Sike Saner: Haha, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the extras.
Hopefully, then, you'll be pleased to hear I wrote a couple more. It feels kind of backwards how I've probably written more words-per-day of this fic after finishing it than before, but my mind works in mysterious ways. (Alternatively, I'm just high on Dave and Mia, because I have seriously concluded that I could spend the rest of my life writing about them talking and never get bored.)
Dave and Mia Discuss Horror
“So, Mia,” Dave said as he started the car, “how’d you like the movie?”
She thought for a moment. “I liked the bit where the guy had to cut his eye out.”
He snorted. “You would.”
“Also with the Houndoom killing the woman. That was nice.”
He winced a little. “That was pretty brutal, yeah.” He paused. “How about the Scyther bits? I’ve got to admit that was why I took you.”
“No,” she said. “That was lame. It was all CGI.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Well, that’s obviously necessary if you’re going to have a person cut in half.” He paused until it struck him that maybe she didn’t find that obvious at all. “You know, because otherwise they couldn’t get any actors for the part,” he added. “It’s all special effects. Nobody would want to be in the movie if they had to be actually gutted for it.”
She nodded, looking out the passenger side window. “That’s too bad.” After a moment she turned back to him. “But a real person being cut in half wouldn’t look like that. It was stupid.”
“I don’t think a lot of people know or want to know what a real person being cut in half would actually look like, Mia.”
She shrugged. “I could tell it looked wrong.”
“Well, there’s a career for you. Gorn movie special effects. I’m sure you’d be great.”
Mia’s lips curled into a grin as she looked out the windshield. Dave fleetingly wondered if, with time, her social skills and understanding of human ethics might actually improve to the point that she would be able to get and hold a regular job. Probably not very likely. He’d sometimes toyed with the idea of trying to get her into programming – provided she could keep her mind on it, he imagined her bizarre hyperlogical brain would probably be good at it – and seeing if she could earn some money off freelance work online for people who had no idea who or what she was. But that was a question for the future.
“I didn’t like the main character,” Mia said after a while. “He kept doing things that made no sense.”
“Oh?” Well, he supposed experiencing mental anguish over being forced to watch one’s family tortured and slaughtered would probably never make sense to her. “Like what?” he asked anyway.
“Like when he started stabbing himself with his pocket knife. It was painful and he could have died.”
Dave looked at her. It was funny how, after all these years of knowing she had no sense of humour whatsoever, he still always kept checking if she was joking. “I’m, ah, pretty sure that was the idea,” he said eventually.
“Why would he want to be in pain?”
“He didn’t want to be in pain. He wanted to be dead.”
“That doesn’t make sense. You can’t want to be dead.”
“Yes, you can,” he said patiently. “He was living out the most fucked-up horror scenario the scriptwriter could stuff into one film, and he’d rather die than experience that because he’s a normal human being. Just because you wouldn’t want to be dead doesn’t mean –”
“That makes no sense,” Mia repeated. “You can’t want to be dead. Wanting something means you’d be happy if it happened, but if you’re dead you don’t exist so you can’t be happy about it.”
He thought about it in silence for a few seconds. It occurred to him that he was sitting in his car arguing for the merits of suicide with a ten-year-old girl. That was a little fucked up.
“Maybe he was religious,” Mia suggested after a while. “Then he could have thought he’d be happy after he died.”
“It’s not that,” Dave replied with a wave of his hand, trying to get his thoughts in order. “If I were him and honestly thought killing myself would just put me into some cheery blissful afterlife while everybody I cared about got tortured to death, I’d…” He trailed off. “Well, point is, that’d be a fucking nightmare. Meanwhile, not existing means you don’t have to spend an eternity living with the memory of it anymore, and yeah, there’s definitely a sense in which you might want that.”
“But that doesn’t change that it happened,” Mia said.
“No, but because you’d be dead, you wouldn’t care anymore. Dead people are selfish pricks that way.”
“Dead people don’t exist.”
“That was a joke. Jesus.”
There was silence.
“So you’d try to kill yourself if that happened to you?” Mia asked after a while, tilting her head.
He winced. “Uh. Yeah, I guess. Seems less painful than the alternative, in any case.”
She considered it. “But he was just in pain. He didn’t even die.”
“Well,” Dave said, “for my parts, I’d try to stick the knife somewhere fatal. That’s where the guy in the movie went wrong.”
Mia nodded slowly. “So it was because he was bad at anatomy.”
He paused. “In a sense, I guess you could say that.”
She was looking thoughtfully at him now. “What if you didn’t have a knife?”
“Oh, Jesus.” He scratched at his hair. “I don’t know. I mean, what would you do? How the fuck are you supposed to know what you’d actually do in some situation like that?”
“I’d kill them,” she said, like it was the simplest thing in the world.
“Well, okay, but what if you had no –” Though it wasn’t like she needed to be armed. “Look, what if they’d just cut off your scythes, or something, and…”
“I could still fight them. I’m strong.”
“There’d be too many of them, okay? Or they’d have, I don’t know, knocked you unconscious and then tied you up with unbreakable rope beforehand. What would you do then?”
She considered it for a moment. “Nothing,” she then said, shrugging. “There wouldn’t be anything to do.”
“Nothing,” he repeated. He took a breath and expelled it in a sigh. “Yeah, I guess I’d be doing nothing too.” He stared at the road ahead. “Well, fuck.”
He looked at her in exasperation. “Look, Mia, can we please just talk about something other than being stuck in a bad horror movie?”
She tilted her head. “Why?”
“Well, it’s just…” He gestured vaguely at her. “Imagining that… This stuff could never actually happen and it makes me queasy, okay?”
“It could happen. There are plenty of nutjobs out there.”
“Many of them want the Pokémorphs dead. And you, too.”
“Will you just shut the fuck up about that? Christ.”
She looked at him but didn’t say anything; after a moment she turned towards the passenger-side window.
He sighed, rubbing his forehead. “I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay,” said Mia, her tone indifferent as ever. Knowing her, she probably didn’t even know what he was sorry about. He didn’t know why he bothered.
“Maybe we can see another movie sometime,” he offered as he stopped the car to let her out.
“That would be nice,” she replied before she slammed the door.
The next one is a bit less completely silly than the others, as unlike them it takes place post-chapter seven (specifically, the night after the end of chapter nine); there's a lot more general misery involved, and there's actual narration that's not just to provide beats in the conversation. It is still mostly about Dave and Mia talking, but they're not quite talking about any one thing in particular and it's the odd one out in general, so it doesn't adhere to the title pattern.
He didn’t know why they got him to watch Mia and Lucy that night. He wasn’t even sure why they needed watching at all; Cheryl hadn’t really made clear what they were doing. What the fuck could they be doing at a time like this that warranted babysitting, even? (Oh, he could think of things, but he liked to think their sex life wasn’t that interesting – though he didn’t like to think of their sex life at all, really – and by all appearances she had used to agree. And there were better times for that than when there was a crazed murderer on the loose, for fuck’s sake.)
But he’d agreed to it anyway, because it was Cheryl, and he had to make up for last night somehow, and the girls were probably more of a target than she and Howard were anyway: she was probably safer without them than with. Maybe Mia and Lucy were safer with him, too; he did have cops hanging around his house. Or maybe being with him just made them all a juicier target. It was hard to tell.
It was both disturbing and fascinating, watching the two of them play; Lucy could do the creepiest shit while wearing the happiest, most innocent-looking smile in the known universe, and Mia got a funny, predatory glint in her eye every time she prepared to pounce on her sister, her slightest movements eerily precise and calculated. He wasn’t that often around them playing together. Seeing Mia look something resembling actually happy was a nice change; Lucy usually seemed pretty happy, but with Mia she was positively ecstatic. They were a strange pair, somehow complementing one another despite that the only thing they had in common was being really fucking creepy in their own different ways.
He made steak for dinner, anticipating Mia would love it rare, and was satisfied to find he was right on that count. He drank a few beers with it, maybe a few more than he meant to. At some point Lucy insisted she was supposed to be going to bed, so he told her to go do that. (Maybe he should’ve had something like that in place for Jean. She always stayed up too late.) Mia remained up, watching the second half of the movie that was on TV with him (some vapid shit about how true love conquers all, vaguely salvaged by the lead actress’s cleavage; he couldn’t imagine why Mia would prefer it over watching paint dry, but she sat there anyway until the end) while he had a few more drinks.
“So, uh,” he said as he muted the sickeningly heartfelt end credits music, “did your parents mention what they were doing tonight?”
She shook her head.
“Nothing about why they wanted me to take you?”
“Mom thought you were lonely and probably needed company.”
He looked at her and blinked. “Well, that’s bullshit,” he said after a moment, taking a sip from the can he was holding. Mia nodded vaguely, still with her eyes on the scrolling text on the screen.
“I mean,” he went on after a second, “I guess that’s nice of her, but… what the fuck.” He sipped a little more, thinking. “She didn’t, uh, seem upset or anything, did she?”
Mia shrugged. “Not particularly.”
“Did she talk about last night?”
Mia shook her head. He wasn’t sure if he felt better or worse about that.
“What about your dad? Did he seem more inclined to kill me than usual?” The idea of Howard wanting to kill somebody drew an involuntary chuckle out of him. “Or, I don’t know, give me an annoyed look?”
“No? Well, that’s good. I don’t know what I’d do if he gave me an annoyed look.”
Mia looked at him with that subtly puzzled expression of hers.
“Yes, that was a joke.”
He sipped his drink. Her gaze flicked disinterestedly around the room, probably looking for insects to murder.
“That’s the thing about your dad,” he said. “He doesn’t know how to be truly angry at somebody. I mean, Jesus. It’s not natural. Sometimes I want to, I don’t know, greet him every day with a punch in the face just to marvel at how not-pissed-off he’d be, except that’d be like kicking a fucking puppy – I bet he’d like, ask me to please stop and then quietly resign from his job and turn to… fucking gardening or something.”
Mia didn’t look like she was listening, but he knew she was (she was always listening to everything, even if her attention seemed to be elsewhere), and he didn’t really give a damn anyway.
“I mean, fuck,” he continued, “I can’t even tell if he knows, because there wouldn’t be any goddamn difference. It creeps the hell out of me.”
“You can’t tell if he knows what?”
“Never mind.” He rubbed his nose. “Fuck.”
The good thing about Mia was that you could say ‘never mind’ and she actually wouldn’t mind. Her eyes flicked towards the muted commercial on the television, the kind of bullshit ad where there was no Earthly way to tell what they were advertising (a group of men in crudely made Pokémon costumes sitting around a poker table – what the fuck). He lifted the can to his lips again.
“Why do you drink so much beer?” Mia asked suddenly without looking at him.
He started to laugh. “You always just ask the best questions, don’t you?”
She turned towards him, apparently expecting an answer; he sighed. “I like it and sometimes it makes me feel less like shit. What’s not to like?”
“I want to try it.”
He blinked. “Uh.” He scratched at his chin for a second, considering it. “Well, who am I to pretend to be a responsible parent. Whatever. Why not.”
He pushed the next can he’d gotten out towards her on the table. She reached for it, not in a hurry, looked at it for a moment, opened it and sniffed at it, expression observant and focused. He watched her with amusement as he emptied his own drink.
After a bit more examination, Mia finally raised the can to her mouth and took a small sip. She seemed to spend a second evaluating it before she wrinkled her nose and put the can back down.
Dave chuckled. “It’s probably for the best. It’s bad for you.”
“Then why do you drink it?”
“Because I’m an adult with fully-developed frontal lobes and that means I’m free to fuck up my own life however I fucking please without it being anybody else’s problem.”
“By the way, uh, you don’t have to tell your mom and dad that I gave you beer.”
Mia nodded. After a moment she said, “My parents are scared.”
“You’re not going to drink that, are you?” he asked, reaching for the can Mia had put away. She shook her head and let him take it.
He took a sip. Mia was still looking at him, in that expectant way. “Aren’t we all?” he said, reaching for the remote to turn off the TV. “Psycho murderer on the loose, Brian’s fucking dead, we could be next. Anybody would be a little unnerved.”
She tilted her head.
“I mean,” he went on, “maybe not you, because you’re pretty fucking special in more ways than one, but…” He gulped down a bit more of his drink. “See, fear is just a defensive response in the brain. It goes ‘there’s danger, so try not to get killed’. That’s all there is to it.”
Mia looked at him for a moment. “You’re scared too,” she then said.
“What’s your point?” he replied, irritation seeping into his voice. “What the fuck do you expect us to do? Not care that somebody fucking shot Brian? I mean, Christ, he wasn’t even… they weren’t even going for him, they were going for me.” Another quick sip. “That’s the sickest part of all. I mean, fuck. You know, maybe there is a god, except he’s a sadistic bastard who saw one of his followers aiming a gun at me and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fucking hilarious if it hit the most self-sacrificing nice-guy on the planet instead?’” He laughed mirthlessly at the idea.
“That’s dumb,” Mia said, her tone annoyed. “Coincidences happen both ways. Somewhat unlikely incidents are not evidence for the existence of a supernatural, physics-defying intelligence.”
Dave took a long sip of his drink. “Yeah,” he said eventually. “I know that.”
There was a long silence. Mia looked straight ahead, at the blank television; he imagined she was mulling over whether to forgive him for that grievous lapse in rationality. It was probably too late to tell her it was a joke.
“If they come here,” she said after a while, turning back towards him, “I’ll defend you.”
He blinked. “Uh. That’s…” His imagination saw Mia leaping in front of a bullet, bleeding, dying. “…Thanks.”
“I could beat them,” she insisted as if she knew exactly what he’d been thinking. “I’m fast.”
“No, you couldn’t,” he said. “They have guns. You’re fast but last time I checked you couldn’t break the fucking sound barrier.”
“They have human reaction times,” she replied. “Imperfect aim. They can be distracted.”
“I don’t give a fuck if they can be distracted. You’d die. Maybe you could put up a fight for a few seconds, but they’d fucking shoot you.”
“It’s a calculated risk.”
“Calculated fucking nothing.”
“If I didn’t act, they would kill all of us anyway.”
“So defend yourself, for Christ’s sake.” He’d raised his voice a bit more than he intended; he tried to tone it down. “I don’t want anybody else getting shot to death in my place, okay?”
He drank more, quickly; Mia looked at him with something like faint curiosity. “I’d be defending all of us,” she said. “It amounts to the same thing. You’re just arguing with what to call it.”
“Well, then don’t call it defending me.”
“Because,” he began exasperatedly, “because can we talk about something else? Christ.”
He finished his drink and walked to the fridge to get another one.
“You’re dodging the question,” said Mia when he returned. Her expression was becoming frustrated. “Is it because of the beer?”
“No, it’s not the fucking beer,” he said as he sat down and took a sip from the bottle he’d retrieved.
“Alcohol interferes with judgement and reasoning.”
He started to giggle. (Okay, so maybe he was a little drunk.) Mia frowned at him, annoyed.
“If you’re not going to make any sense, I’m going to sleep,” she threatened.
Maybe it’d be nice if she went to bed and left him alone, he thought. And at the same time he really, really didn’t want her to.
“No, stay,” he said, waving his hand vaguely at her as she was preparing to stand up. “You don’t… I’m fine. Don’t go.”
She sat tentatively back down, looking warily at him. “Why not?”
“It’s, uh…” he began before taking a sip from his bottle. “I like talking to you, all right? You’re smart and you’re interesting and let’s face it, it’s a shitload better than talking to myself because I’m kind of a dick.”
She shrugged. “I enjoy talking to you, when you make sense.”
He chuckled a little. “Thanks. I’ll try.”
There was silence. He wondered if she’d return to the same question as before, but she didn’t. Knowing her, she’d probably never actually cared about the answer in the first place.
“Do you think it’s just one killer?” she asked at long last.
He sighed and took a sip of his drink before answering. “I don’t know,” he said. “Could be one guy, could be a global fucking government conspiracy for all we know.”
She nodded thoughtfully.
“That’s the worst part. We don’t know jack shit, and here we are hiding away from… you know, whatever the fuck’s actually going on, completely in the dark, just… waiting for somebody else to die. I mean, what are the odds they’ll catch the guy, just like that, based on the information they have now? It’s basically zero. Somebody else is going to get killed, sooner or later, and I just…” He took a quick swig from his bottle. “Fuck.”
Everything was silent, even the usual noise of traffic absent; Mia gazed at the empty TV screen, expression focused but faraway. (He knew she was listening; she always listened. She was the only person who ever listened.) He looked at the screen with her and didn’t mean to say anything else.
“I don’t know what I’d do if they got Cheryl,” he then heard himself blurting out all of a sudden, in a strained, shaky voice that sounded absolutely nothing like him, and fuck he was drunk; he should go to bed already and sleep it off and maybe tomorrow he’d actually want to get up again (maybe) –
“If they killed you,” Mia said, her voice cool but chillingly devoid of her usual indifference, “I’d hunt them down.”
He looked at her and knew he shouldn’t find that weirdly touching and ought to say something about revenge being an archaic, morally obsolete practice and that she’d go to jail – something reasonable that she’d understand – but instead he just put his beer down on the table and said, quietly, “They’ll kill you. Please don’t.”
He expected protests, whys, insistence that she could take on armed murderers and win, but this time, she just didn’t reply. He exhaled slowly, half in relief, half in exhaustion, rubbing his forehead. (He was so fucking tired.)
“Listen, Mia,” he said after composing himself for a moment, “we should probably go to sleep.”
She nodded absent-mindedly and stood up. He was glad he’d prepared the extra mattress in Jean’s room before dinner; he wasn’t sure he’d have survived trying to arrange that now.
He didn’t know why, but as he collapsed into his bed he felt somewhat better than last night.
When Cheryl came to pick them up the next morning, he dragged himself out of bed through a pounding headache to answer the door. The girls were ready and out in the corridor within minutes; Cheryl lingered for a moment at the door, looking at him.
“How did it go?” she asked quietly, shifting a little; her arms hugged her coat, like she was cold.
“Fine,” he replied and looked at her, trying to get words around something intelligent with whatever parts of his brain were not in the process of being beaten into a pulp. “Was that,” he mumbled eventually, “did you get me to do that… for my sake?”
One corner of her mouth twitched into a faint half-smile, an expression nobody else could have made so weirdly attractive. He looked down and shook his head. “I didn’t deserve that.”
“I did it anyway,” she said simply, without affection, not disagreeing.
He looked into her eyes again for a moment – tired, worried, haunted eyes – and said the only thing he could think of: “Thanks.”
He wanted to add an apology for the day before yesterday, too, but she looked away, sighing, and said, “Goodbye, Dave.”
“Bye,” he said, and then the three of them were gone.