Don't Fear the Reaper
Disclaimer: Neither show, alas, was my particular brain child. BtVS belongs to ME and Fox, and Dead Like Me belongs to Showtime. Most of the characters in here also belong to those folks. I'm just sorta, borrowing them.
Author's note: I started out really liking my voice for George. I'm hoping I can stick with it. This may or may not be a George/Xander fic, I have yet to decide. And yes, eventually I'll get around to explaining the quote I'm using at the beginning.
Don’t Fear the Reaper
by Casix Thistlebane
Dolores says that the best thing about working at Happy Time, out of all of the various things that she says she loves about her job, is getting to find people a place to call “home”. She loves the feeling of satisfaction she gets when she places a recent college grad, or in my case, college drop out, into a “job that they can enjoy and that may, if they’re lucky, turn into a career that will give them that little bit that was missing from their lives”.
Dolores says a lot of stuff like that, and what’s really scary is, I think she believes it. She really thinks that she’s making a difference at Happy Time. Like temping is the answer to the Meaning of Life. The first time I met her, that annoyed the hell out of me.
It still kinda does. But I guess I understand her better, now.
It’s really easy to find perspective on life when you’re one of the ones who gets to watch it end. Over and over again.
You see, I was just another college drop out living at home with her parents and little sister, bumming around and not really believing that there’s a future in anything. My mom forced me to go to Happy Time in hopes that it will turn me into a positive, productive citizen. And Dolores did find me a job. For about a day.
I didn’t even make it past my “lunch hour”, actually. I got hit by a deorbiting toilet seat from the Muir Space Station.
And that should have been it, really. That should have been the end of my career as a temp, and as a human being, scattered into tiny little scorched bits across the intersection. But I was “lucky”. Well, not really lucky, I mean. Most people, when they die, get a bunch of sparkly lights to lead them on to whatever it is that comes next. Me? I got a new job.
I’m a grim reaper.
Yeah, that sounds cooler than it really is. I mean, sure, I’m undead, I have the power to take people’s souls and guide them to the hereafter, and I heal really fast, I mean, like, scary-fast, and I get to continue enjoying the world for the foreseeable future, in spite of having bit the big one. On the other hand, and it’s a big other hand, I don’t get paid for it. So I still had to go back to Dolores. And Happy Time.
It’s not too bad. I get a paycheck, I only work part-time, and I live in a fantastic house with a woman who claims to have blown just about the entirety of Hollywood circa 1930. But it sure as hell took some getting used to.
Every day, I go to work, I share a conspiratorial glance with Crystal, the woman who almost never speaks, but will kick your ass in subtle, unsanitary ways if you cross her, or even just get too creeped out at the way she stares at you. I sort the applications, and try to help Dolores find the “perfect match” for each job.
Well, the computer really does most of the work for us. We just type in what criteria the client asks for, and it spits out a list of names. I think Dolores mostly just picks one of those at random, but I don’t have any proof.
Maybe there’s something to it, though. Maybe there really is a job that you’re supposed to do, you alone. Maybe the computer knows that.
Or maybe it’s something else that knows.
I didn’t manage to spot the graveling that did it. I’m usually pretty good at spotting the gremlin-things when they’re running amuck, so maybe it wasn’t them that did it. But they’re the ones that are always behind these things, so they’re the ones I blame for what happened when Dolores called up the list for the newest client.
Dolores is not a woman of few words. When she only has a little to say on a topic, it means that it’s really hit her, where she sleeps, so to speak. So when she didn’t elaborate, I got curious.
Dolores leaned into her computer, pointing to a name.
A name I knew really, really well. It used to be mine.
“Georgia Lass.” Dolores sat back again. “Well, that can’t be right.”
I tried to look blank and curious. “Why is it wrong? Maybe this Georgia should have the job.”
“Well, I’m certain she would have been perfect for it, Millie, but she’s. . . .”
Don’t say dead. Don’t call me dead. I hate it when people call me dead.
“She. . . passed on shortly after she signed on with us.”
“Oh.” I tried to look sympathetic. Not too hard, it was my death we were talking about. “What happened?”
“A tragic accident.” Dolores forced a smile. Or maybe it was a real smile. All of Dolores’ expressions looked forced to me. “I was certain we took her out of the system. Oh well, we’ll just have to move on to the next name,”
“What’s the position?” It wasn’t too suspicious to ask that. After all, I’m supposed to be assisting Dolores in picking the candidates.
“A temp-to-perm clerical assignment for a new girls’ school that’s just opened in town.” Dolores looked sad. “That’s too bad. Georgia would have done quite well there, I think.”
Shut up, you hated George. I was just lucky I’d already talked to Dolores before I died and had to become “Millie”. I knew all the answers.
“Maybe. . . .” I glanced around the office. I was learning really quickly that there were no such things as accidents. “Maybe I could take it?” At Dolores’ scandalized look I quickly started backing up. “I mean, I know it’s frowned upon, and we really should be trying to place as many different people as we can, but I’ve. . . always. . . been interested. . . in education.” I smiled, it what I hoped was a sheepish but eager manner. “You could place someone here, too, and guide them into a . . . new confidence . . . and greater job skills.”
“But, Millie, we need you here.”
“Dolores,” I tried to look sincere. “You’ve taught me how to be the best clerical temp I can possibly be. You’ve shown me. . . the wonders of. . . being. . . um, employed. You’ve helped me so much, but I think maybe it’s time that you got to share your . . . wisdom with some other, poor, young person.” I shook my head, lowering my eyebrows. “I’ll miss Happy Time,” like an extra arm, “but I really think I would be a better fit at . . .” I glanced at the computer screen. “The Anya Jenkins Memorial School for Girls, than I am even here. I think this could be good for me.”
Dolores looked like she might cry. Considering her reaction last time I tried to leave Happy Time, it was hard to tell if my argument was working or not.
“You’re right, Millie.” Dolores looked away. “Sometimes. . . sometimes it’s just best that people grow apart.” Dolores started clicking on something on the screen, as I thanked Daisy, my roommate, for her little lessons in acting. Dolores turned back to me. “You really want to go into education?”
Dolores nodded, her smile returning. “Well then! I’ll give . . .” she checked her notes. “Mr. Harris and Mr. Giles a call then. And then I have another going away party to plan,”
“Really, Dolores. You don’t have to throw me another party.”
“Nonsense! You’re a part of our Happy Time family now, Millie.” She leaned in close. “I don’t know much about Mr. Harris or Mr. Giles, but if you have any trouble with them, just remember you’ll always have a home, here.”
I nodded. “Well. Um, I guess I’d better go, clean out my desk,”
But Dolores wasn’t even listening. She really did have a lot to do. I wondered if she’d hire another burro.
Being undead really does have it’s perks. One of them is Der Waffle House. Rube, he’s the “boss”, I guess, always has us, being me, Daisy, Mason, and Roxy, meet him at the faux German diner in the mornings to pick up our assignments. See, we get these little yellow post-its, with the first initials and last name of the person who’s supposed to die, along with the place and ETD. That’s “estimated time of death”. Then we go to the place, find the person, which is not as easy as it sounds, and take their soul just before they buy the farm. It’s taken me some time to get used to the idea. I felt at first like I was doing the actual killing, but after the last six months of being a reaper, I’m starting to realize that I’m really providing a service. These people usually still die if I don’t get there at the right time, and if I don’t take their soul before they do, they just stay stuck in their body until, well, whenever. Plus, they have to look like they do when they’re dead. Wounds and all. Whenever I get squeamish, I just try to remember what it would be like spending the afterlife as a bunch of little bits of charcoal. It really puts things in perspective.
I don’t really like it, but a job’s a job, right?
Rube passed out the post-its, one for each of us. I wonder what they did before post-its were invented. I bet Rube knows, maybe even Daisy. I’m not so sure about Roxy and Mason, they died in the last couple decades. Mason drilled a hole in his own head back in the sixties, chasing a permanent high, and Roxy was killed over leg warmers, of all things, in the eighties. Did they have post-its in the eighties?
I glanced at my post-it. ETD was at three pm. That would put me right in the middle of my first day on my new job. “I can’t do this one.”
“We’ve been over this, Peanut.” Rube wasn’t looking at me. He never does when he thinks I’m having another hissy fit. “You get the assignment, you do it. I’m not going to have any trouble with you again, am I?”
“No, it’s not that,” I passed the post-it back to him. “I have to work.”
“You work till noon.”
“Not any more. I got a new job. This one goes until eight pm. I start at eleven.”
“Where you workin’?” Roxy spoke around a small mouthful of waffle.
“That new girl’s school that opened up. I’m a receptionist, or something. It’s a boarding school, so I’ve got the second shift. I think.” I frowned. “I don’t have all the details yet.”
“You get a break in that job?”
“Yeah, a dinner break at five.”
“Take it early.” Rube closed his little leather day planner. “Now, you’ve got your assignments, let’s get going.”
I knew that look. That look meant that if I kept talking, Rube would start to get angry. Rube’s not a really personable guy, but he’ll take care of you when you need it. Like when Mason tried to smuggle coke or something in his ass on an assignment, and ended up OD’ing. Of course, I never paid too much attention to that look.
“It’s my first day! I can’t just take my break early!”
Rube took my post-it. “That’s just down the block from the school. Take a coffee break. A smoke break. I don’t give a shit what you take. You have your assignment.”
“Well, can I trade it, or something? I want to do good, here. I’m not trying to get out of an assignment,”
“You get your assignment for a reason, Peanut. I don’t pick ‘em, I just hand them out.”
I wasn’t sure how true that was. Rube had let us trade before. He was insisting though, which meant I really DID have to do THIS assignment. Dictated from on high, or something like that.
Fate exists, my friends. And it has a really lousy sense of humor.