Had this been how the Slayers had started? A group of men scrambling for a stopgap solution, only to have the magics they'd invoked stay in place through the millennia. No one truly knew what kind of forces were contained within those spitfire girls, and just because he knew the name behind this new energy didn't mean he understood it one whit.
Was it more or less fair to them that they were never truly born? That when the previous container passed on, they appeared in a burst of light and false memories. They didn't have the life that might have been, but then, they'd never had a real life to begin with.
Sometimes the monsters under their bed would get them first, and things would nearly end again, and he'd fail and they'd die. Sometimes it would be the knights, and they'd kill them before the new nasty could use them, and he'd fail and they'd die. Sometimes the angels of light and good and everything that was right would get there, and they would still have to use the child to wage their war. And he would fail and the child would die.
He would fail.
He had failed again, just now.
The tug on his senses started again. He didn't know how long it had taken to feel it, how many children had died without ever being found before the link was developed. However it had come about, however that unknown energy had finally recognized him, it was a welcome distraction. No matter how many times he failed, he could never forget their faces. Starting with hers. Hers and her sister's.
So he traveled from Singapore to Illinois, ignoring tears while still mourning the boy. This one had lasted nearly three years. He tried not to cry, not after so many, but the boy had lasted three years. Measured his life in eternities, and he still couldn't overlook three years.
Would it be a boy or a girl this time? Blonde, redhead, brunette? Tall or short, quiet or bubbly, a week left or years?
He had to wait for night when the train rolled in to Chicago, and then he could slip out and away. He'd never actually been in the city before. It was a big planet, and there was still much of it yet to see. Still, he was able to weave through the streets like it was his own hometown. Where he was going, he hadn't a clue, but he knew exactly how to get there.
A girl. Tall, brunette, quiet. A runaway, by the looks of it. Doubly unfair to the poor girl, that was... she only had a short bit of living to do, and they'd given her that lot for it. She didn't even look up from her rummaging when he walked up behind her. Not a good sign, that. When they were that careless, he'd wager he'd be off again within a week. He'd fail that quickly, he couldn't help it when they cared that little to live.
Then he was clearing his throat, and she jerked up and spun to face him. Just as her own existence had been slammed into place into other people's lives, memories of her protector suddenly sprang up in her own mind once she saw the face before her. No matter how many times he saw it, that sudden realization and elation was always a joyful sight to behold. It almost made up for what would happen at the end.
But no matter how much he hurt, he would look after these children who had been left alone to face a world that hated them. Even if he failed, he wouldn't let them go through things alone. Them knowing that as surely as they knew their names would be the one comfort as they discovered the truth about themselves.
So he would find them, and fight for them, and fail, then do it all again. Sometimes they asked him why. He just smiled, looked up at the stars, and told them the truth.
He'd made a promise to a lady.