"Sar--Buffy, what the Hell is going on?" The fog was enveloping them.
Buffy knocked him in the skull with the flashlight. His head rang.
"Joss, you of all people know how much I hate violence. No one hates war like a warrior. Don't make me again. You know what's going on here,"
"A Dickensian nightmare," mused Joss, "Its' so cliche', I would have thought-"
"That you'd be more creative?"
"Guess what Joss, tonight we're going to explore the darkest roots of your creativity. The most sordid source of your muse. Your less-than-devine inspiration. There's me, and there's two others coming, but we've each only got an hour, so let's boogie, if you don't mind," She wrapped an arm around his and waved the flashlight. They spun through space, dizzyingly. They landed.
They were standing in a very messy room.
"It's my room!" Joss cried.
A typewriter stood in the middle of a desk strewn with candy wrappers and plastic toy action figures. On the wall above the desk was a kind of collage, made up of comic book cut-outs, glossy pictures of monsters from horror magazines, and photos of a pretty young girl who looked astonishingly like Buffy.
Joss touched the typewriter, or tried to. His hand went through it.
"It's what I named my typewriter. Mutant Enemy,"
"You NAMED your typewriter?"
"Yeah," Joss crept around the chaotic room. Clothes were strewn on the floor and nearly all the other surfaces were covered with comic books. He jumped as 17-year-old Joss hoisted himself through the open window. He dumped his books on the bed. He threw himself into the chair at his desk and began sobbing.
"Don't worry, he can't see us. Or hear us,"
Joss leaned closer, watching himself as a teenager.
"He cries a lot, that kid," said Buffy.
"Yeah, I did," Joss watched his younger self weeping with a mixture of sorrow and horror. "It was a really terrible time,"
"High school isn't great for anybody,"
"It's worse for some, though,"
Buffy smacked him on the head with the flashlight. It stung.
"Would you please stop that?"
"Misery is something you create. Bad things happen to everybody, but you can let them go and find the good and go with it, or you can feel sorry for yourself and drag everyone around you down all the time. 'Worse for some'? Like who?"
Joss was silent. Young Joss stuffed a day-old half-eaten candy bar in his face and began typing.
"What's he writing?" said Buffy.
"It's a short story,"
"Which got published in a junior science fiction magazine, right?"
"Yeah, I got an award,"
"Would have you gotten that award if you'd been on the football team getting your knees blown out?"
"And you never would have known what your talents really were,"
"We're done here," Buffy swept the flashlight in front of them.
They were in a school hallway.
"I cannot comprehend these fashions," said Buffy as they watched the students milling by, "Elephant pants. Glitter T-shirts. Oh, I like that one: "Disco Sucks". Feathered hair. No wonder you're messed up. Cool platforms, though,"
"Betty," said Joss.
A pretty, petite blonde girl in an overall jumper set her books on the floor and began opening her locker. Her face was the face on teenage Joss' wall.
"Ooops!" Three passing boys surrounded her and one of them kicked the books, scattering them.
"Hey, man, you'll sleep with the fishes for that!" one said to the other.
"Mrs. Corleone," said the book kicker, "Please don't tell your goomba about it,"
"I don't want the family to be mad at me!"
One of them touched her hair and wiped his hand on his jeans.
"Eeew, all greasy,"
They scattered, laughing.
Teenage Joss gathered the blonde's books and handed them to her.
"Yeah," she sighed. "Same stuff, different day,"
"So-" young Joss cleared his throat, "Are you going to the prom?"
She laughed. "I don't think so,"
"Well...it's kind of hard to explain,"
"Are you really going out with that guy?"
Betty fixed huge dark eyes on young Joss. "Go ahead and say it, Joss,"
"I-I wasn't going to say anything. I just thought, you know, that if- I just thought that if he couldn't take you, you know, that I could. I'll get you a corsage and everything,"
Betty was about to answer when a group of passing girls began a litany.
"Do you smell something?"
"Yeah, is that olive oil?"
"Garlic. I smell garlic. They put it on everything,"
The girls strolled past, giggling.
"Joss," said Betty gently, "Thank you for offering to take me to the prom. It's really sweet. But I can't."
"I just thought-"
"Thank you, Joss," Betty walked away, blonde hair swinging.
"She was always like that," Joss said to Buffy, "She kept her head up, no matter what,"
"After what?" Joss feigned puzzlement.
"Never mind," sighed Buffy, "Later. So, Betty's got a boyfriend and I bet he's Italian in the blindingly WASP town of Summerdale,"
"And I bet he's older than her,"
"And I bet he's not from the same side of the tracks,"
"Well you seem to know all of this, anyway,"
"I know it. Do you?" Buffy moved the flashlight in an arc.
They were standing in a cemetery.
Betty stood in the shadows of the trees, pacing. She was flushed and her eyes sparkled, she moved anxiously.
"Here he comes, the dark hero," said Buffy.
A tall, solemn figure approached, walking with long strides, hands in his pockets. He spotted Betty and seemed to grow even taller. They walked quickly to each other. He hoisted her in his arms and they spun in circles.
"It's wrong for you to have to meet me in a place like this. You shouldn't be here," he whispered.
"I don't care where I am when I see you," said Betty.
They kissed, their mouths falling together easily, completely absorbed in each other.
"Love," sighed Buffy.
"Did they give you a hard time today?" he asked.
"No," lied Betty.
"It's not like this everywhere. Back East no one cares,"
"Betty," the beautiful young man stroked her cheek, "It's OK if you change your mind. I would understand. It's not good for you, maybe,"
"Everything about you is good for me, Angelo,"
"Maybe not," said Angelo, "But it's got to be up to you. Because I love you. I know it's wrong but I can't stop it,"
"I know. I can't either,"
Buffy was working a kink out of her shoulder. She glared at Joss, who could do nothing but watch Betty and Angelo.
"Oh, look!" said Buffy, "It's the man of the hour,"
Teenage Joss skulked behind the mausoleum. Buffy shone the flashlight on him.
"Eerie looking isn't it?" said Buffy, "A fledgling stalker,"
"I wasn't stalking them,"
"Really? You were just worried about her welfare, right?"
"Because as we go to the next scene," Buffy snapped the flashlight in her wrist and the world whirled, finally settling them outside a suburban house, "Here's the man of the hour in the first stages of the worst thing he's ever done,"
"It was a note-"
"In the mailbox. For Mom to find,"