Xander's Job, Chapter 4: Road Trip From Hell
Not for the first time in his life, Xander wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere.
“We’re changing the system from the inside,” Angel insisted, leaning across the back seat of a Mercedes that was cruising down a Connecticut interstate.
Well, there was that time when he'd been tied spread-eagle and impaled, his blood being spilled to open the Hellmouth. Xander had wanted to be somewhere else much more that time.
“People in positions of ultimate power don’t change; they become changed.” Giles also leaned across the seat, his chin jutting out as he again struggled to make his point.
Unfortunately, Xander was in the middle of the seat.
“We’re making progress. We fired a lot of them, changed policy --”
“Fired them? Where are they now, on the unemployment line?” Giles threw an arm out, almost hitting Xander in the face. “Or has this given them the opportunity to throw off what little reason they had for control? Have you looked at the crime statistics in that city lately?”
When he’d been in a cage, and a giant substitute teacher insect had been about to rape him and bite his head off -- just about anybody would have to admit that was worse than this.
“I beheaded an employee just the other day! When’s the last time you beheaded an evil employee?”
“That’s exactly my point -- my ‘employees’ aren’t evil!”
“Tell that to the one who cut Spike’s hands off!”
Giles recoiled as if struck. “Spike?”
There was being under Dracula’s thrall. Actually, that hadn’t seemed so unpleasant at the time. That was a close one.
“Spike’s alive.” Angel seemed to relish breaking the news, seeing as how Giles didn’t like Spike any more than Angel did. “He’s just as much an ass as he always was, but he was resurrected with his soul intact, and he was actually trying to help Dana when she sliced off fifty percent of his limbs.”
To his credit, Giles rebounded quickly, and didn’t even question the why’s and how’s. “Dana suffered mental problems, you know that. Besides, I’m willing to make an informed assumption that Spike is hardly a good candidate for employee of the month.”
Now Angel pulled back, giving Xander some much needed breathing room. The vampire opened his mouth, then closed it again, apparently unwilling to defend Spike under any circumstances. They rode on that way for awhile, in a cold silence.
Having a sword-length knife aimed at him by an undead bully. That had been worse, at least for a short time. Other than that, Xander couldn’t think of anywhere he wanted to be less, except at a family reunion. “Say, is that a wet bar?”
Angel glanced at the compartment before them. “Help yourself.”
“You got Pepsi?”
“Wow, you people really are evil.” Xander opened the compartment, found a well chilled soda, and popped it open. “Giles?”
The watcher was hunched against the door, his arms crossed. “Do they have any whiskey?”
Drunk Giles -- never good. Unfortunately, there was another compartment right next to the fridge. “Um, Jack Daniels.”
“Bloody hell.” After a moment, Giles reached in and took the bottle and a glass. “Nothing smoother from the colonies.”
“Spike’s choice, he likes the kick.” Angel pulled out a plastic container that held a red liquid.
“Here’s blood in your eye!” Xander held his can out, but all he got in return was two dirty looks. “Why do I talk?”
As they drank, Giles gave Angel a long, disapproving look. Then he gestured outside, at the brightly lit scenery flashing by. “Would you care for some fresh air, Angel? I could lower the windows.” Angel flashed him a cold glare.
Xander rolled his eyes. The one that was left, anyway, which probably didn’t have near the effect as two would. That little truce had lasted, what, five minutes? “Are we there yet?”
“No,” the other two said together.
“Then how about some quality communication time? Giles, Angel may think you have a stick up your ass, but he was a different person when he tortured you. Angel, Giles really does have a stick up his ass, but he’s still a good guy. Can we get along for one freaking day?”
Giles knocked down a glass full of whiskey before turning to Xander. “I don’t think you truly understand ... Xander, he killed Jenny, for God’s sake. Killed her, and left her body for me to find. The other things he did pale in comparison. Do you know what it’s like to be told I have to treat him as a friend, now?”
“Gee, I don’t know ... Faith and Willow both tried to kill me, Dana smashed me into a wall, and the two vampires I want to stake the most are off limits because they’ve got souls. My first best friend got turned, and guess who had to stake him? All but one of my girlfriends have turned out to be evil monsters of one kind or another, and oh -- guess what? The one who wasn’t evil -- most of the time -- just died. So, do you suppose I have any idea what it’s like to go through some emotional highs and lows, oh watcher who has two eyes?”
Giles stared at him for a long moment, then looked away. “Point taken.”
Turning to Angel, Xander added, “And the next time I make a blood -- or an eye -- joke, I want you to at least acknowledge that I’m keeping my sense of humor in the face of -- everything.”
Xander turned to Giles, who squared his shoulders as if making a huge sacrifice. “I’m also sorry.”
Well ... Xander the peacemaker, Nobel Prize nominee, object of womanly desire. Score one for the Xan Man.
“It’s just ...” Not seeing Xander’s desperate hand gestures, Giles went on. “The phrase ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is a cliché for a reason -- it’s very true. You’ve never had the kind of power that’s in your hands now, Angel. It might not be in your nature to handle it well.”
“In my nature?” Angel slammed the empty blood container into the cooler, then whirled on Giles. “I’m not Angelus, Giles. What do you know of my nature?”
“That’s my point entirely -- it’s not your vampire nature that’s a danger, it’s your human nature. You have no concept of what a man will do to keep that power, once it’s attained.”
“No concept! I’ve been around hundreds of more years than you --”
“Well, you haven’t spent much of that time maturing, have you?”
‘”I should push you right out of this car.”
“Go right ahead, the sunlight would do us all some good.”
“You dried out English --”
“Dried out? I could still kick your Irish arse.”
Xander tried to sink back into the leather seat, and wished to be somewhere else. Anywhere.