Title: Nothing the Same
Warnings: explicit sex and violence
Feedback: yes, please
Concrit: any and all
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: AU from The Harvest. Xander doesn't deal well with Jesse's death and everything changes from there.
Notes: Based on the plotbunny posted awhile back by wickedchocolate. I took the first part of the bunny only: Xander never got over Jesse’s death. After he dusted Jesse, he was never the same. Xander isolated himself from Willow and wanted nothing to do with Buffy.
previous parts here
In some ways, the best thing about having a vampire for a lover, Xander decided, snuggling comfortably into Spike, was the hours they kept. Spike and he could fool around for a couple of hours and Spike was still fine to go do his patrols through town afterwards. Xander didn’t even have to worry about Spike getting careless because he was tired. In a weird way, Xander almost got to sleep with his lover sometimes, because some nights Spike stayed until Xander was nodding off.
In other ways, it was the worst thing about having a vampire for a lover. Neither of them could completely adapt to the others’ hours. Xander had to be in school and couldn’t stay awake all night and Spike couldn’t exactly spend sunny afternoons playing frisbee, or whatever, with Xander. The fact that Spike was protecting Xander and didn’t want him out at night was making their current nightly separations a necessity. Looking ahead, Xander worried a little that Spike would not be content with the limitations of a human lover once things settled down, if they ever did on the Hellmouth.
After the Great Snake Round-Up, Willow had reported that Giles’ exorcism spell had worked. There had apparently been a bit of a show: doors slamming, chairs being flung around and the ghost materializing as a half-decomposed corpse, as the ghost tried to fight back before the spell made it go poof, Willow’s description, but Giles was confident the ghost was gone and there hadn’t been any paranormal activity since.
After the ghost thing, Xander had quizzed Spike about vampires and magic, wondering if Spike had told Giles to keep him out of things for Xander’s protection. Fortunately, Spike had confirmed that vampires and magic were un-mixy things. Some spells would work but any magic based in earth magic traditions didn’t work well, or at all, on or with vampires.
“Undead, pet. Earth magic works by drawing on the power of the interconnectedness of living things. Vampires aren’t part of that network, so we make the spells go wonky. Can be right fun, when some amateur witch doesn’t know that and doesn’t take it into account. Nothing like the looks on their face when a spell they counted on suddenly fizzles out.” Spike grinned reminiscently and Xander made a mental note never to ask Spike about his experiences with fizzled spells. He suspected he wouldn’t like the answer.
Curiously, he asked: “But exorcisms? Are those earth magic? They don’t seem like they would be, I mean an exorcism is basically killing a ghost and I thought earth magic was all touchy-feely, nice stuff.
“Don’t be fooled by New Age mystical shite, luv, earth magic is old. Sure it can be about cleansing and healing but it can get right down and dirty when the occasion calls for it. It’s roots go back to the days when demons were still struggling for control of the earth with humans. Think street fighter spells. Exorcisms are about banishing non-living things. Lots of demons got themselves ‘exorcised’ once upon a time.”
“Huh.” Pleased that Giles hadn’t just been covering when he’d asked Xander to stay away from the exorcism, Xander lay his head back down on Spike’s chest. It was still weird that he couldn’t hear a heartbeat but he as he’d gotten used to it, he’d stopped subconsciously trying to find it.
Spike waited in the back of the library, listening as the librarian talked with the Slayer and the little red-haired girl, discussing options for handling the latest problem - some kind of beastie. Xander was there but not participating, deliberately sitting to one side and focusing his attention on a book he was reading. Spike was puzzled, not for the first time, over the relationship between Slayer and Watcher. He’d never had the opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations between a Watcher and their Slayer before but the relationship between this particular pair seemed off.
The Watcher didn’t issue orders, he made suggestions and the Slayer seemed far more independent and willful than was typical. Spike hadn’t been able to decide where the difference in this pair lay: with the Slayer or the Watcher. Rupert Giles hardly seemed the ineffectual type despite the fact that he did a fair job of hiding the violence and ruthlessness that lay beneath his surface mannerisms, like a hidden vein of iron running through the core of his personality.
The Slayer had yet to truly accept her destiny, that was obvious to a blind man. Somehow, the normal Council indoctrination hadn’t worked with this one. She was still struggling against her fate in a way the Chosen Ones usually didn’t, in Spike’s experience. Buffy’s desperate striving for a “normal” life was her losing battle against her calling. That longing was usually trained out of potential Slayers long before they were called.
Spike shrugged. Didn’t matter really, it was just habit that had him studying the Slayer, knowing that one day again they would be adversaries. One day soon, if she didn’t get her head out of her arse and focus on her job. He was beyond tired of her constant delays and excuses for not dealing with Angelus.
“So, what’s the excuse tonight?” he asked sarcastically, striding forward through the stacks. Xander looked up and flashed him a quick smile as Spike continued. “Let’s see, partying at the beach last night, The Bronze the night before, was it hair washing or toenail painting the night before that?”
“If you don’t like the way I do my job, you can leave any time,” Buffy sniped back.
“I don’t like the way you do your job. You don’t bloody do the job is the problem.”
“How about I start right now?” Buffy pulled out a stake and hefted it threateningly.
“Ok, things are getting a little hostile here,” Willow said nervously. “We’re all supposed to be working together, guys. So, no killing each other, ok?”
Spike snorted in disgust. “Thought we were supposed to be taking on Angelus. Trouble is there’s nothing being done about him.”
“Sorry, Spike, we’ve got a different problem tonight,” Xander interjected, looking up from the book he was studying. He’d long since given up any notion that Buffy and Spike were ever going to get along, or even try to act civilized around each other. So long as things didn’t get out of hand, he didn’t bother interfering. Neither appreciated it when he did and it didn’t change anything. At least insulting each other so far seemed to blow of steam rather than building up tension between them. Fortunately, they were rarely in the same room for long. One or the other usually managed to leave quickly.
Unfortunately, tonight Giles had asked Xander to stay on for a bit and help them research. Since he was the only one who’d seen the sea monster they were looking for, Giles wanted him available for confirmation in case they found any likely suspects in the books. Now that Spike had arrived, Xander briefly outlined the problem to him. Spike flopped down into the chair next to Xander, saying he was willing to watch them research for awhile. Xander silently slid part of his stack of books over to Spike and ignored Spike’s disbelieving stare, pointing out with a small, hopefully sexy smile that the faster they found what they were looking for, the faster they were on their way home. Spike grumbled but eventually picked up the books. “Sea monster, eh?”
Xander gave him all the information they had, which didn’t take long: teeth, spines, ugly, ate its victims from the inside out. Spike perked up. “Eviscerates ’em, does it? Good on it. That’s always a messy bit of fun.”
“Messy being the operative word,” was all Xander said, swallowing hard as nausea rose again at the memory. Spike shot him a concerned look and Xander smiled reassuringly, satisfied, Spike settled down to leaf through the books. Xander was amused to see that Spike quickly became engrossed, reading some passages intently, instead of just flipping through the books.
Less than an hour later, Spike pushed his pile of books away. “Waste of time, ’s all this is, trying to identify something when you have so little information to go on. Only useful piece of information is that it smells bad enough to choke a pentranga demon. Use that to track it.”
“Would be nice if Xander could give us a decent description. Pity he was too busy screaming and running away to see anything,” Buffy snarked.
Xander’s hand clamped down on Spike’s arm as Spike jerked upright and the beginnings of a growl sounded. “I’m so sorry, Buffy,” he said with exaggerated contrition. “The next time I’m asked to describe something that jumped me out of nowhere in a dark room, while I was standing over the bloody remains of a fellow student, trying not to spew the entire contents of my stomach, I’m sure I’ll do a better job.” Buffy had the grace to look somewhat abashed. “And by the way - you’re welcome. It’s always my pleasure to put my life on hold to help you do your job.”
Ok, he probably shouldn’t have added that bit. Buffy stiffened defensively, glaring at him, but before she could say anything, Spike’s amused voice was cheering him on. “You tell her, pet. Ungrateful trollop.”
Buffy’s chair screeched across the floor as she shoved it back and shot to her feet. Somehow, Willow had moved even faster and she was right by Buffy’s side, making soothing little gestures, her voice spilling into the combat zone between Spike and Buffy. “Ok, things getting a little tense again. We’re all tired. Why don’t we all take a break, maybe get some snacks, you know, something to lighten things up a bit?”
Buffy ignored her, but her tone moderated slightly in response to Willow’s peacemaking efforts. “I’m sick of you two complaining about how I do my job. If you don’t like how I do things, why don’t you let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”
“Buffy, that’s enough.” Giles’ voice was stern. “We need Xander’s help with the current problem and he and Spike have been of considerable assistance in the last few weeks. They are welcome here at any time.”
Xander sent Giles a pleased smile at his inclusion of Spike. Out of consideration for both Giles and Willow, he made an effort to keep his voice even as he answered Buffy but he couldn’t let this go by without saying something. Spike was getting restless with the lack of action and Xander was afraid spike was going to just give up and tackle Angelus himself. “I disagree with your priorities, Buffy. You know, the ones where you’re willing to kill every vampire in town except oh, say, the one whose causing the most trouble and doing the most harm.”
“Why don’t you try practicing what you preach? You make friends with the evil undead and then force the rest of us to put up with him.”
Without looking, Xander tightened his grip on Spike warningly, knowing Spike was going to add his two cents to the conversation. “I’m just saying: if any other vampire in town caused half this much trouble, you would have staked them weeks ago.” He let go of Spike’s arm and slapped the book he’d been looking through fruitlessly closed with unnecessary force. “Spike’s right, we’re wasting our time with this research. Giles, let me know if you find anything you need me to look at.” He stood up, feeling at a disadvantage with Buffy glaring down at him and wanting to get this out in the open. “I haven’t heard any plans recently for dealing with Angelus. Should I assume he’s no longer on the agenda?” he asked Buffy pointedly.
“Like you could do anything to help anyway,” Buffy scoffed.
“Xander, it’s not that simple.”
“It is that simple, Willow. Are we going to fight Angelus or not?”
“Gee, I’m sorry the monster that’s eating the swim team isn’t enough to hold your interest,” Buffy snarked.
“Boy’s right.” Spike was still slumped casually in his chair, turning pages, outwardly nonchalant, but Xander could feel his tense alertness as he followed the exchange. “’m not here to fight your monster of the week.”
“I didn’t ask you to come here in the first place. You came whining to us, remember?”
“Hey!” “Buffy!” “That’s enough!”
Giles’ shout overrode both Xander’s and Willow’s exclamations through sheer volume. “This kind of quarrelling isn’t accomplishing anything.” He ignored Spike’s muttered “nothing new there”, giving the vampire a warning glare as he continued. “We are going to have to deal with Angel sooner rather than later, I fear. However, we do have a rather urgent situation that simply must take priority right now. The lives of the boys on the swim team are in immediate danger. Once we have resolved this, we can tackle the situation with Angel. Agreed?” He looked sternly around the circle, gathering reluctant nods from everyone.
“Don’t have a problem hunting beasties, Watcher. Just don’t want it to be the be all, end all of our little alliance,” was all Spike said.
Xander gazed thoughtfully at Willow who, to his eyes at least, was looking decidedly guilty. Willow-type guilty, meaning uncomfortable and squirmy. Usually, that meant she was trying to keep a secret, something Willow had never been good at. Switching his perusal to Buffy, Xander decided that whatever was bothering Willow, it had to do with Buffy. Something was up and they weren’t sharing.
“Sorry, Spike. I didn’t really help tonight.” Walking home with Spike, Xander’s voice broke the silence that had fallen between them. Buffy was going to look for the sea monster during the early part of the night and Spike had promised to check the nearby beaches later on.
“Don’t talk daft, pet, got a commitment out of the Watcher, didn’t you? More than we’ve been able to get out of any of them before. ‘Sides, argument cleared the air, got some of the tension out.”
“I just want this over. I hate having to be on the look-out all the time. It’s one thing to be cautious about crossing the road. We’ve been playing in the middle of the freeway for a long time now.” He looked apologetically at Spike. “And my cast itches and I’m really cranky in general.”
Spike just laughed and threw his arm around him. “You aren’t cranky, luv. Maybe a little tetchy. Let me tell you about cranky.” Xander gratefully let Spike steer him home, listening as Spike described Darla, Angel’s Sire, on a raging tear because Drusilla had gotten a mad notion that Darla needed a pet. According to Spike, Dru’s idea of the perfect pet for Darla turned out to be a pregnant field mouse. Drusilla had forgotten about the mother until after she produced a dozen babies. The mice had done considerable damage to Darla’s delicate, lace-edged Victorian undergarments before they were discovered. Xander laughed at the image of a Master vampire holding up armfuls of tattered linen and shredded lace and screaming like a fishwife at the oblivious Dru.
Spike left as soon as Xander was inside saying he was going to do a sweep through town since Buffy was off monster hunting. Xander hadn’t tried to talk him into staying. He was tired, the argument in the library had left him drained. The cast was scheduled to be removed in another week and hopefully losing that constant reminder of Angelus would help. Xander headed upstairs to bed, promising himself he was going to find out what Willow was hiding as soon as he could get her alone.
“We may have found a way to restore Angel’s soul.”
Xander’s jaw dropped. “Are you crazy?”
He’d cornered Willow after her computer class and discovered that he hadn’t lost his touch. Shutting the door after her last student left the room, giving them a chance to talk alone, it had only taken a couple of minutes to get her to spill what she’d been hiding. What she’d said was so different from anything he’d even considered she might be hiding, he was almost speechless with shock.
Willow had found a computer disc with some files Miss Calendar had been working on just before she died. The disc contained a spell for restoring souls. Somehow, Miss Calendar had found a way to recreate the original spell her people had used to curse Angel.
“I’ve spent a lot of time studying it, Xander,” Willow said earnestly. “I really think I can do it.”
Xander collected his wits and got a firm grip on his outrage. “Who else knows about this?” he asked with feigned calm.
“Just Buffy,” Willow admitted. She looked relieved now that the secret was out. Funny how some things remained the same while others changed past recognition, despite all the other changes, Willow still couldn’t keep secrets. “She’s telling Giles now, I’m supposed to be at the library with her. We would have told Giles this morning, except he had an appointment at the museum.”
“I guess Spike pushing Buffy to do something about Angel moved up your timetable a bit.” Xander couldn’t keep the hint of cynicism out of his voice.
“Well, yes. But only because there won’t need to be a fight, if this works.” Willow looked both pleading, hopeful… and excited, Xander realized. Willow wanted to try the spell. Xander still knew almost nothing about magic and liked it that way. It was worrying how much Willow was diving into witchcraft stuff lately. “If Angel can have his soul restored, then everything will be back the way it used to be.”
Xander bit back the retort that the spell wasn’t going to do anything for Miss Calendar. He knew Willow hadn’t meant that but it still jolted him that she thought for one second that everything would be fine once Angel had his soul again. Was she really that naïve or just willfully blind? In the end, all he said was: “Come on, let’s go talk to Giles.”
“Uh, Xander, are you sure that’s a good idea? You and Buffy don’t exactly see eye to eye on Angel.”
“If you guys are planning on re-souling him, I need to know.”
Xander left the computer classroom, headed for the library, leaving Willow with no choice but to follow.
“Are you people crazy?” Xander yelled furiously, bursting into the library, Willow trailing behind him.
Ok, he didn’t actually do that, but he sure as hell thought about saying it on the short walk to the library. Ultimately, he decided to try and hang on to his temper because yelling wasn’t going to accomplish anything. Marshalling his arguments, Xander opened the door to the library and managed to walk in calmly. Western gunfighter music may have been playing in his head but he didn’t think his anger showed as he entered. “Hi guys, what’s up?” he asked brightly.
“Xander, I’m afraid we’re rather busy…” Giles’ voice was not welcoming. His glasses were off and he was polishing them furiously. It was obvious that Buffy and Giles were in the middle of an argument.
Xander interrupted. “Willow says you guys want to restore Angel’s soul. Is that true?”
“Why is that any of your business?” Buffy frowned at him.
“Because I’m making it my business. Just think of me as the guy trying to take keys away from a drunk. I’m just a bystander trying to stop a train wreck.”
“And how are you going to do that?” Buffy’s eyes were red-rimmed as if she’d been crying but her voice was flat and just on the safe side of rude.
“By trying to convince you people that you are nuts.”
“Xander, why do you have such a problem with this? Angel getting his soul back would be a good thing.”
Xander took a deep breath, lining his arguments up neatly, hoping they would listen to him. He looked at Willow and deliberately picked a starting point. “Where’s Angel’s soul now?”
“What?” That came from both Buffy and Willow, complete bafflement in their voices. Damnit, they’d never even thought about this.
“Angel’s soul,” Xander repeated. “Where is it?”
“Obviously we cannot know that, Xander. Why are you asking?” Not even Giles seemed to know where he was going. Well, at least he’d gotten them off balance enough to listen.
“Hasn’t it occurred to any of you that his soul might be in heaven? If it is, do you really have the right to drag it back to earth? Would he even want you to?”
Willow’s face went white but Buffy glared at Xander. “What if his soul’s in hell? Maybe we can rescue him from that.”
“Why would his soul be in hell? You keep telling me what a good guy he is.” Xander sighed in frustration as Buffy looked unconvinced. Worse, she looked stubborn and Xander was afraid that she simply didn’t want to hear anything that opposed her goal. “All I’m saying is that Angel has supposedly spent years working for redemption. What if he’s earned it? Are you going to take him away from the thing he’s been working towards?”
“Angel would want his soul restored, he’d want to be back with me, to atone for what he’s done in the last couple of months,” Buffy was adamant.
“You’re pretty arrogant with the disposition of other people’s lives,” Xander snapped.
“Obviously, we have no way of knowing where his soul is. Having been banished by mystical forces it could, literally, be almost anywhere.” Giles said slowly and Xander was pleased that he looked troubled by the question. “Is that your only objection?”
“No.” Xander hesitated, that had probably been his biggest gun and it hadn’t really swayed them at all. His other reasons were personal and probably a waste of time even raising.
“I don’t care what your problems are.” Buffy jumped up and walked away from them. Guilt sounded loudly in her voice. “If we can fix this, we have to try. What happened to Angel wasn’t his fault.”
“Since when do you care about that?” Xander asked incredulously. Buffy just looked irritated and suddenly months of pent-up anger finally spilled out. “You stake vampires practically every night. Are you saying it was Teresa’s fault that Angel killed her? Or Mr. Jorgensen from the grocery store? It wasn’t their fault they got turned into vampires but you killed them anyway. I didn’t see you commiserating with them and offering to let them live until you could conjure up a soul for them. If you only staked the ones who wanted to become vampires, my guess is you’d have been out of a job a long time ago.”
“How? How is it different? Angel didn’t want to lose his soul but he did. Now he’s just like any other vampire. Worse, because he’s stronger and crueler than most vampires.”
“You’re prejudiced. You’ve never liked him.” Buffy said defensively.
“You got that right. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Way I hear it, Angel never asked to have his soul restored in the first place. How come he gets the credit for that?”
“Angel’s saved all of our lives. He doesn’t deserve to be killed for something that wasn’t his fault. Not if there’s another option.”
“You know, I said almost that exact same thing about Jesse - that there were other options - and you all shouted me down. Just let me say, not loving the hypocrisy here.”
“Jesse?” Buffy asked impatiently.
“Buffy! Our friend Jesse, he was killed during the Harvest.” Willow’s voice rose as she stared at Buffy in shock.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Buffy bit her lip, looking regretfully at her. “You never talk about him and I’d forgotten his name.”
Willow’s eyes filled with tears and she looked away. “It’s ok, you never really knew him,” she said quietly.
Xander still had his arms crossed stubbornly not willing to drop this without getting some kind of answer. “So explain to me the difference between what’s happening with Angel and what happened to my best friend. ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t see a difference.”
Giles had remained uncharacteristically silent but now he spoke before either Buffy or Willow could answer. “It’s not even remotely possible to restore the soul of every person killed and turned into a vampire. Angel is a unique case because of the original curse. If his soul can be restored now, and it appears that may have been Jenny’s last wish, then he can once again become a force for good.” The anger lingering in Giles’ eyes gave the lie to his seeming acceptance of the idea, but it was obvious he was seriously considering the re-souling idea.
“So, you’re just going to let him run amok until you find out if you can restore him to the completely unnatural state of being a dead man with his soul shoved back into his corpse?” Xander asked in disbelief. “You guys are supposed to be the good guys. How can you justify letting a known murderer continue killing while you tinker around with a spell that will tear someone’s soul out of whatever peace it has managed to find, so that he will then know and remember every evil thing his body has been doing? The fucking soul restoration was a curse, not a gift.” Throwing his arms up in disgust, Xander abandoned the argument, knowing he was losing both the argument and the last remnants of his temper. Storming out of the library, he gave up any idea of ever making any of them see reason.
He stopped automatically at Willow’s call, standing with his head down, not turning back to look at her, angry with himself for stopping.
“That wasn’t fair, using Jesse as an example like that.” Her voice was hurt and accusing and she sounded on the edge of tears, “What happened to Jesse wasn’t the same as what’s going on now and you know it.”
Xander turned to face her, his face livid with anger. “No, Willow, it’s exactly the same. The only difference I see is that Buffy cared about Angel and wants her boyfriend back. Well, I loved Jesse and when I tried to convince you that I could reach him, you all told me he was a vampire and had to be staked. No other choice.” His voice broke but he plunged on. “Well, now that it’s someone that Buffy loves, suddenly there are options. You can stand by Buffy all you want to, but don’t try and sell me on the idea that this is any different than it was with Jesse. Buffy isn’t the vampire re-souler, she’s the vampire Slayer. When she starts picking and choosing which vampires she slays, that just makes her a murderer.”
“You didn’t complain when it worked for Spike.”
“No, I didn’t. And I plan to give you three the same support about not killing Angel as you all gave me about Spike. Tell me, Willow, how many pages in the Watcher’s diaries about Angel did you copy for Buffy to read?”
“Damnit, Xander,” Willow rarely swore but Xander could see her frustration. “Buffy’s only 17 and she just lost the only man she’s ever loved and you’re dumping on her because she can’t bring herself to stake the part of him that’s left. Can’t you just back off? This is hard for her.”
“I was only 16 when I staked my best friend. Don’t talk to me about hard.”
Willow’s face went white and she stepped back in shock. “You staked Jesse?” she asked, horrified. “Oh my god, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because when I tried to tell you, you said you were glad he was dead.” Xander’s voice was flat and hard, despite the tears that stung his eyes.
“Not Jesse! The vampire that killed him,” Willow protested. She was practically wringing her hands in anguish but her tears left him unmoved.
“Well, according to all of you, Angel’s just the demon that killed the person who lived in that body once. And I am not ready to just forgive and forget what he did to me and especially not what he did to Miss Calendar, Teresa, and everyone else he’s killed while his soul was on vacation.” Xander spun around and walked away before Willow could tell him again how it was different with Angel.
Later that morning, Xander quietly slipped into the gym storage lockers. Rifling around, he came up with a couple of large bags usually used to carry gym equipment out to the fields. He folded them up and draped his coat casually over them and headed for the library.
Waiting out of sight until Giles left for lunch, Xander barely waited for Giles to move down the hall before entered the library behind him and immediately crossing to the book cage. Picking the familiar lock easily, he entered the small room and dropped the gym bags on the floor. He took three crossbows of varying sizes first, and stuffed them into one of the bags with a large selection of bolts. Studying the remaining weapons, he picked out a couple of axes and several knives. Closing the bags, he pushed them out of the cage, closing the door behind him and checking to be sure the lock had caught.
Swinging both bags over his shoulder, he carried them up through the stacks to the entrance to the tunnels. Less than ten minutes after he’d entered, Xander left the library again, having stashed the weapons a short distance inside the tunnels.
Xander waited for Spike near the entrance to the tunnels, instead of at the table as was his usual habit. He’d given Giles a brief greeting and told him he was leaving as soon as Spike arrived.
Giles still looked troubled from the earlier confrontation and Xander kept his eyes firmly off the book cage. “Just let me know when Spike arrives, so that I’ll know you are safe,” was all Giles said.
Xander nodded and headed out of sight to the back to library. He was not going to sit around making small talk with Buffy and Willow while anger still churned inside him from earlier.
When Spike arrived, Xander had him wait while he told Giles, then he told Spike quietly they needed to leave by the tunnels tonight. Spike cocked his head curiously, but just shrugged and led the way.
Once inside, Xander pulled Spike over to where the bags of weapons were stashed.
“What’s this, pet?”
Xander knelt and unzipped one of the bags, seeing Spike’s interest as the pile of weapons inside was revealed. “They’re not going to do anything about Angelus,” he said bitterly. “We’re going to have to take him out ourselves.”