Title: Remembered Originally posted 2/25/05 Fandom: AtS/BtVS Buffy Gen Rating: PG Time-line: Post NFA Disclaimer: Joss's. Not mine.
Once upon a time, there was a princess. That’s how the fairytales begin, but it’s not fair to the girl she was. If real fairytales end in blood, then at least the comparison is apt, but to talk about happily-ever-after is a lie and to talk about what happens when the story ends is to talk about myth made real. Pale, pastel beauty belies the truth; she aged with knowledge and loss before her time. Sharpened and dagger-drawn she saved herself, and there is no Prince Charming in this story, only the hero-monsters of the piece vying for the part.
Her successors don’t talk about who she was; they talk about what she means, mythic perfection and tragic flaws. Little girls with power in their veins ask if she was real at all, and the story goes like: Once upon a time, there was a warrior.
There are books of her life in the giant libraries of the Watcher’s Council, dusty with age. Any questioner can read the names of the legends. The slayers don’t have to; they were raised on the stories. Once upon a time, there was the last Slayer before the sisterhood.
It’s never as easy as storybooks would have it and the histories make a myth of her as surely as the legend. She is said to have been a great beauty. The books start that way, as though it’s important, as though it explains those who followed her or the volatile and disastrous love affairs with two different immortals - both of whom she outlived. She is said to have been the first slayer with real friends, but they’re new archetypal figures too, comrades in arms: the impossible love, the powerless seer, the innocent fallen, the monster redeemed, the fatherly watcher (they love that one, those watcher-bred historians). She is the isolated hero, alone despite companions. A slayer’s loyalty is to her calling, regardless of who her friends are (regardless of how many others now share the burden).
Her death is secondary, an epilogue. The Californian Atlantis of Sunnydale (sunk into the Earth rather than the sea) is the important thing. She died in battle; they make sure that’s known when they’re holding her up as an example of how impossible it is to quit your calling. The historians argue, and the active watchers debate, treating their charges carefully and waiting with a fearful hope for the next Buffy Summers. What should they make of the one girl who changed it all? She is villanized for her passion and then for cold adherence to her calling. She is celebrated for the same. One school of thought says she betrayed that calling at the end; another says she validated it. Both attack her for any attempt to walk away.
When she wanted normality, she didn’t want the world in her hands. If lack of responsibility once meant shallowness and shoe shopping to a sixteen year old girl, it’s only because slayers have prophetic dreams and she saw the blood on her hands all along.
On her knees to secular forgiveness, if the universe knows of anyone it knows of her, but it is silent and she chose responsibility and consequence alone. She made for thousands to come the one choice that she couldn’t make for herself. Destiny said one girl in all the world, but what had fate done for her that she should listen? There were already two, (sister slayer with the name of absence, friendenemy, insufferable, inseparable other side) free will and chance had meaning after all.
To choose with reasonable knowledge of what might come; to live, not to die, with that choice. This was her legacy. Generations later the watchers say: Brilliant and damaged. Selfish and brave. Impulsive and insightful. Stubborn and strong. They say Chosen and Damned. They don’t say twenty-four and shattering. They don’t say frightened and human, because her flaws are as legendary, as disproportionate as her victories. Hundreds of the now-Chosen know anyway. More than last Slayer and prototype, they see themselves in her story and the story goes like this: Once upon a time there was a girl.