There are two kinds of people in the... group, I guess. Seems like we should have a name for ourselves, but we don't. Oz might say to me, "You going to the library this afternoon?" but we're not, like, the X-Men or the Thundercats or anything. The monsters call us the White Hats, but we call ourselves nothing. In my own head I think of us as "We who are about to die", but I never say that out loud. I like how conversational this is, in first person. It feels very intimate, and sets the reader into a role within the story - as part of the group. The poor, doomed group. The author's notes and summary make it clear that the narrator is Nancy, but until two-thirds of the way through the story, it could be any Sunnydale High student who is fighting under the direction of Giles. It sounds funny to say that, though, because I feel like this is Nancy, through and through. I also like the contrast between canon and wishverse, that in canon every role has a name: slayer, watcher, scooby - and here, none of them do.
Except once, the first time I thought of it. We were arming up in the library and Giles said "Ready?" And I said "We who are about to die salute you," you know, like a Roman gladiator, raising my crossbow in a fake salute. It was a joke when I started saying it but by the end of the sentence it wasn't anymore and Giles looked shaken. I never said that again. One of the things that makes this feel so conversational is the way she hares off on tangents, interrupts herself. Nancy's macabre sense of humor would have been a good fit in the canon universe of BtVS, but in the wishverse, which is a pretty hopeless place, there's no space for it to be anything but literal.
Anyway. Two kinds of people in the group. The first are the adrenaline junkies or the hero wannabes. The ones who get off on the danger, or the ones who have fantasies about saving the world. This is interesting - because how do you discriminate between 'wanting to save the world' and 'fantasizing about saving the world'? I guess it's one of those things that no one involved can really know until it's tested. Like any vocation. They never last long; either they figure out that saving the world isn't as fun as it looks or they get killed. Like that one kid - what was his name? You know, the blond, nervous looking kid. Tucker's brother. I like both the reference to Andrew, that even in the wishverse he's unremarkable, and that so much about the reference remains undefined. Did he lose interest or get scared or get killed? And what's Tucker's story in this reality? Is he still trying to get petty revenge over his romantic disappointments, or, in a life where the stakes are higher, does he get past that? He's used to define Andrew, so he must be memorable in some way. And I'm overthinking, because it's a running joke, a bit of familiarity to give the reader something to grasp, and there really doesn't need to be anything behind it.
The other kind are the ones who've lost so much they don't care anymore. Actually, they don't last so long either. None of us last long. But these are the ones who show up after you see the obit for their whole family, or after their best friend gets vamped and kills their girlfriend or whatever. Most of us are in this category, though we never talk about it. Sadness already hangs over the group so thick that it's hard to breathe, so there doesn't seem much point in, like, having some big discussion about it. I like the idea of the group as disparate refugees who don't talk about what they've lost.
I don't know which category Mr. Giles fits into, exactly. He's sad, it's true. But... he doesn't fit. I don't know why he doesn't just move - it's not like he's a Sunnydale native, obviously, so he could just get the hell out of here. He never talks about why he came. Though we're glad he did, I guess. But what we do more and more seems to be like a kid building a wall out of sand on the beach to keep the tide back. I feel like this is very in character for Giles, particularly with no exposure to Buffy, that he wouldn't tell the students about slayers or watchers. I can't decide if it's a good decision or not, though. Would knowing you aren't the only people in the world fighting against vampires help? Or would you just feel abandoned and resentful at the lack of action from outside while you are watching your friends die around you?
The monsters went through a phase where they'd say "Resistance is futile" when we'd rescue somebody - they'd hiss it out as they backed away from our crosses. Guess they thought it was funny or something. Very glad they gave that up - it was annoying as hell and also, apparently, true. Including Xander (and possibly Jesse) in the story without actually putting them into the narrative. it's funny and creepy, and a good reminder that the wishverse is high school students being hunted by former schoolmates.
Group has been getting smaller and smaller lately. We've never been big, but in our heyday, there were nearly twenty of us. Now there are three: Larry, Oz and me. Four, with Giles. I'm the last of the girls. Time's getting short - this could be the afternoon of Cordelia's appearance. The eve of the final defeat of the group. Also the eve of the cessation of the wishverse as a reality.
I will die soon. No one will mourn me much, I know - we don't get too attached to each other anymore, not since the big massacre last year. Like, last week Michael got his throat ripped out, and it sucked and all, but nobody cried. One of the things about the wishverse is the lack of hope. The options don't seem like they are live versus die, but rather die while decreasing the number of vampires versus die while increasing the number of vampires.
I never cry anymore, though I always feel on the verge of tears. I can feel them all piling up in my head, weight behind my eyes, skin tight, that stretched feeling. But I haven't cried since before I found Mom... yeah. Since before. I like the way she gets this little scrap of backstory and motivation. Also, the 'since before I found mom' - storing her grief and compartmentalizing. Nice.
The other day I was in the library with Giles, cleaning some of the weapons after school. Thinking about dying, like I do most days. Don't know if I have a death wish exactly, but when you know it's coming, no matter what you do, there doesn't seem to be much point in thinking about, like, who you're going to the Winter Brunch with. Yeah. Se should ask Larry, though. Platonically, obviously. I just think Larry needs some fun in his life.
So I asked Giles if he believed in Heaven. Because I don't know if I do.
And Giles looked at me like he was really seeing me, for once. I mean, sometimes we have camaraderie, and I know he cares, in an abstract kind of way. But usually he's pretty distant - none of us can afford to care too much, after all. The reality is that we're not so much the White Hats as the Red Shirts; the guys who die screaming in the first act. The Charge of the Light Brigade. We who are about to die. Also, Giles has distance because he's holding back information. That means he's not treating anyone as an equal. Again, I think this fits for a Giles with no Buffy - he expects the supervisory role, and doesn't expect this sort of conversation.
"Heaven?" he asked. He looked sorry for me, then, and sort of loving. "Do you?" Giles is a soft touch, though.
I shrugged and said, "I believe in Hell." And there was another one of those sentences that started out a joke and didn't end that way. Again, there's no room for humor unless you have a chance of winning.
He took off his glasses, polished them. "Yes." He just held them in his hand when he was done, looking tired and beaten down.
"So?" I asked, after he didn't speak. 'Cause for some reason I really wanted to know what he thought about this, like it made a difference. Like if he believed in it, then maybe it was true; maybe I could just lean on his believing, not have to believe myself. Like if there was someone here who could still imagine a different world, a better place, then it might just be possible. This is where it's very clear that as much as Nancy is a soldier of sorts, she's also still a kid.
"Yes," he said. "I believe in Heaven."
I felt kind of choked up then, for some reason. My throat was dry and the tears always hovering in the back of my head got closer to the front, almost to my eyes. "Why?" I asked. My voice sounded shaky.
"Because I have to," he said. "Because if there isn't...." he trailed off. We both stood there for awhile, looking down. "But there is," he said finally. Giles needs to believe, because there's no reason for him to fight otherwise. Nancy and the rest of them fight from desperation, Giles fights because it's his calling.
And I believed him - stupid as it seems in the face of everything, retarded as the image of puffy clouds and pudgy babies with harps is. Because Giles doesn't lie. And yet he's lying by omission all the time, just by not telling them who he really is.
And after that, I saw it, sometimes. Little moments where I could believe in it. Like when Oz sits on the stairs with his acoustic guitar and plays, sunlight flowing dustily down into the library, and we're all there; when no one turns a page because we're all listening. When Giles puts his hand on my shoulder briefly after a patrol, using the touch to say he's glad I'm alive for one more night. When Larry is joking around and gives me a big hug, spinning me until we're both dizzy. These small snatches of happiness. Then I can almost believe, because it feels close by. Glimpses of normal life and tiny scraps of friendship become glimpses of heaven.
Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you.
Hail Mary, full of grace. Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Hail. So sad and brave.
I have a powerful love for minor fringe characters. Particularly the ones who continue, but even when they don't. I particularly love seeing them take on their own lives in fanfiction. Nancy has such a brief appearance onscreen, and she's so gravely determined, that I almost find it hard to believe that we don't run into her again. Officially. Because in the world according to me? The Nancy in The Wish is also the Nancy in Beneath You.
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