On Twisting the Hellmouth
On Archive of Our Own
This is the second of six short chapters - I should post them reasonably quickly, I hope. All characters belong to their respective creators, giant megacorporations of doom, etc. and there is no intent to infringe on copyright.
2: Xander Harris
Marcus L Rowland
Linda’s house needs work; it’s structurally sound, and Clark helped her fix most of the immediate problems the day she moved in, but the kitchen is badly designed, three windows need replacement, and she’s still finding occasional evidence of mice, though she’s adopted a cat to deal with that. Streaky gets on pretty well with Shelby Junior, and he seems to be making inroads on the local rodents.
She asks around the UCLA campus, and several friends recommend a carpenter called Xander Harris. He arranges to visit her early the following week. She’s a little surprised that he only has one eye, but he’s handsome, if a little scarred, and seems to be able to work around his handicap.
“…It’ll never be a proper Craftsman home,” says Harris, “tens of thousands of these bungalows were built during the housing boom after the Second World War, and it was pretty much a production line operation. But you’ve got a nice garden, the trees give you plenty of privacy, and we can certainly fix it up the way you want it.” He sketches three variants for the kitchen that maximise counter space, storage space, or compromise a little on both, and estimates their prices. Linda thinks for a moment then goes for the option that maximises counter space; it’s unlikely she’ll need it much, but flight plus super-speed mean that she’ll never have to worry about running out of things; there’s always a shop open somewhere, even if it’s the other side of the world. Extra cupboard space isn’t a priority.
Two weeks later he’s finished the job, several days ahead of schedule, and Linda decides to christen the kitchen by making something special. She likes Indian food, and invites Xander to join her for a meal; lamb phall with saffron rice and half a dozen side dishes. She gets the meat and rice in Los Angeles, the spices in Bombay, peppers from Chile, and the beer and serving dishes from a shop in London. Everything comes together well, and she’s happy with the results. So is Xander, once he’s eaten some banana and drunk a little lassi; the yogurt drink helps take away some of the burn from the peppers and spices. Next time she’ll have to remember that what’s nicely hot for her might be unbearable for a human who isn’t used to authentic Indian food. They’re talking about the next stage of modernising the house when he turns pale, clutches his throat, and starts to choke.
“Are you okay?” asks Linda. He shakes his head, still coughing and spluttering.
“Did something go the wrong way?”
“Do you have any allergies?” He can’t reply.
“I think I’d better get you to a doctor.” She grabs her bag and helps him to his feet, still gasping for air, and pretends to have a hard time getting him to her car, an old Honda Accord that has a few unusual modifications. As she helps him into the passenger seat she presses her hand against a nerve point, applying a Klurkor sleeper hold which knocks him out in seconds. He’s still wheezing for breath, of course, but an unconscious man should need less air, she’s reasonably sure he’ll be all right for a few minutes; long enough for her to buckle in, with the special high-strength straps Bruce designed for her, and fly the whole car to a quiet street near the Pasadena Medical Center. She drives the rest of the way; once there he’s quickly admitted.
The diagnosis is severe anaphylactic shock, probably from a food allergy; they treat him and keep him in the hospital for observation, and eventually tell Linda she might as well go home.
He comes back for his car on Thursday afternoon. “It turns out I’m allergic to cardamom. The doctors think I must have been sensitised to it when I was in Africa a few years ago, then I guess I didn’t eat any for a while.”
“And there was a lot of it in the curry. I’m so sorry!”
“Not your fault, just my usual luck. Something weird happens whenever I go on a date, at least this time I didn’t need surgery.”
“Trust me, you don’t want to know. That was a Tuesday too.”
“Maybe we should try this again some other evening… say next Friday?”
“I wish I could, but I’ll have to give it a rain check, I’ve got business in Cleveland for the next couple of weeks, it might take a little longer. I’ll call you when I get back.”
“That’d be good. We still haven’t talked about the bathroom.”
As he drives off Linda decides things could have been much worse; he’s alive, and when he gets back from Cleveland she can try again with something simpler. Maybe hot dogs…
Comments please before I post to archives.