Title: Reaping the Whirlwind (Boom Boom Ba Remix), Part 6/14
Summary: What does the addition of supernatural-related reaps to the reaping workload, Roxy’s promotion, the addition of a new grim reaper with supernatural experience, a new sort-of boyfriend who may or may not be a pirate, and an approaching apocalypse all have in common? New grim reaper boss George doesn’t know, but she’s willing to bet that in the middle of it all the universe will kick her ass. Again.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Dead Like Me crossover
Characters: Dead Like Me (order of appearance) — George, Mason, Daisy, Roxy, Kiffany, Delores, Penny, OCs. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (order of appearance) — Dawn, Buffy, Willow (appearance only), Giles (appearance only), Xander, OCs.
Pairing: George/Xander (nothing explicit)
Rating: R for language, cartoon violence and death, sexual situations
Warning: Spoilers for all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show only), Dead Like Me, and Dead Like Me: Life After Death.
George wasn’t thrilled about making a return appearance at the bar she went to with Penny, but left with a drunken pirate. However, the reap report brooked no argument since she had been specifically assigned to this one. She was to present herself and be ready to reap two guys with more testosterone than brains at 8:42 p.m.
The good news was that the deaths involved a knife-fight and a mutual stabbing, head and shoulders above anything having to do with the supernatural. The bad news was that it was messy. Very messy. It didn’t help that the two knuckleheads kept trying to kill each other after they were dead, despite the fact that their fists kept passing harmlessly through each other.
In the end, George managed to deliver them to their separate lights thanks to a lot of yelling, swearing, and threatening to send them to the afterlife with their intestines wrapped around their necks.
Needless to say, she was relieved when it was over and could head back to her car.
“Jesus Christ,” George muttered as she ineffectively dabbed at the blood splatter on her shirt. She paused and looked up at the sky. “Look, I’m getting really sick and tired of having to burn my clothes. I know these are old, but I was hoping to make them last another month. Have a little pity on a girl’s paycheck.”
She looked back down at her clothes again, and threw her hands up in despair. “So much for begging for mercy.”
She stamped her foot on general principal, blessed nighttime Seattle with a final exclamation of “fuck”, and continued the long walk to her car.
She managed to get half a block before something careened into her.
“Hey! Watch it!” she yelled as she stumbled.
“Sorry! I wasn’t paying attention.” A hand grabbed her by the upper arm and hauled her upright before she face-planted on the sidewalk.
“A little bit more with paying attention, a little less with running me over,” George complained as she looked up.
Staring back at her, looking as shocked as she felt, was Pirate Man.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” he said.
“I think that’s my line,” George said.
“My brain was kind of elsewhere,” he apologetically said.
“Yeah, that was kind of obvious,” George mumbled. “Igottago.”
He straightened up, opened his mouth, and then froze. His visible eye was wide as he stared.
“What?” George snapped.
He shifted into a wide stance, like he was getting ready to throw a punch. “Are you okay?”
“Am I okay?” George repeated. That was when she realized he could see that the front of her shirt was crisscrossed with blood splatter from the stabbing. “Oh. Unh. This. It’s not mine. I mean, I’m not hurt. It was,” she turned and glanced behind her, “unh, these two guys stabbed each other.”
“What? Where?” He definitely sounded like he was ready to leap into action. “How badly hurt are they?”
“They’re, ah, dead,” George stuttered.
“Dead,” he repeated. He sounded almost suspicious. “Did you call the police?”
“Well, noooooo,” George said. Her brain furiously worked as she tried to think of how public murders in full view of witnesses were handled. “Someone else called the police while I was trying to make sense of what happened. Oh! I was questioned by the police, though. As a witness.”
Pirate Man doubtfully studied her. “And they let you go even though you look like an extra from Carrie.”
Usually I’m better at lying than this. Okay, not really. But usually when I get stuck like this I’m able to distract the person asking questions by saying something that’s totally irrelevant. However, gut instinct told me that this guy wasn’t going duck and turn around if I shouted, “Hey! Look out behind you!”
“I…I didn’t actually see anything,” George said. “And…and…there were a lot of other people there anyway. Plus, I just…I need to go home.”
“You didn’t see anything, but you were standing close enough to get spattered when the stabbing started?” he asked as he shifted his weight.
C’mon, brain. Think! You need to get around this guy without him thinking you actually did the stabbing. Or were involved in it.
“I was distracted,” George said. “See, the bar was crowded and I was too busy looking for my cell phone. I turned around and, well…got splattered.”
I was looking for my lost cell phone in a bar? Where the hell did that come from?
“The bar?” His visible eyebrow rose. “Do you mean Mario’s?”
Since he was probably going to read about the stabbing in the newspaper tomorrow, I figured that I might as well go with the truth.
“Yeah. See, I lost my cell phone and that was the last place I saw it,” George said in a desperate attempt to reinforce the lie behind why she was actually there.
“I didn’t realize that was your hangout. I haven’t been back since,” he winced, “well, y’know.”
“Oh! No, no. I actually haven’t been in that bar since that night,” George quickly said. “Or any bar. I’m not really a bar person.”
“So, wait. You lost your cell phone, and you’re just noticing now? That was 2 weeks ago.” He was back to sounding suspicious again.
When in a tight spot with blood all over your shirt, sometimes you just need to act like you’re in shock. It’s worked with Delores more than once. Here’s hoping it worked again.
“See, I don’t use my cell phone all that much, except I kind of needed it the other day and I…I…couldn’t find it. I tried calling it, but all I got was voice mail. I can’t afford another phone so I figured…I figured…” George hugged herself. “I just went to the bar to look for it because that was the last place I saw it. Then there was stabbing and there was blood and…oh, God! I just watched two men die!” George began to pace back and forth in front of the stunned man. “And the police have my name as a witness. And what if it was a gang killing? And I’m covered in blood! And I still haven’t found my phone!”
The man held up his hands and backed away a step. “I’m sorry, I should’ve realized that maybe you were kind of in shock and… Know what? Why don’t I call someone for you and get them to pick you up from someplace safe. Maybe a friend? Family member?”
Yay! It worked! Now who should I call? Delores is out, because of the blood. Daisy is out, because she’s either reaping or on her way back from a reap. Dawn’s not even talking to me and she doesn’t have access to a car. Mason doesn’t have a car either, plus I’d never hear the end of how he had to save me from a big, bad pirate asking too many questions.
“There’s, unh, no one,” George said. “Umm, my family doesn’t live around here. I have a few friends but they’re kind of…kind of…flaky. They’ll say they’ll come, and we’ll be here until noon tomorrow waiting for them.”
The man let out an irritated breath. “I’d offer to drive you, but I’ve got to jump through hoops in this state to get a driver’s license,” he waved at his eye patch, “and I don’t know if they’ll accept my international license as legit. Not to mention that I haven’t even gotten started with the hoop-jumping. No car, either.” He snapped his fingers. “I could call a cab.”
Great. I’ve either got a hero on my hands, or a real dickhead looking to get laid again. And I’m still stuck with the same problem of getting around him.
“I…I…just want to get to my car,” George muttered.
He frowned at her, although this time it seemed more worried than suspicious. “You sure you’re in a condition to drive?”
“I want to go home,” George firmly said.
“Okay, okay,” the man held up his hands, “but I’m walking you to your car. This isn’t the world’s best neighborhood.”
“I think I figured that out.” It took everything she had not to roll her eyes.
“I’d feel better if I knew you at least got to your car safely,” he added lamely. “I swear this is not a pick-up line, okay? I’m not going to ask for your number or anything.”
“You’re just an old fashioned guy, hunh?” This time George didn’t bother to hide the sarcasm.
The sarcasm appeared to go right over his head. “I’d offer to walk you even if you were a guy. I’m very big on numbers equaling safety.”
I couldn’t tell him that there really wasn’t anything in the dark that could hurt me, and that he was a lot more likely to get killed walking the streets than I was. I’d just have to suck it up and let him walk me to my car.
“O-o-okay,” George hesitantly agreed.
The man fell in step next to her. “Just so you know? I’m not a picker-upper.”
George slit her eyes toward him. “Hunh?”
He winced. “I don’t go around picking up random women, or…ummm…taking advantage of people in distress.”
He uncomfortably cleared his throat. “I’m Xander Harris, by the way.”
“Millie Hagen,” George muttered.
They fell into an uncomfortable silence as they walked another half-block and turned the corner.
“My car,” George said with relief.
“Nice car,” Xander said appreciatively.
“Inherited,” George explained.
“If I got a second-hand car like that, I wouldn’t be apologizing,” Xander said with a wide smile. He looked like the boy who got the bike he always wanted for Christmas.
“Who’s apologizing?” George asked. “Look, thanks for walking me this far. I think I can make it the next 50 feet without—”
The end of her sentence was interrupted by an unholy screech that echoed off the buildings. A familiar unholy screech that brought to mind giant, face-ripping squids.
Out of sheer instinct, George grabbed Xander, pulled him against the building, and dragged him down into a huddle. By the time the two of them were low to the ground, it dawned on her that Xander had reacted the exact same way she had by grabbing her and dragging her out of the line of sight of whatever might be heading their way.
“That’s not good,” he said in a tight voice.
George looked up at him, only to find she was nose to nose with him as he looked down at her. She moved her head back a couple of inches. “You okay?”
His head twitched toward the sound of a second screech ringing out, only this one sounded a little closer. “No. I’m thinking we may want to run.”
That’s when it hit me. What if Xander was supposed to get killed by a face-ripping squid monster? What if I had interrupted a reap in progress?
George looked wildly around in a panic. There had to be another reaper around, although they were probably staying out of sight because there was no automatic secret reaper code that allowed Death’s Own Employees to recognize each other. For all Xander’s reaper knew, somewhere between the actual soul-taking and the E.T.D., Xander had picked up a second party and a potential witness to his death. In this situation, any smart reaper would follow their mark and stay out of sight.
When she didn’t spot anyone else on the street, she doubled her visual search to look for gravelings. The gravelings wouldn’t care if she spotted them. They had to be around somewhere fucking up shit so Xander would die right on schedule.
“Millie, I need you to not panic,” Xander’s voice said as George felt him hug her. “What I need you to do is to get to your feet and run like hell on the count of 3, okay?”
“Wait. I can’t…” George began as her panic doubled. She couldn’t see any gravelings, but they had to be around here somewhere. Once she spotted them, she’d know for sure that she fucked up and then she’d run like hell and leave Xander in the care of his reaper.
A third screech echoed off the buildings. This time it sounded much further away.
George could feel Xander slightly relax. “You okay?” he asked.
George blinked at the empty streetscape.
No reaper. No gravelings. No post-it for Xander. That meant I didn’t fuck the dog.
It also meant that I had a new problem.
“Ummm, what the hell is that?” George asked, hoping that Xander hadn’t noticed that she’d grabbed him and pulled him out of the way at the same time he did the same thing to her.
Xander shifted, but didn’t get up. “I have no idea.”
I don’t know why I didn’t believe him, but I didn’t. His reaction was as automatic as mine was.
He looked down at her, noticed they were again nose-to-nose and jerked his head back until it thudded against the brick wall. “I really don’t know,” he said. “I spent the last 6 years wandering around Africa. I learned that if something sounded big, ugly, and dangerous like that screech we just heard, that it probably was all that and my best bet was to keep my head down and run like hell away from the area.”
“Oh,” George said.
The explanation completely made sense. It was pretty obvious that I was jumping to conclusions that he had something to hide because I had something to hide. Actually, I had a lot of things to hide, so the sooner I got away from Xander, the better off we’d both be.
“C’mon, let’s get up,” Xander said as he got up and helped George to her feet.
“I better get going,” George said.
A fourth screech, this time sounding like it was coming from very far away made George jump.
“You know what? Why don’t you search my motel room,” Xander suddenly said.
George’s head whipped around to face him. “What?”
Xander took a step back. “I don’t mean like that! I mean so you can look for your cell phone.”
“My cell—” George caught herself. “Oh. Right. My cell phone. Which I lost.”
“I won’t even enter the room while you look. I’ll stand right outside,” Xander said.
“Wouldn’t you have noticed a spare cell phone in that tiny motel room?” George asked.
His grin was a little weak. “Not really. I don’t spend a whole lot of time there. I pretty much use it for sleeping.”
George raised her eyebrows.
“My second night in town aside,” Xander quickly said. “Seriously, you’ve checked the bar; you might as well check my room too.”
“If you find it, you can just call me,” George said.
“I don’t know your number, and I did promise I wouldn’t ask for it,” Xander pointed out. “If I can’t keep that promise, you sure as hell can bet that I won’t keep my promise to stay out of the motel room while you look for your phone.”
“Ah. Good point,” George said.
I could’ve said, “Thanks Mr. Xander, sir, but I’ve decided that maybe I should just get a new phone. That one was really old anyway.”
Or, I could’ve gone the bitch route and said, “Mr. Xander, sir, I suspect that you’re doing this because you want to get laid, so I’m going to bid you good night and fuck off.”
I didn’t say any of that. Instead I said…
“Where’s your motel?”
See me live life on the dangerous edge. I’m such an idiot.
Thankfully, Xander’s motel wasn’t too far out of the way and only required a two-block walk. The painfully uncomfortable silence was broken only a by a few instances of the two of them jumping at shadows whenever an out-of-place noise reached their ears.
George was so grateful when they reached the entrance of the parking lot for Xander’s motel that she nearly did a cheer when they passed underneath the sign for the Avalon Motor Inn.
Xander walked up to his motel room, fished out his key, unlocked door, and swung it open. “As you can see, I have a beautiful view of the parking lot and an empty pool.”
George poked her head in. “It’s a mess,” she remarked.
“Unh, yeah. I haven’t had a chance to do laundry,” Xander replied.
George stepped into the room. “Well, this will take forever.”
“Don’t worry. I can pretty much guarantee that there’s nothing underneath the mountains of dirty clothes since there was nothing but empty floor space when I threw them there. So you don’t have to handle my dirty underwear.”
George looked over her shoulder at him. He was still standing in the doorway, but for some bizarre reason he was grinning at her like a loon.
“What’s with the grin?” George asked.
He coughed and tried to make the grin disappear. “Sorry. You should see the look on your face.”
George looked around the room and muttered, “Bachelors.”
As I stared at what looked like a disaster scene, I wondered how I’d be able to convincingly fake a search for a cell phone that I hadn’t actually lost in a room where I knew it wasn’t.
Right on cue, a cell phone trilled a generic ring.
“That’s mine,” Xander explained as he pulled his phone out of his back pocket. He checked the Caller ID and softly swore. “Sorry. I have to take this call. You go ahead and search.”
As Xander turned away and answered with something resembling a professional greeting, George carefully picked her way over to the desk since it seemed like a convincing place to start.
“Yeah, I heard,” Xander said. “Where did it show up?”
George made a face as she picked a pair of dirty socks off the desk’s surface between pinched fingers and dropped them to the floor.
“At my motel,” Xander said. “I…unh…have company.”
George looked up from her inspection and saw that Xander was looking at her over his shoulder.
He turned away and continued his conversation. “It is possible for me to win friends and influence enemies, you know,” he sarcastically said. “None of your damn business who it is.”
George’s eyebrows rose as she softly said, “Whoopsy.” She carefully slid open a drawer and hoped that nothing disgusting would jump out and attack her. All she saw was a Gideon Bible with dust on it.
“So where did it go? You lost it?” Xander’s voice rose to a near-shout on the second question. “How the hell do you lose something that big?”
George paused and glanced over to her strange host. Xander had started pacing the walkway in front of the door. She shrugged, gingerly swept a t-shirt out of the way, and opened another drawer. This one had a telephone book.
“And again, I’m waaaaaaay on the other side of town at my motel and completely car-less.” Xander sounded frustrated. “Who reported in?”
George gave up searching the desk and speculatively looked at the bed. She supposed that she should check under it, but that would mean getting on the floor. She grimaced at the thought.
“I can’t believe you sent her.” Xander was now ranting. “Well, did you check to see if she was actually sober when you sent her out to look for it?”
“Drinkin’ on the job. Not good,” George sarcastically and quietly said to herself. She’d hold off checking under the bed until Xander could actually see her do it. No need to torture herself before then.
“Right. Like you’ve ever bothered to notice she had a problem before I pointed it out it out,” Xander said. He mimed throwing a punch.
George crossed her arms and checked Xander. Honestly, she didn’t have to search the room at all. The conversation had gone on long enough that she could just say that she did all the searching she was comfortable doing while he was busy.
Xander froze. “What are you implying?”
George looked to the ceiling and muttered, “Someone’s really pissed.”
“I told you. I did not know there was a problem before I transferred here.” Xander pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it as if he couldn’t believe what he had just heard before returning it to his ear. “I don’t like what you’re implying. And actually, it’s beyond insulting for you to say this to me. If I knew before I got here, I would’ve said something the second I got off the plane.”
Xander began pacing again. “You know what, Steve? This conversation is going round and round. We’ve both had a long, bad day. If we keep going, this is going to get uglier.” He stopped and shook his head. “That’s it. I’m done. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Do not call me unless the city’s on fire.”
George quickly turned around and pretended to pat down the top of the desk in a desperate search for a missing cell phone.
“Son of a bitch,” Xander forcefully said.
George spun around in time to see Xander throw his phone at the bed. It bounced twice before settling near a scrunched-up pillow.
George pointed at it. “Unh, just so you know. That’s not mine.”
Xander looked at her like he’d even forgotten she was there. After a frozen moment, he began to giggle as he backed up so that he was standing in the doorway again.
George helplessly looked around the motel room. “That conversation sounded intense.”
“Problems at work,” Xander snorted as he tried to bring his giggling under control.
“Join the club,” she grumbled.
“Couldn’t find your phone, hunh?” he asked.
George shook her head.
“I’m sure me being distracting didn’t help.” Xander folded his arms and leaned against the doorframe. “I’m really sorry about that. My transfer from Gaborone to Seattle has turned out to be the bust to end all busts.”
George was interested despite herself. “Gaborone? Where’s that?”
“Botswana, where I was stationed for six years,” Xander said. “I work for a human rights NGO. Sorry. I meant nongovernmental organization. And it’s more focused on women’s rights and civil liberties.”
George raised her eyebrows.
Xander grinned and shook his head. “It’s okay. I’ve heard it all. Up to and including, ‘What’s a nice boy like you doing hanging out with women who don’t need you and may not necessarily want you around?’”
“I didn’t say anything,” George said with amusement.
“Just heading the jokes off at the pass,” Xander said easily. “Mostly I was a kind of teacher for some of the younger girls at the school my NGO runs in Gaborone. I was also a handyman, a troubleshooter when there was big trouble that had to be dealt with, a fixer when diplomacy was needed, and all-around jack-of-all-trades. Mostly I specialized in dealing with big trouble.”
I don’t know why I was interested. Maybe it was because I never left Washington State. Maybe it was because I’d spent my entire life and my entire afterlife — one semester in college aside before I died — in the greater Seattle area. I had never travelled. I had never gone anywhere that wasn’t familiar. I had never done anything that really mattered.
Here was this guy who had travelled and who had done things and he was willing to talk about them. He wasn’t even that much older than I would’ve been had I lived. Plus he was kind of cute, if you could get beyond the eye patch.
Maybe I was jealous. Maybe I was curious. But I really did want to hear more.
“Sounds like you had a lot of trouble in…Botswana, right?” George said encouragingly.
Xander waggled a hand. “Botswana is safe as houses, which is why Gaborone was our base of operations. Other countries where our NGO is active? Not so much. I spent a lot of time traveling around the African continent, especially the real hellholes.”
“Sounds like you had a really cool job,” George wistfully said.
Xander gave her a what-the-hell look.
“I mean, you did a lot traveling and tried to make a real difference in people’s lives, even if sounds like it wasn’t always a whole lot of fun,” George quickly explained. “I just don’t get how you went from that to,” she looked around the messy motel room, “this.”
“I lost someone.”
George sharply focused her attention on Xander.
Of course. Reaper. I should’ve known that death would come into play.
“Someone I used to be close to.” Xander uncomfortably shrugged. “By the time I heard about it, the funeral had already been held and the body buried. The news hit me hard, I guess. Made me look in the mirror and realize that maybe I was losing bits of myself without realizing it, and that I needed to reassess before I turned into the Robbie the Robot.”
“So you decided to run away to Seattle?” George asked.
Xander snorted an abortive laugh. “Basically the gist, only it was more of a lateral transfer.”
“No offense, but why would a women’s rights NGO have an outpost in Seattle?” George asked.
“Hey, women’s rights and civil liberties are issues in the good ol’ U.S. of A. too, you know. Just because you don’t have it as bad as someone in, say, Saudi Arabia doesn’t mean there aren’t problems that have to be overcome on the homefront.”
George held up her hands as she plopped onto the edge of the bed. “You don’t have to quote the pamphlet at me,” she said with amusement.
Xander good-naturedly winced. “Sorry. You can tell I’ve memorized all the talking points, can’t you?”
“Still didn’t answer my question.”
“We have a private school here,” Xander explained. “A mixed population of girls. Half of them come from good backgrounds, stable homes, loving families, the whole enchilada. The other half? Not so much.”
“And you’re the fish out of water,” George sympathetically said.
Xander looked away. “More like my reputation preceded me. It didn’t help that the head of the NGO is a good friend of mine and basically expedited the transfer. Half of the staff thinks I’ve been sent to Seattle to spy on them and report back any rule-breaking and bad behavior to the big boss. The other half thinks I’ve been sent here because there’s trouble brewing on the horizon and I’ve been sent to fix it because the home office in London doesn’t believe they’re up to the job.”
George rolled her eyes. “None of which is true, of course.”
“Actually, it isn’t,” Xander said in a defeated tone. “The problem is that right after I showed up, the Seattle facility found out they had a big problem that’s about to hit them like typhoon. So every time I try to explain that my being here is a coincidence, the less they believe me. Right about now, they’re stopping just short of calling me a liar to my face.”
“Can’t you ask your big boss buddy to help?” George asked.
“If I ask him to explain things to the facility director, word’ll get around and everyone will start believing the ‘Xander’s a narc’ story. And I can’t quit, because the facility is facing a huge problem and I really can help them get through it.” Xander suddenly shook himself. “God! I’m sorry. Listen to me whine. I’m sorry I’m dumping this on your lap. I don’t even know why I’m dumping this on your lap. I’m boring myself.”
“Sounds like you needed someone to listen and you don’t have anyone you can talk to,” George said.
“I guess.” Xander suddenly grinned. “So what about you? I just dumped on you. The least I could do is listen if you’ve got bags that need dumping.”
Why not? It wasn’t like I’m getting any inspiration to fix the mess I had by just thinking about it. He said he was a troubleshooter, so maybe he knew how to deal with people who hated their jobs and their bosses.
“I’m facing the same problem you are,” George said.
Xander snapped his fingers. “That’s right. You mentioned that you didn’t have any family around. I should’ve realized you might’ve been new in town, too.”
“No, not exactly new. I’ve been here awhile,” George said.
Try just about my entire existence.
“Well, lay it on me.” Xander waved at himself. “All lines are open and operators are standing by.”
“I got this promotion a little over 6 months ago, and even though everyone I worked with wanted it too, they were eventually okay with me getting it,” George said. “Then one of the people I supervised left and I had to take on a new person. The problem is that this person isn’t fitting in so well and I had to crack down on her pretty hard. Now everyone’s acting weird around me.”
“Like they suddenly realized you were the boss,” Xander added.
George looked up at him. “Yeah. That’s pretty much it.”
“This new hire,” Xander smiled crookedly, “how much trouble is she?”
“She does her job, if that’s what you’re asking,” George answered. “But her attitude sucks, and I have no idea how to get through to her.”
“You can’t go to your boss for advice?”
“Nooooo,” George shook her head. “And I can’t fire her or transfer her out of my division. I’m basically stuck with her.”
“Ouch,” Xander winced as he entered the room and sat on the bed next to George. “Believe it or not, I sort of have experience with this.”
“Was hoping you’d say that.”
“See, back before I worked for the NGO, I was in construction,” Xander began.
“Really? Wow. Didn’t see that coming.”
Xander chuckled. “Yeah. Not a lot of people do. Anyway, about two years after I got hired full-time, my bosses promoted me to foreman.”
“That’s kind of fast,” George remarked.
“Don’t I know it,” Xander agreed. “The thing is the construction company I worked for had high turnover. And by high turnover, I mean you didn’t bother to learn the new guy’s name unless he’d been there a week. I always showed up on time, did my job without too much complaining, and usually did it under budget. Hence, the fast promotion after 2 years that leapfrogged me over people with a lot more experience.”
“And they weren’t happy,” George finished for him.
“I got crap about it, sure.” Xander shrugged. “But they all accepted it pretty fast because I really wasn’t doing anything different. I still worked onsite with the guys. I’d still go grab the occasional beer after work with them. Not a whole lot changed. At first.”
“Let me guess. Bad employee, which meant you had to be the big, bad boss,” George said.
“Unh-hunh,” Xander nodded. “Someone showed up drunk on the job, the sixth time in less than a month. The company had gone through all the steps with him. Verbal warning. Written warning. Referral to a substance abuse specialist. Letters of warning put in his personnel file. The whole process was followed to a T. This time when he came in drunk, it was his final strike. Lucky me, I was the supervisor in charge and had to fire him on the spot.”
“Yikes,” George grimaced.
“And what’s happening to you, happened to me,” Xander said. “Everyone onsite banded together and gave me the cold shoulder. People who were my work buddies basically shut me out and would only talk to me if it was business. I had become The Man, and they weren’t about to forgive me for it.”
“How…how long did it last?” George hesitantly asked.
Xander waved a dismissive hand. “A few people were coming around by the end of the week. The guy I fired really was an accidental death waiting to happen. Once they got over the shock of me acting all boss-like, they realized that I was just doing my job and following the rules. By the time the month was out, I was pretty much forgiven by everyone.”
George deflated. “They kept treating you differently, didn’t they.”
“Afraid so,” Xander sympathetically said. “But on the upside, once the people you work with get over the shock of you acting like a boss, they’ll come around. It’ll never go back to the way it used to be, but as long as you’re a fair, enforce the rules equally, and don’t play favorites they’ll be fine with you. They’ll even be friendly towards you again.”
“Just a different kind of friendly,” George groaned.
“Welcome to boss-hood. Sometimes it sucks,” Xander said. “As for the employee with the rotten attitude that you can’t do anything about, maybe—”
George’s head snapped around to look at him. “If you have advice, lay it on me.”
“She’s doing her job, that’s half the battle, right?” Xander asked. “Maybe she just needs to be motivated.”
“Motivated,” George deadpanned.
“Sure. Find something she enjoys doing and point her at it. Her attitude might still suck, it just won’t suck as much,” Xander said.
“And if she doesn’t come around?” George asked.
“Hate to say it, but you might have to step on her again if her attitude affects her work,” Xander answered. “But I’d leave that as a last resort if I were you. Call it the if-all-else-fails option.”
George slumped. She should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy.
“Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful,” Xander apologetically said.
“No. You were,” she looked up into his face. “I needed to hear someone other than the voices in my head tell me what my best options were.”
Xander grinned as he nudged her with his shoulder. “Glad the voices in your head agree with me.”
George quickly looked away. “I…I better go.”
“Yeah,” Xander uncomfortably agreed. “I just realized I broke my promise about not coming into the room while you were still here.”
“It’s okay,” George quickly said. “I wasn’t exactly objecting.”
“But still…” Xander uncomfortably cleared his throat. “I’ll walk you to your car.”
“That’s really not necessary. I can take care of,” George turned to face Xander and realized she was practically nose-to-nose with him, “myself.”
Xander nervously licked his lips. “Still. Safety in numbers, right?”
“Yeah. Right. Sure.”
“Well, we better go.” Xander moved to stand.
That’s when George grabbed him by his collar, and pulled him down for a kiss.
You know how in the movies you see this dorky couple making stupid small talk, and suddenly one of them kisses the other? Notice how it always seems like they go straight to having bone-rattling, very sweaty, screaming sex on every available surface without either one of them pausing for breath?
And you know how every time you see it, you say, “Oh, that’s just bullshit! That never happens!”
Except, y’know, sometimes it kind of does.
Don’t get me wrong. My first time with Trip was good. Weird, but good.
My second time with Xander? A whooooole lot better.
I finally got why Mason, Daisy, and Roxy would get so irritable if they went too long without getting laid. I’d get pretty irritable too, if I had known what I was missing.
As for Rube…
Oh, God. I don’t even want to think about Rube having sex, especially the bone-rattling-I-didn’t-know-my-body-coul
The best part about it was the guilt-free, this-is-it aspect. There were no hearts and flowers, no pretending that this had anything to do with true love, no exchange of phone numbers, no promises to call, and definitely no boyfriend-girlfriend crap.
This was straight-up wham-bam-thank-you-Xander. Or in his case, wham-bam-thank-you-Millie.
And I was perfectly fine with that.
You might say it was the ultimate anti-love story about two frustrated, stressed-out people who were in so far over their heads that they couldn’t even see daylight. If no one is going to throw you a rope, you might as grab the person right next to you who’s drowning too.
For a little while at least.
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