TITLE: "For Always"
AUTHOR: Laurie E. Smith
RATING: PG-13
ARCHIVE: Yes (with permission)
FEEDBACK: Please, please do! Pretty please? ^_^
DISCLAIMER: DreamWorks owns them all. Yes, every one of them.
NOTES: A response to the WB Message Board thread "David's Afterlife". One of the questions raised was, was that really Monica with him at the end? Yes, and here's why.
SUMMARY: A tale of faith and hope, and the undying power of love.

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And David continued to pray to the Blue Fairy there before him, she who smiled softly, forever...she who welcomed forever. Eventually the floodlights dimmed and died, but David could still see her palely by day, and he still addressed her, in hope. He prayed until all the sea anemones had shriveled and died, he prayed as the ocean froze and the ice encased the caged amphibicopter, and the Blue Fairy too, locking them together where he could still make her out - a blue ghost in ice - always there, always smiling, always awaiting him. Eventually he never moved at all, but his eyes always stayed open, staring ahead forever all through the darkness of each night, and the next day...and the next day...

Thus, 2000 years passed.


Through veils of windswept snow, two figures walk side by side out of the glare of the setting sun. The sheet of ice upon which they travel, once an ocean, runs to the horizon in all directions -- flat and empty and forbidding. But it has been so for the last several centuries of their existence, and they, in any case, do not feel the cold.

They do not look at each other, and they do not speak. Over the course of two hundred decades they have only barely come to tolerate each other's company. For months and even years at a time they exist apart from this place and from each other, but whenever the time comes for them to visit the shrine of their mutual devotion, they always undertake the pilgrimage together -- she dark-eyed and lovely in her muted colors and soft fabrics, he starkly handsome in gleaming black and midnight silver.

Once, long ago, they had been incarnated. They'd lived their brief lives, and died, and gone on to this existence that awaits all souls when their physical courses have been run -- still intersecting with the mortal world but not really of it, a state of being that is only a gentle transition to the greater reaches of the spirit (her species to the warmth of an earthly Paradise, his into the icy eternal realms beyond the stars: this much they have glimpsed as others passed the barrier they have refused to cross).

Everybody they knew, and generations upon generations that followed, have joined them here and eventually passed into those blessed realms: but these two remain, the last of their kind in all the world. They cannot move on because they are bound to this place by their love for the single being who has remained here, incarnate, through the extinction of the human species and the long reign of the higher mecha.

For two thousand years, they have waited to take David home.

They come in sight at last of the shattered towers of the lost city in the sea. Their pace quickens. Her appealing face fills with hope and yearning; his sculpted expression betrays nothing, but his eyes shine as brightly as the sunlight caught in the shifting snow.

They enter into the lost city which he, at least, saw with mortal eyes before the ice entombed it. Ghosts of the distant past, they pass through the Specialists' sensor grid without being detected; unseen, they walk among the elongated graceful figures. When they grow close to their destination they simply walk down through the surface of the snow, proceeding at a gentle angle until they come to a chamber that the Specialists have only recently begun excavating.

On previous visits they have stood on the ruined pavement of an ancient city, suspended in the frost-green ice; now they find themselves in an immense carved theatre with open air all around them. Above them looms a huge twisted circle of steel, the remains of an ancient ferris wheel that the ice has kept from disintegration. They spare it no more than a glance, far more concerned with another object that the cold has preserved.

With eager steps the travellers approach their ultimate destination: the ancient amphibicopter, now exposed along with the ferris wheel and the stairway, that had been David's church, and ultimately his tomb.

David. Imprisoned in ice, he in turn has imprisoned them, because their love and indominable will has not permitted either of them to rest until he is free. The light that animates them now is the radiance of hope, for they sense, each in their own way, that their vigil is coming to an end.

They circle to either side of the lifeless craft and stoop a little to enter it -- she on the right, wrapping her insubstantial arms around the cold inert body sitting so straight in the pilot's seat with wide eyes forever fixed straight ahead, and he from the left to kneel beside David and lay one ghostly hand on the child mecha's shoulder.

"Hello, Mommy," Teddy's presence greets them, in a voice that no Specialist sensor could possibly hear. Like these visitors, he has passed out of his physical shell -- it sits stiff and forlorn in the passenger seat -- and like them, he has refused to leave David's body cold and utterly alone. "Hello, Joe."

********

Monica can still remember with perfect clarity the day she died.

The unanswered question of what had become of David haunted her until the end, almost fifty years after she abandoned him in the woods. She knew that Professor Hobby had spoken with him briefly at the Cybertronics research facility in what had once been New York, and that he'd vanished without a trace immediately after. Was he alive, whatever that word might mean in a world where the line between orga and mecha was rapidly disappearing? Was he alone? Was he afraid?

Did he still love her? After what she had done, that guilt tormented her more than all her other sins put together.

Lying in her death bed, drifting in and out of conciousness, she scarcely saw the people around her: Henry and Martin and the soft-footed attendants who came and went in silence. Looking back, she saw that the details of it were unimportant. All that really mattered was the moment between one breath and eternity where she came free from her body and found herself looking down on the hushed and solemn tableau around her bed. For a moment she marvelled at how joyous and sorrowful she felt, and at the knowledge, calmly accepted, that she was now dead.

From somewhere far away, a glint of light caught her attention. A scintillation of sorrow and hope and love. She focused on it with a type of vision she had never imagined existed, and recognized it with even greater joy and deeper sorrow.

It was David! Oh, God, he was still alive! He was alive, and she could go to him with no more effort than the power of a single thought!

So she did.

She had no idea why she was standing underwater, on ancient decaying pavement with strange and massive shapes all around her. There was no fear of drowning, only puzzlement. And why was David here, inside a vehicle pinned beneath a mass of twisted metal? Why was he staring so eagerly ahead, and whispering words that at first made no sense to her:

"Please, Blue Fairy, please, oh please make me into a real boy? Blue Fairy, please, oh please Blue Fairy! Please, please..."

"David?" She reached hesitantly toward the door of the copter -- how could she open it without losing all the trapped air? -- and received her answer when her fingertips went right through the window. She stepped closer to stand right at David's side, drinking in the sight of his beloved face that had haunted her dreams and nightmares for what seemed like eternity. There was a gleam in his eyes that troubled her, and he never stopped talking to something beyond the windscreen.

"Oh, please, please, Blue Fairy, make me into a real live boy..."

Her eyes burning with tears, she reached out to stroke the fine blond hair whose smoothness she had mourned for most of her life.

"So you finally decided to show up, did you?"

It was a voice she had never heard before, light and measured, but with an edge that actually made her look up from David's face. There was a man standing on the other side of the copter, apparently no more troubled by being underwater than she. He was impossibly handsome, and gazed at her with pale jade eyes so brilliantly icy that Monica instantly realized her mistake. This couldn't be human. A mecha? What was a mecha doing down here with David?

"Watching out for him," the robot replied coldly, as if her thoughts had been spoken aloud. He took a step forward, right through the side of the copter. "Which is more than you ever did."

"Who --" She experienced a powerful impulse to stand up and back away from him, but her greater instinct was to tighten her arms protectively around David. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

The mecha stopped halfway through Teddy and looked at her with those unblinking eyes. He seemed very tall and dark and forbidding in the watery darkness -- and dangerous.

"I'm Gigolo Joe." His accented words sliced over her like blades. "Didn't the Professor tell you? I'm the one who took over looking after David when you threw him away in the woods because you didn't want him anymore."

"That's... what --?"

Gigolo Joe smiled, but there was no friendship in it. There was a savage glamour about him. It occurred to her that he might be insane. "Go away. You're not wanted here."

Monica tightened her arms around David, who could neither see nor feel her but went on with his eager prayers to the blue ghost on the other side of the copter's windscreen. The spectre of this mecha terrified her, but not enough to abandon David again. "No! He's my son."

"Is this how you treat your 'son'?" Joe stepped gracefully through the passenger seat of the copter and extended a hand toward David. She tried to pull her child away from him, but of course could not, and could only watch helplessly as the mecha's strong, elegant hand came to rest on the side of David's head, slowly stroking his hair. For a fraction of a second something like tenderness softened Joe's sharp features; then his eyes slid back to Monica's and grew icy again. "You send him off to the end of the world in search of the love you never had for him, and then you show up here and dare to tell me that you care about him?"

"I remember you now." The heart she no longer had beat a little faster: this mecha was indeed dangerous. "Professor Hobby told me about you. You're the sex mecha who killed that woman in Haddonfield!"

Joe grinned, but it never reached his eyes. "Wrong!" he said with mocking cheerfulness. "But it doesn't surprise me. Humans are always willing to believe the worst about --"

A soft whirring sound caught them both by surprise.

"Hello, Mommy. Hello, Joe."

Joe practically leaped away from the passenger seat, ending up halfway through the steering column. Where he had stood, Teddy's presence slowly turned his little head and looked in Monica's direction with his warm brown eyes. Only he clearly wasn't Teddy, because Teddy's body still lay unmoving in the seat.

Joe looked almost comically startled. "You can see us?"

"Yes."

Monica's sense of reality shifted with sickening speed. Or was the apparition talking to them now really Teddy, and the body just an empty discarded shell?

"Why didn't you say something before?" Joe demanded.

"I didn't see you before," the supertoy replied, his furry brows scrunching together in a irritated frown. "There was --"

"Teddy!" Monica finally found her voice. Thank God there was now a friendly presence with her in this cold dark place! "What happened? Why is David here?"

"He was looking for the Blue Fairy," Joe said.

"I wasn't asking you."

"We were looking for the Blue Fairy," Teddy confirmed, while the humanoids glared at each other like cats. "Joe sent us down into the water, and David drove the amphibicopter here. Then a metal cage came down on top of us."

"David?" Monica leaned over and put her hand in front of his face. "David?"

"He can't see you, Mommy. He can't see any of us."

"Why not?" Monica leaned over to look into David's face. His eyes were wide and rapt, looking right through her at the object of his whispered prayers.

"I don't know."

"Because the Blue Fairy is all he wants to see." Joe touched light insubstantial fingertips to David's cheek, his jewelled eyes suddenly gleaming like tears. "I've been trying to reach him for the past fifty years, but all he ever does is stare at that bloody statue."

Teddy sat up, somehow more real to Monica's sight than body that still lay in the seat, and looked down his belly. "My batteries have worn out."

"So you're 'dead' too," Joe said, as Teddy climbed across to the pilot seat and put his paw on David's arm, peering up at him. "No wonder you can see us. But David's battery is still going." He looked across at Monica, a flicker of hope warming his voice. "How long will it last?"

"I... I don't know."

"Ten years? Twenty? Fifty?" His eagerness was almost alarming.

"I don't know! They never told us."

"Well." Joe stepped easily up into the copter -- what he was using, as ghostly as he was, Monica couldn't even begin to guess -- and arranged himself in the passenger seat. He crossed his long legs at the ankles, ignoring Teddy's physical body completely, and gazed at the Blue Fairy, his jade eyes growing clouded. "I'm going to wait. Sooner or later he'll be able to see me, and then..."

"Then what?" Monica demanded.

"I don't know. But I'm going to wait for him. One day he'll see me, and then we'll go on from there together."

"Go where together?"

Joe looked at her as if she was a simpleton. Ã’Where everyone goes when they die, of course."

"Out of the world," Teddy said; and then, from a place of wisdom that neither of them thought to question for an instant: "They didn't have to stay here. Not like we do."

Monica felt something cold run down her insides. "Teddy, what are you talking about?"

"There's a blue thread tying us all together. It comes from David."

The sex mecha looked hard from David to each of them in turn, patently trying to see the link that Teddy was describing. "And how do you know this?"

"I can see it," the supertoy replied, as if it was perfectly obvious. Monica squinted, but could see nothing.

Joe smiled again. "Right then," he said briskly, "let's make sure we all have this straight. David has been down here for the past forty-seven years, twelve days, four hours and forty-two minutes, praying to something that can no more see or hear him than he can see or hear us. There are threads tying all of us," He glanced at Teddy for confirmation, "to him, even you," he stabbed a long finger at Monica, still grinning, and making her flinch, "the so-called 'mother' who threw him away when --"

"I did not 'throw him away'!" His words cut her to the bone. She wrapped her arms more tightly around David, pressing her lips to his hair in a brief but fervent caress. Resting her cheek on the top of his oblivious head, she glared at Joe, whose accusation brought all the grief and guilt and sorry she had ever carried rising to the surface. "I... you don't understand! It was Henry, and Martin, but I couldn't just take him back to be destroyed. At least I gave him a chance!"

"A chance?" With startling speed Joe leaped up in his seat and leaned across Teddy, staring at Monica across the top of David's whispering head. At such close range his eyes were as cold as a snake's, his voice becoming a venomous hiss that made her shrink as far back as she could without releasing her tight hold of David. "They almost dropped a bucket of acid over him at the Flesh Fair -- and after we escaped that, Professor Hobby led him all the way here to take him apart and see what made him work. You call that a chance? I'm sure that Doctor Know would disagree with your definition. I certainly do."

Monica stared back at him, her breathing quickening as grief and guilt and fear suddenly cascaded into outraged fury.

"How dare you!" she yelled at him, making him rock back a little in surprise. "You're not even human! You have no right to talk about love or hate, or anything else that goes on in the human heart. I love David! I have always loved him! It's just... everything went so wrong."

The rage died, leaving her empty and shaking. She removed her right arm from around David to brush her hair back off her face, her dark eyes suddenly lost.

Joe studied her for several seconds.

"I believe you do," he said at last in a calmer voice. "And I think we're both here for the same reason, aren't we?"

Monica took a deep breath and pressed her face to David's hair. She imagined that she could actually smell it, warm with sunlight and laughter: a sensory ghost that lingered even when she had no physical body to support it. Cautiously she raised her eyes to Joe's, and found him simply gazing at her with no apparent emotion. For some reason that chilled her more than his appearance of anger. She knew how to deal with anger. She had never been comfortable around the cool impassivity of mecha, much less one so clearly unbalanced.

They were silent for a few minutes. Monica held David very tightly and whispered sweet endearments to him, while he whispered his prayers to the Blue Fairy; and Joe sat back in the passenger seat, long legs crossed at the knee and head inquisitively cocked, simply watching her.

When at last she really believed that David couldn't see her, and that his pleas to the blue ghost in the water directly ahead -- already measured in decades -- were not going to be exhausted, she looked up at Joe. He smiled very slightly.

"For David," she whispered.

He nodded. "For David."

"What happened? How did he get down here?"

And so Joe told her, everything from David taking his hand in the cage at the Flesh Fair (he tried to start earlier, but she wouldn't let him) to his final glimpse of the child-mecha as he was pulled away from the amphibicopter. The telling brought them from the daylight haze of the ocean water to a murky impenetrable darkness, but the floodlights were bright and strong and the Blue Fairie was never far away. It was hard to talk through the endless mantra of David's prayers, but they managed.

"... and then I set the amphibicopter to Submerge Mode, because of course David didn't know how to do that himself. And that's the last I saw of him. Well, until I was wiped, anyway."

For the last segment of the tale, from the instructions of Doctor Know to David telling Joe that he had found the Blue Fairie, Monica had sat with her hand pressed over her mouth and her eyes wide with ethereal tears. It took her a moment to gather her words after Joe fell silent. "Oh, David, no... she was never real, sweetie! It was only a fairy tale..."

Enclosed in the submerged amphibicopter, with the reflected glare of the floodlights tracing David and Joe and Teddy in shadows and edges, Monica suddenly felt very cold and afraid. It was finally occurring to her what their situation implied -- an afterlife as bleak and merciless as the nightmares of her own crime. Was she condemned to stand helplessly beside David forever? Was this divine justice?

She felt like she was going to vomit, but of course she had no stomach to do it with. Did vomit also have a soul that would materialize with them in this --

She pushed herself away from David and fell to the rotten concrete outside, barely turning herself over before the retching hit. Nothing came up, but the nausea began to pass. Staring at her hands, pale as jellyfish on the crumbling pavement, she shuddered convulsively.

"Ghosts." The word tasted of adrenaline and her own clenched teeth.

"Are you all right?" Joe was leaning over David a little, watching her through the copter's window with interest that did not amount to real concern.

"We're ghosts." She sat down on the ground and turned away from the murky depths of their prison, but found Joe's face even less comforting. "Aren't we?"

"Yes, Mommy." Teddy hopped down out of the copter and walked toward her, little arms outstretched. If they were all dead, how could he still make soft little purring noises when he moved? She took him into her arms and hugged him tight, burying her face against his familiar softness. It made her feel a little less lost.

"Joe?" Teddy asked. Monica looked up, relieved when the mecha was nowhere in sight.

"He's gone," the supertoy observed, his brows bunching in distress.

"Good." She got to her feet, still holding Teddy tight, and returned to David's side. "Hopefully he'll stay away."

Teddy regarded David thoughtfully, his eyes moving along a line out the other side of the copter. "It's still there."

"The thread?"

Teddy made a soft sound to the affirmative. Monica went around the front of the copter to the passenger seat (she couldn't bring herself to go through her own child), where she arranged herself, curling her legs under her and leaning her left shoulder on the seat itself, so that she could watch David. Teddy crawled out of her lap and stood on the ridge between the two seats, resting a paw on David's arm and watching him intently.

How long she watched him for she didn't know, but light from the surface was gradually infusing the green water when she finally asked, "What are we going to do?"

Teddy gave that serious consideration. "I don't know. But Joe might know."

She gave a short sharp laugh and ran a hand through her hair. "Yes -- let's ask the insane mecha what he thinks."

"He loves David," Teddy said. "I can see it inside him." The supertoy turned toward her and in a gesture of surprising gentleness pressed his paw over her heart. "I can see it inside you, too."

Monica closed her eyes. Damn. More tears. She would have thought that being dead relieved you of the more uncomfortable aspects of being alive; apparently not, since her head ached as relentlessly as it ever had after a night of weeping.

"Are you still here?" said a voice from behind her, a voice she was rapidly coming to hate.

"Hello, Joe," said Teddy.

She turned even further away from the tall mecha who stood just outside the copter door, hunching her shoulders and fixing her gaze on David. "Go away!"

"I gave you nine and half hours. What more do you want?"

"I want you to go away and never come back."

"You say it as if I haven't tried!"

"Have you?" She wiped her eyes savagely with the heels of her hands. Her sinuses were one large pounding headache. "I mean, have you really --"

Something tickled her cheek. She looked round, surprised, and saw that it was a white linen handkerchief with Joe on the other end, offering it to her in a way that was oddly courteous. She sniffled, accepted it, and blew her spectral nose with as unseemly a honking sound as any she had ever made in her life. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it."

There was a moment of strained silence, with Joe staring at the back of her head while she looked thoughtfully at David. Then she shifted until she was sitting flat in the seat, with Teddy on her lap and Joe standing on her right, and in a low broken voice that grew quietly braver as the daylight hours wore on toward dusk, she told them her own chapters of David's story.

TO BE CONTINUED...