This fic is based on a challenge set forth on Elysian Fields by Safire called the Big Goodbye.
A few slight changes were made to the challenge to make it more realistic and so I could write it without extensive research. Dawn is not an upper level Watcher (she’s only 23 in the fic), Buffy is 28, and the setting is changed to a place that I’ve actually lived (which helps with the research part). And oops, on re-reading the challenge, I made Buffy initially more sad than angry. She’s a little angry but not pissed, mostly because it’s been five years.
You say yes, I say no
You say stop and I say go go go, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
-from “Hello Goodbye” by Paul McCartney
“The answer to everything is simple. It’s a song about everything and nothing. If you have black you have to have white. That’s the amazing thing about life.”
-Paul McCarney, explaining the lyrics of “Hello Goodbye”
Her chin in her hand, Buffy sighs as she leans over the large, antiquated volume, trying in vain to research a prophecy that supposedly has some bearing on why she and Dawn are in Houston on their vacation. The big sprawling city is not where she imagined spending her her holiday. There’s no beach. . . well, not a nice one anyway. . . and no fruity cocktails or massages with pretty cabana boys.
She sighs again. Stupid vampire gangs with their stupid attempts at doing dumb things like trying to infiltrate NASA and the oil industry.
She also doesn’t understand why Giles insists on everyone carrying around such heavy books when he could have them all scanned in and saved on the computer. Then, she could tote them around in her pocket on a flash drive instead of lugging an extra suitcase just for books. She thinks maybe his reluctance is leftover from the days when they tried to scan the books in his mystical library, and Moloch took over the computer network. Even Willow tried to convince him, but he remains stubbornly immovable.
Glancing at the clock for the umpteenth time, Buffy notices that it’s 2 P.M. Where is Dawn? She is supposed to be bringing them lunch and other snack foods for the research.
This morning, Dawn headed out to the local university coffee shop with a stack of trade paperbacks and a few hardbacks to peruse while she drank mochas. She was excited about the internship she started in January with the new, less corrupt Watcher’s Council, but she was less than thrilled about the grunt work. Part of said grunt work involved reading books and other published material that could potentially be tied to the supernatural and then deciding whether the author was in danger of revealing too much to the ignorant public or was, in fact, a demon with nefarious motives toward mankind.
Buffy’s stomach growls in frustration. She and Dawn were staying in one of those bare extended stay rooms with a mini-kitchen and a full sized refrigerator. Despite knowing that the there’s nothing in the hotel fridge, Buffy gets up to peer into the empty cold cavern anyway.
She sighs a third time, lets the door swing shut, and grabs her light leather jacket and keys. She can’t bear to look at Giles’s book any longer and decides to head out for some fast food.
Smiling at her decision, she swings open the door to the dingy hotel room and almost runs smack into her little sister.
Long dark hair swinging around her shoulders, Dawn is harried and pushes past Buffy into their gloomy refuge. One of her books falls to the floor, but she doesn’t bother to pick it up.
Buffy bends over and rescues the book. “What’s wrong?”
Dawn dumps her arm load onto the bed, grabs one of the hardback books, and whirls to face her sister, holding up the volume. “This, this is what’s wrong!” Tears fill her eyes.
Alarmed, Buffy takes the book from Dawn’s trembling hand and reads the title. “‘Chosen’ by William Abbott. What’s wrong with it? Do you need to call the Council?” She’s actually excited about this prospect. Calling Giles at the Council is way better and less boring than researching prophecies, and she never thought she’d think that about the Council.
Dawn shakes her head. “I-I’m not sure.”
“Then what?” Buffy studies the innocuous looking book cover. A dark cavern with a glowing light pouring out is the only illustration.
“You should read it.” Dawn’s blue eyes are bright and insistent. “It just came out on Tuesday.”
“Why this one?”
“Well, I read all the other books by this author, and nothing stuck out as all that strange, but this one. . . this one is. . . Buffy, I think that Spike wrote it.” Dawn reaches over and opens the book in Buffy’s hands so that the part of the cover with the summary is face up.
“W-what? But Spike’s de. . . gone. It’s been five years.” Buffy still can’t bring herself to say that he died in that final battle in L.A. before Angel and company moved to England. She skims the synapsis. “Wait a minute. This is. . .”
“Exactly what happened in the last year in Sunnydale except he changed the names of relevant people and places.”
In shock, Buffy stands stock still as Dawn rushes over to the nightstand and picks up her laptop. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she flips up the screen and opens the browser, typing in a website address. She spins the computer around on her lap to reveal an author’s website. “There was no author picture in the book, so I looked him up on my phone.”
Feeling numb, Buffy joins her sister on the bed and stares at the screen as Dawn clicks on the about-the-author page. The hotel’s wireless service is fast, and the page loads with ease, revealing a photo of a man who looks exactly like the vampire they both knew in Sunnydale. He has the same sharp cheekbones, same impudent smile, and same brilliant blue eyes full of emotion. The only difference is that his hair isn’t bleached blonde, and he has more color to his cheeks than Buffy can have ever imagined.
Buffy touches the screen as if she can somehow feel him over the internet. “I-it’s him.”
“Only he’s human, and his name is William Abbott,” Dawn points out. “And he lives in New York. He’s a writer. He’s written like seven other books that I read, but ‘Chosen’ was the only one that was so real.”
Buffy blinks back tears. “How do you know he’s human and not some clone or some shape shifting demon or a doppelganger?”
Dawn shrugs. “I don’t. I mean, I could probably find out, but I didn’t want to call the Council yet, you know? Because what if it’s him and he’s in trouble? I thought you could read the book first, and then, we could decide. . . or you could help me decide.”
Trying to set aside her emotions, Buffy agrees, “Good idea.” She briefly closes the book and scoots back on the bed, hunger forgotten. Curling up with her pillow propped behind her head, she opens to the first page.
Dawn settles back next to her with her laptop, intent on doing a more thorough Google search on William Abbott. But first, she grabs the hotel phone because she wants to order room service.
* * *
Even while eating a meal and later a snack, Buffy reads continuously until she finishes the novel at about three in the morning. A few tears slide down her cheeks as she reaches the end. Closing the book and trying not to wake up her sleeping sister, she slips off the bed she’s sharing with Dawn. Padding across the carpet, she quietly shuts the bathroom door behind her and climbs into the empty bathtub, bringing her legs to her chest and wrapping her arms around her knees.
Once in place, she finally allows herself to feel. Her whole body shakes with the sobs that she tried so hard to contain. Hot tears scald her cheeks and roll down her neck, soaking her blouse as she lets out all the emotion that she felt while reading the book but was too afraid to express in front of Dawn.
After all that remains of her tears are small hiccups and her nose has ceased running, she feels strong enough to lower her legs, and her frontal lobe starts to come back online.
How had William Abbott known all those details about what happened in Sunnydale from the First Evil conspiring to let loose the Turok-Han to Xander losing his eye to Willow converting all the potential Slayers into real ones to Spike saving the world? How?
And if, and that is a big if, William Abbott is Spike, why would he write this story. . . their story for the world the see? If William Abbott is Spike, she’s going to give him a piece of her mind! He’s endangering the entire world by so cavalierly publishing the truth. . . their truth.
With sudden determination, Buffy pulls herself up, rubs away the remaining tears, and looks at herself in the mirror. Her eyes and nose are puffy, and her tears dragged dark trails of mascara down her cheeks, but she grabs a washcloth and turns on the water. She quickly and efficiently washes her face and applies fresh makeup, brushes her teeth, and braids her long blonde hair. Throwing all her toiletries in her makeup bag, she tiptoes into the room she’s sharing with Dawn.
Buffy gazes at her slumbering sister who somehow keeps dreaming despite the apocalypse of emotions that just occurred in the bathroom. She loves her sister so much. If somehow this book hurts Dawn in any way, well, there will be hell to pay, and the payee will be this William character. Buffy reaches out to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her sister’s ear, but at the last moment, she resists and glides the laptop off the bed.
Returning to the bathroom, Buffy puts down the toilet lid and sits on it, startling the laptop from sleep mode.
William Abbott’s website is still pulled up, and she clicks on the link she had seen earlier that read, “Upcoming Appearances.”
“Bingo,” she whispers.
She opens a new window and goes to the Southwest Airlines home page. Within fifteen minutes, she purchases a plane ticket and books a last minute place to stay.
Since they just arrived in Houston, she hasn’t unpacked her bag, which is fortuitous as Giles might say. With care, she tugs on her boots, slips on the jacket she earlier removed, scribbles Dawn a brief note of apology, and grabs her bags.
Before she can reconsider, she is out the door and heads downstairs to call a cab to take her to Hobby Airport.
William Abbott is having a book signing as part of a tour for his new bestseller, and Buffy Summers is going to New Orleans to be there for it.
* * *
On the way to the airport, the cab driver is quiet and focused, beating his thumb on the steering wheel to a quiet song on the radio and sipping soda out of a large MacDonald’s cup.
Alone without being alone in the back seat, Buffy finally slows down enough to think. Dipping her hand in her purse, she retrieves her cell phone and pulls up the message app.
Biting her lip and tugging her braid over her left shoulder, she texts Giles to let him know she is leaving Houston and that he should contact the local Houston Slayers to help Dawn.
Her finger over the send button, she hesitates and doesn’t send the communication.
Instead, she switches over and dials Angel’s number. She holds her breath, waiting for the familiar voice to answer. It is around four fifteen in the morning here, so the time there is. . . a little after nine AM.
She’s surprised when he doesn’t answer. No matter the time of day or night, Angel always answers her calls. Something important must be going on.
His voicemail comes on, and she is kind of glad that she has to settle for his mechanical, impersonal message because if she hears his voice even electronically, she isn’t sure she can hold back her emotions again.
When the beep resounds, she takes a deep breath and tries to keep a neutral tone, “Hey. It’s Buffy. I have a couple of questions for you. . . about something I discovered, and I thought, well, maybe, you might have answers. Call me.”
Satisfied, she hangs up before she turns into babbling Buffy, and then, she sends the text to Giles before turning off her phone.
Now nothing and no one can stop her.
Suddenly exhausted, she closes her eyes and leans her head onto the window of the cab, focusing on the steady motion of the vehicle over the road and trusting that the cab driver will wake her up when they get to the airport.