Some Things Are Just Bound to Happen
Standard Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
is the creation of Joss Whedon and is owned by Fox Television. My Favorite Martian
belongs to the Chertok Company in association with CBS-TV.Author's Note:
Merrick, as seen in flashback in BtVS, did not resemble Bill Bixby all that much. But if Bixby had put on weight and grown a mustache, he might have ended up looking kind of like Richard Riehle, and different actors have played the same character at different ages before.
By request of one of my reviewers, I'm giving a little summary of My Favorite Martian
at the end of this chapter.
Some Things Are Just Bound To Happen
One of the meeting rooms in Watchers' Council Headquarters had been set aside. Four Watchers, a woman and three men, were seated at the long table, each studying a portion of the Merrick file.
The woman and two of the men had taken off their jackets, and the two men had their ties loosened and their sleeves rolled up. But Wesley Wyndham-Price was buttoned down and freshly pressed -- a fact that the rest somehow found vaguely irritating.
Wesley was skimming a thick legal document, using a pencil as a pointer, when he suddenly sat forward and reread one line carefully.
"Aha," he said. The rest looked up from what they were doing.
"You've got something?" the woman asked, not without a hint of relief.
"The Last Will and Testament of Timothy O'Hara," Wesley said. "In the section on the disposition of keepsakes and mementos. 'My alabaster rosary set I leave to Uncle Martin.' Have you got the genealogy there, Deirdre?"
"I've gone over the wretched thing three times," Deirdre said. "No relative named Martin, and certainly no uncles by that name."
"Well, there we are," said Wesley with a smug little smile.
The team leader, Michael, rose and picked up the document. "So he left something to a nonexistent uncle," he said. "That suggests that he was in on it -- possibly even called the interloper in."
Wesley, who'd been waiting for a bit of congratulation on having made the discovery, swallowed disappointment and said nothing.
The older man, Terrence, said, "It could be a nickname. Someone actually unrelated, but with the same surname."
"True," Michael sighed. "Best not get ahead of ourselves; this gives us an avenue of inquiry, but we don't even know if this 'Uncle Martin' is even the same person as the one in Sunnydale."
"Oh, but," Wesley began.
"But what, Wesley?" Deirdre sighed impatiently.
"Well, it's a curious thing," Wesley said. "All the other beneficiaries are fully named, and their relationship to the deceased is clearly defined. But this just says 'Uncle Martin.' Perhaps…" He hesitated again. "Perhaps someone should have a word with the executor."
He started to fidget when the other three Watchers stared at him.
"That's actually not a bad idea," Michael said. "Good thinking, Wesley."
Wesley rallied, the smug smile returning. That smile was the main reason most Watchers tried to avoid congratulating him.
"I'll bring this to Mister Travers' attention," Michael said as he unrolled his sleeves. "The rest of you, see if you can find anything else."
Buffy crept along a corridor, headed for the girls' locker room. She'd met Willow Rosenberg and her friends in the quad at lunchtime, and the redhead had cheerfully agreed to help her get caught up. The boys had seemed like typical teenage horndogs, especially Xander, but they had the saving grace of being witty.
Then Cordelia had come by to tell them about the dead guy in Aura's locker. Buffy had promised herself that she was through with the slaying, but somehow,
here she was, sneaking off to look at a corpse.
She paused outside the locker room door and tested the knob. To her surprise, the door was unlocked. Good -- she wouldn't have to break in. If she got caught, she could plead morbid curiosity and probably not get into too
Easing the door open, she slipped inside. In the back of the room, the body lay on a bench under a tarp. She hesitated when she saw that the tarp was pulled back, exposing the corpse's face. Had someone else been here?
She looked around again, but could see nobody. Taking a deep breath and steeling herself, she stepped forward. And there it was: a ragged wound on the corpse's neck, centered on two holes.
"Oh, great," she sighed. Her shoulders slumped, and she lowered her head. Almost, almost, she felt tears forming. She shook herself out of her funk by sheer force of will. She had a job to do.
She approached the corpse again. Slowly, reluctantly, she reached out one hand towards its bloodless face. She hated the thought of touching the ghastly thing, but she had to check the mouth for blood residue. She reached out…and heard a voice speaking directly behind her.
"Don't bother," it said. She yelped and whirled around to face Merrick's friend, the librarian. He'd put on his jacket, and now he was leaning against the lockers, his arms folded, watching her with a sardonic expression.
"I already checked," he added. There was a hint of a smile on his face -- or was it a smirk? Whatever, it irritated her just enough to burn away her nervousness.
"What do you think you're doing," she demanded, "sneaking up on me like that?"
"Who was sneaking?" he said. "I was standing here the whole time."
"You were not," Buffy said. "I'd have seen you."
The man frowned. "Was so," he insisted. "And no you wouldn't."
"And just why
would I not have seen you?"
This time, it was definitely a smirk. "I was invisible," he said.
He stepped around her and the bench, crouching down so he could examine the corpse more closely.
"Are you completely mental?" Buffy demanded.
"I prefer cerebral," the librarian grinned. Then, more seriously, he said, "Now let's see what this poor young man can tell us."
He held out his left hand over the corpse's face and pressed the fingertips of his right hand to his temple. Furrowing his brow, he concentrated.
Buffy waited quietly, her eyes on the stranger. He closed his eyes and concentrated harder.
"Mmph," he said. "There's not a lot here. Reading psychic impressions off a corpse isn't nearly as easy as reading minds."
"But," Buffy objected, "you had no trouble reading Merrick's cross…"
"That's because Tim carried it around for so long. All that psychic pressure eventually…hmf."
"You're getting something?"
"Dark…a dark, crowded place…dark, crowded, and very loud. That's where he met the vampire…" he tilted his left hand back and forth, as if adjusting an aerial.
"A vampire with…blonde hair," he said, "and…a Catholic schoolgirl's uniform!?" he grimaced.
"Speaking for posterity," Buffy said, "Eww!" Her eyes widened. "Please tell me it was a girl vampire," she added.
With a wry chuckle, the older man stood and brushed off the sleeves of his jacket.
"I think we've learned everything we can," he said. "Let's tidy up and get out of here."
Buffy reached for the tarp, but the librarian held up a hand.
"Ut," he said. "Fingerprints."
He pointed at the tarp, and Buffy gasped as it moved, seemingly of its own accord, back over the body's face and smoothed itself out.
Buffy took a step backward.
"What are you?" she demanded.
"Just a man from out of town," he said, "here to do a favor for an old friend. I promise you."
"You're not human, are you?" Buffy asked suspiciously.
"Depends on your definition," he shrugged. "I'm not a member of your species, if that's what you mean. But I was
born in this dimension."
Buffy relaxed slightly, but remained wary.
"Just not on this planet," he added with a grin.
Rupert Giles entered the front doors of Sunnydale High, trying self-consciously to look like he belonged. He wasn't doing a very good job of it. He glanced around furtively at every corner before continuing on, and he had to fight the urge to duck his head whenever he saw anyone else coming the other way.
Still, he made it to the library without incident. He was only there to, as it were, case the joint, intending come back later when the mysterious Martin O'Hara was absent. But when he got there, he was surprised to see a sign taped to one of the windows, that said Back in 20 minutes
Now what? He wasn't really prepared…but could he afford to miss this opportunity? A quick search of his pockets turned up a hairpin. He unbent it and inserted it in the lock. A bit of twisting and levering, and the lock clicked open.Legacy of a misspent youth,
he mused, and yet it wasn't time entirely wasted, after all.
He eased himself in. Just a quick recce, and out. He glanced around until he spotted the door to the librarian's office. He hurried over and ducked inside.
He saw with some dismay that there was a personal computer set up on the desk. Grimacing with distaste, he seated himself in the chair and started going through the drawers.
The flat center drawer held only the usual pens, post-it notes and the like, but the middle drawer on the right side had a yellow legal pad that was covered in symbols of a sort he'd never seen before. There were several pages of the mysterious glyphs, written in pen in a strong, bold hand.
Giles flipped back and forth through the pages. He could sight-read several ancient languages, and could identify and translate several more, but this matched no writing system he'd ever seen. It didn't -- and he quailed at the thought -- it didn't look like any human language.
Thinking quickly, he flipped to the blank page that followed the last used one. He grabbed a pencil and rubbed it against the impressions on the page, and sure enough, the glyphs showed through. He tore the page loose, carefully folded it and put it away in his jacket's inner pocket.
After putting away the pad and closing the drawers, he rose and left the office -- and nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw a boy standing in the middle of the reading area and looking lost. The boy had unkempt black hair and a rumpled, unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt over a t-shirt.
Giles tried to duck back into the office, but it was too late -- the boy had spotted him.
"Hi!" he said with a smile. "Are you the new librarian?"
"Er, w-what?" Giles stammered. "Oh, er, ye- uh, yes…yes, I'm the new librarian. Yes."
The boy smacked his own forehead with the heel of his hand. "'Cause what else would you be doing in the library?" he asked. "Duh. Anyway, I'm looking for Theories in Trig."
"In Trig. You know, trigonometry?"
"Oh, yes, mathematics -- geometry and such." He looked at the stacks and wondered how to look like he already knew where everything was.
"The sign said back in 20," the boy continued, "but the door was unlocked, so I came in. That was OK, right?"
"What? Oh, fine, fine," Giles said. "I take it you know the Dewey Decimal System?"
The boy stared at him, puzzled. "Well, we studied it in class," he said.
"Well," Giles said, "trigonometry is five hundred and fourteen in the Dewey system."
The boy looked at him blankly. "And…?"
"Would you mind?" Giles asked, waving his hand at the stacks. "I'd get it for you, but I really must dash." He glanced at his watch and then at the doors. "The librarian will be back any minute," he muttered distractedly.
"I thought you were the librarian," the boy said.
Blast! He'd spoken aloud.
"Oh, oh, yes!" He said. "I'm the, the, the assistant! Assistant librarian. Sorry. He'll be back soon. Excuse me."
He pushed open the door and strode out, as fast as he could without breaking into a run. The whole way down the corridor, he could feel sweat trickling down his back, right between his shoulder blades, and for the first time, he began to wonder if tweed really was the best thing to wear in Southern California.
Buffy and "Martin O'Hara" walked down the hallway together. Buffy was keeping a wary distance. She'd really liked this guy, but the latest revelations were sort of freaksome.
"Merrick never mentioned you," she said. "And it's kind of hard to believe you'd be friends. He was a Watcher; aren't they kind of anti-
"When Tim met me," said the self-proclaimed alien, "he'd never even heard
of the Watchers' Council. He was just a struggling young newspaper reporter, trying to get by."
"So how did you meet?" Buffy asked, still not entirely trusting him.
"I…" he shook his head. "It's a little embarrassing," he confessed. "My spaceship crash-landed in the hills northeast of Los Angeles. He was driving by, and came to investigate."
"A spaceship crash? And that didn't make headlines around the world? People just what, forgot?"
"A little one-person spaceship, smaller than a speedboat. I hid it in Tim's garage for years."
"Okay…letting that one go for now, if he was a reporter, why didn't he, you know, report
you? 'Cause I'm smelling Pulitzer."
"So was he. But I explained why it wouldn't be good for him, or for Earth, in the long run. I'll admit I wasn't unbiased, but my reasoning was sound, and he realized I was right."
Buffy slowly nodded.
"I guess you really do owe him, then," she said.
"Oh, that was nothing. He took me in, Buffy. He let me pass myself off as his Uncle Martin. He even took to calling me that by choice. He gave me a place to stay, resources to repair my ship, and most important of all, he gave me a home. I don't know if I can begin to tell you how much that meant to me. "
He shook his head. "I've been studying your planet for centuries," he said, "and sometimes your capacity for cruelty and brutality amazes me…but every once in a while, one of you does something like that. It gives me real hope for your species."
They walked on in silence while Buffy digested this.
"Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide,
" quoted the alien, "the shame or mocking or laughter, but the thousandth man will stand by your side to the gallows-foot - and after!
That was Tim."
"Yeah," Buffy said, remembering a voice telling her to run, and then a single gunshot. Her eyes started to mist up, but she couldn't help a fond smile.
"So, Martin O'Hara, then?" she asked, as much to change the subject as anything else.
"Well, we couldn't use my real name…it's Exigius Twelve and a Half."
"And a Half," O'Hara nodded earnestly.
"You made that up," accused Buffy.
They reached the library, and the librarian took down the sign in the window. Buffy pushed open the doors and they went in.
"I thought I locked that," the alien commented, but then he shrugged and moved on.
"Anyway," he said, "we've got other things to worry about."
"Like that boy we just came back from looking at."
"…Oh. Right," Buffy sighed. "I was really hoping to put all that behind me. I'd really like to be Buffy the Normal Teenager from now on."
"It's a nice dream," agreed O'Hara, "but you are
the Vampire Slayer, and there's nothing we can do about it. With or without a Watcher, this kind of thing is going to keep happening wherever you go."
"Well…well, can't you
He shook his head. "My powers aren't terribly effective in direct confrontations. Against ordinary humans, I can do well enough, but I would hesitate to take on a vampire directly. That's really your forte. I can support, advise, investigate…but when it's time to pick up a cross and a stake, you're really the best choice."
Buffy sighed again and gazed at the floor. "Okay," she said. "I suppose I'd better get on the trail of Lady Skanks-a-lot. I was hoping to check out this club tonight. but…"
"Oh, why don't you go anyway? I'll see if I can't track down the vampire. You just have fun tonight."
Buffy looked up and smiled. "Really?"
"Really. Just, you know, don't forget that you are
the Slayer, so take a few supplies along, in case you run into any vampires at this club…which come to think of it is bound to be dark, crowded, and loud."
"Oh," Buffy said. "Point."
"And keep your eyes open for any Englishmen wearing tweed. There'll be one in town, and he's bound to come out of the woodwork sooner or later."
"Yeah, I'll tell him where to get off."
"Well, lunch is almost over, so you'd better get to class," the librarian smiled. "We'll talk more later."
"Sure thing," Buffy said, and started to leave. She paused at the door.
"It was nice meeting you," she said.
Martin smiled and nodded.
Once she was gone, he went into his office and closed the door. For a long moment, nothing stirred in the library. Then Xander quietly emerged from the stacks."What?"
For those who are unfamiliar with My Favorite Martian
and don't want to spend a lot of time looking it up, a brief summary.
MFM was a half-hour sitcom, premiering on CBS-TV in 1963, concerning the misadventures of newspaper reporter Tim O'Hara and the stranded Martian he takes in. Some episodes concerned the Martian's efforts to repair his ship or find another way back to Mars, while others focused on Tim's job at the newspaper, and the ways that having a Martian around could help -- or hinder -- his efforts to get a good story. There were also a number of stories where they had to act fast to preserve "Uncle Martin's" cover, and a few where the Martian got involved in someone's troubles simply because he saw a chance to help.
MFM was among the first sympathetic depictions of an alien on Earth; with very few exceptions, aliens in the movies and TV of the time were monstrous invaders out to conquer and/or destroy. They also took the interesting approach that Exigius 12 1/2 (and yes, that did turn out to be his real name) was an anthropologist, and had been coming to Earth for centuries. He was familiar with Earth's history, and had actually met Leonardo da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln, and many other historical figures.
One of the things that always impressed me about the series (once I was old enough to notice) is that, even though the Martian was from a far more advanced culture and was not shy about saying so, he never did so with scorn or contempt. Even when he chided Tim for his "primitive" Earthly attitudes and limitations, he did it with genuine affection for the species. This is something the 1999 movie starring Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Daniels missed completely, and a major reason I disliked the movie.
For more information, consult the Internet. There are currently a number of episodes out on YouTube (broken up into ten-minute segments), but I don't know how long they'll stay there. I recommend Season One Episode Four, "Russians "R" In Season."