Title: Partners in Death
Summary: Spike and Anya find that even death can't separate them.
"Dead?! DEAD?!? What do you mean I'm dead?!?"
"Please, Miss, if you'd just--"
"I won't just anything! How in Pete's name am I *dead*?!?"
Spike glanced across the crowded room toward the woman making the ruckus. Her high, firm voice was strangely familiar to him, though he was still a bit too hung over from dying (again) to place it. He could see that the After Room attendants were trying in vain to calm her down and get her to take a seat with the rest of the newly-dead. But the woman kept right on refusing and demanding an explanation for why she was no longer of earthly citizenship.
It was a few more minutes of listening to this woman yell before Spike suddenly realized who she was. Feeling a sudden sense of pity for the After Room attendants from the newly-recognized knowledge that they could never win, he got up out of the chair he was in and crossed the room.
"Hey." He tapped the biggest attendant on the shoulder. "Having some trouble, mate?"
The attendant, standing a whopping 4'3" and dressed in a black custom-tailored suit, nodded. "Just a little," he replied sardonically.
"I know this woman," Spike told him. "How 'bout you let *me* deal with her?"
The attendant shrugged. "All right. But good luck, buddy. She's a tough one." He whistled. "Attendants, move on. We got someone who says he can handle her."
The attendants obediently shuffled past, shooting Spike grateful looks as they went. Spike nodded to them, then turned to the ornery woman glowering in front of him.
"Anya," he said. "Fancy meeting you here."
She glared at him.
"I see you took one for the team as well."
"Apparently one in the back," she snapped. "'One' being an axe blade, by the way."
He flinched, humoring her. "Sounds painful."
Anya bristled. "I wouldn't know. One second I was slicing Bringers with Andrew, and the next I was here in this room and those unpleasant little midgets were telling me I was dead. I didn't even know I was hit!"
"That's the way it goes most of the time, luv."
"Yeah, well, I don't like it."
He shrugged. "Least you'll never have to go through it again. It's a one-time thing. Usually."
She rolled her eyes. "Thank you. That makes me feel *so* much better."
"Anytime," he replied, mimicking her sarcasm. "Now let's go sit down. It shouldn't be too much longer before our turns to find our Partners-In-Death."
"Partners-In-Death?" Anya asked, scrunching her brow. "What the hell is that?"
Spike shook his head at her as he took her by the wrist and led her back across the room. "How can you have been around for eleven hundred years and not know about Partners-In-Death?" They sat down. "You were up to your pretty little neck in death for almost a dozen centuries."
Anya frowned defensively. "Hey, I may have caused it, but this is my first time experiencing it firsthand. So if you would kindly stop patronizing me and explain it to me, *Fang Boy*, it would be a much more efficient waste of both our time."
"Time is all we've got from here on out, *Demon Girl*."
"Don't adage me, William."
He sighed frustratedly. "Fine, Anyanka. Partners-In-Death. Where to start?"
"How about starting by telling me what it is?"
"Partners-In-Death is exactly what it sounds like," he said, giving her a look. "A partner for you to travel the Death Worlds with. No one wants to do that for eternity without someone else around." He hesitated. "You *do* know about the Death Worlds, right?"
"Of course," she replied indignantly. "I'm not *stupid*. They're simply different dimensions you gain access to once you die. Places to go when the Life Worlds are closed to you."
He nodded. "Yes. Glad you've done your homework." He ignored her heated expression. "So, when you get knocked off, you come to this glorious place and kick around for a bit. They call a couple people at a time into that room over there--" he gestured to a door off to the right "--and they have a Maj'La demon read your mind and project your mind's three favorite memories onto a screen. It's all subconscious, mind you. Then a panel of beings who know about this sort of mystical-brainwave shit read into your memories while you live through flashes of them again, and from that they determine who your Partner-In-Death is going to be."
Anya raised an eyebrow. "Sounds painless enough. Is your Partner-In-Death someone you knew in life?"
Spike shook his head. "Not necessarily. But you're supposedly kindred spirits or some sentimental bugger-talk like that, so the awkward getting-to-know-you stage is kept to a minimum. Thank God," he added.
"How much longer do you think we'll have to wait to find out?" She asked, suddenly brightening. "I'm kind of curious now to find out who I'll be spending eternity with."
He shrugged. "What number did they give you?"
She glanced down at the tag pinned to her chest. "One-seven-two-three-four," she read.
Spike opened the front of his duster and said, "One-seven-two-three-five. Looks like we'll be going in together. They always call pairs starting with the even number."
She smiled. "This should be interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what my favorite memories are. And yours, too, of course. Do I get to see them?"
"I think so," he said. "Hope my memories of carnage don’t scare you too bad, though. "Gruesome stuff."
"Not compared to *mine*, Spike," she retorted playfully. "You said yourself, I have a thousand years more than you. Some of the primitive methods we used to use were… well, carnage-y. A lot can be said for a blunt rock and an anthill, you know."
He chuckled. "Never tried that one myself. I’ve always been more inclined to use--"
Anya never did get to hear Spike’s comments on his favorite torture methods, as they were brusquely interrupted by an attendant calling, "One-seven-two-three-four and one-seven-two-three-five. You may come to the P-I-D Determination Room."
"’S us, luv," Spike said. "All set?"
"Yes I am. Although for some reason my stomach is tying itself in knots. I never got used to nervousness."
"Nothing to be nervous about," he told her as they walked toward the P-I-D-D Room. "It only lasts a minute or so."
"I assumed that much," she said. "But I-- oh my God! It‘s you!" Anya cut herself off with a yell of delighted surprise as she and Spike entered the Room. Sitting behind a table labeled ‘P-I-D Panel’ between a formidable-looking old man and a mass of blue light was Tara.
"Anya, Spike," she said, waving in greeting. "How are you guys?"
"Dead," Anya replied for the both of them. "But you obviously know that. I’ve missed you!"
"I’ve missed you, too, sweetie," Tara told her. "Are you ready for your determination?"
"Yes," Anya said, looking around. Then something dawned on her. "But first I have a question."
Tara nodded. "And what’s that?"
"If you’re dead… why are you still here? Why aren’t you traveling the Death Worlds? And who’s your Partner-In-Death?"
"That was *three* questions, pet," Spike interjected. Anya elbowed him in the stomach.
Tara smiled at her. "Willow’s my Partner-In-Death, Anya. Sometimes one Partner passes first, and the other waits here for them. Most of the time, as Fate has her way, they pass around the same time, but sometimes one Partner still has more to learn. I’m just waiting for Willow to be finished."
Anya nodded. "I hope she finishes soon for you. I always thought you two made a sensible couple. And very good-looking, as well."
"Thanks," Tara laughed. "Now, are you ready?"
Anya shook her head in the affirmative.
"All right. Spike, have a seat right here." She pointed to a chair next to the Panel table. "And Anya, I’m going to have our Maj’La demon get you situated."
The door leading back to the After Room swung shut, and from behind it stepped a large purple being. It was shaped like a human, only without hair, and was wearing a long silvery cloak. Two bright green eyes beamed out from its narrow face as it wordlessly took Anya’s arm and led her to a spot in the middle of the room.
"Lie down on your back," Tara instructed. "All you have to do is look into the Maj’La’s eyes after we turn the lights off, and within a minute or so we’ll know who your Partner will be. But we wait until after both of you have been determined to tell you who it is and where to find them. Okay, sweetie?"
"All right," Anya said. She stretched out with her hands at her sides and looked up at the demon above her. "Here goes nothing."
The lights in the room dimmed until they’d faded completely to black; a soothing indigo glow emanated from the Maj’La as it began to levitate over Anya. The light became more concentrated around its eyes until two beams flowed into hers, and after a moment, distorted pictures and sounds began to play on the translucent ceiling.
Spike watched from his chair, and noted that Anya had begun to shake as the fragmented memories sped up on the ceiling. At first he’d been able to distinguish certain images from one another, but now all he could see was a rushing blur of color. The shaking and rushing became steadily more and more violent until it all stopped at once with a sudden burst of light.
D’Hoffryn’s face looked down at them from the ceiling. "Your power is great, but your pain is greater," he boomed.
From the floor, Anya said, "I wish to serve vengeance for all women with pain such as mine."
D’Hoffryn nodded. "And so you shall."
Anya smiled and reached out as if she were accepting something.
Her necklace, Spike thought. She was re-living the granting of her powers.
Anya went through the motions of putting the necklace on, and then, as quickly as the memory had started, it was over. Anya began shaking again as the colors sped by overhead. The rushing stopped sooner this time, though, and suddenly Xander appeared on the ceiling, sans eye-patch, holding a little black box.
"Anya," he said, voice on edge. "You wanna marry me?"
Anya reached up and slapped the air.
"I’ll take that as a maybe."
Spike groaned inwardly as he realized he was witnessing the Whelp’s proposal. He flinched through the next several seconds until it ended with Anya turning the ring away and saying quietly, "Wait. Give it to me when the world doesn’t end."
Mercifully, the speeding colors started up again, washing Xander away. This time they lasted a little longer than the previous, but Anya didn’t stop shaking with the formation of the final memory.
In fact, the shaking became more intense, and she arched up on her back.
"Ohhh, God," she moaned. "Ohhh…"
The ceiling stayed black.
"Yes…" she whispered. Her arms snaked through the air.
Spike heard Tara and the old man give a collective gasp, and instinctively looked up at the ceiling. Looking back at him was his own face.
Anya was re-living the night they had sex in the Magic Box.
Suddenly, Spike found himself racked with pleasure and unable to control his body. He let out a sharp cry as he slid out of his chair to the floor, groaning softly.
"God," he heard himself saying. "God, Anya. Oh, God."
"Spike," she drawled. "You’re so much warmer…"
Beneath the pleasure he realized how odd it was that everything was being played as if it were a tape. He remembered her saying that right before she--
Which was right before *he’d*--
And then it was over.
The lights came back up as the Maj‘La retreated back into the shadows behind the door to the After Room. Spike and Anya both sat up slowly, looking stunned. They glanced at each other quickly, then away towards the Panel.
"What the hell," Spike said, "was THAT?"
The blue mass of light pulsated.
"She says this only happens every once in a great while," the old man translated, speaking for the first time. "We rarely ever get Partners who share an identical memory."
Tara came out from behind the table, helping the two deceased demons to their feet. She whispered covertly in Spike’s ear, "Guess that cramp in your pants came back."
If vampires could blush, he would have.
"So what does this mean?" Anya asked. "That was both very, very strange and very, very pleasant."
The blue light pulsed excitedly.
"What it means," the old man translated, "is that number one-seven-two-three-five will not have to have his memories read."
"You, Anya and Spike, are Partners-In-Death," Tara finished.
The demons were silent for a moment, staring incredulously at one another.
Then Spike broke the silence. "Well… thank God," he said. "I was afraid I’d be stuck with some ugly *bloke* for all eternity."
Anya grinned. "Me too! Hey, does this mean we get to have more sex?" she added, expression brightening even more.
Spike rolled his eyes. "You never stop, do you?"
"Hey," she said. "Don’t pretend you didn’t like it. You just made yourself all gooey over the *memory* of that night."
"You’re not looking so dry yourself, Anyanka," he retorted.
Tara bit back a laugh and said, "You guys are in for quite an eternity together, aren’t you?"
They nodded. "Should be eventful," Spike replied.
"*That’s* an understatement," Anya commented.
Before anymore banter could occur, the old man stood and opened a door to the side of the table. "I’m sorry, but I must insist that at this time you get going," he said gravely. "We have millions more to see today."
The demons nodded again and started obediently toward the exit. But before stepping through, Anya turned back to Tara.
"When Willow gets here, come find us," she said. "We could all go see the sites together. I hear the World Without Shrimp is nice."
Tara smiled warmly. "We‘ll do that," she told her. "Enjoy eternity, sweetie."
Spike answered for his Partner. "Oh, believe me. We will."
And with a wicked grin, he shut the door behind them.