Series: Viewtiful Joe [post-canon, largely anime-based]

Characters: Alastor, Joe, Sprocket, most of the main cast.

Pairing: None, aside from Joe x Silvia being canon. Maybe some very-briefly-hinted, probably-onesided Sprocket x Captain Blue.

Things had changed, after the successive triumphs of Good over Evil, and over time Movieland had come to reflect the beliefs of its new heroes: Days were brighter, winters less harsh, people slower to lose their tempers and quicker to forgive. Those who knew why, who could identify the faces behind such a change, knew the altered Movieland only reflected its saviors own ideas: Simple, maybe simplistic, tougher than it sounded, but better for all.

Soon enough, more movies than ever had happy endings; and when people gathered in the theaters and witnessed a thousand happy endings in the friendly dark, well, in little but valuable ways the outside world began to improve as well. Maybe it wasn't as easy to change the Real World as it was to script a Happily Ever After, but hey, you'd never know until you tried!

Even Alastor... Well, he'd still insist he was no good guy, but he was content to be the brooding antihero with the witty one-liners. It was more than just a living, and he had to admit it was fun to see all those faces looking up to you.

Things had gotten better, and Viewtiful Joe - and Sexy Sylvia, and Captain Blue, Junior - had spearheaded the entire revolution. In Movieland they were known from Children's Movies to Art Films and every reel in between; in the real world people followed their adventures and were inspired, if even just a little, to have adventures of their own. A happy ending that never had to end.

Except Movieland was Movieland, and the real world was the real world, and that never changed no matter how negligible the boundaries had become. They first realized it when Director Blue... not quite the Captain anymore... had lost his color, skin growing thin and hair turning white as snow; and then, one day, he'd disappeared. Joe and Sylvia had explained that he'd died peacefully in his sleep, and Junior had sobbed for what seemed like hours, and Alastor had left. He wasn't particularly attached to the old man, not really, but it just seemed like a foreign idea: That real people could, did, die.

Time passed. And even though Joe and Sylvia continued to visit, things changed. They got married; they had children. And as their children grew, and Rachel wondered at the way humans could make new humans just like that, Sylvia and Joe became less than they'd been. Soon Sylvia appeared only rarely, because she had the children to take care of, but Joe never stopped making his periodic visits into Movieland, never failed to greet Junior (pacing near the portal to the old theater) with a wave and a grin and a "What's up, Junior? How's it been?" And truthfully, Joe never lost that heroic spirit, so sometimes it was easy to forget that he was growing old.

But Junior never grew past being Junior, because he'd been locked into the legend as a boy; and Alastor knew that he was still just as strong as he'd ever been, that he hadn't aged a day or lost a fraction of his edge, and for some reason that filled him with unnameable dread. Once Joe had asked why Alastor hadn't challenged him lately and Alastor replied that he'd gotten his answer back then- But the truth was that Alastor was afraid to match himself against his greatest rival, afraid to see for himself how Time had affected the legendary Viewtiful Joe.

Joe and Sylvia would bring their kids in, a girl and a boy, and Joe would tell them stories of their great adventures, and somehow Alastor always wound up sounding like a good guy. But after they were gone, Alastor would replay those memories which for him were as clear as day and try to reconcile it with the way Sylvia seemed to have forgotten the finer details, or how Joe had to ask him whether or not that had been an octopus or a squid. Eventually Alastor stopped meeting up with them at all, even at Rachel's confused questioning and Sprocket's offhanded comments and Junior's angry outbursts, because he didn't need to be reminded that time was fleeting, thank you very much.

And so it went for years, for decades, and Jet died too, and eventually Sylvia stopped coming so it was just Joe and their kids, and sometimes just Joe: Always as loud and as simple as ever, acting like nothing had changed even though everything was changing. One day Junior had demanded Alastor see Joe, had threatened him as best as a little kid could, and Alastor had brushed it off as if it didn't matter even as he sped over treetops and blue seas to that crescent-moon sandbar that seemed destined to be part of their lives.

Alastor is a demon and he doesn't think he has a heart, but something in his chest squeezes almost painfully when he touches down not a yard from that lightning-split tree, still shattered but standing. Joe is turned away, studying it as if for the first time; but he senses Alastor coming, like always, and turns with a wave and a grin and a "Hey dude, long time no see!" But he's about as old as Captain Blue had been when Joe had first entered Movieland... No, probably older, though Alastor's no good at judging age. And his red hair has gone gray and his beard is longer now, and the worst part is that Joe doesn't seem to notice that anything's changed... or maybe he's used to it, and it's only Alastor who thinks it's sudden.

But he's Blade Master Alastor, dammit, so he looks as cool and as careless as ever while they catch up, right until the point where Joe hands over a pair of V-Watches: One plainly Sylvia's, one plainly his. For the first time, eyes darting to Joe's right wrist, Alastor notices that Joe isn't wearing his V-Watch, and suddenly everything seems turned on its head.

"What's the big idea?" he smirks, a hardly-forced chuckle adding to the effect. "It's not like I need a V-Watch to get things done."

Joe smiles, drops the watches into Alastor's gloved hands, and nods. "Yeah, I know," he says, and he turns towards the water and walks down to the shoreline, watching the waves stretch up across the sand with an air of utter serenity. "But you know, that's why I think you're the perfect guy to hold on to 'em! Because maybe one day Vi and Diego'll show up, and they'll need 'em, or maybe some other hopeless geek'll deserve a chance to be a hero, y'know? And I know that if I leave 'em with you, you'll make sure they get to where and who they need to be with." Joe laughs, a bright, somehow unfettered sound that travels across the waves into eternity.

"I trust you, man. And Junior does too, even if the little dude doesn't show it. So you don't mind, right?"

Alastor wants to laugh, grin, sneer, yell Damn it, you idiot, I'm your enemy, aren't I? Your arch-rival, your nemesis? How could you trust me with something your own sidekick should be handling? But it probably wouldn't faze Joe at all. It never did, over all those years... and really, Alastor doesn't know if the word 'rival' even applies. Joe's gotten older, and his human body started failing him years ago: He'd lasted for a long time, carried through on sheer will and innate talent, but eventually their matches had grown too much for him and Alastor had just... stopped asking. As if he could ignore the problem by ignoring the symptoms.

On that beach, Alastor realizes the futility of it and he still can't say a thing, for once without a witty remark or a clever put-down. He can't even get his throat to work and his eyes burn beneath his visor, but his grip on the V-Watches is tight enough to hurt and somehow Joe seems to understand.

"Thanks, Alastor. You've always been a good guy, man."

Alastor almost manages to laugh, but he knows it'll just come out sounding like a choke or a sob and he'd rather not give himself away.

Joe eases himself down onto the sand, the foam washing up against his sandal-clad feet, and Alastor stands. Neither of them speaks as the sun sinks low and the sky is dyed purple and orange and red and gold and begins the slow, inexorable crawl into night.

Soon after that, Joe dies. Alastor isn't told, but he knows all the same: Like a light on a switchboard has finally gone out, Joe Black - Viewtiful Joe - is gone. Alastor supposes he'd gone to Heaven, that place where humans seemed to go if they were good, and Joe was probably the closest thing to an air-headed, cheeseburger-scarfing saint Movieland would ever see. To his mother and father, and his idol, and that golden-haired love of his life, who was probably still being patient with him (more-or-less) wherever they were.

Alastor doesn't talk to anyone for a while after that, because he has no idea what to say or how he's supposed to articulate it. He knows that Junior bites back tears because he's got to be the hero now, and the kid's started to grow up now that his role has changed; Alastor has seen Rachel sitting for hours at that cafe, staring at a plate heaped high with a dozen cheeseburgers as if waiting for someone to show up and start inhaling them, and he knows that Sprocket paid the staff to let Rachel sit there as long as she likes. He knows that even those three idiots closed their stands for a few days and ordered enough pizza and sake to honor their old enemy well.

Alastor is coming to terms with a realization far too long in the coming: That he can no longer define himself by his opposition, or lack thereof, to Viewtiful Joe, because that man is no more.

... It's harder than he thought it would be, and Alastor struggles to find a path between what he feels like doing and what he sees as weakness. Joe was a worthy opponent and a true hero and Alastor refuses to dishonor his life and death with anything as trivial as tears, and for a while Alastor finds himself unreasonably enraged by the fact that Movieland doesn't seem to realize he's gone. None of the others told anyone and people are used to Viewtiful Joe coming and going as he pleases, and all around the real world screens are still bright with images of Joe and Sylvia in their prime. It's a long time before Alastor can watch those movies without wanting to slice the flickering reels into ribbons, but after a while it becomes reassuring. They're gone, but not forgotten. In a way, it's like they've always been.

One day Alastor finds himself on that same damn beach, and this time he sits in the sand and does nothing but watch the waves. It's pretty hot there in full uniform, so off goes the helmet, lain beside him on the shore, as the sun dips low and the sky turns a deep, soothing blue. The air turns cold off the sea, and the stars come out, and Alastor remembers - one last time, before he shuts it all away - that first battle and all the ones that followed; he remembers the electric thrill that came with recognizing, at last, a worthy adversary, and the utter inferno of rage that had driven that last real fight, and the strange, comfortable emptiness that had followed when Joe had explained the difference between a hero and a villain.

"I don't know what you are, dude, but I know you're not a bad guy. Isn't that enough?"

The moon rises, big and white and round, larger than life, and Sprocket's voice floats over the sound of the ocean from somewhere over to his left.

"Are you actually crying, Alastor?"

Alastor laughs, as dark and confident as always, and shakes his head. "Crying? Me? Please. It's just the ocean. Sea-spray and all."

"Hm." Sprocket doesn't sound convinced, not that Alastor cares.

"But the tide's already gone out."

"Heh... Shows what you know. Demons never cry."

"Oh, I don't know." There's the faint sound of sand shifting as Sprocket takes a seat, legs tucked neatly beneath her, facing another direction entirely; and Alastor remembers that Sprocket lost Blue long ago. "Maybe even a demon might cry... if he loses something important."

Alastor feels empty again, but somehow in a good kind of way. He'll have to figure out how to fill it again.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Alastor replies, finality in his voice even though he does, acutely aware of the weight of two V-watches tucked into a compartment of his skull-faced belt.

"Everything that counts is still here."

A/N: Dedicated to a certain online author and her VJ drabbles, which convinced me writing fic for this totally awesome series wasn't completely nuts.

A/N 2: Joe and Silvia's kids are Violet and Diego (the latter named for Indigo), both of which are variations on purple, which is what you get when you combine their Henshin'd colors. And Alastor wears purple, of course, but that was kind of incidental.

A/N 3: And yeah, that entire last section was a DMC reference because that's what Alastor is, 24/7. Last note, I promise.