Pairing – none as yet.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and certainly not any of the characters associated with BTVS, all of whom spring Athena like from the inspiration of Joss Wheedon’s truly scary imagination.
Note: This was one of those things that you have to write even though you have no idea where it’s going. I currently have only a glimmering of an idea where she might wake up, or when, or what might happen. I’m still trying to do Phoenix and Fire but any suggestions as to whether to continue or shelf this would be appreciated. Also, plot……I need plot…..hhmmm damn inspiration stealing evil muse killing real life……..
She shook her head, burying her face further into her hands. “No, it’s enough, it’s enough now. Let me go.”
“You know you cannot.”
The world’s oldest Slayer tipped her hair back and stared at the ethereal figure standing beside the much more familiar one of the balance demon. The being looked down at the petite hunched figure sitting on the ground and although its voice was gentle its gaze was far too removed to be touched by anything as human as compassion. But despite that Buffy thought she saw the tiniest amount of something that might be sympathy and it was that she appealed to.
“It has been a hundred years.”
“A hundred years since I was called. One hundred and 15 since I was born. I’ve died....hhmm, 15 times now?”
Whistler smiled slightly. “16 if you count that time with the Yeti.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow at him, her sense of humour so black after all those years that even the manner of her many deaths twinged it. “Hey, that was for like five minutes. And that time I was sure I was just unconscious. It doesn’t count.”
Whistler shook his head. “Sorry, Slayer, it was definitely considered in the list. We notice these things.”
She shrugged her acceptance. Fifteen, sixteen, potato, potato, who really cared? Anyone who might have was long gone. The stab hit her heart again and she closed her eyes for a second to breath through the familiar pain, made even sharper recently by the death of her last surviving niece. Even though it had been from natural causes it didn’t help any. Isabella, Izzie had been so like her mother, so like Dawnie and she had adored, and argued with and protected her just like she had her little sister before her premature death. Just like she had attempted to protect all of her extended family.
But just as with Izzie she couldn’t protect them from the all too human ravages of time and disease and accident and one by one they had left her. Giles, dying in his bed, one time wrinkled hand still marking the page of the ancient book he had been reading before he fell sleep for the last time, glasses still poignantly left askew on the bedside table. Dawn, her body unable to take the pressure of the energy that formed the key any longer had simply turned round to hold Xander one more time and then simply dissipated in his arms, the Key released to rejoin the infinite universe again, leaving the grieving Scoobies and Xander to bring up their two children, Jesse and Izzie. Xander finally giving in to the myriad of times that his body had been battered over the years, but managing to hold on until both the children were adults and out of college. He had died smiling, with Dawn’s name on his lips and Buffy had been sure that she had felt that loving presence one more time, come to take their Xan-man away with her, together again forever. Wesley, Angel and Spike, gone so many years ago stopping their own apocalypse in LA, Faith going down fighting at Robin’s side like she would have wanted, her mother, dying of that blood clot, the first death, but by no means the least. Riley and Sam killed in a car crash, ironically once they had retired from active service.
Andrew had limped on, finally succumbing to cancer when he was 89, surrounded by a devoted following of slayers and holding the hand of his (much younger) long term partner. He had proven himself a true Scooby long before the end. Willow had lasted longest out of them all, her connection with the earth keeping her strong and vital until the day she woke up and had announced that Gaia had told her that her time was up. Even the silent pleading in the Senior Slayer’s eyes hadn’t been enough to break her serene resolve for Willow had lived for the vast majority of her long life in tune with the source of her power and it wasn’t in her to break the natural cycles now. She had kissed her current lover goodbye and held Buffy for one endless moment, age lined but still vibrant green eyes meeting her friends gaze, so tired in that youthful, ageless face and then simply stepped away onto the hill in the centre of the field and called up her power, white magic running free, flame that disintegrated her without pain and returned her to the earth and the goddess. White flowers now blossomed where she had immolated herself and the watchers and slayers had planted a tree which had flourished on what they now affectionately referred to as Willow Hill.
Buffy didn’t begrudge any of them their rest, Scoobies and friends, lovers and Watcher - all family, but in a cruel twist as they got older she slowly got younger, until she looked very like she had at 18, soft cheeks and unlined skin and all. By the end the majority of people thought she was their daughter, even veteran Watchers failing to make the connection between the slender young person and the Slayer Prime. It was only when they got close enough to see the depths of pain in her eyes that they rapidly revised their opinion of her age upwards for the look in Buffy’s eyes was older than anyone should have had to bear. Other slayers were called, fought, lived long or short lives and died, but she and she alone carried on, unchanging and unchangeable, spat out by death over and over again until she had ceased to expect anything different. No rest for her. No peace.
The Powers had explained it to her, decades ago, how Willow’s spell had channelled the entire power of the slayer line through her and only her when she had awakened the potentials. How if she was to die the entire line would be lost, which would condemn the world to the dark. So they had interfered, made her very, very hard to kill, ramping up her strength and speed and power, pushing her healing ability into overdrive and remorselessly pulling her back from death’s embrace every time she almost entered the gates. At the time she nearly had ripped out Whistlers rib cage and worn it as a hat, the revelation leading to a decade long funk, but over the years she had become resigned and as close to acceptance as she was ever likely to get.
“They call me the Immortal, do you know that?”
Whistler nodded sharply, chewing on his cigar and the other Being simply gazed at her, ethereal and uncompromising. She didn’t care. She didn’t really care about anything anymore apart from her duty and the fight. The junior slayers were mostly just a faceless, nameless mass to her, their Watchers even further removed. She couldn’t afford the pain of getting involved and then watching them die and they were too awed and scared to take the initiative. Too be honest she was aware that she was a little intimidating these days, but it was too much effort to reach out only to watch them die all too soon.
“And the Queen. Queen of the Slayers – Slayer Prime. But I’m not. I’m just me. Just a girl. And I can’t do this, not anymore. I’m tired. Make it stop, or I will.”
The two messengers shifted uneasily at her tone. There was an edge of iron threat there, the underlying tenor of someone pushed beyond their limits and as the Being gazed into the Slayer’s eyes she saw the underlying madness that was slowly seeping through. Buffy was right. She was not immortal by birth, not equipped with the natural detachment of those to whom time naturally flowed past and the slow erosion of everything she had loved had left its mark. The Slayer was tottering on the edge of the abyss and if she fell into madness it was likely that she would take the entire slayer line with her. It shuddered. That could not be permitted to happen.
“You know we cannot allow you to die, lest the slayer line go with you.”
The blond nodded her head. “I know that. But you must have some solution. Someway to allow me to rest. At least for a little while.”
The balance demon and the Being exchanged considering glances and she watched the silent conversation flow between them with dulled eyes.
“Perhaps. But there are conditions.”
The smile that creased Buffy’s face was so cynical that it could hardly be called a smile at all. “Of course, there would be conditions,” she drawled. “There will always be conditions. What this time?”
The Being frowned at her, nonplussed by her attitude. Whistler merely raised a familiar eyebrow. He was used to her by now.
“You are a warrior, destined to fight against evil, chosen…..”
Buffy cut it off with a waved hand, “Yeah, yeah, one girl to fight against the darkness, blah, blah, heard it all before. Although you are rather using the old version. We kind of have a new one now.”
The Being glared at her, “as I was saying… You are destined. Chosen. A warrior for all time. Even if your body was to die your soul would be reborn to fight and die again.”
“Talk about depressing….”
The Being ignored her interruption. “In the normal way of things you would have stayed dead in this body after your second death, and then after a suitable period of rest you would have been reborn, as a potential, perhaps to become the slayer, perhaps not. But your friend Willow’s tampering, both with your death and with the empowerment of the Potentials changed all that. You cannot be reborn as a potential as the power of the line flows through you. You cannot die and rest before you are reborn for the same reason. Hence your current situation. Mortal flesh is not meant to bear the burdens of immortal soul without rest.”
Buffy had known all this before, but to hear it laid out so starkly in black and white somehow made it even worse. She could fear the weight of her years dragging her down into madness, an abyss that without her friends and family to pull her out seemed almost scarily seductive. It would so easy just to let go, to escape morality and rationality and just deal death, a Kali reborn, worse than Faith had ever been in her worst nightmares. For to be a Champion and turn to the darkness was to willingly chose evil over good, a complete negation of everything she had ever fought for. But she was so tired, and the pull was so strong and she was slowly losing the battle. Somewhere she was sure, the First was laughing.
“So I can’t die. I know that. Any suggestions?” She gazed up at them with exhausted eyes. Whistler glanced at the Being impatiently and pulled his cigar out of his mouth to address her.
“We can put you to sleep, kid.”
“Like a dog? Like go-to-the-vet put to sleep?” The appalling thing was that some part of her genuinely welcomed the idea. The comfort of the Heavens was an elusive prize that she hardly remembered but still craved.
“No, Slayer. We can put you into a sleep so deep, so close to death that you will sleep on for centuries, unchanged and unchanging, hovering in the peace of dreams on the edge of death.” The Being stared down at her and she cocked her head, considering.
“What’s the price?”
“You will sleep on, past the changing of the world, but one day when you are most needed you will wake. You will be in a world strange to you, in a time and place unfamiliar but the price for your sleep is that you fight when you wake, fight against the evil that will awaken you, until it is defeated or you are wiped out of existence entirely.”
The two of them locked gazes and Buffy could see the weight of eternity in the other’s glowing eyes. She was sure that there was something nasty that the Being wasn’t mentioning, a sting in the tail, but that was usually the case with the Powers and anyway a completely new place couldn’t be as foreign to her as this world, that was meant to be her own, had become as all those she had loved had slowly dropped away. It was, when she came down to it, a pretty easy decision to make. She didn’t really have anything left to lose.
“Okay. I’ll do it.”
Whistler smiled slightly and the Being nodded its acceptance.
“Say your farewells to anyone that you would wish to know them. And meet us by this place 3 nights from now.”
“I’ll be there.” And without another word she stood and turned her back on them, walking away without a second glance. The two messengers watched her go, Whistler finally spitting out his cigar stub and grinding it underfoot.
“She has no idea what she just signed up for, does she?”
The other Being watched the small departing figure contemplatively. “I think that you may underestimate her, Balance Demon. I believe it is not so much that she has no idea, rather that she does not care.”
Three nights later a small select group of senior slayers and Watchers gathered to bear witness to what was about to happen. She had considered not telling anyone, but knew that it would simply lead to them spending precious resources trying endlessly to find her when she disappeared. This way was simpler and better for everyone.
They watched as she laid down on the rough hewn slab of granite, watched and took notes as the Being and Whistler stood at each end of the make shift bier and raised the cone of power, watched as the oldest living Slayer’s breathing slowly smoothed out, each breath further from the next until even Slayer senses could see no signs of life. A few of the witnesses had tears on their cheeks, Buffy had been more loved and less feared than she believed, idolised by many and respected by all and this felt more like a funeral than it should. They felt abandoned, as children will when a parent leaves and many of the Watchers felt the crushing weight of full responsibility that she had carried so long and so faithfully, come pouring down on their shoulders. It was up to them now. Buffy Summers, Queen of the Slayers was gone beyond their reach. No more last minute saves, no more advice, wise with the bitterness of experience, no more quiet guidance or the unfailing moral compass of her quirked eyebrow or admonishing look. They were on their own.
Before they left they carved the legend into the rock of her bier, “Bellum Regina, Regina quondam Regina que futurus”.
For generations afterwards Watchers would bring their Slayers to show them the embodiment of the slayer line, sleeping in her enchanted coma. But then the Great War came and the Watchers council was destroyed, all the collective knowledge scattered. Many things were lost, and one of them was the location of the place where she slept.
Knowledge passed into rumour, rumour into myth and myth into legend, until even legend was only a fragment, a fairy story of an enchanted warrior, a princess sleeping in a cave waiting for the last trump. Outside the world changed beyond her imagining, titanic forces warping time and space, bringing to life things of fancy and legend over thousands of years, but she slept on, secure and untouched within the cone of power. Gods warred with gods, champions rose and fell, but still she slept untouched and unchanging, the only sign of time her hair that grew, an inch in a millennia, until it poured down her sleeping body, a golden cloak. And still she slept.
But then one day, she woke up.