Reader's DVD commentary for
Deep, Too
by yin_again

It seemed like a good place to go, on a night when nothing else even came close to being good. I really like that this starts with a "seemed like". All of the noncommittal feel of being seventeen and hapless, almost anticipating regret. Willow's the only one who could possibly remember the place, and these days she's not big with remembering the past. This is the autumn of senior year, and Willow is blossoming, remember. She' s important to a number of people, loved and valued, excelling academically, having gained some measure of cool (not with the cool kids, exactly, but with the outsiders) - with her guitarist boyfriend and quirky style. Willow has nothing to see as valuable in her past. Xander, on the other hand, has never replaced Jesse, has an odd, strained relationship with his girlfriend, and has a best friend whose best friend is no longer him, For Xander, now is an ok time, but the future isn't exactly a shining goal. Jesse would have remembered it - they'd spent enough time there. It wasn't that far, maybe a mile from the neighborhood, through the dense tangle of an old-growth forest that hadn't yet fallen to developers and builders. The barely-there-anymore path led to the back entrance of an abandoned rock quarry. Up front there was a road, unpaved and equally abandoned, and large slabs of granite laid haphazardly around the rim of the quarry crater, reflecting off the still water like Lincoln Logs tumbled from the fist of a baby giant. The thing that strikes me the most about this is the clear picture I get of the setting in my head. Maybe because there were places like that near where I grew up - and they would be surprisingly close to home, and feel isolated anyway. And then they'd disappear overnight, replaced with another couple of blocks of suburbia. And, Xander was pretty sure that thinking thoughts like "baby giant" might not be the best thing ever in Sunnydale, so he turned off the metaphor-maker in his head. Rocks. Moonlight. Water. Silence. All good things. Good, quiet things. Xander has this huge, easy facility with language, and a protective irony. They're both displayed here nicely. (Yeah, all of Whedon's characters tend to have a playful ease with language, I know it is hardly unique to him. But he uses it defensively, not just to maintain ground in conflicts, but to knock himself before anyone else gets a chance to. This is Xander blaming himself pre-emptively for a disaster that never happens. And also taking a stance against engaging with the world in a way that might allow shading. He sets things into black and white, and needs to define this emotionally weighted physical space as Good.)

There's a strong possibility that I overthink Xander. But...excuses versus explanations. Lots of his behavior is bad, particularly late in the series. I don't think there's any reason to try to make excuses. But I think in real life, we all behave poorly a lot of the time, and there is usually an explanation someplace for nastiness. For all that Xander is a main character in the show, he isn't central enough to the narrative that his actions are necessarily justified within the text. It kind of leaves a lot open to interpretation. I'm getting a little lost here, but here's part of my point: I like problematic characters, I like thinking about them. I like Xander. I like to try to fill in the blanks. If you buy into the idea of cycles of behavior, the viral propagation of negative social interaction? There's potentially a lot of Xander-explanation there.

Xander propped himself up on one of the slabs, easily finding the same spot he'd sat in a hundred times. Of course, they'd all had their spaces. Xander's here, where the rocks came together to make a perfect lounge chair. Willow in a spot that always reminded him of a school desk, her knees tucked under an overhang, arms resting on the "desk" part. Jesse'd always liked a flat slab that intersected the quarry wall at a right angle. It allowed him to lie on his back and kick his legs up against the sheer wall, while hanging his head off the end of the rock. He said he liked seeing the world that way, upside down and reflected. Said it was different. Yin draws personality into each habitual spot. She makes me regret the loss of Jesse just by telling about where he used to sit. That's just amazing.

Xander reached into his pocket for the can of soda he'd brought with him. Generic orange drink - not like his parents would spring for anything that topped six for a dollar, but the sweetness was welcome. That Xander's parents aren't great is canon. Also that they are not rolling in cash. He'd had a shitty day. Another one in a long line of shitty days. A fight with his mom before school, he'd forgotten the homework for first, second and third periods, he'd managed to trip over his own feet twice and nearly get the crap beaten out of him by Larry, only to have Buffy save him. After that, he'd gone home to find his dad home early and also drunk, which meant that his ribs weren't going to be feeling better any time soon and that he'd gotten to hear the wonderful story of the condom breaking for the 8,458th time. After that, a quick and humiliating jaunt to the Scooby meeting where they welcomed his doughnuts and shunned his help, and then, finally, here - his one peaceful place. There's canon and fanon working here. The canon is very well-supported, and the fanon is some that I find really believable. The combination of elements in Surprise, Amends and Restless mean there's no question in my mind that Xander's home life is emotionally abusive. Actual violence is a whole 'nother thing, though. I go with it without a whole lot of convincing, in this case.

Peaceful, at least, until he heard the crunch of tires on the gravel road, and the unmistakable sounds of an engine, that same engine turning off, a car door opening and closing, and shoes, walking toward his formerly quiet oasis. Yep, must be... any day in Xander's life, really. I think we all know that feeling. And it doesn't matter who the intruder is.

Xander sipped his soda, deciding he was too tired to care. He didn't even feel at all surprised to see the black leather duster topped with shiny blond helmet-hair. Spike. Great. Although as intruders go, that's probably the worst possibility.

He thought that Spike looked preoccupied, and then found himself being impressed against his will as he watched him leap up onto the rocks, traversing the stones like a goat - graceful, sure-footed, and not really goaty at all. Maybe more like a spider. Xander killed that thought, not wanting to inadvertently conjure up vampire spiders. Living on the Hellmouth played hell on your sense of whimsy. He watched as Spike paused, crouched about fifteen feet away on an outcropping. Xander's sense of whimsy actually stays intact until his wedding day, I'd argue. Though he doesn't really acknowledge that it's gone until he loses his eye. But I can certainly see him as trying to ramp it down in the third & fourth seasons, especially when he's being told he's useless/behaving inappropriately/etc within the scoobies.

"Hey," Xander said, quietly, figuring that spooking the bloodthirsty killer was a bad plan.

Spike's head swung toward him, and his body posture changed from casual to tense in less than a heartbeat. "Slayer's boy," he hissed, eyes flashing yellow.

"Yeah, well," Xander said, lifting his soda can in a salute. "I'm on break." And not only is that Xander's best option in the given situation, it's very much in character. Funny, slightly bitter, self-effacing, and irreverent.

Spike's posture relaxed, and in a second he changed from an eagle, perched to swoop down and snare its prey into a... guy, who was settling himself to sit on the rock, feet dangling. "So, you're saying you won't try to stake me?" Spike asked, amusement in his voice. I love this physical transformation through posture. Also, I'm thinking about the Spike who first came to Sunnydale, beautiful, face still rounded in early season 2. Self-possessed and powerful, able to give way to whim. Not the drunken wreck we see later in season 3, or the guy who's had his nature subverted in seasons 4-6. Or the new thing he shapes himself into being in season 7. Spike pre-going through the wringer (and Marsters pre-weird weight loss.)

"Long as you don't try to exsanguinate me," Xander offered.

"Exsanguinate? Big word," Spike said, pulling a flask from his pocket.

"Not so much. In Sunnydale, that's on the third-grade vocab test."

"I guess it is," Spike said. He tilted the flask toward Xander, who shook his head. In his place, if the bloodthirsty monster offered his flask in a friendly way? I wouldn't dare refuse. But Xander, canonically, particularly at this stage, may have issues with casual drinking. Or perhaps he just doesn't want to risk getting buzzed and upsetting the nascent truce.

"So that's a 'yes' on the no killing clause?" Xander asked.


They sat quietly for a while before Spike got restlessly to his feet, checking out the nearby rocks and slowly moving closer to Xander. He finally wound up near Jesse's spot.

"OK if I sit down?"

Xander nodded, watching as Spike pulled his duster off, revealing black jeans and a black tee shirt. He folded the jacket and laid it on the "desk part" of Willow's rock before settling on his back in Jesse's place, feet crossed, head hanging over to look at the quarry pool and its reflection of the nearly-full moon upside down. Xander had to look away. The parallel of Spike with Jesse is genius. It puts Xander into a really weird headspace. Boy is he ever a kid in mad need of a few male friends, at this point.

"What are you doing back in town?" he asked, mostly to stop the memories from crowding his head. "I thought you and Buffy had a 'no return' policy."

Spike frowned, then rearranged himself so that he was sitting cross-legged, facing Xander. "Had to come back. I needed to check on Angelus."

"Far as I know, he's still in hell," Xander said. "I hope it sucks."

"Something didn't feel right," Spike said, still frowning. "There was some kind of..."

"Tremor in the Force?" Xander supplied, grinning.

Spike grinned, too, and Xander was struck by how young, how human he looked. This is great.

"Something like that," Spike said.

"What's it to you, anyway?" Xander asked. "I thought you hated him."

"I do," Spike said. "It's... complicated."

"At the school, you said he was your sire. He wouldn't tell me what that meant." Xander tipped his can, drank the last of his soda.

"Your sire's the vampire who made you."

"Angel's your daddy?" Xander couldn't keep the "ick" out of his voice.

"No, git," Spike said, rolling his eyes. "He made Dru, Dru made me."

"So, he's your Granddaddy. And Dru's your Mom and also your girlfriend. Very... Springer-esque."

"Vampire families are different," Spike said. "Can't go applying human logic."

"Not a problem," Xander quipped. "I'm not known for my powers of human logic. So, Angel's still safely in Hell: what do you do next?"

"Disneyland," Spike deadpanned. "Nah, Dru wants to go to Prague. 's all she bloody talks about - daddy and Prague." I really like this bonding they do. They're very similar characters, in a way (ok, a small way) and I think that the way Xander is so unrelentingly anti-Spike later in the series is a failure of imagination on the part of the writers. It's very flat, very one-note.

"Hmmmm," Xander said, mulling it over in his head. "The girl you love is pining for someone else, Angel specifically. Believe me when I say that I know exactly how much that sucks."

Spike took another sip from his flask. "Had a thing for the Slayer, did you?"

Xander nodded. "Never claimed to be smart." And this is where I narrow down the temporal setting in my head - right around Halloween, 1998. Post-Beauty and the Beasts, pre-formalwear incident. I like puzzling out details. Of course, only Ms Yin knows for sure.

"It's blood, not brains," Spike said. "Unfortunately, the smarter parts of us don't control who we love."

"Ain't it the truth," Xander said. He placed the soda can down on the rock and stepped up to the edge of the quarry pool to relieve himself, a little surprised that he felt completely at ease turning his back on Spike.

"How's that water?" Spike asked. "Cold?"

Xander's brain supplied the punchline to the joke. Bizarre quibble: I would cut "to the joke" from that sentence. It seems extraneous. "Yep," he said, zipping up. "Deep, too."

They shared a laugh, and Xander picked up his soda can, then looked toward the woods. "I better head home," he said. "School tomorrow."

Spike stood up gracefully and reached for his duster, laying it reverently over his arm.

"Have a nice trip," Xander said. "Don't come back." He held his hand out.

Spike took it, and Xander was surprised by the smooth coolness of his skin. "No promises, mate," he said. Ooh, tactile. There are plenty of ways to spin this story into pre-slash.

"Fair enough," Xander replied. "You come back to town and the deal's off, you know."

"Fair enough," Spike repeated. "You need a ride somewhere?"

"Nope, I'm good." Xander patted the stake in his back pocket, then turned and walked off toward the trees. Had he turned to look, he would have seen Spike watching, a look of grudging respect on his face. I also think that last sentence is unnecessary. And everything else is filtered through Xander's POV - so this hangs out in the middle of nowhere, a bit.


The joke: A guy from Wisconsin and a guy from Georgia are fishing off a dam. They both have to pee, so they stand up and unzip. The guy from Wisconsin says, "Man, this water's cold." The guy from Georgia replies, "Deep, too." The joke was completely new to me. And took me a couple of minutes to understand, as apparently I need things spelled out more than that.

I feel bad about ending the commentary with a criticism, like that. Deep, too is one of my favorite stories ever. The quiet and the rocks, the cut-off metaphor making, Jesse,'s wonderful. So sorry about that.

(if you got through this, and wish to comment on my commentary, please feel free to do so here.)