A being impassively watched a scene far below on the material plane.
Along a roadway, a mortal sank to his knees, dropping a small object he'd been holding, to now clutch at his throat with both hands.
Behind this man stood a woman, a panicked look on her beautiful features, as she swung her arm in a tremendous blow to pound hard on his back. A clump of yellowish-white substance shot out of the man's mouth, accompanied by a tiny metallic object that glittered as it spun in the air before dropping to the ground.
Xander Harris wasn't yet truly down for the count, but he was suffering the familiar daze usual to those who'd been punched by Slayers momentarily forgetting just how strong they were compared to normal humans. Instead of maintaining his posture on his knees, it seemed much easier to just….relax.
The former Sunnydale resident fell forward onto his face, and as his head bounced against the asphalt, Xander dreamily noticed on the ground a foot away, just before passing out, the filling that a few seconds ago had been comfortably resting in his left upper molar.
In a place far beyond the human world, a hand was waved, and the absurd scene shimmered out of existence, revealing in the distance the splendid cloudscapes that made up all of this location. Determinedly fixing his gaze on these familiar insubstantial edifices, an extremely stressed being struggled to compose himself. A raucous guffaw was not exactly going to help express the desired message of sternly reproving someone over their actions which had lead to all this.
To buy himself some more time before fixing his attention on the culprit, the being let his gaze rove around his surroundings and felt a pang of bemusement once again overtake him. Over the last century or so, this whole setting had changed itself on its own, to match the expectations of those who had left behind their past lives to continue to the next phase of their existence.
While he allowed the environs gave the newcomers a certain amount of comfort and reassurance, he who had been born Simon, son of John, had certainly not expected all this when long ago he had been peacefully mending his nets on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, only to suddenly be informed he was now a fisher of men. The gatekeeper seated at his workplace mused that his former earthly home in no way resembled this current location, with the high stone walls behind him and the now-open pearly gate, and the combined chair and high desk standing before the entrance, with a massive tome opened at a certain name inscribed in this volume resting on top of that piece of furniture.
Saint Peter, who would have been quite content to never again hear the phrase 'New Yorker cartoon', peered over his admissions desk, lowered massive eyebrows in a stern frown directed at the one standing before him, and demanded in a forbidding voice, "What exactly was the purpose of all that?"
"Shock therapy?" meekly offered Anya.
An oppressive silence descended, as Saint Peter coolly eyed the angel before him nervously twisting the ball of her right foot in her sandal against the misty ground, as it were actually solid. The female angel's dazzling white robes matched her magnificent wings sprouting from her back, which were gently fluttering in an anxious shiver. Anya refused to look up from her embarrassed gaze at her feet, keeping her head down, with her previously pure golden halo now shining a delicate pink, matching her absolute mortification.
She was totally adorable, and he certainly wasn't going to tell her that.
As Saint Peter reflected on this, a forlorn mumble came, in the tone of a child desperately trying to delay the inevitable. "How'd you know it was me?"
Anya said this while still keeping her head down, so she missed the dry look that momentarily flashed over the gatekeeper's features. Saint Peter steadily maintained the uncomfortable silence there, as he mentally reviewed Anya's thoughtlessly dropped clues and reminders of her presence in her inexperienced meddling.
First year: ….it had been both strange AND nice to see Willow Rosenberg's exact double, looking just like his bestest bud in her first year of high school, when it was just him and her and Jessie, no Buffy, no Giles, no knowledge about the dark side of Sunnydale and the Hellmouth….. When they had all been innocent.
Second year: ….How about the fact that something bad has happened to every woman in my life since high school? ….True, Anya had casually chattered about things that would have curled Dr. Ruth's hair, but….well….that had been Anya. ….Listen, uh, I lost someone special to me years ago, and I'm still not over it.
Third year: ….and glorious cloudscapes in the bright blue sky…. ….as both people delighting in each other's company….
Fourth year: ……………0:)
Fifth year: ….She opened her angel's arms to the stranger in paradise, to tell me that I may be a stranger no more. ….There is no one to share his life? Nobody….here? ….He'll see ya as ya are, and if that person's okay, he'll be cool with ya. ….angel, and I ain't talkin' 'bout you-know-who.
A flicker of amusement went through the mind of the keeper of the keys, as he now decided not to increase the younger angel's chagrin by pointing out all her mistakes. Instead, he lifted a hand to place a finger against the name inscribed on the sheet of paper where the book on his desk was opened to, as the name momentarily glowed pure gold. Saint Peter then gruffly spoke to Anya, "All who enter the kingdom of heaven are known to me….as those who depart. Including those who do so totally without permission."
"I just wanted to make my Xander-snuggles happy!" Anya had snapped up her head to wail that sentence directly into the good saint's startled face. She desperately continued her defense in a rushing babble that would have been made in a single breath, if angels actually took a breath.
"He was -- is -- so, so sad! Over everything! Well, I just tried arranging things to get him out of his funk, having him meet people exactly like his friends and family, to get him to see that he still had people who loved him, and that he can love people! It was all done on April Fool's Day so that he'd just think something weird was happening to him, and not talk about it! When that only helped a little, even when I was planning more, I came up with nudging him into being with the Slayers on his working--" Anya abruptly stopped, as she quailed before Saint Peter's jerking up in his chair, sitting straight at attention as that elder angel stared at the golden-haired angel in total astonishment as he caught a very important word in her earnest justification.
This bellow from the angel before her paralyzed Anya, especially when that being's bushy eyebrows slammed together in infuriated exasperation directed right at her.
P.G. Wodehouse once wrote a classic line of literature describing a man possessing "the sort of eye that can open an oyster at sixty paces." At that exact moment, the gatekeeper of Heaven was giving the younger angel before him a Look that was making every bivalve worldwide stir nervously in its ocean bed.
Gritting his teeth, Saint Peter chopped out the words, "What. Did. You. Do?"
"I didn't do anything yet! I was just getting things ready, because you have to make reservations at that place really far in advance, even for a non-holiday like April First…."
Under Saint Peter's gimlet stare, the oysters, mussels, and clams all together were preparing to perform a triple back somersault with a half-twist, hopefully sticking the landing flawlessly and getting perfect marks from all the judges, even the obdurate Russian official.
Still, a thousand years as a vengeance demon meant Anya possessed enough backbone to keep talking, as she muttered, "I was just going to have the Scoobies take Xander out to an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant on that day, that's all!"
"And….?" Saint Peter left his question hanging, full well intending the use of that specific adjective in what was usually accompanied by a noose.
"Well, uh, their dinner would arrive burned, so they'd complain, and go to see the chef in the kitchen...." Anya winced inside at her last babble, and she hoped her intent listener had missed what was really important--
"Whom exactly would be the chef there at that restaurant during that specific visit by Mr. Harris and his friends?"
Oops. What made it even worse was that he'd managed to use perfect grammar in asking that question. Anya stood frozen for a few more moments, until her posture slumped in total defeat, and she mumbled a man's name.
Saint Peter looked off into the distance, his eyes half-closed, as he used his angelic powers to identify the specific human Anya had just named. A moment later, his eyes widened and a look of shock passed over the divine being's features. Shaking his head sorrowfully, the angel said, "Child, child, there would have been….consequences over your actions. You have truly disobeyed--"
"But it wouldn't have happened if only things had worked with Xander and Christine!" Anya stared at her superior, worried bewilderment on her features, as she fervently continued. "I don't understand! She was absolutely perfect for him! A fine Slayer, someone who could take care of themselves, one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in all my life -- every year of it -- and despite it all, she's a nice girl! But nothing happened!"
A deep sigh was heaved by the distressed angel sitting at his desk, as he chided the woebegone offender, "You tried to create love where there was none, Anya. Not even we angels may do that."
Anya stared at the compassionate elder for a few moments, and then two large tears appeared at the corners of her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. As the appalled saint watched, Anya then abruptly sat down on the floor of the cloudscape and stared blankly ahead of her, only then choking out her next words in the grip of the emotion that Heaven truly cannot bear. Despair.
"I think a mistake was made, choosing me to be this. I….I….hurt a lot of people when I was a demon, and even before and after that, when I was a human, I wasn't that much better. And now, I abused my powers." As Saint Peter listened in frozen horror, Anya finished, looking at the highest in heaven's favor with utter desolation on her face, as she hopelessly said, "I don't deserve to be an angel."
Another angel's lips began to open to offer hurried comfort and kindness, only for this to be unnecessary.
ANYA CHRISTINA EMMANUELLA JENKINS, YE WHO WERE ANYANKA, AND BEFORE THAT THE HUMAN CHILD AUD, YE HAVE SHOWN SINCERE REPENTENCE OVER THY SINS. IN THE PROCESS OF SEEKING A TRUE LOVE FOR SOMEONE IN THY PAST LIFE, THOU HAST DEMONSTRATED WORTHY ATONEMENT AND EXPIATION. THOU WILT NOW SERVE PENANCE FOR THY MINOR TRANSGRESSIONS, BUT ALWAYS KNOW THIS:
THOU ART LOVED, ANGEL.
As the rumbles of the pronouncement of the One Above All faded among the cloudscapes that seemed to gleam more brightly, Saint Peter leaned against the back of his chair and with a look of joyous veneration in his eye, he chuckled, "Anya, I believe that should relieve your fears, mmm?" Glancing at where the blonde angel had been sitting, a eyebrow was raised in faint surprise at seeing nothing there and hearing soft weeping. *Ah*, wisely nodded the saint, knowing this was probably the first time she'd ever borne the full attention of the All-Highest.
The seated angel leaned forward to look over the edge of his desk and saw what he'd expected. Anya was now lying prostrate on the ground and crying tears of adoration and delight. Saint Peter watched her in kindly patience for a few moments, until he urged, "You may rise, child."
Anya finally struggled to her feet, to wipe away her tears and stare resolutely at her superior. Her expression now of calm contentment meant she had taken the message from her Lord to heart. Which was just as well, as there would now be judgment.
"Anya," rumbled Saint Peter, "Despite your good intentions, you were not given permission to interfere in the lives of your past companions. As a consequence, you are now denied any further involvement whatsoever with the….Scoobies." A shaggy head was wonderingly shaken over having to say that last word at all.
A panicked look came over Anya's face, and she opened her mouth to protest, only to abruptly close this at Saint Peter's stern gaze. He went on, seemingly unaffected by the quivering of her lower lip. "It seems that you do need to be given some sort of task, lest you be led into temptation. So, I am assigning you to work with another angel, a supervisor in earthly intercessions. This angel, Monica, is a wis-- more experienced in these matters than you, and it will be her duty to teach you to more effectively assist humans in their problems. Just as it will be your duty to pay the closest of attention to your teacher."
At that, Saint Peter looked off thoughtfully to the side, evidently considering how these words had been received by his restive listener. Actually, he'd turned his face to hide the faint grin twitching at the corner of his concealed lips. Monica, the newly appointed teacher, was now going to learn just what it was like to have an angel working for her innocently creating absolute chaos. It was time she understood the phrase, "what goes around, comes around."
"But, sir!" urgently said Anya, bringing the saint's attention back to her, her pleading expression revealing what she was going to say. "What about Xander?! Doesn't he deserve to find love? Please, I just want him to be helped--"
She was cut off by Saint Peter's hand raised in a majestic gesture of shushing. A compassionate glance was given Anya, but the gatekeeper's voice was firm, as he said, "All things come to pass, Anya. Trust in our Lord."
Anya lowered her eyes in submission, as her worried features finally relaxed into acceptance. At this, Saint Peter smiled, and as his hand waved in a signal that the meeting was over, he kindly said, "It will be well….angel."
Anya vanished, to go to her new duty.
For several moments after her departure, Saint Peter stared ahead into the cloudscape distance. He needed to go back to his own tasks, but there was something….what he'd learned in his time as a far older angel than Anya. Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, the saint then waved his hand in another mystical gesture, as another scene from the earthly environs appeared before him.
Putting her cellphone back in her jeans pocket after arranging her flight to Berlin, a fuming Dawn Summers stalked over to her bedroom closet to pull out her suitcase, and then she tossed that piece of luggage onto the bed. As the furious woman headed for her drawer to get her clothes for the coming trip, her irate mutterings under her breath finally became intelligible.
"Stupid, stupid man! He drags me from work, scares me half to death, and for what? I've been basically waving myself under his nose for years, and now he's noticed me, but the only way he can show it is by making a prank call on April Fool's? Just to ask me about my bra? What is he, five years old?"
Dawn paused in front of her opened top drawer, with an armful of clothes, and then she whirled around to hurl her blouses, pants and other garments, one after the other, as hard as she could, in a paroxysm of rage aimed directly at the suitcase. Her vastly-amused unseen watcher was quite sure she had an entirely different target in mind, that of a certain male human's frantically ducking head. Her next words proved him right, as the younger Summers sister screamed at the top of her lungs.
"YES, HE IS! THEY ALL ARE!"
Standing in the middle of her bedroom, swaying, and clenching her crooked fingers as if in practice for sinking her nails into the cowering flesh of a male nincompoop, Dawn unseeingly glared at a bedroom wall, and hissed, "Xander, Hurricane Dawn is headed your way, and the only thing you can do is dive for cover, kiss your butt goodbye, and pray for mercy! With any luck, I'll actually think of providing that on our fiftieth wedding anniversary!"
At her last words, the woman blinked, and her face smoothed in astonishment at what she'd said for the first time ever, finally vocalizing her deepest hopes and desires.
Taking in several deep breaths, a thoughtful Dawn then walked again to her drawer, closing the open top compartment and bending down to pull open the bottom one. From the very back of this, she took a plain brown package, tearing off its wrappings to reveal one of the most heart-stopping creations from Victoria's Secret, a matching minuscule bra and panties set, crafted from sheer silk and a pale blue in color.
She spent a few moments rubbing her fingers against the texture of the silk panties, enjoying the slick smoothness, before setting the bottom half of the lingerie set on top of the drawer. Dawn then held up the wisp of a bra in both hands in front of her body at chest level, smirking at her image in the drawer mirror. Staying in that posture, she then cooed in her most evil tone at her reflection, "So, Alexander LaVelle Harris, you wanted to know about my bra? Well, tonight in your hotel room, you're going to come back after a hard night of Slaying, to find me in your bed, dressed in just this! And that night's going to end in only two ways: with a marriage proposal, or your cooling corpse!"
It was at that point that an angelic hand waved, causing the image of a beautiful, sexy, confident, and very determined young woman to vanish, while Saint Peter then leaned back in his chair, and roared with laughter for a very long time.
Eventually, his amusement diminished to deep chuckles, which abruptly stopped, as the angel's face became blank at being struck by a sudden thought. He was more than certain of the hilarious results of the Key's coming encounter with the White Knight, yet that event might led to certain….problems. Involving a certain young angel who'd just been in his presence.
The holder of the keys to the kingdom sighed, as he contemplated a bridesmaid at a coming wedding suddenly having a stomach upset, with her place taken by a joyous blonde, which nobody could remember seeing before or if she was with the bride or groom's family. Not to mention the inherent unfairness of angelic wings being used to help that bridesmaid soar into the air to catch the tossed bridal bouquet. Even with an entire wedding party used to strange events, things like that tended to raise people's eyebrows.
The elder angel's thoughtful face suddenly widened in a happy smile, and he now leaned back in his chair, bringing his hands together to interlock across his stomach, as Saint Peter began to contently twiddle his thumbs. After all, it would be totally unjust to deny Anya a chance to attend a wedding she'd done her best to craft, though it wasn't the pair she'd had in mind. Still, an escort would be necessary to keep an eye on that blissful former demon and make sure she didn't accidentally reveal herself or act in a manner unfitting for an invited granddaughter and her still-spry elderly relation.
Saint Peter quite liked weddings. All aspects of these ceremonies, from "Dearly beloved…" to "You may kiss the bride." Receptions also had their good points, with the dancing, kissing all the pretty girls there, and the chance for a slice of the wedding cake. Though, a being who'd existed when those weapons had actually been used never exactly understood the symbolism of a sword being used to cut the culinary confection. To him, it made just as much sense as using an axe to stir your soup.
*Oh, well. Time to get back to work.* The angel leaned forward to open his book to a blank section, and then he paused. Saint Peter shivered slightly, as he considered another event that could have happened, but most thankfully, it had not taken place.
True, it was somewhat….remotely….possible that if Anya's last scheme had occurred, Seth Richmann, a pastry chef at the exclusive restaurant known as Nolita, who already had enough stress in his life from having to tolerate a wild man like executive chef Jack Bourdain, might have equably dealt with encountering in the restaurant kitchen his absolutely identical double, save for that man having only one eye, and his twin's accompanying and extremely suspicious family. In the middle of a kitchen possessing a great many razor-sharp cutting implements, assorted pots and vats filled with boiling liquids, and most worrying, a rack of pies baked and set out to cool for tonight's desserts by Seth. Apple, blueberry, and cherry pies, all slathered with heaping whipped cream. Fresh, juicy, aerodynamic pies with maximum-possible delicious splatter.
Just before going back to his chosen task, the gatekeeper to Heaven contemplated how fortunate it was that Xander Harris would never meet Mr. Richmann, especially since it was a total certainty that Faith Lehane would have been the one to throw the first pie.
At that very moment, Saint Peter's thoughts on this were joined by an omniscient Eternal Presence, as both uttered a solemn
Author's Notes: In case you don't know the crossovers in the previous chapters, the following information is given:
First Year: "My Stepmother Is An Alien" (1988) - A snoozer of a comedy, in which Dan Aykroyd plays a scientist that unknowingly contacts aliens from outer space (what, you thought the title referred to someone looking for a green card?), who send an emissary to find out why someone downstairs did the equivalent of thumping a broom handle against the ceiling below their floor. Said emissary disguises itself as Kim Basinger in an attempt to remain inconspicuous among humans, and hilarity ensues. Or so the filmmakers presumably intended. Worth watching by Buffy fans only due to this being Alyson Hannigan's first film role, plus in the movie, her character's boyfriend is played by Seth Green. No, his name isn't Oz.
Second Year: "Sex and Breakfast" (2007) - It's a strange world when the above film is more logical than this so-called realistic drama. First, when watching, you have to suspend your disbelief that a guy would have relationship problems with someone looking like Eliza Dushku, and second, that this couple could persuade themselves a solution to their difficulties lies in swapping partners with another pair having trouble with their own sex lives. Ooookay. Unfortunately, the slightest trace of believability flies out the window when the other guy in the bed-hopping incident is Macaulay Culkin. Yeah, Mr. Home Alone himself, seventeen years later. Seeing him in a love scene with Faith Lehane reaches a level of surreality comparable only to having "Jurassic Park" remade with Barney the Dinosaur as the main running-amok creature and witnessing every human actor being chowed-down in purple jaws.
Third Year: "Gold Blend®/Taster's Choice® Coffee Ads" (1987-1993/1990-1997) - First run in Britain, and then in America, these were a series of ads showing various settings in which numerous soap-opera situations occurred (and always shot with a layer of gauze over the camera lens) with a man and a woman professing their undying love for each other. For some reason, steaming cups of a dark liquid were always in the scene. Since these ads kept being made, it was clear a lot of coffee was being sold, yet the profits evidently weren't going into the pockets of the actors in the commercials, otherwise Anthony Stewart Head wouldn't have arrived in California one day for a few weeks' work on a little television show based on a not very successful film with a weird title. God bless all corporate penny-pinching bastards.
Fourth Year: "I Only Eat At Burger King Ad" (1981) - Buffy dislikes the military due to little things like army experiments on demons and a relationship with a stuffed dummy whose name begins with "R". Sarah Michelle Gellar has good reasons for an equal level of loathing towards McDonald's lawyers, who couldn't take a little joke when a competing Burger King ad had a four-year-old Gellar reciting the mentioned line. It all wound up with the little tyke herself having to appear in court. (Honest!) Good thing there weren't any stakes around the courtroom, or there would have been fewer lawyers in existence. Hmmm. Maybe there SHOULD have been stakes.
Fifth Year: "Eurotrip" (2004) - Jenny, as played by Michelle Trachtenberg, just thought pulling up her shirt to flash the autobahn traffic was the surest way of getting somebody to pull over and give them a ride, when the group consisting of that girl and her friends became stranded after going broke during their European trip. How could she have possibly known that she was giving a one-eyed man in a car passing by at that very moment a nervous breakdown at seeing Dawn Summers acting that way?
Conclusion: "Kitchen Confidential" (2005) - The crossover that never happened. Jack Bourdain, a guy with an explosive personality, who was once a master chief now reduced to working in a pizza parlor has a chance again for success at working at an exclusive restaurant, if things go right. In real life, this television show didn't last very long, being cancelled after a few episodes, despite being a funny, fine program. Yet the horrible, done-to-death "According to Jim" has been on the air since 2001, with 175 episodes to date. Gaaaah. Oh, well, you can see the DVD with all the episodes and Nicholas Brendon's enjoyable acting. Check it out from Netflix.
Finally, the last crossover that started it all:
"Touched By An Angel" (1994-2003) - Even Monica, the angel on this television show who happily solves everyone's problems, might have wondered how Anya could get all the doubles of Xander's family into his presence, considering that they couldn't have possibly existed all at the same time, given their appearances in various films and other media over a span of twenty-five years. Taking into account the often dubious logic given for the actions of those celestial characters on the show that now includes a former vengeance demon, there's a simple answer for Anya's accomplishments:
She's an angel.
Man, I love easy explanations like that.