Title: Reaping the Whirlwind (The Boom Boom Boom Ba Remix); Part 2/14
Summary: What does the addition of supernatural-related reaps to the reaping workload, Roxy’s promotion, the addition of a new grim reaper with supernatural experience, a new sort-of boyfriend who may or may not be a pirate, and an approaching apocalypse all have in common? New grim reaper boss George doesn’t know, but she’s willing to bet that in the middle of it all the universe will kick her ass. Again.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Dead Like Me crossover
Characters: Dead Like Me (order of appearance) — George, Mason, Daisy, Roxy, Kiffany, Delores, Penny, OCs. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (order of appearance) — Dawn, Buffy, Willow (appearance only), Giles (appearance only), Xander, OCs.
Pairing: George/Xander (nothing explicit)
Rating: R for language, cartoon violence and death, sexual situations
Warning: Spoilers for all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show only), Dead Like Me, and Dead Like Me: Life After Death.
Roxy popped her gum and pointedly looked at her watch. “Where the fuck is my reap?”
“For the millionth time, it’s not 2:35 yet,” George said.
Roxy looked over her shoulder.
“Mason and Daisy said they’d be here to say good-bye,” George said.
Roxy made a face as she chewed her gum. “Yeah, well, Mason and Daisy aren’t what you’d call reliable.”
George felt she needed to muster some kind of defense for the others. “They get their reaps done without any fuck-ups.”
“Daisy is usually okay, but Mason’s had some beauts in his time,” Roxy said.
“We all have,” George said defensively.
“Yeah,” Roxy quietly agreed.
There was a moment of silence as George and Roxy surveyed the street for any sign of D. Summers.
Roxy began to chuckle. “Hey, remember right after you told us that you’d been promoted and had the post-its to prove it?”
“You pushed me in front of that speeding truck, you bitch,” George said.
“Squashed you flat like a pancake, right there in the middle of the street,” Roxy cackled.
Even though it wasn’t at all funny at the time, George started to laugh. “I ended up in a refrigerated drawer at the morgue. It took me hours to escape.”
“And you were so mad,” Roxy shook her head with a grin.
“I got back at you, though,” George said as she nudged Roxy’s shoulder with hers.
“My car still don’t run right and it smells funny every time I turn on the defroster,” Roxy said. “What the fuck did you do to it?”
George grinned at her and primly responded, “Trade secret.”
“Yeah, well, guess it don’t matter nohow. It’s someone else’s problem,” Roxy said.
“Yeah,” George quietly agreed.
The moments were ticking away, and still no sign of D. Summers.
No sign of gravelings yet, either.
Not-so-deep down inside I kind of hoped that D. Summers would miss her appointment, or that the gravelings wouldn’t bother to show. I kind of hoped that I screwed up and wrote 2:35 a.m. on the post-it when really Roxy was supposed to reap her at 2:35 p.m. I hoped I wrote the wrong address and that right now D. Summers was really on the other side of town living her life without a care in the world.
I even kind of hoped that Roxy and me would stay forever just like this, shooting the shit in some alleyway at ass o’clock in the morning with 2:35 a.m. never getting any closer.
I hoped for a lot of things, even though I knew I wouldn’t get any of it.
“Mind if I give you some advice?” Roxy asked.
“Since when do you ask?” George responded as her eyes scanned the street.
“True that,” Roxy agreed.
George switched her focus to Roxy. She was surprised to see that the other reaper actually looked nervous, sad, and unsure of herself all at the same time. It was almost like looking at an anti-Roxy.
“You’re not Rube,” Roxy said once she was sure she had George’s undivided attention.
That statement really irritated George. “I know that.”
“I know you know that in here,” Roxy tapped George on the temple, “but you keep trying to act like Rube and you’re not Rube.”
“I don’t act like Rube,” George huffed.
“Hey, I’m not criticizing or anything,” Roxy said with a shrug. “Rube’s the only boss you’ve ever known. Hell, he’s the only boss I’ve ever known, besides you. But Rube had his own thing, y’know? His own way of kicking your ass into shape and making you fly right.”
“I haven’t kicked anyone’s ass,” George grumbled.
“’Cause you didn’t have to”
George frowned at Roxy. “So all that whining, bitching, and moaning I get from the three of you is, what? Because you fucking love me?”
“We all whined and bitched at Rube when he was in charge,” Roxy pointed out. “Hell, there were entire months where you were the worst one for that, and you know it. That’s just the way we roll.”
“Fine. Point taken.”
“Look, what I’m trying to say is, yeah, none of us were thrilled that you got to be The Boss, but that’s because we all wanted the job,” Roxy said.
George snorted. “Mason wanted to be in charge.”
“Sure, Mason. He gives good bullshit about it, but if those post-its rained down on his head do you really think he’d say no? Sheeya. Right. Pull my other one,” Roxy said. “Fact is, we all wanted it, and you got it. So you gotta expect a little tension ’cause of that.”
“Great. So when’s it supposed to stop,” George said.
“Don’t know if you noticed, but it already has,” Roxy answered with a shrug.
“Oh don’t give me that,” George said. “Mason’s constantly busting my ass over being Miss Goody Two-Shoes. Daisy’s always trying to negotiate higher class reaps. And you pushed me in front of a truck.”
“I didn’t do it a second time, did I?”
George rolled her eyes.
“Fact is we know you. We know you. We also know that you’ll have our backs and that you actually give a shit,” Roxy said. “So maybe we give you ulcers, but all four of us used to make Rube constipated. That’s just the way it is.”
George smiled a crooked smile. “Because that’s just the way we roll.”
“That’s right.” Roxy nodded. “But this new person? This new reaper? That person don’t know you from dogshit. They’re not going to trust you. They’re not going to like you. And they’re going to make your life miserable until they get it through their heads that you’ve got their backs and that you actually give a shit about them.”
“Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence, Roxy,” George grumbled.
“Remember what you were like?” Roxy archly asked.
“Hey, you think it was any different for me?” Roxy asked. “I was a little terror those first few months. I did my share of purposeful fuck-ups, let me tell you.”
“You,” George said with disbelief.
“You think my going off the rails when Cameron was in charge came from nowhere?” Roxy shook her head. “I sucked it up with Rube because Rube kicked my ass and made me fly right. Having Cameron come along and say that I was right all along was like handing me a license to steal.”
“I always kind of wondered about that,” George said.
“Yeah, well. Now you know. All water under the bridge now,” Roxy said.
“Between the two of us, I think you got the better end of the deal,” George admitted.
“Yeah, maybe. We’ll see.” Roxy seemed to suddenly realize what she almost admitted to. “Don’t you go telling those two fuck-ups I just said that.”
George mimed zippering her smiling mouth shut.
“You better.” Roxy shook a finger at her. “What I’m trying to tell you is this: eventually you’re going to have to kick the new reaper’s ass and make them fly right. But do it in your own way. Don’t go trying to be like Rube about it, because it won’t work.”
That…was actually good advice.
“I’ll…keep that in mind,” George said.
“Unh-hunh. See that you do,” Roxy said as her eyes scanned the street. “Where the fuck is my reap? Don’t got all night here.”
There was the sound of running feet behind them.
“Showtime,” Roxy said.
George checked her watch. “Still a few minutes yet.”
“Good, we didn’t miss the going away party,” Mason huffed and puffed as he skidded to a stop behind them.
“Just barely,” Daisy said as she followed at a far more sedate pace. “Mason decided that he knew a shortcut.”
“Got us here in time, didn’t it?” Mason asked.
George and Roxy exchanged glances and both rolled their eyes. They knew all about Mason’s shortcuts.
“We could’ve gotten here 10 minutes ago if you took a right on Stensen Road like I told you,” Daisy said.
“Will you two shut the fuck up?” Roxy asked. “You’re going to scare away my reap.”
Mason waved a hand at her. “We bust our arses to get here and see you off, and this is the thanks we get.”
“You’ll get your thanks with my fist if you don’t shut the fuck up already,” Roxy threatened.
As the other three reapers settled to bickering amongst themselves, George saw a puff of smoke and the appearance of a graveling.
“Guys, the graveling’s here,” George said.
“About fucking time,” Roxy said as Mason and Daisy crowded them from behind. “Where?”
George pointed to the graveling as it gamboled up the front stoop.
“I am not going to miss seeing those guys,” Roxy said under her breath.
The graveling squatted and pissed right in front the door.
George made a face. “Ugh.”
“That’s just nasty,” Roxy said.
“You’ll get no argument from me,” Daisy agreed.
Mason waved a hand in front of his face as if he could smell the urine. “Looks like we’re going for the fall down the stairs and break your neck routine. I swear those little buggers have no bleeding imagination at all.”
“Same shit, different reap,” Roxy agreed.
“Not to mention a sick sense of humor,” George said.
“No one ever said they were subtle,” Daisy said.
“They don’t gotta be. They just gotta get the job done,” Roxy said as they all watched the graveling scamper off and disappear in a puff of smoke.
The streetscape was suddenly awash in headlights.
George checked her watch. “I think this is it.”
“Yeah.” Roxy looked unsure of herself.
“Okay guys, let’s keep to the shadows and let Roxy have her moment,” George said as she pressed herself flat against the wall of the alley.
“Right behind you,” Daisy said as she and Mason followed suit.
As we crouched in the shadows and watched Roxy brush down her police uniform, I realized that this was the very last picture I’d have of her. Actually the very last picture I’d have of her was her doing her reap, but this was the last picture I’d have of her that involved just the four of us.
The car rolled to a stop. The engine cut. The headlights went dark.
Roxy took her first step forward.
“Roxy,” George called out in a strangled whisper.
Roxy paused and looked at her.
I wanted to tell her good luck. I wanted to tell her I’d miss her. I wanted to tell her thank you.
I wanted to say a lot things.
I just couldn’t get them to leave my chest.
Roxy gave them all a half-smile. “If I see Rube, I’ll tell him you said hello.”
Then she stepped out onto the sidewalk.
“Geez! You scared me!” came an unfamiliar voice.
“Sorry about that, ma’am,” Roxy responded.
George, Mason, and Daisy leaned forward as far as they dared so they could watch the scene.
Roxy made a show of looking at the car’s license plate. “Are you D. Summers?”
“I’m D. Summers. I mean Dawn. Dawn Summers.” The woman shut her car door. She was tall with long, dark hair. She was dressed in what looked like to be comfortable clothes, from the tasteful sweater to the well-worn jeans, right on down to her sensible boots.
“Not very fashionable, is she?” Daisy commented.
“Nice hair, though,” Mason said.
“Guys,” George warned.
“Well ma’am, I’m afraid we’ve had a complaint,” Roxy said.
They couldn’t see Dawn’s expression, but they could definitely hear her puzzlement. “Complaint? About what?”
“That you’ve been parking illegally,” Roxy said.
“Let me guess. The name of the person making the complaint wouldn’t be Mark Sheffield, would it?” Dawn sounded irritated.
“I can’t share that information, ma’am,” Roxy responded. “All I can do is tell you that a complaint’s been filed.”
“Yeah, well, let’s just say that I have one particular neighbor who seems to think that the parking spot in front of this building belongs to him,” Dawn explained with irritation. “He doesn’t seem to understand the whole public street equals you can park anywhere concept.”
“So, you usually park here,” Roxy said.
“Here, or one spot up. Yeah,” Dawn agreed.
“Sounds like you’ve got a bad neighbor problem.”
“More like a pain-in-my-butt problem.” Irritation showed strong and clear in Dawn’s voice.
Roxy held up her hands. “Unfortunately, I can’t get involved in neighborhood disputes.”
“I know, but I can dream right?” Dawn asked. “Well, good night officer.”
“Good night,” Roxy automatically responded.
“I can’t see. Did she reap her yet?” Daisy asked.
“I’m not sure,” Mason answered. “If she did, I missed it.”
“No. No she didn’t,” George whispered.
As Dawn headed for graveling-prepared steps, Roxy called out, “Ma’am?”
Dawn paused, tensed, and spun around. “Yes, officer?”
“I know that sometimes these neighborhood disputes can get ugly,” Roxy said as she dug around in her breast pocket. “First it’s parking spaces, then it’s they don’t like the company or hours you keep, and next thing you know they’re calling the police and swearing up and down that you’re a drug dealer.”
Dawn nervously glanced up at the apartment building next to her. “I…you don’t honestly think it’ll come to that, do you?”
“I’ve seen things like this escalate to actual physical violence,” Roxy said as she fished something small and white out of her breast pocket. “I’m going to leave you a business card. If you sense that he’s escalating beyond complaining about where you park, I want you to give us a call.”
Dawn looked at the business card, but didn’t take a step closer. This time they could see her expression by the light of the street lamp. She looked like she wasn’t entirely buying Roxy’s excuse. “I thought the police don’t want to get involved in neighborhood disputes.”
“We also like to head off violence before it happens,” Roxy said as she scribbled something on the back the card. “If you can’t get any traction when you call, tell the person at the other end of the line to come talk to me and I’ll explain the situation.”
“Unh, thanks but I really don’t think that’s—”
“Just the same, I’d feel better if you took my card,” Roxy said. “Like I said, I’ve seen things like this turn ugly.”
Dawn stepped forward to take the proffered card. As soon as her fingers touched it, Roxy reached out with her free hand and closed it over Dawn’s. There was the familiar bit of distortion as Roxy pulled Dawn’s soul out of her body.
“Oh, she’s good. She’s bloody good,” Mason whispered.
“A real pro,” Daisy agreed.
“Shhhh,” George ordered.
“Ummmm…” Dawn began.
“You have a good night, ma’am,” Roxy said as she let go.
Dawn’s expression was puzzled. “Yeah. Good night.”
Roxy turned away, headed down the block, and out of sight from George’s limited perspective of the street.
Dawn looked down at the business card. “I think she was hitting on me,” they heard her mumble.
This caused some barely suppressed giggling on the part of George, Mason, and Daisy, even though it wasn’t actually funny.
Dawn peered down the block, shrugged, turned away, and headed for the graveling-prepared steps.
“This is it,” George whispered as Dawn reached the top of the steps.
“Oh, eeewwww,” Dawn said as she looked down and waved a hand in front of her nose. “I don’t want to know.”
“Hey!” A male voice rang out. “What did I say about parking there?”
Dawn looked up. “Yeah? I just spoke to a cop about that and she said that my parking there was just fine!”
“We have assigned spaces on this street!” the male voice yelled.
“Wrong! I spoke to other people in the building and they said there was no such thing!” Dawn shouted up.
“Are you calling me a liar?”
“Tell you what,” Dawn yelled up at her unseen neighbor, “the cop just walked down the block. I’m going to go get her and she’ll tell you that you’re full of crap!”
Dawn pivoted on her heel, which turned out to be a bad move when standing in a puddle of graveling urine. Her feet slipped and she fell headfirst down the cement steps. When she reached the bottom, she bounced.
George hopped to her feet. “You two, stay with dead girl. Make sure to get her out of the way and stay out of sight.”
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Mason demanded.
George didn’t bother to answer. She took off at a run down the street in the same direction she saw Roxy walk.
“George! Georgia!” Daisy called after her.
George kept running until she reached the end of the block.
She looked up and down the street as well as the cross street.
The only thing she saw was darkness.
“Roxy?” George whispered as she fell to her knees.
There was no answer. No answer at all.
Her name is Dawn Summers, and she just turned 24. She got her PhD in linguistics from the University of Oxford two years ago, which makes her some kind of prodigy I guess.
She’s not married. No kids. No pets. Not even any houseplants.
Her mother died while she was still in middle school, and her father is pretty much incommunicado.
She has an older sister named Buffy who’s 28 years-old and lives Rome.
Right there is pretty much where normal ends.
That older sister is a Vampire Slayer, which is a new one on me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to know that someone out there is actually fighting all those supernatural things that kill people. It also sounds like a job that’s suckier than mine, so I guess I feel kind of sorry for her too.
Dawn doesn’t have any hobbies, unless you count her job as a Watcher as her actual hobby. Which she actually might, now that I think about it.
The point is that Dawn Summers is young, pretty, and has a whole life in front of her saving lives, doing good, and making the world a better place.
Sorry. I meant she had her whole life in front of her to do those things.
And no. It’s not fair.
It’s not fair at all.
“Why are we here?”
“I told you. To see your autopsy,” George said. “It’ll make you feel better.”
Dawn threw up her hands. “How is that supposed to make me feel better?”
Mason smirked at George, a silent dare for her to explain what he thought was her fucked-up, Rube-inspired reasoning. What he didn’t know was that “visiting the new grim reaper’s autopsy” was in the step-by-step instructions that were helpfully enclosed with the information packet she got about Dawn.
The fact that I got HR-style paperwork titled “Steps to Acclimating the New Hire” was proof that Daisy is right: being a grim reaper is like the world’s longest temp job, except you can’t quit. In a way, being a grim reaper is a lot like working for the Happy Time Temp Agency without a Delores as your boss, benefits package, or even minimum wage.
If the living knew that, they’d point and laugh at us after they died.
“Weeelllll,” George began as her brain worked feverishly. “It’s like your life is this Crackerjack Box…”
Dawn put her head in her hands. “Please tell me you’re not going to go all Forrest Gump on me.”
“Will you just listen?” George was trying to be patient. She really was. Dawn was not making patience an easy thing to achieve. “Your life is like this Crackerjack Box. Your body is the box itself, right? And maybe the crunchy candy inside, too. But your soul is the surprise inside the box.”
Dawn stared at her disbelievingly. Mason pressed his lips together and turned red with the effort of trying not to laugh.
“You know how you open the Crackerjack Box and you eat the candy-coated crap inside, even though it tastes like complete ass, just to get the surprise?” George helplessly asked she dove forward with what was turning out to be a really bad way to explain this. “Well, once you get the surprise inside, there’s really no point to having the box or even the rest of the food-ish contents. Because the surprise is the important part.”
Dawn blinked owlishly at her. “Did you just compare my soul to a 2-cent Crackerjack Box surprise?”
“Hold on. Let me try this,” Mason said with laugher in his voice.
“I think I got the concept,” Dawn grumped.
“I don’t think you do,” Mason said. “It’s more like you’re this Happy Meal.”
“Oh, God. You sound exactly like Spike.” Dawn rolled her eyes.
“Spike?” Mason asked.
Dawn suddenly got defensive. “British guy I knew.”
More like British boyfriend. Makes you wonder just what her sex life was like if she had a British boyfriend with a bad-boy name like Spike.
Wait. Did I just speculate about Dawn’s sex life?
Clearly I need to get laid.
Mason beamed at Dawn. “Oh, yeah?”
“Mason,” George snapped.
“Oh. Right. It’s like you’re this Happy Meal, right? Pretty packaging, delicious meat inside…” Mason began.
“Ew,” Dawn and George said in unison.
“And fries! Don’t forget the fries!” Mason course-corrected. “But the really important bit is—”
“The toy surprise?” Dawn asked with a raised eyebrow. “You might think that comparing my soul to a 10-cent plastic toy made in a Myanmar sweat shop is better than comparing it to a 2-cent Crackerjack Box surprise, but I have to tell you that it really isn’t.”
“Well, some of those can become real collectors’ items that sell for lots of money on E-bay,” Mason said.
“What the fuck do you know about E-bay?” George asked.
“I hear things,” Mason answered.
The sound of a bone saw started.
Dawn turned to look through the glass. “I can’t watch.”
“And yet, that’s exactly what you’re doing,” George mumbled to herself.
“Will you look at that?” Dawn asked as she waved through the glass. “He’s cute. Of course he’d be cute. The first cute guy to touch my naked body in more than a year, and I’m dead.”
Yeah? Try being a virgin when the first cute guy to touch your naked body is when you’re in pieces on a slab in the morgue.
George walked over to Dawn’s side and joined her in staring through the window. “The point is that the body in there is not you. This standing next to me is you. What’s in there isn’t really important.”
“Great. And what am I supposed to do with that?” Dawn asked. She seemed hypnotized by her own autopsy. “I’m dead. I’m standing in this room with two grim reapers. I can’t touch anything. I can’t interact with anyone. And I’m a ghost.”
“At the moment,” George said.
I’ve never been the one to put the “fun” into funerals. Except for that one time with Trip, which was directly responsible for my first and last experience with sex. Let’s just say that it didn’t end well and leave it at that.
My funeral was pretty much an uncomfortable affair. There were lots of people saying how wonderful, smart, friendly, beautiful, and all-around awesome I was, which was definitely a case of selective memory.
The truth is I was an 18 year-old college drop-out stuck in a crappy temp job that required me to file useless bits of paper in the basement of an insurance company. A job I earned, I might add, by pissing off Delores. The only reason why I didn’t get fired is because I got hit by a toilet seat that was hurtling to earth after being ejected from the Mir space station while on my lunch break during my first day on the job.
I didn’t get along with my parents. I didn’t even acknowledge my little sister’s existence. I had no friends. I had no hobbies. I was completely directionless. If I had lived, I probably wouldn’t have been doing anything with my life anyway.
Which makes Dawn’s funeral completely different than mine. When all those people said that Dawn was wonderful, smart, friendly, beautiful, brave, and all-around awesome, they not only actually meant it, they probably didn’t need to employ any selective memory.
Yeah, Dawn’s funeral wasn’t any fun for me either.
“How are you doing?” George said as she sat down on the couch next to Dawn.
“A guy sat on me. Or maybe I mean sat through me. Then he was there for 5 minutes before he decided he wanted a beer,” Dawn complained. “So I’d go with peachy with a side of keen. You?”
George took a bite of the canapé in her plate. “These are pretty good. Your sister really hired some great caterers.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Dawn sourly remarked.
I never understood why Rube was so food-obsessed at my funeral. Rube was food-obsessed in general, but at my funeral he really took it to extremes. He tasted everything, drank everything, and made commentaries about every bite and sip he took.
It never occurred to me that maybe he focused on the food because he honestly had no idea how to make my trip from dead to undead any easier. Maybe focusing on the food was a way for him to deal with the dead 18 year-old sitting next to him.
Daisy was working the room and flirting with all of the handsome guys. The fact that they all looked pretty well-off in the financial department certainly added fuel to the fire. Not that any of the men were exactly opposed to Daisy paying attention to them.
“What is she doing?” Dawn asked as she glared at Daisy. “She’s practically trying to merge with Dr. Giddings.”
George watched as Daisy gave the man in question a lengthy full-body hug. “Daisy’s a friendly person.”
“There’s friendly and there’s being a ho,” Dawn said.
“Really, really friendly,” George said as Daisy’s hug lengthened to way beyond what was proper.
“He’s married!” Dawn protested.
“Daisy looks at it as ‘borrowing’,” George explained.
Dawn shot her a look. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Wish I was,” George mumbled as she took another bite of her canapé.
“It would be nice if she’d enjoy my funeral a little less,” Dawn grumbled as Daisy finally let go of the man and moved to another part of the room.
“It’s the high-class rented hall and the first-class food,” George said. “Those are the things that turn a good funeral into a great funeral.”
Please tell me I didn’t just say that.
“Oh, God,” Dawn said in a strangled voice.
Dawn was staring at the far corner of the room. “My sister.”
George followed Dawn’s gaze and saw a young, blonde woman standing next to a young redhead. Her eyes were red, her pale face was blotchy, and she looked like she hadn’t slept in a week. It was obvious that she had just finished a crying jag and only now had pulled it together enough to face the mourners.
The redhead next to the blonde kept a protective arm around the blonde woman’s shoulders. She scanned the room as if she were looking for someone, but was disappointed to find that her target was nowhere in sight. The redhead looked like she had done as much crying and had as little sleep as the blonde.
If George was to guess, she’d say the blonde was Buffy. She had no idea who the redhead was, or how she was related to Dawn.
“What am I going to do?” Dawn asked.
“Nothing you can do,” George said as she doubled her concentration on her plate.
“Look at her. She’s barely holding it together.” Dawn sounded like she was on the verge of tears.
A crash caused everyone in the room to jump.
“You don’ get it. You don’!” A young girl with light brown hair stumbled into the room. “I shouldda gone home with her. Made sure she got home a’right.”
“Marguerite,” Dawn groaned.
“Who?” George asked.
Marguerite began to flail. “’S not fair. ’S not! Assholes live all the time. All. The. Time. They do…they do…asshole things an’ they live jus’ fine. Jus’ fine.”
Buffy moved forward. “Marguerite…”
“You stay back,” Marguerite ordered as she fought to keep her balance. “Where were you? Where the fuck were you? Hunh?”
Buffy’s mouth disappeared into a thin line.
“Fuckin’ ’round Rome. Thass what I heard,” Marguerite accused as she fought to keep her balance.
“Damn it. I told Buffy to do something about those rumors,” Dawn said.
Buffy went white with fury. “I don’t know what you heard, but I know you didn’t hear it from Dawn.”
Marguerite spit on the floor at Buffy’s feet.
Buffy’s hands turned into fists and her voice got low and dangerous. “I’m going to let this slide, because Dawn was your Watcher and you’re upset.”
Marguerite flipped Buffy the bird. “Fuck. You.”
“No love lost there,” George remarked.
Dawn hopped to her feet. “Marguerite got along fine with Buffy.”
“I’m guessing not so much anymore,” George said.
Marguerite flailed her arms around the room. “Fuck all of you! She’s dead and you’re still here.”
The Slayer then turned, probably to leave the room, tripped over her own feet, and face-planted on the hardwood floor.
“Marguerite!” Dawn cried as she rushed forward. She kneeled down next to the now-unconscious girl and tried to touch her, only to have her hand pass right through the Slayer’s shoulder.
As Dawn stared dumbly at her hand, several people finally broke paralysis and rushed to the fallen girl’s side. A few people passed right through the insensible Dawn.
Buffy and the redhead pushed their way through the crowd to check the girl for themselves.
“Whoof.” The redhead winced as she waved a hand in front of her nose. “How long has she been drinking? Since last night?”
“Someone get her back to her place,” Buffy ordered. “Let her sleep it off.”
There was a distinct hesitation in the crowd.
“Now!” Buffy yelled.
Several of the men immediately hopped to it. As they lifted the girl off the floor, Buffy added, “And someone stay with her until she regains consciousness.”
A brunette girl stepped forward. “I’ll do it. If she wakes up while we’re on the way back to her place—”
Buffy took a deep, shuddering breath. “Thank you. Sylvia, is it?”
The girl nodded.
“Tell her when she wakes up that I’ll be by to see her later, okay?” Buffy asked.
“Will do,” the girl said as she turned to follow Marguerite and the men bearing her unconscious body out the door.
Through the whole thing, Dawn remained kneeling on the floor. She hadn’t budged and inch.
As the crowd dispersed, George unobtrusively picked her way over to where Dawn was kneeling. “You know what? I think that maybe—”
“Maybe what?” Dawn snapped back to life. “What could you possibly say to me right now? Sorry for your loss? Too bad your Slayer crawled back into the bottle?”
“That actually wasn’t what I—”
“You know what? Marguerite was right. Fuck. You. Fuck all of you.” Dawn hopped to her feet and rushed off into the crowd, passing through anyone who got in her way.
“Oh, fuck,” George said under her breath as she tried to follow. The fact that she couldn’t just walk through anyone who got in her way slowed her down considerably.
“Hey! Watch it!” Daisy shouted as George dodged one of the mourners, only to bump into Daisy’s back.
“Sorry. Excuse us,” George quickly said to Daisy’s latest male mark as she yanked the other reaper aside.
“Georgia, now really. You’re making a scene,” Daisy scolded her.
“And I’ve lost Dawn in the crowd,” George hissed through her teeth.
“I’m hardly surprised. That drunk girl put on quite a show. She must’ve been dying of embarrassment,” Daisy replied. “I remember how Louis B. Meyer threw himself on my coffin at my funeral. I simply had to leave the room.”
“Daisy! Pay attention!” Geroge ordered in an angry whisper. “Right now we’ve got to find Dawn and get her the hell out of here.”
“All right, all right,” Daisy said with a sigh as she put her empty glass on a try held by a passing waiter. “Which way did she go?”
“From here? No idea,” Geroge said. “You go left, I’ll go right. Whoever finds her first gets her out the front door right away. Once she’s out of here, that person uses their cell to call the other.”
“It’s a plan,” Daisy agreed. To her credit, she straightened her shoulders and marched off, easily sliding around the various clumps of mourners in her search.
George spun around and head off in the opposite direction. Lacking Daisy’s natural grace, she spent a lot of time apologizing to people for bumping into them or stepping on their toes. Somehow through the general hubbub of mourners quietly conversing with one another, she managed to hear, “I want you to try again, Giles.”
George’s head snapped around to face the direction from where the voice came. That sounded an awful lot like Buffy’s voice. Good bet that Dawn was probably in the area.
“As I’ve explained, he’s simply out of reach,” said a deep, male, and very British voice. Not Mason-British. More like PBS-British.
George managed to find Buffy standing in a corner with the redhead and a 40- or 50-something guy with glasses.
Okay, Dawn. Where the hell are you?
“Don’t tell me that. Don’t tell me that,” Buffy said furiously. “We have the best witches and seers in the world, and you’re telling me we can’t find him?”
“Buffy, we explained this,” the redhead timorously interrupted. “He’s deep in Namibia right now, and because of the situation he’s under a no-tracking silence spell. Nothing’s going to find him until he breaks it.”
George desperately searched the crowd in the area around the consulting trio. She moved as unobtrusively and as cautiously as she could around and through the knots of mourners, who seemed to be leaving a polite distance between Buffy and her two friends. The last thing she needed was to trip and stumble into that small open space.
“Are you sure he didn’t get the message at all?” Buffy desperately asked.
“I spoke to his second, Joseph,” the British gentleman answered. “The message was found in his quarters, but it appears that it was never read.”
“How could he miss a mystically directed message?” Buffy demanded.
“C’mon, Dawn,” George muttered as she craned her neck to look between two tall, well-dressed women with their heads bent close together.
“Buffy, as long as he was on the compound when it arrived, it would’ve just gone straight to his quarters,” the redhead explained. “If he was in the middle of rallying the troops and preparing to move out when it blipped into existence, he would’ve never seen it.”
“And you must recall his reports. He did have to leave on rather short notice,” the British gentleman said.
Buffy crossed her arms, leaned against the wall, and put her head down, a movement that caught George’s eye.
If Dawn doesn’t pop up and go run to her sister’s side, that means she didn’t see it, and that means that I better go looking somewhere else.
“Buffy, I’m sorry,” the redhead said as she placed a comforting hand on Buffy’s arm. “I’m afraid he’s not going to get the bad news until he gets back.”
No Dawn. That means she’s not here.
As George turned away to find better prospects for Dawn-spotting elsewhere in the hall, a hand closed around her upper arm.
“I’m a friend of the family’s,” George automatically said as she tensed.
“Georgia, it’s me. I found Dawn,” Daisy whispered in her ear.
“Why didn’t you just take her out the front door?” George said.
“She won’t go,” Daisy urgently said as she began dragging George behind her.
“Where is she?” George asked.
“Near the back door, at least,” Daisy said. “We’ll only have to convince her to move a little instead of across this whole space.”
“How bad is she?”
Daisy paused long enough to look back over her shoulder at George. She looked worried, a definite bad sign.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” George said as she let Daisy drag her forward.
By the time they reached Dawn, she had scrunched herself into a ball in a corner and was staring at the milling mourners. George would’ve bet good money that Dawn didn’t see any of them.
“Dawn,” George softly called as she cautiously approached. “Dawn?”
No answer. No sign that Dawn even heard her.
George looked helplessly at Daisy, who shook her head and shrugged in response.
George tried again. “I think maybe it’s time we leave.”
Dawn jerked her head to face George. “Coming here was a stupid idea.”
“We…unh…what I mean is…it was necessary. You had to see this. To, y’know, say good-bye to your old life before moving on to your new one,” George said.
“Still a stupid idea,” Dawn murmured.
“C’mon. Why don’t you get up and we’ll sneak out by this door right here,” George said.
Dawn slowly got to her feet and walked out the indicated door, leaving George and Daisy to follow or not.
You ever notice how at times like this we want to ask someone if they’re okay, when it’s pretty obvious that they’re not okay? I always thought it was a pretty stupid impulse. I mean, you’ve got eyes, right? When you’re looking at someone who died in a stupid accident and have just attended their funeral, they’re not exactly going to be in the mood to go out for margaritas and dancing on tables.
Yet as we stepped into the sunlight, I felt that awful urge to ask Dawn if she was okay. If I had done that, it pretty much would’ve cemented the idea in her head that I was a heartless asshole. Of course she wasn’t okay. She wasn’t going to be okay for awhile, especially after she realized what her next step really was.
Dawn stopped on the sun-drenched lawn and contemplated the landscaping. “Buffy picked a nice place,” she suddenly said. “For after the funeral, I mean.”
“Yeah,” George quietly agreed as she cautiously moved to stand next to Dawn.
“Your sister has exquisite tastes,” Daisy said as she moved to stand on Dawn’s other side. “All you needed was a little star power and you would’ve had the perfect Hollywood funeral.”
Dawn half-snorted and half-sobbed. “In my world, those people in there have star power.”
“If you say so,” Daisy said as she uncomfortably began scanning the grounds.
“C’mon. I think leaving means that we should probably leave the property, too,” George encouraged.
Dawn sighed. “He didn’t come.”
“Hunh?” George asked.
“He didn’t come,” Dawn repeated.
Daisy looked at George over Dawn’s head and shrugged.
A metaphorical light bulb went off over George’s head. “Oh! You mean your dad! Your dad didn’t come.”
Dawn gave her a what-the-hell look.
“If it makes you feel any better, I overheard your sister talking to a British guy and that redheaded friend of hers,” George quickly said. “They’re trying to reach him, but he’s in some country. I forget which one. I think it started with an N. Or maybe an M. Anyway they sent the message, but I guess it didn’t get there in time and he completely missed it.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “If Buffy’s trying to reach Dad, she’s totally wasting her time. He wrote us off years ago.”
“Oh. Unh. Sorry,” George apologized.
“Honey, if ‘he’ isn’t your father, then who is he?” Daisy asked.
George looked over Dawn’s head and made a cutting motion across her throat.
Dawn’s faced screwed up, either because she was angry or was trying to stop herself from crying. George couldn’t tell either way.
“No one,” Dawn bitterly said. “No one important at all.”