Together Forever

Kahuna Burger

Walter saw a Newcomer sitting by the Edge, looking at the fight below. It was a spot that many gazed from, some wanting perspective on the great moral divide between themselves and those who had been sent lower. Others, though few would admit it, found entertainment in the constant struggle even as they relished their own eternal peace.

A Newcomer, though - and this clearly was one, with his indistinct features and shifting age - was unusual to see here. Most of them were either cuddling into the feeling of soft, safe warmth or reconnecting with predeceased loved ones. It was odd to see this young man (or gangly teen or occasional child) staring at the Strife rather than enjoying the Peace. Walter was new to his position guiding those entering eternity, but he felt this was a clear case of need.

"Most don't look so soon." The startled face that turned towards him was that of a careworn young man perhaps in his mid 20s. But when Walter gave his best greeting smile, a somewhat goofy teen grinned back. "I don't imagine it's the same Below. Probably plenty of folks staring up when they first arrive, wishing they'd made some different choices." He held his hand out. "Walter. I help folks settle in around here."

"Xander." The boyish grin had faded and the boy looked back down after a perfunctory shake. "And I dunno... Spike would probably see that down there as Heaven." His voice grew quieter and his eyes scanned the milling mob. "I guess if that's where he is at least he's happy."

The guide suddenly understood this Newcomer's preoccupation. "You expected to see this Spike here as well?"

"Not expected exactly, I mean he's... well Spike. But I hoped."

"He died before you?"

"Right before me. He was trying to hold the demons back long enough for me to get this gem thing into a pedestal." Walter quickly reassessed this boy who spoke like a Champion but had no glow of power. It was subtle, but once he was looking for it, he saw the signs of a defender, one who had fought, but for others' peace. "I saw him turn to dust just as I got it slotted, and then there was a tail barb through my chest. Heard it click into place before I went though, so I guess we got it done. Supposed that's why I deserve to be here."

"You deserve to be here for your motivations and your nature," He corrected firmly, this issue familiar and automatically dealt with. "The Peace is not a prize given to only the lucky or strong, it is where you are suited to be because you increased peace in the mortal world. Er, you said... turned to dust?"

A quirky smile seemed to accept and validate his confusion. "Yeah, Spike was a vampire. That's why I know intellectually that he should be, ya know, down there. But he was helping us, fighting the good fight and making the world safer, so I hoped..."

"You liked this demon?"

"We were friends." It was so factually stated that Walter was at a loss for how to correct the obviously false belief. Then it got worse. "Maybe more. We hadn't actually said the words, you know, but the attraction was there and the way he'd be there for me when things got too rough, or really listened when I wanted to talk about stuff... I was getting up the nerve to tell him how I felt, and I kinda thought he was maybe doing the same thing, ya know?"

Oh, this was bad. Dying usually brought a certain clarity to people and while Walter had helped some Newcomers who were dealing with regrets over their mis-aimed affections, he'd never met one who still clung to them and believed the possibility of such an unsuitable strife-bound caring for him in return.

Looking desperately around for an Overseer, he spotted Justin with relief and tried to wave him over both subtly and urgently. This was over a Guide's head, especially a new one.

He introduced the two and was just deciding between describing the situation accurately or the way the young man saw it when a strange thump drew his attention back to the Edge. Turning just in time to see a black boot slide back out of sight, apparently pulled by its laces, he simply stared for a moment until a pale hand with black tipped nails reached up and began scrambling for purchase in the soft grass. "Hey! Anyone up there wanna help a bloke out?"

Xander yelled in delight and dove at the hand, hauling a thin, black clad figure up into his arms. Walter looked on in shock as the Newcomer hugged the bleach blond man as if he would never let go and cried over and over again, "Spike... oh Spike..."

The - Vampire? What? How? - grinned cockily and returned the embrace. "Didn't think we'd been apart long enough for you to miss me this much, Pet. So, what, no harp and wings?"

Laughing only a little hysterically, the boy sat down on the ground and stared in amazement. "I thought I was never going to see you again, I was looking for you down there, but... how? Why? What happened?"

Spike settled beside him and started untying his boots from the ends of a long leather belt. "Well, that Snarkanath took my head, I guess, felt myself dust, and the next thing I know I'm waking up with some other folk, demons and humans both, in this little cleared spot smack in the center of the biggest, craziest brawl I'd ever seen. They called it the Strife, apparently blokes what make a fuss on earth get an eternal dust up trying to gain ground against some of the most powerful and determined fighters that ever lived, or unlived in my case."

He glanced away from redoing his laces to aim a pleased smirk down at the fight. "Bloody brilliant, really. I was gonna dive right in when I realized you weren't with me. At first I thought maybe that meant you made it, but there were so many of those bastards... I saw the whole peaceful green motif up here at the top of the cliff and figured you'd be getting down with Gandhi or whoever, so I came up to find you."

"That's impossible!" Walter finally found his voice in the face of this insanity. "The Edge, the apparent physical adjacency of the Strife and the Peace is only symbolic, there's no way to actually climb up!"

Justin placed a soothing hand on his shoulder, but whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sneering vampire. "Well, being as my body turned to dust and Xan here's got no wounds to show for what would have been a fairly messy death, seems to me that we're pretty bloody symbolic too. So if my symbolic fists can beat on some fungus demons' symbolic heads, and I can take a nice refreshing symbolic drink from a symbolic mugger who just found out how low on the foodchain of evil he is, then I will sodding well use my symbolic strength and symbolic brain to climb your symbolic cliff if that's what's necessary!"

Snickering slightly, Xander placed his arm around Spike's shoulders and pulled him a step or two back. "Chill a little, Blood Breath. Walter and Justin are kinda in charge... or at least supervisor types around here and I don't want them kicking your symbolic ass down to a very symbolically painful landing."

The vampire turned and embraced the Newcomer, his boots bringing him closer to looking the other in the eyes. "I'd just climb up again, Luv."

"But, you said it was brilliant down there... and the drinking from the humans, so you're free of the chip... I don't understand."

"What's to understand? You weren't there, Xan, so I came looking for you." The vampire scuffed at the grass with one foot, looking down for a moment while he visably screwed up his courage. "I thought... hoped... It seemed like there was a chance of us starting something in addition to the friendship, yeah? Wasn't just imagining that, was I?"

For the first time in centuries, Walter found himself wishing he was still alive. Then at least he would have had the comfort of hyperventilating until he passed out. A soulless demon fit only for causing strife was standing in the Peace, waiting anxiously for a defender to accept its romantic overtures.

"No, Blondie, you weren't imagining it. I was hoping; trying to get up the nerve..." Xander suddenly took on the aspect of a young boy as his eyes filled with tears. "I thought it was too late and I'd never have the chance."

"None of that, Luv." The Newcomer was gathered into the smaller man's arms and peppered with kisses over his face. "All the time in the world to figure it out, and no more interuptions from brainless fledges or the Watcher ordering us about."

"Heh, G-man will probably make it up here eventually, though I kinda hope we won't have company for a while. Except, oh! Joyce should be here shouldn't she?"

"Likely so, Pet. We'll look her up, soon as we're a bit more settled, yeah?"

A look of hope grew in the (once more grown) man's eyes. "So you're going to stay? Will you be able to, you know, not break the whole 'peace' rule they have up here?"

Walter was going to step in at that point as, no, clearly the vampire couldn't stay, but Justin's hand was on his shoulder again, and he obeyed the silent order without understanding it.

"Don't see why not. I played nice with the other bloody Scoobies and haven't been able to punch the people I wanted to for years... And I reckon I can nip down for a bit of ruckus if it gets too boring here." A blinding smile made him forget for a moment that this creature was strife-bound. "Not that I think I'll be getting bored for the next decade or so. No way I'm going back down there now that I've found you."

Xander smiled back. "If they try to make you go back, I'll just come with you. There's no point in being in Heaven just to be miserable missing you." He finally looked over at their observers, hope and pleading in his gaze.

Before Walter could come up with any response, Justin spoke firmly. "As my associate pointed out, it is impossible for an undeserving individual to enter the Peace." Both men tensed but the Overseer just went on with a small smile. "So since Spike is in fact here, I can only assume that he is deserving unless I actually see him demonstrate otherwise."

The Newcomer gave a blinding smile and hugged the vampire in joy. "We won't let you down, Sir, I promise! Come on, Spike, let's see where we can hang our symbolic hats!" The two headed off handfast like children.

Walter managed to wait until the pair was out of earshot before turning on his superior. "Are you mad? The proper division of souls and spirits between the Peace and the Strife is the foundation of the Balance of Powers! How could you possibly think a Strife-bound can be allowed to enter here without bringing down chaos on all of us?"

Justin smiled in a way that was slightly soothing and mostly amused. He put his arm around the Guide's shoulders and turned him gently towards the Edge.

"Walter, do you see the caves down at the bottom of that symbolic cliff you were so insulted by the vampire climbing?"

"Of course." There was always a group of the more territorial demons and a few clanlike groups fighting for the limited number of defensible spaces.

"And do you see there by the third tier down, the demon holding that cave mouth against a wyvern?"

Annoyed at the condescending tone, he nonetheless focused and spotted the fighter Justin meant, a gamefaced vampire whose hair shifted color and length like a Newcomer's features. He was holding the large lizard off with power and grace, and had he been only a denizen of the Peace, Walter would have been tempted to wager on him, assuming he could find someone foolish enough to think size always won.

"Yes, what about him?"

"That's Spike."

If he'd still had a physical body, Walter probably would have given himself whiplash turning in shock to the Overseer then looking back down at the fight. The clothes were similar, and the demon's build but... "I don't... If that is Spike, then...?" He gestured helplessly in the direction the couple had left.

The comforting hand was back on his shoulder and frankly it was making him feel... a little un-peaceful, but he held his tongue and listened. "That is the demon which died just before Alexander and, as an unrepentant killer who reveled in conflict and death itself even when circumstances forced him to focus his attacks on more acceptable targets, was immediately sent to the eternal Strife he is so fully suited to. What climbed the Edge was, well, just a bit of hope and moonbeams, you could say. The best memories and fondest dreams of a defender, spun with just enough truth to make it seem real."

"A figment? Like family pets and the ducks in the park? But why?"

"You heard the Newcomer yourself, Walter. He would not have found peace alone, and had he remained convinced that one he thought of as a friend was 'trapped' in the Strife, he could have even tried to find a way to rescue the demon." Justin was looking down at the real Spike as well, contemplation on his face. "What the vampire said about manipulating the structure of things here is true to some extent. Young Xander has a strong will and a creative mind; if he was determined to enter the Strife, he might have found a way and that would have truly disrupted the Balance. A bit of hope and moonbeams though? Doesn't disrupt anything at all."

The Overseer walked away but Walter looked down a moment longer, seeing the real Spike kick the wyvern hard in the head then retreat partly into the cave he had claimed. A risky move, restricting his own mobility. "I wonder if he misses..." But he turned away, dismissing the fight below and the half completed thought as beneath his age and responsibilities. He had other Newcomers to tend to and new information on Overseer abilities to consider. 

Though he'd probably check in on Xander once in a while. See how happy the boy was with his idealized Spike and wonder if the real one ever missed having a defender to watch his back.

A/N : The story is heavily influenced by a play which my brother and sister were in back in High School. Unfortunately, while I remember the entire plot and many lines of dialogue from said play, neither I nor either sibling are able to remember the name, author or even the names of the main characters. In a conversation wih my brother, when he was amazed by how much of it I remembered, I jokingly said "Yeah, I could just write it and see who sues me for plagarism." So, yeah... if you recognize something, PLEASE tell me from where!

The End