Disclaimer: not mine.
Length: 1000+
Character: Kendra
Notes: No clue where this came from. Spoilers, obviously, and I'm late for work. Possibly, season eight is to blame.

by ALC Punk!

When Kendra is three, a Watcher comes through her village and tests all of the young girls for their ability to become a candidate in the training they offer. The training comes with a price: the girl becomes the property of the Council, and her parents and family will never see her again.

But the monetary benefits out-weight most family's concern for the young child they will hand over to this council.

At three, Kendra has no understanding of money and power, and even less of university and education.

But her older brother is bright, and her parents could never afford to send him to a school where he could learn to apply his brain.

Kendra only understands that her mother cries with relief when the Council signs a contract stipulating a large sum of money for the university her brother will one day go to. Her father simply tells her over and over that he is proud of her.

Smiling brightly, Kendra solemnly tells him he is silly and then goes back to making mud pies.

When Kendra is five, her parents give her to the Watcher's Council. They're so proud of her for showing the potential to become a Slayer.

And grateful, too. Three children is a strain on their family, and will become even more so on their village as time goes on.

But the growing of her mama's belly tells Kendra that they will shortly be three again, and she wonders if this time, it will be the boy that her parents wanted.

Kendra tries to be a big girl, tries desperately to not miss her family as the moments turn into days and the days turn into weeks. But the Watchers Council is nothing that she's used to. It's discipline and rote, training for a calling that she doesn't know that she feels.

Duty, they whisper with every meal.

Honor, they say as they teach her to read.

Rules, they write on her skin as she touches the parchment of the ancient books that tell them how this must be done.

When Kendra is eight, she spends two days pretending nothing is wrong before breaking down one afternoon and crying in bitter homesickness.

A letter from her parents arrived, drifting through the mail as these things did. In it, her mother tells her that her new baby sister shows no sign of the Slayer aptitude. They're disappointed--girls mean more work, dowries and offerings to the Gods that boys do not.

The other trainees call her silly and foolish, and mock her for being a cry-baby.

It's understood that girls will become lonely, it's even written in one of the books that this is possible.

But comfort isn't something the Council can give.

The Council tries, of course, but it's mostly old men steeped in tradition and young women trying to become steeped in that same framework. There is no change and there is no sympathy for little girls who will never meet their younger siblings.

When Kendra is eleven, the current Slayer comes to talk to her year. She talks about the duties and responsibilities, about staying alive against the odds. She talks about the pull and push of killing a vampire and the heady realization that you could die, today.

She says that knowing tomorrow, a new Slayer will be called from their ranks is the gift that those in Kendra's group will be giving in four years' time.

The greatest thing a Slayer-candidate can do is to be trained. To exist to take the mantle of The Chosen One, and fill the shoes of the girls who can come before her.

They all know the statistics by now, they know most Slayers don't make their seventeeth birthday. They know that at sixteen, something else happens to cause another surge in deaths.

This current Slayer has passed her sixteenth birthday.

A month later, she dies.

Kendra doesn't know the girl who is Chosen from the upper ranks of the training group, but she feels a quiet pride in knowing that she might be next.

After another three girls have died.

When Kendra is thirteen, letters from her mother are short and routine. Everything is fine, everyone loves her. Come visit some time.

Slayer-candidates aren't allowed home to visit their parents, but letters are ok.

Kendra doesn't mind. She barely remembers what her family looks like. The family she has, now, is more important. Even if she is as alone as she was when she first arrived, at least she has a kinship to the other girls training around her. They share the same purpose, the same duty, they are, possibly, to become the saviors of this world.

Her 'family' that writes letters are simple people, mundane men and women who don't understand the darkness out there.

Still, she sees no need to keep the letters that talk about her baby sister's skill at math or her elder brother's adventures at the university the Watchers' Council financed for him. They burn easily when she adds them to her evening fire.

When Kendra is fifteen, she is Chosen.

Immediately, she is given a Watcher to guide her, exclusively. For the first months, she can do nothing right, it seems. She is covered in quick-fading bruises from training sessions that make her wish her training before hadn't been so incomplete--when she has time to wish at all.

The day after she earns her first nod of approval is the day she learns the previous Slayer is not dead.

There were rumors, as she was training the year before, about the length of the search to find this girl, and the wonder that she was not a Council protege. Kendra had always assumed, as had the others, that this girl would die quickly, not having been trained by the Council their whole lives.

Expectation and reality, however, show her differently. Two months later, she returns from a visit to the states where she found herself almost lost in a world she didn't comprehend as easily as books made out of human skin.

In her bed that night, after an exhausting debriefing that leaves her as battered as fighting Spike and his minions had, Kendra gives a brief thought to the girls she trained with, and wonders if they will be happy as normal girls. Some will go on to become Watchers, others may go home, forever changed and out of step with a world that doesn't understand what they do anymore.

When Kendra is sixteen, she dies.

She doesn't go out in a blaze of glory, taking vampires and demons with her. She goes quietly, her throat slit and eyes wide with surprise.

A vampire watches her, softly cooing off-key, as though Kendra's death is something that is giving her strength and purpose. And maybe it is. Maybe this child-like vampire who was once a broken woman takes energy from those who die, but most especially from a Slayer who no longer has the potential to become anything more.

It's too late for Kendra, too late for her to go back and change a life (change a thousand). She can only wonder if its possible that Buffy is a madwoman let loose with a chainsaw upon the traditions that have shaped her world for eleven years.

She can only hope that change will not take a thousand years. There are still potential Slayers who need more than cold comfort and tea when they receive letters from home. Girls who are nothing more than commodities in a war of attrition.

And they will continue to die for the sin of simply being alive.