The Reward

Buffy held onto Xander, knowing the man was about to fall over. He had lost not only his ex-fiancée, but his new lover as well. Spike had given his life selflessly, but the people he left behind could not accept that. Buffy had lost the man she had begun to love like a brother. That's really what he had become to her; they held each other when something was wrong, and teased each other when things got too tense. Yes, Buffy loved Spike, but Xander was the one in love with him, and Spike knew that.

"Buffy… I have to go down there. I just… Please, Buff, let me go."

"I can't. Not until you promise me that you will come back."

"I wouldn't leave you, Buffy. You, Willow, Dawnie, the girls… you're my life now."

"Do you want some help getting down there and…searching…"

"Nah. I don't need my left eye to fall down a pit," Xander joked, grinning when she offered a small smile through her tears. "If I find anything… left of them, I'll bring them back."

"At least take one or two of the girls?"

"Alright, alright; you can come. And bring Faith, too."

The three of them gently edged their way into the crater. Loose dirt and rocks would fall at random times, leaving the trio nervous and, therefore, jokey.

"Can you believe we lost the Bronze?"

"There goes my childhood. I grew up in that place. Granted, I also staked Jesse in that place…"

"Yep… That's where all the big stuff seems to happen."

"It's where I got arrested and almost shot… Can that be just last week?" They continued to reminisce and banter as they reached the flat bottom of the crater. They began to slowly explore the area, looking for anything that they could bring back as a testament of their friends' lives.

"Wait, I think I see something…" Xander called, bringing the two women running toward him. "There, kinda near the center; it almost looks like… glowing clothing." They walked cautiously toward the glowing spot, but rushed forward when they saw what it was.

Bathed in the soft moonlight were the bodies of Tara, Anya, and Spike. Tara was wrapped in a shimmery, sheet-like dress, but Anya and Spike were only kept decent by the black jacket laying in strategic places over them. There was no blood anywhere on them, and they looked peaceful, as if resting after a happy experience. Xander knelt next to Spike and slowly brushed his hand along the vampire's jaw line.

"They are your reward," a rich, genderless voice spoke, catching their attention.

"Excuse me?"

"He died saving the world. The elder died saving another's life. All of you have risked your lives countless times to ensure that the balance was not lost. Sometimes, the battle claimed a friend. You, eldest Slayer, have died. Yet none of you has ever received thanks or payment from the Powers That Be. This is that payment. He is loved by many, and gave his life selflessly. She died hoping to save a boy's life. The young one died in the arms of the one she loved. They will be returned to you, along with the lost members of your team. New loves will be found, and old will become friends. Use this gift wisely." The glowing creature faded out of sight, and the moment it was gone, Tara and Anya both gasped, as Spike whimpered softly.

"I guess it's a good thing you two came with me. I have no idea how I would manage to get all three of them up there at once."

"You would have made three trips, but you would have managed. Come on, let's get them to our friends. I'll take Tara," Buffy offered.

"I'll get Anya. By the way, I think she deserves the coat, since she's got more to cover."

"But that's Spike's coat! He got it from that Slayer he killed in New York," Xander argued.

"Listen, he can have it back as soon as we get clothes on these two. Besides, he's unconscious; how's he gonna know?"

"What will he be covered with?"

"You've got a shirt under the flannel one. Take the top shirt off and wrap it around his waist or something."

The trio made their way back up the side of the crater, which was made more difficult by the fact that each of them carried a body as they went. When they made it to the top they were surrounded and had to tell everyone what had happened. They sat in the back of the bus with their charges unconscious and held against them.