Disclaimer: The characters, setting, and theme of
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is the sole property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, and 20th Century Fox. No infringement is intended. No profit will be made.
Not-the-Author's Note: I did not write this. My brother, known on this site as phoukabro wrote this. Do you know how exasperating it is to realize I've posted more of his stories this year than my own? By a large margin? You'd think it would make me get off my butt and write some more, wouldn't you?THE INTERVIEWXander Harris
“Mr. Harris! Over here!”
I looked over at the man calling my name. I saw a man about my age, waving to me. He was a few inches taller than me, around six foot four, but much thinner, almost scrawny. He had curly black hair, stylishly cut. He wore a dark blue sports jacket, blue dress shirt, and neatly pressed jeans.
I made my way over to him. He asked me to meet at the beach in Golden Gate Park early in the morning. When I got there, the area was still relatively uncrowded. There were a few early morning surfers, but the main crowd hadn't hit yet.
“Lewis Miller. Call me Lew,” he introduced himself, holding out his hand. I shook it, and he pumped my hand enthusiastically. “Thanks for coming by. I hope it's not too early in the day for you,” he said with a toothy grin.
“No, I don't really keep regular hours. I just go where the job takes me,” I answered him. He finally let go of my hand and sat down on one of the public benches overlooking the Pacific.
“This is so great. When I starting putting this project together, I went over who I wanted for it, and I wanted you. I can hardly believe I'm getting to work with -” he stopped, then thought for a moment. “Do you prefer Mr. Harris? I'm not really that much into formalities, but if you want...”
“Oh, no. Never really cared for that,” I grimaced. “Feel free to call me -”
“Xander. Am I right?” he asked. I nodded. “I knew it. I did my homework on you, Xander.” He held up a paper bag and offered it to me. I peered in and caught sight of an assortment of croissants. I reached in and took one. “Ham and cheese. My favorite.” He patted the seat of the bench next to him. “Sit down.”
I sat down and looked at him. He did not look at me, instead looking out over the ocean I shrugged and looked at the view as well.
I had gotten the e-mail the day before asking for the meeting. I didn't press him, since we were meeting on his dime. And the view was pretty nice.
“There are two types of people in the world,” Lew decreed. “Those that enjoy sunsets and those that enjoy sunrises.” He took a cup of coffee from a tray on the bench. I took the other and added a couple of sugar and cream. “I've always been a sunrise person. Getting up while the rest of the city is sleeping, seeing the sun come up, ready for a new day.” He took a sip from his coffee. “Which do you prefer.”
I thought for a moment, then said, “Sunrise, I guess.”
I took a deep breath, then decided to answer honestly. “Because it meant I lived through another night.”
“Wow, okay. Kinda dark there. But appropriate, all things considered.” He finished off his coffee, then turned to me. “I guess I should cut to the important stuff. I know vampires are real, super hot girls called Slayers kill them, and all kinds of monsters and wackiness went down in Sunnydale before it turned into a giant crater.”
I nodded, a little surprised at his candor. “Okay, that makes things a little simpler. I usually have to tiptoe around the whole supernatural world topic in the first meeting. There's a fine line between informing someone and making them think you're crazy. Glad that you're in the know.”
“I work for a group called WRH Solutions. We specialize in assisting third parties deal with the supernatural side of life. A job has come up that we need help with,” he said. Taking a long sip of his coffee, he turned and smiled at me. “I want to hire you for a job. I looked into candidates, combed over every possibility for the best qualified, and I found you.”
“What's the job?” I asked him.
Lew stood up and tossed his now empty coffee cup into the trash. “The job's in Yosemite Park. I'll tell you all about it on the way.” He fished out his car keys and pointed to a Lexus parked nearby.
“That's a good four hour drive,” I pointed out.
“Five, actually. At least to get to spot we need access to.” He started walking over to his car, and I followed him.
I still wasn't sure what this job was going to entail. But I figured I'd at least get a nice trip out to a beautiful spot today. Yosemite was on my list to visit during my aborted road trip to see America. And Lew seemed friendly enough.
“Don't worry, it won't take all five hours to explain the job,” he assured me.
“That's too bad,” I said. “You have a lovely voice.”
Lew chuckled at that as he unlocked his car. He got in the driver's side, and I got in the passenger side. He started the car, then paused before pulling out of the parking lot.
“Almost forgot,” he said, pulling out an envelope. “Your retainer.”
I took the envelope from him, and peeked inside. I saw a cashiers check for several thousand dollars. This more than covered whatever my fee would be.
“I haven't even taken the job,” I said.
“For your time,” Lew replied. He pulled out of the parking lot and began driving down the highway. “So, Yosemite. Beautiful place.”
“Named after the cartoon cowboy with a hatred of rabbits, if my knowledge of American history is correct,” I said.
Lew burst out laughing at that. I paused, a little unsure. I mean, I know I'm funny, but I'm not that funny. Actually, I am that funny, it's just that most people don't appreciate it.
“Yosemite Park is a natural treasure, filled with an amazing variety of trees, plants, animals, and other resources. Among these resources are a rare orchid that is very useful in creating potions and elixirs, which makes it very sought after by alchemists. One of these alchemists is paying WRH Solutions quite a bit of money to obtain it for him.”
“If this orchid is in Yosemite, and it's somewhere we can get to in five hours, why can't your clients get it themselves?” I asked him.
“Good question. It turns out that besides having incredibly rare and useful plants, there are also somewhat rare and intimidating wildlife in that same area.”
“Werewolves? No, they're spread out over the country,” I said, thinking this through. “Chupacubra are in the southwest and Mexico. That leaves... Sasquatch.”
“You got it. Sasquatch. Bigfoot. The Great Mountain Man-Ape. Old..... hairy guy.... thing,” Lew finished lamely. “Anyway, this orchid is right in the middle of the living region of a colony of Bigfoots. Bigfeet? Hairy guy things.”
“So you need me to get access to this orchid from the Bigfoot clan, is that right?” I asked him.
“You got it,” Lew confirmed.
“Pull over,” I ordered.
“Pull over,” I repeated, and pointed to a convenience store alongside the highway. “We need to stop off there.”
“Okay,” Lew said, and took the next exit. “What's the plan, chief?”
“Sasquatch are pretty docile. But they are territorial, so we can't just go hiking in,” I explained to him. “But if we give them some kind of offering, then they'll let us in.”
“Why do we have to offer them anything? Don't you know how to fight them if they attack?”
“Couple of reasons. Reason A, Sasquatch are, for the most part, a peaceful race. They do the whole 'Live and let live' thing, actively avoiding outside contact. There's no reason to make an enemy if you don't have to.” As I talked, Lew pulled off the highway and into the parking lot. “Two, if you and me attack an unknown number of Sasquatch, I'm betting on them and not us.” The car pulled into a parking spot, and Lew shut off the motor. “Then you've got to factor in that if you're going into this area today for a rare orchid, then you're probably going to be going in for more later. And if you start a fight today, you're going to have to fight them every time.” I opened the door to the car and stepped out. “And for reason number.... what number are we on?” I asked.
Lew thought for a moment then said, “Well, you started out with A, then moved to two, the next one didn't have anything. But this would be reason number four.”
“Reason number four,” I continued, now standing outside. “Sasquatch don't want much. We're not talking about giving them rare jewels or expensive equipment. They wouldn't know what to do with them. What they do love, more than anything else is sweet food.”
Lew looked from me to the convenience store. “So we're going to offer them?”
“Twinkies,” I said with a smile.
As I went down the snack food aisle, I grabbed all the Hostess foods I could see. I skipped the candy bars and salty snack. According to the texts I read, the best offerings would be pastry based.
I thought back to the old books I had read that in. After Buffy and Giles showed up and Jesse died, I wanted to find out everything I could about the supernatural. Giles lent me some of the introductory texts used for new Watchers. I skimmed through it, mainly to find out the answers to all the big questions I had as a kid. It turned out that there's no such thing as a clown demon, which I was relieved to find out. Leprechauns did not exist, which disappointed me. And Bigfoot were gentle creatures that liked sweet baked foods, which made me want to visit them one day.
I dropped the basket in front of the cashier, and waited as he began ringing it all up. He watched me with a strange look as he worked. “It's for a frat party tonight,” I explained. “Prizes for the most homoerotic acts this semester.” His strange look did not abate.
I thought back to the days when I was first learning about everything. I was semi obsessed with Buffy, Giles was the first authority figure that could tolerate me, and Jesse's death hadn't really hit me yet. In the swirl of everything, I had lumped him into the countless people that just disappeared over the years. It wasn't until Jenny died and Buffy left town for the summer that I realized he was really gone.
It seemed so much simpler back then. Everything I learned was still more fascinating than frightening. It was nice to use some of the knowledge I gained from back then, even when it was the most basic....
A thought hit me at that. I read up on Sasquatch the first year I met Buffy. It was some of the most basic information I learned. Even though they weren't very common, it was fairly general knowledge. Lew said he did his research on me, and I believe him. He knew details about Sunnydale that would be hard to come by. So why did a guy who can find out all this hard to know information hire me to give him a solution that's fairly easy to find?
I paid the cashier and took the bags of sweets from him. I walked out to the car and got in. Lew was waiting for my patiently. I turned to him and asked, “What do you want from me? And don't give me the BS about hiring me for a job or needing some probably nonexistent orchid.”
Lew sat there nonplussed. “On the contrary, there is an orchid, and I do want to hire you. Everything I've said is true.”
I shook my head at this. “You don't need me for this. You should know how to take care of it by yourself.”
“That's true,” he agreed, smiling even wider right now.
“Then what's this about?” I asked. He seemed happy about the whole situation.
“Think about it. You're a smart guy, that's why I picked you.”
“You do want to hire me,” I repeated. Lew nodded in agreement. “It's a pretty simple job, one you should be able to done for yourself. So why hire me?” I thought out loud. Lew watched me carefully. “You want to hire me, but not necessarily for this. So why present this job, if you know how to do it yourself?” I kept my eye on Lew as I spoke. He had an eager, expectant look on his face, like he was eager for me to figure this out. “You told me this because you want to see if I could solve the problem. It was a test. Because you want me for more than one job, and if I can handle this then I can handle whatever comes up.”
“Yes!” he cheered. “I knew you'd get there. I tell you, my boss wasn't sure when I brought him your name, but I knew you were who we wanted.” He pointed to the passenger seat. “I can't wait to tell you all about the job.”
I got back into the car and tossed the snacks into the back seat. “I'm going to need to know everything.”
“And so you shall,” Lew said as he started up the car and pulled out of the parking lot. “There are basically two worlds. Ninety-nine percent of humanity lives in one world while demons, vampires, and one percent of humanity live in another. You're one of the few people that can live in both worlds. And that's why we want to hire you.”
“Hire me for what?” I asked.
“To do what you've already been doing,” he answered. “Identify and neutralize threats, particularly the ones against us and our clients. Help out your friends, especially the ones that are our clients. Find and recruit new talent.” He glanced over at me as you drove. “It's no different from the freelance jobs you've been doing, except you'd have the resources of the entire company to rely on.”
“I don't know. Last time I had a boss, we didn't get along that well,” I thought out loud.
“I'm not into micromanaging. I trust you enough to stand back and let you do your job,” he assured me. “You'll find WRH Solutions isn't nearly as bound by tradition as the Watcher's Council.” He turned and smiled once again at me. “What do you think?”
What did I think? I kind of fell into the whole freelance thing. It was never supposed to be a permanent thing. I did like working with others. I was just tired of being treated like a sidekick. According to Lew, I would be the one making decisions.
All of it sounded good. Real good. From the retainer check, I knew they had money. And from what Lew said, I knew they had resources. It wasn't like the Initiative, where the military blundered into something they didn't understand and thought they could control.
The only thing I didn't understand was how I never heard of these guys before. He knew all about me and Watchers. They were apparently players in the world of the supernatural. So why had I never heard of WRH Sol-
“God dammit,” I muttered. I sat up and ordered Lew, “Pull the car over.”
“What, do you need something else?” he asked, a little confused.
“No, I just figured something out.” I pulled the check out of my pocket. “You can take this back.”
“Whoa, I understand you have concerns. Just tell me what they are, and I'm sure we can come to agreement,” he said, smiling even wider. Looking back, Lew Myers had never been not smiling since I first met him.
“Your company, WRH Solutions. WRH stands for Wolfram and Hart, doesn't it?”Lewis Miller
The smile froze on my face. I tried to think of an answer that would keep him in the car. “It's not like that,” I finally said.
“That's a yes. You can let me out here,” Xander told me.
“Hold on. Hold on. I'm not going to dump you on the side of the highway. I'll drive you back,” I took the next exit on the highway, and headed back to the park. “All I ask is that you let me answer any of your concerns on the way.”
“Concerns? You're an evil law firm that protects scumbags. I thought you were all wiped out in LA, but you've got better survival skills than a cockroach.”
“That's a little harsh. Yes, WRH Solutions formed from the remnants of the old Wolfram and Hart firm, but that's nothing to worry about,” I assured him.
“And yet I worry,” he said.
I shook my head. I knew that this would be a hard sell, but I pressed on. “There's always going to be a need for people who straddle the two worlds. Especially people who can solve problems. We're just trying to help people with problems.”
Xander let out a bark of laughter. “It amazes me how you can just overlook everyone you hurt in the process. I heard about all the killers and monsters Wolfram and Hart protected.”
“And I heard about all the young girls the Watcher's Council drugged and locked up with a vampire,” I shot back.
Annoyance flashed across his face and he turned to face me. “That was the old Council. We... they don't do the Cruciamentum anymore.”
“So you make all sorts of excuses for your old job and friends, but you can't believe anyone else, right?” I asked. I pressed on before he could answer. “And if the new Council is so great, why did you leave?”
“That's got nothing.... When I left it was...” Xander grimaced as he twisted around. He took a deep breath and let it out, settling back in his seat, Looking forward and without looking at me, he said, “I didn't get along with my boss. It was a personality conflict. Otherwise I have no problem with the Council.”
“Look, Xander, you've still got friends there, and you don't want to badmouth them. I respect that,” I told him. “And I'm sure that the new Council is changing whatever old policies they feel are outdated or immoral. But there's one aspect that will never change.”
“Yeah, what's that?” he asked in a bored tone.
“If you're not powerful or family of someone who is, you get ignored,” I said. I glanced at him from the corner of my eye. He put his head down, but didn't say anything. “That's why you left. Robin Wood was put in charge of North America activities, a job which you should have gotten, because he was the son of a Slayer and had the approved training and education. You didn't, so you got stuck with the grunt work no one else wanted, and any ideas or planning you had fell on deaf ears.” I waited for a second to see if he would react. Instead he just sat there silently. “And after you left, and I do believe you quit. The official record may say you were fired, but we both know better. After you quit, not one of your friends called up to offer you a job. Because while they may like you, they don't think they need what you have to offer.”
In a quiet voice, Xander said, “I did get a call.”
“Did they offer you a job? Or did they just lend a sympathetic ear, maybe a few words of assurance, at most an offer for you to visit?”
“They're my friends. They just wanted to know that I was okay,” he said, head still bowed.
“The Council is wrong,” I declared. “It's not their fault, they're just not able to recognize that the world has changed. Do you think any of them would hit upon the idea of using a military rocket launcher against a class four demon? Or a wrecking ball against a demi goddess?”
Xander chuckled at that. “And glue to take out bug guy.”
“The new Council still has a ban on firearms, for god's sake!” I pounded my fist on the steering wheel for emphasis. “They're congratulating themselves for using e-mail and cell phones, but have any of them considered equipping patrols with night vision goggles or thermal sights?”
“I actually sent out a memo suggesting that,” Xander added.
“The Watcher Council didn't appreciate your talents, because they couldn't even see them. But I can,” I told him. “I have an opening in my division, and I want you there. Because you're smarter than people realize. You survived growing up on the Hellmouth, you faced Angelus one on one and lived to talk about it. You used modern technology to solve problems and prevented a crazed witch from destroying the world just by talking her out of it.”
The car pulled into the Golden Gate Park. I parked by the entrance and turned off the engine. “There's only one thing keeping you from jumping at what is the best offer you'll ever get.”
Xander let out a little sigh. “I suppose you want me to ask what that is.”
I was hoping he would ask, but I'd accept that just as well. “What's holding you back is that black and white moral view you're trapped in. It's blinding you just as much as the Council was blinded to your strengths. If you keep dividing the world into good guys and bad guys, you'll just block yourself off from amazing opportunities.”
“You're right. Who am I to judge people just because they like to go on the occasional slaughter and bathe in the blood of infants. I've been so judgmental,” he snarked.
“Your good guys can do just as much harm as the bad. Faith, Willow. And the bad guys can do good. Anyanka, Spike.” He scowled at that last name. “The world is changing. You need to change along with it if you want to survive. Evolve or die.”
Xander unbuckled his seat belt and opened the car door. “Just answer me one question.”
“What's your question?”
“I heard that when people sign on with Wolfram and Hart, that they have to sign a contract giving themselves even after death. So you're basically signing away your soul,” he said. “So my question, is how long did you hesitate before you signed?”
He stared straight at me, waiting for an answer. I finally blinked and looked away. “It's just a formality. Nothing you would really miss,” I muttered.
“The difference between you and me is that I would miss it. And that's what's keeping me from jumping at this offer.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the retainer check. “You can take this back,” he said, offering it to me.
I waved him off. “For your time. Like I said, no strings attached.” He looked at the check uncertainly. “Besides, you may need it. What if you get in a situation where you could have saved someone's life, but you just couldn't get the resources you needed.” I pulled out a card and handed it to him. “In case you ever change your mind.”
He stared at the card in suspicion. “It's not a trick. One day you may need to contact me.”
Xander gently took the card from my hand, then got out of the car and closed the door. I watched carefully as he walked away. He slowed down as he approached a trashcan. Pausing as he came to it, he held the check and card in his hand. I watched as he stood there, then tucked them into his pocket and walked to his car.
I pulled out my cellphone and dialed my office number.
“It's Miller,” I told him. “Just finished the meeting with Xander Harris.”
“He take the job?”
“No. But we knew he probably wouldn't. At least not yet,” I answered. “He'll come around.”
“You're sure about that? Our report says he can be stubborn.”
“Positive. He may be tempted by the job itself, but once we show him what else we're holding, we'll have him begging.”
“You sound certain about that.”
“I am. The reports also said how much he values his friends.” I glanced at my watch, noting the time. I had to check up on a few other things today. “How's our favorite patient?”
“What's the progress on the McNally Project?”
“Still doing the preparations. It'll be a few weeks, months even, before we can pull the trigger on that one.”
“Keep on it, then,” I said, then ended the call.
I looked back over the parking lot, but Xander was already out of sight. He actually thought he could just say no and walk away from Wolfram and Hart. It's too bad. If he had said yes, then he would avoid all the unpleasantness to come. But one way or another, we were going to own him body and soul.FINIS