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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)AnotherJDFR1342155,61247231,16211 Jan 1213 Nov 13No

Big Talk

Disclaimer: The character of Clarence Odbody is borrowed from the film It’s A Wonderful Life; all other characters are borrowed from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Some dialogue from ‘Surprise’, by Marti Noxon.

Xander Harris, This Is Not Your Life

40. Big Talk

‘Okay’, said Buffy, ‘everybody’s had cake, and everybody’s hyped up on Buffy-party. So make with the serious talk, Watcher-man. It’s time.’

Giles chuckled slightly, then gathered himself into a more sober presentation. ‘Yes. Angel, perhaps you should begin?’

Angel stopped relaxing. ‘Buffy, that sketch I drew, if that’s what you saw in your dream—Giles and I think it’s something called the Judge. This was way before my time, but the legends say that he was a demon brought forth to rid the Earth of the plague of humanity, to separate the righteous from the wicked, and to burn the righteous down. An army was sent against him; most of them died. Finally they were able to dismember him, but not kill him. He couldn't be killed. All they could do was scatter the pieces and bury them in every corner of the earth.’

‘He couldn’t be killed?’ said Buffy.

‘It’s written that no weapon forged could harm him’, said Giles, looking serious. ‘And his touch could literally burn the humanity out of you. A true creature of evil could survive the process. No human ever did.’

‘But you said he’d been dismembered’, said Dave, looking a little queasy. ‘Scattered to the corners of the earth.’

‘But Buffy dreamed about him, without ever having heard anything about him before’, said Amy. ‘And the Slayer’s dreams can be—what was that thing you called them again, Giles?’

‘Portents. If Buffy’s dream was truly a portent, then it could be a warning of the return of the Judge. If the pieces were disassembled without killing him, then it would be possible for somebody to put the pieces back together, and since he was never killed he would be alive again.’

‘Somebody?’ said Jesse.

Angel answered him carefully. ‘It would mean Armageddon. Drusilla would be crazy enough to do it.’

There was a moment’s silence, broken by Morgan.

‘But Drusilla—she’s supposed to be weakened, isn’t that right? That’s why Spike tried to carry out that ritual using—her sire?’

‘What does that even mean, “weakened”?’ said Dave. ‘I mean, weakened how?’

‘That’s a good question, now that Dave mentions it.’ Willow looked at Giles. ‘You told us back then that the ritual was supposed to restore a vampire who was “frail and unwell”, but how can a vampire be “frail and unwell” when it’s already dead, or, or at any rate undead?’

Giles took off his glasses and began polishing them. ‘I have to admit that it is a good question, but I must regretfully confess that I cannot answer it fully. Clearly, at a minimum, we can be sure that Drusilla’s physical strength and endurance have been impaired, but I don’t know that the extent of that would be measurable, even in theory. Vampires are in any case stronger and tougher than human beings—’

Buffy interrupted. ‘Not as much as the Slayer.’

‘Yes, granted, but as compared to a normal human being—well, I wouldn’t want to stake anything important on Drusilla’s exact current condition. Even in her impaired state, it’s possible that she is still stronger and tougher than the human norm, at least to some extent. As for her other abilities—’

‘What other abilities?’ said Cordelia.

‘The records I have been able to consult on that point are distressingly cryptic, but it’s clear that Drusilla has, or at least had, some degree of what might be called psychic powers. There are definite references to “the Second Sight”, and—’ Giles broke off as a thought seemed to strike him, and he turned to Angel. ‘Many of those references are in contexts where you are also mentioned. Perhaps you can tell us more.’

Angel gave an awkward one-shoulder shrug. ‘You have to remember that Drusilla is … She’s crazy. Genuinely insane. I’ve seen her do things I couldn’t explain, things I could barely even describe. Whatever you call it, “the Second Sight” or psychic powers, there’s no question she has it. And I’ve seen her do something—I don’t know what to call it, it’s as if she gets inside people’s minds, maybe something like hypnosis … But I don’t know how much all that would be affected by whatever happened to her in Prague, or whether it would be at all. What we can be sure about is that Spike’s not weakened, though. We stopped him restoring Drusilla, but that just means he’d be looking for another way to do something for her, and get back at us, or at Buffy. The Judge, Armageddon—for them, it would be like a love gift.’

‘So if they do put this Judge back together’, said Nancy, ‘they’ll be heading this way?’

They looked at each other uncertainly. Only Jesse was confident enough to speak.

‘Hey, when that Master guy rose up, that was supposed to be that thing, wasn’t it, like Armageddon?’

‘An apocalypse’, said Ms Calendar.

‘Yeah! The mouth of hell even started to open! But Buffy stopped that, didn’t she?’

‘Jesse’s right’, said Nancy. ‘And if we’re going to deal with the possible return of the Judge, shouldn’t our first move be to figure out where Spike’s basing himself while they’re putting the pieces together?’

‘Spike won’t have gone far’, said Angel, with confidence.

‘So we’re looking for a place near here’, said Giles, ‘where there are recent signs of increased vampire activity.’

‘Definitely’, said Buffy. ‘Since Spike and Drusilla left town, it’s pretty much been all quiet on the undead front. If they took their gang somewhere else, that’ll make a lot of vampires feeding there.’

‘The other thing we should be doing’, said Marcie, ‘is more research into this Judge, trying to figure out some way to beat him, if not kill him.’

Giles looked troubled. ‘All my sources so far say the same thing—they had to send an army against him, and no weapon forged could harm him.’

‘If no weapon forged could harm him’, Marcie said, ‘why did they send an army against him?’

Oz rested a hand on her arm. ‘Good point.’

‘What does that mean, anyway?’ said Buffy. ‘No weapon forged? Are there weapons that are unforged, or non-forged?’

‘Whenever this Judge was active, I guess armies then used things like swords and spears and axes’, said Nancy. ‘I can tell you about the weapons armies use now, and they’re a lot different from those.’

Kevin seemed a little amused by what Nancy had said. ‘You know about armies and weapons because you dressed up as a soldier on Halloween?’

Nancy looked him straight in the eye. ‘Actually, yes.’ She turned to the others. ‘I said at the time. While that magic spell was working, I had access to the mind and memories of a genuine soldier, or something like that, and I still remembered it all after the spell ended. Everything a soldier learns in basic training, it’s like I learned it, including infantry weapons.’

‘Infantry weapons?’ said Jesse.

‘Rifles and so on, but I don’t know whether any of that’s any use in this Judge situation.’

Buffy said, ‘Guns don’t work against vampires, I know that.’

‘We can’t base our conclusions about the Judge on what we know about vampires’, said Giles. ‘It’s virtually certain there are significant differences.’

‘But the Judge is a supernatural creature’, said Ms Calendar.

Angel said, ‘I’ve had experience with a lot of different kinds of demons. Special ways of killing them, they’re often vulnerable to one or two of those, just like vampires, but they don’t tend to be things like guns, or other kinds of modern army weapons.’

‘Very well’, said Giles. ‘Then we have two lines of investigation we need to pursue without delay: the potential vulnerabilities of the Judge and the location where Spike may be at work assembling him. However’—he threw a quick glance at Ms Calendar—‘although we have a serious matter to deal with, this is still Buffy’s birthday party, and we don’t want it to end on that note.’

He held out a hand to Ms Calendar, and she stepped forward, took hold of it, and spoke.

‘Buffy, we hope you both know how special we think you are, and that’s why we couldn’t think of a better occasion for this announcement. R-Rupert and I—’

As she hesitated for a moment, Giles took over from her. ‘We—that is, what we want to say—I mean, Ms Calendar has agreed, uh—’

‘Congratulations’, said Oz. He moved to Giles, took his hand, and shook it briefly.

‘Huh?’ The puzzled grunts were directed at Oz by Buffy and Jesse.

‘Congratulations on their engagement’, he said, and shrugged a little.

‘Really?’ said Buffy and Willow, turning with huge grins to Giles and Ms Calendar, whose mildly embarrassed expressions clearly showed that Oz was right.

The next few minutes were filled with noisy excited congratulations and more embarrassment on the part of Giles and, perhaps a little bit, Ms Calendar.

Maybe their embarrassment had something to do with tempting Buffy to say, ‘So now you’re going to be Giles and Ms Giles? Or will it be Mrs Giles? It’s gonna be confusing either way. But you two are already confused. We were talking in the car on the way here about how Ms Calendar calls you “Rupert” except that sometimes when she’s talking to us she calls you “Giles”, and when you’re talking to us you say “Ms Calendar” but I guess you must say “Jenny” when it’s just the two of you.’

‘I’ve noticed that some of you say “Giles” and some of you say “Mr Giles” ‘, said Dave, ‘and Giles calls some of you by your first names, but some of you he calls “Ms Ross”, or whatever it is.’

‘I started calling Buffy by her first name at her own strongly urged insistence. As I recall, she accused me of British stuffiness. But as a member of the faculty I feel it would be presumptuous of me to use first names with students unless it was unequivocally clear that they were comfortable with that level of familiarity. However, if any of you feel it would be appropriate to call me “Rupert” …’

‘Actually’, said Amy, ‘if I’m talking to somebody else at school and I let a “Giles” slip out without the “Mister”, it wouldn’t sound nearly as odd as if I said “Rupert”.’

‘At our wedding’, said Ms Calendar, ‘which we hope you’ll all come to, it will stand out a little if you call us anything other than “Rupert” and “Jenny”.’

‘There’s still Buffy’s question’, said Nancy. ‘Are you going to be a Lucy Stoner?’

Jesse wanted to know what a ‘Lucy Stoner’ was, and Giles admitted he’d never heard the expression either. Morgan explained.

‘Lucy Stone was a nineteenth-century American who insisted on keeping the name she was born with after she married.’

Cordelia interrupted to ask Morgan whether that was even legal in the nineteenth century.

‘Lucy Stone had to have a lot of arguments with people about it, but it turns out there was never anything in the law that said it was mandatory for women to change to their husbands’ surnames when they got married. It was just a custom that everybody had got used to, but for people who didn’t want to follow it there was nothing in the law to stop them.’

‘Well, there might not be a law about it, but it just makes sense to me that everybody in the same family should have the same family name’, Kevin said. ‘Otherwise how would people even know they were married to each other?’

‘If it’s that important to you’, said Amy, ‘then if you get married you can change your surname to your wife’s surname.’

‘Hey, what? That’s just stupid. Men don’t change to their wives’ names.’

Dave disagreed with Kevin. ‘Seems to me it makes just as much sense either way round.’

Oz shrugged. ‘People wanna change their names, or not, seems like it’s just their own business.’

Kevin didn’t seem convinced, but the way Cordelia and Willow were looking at him he didn’t push the point further, and Morgan resumed his explanation. ‘As a matter of fact, historically there are examples of husbands’ changing to wives’ surnames. If a woman came from a famous old family, and if there were no more males in the family to carry on the name, it might be made a condition of inheriting a family fortune. But that’s not what happened with Lucy Stone. She was happily married, and her husband never changed his name to hers, but she never changed her name to his. And she became so much associated with the cause she took up that women who did the same thing she did, keeping the name they were born with instead of taking their husbands’, got to be known as “Lucy Stoners”. I think there was even an organisation called the Lucy Stone League to campaign for women who kept their names. So Ms Calendar will be following in an old American tradition if she gets married but keeps the name she was born with.’

‘Uh, actually’, Giles began to say, ‘it wasn’t exactly …’ Catching sight of Ms Calendar’s expression, he tailed off.

Dave said, ‘Wasn’t exactly what?’

‘I only meant …’ Giles looked at Ms Calendar again and stuttered to another halt.

‘Does Ms Calendar have a secret you weren’t supposed to blab?’ said Cordelia.

Giles kept looking at Ms Calendar. ‘I’m sorry … I didn’t think it was important.’

Ms Calendar shrugged and sighed, then put a hand on Giles’s back. ‘I suppose it’s not really that big a deal, Rupert. It’s just that the idea of coming out with it like this took me by surprise.’ She looked away from him, towards the others. ‘Jenny Calendar isn’t the name I was born with. Well, not exactly. I was originally Janna Kalderash, and I just Anglicised that to Jenny Calendar.’

Jesse and Buffy both wanted to know what ‘Anglicised’ meant. Willow explained.

‘It just means taking a name that wasn’t originally in English and converting it into an English version, or at least an English-sounding version.’

‘If it were me’, Cordelia said, ‘I might have stuck with Janna Kalderash. It has an exotic sound to it. What sort of name is it, anyway, I mean originally?’

Ms Calendar didn’t answer, but Giles did. ‘It’s a Rromany name.’

‘Romany?’ said Jesse. ‘You mean, it’s from Romany-a? Is that where your family came from?’

Giles corrected Jesse’s pronunciation. ‘The country is called Romania, and the people and their language are called Romanian. Ms Calendar’s people—Jenny’s people—are the ones that are often called “gypsies”, but that’s a misnomer, based on the erroneous idea that they came from Egypt, much as the native people of the Americas were dubbed “Indians” on the basis of a geographical misconception. “Rromany” is Jenny’s people’s own word for themselves and their language, and as most people know they aren’t associated with any single country, although as it happens the Kalderash clan, to which Jenny belongs, spent many years in Romania.’

Angel broke a long silence. ‘Romanian gypsies?’ he said. ‘Is that—if that’s a coincidence, it’s a very strange one.’

Buffy walked to Angel and put a hand on his arm. ‘Is something wrong?’

‘You know—you know about my—curse.’

‘Your soul was restored when you were cursed by—gypsies.’ Buffy turned to look at Ms Calendar. ‘Or should I say “Rromanies”?’

‘It was in Romania that it happened’, said Angel quietly, also looking at Ms Calendar. ‘If that’s a coincidence, it’s a very strange one.’

Ms Calendar took a deep breath. ‘And are you angry that it happened, Angel? Would you want it not to have happened? Would you want your soul taken away again?’

Angel didn’t answer, but after a moment he slowly shook his head.

Ms Calendar went on. ‘If you weren’t affected by the curse, if you were your former self again, the way Buffy dreamed—who would you be then, and what would it mean?’

‘I’d be a monster again, not worth a moment of anybody’s consideration.’ He looked from Ms Calendar to Buffy. ‘I’d be just another vampire for you to hunt and slay.’

Buffy looked into his eyes, putting her free hand on his opposite wrist. ‘But you aren’t. We’ve fought the fight side by side, Angel. That’s not what you are any more.’

‘Because of the curse’, said Ms Calendar. ‘Because of the curse that my clan placed on you. Yes, it was my people, the Kalderash. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, Buffy.’ She turned to look at Giles. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, Rupert. I came here to Sunnydale because my family sent me to watch Angel. He hurt them badly and they take the idea of vengeance very seriously. I didn’t know anything then about Buffy, and—I didn’t know I was going to fall in love with you. All they wanted me to do was watch—I didn’t talk about it because I thought it could only make things complicated, and I thought keeping quiet couldn’t hurt anybody. But I don’t want to keep these secrets from you any more.’ She turned to Buffy. ‘Or from you.’ She turned back to Giles.

Jonathan said, ‘You don’t tell everybody about Slaying, Buffy. You keep that secret. And Angel kept his secret from you for a long time.’

‘Jonathan’s right’, said Willow. ‘Remember how upset I was when I found out you’d been keeping your secret from me? Sometimes life just is complicated.’

Buffy let out a long breath. ‘Giles?’

Giles looked to her and then turned back to Ms Calendar. ‘No more secrets?’

Ms Calendar shook her head. ‘No more secrets. I’m glad I’ve told you now. I didn’t mean for it to come out here and now, at this party, but …’

‘Better out than in’, Kevin said.

‘So, do you know anything more?’ said Buffy. ‘Anything that could be important, anything that could help to explain my dream about Angel?’

Jesse looked puzzled. ‘I thought your dream was about the Judge’, he said.

With some assistance from the others, Buffy explained again so that Jesse understood. Then he said to her, ‘So you’re worried that maybe something will happen to make Angel turn back into Bad Angel?’

‘Angelus’, said Ms Calendar. ‘That was what he was called then.’

Jonathan nodded. ‘That’s what Spike called you when you were trying to make him think you hadn’t changed.’

Buffy said, ‘I remember Kendra using that name too.’

‘Kendra’, repeated Marcie in a thoughtful voice.

Ms Calendar started to answer the question she’d been asked earlier. ‘I don’t know much about the terms of the curse my people placed. I said before, all they asked me to do was watch. If there’s some way the curse can be reversed and Angel’s soul taken away again—I don’t know, maybe my Uncle Enyos knows, or the elder woman, but they haven’t told me. Maybe they wouldn’t tell me, not if they guess how close I’ve got to Angel and all of you, how much I’ve told you now. I can ask, but … I just don’t know.’

Marcie changed the subject. ‘If your dream could be a portent to do with the Judge, or with Angel … Kendra’s a Slayer, too, isn’t she? Wouldn’t that mean she could get dreams like that too? Could that have anything to do with why she came to Sunnydale in the first place?’

Buffy considered this. ‘What she told us was that her Watcher said “all the signs” indicated a “dark power rising” in Sunnydale. We didn’t get into a long discussion of what signs. She didn’t mention dreaming, but Kendra wasn’t the type to overshare about that kind of thing, if you ask me. So it’s a maybe yes, maybe no kinda deal. But if she did have dreams then, I didn’t, so just because I did this time, doesn’t mean the same would happen with her.’

‘When you put it that way, I guess maybe that’s kind of the point I was leading up to, really. Maybe she doesn’t know anything, but maybe she should. Last time you faced off with Spike you did it in tandem.’

‘A Dynamic Duo’, said Jonathan.

‘The first time I faced off with Spike, I handled the situation without any help from Kendra, even when I was kinda blindsided. This time we’ve got proper warning, and the whole team’s ready to back me up.’ Buffy gestured round the room to emphasise the last point.

‘Still, I don’t see how it could hurt to make contact with Kendra. Even if you don’t need her to help you battle the Judge, there might be some good ideas about how to deal with him that come out of talking with her. Or her Watcher. Whatever signs he read to see a very dark power coming, he might be reading them again now. If Drusilla could count as a very dark power, I bet the Judge has to.’ Marcie looked from Buffy to Giles. ‘Come to think of it, if your whole Watchers Council organisation is as bad at sharing information as they seemed to be, maybe they have information about the Judge that would be useful in this battle. Could you contact them and ask? It has to be worth a try, surely?’

Ms Calendar answered. ‘Well, as Rupert said, there’ll be plenty of investigation to be done after tonight. But I think we should end this party with a toast to Buffy.’

‘Okay’, said Buffy, ‘so long as we have another one to Rupert and Jenny.’

***
‘And—time-lapse!’ said Xander. ‘If Spike’s having the parts of the Judge put together somewhere else, not Sunnydale, then his timetable would have to be a little different. Maybe they won’t be ready so soon after Buffy’s birthday party as really happened. But Spike wouldn’t be able to resist wheeling the Judge out to attack Buffy as soon as possible.’

— ‘Yes, that’s one thing they’re right about.’
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