The Power, the Glory, and the Ever After

by Christina K
Copyright 2001

Comments appreciated. No deities were harmed during the making of this fanfic, though several sets of post-modern scenery were sacrificed to the Glorificus in order to avoid dealing with her attitude problem. Any assumptions about my belief system based on this fic would probably be entirely erroneous.

Archivist's Note: This is part of Christina's 'Coffee Break' series; check out the other stories at the Angel Annex fanfic archive.

"You can't do this to me! You *can't* deny me! Do you *know* who I am?!"

"Oh, we're quite aware of your identity, Glorificus." Holland Manners' condescending smile had edged over into irritation. "Which is why we've decided to reject your proposal of alliance. You're a deposed god who was killed in the body of a mortal, whose followers are all dead, and who failed to open the doors to the demonic dimensions. You have nothing to offer us."

"I am GLORY!"

"A lovely name. And please, don't take this as a rejection of future interest if you should regain your godhood or even become a mortal at some point---"

"I'm not going back to that pissant pitiful mortal reality! I want to go HOME! I am the RULER OF MY DIMENSION!"

"Actually, you're not. Your former co-gods have made it clear that they consider your partnership to be terminated, and that they have strong feelings about your attempted return to their realm. They have a vested interest in you remaining in this particular state of existence." Manners stood, and Glory was also forced to stand as the couch she'd been sitting on evaporated back into nonexistence. "But if that changes? Do give us a call. Until then...." He nodded meaningfully at the door which had just materialized to her left, opening of its own accord. Glory ignored the hint and went for his throat--- only to have his unperturbed visage mist away under her fingers.

When she whirled around to search for him, she found the door suddenly in front of her, closing with a firm > click <. As she watched, it was plastered over with paint, then brick, then a reflective steel surface. "Aiiighhhh!!" She slammed her fists into it repeatedly, but the wall didn't even have the decency to react to her drumming hands. Panting, she backed away from it in fury.

"You'll be sorry! You're going to regret this! When I'm through with you, your sub-atomic particles are going to be begging me for mercy! AND THEY'RE NOT GOING TO GET IT!" she shrieked. The steel wall dissolved into gentle roll of fog, and she screamed again, then turned and stalked in the direction she thought she'd come from. There it was again: the lobby. Glassy tables and white leather couches, a few tasteful plants, a gently gurgling fountain, and some shiny-looking pillars.

She went for the pillars first, punching through them and picking up the pieces to throw into the coffee tables, then she started ripping up the couches, screaming imprecations the whole time.






Bam! Bam! Bam!


* * * * *

"So that's what she looks like."

"You've never seen her?"

Ben shot the bearded guy leaning back in the comfortable leather chair a glance that was equal parts hostility and confusion. "How would I have seen her? You know what the deal was."

"She never even had photographs taken of herself? I would've thought her followers would want them for little icons or charms...."

"That's probably why she didn't. She's got enough vanity to keep Glamour Shots in business until the next millenia, but some of her minions are a little--- creepy." Ben shrugged, turning back to the glass walls of the office, and watched Glory pick up the remains of the couch and throw it off the fogbank. When she turned around, she drop-kicked the coffee table after it. "Besides. She was always hung up on her real world, her real life, her real body... I'd get an earful from the toads about it every time I came back. It's all she ever thought about." He smiled grimly as Glory bumped into a re-materialized couch and started screeching in frustration. Again. "And now she's stuck with that one."


"Good. Now she knows how it feels."

Minos tilted his head thoughtfully. "That's not why this happened to he--- but you have a point." He took a sip from his ceramic mug and gestured to the almost-shabby soft leather sofa behind Ben. Like everything else in the office it had a reassuring and homey feel to it, like the man--- or being--- who resided there. "But we're not here to discuss Glorificus. We're talking about you. And what's going to happen to you."

"Punishment and lectures, right?" Ben flopped down onto the cushions and started picking at the seam on the sofa arm. "Doesn't matter how sorry I am, or all the crap I had to put up with for the last twenty-five years before the end. I screwed up, and now I'm screwed. Forever."

"It doesn't exactly work like that." Minos nudged the plate full of cookies on the coffee table in front of him toward Ben. "Take one."

"It's not real, so what's the point? Why are you even talking to me? Let's get this over with, all right?"

"Just take one. I have a friend on the Design team who makes them, they're terrific." Glaring, Ben grabbed one and took a huge bite, continuing to glare as he chewed and swallowed, then sheepishly taking another bite after the first. Minos smiled calmly at him. "Good, hunh? Want some milk? No, wait, you're a med student. Coffee, right?"

"Yeah," he mumbled, nodding. Minos got up and went to the coffee maker, filling a nearby mug and adding in cream before walking back to his seat and handing the cup to Ben. Another screech and an excessively loud crash broke the silence. "Are you just going to let her to keep trashing the lobby?"

"She'll wear herself out eventually. She's not hurting anyone--- she can't hurt anyone, not like she is now. When she's ready, one of us will go talk to her." Something shattered outside Minos's office, and he winced. "Although it might be a while."

"I don't get this. Any of it," Ben said abruptly. "Why aren't I in Hell?"

Minos' smile was bland and uninformative. "How do you know you're not?"

"'Cause I might not like counseling sessions with some therapist, but I don't hate it enough for this to be Hell."

"Well, that's a start. You're right, this isn't Hell. And a minute ago, you yourself said why you're not there---"

The violent smashing and pounding grew temporarily louder as the smoked-glass door to the office was opened. The woman standing the doorway and looking over her shoulder wore an expression of immense irritation and no patience whatsoever. "Get over it!" she yelled back through the fog, and Ben heard Glory shrieking "WHO SAID THAT!!?!!" before the visitor shut the door behind her, followed by the sound of muffled screams drifting in from outside.

"Ty, what are you doing? You know the rules." Minos rubbed his forehead and stared pointedly at the newcomer, who rolled her eyes and pushed back pink-streaked corn-rowed hair set with black pearls.

"Give me a break. Me telling her to get over it isn't going to influence *her*. She's on her sixth round of office furniture," the newcomer said defensively. "And she broke the coffee maker! It's going to take at least five minutes for that thing to re-assemble, and I need a hit *now*. Ante up."

"On the counter," Minos said with a resigned wave.

"Thank you much. I swear, I wouldn't be here if it weren't an emergency---" Tyche added, pouring in enough sugar to make Ben's teeth ache.

"Uh-hunh. Right."


"Ben, Tyche. Tyche, Ben. My newest client."

"Welcome to Limbo," the newcomer said, toasting him with her mug before taking a sip from it. "Ahhhh. *Much* better. You don't mind if I hide here for a little while, do you, Mi?"

"What part of 'new client' didn't sink in?" Minos wondered aloud, his tone only mildly sarcastic. "And should you be here when Forecasting is in the middle of crisis mode?"

Tyche shrugged and folded herself down onto the floor like her joints were made of rubber bands--- snagging a cookie off the plate on the way, Ben noticed--- while seeming completely nonchalant about interrupting his counseling session. Career consultation. Whatever it was. "When aren't we in crisis?"

"I meant, after recent activities on the Hellmouth. I thought you'd be re-working the long-term predictions for the next few weeks."

"Well, we would be, if the Slayer weren't a cat."

Minos winced. "Oh. Sorry."

"Say what?" Ben glanced from his resigned-looking therapist/jailer/guide to the frazzled neo-hippie sitting on the floor and involuntarily gripped the edge of the couch. Reality was tilting again the way it had when he'd woken up on a cloud. Maybe he'd been a little hasty, thinking this wasn't a Bad Place... then again, the new chick had said Limbo, which wasn't supposed to be *really* bad, if he remembered his Frank Capra movies correctly.... And yet. "Cat? Buffy's a cat?"

"You know Buffy?"

"Uh, yeah...." A quick stab of grief and guilt had him staring at the coffee table with a sinking coldness in his stomach. Never mind that he was in the same boat as Buffy; at least he sort of had it coming. But she wasn't supposed to die. If he'd known how it would all work out--- maybe he would've made some better choices. // Too late now, though.... //

"Oh? Ohhh, you're *that* Ben," Tyche drawled, cocking an eyebrow at him, making him squirm and feel about one inch tall. "Right. No wonder you're here. Minos always gets the hard cases."

"Tyche, if you're not going to help, be quiet and eat the cookies."

"What? It's partly his fault she's a cat, and I can't give him a hard time about it?"

"I never did anything to turn Buffy into a cat, dead or alive," Ben blurted in panic. "And if Glory did it, I didn't see it and I couldn't have stopped her, and I would've told her it was a stupid idea if I'd known about it, but you know she's crazy, and---"

"No, no, Ben, calm down. Tyche's being vague, Buffy Summers has not been turned into a cat." Minos waved one hand in denial, then grimaced and took a sip from his mug. "Although that would be easier."

"Wouldn't it just." Tyche pouted at the cookies and then lay her chin down on the coffee table with a sigh.

"She's--- in flux, if I remember my metaphysics terminology right. Somewhere in between, undecided, like Schrodinger's Cat. Not dead, not alive, just a potential until a decision is made."

"In Limbo," Ben said slowly.

Tyche snorted. "Hardly. Man, you really *don't* have a concept, do you?"


"Okay, okay. I'll make nice. You tell it."

"It's your field. And you're interrupting *my* session."

"Whiner." She shifted her head and a few pearls clicked against the table-top. "Limbo is for when you're dead, but the Powers That Be don't know what to do with you yet. Being a cat means *you* don't know what to do with you yet, and we can't help you until you figure out if you're dead or alive or in Philadelphia." She bit her lip thoughtfully. "Actually, I think I saw that on Babylon 5 once...."

"You watch Babylon 5? You guys watch TV?" He took another cookie, looking from Tyche to Minos then back, trying to get his mind around the image of them sitting down to watch *Passions* or something similar once a day with their co-workers without boggling.

"Well, sure. Gotta stay with the trends of the world, right? Otherwise, it's impossible to predict what you humans are going to do. Besides, it's fun. No consequences. Everything *else* we deal with has consequences, so why not watch TV?" Tyche pointed out. "What, did you think we just sang hymns and scattered pixie dust or something?"

"Umm...." Ben fought the urge to snicker as the picture of Tyche flinging sparkly dust all over Glory, and the former god's likely reaction, flashed into his mind without being able to stop it. // I would pay good money to see that... //

"I think we're getting pretty far off-track, guys." Minos leaned forward, placed his coffee cup on the table, then clasped his hands loosely between his knees. "The point is, Ben, that you're not in Hell. And no, you're not in Heaven. In my opinion you're not ready for it yet. But you are definitely dead. And you've got some choices to make."

"Like?" He could feel some of his former hostility returning, even as the idea that he wasn't going to Heaven began to sink in and sting. Okay, so he hadn't been a prince, but he'd tried. He'd really tried--- except for the last part, when it looked like Glory was going to win.... He could still remember Dawn telling him to change, to go away, her voice full of hate, face screwed up with rage, and how sick it had made him feel. And maybe he _didn't_ deserve a nice afterlife. But if he wasn't going to Hell, what else was there? Limbo forever? Watching Glory wreck the lobby would get old... well, not any time soon, but it would *have* to get old eventually.

"I HATE SWEDISH MODERN!" screamed Glory as the door to Minos's office opened and closed again, very quickly, allowing a skinny girl dressed in translucent black gauze and olive draperies to slip into the room and make a bee-line for the coffeemaker. She walked right through one of the bar stools as if it wasn't there, poured and drank two cups in about twenty seconds, then turned to Minos and waved vaguely at him before yawning hugely.

"No, that's fine, have some. Everyone else is," Minos dryly answered her greeting.

"Mmph," the girl mumbled, then bumped into the barstool she'd previously wafted through, glaring at it before staggering over to fall gracelessly to her knees beside Tyche next to the coffee table, while still muttering. "Food. Yes. Quiet. Even better. Coffee, best."

"Pulling another all-nighter, are we?" Tyche asked, guiding a cookie into the girl's shaky hand.

"All day all night... no rest for the blessed and no peace for the creative." The newest arrival winced as more destruction was abruptly heard from the lobby, then almost-lucidly commented, "We're gonna have to put some sound-proofing around her in a little bit. Working up the design now... Tricky. Too many parameters. Must take break." She squinted at Ben through inky-blue bangs, then turned to Minos. "Why's he staring at me?"

Ben blushed. "Sorry. I'm still kinda disoriented. I didn't expect a Goth angel."

"Hunh. I'm not an angel. I'm a Power." She didn't seem to be insulted, but she squinted at him even harder before taking a bite of her cookie. "Security's Mike's problem. Limited imagination you've got... I don't think he can work with us, Mi."

Minos leaned back in his chair again and shook his head at the Gothic Power, or whatever she was. "Danae's on the Design Team. Dreams, ambitions, possibilities... Inspiration. And Ben's not applying for a job with you, Dani."


"Well, why'd you think you were here?" Danae asked, looking confused.

"We didn't get to that part yet." Tyche snagged another cookie and dunked it in her coffee. "Minos was just starting on the choices bit."

"Oh. That's always fun. You know, if you pick dolphins instead of dogs, we can maybe put you in the south Pacific, off the trading routes---"

"South Pacific? What...? Are you people *trying* to freak me out?" Ben demanded, putting his mug down on a coaster and running a hand through his hair. "You are, aren't you? This is some kind of after-life hazing ritual, to get me to cooperate so the suspense will stop and you'll just tell me what I'm in for and put me out of my misery!"

"Ben? Try to breathe. I know you don't need to, but it helps." Minos waited until Ben wasn't hyperventilating any more, then calmly went on. "You're going to have all the time you want to make your decisions. Dani, Ty, stop trying to 'help' and let me finish telling him about his options. Got it?" Mumbled agreements from both parties, and then Minos sighed. "Where were we. Right. Heaven, Hell, and other. You have three other choices, Ben. Although we won't stop you if you want to go to Heaven or Hell right now---"

"You won't." Ben shifted on the couch, slanting a look at Tyche, who shrugged in agreement, and Danae, who nodded sleepily.

"No. But if you go to Heaven now, it's with all your guilt and anger intact --- and everything you've done fresh in your mind, and on your soul. You'll have to face your family, all the people who knew you... and all of those you hurt. Almost no one can bear to be there for very long when they still feel like you do." Minos' grave expression quelled Ben's urge to fidget or look away, scaring him yet again with the importance of their discussion. Eternity stretched out in front of him, and it didn't look like he was getting that trip to Disneyland.

"Hell... well, straightforward punishment is counter-productive, most of the time. We want people to learn from their mistakes and from the pain they've caused others. But we can't force them to do that." Minos grimaced suddenly, his eyes more sad than angry. "Some refuse to believe us, or are too angry or hurt to ever listen; they go to work for those we call the Opposition, although that's misleading. And they're free to come back at any time. It's not exactly a war we're fighting. But you already know you don't want to deal with Them; you just can't accept the way things turn out. Like a lot of people can't, when they get here."

Minos gestured out the window at Glory, who was jumping up and down on the matchsticks she'd made out of the reception desk. "Like Glory. If they don't want to learn, they just stay here, in Limbo. Doing nothing. Learning nothing. Experiencing... nothing." The counselor/therapist took a sip from his mug, studying Ben for a second before he put it down. "But like I told you, no one gets hurt here. Glory can't hurt anyone in this place, and neither can anyone else; they'll remain isolated until they *want* to change. For some, that's it, they can go on to a happy afterlife from there. Other people have to start over the hard way." He grinned suddenly. "And not necessarily as a dolphin. Or a dog."

"Some of them get to be ants," Tyche mentioned, scrunching up her nose. "I think that's what they've got planned for Manson when he shows up."

"I heard he was going to be a cockroach," Danae said through a mouthful of crumbs. "In New Jersey. Toxic waste dump. Live longer that way."

"I dunno, I think an ant would be better...."

"Ahem?" Ty and Dani blinked at Minos, who raised his eyebrows at them, then Tyche made a little 'after you' motion at him and he snorted, turning back to Ben, who was beginning to relax slightly, unwillingly amused at the byplay going on off to the side. "So. Limbo --- where your former ... roommate? Sister?" Minos caught the expression on Ben's face, and hastily said, "Companion, that'll do. Right.... Where your former companion, Glorificus, is going to be stuck destroying whatever she can get her hands on until she decides she's willing to consider doing something else--- or reincarnation into another form, one that'll allow you to learn whatever lessons you missed out on this time around, and atone for whatever mistakes you regret."

"And which lesson would that be? The one about not sharing your body with an insane bitch goddess? Or the one about never getting to have real friends, or people who care about you, because of the magic spell she put on them to forget what happens every time she shows up? The lesson that free will and choice is a crock because you're doomed from the start?" Ben felt his jaw clench as he got to his feet and paced over to the window, staring out at the rolling clouds of mist, pointedly avoiding looking in Glory's direction, before turning back to snarl at Minos. "Or maybe the lesson about how the good guys *can* kill you, even after they've won, so gosh, maybe you should just give up on ever trying to do anything for anyone and just throw yourself under a commuter train the first chance you get!"

"Woooooo," Danae muttered under her breath, looking impressed. "Whooa. Attitude. Much attitude."

Tyche murmured her agreement, widening her eyes at Ben's furious glance. "This is why *I'm* not in Accounting."

"Anything else you need to add, Ben?" Minos asked quietly, ignoring his co-workers.

"Oh, I think that covers it. Just like you've covered it. Heaven, Hell, Limbo, or go back and pay for what I did in my next life back on Earth." Ben's shoulders slumped and he leaned his head against the window glass. "Which is just about as fair as the deal I got this time around."

"That's not all that reincarnation is for... but I don't think it's the best choice for you anyway. There's one other option. If you're willing to hear about it." Minos got to his feet, sticking his hands in his pockets as he cocked his head at Ben. "Are you?"

* * * * *

A rap at the door headed off Ben's response, much to his relief. He wasn't sure what he was gong to say yet. He was still too pissed-off and scared to want to hear one more disappointing option.

"At least they're knocking this time," Minos muttered, cocking an eyebrow at Tyche and Danae, who grinned unrepentantly back at him, eliciting a long-suffering eyeroll. "Come on in, it's open!"

"You have got to hear this," the big guy standing in the doorway said as he opened the door, grinning wide enough to split his face. He reminded Ben of his high-school track coach, an ex-football player who never let himself get out of shape, and never let anyone on the team slack off for a second--- but who'd driven an incredibly tanked Ben home after he got drunk following a disastrous meet, without saying one word of recrimination. "It's unbelievable, I think she's---"

"I want my penthouse! I want my bubble bath! I want my *loofah*! I want my shoooes!!" Glory's tantrum had reached the ear-splitting decibels and pitch usually reserved for two-year-olds in department stores--- with the same level of hysteria. Ben was simultaneously impressed, appalled, and undeniably gleeful as he listened to it--- maybe she wasn't his sister, but this had to be how it felt when your parents *finally* came down on the brat who'd been torturing you for years.

"I want my CLOTHES!! I! WANT! MY! MINIONS!!! I-- I--- I---" A loud hiccup, a choking sound, a very loud, deep breath and then:


The screeching went up and down a three-octave scale, making the hairs on the back of Ben's neck rise and his shoulders hike up in a reflexive shudder.

"Owww." Danae winced and put her hands over her ears.

"Shut the door before she cracks the mugs, Mike. Sheesh." Tyche shook her head in awe.

Mike--- whoever he was--- shut the door with a click, blocking out most of Glory's howling, then crossed the room to the coffee maker, pouring himself a cup, maintaining his grin the whole time. "I know we're supposed to be forgiving and non-judgemental and all, but you gotta admit, this is the kind of thing that makes our jobs fun."

"Your job, maybe. Not mine. You don't have to talk to her later," Minos pointed out.

"Hmmm." Mike wandered over to the plate-glass wall, and all five of them paused to watch Glory thrash around in the middle of the total mess she'd created, sobbing and screeching with her eyes screwed shut, fists pounding on the debris surrounding her, feet kicking in thwarted rage and frustration. "Nope, still fun," the newcomer decided.

Ben snorted, Tyche grinned, Danae giggled, and Minos rubbed at the wrinkles forming between his eyes, smiling tiredly. "Okay, maybe it's a little fun. I'm just hoping she gets tired sooner, rather than later."

"Not a chance," Ben muttered. "Glory doesn't know the meaning of quit."

"Well... maybe not." Minos shrugged, turning away from the window. "But she's not your problem any more."

"You promise? I'm never going to see her again?" he demanded, suddenly feeling like dying might be worth something after all. Heaven, Hell, Limbo--- hey, as long as Glorificus wasn't in the picture, *any* place would be paradise. "Because she's already screwed up one lifetime of mine, so a guarantee that she'd stay out of the rest of them would make me feel a *whole* lot better."

"Probably at least a hundred before you see each other again," Danae commented idly, slurping her coffee contentedly before she noticed Minos staring at her and shaking his head. "Um, two hundred? Okay, uh, a thousand... maybe ... more?" she said hesitantly, dark eyes sheepishly avoiding Ben's while Tyche lightly dope-slapped her on top of her head.

"Let's just leave it at you not seeing her again until you're *both* ready for it. Which could be... a very long time," Minos stated firmly. "And that brings me to why Mike is here. Since I actually _asked_ him to stop by. Unlike some people who shall remain nameless as they drink all my coffee."

"That's a hint to leave, isn't it?" Tyche grinned at him, unphased. "And you think I don't understand subtlety.... Fine. Maybe Buffy's figured out which reality she's in. Or at least which one's she's not." She climbed to her feet, staggering a little. "After this week, though, I gotta say that Glory's onto something about the bubble bath. Even if she is a crazy clothes-addicted skank entity with no self- control. Not that I'm being harsh, or anything."

"I could go for some new shoes myself," Danae sighed, crawling over to the couch and using it to lever herself to vertical. "They cheer me up." She intercepted Ben's disbelieving look and blinked. "What?"

"You two--- you're Powers, so, you're... what? Immortal, omniscent, all that stuff..."

"Yeah?" Tyche asked warily.

"And you *still* have these girly obsessions even though you're dead, or angels, or gods?" Ben watched Tyche and Danae exchange glances, then shrug confirmation. Mike, standing next to him, was silently chuckling into his coffee mug. "Am I the only one here that thinks that's nuts?"

"Hmmph. It's a good thing you're *not* gonna be working in my department, Mr. Know-It-All," Danae huffed, heading for the door. "Shoes are important. If you don't understand *that*...."

"You're still a guy, dead or alive," Tyche finished, following her friend, and pausing with her hand on the doorknob before shooting him a wicked smile. "Some things transcend life-state, Ben. Next time you're reincarnated as a woman, trust me, you'll get it."

"Oh. Oh, please, no. After all the times I ended up in a dress, I'm still not ready for *that*----" Ben's protests were cut off by Glory's yowling as Danae and Tyche went out the door, and Minos's headshake cut him off before he could get really worked up.

"No, like I said, I have something else in mind for you. If you're up for it." Minos looked at Ben regretfully for a second, then said, "You're right, Ben. You did get screwed during this lifetime. No one else on Earth went through what you did; and maybe others have suffered worse, but no one else had to endure exactly what you did. And it was your first life, so that makes it worse. We're all sorry about that. It wasn't supposed to happen--- Glory was never supposed to be able to come out and effect your life, much less isolate you the way she did. Only a saint could've come out of that situation completely intact, and we both know you're a good person, but you just didn't have the experience to handle that. Someone on Earth made a mistake, the spell got screwed up, and... here we are."

"I... oh." What was he supposed to say to that? The Powers were apologizing. It didn't make it better. It didn't solve anything, or erase the last twenty-five ruined years. But at least--- at least *someone* seemed to think he'd gotten a raw deal, and was willing to say that it wasn't all his fault. It almost sounded like... maybe it would be okay.

"Reincarnating you wouldn't really help you much, though. There's no way any being you were incarnated as could handle the weird-ass karma you've got, kid," Mike said, speaking up for the first time since he'd commented on Glory's tantrum. "Mind you, we could *try* to get you a good match, but... the odds aren't good. You'd probably end up even more screwed up than you are now. So Minos has another idea."

"You work for us. Work off your debt for the people you had killed by the Queller demon in order to preserve your life in Sunnydale, and what you did in betraying Dawn." Minos's voice was quietly steely, and much less human than it had been only a minute before. "Once you've made amends for what you did, we give you a clean slate. Heaven or another shot on Earth, your choice. Are you interested?"

"What would I be doing?" It wouldn't matter. It had to be better than anything else on the table; and maybe he'd get a chance to have something like a life, around the edges of whatever they expected him to do. And over and beyond that, there was the relief: that there *was* a way to make up for it. Some way to finally break free of Glory and the death and horror, and the desperation that had led him to hurt people he'd wanted to be friends with. Maybe, after he did this job, maybe he'd be able to face Buffy in some afterlife, and tell her he was sorry. Tell Dawn that he'd liked her, thought she was funny and special, and would've liked to have had her for a sister, instead of Glorificus. Tell Giles that in spite of how much he still wanted to punch out the Watcher for killing him, that he was incredibly relieved the nightmare was over, and couldn't hate him for ending it.

Tell his parents everything, and know that they'd remember it this time, and maybe understand.

Mike grinned again, and the glint in his eyes made Ben distinctly nervous. "Oh, don't worry. I've got the *perfect* assignment for you."

* * * * *

Tara glanced behind her and began walking faster, feeling the prickly sensation of being watched, probably by something nasty, hungry, and faster than she was. She rounded the corner of the street and put on a burst of speed as the Magic Shop came within sight, and then let out a small sigh of relief as she reached the door. Safe. Stupid, stupid, I shouldn't take chances, shouldn't be out so late, but I had to get those ingredients for the spell tonight--- Willow's going to be so mad at me for losing track of time--- Lucky that wasn't something that wanted dinner, whatever it was....

The demon that had been stalking Tara for two blocks loped off in the direction of the park, veering after what looked like smaller, tastier prey bounding across the street. Bunnies were always good for a snack.

Ben watched the oblivious demon chase the phantom rabbit he'd conjured into the woods, then sighed and turned to follow his mortal into the Magic Shop. At least demons are easy to deal with --- all appetite, no brain. Not like that sorceror last week. Sheesh. With a small smile he walked through the walls, something which didn't get old no matter how often he did it. He might be doing time, but at least now he wasn't trapped inside his body. One life sentence, with assigned guard work detail. Could be worse. Could be a _lot_ worse.

Briefly, he wondered if Glory was still shrieking in Limbo, and what her reaction would be to his new job when someone told her about it; but only for a second, since it was a pretty safe bet she'd wreck a few more living room suites when she found out. Maybe if he was really good, they'd give him time off to watch her do that around Solstice or Samhaine or something.

After all, if Buffy ever stopped being a cat, and decided she wasn't through with Sunnydale yet... the mayhem that would follow would make his job *really* interesting. He'd need all the downtime he could get.


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