For this part only, there are spoilers for "Fray", issues 1- 6. No future spoilers included, just some logical speculation.

With thanks to the SunS who grumped at me for delaying (you know who you are).

6. Five Centuries

She'd won. She'd killed Icarus.

She'd choked. She couldn't kill Harth.

Yeah, he wasn't Harth any more, Urkonn made that clear. And if her demon Watcher hadn't explained it well enough, then her twin's anger when she'd told him what she'd done to his lieutenant would've drawn a perfect diagram of what she had to expect from Harth now. Couldn't kid herself any more. Couldn't lie, couldn't pretend there was a way around it. No way past but through, right?

She was going to have to kill her brother, or the whole world would be over-run. Even if... No. Even knowing for sure that the real part of him -- the part that was human and kind and had once looked up to her -- that that part was dead. She still had to kill a part of a person (vampire) who had once been a part of Harth (The One Who Will Lead, damnit), if he didn't kill her first.

Maybe she'd let him. It would be easier for the next Slayer to kill him, right? And Urkonn said there always had to be a next one. So let *her* do it.

Except that there might not *be* a next one, if Harth won. And Mel knew the only reason she was even thinking about dying was because she couldn't do it. She couldn't kill him. The world was going to end, and it was going to be her fault.

Mel sat on the floor of her room and ran her fingers over the books Urkonn had brought her, the ones he wanted her to study so she'd be ready. She thought about running, about killing everything and everyone around Harth (except Harth), about getting Urkonn to do it, about lying to Erin again, about everything she could imagine. Which still left two things she couldn't see: her killing Harth. Or Harth killing her. Her brain just wouldn't go there, no matter how hard she tried; better to think about something else.

God damn, these things were old. It wasn't just the paper, brittle and warped, like it'd break if she bent the page wrong; it was the ink, all different colors, stuff you couldn't get now if you weren't living high. Purples, blues, green ink, red-- that stood out, brighter than blood-- even pink in some places. *Pink* ink. Crazy.

"Journals of the Watchers, and of some of the Slayers," Urkonn had said. "To help you face what's to come."

Yeah, like that was possible.

--nobly, Eleanora gave her life for the villagers, who never knew of her sacrifice--

--after a prolonged battle, Ysette was finally defeated by a horde of Talkesh, who absconded with her body--

--died at the hands of William the Bloody, who drank her blood and left her within the temple to burn--

This was supposed to help? She flipped through another book, grimacing in disgust.

--died by the judgment of the Watchers, for crimes agains the Council--

Was that going to be her? Yeah. Could be. Not at Urkonn's hands, but whoever Urkonn reported to -- and he still wouldn't say -- they couldn't be real happy with her right now.

--don't believe everything you read. My sister died a hero-- but that wasn't important....

Hunh?

It was one of the Watchers' diaries, a red-leather bound thing exactly like the others. But instead of the sensible black or blue ink she'd seen in the scarlet books from before, this was written in bold, livid, green. Kinda hard to miss, like someone meant you to see it in the middle of all that faded black. It was the last entry in the book, dated more than five hundred years before.

May 29, 2017

I made Giles give me this, since I know he wrote the entry the last two times she died. He shouldn't have to do it again.

Mel slowly sank back on her knees, brow furrowing as she followed the lines of spiky handwriting with her finger.

This is the third-- well, maybe fourth, if you count the time she got shot-- and final time my sister has died. Buffy-- and Mel remembered Urkonn showing her a picture, pointing her out as "one of the most distinguished of your line"-- was fighting an Ilnith demon in single combat, and she did kill it. But it cheated, using a magic amulet to get in the final death blow. She saved our town and maybe our dimension from an enchantment it was going to cast, because the challenge kept it from acting until after she was defeated.

Giles would say something here about how the Slayer did her duty and was much loved and fulfilled her destiny, and he'd mention that that was what had to happen, because she was the Slayer. Just like all the other Watchers wrote about their Slayers. But don't believe everything you read. My sister died a hero-- but that wasn't important. She saved the world a lot, and I loved her. But that sword fight? Easiest fight she ever had, even if it killed her.

Buffy fought so many other hard fights, things that hurt her more than dying, and that's what you should remember. Not being able to save Mom from cancer, that really hurt. Not being able to make our dad come back to us, that was maybe the first thing that broke her heart. Sending Angel to hell. Almost killing Faith. Letting Angel go. Almost killing me. Not being able to stop Willow. Watching Faith die. Watching Xander die.... My sister was a hero not for what she killed, or how she died, or how often. She's a hero because she found reasons to keep going, to keep fighting even when she lost.

She told me once that the big things, the horrible things, can't be avoided; it's how you handle it afterwards, how you deal, that tells you what you are. Maybe you don't want to be a Slayer, or a hero. Or maybe you think being a hero is winning all the time, and that's what you want to do, but you're not sure you can. So let me tell you the truth: you're probably going lose someday. But you don't have to accept it as written.

It's not the dying that's important, it's the trying. The only thing Buffy really liked about being the Slayer (aside from being able to pop the tops off wine coolers with one thumb) was being able to make a difference. You can make a difference. That's the only guarantee you get when they Choose you-- so you have to find a reason to live. It's the hardest thing there is, but it's what will make you try, to fight, and survive, and win. And she did. She won more than anyone thought was possible. Our world is safe now, safer than she ever imagined it would be when she was sixteen and scared. But if Buffy hadn't tried, I wouldn't be here and neither would you. No one is asking you for anything more.

And as her sister... please remember that she loved cheesy ice-skating movies, popcorn fights, Soar silver nail-polish, dancing until sunrise, the beach at high tide, nachos with extra cheese, Angel, Spike (formerly known as William the Bloody), Giles, me, our mom, and her friends. We'll never stop missing her, ever, and that's more important than anything else.

signed,
Dawn Elizabeth Summers Banks
Watcher

Mel closed the book slowly, wondering for a second what nachos were, then put it aside, hugging herself. Did all Slayers have it that rough? As rough as she had it too? Was this all she had to look forward to, getting killed over and over and fighting and hurting and....

Okay, so, Buffy'd had a sister who loved her. Enough to write her a pretty cool obituary. Erin wasn't going to be doing that.

And friends. Must've been nice to be able to count on someone. All she had was Urkonn. Which, granted, was more than she'd had for a long time. And, okay, maybe some of the others downside. They seemed to look at her differently after she killed Icarus-- like maybe she really knew what she was saying about fighting the Lurks, striking back. Winning.

And she'd made a difference, that Buffy. Mel couldn't even begin to imagine what would happen if she actually managed to stop (kill, admit it Mel, you have to kill him) Harth. Would the Lurks go away? Would they retreat and come back later? Would everyone be safe for once, for just a while?

You can make a difference.

Hunh. There was a thought. A safe world.

Was that what had kept Buffy going? The thought of making all the Lurks - the vampires - go away for centuries? She was nuts, 'cause that was just crazy. She must have known it was impossible. Just like the odds against Mel were impossible.

Except that she did win. Even if she didn't live to see it.

So find a reason to live.

Would the nightmares go away if Harth really died? Would Erin forgive her for getting him killed? Would she, maybe, be able to leave this stinking city for a while-- see other places, learn to kill vampires other ways, find out just what she could do-- and be something more than a grabber?

She'd always lived in the moment; half-believed she'd end up dead earlier than this years ago.

Dying wasn't all that scary.

It's not the dying that's important, it's the trying.

If she died killing Harth... that wouldn't be so bad. Maybe they'd be together again, somewhere. Urkonn believed in reincarnation. Maybe they'd get to start over in another hundred years.

If Harth killed her before she killed him... hey. It hadn't stopped Buffy. Urkonn might fix it. The guys he worked for might fix it. And who cared what people said about her if she lost? She'd explain it to whoever had given her the job of Slayer, and they could tell her why they'd set her up with this stupid Chosen deal in the first place.

If she killed Harth... and didn't die herself....

Mel couldn't imagine it. But then, she'd never imagined she'd be picked as a vampire-killer by the forces of Whatever, either. Maybe she just had to believe she'd get through it. Survive it. Maybe some day she'd even be glad she had. You didn't have to see things coming to be able to deal with them. Right?

No one is asking you for anything more.

Melaka Fray got to her feet and walked over to the window, watching the sun slowly rise over the city.

Five hundred years since the last Vampire Slayer. Who'd had friends. Lovers. Nachos? Hunh. A life, basically.

It was something to shoot for. Something to live for. And maybe Mel could go for the record while she was at it, so the next Slayer didn't have to show up for another six hundred years.

She grinned, and went clomping down the stairs to look for Urkonn. She'd need to get in some practice if she was going to be aiming that high.

~*~

Fin

"Nobody gets out of here alive." - Jim Morrison

***

Thanks to everyone for the comments!

Chris
kikimariposa@prodigy.net