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Xander Harris, This Is Not Your Life

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Summary: In a (crossover) encounter with the angel from the classic film 'It's A Wonderful Life', Xander Harris learns what his world might have been like if he had never been born.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Movies > It's A Wonderful Life(Current Donor)AnotherJDFR1342155,61247230,96811 Jan 1213 Nov 13No

Business Not Resolved

Disclaimer: All characters in this chapter are borrowed from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Some dialogue from 'School Hard', by David Greenwalt.

Xander Harris, This Is Not Your Life

25. Business Not Resolved

Buffy dropped from the ceiling to the floor of the library. She picked herself up and dusted herself off. Giles was standing in front of her, holding a battleaxe.

‘Buffy!’ he said. ‘You’re all right!’

‘Yeah, and so are you. And so is Ms Calendar. She’s with my mother and some others in the science lab across the hall. Principal Flutie’s dead, though. Spike broke his neck.’

Giles took in a deep breath. ‘I see. Buffy, I’ve sent Mr Levinson to fetch Angel. His knowledge of Spike may be useful.’

‘What did you tell him?’

‘They’ve cut the phone lines, I couldn’t get through.’

Buffy shook her head. ‘What did you tell Jonathan?’

‘Not much, but when I started equipping him with crosses and holy water, his thought processes made the short leap to vampires. And of course the stakes he’d been making were another clue.’

‘I see he left some ready for me’, Buffy said, moving to the table to pick them up. ‘Good.’ She looked up at Giles. ‘How’s he supposed to be getting out of here?’

‘There’s an old boarded-up cellar behind the stacks. That should give him a safe route—safer than staying here, anyway.’

‘Then that’s our way out, too. You stay here to keep an eye on it and wait for Angel.’ Buffy moved a stool under the hole she’d made in the ceiling, getting ready to climb out again. ‘We can’t get everybody through the ceiling this way—the vamps would be sure to hear, anyway, and they’d figure some way to get at us. So I’m going to have to take out the ones in the hall. They’ve split up to cover our exits, I should be able to take them one at a time.’ As she hauled herself back up into the ceiling space, she heard Giles calling out to wish her luck, or something.

***
‘The cellar entrance is this way’, Jonathan said.

‘Wait a moment’, said Angel. ‘You said Spike was leading this gang of vampires?’

‘You know Spike?’

‘Let’s say we have a history. Actually, I’m surprised he hasn’t done a better job of guarding his perimeter.’ Angel looked sideways at Jonathan. ‘If Spike’s in there, I need a moment to think about the best way to take him on. I’m—kinda not the person I was when our paths crossed before. But I don’t know how much he realises that.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘It’s—difficult to explain. Listen—what was your name again?’

‘Jonathan. Jonathan Levinson.’

‘Right’, said Angel. ‘See, you don’t know me, do you? And I don’t know you. But you know Buffy and Giles?’

‘I guess so. Not as well as I’d like to, I guess.’

A look of concentration came over Angel’s face. ‘Okay, Jonathan, I’m thinking, if Spike’s in there—well, he plays for keeps. This is serious business. So I’m thinking about taking a big risk. Are you willing to play along with me and take a big risk yourself?’

Jonathan nodded. ‘I met Buffy her first day here at Sunnydale High, and I knew there was something different about her. I mean, she could have been a prom queen or a cheerleader, but there was something else different about her. I knew that from the beginning, when I had no idea why she was carrying wooden stakes in her bag, apart from thinking she might be into some kind of Live Action Role-Play game. She fights vampires, doesn’t she? And that’s what you do as well, right? Well, I’m never going to be any kind of fighter, I’m just a short—loser, but if you’ve got some kind of plan and I can be a part of it …’

Angel shook his head. ‘I can’t promise you it’s safe.’

‘I know that.’

‘Then what I’m going to do is try to run a bluff on Spike. I don’t know whether it will work, but I’m going to give him a look at the old me, before everything changed, and find out how close that lets me get. That means I’m going to have to use you as a prop.’

Jonathan didn’t know what Angel was talking about, so he just nodded again.

‘What I mean is, I’m going to march right in there holding you in a headlock, try to find Spike, and see what happens. Don’t say anything or do anything until I tell you to.’

‘I’ve got this cross that Giles gave me, and some holy water.’

‘Well, just hang on to them’, Angel said. ‘I’ll tell you if it’s time to get them out.’ Then he grabbed Jonathan, doubled him over, and started to march him into the building.

‘Here goes nothing’, Jonathan said, as Angel’s arm hooked around his neck. Then they were inside the building. Jonathan wasn’t in a good position to look around, but when they went round another corner he could tell there was somebody in front of them, a lean man in a long black coat. It took him only a moment to figure that it was more likely to be a vampire than a man, but he had no idea whether it was Spike.

‘Angelus!’ he—or it—said. It sounded like a greeting.

‘Spike!’ Angel replied, answering that question: it was Spike. And they were greeting each other. In fact they were chatting away amicably, like old comrades in arms. Who was Angel, for a dangerous vampire to treat him that way? He’d said there’d been changes since he and Spike knew each other, but what did that mean?

Well, there was no way out for Jonathan now. Like Julius Caesar, he’d rolled the dice. He could feel that Angel was far too strong for him to break loose.

Now they were talking about somebody—or something?—they called ‘the Slayer’. No, it was definitely somebody, a ‘she’. Could it be Buffy they were talking about?

Anyway, Angel’s plan had worked well enough for getting Spike close. He was right next to them, talking to Angel across Jonathan’s back. Angel, meanwhile, had shifted his grip on Jonathan to expose the neck. There was no point trying to protest. Jonathan hoped he hadn’t made a really stupid mistake, letting himself get into this position. Mr Giles had seemed so sure that fetching Angel was the thing to do. He had said that Angel knew Spike.

Then Jonathan felt Angel bending over his throat as he said something about ‘feeding’, and then growled. Now Jonathan wanted to say something, or to scream, but his vocal cords wouldn’t work. Before they recovered, Spike said something to stop Angel and talked about drinking together. Jonathan could feel them both bending over him, the hot breath on his exposed skin, and then suddenly, without warning, a shock went through Angel, as if he’d been struck, and he staggered back, losing his grip. Jonathan came upright.

Spike was raging at Angel, stamping back and forth. ‘You think you can fool me?! You were my sire, man! You were my—Yoda!’

‘Things change’, Angel said.

Jonathan looked back and forth as Spike ranted on. He did look like a vampire, fangs, eyes glowing like an animal’s, demonically distorted face—and so did the others, standing behind him.

And so did Angel. How could that be? Did it have something to do with what he’d just said, about things changing?

‘Not us! Not demons!’ Spike had just said in response. ‘Man, I can’t believe this. You Uncle Tom!’

Was Angel some kind of turncoat vampire? Was that sort of thing even possible? Spike was clearly working himself up to a fight with Angel. Jonathan had no desire to get in the middle of that. He moved backward towards the door behind him.

Spike reached down and grabbed something from the floor, some kind of weapon, Jonathan thought. ‘Come on, people!’ he shouted to his vampire lackeys. ‘This isn’t a spectator sport!’

‘Jonathan!’ shouted Angel. ‘Outside! Run!’

Jonathan bolted. As he burst out of the building, with multiple footsteps pounding behind him, he was fumbling for the cross Giles had given him. When he was out on the lawn and well clear, he turned and saw that Angel had stopped closer to the building to face the pursuers. He punched the first one, in the face, hard, and it fell back. Then they spread out and moved to encircle Angel and Jonathan himself. Angel threw himself at a second opponent and flattened it, but a third was coming straight at Jonathan. Jonathan brandished the cross at it, as Giles had told him, and it worked. The creature recoiled. Then Jonathan was kicked from behind and fell down, but a moment later Angel was over him, driving off a vampire—another vampire; Angel looked down at Jonathan and started away from the cross. As Jonathan clambered back to his feet, the vampires turned and ran.

Except Angel.

***
From her ceiling crawlspace, Buffy could figure out where the vampires were—and where they weren’t—from all the racket they were making, in addition to a couple of close calls when they smashed poles through the ceiling trying to turn her into stabbage. She could hear the sounds of one vampire—and just one—in the hallway that was below her now, trying to batter a way into the science lab.

When she broke through the ceiling, she saw that she was coming down just behind him, so she grabbed him by the shoulders, hard, as she dropped, managing to bring him to the floor with her. She got the stake through his heart before he could recover, and then came to her feet.

The vampire had chopped a small hole through the door with a fire axe and Ms Calendar was looking through it. ‘Buffy!’ she said. ‘What’s happening?’

‘Just wait one more minute and then I’ll tell you when to open the door’, Buffy whispered, and started to turn away.

Ms Calendar was shifted a little to one side and part of Buffy’s mom’s face appeared beside her at the hole. ‘Buffy?’ she said. ‘Is that you?’

‘She’s okay, Mrs Summers. Please keep quiet.’

Buffy moved to the corner of the hallway, and peeked round it to see another vampire guarding the other door. Luckily he had his back to her. Then she heard a noise behind her and turned to check on it.

In the shadows she saw somebody she recognised vaguely from school, Sheila somebody. Buffy didn’t know her, exactly, but she knew her reputation. A lot of people at Sunnydale High did. Starting fights, cutting classes—not the kind of student you’d expect to see turning up for Parent-Teacher Night …

‘Sheila? What are you doing here?’

‘Parent-Teacher Night, right? I know I’m late, but there were these really weird guys outside.’

Buffy nodded. ‘Uh-huh. Really weird guys.’ She bent down and picked up the fire axe. ‘One of them had this’, she said, ‘but he dropped it.’

Then she charged Sheila and pinned her to the wall with the shaft of the fire axe horizontal against her throat.

‘What are you doing here, Sheila? Really?’

‘Not buying it, huh?’ Sheila struggled a little. ‘Worth a shot, though, right?’ Her face shifted into vampiric form and she heaved forward suddenly, so that Buffy staggered back.

Buffy responded by swinging the fire axe at vampire Sheila, hard. She connected with its head, which snapped back, and the vampire staggered away from her to collide with the wall, banging its head hard, again. It slumped to the floor. Buffy shifted her grip on the fire axe and swung it downwards to cut off the head.

As the vampire turned to dust, she looked to the corner of the hallway, wondering whether there’d been enough noise to alert the vampire standing watch over the other door to the science lab.

No sign. She began slowly creeping up on it, axe at the ready. When she rounded the corner, it still had its back turned. She crept a little closer, and then brought the axe sweeping round to eliminate a third vampire for the night.

‘Weapon training’, she whispered to herself. ‘Thanks, Giles.’

She moved back to the door. ‘Okay, open up! Everybody out! Now! We’re getting out of here!’

Ms Calendar came out of the room with Buffy’s mother, and then ushered everybody else out. Giles opened the library door. ‘Over here!’ he called. ‘This way!’

Everybody ran across the hallway to the library, and Buffy said to Giles, ‘Okay, you show everybody the way through this cellar of yours. Ms Calendar, make sure nobody gets left behind.’

‘Buffy’, said her mother, ‘you can’t stay here!’ Ms Calendar put a hand on her arm.

‘I’ll only be a minute’, Buffy said.

‘Trust your daughter’, Ms Calendar said, as Buffy raced away to find Spike.

She caught up with him as he was about to follow the remainder of his gang out of the building. He sensed her approach and turned round to confront her, holding some sort of long pole in his hands.

‘Well, you can’t say I’m attacking you while you’re unarmed’, she said, and moved in to chop at him. He brought up the pole to parry.

The fire axe wasn’t quite like the axes she’d trained with, and Spike’s pole not quite like a quarterstaff, but close enough. Spike was a dangerous fighter, more so than most vampires she’d faced, but her weapon training met the test. She saw her opening when he mistimed a parry, and she chopped the pole out of his hands.

‘Okay’, he said, ‘let’s make this interesting.’ He leapt at her, closing in, and grabbed the axe with one hand as he swung a punch at her with the other. She blocked, and tried to wrestle the axe away from him, without success.

Then there was a loud thunk and he sprang back again, losing his grip on the axe. A crossbow bolt was sticking out of his shoulder.

Buffy danced back and took a quick look round. Giles was there, with a crossbow he was busy reloading.

‘That actually hurt!’ said Spike. ‘But not as much as I’ll hurt you next time!’ Then, before Buffy could catch him or Giles get off another shot, he ran back to the window he’d broken through earlier in the evening, dived through it, and disappeared.

‘I remembered’, Giles said, after a moment, making nothing particular of it, ‘that you told me to wait in the library for Angel, and that there were weapons there he might use. So when we’d got everybody into the cellar, I told J—Ms Calendar that I was going back to check on you and that she should get everybody out. I imagine they’re all safe by now.’

‘And you heard the ruckus Spike and I were making and figured you might as well take a hand? Nice shooting, by the way.’

‘I’m afraid I couldn’t get a clear shot at his heart.’

Buffy shrugged. ‘Let’s get out of here. I wanna find my mom, and I also wanna see if we can figure out what happened with Angel and Jonathan.’

‘Yes, and I should make sure everybody else is safe, and see about some sort of official report. Somebody will have to be notified about Principal Flutie.’

‘How are we gonna explain that?’

‘I rather fancy leaving that problem to somebody else. And speaking of avoiding tricky explanations, I’d better put this crossbow away with the rest of my weapon collection before we go anywhere else.’

They started walking to the library, and Buffy said, ‘So, interested in applying for the vacancy? Ever thought about yourself as a school principal?’

Giles shifted the crossbow from one hand to the other. ‘I already have a job.’

***
‘So you’re a vampire?’

Angel said nothing.

‘I saw. You’re a vampire. But you didn’t join those other vampires, you fought them. You didn’t kill me, you saved my life.’

Angel still said nothing.

‘I can see why Mr Giles trusts you. And Buffy.’

‘They don’t know’, Angel said violently. ‘You mustn’t tell them.’

‘They don’t know?’ Jonathan tilted his head. ‘How can you keep a secret like that from them? They have to know!’

‘Buffy’s the Vampire Slayer. If she knew—what I am …’

‘But you’re a good vampire, right?’

Angel shook his head. ‘I’m cursed.’

Jonathan’s brow wrinkled. ‘Cursed?’

‘A gypsy curse. They took revenge on me for a girl I …’

‘You killed her? And they—what did they do, exactly?’

‘They restored my soul.’ Angel turned from Jonathan to face off to one side, into the darkness of the night. His voice was distant. ‘When you become a vampire, a demon possesses your body, it takes over all your memories, but your soul is gone. No conscience, no remorse for—for the things a vampire does. And I did them all. Then—I had a soul again. I remembered all those things I’d done—’

‘But you didn’t do them. The vampire did them.’

‘But I am the vampire. The curse restored my soul, but it didn’t make me human again. I am the vampire who did those things, but now I know how monstrous I was. Am. My vampire nature hasn’t gone away. When I bent over your neck tonight, I was trying to fool Spike, and I wasn’t going to bite you. But I wanted to.’

Jonathan took a step back and rubbed the side of his neck for a moment. Then he said, ‘Well, don’t you think that’s the kind of thing they ought to know?’

‘I—I can’t tell them about it. Not Buffy. Not now.’

‘Then—I could tell them. Would that be easier for you, if I told them?’

Angel didn’t answer. And when Jonathan looked, Angel was gone.
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