I don’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer; that’s Joss Whedon.
Kennedy settled back into her lounge chair, intent on willing away the world. Being a Slayer wasn’t exactly what she’d thought it would be. The powers were great, everything she’d dreamed them to be from the time she’d been told of them as a potential. But just because a girl had powered didn’t mean that a girl couldn’t die and that was what she kept getting hung up on. Holding a girl that was too young to drink, who’d never been kissed, who was scared and just wanted her mother while she lay dying was something Kennedy never signed up for. Guilt was a bitch.
The best thing about living at Casa de la Bruja, besides it being home to the most powerful witch on the planet, was the tiny private cove tucked away from any prying eyes. Most of the girls preferred the public beach where there were boys but Kennedy loved the cove best because it gave her a place to quiet the regret and grief swirling inside her.
The clink of a glass against the table at her elbow had irritation swamping her. She cracked her eye then closed it again with a soft sigh as Xander flopped back into his chair. It hadn’t taken her long to figure out why Buffy and Willow kept him around. He probably had Everyman Hero embedded in his bones. That was the only reason she could think of that he would get his eye gouged out protecting a girl he barely knew and, she suspected, didn’t really like.
“Do you wanna talk about it?” he asked after a few minutes of quiet.
Tears welled up without her permission and she took a long, deep breath before saying gruffly, “What’s there to say? She’s dead and I’m not.”
She’d figured that was why he’d shown up yesterday, all grim smiles and tanned skin, his eyepatch frayed around the edges. Willow had been trying to get her to talk about Lillian and her death for days but Kennedy resisted because Willow didn’t need the extra guilt and the memory, the failure was Kennedy's to own. She’d wondered when she first showed up in Sunnydale, what could make what her Watcher described as the strongest fighting specimen on Earth into such a broken shell of a woman as Buffy Summers. Now she knew that leadership, power, and death did that to her.
Xander sighed, snapping her out of her reverie. He shifted, then something cool slid across her bare thighs. She opened her eyes to see an ornately carved box just before he covered it with a tatty notebook that was held together by hope and duct tape more than the original bindings. Kennedy felt a chill flush her sun-kissed skin.
Xander’s notebook was infamous amongst the Council. Rarely seen, all the Slayers spoke of it with a reverence that was on par with the Scythe. One of the things he’d begun housing in a storage facility in Oxnard after graduation, it had survived the hellmouth’s collapse along with several other precious items to tell the tale of those lost and those that lived through it.
She gently lifted the cover and found two pictures, one of two little boys, Xander barely recognizable with an almost healed split lip and skinny frame. The second picture was the same two boys as teens laughing as Willow blushed between them. Loopy, almost unreadable scrawl took up every inch not covered by the photos.
Kennedy looked at him and he said, “Jesse, my first friend. I killed him when we were 16.” Her mouth dropped and he shrugged. “He got vamped.”
And that told the whole story, didn’t it?
She flipped the pages carefully, picking out names as she went instead of asking for them. She didn’t want to ask him to relive those stories. She paused again on a page with Kendra the Slayer
carefully written in bold letters on the top. The picture wasn’t very good, the girl barely visible for the shadows. Her strong profile, a poof of dark, curly hair, the corner of a feral smile. It was, frankly, a horrible photo but probably the best there was of her as there hadn’t been any in her Watcher’s diaries.
“I’m not going to ask you to talk again,” Xander said, reminding her he was there. “I understand that sometimes you can’t talk to other people about things, that some things are so very much yours that you can’t share them. But you can’t keep them alive because they’ll eat you from the inside out.”
She paused, then flipped to the last page filled out. Lillian Devoe, 13, Slayer, loves baseball and Tutti Fruitti
. Kennedy pressed her hand to her mouth and her forehead into the book. She felt his hand smooth down her hair, calluses catching on the fine strands.
“They’re not lost,” he said softly. “They’re with us every day. We just have to learn to remember how they lived instead of just the way they died.”
Kennedy started to shake; her eyes squinted shut so she wouldn’t cry all over the notebook. She felt him gently tugging at the notebook and rose up enough that he could empty her lap. Then he surprised her by kneeling beside her lounger and pulling her until she curved into him. Her face met the curve of his neck and she gave a horrible gasping sob as she shifted to clutch at him. His arms were solid around her and he didn’t try to tell her it was okay, just ran his hand over her hair. He didn’t complain about the grooves her nails were digging into his back or the snot that was undoubtedly slicking up his skin. He was just there
and Kennedy hadn’t realized that that was something somebody could just do
When she’d wept it all out, when her breathing had almost stopped hitching, when she was so wrung out she doubted she could stand, she shifted from his sopping shoulder to his dry one and burrowed in.
Xander snickered. “Yeah, okay, cuddles are cool but I can’t keep kneeling like this. I’m an old man and my joints don’t like it.”
She snorted because he was the same age as Willow and hadn’t yet made it half way into his twenties. Her fingers brushed across a thick knot of scar tissue and remembered that he wasn’t an average man in his twenties. She started to pull away and he came with her, somehow managing to shift and pull her until she was cradled on his lap on the lounger.
“This is why they keep you around, you know,” she finally managed, voice thick.
“Oh, I know,” he said, nodding, his chin brushing the top of her head. “I’m well aware of what my contributions to the world are.”
He shifted and the box was suddenly back on her lap.
“For me?” she asked, finger tracing along the edges of the details.
“I think it’ll hold up better than a notebook,” he said, shrugging. “You can put a picture or a note in for them or something.”
She swallowed thickly. “Them?”
He was quiet a moment and she pulled away to look up at him. He was staring into the water with a slightly desolate look. He finally looked down at her and said solemnly, “There’s always another one.”
Her throat went thick again and she swallowed, nodding and looking down. “Right.”
“This is a war, Kennedy,” he said and she stilled because it was the first time she’d ever heard him with that much command in his voice. It was the first time she actually believed the stories she’d heard about Graduation Day. “This is a war that doesn’t end. And people die. Young ones, old ones, good ones, bad ones. Death doesn’t discriminate. All we can do is carry on and remember.” She looked up at him, startled. “That’s the key to staying intact. You never, ever forget, but you don’t let it stop you, either.”
Kennedy nodded, breathing deep, then settled in against him, her head on his shoulder, curling around the box. His arms wrapped loosely around her and he settled back, prepared to stay until she was ready to go. That was what he was there for.