A Job Worth Taking
Chapter One: A Job Worth Taking
The room was oblong, somewhat narrow and painted a pale shade of olive green. There were exactly twenty-seven doorways on either side of the room, each one covered by a cloth in various shades of gray, with two oversized wooden doors standing at the far ends of the room. At first glance it most resemble a waiting room (without the reception desk) or the hallway of a motel. Several over stuffed and uncomfortable looking couches were situated between the doors.
It was on one of these couches that Xander lay sleeping. He lay on his back, one arm thrown over his head the other off the edge of the couch touching the floor. He was still wearing the hospital gown and it road high over his thighs, his feet were bare and his eye patch had been removed. Xander stirred in his sleep, raising the bottom of his gown to dangerous levels before he fell completely off the coach. ~ What the... ~
He woke with a thud and scrambled to his knees. He glanced around himself in confusion. The last thing he could remember was laying in his hospital bed talking to Buffy and now he was – elsewhere. ~ Did I sleep walk? ~
"You’re kidding me right." A voice scoffed from somewhere. "You’ve just been through a rather horrible car wreak and you think you’re sleep walking." Xander was pretty sure there was no one else in the room but he looked around again, anyway. The voiced seemed close but he couldn’t pin point it. "Don’t you remember the tubes and wires. They had you tied down so well you couldn’t have gotten up for an apocalypse."
"What?" It was not the most eloquent of replies, he knew that, but under the circumstances it was reasonable. "Who are you?"
The voice sighed then said, "Just hang on a sec and I’ll tell you everything."
Xander tensed slightly but otherwise remained still, highly confused but far more curious then any thing else. It was somewhat disturbing to realize that none of this was really fazing him, and as much as he wanted to blame it on too many painkillers he knew he couldn’t. This was just another side effect of growing up on a hellmouth. Xander shook his head. The weird was just not so weird anymore.
A curtain in front of him opened as he watched. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting to come through but it certainly wasn’t what he got. An older woman, perhaps thirty years or so old, walked through with a smile on her face. She was dressed in an oversized white lab coat and was carrying a large clipboard, which she continued to write on as she made her way toward him. Her dark hair was wrapped up in a ponytail and her glasses were slightly askew but that didn’t take away from the fact that she was very pretty or that she must be the voice.
"You think I’m pretty." Her face lit up and she beamed at him. "How sweet. You know you’re the first person who’s ever thought that." She stopped as she came to stand in front of him and looked down. "But then you are one of the more lucid people I’ve had to work with. Most of the newly dead I get here still think they’re in mid battle. Sheesh, this one guy I got – completely trashed my waiting room before I got him clamed down. The paper work to get everything replaced took forever and he didn’t even say he was sorry." She frowned but quickly went back to smiling. "You know you can get off the floor, cause I mean it is nice and all, but you don’t have to bow to me. It’s not my kind of thing."
Xander blinked but didn’t get off the floor. His brain was still stuck on something she’d said. "N. n. newly Dead?"
"Yeah – oh – pooh. You hadn’t come to terms with that yet had you." She checked something on her clipboard, then reached down to help him up. "Sorry. You just seemed so calm and I kind of, you know, assumed that you knew."
"How?" When she raised her eyebrow he continued, flustered. "Well I can guess how it happened – I’m not that stupid. What I mean is I just woke up. I talked to Buffy. I felt fine … considering I’d just been hit by a truck but still, there was Aliveness."
They just looked at each other for a moment before she shrugged and grabbed his hand. With surprising ease she hauled him to his feet and sat him down on to the bench where he had been sleeping.
"I know." She sat down beside him and let go of his hand, straightening her lab coat from where it bunched around her. "Look I really am sorry. I can only imagine how hard it is to wake up and find out you’re dead." Her eyes flickered to her clipboard again; following her finger as it ran down the page. "And even though it’s usually not part of my department I know these things happen. The girls over in long-term illness deal with it all the time… I just didn’t think I ever would…"
She tapered off and they sat in silence, letting Xander come to terms with what she’d said. It didn’t take long for it to sink in despite the conversations’ very surreal feeling. He was dead.
And he didn’t know what he was supposed to do.
He looked over at her. "So where am I. Is this -"
His eyes widened in disbelief. "Then this is -"
"Hell No!" Jenny cut him off and shook her head firmly, her ponytail flapping behind her. "It doesn’t matter how bad the system is here you would not have ended up down there."
"Then where am I?"
She smiled at him and tapped her clipboard. "You are, for the lack of a better name, in ‘The Waiting Room’."
"Why do I get the feeling that was all in uppercase."
"Probably cause it was – that is the official title after all. Any ways." She continued. "You happen to be in a very special position, one where you get to determine where you go from here. You see normally when one of my clients die," She paused, gesturing to her clipboard, which he couldn’t read. "I cover the deaths of True Hero’s and Martyrs. When one of them dies or is killed, as is usually the case, they are either sent directly onward to heaven or they are reincarnated, although that only happens if they feel they have unfinished business to attend too or really, really want it for some strange reason. Never could understand the appeal of it, I mean come on you’ve already gone through once wasn’t that enough. Sheesh." She blinked. "Sorry got a little off track there. So under the normal circumstances that’s what happens but sometimes something unusual happens and those people are given another option."
Xander shifted in his seat. "I see."
Jenny reached over and grabbed his hand from where it rested on his knee. "You’re an extraordinary person Xander, and it’s because of everything you’ve done that we would like to offer you a job."
He shook off her hand and jumped off the couch. "What!"
"You’re an extraordinary person Xander," She repeated, "and it’s because of everything you’ve done that we would like to offer you a job."
"I heard you the first time." He snapped. "What I mean is I don’t understand why. I’m pretty sure I made it perfectly clear while I was still alive that I didn’t want to be jerked around by the Powers That Be." He began to pace. "Besides I don’t think I’d make a very good champion."
"You were one of the best." She settled back. "But that’s not the position I’m here to offer you. Originally you were to be placed with the prophets, but they threw a hissy fit. Said they’d stage a protest or go on strike if you were sent to them. They don’t like you very much. Then somebody suggested throwing you in with the Fates but they wouldn’t have anything to do with you either. I’m not really sure why." She stood and he continued pacing. "But then I came up with the perfect idea, because it would be a waste just to send you on. If you agree, you will be working in our Guardian Angel department, under my supervising of course, as sort of a ‘Thing’ you see."
"Of course," he agreed, "that makes perfect sense."
"Doesn’t it though." Her arms swung wildly as she spoke. "Now you’re not going to have any of the fancy powers, like healing or flying or doing that deep voice thing, and you won’t have wings. You’ll just be you, yourself, Xander." Jenny beamed at him. "Will you do it?"
There was silence as she waited for his answer. For a moment she swore he was going to say no but then he stopped pacing and looked straight at her, his gaze hopeful. "Will I ever get to see my friends again?"
"I don’t know, it depends on whether or not they need you."
There was silence again. Jenny stared at her shoes while Xander stared at his. It wasn’t getting them anywhere and Xander sighed then said. "So this ‘Guardian Angel’ thing, what will I get to do. Doesn’t sound like you’ve left much."
"Um, you wouldn’t technically be an Angel. We don’t really have a job title for it yet since you’d be the first one but we can come up with something if you’d like. As for what you’d do, you’d basically just be support-o-guy. Kind of in the background but helping your charges whenever they need it. I thought about trying to get you a license so you could be Holy Armed, but the guys in Infinite Reality vetoed that real quick. Apparently you can be a scary guy to give weapons to."
"Yeah, see it’s a thing." She sat back down and gestured for him to do the same. "For everything that’s done, whether its major like who wins a war or just a minor thing like what kind of gum you chew or how many steps it takes you to get somewhere, there’s a universe where its different." She spoke slowly, like she didn’t completely understand what she was saying. "Please don’t ask me to explain that cause the best I can give you is the tree branch analogy and I don’t completely get that either. Its gives me a headache just thinking about it really so lets just skip the details. There’s a lot of realities and thankfully we’ve got champions in most of them."
"If you’ve got so many of these ‘champions’ running around, why do you need me. You make it sound like you’ve got zillions of Xander’s to choose from."
She balked at his tone but he didn’t bother apologizing. He merely sat down beside her in an attempt to placate her. Adding a short nod to the movement to get her to continue speaking.
Which she did, rather surly. "There are tons of yous running around but none of the other yous are you
. Like I said before every universe is different and that means every Alexander Harris is different. You are the only you that’s you and you’re the one we want." She huffed. "Got it." He nodded again. "Good cause I really didn’t want to have to try and go over all that again. I was becoming oxygen deprived and we’ve gotten way off subject. I just need to know whether or not you’re going to take this job before this conversation makes my brain dribble out my ears."
For the first time since arriving Xander smiled. "Sounds like fun." She snorted, rolling her eyes as he continued on through his infamous lopsided grin. "As long as there’s even the slightest chance I’ll get to see them again I’ll do it – but there’s no guarantee that I’ll actually be able to do anything."
"You’ll try and that’s enough."
She watched as his smile faded into a dull determined look and reached over to give his hand a reassuring squeeze but he pulled away, moving to his feet again and away from the couch. He hesitated in the middle of the room before turning back to face her after a few seconds of internal deliberation. She could hear every word of it but choose not to interrupt. Instead she waited for him to speak out loud. It didn’t take long.
"What do you want me to do first?"
"That’s the spirit and you’re certainly going to need it with your first assignment – not that this assignment is bad per say but it is… strange, even compared with what you’re used too." She tapped the top of her clipboard in a ‘I’m thinking’ gesture before continuing on. "Mmm... kay, similar to yours’ this particular world has divided itself into separate groups, those that know about magic and those that don’t. Unlike your world though the vast majority of the magical community is completely ignorant of the ‘Muggles’, as they call all non-magic users."
Xander looked at her strangely, raising his eyebrow in confusion. "Okay I can understand how the – umm – muggles?" She nodded her head yes and he continued. "Might have been able to forget, ignore, or not even know that magic exists but how could the magic users not know about them?"
"Oh, well, they know they exists, they just don’t know very much about them." She paused. "You see for centuries these ‘Wizards’ cut themselves off from non-magic users. Except of course when one of these ‘muggles’ displayed a talent for magic then they were usually taken into the Wizarding society. This self-isolation has, over time, bred an ignorance of ‘muggles’ into most of the ‘pure blood wizards’ which they’re paying for now. I’ll spare you the gory details but needless to say this eventually produced a man that sought and still seeks to eradicate the muggles and muggle born wizards and witches. People similar to your friend Willow."
"The champion that you’re supposed to help is destined to battle this evil wizard and put a stop to him for good, but he’s still young at this point and untrained and just all kinds of not ready. Unfortunately this evil wizard has learned of the boy’s destiny and is doing everything in his power to destroy him. The poor thing, both he and his loved ones are under almost constant attack. Both of his parents were killed when he was still just a baby and he was forced to live with relatives that despise him. Even though he won’t admit it to anybody he afraid and confused and very lost at this point and to make matters worse he’s lost the one man he’d come to see as a substitute father figure." Her voice was shaking; her eyes shinier then before but her posture gave nothing away. "He’s teetering on the brink of self destruction and no one even realizes it. If something doesn’t happen soon he may not even make to the final battle and then his world will be lost."~ That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid. ~
Xander thought to himself but he knew he couldn’t just stand by and not at least try and help. "What do you need me to do?"
"I don’t know exactly… I can’t just give you the
answer. You just have to follow your heart I guess."
"So I what? Pop in, have a little heart to heart with the kid, pop out again and hope that everything works out."
"No." she shook her head, her voice a lot clearer then it had been moments before. "If I just tried to send you straight into the universe you’d… well… well to be honest you’d implode, and that would be painful, not to mention a waste. You have to be assimilated first."
"And what exactly does that mean." Xander frowned.
"Well for about the first three months of your assignment you’ll be unable to do anything more then follow your charge around. No talking, no touching, no nothing, no one will even be able to see you. After that you should slowly begin to regain various outlets into the world. I’m guessing that people will be able to see you before anything else and communication should come next, with touch and feeling coming just before the assimilation process is complete. The whole thing could take anywhere from seven to ten months. Respectively."
"It might not be too bad." Jenny glanced down at her clipboard then suddenly shot up out of her seat and grabbed his arm. "Listen to me just jabbering away while your window of entry is closing." She pulled him down to one of the doorways and spun him around to face it. "Your charge will be on the other side of this door… I think."
"You think!" She shoved him toward the door. "Wait. Who am I supposed to be helping?"
"Short kid, funny glasses, weird scar…"
Her voice blurred as he fell through the curtain. He seemed to be falling into a void with nothing that he could see beneath him. He looked back to the door. There was a faint outline of light where the curtain fell and briefly he wondered if he could find a way back to it, but then Jenny pulled it back and stuck her head through.
"He goes by the name Harry."