The Point Sometimes
Summary: She hadn't realized the silly thing had been that important to her. Lydia, Beetlejuice…and Delia. Like most Beetlejuice fics, this is some kind of vague mix between the cartoon and the movie, mostly the movie. And for simplicity's sake, it's not set in the eighties.
He comes to the other side of her mirror one day, months after it happened, and though she's shocked to see his ashen, moldy face staring back at her instead of her own reflection, shocked to see him again after he'd supposedly been swallowed by a sandworm, she's so desperately bored and lonely and filled up with teenage angst and a moody, who-cares attitude that she's stupid enough to set him free after he promises he's not going to collect on the marriage.
If it wasn't for the fact that it's summer and she's got nowhere to go and nothing to do and no one to do it with, she would've refused.
If it wasn't for the fact that the Maitlands have been gone for weeks due to a meeting with Juno in the Neitherworld— time moves so differently there that they might be gone for months, even, and so there's no promise from them about when they'll be back— she would've refused.
And maybe she likes the fact that his badly hidden desperation overshadows her own.
Apparently, invoking him with his name was enough to break through the Neitherworld red tape, at least for now. She doesn't even want to think about what Juno's going to say when she finds out.
She has a secret now, though, and that makes her empty, lonely, boring life suddenly just a little more exciting. They, her father and stepmother, still haven't figured out that he's back. If they had, they would be trying to get rid of him. But they haven't, because she's been keeping as tight a leash on him as possible, considering. She can't exactly manhandle him, but she wields the power of his name.
She feels irrationally special, ripe with teenage self-importance. She's got a powerful ghost at her beck and call.
For a short while, anyway. A couple of weeks later, she's kind of beginning to regret it, even if no sandworms have showed up yet, and he hasn't done anything particularly dangerous, either, much to her surprise. Her room has never looked worse and her father's nerves are completely shot from some cold, vague presence she's sure he thinks is only his own imagination.
When his poltergeist magic tricks start to lose a bit of their shine and her morbid interest in digging in the flower beds after beetles for him is waning, she realizes he's like a hyperactive puppy which hasn't been house-trained yet. If he's not bombarding her with cheesy jokes and naughty stories, eating the spiders in her room, leaving dirty footprints on her carpet and mold on her bedspread, going through her stuff or trying to convince her to let him raid the fridge, he's usually complaining about Juno and swigging noisily from a smelly hip flask while trying to win her hard-earned cash with poker.
What he needs a teenager's measly babysitting money for in the Neitherworld, she doesn't know.
Apart from some mandatory, halfhearted groping on the first day he'd stepped back into her life, which had seemed mostly designed to freak her out, to see how she'd react (saying hello to his ex-bride, he'd jokingly called it) he hasn't touched her at all. He hasn't even groped her stepmother (although she's sure he's spied on her in the shower), so he must not want to call too much attention to himself. It must be why she's even able to "control" him at all.
He doesn't usually stay more than a couple of hours, so she can tell he's there because he's somehow sneaking away from whatever punishment the Neitherworld bureaucracy has dealt him. It's like he's having a work day that's going to last for eternity, and she's the tiny corner reserved for smoke breaks out in the office parking lot. She has no illusions that he's not biding his time, planning to escape eventually.
Still, it's better than nothing. It's better than having nothing to do, no friends, absent foster parents, a stressed-out father and a self-involved stepmother. So she can't quite bring herself to care.
One particularly rainy, dreary afternoon, though, he's more than overstayed his welcome even despite the fact that her parents aren't home. He's getting on her nerves.
"You know," she says, thoroughly irked as she surveys her room, bugs making a trail from out of his stripy pockets and across the dirt-covered rug, "kids in the movies always get some nice little faerie or a cute bear or a dragon or something as a magic friend…and what do I get? A grouchy, sulky, ill-mannered, rude, obnoxious, beetle-eating, whiskey-guzzling, immature, smelly, perverted old poltergeist in a rumpled suit, coming to plague me when I'm already in my teens."
"Been upping your vocabulary, Lyds? Those are some choice insults," he drawls, not even glancing at her from where he's lounging in mid-air, filthy fingers unashamedly flipping through her seventh grade diary. She's given up trying to stop him; not only is she physically unable to, but she's decided she's almost sixteen and therefore too old to care about the 'secrets' of her thirteen-year-old self. That was ages ago.
She smirks. "Well, you're probably better than some sickeningly cute talking pig or dog or something..."
Finally, he looks up; his eyes narrow. "I'm not a pet."
"Coulda fooled me," she sneers suddenly, surprised at her defenses abruptly coming up at the cold tone of his voice; she's gone over all spiky. "You come when I call you, like a pet, and you're always leaving a mess on the rug!"
He fades out of eyesight then, her tiny, purple diary dropping to the floor, and there's a beat as she takes a startled breath—
Suddenly all of her belongings tumble from her shelves in a thundering crash, books and figurines and CD's and DVD's and note books and even the dried flowers hanging from her ceiling. When it's over, she hears a final, small crack.
She looks towards the source of the sound and discovers it to be a small ceramic figurine, lying on its side, shattered.
For a second, she looks on in incomprehension.
Then she realizes which one it is.
When she was first introduced to Delia, for a moment she thought she looked cool.
The pale blue eyes, the white porcelain skin, the impeccably arranged red hair...and not to mention all that black she wore. Lydia liked black.
Delia was striking. She didn't look like all the other moms, who wore pastels and floral print dresses and didn't look like they had time to take care of their hair.
It didn't take Lydia all that long to figure out why Delia looked so good, though. Delia had plenty of money from her first marriage and from having worked as an art dealer, and she didn't have any children of her own. So she had a lot of free time.
Oh, and she was an eccentric, air-headed, self-centred flake. If she didn't get to perform her beauty rituals just so every day, she sorta freaked out. And she was always ranting about something that was visually wrong with their house.
It didn't take Lydia all that long to start disliking Delia.
Delia was obsessed with the visual, and especially when it came to interior decorating. She tried to offer to make over Lydia's room in an attempt to make the daughter of her new husband warm up to her, but Lydia had also figured out that Delia didn't like black in the same way that Lydia did.
Lydia liked the old-fashioned, the classic, the elegant, things that looked like they were taken straight out of the best horror movies. She liked the gothic, she liked candelabras dripping with wax, she liked black lace, veils, hats and long, swishy skirts, and she liked horror novels. She liked the quirky, the strange and unusual and the unashamedly silly.
Delia liked the fashionable, the new, the trendy, the dizzyingly pretentious. She liked the crisp, sharp, fresh and dramatic; she liked things that she could show off, and she was always shopping for something new with an almost neurotic air about her.
Delia kept offering to take Lydia shopping, kept offering to take her to the hair salon. On the surface, it sounded generous, but Lydia could tell that Delia was trying to, whether it was consciously or unconsciously, transfer her own personal tastes onto her stepdaughter. Every time Delia offered to do something new, Lydia felt as if Delia wanted her as her own life-sized, artsy fartsy Barbie doll. Almost as if it offended Delia somehow that Lydia wouldn't bow to her every fashion suggestion.
Lydia wondered why her father had ever fallen for this woman, apart from her good looks. Did they even have anything in common? And Delia hardly even worked anymore, she just produced that god awful crap she called art, and waited around for potential buyers, calling her agent at all hours of the day— yet she squandered their money on take-out food because she either couldn't or wouldn't cook.
One day, though, Delia came home with a shopping bag that didn't look ritzy. It was just a tiny, flimsy plastic affair with no brand label.
When Lydia realized its contents were for her, she couldn't quite hide the cringe. For once, Delia wasn't flitting around Mars somewhere and actually noticed somebody else's subtle facial expressions.
And Delia actually hesitated.
Her pale blue eyes seemed darker for a moment, nervous.
"Uh, I picked something up for you on the way home," Delia said, reaching out the hand holding the bag and shaking it slightly.
Eyebrows raised, Lydia's curiosity propelled her forward and set her hands in motion. Almost holding her breath due to Delia's uncharacteristic concern, Lydia stuck her hand in the bag. When she pulled it out, she was holding a small, ceramic figurine shaped like a cheekily grinning vampire with blood dribbling down its chin. Lydia stared.
It wasn't a fancy gift. In fact, it was probably very, very cheap.
That was what got her attention.
Delia always insisted on buying the ridiculously expensive, even when it came to gifts for Lydia. It had probably cost Delia a lot— figuratively speaking— even going into this store, let alone buying this figurine, which she undoubtedly considered kitschy, tasteless and gaudy; beneath her.
"Thank you," Lydia said quietly.
Delia's smile was full of relief, and standing there in their newly redecorated kitchen, it occurred to Lydia that the one thing that Delia Deetz had never tried to redecorate was Charles Deetz. That had to count for something.
Lydia smiled back, genuinely amused by Delia for the first time.
Everyone and their uncle would agree that Delia has always had questionable taste— but for once, she was right on the money. For once, Delia considered what Lydia liked instead of forcing her own tastes upon the girl. It was thoughtful.
And now it's broken.
"You…you asshole!" She yells into her seemingly empty room (she knows he's still here, though) and she expects him to give a gloating laugh, but then there's nothing at all. "BeetlejuiceBeetlejuice!" She shouts, her voice thick with anger and sadness.
"Don't say it, babes! Don't—" His voice is right by her ear, and she squawks, jumping away, only getting angrier because he's managed to startle her.
She hears a sharp, offended intake of breath just before he vanishes, the hot sting of barely restrained tears prickling her eyes. She hadn't realized the silly thing had been that important to her.
Her own mother left her father many years ago. The Maitlands are ordinary ghosts and regrettably have their limitations as adoptive parents.
Delia, however, who's shrill, overwhelming, thinks she's much more talented than she really is and hardly has a motherly bone in her body, still sticks around even though everything about her indicates she'd rather be in a penthouse in New York with somebody named Raoul or Guillaume than in the suburbs with a moody teenager and a slightly overweight, sweater-wearing nervous wreck of a man who likes bird watching and real estate.
She starts to wonder if freeing Beetlejuice wasn't just about being bored and lonely; maybe it was a kind of vague, unconscious revenge against her parents for not being involved enough, against the Maitlands simply for leaving her for a few weeks, and against the whole town of Winter River for not providing her with any friends that cared to hang around her outside of school. The revenge, however, was neither deserved nor particularly efficient.
Maybe it's her that's not involved enough.
Or maybe it was some kind of revenge against Beetlejuice. While he frankly does deserve it, though, vindictiveness isn't an emotion that sits quite right in her stomach.
Besides, she adds, allowing herself a smidgen of smug satisfaction, he's apparently plenty sore already over being controlled by a fifteen-year-old girl.
She calls him back that very evening, and by the look on his face, he really hadn't expected her to. This gratifies her a bit.
"You're not a pet," she mutters over her shoulder where she's sitting on the floor, trying to rearrange her CD collection. "You didn't have to prove it like that, though."
"Yeah, 'm's'rr," he mutters back, and for a second she's not certain she's heard him right.
"S'rr," he tries again, and this time it's even more incomprehensible. She takes a moment to study his face; his jaw is set stubbornly and his eyes are hard, his gaze trained on the floor, his shoulders hunched with tension.
It dawns on her that somehow, he knows she's been crying. Or possibly her thirteen-year-old self might've written a forgotten word or two about Delia in that diary. Or possibly he just doesn't want to give up his little corner of the parking lot.
"I hope I didn't…umm…I hope you weren't busy when I called you just now," she ventures, letting her voice soften just a bit, feeling touched that he's actually making the effort to apologize. Kind of, anyway. It's the first time he's ever bothered to do so.
His eyes go round and big then, probably because this is also the first time she's actually taken the time to ask him if she was inconveniencing him by calling on him or not. Okay, so a lot of the time it's him who seeks her out and he basically never shows her any signs of being annoyed at being called because he loves any excuse to step into the world of the living, but still—
"Nah," he shrugs, faking nonchalance, "Nothing special, Lyds, just, y'know, fartin' around…"
She also shrugs. "Yeah, well…anyway."
"Here," he offers, zapping the broken figurine with a bit of the ol' Juice.
Lydia immediately giggles then, and he raises one eyebrow curiously. "What?"
"Beej, you put the head on upside-down!"
He doesn't look remotely repentant despite the sheepish grin. "Oops."
She tilts her head at the figurine. "You know, I kinda like it this way, but Delia's gonna have a fit when she sees it."
"Nah, she's probably gonna try to push it as 'broken pottery chic' or somethin'," he snorts. "Probably say you get your talent from her, too."
She sends him a smile, turned wry from withheld amusement. She probably would.
And for some reason, Lydia's fine with it.
When Juno finally shows up the next day, all flinty glare and billowy cigarette smoke, Lydia knows she's in for a severe scolding, and she knows she's lost her twisted summer pal privileges.
Lydia takes it all in stride, though. She has the feeling he'll be back at some point; like a bad rash, he's hard to shake. She also knows the Maitlands will return eventually.
Lydia decides she can wait.
She spends a whole day shopping in New York with Delia. The older woman's baffled expression lasts all through the ludicrously overpriced lunch, three pointy-looking pairs of Manolo Blahniks, a hideously pink Louis Vuitton bag and four lopsided outfits from Comme des Garçons— until that evening when they get home, and it's passed on to her husband's face.
Lydia decides it was worth it.
Author's notes: Please tell me if any words appear to be missing, as FF Net has a tendency to erase parts of sentences sometimes, for whatever reason. I also didn't have a beta on this story, so feel free to nitpick.
I dunno what I wanted to say with this story— maybe that ghosts can't replace a real family when you're fifteen? *shrugs* Don't worry, though, I do like Beetlejuice. This just wasn't a Beej/Lyds-centric story, that's all.
Story named after the song The Point Sometimes by the group Gregory and The Hawk for basically no other reason than the fact that I needed a title, and this seemed appropriate somehow. Really has nothing to do with the song itself.
While Beej and Lyds' relationship here sort of leans more towards the cartoon (with them hanging out and him appearing in her mirror etc.), this Delia is clearly based on the movie. I found it kind of interesting how Delia and Lydia both wore primarily black in the movie, yet wore black in such different ways. I don't think Delia's mom-pants, pearls and bright blouse in the cartoon reflected her artsy fartsy-wannabe, New York socialite persona. On the other hand, I guess they did it so she'd make a stronger visual contrast to the darker Lydia, and I suppose it kinda worked on its own, making her more of a bored housewife kinda type trying to express herself through art.
On that note, what the hell is Charles' job in the cartoon, does anybody know?
Neitherworld/Netherworld: I chose 'Neitherworld' more or less just because I like the sound of it.
Beetlejuice/Betelgeuse: Again, just a matter of personal preference.
Lydia's biological mom: The film never mentioned if she left Charles or if she died, so for the purposes of this fic, I felt free to go with the former alternative. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Delia. :P
Delia having been an art dealer before deciding to become an artist herself: Not canon, it just seems likely to me. Her agent in the movie seemed to me to owe her a favor, for one thing. :D