"The Kindness of Strangers"
Author's Note: After the Man in Black defeats Buttercup's kidnappers (two of which really aren't what one could call 'bad'), Fezzik finds himself alone and friendless all over again. A local 'witch' stops a group of village children who are taunting Fezzik in his cave, and helps him find the confidence to face the world again. I like Book-Fezzik and Movie-Fezzik (Andre, you were awesome!), but this is based on the book.
I don't own anything, other than my own OC, and no, this is NOT a romance. I have nothing special against OC/Canon romances, and I've even done a few of those myself, but it's possible for two characters to make a connection without becoming romantically involved. So, without further ado...anybody want a peanut? *shot*
Children were naturally curious. Anything new or different brought on many different reactions, depending on the child's temperament. A man of Fezzik's size tended to inspire fear among the more timid ones, and the braver ones would sometimes approach him with a certain degree of awe. It was only when the mustachioed Turkish giant took notice and turned his large head to look at them that these brave ones would scream and run away. So it was, day after day, year after year, ever since Fezzik (who was as big as an adult at the age of six, and who was even bigger now) was a child.
Fezzik never blamed them. At over seven feet tall, with dark and heavy eyebrows, a large handlebar mustache, and arms as big around as a half-grown child's body, he knew that he certainly looked very fierce. It wasn't as if he enjoyed frightening people, (although, this did occasionally prove to be useful) but their fear was preferable to his being ridiculed. And even being taunted was better than solitude, which was probably why he had allowed Vizzini to treat him so poorly. Being the biggest and the strongest was both a blessing and a curse.
Now, huddled in the back of a little sea cave on the beach of some fishing village that he did not know (or care to know) the name of, Fezzik felt anything but blessed. The Man in Black had beaten all three of them; Inigo Montoya, then Fezzik, and then their leader himself. Vizzini was dead. Inigo probably was, too, although Fezzik could not face that reality just yet, and pretended in his head that his friend Inigo was right beside him, playing rhyme games as they so often did.
But only Fezzik was left, his neck bruised and his throat aching. Alone. He was alone. And no amount of pretending could make his friends alive again.
At least, he was alone until the village children found him. Maybe if he ignored them, they would go away. He had been through this sort of thing before. At first, they would be afraid of him. Then they would slowly approach. Then, realizing that this freakishly huge man would not hurt them no matter what they did, their playful natures would morph into something spiteful and naughty. Oh, not all children would mock Fezzik or throw things at him. Same thing for adults; not all of them were mean. With an adult, though, he could still fight back. He could never bring himself to use his considerable strength on children, however cruel they were to him. It was bad enough that, against his better judgment, he had obeyed Vizzini and helped to kidnap an innocent woman who had never done him any harm.
Luck was not on Fezzik's side this day. Wild-eyed, traumatized, rocking slowly back and forth, the Turk's lips moved silently as he made up rhymes to comfort himself. A rock bounced off the top of his head, reminding him of the sting of a wasp. Rock, shock. Flock. Mock.
And that was what these children were doing now. They jeered and laughed, throwing stones at the hulking figure.
Fezzik hugged his knees close to his barrel chest and buried his face in his massive arms. The rocks were hurting him a little, but the name-calling was worse. In his mind, though he tried to keep himself right there with Pretend Inigo, safe with the rhymes, Fezzik was transported to another time. He was a (comparatively) small child again, but he towered over his classmates, who assumed that just because he looked monstrous, that meant that he deserved to be put in his place. Fezzik's mind went unwillingly on a swift journey through his past; from his miserable childhood, made worse when his parents forced him to learn how to fight so that they could get rich off of his strength (oh, he knew that they loved him, but they also loved gold, and that love grew until it replaced him in their hearts...or, so it seemed to poor Fezzik); getting booed because he won his fights too easily and was seen as a bully; losing his parents to a plague when he was in his teens, and having to continue to fight because he knew nothing else. Finally, after being booed one last time and crying himself to sleep in his tent, he found himself fired from his job at the circus; they abandoned him in Greenland, which was where Vizzini had found him.
Nobody wanted him. Nobody! Now that his friends were gone...well, one of them was his friend, the other was rather noisy and cruel...he was facing his worst fear. He was alone, friendless, and subject once more to the cruelties of the world.
Someone hurled a rock with surprising strength and accuracy for such a small child, and it cracked heavily against Fezzik's temple, drawing a trickle of blood. He would have cried out if he'd had any voice left. Why couldn't they just go away?
"Hey!" A new voice, a woman's voice, carried clearly over the sound of the waves and the noises of naughty children.
Fezzik cringed. His head hurt, but his heart hurt more. Now an adult was coming, and things would only get worse. He began to weep silently. He listened hopelessly as the voice got closer, and the children stopped their shouting. Inigo...what should I do?
"What are you doing? Get out of here! Go on home, or I will tell your parents! Go on, get! Shame on you!"
Rapid footfalls answered the scolding, and Fezzik realized that the children had scattered. Now he was in for it. Fezzik cried without his voice, only able to make a sort of muffled 'chuffing' sound, and he waited for her to turn her sharp words on him. After all, most people assumed that Fezzik, who looked every bit the bully, was the one to start things.
The woman's footsteps, which changed in sound when they left the sand and made contact with the stone floor of Fezzik's little nook, were tentative. It made sense. This man could easily break her in half if he wanted to. But he didn't want. He was so hurt and frightened and alone that all he wanted was a kind word from someone, anyone.
It was quite a surprise to Fezzik when, for once, he got exactly what he wanted. He felt a gentle hand touch his arm, as if to announce its owner's presence so that he wouldn't jump (though he did jump, just a little), and when he didn't object to this the hand left his arm and lightly brushed back his dark hair to expose the cut on his temple. He heard the woman click her tongue, a sharp 'tsk' sound, and he felt her lightly dabbing at the cut with what seemed to be a piece of cloth.
"You poor man..."
That did it. He hitched in a great sob, found the last remnants of his voice, which must have been hiding somewhere deep in his throat, and gave vent to an anguished, rusty wail. The sound was not very loud, not even in this closed-in space, but it told the woman more about his broken heart than any words of his could have done. Words simply could not encompass such pain, and the buildup of a lifetime of cruel treatment fell from his eyes like hot rain.
The woman was quiet throughout all of this, and with businesslike efficiency she cleaned and bandaged his cut, which was no easy task because he never uncovered his face. When this was done, she simply sat with him, patting his large shoulder and letting him calm down in his own good time.
And it took a good, long time. His parents had always scolded him for crying, and others had made fun of him for it in the past. Even Inigo, his best friend, was uncomfortable whenever tears appeared in the huge man's eyes. Men were not supposed to shed tears. And strong men? Even less so! It was a relief and a comfort to be allowed to just cry, and to be consoled instead of chastened.
When, at last, Fezzik regained control of himself, he screwed his knuckles into his eyes like a great child to rid himself of the last of his tears, and noisily sniffled as he wiped his nose with the back of his hand. He normally minded his manners better than this, but the woman didn't seem to notice. Indeed, as he shyly cast an embarrassed look at her out of the corner of his eye, she was not looking at him at all, but out over the water. Fezzik opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again. Even if his voice was what it should have been, he hardly knew what to say!
She removed her hand from his arm, rather to his disappointment, and hugged her knees in a similar manner to the way in which he was sitting. Still not looking at him, she began to speak. "I must apologize for them. I've never known them to be so naughty before. They'll not bother you again; they're afraid of me, you see."
Fezzik could not see why. She was, in a word, average. Average height, average build, average features. The only thing that was different about her were her spectacles, which not many women cared to wear for fear of spoiling their appearance. Some would prefer to walk into walls than wear such things to correct poor vision, but this woman didn't seem to mind them at all. Her hair, which was red, was worn in a plait that reached the middle of her back; an average hairstyle.
An average stranger would have passed Fezzik by; he knew this from personal experience. Surely, someone so big and strong could take care of himself? Of course. That was their assumption, anyway. Fezzik decided that there was something very non-average about this stranger. Perhaps she wasn't a stranger any longer. Was she a friend? Defend. Mend.
The woman looked at him then; average brown eyes. "It's beginning to rain. Would you mind if I shared your cave until it stops?"
He shook his head and looked away again. The right thing to say finally came to him, and it left his lips in a hoarse whisper. "Thank you."
"Ah, so you can talk. I was beginning to wonder," she smiled, but it wasn't a teasing smile. He found himself smiling back a little.
"Sort of," he whispered, "My throat hurts."
Her smile immediately disappeared as she saw the bruise on his neck. "Did they do that too?"
"No," Fezzik's face clouded over again, and he rested his chin on his forearms, partly to hide the bruise from view once more. Even his mustache seemed to droop, though this might have been from the tears that had soaked into it. "It was the Man in Black."
"Oh," The woman said, even though this clearly meant little to her.
Fezzik could understand that, for he did not know of the man's existence until quite recently. He glanced over again as a small, white hand held something out. "What is that?"
"A cough drop. It might help your throat."
He gravely accepted the cough drop, but he didn't put it into his mouth right away. As much as he appreciated how nice she was being, he couldn't quite figure out why. And, before he could stop himself, the question was out of his mouth. "Why are you being so nice to me? I mean..." He looked contritely down at the woman, who had raised her eyebrows inquisitively, but who did not seem particularly offended by the question.
"Why not?" She shrugged, smiling again. "You look like you could use a friend. And, between you and me, I think you're having a worse day than I am. And, judging by how hard the rain is coming down, we'll probably be stuck with each other for a while, so we might as well introduce ourselves. What's your name?"
A lump formed in Fezzik's throat, and he looked at the cough drop. Then, almost absent-mindedly, he popped it into his mouth and squirreled it into his cheek to let it melt. As if by magic, the lump disappeared. Of course, it must have been the cough drop. "Fezzik. And you?"
Now she chuckled, and the sound was almost rueful. "Some call me 'witch'. Some call me 'crazy'. Most don't call me at all unless they need my help. But my name is Lisa."
Now it was Fezzik's turn to raise his eyebrows, and he looked over at her again with a frown. "Why would anyone call you those names? You don't seem crazy, and you don't look like a witch to me." His voice was coming back, if only a little.
"Well...people do like to talk. I made that cough drop. I make a lot of things. Liquids for bringing down a fever, bandages...like that sticking plaster on your temple. Leave it alone, by the way, it'll fall off on its own."
Fezzik's hand went to his temple to touch the bandage, and he nodded to show that he understood. "Is that why you said the children were afraid of you? Because they think you're a witch?"
"Mm-hmm," She nodded, "I gave up correcting them about that a long time ago. If they want to think I'm a witch, let 'em."
"But...If they're so mean to you, why do you help them?"
"Because that's how I'd want to be treated," Lisa told him, her voice telling him that this should have been obvious, even if she didn't say so.
"I'm so stupid," Fezzik nodded amiably, "I don't figure out those things unless someone tells me. Inigo would sometimes..." He abruptly stopped speaking and looked away once more as tears again threatened. He had been about to tell her about how Inigo would make up rhymes to help him remember things, but Inigo was gone, probably dead. He had thought that he was done crying, but now he wasn't so sure.
Lisa looked up at him with quiet compassion. She didn't know what was bothering him, other than the way he was being teased when she arrived, but she understood sadness and loss well enough. "I don't think you're stupid, Fezzik," She told him gently, "We don't have to talk if you don't want to."
But Fezzik did want to talk. Up until now, the only person he could tell his troubles to was his friend Inigo, but now...
And so, Fezzik told her the whole story about how he had fallen in with Vizzini and befriended Inigo, how they worked as outlaws for years, and how most recently the three of them had been involved in Princess Buttercup's kidnapping. He hung his head in shame as he saw the look on Lisa's face when he told her how the plan was to kill the princess in order to start a war between Florin and Guilder, and how he hadn't wanted to, and how the Man in Black had brought the plan to an abrupt halt and beaten Fezzik fair and square. And he simply could not disobey Vizzini! And now Vizzini was dead, he couldn't find Inigo, and he had no idea where the Man in Black or the princess got to.
Lisa looked more disapproving than ever, and she was right to despise him for this, he knew that now. They were silent for a long time, and finally she spoke. There was a steeliness in her tone that hadn't been there before, but Fezzik knew that he deserved much worse. If she were to slap him across the face he would simply accept it, but she didn't. "Well, then, you'll be pleased to learn that the princess is safe at the castle once more. Your Vizzini was unsuccessful."
Fezzik's smile was so honest and joyful that Lisa's angry look softened a little, and it disappeared entirely when he spoke again. "Oh, I am glad! At least something good came of all this."
There it was. Great evil could have resulted from his weakness of will, but perhaps there was hope that he would redeem himself. "You never did want to hurt her, did you?"
"No! I...I don't want to hurt anyone. But...it's all I know!"
And he wept again as his whole story spilled forth, telling Lisa about how he used to get teased for being the biggest and the strongest. "And how many six-year-olds do you know who are taller than their parents and have to shave?" He hid his face again.
Lisa's expression softened even more, and she stood up and put her arm around his shoulders...or, at least, as far as it would go. "Not very many..."
He told her about how his father made him learn how to fight; first so that he could defend himself, and then, when it was clear how strong he really was, so that they could make a profit. He told her about how his parents had forced him to compete against adults in wrestling matches for the first time at the tender age of nine, saying that if he didn't they would leave him there, all alone. And how wherever they went he was booed. By the time he got to the part where his parents died and he really was alone, he was sobbing so hard that he was almost incoherent.
"Shh, shh, shh...Easy now, you'll injure your throat even more." Lisa shook her head, better able to understand how he could have become so dependant on such a villain. Up until the time he met Vizzini, it had been his parents who were in charge of every move he made; in a way, he had never been allowed to grow up. Then, when they were gone, he had been without direction. Weak-willed. Scared. Very much like he was now. She could not condone his recent actions, but he was seeming more and more like a victim than a villain. "Hush, it will be all right..."
How indeed? "Well...The princess is all right, that's one. Two, Vizzini seemed like bad news, and you won't have to worry about him stearing you wrong anymore. Three...you said the Man in Black fought fairly, and left you alive, right?" Fezzik nodded without raising his head, still crying softly, and Lisa went on, "You said Inigo was a good person who also always fought fair, as opposed to Vizzini, who was a cheat, a liar, and a thief. Maybe the Man in Black saw that, and maybe he left Inigo alive as well."
Fezzik lifted his head and turned it so quickly to look at her that he accidentally knocked his forehead against hers. "Oh! S-sorry...but...do you really think so?"
Lisa rubbed her forehead, which really didn't hurt all that much, and nodded. "It's possible. You said you never found Inigo, but you found Vizzini's body. Maybe Inigo is looking for you, just like you're looking for him."
His face was quite a thing to behold as this information sank into his noggin, bit by bit. The creases in his forehead smoothed out; his eyes, which were still quite wet, grew round with hope; his mouth, which had been pulled down in a grimace of tragedy, slowly grew slack. He couldn't have looked more surprised if someone had slapped him across the face with a dead sucking squid. "Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm not sure," she told him, "But it's something to look into, right?"
"Oof!" Lisa found herself in a rather tight spot as Fezzik joyfully pulled her into a hug. She awkwardly patted his arm before politely pulling away, but she was smiling.
"I was so sure you would hate me after I told you what I did...or tried to do..." Fezzik mumbled, playing with his fingers as he looked out over the sea, which was being whipped into a proper foam by the stormy winds. There was a distant thunder-clap, and he shuddered a little. He did not like thunder. "I thought I was making a new friend just now...I don't want you to hate me."
"No, I don't hate you." Lisa sat down once more, seeming not to mind the thunder in the least. "I'm not particularly impressed by it, but...I think I can sort of understand why. Promise you'll never do anything like that again."
"I promise." Fezzik said immediately, and he meant it. He was so starved for company that he would have agreed to walk on his hands instead of his feet for a solid week, if she asked him to. To be honest, it would be no big deal for Fezzik. Not with his arms!
"Anyway..." she said, adjusting her glasses, "I know a thing or two about being teased. I'm extremely near-sighted...I've had to wear these since I was seven. I was the only one. A girl can only be called 'window-face' so many times before she cracks."
He looked down at her sadly, but he was surprised to see her snickering. "What is so funny?"
"Hee hee...'Window'. 'Crack'. Get it?"
He didn't. Then he did. And then he was snickering too.
"That's where it started, anyway. When the teasing for that got to me, they found other ways to pick at me. It went on until we all grew up, then they slowly stopped. Either they became nicer, or they lost interest. Either way, I've spent a good part of my life avoiding people. Mostly because I was afraid of being hurt again. But if someone had come along and told me that they could solve all my problems...make me a little less weird, somehow...At a certain low point of my life, I probably would have jumped at the chance. So, I can't say I wouldn't have done a few things I could be ashamed of if things had gone a bit differently."
"I don't think you're weird..." Fezzik said quietly.
"I am," she insisted, looking up at him. "And you know what?"
He did not. He thought a moment, then shook his head no.
"That's perfectly fine with me." She grinned at his confusion, and explained. "You see, if we were all the same, the world would be a boring place. Maybe some people are born different to prove that it's all right to be a little bit different. Take your strength, for example. Yes, fighting is all that you know now, but who says that's the only thing you can do? The Brute Squad is always looking for new members. And there are countless jobs that involve lots of heavy lifting; you look like you'd be good at that. Maybe you'll find something else you like, if you don't want to continue to fight."
"Right!" Fezzik blurted out before he could stop himself, and he shut his mouth in the hopes that she wouldn't notice.
"Hey, that rhymed!"
"You...like rhymes?" he asked tentatively, bracing for a trick.
Lisa shrugged her shoulders and picked up a tiny stone from the cave floor, tossing it from one hand to the other; she could never sit still for long. "Rhymes are good. They're even better when they're combined with puns."
Now Fezzik was half-way to being happy, and he shifted so that he was sitting cross-legged and facing her. "Me and Inigo used to play rhymes all the time...at least, when Vizzini wasn't around. Until I find Inigo again...if he's alive..."
He tried to keep from looking sad, and he couldn't finish his question. He still wasn't quite sure she wouldn't make fun of him for liking such childish games.
Lisa turned to face him as well, scooting further back into the cave as the wind blew a spray of cold raindrops into the mouth of the cave. "It looks like it will keep raining for quite some time. You won't be able to search for your friend until it stops, and I won't be able to go home."
Roam, foam, loam. Fezzik was practically jittering where he sat, hoping that she would ask, because he was afraid to.
"Fezzik, do you want to play rhymes until the rain lets up?"
He clapped his hands once, the noise reverberating off of the cave walls like a thunder-clap, which was promptly answered by a more timid-sounding one (the real thing) from outside. "Yup!"