When we left our hero, he was standing over the Grim Reapers' table, casually leaning on Morgif. Normally, such a sight would make the average person a bit nervous, however, these were no ordinary people.
“Well?” he asked mildly. “None of you are breathing, but on the other hand, you are here in the bright sunlight and not spontaneously combusting, so I am going to rule out vampires. So, are you demons? Or maybe zombies? Of course, your average zombie, not much for eating waffles. They usually prefer brains.”
“Ok, I've had enough of weirdos. You are seriously out of your mind.” The sour-faced blond moved to push past Xander, only to find herself impaled on the sword. “OUCH! What the hell are you doing, stabbing people like that? You freaking weirdo, you could have killed me!” She pulled herself off the sword and slouched back down, pouting.
“Huh,” Xander mused. “So, definitely not human, still possibly a zombie. No bleeding, rapid healing, maybe some kind of demon that needs a special method of killing.”
Meanwhile, the girl was pulling at her shirt and scowling. “Would you look at this? I have to go to work today! Deloris is not going to be happy if I come in looking like this! What am I going to say this time?”
The older man just gave her a look. “There is a very important lesson to be learned here, Peanut.” He case his eyes upward as if to ask, “why me?”
“Oh, yeah, Rube? and what's that? Beware of crazy people with swords? Message received.” She sighed, picking at the hole on her shirt.
“Subtlety, Peanut, subtlety and patience. When one is confronted by a sword-wielding maniac, no offense to you sir, one should not simply dismiss said maniac and attempt to breeze by as though he and his complaint did not exist. Now, on the other hand, you, sir, present a problem. It is highly uncivilized to follow my people around and stick swords in them, no matter how annoying George might be. And if your actions result in us being ejected from our favorite establishment, well, I would be inclined to take it personally.” He nodded toward the front of the room, where a waitress was storming over, eyes flashing.
“What is the meaning of this? Swords are not permitted in here! And did I see you stab that girl? Honey, are you ok? Do you need me to call the cops?” She seemed to bristle with indignation.
Xander looked at the waitress with a smile on his face. “Fear not, dear lady, for we are merely playing around. I was showing off a prop sword I am going to be using on stage, one of those collapsing ones. No harm done.”
She looked to the girl, George. “Is that true, honey? Are you really all right?” At the girl's nod, she continued, “well, then, keep that kind of horseplay outside, you hear me? I don't want folks to get upset now.”
Rube smiled up at her. “Rest assured, it will not be happening again. Just a case of youth and high spirits.” With a smile and a nod, she disappeared back into the front. “Now, sir, would you care to sit and explain just why you were following my people? And while George may be annoying at times, it is still not right to stab her.”
“Of course.” Xander sat down. “My name is Xander, Xander Harris.” He nodded to each of the others as Rube introduced them.
“Right. Now, as I was saying, I was at the fish market one day, when I saw this strange ugly creature riding on the back of a fish that was being thrown. It pulled up on the fish's head at the last second, making fish miss its target and smack into someone. Normally that wouldn't have been too much of a problem, but this guy got a swordfish through the head. Everyone was panicking. Well, almost everyone. I spotted George out of the corner of my eye, looking at a post-it note and walking away in a hurry. So, I decided to follow her and keep an eye out. No one else seems to see these monsters, so either they are invisible or everyone is in denial. I started noticing that you lot seemed to show up wherever these things were, always with a post-it note, and someone always died. I never could seem to kill the creatures- swords just pass through them, and they don't seem to be able to be drowned. I even tried to save the victims, but by the time I worked out who it was going to be and how it would happen, it was too late. So, tell me. What's your connection to these creatures? Why are you talking to their victims before they die? What are you getting out of it?” He crossed his arms. “If you are demons or assassins, I will find a way to kill you. Just because stabbing doesn't seem to work, doesn't mean beheading won't. Or I am sure I can find other ways.”
Daisy leaned towards him, a sultry smile on her face. “Now, now, what's all this talk of killing? Just because George here doesn't make the best impression doesn't mean we're all bad. You are awfully cute. I'm sure we could...”
“That's enough Daisy,” Rube interjected. “You don't need to bother the young man. You see,” he turned back to Xander, “we are Grim Reapers. We release the souls of the living before their untimely deaths. It is less traumatic for the souls afterwords. We aren't involved in the actual death- that is due to the Gravelings- those creatures you saw. They cause fatal accidents; it is all part of the balance of life and death. We can't prevent the deaths, as we are dead ourselves.”
“Yeah,” George interjected, “it doesn't work for us, and then the Gravelings get all pissy at us.”
Rube cleared his throat. “As I was saying, we are dead, and therefore cannot extend the life of a living person. That is also why you cannot kill us, as you discovered when you stabbed George.”
“Wait a minute,” Xander said, “you're Grim Reapers? As in cloak and scythe? Rides a pale horse? I thought there was only one of you and that he would be, well, bony? I certainly didn't picture Death as a petulant teenager. Or a meter maid, for that matter.” He nodded to Roxy.
“Well, it's a big world. And we aren't Death, just Reapers. Specifically, Reapers in the Accidents, Suicides and Homicides Division. We were regular people, then we died. The reaper in each of our cases had hit his or her quota of reaps, therefore getting to move on, and we were selected to take their place.” He sighed. “What can you do? That's life, or should I say, un-life, for you. We perform a necessary service, making sure that those scheduled to die do so in a clean and orderly fashion, with as little trauma as possible.”
“I see,” Xander nodded. “Well, in that case, I will leave you alone. But if it turns out that you are lying to me, well, I may not be able to kill you with a sword, but I imagine it would be a bit of an inconvenience if I were to, say, chop off your head, dismember you, and mail each piece to a different country.”
Raising an eyebrow at the threat, Rube replied. “Of course. Not to worry. We just want to be left in peace to do our job, without interference. And please leave the Gravelings alone. They don't really like it when humans try to bother them.”
Xander got up to leave. As he turned, a sudden gust of wind swirled around him and his eyes glowed briefly. “Human? Whoever said I was human?” With that, he was gone.
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