The next afternoon found George at Slayer Central, gearing up for a battle. A literal battle, not just a fight with her mom. They'd come up with a plan; well, mostly Xander and Willow had come up with a plan, once George had explained what she could do to the graveling. George knew the plan. She understood the plan, but that didn't mean she liked the plan. She wasn't even sure that she could follow through with the plan, even though everyone else was. She also wasn't sure that the best way to head into a battle was just to walk up to someone's door and ring the doorbell. She just didn't seem to have a choice.
All of the Slayers were choosing weapons and secreting them around their persons, amazing George with how many each one was taking. Dawn had selected a few weapons, as well, but the one she looked like she was planning on using the most was a crossbow; she had offered one to George, but George had turned it down. She didn't know how to use it, and like it or not, she was most likely going to have to get in close to the fighting, anyway. Xander also had a crossbow strapped to his back, as well as a wicked-looking axe he held in one hand. Wesley was even there; he was their back-up plan, in case George couldn't complete her mission. In the midst of all of this chaos, Willow was actually managing to meditate, but George tried not to look at her. She seemed to be floating several inches off the ground, but George wasn't about to get close enough to see for sure. Somehow, Willow came out of her trance just as everyone else was ready to go, and they all piled into the SUVs and headed out.
Judith's house looked the same as it had the last time they'd been there, and the butler answer the door just the same. He actually did raise his eyebrows at all of them - it was rather hard to conceal just how many weapons they were all carrying - but he admitted them into the house as though he hadn't noticed. He didn't take them to the library, however; instead, he led the way downstairs, where the whole basement was one large room.
One large room with Judith and all of her minions lined up for battle.
"I knew you'd come," Judith said, her voice carrying easily from where she stood behind several rows of not-quite-people with just as many weapons as the Slayers had.
Willow laughed. "We weren't exactly subtle about it," she said.
Judith drew breath to say something else, but Faith had evidently had enough talk. With hardly a sound, she launched herself at Judith's front line. The other Slayers followed her lead, and Xander, after a shrug at Willow, joined in. Dawn stayed back, aiming her cross-bow and firing, though she seemed to be doing almost as much grumbling as shooting. Wesley also stayed back, although he was on the opposite side of Willow as George; they'd planned that, in case Judith realized what George was trying to do, maybe she wouldn't think there was another Reaper there. George wasn't sure what Willow was doing, except that the air seemed to be glowing in front of her, but she was too busy to look closely, anyway. She used the confusion in the room to look for the graveling.
During the Reaper brainstorming session, they'd reasoned out that the graveling would have to be close to Judith, which was somewhere George did not want to go. But she couldn't see it anywhere in the room. Much as she didn't want to, she was going to have to get closer to Judith. Unfortunately, a whole battle was going on in between them.
She didn't want to, but she did it. She inched her way along the walls of the huge room, always trying to keep at least one Slayer in between her and the weird things that were fighting them. She supposed they were demons, but she didn't look too closely. They couldn't be werewolves, because it was day time; Faith had been very specific about that during the planning session. How the Slayers managed to keep track of her during the battle, she didn't know, but whenever she thought a demon was going to get to her, one of the Slayers managed to get in its way. One time a demon did crash into her, but after she'd shrieked and jumped out of her skin, she realized that it was already dead, and had been thrown there by a Slayer. Liz grinned at her as she passed, both swords dripping with things George would rather not think about.
She'd gotten three-quarters of the way along the long wall of the room, away from where Willow and Dawn were still standing, before she saw the graveling. It was close to Judith, who had the same glow in front of her that Willow had, plus an annoyed expression on her face.
"Give up already," she shouted to Willow, who laughed.
"Did you expect this to be easy?" she said.
They continued to trade both barbs and spells, but George tried to ignore them. She kept her eyes fixed on the graveling, who was staring back at her, still with that pleading look on its face. She didn't think it would be so glad to see her if it knew what she was planning to do with it, but she supposed that almost anything would be better than this. Judith wasn't paying any attention to it, luckily, or she would have followed its gaze to George. George still didn't know how Judith could even see the graveling, but she supposed she must be able to, or how could she have trapped it in the first place?
When George was just two feet away from the graveling and starting to feel like this crazy-ass plan might work, a demon suddenly appeared in front of her, slashing its claws down at her. She shrieked and ducked, but that made Judith turn towards her, her eyes widening. Two Slayers ran towards Judith, but were bounced back by the shield that surrounded her. Lauren tried, too, but though she got through the shield, she couldn't actually touch Judith, so it didn't do any good. Her scream of frustration rang out over even the battle noises. Judith raised her hand towards George, and George desperately tried to crawl the last couple of feet to the graveling. She knew that the demon would probably shred her to pieces before she got there, even if Judith didn't, and though she couldn't die again, she really didn't want to feel that much pain.
But somehow, Wesley was there, and so was the demon's head, bouncing off of George's arm. Willow launched an even harder attack at Judith, trying to disrupt her.
George reached the graveling.
"I'm sorry," she said, and reached out her hand to take its soul.
It felt just like when she'd taken the Ray-graveling's soul, like she'd dipped her hand into a dirty oil slick. This was not something she wanted to do every day. She wasn't quite sure, but she thought she heard the graveling thank her before it disappeared, though she'd never heard a graveling speak before, so maybe it was her imagination. She definitely didn't imagine the almost inhuman cry Judith gave as the graveling disappeared, causing her shield to blink out of existence, as well. Faith took two steps forward and beheaded her, but George thought she was already dead, or at least didn't have a soul anymore. She'd thought she'd felt Judith's soul pulled along when she'd taken the graveling's, and she looked around for it, but it wasn't anywhere in the room. It must be completely destroyed, like the Ray-graveling's was. She supposed that she should feel badly about what she'd done - Rube would think she should - but she didn't. What Judith had done was an abomination, and George couldn't let her get away with it.
The rest of the Slayers easily took care of the rest of the demons, who had kept fighting after Judith was gone, but didn't seem to be doing it very well. Some of them even tried to run away. Wesley reached a hand down to help George up, and even though it was covered in gore, she took it and stood, gazing around in shock.
It was over.
"Yeah, it often seems that way," Dawn said, chasing down the last of her maple syrup with her last bite of pancake and grinning at George. "All that work, all that planning, and the battle takes five minutes. And then it's done."
"It was more than five minutes," George said, staring at her. She wasn't really sure of that, but it had to have been.
Dawn grinned at her. "Not much more."
After the battle, they'd all come to Der Waffle House, where Xander had actually paid the manager to keep the whole place to themselves. Someone had brought a CD player, and music was blasting, music George would never have listened to when she was alive, but for some reason, it fit her mood right then. All the same, she wasn't even the least bit tempted to joining the Slayers - including Faith - in dancing in the aisles between the booths and counter. Willow, Xander and Wesley were over in another booth, deep in conversation, and she and Dawn had collapsed into this one and ordered huge plates of pancakes from Kiffany. What Kiffany thought of all of this, especially the goo-splattered clothes all of the Slayers had on, George didn't know, but then, Kiffany had seen a lot of weird things in this place before. If nothing else, she saw Mason on a regular basis.
"Think this is something you'll want to do again?" Dawn asked. She took a gulp of the grapefruit juice she'd ordered, obviously giving George time to think about her answer.
George didn't need to. "Definitely not," she said. "I'm not cut out for heroics."
"You did great," Dawn said.
George shrugged. "I know I did okay," she said. "That's not the point. I'm a Reaper; that's my job, and I'm actually good at it. I think I should stick to that."
"I get that," Dawn said. "Well, if you ever change your mind, you know where to find everyone. I won't be here for very much longer, but do you want to catch a movie or something before I go? And we could email."
George stared at her, then felt a smile spread across her face. "That sounds fun," she said. She had no idea what movies were even out, but the thought of having a friend who knew what she was, so she wouldn't have to hide anything from her, sounded more than fun. Maybe she should ask Bree if she wanted to join them; she'd liked Bree a lot, too. She looked over at where the Slayers were dancing and realized that she had one more thing to do.
"Lauren," she called out over the music. Lauren, who had been dancing off to one side, so she could avoid the other Slayers, bopped over to them.
"That was fun," she said, still moving to the music.
"Uh, huh," George said. "I'm glad you had fun, but don't you have somewhere you're supposed to be?"
Realization dawned on Lauren's face. "Yeah," she said. "I do." She turned to the door leading out to the street, where bright lights were appearing. Amazingly, the lights formed into a battle, much like the one in Judith's basement. Lauren reached out, and a sword made of light appeared in her hand. A look of intense glee on her face, she sprinted towards the lights, joining in the battle as they, and she, floated upwards.
"Wow," Dawn said, making George look at her.
"You could see that?" she asked.
"Yeah," Dawn said. "That was amazing - is it always like that?"
"Well, it's different for each Reap," George said.
Dawn snorted. "And for a Slayer, it's a fight. Makes sense."
George sighed, feeling free for the first time in days. The threat to the world was over, her Reap was finally where she was supposed to be, her life could go back to normal. Or rather, her death, which was turning out not to be so bad.
Author's Note: Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed! I love Dead Like Me, and there just aren't enough stories out there in that universe. It was so interesting combining the two worlds and their "magics", and I hope you all enjoyed it, too.