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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)AnotherJDFR1342155,61247231,45911 Jan 1213 Nov 13No

Establishing Shot

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.

Xander Harris, This Is Not Your Life

1. Establishing Shot

‘I know you’re there. I even seem to recognise your face—which is odd, because it’s as if I can’t actually see.’

— ‘That’s because you’re at the exact moment when your soul passes from your body, and so you’re making the transition from seeing with the body’s vision to seeing with the soul’s vision.’

‘My soul’s passing from my body? You mean—I’m dead? I mean, dying?’

— ‘Yes, Xander Harris. Your life has run its appointed course and your time has come. I am here to help you pass on to the next stage.’

‘So—you mean you’re like some kind of angel? Because that would at least explain the wings.’

— ‘It would not be wrong for you to think of it that way if it helps you. Later, if you let me help you, you will understand more.’

‘You still seem familiar somehow, and I know I’ve never met any angels before. I don’t think I ever really believed there were any.’

— ‘I know the story of your life, Xander. I know what you know. After the things you have seen and known, should you really be surprised at this? What did you expect to happen when you died?’

‘I never thought about it much. I had enough trouble figuring out what to do with my life without worrying about what came next. Hey! Wait a minute, though! I know what you mean! This must be like when Buffy died. She went to a heavenly dimension. Is that what’s happening? I die and go to some heavenly dimension, and you’re an angel that came from that heaven to show me the way there? You’re an angel—I know! I know why you look familiar! You look like that angel from that movie! It’s A Wonderful Life! The Jimmy Stewart movie! What was his name again?’

— ‘Clarence. Clarence Odbody, although the surname was only mentioned once in the film.’

‘That’s right, Clarence. I remember. But that was in a movie. When I remember what Clarence looked like, all I’m remembering is some movie actor.’

— ‘Yes. His stage name was Henry Travers.’

‘But if he was just a movie actor, how come you look like him but with wings?’

— ‘Don’t you remember the end of the film, Xander? Clarence didn’t have wings because he was only an Angel Second Class, until he was promoted for saving George Bailey and got his wings. You know that in your America there’s no town called Bedford Falls, home to the Bailey Savings and Loan. In your America that’s just a story from a film. But the people who made that film were given the ability to tell a true story about another America, in what you would call another dimension. I came to that America to save George Bailey, just the way the film tells it, because people prayed for him. And now I’ve come to you as an angel with wings. You’ve started to see with the soul’s vision and you’ve been made able to see that I am the same as the Clarence Odbody you know from the film, except that I’ve grown and learned and become wiser since then.’

‘So—Clarence. Is this going to be like the movie? Are you going to show me what the world would have been like if I had never been born?’

— ‘I came to George Bailey to save him from killing himself. His town was full of people praying for him, and those prayers were answered. It was not George Bailey’s time to die. But everybody has to die in the end. George Bailey did, too. You are not a suicide. Nor was your death brought about by mystical forces, as happened to your friend Buffy Summers. There was nothing untimely about it. Those you leave behind will grieve, but they will also accept. You are ready to go, if you let me guide you.’

‘If you say so. It’s a shame, though. When you made him see what the world would be like if he had never been born, I thought it was a really neat trick.’

— ‘It served its purpose. Perhaps, since you think so much of the film, and since you perceive me as Clarence, I should explain more to you. I don’t suppose you ever thought about the point of the film?’

‘You would suppose correctly. I thought the point was just to tell a good story.’

— ‘You remember the story?’

‘Pretty much, I suppose.’

— ‘Well, think about this. The film is called It’s A Wonderful Life. When I came to George Bailey, he didn’t believe he’d had a wonderful life. He was about to kill himself, and after that he said it would have been better if he’d never been born. But I showed him what the world would have been like if he hadn’t been born, and he changed his mind. When I came to him, when he was about to kill himself, he was in despair because he thought he was facing ruin and disaster. Eight thousand dollars belonging to the Bailey Building and Loan had unexpectedly and inexplicably gone missing on the very day of the annual visit from the bank examiner. Now tell me: suppose somebody had come to George Bailey before that eight thousand dollars went missing, during the previous day, the previous week, or the previous month, and asked him whether his life had been a good one. What do you suppose he would have said?’

Xander struggled to think. It had been a long time since he’d seen the movie. ‘Perhaps I don’t remember the story as well as I thought. I have an idea he’d had some bad disappointments in his life before that, though.’

— ‘That’s true. But I can tell you the sort of thing he would have said. He would have said something like this: “Well, I have the best wife in the world, and four wonderful children. A man who can say that shouldn’t rightly have much to complain about. Sure, I’ve had a few disappointments in my life. I wanted to travel and see the world, I wanted to go to college, I wanted to build great things and make my fortune, and none of those plans worked out for me because I’ve had to spend my life here in this little town working for a little building and loan. But although this town may be little, it’s a good little town, with a lot of good people in it, and in its own little way the Bailey Building and Loan has helped to make it a better place for a lot of those people. It’s helped to build a lot of good houses for people who might not otherwise have had them. My life may not have been everything I once dreamed of, but I wouldn’t want to give it up.” ’

‘Okay, you’re starting to make me think I remember this.’

— ‘Then I’ll go on to remind you of the end of the film. I was brought to Bedford Falls because of all the people in the town who prayed for George Bailey. But they didn’t just pray for him. They organised and got to work to give him practical help, to find the money he needed, and at the end of the film George found that out. He found out that he had friends, people who cared about him and loved him, who would help him when he needed it, and that’s what made his life wonderful. The thing is, I had nothing to do with that. I didn’t get those people to find George the money. They would have done it just the same even if I’d never existed. Imagine, if you will, that George had somehow been stopped from drowning himself by something other than my intervention. A little before I came along, a man in a tavern was angry with George Bailey and knocked him down. What if that man had knocked him out? Driving his car away from the tavern, George crashed into a tree. What if he’d been knocked out in that crash? There were already people looking for him. One of his friends would have found him, and then he would have learned that the money he needed had been raised by all the people who’d rallied round him. If things had turned out like that, George Bailey would have been saved from ruin and disaster by the devotion of his friends, without any need for intervention by anybody like me. Intervention was needed at just that one critical moment when he was contemplating suicide, to turn him away from that path for just long enough. Showing George what the world would have been like without him was just one means to that end, shaped by that one critical moment. You are not facing a critical moment like that one. I am not here to persuade you to continue your life. That is determined now. I am here to guide you on another path. The shape of your mortal life is complete.’

Xander thought for a moment. ‘I guess I see what you mean. Maybe in some ways I am a little like George Bailey. I’ve had some disappointments, and I’ve surely made some mistakes, some big ones, too. But I already know I’ve made a difference to the world, in a good way. When the Master drowned Buffy, I was there to resuscitate her. I came up with the plan Buffy used to stop the Judge, and I was a key guy in her plans to deal with Mayor Wilkins’s Ascension. I was the heart in the Enjoining spell that let Buffy stop Adam. And when Willow was going to destroy the world, I was the one who was able to get through to her so that it didn’t happen. If my life’s over now, I can look back and say at least I stopped a few apocalypses in my time. Still, you said yourself that perhaps you were supposed to explain something to me as Clarence. Thinking of you like that, I can’t help being curious about that other reality where I was never born. Don’t angels ever get curious?’

— ‘Xander, do you not fear what you might see if I show you what you ask?’

‘Fear? You mean it might be like a really bad world if I wasn’t born to stop all those apocalypses? I think after all I’ve been through with Buffy I’m prepared for that. When we were all trapped in those nightmares that came out of that kid Billy’s mind I saw Buffy turned into a vampire. And I saw the vampire version of Willow from another reality, too. And I had to cope with Buffy being dead after she closed Glory’s portal. I had to cope with my best friend saying she wanted to kill me and destroy the world. After that, I think I should be able to cope with anything you’ve got to show me.’

— ‘You cannot know what you will learn. You may not like it. Do you really want to insist on this?’

‘Well, if the choice is up to me now, I say yes. If I don’t, I just know I’ll always wish I had.’

— ‘Perhaps. Perhaps things have worked out like this for a reason. Perhaps you will learn what you need to learn. Very well.’
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