She drinks steadily. Four years has taught her well. She knows how to behead a vampire effectively with a letter opener, how to conceal a stake wearing barely nothing. She knows how to bless water herself and to cast glamour spells to make herself appear like something totally different. Swords are a handy thing, but daggers are even better, especially when theyíre of blessed silver.
She also knows to be wary of coolers, because they cause major hangovers, and to just stick with the shooters and martinis. Four years of drinking steadily taught her how to fight even while disoriented, an odd skill which has saved her life numerous times. Four years of bitterness surrounding her like a shell, a cocoon she has no strength to break out of. Drinking is her only companion now, her only confidant. She left promising a return, someday. She and her friends kept in touch occasionally, through hurried phone calls from phone booths at three in the morning while the rain was coming in torrents, and sometimes during the weary London winters when she was sure she would no longer see thesun.
Her best friend, Red, is touring with her boyfriendís rock group, the Dingoes. Her other best friend, The Zeppo, has finally moved in with his girlfriend of four years, the former demon, in an apartment close to where her mother lives. Her Watcher is operating from Sunnydale, training the new Slayer while his first Slayer and beloved child (though not from birth, but from devotion) travels around the world, dispersing vampires. They all keep in touch, and often. As for her, she bases herself mainly in London, making sure things are under control. When she can no longer stand the dreary weather and background, she will travel to Ireland, or to Germany or Poland and Slay there, or to wherever else she feels needs her attention. She lives alone, sleeps alone, cries alone and drinks alone.
I watch her. I always seem to. I canít help it. Ever since the Bosses assigned me to her, Iíve never been able to squelch the need to watch her, to watch out for her. She never sees me, and for that Iím grateful. The first experience left me with little to desire to be in the line of her rage, and even though sheís more than a bit disoriented, I know she can still pack a punch.
On the outside, she seems like a lively young girl who drank a bit too much. Sheís a bit tipsy, and her smile a bit too wide. Her hair is as golden as the first day we both saw her, and her skin is still a fair shade of bronze, revealing her Californian roots. Sheís still breathtaking. Thereís been no change on the outside.
But once you look closer and notice the way her eyes are hooded in eternal shame, the way she carries herself... Sheís a tricky one, this Slayer. By all rights she should be dead, but sheís not. Sheís carried the record of longest Slayer to ever live two years longer. Sheís a legend now. The vampires speak of her in reverence and fear. Only Masters dare to cross her path now.
Itís almost the same every night. Sheíll walk in after a night of Slaying and ask for a shooter. The bartender gives it without questioning. Heís seen her before, and knows how sheíll drown her sorrows. Itís not addiction sheís facing, but loneliness. It eats away at her and she knows it. And for a while, in a drunken haze she can almost forget who she is.
A man walks up to her. Heís tall, strong build, dark hair and eyes. In a room where the only way you can see is to squint your way around, he could pass off as him. But even in her less-than-stable state, she can always tell them apart.
He tries to cosy himself up, but is quickly shot down. Happens every night. Someone comes along and tries to take the loneliness away but she rejects them all quickly. No one seems to understand why. But then again, thatís her outward appearances. Because if you look hard enough, youíll see. A silver ring salvaged from a lonely mansion from her teenage years attached on her finger from a village in Ireland, late 18th century. A reminder that makes her laughter hollow, her smiles forlorn and forms a deep hurt in her hazel depths.
Tonight will be different. Iíve been watching faithfully for the past four months and I see no change. Itís always the same. She has no more strength to return to the constant memories that ambush her in the tiny town. Her town, by all rights. But itís not, not anymore.
She gets up, paying the bartender with her customary twenty pounds and staggers out. I follow. Sheís walking crooked, barely able to resist stumbling. Sheís drowned herself again.
"Loneliness is a scary thing, isnít it?" I ask her, knowing full well her answer. She stops herself, arms shooting out in a vain attempt to balance herself. She turns slowly, reaching for her dagger.
"What do you want, demon?" she snarls, the slurring in her voice not making her demand any less threatening. But she wonít kill me. Iím the closest thing to a friend sheís got right now, that sheís seen during the last four years.
I donít respond for a while, allowing her to gather her bearings. Even in the dark, her eyes are piercing, self-hatred a theme in her sorrow. I step forward.
"Itís terrifying. You canít turn anywhere. Youíre surrounded constantly by people, faces, but you know them only as strangers. Your only friend is a vodka shooter - and once in a while, a martini - because youíre so lonely you forgot what itís like to do anything but Slay and drink." I watch. Her face is still a mask but thereís no denying those words sliced her. Her grip on the dagger tightens.
"What do you want?" she asks again, punctuating her question with a growl. Sheís scared, thereís no doubt in that, but whatís more is that sheís hurt. Seven years at the top, and sheís still the best physically, but emotionally sheís on the brink.
"Iím here to take you back," I tell her, slowly inching forward. "He misses you. He didnít leave that ring on purpose like you think, kid. He wanted you to have it. Your ring was what was needed to bring him out - a symbol of your undying love. He has everything of you and you have nothing. It was the least he can do." I canít mention his name, or else the kid will break. I doubt sheís even managed to say it herself, not even in her dreams.
Loneliness. Itís scary.
"Iím fine," she says, turning back to leave. But she stumbles, again, and falls almost before I can catch her. In my arms, sheís a rag doll, hanging limply as the alcohol takes affect.
Itís my duty to haul her back, I guess. I make our way towards the apartment slowly, careful not to wake her. Sheís never been able to sleep without a drink. Itís all a blur to her now.
Before we reach the steps she stirs, then straightens herself. She says no thanks, but makes no move to kill me either, which in itself is gratitude. A few moments of tense silence until she finally turns to me. She does not cry.
"Youíre right," she tells me, "Loneliness is just about the scariest thing there is. Itís empty and consumes you until you canít break out. Itís even scarier when you know that the only thing that can take it away is the only thing you canít have." She turns from me and walks up her steps, taking out her key, but something stops her before sheenters.
"He still loves you! Thereís a part of him that no one can touch and he has to live with that for eternity." Still no tears.
But her voice is full of something I have not heard in a while. Something thick, that settles in her throat but she wonít allow to emerge. "Tell him what Iíve reduced myself to, let him know that the reason for my pathetic existence is because of him. He acts so gallant and noble in thinking he knows what I want. I canít have kids. Iíve had two miscarriages to prove that to myself. The thought of another manís touch nauseates me to a point where Iíve had to lock myself up in my bathroom and puke over my toilet. I havenít seen the sunshine for two years because of my Slaying. My life is nothing more than a joke that I canít draw myself out of no matter how hard I try. I havenít been home in four years, and no one has seen me for just as long. Iím going to die out here when one vamp gets gutsy enough to turn my own stake on me. I donít live anymore, I just exist."
Iíve lived for millenniaís. Iíve seen the destruction of the Horsemen and the fall of Atlantis, yet never has anything chilled me more than her words.
"He wanted you to have a life of your own," I tell her. She shakes her head, the old hurt surfacing again.
"I wanted my life to be with him." Her voice drops down to barely a whisper. "But he didnít."
I look at her now, a woman of twenty-three, her life stripped away by one wrong choice. She refuses to cry, knowing the tears will burn. She drinks herself into a stupor every night and tries her hardest to forget every day. If loneliness were to have form, she would be it.
"Kid," I say gently, still standing away like she wanted, "He loves you. He doesnít go a day without thinking about you, wondering if youíre laughing, or crying, or smiling. He wants you to be happy. If he knew what youíve done to yourself now..." I leave it hanging in the air, because she already knows what I mean to say.
She laughs. An odd, hollow sound, that rings through the streets like fake silver. "You cannot be in love with two people at once, dear friend." With that, she leaves me on an abandoned street corner to welcome blessed oblivion. The darkness is her companion now, the sunshine burning her too much. She only exists, and while a legend among Watchers, Vampires and Slayers alike, she is the fallen.
I turn. Tomorrow, she will be back at her bar again, drinking herself senseless. But tomorrow, an old friend will return, showing her just how right she truly is.