish.”
Hey, you’re right! The thick parchment is now my favorite character.
It couldn’t be true. It simply could not be true.
Willow was dead. Dead-as-a-doornail dead. She had seen the body. There was no way anybody could come back from what had happened to her, no way, no how.
“Certainly a dead body can’t see the Wizard!”
Something was very seriously up here.
Need we remind you that you’ve been dead three times, Buffy? One of those times you were buried for several months before you came back to life.
“And prices are expected to start rising soon,” the newsman finished. “In other news, the-“
“Does that mean thing is going to be more expensive soon?”
Yeah, but I wouldn’t worry about it. We’ve got plenty of thing stashed away.
A knock came at the door. Startled, Buffy sat up, then rose and opened the door. To her surprise, Professor Marlowe stood on the other side, looking grim.
“Professor Marlowe?” Buffy asked, eyebrows furrowed with concern. “What are you doing here?”
“You didn’t turn in any homework today.”
Eeesh, I have nightmares that start that way.
“I need to talk to you,” he stated. “Did you receive a letter today on this parchment-” he drew a letter from his coat- “and with this seal?”
Buffy looked at it, and the knot of dread in her stomach dropped even further.
So it’s in her intestines now?
“A few more letters and this dread will probably pass on its own.”
It was the same parchment, for sure, and if that wasn’t enough, the seal was most definitely a weeping willow. Dark Willow was reaching out, and that meant something very bad was on the horizon for them.
Canonically it means Willow should be trying to raise the effigy of Proserpexa to bring about the end of all things. In this fic, it means she spends a lot of time zoning out in the board room with a headache.
“Yes,” she answered gravely. “Yes, I did. Come in.” She opened the door further, inviting him in.
“And, no, by the way, I’m not a vampire,” Marlowe said matter-of-factly as he entered, immediately going for the couch.
Dude, you know she’s a/the Slayer. Knowing that, you would also know that she’d be able to sense if you were a vampire just by being within a few dozen feet of you. Even after she lost her powers for a while, she still maintained the knack at recognizing most supernatural entities.
The two sat down, Buffy’s eyes fixing on the open letter resting innocuously on the table. “What does your letter say?” Marlowe asked.
“If it was innocuous, she wouldn’t be focusing on it so much. Nor would it be serving as the portent of doom that you’re building it up to be.”
Yup, turns out that words still mean things.
“I have it,” she replied, handing the thing to him like it had a light dusting of anthrax. As Marlowe read it, his frown grew deeper.
Those dated references are just the best.
“Didn’t you just use a clip from a Twilight Zone episode?”
“This does not bode well for us,” he said as he returned the letter to the table. “If she truly is back- we have reason to be afraid for our safety.”
See the aforementioned effigy of Proserpexa.
“The thing that worries me right now is how she sent it,” Buffy replied.
“Outdated material is frightening.”
She used a wax seal! The horror!
“I know it’s her, it’s her handwriting exactly, even with the little swoop thing at the end of her ‘d’s.” She paused, trying to think of how to phrase the bombshell. “The problem is… Willow died in 2007.”
Why do you keep bringing this up!? For crap’s sake, woman, you are a half-demon who fights vampires with a weapon forged with ancient magic! Why is it so hard to believe Willow might have come back from the dead!?
Marlowe’s eyes grew wide. “She died?” he repeated.
YES! Now can we fucking move on!?
“Yeah,” Buffy nodded sadly, “Vampire got her… Wasn’t her day.”
“As opposed to days where vampires kill you but it’s otherwise a great day.”
“Oh, that poor, poor girl,” Marlowe sighed melancholically.
Okay, first you can’t use words correctly, now you’re trying to make words up? Dude, walk before you try to fly.
“…But then, how is she back now, in her villainous state?”
“California is a villainous state?”
You obviously haven’t been to Cali.
“I dunno,” Buffy admitted.
“Not good,” Marlowe deadpanned.
I’m not entirely sure the author understands what dead panning is. It’s not really appropriate here. Not to mention that the lack of knowledge of how Willow came back is somewhat secondary here. It’s not necessarily foreboding that you don’t know since there’s no reason anyone here should.
“…I came by to suggest we combine forces. As you can see, my letter tells me to stay out of the way of future affairs between you two, and I’m afraid, as both of you are my students, I can’t have that. I care very much about my students.”
“Except that’s not what the letter said. It said to stay out of anything you learned about Buffy. So by being here talking to her, you’ve already signed the go-ahead for Willow to make an attempt on your life.”
Buffy was touched.
“Hands to yourself, Jimmy!”
This guy, a man going into his mid-sixties, was willing to put himself in the crossfire to stop them from hurting each other.
This fic is just rolling in the Batman logic today. He never said he was going to try to stop you from hurting each other. He said he feels compelled to intervene. That’s a way different thing.
“So now we have an age! That brings our total description for Marlowe up to British and mid-sixty!”
He also ‘looks like Ian McKellen.’
“Which is a great substitution for descriptive narrative!”
Yes, ‘X looks like Y’ is always riveting for the audience.
He was capable, definitely, but it was so selfless she almost couldn’t bring herself to let him.
“What in the world is that supposed to mean? He can totally help, but letting him help would be too altruistic, so she wants to prevent him? That doesn’t seem very nice.”
She had lost a lot of friends, and she didn’t want to be responsible for another.
Hopefully her perspective kicks in and she realizes that there’s more at stake than Jim’s safety.
That’s very kind of you,” she responded, “but I can’t ask you to do that.” She searched her mind for a reason why.
“So she’s trying to make up a reason for him not to help?”
Look, we have to pad the scene with some kind of false drama. May as well go with Buffy not wanting to share the limelight.
He would not acquiesce unless she had a very good reason for him not to.
We get it, you learned a word from Pirate’s of the Caribbean. Now stop using it.
“That would be too much to ask of you on top of your job,” she pointed out. Above all, Marlowe knew as well as she did that his calling was to teach. He was one of the greats of UC Sunnydale, and no way would he stop.
“California literature is much more important than averting a possible end of days. Go, Jimmy, teach that literature like you were meant to! Like you are destined to!”
I thought I was supposed to be the sarcastic one.
“I thought of that already,” Marlowe answered, and her heart sank a little further. “I can quit and help you do research. I have money saved.”
Her heart is just passing into her colon now.
“A little fiber will clean that right up!”
And by that you mean-
You’re digging your own grave, Buffy thought morosely, but kept her face smooth.
And maybe he’s an adult who can make his own decisions as to what’s really important and how he’ll spend his life.
“Nonsense! Now, onward to more fake tension!”
“While I enjoy Noir California,” he continued, “my main interest is in the supernatural, and fantasy. If it doesn’t exist, I look for something that proves it does. It’s my passion.”
So even if it doesn’t exist, he will find the proof that it really does?
“I think Jimmy might be the time cube guy.”
“I still can’t ask you to stop teaching!” she argued. “You’re too good a teacher to leave!” Please, listen to me. Stay with your safe job and life and forget about this. You would die because of me letting you help, and I don’t want more blood on my hands.
“I like how this is about her, not actually about him.”
That’s who you can spot melodrama. The arguments tend to have that shallowness about them.
“They’ll find another,” he smiled reassuringly. “If I can potentially save lives, Ill gladly abandon my desk for that.”
See? The dude knows his mind. Stop being obstructive and start working on the problem.
“What is the problem, exactly?”
Either it’s zombie Willow, or the mystery behind how she can be alive. I’m not sure which the author is trying to paint as the bigger issue.
Buffy frantically searched for another argument- but nothing came. He was right. His morals transcended whatever selfish desires he had, so he would take the high road here. High road to a short pier, she thought.
“Whatever happened to ‘He was capable?'”
Shh! Don’t distract from the melodrama!
“I don’t feel good saying it,” she began, her voice tight with reluctance, “but okay… you can help. I don’t want you involved in any run-ins, though. Handling one vampire is cake next to her.”
“Didn’t she also have a bunch of normal humans under her command when she was running the slayer organization?”
SHHHH! She’s tragic and trying to avoid more death!
“I feared it would be along those lines,” Marlowe admitted. “Very well. I will inform the university tomorrow morning, and then we can dedicate our time to finding out what we’re up against.”
Buffy renewed her efforts one more time. “Really, you shouldn’t.”
“Really, I’m adamant,” Marlowe argued.
“I don’t want you to be in danger,” she pleaded.
“I am committed,” Marlowe asserted.
For the love of the gods, Buffy, let the dude help so we can move on!
Oh well. She had given it her best shot- but it would suck if he died on her watch. “Alright. Sounds good.”
Finally! Jeeze, I was starting to wonder how long we were going to beat that horse.
“Speaking of which, I have a girls’ night out with Swenia that I need to get ready for.”
That’s fine, we’re pretty much at the halfway point anyway. Thanks for reading guys and we’ll catch you in the next one.
“Oh, by the way, you’re babysitting Jiwe.”
Son of a-