Memorial Day Weekend 2019
Going through the motions
Losing all my drive
I can’t even see
If this is really me
And I just wanna be
Buffy awoke with a gasp, bolting upright in bed, the sound of her own mediocre singing voice echoing in her head.
“What the actual…?” she muttered, shaking off her dream… memory… nightmare… whatever.
Scanning the room in the soft light of early morning, it took her a moment to remember where she was. Nicely appointed, cozy even, a marked improvement over the sterile functionality of the corporate chain hotels to which she had grown accustomed. Her eyes fell upon the garment bags hanging on a hook near the door and she remembered where she was and why she was there.
California. 20 years. Shit.
She flopped back onto the multitudinous fluffy pillows that were a hallmark of places like this and sighed heavily.
The surviving members of the Sunnydale High School Class of 1999 were having a reunion and the presence of the Class Protector had been enthusiastically sought by a classmate Buffy didn’t even remember, but one who’d married well, very well, to a Silicon Valley billionaire. It was she who’d organized this hootenanny on the Central Coast, the site of their graduation being unavailable for a reunion. Extremely unavailable.
The original Sunnydale High hadn’t even survived their graduation day and its permanent replacement hadn’t been open a year when it ended up at the bottom of the massive crater where Sunnydale once stood. Fearing the site was a safety hazard to the throngs of morbidly curious visitors too stupid to heed multiple signs warning “Hazardous,” “Dangerous,” and “No Trespassing,” the State of California had eventually embarked on a multi-billion-dollar project to “fill in the dangerous sink hole created by an unprecedented geological event.” It was now the state’s least-visited state park but the rapidly-returning wildlife seemed to like it, which was cool.
People’s ability to believe what they wanted to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary had not ceased to amaze Buffy, even after years of passing as an “international security expert” in the upper echelons of a global organization that just happened to employ only young women in front line roles. Sort of like a multinational “Charlie’s Angels.” She didn’t for a minute believe that most people were that gullible; they simply chose to believe whatever made it easier for them to get through their day. Not that she could blame them. She’d probably do the same if that were an option available to her. She’d relish the opportunity to believe rather than know.
For example, she’d like to believe that Jonathan Levinson, the classmate who had presented her with the award for Class Protector two decades ago, was alive and well and she’d be seeing him in a few hours. She’d like to believe that her dearest frenemy, Cordelia Chase, would also be at the reunion tonight to ridicule her fashion choices. She’d like to believe that her first love, a love she once thought she would not survive because he was Romeo to her Juliet, was really forever, and that he would be there tonight to hold her in his arms on the dance floor. She’d like to believe that she had done right by the other vampire in her life, the one who had entered it trying to kill her on parent-teacher night before becoming her grudging ally then her willing ally and unwanted suitor then her illicit codependent lover then her champion who’d voluntarily endured the torture of ensoulment only to sacrifice himself to free her from the Hellmouth to which she had been duty bound.
But, alas, she knew.
She knew that Jonathan had died years ago at the hands of a man who was now one of her closest colleagues and confidantes, that Cordelia had died only a few months after the Hellmouth closed, that Angel had fallen in love with Cordelia at some point prior to her death and was at this moment just a couple hundred miles away in L.A. living a life that Buffy no longer had a place in. She knew that Spike had returned to his un-life a mere 19 days after dusting but had not rushed to be by her side or to even get word to her. Because he hadn’t believed her. Or maybe he had realized that she didn’t really know if she’d believed herself. She also knew that nothing that had transpired between them in the ensuing 16 years had brought clarity to the situation.
She had been so angry the first time she was face-to-face with a resurrected Spike that she had broken his nose. For, like, the 500th time. Then they had fucked for something like 96 hours straight. She had initiated it then run. He hadn’t given chase.
The next time she had been in a committed relationship with a nice, stable, and utterly dependable human male. Spike had blown that apart by confronting and taking her in the fancy rest room of the elegant London restaurant where her devoted human boyfriend had been planning to propose that evening. The act itself had been neither fancy nor elegant but it had left her weak-kneed and panting and, afterwards, Spike had had the nerve to point out that it never would have happened if she hadn’t been looking for an out. She had responded by breaking his nose. Again. At least Michael had been able to get a full refund on the ring.
The third time had been the week of her 30th birthday. In Paris. After a week of jazz, food, wine and sex, so much sex, in so many places, she had flown off to her next work assignment without looking back.
“Cheers to your 30s, Slayer. Guess I’ll see you around.”
There had been three encounters since, each following the same pattern. They had come together explosively, she had turned away from him, and he had taken it in his stride. Had these encounters hurt him in any way? By all appearances, no. He had been genuinely happy to see her the next time, no discernible trace of bitterness or heartbreak. Oh, the irony: soulless Spike had worn his heart on his sleeve; she had always known where she stood with him.
Souled Spike? Not so much.
But, surely, her previous visit to the Golden State a little more than a year ago had changed all that. For she had done the one thing that she knew Spike would never forgive. She had done…
It hadn’t been planned or deliberate, of course, because her love life should be wrapped in that yellow tape they use for accident and crime scenes. It had, in fact, been the result of a spell releasing their inhibitions and judgment that her amazingly, and sometimes terrifyingly, powerful friend had somehow managed to not undo in time.
Some mundanely evil idiot had wanted to unleash Angelus on the world again and seized the opportunity when work had brought Buffy to L.A. Apparently their love story was one for the ages and widely known in the demon community. The surprise twist was that by the time Willow had learned what was afoot and undone the spell, the erstwhile lovers had awakened to an uncomfortable reality and the aforementioned idiot to bitter disappointment.
Leaping from Angel’s bed, Buffy had scrambled to pull a stake from her bag.
“It’s ok, Buffy, it’s me,” Angel had assured, almost apologetically.
“Oh,” she had replied flatly.
So much for perfect happiness.
While not directly addressing the obvious, Angel had absurdly tried to make it up to Buffy in other ways for not turning into a monster she’d probably have had to kill after having sex with her. Between that and the fact that they just didn’t know each other that well anymore, it had all turned so impossibly awkward that she’d ended up cutting the trip short and springing for a first-class upgrade to avail herself of as much free booze as she could consume on the flight back to London. She doubted the airline broke even on the ticket.
In hindsight, she couldn’t believe how stupidly obvious it was. Barely 17 virginal Buffy had been the key to perfect happiness. A wiser and worldlier Buffy at 37? Meh. Or maybe Angel hadn’t been able to get over the fact that Spike had been there in Angel’s two-decade’s absence. Repeatedly. And while on that topic. Skills. Ok, so it probably wasn’t fair to compare given the widely divergent circumstances and her own role in them. Angel’s curse. Spike had always said that practice makes perfect. But, seriously, besotted teenage Buffy had known nothing.
With no intention of sharing this humiliation extraordinaire (which would have made Xander’s Millennium – maybe she would share when he was on his death bed or she was on hers), back in London Buffy had assured everyone that Willow had acted in time and that Angel’s soul was anchored securely in his body. His no-longer-familiar, not-all-it-was-cracked-up-to-be-in-the-idealized-memories-of-him-she’d-clung-to-for-decades body that just didn’t dovetail with hers. Not anymore anyway and certainly not the way…
Reflection time over! Time to get up!
As if on cue her phone rang. Dawn’s ringtone. Which was good because anyone else calling this early would probably mean End Times Were Nigh. Again.
“You’re calling to make sure I didn’t bail.”
“And good morning to you too! I know you didn’t. Just wanted the 411 on the resort. Nice?”
“Yeah, sure. I guess.”
“Excuse me a minute, needed to pick myself off the floor after your enthusiasm knocked me over.”
“Hardy har har… Hey, wait, how do you know I didn’t bail? Are you tracking my phone again?” Buffy pulled the phone away from her ear and shook it.
“I know you’re majorly technology challenged but, for like the 10,000th time, shaking the phone will not help!” Dawn shouted into the phone.
Rolling her eyes Buffy moved the phone back to her ear.
“Anyway, I could have just Face Timed you but I didn’t want to risk scarring my retinas if you’d decided to pick some loser up last night.”
“I wouldn’t have picked up!”
“You did last time.”
“Ok, sue me, I forgot.”
“He must have been a real keeper.”
“Are we done? Talking?”
“This whole stupid thing was your idea. I could have come up with dozens of excuses not to be here.”
“It’s your 20th reunion! Your classmates actually want to see you. Who’da thought? Right? Besides, we need to be in San Francisco next week anyway. It’s all working out too perfectly.”
“When did you get so pessimistic?”
“Sometime between the first time I died and…”
“How long are you planning to play that card?”
“Until I meet someone who’s died four times.”
Sighing, Dawn changed the subject. “There should be an envelope by the door. The front desk said they’d drop it overnight.”
Buffy padded over to the door and picked up an envelope that had not been there the night before, opening it as she returned to perch on the edge of the bed.
“Aw, Dawnie, thanks,” she offered, the edge of irritation leaving her voice.
As expert as her sister was at getting her goat, Buffy truly loved Dawn more than her own life. Dawn was good and strong and somehow not nearly as neurotic as Buffy despite the supreme weirdness of her personal history.
“I figured a spa day would relax you and I don’t know anyone who can do their own nails as well as a manicurist except maybe…” Buffy raised an eyebrow.
Clearing her throat Dawn continued, “You’re going to look so hot in your new dress, showing off the anti-aging power of those Slayer genes to your classmates. Get lots of photos! Can’t wait to see who got fat, who went bald!”
“You never really knew these people.”
“Yeah, I know, but you, Xander and Willow did, and I can enjoy the second-hand dish!”
“Honestly, Dawn, not so much. Our high school years weren’t any more normal than yours.”
“Well then, it can be a reunion weekend for the original Scoobies. You’re rarely on the same continent anymore.”
“Reminds me, I need to find out if Xander and Willow have checked in and find their rooms. Neither had arrived when I stopped by the front desk after dinner. Meant to check again but fell asleep. Jet lag.”
“You didn’t patrol? I know you sometimes like to after a long flight to loosen up.”
“No need.” Buffy shrugged. “There’s a perfectly capable slayer here. Two, I think. Wouldn’t want to insult.”
“Well, gotta run. It’s getting late here and I need to start packing before bed because I’m busy the rest of the weekend. See you in a few days.”
“Need me to pick you up at the airport?”
“Nah, I got this. I’ll see you at the Council office on Divisadero on Tuesday morning. Seriously, Buffy, enjoy your weekend. Love you.”
“Love you too, Dawn.”
Buffy flopped back on the bed and dropped her phone beside her. Blinking up at the ceiling she tried to shake the unease she’d been feeling ever since she’d awaken from her golden oldie cemetery serenade. She wasn’t sure if she was sensing some major badness brewing or if it was merely the impending awkward of making nice with a bunch of people she hadn’t seen in two decades and who, even back in the day, had merely tolerated her because she kept saving their lives.
Either way, the weekend was bound to be a disaster.