Title: Taking Up the Torch
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.
Summary: "And you?" Kendra asked him, carefully. "Will you return to England with your Slayer's chronicle?" 1200 words.
Warnings: AU, with past major character death.
Spoilers: Set immediately after "What's My Line?" in B:tVS Season 2.
Notes: The aftermath of an alternate version of "What's My Line?", where the scary assassins lived up to their reputation. Serves as backstory for the Ring of the Gods series, specifically for the Alternate!Kendra from "The Power of Two".
The Watcher returned as she finished securing the bandage around her shoulder. The female Terakan's blade had destroyed her only shirt, and bit deeply into the arm beneath the slashed sleeve, but her Slayer healing would take care of the wound soon enough. The wound dealt to the Englishman, however, did not seem as though it would be so easily repaired.
He approached her slowly, almost hesitantly, his glasses dangling from the fingers of one hand and the other rubbing at the bridge of his nose. "I've, ah. I've spoken to Mr. Zabuto," he said.
Kendra tucked the last ends of the bandage in, then stood in respect. Mr. Giles may not have taught his Slayer in the most traditional manner, but he was as well-versed in their duty as her own Watcher, and he had lost much that night. "What are my new orders?" she asked.
He looked at her briefly, eyes darting up to her face and then away again. "It seems- he is quite convinced that the events that transpired this evening are but the beginning of the 'very dark power' forecasted to rise here. Now that Buffy- that is, until the situation is contained, he recommends that you remain."
Kendra nodded solemnly. Now that Spike had eliminated the other Slayer and returned his sire to full health, there would be little to restrain the powerful vampire from gaining control of the Hellmouth. Only Kendra- as she had expected from the beginning of her mission- had the strength to oppose him. From Mr. Zabuto's perspective, nothing had changed since he sent her away.
Yet somehow, it seemed a bleaker prospect than it had when she first set foot in Sunnydale. Kendra had never imagined that she would meet her predecessor- or that Buffy's methods would differ so significantly from her own. The girl's Watcher had allowed her to have friends, schooling, even a boyfriend- a boyfriend who should have been ashes long since, for an added layer of strangeness. In the end, those distractions had contributed to her death, as Kendra had always been taught they would.
But she had blazed so brightly! Had they been any less outnumbered, Kendra had no doubt that Buffy would have proven her connections gave her strength as well. She had fought with a fire that Kendra had never felt before meeting her. Small wonder that Mr. Giles seemed greyer, almost diminished, after carrying her body away from that ruined church.
"And you?" she asked him, carefully. "Will you return to England with your Slayer's chronicle?"
The Watcher frowned, looking up at her again. "Eventually, that seems likely," he said. "However, as Mr. Zabuto is unable to travel at present, he asked if I would be willing- if I could lend you my assistance until the matter is resolved. And also-" He glanced over his shoulder, toward the table in the main area of the library where a young red-haired woman curled up in a chair, softly weeping. An older woman with dark hair and eyes- a teacher?- sat next to the girl, patting her hand.
"I find that I- I cannot leave Willow alone in this state," he added hesitantly, face lined with weariness and grief. "Xander and Buffy were her closest friends, and while she was not precisely on good terms with Cordelia, they had been acquainted for many years."
Kendra grimaced. It seemed to her that the girl Cordelia- yet another who'd known Buffy's secret, though Kendra had never met her- had brought her fate upon herself. She had invited the insectile Terakan into Buffy's house; it was a miracle that Xander had not perished with her, but had instead managed to escape while it was devouring her. Not that he had long survived her. Xander had been fierce, and focused, and admirable in his efforts to defeat the assassin when they met with it again in the ruined church- but in the end he had proved only a man, ill matched against a powerful and well trained supernatural assassin.
That was why the Slayer was supposed to keep her activities secret: to protect not only herself, but the innocents who might otherwise be caught up in her wake. No matter how well informed they were before making the decision, 'heart' and 'grit' only counted for so much against foes that far outclassed ordinary human beings.
For all his impatience, William the Bloody was not a stupid vampire, and with his leman at risk had stacked the odds in his favor. Buffy had already perished long before Kendra had arrived with the cavalry, and all their efforts to rescue the Slayer's body- or her boyfriend, as he seemed to be a necessary ingredient of the spell- had been in vain. The vampire had fallen to dust while they had been fighting, and Spike had laughed at their pain. Only Kendra, Willow, and Mr. Giles had walked away from the battle, and she suspected that was only because the Terakans and Spike had each achieved their goals. The second Slayer and her surviving companions had been dismissed as unimportant loose ends.
"I am sorry for your loss," she replied quietly. She had barely been able to look at Xander when they'd briefly met in the library, and she had hardly spoken to Buffy without exchanging barbed words and breaking a lamp trying to show off, but she still felt their absence like hooked barbs under her skin. As though she'd lost something she'd only just begun to realize she admired. How much worse must the burden be for those who had been so much closer to them?
"Thank you," the Watcher replied, then absently slid his glasses back into place, peering at her wearily from behind the shield of the lenses. "Mr. Zabuto is wiring funds; but until they arrive, you are welcome to use the guest bed in my flat for as long as necessary."
Kendra frowned, a little surprised by the offer. She had thought Mr. Giles would view her presence as a reminder of their failure; she'd slept under the stars before. "That is very kind of you, sir, but-"
He sighed. "Please recall that this is the Hellmouth; you will require a safe place to rest if you are to maintain your full effectiveness."
She still felt uncomfortable accepting- but he did speak the truth. "T'ank you; I will not impose on you any longer than I must."
"It is not an imposition," he said, shaking his head. "Without your presence... well."
He turned away then, crossing the room to hesitantly reach for the shoulder of the woman comforting the weeping girl. Ms. Calendar; that was her name. Her return smile did not reach her eyes, but she leaned into the touch.
Kendra bit her lip, then brushed a finger over the rather plain cotton shirt someone had found in Buffy's exercise gear. It still smelled faintly of vanilla. One Slayer dies, and another is Called: Kendra didn't think she'd ever really understood the resignation in Mr. Zabuto's voice, before.
This was part of her duty, too: honoring the legacy of her predecessor.
She picked up the shirt and headed for the bathroom to change.