Disclaimers

Legal: All characters are (c) Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy and probably a whole mess of other people. No infringement of copyright is intended.

Archive: Mailing lists, go right ahead. Anyone else, yes, but please let me know.

Spoilers: Up to the end of season 5

Summary: Glory finds the tunnel at the end of the light. Challenge in a Can: Glory - Pencil - Bittersweet.

Rating: T; violent imagery.


I never thought about what happens when you die. I mean, why would I? Do the words "Immortal Hell God" ring a bell?

Ol' Benji used to think about it, though. He used to think about it a lot.

I guess that's hardly surprising. When you're created as the oh-so-expendable human shell of a demonic force beyond comprehension, and you spend your whole life with a bunch of throwbacks in armour doing their best to find and kill you, matters of mortality probably seem important.

Benny-boy spent most of his teenage years 'searching for meaning'. Ouija boards, six-pointed stars, crosses and ankhs; Transcendentalism, Mysticism, Catholicism and Islam. He tried them all in his attempt to drive me out or keep me down.

In the end, he turned to the biggest faith of all: Science.

None of them did any good, of course.

But he slowed me down just a little; held me back just enough. And that little blonde tramp and her friends killed us both.

Ben died, and he took me with him, sinking into darkness together. Separate at last, but too late for it to help.

And then there was light.


A light.

A. White. Frickin'. Light.

The kind of light that ages your skin and makes you wrinkly before your time.

By now, Ben's sobbing and crying and thanking God - and somehow I don't think he means me - and I'm getting seriously pissed off. I have a fragile complexion, dammit.

And then the light sweeps over us and we're falling.

Ben screams with terror.

Finally, an upside.

We hit the ground with a force that jars even me. Why Benny isn't smeared flat as a pancake, I don't know. But I aim to fix that, as soon as I get a chance.

I've just got my hands on the little worm's throat when I realise where we are.

The blasted, rocky plain stretches out in every direction, pock-marked with oozing, steaming craters, like thousands of open sores.

Home, sweet home.


With a shout of triumph, I grab Ben's head and slam it against the rocky ground.

He howls in pain and wrenches free, grabbing his head as blood begins to ooze from the gash I've made.

Gash?

That ought to have crushed his skull like a rotten fruit!

Ben staggers, glares, takes a swing at me.

I block it.

Or at least, I try to. But his fist knocks my hand aside and hits my cheek.

Ben hit me!

And it hurt.

For a second, we stare at one another, not sure what to do.

Then Ben laughs.

He laughs.

At me.

"Shut up!"

He keeps laughing.

"Shut up! Shut up!"

I stamp my foot. Time was, that would crack the earth. Now, all it does it break the heel of my four-hundred dollar shoe.

I wobble and nearly fall. Ben laughs harder.

I try to hit him again, but he grabs my wrists, tries to hold me.

I hate being weak. I really, really hate it.

With nothing else to do, I try kicking him.

Well. That worked better than expected.


"Congratulations, young lady. A most enterprising and determined performance."

I stare at the guy with the clipboard. He just appeared out of nowhere. Neat suit, snappy dresser. Handsome, in a 'wholesome family man' kind of way.

"Who the hell are you?"

He chuckles and makes a tutting noise, then takes a pencil out of his pocket.

"Look," I snap at him, "I'm getting irritated, here. I'm tired and I'm weak and I just had to kill Ben with my bare hands and the stains will never come out of this dress -"

"He's not dead."

"What?"

"He's not dead." Clipboard-guy gestures at Ben's bloody corpse, which is lying face down in the dirt behind me, "Or more accurately, he is, but that's rather a prerequisite for coming here."

"I crushed his skull with a rock." I lift the rock up for his inspection, flicking off a scrap of brains for emphasis.

"I saw." He nods, "Very impressive. Reminds me of another young lady I knew. She was quite the firecracker. But your friend there is just unconscious. It takes a lot more than that to kill people here. You see, the powers that be prefer it that way."

"The Powers That Be?" I squeal. Dammit, I never squeal. I make people squeal. Usually right before I suck their brains out.

"Oh, not them. I just meant the ... creatures ... in charge of this plane." He chuckles again and checks the tip of the pencil critically, "They like their prey to be resilient."

I feel an edge of fear. Me. Fear. I don't like it. I've already realised that this isn't my plane; just another in the endless parade of demonic pocket dimensions. And one where I'm no stronger than a common human.

"I'm not -"

"I'm afraid you are." He actually looks apologetic, "You'll be chased, hunted, harried, tortured ..." as he speaks, his expression brightens, "beaten, whipped, crushed and torn limb from limb. And that's just the first day. Fortunately, you are, as I said, resilient."

He makes two check-marks on the clipboard. I fantasise about shoving the pencil into his eye-socket and stirring his brains with the tip. He gives me an amused look.

"Such a vivid imagination."

"Kiss my -"

"There's really no need for that sort of attitude."

"So that's my lot?" I glare at him, "Prey for a bunch of second rate Demon Kings?"

He shrugs,

"For a century or two, at least. Local time, that is. After they get tired of you, they'll choose new prey, and put you to work."

"Work?" I'm outraged.

"Certainly. Something suitable for your skill as prey." He smiles, "Most end up in the blood mines, of course, but those of us who excel can work our way up the ladder." He taps his clipboard encouragingly.

"Wonderful." He doesn't notice my sarcasm, "so when do we start?"

"Oh, in a few minutes, I should say. We're just waiting for the last participant. Ah - here she is now."

The sky rips open, there's a bright white flash, and a limp body hurtles to the ground, slamming into the rock.

Clipboard-guy makes a third check-mark.

"Excellent. Let the games begin." And then he's gone as suddenly as he arrived.

I turn in time to see Ben struggle to his feet and limp over to the newcomer, giving me a glare as he does.

He turns her over and freezes. So do I.

Then I start laughing.

Ben steps back, stares at me in confusion. I just laugh harder.

After all, if I have to spend an eternity being tortured and ripped limb from limb, who better to share it with than Ben, and Buffy Summers?