Title: Reaping the Whirlwind (Boom Boom Ba Remix), Part 12/14
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.
I spent the rest of the night huddled on the couch watching and waiting. I didn’t do anything more than that. I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t read, and I didn’t try to sleep.
You ever notice how you never get answers to any question that start with ‘why’?
Why did I let Dawn reap her sister? I knew in my gut it wouldn’t turn out well, but I let her do it without putting up much of a fight.
Why did Roxy have to leave? We were already short one reaper after we reduced Cameron to ash and shot what was left of him into space. We could’ve kept Roxy, couldn’t we?
Why did I get promoted to The Boss? I hated being the boss. I hated being in charge. I hated responsibility of any kind. I hated kicking people’s asses and making them follow the rules. I hated the rules. It was like some twisted joke that I was in this position.
Why did Roxy go off the rails when Cameron was in charge? Daisy and Mason weren’t a surprise, but Roxy was. She said it was because deep down inside she always wanted to be the rebel reaper, but sometimes I wonder if it was more than that.
Why did Rube leave us without a word? How long did he know that he was going to get promoted? Why didn’t he say anything? Was he even given a chance to say good-bye? One day he was there, and the next day Der Waffle Haus was a smoking ruin and Rube was gone.
Why did Betty jump? When did she decide to do it? Why did she do it right in front of me? I thought I was over it, but it turns out that I really wasn't. Why does Betty's leap into the light still bother me after all this time?
Why did my family fall apart after I died? Why did I die? Why am I reaper?
Why I am still here?
Why, why, why, why?
As I sat on my couch and stared at my four walls looking for answers, the room began to take on grey-ish cast as morning approached. Soon, the grey had a slight tinge of red.
Whatever else had happened last night down at Terminal 5, the world didn’t end.
Reality snapped back into place when the interoffice envelope slid under my door with barely a rustle, but I still didn’t move. It was like I was waiting for a sign that it was okay for me to get off the couch.
My radio alarm went off and the DJ’s voice filled my apartment with news that a freak earthquake hit Seattle, leaving almost 875 people dead and hundreds more reporting hallucinations due to the geothermic gases escaping into the atmosphere. Scientists from the federal government were en route to investigate.
Hearing that amount of concentrated bullshit was what snapped me out of my funk. I got to my feet with a stretch. I went to window, lifted the shades, and threw open the curtains.
Outside the sun was shining. People were on the sidewalks, and cars were on the street. Both the pedestrian and car traffic were on the light side for a Monday morning, but nothing was otherwise out of place. Who knew what it would really be like once I left my cocoon and inserted myself into the lives of the living.
Last night, the world almost ended. Last night, the world did end for a lot of people.
And yet, despite everything, the world was still here.
George pulled up in front of house shared by Dawn, Mason, and Daisy. She nervously cast a glance at the house, took a deep breath, grabbed her Day Planner, and got out of the car.
The walk to the front door felt like it took forever.
Just as George reached the top step, Daisy opened the front door, and put a finger to her lips. Her face was denuded makeup and she looked wan, pale, and exhausted. George suspected that Daisy hadn’t slept a wink all night, either.
“Everyone’s still sleeping, hunh?” George asked.
Daisy softly closed the door behind her and joined George on the porch. “Dawn finally collapsed into bed a little over an hour ago. After the night she’s had, I’m afraid of waking her.”
“You heard,” George said as she leaned against the porch railing.
Daisy nodded. “Both me and Mason got the whole story.”
“Go on. Say it. I shouldn’t have let her reap her sister,” George said in a defeated tone.
“Georgia,” Daisy sighed as she crossed her arms and shook her head.
“Yeah, I know,” George agreed.
“Though I can’t imagine you ripped into her nearly as badly as Mason did,” Daisy said.
George startled. “Wait. What?”
Daisy nodded. “As soon as she told us about how she almost entered the light, Mason just exploded. It was awful. He wouldn’t stop yelling at her.”
“Mason? Our Mason?” George asked.
Daisy hugged herself and hunched her shoulders. She looked like a fragile China doll trying to hold herself together. “Mason ran off when he was done yelling. I don’t know where he is.”
George rubbed her forehead as she thought. “He’s probably passed out in a booth at the Pancake Stack. I’ll swing by on my way to work.”
“I hope you’re right.” Daisy uncomfortably shuffled. “I didn’t know about Betty.”
George did a double-take. “You didn’t?”
“No one ever said what happened to her,” Daisy said. “All I knew was that I was transferred from SoHo to replace a reaper in your group. The only reason I knew her name was because I overheard you and Rube talking about how she was gone and neither one of you knew where she went.”
George looked down as she fiddled with her Day Planner.
“Betty leaving the way she did sounds pretty awful,” Daisy lamely added.
“I was there and saw her do it. Mason wasn’t,” George said.
“I guess he saw the flash of light, and heard the sonic boom. He said the ground shook.” Daisy shrank in on herself. “I always wondered what would happen if a reaper hitched a ride. Now I wish I didn’t.”
“So do I,” George quietly agreed. She uncomfortably scratched her head, and flipped open her Day Planner.
Daisy grimaced. “You’d think they’d give us a day off. Declare a reaper holiday or something.”
“You remember what happens when death takes a holiday,” George pulled two post-its out of her Day Planner. “Paperwork.”
Daisy reluctantly took one of them, “A choice between reaping, and typing everyone’s dying thoughts into a database. Well, I think I know which one I prefer.”
“Take this one for Dawn,” George said. “I came by here just to drop these off. I don’t think I can deal with your roomie on an extended basis just yet. I’m afraid I might start strangling her in front of witnesses.”
Daisy came dangerously close to a smile. “Just one post-it each.”
George nodded. “We’re back to our normal level of death.”
“Thank God.” As Daisy reached out for Dawn’s post-it, she asked, “Is there anything you want me to tell Dawn when she wakes up?”
“No. I need a little time to step back and get perspective,” George admitted. “I’ve already handled this whole thing very badly. The last thing I want to do is make it worse.”
“Why Georgia,” Daisy’s eyelashes fluttered as she placed a hand over her heart, “are you actually thinking before acting? Wonders never cease.”
“Don’t push it, Daisy,” George half-heartedly growled.
Daisy just shook her head with a smile as she went back into the house.
George sighed as she turned to go back to her car.
After talking to Daisy, I felt better. Even though she knew I had screwed up as a boss, she hadn’t held it against me. It was the last thing I expected from her, and it felt good to realize that I could rely on her in some way.
Who’d have thunk it? Daisy had my back.
George was reaching for the door handle of her car when a sudden movement on the backseat startled her. She jumped and exclaimed, “Jesus!”
“So I’ve been called by many a lady when they’ve experience my magic touch.” Mason peered up at her. “Hope you don’t mind, but I was larking about when I saw your car.”
“Larking about, hunh?” George archly asked as she opened her car door and slid behind the wheel. “Does ‘larking about’ mean ‘taking a long walk to cool off’?”
“In this case, yeah.”
George tapped the wheel. “Where do you need to go? I can drop you off on the way to work.”
“I just want to make myself scarce for a bit. Clear my head,” Mason answered.
“If you don’t mind getting dumped off in the Happy Time parking lot, I think I can manage that,” George said as she started the engine.
“Don’t tell me you’re actually going to your straight job. On a day like this?”
“It’s either that,” George put the car into gear, “or go crazy.”
Mason was mostly quiet on the drive to Happy Time. Like me, he was probably looking for evidence that the city had only last night been a battleground where the fate of the world was at stake. I had to give the Slayers a lot of credit. Some buildings looked like they had been damaged, but not nearly as many as I thought there should have been. You had to get a pretty close-up view to realize that something wasn’t quite right in the city.
Despite the news all over the radio and on the front page of the newspaper, people were still going to work like nothing had happened. Maybe they were curious to find out who survived and who didn’t, and going to work was the only way to know for sure. Maybe like me they needed to pretend that everything was normal; that their corner of the world had remained untouched by what had happened.
“Olly, olly oxen free,” George said as she pulled into a parking spot.
Mason leaned forward from the back seat, wrapped his arms around the passenger seat’s headrest, and laid his head down so that he was facing George. “Thanks,” he said softly.
George reached out and patted Mason’s head. “Heard you went off like a Roman candle on Dawn after I left.”
Mason uncomfortably shrugged. “Not sure what got into me there.”
“Betty did,” George said with certainty. “Got to admit, I’m kinda surprised. You were on the other side of town taking ownership of the house when Betty jumped.”
“Oi. I didn’t steal it. That ancient and strange ol’ bird handed me the keys and the deed. Her final wish was to screw her weasel of a son out of an inheritance, and I was more than happy to oblige,” Mason half-heartedly protested.
George’s hand dropped. “I’m just surprised that Betty leaving affected you so badly.”
“Saw the light, heard the boom. The whole bloody ground shook. I don’t think there was a reaper in the city that didn’t know something had gone pear-shaped,” Mason admitted.
“Break the number one rule, pay the number one price,” George softly said.
“Thought Cameron paid the ultimate price, actually,” Mason countered.
“Probably because he went for quantity, instead of quality.”
“Typical stockbroker, I suppose,” Mason said. “Always wanting more.”
George tapped the surface of her Day Planner. “Mason, why did you completely lose it with Dawn?”
“I told you, I don’t—”
“Yes you do know,” George quietly interrupted.
Mason sighed and fell silent.
“Mason,” George encouraged.
“D’you know that you’re my oldest friend?”
“Hunh? That can’t be right,” George said. “You’ve been dead for—”
“Decades. Yeah. Don’t remind me,” Mason interrupted. “I tell you Georgie, there are some days I feel like the last man standing.”
“Because everyone you’ve known for longer than 6 years is gone,” George said with realization.
“Yeah.” Mason began counting the names off on his fingers, “Rube, Roxy, Betty, me, and Jackson.”
“Bloke who reaped you,” Mason said.
“Hunh.” George made a thoughtful face. “I never knew his name.”
“He was a bit of alright, y’know.” Mason waggled a hand. “Used to get up in Rube’s grill quite a lot. I suspect Rube was glad to see the back of him.”
“Rube did call him a pain in the ass,” George said.
“When Jackson left and you came along, that was all right. The old gang was mostly intact, but you got to shake things up a bit. All in all, nothing horrible about it,” Mason said. “Then a few months after you show, Betty does what she did.”
“And we got Daisy,” George nodded.
“And just this year, we lose Rube and Roxy,” Mason said. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to bleeding move on, or if I’ll be stuck decade in and decade out watching reapers come and go around me.”
It was funny to realize that I wasn’t the only one who dreaded the kind of change that Roxy’s loss and Dawn’s addition brought. It was funny to realize that I wasn’t the only one who saw routine as something comfortable and comforting.
I would’ve never pegged Mason to be that someone, though. Chaotic, crazy Mason with all his schemes and dreams, who seemed to go out of his way to make his own life difficult every chance he got. Even Mason needed to know that some things would never change, and that he’d always have family there for him.
Okay, an undead, fucked-up family, but we were family in our own strange way.
George again reached out to pat Mason’s head. “I’ll make you a deal. I won’t go anywhere until you do.”
Mason smiled, grabbed her hand, and kissed it. “You can’t promise anything of the sort Georgie Girl, but thanks for saying so anyway.”
George smiled at him. “You’re welcome.”
Mason let go of her hand and sat up. “I best push off and let you get to your straight job.”
“Before you go,” George flipped open her Day Planner, “I’ve got a little pick-me-up for you.”
Mason took the single post it and, as was his habit, scanned it before shoving it in his pocket. “Just the one?”
“I hope that means we’re back to normal,” George said. “I think you’ll like this one. Electrocution. Garage band playing in an actual garage equals one toasty lead guitarist.”
Mason’s eyes had a far away look. “And where there’s a band, at minimum there are birds and booze.” There was a gleam in Mason's eye as he grinned at her. “Cheers, Georgie.”
“You’re welcome,” George said with a grin as she dug around in her book bag. “But I need you to do me a favor.”
“Should’ve known there was no free ride.”
George pulled $40 out of her wallet. “Your reap’s not until late this afternoon, so take Dawn out to a nice lunch on me. Make it up to her. And make it look like it was your idea and that this is your money, okay?”
Mason looked confused as he took the bills. “Why not take her yourself?”
“One, I’ve got to do my reap on my lunch, so no time. And two, it’s one thing if I’m mad at her, but it’s something else entirely if you’re pissed at her,” George explained. “I’m the boss, remember? I’m supposed to be constantly pissed off about something.”
Mason suppressed a smile as he shoved the money in his pocket. “Right you are, boss.”
George couldn’t resist grinning as Mason got out of her car with a bounce in his step.
Once Mason was gone, I had to actually pay attention to my surroundings. The Happy Time parking lot, which we shared with other companies in the building, was at least half-empty. The walk to the building was a lot less crowded, and I actually had the elevator all to myself.
I wondered if all those missing people were dead, or if maybe they were home mourning the dead. Although I wasn’t responsible for any of those deaths, although I hadn’t decided who would die, I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit guilty.
Even though she was only 15 minutes late, George still tried to make herself look small as she tiptoed out of the elevator and began heading for her desk. Just as she was about to enter the cubical farm she called home for 8 hours a day, it dawned on her that the office was unnaturally quiet. There were no ringing phones, no unnecessary chit-chit, and no ambient noise signaling that her co-workers were settling down for a long day doing everything they could to avoid actual work.
It wasn’t much of a mystery why the hustle and bustle of Happy Time was notoriously absent. Most of the desks were empty.
George turned around to see if Crystal was there. George was relieved to see that she was in her customary place, peering suspiciously at the world over the top of her receptionist desk with her blue-eyed unblinking stare.
“Did they decide to shut down the company for the day and someone forget to tell me?” George asked.
The top of Crystal’s head made a ‘no’ motion.
“Then where is everyone?” George asked.
Crystal’s head dipped slightly to one side, a sign that the invisible portion of her body from the bridge of her nose down was engaged in something that resembled a shrug.
“Is…is Delores in?” George asked.
“Unh-hunh,” Crystal answered.
“Know where she is?” George asked.
Crystal’s head movement indicated that she was shrugging again.
That’s what I loved about Crystal. Getting her to share information usually required a game of 20 questions. While I’ve had cause to be grateful for her don’t-ask-don’t-tell-about-the-weird-emp
George cleared her throat and went to lean on the receptionist desk. “Soooooo, you do anything interesting this weekend?”
This time George had a clear enough view over the top of Crystal’s desk to actually see her shrug.
“Yeaaaaah. I had that kind of weekend too…” George’s voice trailed off. She pursed her lips and helplessly looked around. “Nope. I didn’t have much going on, either.”
“Spent last night in my underground bunker,” Crystal suddenly volunteered.
George startled at the unexpected show of conversational involvement from Crystal. “Ah, you, um…did? And…wait.” She focused her attention on the other woman. “You have an underground bunker?”
Crystal shrugged as if to say, “Shouldn’t everyone have underground bunker?”
Much as George really hated spewing the bullshit she heard on the radio, she couldn’t resist. “Isn’t an underground bunker kind of useless in an earthquake?”
Crystal swung her blue-eyed unblinking stare towards George as if to ask, “Just how stupid do you think I am?”
“Right,” George nodded. “I’m just going to head for my desk.”
Next thing George knew, her face was smushed into the ample bosom of one Delores Herbig.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re okay,” Delores said as she hugged George tight. “I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see you.”
“Can’t. Breathe.” George’s voice was muffled.
Delores didn’t let go. “When I heard on the radio that people were killed, I just thought…well, I don’t know what I thought. I was blank. Completely blank.”
George patted Delores on the shoulder as she extricated herself. “Yeeeaaaah. The earthquake.”
Crystal coughed something that sounded suspiciously like, “Bull.”
“I have to tell you, I most certainly saw some very strange things last night.” Delores shook her head and looked like she was about to cry.
“What kind of things?” George hesitantly asked.
“I saw a giant squid walking on land,” Delores began.
“A giant squid!” George yelped. “It wasn’t wearing a belt made of faces, was it?”
Delores gasped. “You saw it, too?”
George startled. “Me? No. No I didn’t see anything. I was home all night. There was this horror movie thing on. From the ’70s I think. You could tell because the colors were all washed out and all the collars on the men’s jackets were about as big as hand gliders. The monster was a…a…giant squid. Or like a squid. I fell asleep in the middle and started dreaming about a giant squid attacking my building.”
“How odd,” Delores said.
“Yeah. Coincidence, I guess,” George said as she shot Crystal a warning glare to refrain from doing anything Crystal-like.
Delores smiled a watery smile. “Oh, I know what I saw was impossible. Giant squids walking on dry land. Preposterous. Ha! I bet I saw the same movie at some point and for whatever reason, I hallucinated that the monster was real.” The smile suddenly disappeared as Delores realized something. “Although it was heading for the port, which I suppose makes sense if you’re a giant squid walking on land.”
“It does?” George asked.
“Because it’s closer to the water, silly.” Delores seemed relieved that she had discovered some logic behind her hallucination, even if it only made sense to her.
“Riiiiight. You do know they’re saying that all those gases in the ground were vented into the atmosphere during the earthquake and caused all kinds of hallucinations, right?” George said.
Even though Crystal was behind her, George could practically feel her rolling her eyes.
“Well, it wasn’t much of a hallucination,” Delores confided.
“Delores, you saw a giant squid,” George deadpanned.
“When I was on the,” here Delores looked around as if she was expecting ninja eavesdroppers to come out of nowhere and dropped her voice to a whisper, “cocaine,” she straightened up and continued in a normal vice, “I saw much worse. I once hallucinated that I engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a vampire clown in a port-a-potty located just outside a Barnum & Bailey circus tent. Who knows what that was about?”
George desperately dove for a change in subject. “So where is everyone?”
Delores deflated. “We’re still trying to find out. Only a handful of people showed up for work. Not that I blame anyone who wanted to take a sick day at all.”
“So, I guess you’re working call lists to find out who’s okay?” George asked. She didn’t add, And find out who’s dead?
Delores nodded. “There’s one for Happy Time employees, one for our temps, and one for our clients.”
George sighed. “I’ll check in with the temps.”
“Good. We’re still going through the employee list, and I’d feel better if we got to the temps sooner rather than later.” Delores paused and rested a hand on George’s shoulders. “I can’t tell you how glad I am to see that you’re all right.”
George felt herself smile. “I’m glad you’re okay too.”
Rube always said, “Don’t get too close to the living.”
Keep your distance, stick to the shadows, don’t get noticed.
Don’t be loved by them. Don’t even try to be liked.
We’re grim reapers. We’re undead. We’re not alive. Our place is on the outside looking in.
It’s sound advice. Good advice, even.
Until you stop and think about it.
The deck is stacked against any reaper who tries to completely isolate themselves from interacting the living, or who tries not to affect them. There’s something inherently screwy about any system that tells you to keep your distance, yet by its very structure forces you to rub elbows with the living every day.
You have to get close. You can’t keep your distance. Stick to the shadows, and someone will shine a spotlight right on you. And just try not being noticed. It’s like hanging a sign around your neck saying, “Please notice me.”
It doesn’t matter that a grim reaper is as close as you can get to being immortal, and that by definition you’re going to outlive everything and everyone you ever cared about. It doesn’t matter that you see so much death that you can’t help but notice that everything is alive. And yes, maybe that includes books, too.
At the end of the day, reapers suck at keeping their distance from the living. We suck at not affecting people we deal with, whether it’s just in the day-to-day or at the one time in your life when you don’t want to see us.
Reapers leave footprints, no matter what we do. We leave footprints because of what we’ve done, and we leave footprints because of what we didn’t do. All of that has consequences. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but the consequences are never what you’d expect.
It’s really not all that different from being plain ol’ alive, if you think about it.
Besides, who wants to deal with a reaper who doesn’t give a shit? I sure as hell don’t, because any reaper who doesn’t give a shit on some level is a reaper that deserves to be chopped up, burned in a fireplace, and have their ashes shot into space.
Like Cameron, for example.
I guess what I’m saying is that Rube was talking out of his ass.
But you know what? I think that at the end of the day, Rube knew he was talking out of his ass, too.
George checked her watch as she hurried to her car. Even though it was only 7:30 pm, it felt a lot later. Making the calls was tough, because there was no way to know what she’d get. Most people were fine, if a little shaken. A smaller group had lost someone the night before.
Some never picked up the phone, never returned messages, and remained mysteriously silent.
Final tally: three Happy Time employees were still among the missing, with one confirmed dead; and 6 temps missing, none confirmed dead. George had no idea what the tally was among clients, but given the look on Delores’s face around 6 o’clock, she really didn’t want to know.
George stuck her key into the lock when she heard a hoarse, rough voice behind her. “Don’t even think about getting in that car.”
George momentarily froze.
She felt something sharp poke her in the back.
George’s shoulders slumped. “Are you shitting me? I’m being mugged? After the day I just had?”
“Not a mugging,” the sharp point poked her again, “unless you count wringing answers out of you as mugging.”
“What the f—” George began as she turned around.
Whoever was holding the pointed thing moved at the same time George did. The brief, no-contact scuffle, left a scratch on her hand from the sharp object and George trapped against her car.
“Who the hell do you think—” George began, but stopped when she realized she was looking at the business end of a crossbow held by, “Xander?”
“Hello, Millie,” Xander said with a tight smile. He looked like hell. It was clear that he hadn’t slept or shaved for several days. His clothes were disheveled and torn, and there was a vivid cut on his cheek under the eye patch. His visible eye was twitching, and the gleam in it was definitely threatening.
Even though I knew Xander couldn’t kill me, that crossbow looked like it would really hurt. It might hurt enough that I’d pass out. With the way Xander was looking at me, I didn’t want to find out what I’d wake up to if that happened.
I had to keep him talking until I could escape.
“What the hell happened to you?” George asked.
Xander tilted his head. His smile took on a nasty edge, and the crossbow didn’t waver one bit. “I think you already know.”
“I really don’t,” George insisted.
A half-crazed chuckle escaped Xander’s lips. “For someone who’s out of town until Wednesday, or was it Thursday? What I’m saying is, for someone who’s out of town, it sure looks like you’re very much here.”
“Are you stalking me?” George said as she surreptitiously looked for an escape route.
As I desperately looked around, I realized that running may not do me any good. Now that I thought about it, Xander always seemed to notice me even when I didn’t want to be noticed. It was like my reaper ability to disappear while still in plain sight didn’t work on him.
“What were you doing down at Terminal 5?” Xander asked.
“Terminal…5?” George asked with what she hoped sounded like confusion. “What’s Terminal 5?”
“Don’t play games with me, Millie,” Xander threatened.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” George stubbornly insisted.
“Are we really going to play this game, Millie?” Xander’s voice was dripping with condescension.
“You expect me to play games while you’ve got that thing pointed at me?” George asked.
“Fine,” Xander spit at her. “A friend of yours crossed paths with a friend of mine down at Terminal 5. This friend of yours wandered up to this friend of mine and touched her. When the touching happened I thought, but I wasn’t sure, that I saw a slight distortion. Afterwards, my friend was kind of distracted, and not at all herself. Less than 10 minutes later, she was dead.”
Shit! He saw Dawn reap Buffy!
Wait. He actually saw the reap?
When Bryan warned that Dawn’s people were dangerous because they noticed things, I didn’t realize that might include them noticing the actual act of reaping.
“Now this friend of yours was an older woman who looked like she was just crawling her way up from some very homeless-looking hard times,” Xander continued. “Ring any bells?”
“I…I…don’t know any homeless people,” George stuttered.
“Oh, I think you do,” Xander sarcastically said. “Because shortly after my friend got killed by the reflex action of an already-dead N’goth demon—”
“Demon?” George interrupted. “Xander, have you been drinking?”
Xander jerked up the crossbow so that the pointed end of the bolt was aimed right at her chin.
Well, that wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve said all day, was it?
“Don’t,” Xander quietly warned. “You know damn well what a N’goth demon is.”
“Sure. Why not?” George emphatically nodded. She hoped she looked like a scared woman who was just playing along.
“As I was saying,” Xander brought the crossbow down to that it was pointed at her heart, “shortly after my friend was killed, I saw this friend of yours running like a bat out of hell away from the scene of the crime. I don’t have to tell you that I chased her.”
George desperately searched her memory. She was very sure that she didn’t see Xander chasing Buffy and Dawn, and she couldn’t imagine Xander not trying to interfere if he saw Dawn on the ground with her broken ankle while she yelled at what had to look nothing.
“I lost her for a little bit in the cargo stacks,” Xander said.
George relaxed. He didn’t see shit. “So why are you coming after me?”
“Because when I caught up with her, what did my lonely little eye see? You throwing my suspect in the back of your car. Then I saw you lay down rubber to get the hell away from the port,” Xander said in a hard voice.
You have got to be kidding me!
“That wasn’t even me!” George protested. “You’re confusing me with someone else!”
“You have a very distinctive car, Millie. And you? Are a very distinctive person.” Xander grinned. “Besides, I managed to get close enough to get a partial of your plate. A quick check with the DMV confirmed what I already knew.”
I knew I shouldn’t have legally registered the car! I knew it!
There’s nothing for it. When all else fails, cause a scene. Okay, I’ve got the last car in the parking lot so my odds of a potential witness just stumbling across this are pretty slim, but Xander obviously knows I can be dangerous. Maybe if I’m dangerous in living girl kind of way he’ll see he’s wrong and will back down.
“This is bullshit,” George evenly said. “You’re not going to kill me. If you really believe that your friend was murdered by someone I know, you’ve got to believe that I’m the only lead you’ve got.”
Xander made a ‘hunh’ face. “Good logic.”
“Thank you,” George sniffed. “You’re still totally wrong.”
Xander’s nasty smile returned. “You’re right. I can’t kill you, but I can definitely use this crossbow to incapacitate you.”
“If you really believe I’m guilty, then you better just shoot me,” George dared him. “But make sure you kill me when you’re done, because you can bet that as soon as I get away from you I’ll be calling the police.”
Xander grinned at her like he was genuinely amused. “Then call the police. Nothing stopping you from doing it right now.”
“I would think honking big crossbow is stopping me from doing it now,” George stiffly replied.
“No! Go right ahead! I’m not going to stop you,” Xander promised. “I’ll even aim the crossbow at your foot to show that I won’t shoot if you whip out your cell phone right now and dial 9-1-1.”
“I’ll do it,” George said as she reached for her pocket.
“No you won’t. Because then you’ll have to explain why you suddenly blipped into existence a little over 6 years ago,” Xander said.
George’s jaw dropped. “What?”
Xander shrugged. “Do you really think I didn’t arm myself to the teeth with information before I wandered into your parking lot?”
George just stared at him dumfounded.
“Whoever created your fake ID was good. Really good. But the Council hackers are better,” Xander said. “Call the police, and they may arrest me but they’ll definitely want to talk to you after I show them all the paperwork detailing how Millie Hagen didn’t exist before 2003.”
“Look, you can’t…what I mean is…you don’t know what happened,” George said as she desperately tried to regain her equilibrium. “I was…I was…an informant for the FBI. Drug case. Big drug case. And—”
“The Council hackers would’ve spotted law enforcement fingerprints on your fake ID if that was true,” Xander calmly interrupted.
“Look, I’m sorry your friend died last night, but you have got to believe that I’m not involved with her death,” George desperately said.
Xander went very still. “I never said when my friend died.”
Shit! Time to run for it!
George charged at Xander and hoped like hell that it would throw him off balance enough that she’d be able to get by him.
What happened next was a bit of a blur. There was the sound of a twang, and the sudden blossoming of pain that sent her to the edge of blacking out. George felt herself falling forward, only to be captured by a pair of strong arms.
George’s vision swam as she looked up into Xander’s shocked face. She then looked down and saw the crossbow bolt sticking out of her chest.
“You son of a bitch. You shot me,” George gritted through her teeth. She looked up at him. “I can’t believe you really shot me!”
“But…how—” Xander began.
Out of sheer instinct, George thrust her hands into Xander’s chest and yanked his soul up and out.
“I can’t believe you did that!” George said as she lifted his nearly-weightless soul off the ground and began to shake it back and forth. “Do you know how much that fucking hurts? I should kick your ass for that!”
Xander’s mouth, or rather his soul’s mouth, flopped open and closed, but no sound came out.
George froze as she realized that her hands were still inside Xander’s chest and that she was practically lifting him over her head. She cautiously followed Xander’s horrified gaze and saw his body standing next to her. The body’s mouth was open and drooling, the eye was glassy, and it was wobbling back and forth on its legs.
George looked up at Xander's soul and let out a horrified, “Shit!”
The expression on soul-Xander's face was nothing less than unadulterated fear as he looked down at her.
George closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and steeled herself. “Right,” she said as she opened her eyes. She glared up at Xander's soul, and gave it another little shake. “You and me are going to have a little talk.”