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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(Recent Donor)AnotherJDFR1342155,61247231,50511 Jan 1213 Nov 13No

Jobs All Around

Disclaimer: All characters in this chapter are borrowed from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Some dialogue from ‘What’s My Line? Part 1’, by Howard Gordon and Marti Noxon.

Xander Harris, This Is Not Your Life

34. Jobs All Around

Willow and Amy sat together to fill out their forms.

‘Am I a people person, or do I prefer keeping my own company?’ Amy read out. She looked from the form to Willow. ‘I like my own company, but I’m a people person for some people.’

Willow looked up from her own test. ‘I aspire to help my fellow man. Check.’

Amy thought this over. ‘I guess I do too. At least, some of my fellow men. And why can’t I aspire to help my fellow woman?’

‘Good point.’ Willow put down her pencil. ‘Buffy helps her fellow men and her fellow women. All of them, all the time. You know, she isn’t even doing this career aptitude test?’

Amy looked around and then leaned a little closer to Willow, lowering her voice. ‘Well, in her case there’s not much point, is there? We all know what her future career is. It isn’t even future, she’s been doing it for two years already, and it isn’t going to change unless Hell freezes over, in this case literally.’

Willow shrugged. ‘I suppose. Still, if it were me, I’d be kinda curious about the possibilities just the same, even if possibilities is what they were not. That came out weird.’

‘Don’t worry about it. Think about your possibilities. Get into career week. Be Willow.’

‘Being Willow is caring about happenings to Buffy. Okay, that came out weird too.’

Amy tilted her head to one side. ‘It came out Willow. Listen, you wanna do this. We’re doing the whole career week thing. Meanwhile Buffy can do Buffy things. Do you really think she’d rather be here answering questions about whether she likes shrubs?’

***
‘Nope, no strong feelings.’ Buffy shook her head. ‘Which side did you come down on?’

‘Pro-shrub, but I did see Amy’s point. So how’s it going for you, not participating in career week?’

‘I guess it is an opportunity to focus on some intensive patrolling. I was out last night in the cemetery, took out one vamp, one got away. But then when I came home …’

When Buffy trailed off, Willow prompted her. ‘You got jumped by more vampires?’

Buffy just shook her head.

‘Demons? Monsters?’

‘No, nothing like that.’

A new thought struck Willow, and she breathed in sharply. ‘Your mom! She caught you sneaking in and you had to make up some story.’

‘Mom’s in LA until Thursday, buying art for her gallery or something. I climbed in through the window of my bedroom and Angel was there waiting for me.’

‘In your bedroom?’

‘Will, you know he’s been there before. And he was a perfect gentleman. Gentle-vampire. Whatever. Anyway, we got talking and—’

Willow beamed at Buffy. ‘—and he’s going to take you out?’

Buffy nodded. ‘Ice skating. I used to love doing that. I went through this phase where I wanted to be Dorothy Hamill. And Angel says there’s a rink out past route 17, and it’s closed Tuesdays.’

Willow wrinkled her brow. ‘Closed?’

Buffy lowered her voice to say, ‘So there’ll be nobody else there.’ She smiled. ‘See, there’s no point in my doing the career week thing, so I’m out there patrolling. Used to be, I’d come in with a report and Giles would question me about it obsessively and make eleventeen suggestions about the next patrol. But now most of the time he seems to have half of his mind on other things.’

Willow nodded. ‘I know what you mean. I mean, exactly what you mean. Ms Calendar doesn’t seem to have as much time to talk to Amy and me about magic, either.’

‘And then there’s Marcie. She used to keep really close tabs on things, and she still does, mostly, but now I never find her at school before me in the morning waiting for me to show up so she can hear about the latest developments right away.’

‘Well, she’s got other things on her mind too.’

‘So why shouldn’t I have other things on my mind? If I can’t spend career week thinking about a different career, doesn’t mean it has to be all Slayering all the time.’

‘No reason you shouldn’t go skating’, said Willow. ‘With Angel.’ She opened the library door and looked back at Buffy.

‘Still, I should check in with Giles now, report on last night’, Buffy said as she and Willow walked into the library.

Willow looked round from Buffy to see Giles and Ms Calendar standing behind the library counter, a short distance from each other, looking awkward. Giles was straightening his jacket and Ms Calendar was smoothing down her hair. Giles coughed slightly.

‘Ah, Buffy, and, ah, Willow. Good to, ah, see you.’

‘Yes’, said Ms Calendar, ‘good to see you both!’

Buffy said, ‘I just wanted to tell Giles about what happened on patrol last night. There were these two vamps stealing from some jumbo mausoleum; I got one of them, but the other one got away. That’s about it.’ She made an obvious pause for Giles to respond, and after an awkward moment he stuttered into speech.

‘They were, ah, stealing, you say? You didn’t notice what they took, I suppose?’

‘No, but I could take a guess and say it was something old.’

‘I see. Well, well, I suppose that could be significant. Vampires stealing something old from a mausoleum …’

‘That’s a good point, Rupert’, Ms Calendar said. ‘It’s probably something that should be followed up. You know, just to be on the safe side.’

Buffy shrugged. ‘Okay. I’m opting out of the career fair, which opens up some time in my schedule today. Let’s get it out of the way early, though, I’ve got plans for later.’

‘Yes, yes, fine, we’ll do that and then, uh, later, uh, as you say, uh, other …’

Willow saw a quick exchange of glances between Giles and Ms Calendar and gave a small private grin. She waited while Buffy and Giles made arrangements for their trip to the mausoleum, then walked out with Buffy.

Buffy gave Willow a huge open grin. ‘Did you see those two?’

Willow grinned back at her. ‘See, if everybody else is pairing off, why shouldn’t you?’

‘Angel didn’t say it was a date’, Buffy said. ‘I didn’t say it was a date.’

‘I know you didn’t.’

***
‘Oh, hi, Jesse.’

‘Hi Buffy! See, I looked at the list of assignments for the careers fair, and your name wasn’t there, and then I found out from Amy that Willow said you had to go with Giles to’—Jesse dropped his voice—‘the cemetery, for, like, Slayer business. Is there something important you might need help for?’

Buffy shrugged. ‘Still waiting for Giles to say. A few weeks ago a vampire stole some book from the library. Now another vampire’s stolen something from the tomb of the guy who wrote the book. This guy’s rep set off Giles’s alarm system, and he’s back in the stacks following up the clue.’

Jesse sat down in a chair next to Buffy’s. ‘Guess I’ll hang around to hear the news’, he said. ‘If that’s okay?’

Before Buffy could answer, Giles came down from the stacks holding an open magazine. ‘This article describes an invention called the “Du Lac Cross”, used to decipher hidden meanings of certain mystical texts.’

Buffy looked hard at Giles. ‘So you’re saying these vampires went to all this hassle for your basic decoder ring?’

‘I thought you said it was a cross’, said Jesse, looking back and forth.

‘Yes, thank you, Jesse’, said Giles. ‘Buffy’s point, I take it, is that the artifact, although shaped like a cross, served essentially the same function as a decoder ring, and I suppose that is substantially correct.’

‘Oh. I see. Sorry.’

Buffy gave Giles another hard look. ‘Jesse’s just trying to understand. Come to think of it, I guess that’s what the vampires are doing too. This Du Lac guy wrote his book in his extra-oldey-timey Latin, like you were telling me back at the cemetery, so the vampires needed the cross thingy from his tomb to figure out what it all means.’

Giles nodded as he paced. ‘According to this article, Josephus Du Lac destroyed every extant example of his handiwork, leaving only the relic that was buried with him, presumably to guard against the secrets of his sect falling into the wrong hands.’ He gave a soft snort of dissatisfaction. ‘But now we must assume that the vampires have circumvented his precautions.’ Giles stopped pacing and looked at Buffy again. ‘We must seek out more information without delay.’

‘Wait a minute.’ Buffy sprang from her seat. ‘I already told you I have plans for later on.’

‘I had plans too, Buffy, but I’m afraid they will just have to be postponed while we deal with this crisis.’

‘But you’re Mr Research! I’m—I’m Ms Not-Research-So-Much! What you need on this job are the more book-attuned brains. Jesse …’—Buffy turned to him—.

‘—uh … Buffy—I mean, you know I’m ready to help any way I can, but …’

‘So can you find Willow and Amy and ask them whether they’ll help?’ Buffy turned to look at Giles. ‘Maybe Ms Calendar will help, too … You know, if she finds herself free of other plans.’

Jesse stood up. ‘I could ask Jonathan, too. He reads books.’

‘See’, Buffy said to Giles, ‘you’ll have lots of help. And I promise I’ll get back to you for an update as soon as I’m free.’

***
Buffy walked into the library to find Ms Calendar, Willow, Amy, and Jonathan seated around the table, hard at the researching. Just that moment, Ms Calendar looked up from her computer screen to say, ‘This could be a lead.’ Then, a moment later, she turned her head and said, ‘Oh, hello, Buffy.’

‘Where’s Giles?’ said Buffy.

Jonathan looked at her, and at the ring she was holding up in front of her.

‘New data?’ he said.

Giles came out of his office carrying a book. ‘Buffy?’ he said anxiously. ‘Has something happened?’

Before Buffy could answer, the library door opened behind her and Jesse came in. ‘I brought doughnuts’, he said. ‘Oh, hi, Buffy. What’s that ring you’ve got there? Uh, do you want a doughnut too?’ He set his box down on the table.

‘Actually, what I could use right now is an icepack.’ As Jesse nodded and hurried off to find what she’d asked for, Buffy set the ring down on the table.

‘It means something’, she said. ‘I don’t know what, but Angel was power-freaked by it.’

Giles picked up the ring. ‘I’ll take a look with the magnifier’, he said.

‘Angel?’ asked Ms Calendar.

Amy answered her. ‘Buffy’s been to the ice-skating rink with Angel.’

Giles looked up at Buffy. ‘Ice-skating?’

Buffy looked at Willow, the only person she’d told, and then swivelled her eyes to Amy. ‘Yes. That’s where we were attacked.’

‘So the ring comes from the attacker?’ said Jonathan.

‘Uh-huh.’ Buffy nodded. ‘I don’t know who he was. I don’t even know whether he was a who or a what.’ She paused for a moment to take the icepack Jesse had brought her, and to sit down on the steps with it against her knee. ‘He could have been a person or he could have been some kind of monster. He was big, and scary-ugly. And strong, maybe stronger than Angel. But between us we handled him.’

‘And you took this ring from him?’ said Giles, looking at her seriously.

Buffy nodded in answer.

‘Then he may have been human, or he may not. The Order of Taraka has a mixed membership.’

‘The Order of Taraka?’

‘They are a society of deadly bounty-hunting assassins, whose credo is to sow discord and kill the unwary. If you’ve been attacked by one of them, it means somebody has placed a bounty on you, and the hunters will keep coming, one after another, until they succeed.’

Jonathan said, ‘I bet it was that guy Spike. I mean, that vampire. I bet he’s the one who’s hired them.’

‘I fear that’s only too likely’, said Giles.

Amy looked at Buffy. ‘Whatever plan he has going with this Du Lac book, it’s important to him. He wants to keep you out of the picture.’

Jesse looked round the circle of researchers. ‘Have you found out anything yet about what it is?’

Willow shook her head. ‘Not yet.’

Buffy looked at Ms Calendar. ‘When I came in, weren’t you just saying you thought you had a lead?’

‘I just got a message from one of my contacts. She’s heard of Josephus du Lac and of his sect. I don’t know, it might not go anywhere …’

Giles looked at her. ‘We’ll follow it up, and we’ll continue our research. We have to find out what was in that book. In the meantime, Buffy, you need to be somewhere safe.’

‘That’s what Angel said too, that I should just head for the hills.’

‘Where is Angel?’ said Ms Calendar. ‘Why isn’t he with you?’

‘He wouldn’t talk. He just told me to find a place to hide and headed off like he was on a mission. He didn’t even mention this Order of Taraka. Giles, are you telling me I can’t fight them?’

‘Buffy, nothing will turn them aside from their mission. Each one has a different method of attack, and there is no way to know who they are until they strike.’

Jonathan cleared his throat. ‘Except the ring?’

‘The ring?’ said Jesse.

‘Exactly!’ said Amy. ‘If they use the symbol on that ring to identify themselves, we can use it to identify them. Giles, you said they were bounty-hunters? If Buffy’s their target they won’t strike until they’ve located her, right?’

Giles nodded slowly. ‘I …’

‘So if Buffy can stay somewhere out of the way’, Amy went on, ‘the rest of us can look around for anybody wearing a ring that matches this one.’

‘There’s still the question of Du Lac’s book’, said Giles.

Jesse stood up. ‘I’m not helping with that. I could try to find these Order of Tracker people.’

‘There’s other people who could help with that too’, said Amy.

‘Right!’ said Willow. ‘We should ask Marcie. Jesse, I guess you can find her.’

‘Cordelia notices people’s rings’, said Jonathan. ‘And there’s that sophomore girl, Nancy? She was happy to help out with scouting.’

‘Sounds like we’ve got enough people to cover going on with the research and keeping an eye out for these Taraka people’, Amy said.

Willow looked at Buffy. ‘So you can, you know, be somewhere safe. I mean, maybe you should, if Giles and Angel think that’s the best.’

Giles looked at her too. ‘Buffy, the assassins of the Order of Taraka are absolutely relentless. Once they’ve taken an assignment, there is no other earthly consideration that will turn them aside. I know that you’ve proved that you can face them individually, one at a time, but …’ He took off his glasses to polish them. ‘It’s possible that if we can detect them first we may be able to turn the tables on them. The plan may be worth trying. But until we’re ready, you should proceed as if you’re in the gravest danger you have ever been in, because that may be nothing less than the truth.’

Buffy nodded slowly, frowning. Then she turned without another word and walked towards the library door. She sensed somebody walking beside her and threw a sharp look to that side. ‘Jesse!?’

‘Buffy? I’m just going to look for Marcie and whoever.’

‘Oh, right.’ Buffy tried to clear her head as they walked through the library doors together.

As they started along the hall somebody barged across in front of them and Buffy recoiled. Jesse stopped and turned to look back at her.

‘Buffy, are you okay?’

After a moment Buffy gave him a slow, awkward nod.

‘Buffy, I know Giles was going on about how careful you should be, and I guess he’s right, but if you ask me you can handle this, right?’

Buffy nodded again. ‘Okay, thanks, Jesse. Let’s keep going.’ She took a deep breath.

‘Oh, wait’, Jesse said. ‘Look, it’s Marcie and Oz.’

Buffy turned to look at them, practising being alert without being jumpy.

‘Oh, hi’, said Marcie, as she and Oz came up to Buffy and Jesse. ‘Hi Buffy, hi Jesse.’

Oz smiled and sketched a wave at them both.

‘Sorry to break you two up’, Buffy said, ‘but something’s come up, Marcie, and we could really use your help.’

‘Maybe I can help too’, said Oz.

‘It’s, uh, kinda complicated. Jesse, maybe you could ex—Jesse, maybe you could take Marcie to the library?’

Jesse shifted his shoulders. ‘I thought I was supposed to look for other people. Marcie, you can find the library, right?’

‘Sure. Say, Oz, maybe you could go with Jesse?’

‘I’ve really got to get moving’, Buffy said. ‘I’ll just leave you all to sort this out.’

***
Rupert Giles cried ‘Yes!’ and looked up at Jenny. ‘Your, uh, contact’s information was solid. I believe we have discovered Spike’s purpose. There’s some more work to do in deciphering the full details, but I’m confident that the missing manuscript provides instruction for a ritual to restore the, uh, vitality, so to speak, of a vampire that has somehow been rendered frail and unwell.’

‘In this case, presumably, Drusilla’, said Amy.

Jenny’s computer made a noise, and she said, ‘Another message. Come and take a look at this.’

He moved round behind her and read over her shoulder. ‘Yes, this confirms it. Write back. I think we’ll soon have all the information we need.’

‘I’m glad you’ve got good news’, said another voice: Marcie Ross had come back to the library. ‘We’ve been scouting around, but so far we’ve come up with nothing. It’s not all that easy even to tell whether somebody’s wearing a ring, let alone what kind, unless they’re deliberately trying to flash it at you, which I figure is not Order of Taraka MO. Still, if you’re hot on the trail, we should let Buffy know where we’re up to so far.’

Willow slid out of her seat. ‘Well, I’ll try calling her. It’s okay if I use your phone, right, Giles?’

He nodded and she made her way to his office.

Amy looked at him and said, ‘So if Drusilla gets her power back, how bad is that?’

‘That is the question, isn’t it? I can only say that it could be, well, very bad, to say the least. We can’t afford to dismiss Drusilla as just another vampire. She and Spike have a record together which is, well, frankly, alarming—alarming in, in the extreme. Drusilla is not only a vampire and, as such, a creature of evil, she is also insane—’

Amy interrupted to say, ‘Didn’t Buffy mention that?’

‘—yes, yes she did, but the point is that if Drusilla is fully restored there is absolutely no telling what she might do. I am afraid we must consider her to be, quite literally, capable of anything.’

Jonathan Levinson raised his hand to ask a question. ‘Who exactly is this Drusilla anyway?’

Amy answered him. ‘I guess you haven’t heard the whole story. She’s Spike’s other half. Angel’s the one who turned her into a vampire, but only after torturing her into insanity. Giles’s records say she was destroyed by a mob in Prague, but it turns out she was only weakened and that Spike brought her with him here to Sunnydale. And the rest you just heard.’

‘Then if Spike’s got hold of a manuscript that explains how to restore Drusilla’, said Jonathan, ‘we need to find out the secret too, if we can, so we can stop him. Right?’

‘I think my new contact here is going to be able to help us with that’, said Jenny. ‘Right, Rupert?’

‘It does look promising’, he said, leaning in over her shoulder and reading from her screen. ‘I have a copy of that book, and of that one. I’ll get them at once.’

Willow walked out of the office. ‘No answer. I forgot that Buffy’s mom’s out of town.’

‘Perhaps Buffy unplugged the phone.’

‘Ah—M-Mister Giles?’ said Jonathan Levinson. ‘If-if she unplugged the phone, wouldn’t that mean it wouldn’t ring?’

‘Oh. Yes. Good point, Mr Levinson. Perhaps, then, she simply didn’t answer.’

Amy shook her head. ‘She’s a sixteen-year-old girl. She can’t just leave the phone ringing and not answer it. She definitely couldn’t unplug it.’

‘That’s right’, Willow said, sliding back into her seat next to Amy. ‘Well, Giles, you did tell her to find a safe place. Maybe she decided that her house wasn’t safe enough.’

‘That’s reasonable’, said Marcie Ross. ‘If professional bounty-hunters are on her trail, there’s every chance they’ve staked out her home. If she’s gone somewhere else, maybe it’s just as well if none of us know where. What we don’t know, we can’t give away. And she can still get in touch with us.’

Rupert Giles nodded slowly. ‘Still, if we haven’t heard from her by morning, somebody should go to her house and check.’

‘Whoever does that’, said Marcie Ross, ‘should be alert, in case there is somebody from the Order of Taraka lurking in the neighbourhood. In the meantime, I don’t think there’s any point keeping up our search around here. We can start fresh in the morning.’

‘I’ll stay here and finish sorting out just what it is Spike’s up to. I’m close on the track now, I’m sure of it. The rest of you might as well go home too and get some rest.’

‘I’ll stay too’, said Jenny. ‘There’s still one of my contacts who’s supposed to be getting back to me.’
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