Title: Reaping the Whirlwind (Boom Boom Ba Remix), Part 7/14
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.
George happily hummed to herself as she walked into the Pancake Stack with plenty of time to spare, despite the fact that Xander still insisted on walking her to her car and that she returned the favor by driving him back to the Avalon Motor Inn even as the sun peeked over the horizon.
“Good morning everyone,” she sing-songed as she slid into the booth.
While Dawn sullenly glowered at her from across the table, Mason and Daisy exchanged confused looks.
“And how is everyone today?” George cheerfully asked.
“What’s the bad news?” Daisy suspiciously asked.
“No bad news,” George said as she flipped open her Day Planner. “Can’t a girl be in a good mood just because?”
Mason began to laugh. “Oh, my God! Our Georgie Girl got laid!”
“Mason!” George said through clenched teeth as she signaled for him to settle down.
“I don’t want to hear about it,” Dawn said. “Just give me the post-its.”
George refused to let Dawn drag down her mood. “Fine. Dawn, here’s three for you. Mason, three for you. Daisy, three for you. And, oh look, two for me.”
Dawn glared at the pattern of post-its on the table. “How come you only get two and everyone else gets three?”
“Because I was assigned two reaps and everyone else was assigned three reaps,” George said as she snapped the Day Planner shut.
“Fine,” Dawn said as she grabbed her post-its. “I’m out of here.”
“Don’t you want any breakfast?” George offered.
“I already ate,” Dawn said as she huffed out of the restaurant.
George looked to the ceiling. “I know it’s possible for the two of us to have a civil conversation. I know it is. And someday we’ll have it.” She looked down and reached across Daisy to grab a menu. “That day is not today, apparently.”
“So?” Daisy demanded.
“So…what?” George asked.
“Georgia, don’t be stubborn,” Daisy said as she tapped her fingers impatiently on the table. “What’s he like?”
“Weeelllll, he’s in his late 20s, he’s travelled all over Africa, and he’s cute, despite—” George began.
“Sounds like a romantic adventurer,” Daisy interrupted. “When are you going to see him again?”
“I’m not,” George said as she studied the menu.
“All right, Georgie Girl,” Mason cheered. “That’s the way you do it. Get your rocks off, and leave them begging for more.”
“Or in your case, when they start begging you to leave,” Daisy said.
Mason blew Daisy a kiss. “Well I think this calls for a bloody celebration. Kiffany!” He waved at their regular morning waitress. “Coffee for our fearless leader. On me.”
George raised her eyebrows. “You’re paying for my coffee.”
“It’s a special occasion,” Mason said as he dug some wrinkled dollar bills out of his pocket. “You finally got a righteous rogering that left a smile on your face, and a song in your heart.”
“That is a really crass thing to say,” Daisy primly scolded.
George and Mason paused to look at her. Then they burst out laughing.
“Ha, ha, ha. Very funny guys,” Daisy said as she fought a smile. “I’ll have you know that I like a little romance mixed in with my amorous adventures.”
“Especially if he’s got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” George said.
“And money. Lots, and lots of money,” Daisy added as she dissolved into giggles.
“Good to see you three in a good mood,” Kiffany said as she placed George’s cup on the table and began pouring. “These days you’ve been acting like you’re at a funeral when you get together in the mornings.”
“We’ve been under a lot of stress,” Daisy sweetly said.
“It’s that new girl, isn’t it?” Kiffany said as she refreshed Daisy’s and Mason’s cup. “She’s unhappy. Anyone can see it. And it’s rubbing off on the three of you.”
“We’re trying to help her out,” George said.
Kiffany stood up with her coffee pot at the ready. “Well, I hope you manage to help her soon. When someone’s that unhappy, Lord knows what they’ll do if they stay in the mindset too long.”
“Cheers, Kiff,” Mason said as he saluted the waitress with his coffee cup.
“You’re welcome,” Kiffany replied as she bustled off to refresh coffee cups at the other occupied tables.
“Speaking of which,” Daisy began.
“Ah, Daisy. Do we have to?” Mason waved at hand at George. “Look at her. She’s in such a good mood.”
“We agreed, Mason,” Daisy said with hidden steel in her voice.
“Bugger,” Mason sighed as he put his coffee cup on the table.
“What is it?” George asked.
Daisy placed a hand over one of George’s. “It’s about what Kiffany said.”
George sighed. “I know. I know Dawn’s unhappy. I just don’t know what to do about it.”
“It’s more than that,” Daisy grimaced.
“Just tell me,” George said with resignation.
“When she’s not out doing her reaps, she’s on the couch watching bad soap operas on the Spanish channel,” Daisy said.
“When she gets up, she leaves behind a permanent imprint of her body in the sofa cushions,” Mason said.
“She barely eats,” Daisy continued.
“Good thing she’d already dead, otherwise she’d have starved to death,” Mason helpfully added.
“Worst of all, she doesn’t contribute anything to the household,” Daisy said.
“No money for the bills. No food. Doesn’t lift a finger doing chores. We’re basically supporting her,” Mason said. “The ill-gotten gains from petty larceny can only stretch so far.”
“I’ll have you know I brought in a healthy paycheck from that voiceover I did for a commercial,” Daisy sniffed at Mason. “So we’re not completely dependent on your criminal nature.”
“Hold it. Stop right there.” George held up a hand. “She’s your roommate. Talk to her.”
“We tried,” Daisy said.
“I don’t think she actually hears anything we say,” Mason echoed.
“Just explain to her that you agreed to let her stay until she got her reaping feet, but that if she isn’t even going to try then she should pack her bags,” George said.
Daisy and Mason exchanged looks.
“Look, I’m not saying you have to actually do it,” George said. “Maybe she needs you two to put the fear of homelessness into her to get her motivated and off the couch.”
“Make a threat that we’re not prepared to back up with action,” Daisy said. “Georgia, I know for a fact that you wouldn’t make a threat unless you planned to go through with it.”
“Hey, no one babied me when I was newly dead,” George said. “I had to squat in some dead guy’s apartment because no one would let me room with them. I had to take a menial, part-time job at a temp agency that paid next to nothing just to get enough money for food.”
“But that’s you Georgia,” Daisy said.
“What? So I’m special now?” George asked.
“Georgie, you’re a tough girl. You could handle it,” Mason said.
“And Dawn fought scary monsters for a living before she died, so I hardly think she’s a damsel in distress,” George said.
Mason leaned forward with his elbows on the table. “I think that’s the problem. From her point of view, she’s now the monster.”
George rubbed her forehead. “How many times have we explained the whole grim reaper thing to her? Five? Six?”
“Four,” Daisy answered. “And I think Mason is being a little melodramatic. I hardly think that Dawn believes she’s a monster.”
“George, you’ve got to talk to her,” Mason begged. “Bury the hatchet. Offer an olive branch. Have the dove of peace take a shit on her head. Whatever it takes.”
“Fine,” George said. “I’ll step in and solve your roommate problem.”
Daisy beamed as she patted George’s hand. “Great. I knew we could count on you.”
As everyone knows, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
If you’re a reaper, you need to add a sixth: rebellion.
To be completely fair to Dawn, she went through the five stages of grief in record time, even if the steps were a bit jumbled up. I think she reached acceptance so quickly because she had experience with the undead before she died. Sure, it was the asshole contingent of the undead, but that’s a fuckload more than anyone else gets.
It took her awhile to get to rebellion, but when Dawn got there she did it with a style that was all her own. All signs pointed to her digging in for the long haul.
To be honest, most grim reapers never get beyond the rebellion stage. Granted, no one made a real show of it like Dawn, but there are a million little ways to rebel that won’t result in a graveling biting your ass or getting a pile of dead bodies dumped at your feet.
The key is to rebel in such a way so that the rules are merely bent instead of broken.
Rule-bending is like a reaper Olympic sport. What you do is to step up to the line and then, using your big toe, move the goal posts just one more inch away from where you’re standing. Once you’ve managed your mischief, step slowly back and watch the goal posts snap back into place.
The Gold Medal is always, “Hah! I got away with it!”
Although losing may not result in a graveling beat-down or a trail of dead bodies, it could result in bad karma. Like the time I was accidentally responsible for my dad meeting the college girl he left my mom for, which in turn led directly to their divorce.
Yup. Karma can be an even bigger bitch than gravelings on a rampage.
I think reapers as a species — and I say this from admittedly limited experience — can’t resist flirting with disaster because so much of our lives are nothing but rules.
It’s like this:
You can’t steal from the living (but if they’re already dead you can grab the contents of their pockets, the clothes off their backs, their cars, and even their houses).
You can’t interact with the living (but since reapers don’t get paid, if you want to eat and have a roof over your head, you better go find yourself a job or start stealing from the dead to pay for the basic necessities).
You can’t date the living (but a one-night stand is perfectly kosher).
You can’t refuse to reap a soul when they make their appointment because that means the soul will either begin to rot inside a very living body or the soul will go into the afterlife bearing the scars of a violent death (unless your reap misses the appointment or there’s a clerical error, in which case your mark gets to live and die another day).
And on, and on, and on…
For thousands of years, maybe even millions, reapers have tested the rules, seen how far they’re able to bend them, and then passed the collected wisdom down to the newbies who joined the ranks. Then each new generation of reapers bends the rules a little bit more just to see how far they can go before hearing that terrifying crack.
You might say rebellion is a reaper way of life.
Dawn’s rebellion was a different kettle of fish. This wasn’t memorizing all the rules and looking for loopholes. This wasn’t watching the people she knew when she was alive from the shadows. This wasn’t haunting familiar places. It wasn’t even about holding on to bad habits. This rebellion was all about saying “fuck you” to the world, while doing the bare minimum to keep the gravelings off her ass, karma from kicking her ass, and post-its chasing her ass all over hell and creation.
Since Dawn wasn’t breaking the letter of the rules, no invisible hand was going to yank her upright and slap her across the face to snap her out of it. Since she was only breaking the spirit, the slapping had to be done by me.
No one said dying meant that I’d turn into my mother!
George hit the button on the TV and the screen went off with a series of musical electronic beeps.
“Careful,” Daisy scolded. “Mason and I had the most awful time getting that 47-inch flat-screen cross-town from my reap’s lovely home in Broadmoor last week.”
“I think you mean I had a bloody awful time dragging it cross-town after your reap,” Mason complained. “You were too busy stuffing your pockets with skin care products.”
“I needed to restock,” here Daisy glared at the pile of blankets on the couch, “since someone has turned out to be a borrower.”
“I simply can’t resist. Your facial cream makes the skin on my cheek feel as soft as a virgin’s bum,” Mason said.
Daisy put her head in her hands.
“You two,” George pointed to the front door, “vamoose.”
Daisy grabbed Mason by the arm and dragged him outside.
The mound of blankets didn’t even stir.
“Dawn, we really need to talk,” George said to the mound.
She was answered by silence.
“Look, I know you’re pissed. I’ll even go so far and say that you’ve got lots of good reasons to be pissed,” George said. “But this isn’t helping anyone, least of all you. You’ve got to know that—”
There was the sound of a toilet flushing.
“You’re not here because you’re too busy taking a piss,” George finished with a sigh.
Dawn shuffled into the room wearing sweatpants and a large t-shirt. The ensemble looked like it had come from Mason’s dirty laundry pile.
“Dawn, we really need to talk,” George began again.
Dawn squeaked, jumped, and spun around to face George.
“Hello,” George waved.
Dawn frowned at her. “What are you doing here?” She then noticed the TV was off. “Hey! I was watching that!”
“We really need to talk,” George tried for a third time.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Dawn flounced onto the couch and began making a nest in the pile of blankets.
“As I was telling your blankets earlier, I know you’re pissed. I’ll even go so far and say and say that you’ve got a lot of good reasons to feel the way you do,” George said. “But—”
“Like how you tricked me into losing a memory that was really important to me? One I shared with Marguerite, my Slayer? One that only the two of us knew? Except now, oh wait! She’s the only one who knows it because I lost it,” Dawn angrily interrupted.
So much for the big speech that I practiced on the way over here.
“I’m sorry about that,” George said.
“Didn’t it ever occur to you that memories are all I have?” Dawn asked. “And boom, just like that, you make me lose one.”
“Did it ever occur to you that memories are all any of us have?” George asked.
“Then you should’ve known better,” Dawn sniffed as she pulled the blankets up to her chin. “Now go away.”
“Sorry. You’re not getting rid of me that easily,” George said as she flopped into a nearby easy chair.
“Fine. Then I’ll just ignore you.” Dawn’s hand snaked out for the remote.
George jumped out the chair and swiped the remote off the coffee table before Dawn’s fingertips got close. “You’ll be ignoring me without the soap opera soundtrack.”
Dawn snarled at her, and covered her head with the blankets.
“How old are you, really? Eight? Nine?” George asked with frustration.
“The answer would shock you,” came a muffled voice.
“Ah-hah! I thought you were ignoring me,” George triumphantly said.
The blankets stirred, but stubbornly refused to answer.
“Dawn, by your own admission, you can’t get anywhere near your old life without stacking the odds in favor of people you care about,” George said. “And I understand the impulse. I do. Really, I do. That’s why I can’t let you get with a million miles of your old life. You understand that, right?”
A hand snaked out of the blankets and made a world’s-smallest-violin gesture.
George grit her teeth. “Which I explained to you before. Now I’m going to explain how you’re not helping yourself by turning into a couch potato or wearing Mason’s dead crack-dealer duds, which he probably stole from an actual dead crack dealer.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” Dawn emerged from her blanket fort by sitting up. “It doesn’t matter what I do, because in a couple of weeks there’s going to be an apocalypse.”
George crossed her arms. “You think the world’s going to end just because you’re dead? Are you shitting me?”
“No. I know the world’s going to end because a N’goth demon is running around loose in this dimension and very soon it’s going to be acclimated enough to our world that it won’t need whoever its powerful magic-using master is to keep it alive.” Dawn hopped to her feet and began to pace. “As soon as it’s fully acclimated, magic-boy…or magic-girl…is going to let it off the choke chain.”
“The N’goth is the squid-monster, right?” George hesitantly asked.
“Yes! Yes, it is!” Dawn shouted with frustration. “You’re scared of it now. Just wait until it’s allowed to rampage! You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
In my head, I could see the squid-monster with its belt of faces lurching down the street looking bigger and uglier than it did the last time I saw it. I still could hear the echoes of that thing’s scream in my sleep. The very thought of it getting even more deadly than it already was scared me shitless.
I almost changed my mind. I almost said yes. Dawn will never understand how close I came to saying yes.
Then she pushed her luck.
“I have to make contact with the Council center here in Seattle. I have to work with them to fight this thing before we’re all drowning in blood,” Dawn insisted.
George took a physical step back and studied Dawn.
“You know it’s the right thing to do,” Dawn said.
“The Council’s that big, powerful organization you told me about. The one with all the Vampire Slayers, right?” George asked.
Dawn relaxed. “Yes.”
“And right here in Seattle they’ve got…what?” George asked.
“A training academy for Watchers and Slayers, as well as regular actives,” Dawn said. “Ummm, regular actives meaning Watcher-Slayer pairs who actually do vampire slaying, demon-killing, and all-around supernatural patrol.”
“So, just to be clear, you weren’t the only Watcher and Marguerite wasn’t the only Slayer in town,” George said.
“In a city this size?” Dawn waved at a window. “Once upon a time, yeah, there’d only be one, but only if there was a Slayer already living here. Now there are plenty of Slayers to go around, so the Council doesn’t make a single team patrol a large city anymore.”
“Which means there’s a lot of other people who can fight this squid thing who live right here in town,” George said.
“No, that’s not true,” Dawn shook her head. “As I explained, I’m one of the few people in the world that even knows anything about N’goths, let alone how to fight them.”
“Buuuut, you’re not the only one,” George said slowly.
“None of them live here. I do,” Dawn countered with frustration.
“Correction. You do not actually live at all,” George said. “You’re dead. It doesn’t matter that they’ll see Caroline Browne instead of Dawn Summers. Doesn’t change the fact you’re dead.”
“And again as I explained, the Council’s used to working with the weird and wacky, including normal-appearing people who are genuinely weird and wacky. As long as my information’s good, they won’t look too closely at me.” Dawn sounded desperate now, like she somehow knew that she got close to winning George over but had lost the plot somewhere along the way.
George folded her arms and contemplated the ugly area rug under her feet.
I wasn’t sure if this was the right decision. I really wasn’t. Dawn had good points, lots of good points. Her biggest and best good point was the fact that I had seen her squid-demon with my own eyes, and I had reaped one of its victims. I knew how bad it was. I didn’t need her to tell me that.
In the end my decision all came down to the odds. That was something Dawn never could never win against, no matter how much either one of us wanted it otherwise.
“No,” George said quietly.
“No?” Dawn asked with a note of despair.
“No,” George repeated.
“Didn’t you hear a word I said?” Dawn asked barely above a whisper.
“I did,” George nodded. “I also heard that there were other people in the world who know about this demon of yours.”
“But they’re not here,” Dawn insisted.
“What? The Council doesn’t believe in planes, trains, and automobiles?” George archly asked. “They can’t just tell one of their in-the-know employees to leave East Bumfuck and get their asses to Seattle?”
Dawn’s mouth snapped shut.
“Dawn, have you even seen this thing?” George asked.
“I heard its hunting scream the other night,” Dawn said.
“But have you ever seen one? And I’m not just talking about the one lurching around the city,” George insisted.
“I read about N’goths as part of my training,” Dawn mumbled.
“I see,” George deadpanned.
“The last time a N’goth was in this dimension was more than a century ago,” Dawn insisted. “No one has ever actually seen one.”
“Except for me,” George quietly corrected her. “Oh, and Penny, a reaper friend of mine. And God knows how many other reapers.”
“And it’s still no,” Dawn slumped. “Despite what you’ve seen, it’s still no.”
“Dawn, you may be trying to play up how important you are in the fight against face-ripping squid monsters, but you just told me yourself that you’re not that special,” George said.
Dawn’s jaw dropped. “Excuse me?”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” George quickly said. “I’m sure that when you were alive you were very important in your little pond. But on this issue? The issue of face-ripping demons? You told me that there are other people who know about this thing, and they’ve got just about the same level of experience you do, which is to say none at all. Not to mention the fact that we’ve got an army of Vampire Slayers and Watchers right here in town.”
Dawn’s eyes narrowed. “This isn’t over.”
“Oh, this conversation is so very over,” George countered.
“I see.” Dawn jutted her chin out. “When we’re drowning in post-its and wading in blood, I’m going to remind you of this conversation.”
“You do that,” George said with a mean smile. “But maybe you might consider a whole different option. Maybe you might want to consider that this Council center of yours will be able to kill this thing. Maybe they’ll bring in the so-called experts, come up with a plan, and take care of the problem without your help.” George tilted her head. “Or is that what you’re afraid of? Are you afraid that the world won’t end just because you’re dead?”
“Get out,” Dawn said between clenched.
“I think not,” George said.
“You don’t live here.”
“Ah, but your roomies invited me here,” George said. “And until you start contributing to the household budget and doing your share of chores, you don’t get to say shit about who comes and goes through that front door.”
“Then I’m leaving,” Dawn said.
George skittered sidewise to block Dawn’s path. “I don’t know if you know this, but Daisy and Mason are very close to putting you out on the sidewalk with the trash.”
“They won’t,” Dawn defiantly said.
“They will because I’ll tell them to,” George threatened.
Please don’t make follow through with that.
Dawn took a step back and stared at George.
“There’s only one way you’re staying, and that’s if you get off your ass and get yourself a job,” George said.
“A job between the three reaps I do a day,” Dawn said with disbelief. “How the hell am I supposed to do that?”
“I do it. I do it all the time,” George answered. “If I can do it, a genius like you sure as shit should be able to.”
“According to my fake ID, I have the bare minimum for work history and education,” Dawn pointed out. “Who is going to hire someone with a light résumé and looks like a bag lady?”
“Good thing I work for a temp agency, hunh?” George said.
“I have a PhD in linguistics,” Dawn argued. “I’m pretty sure I’m overqualified for a job that involves filing.”
“Then you’ll be a really smart temp,” George said with anger.
“I’m not doing it.” Dawn stubbornly crossed her arms.
“Then you really will be sleeping under that overpass,” George shot back. “So it’s that, or tomorrow morning you squeeze yourself in some decent clothes and after breakfast you follow me to Happy Time where I will introduce you to Delores. Delores will find you a low-pressure job that at least pays minimum wage and gives you a little flexibility to play with. Understand?”
“Do I even get a choice?” Dawn angrily asked.
“You get to pick the job, but by the end of the day tomorrow, you will have a job.” George turned on her heel. “Make sure you bring all of your Caroline Browne paperwork and necessary ID. The last thing I want to do is run our asses back here in the middle of the day because you ‘forgot’ it.”
Dawn may have humphed and grumphed all the way to Happy Time, but when faced with “Hello, I’m Delores Herbig, as in her big brown eyes” she turned into something resembling sweet.
Sometimes I forget how good Delores actually is at doing her job. Before 20 minutes was out, she knew that Dawn fluently spoke several languages. Before 45 minutes was up, Delores had subtly tested Dawn’s claims by having her speak Spanish to Jesus in accounting, Portuguese with Jules in maintenance, Russian with Boris in IS, and French, Vietnamese, and Mandarin with Crystal.
I was shocked. Who knew that Crystal spoke French, Vietnamese, and Mandarin? I guess she really did serve as a Special Forces operative in Southeast Asia.
Once Delores was satisfied that Caroline Browne’s résumé didn’t actually capture all of Dawn’s talents, she revealed that she had a client who’d been desperately looking for a translator. The job was for a small book publisher specializing in small runs for a very select audience, she explained. It didn’t pay as well as it should for the skill sets they wanted, but they were flexible about hours. As long as Dawn, or rather Caroline, got her work done by deadline, they wouldn’t ask too many questions about the hours she kept.
Dawn actually cracked a smile when Delores sent her out for an interview.
That job lasted a week-and-a-half.
To be fair, Dawn wasn’t at fault. As it turned out, the company was a front. It really was a spy ring for Tuvalu and the books Dawn was translating contained coded messages for the Tuvalu government.
Yeah, that’s what I said. Why the hell would a 9-mile-square pimple in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a population of 12,000 want to get into the spy business?
Luckily for Dawn, she had the mad reaper power of slinking away without being noticed. Delores was not so lucky. It took her a week to get out of federal custody. Although the FBI cleared her of all charges, somewhere there’s an agent hunkered down in front of a computer looking for coded secret messages to the Tuvalu government in Delores’s live stream from her apartment as she puts on her Getting Things Done with Delores show.
Poor bastard. On the upside, he’s probably getting some really good tips about decorative shelf liners.
As for Delores, she remained undeterred. She would find Caroline, or rather Dawn, a new job to make up for the snafu.
Dawn’s next job was translating court transcriptions from English to Whatever language was needed. This company was willing to let Dawn work from home 3 days a week, so that was a positive built right in. Dawn complained that the work looked boring, but after her adventure with the Tuvalu spies, she was willing to go for boring in exchange for a paycheck.
That job lasted 4 days.
Again, Dawn wasn’t at fault, and neither were Tuvalu spies. Faulty wiring was the culprit. The entire company burned to the ground, and Dawn was out yet another job.
Delores cracked her knuckles and let her fingers dance across the keyboard. Another job was found and Dawn once more landed employment.
One problem: Dawn never showed up for her first day at work.
Delores was understanding, but firm. She was willing to let Dawn slide on this one no-show and find her yet a fourth job. However, if Dawn blew it again, Caroline Browne’s name was getting nuked from Happy Time’s books as a credible job candidate.
As for me, I began to wonder if I was allowed to kill Dawn again.