“She needs to make up her mind,” Cillian says. “Make more Slayers! End the Slayers. Break the world! Save the world.”

Rhys takes over my chair at the high window, looking out. “To be fair, a lot of people have tried to destroy the world over the years. It’s a whole thing.”

“Huh. Who knew?”

“We did,” Rhys says.

“Fair enough.” Cillian grabs my hand and makes me sit next to him. “So, what’s your story, Nina? This Buffy. It’s personal, innit?”

I close my eyes, words that have been drilled into my brain since birth swimming into focus. Into every generation a Slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a Chosen One. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.

There’s a painful lump in my throat when I speak. “Every Slayer used to get a Watcher. And Buffy got the best.” I open my eyes and smile. “My dad was her first Watcher.”

When Merrick Jamison-Smythe found her, she had no idea who she was or what was coming for her. My dad had worked his whole life training Slayers, teaching them, helping them. And he watched those he trained before her die. So when faced with a choice between allowing himself to be used against Buffy or dying, he chose the Chosen One.

He saved her. And we lost him. Rupert Giles took over, becoming the Watcher everyone remembers. Their relationship—his indulgent refusal to follow rules or establish needed structure, his rejection of his own heritage—was the beginning of the end of everything. And still when anyone thinks of Buffy’s Watcher, they think of Giles. Not my father.

“So who is your Slayer now?” Cillian asks, deftly changing the subject. But he puts his hand on my shoulder, a light, reassuring pressure. He understands dead dads.

“We don’t have one.” Rhys climbs down from the chair at the window.

“Shouldn’t you have, like, a bunch, since there are so many?”

“After most of us got—” Rhys pauses. Blown up, I think. He chooses the more tactful “With so few of us left, we’ve been trying to determine our best course of action.”

We don’t know how Slayers would react to being contacted by us. How Buffy would react if she found out there was still an active group of Watchers. I honestly don’t know if we’ll ever fix the rift Buffy created between Slayers and Watchers. But in the meantime. . . . “Trying to determine our best course of action” feels like Watcherspeak for hiding. Doing nothing. I get that it was in our best interests to lie low and pretend the Watchers Council was gone for good. Disbanding for real was never a question. We are still Watchers—protectors—no matter what. But now that the world is filled with Slayers (Buffy’s fault), magic is dead (Buffy’s fault), and all the interdimensional portals are dead (Buffy’s fault), things have changed yet again. That’s what my mom is out there doing. Making sure we understand how everything has changed, what the new threats are.

I’m not sure what the Council’s long-term plan is after my mom’s scouting work is finished. Still, if we don’t check that every hellmouth and portal is actually closed, who will?

That’s why it’s so important that the Watchers remain. In a world remade again and again, where the rules keep changing, where a Chosen One becomes Chosen Many, where magic disappears, where the old ways are broken, we are the one constant.

We still keep watch.

It’s not enough, though. The Council hasn’t been able to decide what to do. Because there are so few of us now and so many of them. How do we pick one Slayer with so many options? And how do we risk our own lives, knowing what Slayers inevitably bring? Their gift is death.

And that’s my struggle, the truth of my life among the Watchers, growing up and aiding a society that exists because of Slayers: I hate them. What they are, what they do.

And I hate none of them as much as I hate Buffy.


“ALL CLEAR,” JADE SHOUTS FROM the other side of the bookshelves. “And they’ve called a meeting.” When we open the hidden door, she’s waiting there, cringing in pain. Her ice pack is gone, her ankle poorly wrapped.

I kneel to fix it. The meeting will be Rhys, Bradford Smythe, Ruth Zabuto, and Wanda Wyndam-Pryce. Artemis will be there to take notes. And my mom would be there, if she were here, which I’m glad she’s not. As castle medic, I don’t merit a spot. Usually this bugs me—one more way in which healing isn’t valued. Today I’m relieved.

“I’ll walk Cillian back to his scooter when I’m done with your ankle,” I say nonchalantly, hoping that with all the chaos, no one will ask me questions. Hoping they’ll be so focused on the hellhound they’ll conveniently overlook the fact that I was the one who killed it. They’ve ignored me for years. Surely they can keep doing it.

“Cillian can wait.” Jade pops her gum, brushing her choppy brown hair from her eyes. “You gotta go. They’re holding the meeting about you.”

Fear twists me in its grip. I can’t go to that meeting. I’ve known something was wrong with me for two months. Now everyone else knows it too. And Watchers don’t exactly have a good track record of being gentle with demons or those corrupted by them.

“That’s okay,” I blurt, fastening the sprain wrap and then hurrying past her. “I don’t need to go.”

Kiersten White's Books