For Christmas, I bought my son an anthology of short stories set in the Buffy universe that told the stories of previous slayers. He was totally enthralled with the idea and later demanded, begged, pleaded and cajoled me until I agreed to write a similar short story for him.
Here is my gift to him.
Given the nature of the request, it would be safe to assume that this is a death story. However, it is not a canon character.
"Thank you for coming, Rip."
The young man standing at her door tried very hard to keep the exasperated sigh from escaping past his lips. However, one look at the slayer's amused face let him know that he hadn't quite succeeded.
She waved him into the tiny cottage and took a moment to watch the setting sun. "You realize you give people power over you with your reaction to that nickname," she said softly, shutting the door behind him.
He didn't want to ask, and yet he couldn't stop himself from doing so. "How so?"
"It irritates you, and you react, even if it's nothing more than a sigh. But it's enough. It's a chink in your armor, a way of letting your enemies know that they can use words to cause you damage." She moved past him and headed back into the box-filled living room.
"You're packing," he said, shocked.
She gave him another gentle smile before she turned and pulled several books off the shelf and put them into one of the open cardboard boxes. "I understand that you've been put into rotation as a watcher for one of the upcoming potentials."
The young man blushed slightly and shuffled back and forth with embarrassment. "Yes. I just found out this morning."
"Thank you," he said automatically, then paled when the implications of her statement hit him. "Of... of course, I may never get called up. At least, not for a great number of years."
She pulled several more books off the shelf. "Oh, I think you'll be getting your shot fairly soon."
"What do you mean?"
She ignored him at first, putting the books into the box and turning and getting another batch. Only when it looked like she might try for a third lot, did he reach out and gently touch her hand.
"What do you mean, Elizabeth?"
She stopped her packing, sighed softly and pointed to a chair, indicating he should sit. "Do you know why I asked you here tonight, Rip?"
The young man shook his head in response as he set his briefcase on the floor and sat in the chair. "No, ma'am, I don't."
"Today is my birthday."
"I had no idea," he sputtered. "I wish I had. I would have brought you something. We could have celebrated."
Elizabeth sat on the corner of her coffee table, so that their knees were touching. "We are celebrating."
"I... I don't understand."
She took one of his hands in her rough calloused ones. "Do you have any idea how old I am today?"
The young man shook his head.
"What?" he gasped. "No. That can't be right. That would make you the..."
"Oldest living slayer."
"Of course, I've been breaking the particular record every day I've lived past my twenty-sixth birthday."
He blinked at her in shock. "That's... that's amazing. I mean... I knew you had been the slayer for a long time, but I had no idea... that is to say..."
"That I was such an old woman?"
"I was thinking no such thing," he said tartly, withdrawing his hand indignantly, which only made her throw her head back and bark with laughter. "So why haven't you told me before?" he asked, once she settled down.
Elizabeth shrugged. "My age hasn't exactly made me popular with the council."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Do you know how many talented potentials have come and gone while I've been the slayer, girls who were stronger, faster, smarter than I am or ever hoped to be? Girls who were more malleable?"
Elizabeth clasped her knees. "When you've held my... position as long as I have, you start thinking that you might know more than those in charge. After all, you've survived it all. What do a bunch of pansies in suits know?"
The young man shared a smirk with her, then sobered. "But you've always gotten the job done."
"Yes, but sometimes there's more to the council's agenda than meets the eye."
"I don't understand."
Elizabeth reached out and gently patted his knees. "I know. And while I've brought you here tonight to impart some hard won knowledge, I, unfortunately, do not have the time to teach you all you need to know in order to survive, or help your slayer survive. And for that, I'm truly sorry. If you're so inclined, you might read my journals." She frowned slightly. "But no matter. I'll do what I can."
She stood and moved to the bookcases, removing the remaining books from the shelves and setting them next to the open boxes. As she spoke, she continued to pack. "Did you bring the recorder like I asked?"
The young man nodded, immediately picking his briefcase up, opening it and withdrawing a small black cassette player. He then closed the case and set it back on the floor, practically clutching the machine like a talisman.
Elizabeth wiggled a finger at him and he obediently pressed the record button.
"My name is Elizabeth Ashley Lane," she said, almost conversationally, although she never stopped her packing. "I was born on February 10, 1950, and tonight is the night of my death."
"What?" the young man shouted, sitting up straight, his eyes huge in shock.
Elizabeth grinned at him as she started taking pictures off the walls. "I make this last testimont as my gift to a young watcher in the hopes that he will be able to apply certain lessons I've learned the hard way to whatever slayer is assigned to him." She moved back to the coffee table, set the pictures on the couch and began to wrap them in towels and linens, before placing them in the waiting boxes.
"I never expected to live past my eighteenth birthday. Hell, I never expected to survive the test given to slayers on their eighteenth birthday. And while I did, it was then that I learned that the council was nothing more than a group of elderly misogynists who had no sense of commitment or loyalty to the young women in their charge."
Elizabeth tightened her fists in anger and had to take several deep breaths before she could relax enough to unclench them. "Had it been within the realm of possibility to retire or quit, I would have done so upon my... graduation, as it were. But as we all know, there's only one way to leave this particular job."
"Yes," he whispered quietly, almost against his will.
"I had given up my childhood, my teenage years, and any hope of love. After the test, I realized I had no one in my corner, knew I couldn't truly trust anyone but myself. In an act of defiance, I decided to reach out and take back some of what had been taken from me, stolen without my consent."
The young man leaned forward in anticipation. "What did you do?"
"I found a good boy and got myself pregnant."
"What? But... but..."
"Gave birth too," Elizabeth said softly. "Held the child in my arms for almost four hours before giving it to the father."
The young man slumped back in his chair and blinked, not knowing where to start.
Elizabeth smiled in understanding and moved back to sit on the coffee table. "Why did I give birth? Why did I give the child up? Why did I fall in love?"
He simply blinked at her, unable to do anything more than nod.
She opened her mouth to speak, then stopped. "The whys aren't important." She raised her hand to cut off his protest. "They're not. What you need to remember as a watcher is that essentially everything will be taken away from your charge. But do not take love away from her. Despite what the council says, it won't make her weak. It'll give her a reason to survive, to fight. While a slayer is a warrior, let her be a girl as well. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
He nodded again. "I think so."
She patted his hand. "Good man," she said approvingly. She stood and made a slow survey of the room.
"Why... why do you think you're going to die tonight?"
Picking up a roll of tape, Elizabeth moved back to the boxes and began to seal them shut. "When I was twenty-five, I went to a seer. She told me that I would live until the evening of my thirty-fifth birthday. In many ways it was a stupid thing to do, going to the seer, that is."
"It made me reckless. Made me feel like I was invincible." Elizabeth shrugged, then moved on to the next box. "Made me arrogant."
"And you're going to die tonight?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "No, I will see the sun rise again. I'm looking at it as my last act of defiance against the powers that be. While my life may end, it will be on my terms."
"But if you know..."
"I don't know how, Rip. I just know that it'll happen. I can't run from it, can't escape it." Elizabeth straightened. "There, that's the last one. Everything in the boxes belongs to you, my dear. Everything else can stay with the house."
"Belongs to me? What? Why?"
"Because you're different than the others." She moved into the kitchen.
The young man stood and followed her, still clutching the recorder. "How so?"
Elizabeth went to the stove and poured some gently bubbling water into two large blue tea mugs. With her head, she motioned toward the table. With cups in hand she followed him, putting one in front of him, then reached for the small container in the center of the table and pulled out a tea bag as she sat.
"You made a mistake when you were younger."
His hand briefly stopped its forward movement, then continued and retrieved his own bag. "Yes, but you were able to keep it from getting too far out of hand."
"I'm not busting your chops here, Rip. The point is, you made a mistake and survived it. More importantly, you've learned from the gaffe. Everyone makes mistakes, but if your slayer is going to survive, she's got to learn from them. She has to know that you're there for her, that you support her despite her errors."
Elizabeth smiled gently. "There is no 'of course' here, Ripper. The council will advise you to punish her, to make her learn from her mistakes. But you've been there, done that, as it were. You are in a unique position in that you will know how she'll feel after having made an error in judgment. Yes, there are consequences to mistakes, but there is also redemption."
They each sat in their own little world for a moment, losing themselves in the quiet task of staining their water with their tea.
"Why are you imparting this knowledge to me... now?" the young man asked softly.
"Because I can't save them all."
"The future slayers." Elizabeth blew on her tea and took a sip.
"I don't understand," he admitted quietly.
"There have been times in slayer history where there has been a new slayer practically every week. It's not that the girls were weak, but fresh to the job, with little or no training under their belt. They were overwhelmed by the danger thrust at them." She took another sip. "If you read your Watcher history, you'll learn that often times they were sacrificed for the good of the many. One lone child in the face of unspeakable darkness. Often times they died alone."
Elizabeth swallowed hard, and took another sip of tea to cover the fact that her lower lip was trembling. "While the battle with evil will never cease, while the need for the slayer will always be with us, she doesn't have to fight alone."
"I beg your pardon."
"I'm asking you to be strong enough to help her, this future slayer of yours, to allow others to help her."
"It flies in the face of tradition. I know that. Dare to be different, Rip."
"But the council..."
"Screw the council. They are nothing more than anachronisms, too old to see the necessity for change. Be your own man. Are you or are you not the man who summoned the demon Eyghon and survived? Did you panic?"
"Yes, quite. Very much so."
Elizabeth laughed loudly. "Yes, but you got it together and helped me to rebanish it. Put that Cambridge education to good use and apply it for yourself. Don't let dusty ancient traditions that haven't been reviewed or updated in centuries dictate your lot in life or your slayer's."
The young man nodded emphatically, smiled at her and took a sip of tea.
"And most importantly, Rip, don't let her die alone."
"You know and I know that the moment she is activated as a slayer that her days will be numbered. Her death is inevitable. Her death before she's eighteen is almost a given. But I feel... I know if anyone can buck the odds, if anyone can set her on a different path, it will be you."
"You have that much faith in me?" he asked in quiet awe.
"Yes, dear, I do."
The young man set down his mug and removed his glasses, rubbing his eyes for several seconds before putting them back on again. "Can't you find another path? Can I help you find one?"
Elizabeth reached out across the table to gently cup his chin, her thumb caressing his cheek. "I have lived long enough: my way of life is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf, And that which should accompany old age, as honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have."
She smiled sweetly. "It seemed rather appropriate."
"My destiny has already been set," she told him softly.
As she pulled her hand back, he reached forward and grabbed it, holding it tightly between both of his. "Where's your watcher?"
"I haven't had a watcher in nearly a year," she answered quietly.
"What?" he shouted in outrage, then flinched as his voice boomed around the nearly empty room.
"The council, in its wisdom, believes that since I've outlived three watchers, there's no point in wasting any more on me. After all, how much longer can I last?"
"Elizabeth," he said, his voice choked in pain.
She brought her other hand up and gently enfolded his hands in hers. "It's okay, Rip. I've lived more during my lifetime than the entire council combined.
She shook her head, then removed her hands from his and got up from the table, placing her mug in the sink. "Remember, not all demons are bad. I realize that's going to be a hard lesson for you, given your history, but don't buy into the council's mumbo jumbo that they all need to be eradicated."
She pushed herself away from the sink and rubbed her hands on her pants. "Many of my books are one of a kind. Use them. They've been helpful in the past. My Will is on top of my desk. It's short, sweet and simple. Basically, everything's yours. Even if you don't need the money now, put it in an account or something. Live off of it in your retirement."
"Where are you going?" he asked, when she moved into the living room.
"Patrol, just as I do every night."
"Do me a favor, Rip?" she asked, twirling a stake in her fingers.
"Anything," he promised.
"Stay here tonight. I need... I want someone waiting for me at dawn..."
"I'll be here," he whispered.
She nodded once, closed the distance between them, gently kissed him on the lips, and left.
He paced and paced and paced; her words echoing in his head. He lived a lifetime in every tick of the clock. His emotions ranged from anger to overwhelming despair.
The seer said she would die the night of her birthday, but she had sworn to see the day break.
She had done the impossible so many times, had survived to thirty-five, had given birth, had saved the world so many times it bordered on the ridiculous. Could she live long enough to see the morning's light?
He should have gone with her. He berated himself over and over again. He shouldn't have let her leave alone. What had he been thinking?
Something hit the front door, breaking him out of his reverie. Without thought, he flung the door open.
"Hello, Rip." Elizabeth smiled sweetly, but made no effort to move into the cottage. "I wasn't sure you'd stay."
"So you did."
They stood in silence, staring at each other, neither one of them moving.
"How long until sunrise?"
He looked at the clock on the far wall. "About fourteen minutes."
She turned and faced the horizon and it was then that he saw the blood caked on the back of her shirt.
"You've been injured," he said softly.
She shrugged, but didn't turn back to face him. "The nest on Wilmont is gone now."
He could hear her gently panting, knowing the effort to stand was costing her greatly. Without thought, he turned, picked up one of her stuffed chairs and carried it outside. She acknowledged his kindness with a smile, but made no move to sit in it.
"It's not so bad," she whispered, her eyes straining toward the horizon.
"I should have gone with you," he said just as quietly.
"You're here now." She reached her hand behind her back, smiling when he clasped it.
The minutes ticked slowly by and he realized she was leaning more and more weight against his chest.
"Not much longer now," he promised her.
She nodded, her entire body swaying.
As gently as he could, he wrapped his arms around her from behind, and nuzzled her cheek with his when she leaned against him. "Promise me," she whispered.
"I promise," he vowed. "She will not fight alone. She will not be forgotten. We will break all the rules together and she will be loved."
"Swear it," she said, her voice barely audible.
"I swear it, by all that I am."
She nodded and sagged against him. He stumbled awkwardly back into the chair, bringing her with him, pulling her into his lap and holding her tightly to his chest just as the first light peeked from behind the distant hill.
"But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill. You did it, Elizabeth. You did it."
"Hamlet." A wan smile graced her face as she lifted a bloody hand and gently caressed his jaw, her chest heaved with her struggle to breathe. "Don't forget me, Rupert Giles."
"I won't, Elizabeth. I swear I won't."
And with the sun came a fierce determination that things were never going to be the same again.