Title: Meant For More

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: PG-13/T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.

Summary: They made a strange pair, standing at the top of the Silver Spire: mortal and angel, tall armored figure with wings of fire beside a small blonde female in decorative trousers and tunic. 1300 words.

Spoilers: Post-"The Gift" (season 5); post-game for plot purposes (Diablo III)

Notes: Challenge fic: another take on Buffy's time in Heaven. I can't believe I actually wrote gamefic! *facepalm*

They made a strange pair, standing at the top of the Silver Spire: mortal and angel, tall armored figure with wings of fire beside a small blonde female in decorative trousers and tunic. But she wasn't a stranger to the High Heavens and its residents, despite her appearance; only her outward form was new to those exalted precincts.

Imperius shook his head, voice more stern and foreboding than she'd heard it since Diablo's corruption had been cleansed from the Crystal Arch so many aeons ago. "The purpose for which you were reborn is not yet complete."

"You think I don't know that?" Buffy replied, looking out over the gleaming halls she had walked so long ago, when she had worn a form much like that of the Archangel of Valor at her side. It felt good to see it so beautiful again; her last life had ended before the damage caused by the Prime Evil's attempted conquest had been fully repaired. Being there again made her feel- whole somehow, in a way she never quite felt in the world below. "The Black Soulstone's finally stirring; it's already drawing servants to it. In another year, maybe two, it's going to find a new host, and that's really going to suck."

"And who shall stand against the Prime Evil then but Justice?" Imperius turned his helm toward her.

He'd never dressed in any color but red, in all the long ages she'd known him; never worn any breastplate but the one he had on now, marked with the sigil of a blazing, upturned sword. Nor had his personality changed any more in essence than hers. But he had grown a little more subtle with the years: he had not yet brought Solarion out to play.

She inclined her head in acknowledgement, returning courtesy for courtesy. "I know. It makes things more complicated, that's for sure. But did you really expect me to do anything else?"

"You still contend that we are meant to protect the innocent," he replied, wings shedding liquid light as they twitched in indignation. "But the Key is no innocent. It was never meant to be mortal!"

"Neither was I," Buffy replied harshly. Her form briefly shifted, gaining considerably in both height and bulk; then his skin grew darker, shading from pale ivory to a nut brown color, and his clothes altered form to a sand-colored robe belted over battered golden armor. "Until I chose to Fall; and so became. In so much, she and I are equal. Or do you still believe all of humanity to be an abomination?"

"You would defend It? After you perished by Its hand?" Imperius growled, dodging that old argument.

Tyrael narrowed his eyes at his companion. "I perished at the hand of Glorificius. Dawn was the instrument, but hers was the will. And I would remind you that the genesis of the Key is not known even to the Angiris Council. None have seen Malthael since the destruction of the Worldstone, as you should know who command in his stead, and his binding was to see all things. To unlock all knowledge. If Zoltan Kulle was capable of creating a soulstone that would hold all Seven Evils, then could not some other Horadric mage have constructed one to hold an Archangel's might?"

The large masculine form melted away again as he spoke, leaving him female again, one small fist clenched over her heart. "But wherever she comes from, Dawn is my sister; as Malthael was our brother. And I would still defend her even if that wasn't true. She doesn't remember anything about who she might have been, any more than I did before I died, or last time, before my sword was restored to me. Would you condemn her for tragedies she couldn't have stopped? Would you have condemned me for what happened to New Tristram, or for all the people slaughtered by Magda's sicko cult?"

It would be no more than she deserved, of course, if he did; no more than she had condemned herself in the aftermath of Angelus' rampage, or during Izual's capture and corruption, or while facing the Dark Wanderer, despite believing she had done the best she could each time. Whatever her circumstances, whether she had her memories or not, Buffy seemed doomed to accrue the same debts in every life: to make similar choices and mistakes, again and again. Such, perhaps, was the price of Wisdom, but that didn't lessen the guilt she carried.

Deckard Cain. Aidan's daughter. The heroes who had fought the encroachment of Diablo and his brothers upon Sanctuary, time after time. All had been lost to one tragedy or another; even, eventually, the nephalem who had braved the Diamond Gates at Tyrael's side. They had all been worthy of better. The Heavens would have fallen without them- but would the Prime Evil even have reached that far if Tyrael hadn't failed Leah first? If he hadn't been blind to her mother's treachery? Or if he'd stopped her possessed father before he could release Ba'al, two decades prior? Only Itherael knew, and of what could have been, the Archangel of Fate never spoke.

The Scoobies deserved better, too. But it seemed like it was Buffy's destiny to gather heroes around her and lose them one by one to the dangers that followed in her wake.

Imperius clenched his mailed fists as he replied. "Then I say to you again, who shall oppose the Prime Evil? His new host will wake the portal to the Burning Hells; and his minions will overrun the human world. The old Orders that protected Sanctuary in times past have all dwindled or become corrupt, and the majority of the Host are fighting on other fronts. What is to stop him from turning his gaze upon the High Heavens once more?"

Buffy sighed. "Ithereal's record of the battle hasn't changed; he says the echoes of my presence there remain. I don't know how that's possible, or if I'll remember any of this when the time comes. But El'durin still waits there, in its reforged shape; and one way or another, I should be able to use it to cut the bindings on every nephalem of Sineya's line. The First might defeat one Slayer, but he can't possibly defeat them all."

"That, too, will have its cost," Imperius warned.

"I know." Buffy expected that. "But they've been misused and misguided for way too long; it's time they're allowed to choose their own fates."

That was why she'd chosen to be reborn among them, when she was brought forth again by the will of Anu; the Council that called themselves Watchers in these latter days were sadly changed from the loyal mages she'd asked to watch over Sanctuary when her mortal years as Tyrael drew to a close. That error, at least, she could set right. She had once vowed that Heaven and Sanctuary would always stand together; it was time she made sure that promise was renewed.

Imperius shook his head, then deliberately relaxed his fists, letting it go this time. "You will do as you will; as you have always done."

"Gee, thanks, bro," Buffy said, dryly. Then she turned and headed for the nearest staircase, the marble cool under her bare feet. "Find me in the Gardens of Hope if anything changes; I have a feeling I'm going to need all the healing I can get before it all breaks loose."

She looked back only once, catching one last glimpse of her fiercest and sternest of brothers; he still stood where she had left him, gazing up at the Arch. Then she heard the melodious voice of Auriel over the splashing of fountains, and smiled, skipping down the steps to greet her elder sister with outstretched arms.