A/N: Way post chosen. It's a little wordy but it's a whole thought. Which counts for something.
They told me I was going to be a slayer. It's not the big deal it once was. You get support and you only get a limited term, if you're not so stupid as to get yourself killed. You get superpowers, but hey, they are forty other girls wandering around nearby who have had them before. It's kinda cool, and not terribly scary.
And the first thing I thought, after they told me?
"Does this mean I get to meet her?"
The girl who was the slayer, and would be until the spell, and was there to help break the news, smiled at me. "It does."
My stomach rolled with excitement.
Becoming the slayer... was a thing. Like taking a job as a teacher in some far off place. You go away from your life for a while, and learn some new things. Meeting her... that was a legacy. It was like meeting a god, almost. She'd been there, through every other slayer like I was about to become, and a little bit before, when Slayers were like her. She was The Last and Lasting Slayer.
There was something about the way the slayer looked at me, like you would a child who's about to learn the truth about Santa; pitying and condescending and all together superior, that I didn't like, but there wasn't time to dwell.
It was time.
When the magic left her, and hit me, and it became a part of me, of my bones and of my soul, I heard a whisper, at the edge of my brain, a sound in the stirring of sands.
"Are you ready to be strong?"
I watched the world below, and flexed my limbs, slightly in awe of my own power. I'd seen such power before, wielded by other girls, but to be part of it was different. It was greater than I expected. It felt limitless. My hearing, my sight, the urgency rushing through my veins telling me to hunt and strike and live, goddamn it, like life was in short supply.... I could hardly breathe, and I was exhilarated.
I turned, and recognized the voice, and the fact that no one else had been able to be this close without me realizing they was there since the spell. Facing her, I registered her, and she was nearly all I could register. A sudden gravity shift, with her at the center. She was huge, and limitless, and just a tiny bit dark and a tiny bit me. There were parts of me that wanted to fall before her and weep at her knees, and parts that wanted to lift my hands into fists and strike at her.
She stepped closer, and I could see that she was a girl, underneath all that power and largess. She was just a girl, who looked my age, in stupidly impractical shoes, and I hadn't expected her to be that. Not from the stories. She was short, and pretty, and utterly human looking.
"You know who I am." It was a statement. I nodded anyways. She was the origin point, and I could feel myself shift towards her.
"There's something we need to do."
That was soon. "Already?"
She smiled, and it was twisted, and bitter at the ends. For a second, my mind got close to the reason why the other slayer had looked at me as she had before it pulled away from the blooming understanding.
And she turned, on her stupid heels, flawlessly graceful, and expected me to follow.
And I did.
It took me three days before I realized that being a slayer was more than what we had trained for. In training there were friends, breaks, school, movies... As a slayer there was only really time for her. We ate and slept and walked together, until the cadence of my breathing matched hers, and I could pass her the saltshaker before she had to ask, almost able to taste a lack of it on my own tongue. I worried, a little, that I would blend into her, and lose me. And I worried, too, that I would never be able to give this up.
Fighting, next to her, in constant life-on-the-line battles, with every muscle straining and working and humming… it was like everything was a shade of colour I'd never seen before, and it was all so real that everything else, all the life I’d lived before, went a little gray.
And she... she was who they said she would be. She was old and grave, and alive, and brilliant in battle. And I knew her, without having ever known her, because I was of her. She didn't talk, but she would listen, and I wondered sometimes if I was making an ass out of myself talking, but I couldn't help it. Hero worship had faded half away, and I was left, subscribed to a woman who seemed to be everything, and seemed...
I cried the first time I saw her injured.
She was always untouchable. Perfect. Contained and controlled mayhem, tempered with focus and skill.
I got distracted, by a crying toddler in the middle of a battle, and I took my eyes off where my axe was going and missed. The thing I was fighting ripped the skin over my ribs to tatters, and I fell. I had time enough to think about how warm my blood was, but not enough to worry that I was dying, before the shock of it set in.
My view of her was tilted. She went at them, harder, faster, and more desperate than I'd seen her before. She was mayhem, but not controlled. She broke them to pieces, and then made the pieces into smaller ones.
And then she was beside me, propping me up, and I didn't think she realized that one of them had reached through her defenses. One of her eyes was red; filled with blood that poured from the angry line that lucky claws had opened across her face.
She held me up, and called for help, calmly over my headset, since her own was shattered on the ground in the muck. For the first time, as her hands gently tried to hold me back together, it occurred to me that she needed me.
Maybe she couldn't do this alone as much as I couldn't.
I got sick of it, and her, in a way that I couldn't have imagined at first. It was all too much; too much being alive, too much risking of it all, too much emotion and ... I needed calm. I needed thought. I needed, for a little while at least, to be me as I had been before.
I yelled at her. She blinked, one eye slow from another injury on her face that was slowly slipping away from her skin even though I still had all my scars, and didn't say anything.
I could feel her follow me.
Her presence itched through the lingering conversations with friends I hadn't seen so long I could barely remember their faces, and the yearning to do something made me fidget my way through their stories until I wondered what the hell I was doing there anymore. I wasn't like them.
And then, all of a sudden, I couldn't feel her looming anymore.
I don't know exactly what I said. I imagine it wasn't something they would quickly get over, but I didn't care. I needed to be away from them.
I ran, trying to feel her, and my shoes, my own stupid impractical shoes, broke under my desperate steps.
The road scraped the skin from my feet as I continued, moving far and fast, and completely without sense.
My headset, which I'd stuffed into my pants pocket, came on, and I lifted it out, and carefully held it up to my ear to listen.
They gave me her location, and I dropped it, running away. I had been going the wrong way, but only slightly. I found her.
The moments between hearing the directions over the headset to the end of what happened are blurred in my memory. Few concrete sounds and sensations linger, pressed deep enough to linger on my consciousness. Something solid snapped in my hands, and there was ash on my lips, in my lungs and on my eyelashes.
And there was the smell of blood, hot like the ozone, like the sand.
Time made sense again as I found her. Her face was sleeping; small and delicate, eyes shut like a child’s, lips a peacefully bow.
Her body was ravaged. If she had been me, she would have been dead.
As it was, her blood flowed out over my hands, over the dust, and over the ground.
I didn't cry this time. I made promises, to her and to whatever gods listened to us expendable slayers.
Her blood, again, too often her blood, splashed across my lips. I could taste it over even the bitterness of my own.
Her eyes were wide, and the green of them clashed with the blood that came out of her lips, and was at odds with the sword that peeped forwards through her neck.
It disappeared, and as she fell I wondered if she got this injured with every slayer, and if so, why, and how did she go on?
She gurgled, on the ground, feeling the agony of a mortal wound and not dying, and I tried not to listen to her drown in her own blood on my account, as I tried to do better this time. The next attack I was a little too slow to respond to would kill me. She wouldn’t be able to sacrifice herself again. For the first time, I was alone.
There was no pity in her eyes as she came in the room and sat on the bed beside me, next to the one leg I still had that didn’t end, abruptly, and messily above the knee.
We sat in silence, and there was rage in sound of my breathing.
The back of her fingers found my hip, and the contact burned my skin.
It was stupid, my rage, and her apology. If not for her, I would have died. Because of me, she should have. But she was whole again, an angry line of scar tissue marching up her throat, and I was not. I'd been promised that it would just be a little time, a sojourn away from my life, but that had been a lie.
She'd known, before I met her, that they would lie to me, and she hadn't protected me from that.
And she'd failed to protect me from this.
My rage was senseless and powerful.
My hands fisted, and she caught one of them before it reached her, and pulled me against her, into her, even through my frame was bulkier than her own, and she ran her other hand over my back like I'd been ill.
And I was crying.
The next girl, all bright eyes and smooth skin, looked at me as they told her the news. She didn't even seem to notice that I was stuck in this chair, and that my skin, only two years older than hers, was riddled with lines that would never go away; angry white keloid to mark my adventures. They had promised her that it was hardly dangerous, and that she would be graduating out of it before she even realized. They hadn't explained that it was something that never ended. Something that consumed you and made you a part of it and would leave you bereft and crippled even if you didn't look like me.
"Is she going to be there? At the ceremony?" The excitement in the new girl made my heart hurt, and if I had seen the slayer before me in this moment I would have slapped her for having said nothing to me even as I said nothing now.
She grinned, bright and young and excited in a way I could remember being only dimly now, and let them lead her away from me. I sat there, with my quiet rage and yawning desolation, and felt her approach.
Soon I wouldn't be able to.
"Come to say goodbye?"
She put her hand on my shoulder, and I wondered if even to her, we mattered. I was just another girl in another string of girls and while this whole thing had defined me and changed me, and I knew her better than I knew my own parents, who'd I always loved, I was just another girl, with my useful years cut shorter by the inability to go on as I had.
She kissed my head, like she was my mother, not my sister, my origin and my other half, and my teeth ground and my leg-that-wasn't ached desperately.
"I'll see you at the ceremony."
I almost reached for her, as she walked away, The Last and The Lasting, the girl who'd bled on my account and smiled at my words and lived and breathed and walked with me. I deprived myself of that last shame. I was still a slayer, made of blood like hers and iron bones. I sat tall in my chair, and followed slowly, and promised myself I'd never ask if she remembered us after the ceremony was over, or if she'd already forgotten my name.
I was a girl, in a line of girls, like she had been once, and I was lucky to have gotten my snatch of time.
I sat, hollowed out, alone in the room that stank like magic, and felt the ache in my bones. The crazy energy that had sustained me for the last two years was gone, into some girl who'd name I didn't know, and I was human. It been so long that I'd forgotten what it was like, to see and hear so little, and not to be so capable. I wasn't tired, but I wasn't restless. I was, and yet had a memory of being more.
My leg ached where pieces of me had been cut off two months ago, but my hand was pressed against my heart, futilely trying to ease the agony of having pieces of me ripped out so suddenly moments before.
I didn't see the new slayer again. She was one of the ones who died. Before that, though, I saw Her again. The Last and Lasting. Always and forever the same.
I ended up in danger, and she fought it back around me, while I sat, useless. Her chaos was controlled and tempered and beautiful, even perceived with human eyes.
When there was nothing more than dust at her feet, she looked at me, and said my name and smiled, and then the light on her headset came on and she was gone before I could reply.
I went to the new slayer’s funeral, hoping, but she wasn't there. She was mostly likely out looking for the new one, an unchosen chosen.
The front two rows of pews were filled by family, all dressed in black with hollowed out eyes. The last three rows were girls like me, who carried the echo of the slayer in their movements, and an echo of her in their gestures. Their eyes were hollowed too.
They, like me, had come here with hope, and found only death.
We didn't linger to commiserate, when the words and dirt had finished falling on top of the body of a girl who'd been the slayer, and never had to again know what it was like to not to be the slayer. There were some things too brittle, too knife-edged to talk about.
I went to four more funerals before I gave it up. I watched for her as I walked, and felt for her, with senses I didn't have, wherever I went. Slowly, it ebbed away. The clarity of the memories faded, and real life seemed real enough again that the whole two years seemed like a dream, too impossible to be true.
I stopped missing her, stopped missing it, and stopped missing my leg.
I met a man who was steady and calm, and married him. I dressed in a white dress that covered my prosthetic completely, and my father walked me down the aisle.
When I turned, at the alter, and saw out of the corner of my eye, that particular blond crown nestled in the far back corner of the bride’s side, I smiled a little, with vague fondness, and met my fiancées eyes.
We walked out of the church together, and I was so happy I nearly tripped off my feet, and I noticed that she wasn't there anymore, but he was there, to catch me, and her absence didn't hurt.
She was something that couldn't be. Something that didn't fit, and I'd given her up, as I'd given the slayer up long before her.
Maybe in a hundred years, she'd remember my name. And maybe not.
But the tin cans rattled along behind the car, I didn't really care.
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