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Title: "Fictional Lives"
Disclaimer: I don't own them, but I still wish I did. I'd make them do naughty things and get them a slot on HBO or Showtime… we'd get Emmys.
Summery: Buffy. A Book Shop. A Beautiful Brunette, and the Difference Between Truth, Fiction, and Lies.
Explanation: I have heard a lot of ideas about what Buffy would do after the show ended; after being a Slayer for so long… what kind of job options are open to you? This idea came to me during one of my Lit classes last week, and I sadly wrote most of it while I was drunk, but I'd love some honest feedback; that means critical if that's how you feel. Thank you. -Vix-
Written March 31st, 2005
The room the gathering was set up in wasn't huge, but it was obviously the largest in the building; an old brown stone over on Grove street in San Francisco. The wood and metal sign out side, along with the over hang read 'Green Apple Books'; a bright red apple on a forest background, a bite taken of it with a little worm in glasses poking it head out and smiling. It was a small but well-loved family place, a great selection, and boheme within California culture (indulgent in its own irony).
In front of her were about 65 comfortable folding chairs, almost all full, and people were still filtering in slowly as the kind and slightly portly woman approached the small pedestal they'd set up facing the crowd.
It wasn't nearly as nice as some of the set-ups she'd been welcomed with, but she liked this better. Smaller. She didn't like to feel like she was preaching… never had. That doesn't mean it wasn't called for on some occasions.
"Hello everyone, and Welcome to Green Apple Books," The crowd gave a few golf-claps as the woman began addressing the crowd with a happy grin and playful nature. "It is the privilege and pleasure of the Andrews' family to introduce Miss Elizabeth Summers, famed author of the widely loved cult-fiction-fantasy 'Damned Love' series. A native of California, she - …"
Buffy tuned her out and smiled politely (and a bit nervously) at the crowd; just as she always did. All the intros were almost the same. Usually they just googled her name, got to a fan sight, and then regurgitated the info they'd borrowed. Even when the person had taken the time to ask her the questions personally or were a fan of the series themselves; it all usually came out the same.
The sound of a more enthused clapping caught her attention, and she luckily tuned back in time to nab the last thought Ms. Andrews had noted;
" – and tell us about her newest book; 'Fictional Life'; a collection of short stories which she described in the jacket as 'The greatest fiction I ever wrote was the story of my life'. Here she is!" There was some actual excited clapping, and Buffy got up to the podium. In actuality it wasn't much more than a wooden music stand on wheels and an ad for her book taped to the front, dangling down.
Buffy smiled, sighed a little nervously, and looked over the crowd as though sizing up her newest opponent. People. Common people. Who thought the things she wrote about were 'fantasy' and 'fiction' and praised her for her creative imagination. She often wanted to correct the booksellers and tell them they were actually fact-based-fiction, but resisted the urge on reports getting out that 'famed Vampire author goes crazy and begins to confuse reality with her works; ego suspected'…
Among the crowd there were a few wild looking women in their thirties dressed in Victorian style clothes and with whole collections of her series in their lap, a few teenagers with all kinds of tattoos and piercinges sticking out of their nose, some professional literary types, and some people who were obviously with the press (mini-cassette recorders on their laps, newspapers open in their hands, and not paying a speck of attention at all to the shop and the crowd around them).
"Well," she started nervously, "if any of you know me, and it's obvious you do if you came all the way here, then you know that I actually don't like addressing large groups of people… but my publishers insist that without a book tour, there's no book, but I'm starting to think they just like to see me squirm in front of people that often know my work better than I do." Most of the crowd laughed, and she was thankful.
"So, uhm, if any of you know my series, you know that 'Fictional Life' is not a part of it. And if you didn't know that when you bought it, you probably figured it out… eventually." She chuckled. "I wanted to write about, well, life for once. Things that had happened to me, so people could see that not everything in my world was about death and chasing down demons and monsters, or for nothing else, to take a little break from all that; as it was slowly becoming my life." A hand went up in the crowd.
"Excuse me, what do you mean by 'life'? Are these stories non-fiction? Autobiographical?" Buffy had a feeling this was a teacher, possibly one from the local college who she'd learned was planning on teaching a class about modern horror-fiction. Buffy smiled a bit and nodded.
"Some of them. Some of them are based on actual events, some are fiction, and some are somewhere in-between."
"Which ones are which?" She asked, looking almost offended and confused. Buffy just smiled wider.
"That's the whole idea of the book. That was how I presented it to my publishers anyway… I wanted to write a book that was a between of reality and fantasy, a little of both, a lot like the way people live their lives in there mind. Life, mixed with the fantasy of expectation and hope. Some of the stories in it are what I call Fairy-Tale Life. Things that happened, reimagined and with a high-gloss shine. The trick to it is figuring out what's fairy-tale, and what's fairy-tale come true."
There was an excited murmur from many of the people, some turning to one another to quickly and quietly discuss this new information, and some opening the books on their laps to rethink passages they'd read. Mrs. Andrews leaned forward from the side of the stage where she stood to ask a question herself.
"What made you think of this? I mean, your series was so wildly successful; especially in the high school and college bracket; why venture out of a formulaic success?" She'd been asked all these questions before, on earlier stops on her tour, but every time she still got nervous to answer, even when she knew the answer. Shrugging and smiling a little wider, she shook her head.
"Well, after a rather candid meeting with one of my publishers, I learned that my books take exceptionally long to go through the editing process… I'd never been trained to be a writer; I didn't study; I just got an idea in my head one day and started penning it out… my first editor was an old librarian of mine from high-school who I had sent the initial manuscript. A friend of his was a publisher, whom he'd asked to read my preliminary work… he thought it had promise."
"Damn right!" One of the girls with tribal tattoos all over her neck shouted happily. Others chorused with quieter agreements, and Buffy continued.
"Anyways, I started thinking about my work. I worked hard on my stories and I didn't want to make anyone else's job harder than it had to be. I knew I had about nine months before the next book in the "Damned Love" series was out and I'd have to tour (again), so I got to thinking; maybe if I'm going to claim writing as my profession I should possibly learn the actual skills of the trade. I went back to school; took classes."
"So, like, wait," said a boy who had to be about fifteen and possibly a little stoned, "You already wrote for a living, and like, made a lot of money off of it, and got really famous and stuff for it, right?... and you went back to school anyways?" Buffy chuckled and remembered when the idea of going to school voluntarily seemed so foreign to her too.
"Yeah, pretty much." She nodded, sagely, "I had a year of waiting, my next book in the series was planned as far as plot went, and I felt sort of eager to try something new. I took a bunch of writing classes; I learned grammar and formula and formatting. Wrote poetry – some pretty shitty poetry for the most part, some of which made it into the book at the insistence of my editor. He always laughed at every poem I gave him, then insisted it was great and we had to add it to the pile."
The crowd laughed, and Buffy was reaffirmed in her love of small crowds over large ones. The bigger gatherings always seemed overly formal and starchy; like no one wanted to disturb the serious quiet, the herd mentality. The questions went on and on like that for a while, talking about her for once rather than her some-what-fictional Vampires and Lovers from her novels.
Then a hand went up in the crowd. A hand Buffy could recognize as soon as she'd seen it. It was slim but warn, with olive skin, a simple silver bracelet and a ring or two it's only decoration. The black leather of the jacket, the sleeve pulled half way to the elbow, was worn and yet well cared for. It covered a tight top that lead into a shapely neck, brown hair soft and wavey and chestnut. The smirk on the distinct red lips made Buffy smile in return.
"I was wondering," said the warn and smoky voice, "This woman you spoke of in your new book… is she real?" She knew that voice anywhere. Buffy smiled and cleared her throat before answering.
"Uh, I spoke of a few women, could you please be more specific?" She was being playful; she knew what woman she was talking of. She opened up her worn book, opened to a marked page… With the benefit of her slayer sight she could see the spine already marked and a little split in a few of the marked paged.
"Uh, page 34," she cleared her throat and read. " 'I had often dreamed of domesticity with her. Packing, moving, making the bed. In my dreams she was always a settled person, at the cusp of some great change. But although I had had many a strange dream with her in it, I found our making the bed the oddest; as I knew her in life to be the type to never know where she might sleep, not caring if the sheets were clean or whom they belonged to. I also knew she'd never made a bed in her life, not once, she'd told me that once, years later. But also because this dream was one of the more pleasant interactions I'd had with her at the time, and for a good long while after…'
"It goes on to talk of the possible meanings of this, that possibly all you wanted was to see her settled down and to possibly change her ways…" Those curious brown eyes looked at her with a slight spark behind them.
"Firstly I think I should ask if she's real, and secondly I should ask; if she is – can I have her number?" The crowd chuckled and laughed, where as Buffy settled into a serious mode of thinking, her smile lessened but not gone.
"Yes, and no. She's based on two completely different people I've known; one of which I hardly ever see anymore." The girl nodded, still sort of smirking. "One I met shortly before my senior year of high school and the other I met about six months later. She and I were kids together." Buffy said in a sad sort of nostalgic chuckle.
"Uhhh…" She girl answered slowly, waving a hand by way of asking for elaboration.
"The one I'm still close to; she and I used to try and have adult kinds of fun, and as a result we always ended up acting more like kids. Staying out late, drinking, acting like we ruled the world and actually believing it at times, but always trying to be serious and talking about how grown up we were – what we'd done, what we were going to do and how no one could stop us…
"The other I met at what was probably the most vulnerable point in her life, yet I'd never met anyone with such a hardened exterior. If I ever met a girl that thought she was invincible, impermeable, it was her; but she only thought so because I think she knew it was the only way she'd get out of her bad situation. And eventually she learned that – no matter how hard you believe – no one is ever really invincible.
"Lets just say, they had a lot in common." She laughed to herself, looking down at the familiar cover of her book in front of her as she opened to the page in question. "Both of them… the darker they got, the more vulnerable you could tell they felt. Eventually I was to be able to tell when they really needed help… but the more I offered to help, to be there for her, they more weak they thought they were, and the more they pushed me away and hardened." When Buffy looked up she saw some slightly confused faces and she realized her analogy had caused her to lose a few people.
"So… Can I have their names and numbers?" She asked suggestively. Buffy laughed outright and nodded a bit.
"Something tells me they'd think it'd be a great joke, but I can't. I have to protect their privacy; it's in my contract." The full dark lips of the beautiful woman in the crowd curled into a deeply amused grin, and she nodded, the soft waves in her hair swaying with the movement.
It was then that Mrs. Andrews interjected that they'd gone a bit over and it was time for the patrons to form a wildly curving line around the tight rows of shelves to get their books signed. Even with her Slayer muscles, after so many tours and so many book signings, after an event like this she could feel the muscles in her wrist tired from their work-out. She never went Slaying the night after a signing. She hardly ever went Slaying at all anymore; she hardly had the need to.
The girls in the old dresses asked her if she'd read the Vampire's Dictionary, to which she always replied she had, rather than tell her she'd met a number of the people from the book in person… and that a number of them not didn't really exist either.
The girls with the piercinges and tattoos asked her to sign their backs or breasts along with their books; one even showed her a tattoo she'd gotten of an 'interpretation' of a tattoo one of the people in her series had. It looked nothing like Angel's though.
She got a few older woman who asked for personalized inscriptions for their daughters' birthdays or for early Christmas presents, things like that. About two-thirds of the way through the line, she found herself face to face with her flirtatious brunette. The girl tossed the worn book down onto the table, and leaned on it casually as though she'd done it a thousand times. Buffy just smiled as she signed the book without looking.
"I see you're not too shy to dog-ear a book." Buffy commented. The only response she got was a single chuckle from deep in her throat.
"I don't care what the book looks like, as long as the pages don't fall out." She leaned a little closer and whispered huskily as she smirked. "We have to stop meeting like this." Buffy nodded as she held up the book, open to the publisher's page. It was so full of signatures it was almost blackened. The girl smiled, looking from Buffy to the book and back again to those hazel eyes. "How about we meet at Harvey's for a change? It's a pub, on Castro and Diamond… I'll buy you a burger and a beer?" Buffy just shook her head bemusedly.
"How many more stores am I going to find you in, asking how many of these questions?" she asked back just as quietly, "This is the seventh store on the west coast, I saw you in every store I toured from Manhattan to Albany to Boston and New Haven. I think this is technically Stalking." The girl smiled a little less confidently and leaned back off the table.
"Look, I don't mean to unsettle you if I am. I'm just… a really big fan." She finished a little lamely. She grabbed her book back and walked off to True Crime section. Mrs. Andrews gave Buffy a funny look, having obviously over-heard the conversation. The next woman started rambling on about how much she loved the character from the last chapter, about how it was such a modern invoking of the Pastoral tradition, so Jeffersonian… she just smiled, nodded, and wished the woman a nice day after thanking her repeatedly.
When every book was signed, literally, both the ones that people brought and all the copies in the store, Buffy sighed as she cracked her sore knuckles and sighed, running a hand over her tightly pulled back hair. Mrs. Andrews came over to thank her, pay her, and wish her good luck on the rest of her tour as it headed further north until she started the Canada leg of her trip. Buffy refused the small check she'd been offered and told the woman to put it towards more of her books; she apologized for going through all her copies… though neither really minded.
Things were looking up. Her book was already getting some decent PR, good reviews; many of the fans of her other work were also enjoying this venture into reality, and after so many tours, the road was already starting to feel like home.
"So, uh… Dinner offer's still open; yanno… if you're hungry." The voice seemed really nervous and timid, an unnatural tone for it. You'd be able to tell even if she was a stranger. Which she wasn't. Buffy turned around, a half-grin on her face.
"I would love to, but I can't tonight." Buffy said a little tiredly, "I have to meet a business partner… She's driving me up to her house in the Sonoma Valley for the week-end before we have to drive up to Humboldt County." She was tired of breaking this girl's dream. Why couldn't she just have dinner with her? She was tired of hurting her. But she knew it wouldn't be right. She couldn't lead her on like that.
"Look, if you don't want to; I'd rather just hear it. I keep feeling like… maybe… I have this chance. And if I don't… just tell me now I'd rather just hear it and start dealing. So, honesty may hurt, but it's what I want." Buffy looked at her a little hard, not sure how to say what she knew she needed to.
"You live here, don't you?" The girl looked up. But she nodded. "But the first place I saw you was in Manhattan. What were you doing on the opposite side of the country." The girl dug her toe into the worn wood of the floor and bit her lip hard before answering.
"I had just graduated. From NYU's screen writer's department. Your books had been a favorite of mine. One of my final projects was turning one of your books into a screen play." Buffy laughed and nodded.
"I had wondered why my publicist told me MGM called." The girl nodded.
"Anyways… I was living with my uncle out there who worked for Random House. He works in Public Relations… Anyways, I was working as a fill in for his secretary one day when one of his clients came barging in, complaining about how 'some two-bit Anne-Rice hack' had bumped her out of a reading last minute. Once he'd gotten her to calm down and told her there was nothing they could do really… I asked him where and when; and the next day I was at the signing."
"I see." Buffy answered dryly, suddenly wondering how fate chose to work sometimes.
"Anyways, I was out of college, I had been planning to do a road-trip back towards home regardless… figured I'd just follow you along."
" – In a zig-zag across the country?" she asked. The girl sighed a little angrily and shoved her hands deep into her jacket pockets.
"Look, I'll admit it, though I'm sure it doesn't need stating; I like you. You're my hero; I wish I could be you, but I'm not. You're smart and your beautiful and from the moment I went to hear you speak, I knew I never wanted to know how anyone's mind worked more than yours." She breathed silently for a moment, but she wasn't done. "So I followed you, and I asked you questions, and I even worked up the nerve to ask you to dinner… It's harder than it looks; even for a genius you're pretty hard to approach." Buffy laughed. Genius; her; right!
"Alright. You asked for honesty, so here it is, take it or leave it;" she saw the girl face harden and yet soften as she prepared for the truth – what she asked for. "You seem like a nice girl, and you're obviously smart. I couldn't have gotten into NYU for college and I doubt they would even take me now… But I'm seeing someone, and more than that I can't help but think you see me as someone I'm not. I'm not fit to be anyone's hero. Least of all someone who doesn't need to be saved." The girl nodded.
"All right." Buffy was suddenly reminded of Riley when she told him she had to go see Angel in LA. She suddenly chuckled nervously, a thought coming to her.
"I realize I've never asked your name." she extended her hand to the girl, who suddenly slapped her own out into a comparable grip and shook firmly.
"Sara Andrews." Buffy nodded until suddenly she stopped he hand shake, though didn't let go.
"Andrews as in…?" The girl nodded mutely, and embarrassed grin appearing.
"Yup. This Mom-N-Pop shop really is just that – to me." She indicated the old wooden crowded shelves and to her mother behind the counter helping a customer and waving apprehensively. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a talking to for harassing the Author." Buffy laughed.
"Well, when the next book comes out in about eight months, I'll be sure to stop here along my way." Sara smiled a bit curiously.
Buffy smiled back widely, and maybe a bit flirtatiously. It was accidental, really… "Yeah. Can't do a book tour and miss my biggest fan." The brunette girl smiled and shook Buffy hand one last time. "It was nice to finally meet you, Sara." She let go and walked backwards towards the counter to help her mom, hands deep into her pockets again. Buffy watched her for a few minutes, catching Sara's eyes on hers a few times, then blushing and going back to helping customers or talking about inventory with her mother.
"Admit it, you like it when the young ones still hit on you; even at this age." Buffy's grin went so deep at hearing the familiar voice in her ear she could feel it pulling at her heartstrings. Quickly turning around, she was so happy to see those sweet brown eyes she lacked the words to describe it; classes, publishers and editors be damned.
"What do you mean 'even at my age'!" She replied indignantly, "You make it sound like this is some kind of midlife crisis!" Faith just laughed as she threw her arm around Buffy's waist, pulling her in close.
"Well, according to the codex, you are almost a decade past due to die." She whispered to her. Buffy gasped, playfully shocked.
"I did die!" she insisted quietly, "A few times I might add…" Faith just grinned and pulled her closer.
"All I'm saying is you ain't no spring chicken anymore. Bye the time the last book in your series come out you'll be 30…" Buffy just shrugged.
"I guess I'll just have to keep writing sequels… then I'll never hit the 3-0 mark." Faith laughed that deep throaty chuckle, that lovely unique sound she loved above all else… save maybe one… that that's a story for another time. "Besides! Who says I was supposed to die fighting the first? I was supposed to die fighting the master." Faith rolled her eyes.
"The codex said the last true Slayer would die, and with her all Slayers after at birth…"
"Well, yeah, 'cause the magic comes from our dying; dying is what enables us to do what we do; to allow others to fight like us… It was just poorly and misleadingly written. I didn't die, I just changed the rules. The watchers should look into a better congruency editor."
"Oooooh, quite the literary critic, aren't we?" Faith joked, leaning in for a light kiss before pulling Buffy towards the door by her belt loops.
"Well, when it's the prophecy of my life… They say everyone is their own worst critic." Those soft, hush-puppy browns rolled in their sockets until they fell on the girl at the counter; Sara's eyes on them fixedly. Faith stopped and stiffened slightly.
"I see your stalker followed you again." She said gruffly, realizing who Buffy had been talking to before.
"Calm down; she won't be following us anymore. This is her shop; she lives here. Besides… it was your number she asked for."
"Come on, I wanna get to the vineyard before Willow and the gang suddenly Aparate into an locked, empty house." Faith threw her arm over Buffy's shoulders and lead her out of the shop, her eyes never leaving Sara, who's mother was snapping her fingers in front of her face to get her attention.
"Did she really ask for my number?" Faith asked in disbelief as they pilled into their rental car. Buffy nodded.
"She even quoted my chapter about you to me during the reading." She responded playfully. Faith looked deep in thought as they pulled out and headed for the Golden Gate Bridge, sunny Napa ahead of them. As they passed through the toll booth and through the fog to the sunny half of the bay, Buffy ran her finger through Faith's hair.
"What?" Buffy asked tiredly.
" 'Bout what?"
"How lucky I am." Buffy laughed lightly and shook her head.
"That you would pick me over her." She said seriously, a small smile breaking out. "About 5 years ago… she'd have been just your type."
"What? You mean, exactly like you in almost every way?"
"What can I say… I'm really turned on by the whole Hard-To-Get Star-Crossed-Lovers routine." Faith smiled widely and nodded.
"Works every time."
"A formulaic success." As they passed through the rainbow painted tunnel into the headlands, Faith turned to her lover and smiled seriously.
"Just don't go and change genre on me." Buffy leaned over to put her head on her shoulder and sighed.
"And they lived happily ever after?"