Title: She Would be Thirteen
Characters: Xander, Buffy, Willow, Giles
Warnings: OC death
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss and co.
Summary: Post Chosen: While standing vigil in a funeral parlor, Xander begin to question his new job as Watcher. 1,100 words
She would have been thirteen in two weeks.
One of the first things Xander always did was compile a file on each newbie, including every personal detail he could think of. He saw to it that they threw a big party on the birthday of every slayer, young girls who had been ripped from their normal lives and needed some happy memory, some semblance of normalcy.
But she hadn’t made it to that first birthday party. She was twelve years old.
Xander rubbed his eye, wondering how bloodshot it looked, as he stood by the coffin and tried not to look again at the small body lying inside. She wore a white dress that contrasted starkly against the deep chocolate of her skin.
“So, that’s what a slayer is. And you’re a slayer.” Beside Xander, the village elder repeats the words in his native tongue, while the little girl standing before them stares, wide-eyed.
The slayers shuffled by, in varying degrees of discomfort. For most, despite dealing out death to various evil beings every day, this was the first time it had become personal. They didn’t know how to act, and to make matters worse none of them knew her well; there were no stories to tell, few memories to make them smile or cry.
The girl speaks, making the elder, and even the rather severe looking nun hovering near the doorway, smile. “She already knows,” the elder tells Xander. “The old witch told her last year that a – you would call it a Cyclops -- would come to take her to America, so she could battle evil.”
“Gotta love those witches,” Xander murmurs.
Willow laid a hand on his arm. “Xander, you need to get some rest. We’ll make sure somebody’s with her until the funeral tomorrow.”
“I promised the whole village I’d watch out for her.” He pulled at his tie. Dressing up sucked.
“It’s not your fault.”
Xander feels himself grin, or grimace, or something. “Sure it is.”
She spends the whole flight glued to the window, staring out at the ocean below, totally fearless even though she’s never been more than five miles from her parched home in her life. As they taxi toward the terminal, she turns to Xander and says something. They’re disembarking by the time he deciphers her words from the phrasebook:
“I want to see a car!”
Xander grins at her. “We’ve got plenty of those."
Her eyes are glowing with the wonder of discovery.
“She never staked a single vamp. Never even patrolled.” Xander didn’t realize he’d spoken out loud until he spotted Buffy near the back of the funeral parlor, huddled in a corner with the same bleak look she’d worn at her mother’s funeral. She looked up at him, and he knew she’d heard. After a moment she straightened, and made her way through the knots of people to his side.
“It’s not your fault.”
“Sure it is.”
“We haven’t lost a single slayer since Lake Superior, almost a year ago. Xander, you’re a watcher – you know the odds.” Buffy glanced at Willow, who nodded halfheartedly.
But Xander shook his head, despair washing over him like a cold shower. “The odds of a vamp getting her? A demon? I could almost take that – but she got hit by a car, Buffy. A freaking car! Am I the only one seeing the irony, here?”
One part of Xander’s subconscious hears the sirens, but he doesn’t look up from his paperwork. It’s Chicago, after all – there are always sirens.
Only when he hears a commotion in the hallway outside does the feeling that something’s horribly wrong grip him, and cold fills his chest as he remembers the girls were going to walk across town, to the museum.
Giles was standing by them, now. Xander hadn’t even realized he was back in town. “It’s tragic, Xander. But slayers have died of disease, natural disasters, accidents –“
“This is my slayer. Was my slayer.”
Giles leaned in, forcing Xander’s gaze away from the coffin to the older man’s face. “Slayers die. Watchers live. We find them, we train them, we prepare them as best we can, but sometimes these things happen.”
“She’d have been better off if we’d never found her.”
But Buffy shook her head. “The bad guys find their way to slayers, Xan.”
“Like a moth to a flame,” Willow added. “Don’t we know that, by now? Her whole village would have been at risk.”
He raised his hand to his bad eye, a habit he’d developed whenever he was exhausted or stressed, then tried to hide the action by smoothing back his hair. The hand shook. “Yeah, but –“
Xander had interrupted himself; no one else spoke. The groups of slayers stilled, waiting for him to say something – anything – that would make sense of this. But Willow looked away, Buffy covered her eyes with one weary hand, and Giles just waited. Somebody needed to say something … something … sensible. Something for the living.
Looking around, Xander realized they were waiting on something sensible from him. Fat chance. What possible good came from pulling that little girl out of her home, only to have her die months later, halfway across the world?
“You have food for her?” the elder asks. “Be careful it’s not too rich. The rice they give us is bland.”
Xander waits for a suitcase, but the nun shakes her head. “It’s all in that bag she’s carrying; another dress and a change of underwear. You should get her some socks, if you can.”
“The militia killed her family,” the colonel tells Xander, as his men fan out to cordon off the area, protecting the foreigner. “Her father treated the wounds of another tribesman, and they found out. She hid under her bed for six hours, until they finished the killing and left.”
The girl stares out the airplane window, eyes wide, and as they leave the earth she smiles, exposing dimples and white teeth.
“All slayers go to heaven,” Xander murmured.
Buffy stared at him, open mouthed. Giles and Willow turned back to him too, but Xander had bent over the coffin to smooth out the girl’s dress.
“No matter how short their lives, and where they come from, all slayers go to heaven. I mean – isn’t that a given?” Maybe she’d been about to be thrown from one nightmare into another. Maybe someone up there figured one nightmare was enough.
Buffy’s hand draped over his shoulder, and she gave him a sad smile. “It is where I’m standing.”
And Xander felt better. But he didn’t leave the girl’s side until the next morning, when the last mourner left the gravesite.