Funny is in The Eye of The Beholder AUTHOR’S NOTE:
Thanks to Storyseeker for his help in reviewing this. This story came to me fully formed. As usual, if you have any comments or preferences, please don’t be shy. RandR.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own the characters from BTVS or Batman. This is just for fun.
They had been at their most recent stop for over a week with no sign of a task to carry out or a portal to take them onward. Xander was psyched about their current whereabouts. Faith was less enthused.
While they waited for whatever would happen to happen, they had taken jobs to pay for necessities. Unfortunately, the only work two people without references or IDs could find was at a seedy bar known for not asking questions of their employees or their customers.
Faith got on as a waitress. The owner nearly got himself decked when he made a comment about eye candy. Xander replaced a busboy that had mysteriously disappeared shortly after spilling something on one of the bar’s patrons.
Henry was not a big man, but he was solidly built and gave the air of someone who could handle himself in a rough situation. The bouncer he employed was called Rhino, an ex-con who was trying his hand at honest work for the first time. He was a big man.
Neither the owner nor the bouncer worried the two veteran demon hunters. Some of the customers were a different matter. On the fourth night they worked there, the bar played host to a poker game between some of the city’s most disreputable citizens. Faith had spotted them and recognized two of them the moment she and Xander arrived for their shift.
“Don’t go near then,” she warned him in a low voice. “I won’t have you getting yourself killed in some bizarre way just ‘cause you couldn’t stop yourself from geeking out.”
“Give me a little credit.” Xander rolled his eyes. “Those are people we should both
Faith nodded. “No problem. We agree then.”
They set to work, always finding a way to be busy when someone at that table needed something. Xander, being more familiar with the city than Faith, spotted a real source of potential trouble sitting at a table in the corner. An older man with glasses, snow-white hair and a thick mustache, was sharing a drink with a fat man chewing on a toothpick. Both seemed to be tense, and anxious about something.
Xander recognized the two cops at once. “Oh, this won’t end well,” he muttered to himself as he turned away, deciding to get Faith and get out pronto. He spotted the dark-haired Slayer on the far side of the room, but never reached her.
“Hey, pirate-guy! Come here a moment.”
Xander turned to look toward the table he’d been avoiding successfully for a good part of the evening. Repressing a sigh, he approached and addressed them politely.
“Can I help you, sir?”
The man in the purple suit, who had called him over, smiled brightly. “Indeed. You look like a disinterested bystander. Perhaps you can settle a small disagreement.” Several of the people at the table gave low groans, apparently finding their friend’s antics tiresome.
“If I can,” Xander answered, careful to keep his tone respectful. He wasn’t particularly afraid of the man, but he did want to avoid trouble. Faith would not be happy if he started a bar brawl, especially with this lot.
At the same time, the geek in him was quietly loving the opportunity. The people at the table were legends. How could he pass up this chance?
“Perhaps you could tell us,” the manic smile widened, “who’s the funniest guy in town?”
Xander let a slightly annoyed expression cross his face. “You called me over to ask a stupid question like that? It’s no contest.”
Purple-suit’s smile widened, but Xander pressed on, throwing caution and common sense to the wind in the face of a once-in-a-life-time opportunity.
“I mean, consider the competition. You’ve got a ventriloquist that takes orders from his dummy, and yes, the kindling really is the brains of the outfit.” Purple-suit looked a bit surprised, but chuckled, as did two others at the table.
“There’s a ditzy blonde in a skin-tight suit who probably inspired the song Masochism Tango. Half the time she acts like she’s on uppers, the rest of the time she acts like she’s on PCP.”
This earned a bit more general laughter. Purple-suit wasn’t smiling, but he nodded, deciding it was a fair assessment of his sidekick. Xander pressed on, warming to his subject and beginning to draw attention from other tables.
Faith scowled from across the room. I knew something like this would happen; I just knew it.
Quietly, the Slayer started making her way toward her apparently suicidal partner.
“Then we’ve got the title character from the classic B-movie, ‘It came from fill in the blank’.” He had begun to circle the table but paused behind a poorly disguised demon or monster that looked more reptilian that human. “Here’s a man that doesn’t wear shoes, not because he can’t find them in his size, but because he can’t figure out how to tie them.”
He had moved on for almost ten seconds before the reptile creature jerked around with an indignant, “Hey!”
Xander paused behind a redheaded woman. “We’ve got a drop-dead gorgeous redhead in a leotard that leaves nothing to the imagination, and who gets homicidal when people admire her figure.” The redhead opened her mouth, but a man in a two-tone suit chuckled.
“He’s got a point, Pam.”
Pam scowled at two-tone, but let it pass.
Xander had already moved on. He paused behind another card player. “There’s the dapper gentleman in outdated formal wear who fences with his umbrella.” Purple-suit cackled merrily, diverting the dapper gentleman’s wrath while Xander moved on to the last person.
“And we have a two-toned man in a two-tone suit who can’t make a decision without a two-headed coin.” He put on an exaggerated expression of confusion. “Huh?”
Pam and purple-suit cracked up, and much to everyone’s surprise, two-tone only looked murderous for a few seconds before relaxing back in his chair and giving a rueful smile. Again, Xander had moved on.
He passed behind purple-suit while taking a quick survey of the room. He had almost everyone’s attention. Faith was moving quietly into position should things turn violent, and the two cops were looking more anxious than ever. Those two are supposed to be undercover?
He paused behind the reptile demon again. “But hands-down, the funniest, in my humble opinion, has to be…” purple-suit’s grin widened, something Xander hadn’t thought possible. “The city’s…no, the planet’s ultimate straight man.” Purple-suit’s jaw dropped comically, but Xander pressed on before he could react.
“I mean here’s the most pathologically obsessed person in history. He’s obsessed with seeing justice done, and yet he’s too humorless to see the irony in the fact that every time he ventures out on his rounds, he commits at least one felony.” His audience at the table looked at him stunned.
He began ticking them off. “Breaking and entering, tampering with crime scenes, assault. Don’t be shy, call ‘em out if you know ‘em.”
Two-tone, who had been a District Attorney in his old life, added three more off the top of his head.
“And he does all this,” Xander concluded, spreading his arms in an all-encompassing gesture, “while dressed as a flying mouse.” He turned to purple-suit. “All you do is tell jokes all day and play childish pranks. What the hell is so funny about that?”
Purple-suit was in a towering rage as he stood up to face the demon hunter. “Oh, I’m sure I’ve got something that can put a grin on that smug face of youuRRRK!”
“Is it a clown with two smiles?” Faith asked from behind him, pressing her knife against his jugular for emphasis. “Bet that would make LOTS of people happy.”
Purple-suit raised his hands, and began trying to placate his unseen attacker. Faith ignored him.
“You think this could be why we’re here, Xan?”
Her partner considered for a moment, while noting the reptile demon tensing out of the corner of his eye. “Nah. He’s a sadistic sack of crap, but he’s human. We can’t touch him. Same for the rest here.” He nodded to the other players who were watching the drama with the air of people watching a mildly interesting drama on TV.
“Pity. After all I’ve heard of this guy. You sure he’s not a mislabeled demon or something?”
“I’m sure,” Xander nodded firmly. “All this city’s problems are human in nature.”
“So why send a pair of demon hunters here?”
Xander shrugged. “Who knows? But what do we do now? I think we’ve worn out our welcome.”
“Too true,” Purple-suit volunteered. Faith gave him a slight shake and reminded him about the knife at his throat.
“Time to go,” Xander agreed. He glanced about and found a nearby table crowded with rough-looking men that he hoped were as violence prone as they were drunk. He tilted his head toward the table, and Faith grinned before tossing purple-suit one-handed into the middle of that table.
The response was everything they could have hoped for, and the place went up in a spontaneous bar brawl. Long used to navigating chaotic fights, the two extricated themselves from the bar and ducked down a nearby alley.
To their surprise, a shimmering portal appeared before them. “Huh,” Faith opined, before stepping through. Xander took one last look at the city he’d spent so many hours as a child reading about, and then followed her.