Prologue
by Robyn the Snowshoe Hare
snowshoe16@hotmail.com

Archangel Michael sat at his perfect desk, in his perfect and spacious office, tapping his perfect pen against the arm of his perfect swivel chair, and said a very un-angelic word as he read a perfectly written out form that had just been given to him by a perfectly behaved cherub.

Adjusting a fold in his perfectly tailored toga and twitching his perfect wings, the Archangel sent out a mental call to an associate and thought back longingly to the good old days before paperwork, when all he had had to do was lead the armies of Heaven into battle. But then The Boss had decided he needed a less stressful job, and had put him behind a desk, thus introducing him to levels of stress he had never known even existed.

Lost in his thoughts, Michael jumped when a dark robed figure appeared in a flash of darkness and settled itself casually on the side of his desk.

"YOU CALLED?" the figure asked in a rather annoyed tone.

"Yes, I did." Michael paused and looked up at the figure. Enveloped in a robe of black with long sleeves and a deep cowl, it was impossible to make out any distinguishing features, or any features at all.

"What's the matter with you?" he asked. After all, Death's voice was rarely anything other than mildly amused. Annoyance was not something that Michael had heard from him in half a millennia.

"YOU INTERRUPTED ME WHEN I WAS ABOUT TO FINISH A JOB."

"You can always get back to it."

"THAT'S WHAT YOU SAID THE LAST TIME YOU INTERRUPTED ME. AND THIS IS THE SAME CUSTOMER. IT HAS TAKEN ME TWENTY YEARS TO TRACK HIM DOWN."

"Elvis again?" Michael guessed.

"YES."

"Sorry about that, but I have a little problem here. Would you take a seat please?"

"I AM SEATED." to emphasise it, Death propped his feet up comfortably on a nearby chair. Michael noticed with interest that Death had recently bought a new pair of black sneakers. Attempting to ignore the fact that Death was perched on the side of his desk, Michael got down to business.

"Listen, I think you've been hitting one area of California a bit hard."

OH?

"Do you realize how many times you've been visiting Sunnydale, California? Statistically, more often than New York!"

OH. I HADN'T REALLY NOTICED.

"What do you mean? You're *Death*, for crying out loud! You *are* supposed to be keeping track."

I'VE BEEN A BIT DISTRACTED LATELY.

"With what?"

WELL, EL NINO FOR ONE. AND I'VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME AROUND WASHINGTON D.C.

"What for? That's mostly Satan's territory."

THE CLINTON SCANDAL. I WAS CERTAIN THAT BILL WOULD REQUIRE MY SERVICES ONCE HILARY FOUND OUT.

"Oh...good point. Well, anyway, we've been having a lot of trouble with Sunnydale lately. I keep meaning to send someone down there to find out what's going on, but we're chronically short-staffed around here. Whistler was down there, but after the whole Acathla incident he needed to take some sick leave for his nerves." looking at Death speculatively, Michael had an idea. "Listen, would you do me a favor?"

WHAT? Death asked guardedly.

"Take your vacation time now, Lord knows you haven't used it, and spend the first weekend down in Sunnydale. Figure out what's going on, and then use the rest of the time for yourself. I'm sure Fate would love to go with you."

SHE AND I HAVE BEEN HAVING SOME DIFFICULTIES LATELY. BUT I COULD USE THE VACATION. Death paused, considering. ALL RIGHT. BUT YOU OWE ME.

"Big time." Michael said, wiping his sleeve over his forehead. "I'll lend you my shore leave clothes for the trip. I know you'll be going to California, but no reason to *try* and stick out. You can borrow my car, too."

VERY WELL.

*****

On the town line of Sunnydale, a black limousine with small hourglass figurines on the front and back slowly drove up the road leading into town. Just as it was about to pass the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign, two of its tires suddenly blew out, and it inexplicably flipped over three times, landing on its roof, and blowing up in a rather impressive ball of fire.

The smoldering wreck lay there, and a small brown Saab sped by it. Well, it tried to speed past it, but as it was a Saab, it couldn't quite seem to make it past 50. Behind the wheel of the Saab, Death sat in his black robe, trying to keep his sleeves from interfering with his driving.

I SHOULD'VE KNOWN BETTER THAN TO BORROW AN ANGEL'S CAR. he muttered as he attempted to speed up.

Four miles down the road, he pulled in front of a rather dismal looking motel. Parking the car, he climbed out and walked in through the door. Inside, a man wearing shorts and an undershirt was watching old reruns of "Jerry Springer". Without even looking up, he accepted the cash that Death offered, and shoved the register forward.

"Name." he said in a decidedly uninterested tone of voice, focused on the events on the television.

I AM DEATH.

"Just write it down." it took a few minutes for the words to fully sink into the man's brain, and he looked up to see Death looking at him in all his black-robed glory.

"Where's your hourglass?" the man said, clearly not very impressed. He saw plenty of people in his line of business, and this did not even rate among the most interesting.

In answer, Death pushed up his right sleeve to reveal an expensive-looking Rolex. THIS WORKS MUCH BETTER.

"Yes, I would imagine it would. Okay 'Death', you're in room 4A. Thirty dollars for every additional night. Don't make a mess."

Picking up his light blue duffel bag, Death accepted the key and walked out, though not fast enough to miss the man's muttered, "Weirdo."

Death did not pause, but as soon as he had left the room the bolts holding the TV to the wall inexplicably came loose, and the TV fell. Somewhere in its fall, it somehow changed its path and landed directly on the man's head with a loud crunch, killing the man instantly.

In his rented room, Death opened the duffel bag to find the clothing that Michael had lent him.

I SHOULD'VE KNOWN BETTER THAN TO BORROW CLOTHING FROM AN ANGEL. he lamented as he looked down at a supply of red cardigans, light brown corduroys, white socks, and a pair of brown loafers.

*****

Part 1