Safe Heaven
by White Star 2 & Staring Blankly

More than anything, he finds the sandals tiresome.

They're leather, maybe. Or pseudo-leather. He doesn't think they kill cows here. It's supposed to be a happier place. But there's absolutely no way, he tells himself every day, that someone can be happier in a white toga. White never was his color, and he doesn't care for the ventilation his equipment gets. He wonders why he still has it at all. Angels, he shudders at the word, angels are supposed to beșasexual, like Dawn's old Ken dolls. They're supposed to be incorporeal. Like The First.

On top of it all, there's the harp. The sodding golden harp. The provisioning crew went completely overboard with that one. Surely he isn't seriously expected to play it. He can't help but think someone up here is compensating. Trying to make him fit the mold. He wonders why they bother.

He doesn't much care for the population. Which is just as well, because the population doesn't seem to care that much for him. Oh, they smile benevolently. He suspects they can't help it - it's their default state. They're the textbook image of the inhabitants of heaven. Beautiful, serene, sedate. They radiate divine wisdom. He misses every person he's ever met.

He very much doubts that any of his neighbors here has ever killed someone. That any of them spent time in chains, or betrayed someone they loved. He doesn't understand what he's doing here at all. Wear a stupid crystal, glow for thirty seconds, and all's forgiven? Then it's all forgotten. Here's your ticket. Welcome to Disneyland. Hope you enjoy your stay.

He's had time to think. Days, maybe weeks. It's hard to count when everything's just so dandy around you that you're not supposed to notice the passage of time. He's walked everywhere the dreaded sandals would take him, trying to find somewhere that was even the least bit familiar. Maybe this is where his soul was before.

Not bloody likely.

He remembers, of course, Buffy telling him about heaven. She must have gone to a different wing because he doesn't feel safe, or comforted, or content. Just lonely. Just guilty. He wonders if it's some trick that's being played on him, if he really is in hell.

And if it really somehow is Heaven, if this does happen to be the final reward, natural ingredients only, accept no substitutes, then he can't help but wonder. Will he see her here, if he waits long enough? She's only mortal, after all. He aches for her, yet the thought of seeing her face there makes him sick to his stomach. The sense of impending ruin always made him a little queasy.

Ever since he got here, he's been having the same dream. Angels - it startles him, how quickly the word has become natural - sleep, as it turns out. And heaven doesn't act like a dreamcatcher. He wakes up every time he tries to sleep, terrified, remembering only the last image. Him, with his white garb and his ridiculous harp, blood trickling down his chin, staining the immaculate fabric. And Buffy, watching him, disapproving. Not disappointed, just disapproving.

He used to have a different definition of "nightmare".

He hardly finds it strange that the guilt is tempered by short bouts of boredom. He just wants to know if time will make it be the other way around. If, someday, when some poor soul stumbles in, disoriented and a little upset, he'll be calm and righteous-looking like the others.

And he'll gently pluck at the strings of his harp, smile benevolently, and turn away.


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