Webisode based - including Will Zimmerman's massive Bigfoot phobia, and his resultant fainting episodes. Once again, I've named the Bigfoot: Ntamqeh Dene - Blackbear Man. Dr. Magnus, however, seems to exercise the Victorian aristocratic privilege of referring to names that she prefers. Hence, the same Sasquatch that's Ntamqeh to Ashley is Nathaniel to Ashley's mother. And, as usual, Ashley is a great believer in the stress-and-pain-relieving properties of swearing.
No ownership. No profit.
Our first scene is set in the abandoned subway station after the end of Webisode 1 (aka: installment 4 of the 8 that constituted the web-version of Sanctuary)
"I can't drive on these icy streets! They're – icy! I can't – I don't know how – I – "
"Oh, I'll do it!" Ashley snapped, glaring up at Zimmerman gibbering from where she crouched on the gritty concrete of the subway station's floor.
Tentacle-boy looked up to him solemnly inquiring, and he blinked at the little ghoul, then at her as if he'd never seen either of them before.
Ashley rolled her eyes, and grimaced, carefully transferring the pressure as her mother insinuated another pad of cloth under her hands.
'God is this tendency to bleat actually a part of the attraction for Mother?' she wondered to herself.
"You're a psychiatrist, right?" she began again, putting on her most reasonable tone, no matter the effort it took. "You must have some medical – "
"Psychologist!" he yipped, sweat shining on his face like rivulets of oil as he watched her mother's hands move over, and in, the bloody wound in Ntamqeh's gut.
"You have some medical training, don't you? You can help Mother and I'll drive."
"Noooo!" the guy squeaked, goggle eyed, and still fixated on the blood like a chickadee staring at a snake.
'Too freaked to shriek,' Ashley thought.
"Look – "
"As long as Dr. Zimmerman can help us get Nathaniel to the car, I can manage quite well by myself," Dr. Magnus announced without looking up from her butler's bloody guts. "You may drive, Ashley, and Dr. Zimmerman will ride in the middle seat with Alexei where he need see neither Nathaniel nor any blood. Now, if it would be convenient to depart, I believe we'd best be on our way."
"You – you want me to touch it!" Zimmerman breathed, staring.
"No. I wish you to mind Alexei and doors, elevators, and so forth," Helen said. "Ashley and I will carry Nathaniel. Now, if you please, Ashley. Stop squabbling with Dr. Zimmerman and make yourself useful."
Ashley slewed around to eye her mother at those arrogant words, delivered with such self-important regard to her own assumptions – without releasing the pressure she'd been ordered to put on a pair of the worst of Ntamqeh's bleeders, by that very same mother – who continued methodically binding strips of cloth torn from Ntamqeh's own coat over his wounds with lengths of the rope that the psycho had used to –
- falling out of otherwhere, into some dank and empty cavern of a space, smothering under the hot, calussed hand clmped over both mouth and nose, unable to breathe, no air – struggling even as the darkness thickened in her vision and her mind narrowed to perceptions – his laughter behind her, around her, suffocation – no air – the heat of his body like a disease as she fell again, into darkness, with him hard against her like –
- waking, wracked with coughs, sick and dizzy, face down on the filthy concrete, hands tugging at hers and rope snapping taut as she fought –
"Ashley!" Helen snapped, anger raw in her voice. "Please make yourself useful for once!"
Ashley started with a gasp, the scent of blood, dust and metal settling into the thick, dank air around her around her again – reality, oh, god – and quickly locked her hands into her Mother's blood-engrained grip to make a seat to carry the unconscious Sasquatch out of the abandoned subway station.
"I'll trust you to take care of the arrangements for Alexei, and to see to Dr. Zimmerman's comfort for the night. We'll speak later," Dr. Magnus ordered crisply.
"Mom – please – I – "
Ashley could hear herself begging, and she couldn't even care.
"I have no time for your nonsense, young lady," her mother interrupted. "I have given you tasks. Be about them, now."
The infirmary door closed behind Helen Magnus with a whoosh of cold air.
- cold, dank air, stinging in the abrasions on her wrists, the chill metal of the knife blade pressed so intimately to her lip, the taste of the metal on her skin, metal and blood and –
"Oh, Jeez – do you think Alexei'll be all right? I mean, he was up and around and all, but he's had a really bad time of it his whole life, and that has to take its toll. Your mother will be able to fix him up, won't she? I mean she's a good enough doctor to work on – on things like her - her Big Foot, but Alexei is just a kid. And human. He'll be all right, won't he? Won't he? When I saw him get up – I was never so happy in my life. Your mother will be able to fix him up, won't she? I mean – "
"You should adopt the little ghoul," Ashley interrupted the babble, wrapping her arms around herself and digging her fingers into the leather of the jacket sleeves. The coat smelled like dank stone, and someone else's skin… She shoved the thought away with a shudder.
"Since you like him so much."
The image of a tentacle, its orifice flexing, the wet, pink, inner surface on display, obscene and hungry, hovered between them in her mind's eye as Dr. Zimmerman gaped at her, obviously without the first clue as to why to she didn't share his enthusiasm for the murdering little freak.
"What? Did you think that trying to eat my brain would automatically endear the little ghoul to me?" she complained to him. "I'm not gonna dust him in front of you, or anything, but there's no way I'm mothering him, either. You can do all the parental cooing and petting. Not me. And don't expect me to play up to you because you're soooo niiiiice, either."
Ashley grimaced at his expression of incredulous offense.
This one was never going to see beyond his own opinions of the freaks, was he? Cute little pleased-to-eat-other-people's-brains murdering mutants with no qualms about killing, good. Big, ugly, honorable, loyal, discriminating, educated Sasquatches with a neurotic propensity to wear clothes and a long-ago tendency to play scary pranks, bad. Period.
'Wonder where that leaves little blonde bitches with bigger balls than his, especially ones with the nerve to fit his idea of fuckably cute….'
She shook her head with a groan.
"You must be hungry. Tired. Com'on. I'll make you something to eat," she mumbled.
"You cook?" he squawked, goggle eyed.
The incredulity actually thickened from her lack of enthusiasm for ghoul-induced lobotomies – wow. 'Who knew he had it in him? Ever so flattering.'
"Well enough to do soup and sandwiches or something," she snapped. "I didn't intend to whip up Christmas dinner for you."
"Oh! I thought – " he gestured expansively at the cement-walled and ribbed corridor, arms windmilling. "I just wondered what you eat around here – besides tea. And scones."
"We don't recycle the ghouls for lunchmeat, if that's what you're worrying about," Ashley informed him with another groan. "Com'on. The kitchen's this way and up. You can sleep in some of Mom's sweats, then."
"Can I check on Alexei again, before that?" he asked, eagerness personified – again.
…the psycho holding her head, holding her still for the little freak to feed on her brain, the intensity of his expression as the tentacle came sliding out of his clothes, like he didn't even know it was there, like he didn't even know it was happening or he was doing it, like he could already imagine the taste of her brain and getting that taste for real was all he wanted out of life, now or ever…
'I'd be dead right now if – " she shoved the very thought away with a shudder.
And this idiot just adored the murderous little brain-munching ghoul.
Ashley looked up at Zimmerman standing there in the middle of the corridor, all eyes and elbows, gawking, arrested in mid flap, and wanted to put a foot right in the middle of that ever so concerned – if only for some… people – forehead.
'Doesn't anyone else's pain and problems count? Not Ntamqeh's? Not mine? Just poor wittle Alexei's.'
"Sure. Why not? Wouldn't like to keep you away from your favorite little ghoul or anything," she growled. "Com'on. Food, ghoul, and naptime."
She waved Zimmerman to accompany her, turned, and walked off toward the elevator.
Every step jolted her aching head like a bucket of broken glass.
'Did he hit me – or did I hit it when I fell,' she wondered, reaching up to rub her temple. 'I can't even remember. God. I am so fucked up.'
"Wow! You sure tore up your wrists!" Dr. Zimmerman exclaimed, grabbing for her arm.
She dodged him instantly, automatically, between one step and the next, flattening herself to the solid concrete of the wall with her hands up and ready to strike, awash in adrenaline and her heart in overdrive.
Dr. Zimmerman just stared, jaw and hand both a-dangle.
"So, um, what? I'm not supposed to touch you, or something?" he finally squawked, flapping an indignant hand at her, and looking offended again.
Ashley took a deep breath, blew it out slowly, forced herself to lean back against the wall, forced herself to lower her hands and assume an ostensibly relaxed stance.
And watched Zimmerman relax too. For real.
Something in her mind scoffed at him for that response, for being so easily and obviously convinced the danger had passed when she was still so obviously wired.
The fool. The soft, vulnerable little fool –
That's what he was. That's what every level of her instincts screamed at her.
She stood there against her mother's titanium reinforced, engineered concrete wall, in the shadows in which she'd lived her entire life, and knew she could kill him between one breath and the next. And nothing in the world could save him, nothing – just like nothing he could hope to do would stop her.
Nothing at all.
It wouldn't even slow her down.
'And does that mean I'm like him - '
Ashley cut that thought off short, shuddered and forced the knowledge of just how killable Dr. William Zimmerman actually was in her presence, away, shoved it down and away, even the last cold echoes of the thought.
'He means well, at least,' she told herself, fighting nausea. 'And that counts for something. It has to – '
"No. No, you shouldn't," she finally said, when she could trust her gut to behave itself. "I – I've had a pretty rough time tonight. And… I'm really wired right now. Really wired. Try not to startle me, okay? My reflexes are in overdrive, and I could hurt you. Badly."
"That's okay. I wouldn't let you hurt me," he said, smirking at her, utterly at ease.
Ashley stared at him for a long moment, fighting the urge to kick some sense into his oh-so superior – and baseless – attitude.
'Oh, for cryin' out loud. Apparently I'm his first highly trained martial artist, and he has no idea that my reflexes come with their own trans-warp autopilot – and they're on a laser-trigger. Break the beam and you're oh so very, very dead. And I won't even have to think about it to make it happen - I won't even be able to think about it before it happens.'
She took a deep breath, folded her arms over her chest again, and locked her fingers into the leather of her jacket sleeves until her short nails ached, concentrating on the pain of it, of her scrapes and bruises and torn skin, on the here and now. Home. Here. Home.
It didn't help much – but it was something. It had to be enough. It had to be.
Finally, she nodded for Dr. Zimmerman to precede her to the elevator doors, and watched him give her a little grin, stuff his hands in his pockets, and swagger off, only to stop at the elevator gate and wait for her to open it, and let him in.
'All hail His Lofty Highness,' Ashley thought, pulling the outside gate down again, and latching the inner gate of the elevator cage, as Zimmerman started in again on the subject of Alexi. She punched the controls, and put her back to the wall of the car as it jerked into motion.
The elevator rumbled upward and Zimmerman blathered on. Alexei. Alexei. Alexei.
Ashley looked down at the elevator deck, hugging herself and wondering – how Ntamqeh was doing, if the psycho was gone for good, why did her head hurt so much, had anyone found Ernie's corpse –
" – doing this?"
Ashley blinked, the bitter image of Ernie Watts dead on the grubby cement floor of a public garage stuck before her mind's eye. She took a breath, ripped through her memories of the last few moments at warp speed – discovered they didn't include any dialogue from Dr. Zimmerman.
'Oh, shit – I am so losing it – ' Ashley thought, hugging herself tighter still to stop the shivers.
"I don't know," she said cautiously, hoping the response would go with whatever the hell the question had been.
"I guess so!' Zimmerman enthused as the elevator clanged to a stop, and he stood there waiting for Ashley to attend to the cage and gate.
"She really knows what she's doing, you know!"
'God – is he that lazy – or just that freaked out," Ashley wondered as she plodded across the elevator car and unlatched the safety cage, pushed it back, and crouched to heave the gate up, keeping herself turned so he stayed in her vision as she did it all.
"How long do you think it takes to get good at hunting…"
The noob's vocabulary ran down on his lack of a desirable euphemism, and Ashley made a face.
"Monsters," she supplied, her tone flat as she waved him past her into the coffer-paneled upper hall.
"NO!" he insisted. Loudly.
Ashley had him down on her mother's elegant turkey-red runner, a knee in his chest and the needle point of a throwing spike she couldn't even remember drawing jammed against the soft skin at under his jaw before she even understood she'd been startled.
Dr. Zimmerman stared at her under his glasses, so shocked he couldn't even gape.
"I told you not to startle me," Ashley growled, deliberately staying on top of him while she spoke.
He blinked at her, eyes so bugged out they looked like they were about to fall out of their sockets.
'Catch the clue, sonny-boy. I don't toss out many of 'em.'
"I told you I'd had a rough time, and I'm really wired, so don't startle me. I might hurt you. You went ahead and startled me anyway. And now you don't' even seem to understand how very close to very permanently dead you just came because of that. I don't get a say in who my Mom picks as staff, and it looks like she's picked you, so I have to put up with you fainting and flapping and emoting around here, but I don't have to put up with you acting like god's gift. When I tell you something, you listen to me. When I tell you not to do something, you don't do it – cause it might very well get you killed if you do. Do you understand me?"
She didn't ease up on the spike under his chin, and that was deliberate, too.
'Like the Honda people say 'Stupid hurts,'' she thought. 'And it ought to.'
"Yes!" he squeaked.
'Doubt he even cut himself,' she thought, and got back to her feet and off his chest, in a single, tired move.
Ashley watched the psychiatrist – 'psychologist' she corrected her thought – roll onto his side on the maroon runner, coughing weakly, and offered him a hand, still coated with a cracquelure glove of Ntamqeh's dried blood.
"Com'on. Get up. It's chow, killer tentacle-boy, and then a nice warm bed for you."
He took her hand and let her pull him to his feet, shaking his head as if he could shake the last couple minutes out of it.
"No. No – they aren't monsters. There are no monsters. There are no monsters. Just people. Like Alexei – they're just people. I learned that tonight," he insisted, staring at her.
Ashley snorted softly.
"Not buying the 'circle of life, it's a small world after all' argument over here," she sing-songed at him. "I learned that some people are monsters, tonight. Including your bestest little buddy – and my own father, the perverted, murdering, uber-freak monster."
"Montague John Druitt – "
"Is that his full name? I prefer the descriptive phrase," Ashley snapped, crossing her arms again to let her exhausted self flop back against the blessedly solid, coffered wall for a couple seconds of rest.
For a moment Zimmerman just gaped at her.
Ashley raised a brow at him.
He gaped more, that incredulous expression leaking back into the standard-issue wide eyes and dangling jaw.
'Jesus, it's like the man can't believe that anyone wouldn't take his opinion as the revealed word of God,' she thought, shoving upright again with a groan.
"Come on. Getting you fed and tucked in for the night isn't the only thing on my to-do list, y'know? Gotta keep moving," she said, glumly.
"You didn't know," he blurted out. "You didn't know he was your father, did you? He told you – and he – he – Ashley, are you all right? You have bruises – your wrists – he hurt you, didn't he? Verbal abuse. Physical abuse. Aggravated assault by the legal definition, and nobody's even asked if you're all right. If you're hurt… You – the way you hold your head, the way you walk – you are hurt, aren't you?"
She turned back to him, slowly, burning in the cold heat of sudden fear, her heart thundering.
"It's that – obvious?" she murmured.
'Oh God – he isn't gonna make me lay on a couch and tell me about my childhood now, is he? Not when the problem is my parents and how I found out everything they never told me. Not when I have no idea who I am anymore. Hell, I don't even know what I am. Can he see that? How confused and scared and fucked up I am? Does it show that I just want to go somewhere and scream until my skull pops like a blister and all the memories blast out of it like the pus they are – '
His brow furrowed up at her. "Well – yeah. You have bruises on your face. And your wrists are… a mess. He said he was your father, but he hit you, didn't he? Maybe… kicked you, or, even more than that... You walk – different. Like you're in pain. And you keep holding your head, and leaning on things like you're dizzy or exhausted, or both. Yeah – definitely, you're hurt."
She shook her head appalled at the magnitude of his obliviousness – and regretted it as the pain in her skull spiked and the world reeled.
"Ashley – ?"
He grabbed at her, then jerked his hand back with a yip as his palm raked the needle tip of the throwing spike still in the hand that she whipped up to block him.
"What was that for!" he whined, looking at the scratch like he thought it might be fatal.
"Stay away from me, damnit!" she growled, shaking with reaction to him reaching for her –
'Of course, he meant the bruises. Not the feeling that the entire world had shattered and the view through the jagged hole was nothing but ugly. Not the memory of your own mother first dismissing you and then totally ignoring you, bound and terrified while someone tried to kill you, in favor of making every mistake she'd ever shouted at you, or anyone else, about in dealing with the teleporting freak that she wouldn't deny fathered you. Not when you watched her telegraph her intentions – not even put her finger on the trigger so the freak would know she wouldn't shoot him, too. Not when you'd watched your mother kept refusing to shoot the freak, not even with her gun jammed against his chest – not to save you, not even to save herself. Not when you watched her cry for him, apologize to him, and then just touch your hair without a word and think that was all the apology, or explanation – or reassurance – you could possibly need, or deserve. Not when you'd just been through hell, and your own mother proceeded to treat you like a tool she took for granted one minute, and a smelly mess she didn't want to be the one to clean up, the next, like she'd do anything to avoid dealing with you, to be rid of you.
'And you knew, somehow, right then and there, she'd never ask what he'd done to you. She'd never talk to you about it – him – them – you. If she ever told you anything, it'd just be how she expected you to behave and what she expected you to think, and that would only come on her terms, when she was ready, when she wanted you to think those things and act that way.
'Otherwise – nothing. Unless, of course, you needed a lecture, which was pretty much the same thing as her wanting to give one.'
'Welcome to my life,' she thought, feeling the shivers worsening. 'God. Dear God – and all I have are bruises. That's all they see – bruises.'
"No problem," he groused, glaring at her, then lifting his hand to suck at the scratch on the palm, the very picture of aggrieved innocence expecting to sulk its way to an apology.
Ashley shook her head again, and shoved the throwing spike back into its sheath. Nope – he was always going to see only what he expected to, wasn't he? Unless someone rubbed his nose in it, he was never going to see anything he didn't expect to be there – like right now -
"You might not want to do that," she told him, hearing the weariness raw in her own voice as she nodded at him.
"What?" he snapped.
"Suck on that scratch. You'll get germs in it. And you do know you have Nt – the Big Foot's dried blood all over your hand from mine, don't you?"
The psychologist's eyes rounded like a pair of moons. He stared at his hand, apparently noticing the flaky dried blood for the first time, and then shrieked like a little girly-girl faced with a tarantula, and went down in a heap on the turkey runner all in one motion, out cold.
Ashley Magnus took a deep, shaky breath, blew it out again, with the slow, sinking realization that she'd just added another task to her to-do-before-dawn list.
"At least he I can just dump him in bed instead of making a couple side trips for him to fawn all over his little pet ghoul," she muttered to herself. "And he didn't puke on the floor. That's better than Mom's last next-great-explorer-of-the-unknown did. But still…"
The blonde sighed, and crouched to wrestle the limp psychologist up and onto her shoulder in a fireman's carry.
"No rest for the wicked," she said to herself, wincing her way back to her feet. "Except the grave."