Story: Three Years in Hell, A Lifetime of Pain (all chapters)
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Three Years in Hell, A Lifetime of Pain
By Bill Gopher and Red Demon
Pairing – Beth/Faith (well it will be at least! ), Willow/Tara
Rating – PG13 for now, NC17/R later.
Spoilers – Not really, no. The story starts 3 years after what would have been Season 5. So everything after the beginning ep of Season 5 (The Freshman) never happened. Well mostly up to Season 5 everything stays the same, except for Faith that is .
Summary – This is an AU where Buffy is framed for the murder of Deputy Mayor Finch and ends up in the US Marines. But who framed her and why?
Comments, suggestions and criticisms are all welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“Now that I’m away, I’d wish I’d stayed.
Tomorrow’s a day of mine, that you won’t be in.”
“Sir. Lance Corporal Summers reporting as ordered. Sir.”
The Lieutenant looked up from the file he was reading and at the young Lance Corporal standing at attention. She was a hard worker, always doing what he asked one step better than the rest without a second thought. She should have made Sergeant by now but she'd been given a raw deal.
“Summers sit down.”
“Did I do something wrong sir?” Beth asked as she sat in the chair across from the LT’s desk, she was nervous but she wouldn't show it.
“Summers you're one of my best soldiers. But I understand you're restricted from seeing your family.”
“Yes Sir.” Beth said non-commitedly.
“As you know you’re platoon is going on leave tomorrow. I'm going to be giving you a one-week leave with the rest of your unit. You are restricted from taking any military transport to any base within 100 miles of your home. Summers if you use civilian transport, well we don't have any jurisdiction over where you go.” Lieutenant Carter said as he looked for any reaction on Lance-Corporal Summers face.
“Sir. Permission to speak freely,” at his nod Beth continued. “I appreciate this but I don’t want to jeopardize the Corps or my platoon.”
“That's why I'm giving you this warning Summers. This is your first leave in almost three years. And if you want to stay on the Base, then you can. I can't stop you. This is a reminder to you that you cannot see your family without breaking the terms of your parole agreement but you should go see your family. This is the only chance you'll have Summers. Don't pass up a good thing.”
Beth saw that that was the end of the discussion and stood up, saluting the LT before walking out.
Beth entered the gym and sweat was already starting to pour off her from her twelve-kilometer run in the afternoon heat but she needed to work off some frustration and worries. Her mind drifted back to her meeting with the Lieutenant. In a way, she didn't want to go home. How would her family react? Would they forgive her? Yet she was being given a chance to see her family and she longed to hang out with Dawn. And maybe, just maybe she could convince them that she was innocent.
“Penny for your thoughts Summers?” Beth spun twisting his arm behind his back and bringing her foot into the back of his knee. He slipped to the ground but pulling her with him. He flipped causing her to tumble across the mat.
“You owe me a buck Summers.” Taylor said as he held his hand out to Beth, but she just looked at him and grinned. Suddenly Taylor found himself upside down.
“Looks like you owe me that buck.” Beth said with a grin.
“I don't think so,” Taylor said as he hooked one foot behind Beth’s knee and pulled, making Beth stumble forward, off-balance. “You're going down Summers.” Taylor said as he lunged up off the matt and Beth avoided him.
When finally Beth tripped Taylor and held him down both of them were sweating heavily, “Okay, you win.” Taylor said and Beth moved to let him up off the mat.
Taylor tossed Beth a towel before wiping his face. “What's up?”
“Nothing. Why does something have to be up?” Beth asked back.
“Because you were hitting harder than usual. And you had that look.”
“I don't have a look.” Beth said defensively.
“Yes you do...when you're pissed off, or when I beat you. And you especially have that look when you think about your family.” Taylor said as he draped the towel around his neck
Taylor heard Beth sigh and he knew something was definitely up. In the two years that he known her he'd only heard ‘The Corp’ as the rest of the platoon called her sigh twice. Once, when everybody in the platoon got leave and she had to stay on base and the second when her sister turned sixteen. But Elizabeth Summers never sighed when it was just nothing.
“I'll walk you home and you can tell me about it.”
Buffy tilted her head back letting the breeze brush over her face.
“What is it Summers? And don't lie, I know something big is going on. Your not worried about the war are you? Or is it the meeting you had with the LT?”
Beth looked at Taylor, really studying him. Taylor was the only one that she could talk to on a big brother basis. He was her confidant, her best friend and her brother all rolled up into one person.
“It's not the war.” Beth sighed, picking at her jeans. “You know that leave you guys are getting?”
He nodded but it was more than that. “I'm sorry you can't go. I could put you in my duffle if ya like?” Taylor offered.
“The LT is letting me go home.” Beth said quietly.
“That's great Beth. Isn't it?” Taylor asked even as he saw the pensive look on Beth’s face.
“I don't know. I really don't know.” Beth looked up at Taylor, “I want to go home, but I'm... I'm scared Steve.”
“Why? If your family is half as great as you say, then they'll accept you.”
“I failed them Steve.”
“You didn't kill that guy Beth,” Taylor said as he tapped Beth on her forehead. “You know it here,” Taylor said as he picked up Beth’s hand and placed it over her heart. “But you have to believe it here.”
Beth stood up suddenly, pacing in front of him. “It doesn't work that way Steve. I failed in my duty and that's all that matters. One mistake and I ruined my families’ life.”
Taylor reached out and grabbed Beth by the shoulders stopping her pacing, “It was a mistake Beth. You said so. But if you don't go back and talk to your family, then that will be a bigger mistake than how they railroaded you. You can't change what happened, but you can try to make amends with them.”
“But what if they...”
“No buts Beth! You can do this, you have to settle things with your family or it'll eat at you till you can’t stand it anymore. And then one day you'll become a little slower and you'll make a mistake and it'll be over Beth.”
Her shoulders slumped in defeat as she realized that he was right, “I know, but I'm scared though.”
“It's all right to be scared you're entering their lives after three years. It's not going to be easy but you can do it, I know you.”
Pulling her into a hug for a moment Taylor stepped back. “Enough of this life stuff, Mary has dinner ready by now. Let me treat you to a night among friends.” Taylor grinned, “Besides, with Mary's good luck meatloaf how can anything go wrong?”
A lopsided smile crossed Beth’s face, “Are you sure that's really good luck? I've had Mary's cooking before.”
“Keep that up and I'll tell her you said that tonight at dinner, besides you can't leave without saying goodbye to Sammy.”
The Next Day…
“Flight 452 to Chicago non-stop is now boarding, Flight 452 to Chicago non-stop is now boarding.” Beth looked up at the swarm of people before dropping her head down into her hands dramatically.
“Hey things are never as bad as you think, and if they love you a fraction as much as you do them then everything will be fine. Trust me. You’re a Marine now, Summers. We don't let anything bug us and we come out on top. Keep your head up and aim for the sky.”
A quick smile flashed across Beth’s face as she snickered. Taylor told the worst jokes but she had to admit they could usually lighten her mood.
“This is the last call for Flight 452 to Chicago.” The voice on the loudspeaker repeated.
Beth stood up grabbing her carry-on dufflebag. “So this is it huh?”
Taylor reached into his pocket grabbing an envelope and shoved it into Beth’s hand. “What's this?” Beth asked as she looked at the envelope quizzically, hoping that it wasn't one of Taylor's bad poems; he was always having her read them.
“Don't you have a flight to catch? You can read it on the flight, now hurry,” Taylor said he moved Beth towards the gate attendants. Taylor took Beth’s ticket and handed it to the gate attendant who looked it over and tore the stub off the ticket, handing to Beth.
“Ah, Miss Summers. You're in Coach at Seat 23B, It's a window seat.”
“Taylor...” Beth started but he interrupted.
“Beth I know. You have my cell phone if you need to talk. I'm here day or night, except during sex.”
She threw her arms around Taylor hugging him. “I'll see you soon,” and she headed down the ramp to her flight and her past.
Continued in Chapter 2
Three Years in Hell, A Lifetime of Pain
By Bill Gopher and Red Demon
Pairing – Beth/Faith (well it will be at least! ), Willow/Tara
Rating – PG13 for now, NC17/R later.
Spoilers – Not really, no. The story starts 3 years after what would have been Season 5. So everything after the beginning ep of Season 5 (The Freshman) never happened. Well mostly up to Season 5 everything stays the same, except for Faith .
Summary – This is an AU where Buffy is framed for the murder of Deputy Mayor Finch and ends up in the US Marines.
Comments, thoughts, suggestion and criticisms are welcome. You can reach me at email@example.com .
“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they
made a difference.
The Marines don’t have that problem.”
--President Ronald Reagan, 1985
Beth looked up from the book she was reading when she noticed a young girl in front of her. The child was about seven years old with a light pink dress and dark hair.
“Miss,” the young girl shyly asked. “My mom says you're a soldier, is that true?”
“Yes, why?” Beth answered, wondering what this child wanted.
“Are you gonna go and kill those mean people in eurrrp, uhmm eurrrop?”
Leaning forward towards the little girl, “What's your name?”
“Prudence, but my friends call me Prue.” The little girl smiled at Beth.
“Well Prue, I'm a Marine. But I don't go out killing mean people, killing people is wrong.” The little girl looked confused as Beth spoke. “What I do is to talk to them to convince them they've made a mistake, this way people don't get hurt. You don't like it when you get hurt, right Prue?”
“Nuh uh, it's not fun and it hurts.”
“See? Now you go back over to your mom. She's probably worried about you, ok?” Beth ruffled Prue's hair and the girl turned with a smile on her face and ran over to her mother.
Standing up as he heard the call for her bus, she folded the newspaper she had been reading. Walking to the gate she saw the little girl’s mother with a newspaper and across the front she saw the headline. “6 Marines killed, 12 wounded in Paris during attack on US Embassy.” [Sometimes I wish life were as simple as that little girl sees it] Beth thought.
Arriving at her gate, Beth saw the bus that would take her home and boarded, stopping only to hand the driver her ticket and find a seat at the back, settling in.
As the bus started driving Beth pulled out the book Taylor had lent her, opened it and started reading “On War” by Clausewitz.
After reading for several hours, Beth stared out the window as the road blurred by, broken only by the occasional house or car. [God how things have changed for me in the last three years. If only...] Beth’s mind wandered back to the day everything had changed her life as she started to fall asleep.
Three years earlier....
Buffy had just returned from her Psych class with Professor Walsh and threw her books down on her bed when she heard a knock on the door. Opening the door Beth saw two Sunnydale police officers and the detective that had spoken to her once after Kendra had died.
“Yes?” Beth asked puzzled at why they were at her dorm room.
“Buffy Anne Summers, you're under arrest for the murder of Deputy-Mayor Richard Finch. Place your hands behind your head,” the detective grabbed the girl’s arms pulling them behind her and cuffing her just as another girl walked in.
“Willow, call Giles, quick please!!!” Buffy yelled as she was walked out of the dorm room.
In shock, Buffy had let the police escort her to the car. The drive itself she didn't remember, but by the time they started to process her into the system the numbness that had hit her when she was told she was under arrest for murder had started to wear off. As they took her fingerprints and pictures Beth began to feel angry and confused. she thought.
When they were done, Buffy had been stripped, searched, photographed, fingerprinted and was now wearing bright orange coveralls as she stood in the holding cell with several other prisoners. It was several hours before she was moved to her cell in solitary confinement.
As the cell door slammed shut behind her Buffy looked around the cell. There was a ‘toilet’ if you could call it that in the far right corner and a small bed against the left wall. Moving towards the bed Buffy fell down on it and curled up trying to fight the tears she felt. She was scared, tired and wanted to go home; most of all she wanted to be told that this was a bad dream, only it wasn't.
After three days Buffy was finally meeting the attorney Giles had hired for her All Buffy knew was that he was British and he was coming from London to represent her. The door opened and in walked rather distinguished looking man in his 50’s. He sat down in front of Buffy at the steel table in this otherwise empty room.
“Miss Summers, I'm Oliver Cromwell, your barrister and I'll be representing you. I know what the police here have said occurred; now I should like to hear your version of the events.”
Buffy hesitated at this, since she was unsure if she could tell him ‘everything’ since she didn't want to have him run out of the room screaming.
“If your hesitation has to do with your, shall we say, ‘nocturnal’ occupation, I can say I am familiar with it. So please do not hesitate for that reason.”
“Alright, that night Faith...err the other Slayer and I were fighting vamps to get to Balthazar's lair...” Buffy proceeded to tell the lawyer everything that happened that night with Finch, Faith and Balthazar. When she was finished she leaned back, the chains on her arms and legs rattling slightly. “And that's everything that happened, so now what?”
“From what you've told me I believe we can have the charges reduced or dropped in favor of your testimony against this Faith Spencer.”
“Uh, what? No, I won't testify against her, she's already suffered enough because of me. Right now she's in a coma, what if they find her guilty? They could decide to kill her as she's sleeping. No, not happening.”
“Miss Summers, you have several witnesses who can ID you as in the area when the murder took place. That and your ‘previous record’ at your last two high schools, the fights and other problems will be shown as evidence that you are dangerous and unstable.”
The sound of the door unlocking halted any further conversation as it swung open to reveal the Sunnydale ADA, Thomas Nox as he entered the room.
“Mr. Cromwell, have you informed your client as to the deal we are offering her?”
“Not yet, I was just speaking to her about that now.”
“Well let me save you some time then. what we are offering is Man 1 and a minimum of 25 years before parole if you testify against Miss Spencer, otherwise we go to trial.”
“WHAT!! Are you crazy? I didn't kill anyone.” [Well alive at least,] Buffy added silently.
“Miss Summers, please be quiet.” Cromwell said to his client before turning to the Assistant District Attorney. “Mr. Nox, your ‘deal’ for Miss Summers is premature at best and bordering on malicious at worst. If you continue to harass my client I will call for a mistrial based on your conduct here as well as calling for a review board for your actions…”
“That's not what the evidence will show in court Miss Summers and if we go to trial you'll be tried for Murder 1. Which means you'll be facing the death penalty.” Nox said as he ignored Summers’ attorney. “Not only that, but if we find out that your family has been concealing knowledge of this murder, I will have your mother arrested for perjury and obstruction of justice and your sister will end up in foster care. This is your last chance Miss Summers. Cooperate or your family will pay as well as you,” Nox smiled evilly.
Anger filled Buffy as she stood up suddenly, the chains holding her until she snapped the links holding her arms down. “No-one’s gonna hurt Dawn or my Mom.”
“Guards!!” Nox yelled out as he backed away in fear, and in rushed three large guards who grabbed the small young woman who was partially free from her chains.
As the guards grabbed her, Buffy didn't fight back, she allowed them to hold her down and cuff her. “Nox, get out of my face, we have nothing to talk about. I didn't kill anyone and I'm not going to testify against Faith. Now get out of here before I do something I won't regret.”
“Guards, it's ok to leave now. I need to speak with my client. There will be no further outbursts.” Cromwell looked at Buffy sternly as he spoke. The guards reluctantly let the prisoner go and walked out of the room.
“Are you going to do anything else that foolish Miss Summers? Just so that I'm prepared.”
“No. But he threatened Dawn and Mom. How can you...”
“Enough. That was all it was Miss Summers, a threat, nothing more. However if you continue with these outbursts I cannot defend you properly.”
The dream changed and she moved restlessly in her seat as she recognized where she was now....
She'd been in solitary for two months and she longed to see Dawn or her mom. Out of all the things she missed from her life on the outside, the aching for her mom and sister were unbearable. Buffy had Cromwell tell her Mom that she was okay and that she missed them, but they never replied, and the ache that they might think she was a murderer cut her worse than anything.
Turning as Cromwell faced her, she tried to push away the thought of never seeing her family again. It was the middle of the trial and the police officer who had ‘discovered’ the murder weapon was on the stand and ADA Nox had finished questioning him. Cromwell stood up and walked over to the prosecutor’s table picking up the murder weapon.
“Officer Johannsen, how long have you been with the Sunnydale Police?” Cromwell asked as he walked towards the Prosecution’s chief witness
“Almost two years now.” Officer Johannsen replied.
“I see, and how exactly did you know where to look for this weapon?” Cromwell asked as he held the stake up so the jury could see it.
“We caught a lucky break, we were searching down at the docks when I found it near a trash can in an alley.”
“So you just ‘happened’ to find this lying on the ground from a murder that occurred a year earlier. Is that right?”
The officer visibly squirmed in the witness chair. “Well I wouldn't put it that way...”
“Oh really!” Cromwell pounced on the opening he was waiting for. “And how ‘would’ you put it?”
“I'd say she probably tried to dump it and just ran afterwards.” Officer Johannsen offered.
“So Miss Summers, after coldly murdering the Deputy Mayor, decides to leave the murder weapon lying in an alley instead of disposing of it? That is your conclusion Officer?”
Cromwell handed the clear, evidence bag to the officer, “Officer. tell the jury exactly what this is.”
Taking the bag, Johannsen looked at it. “It's a stake.”
“And it's made of wood, correct? Not some other material such as steel?”
“No, it’s just a wooden stake.”
“Then why didn't the defendant just burn it or carve it into a toothpick?”
“Objection, your honor, where is defense counsel going with this?” Nox asked as he stood up.
“Sustained, defense counsel will keep to the facts at hand and stop raising speculation on this.” Judge Green said in agreement.
“What? How can I defend my client this way? The defense must have the latitude to raise reasonable doubt as to the reliability of this being the murder weapon.” Cromwell protested.
“Mr. Cromwell, I've made my decision. One more outburst and I'll have you held in contempt, do I make myself clear?”
From there Buffy knew the outcome had already been decided...
Buffy turned around looking for her Mom and Dawn in the courtroom. But she only saw Dawn enter and duck her head, letting her hair, which was longer now, cover her face as she sat down next to Giles. Turning back around quickly, she couldn't bring herself to look at her, and see the anger and hurt in Dawn's eyes, and looked at her orange clad legs barely paying attention to what Cromwell was saying.
Cromwell looked at the defeat written on her face. “The judge is going to be back any second. You need not react harshly, Miss Summers, no matter what the outcome.”
She sat back letting the chains rattle loudly in the otherwise quiet courtroom.
“All rise for the Honorable Richard Green,” the bailiff called out as the judge entered the room.
“Has the jury made a decision?” Judge Green asked once he had sat down and looked over at the jury.
“We have your Honor,” the Jury Foreman replied and handed a folded piece of paper to the bailiff who in turn walked over and handed it to Judge Green. Reading the paper Judge Green handed it back to the bailiff who returned it to the Jury Foreman then opened the piece of paper. “We the jury, in the case of California vs. Elizabeth Anne Summers on the sole count of the indictment, Murder in the First Degree, find the defendant, guilty.”
“The Court thanks the jury for their time.” Judge Green said before turning his attention to the defendant. “Sentencing will take place in one hour.”
“Ma'am?” Beth felt a hand on her shoulder and barely remembered that she was in public. She quickly curbed her initial reaction to fight back. Beth felt the dried tears on her face and the after effects of the dream started to drift away.
“This is the last stop Ma'am, Sunnydale, California.” The bus driver repeated.
Beth glanced up, noticing the empty bus and the sun starting to drift below the horizon. “Oh, sorry for falling asleep.” Beth quickly grabbed her bag and slid past the bus driver. “Home,” Beth murmured as she stepped off the bus and into the cooling April air. It felt strange to be back in Sunnydale. This place had been her home for five years and yet now she felt like a stranger. [This place is no longer my home] Beth thought, [I'm just a stranger here.]
Squaring her shoulders Beth headed down the street in search of a payphone and spotted a sign at one of the stores and headed on over. As she got closer she saw the name, [The Magic Box, sounds like someplace Will would have gone to...]
Opening the door Beth stepped inside and looked around for a payphone. She saw quite a variety of books on magic, herbs and other odd items on the shelves in here. Beth spotted the payphone by the front register and walked over, not paying attention to the young woman behind the counter.
As she reached the payphone, Beth stiffened as she heard a voice she thought she'd never hear again and dropped her duffel bag.
“Can I help you Miss?”
Beth turned around slowly to see Giles standing in front of her.
“Buffy!” Giles whispered his eyes widening in surprise. “What are you...How?” Giles knees buckled underneath him and he collapsed to the floor.
End Chapter 2
Three Years in Hell, A Lifetime of Pain
By Bill Gopher and Red Demon
Pairing – Beth/Faith (well it will be at least! [g]), Willow/Tara
Spoilers - Not really, no. The story starts 3 years after what would have been Season 5. So everything after the beginning ep of Season 5 (The Freshman) never happened. Well mostly up to Season 5 everything stays the same, except for Faith that is [G].
Summary – This is an AU where Buffy is framed for the murder of Deputy Mayor Finch and ends up in the US Marines.
Feedback – Thoughts, ideas, suggestions, criticisms are all welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“It reminds of us of all that was once good, and that could be again.”
James Earl Jones
Beth moved over to Giles and quickly checked his pulse while Anya pulled out the First Aid kit and handed Buffy some smelling salts.
Anya watched Buffy for a moment, “Have you killed anyone and should we expect the police anytime?”
Beth ignored the irritating ex-vengeance demon, “Giles it's me Beth, uhhmmm Buffy.”
Giles focused his eyes towards the voice and stared for several seconds. “Buffy, you're here,” he whispered and pulled Buffy into a tight hug. “I can't believe it, I thought I'd never see you again.” Giles felt Buffy stiffen but didn't say anything. Stepping back he looked at Buffy carefully; gone was the young girl he knew and loved as his own daughter. He saw her once long, blonde hair was now light brown and cut short, her features were more pronounced and chiseled, and her bearing was proud.
But it was the look in Buffy’s eyes that had him worried. She had changed, and not just in her physical appearance, but something on the inside. There was a hardness in her eyes that wasn’t there before and there was something else he couldn't put his finger on.
Beth had watched Giles step back and look at her carefully, she saw the pride in his face and she also saw a look of concern quickly flash on his features and was masked almost as quickly.
“Buffy how long have you been in Sunnydale?” Giles asked.
“Just a few minutes actually...”
“I need to know if I have to get the broom to sweep up all the donut crumbs from the police again.” Anya complained as she stood back and watched with her arms crossed.
“Anya do shut your bloody mouth for once and go away.” Giles said, annoyed.
Anya looked surprised at Giles' outburst, before she wandered away from the two of them.
“Do you need a lift to your house?” Giles asked.
Beth hesitated, unsure for a moment before answering. “Yeah.”
Beth pulled out her cell phone and dialed Taylor’s house as she sat in Giles’ car. Beth heard the click as the phone picked up and then the muffle of the phone being dropped.
Giles noticed the smile spread across Buffy’s face and wondered briefly whom she was calling.
“Hello, Taylor residence,” Beth heard the little voice recite the words she'd spent months trying to teach him.
“Hey Sammy, Its Auntie Beth.”
Giles frowned, [Auntie Beth?] but he saw the mischievous look as she spoke to this Sammy. For a moment she was the girl from three years ago and then it passed.
“Auntie Beth, hi! Are you coming over from the base today? Daddy’s having a BBQ.”
“No Sammy I can't come to your Dad's BBQ today.” A look of longing crossed Buffy's face for a moment as Giles watched her and then the playful smile returned.
“I'm visiting friends. But I promise to be back for your birthday.” Beth said.
“Awww, Auntie Beth. That's not for weeks and weeks!” Sammy complained, as his favorite playmate wasn’t going to be there.
“Yeah, but then you can show me all the stuff I missed out on while I was away.”
“Okay,” Sammy said sadly.
“But I’m gonna be there for your birthday, you're gonna be seven! And you know I wouldn't miss that.”
“Yeah, I know.” Sammy said, still disappointed.
“I need you to give your Dad a message and its important okay?” Beth said knowing that Sam would take the message seriously.
“I can do that Auntie Beth.”
“I know you can, Tell you dad that Auntie Beth said to call off the SR Teams and I'll call him tomorrow.”
“Okay, got it!” Sammy said more cheerfully at being given something important to do.
“Good. Now you go have fun and try not to get the barbecue all over your dad and tell him the message, okay?”
“ ‘Kay, bye Auntie Beth,” Sammy replied.
“Talk to you soon squirt.” Beth said before she ended the phone call and put the cell phone away in her pocket.
Giles pulled onto Revello Drive just as Buffy finished talking on the cell phone. “We’ll be at your house in a minute.”
Beth looked over at Giles, “How have Mom and Dawn been?”
“There have been some changes, but that’s something you really need to discuss with them Buffy.” Giles said evasively. He pulled his car into the driveway of 1430 Revello Drive, “We’re here, are you ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.” Beth looked out the car window and the house she had once called home.
Giles walked up to the front door, Buffy was just in front of him. As they got to the front door it opened and Joyce stood sideways facing the stairs, “Dawn, Giles is here!” Joyce called out.
Turning Joyce looked straight at Buffy for several seconds shock and recognition on her face, “Bu...?” and collapsed as she fainted.
Buffy dropped next to her Mom and leaned over her checking to see if she was okay when she heard Dawn call out, “MOM!!!” as she was pushed aside.
“Buffy you do seem to be having a unique affect on people today.”
“Gee thanks Giles,” Beth replied sarcastically.
Beth looked up at her Dawn who was no longer the little girl she remembered. Now she was a tall and beautiful young woman, her hair was still long, only now it hung down past her shoulders.
“Buffy?” Dawn squeaked before she grabbed Buffy and the two held on, hugging each other as if they were afraid to let go.
“I thought I'd never see you Dawnie,” Beth whispered softly.
“God Buffy, it’s been sooo long.” When they heard Giles clearing his throat behind them. The two sisters parted and looked over at Giles.
“Your mother is still unconscious, so why don't we take the greetings and her inside.”
Beth quickly pulled out of Dawn's arms and knelt next to her mother and motioned for Giles to help her.
“Is she okay? Maybe we shouldn't move her, it could be...” Dawn babbled nervously.
“Dawn! She just fainted and she'll be fine in a minute. Giles we lift on three, Three!”
Dawn was pacing up and down in front of the couch where her mom lay, worrying about the tumor, when a hand grabbed her arm and she saw it was Buffy.
“Dawn, what is wrong with you? Mom just fainted she'll be fine.”
“No she won't! Buffy you don't understand. Mom was real sick a couple years ago....” At Buffy's puzzled look she quickly hurried. “She had headaches and the doctors found a tumor in her brain. They had to operate and it almost killed her.”
“What!” Buffy exclaimed in shock.
“Yeah, so when she collapsed it brought everything back again.” Dawn felt herself being pulled into Buffy's arms.
“It's ok, Mom'll be fine.” Beth said softly to her sister.
“Dawn?” Beth heard her mom call out.
“Dawn?” Joyce called. She saw Dawn and a young woman behind her who was in fatigues. “What happened? The last thing I remember was answering the door, and why is there a soldier in our home?”
Dawn knelt next to her mom on the couch, “You fainted, and the soldier, umm...” she trailed off noticing the way Buffy's shoulders stiffened.
Turning around Beth faced her, “Hi mom, it's me. Beth.”
“Maybe this wasn't such a good idea Giles,” Beth turned and started walking past the couch.
“Buffy, no don't! Please, don't disappear on us, on me again.” said Dawn.
“Buffy??” Joyce whispered and sat up to look at the young soldier in her living room, only this wasn't ‘a’ soldier, it was Buffy and she was here. “Come here, I need to see you.”
Beth was shocked at how weak her mom sounded. Beth moved back over towards the couch by her mom, and was pulled down into a hug “I've so missed you.”
Beth moved over towards the couch, keeping her eyes down. “I've missed you so much.” she heard before being pulled into a hug.
“How can you miss me?” Beth asked as she pulled back. “Don't you hate me or blame me for what happened? I almost destroyed this family.” The last words were said so softly Joyce almost didn't hear them.
Joyce pulled away from Buffy, taking in the lines on her face and the worry in her eyes. “Hate you? Buffy you're my daughter. Why would I hate you? I love you and Dawn more than anything.”
“Because you never answered any of my messages I sent to you. And I saw the look on yours and Dawns’ face when you looked over towards me. There was so much hurt and anger. That hurt more than anything else. That you believed I had killed Finch and wouldn't talk to me,” she finished in a small voice.
Joyce grabbed her daughter's hand, noticing the small scar. “Buffy, what letters? We didn't get any letters.”
“What do you mean?” Buffy asked angrily as she pulled out of her Mom’s hug. “I've been writing you and Dawn for the last 3 years. They've all been returned ‘Refused by Addressee’.” She stood up from the couch, dropping Joyce's hand. “If you love me like you say you do then why did you return them?”
Giles watched as Buffy paced in front of the couch. “Buffy, your mother is telling the truth. We didn't get any letters.”
Beth turned around, “Stop lying to me. They all say ‘Returned by Addressee’.” She pulled out a stack of letters from her duffle bag and tossed them at Giles feet.
“Buffy, your mother and I never saw any of these letters.” Giles bent over to pick up the letters lying at his feet.
“He's telling the truth Buffy we never got any of them, why would we lie about this?” Joyce asked, confused.
“Stop calling me Buffy, my name is Beth. Buffy ‘died’ three years ago!” Beth saw her mother flinch as she said that but she was too angry to stop. “You're lying to me, why?!?”
Dawn grabbed Buffy and shook her, “Beth STOP! We wouldn't lie to you, we're your family and so is Giles,” Dawn said loudly to get through to her sister. “We love you and it hurt us just as much to lose you that way and never hear from you. Would you have done that to me if I had been in your place?” she said softer as she saw Beth start to calm down.
“No, I couldn't do that. You're everything to me Dawn, you’re family.” Beth sagged down as she started to shake. Dawn dropped next to Beth and pulled her into a hug. “You don't have to be strong all the time.”
“I have to be... I don't have anyone else.” Dawn felt her shirt start to get damp and looked down at Buff...Beth. She looked so small, so lost but most of all scared and Dawn recognized it because she was scared of losing everyone too. “That's not true, you have me and mom and Giles, you're not alone and we're not leaving you.”
“Bu..but why then?”
“But why what Beth?”
“You never hated me for what happened then?” Beth asked in a small voice.
Joyce moved over by Beth and gently raised her face with her hands. “Beth, you're my daughter and my family. If you saw me angry, it was over how I heard you were being treated and being kept from you.”
“I love you Beth and nothing will change that.” Joyce and Dawn pulled Beth into a close hug, Beth felt the tears start to well up and for once she let them fall. She was tired of being the strong one, tired of having to hold all her feelings of hurt locked away. Joyce felt the dam burst and pulled Beth tighter. “I don't know why baby. I just don't know.”
Giles flipped through the letters, noting the dates and trying to calculate where they would have been for each. He couldn't help the anger that was starting to rise from the pit of his stomach as he heard Beth's heart broken sobs heart from the pain they had inflicted on his daughter. [Calm yourself, save your anger for later. Right now Buffy needs you, later we can figure out who did this and when we're done with them, why they did this.]
Giles walked over to his family and wrapped his arms around them and held them close.
Beth sniffled as they pulled apart when suddenly something struck her. She looked at Dawn and her mom then Giles. “What do you mean we? Is there something I need to know?”
Joyce moved her left hand with the wedding ring to the side, “What are you talking about Beth?” She had hoped to tell Buffy later. But that seemed to no longer be an option.
“Mom I heard Dawn say ‘we're not leaving you’ and she didn't mean you and her,” Buffy glanced over at Giles and looked at him carefully, searching for something out of place when she noticed the gold band with diamonds on his left ring finger.
Several things that were said earlier started to click in her head, “Mom, when were you going to tell me?” Beth asked, she already suspected the truth but wanting to tease her mothers nervousness over the subject.
“Uhhmm, tell you Beth?” Joyce asked as she tried to avoid the answer.
“Yes, when did you and Giles get married?” Beth said trying to keep a serious face. Beth saw her mother’s nervous reaction and pulled her in a hug. “Congratulations Mom,” she said with a large smile.
Joyce let the breath she had been holding during all this. She had been nervous over Beth's reaction to her marriage to Rupert, but she hadn't wanted to drop this on her now after everything.
Beth looked at Giles, taking in his nervousness. “I admit I'm surprised, but I've thought of Giles as my father for a while, and as long as he's making you happy,” Beth caught his eye. “I won't have to stake him.”
“I was afraid after what just happened that telling you would be too much.” Joyce looked at her Beth's face and saw the happiness in her eyes. “Thank you Beth.” She paused for a second. “It’s strange calling you by that name.”
Giles had reigned in his temper and started listing contacts he needed to speak to when he heard Beth's comment about staking him. “Well that's good to know then. Since I plan on keeping Joyce very happy for the next 99 years.”
Dawn chuckled and rolled her eyes. “I'm hungry.” Giles ignored her that child had been hanging around Xander too much. “Beth, do you want to see Willow and Xander today? I can ring....”
“Willow's still here? And Xand also?” Beth asked feeling both excited and apprehensive.
“Beth, there's a nice little restaurant that just opened up Broadway.”
“Bistro Bella Vita?” Dawn whined, her lower lip jutting out. Beth drifted back to when she, Taylor, Mary and Sammy were going out for a nice dinner several months ago. “Aww mom, I don't wanna dress up. Can't we stay home?”
Beth was quietly amused how Sammy and Dawn both hated to dress up and unconsciously smirked. Dawn looked over at Beth to see her grinning over something, “Hey Beth, what are you grinning over, it's not like you don't have to dress up you know. It’s not fun!”
“It's not that bad, when compared to a 15K run with a full pack.” Beth replied.
“Uhhhh, yeah. Ok.” Dawn replied not quite sure what he sister meant. She had gotten a little strange over the last 3 years. [Oh well, I guess that's what the military can do to you] she mused and stuck her tongue out at Beth before running up the stairs to her room to find ‘something’ to wear tonight.
As Dawn ran up the stairs both Summers women called out, “Dawn, don't run up the stairs!!” Both women looked at each other and smirked.
“Practice from yelling at Sammy not to do the same thing Beth?” Giles asked.
“Yes and lots of it, you get in the habit once you're an Aunt to a six year old,” Beth replied with a silly grin on her face.
Joyce looked at Beth. [Aunt, Beth's an Aunt?] surprise was written across her face.
Giles chose this moment to exit, “Ladies, I just need to make some phone calls. I'm sure you can find something to discuss,” and walked quickly out the room and towards his study.
Beth saw the look on her Mom's face and couldn't resist teasing her just a little with her answer. “Yes.”
“That's it? Just yes? Don't I get more?" Joyce asked.
Beth sat down on the couch, “Okay, yes I'm an Aunt to Samuel Taylor, and he's six going on seven years old. Better Mom?” She had really missed being able to tease her mom and this was soo much fun as she watched the myriad looks on her face.
Joyce quirked an eyebrow at her daughter as waited for the rest.
“Sammy's a good kid but he takes after his father, he has a talent for mischief and getting in trouble. If he can't find any mischief, he'll go out and make it,” Beth finally answered.
“Do you work with his father?”
“He's a good friend and he's helped me through some stuff.” Beth answered, avoiding her Mom’s question.
As Giles walked into the study he felt the first tear start to fall from his eyes and slumped down beside the closed door. His insides were a knot, from all the emotions he'd kept bottled up; fear, happiness, anger but most of all relief that Buffy was back and okay. He remembered countless nights of sitting and staring at the phone and dreading the call that would tell him Buffy was dead or hurt.
Giles thought about how Beth's mail had been returned to her. [Someone wanted to keep her from communicating with her family, but why?] he wondered. Pulling out a small black phonebook with some numbers he thought he'd never use again.
“Dawn you need to move it! It's 1830 hours already!” Beth spoke loudly into the bathroom door where Dawn was ‘finishing up’.
"What are you talking about Beth? It's only 6:30 and I'll be ready in a minute.”
“That's what I said Dawn, and you've been saying that for the last half an hour.”
“Alright, alright. I'm coming out now.” Dawn muttered, as Beth walked back into her bedroom in irritation.
Dawn knocked on Beth's door, “Okay, you can come out now. I'm ready.” Dawn saw Beth as she stepped out of the bathroom. “Oh. My. God! Beth?” she briefly felt the earring drop from her fingers, but was too shocked to care. “Mom is gonna freak when she sees you.”
Beth looked down at her dress uniform with a smile. No matter how many times, the reaction was always the same.
Beth looked at her sister, silently contemplating when the dorky teenager turned into a beautiful young woman. “Your pretty freak worthy yourself Dawn.” Dawn stood in front of Beth dressed in a red, sleeveless dress that stopped just at her knees. Her hair was pulled back in a French braid and Beth saw a pair of diamond studs in her ears.
Beth felt pride at how much Dawn had grown from the gangly 15 year-old to this 18 year old, beautiful, young woman that stood before her.
Beth pulled her sister into a hug, “I love you Dawnie,” she whispered and then stepped back. “You ready to go downstairs?”
And the two Summers’ sisters started down the stairs where Giles and Mom were waiting for them.
Giles was waiting with Joyce downstairs when he heard voices and looked over towards the stairs. Dawn was the first he saw, she was dressed in the lovely red dress he had seen her carrying recently, [God she has grown hasn't she...] Giles felt a burst of pride as he watched Dawn walk down the steps.
“Dawn,” he started t ask “where's Be....” the words froze in his throat as he saw Beth come down the stairs wearing her Marine Dress uniform. The navy blue slacks with a red stripe down the side and the black jacket with gold buttons and the Eagle, Globe and Anchor insignia on the collar shined brightly. On the arms of the jacket he saw the green chevron on a blood red field and beneath it were two crossed rifles. A few ribbons were on the left chest of the jacket and finally the white hat under her arm and white gloves to finish off the entire image.
Willow and Tara stood outside the Bistro Bella Vita entrance waiting for Giles, Joyce and Dawn to arrive. Xander and his fiancée Anya stood a few feet away talking.
“Tara, did you get the feeling Giles was hiding something?” Willow asked.
“No, he seemed like Giles usually is,” Tara answered her lover. [Well not quite, but I'm sure that he wants to surprise Will about something. No need to say anything,] she thought.
Will eyed Tara carefully, she could swear that Tara ‘knew’ something about tonight. [Damn, I guess I'll have to find out like everyone else this time.]
Willow saw Giles’ car drive up and pull into the parking lot. She only got a quick look, but she would swear she saw four people inside.
A few minutes later Willow saw four people walking towards them. [Four people?] she thought puzzled and counted them out, “Giles...Joyce...Dawn...and a soldier?” she whispered, catching the attention of Tara who looked over at the group headed their way and a crooked smile blossomed on her face.
Seeing the smile on Tara's face Willow knew something was up. [Tara, what's going on?]
“Mm..mmaybe you should ask Mr. Giles, Willow.”
Willow saw the group halt about 15' away and Giles started walking alone towards her. “Willow, Tara! Good evening ladies.”
“Giles, who is that with you?” Willow asked.
Tara ‘felt’ the satisfaction and happiness rolling off of Mr. Giles in waves, glancing at the party she looked at the soldier and her suspicion as to who it was, was confirmed.
“Why don't you go ask Dawn or Mrs. Summers who it is Willow?” Tara asked innocently.
Willows’ suspicion that her lover ‘knew’ what was going on was confirmed with her innocent little question. But she headed on over towards Dawn and Joyce.
She saw the fourth person was a soldier and a Marine at that when they turned towards her. Willow stared for several seconds in shock, [That can't be....], but it was as she recognized who it was and ran towards her.
“Buffy!!!!!!” she cried out and ran into her out-stretched arms and felt them hug her. “Buthowdidyouwherehaveyoubeen?what'sgoingon?” She took a deep breath. “This isn't some sick joke?”
Beth saw Willow as she walked towards them and then as she called her name and ran towards her. Suddenly she was pulled into a tight hug and was greeted by the bubbly Willow-speak. “Willow, Willow! Slow down.”
Tara grinned as she watched the two of them together, she was happy for Willow that she now had a chance to see her best friend again and she knew how much the trial and her disappearance afterwards had hurt her. She watched all five of them walk on over here at the front entrance.
Stepping back to look at Buffy, Willow saw the short blonde hair; her face was mostly the same. But now there was leanness to her features and her eyes... Willow saw the joy on her friends face, but her eyes were what caught her attention. She saw the pain hidden in them and how she had changed as well.
Xander saw Mr. G, Dawn, Willow and....Buffy??? Anya had told him earlier that Buffy was back, but on some level he really hadn't been able to believe it. But actually seeing her changed that, he walked over to Buffy and threw his arms around her and swung her around.
“Buffy! You're really here!” Looking at her, “Like the new hair,” Xander teased, knowing how Buffy loved her long hair.
“Thanks, you look good too. Is that Anya over by Giles and Tara?” Beth asked, she remembered Xander was seeing her, but didn't know much about her other then she 'was' a vengeance demon before she lost her powers. Xander just beamed at the mention of his fiancée's name.
“Yep.” Grabbing Buffy’s hand Xander pulled her towards his waiting fiancée.
Beth looked over at Willow and whispered, “Is everyone engaged now? First I find out about Mom and Giles, now Xander and Anya. What about you two? Have you tied the knot yet?”
Willow blushed furiously at Beth's comment, “Ummm...” Tara heard Beth's question and leaned over wrapping her arm around Willow's waist, “Actually Willow and I were Handfasted by our coven last Candelmas,” she said very proudly and kissed Willow on the lips. Which only caused Willow to blush even more and made Beth chuckle.
“Then I guess congratulations are in order for you two.” Beth leaned over to Tara, “But if you hurt her I'll beat you to death with a shovel.”
Tara just smiled, “Thanks for the warning, but I think you'll have to get in line behind Xander, Giles and Mrs. Summers first.”
The group walked into the restaurant with Willow, Beth and Xander following at the rear as they talked.
As Beth was listening to Willow, she heard a voice from a nearby couple, “God, you'd think they'd have rules about letting the military in here. I thought they had standards at this restaurant.” “Now, now dear. I'm sure they paid the Maitre D' well to get in here,” the man’s voice replied in a snobbish voice.
Turning, Beth saw the couple that she'd overheard and smiled at them. [Rich brats, probably never did an honest days work.]
“Buffy? What's wrong?” Xander asked.
“Nothing,” Beth lied and focused her attention on her two friends, but she couldn't help feeling like someone had spit on all the sweat and blood she'd shed over the last three years.
“So Xand, when did you pop the question to Anya?” Beth asked curiously. She had noticed he had changed, but this was a ‘big’ step from the boy who lived in the basement of his parents' home to the man who was standing in front of her.
“Oh, you want to hear about that? Its not that big, what about you though. How do you like being in the military? If I remember right you never really liked to follow the rules, or get up early,” he teased.
Beth looked at her Xander as he tried to switch the conversation. “Nice try Xander, but we're talking about you and Anya. So give. Let's hear all the juicy details,” she said with a smirk.
Sighing, “Will and I had a run in with a demon about a year and a half ago and I got a little hurt, that was sort of a wakeup call I needed to change things in my life, and Anya was just one of things I needed in my life.”
Frowning at Xander, Willow looked at him severely, “A little hurt?? You had a broken leg and some second degree burns from that fire demon and you were in the hospital for a month.”
“Okay, okay. I got hurt bad. But it was what I needed to look at things. So I took Anya out to dinner on Valentines Day at Mario's, and asked her to marry me.”
“Uh huh, how about you gave her this completely romantic dinner that night, and told her ‘you couldn't imagine her not being in your life’ or how she cried when you asked her to marry you. You left a few details out there.” Willow added as she watched Beth smile broadly and it was Xander’s turn blush.
Beth threw her arm around Xander's shoulders, “Xander, I'm damn proud of you and that I'm ‘your’ friend.”
The Maitre D' cleared his throat. “If you would follow me, your table is ready.”
Giles, Xander and Willow all seated their respective partners; Beth sat down in between Dawn and Willow.
The Maitre D' looked to Giles as he was seated, “Your server will be with your momentarily sir. Enjoy your meal.”
“Thank you,” Giles replied.
Moments later their water glasses filled, the server came by. “Good evening. My name is Tomas and I'll be your waiter for this evening. We have several specials today…” Tomas listed the specials of the day before he handed them their menus and walking away.
Tara looked over past Willow and towards Buffy, “Buffy do you really think we should be having a war that we obviously started? I mean look at what happened in the US Embassy in Paris, with all those students that were killed by the soldiers there.”
Willow looked at Tara with an angry look on her face, “No, Tara. Don't.....”
Beth felt her shoulders stiffen at Tara's question, she had known two of the US Marine Embassy Guards who were killed there. She stifled back her angry response and took a deep several deep breaths to calm herself.
“Tara, this is a pleasant dinner. Lets not bring that up right now, ok?” Willow said, trying to cut her lover off from her personal crusade against the war.
“But Willow, people died there and over what?” Tara asked.
Anger glittered in Beth's eyes at Tara's question, “Yes Tara, people did die there, including Marines who were protecting the Embassy and the civilians inside,” her voice was cold and angry.
“This isn't what we're here to talk about Tara, this is to celebrate Buffy's return,” Xander broke in.
“Yes indeed, I suggest we move on to a different subject. I'm sure you can ask ‘Beth’ about it later Tara.” Giles stressed.
Willow grabbed Tara's hand, “Tara, just drop it. Now is not the time for this, we've had this discussion before and you know my feelings about it.”
Tara looked around and saw the anger clearly on Beth's face, as well as Xander and Willow's, and realized how her question had sounded.
“I'm sorry Buf...Beth. I didn't mean to...” Tara stood up, knocking her chair over in her haste to get out of the restaurant.
“I'm sorry Buffy, she shouldn't have....” Willow said as she tried apologizing for Tara.
“Will, its okay. Just tell Tara I'm not angry at her and bring her back.”
Beth felt tense inside but she was determined to forget it. She understood that Tara hadn't meant anything by her questions, she knew many civilians felt the same way. They just didn't understand.
Willow caught up to Tara in the parking lot, Tara's face was streaked with tears.
“Tara wait!” Willow called out and stopped in front of Tara.
“Nnn..no Willow. I can't believe I said that it...” Willow gently pushed Tara's face up so she could look into her eyes.
“Its okay Tara, Buffy understands. She asked me to tell you she's not angry with you and wants you to come back.”
“Bb..but Will,” Willow put her finger over Tara's lips.
“Ssshhh, Tara look at me. Buffy doesn't say things that she doesn't mean, so come back with me.”
“I ruined dinner Willow, I can’t.”
“Nothing’s been ruined unless you leave Tara, yes Buffy was upset a little, but she has that right, we don't know what she's been through. Please? For me, come back to dinner. I promise to make it up to you,” Willow replied mischievously.
Tara took the tissue Willow held out for her and wiped at her eyes. “Well since you're ‘offering’ to make it up, how c-can I refuse,” she paused taking in the beauty of her lover. “I love you Willow Rosenberg,” Tara leaned down pouring all her emotions into the kiss.
Meanwhile as Will and Tara walked back into the restaurant....
“So Buffy, what's up with this Beth?” Xander asked to break the silence that had descended since Tara and Will's sudden departure.
As Beth was about to reply she saw Tara and Will and smiled at Tara. “Hi there, everything ok?” she asked Will.
“Bu-Buffy, I'm sorry about what I asked, it wasn't very nice and it put you in an awkward position.”
“It's okay Tara, I was just caught off-guard with the question.”
Beth waited until Will and Tara were seated before answering Xander's question.
"Well Xander, they weren't going to call me 'Buffy' at Boot Camp or anywhere else. So I just had my first name changed, and well I'm not ‘Buffy’ anymore. Anyhow my life is different and so am I, so I'd prefer if you'd call me Beth.”
Willow noticed Buf...err Beth's face as she was talking to Xander, and how her features had gone ‘cold’ as she brought up her past however briefly.
Xander was quiet after she replied, “Oh, okay.” [Way to go Harris, bring up the painful stuff] Xander chastised himself mentally. “Oh, Will, I just got a call from Faith. She says that the powder you gave her to track the Polgara demons last week worked great. But she wanted to know if you can come up to LA, she has a problem that needs some strong Wicca backup.”
Willow turned to see a dark look on Beth's face, “You want to tell me something Will?” Beth asked angrily. “How can you help her after what she's done? She's a murderer.”
“Beth, she's changed. She's not the same person she was, she's trying to make amends for what she did. I know she's different now.”
“And how do you ‘know’ that Will?” Beth asked sarcastically “Magick?”
Willow turned to face Beth, she knew this would be a sore spot with Beth but she had to face that Faith had changed. “Beth, are you the same person you were three years ago? No, you're not, none of us are. We've all changed and so has she, you've got to get past this anger with her at some point. Go see her, yell at her, whatever it takes to get this out. But you have to deal with the fact that not only have I been helping her, I'm going to keep helping her and I trust her.”
“And you trust her? Why? Because you cast some spell that tells you, you can?” Beth said sarcastically. “You can't trust her, she tried killing you how many times Willow?”
“And what about Angel Beth? How many people did he kill, maim and torture as Angelus in 150 years? But you trust him, right!” Willow knew she had made a point finally as Beth went silent.
“I just don't want to see you get hurt Willow, I still remember how she hurt you.” Beth answered in a quiet voice.
“I know that Beth, but you haven't seen her. She's changed a lot.”
“Maybe I'll go see her later this week before I head back. But no promises.”
Willow kept her eyes on Beth as they walked through the cemetery. She really couldn't believe that her best friend was back, but dinner had been frustrating. Beth was so different from Buffy in many ways that Willow didn't know how to talk to her anymore. Things didn’t seem to get any easier when Beth had insisted on going on patrol with her. So far she'd managed to steer them away from any trouble, [It's been three years!! What is she trying to prove?] Willow thought angrily. [For all that she's changed, she's still thinks it's her responsibility.]
Stopping, Willow cast a cantrip and a stake appeared in her hand. She motioned for Beth to stay behind her, but Beth stayed where she was. Willow felt the breeze pick up and knew trouble was about to start. Before she had time to complete the thought four burly vamps who looked like their faces had been bashed in one too many times stepped out from behind a mausoleum. “Hey it's the Wicca, kill her and her friend!”
Two of the vamps rushed at Beth, Willows' eyes flashed green fire, “Solaris Luminae!!!!!!” and a ball of yellow energy formed in her hands and flew at one of the vampires. As the ball of energy hit him, the vampire cried out as he turned to dust.
Beth had managed to dust one of the vamps, but as she fought this one she felt slow despite all the training she'd had in the last three years. She chuckled for a second, fighting vampires just wasn't very high on her priority list. Beth scolded herself for getting out of practice when the vamp finally managed to land a hard blow to her face that knocked her back into a tree
Beth felt herself being picked up and the vampire’s fangs sink into her neck.
Willow distracted by trying to keep an eye on Beth was holding her own when she saw the vampire Beth was fighting throw her into a tree and then sink his fangs into her.
“NO!!” Willow yelled. “Ergane Cerinus!!” she chanted and the vampire was thrown back and a shield formed around Beth. “No more games. ‘Incendium Viburnum!!’ ” Willow cried out and large ball of red energy appeared over her right hand. Gesturing she ‘threw’ it at the vamp that attacked Beth, as it hit him he was consumed in fire, turning to dust. The other vamp thinking to flee…ran.
As he ran away, Willow looked up at the sky and pointed at the fleeing vampire. “Fulmen!!” she chanted, the stars disappeared behind clouds and a bolt of lightning came streaking down and incinerated the vampire leaving only a cloud of dust in the air and a burn mark where he had been. The sky cleared and the stars were once again visible.
“You okay?” Willow leaned down closer to Beth who was sitting up and tried to remove Beth's hand from her neck only to have Beth refuse to move her hand.. Blood had started to seep thought Beth’s fingers and leave a trail down her forearm. As she continued to try and move Beth’s hand away so she could see the wound.
Beth jerked her arm away from Willow but instantly regretted it when her vision blurred and she stumbled.
Willow saw the confusion and panic clearly visible on her face. “Buffy! Stop it. It’s me…Will. I'm not going to hurt you.” Beth stopped backing away and Willow saw something she thought she'd never see, Beth was afraid of her.
“You don't have to be afraid, it's me, Willow.”
“I'm not afraid of you,” but Beth used the tree next to her to stand up. As she stood up, a wave of nausea hit her and she felt her stomach heave as she lost all of her dinner. Beth felt Willow's hands steady her and keep her from falling as she vomited, [This is Willow, my best friend. I..I just, I just....] Beth knew in her head that Willow would never hurt her, but the raw power Beth had seen Willow use scared her. “I'll be fine now Will,” Beth said slightly more brusquely than she intended.
“No you aren't Beth. You're hurt and I'm taking you back to your house” Willow answered, hurt by the cold tone in her friends voice. [Just give her some time, she hasn't seen you in three years and you go casting spells like water around her. She just needs a little time to sort it out is all,] Willow rationalized to herself.
“What the hell was that?” Beth motioned to the area where the burn mark from the lightning strike on the vamp.
Willow looked at Beth, “What do you mean? I just killed some vamps that ‘almost’ made dinner out of you! So what are you talking about?!?” Willow replied angrily.
“No Willow, you didn't just kill them, you completely obliterated them like they were nothing and those spells. Where the hell did you learn them??” Beth was upset but she knew that it wasn't really at Willow or even the powerful spells she had cast, although that did worry her.
It was that she could have gotten herself and Willow killed, she was so arrogant that she could handle this patrol as if nothing had changed, but it had and now she had to face things. Including how Willow and the others had changed. She needed to get away and think about things clearly first thought. [LA isn't that far, and I'd like to see how Angel and Cordy are doing.]
Willow looked in shock at that language Beth had used. It hadn't struck her at first, but now... “Beth, when did you start swearing like a sailor?”
“It's not that bad Will, its only the word hell,” Beth rolled her eyes.
Willow noticed that the frightened look on Beth’s’ face had gone, and she seemed calmer now. [See Will, I told you she just needed time to relax about your spells. You were just throwing them around like water and she is your best friend, three years or no.]
“Uh huh, and when we go to Willy's you’ll share some of your ‘colorful adjectives’ with him too?” she teased Beth.
Beth noticed her hand was wet and sticky, [Aw damn!] she thought and brought her hand up to her face and saw it covered in blood. As she stared at her hand, Beth felt her vision tunnel and start to go gray, and her legs buckled beneath her when Willow caught her to keep her from falling.
“You're going home Beth.”
“No arguments from me Will, I really don't feel good.”
During the trip back to her house Beth was quiet as she thought about what happened. “Hey Will, are you going to LA?" she asked casually.
Willow turned her head to look at Beth before answering, “Uhmmm, yes I am. Why?”
Beth looked at Will, “Actually I'd rather if you didn't.”
“What? I thought we settled this about Faith over dinner.”
“I've been thinking about what you said over dinner, and I've decided to go to LA in a few days. Maybe you're right and I do need to, as Cordy once put it, ‘Spank my inner moppet’ and settle things with Faith.”
Willow walked Beth to the front door, “Are you gonna be okay?”
“Yeah, I'll be fine Will.” Beth smiled, “G'night.”
Beth let herself into the house and moved into the bathroom, peeling off her bloodstained and torn shirt. [Ouch, crap that hurts! I forgot about this part of Slaying.] Taking out some peroxide and a dark towel, Beth soaked the towel with water and cleaned the wound on her neck. Then she poured the peroxide over the wound and put a large gauze bandage over it. Moving out she headed up the stairs, [God I'm glad Mom's not here. I'm really not in the mood to explain this to her now.]
Beth walked to her bedroom, stepped inside and pulled on a clean sleeveless undershirt before reaching for her cell phone and knocked the book she had been reading off the bed.
As the book bounced off the bed it fell open and a piece of paper and a dollar bill fell out. Bending over, Beth picked up the dollar and the folded piece of paper.
I know you're going to be nervous about seeing your
family & friends after all this time. But they'll be just as nervous to see
you. I've listened to you talk about your Mom & Dawn, and I don't think they
ever could hate you. Not the way you've spoken about them, there's too much
love in your family for them to do that to you. Right now I'm sure you're rolling your eyes at how 'mushy' this is.
Just give them time to get used to you as you are now, it's
been three years and it'll be hard for them to not see you as you were. Just
as you can’t expect Dawn and your friends Willow not to have changed either.
Give them the space they need to get used to you and do the same for them.
Above all, you know that Mary, Sammy and I care about you, so if you need to
talk, call me. I'll be here for you.
Beth heard a knock on her door as she started to dial Taylor and turned the cell phone off and placed it on the bed, “Come in”. She saw the door open and her mom and Giles walk into the room. “Hi Mom, hi Giles. What's up?”
Joyce walked over, “I just wanted to talk to you. It's been so long.”
Joyce looked at Beth when she noticed a large bandage that was bloodstained on her daughters’ neck, “Beth! What happened to you? You were fine when we left the restaurant, where you attacked?”
Touching the bandage on her neck, “Mom it's nothing. Will and I got jumped by some vamps, but I'm okay.”
Giles moved closer from the doorway to Beth, “And what were you doing patrolling last night with Willow? I thought she had more sense then to let you go with her.” Giles shook his head.
“Its not Wills fault Giles, so don't blame her. I pushed her to let me go and it was my fault I got hurt.”
“Okay?? Buffy, you were hurt. How can you be okay?!” Putting her hand on her mom's shoulder, “Really, I'm okay. Slayer healing, one nights sleep and I'm better. Really.” Beth saw how worried her mom was. “I'm okay, really mom,” and smiled.
“That’s not the point Beth, she shouldn't have let you go out with her. You haven't been slaying for over three years, you could have gotten both you and her killed,” Giles said angrily.
“Giles, I learned my lesson and Will and I are fine. Okay?”
Joyce picked up Mr. Gordo off the bed. “I don't really know much about what you do in the Marines Beth.”
Beth had known this would come up and she uneasy felt telling about telling mom, but she knew that she had to tell her. "Uhmm, when I finished Boot Camp I was assigned to the 4th Batt/1st Marines” she hoped Mom wouldn't ask what the 1st Marines did or her MOS.
“What sort of unit is the 4th Battalion, Beth?” Giles asked, seeing his wife's confusion.
“It's an infantry unit.”
“Infantry? But you're a woman Beth!” Joyce replied anxiously.
Beth shifted uncomfortably on the bed, “Congress passed a law that allows women in combat positions now Mom. Besides I'm not with the 4th Battalion anymore, I was transferred so you don't have to worry.” Beth hoped this partial truth would be enough for Mom. She didn't want her to worry about her, especially now that she was still with the 4th Battalion, only now it was part of the 13th MEU.
Giles looked down at Beth and noticed a tattoo on her right arm, it was a bulldog pushing the US flag upright, above it were the letters USMC and below it in a banner it said 13th MEU. “Interesting tattoo Beth.”
Joyce looked at her husband and then back at Beth’s arm. “What is the 13th M-E-U, I believe it says, that you have so prominently displayed at the bottom?” Giles asked.
“Oh that,” Beth looked at her tattoo nervously. “That would be the unit I'm with now. But that's not really important though.”
Joyce saw the nervous smile her daughter had made, “Beth the only time you smile like that is when you're hiding something, liked the time you broke the lamp when you were eight. What does that M-E-U stand for?”
Beth sighed loudly, “It stands for Marine Expeditionary Unit, it's a rapid deployment, combined arms unit. I've been in it for the last year.”
Joyce reached for Beth's hand, “Honey, I don't understand what that means.”
“Joyce, it means that Beth is part of an infantry unit, doesn't it Beth.” Giles stated. “How soon is your unit shipping out?”
Beth looked down at her hands. “We’re not sure. We’ve picked up our training and there’s a buzz going through the unit.” Beth looked from her mom to Giles, noticing the fear in both their eyes.
“Mom, its gonna be okay. This is what we’ve been training for.” Beth tried saying reassuringly.
Standing up suddenly Joyce started pacing back and forth, “You’ve been training to get killed or blown-up or something?!?” Joyce yelled at Beth, tears rolled down her cheeks.
Beth got up from the bed and moved over to her mother and put her arms around her, “No, not to get killed. To protect my family and my country. It’s what I took an oath to do.”
“I’ve seen the news reports Beth, so many people are getting hurt and killed. I don't want my last image of you to be as they bring you back in a body bag in some news footage on the TV.” Joyce pulled Beth into fierce hug. “I just got you back, I can't lose you.”
“You won't. I'm tough and so are the members of my squad. We watch each other's back. I'm going to come home to you, both of you,” Beth reached out for Giles and pulled him into the hug with her Mom.
Giles heard Joyce breathe hitch in her throat and he pulled her closer to him.
“I promise,” Beth whispered before taking a step back and cocking an eyebrow. “Besides Taylor said he'd curse me with his wife's food if I got hurt.”
Beth picked up the phone after Giles and her Mom had left and dialed Taylor's house, Beth listened to the phone ring as she waited for someone to pickup. “Hello” she heard Mary say.
“Mary, hi. It's Beth.”
“Beth! How are you? Is everything okay at home?”
“Yeah it is. I just wanted to talk to Taylor about some stuff though. Is he home?” Beth asked.
“Yes, he's out back, let me go get him. Hold on one sec Beth,” Mary heard the tenseness in Beth's voice and knew something was wrong as she walked over to her husband.
“Steve, Beth's on the phone for you,” she heard in the distance
“She is? Okay. I'll pick it up out here,” as he picked up the cordless phone next to him.
“Beth? What's up?” Taylor asked, concerned that she was calling back after she had left the message she was ok with Sammy. “Sammy gave me your message, if you were calling to check on that.” He heard her chuckle but noticed something else in her voice. “Are you okay?” Beth sighed, wishing that she wasn't across the US talking to him on a phone. “You sound hurt? Did something happen?” He frowned when she didn't respond. “Beth did you try to do something heroic again?”
“God Taylor I was so weak. A vampire beat me Taylor, a vampire.”
“Okay a vampire beat you, it happens to everyone, well so to speak. What's really bothering you about that Beth?”
“I...I felt so useless, that's why. Cause her I am ‘the big, bad Slayer’ and Will had to save me. I'm the one who's supposed to do the saving, not her. She's been patrolling for three years because of me not being there and I know she's been hurt.”
“Yeah Beth, you ‘are’ the Slayer. But you know that means you can't be responsible for everyone.”
“But nothing Beth, stop trying to take the responsibility for everything on your shoulders. What you have to ask yourself is this, Have you done everything you could? IF the answers yes, then leave it alone. She's grown up and changed just like you have and likely she's stronger a person since you weren't there. Would you want to change that?”
“No...I wouldn't.” Beth replied quietly
“Good, now what else is bothering you? And don't deny it, I know you Summers. So spill.” Taylor teased her, trying to break her out of the black mood she was in.
“I told Mom about being in the infantry. I'm not sure how she took it other than the look of fear on her face as I told her.”
“Did she run out the door screaming or tell you that you're never to step foot in the house again Beth?” Taylor asked.
“No she didn't.” Beth replied slightly thrown by Taylor's question.
“Then your families handling it a lot better then mine did. I think your mother especially just needs time to get used to the idea. She still sees you as her ‘little girl’ in many ways and this is a hell of a wake up call that that's not true anymore. Just be patient with her, okay Beth?”
“You're right, I just didn't expect to have to tell them so soon though.”
“So how was the barbeque?”
“It was a smashing success as always,” Taylor said proudly.
Beth chuckled into the phone after she heard Taylor, “And did you have to cart Ramirez out of there and back to the base? Or did you leave that for the rest of the squad this time?”
“No, this time I let them have Ramirez's drunk butt to carry home,” Taylor replied as he laughed. “But I can tell in the tone of your voice that what happened with Willow wasn't the only thing bothering you.”
“Faith? The other slayer that was in the hospital?”
“Yeah that's her. But she's not in the hospital anymore.”
“She's not? When did this happen?” Beth chuckled, “That's what I'd like to know,” before fingering the letter still clutched in her hand. “She's in L.A. fighting vamps and she needs Willow's help.”
He could hear the desperation in her voice. “And you want to go instead, right?”
“No. Yes. I don't know, yeah I guess I do. They say that she's changed,” Beth heard him chuckle.
“Stop laughing at me Steven Jonathon Taylor.”
“I'm not laughing at you Beth.”
“Right, you're laughing with me.”
“Exactly. Anyway, tell me more about Faith.”
“Faith's in L.A.”
“You already said that Beth, are you getting senile in your old age?” he teased. “So…Faith's in L.A. and you want to go see her.”
“Yeah. But I put her in a coma Steve.”
“Hmmm, and there's something else about Faith that's bothering you Beth, what is it?”
“Isn't that enough?”
“Not with you it isn't. If you put her in a coma, it was for a good reason. Now what else is bothering you about this Faith?”
Sighing defeatedly, “Okay. Before she ‘turned’ so to speak, everything felt ‘right’ with her and after...’that night’, everything changed. It was like the Faith I knew never existed and in her place was this evil creature. And now Willow's telling me she's changed, but I can’t get past all the evil she did....”
“And now you're not sure if you can get past how you remember her as being evil?”
“Well Beth, there isn't an easy answer here. But Willow was right that you should go see her because it sounds like there's more to this story then you're telling, and this is something you should deal with before we leave. One way or the other you have to settle things between the two of you.”
“It sounds like I have 2 votes in the ‘YES’ category to see Faith then.” Beth replied
“No, there are two friends telling you that they think this is what you should do, you get to make that decision yourself. Whatever you decide, you know I’ll back you.”
“I read the letter Steve and...thank you.”
“No need for thanks Beth. Semper Fi Beth.”
“Always Faithful... and you wonder why Mary married you.”
“It's late Beth and you need rest. I'm here if you need me, okay?”
“Thanks Steve. Talk to you in a few days.”
End Chapt 3
The Next Morning…
Beth woke up as the sun broke through her window and hit in her eyes, sitting up she moved out of her bed. Looking over at the clock on her nightstand, she saw the time on the digital alarm clock showed it was 8:30. Stretching as she moved around her room, Beth moved the furniture to the edges of the room so the center of the room was open.
Standing in the center Beth closed her eyes and slipped into the first kata position she had learned. Starting slowly she moved thru the basic martial arts moves into the next level of Katas which where more complex and required more concentration. Slowly all thoughts and worries left her mind, all that was important was the flow of her movements and nothing else. As she relaxed the speed and complexity of the movements increased.
Beth heard the door open and Dawn walk in, but even this did not interrupt her concentration.
Slowing she came to a stop and picked a towel off the bed wiping her face, “Morning to you to Dawn.”
“What are you doing today?” Beth asked.
“I want to spend some time with my little sis, you up for a trip to the mall?” Dawn looked at Beth surprised, “Yeah, of course!”
“Good, give me a few to clean up and grab a bite and we'll head over then.”
Beth noticed that there were two groups of people shouting at each other and holding signs as soon as Dawn pulled the Jeep into the parking lot outside the mall.
“Beth what's up?” Dawn asked noting her sisters clenched fists. She knew she tended to be a wild driver but she had gotten better in the last year.
“My driving’s not that bad. I've gotten better, just ask Anya,” Dawn said proudly when she noticed the two groups of protesters at the front of the mall.
“Damn them, I’m gonna….”
“No.” Beth stopped Dawn from continuing, “I'm going to spend the day with my sister and people like that are not going to stop me and you aren’t going to start a fight with them either.”
“But Beth, why? Don’t you see what they’re calling you? Baby-killers!!”
“I don’t like it but that’s their right to do that, and th…” Beth stopped herself from continuing. She didn’t want to bring up that she was probably going overseas soon, she wanted a day with Dawn where they could just be together with no worries.
“You're going over there soon aren't you? I heard you and Mom talking last night.”
Beth placed her hand on Dawn's arm, “I wish I could say no, but I think it's why I got to go on leave.”
Dawn grabbed Beth tightly in a hug, “I don't wanna lose you again Beth,” she said softly.
“You're not, I promise,” Beth moved back to look at Dawn.
“Good, cause I'm gonna hold you to that promise then. Now lets go, we've got stores to see and shoes to buy.”
Beth chuckled to herself and the two headed into the mall.
Beth had managed to steer Dawn away from the protest scene. Even after she had spoken to Dawn about leaving the protesters alone, Dawn wanted to go over and argue with the protesters there, but she knew that it would have been a waste and it would have just ruined their day together. So they had gone inside using a side entrance.
So far this morning Dawn had been happily talking away about boys, school and whatever else came to mind as they toured the various clothing stores in the mall. She actually liked listening to Dawn talk, it was something she had missed.
“Yes?” Dawn answered as they continued walking.
Dawn stopped suddenly and looked at Beth and saw the regret on her face.
“Sorry for what Beth? You haven't done anything wrong.”
“No, I'm sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed someone to talk to, or to just listen to you. I know it wasn't easy for you at school, being known as the sister of a murderer.”
Dawn put her arms around Beth and held her close for a moment and then stepped back and looked Beth in the face, “There's nothing to be sorry for Beth. I'm okay, relatively normal considering my sisters’ friends,” Dawn grinned at Beth, “and I have you back in my life now. As for the rest, well I found a friend I could talk to about stuff, and she was there for me when I needed her. But she's not you and no-one will ever replace my weird big sister, the Vampire Slayer.”
Beth couldn't help the smile that crossed her face, that was one thing that did worry her. About what Dawn had gone through and she wasn't there.
“I'm not weird, I just have eccentric friends is all.” Beth replied as she smiled back at Dawn.
“Riiiight, and this explains Spike how?” Dawn teased her.
“You better start running squirt, cause I'll get you for that one!”
After Beth got her revenge on a now repentant Dawn, the two headed into the food court for lunch.
“So what do you want for lunch?” Beth asked as they weaved up one side looking at the various food stores.
Beth looked around the court noticing only a few tables left. “I'll get the food, you get the table.” Dawn started to agree but noticed some of the protestors from outside were near the Chinese restaurant, China Pavilion. “I'll get the food Beth.”
“Ok.” Beth replied as she saw Dawn had already headed towards the restaurant. Looking around for an open table Beth saw one had just emptied a few feet away and walked over to it and sat down claiming it as theirs for lunch.
Leaning back in the chair Beth looked around the food court, Beth mused to herself.
Looking over, Raoul saw his friends by the Chinese place getting lunch for everyone,
As he was looking over Raoul saw a flash of forest green and black. Moving over he saw a female soldier in fatigues sitting down at a table about 10' feet away. “Hey guys, we got a soldier-girl in here. Let's go over and say ‘hi’ ” he said with an evil gleam in his eyes.
Three others walked over with him as they walked up behind the soldier. He was hoping to surprise her and have her surrounded before she could react.
As he got within a few feet of the soldier she was out of the seat and facing them,
Beth had a sudden intuition about something from behind her and stood up and turned. She found herself facing four young men in their 20's, all were wearing clothes with anti-war protest logos. Beth thought to herself.
“Hey soldier-girl, what'cha doin here? Why don't you go ‘play’ being soldier somewhere else, we don't want your ‘kind’ here,” Raoul said loudly. He motioned his friends to surround the soldier, “Are you listenin to me girlie? I said we don't like your ‘kind’ here. You gonna do something ‘bout it?”
Beth noticed his ‘friends’ move to cut her off, but she kept her attention on the leader of the group. As much as she wanted to say something, she knew that it would only make things worse. “Why don't you just move on, I'm not looking for trouble here.”
Raoul looked at his friends and then looked at the scared soldier girl, “Ooooohhh!!! She wants us to move on guys.” Raoul poked the soldier in the chest hard, “I think you're looking for trouble, I heard what you people did to those kids in Paris. ‘You’ shot women and children and tried blaming radicals and the UE for it, you ought to be shot.”
“They've got the bullets that you used as evidence,” seeing she hadn't reacted Raoul poked the soldier in the chest again and stepped closer to her. “You're nothing but murdering scum wearing a uniform.”
Beth was trying to be patient and not break this idiots’ fingers, one at a time, but she knew she couldn't. She had to stay out of trouble and starting a fight wasn’t staying out of trouble, when she heard Dawn's voice from behind her
“HEY STUPID!!” Dawn yelled at the leader and shoved the protester in her way to the side and stepped up in front of the leader of this ‘group’. She had seen Beth surrounded by these idiots and had heard what they had said, and it made her blood boil. “Yeah, I'm talking to you ugly.” She poked him in the chest hard.
Dawn saw the leader look down at her, surprise written all over his face. “Are you listening to me or do I need to write it down for you so you can understand me. Oh wait,” Dawn smiled evilly, “I forgot, you never graduated elementary. So how can you read?”
Raoul couldn't believe that this girl was talking to ‘him’ this way, “You don't underst...”
Dawn cut him off, “No, you don’t understand. This is ‘my’ sister you're talking to and I don't like what you're saying about her. I'm proud that she's my sister and that she's in the Marines and you should be thanking everyone like her 'cause they're the reason you can whine and complain all the time,” Dawn poked the leader again, Now you have about 10 seconds to apologize and drag that smelly carcass of yours along with your friends away from me before I hurt you.”
Dawn turned her back to the man and looked at Beth, “Hey Beth, you okay?” she asked as she smiled at her sister.
“I am now that my sister is here, thanks” and Beth pulled Dawn into a hug. Dawn looked over at the leader, “Why are you still standing there? Go! Shoo!!” Dawn waved her arms in shooing motion.
Finally the protesters drifted away from her and Beth, “Morons,” Dawn said under her breath.
Later the next day…
Faith pulled her motorcycle West Freemont Avenue. She couldn't shake the feeling from the cemetery. Someone or something had been watching her, she didn't feel threatened but still she couldn't shake the apprehension that was forming in the pit of her stomach. .
Faith entered her apartment, juggling the bags of groceries. A flashing red light caught her attention and she made her way over to her answering machine. “Faith this is Will, I just wanted to let you know that Buffy is back in town and she's heading to L.A. She knows that you’re out of the hospital but that's about it. Page me if you need me. Oh and she goes by Beth now. Bye!”
Faith stumbled backwards slightly as Will's words sunk in, And then it hit her Moving over to the table Faith put the bags down and then flopped in one of the chairs and leaned back holding her head
Faith got up and moved over by a shelf with several pictures on it, picking one up she gazed at the picture of her and Beth together, smiling at the camera. Placing the picture back on the shelf, she moved back towards the phone, “Thanks for the warning Red, at least I have a few days till she arrives here.”
As she started to pass the phone she saw the red light was still flashing on her answering machine and hit the "PLAY" button for the last message
“Faith, This is Gunn, I need a favor. There's a small nest of vamps that's setup shop over in the old meat-packing district over on East Haledon. My crew can't get to it and Wes and Angel are tied up with something from Wolfram & Hart.”
Faith quickly grabbed the few items in the bags that had to go in the 'fridge and put them away. Faith thought excitedly as she ran towards the elevator to get downstairs and to her silver and black motorcycle.
Beth walked up to the doors of the Hotel Hyperion, which was the home of ‘Angel Investigations’. Pushing open the double-door, Beth stepped into the lobby and walked towards the front desk. As she approached it, she saw Cordelia sitting behind the front desk talking to Wesley.
Cordelia saw a female soldier walk into the hotel and walk towards her and Wesley, as the soldier got closer to them she saw a face she’d thought she’d never see, “Buffy?!?!” running out from behind the desk she grabbed Buffy and hugged her. “B-But…” Cordy stuttered. “How are you? What are you doing in LA?” Raising a hand Beth halted Cordy’s barrage of questions.
“Hi Cordy, Wes. How are you?”
Wesley stepped forward, “Buffy, it’s good to see you. What brings you up to LA?” he asked cordially.
“Actually I’m here to see Angel…” when from behind her she heard the front door fly open, “Hey, Cordy! You can tell Gunn to scratch one vamp nest.” Turning Beth saw the one person she hadn’t wanted to see today, Faith.
Stopping suddenly about 10' feet away, “B???”
“Hello Faith,” she said with a cold smile that did not reach her eyes. “It’s been a while, glad to see you’re up & about and moving on with your life.” Beth said bitterly. Turning back to Cordy, “Tell Angel I’ll call him later,” and walked past Faith without a word and out of the building.
After Beth had stormed out of the hotel, Faith looked up at the ceiling and shook her head, “Thanks for the warning Red, great timing there,” she muttered under her breath. Looking back at Cordy she saw her staring at her. “What with the stare Cordy? On second thought, don't tell me. I’m out of here,” and Faith stomped angrily out of the hotel door.
Several Hours Later…
“Hi Cordy, it’s Beth. Is Angel there?” Beth asked tersely.
“Beth??” Cordy asked puzzled, “Uhmm, hold on one sec.”
There was a brief pause and then a click in the background, “Angel,”
“Angel, hi.” her tone softened as she heard Angel's voice, at least now she'd get some answers.
“Buffy, I heard you were coming up to LA. What brings you up here?”
“For a couple of reasons, I need to see you and get some answers.”
There was a short pause, “Okay, we can meet at ‘Caritas’, its a karaoke bar.”
“A karaoke bar Angel?” Beth asked curiously.
“Don't worry, you'll understand when you see the place. I'll meet you there at 6PM.”
Beth arrived at the address and stared at the non-descript looking building. Her fatigues had gotten her several strange looks in this part of town so far, sighing she entered the building and her first sight was that of a large metal detector down the hallway and a demon bouncer who seemed to be taking weapons from anyone before entering the bar.
Walking forward Beth walked thru the metal detector, and heard music coming from the doorway into the bar. Stepping in she saw a large bar on her right and towards the back was a stage with a microphone.
However the sight that actually surprised Beth was that the bar's patrons were humans and demons! In the center of the floor she saw the tables and at a side table to the left she saw Angel and a green-skinned, horned and red-eyed demon talking.
Beth headed over towards the table, and saw the demon Angel was talking to turn around and look at her strangely for a few seconds.
“You're right Angel.” Turning he stood up and took the young woman's hand and kissed the back of it, “You my dear have a very interesting aura for a Slayer.”
Beth stood shocked, first that he had kissed her hand and second that he had known that she was a Slayer. She remembered most demons trying to tear her hand off, not kiss it.
“Please take my seat, I was just leaving,” The Host said to her. “Angel, we'll talk or in your case, sing later.” And he left with a flourish and headed over towards a Slime demon, “Rilo! It's been a while…”
She sat down in the seat that the green demon had just left. Angel noticed the look on her face. “That's the Host, he's a bit...different, but he's harmless. You look good.”
“Interesting ‘friend’ you have, how did he know I was the Slayer? Did you tell him?” As she sat down she looked around the room carefully.
Beth saw Angel shift uncomfortably in his seat briefly, “He ‘guides’ humans & demons, it’s something you need to do to understand better. Now what was it you wanted to talk to me about?” he asked seriously.
Beth looked in Angel, “Faith.”
Angel leaned back a little now that he knew what Beth was digging into, “What about her? She's done a lot of good the last few years.”
Leaning forward, “What's the deal with her? First Wesley, now Faith. Everyone who tries to screw up my life comes to work for you now?” Beth said angrily.
Irritation flashed across Angels’ face briefly, “That’s not true Beth and you know it. So stop looking for a fight you can't win.”
“Then why is she working for you?”
“She's not, she was doing a favour for a friend, Gunn. And even if she was working for Wesley and Gunn, what business is that of yours Beth?”
“She took my life from me that’s what!” she yelled. Several of the patrons looked over at the table and just as quickly saw the look on Beth’s face and decided to pay attention to something else.
Shaking his head, “No, she didn’t. She was in a coma, Wolfram & Hart and the Mayor’s ex-cronies did that Beth, they wanted you out of the way and that’s what they got for a while. You don’t know what shape Sunnydale was in after you were gone. Once the word got out that there was no Slayer, vamps and demons came out of the woodwork, and Giles, Willow and the others had their hands full trying to keep things under control. After Faith came out of her coma, you don’t know how hard she worked for over a year to clean out Sunnydale and make it known that it was ‘off limits’ to demons.”
Beth just sat there in surprise as she digested what Angel had told her,
Leaning forward towards Beth, Angel saw her shocked expression and knew that some of what he was telling her was sinking in. “Beth, she did a lot of evil and she’s trying to atone for what she did. I’m not saying you should forgive her, I know you’re angry that she’s moved on and you’re in the Marines. But you can’t judge her by what she was without looking at what she’s done with her life since then.”
Beth slumped back in the chair “I…I don’t know Angel. I just see her and I don’t know if I want to hug her since she’s alright or punch her since I’m so angry at her. I’m not sure what to do.”
“How about talking to her then?” Angel signaled the Host who nodded.
“What are you talking....” as Beth looked over and saw Faith walking towards them.
Faith stopped in front of her “Hi B, or is it Beth now?” she asked. Faith was dressed in faded blue jeans, black shirt and a light, leather jacket. Beth just stared, Faith the woman she had both dreaded and wanted to see was now right in front of her. she could her Taylor's voice in her head. .
“It's Beth, and why are you here?” Beth asked angrily as she looked at Angel.
Standing up, “Because you two need to talk, and as I've been told, ‘there's no time like the present’. I've got a Polgara demon to see and you two have things to talk about,” and Angel was gone.
Faith sat down in the chair Angel had just vacated, “Look Beth, Broody's got a point...”
“And that would be what Faith? There's not a lot to talk about.”
“B, I’m sorry for what happened…”
Beth cut Faith off before she could continue, “Sorry? For what exactly? You have a rather long list to choose from.”
“Yeah I do B, every night I see all the evil I did and every day I try to do something to make up for it.”
“Well you know what Faith, I'm ‘happy’ you're finally doing good. But you know what? We both know who really killed Finch, but I'm the one who had my life stolen from me, not you!” Beth angrily stood up. She could feel her cool start to seep away.
Pacing right up into the dark slayers face, “All I have now is the Corps, and I can't even retire cause it’s a lifetime sentence till I'm dead! So you think about that while you're ‘doing good now’ cause now matter how much good you do you can never give me my life back!”
“You know what B, I don't have to take this...I didn’t do anything to you, the Mayor did,” Faith stood up, refusing to back down to Beth, “Everyone's got their problems B, some are worse than others. But speaking from experience, getting 3 meals a day, a roof over your head and a ‘home’ is a hell of lot better than some of the things I had to do to get by from day to day. So don't go acting all ‘high and mighty’ on me, cause it ain’t gonna fly with me.”
Turning, Faith strode out of the bar, as she exited the building Faith felt the tears burning her eyes as she struggled to control them.
Faith hopped on her motorcycle, quickly starting the engine and gunning it as she flew down the street. Her only thought right then was to get away and think.
Beth watched the door close behind Faith, as she tried to get hold of her temper. Anger flooded her veins as she slowly controlled the urge to hit something or someone. But in the back of her mind was the fact that she ‘felt’ better after confronting Faith.
Angel watched Faith slam through the door and made his way over to Beth.
“I'd say that pretty much went about as bad as can be expected, do you feel better now Beth?” Angel asked as he sat down.
Beth felt her temper start to flare and stamped down on it, refusing to let Angel know how angry she was. “What did you expect to happen Angel? After what she did, did you think I was gonna tell her all is forgiven?”
“No I didn’t. But then I didn’t expect you to attack her either, you have changed and not all for the better either Beth,” Angel replied.
Beth sat down angrily, not sure what she was more annoyed about. That she knew Taylor would say the same thing or that Angel was right.
“She’s not the same person she was. But then neither are you. We’ve all got dark places in our souls. But you’re so busy being angry at the world for what was ‘taken from you’, you can’t seem to realize that your life is coming apart because of it. Stop blaming everyone for what happened and move on with your life.”
“You're one to talk Angel. If I remember correctly, you're Mr. Brood, now all of a sudden you're Mr. Groove, hanging out with demons.”
“That's a low blow Beth.”
“No, you know what's a low blow Angel, you telling me that my life is falling apart. You don't know anything about my life.”
“No? Elizabeth Anne Summers, convicted of the murder of Deputy Mayor Allan Finch on Feb 15, 2000. Judge granted you the choice of life in prison or life in the Marine Corps. You chose the Marine Corps and attended basic training that summer and then advanced combat training in December 2001, later assigned to 13th Mobile Expeditionary Unit, Charlie Company, 1st Platoon. When you were assigned to your latest unit you met Corporal Steven J. Taylor, father of Samuel Taylor and married to Mary Elizabeth Giardello-Taylor.”
“But more than that Beth, you didn't just take the fall for Faith because she was a Slayer or because you put her in a coma or whatever the reason is that you convinced yourself why you protected her so strongly from everyone who came after her. All this anger and resentment you keep telling yourself you feel and to push her away isn't real, you're using it as an excuse not too see the truth that you're deeply in love with Faith and that she feels the same way towards you.”
Angel raised his hand to stop any denials that he knew were coming his way. “Look Beth,” Angel stood up and moved in front of Beth, “don't say it. Just ‘think’ about what I’ve said, don't just dismiss it out of hand. Okay?”
Angel turned motioning to the Host and exited through the side door.
Later the next day
Faith leaned against the cool wall of the warehouse, as she tried to rest a moment. Dropping the bloody sword, Faith checked her wounds and saw most of them weren’t too bad, they'd be healed by tomorrow. But this little hideout with the six Vamps and the two Thorgal demons were more then she had expected.
Picking up her sword Faith wiped it off on the body of the closest demon and then covered it up with a blanket that was lying nearby, and started walking towards the exit. As she exited the building Faith looked around and headed over towards her motorcycle. She stored the sword and kicked the engine to life, pulling out she stopped at the corner. The street was empty except for a few bums across the street, but something felt 'wrong'. Shaking her head, Faith gunned the engine and took off down the street and towards her apartment.
Beth made her way down the stairs of the building and came out on the street, for a second day Beth had been watching Faith. She had found out where Faith lived before she went to Angel's yesterday. Beth shoved her hands in the pockets of her winter camo jacket and headed towards her rental car.
As Beth headed towards the car, she cast one last look at where Faith had pulled out and saw something that caught her eye. Walking over she crossed the street and saw a small wallet sized picture and picked it up.
Looking closer, Beth saw it was Dawn was dressed in a formal dress and over her shoulders was a black, leather jacket. Turning the picture over Beth noticed the writing on it. “Faith, thanks for a great birthday!! Glad you could make it. Love, Dawn.” At the bottom was the date, “April 1, 2001”,
Walking back to her car, Beth got in and started towards Faiths' apartment,
Beth pulled her car over and parked it next to the building where Faith lived. Getting out Beth walked in to the bottom level of the warehouse, which was filled with piles of rusting metal pipes, wooden pallets and other junk. But about 75' away she saw a freight elevator and headed towards it.
Once at the elevator Beth pushed the "CALL" button to bring the elevator down, over here she did notice the area was swept clean of junk just as the elevator arrived.
Faith heard the elevator when it went down and waited for her 'guest' to arrive. As the elevator gate opened she was shocked to see Beth stepping out.
“B, you here to tell me more about how I’ve screwed your life over?” Faith asked angrily.
“No Faith, I’m not. Actually I’m not real sure about a bunch of things now.” Pulling the picture out of her jacket pocket, “But you dropped this, I thought you’d like it back.” Beth held the picture out towards Faith.
“Oh, thanks B,” Faith took the picture and flipped it over and saw it was the Dawn’s picture that she carried.
“Nice picture. But Faith, why do you have a picture of Dawn?” Beth asked as she walked further into the ‘apartment’, which seemed to be the entire second floor of the building. She could see the kitchen, bedroom and living room since there were no walls, only sheets to give the illusion of individual rooms. But the other half of the floor was partitioned with a wall and only one door could be seen to enter it.
Turning Faith watched Beth as she walked by and moved towards the couch. “You wanna sit?”
Beth sat down on the end of the couch, “So why do you have a picture of Dawn Faith?”
Faith sat down on the opposite end of the couch, facing Beth and sighed loudly. “After I came out of the coma I knew I had fucked a lot of things up in my life, especially people who had tried to help me. I went looking for you, but no one was talking to me at the time not that I was surprised, so I went to see your Mom and hoped she listen to me. I told her everything B and she let me prove that I meant what I said to her about changing.”
“She did? What about Dawn though?” Beth asked, very curious now.
“Well that came later, at first I started helping Giles, Willow, Tara & Xander. Mostly on the sly, since they didn’t trust me. But after a while they saw I wasn’t the ‘old’ Faith and gave me a second chance and so did your Mom. I was sort of visiting your Mom a lot and I saw Dawn a lot, she was having a lot of problems so I tried to just listen to her when she needed to talk.”
Faith shifted uncomfortably, she didn’t like talking this much but she knew that she had to tell B everything. “She’s like a sister to me B. I’d do anything to protect her, she’s family. That goes for Xander, Red & Tara too, but especially Red. When I moved out here, she called to check up on me and how I was doing or just say hi, constantly. She helped out with the Wicca-stuff when I needed it, you’re lucky to have her for a friend B.”
Beth leaned forward and looked Faith straight in the eye, “Faith, how bad was it in Sunnydale with me gone? Angel said it was bad, but he clammed up about it.”
Faith looked around, anywhere but at Beth before she exhaled loudly and looked at her. “It was real bad, there was a curfew from sundown to sunrise. Vamp’s roamed the streets at will during the night, and demons were constantly moving in. When I started helping them they were in pretty bad shape. They were doing their best, but there were too many vamps. Red & Tara were able to hold their own mostly, especially Red, she got real powerful and she was casting more powerful spells almost every night.”
“Oh,” Beth replied softly and clamped down on her feelings of guilt for failing her friends.
Faith heard Beth’s reply, but she saw the look on her face before Beth’s face turned into an emotionless mask. Scooting over Faith put her hand on B’s. “B…Beth, it wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have done anything even if you knew” Faith felt Beth’s hand clench.
“But I should have….”
“NO. You couldn’t have done anything B. You’re gonna have to let it go, I know what’ll happen if you don’t. You’ll end up angry at the world and blaming it for everything, you’ll be just like I was. Don’t do that. Please.” Beth’s hand relaxed under hers. Faith suddenly realized she had moved very close to B while she was talking to her, but B didn’t seem to mind.
Suddenly Beth’s beeper went off, grabbing it she moved it up to read the message, *RTBRFD* (Return To Base, Ready For Deployment) “Faith, something’s up with my unit I have to go. Can we talk later?”
“Yeah, I’d like that too B,” With one last look at Faith Beth turned and made her way back into the elevator.
Beth hopped out of the humvee and grabbed her duffel, looking around she could see the base was a beehive of activity with men and vehicles. Beth started walking towards her barracks and saw the lights on inside as she got to the screen door.
Opening it she stepped in and saw most of the platoon inside, “Hey Summers, glad you could make it to the party,” Ramirez called out to her. Looking for the voice, she saw Ramirez lying down on his bunk, “Thanks” she answered sarcastically, “its just where I want to be.”
A hand touched her left should her and she turned and saw Taylor, “Hey you,” Beth noticed the soapsuds in Taylor’s hair. “They catch you in the shower again?” She couldn't help but grin at the otherwise normally neat appearance he kept. In the few years she'd known him he'd only been less then perfect a few times.
“Very funny. The base is on full alert, scuttlebutt is that we're due to move out in 24 hrs. The whole battalion,” Taylor said with a serious look on his face.
The smile dropped from Beth's face as she realized what he meant, they were going to France. “Alright. I'll catch up with you then. I'm going to get my gear ready.”
“No need, it's already done. The company's got a briefing to go to in the mess hall.”
They arrived at the mess hall, which was now mostly filled and grabbed two seats towards the back and sat down. The mood in the room was somber, the usual loud chatter and joking was absent.
Suddenly the loud voice of the Battalion First Sergeant crashed thru the room “COMP’NY ATTENTION!!” Everyone in the room jumped to attention as the battalion XO, Major Stewart and his staff walked into the mess hall. “At ease,” said Stewart.
“Men, the battalion has gone on full alert for deployal. We will be leaving Camp Lejeune in the next 60 minutes for berthing on the troop ships “Rodger Young”, “Valley Forge” and the “Guadalcanal” to join the task force Tango Chaser, anything left behind will ‘STAY’ behind and we are not leaving a single bullet, artillery shell or spark plug behind. Do I make myself clear?”
“YES SIR” the reply echoed from the entire company.
“Good. You'll receive more intell on the battalions’ orders shortly after we leave dock. Dismissed.” Major Stewart and his staff exited the room.
The First Sergeant called out, “You heard the Major, you have 20 minutes to gather your gear, grab your socks and get your asses to the parade ground for transport. DISMISSED.”
2 weeks later…
Tara walked past Will's computer drying her hair from the shower when she heard it beep twice. Stopping she turned and saw a news page displayed on the monitor. “Wills honey! You're computer just beeped me.” Tara called out to the bedroom.
“Did it? It must be one of the bots I have running on it,” said Willow as she walked out of the bedroom. She was dressed in grey sweat pants and a tee-shirt. “Let me take a look.”
Willow picked up the water bottle next to the computer, sat down and started reading the screen. The bottle fell from Willow's hand as she read the news screen her bot had picked up. “Tara!! Forget class,” Willow yelled out as she hit the Print button. Moving to the closet she pulled out a green jacket and shoved her feet in her shoes.
“Will, what's wrong???” Tara asked worriedly.
“Everything, I’ll explain on the way.”
20 minutes later....
Willow arrived at the Summers house with Tara and Xander & Anya in tow. Knocking on the door hard for several minutes she heard someone opening the locks and the door opened to reveal a sleepy looking Mrs. Summers dressed in a dark blue, terrycloth robe. “Will…”
“Mrs. Summers, we need to come in,” Willow stated icily, “now.”
“Willow, it's 7:30 in the morning. Cant this wait?”
“No it can't,” as she pushed the door open and walked into the house. Turning, she faced Joyce, “When were you going to mention that Beth is in the infantry and that she's in France?” Willow said angrily. “When they brought her home in a bodybag?!?”
The rest of the Scoobs had walked into the house, Tara came up behind her lover and put her hands gently on Willow’s shoulders, “Will, hon. Calm down, maybe she didn't know.”
Turning her head, Willow looked at Tara, “Yes she did. Beth would have told her about something like that. Isn’t that right ‘Joyce’.” Willow spit the name out angrily.
“Yes I knew, but I didn’t want to worry anyone else. Dawn doesn’t even know.”
“Yes she does,” came Dawn’s voice from the top of the stairs. Dressed in her pajamas and a robe she walked down towards Willow and her mom. “I asked Beth about it and she told me she was going to France. She knew she was going Mom.”
Silence had descended over the group until Xander finally spoke up, “How’d you know she was in France Will?”
“I had several bots running to pick up anything about the war and Beth. One of them found something this morning.” Pulling a folded piece of paper out of her pocket she handed it to Xander who opened it up and started reading the article aloud.
“Today elements of the 13th Mobile Expeditionary Unit landed in Bordeaux, France and disembarked to reinforce the 94th Combat Engineer Battalion (Heavy) and the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) that are presently about 50 kilometers south of Bordeaux. One of the first women Marines assigned to a combat unit was seen disembarking with the rest of her unit here as well, Lance Corporal Elizabeth Summers, a member of the 2nd Battalion, C Company. (See right photo). According to sources in the Pentagon…” Xander trailed off.
“I knew you had a lot on your minds and I didn’t want to worry you, is that a crime?” Joyce asked.
“No, but when were you going to tell us? We have right to know, she’s like family to us.”
Later that week…
August 28, 2003
Mom, Giles & Dawn,
Hi, I know that my other letters didn’t reach you but hopefully these will. By the time you’re reading this I’m going to be somewhere off the French coast and by tomorrow I’ll be in France. Most of the scuttlebutt is that things have been pretty quiet where we are going, since it seems the fighting has moved XXXXX of us at XXXXXXXXX. While we were aboard the USS XXXXXXX XXXXX, they kept us pretty busy with drills and training during the crossing so there hasn’t been much time to think about anything. I guess that’s the idea though.
Well I have to go, it’s lights out now. Tell Dawn I love her and I miss her. I love you and Giles and I’ll be thinking of you while I’m here. Talk to you later.
75 kilometers east of Bordeaux, France…
Gripping her rifle tighter Beth let her eyes scan the countryside for the slightest movement when she saw the point man signal and her squad started to spread out when suddenly she heard the high-pitched whistle of incoming artillery shells.
“INCOMING!!!!!!!!!” she heard someone yell out and everyone dove sideways away from the dirt road they had been walking on. Beth heard three loud explosions and the shockwave throw her forward. She could hear several people crying out “Medic!” as well as bullets flying around her.
Beth knew she was going to die, right here. She didn't think it, she just knew. When she felt a hand grab her shoulder, “Beth! Come on. We've got to move,” she heard Taylor's voice and knew he was right but her body wouldn't listen to her. All the training for this couldn't prepare her for the reality of combat, and she froze.
Grabbing her arm roughly, “Beth, look at me,” Taylor saw Beth turn her head to look at him. “You have to move. We stay here we die. Now move your ass Marine, NOW!!”
Taylor saw the overwhelming fear leave Beth's face, replaced by determination as she started to move forward on her belly, keeping low just as she was trained. Taylor knew that most green soldiers always reacted this way, he thought, and started after Beth.
Beth crawled towards a rocky outcropping about 10 meters ahead, stopping to cover her head as the arty continued to pound countryside all around her. Pulling up behind the rocks she turned to see Taylor crawling on over as well, “Glad you could make it,” she quipped, the initial fear she had felt had subsided now.
The shells tore up the ground behind them, “We gotta get that spotter Beth, the platoon's getting ripped to shreds.”
Beth took off her helmet and moved sideways to peek her head out and look ahead as she tried to stay flat to the ground as possible. As she poked her head out she saw a 3-man UE recon team about 15 meters away, and pulled her head back behind the rocks. “There’s a 3-man team of huey’s about 15 meters ahead to the right of the top of rise in the road.”
Moving right next to Beth, “Okay. This is what we're gonna do. You're gonna move back about 5 meters, I'm gonna draw their fire and you're gonna haul your ass across the field and into the forest. That'll put you on the same side of the road as them.”
Beth nodded as she listened.
“You have to get thru the forest and swing behind them. I'll get whoever I can and in exactly 3 minutes we'll attack them from the front, while they're occupied sneak up and hit them from behind. We clear Summers?”
“Yes. You hold them by the nose, and I'll kick them in the ass.” Beth looked at Taylor before she moved back, “Watch your ass,” she mouthed to Taylor and moved back into the field where the artillery was dropping.
Beth felt the ground shudder with each of the hammerblows from the artillery shells, when she saw Taylor toss a grenade and fire on the 3 UE soldiers. Jumping up, Beth ran across the field towards the forest across the road. Rocks and dirt pelted her from the artillery, but she couldn't fail, she had to get across too many people were relying on her.
What seemed like an eternity ended as she ran into the forest, her ears rang and she felt blood dripping down her face from her forehead. Moving through the trees, Beth used every ounce of skills she had learned during her training and as a Slayer to keep quiet and move as quickly as possible behind the UE soldiers, which she could just make out through the smoke.
As she moved towards the edge of the forest she moved behind a large oak and leaned her head out to take a look She could see she was further down from them then she intended, she was about 20 meters away. Beth heard gunfire from beyond the rise as the UE soldiers started firing back at someone. Beth jumped out and started running towards the enemy soldiers .
Beth was almost to the rise when one of the UE soldiers turned and saw her. Beth held the trigger down and felt the rifle jerk as it fired, the spray of bullets riddled the soldier almost cutting him in half.
She saw Taylor and one other Marine come over the top and one of the UE soldiers shot the Marine killing him. Taylor was fighting with the other soldier, hand to hand, as the last UE soldier turned to shoot him in the back.
Beth fired at the UE soldier, but missed. But her bullets had distracted him and he turned to face her and pulled the trigger. She heard the CLICK, CLICK from the firing pin as the rifle misfired; dropping the rifle, he pulled out a wicked looking combat knife.
Taking a step back Beth dropped her own rifle, which was empty, and slid her combat knife out as she moved into a knife fighter’s crouch. Beth dodged several fast attacks by the huey, who also parried her attacks as well.
Beth brought her right arm up to block a kick, when too late she realized it was a feint and felt his knife cut a long slash down her left arm. White-hot pain lanced her arm and she dropped her knife, stumbling back several steps. Beth felt the blood flowing down her arm as she saw the soldier grin evilly at her and started to close with her. Adrenalin flooded her system, causing the pain in her arm to fade. Beth looked into the huey’s eyes and smiled as she felt something long forgotten return. Beth easily side-stepped the knife blade as he lunged towards her, grabbing the arm she slammed it against her leg twice and knife fell to the ground. She threw several lightning fast punches into his stomach and chest, the last blow she felt something crack under her fist.
Beth heard the huey scream and grab his chest, jumping up Beth landed a spinning kick on his head throwing the huey backwards and onto the ground. She took several steps towards the huey and stopped as she saw him struggle back to his feet, facing her. Seeing he was beaten, “Reddition maintenant! Vous vous etes battus n’avez aucune chance!” **Surrender now! You’re beaten. You have no chance!** Beth wanted him alive, there was no need to kill him now, it was over.
“Reddition a vous?!?” The UE soldier yelled, “Jamais. Matrice chienne!!!” **Surrender to you? Never. Die bitch!**
Beth saw the soldiers’ left hand reach down to grab his sidearm, darting forward she closed with him just as his hand came up with the pistol. Her training kicked in and with a sharp twist to the right with her left hand she heard several bones from his wrist snap, as her other fist lashed out and crushed his throat. She stepped back from him as the huey grabbed his throat unable to breathe and fell to the ground at her feet, seconds later he had stopped moving and was dead.
Beth thought as she looked at the dead soldier lying at her feet.
Taylor turned in time to see the blow to the UE soldiers throat and the look of utter horror pass over Beth's face before she had covered it up with a look of indifference moments later.
He could see blood dripping down from a large gash on her forehead and her left arm, but he couldn’t see any other injuries. Seeing Beth was all right Taylor turned his attention to getting the platoon or what was left of it organized.
“Black, Shintaro. Start searching, see who's alive or dead. If they can walk send'em over here. And find Deakins, he had the radio. Go!” Turning back towards Beth, “Summers, check these bodies for any ID, unit patches, maps, anything we can use for intel. I want to know who the hell that just jumped us and where they are.”
As he turned to walk down the hill he heard Beth, “I'm on it,” he could see Shintaro and Black, and at the bottom of the hill were several more marines, all of them were wounded.
Beth looked down at her feet to the soldier she had just… she had… This was someone’s husband, a father to a little kid. For a moment she was back in the library leaning over Kendra's body, closing her eyes for a moment Beth forced the image out of her mind and starting searching the three soldiers for maps, ID and anything else that might be of use.
It took about 20 minutes, but he had the final tally for the platoon. Shintaro had found the radio and what was left of Deakins, fortunately he had taken the brunt of the blast and the radio was left intact.
“Corp, here's what I managed to pull of the 3 huey's,” her voice was dull and monotone. Her face was as blank and devoid of any emotion as her voice.
Taylor looked up when he heard Beth's voice and saw the expressionless look on her face. Taking the papers she handed him, "Good work Summers. Go have the medic patch those wounds up.” “I'm fine Sir.” Taylor reached out, touching her arm that she had been cradling. She flinched and he didn't like pulling rank on Beth, but she had to get those wounds looked at. The blank expression he saw in her eyes scared him, but he'd have to talk to her later.
Beth turned from Taylor and headed towards the medic, all it had taken was him touching her arm for the shock to wear off. She cradled her left arm against her, the throbbing pain from the slash down the back of her arm from the soldier's knife when they were fighting. Her head was pounding and blood was running off her chin but she didn't notice. She could still see that UE soldiers eyes staring at her and hear the screams of her fellow squad members.
Beth was jerked back to reality when the medic touched her arm and pain shot up her arm from the contact. "Summers, sit down. That arm's gonna need stitches."
Sitting down Beth looked around her and saw the makeshift triage that had been setup for the wounded.
“I have to stitch that arm up, but I can't spare any local anesthetic for it. You gonna be okay?” he asked.
Looking at him Beth nodded, “Yeah, I'll be okay. I've had stitches before.” Beth felt the needle pierce the skin on her arm as the medic started the stitches. Wondering how many times she'd done this before, she focused her mind on something else and pushed the pain to the back of her mind.
As Beth sat ignore the pain radiating from her arm, she wondered if this was what Faith felt after she killed Finch that night. She felt almost dead inside. Like nothing was worth having to kill others, even if they were trying to kill you. Demons had deserved it, but that soldier was just a person.
Would this ache inside of her every go away? She didn’t think it would. “All done,” she heard the medic say and she looked over at her arm and saw that the gash was bandaged and covered with gauze and she felt a bandage on her forehead as well as she touched it with her good hand.
“Yeah, while you were out of it, I put some stitches on that one on your forehead. Just find someone and stay awake after we get back to base for 12 hours, then go see the doc. If he gives you the okay you can catch some sleep. Ok? Here's 2 aspirin, it won't kill the pain, but it will dull the throbbing some though.”
Beth held her hand out and the medic dropped the aspirin in her hand and walked away to check on his patients.
“Corp, I’ve got Base on the radio” Black said as he handed the headset to Corporal Taylor.
Taylor spoke into the radio headset, “India One-Two, this is Bravo Five-Six, over.”
“Bravo Five-Six, this is India One-Two. Where is Five-Actual?”
“Five-Actual is Kilo India Alpha, One-Two.”
“Give me your sitrep Five-Six.”
“Bravo was caught in an ambush by advance force. We need immediate helicopter pickup and evac. We have 10 Whiskey India Alpha's and 8 Kilo India Alpha's. Over.”
“Roger Five-Six, we have helo evac inbound to your position. ETA is 25 mikes. Over.”
“India One-Two, Bravo Five-Six copies. Over.” Taylor ended the call and handed the headset to Shintaro.
“Black. Take what's left of your fire team and all the claymores. Setup a perimeter on the other side of that hill and mine it with everything we have. If they have backup coming I want a little surprise for them when they arrive…”
“Got it.” Black and 2 marines moved off from the rest towards the hill and out of sight.
Taylor kept an eye on Beth during the return trip back to base; she seemed to withdraw further into herself. Her replies to her fellow squad members weren't more then mumbles.
Tired, Taylor ran his hand thru his hair as he exited the building where he had been telling the Major and some spooks what happened to the platoon for the last 2 hours, over and over again. He started looking for Beth.
Beth stood outside of the base camp near some trees.
Beth heard footsteps behind her, turning she saw Taylor walking towards her. Beth turned back away from him quickly drying her eyes, she heard Taylor stop behind her. “Hey Beth,” she heard the concern in his voice.
“Hi yourself. How'd the debriefing go?” Beth replied with her back still facing him.
“Not bad, pretty much what I expected considering. How are you doing?”
“Fine. We're alive and they're dead. Not much more to say,” Beth replied.
“Beth, don't lie to me. I saw your face when you killed that huey, it’s a look I've seen before and you need to deal. Shutting me and everyone else out doesn’t make it easier.”
Turning to face Taylor Beth stepped in close, “You don't know what you're talking about, go bother someone who cares right now, ‘cause I don't.” Anger colored her voice.
“And that would be the problem Summers, you keep up this ‘I don't care’ attitude you're gonna get yourself and someone else killed. So right now you have two choices; deal with this and move on or let this eat you up and get yourself killed.”
Taylor took a step backwards and folded his arms, “You think you're the only person who regrets killing Summers? No-one ‘likes’ killing. But for us it's a fact of life, it's what we do as Marines.”
She looked at him, her eyes turning icy. “I'm not like ‘others’ Taylor. I’ve fought all my life against demons and vampires to ‘save’ lives, not take them. So don't tell me about no-one ‘liking’ to kill.”
Taylor strode forward grabbing her shoulders, "Damnit Summers! Snap out of it, you're not the Slayer anymore!! You're a Marine now. Our job is to kill the enemy before they kill us, period."
“Beth,” he said in a softer voice, “you're one of the strongest people I know, you don't let something stop you when you've set your mind to it. Don't let this destroy you, talk to the me, the Chaplain or write it down if that helps. But you can't bottle it up, okay?”
Beth felt the anger drain away as she listened to Taylor, "It's not easy, I never understood. Not really." Turning she watched the sun as it slowly sank.
“It never is and it shouldn't, that's what keeps us from becoming monsters.”
“It doesn't feel like enough.”
“That's cause it's not, but it gets us through each day and that’s' all that matters. Try to get some rest Beth.”
Willow walked into their dorm room and over to her laptop where she saw a letter sitting on the keyboard. Picking it up she saw it was addressed to her, but it was the return address that caught her attention. Quickly she opened the letter and started reading it.
September 15, 2003
How are you & Tara? I know we didn't get to talk too much when I was there. We're not who we used to be, or at least not as I remember you, and honestly it scared me. So many things have changed for both of us, especially now. Right now I need my best friend Wills. Since I've gotten to France 3 weeks ago things have...god this is so hard Will. I think I finally understand how Faith felt and why she went into denial about it.
I always knew what being a Marine meant, the training and what we can be called on to do. But its' not the same, everything changes when you see the person, hear his breathing and look into his eyes and see the light go out of them. You cross a line....and you can't go back, you can't forget it. Everything changes. Its strange I remember in English class when we learned about Shakespeare’s stories, there was this one with Lady Macbeth where she kept saying “out, out damn spot” after she killed that king. I remember thinking how stupid that was, now I understand what she meant.
I wish...I don't think it'll ever get easier, but Taylor's been there for me. Teasing, listening and kicking me in the butt when I get like this. In a lot of ways he's the older brother I never had.
You were right about me having to see Faith though, we actually talked once. We didn't settle anything, its funny though, Angel told me I was in love with Faith! Can you believe that? Like she'd even look at me twice.
Thanks for listening to me ramble on Will, it felt good to get some of this off my chest.
Take care of Tara and I'll try to write you later,
1 Week later….
Willow entered the restaurant just after 3:00 in the afternoon. Spotting Faith she bit back a sigh. She hated doing this. Especially when she didn't know what state Faith was in after Beth’s visit and Angel was short on details about what did happen. All of which meant she had to feel Faith out before she told her about Beth. Putting on a cheerful smile, Willow walked over to where she had seen Faith sitting. “Faith, hi.”
"Hey Red, what brings you to sunny LA?" Faith asked.
Sitting down at the table across from Faith, “Dropping something off to Gunn that he asked for, figured I’d say hi. Hi.” Willow said while trying to gauge Faith's mood.
“Let's be serious Red, in 3 years you've never ‘just’ dropped by. So what's up?” Faith replied.
Willow took a large sip of water before answering, “How'd it go with Beth?” she finally blurted out knowing Faith was right.
Leaning back in her chair, “Well I'm alive and that's a bonus,” Faith smiled. Seeing the serious look on Red’s face, “She yelled at me, I yelled at her. Its not like she was gonna forgive me and that's that. Why are you so curious anyway?” Faith kept her voice normal, but her insides were a knot for some reason. The look on Willow's face told her everything.
Sighing to herself, “Faith, Beth was called away because her unit was being sent to France.”
“What?!? When did you find out?”
“I found out 4 weeks ago.”
“Why'd you wait so long to tell me Red?” Faith asked with a hint of irritation in her voice.
“I wasn’t sure Faith, I know how you feel about Beth. But I didn’t know how things went when she came up here and Angel wasn't saying anything about it either.”
“That's our Angel,” Faith smiled. “It wasn't that bad Red, we did fight. But it was stuff we had to clear up some, and we talked later too.” A bigger smile crossed Faith's face when she remembered how Beth had come to her apartment.
“So things went well?”
“I just got a letter from her yesterday...” Willow trailed off not sure how or if she should say anything else.
“And?” Faith leaned closer to Willow, “Red, what's going on?”
Willow saw the concern in Faith's brown eyes over Beth and that made her decision easier. Pulling out the letter from her coat pocket she handed it to Faith. “You should read this at home Faith. It's the letter Beth wrote me.”
Taking the letter from Willow, “Are you sure you want me to read this?” Faith asked.
“Yeah, but she's...you'll understand when you read it. I just wanted to tell you what's going on.” Standing up Willow stepped out from behind the table, “I promise I’ll let you know anything else I find out. You have my cell number, so call me if you need me okay?”
Faith walked into her apartment and tossed her leather jacket over the telephone as she passed it heading towards the couch. Pulling the letter out of her pocket she looked at the envelope before pulling out the folder letter inside. Sitting down on the couch she opened the letter and started reading…“Wills, How are you and Tara?…gotten to France 3 weeks ago..” when her eyes landed on the last sentence, “I think I finally understand how Faith felt and why…”, Faith felt her blood run cold as she read that sentence. and continued reading the letter.
“….look into his eyes and see the light go out of them. You cross a line....and you can't go back, you can't forget it.” Faith felt the tears burn her eyes and fall down her cheeks as she understood what had happened to Beth in France. Crumpling the letter in her hand, “Why!!!” Faith yelled out as she jumped up, looking towards the heavens, “WHY HER?!? She doesn’t deserve to live with that!!!” Faith raged out loud. “I’m the evil one, I’m supposed to suffer. All she’s ever done is save the world for ungrateful slime over and over again.”
Falling to her knees in frustration at the silence, she understood the pain Beth was in and all she wanted to do was to hold Beth closely and tell her it would be all right. The nightmares would go away and she’d stop being haunted by the dead, but the truth was it ‘never’ went away.
[Author's notes: Pairing – Beth/Faith (well it will be at least! [g]), Willow/Tara
Rating – PG13 for now, NC17/R later.
Spoilers – Not really, no. The story starts 3 years after what would have been Season 5 (The Freshman). So everything after the beginning ep of Season 5 never happened. Well mostly up to Season 5 everything stays the same.
Summary – This is an AU where Buffy is framed for the murder of Deputy Mayor Finch and ends up in the US Marines.
Author’s Note – Military time runs on a 24 hour clock from 00:01 to 23:59, so in order to translate military time to civilian time when you see a number greater than 12 in military time subtract 12 from it, i.e. – 13:15 – 12:00 = 1:15PM
1 Meter = 3 Feet
1 Kilometers = 0.621371 Miles
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can,
only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Joyce had been tossing and turning for the last several hours. Turning she looked over at Rupert to make sure he was asleep before getting out of bed. Slipping into a robe, Joyce walked out and down the hallway to Dawn's room and looked in to see Dawn sleeping peacefully, [ At least they can get some sleep.] Joyce thought as she walked back out of the room and closing the door before she headed downstairs to the living room. [ I know Rupert hasn't been sleeping well in the last few weeks. He's been so worried about Beth ever since she left for France.] Walking into the living room, Joyce sat down and turned the TV on and changed the channel to CNN. Part of her was hoping to see Beth, while another part was terrified to see her little girl there. She wasn't sure which would bother her more.
After she sat there for a while, she heard footsteps behind her and she felt Rupert's hands on her shoulders.
“Joyce, you can't stay down here. You need to sleep and you aren't doing yourself any good waiting to see something.” Rupert moved around to the front of the couch and sat down next to his wife.
“I can't, what if the news shows something? I'll miss it. I can't sleep anyway.”
Rupert could see the worry lines etched on Joyce's face from the strain she put on herself. He knew Joyce had been coming down here late at night to watch the news for the last week and the strain of it was starting to show.
“Joyce, please. Come back with me upstairs and rest. You read the letter from Beth, she's fine. What would she say if she were to see what you are doing to yourself?”
“She'd probably yell at me for worrying,” Joyce replied.
“Yes she would. You're nightly visits down here are worrying us all Joyce. Dawn especially, she needs you as much as you need Beth to be back here where she's safe.”
“I know. I'm not trying to ignore Dawn. But ever since I found out about Beth being in France, I remember seeing my mother pace and worry when Dad went to Vietnam. I just can't sleep Rupert...I'm so tired.” Joyce felt Rupert pull her close and hold her gently against his chest.
“I know Joyce, so am I.” He felt her slowly start to drift off as he whispered softly that that everything would be okay and not to worry. Picking Joyce up, Rupert carried her back to the bedroom and gently laid her down on the bed and pulled the sheets over her sleeping form. Kissing her gently on the forehead, “I love you Joyce Summers.”
Walking quietly out of the bedroom Rupert headed downstairs to his study. Once he was there he sat down at the desk and pulled out a metal lockbox from the bottom drawer. Unlocking it he opened the box and removed the only item inside, a small black address book.
Holding the small book in his hands, [I had promised myself I would never use this, that I would not ask them for help, there is always a price to pay for their assistance... I believed that nothing could ever make me willing to go to them for help, I was wrong.] Opening the address book, he turned several pages till he saw there on the page the words, Watcher Council Contacts written on the top. Flipping pages Giles searched for a name, someone who would help him without having to contact the Council directly, at least yet. [Carol. Yes, she might be able to help me.]
Picking up the phone Giles dialed the international operator and a minute later he heard the phone ring 3 times when a women's voice answered. “Watson residence.”
“Carol, it's Rupert Giles. How are you?”
“Ripper? Its good to hear from you!” The woman's voice became more warm and friendly, “We had heard that the Council in its infinite wisdom had bounced you. So what has you calling an old lady like me?”
“Actually I'm calling because I need some help Carol. I have a problem and I don’t want to involve the Council in this matter.”
Giles heard several seconds silence on the line, “What's wrong? Is it your Slayer, Miss Summers?” The humour and warmth in Carol’s voice was gone, replaced by a business attitude.
Outside Los Angeles, CA
Faith arrived at the Tick-Tock Diner several minutes early, [Always better to get a feel of the place, before the spooks show up,] and walked over to a table where she could see everyone who walked in and waited. 10 minutes later Faith saw a tall, dark-skinned man walk in to the diner and head over to her table.
“Miss Winters?” his deep baritone voice asked and pulled out a chair as she sat down in front of her. Pulling out an envelope he placed it on the table and slid it over to Miss Winters, “I have been asked to convey our satisfaction with your last operation. The intelligence ring you broke could have compromised national security and agents abroad.”
Faith took the envelope and slid it into an inner pocket in her jacket. [Working for the NSA does have some perks] she thought happily. [And I know that St. Agnes's Church needs a new gym, I guess Santa's coming early this year.] Faith suppressed the urge grin.
“We’ll be in touch thru normal channels.” Within a second he was gone.
[Damn NSA agents are better at disappearing than Angel.] she thought. Faith noticed some patrons of the restaurant looking in her direction and quickly dropped a few bills on the table before making her way out and to her bike. Once on her bike she headed towards her apartment and Faith felt her anger starting to return. No matter how long or how many missions she did for the NSA she still felt helpless about Beth.
Faith pulled out into the street and felt the rush of the wind as she gunned the engine flying down the highway as she headed back towards her apartment. [It's been over 3 weeks since Red dropped by and told me about Beth, damnit!] Faith felt a rush of anger over her frustration, none of her contacts in the NSA or even Angels’ demon contacts could scrounge up the tiniest bit of info on Beth's whereabouts or if she was okay. [Why the brick wall? What else is going on here?] Faith thought, suddenly wondering if this wasn't a coincidence.
Faith slowed the bike as she neared her building, [Fuck it. Nothing matters but getting Beth back safe. I'll deal with anything else later,] she thought when she realized there was one person she hadn't spoken to yet. [Damnit, I hate singing! Slayer's don't sing, well at least I don't.]
Firebase Bravo 112
75 kilometers east of Bordeaux, France
15:15 hours local time, October 16
Taylor, Beth and the rest of the platoon walked into the large briefing room. Scattering about they sat down with the rest of Charlie company.
At the front of the room were several covered charts, the company commander, Capt. Daniels and Gunny O'Shea. "Gunny, lets get this on the road," said Daniels.
“Taylor! Shut the door. Everyone else put a lid on it, the captain's here to brief you meatheads, not stand here looking at you.” Gunny O’Shea said in a loud and commanding voice.
Once the door was closed and Taylor was seated, Daniels pulled the cover off the first chart revealing a map of Pyrenees region of France and several cities. “The 2nd MarDiv is going to launch an assault from Gironde and strike into the Midi-Pyrenees. Their job is to take Gers, and the bases at Montauban, Cahors, Rodez and Aurillac. HQ has code named this operation, Thuderbolt.”
“We won't be in the main assault however, the 13th along with 1 battalion from the Army’s 7th Light Cav and the 82nd Airborne….” At the mention of those Army units Captain Daniels heard a loud series of groans from the Company. “That’s right boys and girls, this is a ‘combined’ force assault. We ‘will’ be working with in concert with the Army on this. You don’t have to like it!”
“Aww Cap! Are you kidding? We’re supposed to work with them after they left us high and dry on the beaches?” Corporal Simpson complained out-loud.
Before Simpson could say anything further Gunny O’Shea appeared out of nowhere next to him. “Stow that shit Corporal! You ‘will’ follow orders and you ‘will’ like it or I will personally see to it that you will find your sorry little ass in the stockade for the next 200 years!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME??!!?” Gunny O’Shea yelled in Simpson’s face and Simpson wilted under the Gunny’s threat.
Captain Daniels continued as if there had been no interruption, “We'll be going in behind UE lines and hit their supply depots and commo & command bunkers. Our job is to cause as much destruction and chaos in their rear areas as possible. And considering the chaos you've managed back here,” Daniels smiled, “that should be easy.” Some of the tension left the room eased by his humour. “We will not have any artillery or air support during our phase of this operation. All air & artillery have been have had control transferred to the Army’s I Corps who are launching a diversionary assault with the 1st Batt/69th Armour and the 7th Light Infantry near Tours.” And Daniels pointed to the Northern section of France where Tours was located. “ Ninety minutes after the diversionary attack at 01:30 hours we'll be choppered in behind Cahors, command has decided that Charlie, Baker and Alpha companies will be broken down into platoons when we're inserted. Better chance at making it in and out that way. You'll have 6 hours to do all the damage you can before heading to your rendezvous point for pickup. Anyone not there will have a long walk home. You'll receive the rendezvous points for the insertion and retrieval when you lift off. This operation commences in 12 hours, I expect to see all of you here after the operation. Good luck.” Daniels walked out of the silent room.
O’Shea’s voice rang out, “Get you're gear together, you'll be given double your basic ammo load for this op. Platoon commanders and sergeants stay behind. Everyone else, dismissed.”
Beth headed back to the barracks, at her bunk she pulled out some paper & a pen and started writing;
Dear Mom, October 16,2003
Sorry I haven't written in awhile things have been hectic to say the least. I know your worrying about me and I'll tell you again that you shouldn't. Yes it's dangorous here but I've got a great team to back me up. Taylor's been great at watching my back and I've even managed to save him a few times.
I wanted to let you know that I might not be writing for a few weeks. We are headed to a pretty tight spot and I won't have much time. I just wanted to let you know this so you won't worry from not getting letters.
Give my love to Dawn, tell Giles to relax and stop being so British and let Xand and Will know I'm okay and will be writing as soon as possible.
Elizabeth Summers, LCpl. USMC
Somewhere SE of Brive-la-Gaillard
05:30 hours local time
Beth shifted the Alice Field Pack on her back, it was a good deal lighter now. They had destroyed 2 supply depots, a fuel dump, and a brigade level commo unit in the last four hours, [Well things are going good so far, lets just keep our fingers crossed no patrols.] Beth thought as she walked over to Taylor. “Taylor, what's next?” she spoke softly.
“Not sure, think we're headed towards a triple C (Command, Communications, & Control) base about 10 kilometers north, after that we head back to the extraction LZ. Just stay on your toes.” Taylor whispered back.
The platoon stopped just below a steep rise in the road and gathered around the new Lieutenant, Jason Means.
“Okay, here's what I want. Just over that rise the road goes down into a small valley. On either side of the road is forest and on the other side of this valley intel says is a triple C site for this sector. Black, take your squad down and scout out the road for any surprises. If it’s clear, signal me and I'll follow with the 2nd squad. Taylor, you stay back at the top. If there is a trap, you'll be responsible for making a hole for us to pull back. Clear?” When he saw the three squad leader's nod, “Good. Let's go.”
Black took his squad over the rise and down the road, they spread out as they got to the bottom and moved into the valley. Several minutes passed when one of the squad re-appeared and signaled ‘All Clear’. Taylor watched as the LT took his squad down the hill and straight down the road towards the forest. [Idiot! What’s he doing? Why are they bunched up?]
The LT signaled Taylor to come down when he was ¾ of the way down the hill, “Alright, spread out. Ramirez, I want you and Shintaro on the flanks. The rest of you keep your eyes peeled, this is too easy.” As those last words left his mouth gunfire erupted from the forest cutting down Lt. Means and two other Marines.
The rest of the Marines dropped down looking for any cover in the open ground. Taylor quickly saw the heaviest fire was coming from left side of the road by a fallen oak. “Shintaro, Little get the MG up and start giving me some cover fire on that fallen oak!” Several other Marines started firing towards the oak as well and the enemy fire there started to slack off.
Beth crawled up to Taylor, “Are we having fun yet?” she quipped sarcastically.
“I have had better,” as he fired off several rounds where he saw a huey. “Now go get your butt over…” when an explosion came from behind them. Turning Taylor saw a group of about 10 huey’s charging from behind them at the top of the hill. “Summers, grab Ramirez, Shintaro and Little,” Taylor fired three rounds hitting one huey and dropping him, “and move over to that ridge on the right. See if you can swing over it and hit them from the side. We’ll hold them here.”
“K,” Beth replied as she fired two quick bursts killing 2 huey’s and started to crawl over as bullets flew above her from two directions. She got to Ramirez first, “Ram, you’re with me. Have you seen Little? He’s got the SAW.”
“He’s dead.” Ramirez replied as he moved back, staying low. “Grenade got him and trashed the SAW.”
“Shit. Well then it’s just you and me then. Let’s go.”
The two moved up the hill and over the top of the ridge and down several feet on the opposite side. “Ram, this is what we’re gonna do. Taylor’s holding the huey’s that hit us from behind. We’re gonna return the favour and hit them from behind catching them between us and open a way out so Taylor can get the platoon the hell out of there.” The two moved around the back of the ridge, the sounds of continuous gunfire carrying over the hill as they moved towards the road.
Beth used hand signals to tell Ramirez to stay here as she moved forward. Moving quickly she stayed low as she moved to a position where she could see the road. [Good, the roads clear. The didn’t leave anyone behind.] Pulling back Beth got to Ram, “Okay, its clear. When we get to the top, split left, I’ll go right. Kill anything that moves fast and hard. We have to punch a hole fast and get them out of there.” She saw him nod and they set off towards the road, they moved up just below the crest of the hill, Beth looked at Ram and gave him the thumbs up.
The 2 charged over the ridge, as Beth crossed over the top saw a huey officer stare at her in horror. She fired a short burst killing him. Running she dropped behind a broken tree stump and pulled a grenade and the pin, “one potato, two potato, three..” and she tossed it at 2 huey’s to her right and dropped down. She heard a WARRUMPH! as the grenade exploded, peeking out she saw the huey’s were dead.
“Taylor! NOW!” Beth yelled, as she did something caught her eye on her left, as she turned her head Beth saw a huey pop out and fire at her. Beth heard the supersonic CRACK as bullets flew by her head. Dropping down to her stomach, Beth started to move behind a tree stump when she felt a white-hot poker along her arm. “AHHHH!” Beth yelled out in pain, once she was down she looked and saw a bullet had hit her in the arm. [Ahh, shit that hurts. Ugghh! It doesn’t look like it hit a bone.] Turning her head back towards the road Beth saw Taylor and several others from the platoon charging up the hill where she and Ram had opened up a hole for them to get out.
Grabbing her rifle with her good hand and slung it over her shoulder and forced herself to sit up, trying to ignore the pain. [Ok, on 3 we’re gonna get up and run the hell out of here. Okay. Three!] Stumbling to her feet, Beth felt the pain shoot up her arm as she moved it dashing up the hill towards Taylor and the others who had taken positions on the top of the hill firing back at the huey’s. Passing Taylor she slowed down on the other side of the hill and stumbled over O'Shea. “Shit. Simpson!” She turned away suddenly stumbling back from what was left of the Corporal. The right side of his head and face had been blown off.
Beth felt a hand grab her from behind and saw that it was Ramirez. “They're cutting us down like wheat out here,” said Ramirez. He noticed the amount of blood coming from her arm. “How bad?”
“I've had worse. Fuckin' huey took out Simpson.”
Moving back from the hilltop, Taylor jogged over to Beth, “Summers, get everyone back here moving towards the LZ.” He looked over the remaining marines of the platoon, “Ramirez, Bryans, Donnell, you’re with me. We’re gonna keep them a little busy. O’Brien take the claymores & frags and mine this back side of the ridge along the road. I want a surprise left for anyone following us. You’ve got 5 minutes to do it. Go.”
Beth got the remaining seven injured Marines moving quickly as possible, [The LZ’s about 10 klicks from here, we can make it. But that damn chopper better be there.] Taking a quick glance, Beth turned and looked for Taylor, seeing him she turned back towards the Marines ahead of her.
Fifteen minutes later, Taylor and the other Marines caught up with Beth and her group. “We’re about 20 minutes from the LZ Beth,” he said to her from behind when he noticed the blood dripping down her hand.
Beth turned to look at Taylor, “Glad you’re back. I’m not sure if some of them can keep this pace up though.”
“How bad is it?” he asked as he saw the pale pallor of her face.
“It passed thru my arm, didn’t hit anything. Sanderson patched it up best he could. It’ll have to wait till we get back to base though. I’ll be ok though.” Beth turned to hide a grimace of pain from Taylor as she shifted her arm.
Taylor saw her face before she could turn however and knew she was lying, “Okay. You and Ramirez take rear-guard. I’ll see about moving things up. We may have to start ditching anything we don’t need. Watch yourself Beth.” And he jogged forward to the front of the line.
Beth and Ramirez stayed behind on guard as Taylor and the rest of the platoon headed into the LZ. Suddenly they heard gunfire from the LZ, “Shit! What the hell?” she heard Ramirez say.
Beth took off at a run towards the LZ and Taylor, as she got closer she heard gunfire stop, slowing down she moved behind some trees for cover.
Seconds later Ramirez crawled up beside her. “Trouble up at LZ. We've got to get cover.”
“Cover? We can’t leave the rest of the unit.” Ducking her head from behind the tree she saw Taylor throw down his weapon followed by the other unit members. The chopper was a burning wreck and Taylor and the platoon were surrounded by at least a company huey’s.
One huey came up beside Shintaro smashing the butt of his rifle into his ribs, bringing him to his knees.
Ducking back behind the tree. “Shit! There's about a 100 or so that I see.”
“It's no good Summers. We've got to get out of here.” Ramirez saw a stubborn look of refusal on Beth’s face. “No buts, we get captured we don’t help anyone.” Ramirez moved away silently, heading back down the trail they came.
Taking one last look back Beth looked for Taylor, but couldn’t see him. Turning she started after Ramirez.
Beth started scribbling on the paper she had scrounged up in the abandoned bunker that she had found this morning.
I’m writing this in the few spare minutes I have in a bunker we found last night. We've been on the run for 2 days straight, ever since we were caught outside Aurillac in an ambush. I’m not sure where Ramirez and I are right now.
If I didn't know better I'd say they were waiting for us. I haven't seen Taylor since we managed to pull back, I don't know if any others managed to get away. I just know Ramirez and I have to keep moving south, but we can't keep this pace up. I'm so tired, maybe we'll lose them. I hope so.”
War is… war is indescribable Faith. It rips away at you, tearing your insides till you can't feel anything. War is sweat and blood and though you've shed some blood, it is the blood of those you went to school with, your friends and comrades, those you were too slow to protect that is shed.
The sun's gone down and we have to move out. We'll have a better chance at night to avoid being captured. We might be able to get back, but I'm not sure.
Take care of yourself and tell Mom & Dawn I love them.
Elizabeth Summers, LCpl. USMC
1 Week Later…
Joyce was standing in the kitchen when she heard the car pull up in her driveway and when the doorbell rang a few moments later. As she walked towards the door a chill run down her back. Opening the door she was greeted to the sight of two officers from the Marines, “No!” she whispered.
The officer on her left grasped her arm and held her from falling as he guided her into the living room and to the couch. Joyce dully noted the cross on his right collar instead of the Marine insignia on both. The priest sat down next to her holding her hand, while the other officer stood in front.
“Beth??? She’s okay, right?” Joyce asked.
“Mrs. Summers, I’m sorry to be the bearer of this news. On October 17th, 2003, Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Summers was involved in several rear area actions with elements of the 2nd & 3rd Company/13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade. When her unit was ambushed, she rallied members of her platoon and flanked the unit that attacked them. During this attack, LCpl Summers was injured during combat, but was able to open a way for her platoon to pull back and allow the remnants of the platoon to fall back out of the ambush and back towards their retrieval point. There the platoon was ambushed by a UE company who were lying in wait. She was again injured as she created a diversion to allow several members of her platoon to escape. We regret to inform you that Lance Cpl. Summers was killed in action. Please accept our deepest condolences and the thanks of a grateful nation for her service to her country.” Capt Myers finished. He hated this part of his job, all he saw was the pain in the faces of the families he visited. But it was something that ‘had’ to be done.
“NOOO!!!!!!!” Joyce wailed. [It can’t be Beth, there has to be a mistake. She’s too smart and strong, she promised she’d come back and they’d keep in touch.] Joyce felt the priest holding her as he tried to comfort her, but his words were meaningless. Beth was dead and nothing was going to bring her back.
Capt. Meyers continued, “For her bravery under fire, Lance Cpl. Summers is posthumously being awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster for Valor and the Purple Heart. Her actions saved several of her teammates, you should be proud of her.”
The priest finally spoke up next to her, “Can we call someone for you, your husband, family? This is not a time for you to be alone Mrs. Summers.”
“M-my husband, Rupert.” Joyce felt the tears pour down her face and the pain rack her body. Beth was gone, she would never be able to tell her how much she loved her.
The priest motioned to Capt. Myers who pulled out a cell-phone and stepped a few feet away to make the necessary calls.
[Author's notes: Pairing – Beth/Faith (well it will be at least! ), Willow/Tara
Rating – PG13 - NC17 for violence, death and torture.
Spoilers – Not really, no. The story starts 3 years after what would have been Season 5. So everything after the beginning ep of Season 5 never happened. Up to Season 5 most stays the same, but not everything.
Summary – This is an AU where Buffy is framed for the murder of Deputy Mayor Finch and ends up in the US Marines.
[ ] - thoughts]
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”
The first thing Beth noticed as she woke was that she was on a cold, concrete floor and she could feel her arms and legs were chained. Looking around carefully Beth saw the cell she was in was small, no larger then 4 x 6 and illuminated by a dim light bulb in the ceiling. There was pail in the far corner and a moth-eaten blanket next to her. Judging from the smell she could guess what the pail was for. After several tries Beth managed to sit up with her back against the wall, now she could see her legs and arms were chained together only giving her the limiting her ability to move her limbs in any direction.
Taking stock of herself Beth saw that she was still dressed in her black camo pants, but her shirt was missing and she only had her green tee shirt on her. Beth thought sarcastically. Beth pulled the thin blanket around her to try and keep warm when she heard footsteps outside her cell.
The cell door flew open and Beth barely had time to see the two large guards before she was picked up and slammed into a wall. She struggled to fight back but the chains prevented any movement, Beth felt herself pulled into the corridor and slammed into the wall several times as her captors moved her down the hallway. Dazed, Beth heard the weak calls of support from the other cells. “Stay strong Beth” and “Semper Fi,” before she was pulled out of the cellblock. Beth decided to try and save her strength for what came next as she was dumped into a medium sized room that stank of old blood and sweat. The only furniture in the room was a wooden table and the metal chair she was sitting on. Quickly and efficiently the guards chained Beth’s legs to the chair and her arms behind her.
The wait wasn't long as two men walked into the room; the first man was about 5' 5" with dark hair and eyes. The other man was short, thin and bald. Beth noticed that no one so far was wearing any sort of uniform or anything identifiable and started to worry.
The dark haired man grabbed Beth by the face roughly pulling it up to his, “So you are a ‘soldier’ eh.” The man said with a sneer and a thick French accent.
Beth kept quiet knowing that these men didn't want an answer or needed a reason for anything they were going to do and goading them would only make things worse, it that was possible.
“Can't talk? Well don’t worry little girl we will teach you some manners. This small gentleman is an ‘expert’ in convincing individuals to speak. He has had many years of practice to hone his craft on individuals such as yourself.” The door to the room opened and in walked a large guard who walked over to the table and put down a large black satchel, several odd implements, a car battery and jumper cables on the table in front of her.
Beth shivered at the sight of the items on the table. [I will not break, I will not break, I can do this, I can do this,] Beth kept saying as a mantra in her head.
And then the questions began, “What is your unit? What is its location and strength?”
“Summers, E., Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps, RP6511298.” Beth replied. Beth never saw the first blow, which slammed into her left eye or the next or any of the others that followed. When the blows finally stopped Beth's face felt a bloody mess, the left side of her face was swollen and she couldn’t open her left eye from the swelling as blood ran down her face from several other cuts Beth didn’t remember getting.
“So ‘Miss Soldier’ where is your unit located? What is its strength? What other units are on this base?” The dark haired man demanded even as her torturer had yet to utter one word.
Spitting out blood, Beth struggled to speak thru her swollen lips, “Summers, E. Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps, RP6511298.”
Beth watched as small man attached the jumper cables to the legs of the chair and then attached one of the two on the other end of the cable to the car battery. The small bald man held the unattached piece in his hand and wore a thick, black rubber glove.
“One last chance little soldier. Where is your unit located and what is its strength?” Beth’s dark interrogator asked.
Beth stayed silent. She saw the small man touch the other cable to the battery and Beth felt waves of pain as the electricity rolled thru her as she screamed in agony…
Her throat was raw from screaming, Beth wasn’t sure she had a voice anymore. She sagged against the chair, exhausted from the beatings and electricity.
“I see they breed their women stupid in America, do not worry we will be more than happy to show you your proper place.”
Her dark haired interrogator nodded to the smaller man he came in with. The guard behind her who had been beating her periodically grabbed her chained arms and jerked them upwards until she heard two loud pops and felt her arms pop out of their sockets in her shoulders, gritting her teeth Beth clamped down on the scream that threatened to tear its way out of her throat even as tears ran down her face. Beth focused solely on one thought, as she felt the tears of pain she couldn't hold back.
“So, do you feel more talkative my little songbird?”
Slowly Beth looked up “Summers, E., Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps, RP6511298.” Beth choked out, refusing to give an inch.
The dark haired interrogator turned away, “Take her back to her cell, let the pain be her companion for now.”
One guard opened the door while the other grabbed Beth and dragged out of the room by her arms, the pain blinding her when she was thrown into her cell. As she fell Beth twisted to miss hitting her shoulder and land on her back. Beth rested her head on the cold floor, letting the pain subside; finally Beth pulled herself up next to the wall. Beth knew she couldn’t let her arms stay dislocated and there was only one option.
Steeling herself for a moment, Beth slammed her left shoulder repeatedly into the wall until she felt the joint pop back in. White lances of pain and tears from the pain blinded her, her cries of pain echoing in the cell. Resting her head against the cool wall, the pain subsided to the point that it was no longer overwhelming, as soon as that happened Beth slammed her right shoulder against the wall. Her cries of pain echoed in the empty cell and outside, but the joint popped back in. Beth fell back to the floor, tears streaming down her face. As she laid there on the cold floor, exhaustion finally overwhelmed her and she passed out.
Beth awoke to a faint tapping on the wall on her right, as she listened she could make out the tapping was Morse code. Beth closed her eyes, trying to block out the pain radiating throughout her body. She was so thirsty and the smell from the pail by the door permeated the enclosed room. Beth tried to remember back to her training and mentally translate what each tap meant. Listening to the tapping, they slowly turned into words, then sentences, as she wearily translated them and the tapping dots and dashes turned into words and the fog that clouded her thoughts cleared as she concentrated; -... . - .... / .- .-. . / -.-- --- . .- / --- -.- .- -.-- . She translated the tapping on the wall, *Beth are you okay?*
Picking up a loose rock, she started to reply back, *Yes I am, who is this?*
There was a short pause before the tapping started again on her wall, * It's Shintaro*
Beth started tapping *Have you seen Taylor?*
*We saw him brought in to the ‘room’ earlier. He’s been there since. There are about 5 others from the platoon here, not sure what happened to the wounded when they separated us,* Shintaro replied.
*How long have you been here?* asked Beth.
*Not sure, maybe a week. You were brought unconscious a few days later. Gotta go, the guards coming. Semper Fi Beth.*
Dawn entered the house, taking in the unusual quietness. Checking her watch she saw that is was 3:30. but there was a lack of cooking food smells in the house. “Mom? Giles?”
“Dawn, I’m in the living room, come here." she heard Giles call out. His voice sounded rough and Dawn felt a leaden feeling in the pit of her stomach as she walked into the living room. She saw Giles' face, his eyes were puffy and red as if he had been crying, “Sit down Dawn, we need to talk. It's Beth...she's dead Dawn.”
Dawn felt her vision suddenly tunnel and go gray, and her knees buckled beneath her as she started to collapse. Before she could fall completely, she felt Giles’ arms grab her and pull her close. “No Giles, NO!!!” she yelled as she fought to break away from him.
“I love you, it'll be okay Dawn.” Slowly she stopped fighting as she heard him softly whisper. “I love you. Shh. It'll be okay.”
Willow had just arrived at the Summers’ when she saw the door to the house was open, walking in she heard someone crying loudly. “I just got my sister back...why?”
Rushing in Willow saw Giles sitting on the floor holding a hysterical Dawn. “Giles....” she asked afraid that she knew what had happened.
Giles looked up at Willow silently shaking his head.
“Oh Goddess, Beth,” Willow felt tears burn her eyes. Wiping her eyes, Willow focused on staying strong now for Dawn. “Dawnie?” Will wrapped her arms around Dawn from behind holding her as Dawn cried. She could only pray to the Goddess to give them the strength to get through this.
Willow walked up to the apartment door, after several tries she unlocked the door and stepped inside the apartment. Quietly closing the door behind her she walked forward and dropped her backpack on the floor. She could see light from under the kitchen door and walked over towards it. Willow saw the kitchen door open and Tara walked out over to her and pulled her into her arms. “Hey honey, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Willow held onto Tara and buried her face in her shoulder, “Tara...” Willow shook her head as her throat clenched shut and hot tears of pain rolled down her face.
“Will baby, please tell me?” She pulled her closer feeling how badly Willow was shaking. “Shh, honey.”
“I....Someth....” Willow felt the words catch in her throat, choking her as she tried to tell Tara. But she couldn't, the pain was just overwhelming. She just clung to Tara as she sobbed, she had lost Beth once, found her and now she was lost again. Except this time she would not return, there would be no opportunity to say anything but goodbye to the woman that she had barely begun to know and the best friend she had lost twice and would never see again.
Willow finally felt the tears slow and she looked up into Tara's worried face “B-Beth...she's dead!” she managed to sob out. The tears started to fall from her eyes again at the pain of losing her friend once again overcame her.
Tara was shocked as the words finally spilled forth, she knew something was wrong when Willow had come home. She ‘saw’ the blackness that had surrounded Willow like a fog.
Tara took Willow's hand and led her into the bedroom.
Los Angeles, CA
3 Days Later…
It was a slow week, so with some free time Faith decided to tinker with her favorite toy, her Kawasaki Ninja. She had just gotten to work when she heard the phone ring. “Crap, this had better be good,” Faith growled as she got up and wiped her dirty hands on her jeans. Picking up the phone, “Yeah?”
“Faith, it's Willow. I'm in LA, we need to talk,” Willow's voice was painfully blank and emotionless.
The bottom dropped out of Faith’s stomach, worse than when Red stopped by last month. “Red, what's up?” she tried keeping her voice calm.
There was a long pause before Willow answered with one word, “Beth.”
“Stop by the loft, we can talk here Red,” Faith answered, the feeling of trepidation washed over her.
“Tara and I'll be by in about 30 minutes. See you then.” Faith heard the line click as Red hung up.
Faith put the phone down and then sat, her good mood shattered she waited for Red to arrive.
Exactly 30 minutes later she heard the elevator come up and out stepped Red and Tara. “Hey Red, Tara. What's up?” Faith tried to put on a mask of cheerfulness.
“Hi Faith. Can we sit? I'm tired,” Willow said as Faith looked closer at Red's face and noticed she had bags under her eyes and seemed edgy about something.
Faith sat across from Red and Tara, “What's going on Red? You're all mysterious when you called and now I see you and you look like shit.”
Willow looked at Tara and then back at Faith, “It's about Beth Faith. She's dead.”
Faith sat there feeling as if someone had punched her in the gut and found it hard to breathe for several seconds. Taking a shuddery breath, “How?”
Tara spoke up here, “We're not sure about the details Faith. The Marines aren't saying much more than she was injured twice helping her unit. The last time she was hurt getting several other Marines out of a trap, and was killed. That's all they told Giles and Mrs. Summers.”
“When's the funeral?” Faith asked, her voice devoid of any emotion, her face a blank mask that hid the anger churning inside.
“It's this Wednesday in Sunnydale, at the Roselawn Cemetery at 2:30.” Getting up Willow walked over to Faith and put her hand on her shoulder gently, “I'm so sorry Faith, I know...”
Faith smacked Red's hand off her shoulder as she stood up angrily, “What do you know Red?! Just get out of here, I don't want your pity.”
Tara walked over to Will and pulled her away from Faith, “You're right Faith, we don't understand. I am sorry though, it hurts to lose someone you care for.” Tara guided a surprised Willow towards the elevator, “We'll see you on Wednesday,” and they walked into the elevator and punched the button for the ground floor.
October 31, 2003
Willow and Tara arrived at the Roselawn Cemetery several minutes early. The chairs were mostly filled, Willow could see quite a few Marine and Navy personnel in their dress uniforms among those who had come to the funeral. She could see Joyce and Giles were already seated in front. Xander and Anya had already arrived and were sitting, but Faith was nowhere in sight.
Walking forward they made their way next to Xander, who was seated behind Joyce. “Hi Xand,” Wills voice was low, she could see that he hadn't gotten much sleep recently. His eyes were bloodshot and he had bags under his eyes.
“Hey Will. You hear from Faith?”
“No, nothing since we spoke to her in LA, do you think she's coming?” Willow replied.
“Yeah, she'll be here. She loved Beth, she wouldn't not show up,” Xander replied sadly.
Willow sat down next to Xand, squeezing his hand before turning to Tara. For a long moment she couldn't remove her gaze from the red, white, and blue of the flag draped over the casket. She couldn't help the onslaught of thoughts that echoed through her head.
Willow tore her gaze from the casket and caught a glimpse of the Marine Honor Guard, her mind traveled back....
“Beth, I know what Tara said did bother you. But aren't you worried though?” Will asked, concerned about her friend.
Beth stopped and turned to look over at Willow, “Some, but I've got some things on my side. I'm in the toughest platoon in the Battalion, they're all skilled operators, and I’ve got Taylor. If anyone is gonna watch my back, he's it, and with him backing me up I'm not worried.” Beth threw her arm over Willows shoulder, “I'll be fine, don't worry about it,” and she smiled confidently at her.
Willow’s day dreaming was ended when she heard the Navy Chaplain’s voice;
“Family, friends, and fellow service members. We are gathered here not just to mourn, but to celebrate the life of Elizabeth Anne Summers. On this day we are covered in darkness that fills our hearts and our minds, yet we are not alone for He is with us and He stands beside us in our moments of weakness.”
“I had the honor of meeting Elizabeth when she was a sophomore in high school. While I was there I found Elizabeth to be a caring and compassionate individual who cared deeply about the safety of others. When she joined the Marines, it was to protect the freedom and lives of those of us who live in the United States. When her unit was sent to France and she was baptized in the fires of combat, Elizabeth always put the lives of her fellow Marines ahead of herself.”
“Elizabeth strove to live by the highest ideals of the Marine Corps; Honor, Duty, Country. When Elizabeth saw her platoon ambushed she broke free and attacked the enemy, freeing her unit from the ambush and in doing so she was injured by enemy fire. Later when her unit was attacked, again Elizabeth selflessly put the lives of her fellow Marines above her own.”
“Today we are here, not just to say goodbye to her. But to celebrate all that she did in her life, to remember her and what she stood for. For that is her legacy to us, a reminder that ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ or the one. She sacrificed her life so that others may live, let us not forget that sacrifice ‘lest we cheapen it and her life.”
“I would like to leave you with a passage from Psalms 23. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Stepping back the Chaplain moved out of the way allowing the Honor Guard to take their places.
“Detail, Raise Arms! Ready!…Aim!…Fire!” Five rifles firing as one shattered the silence, Willow felt herself jump in her seat. “Aim!…Fire!” The detail fired their rifles 3 more times, each time Willow jumped in her seat. “Shoulder Arms! About face!… March!” as they marched away and 6 Marines walked to the 4 corners and center of the casket.
Something caught her eye off to the left, and Willow turned and saw a solitary figure with dark glasses and dressed in black pants, shirt and a long jacket, about 75' feet away. “Faith,” Willow whispered.
Willow felt Tara pull her hand to get her attention and she turned around to see the flag that had been draped over Beth's coffin was now folded into a perfect triangle with only the blue field with the stars showing. The Marine holding it in his hands turned crisply to his left and extended his hands to the older Marine who had lots of red stripes down his sleeve and accepted the flag. Willow watched as the as the Marine Gunnery Sergeant turned around crisply and walked over to Joyce stopping directly in front of her when he bent over and handed it to her. Willow heard him speak in a low voice as he gave Joyce the flag, “Please accept this flag as a token of a grateful nation for your daughters sacrifice.”
Straightening up he turned around, walking back to the honor guard still standing at the coffin. Willow saw the tears streaming down Joyce's face as she broke down and Giles held her closely.
“Detail! Attention! Arms!” and all five Marines snapped their right hands up to the brim on their caps and held them there for several moments before bringing them down sharply. A bugler started playing ‘Taps’.
Willow turned to look back for Faith, only to see her back as she walked away in the opposite direction from them. Willow turned back to Tara, “She's leaving? How can she leave?” Willow asked.
Tara stood up with Willow and threw her arm around Will's shoulders and held her close as they started walking back towards their car. “She just needs time and space Will, just be there for her.”
Slowly they made their way out when Tara noticed a mob of reporters that were gathered behind yellow tape sealing off the cemetery from the press. The Marines there held the reporters back, forming a wall between the reporters and Joyce & Giles as the Limo pulled up and they went inside.
They could hear the reporters yelling questions at everyone who was there, “How does it feel to have a hero for a friend?”, “We have sources that say she was a lesbian, is that true?, “Do you believe that women should be in combat after this?” More questions were thrown at them as they fought their way past the reporters and the cameras until they finally made it back to the car.
One of the reporters had the misfortune of trying to question Anya however, “Excuse me, were you like this as a child or is this the result of a head injury that precludes the ability to show a minimal amount of compassion?” was the last thing Willow and Tara heard as the car doors closed.
End Chapter 7
[Author's notes: Rating – NC17 for violence, death and torture and non-consensual.
This chapter and the next few are really really dark and some readers may find them rather disturbing. The events that take place were not decided on a whim or for shock value, but after several long discussions between the authors it was decided that these events were a necessary element for the story and the characters.
[ ] - thoughts]
“Searching for a destiny that’s mine, there’s another place, another time.
Touching hearts along the way, hoping that I’ll never have to say;
It’s just an Illusion.
Open up your eyes and look around, it’s just an Illusion.
Here for just a moment and then you’re gone. It’s just an Illusion.”
“It’s Just an Illusion”
Beth had lost track of time in here sometime ago, with only the artificial lights to go by there was no telling time accurately. They could have been here for days or even weeks and they wouldn’t have been able to tell. The last message she had gotten from her fellow prisoners was that Gomez didn’t come back from his last trip. As Beth was musing over that last message the door to her cell opened and in came Frick & Frack, the names she had given to the 2 guards who brought her to and from the ‘sessions’ in the Room.
The two guards were smiling a lot today, more then she liked, as they brought her down to the Room. They opened the door and Beth was shoved in the room, but instead of seeing the wooden table and metal chair today they were missing and inside were five men of different ages. Ranging from 19 or so to the oldest who looked like he was in his 40’s.
From behind, Beth heard Frick “Okay boys, here she is. Have fun” a hard blow to her head knocked her down stunning her and knocking her to the ground.
Like jackals the five men jumped at her, Beth started to fight back and stopped suddenly feigning exhaustion. [I only have one chance at this and I need them close to do it. They may take me down, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let them enjoy this,] Beth thought angrily. She knew that this was always a possibility, but her captors had seemed satisfied with the beatings and torture until now.
The oldest of them stepped over Beth and motioned for the blonde boy to move forward and hold her down. The other three had moved closer to watch but were just out of reach. Beth watched as the boy mistakenly held her left arm instead of her shoulder and the oldest moved on top of her while one hand fumbled at his pants.
Just as he had freed himself and was moving to grab Beth’s torn camo pants and pull them down. [Now!] Beth thought and her right fist whipped forward with all her Slayer strength into his throat crushing it. As he grabbed his throat gurgling, Beth ripped her left arm free from the boy and her right foot lashed out into his kneecap shattering it. The boy’s high-pitched scream filled the room, as he started to fall Beth bounced up to her feet and landed a second kick to his crotch. Moving behind him Beth grabbed his chin and the back of his head and twisted. There was a sudden sick SNAP! as the boy’s neck was broken, letting go of the body Beth let him drop to the floor as she turned her attention to the other three.
The constant pain Beth was accustomed to feeling began to dull and disappear as adrenalin flooded her system and Beth looked for her next victim. A grim smile crossed her face for the first time as she looked at her attackers.
The other three men had backed away carefully from her and then had spread out to keep her from attacking all of them and to keep her on the defensive. They knew that eventually she would tire, and then she would be theirs. The brown haired, would-be rapist on her left charged her at the same time that the one on her right charged her, one managed to grab an arm and a hard blow from behind stunned her as she was slammed her against the wall and held. The one rapist in the middle walked forward and rubbed himself against Beth. His smell nauseated her, “Now you learn a woman’s place, whore!”
As he leaned forward he grabbed her breast and mauled it with his hand as he tried to shove his tongue down her throat.
Beth let his tongue near her lips again, except this time she bit down on it hard and tasted blood, as he screamed and yanked himself away blood pouring down his lips even as Beth spit out the piece of his tongue she’d bitten off. A hard blow caught Beth on one of her broken ribs and as the pain blinded her for those brief seconds someone grabber her head was slamming it against the wall several times and Beth collapsed to the floor barely conscious. The brief surge of energy Beth had felt was gone and exhaustion had taken its place.
Dimly she noted that several more people had walked into the room, her jaw was forced open and a bitter tasting liquid down her throat. Beth felt several more blows to her head, but her head was clouded and foggy now, she couldn’t seem to focus on anything. Then Beth felt someone tear her shirt open, exposing her breasts and someone else pulled her camo pants off her and ripped her underwear off. [No!] her mind yelled but her body wouldn’t listen and found herself unable to even cry out even when she felt the first person thrust himself into her, the pain as he entered her was almost as unbearable as what was happening to her. Beth felt him thrust in and out of her until she heard him grunt and then pull out of her to be replaced by the next person. And so it continued, over and over until she lost consciousness, the one thought Beth used to hold onto her sanity/self, [I’m a Marine, I won’t break. I’m a Marine, I won’t break.]
Beth woke up slowly, her head was pounding and she tasted blood in her mouth. For several seconds Beth lay still and then the memories of what happened assaulted her. Jumping up she leapt at the door kicking and punching it as she screamed obscenities at the guards.
After several minutes the pain in her hands, knees and feet overcame her anger, looking down she saw her hands and feet were bloody from beating on the door. Falling down to her knees, Beth let her head drop against the cement. Anything, even pain felt better than the memories of what happened to her and the vulnerability and humiliation she felt now.
The door opened suddenly and the guards threw Taylor into the room, slamming the door shut and locking it.
Shintaro moved over to Taylor who was unconscious, his face was beaten and swollen. Welts covered his back where he had been whipped. “Give me a hand over here,” Shintaro motioned to Ramirez to help him move Taylor.
“I don't think we should move him Shin, he looks pretty bad,” Ramirez said taking in the wounds on Taylor.
“I said, Move your ass and help me move him by the wall Ram!”
“Okay, okay. Don't get your panties in a bunch.” Ramirez moved over and helped Shintaro carry Taylor away from the door over by the wall. “What happened to him anyway?”
“The guards gave him an extra round for Beth's yelling earlier,” Shintaro replied.
He shivered and spit out the blood from his mouth, “Shin.”
Shintaro stopped what he was doing and turned around towards Taylor, “Hey Tay, you okay?”
“Anything?” Taylor asked.
“Nothing yet, she's been quiet since her...” Shintaro winced at what he was about to say, “Well since yesterday. The guards haven't been over there since they dropped her back.”
Taylor shifted closer, wincing as the dried wounds reopened. He took the rock from Shintaro and started tapping. “Come on Beth, come on.”
*What do you want Taylor? I'm busy.* Beth wasn't sure if she should be happy to hear from Taylor or afraid, if he found out it would hurt him knowing that he couldn't protect her.
Shintaro moved back to where Taylor was huddled against the wall. “Is she okay?” Some of the other members started to murmur.
“Shut up guys,” Taylor turned his back to them, *Busy doing what? You okay?*
*Putting myself back together after yesterday Tay, what do you think! I said I'm fine, just leave me alone.* Beth felt the need to break something as she was overwhelmed by the memories again.
*Dammit Beth don't pull that crap with me! What the hell happened in there?*
Sighing, Beth knew she had to answer Taylor. He was the one person here she couldn't lie to and get away with it. *They hurt me pretty bad Tay, it was really rough. I just need some time.* [Please, please don't ask what happened Taylor.]
Taylor sat back for a second trying to sort through the emotions running through his head. He could almost imagine the situations that had happened in 'that room'.
*Tay, I'll be okay. I'm a Marine and we're tough. Just promise me you'll take me out for dinner one night and I'll tell you about it. Okay?*
*Semper Fi Beth, and I promise*
“Tay what's going on?” one of the guys asked, he didn't know which one and he didn't care. “I don't know, she won't say.” Sighing he placed his hand on the wall taking in its coldness. The same coldness that was taking over his heart.
"Who is it this time?" Carlson wheezed out, Taylor looked over at him propped up against the wall. They had worked him over really well. Now it was only a matter of time before the internal injuries were too much for him in this weakened condition. All they could do was to give him support.
Taylor pounded at the door as the guards passed by dragging Beth. "Hey ASSHOLES leave her alone."
“Shit not again," Taylor heard Carlson from behind him.
One of the guards stopped and grinned at Taylor and replied in English “After yesterday no-one wants to keep their hands off the whore. Besides, she's going into solitary today. The Commandant didn't like the noise she made last night and she needs to learn her place.”
The door flew open and Ramirez's body was thrown into the room landing in a heap.
Taylor moved over to him, turning him over onto his back. Taylor saw Ram's face was beaten to a pulp, several teeth were broken and missing and there was blood dripping out of his ears.
Gently as possible he moved Ram towards the wall and put him in an upright position. “Ram, stay still okay? Let me check the rest of you out.” As he started to check Ram for any more injuries he felt a hand touch him on the shoulder, looking up he saw it was Ramirez and he was motioning with his hand to come closer.
Taylor moved closer and put his ear near Ram's mouth
“Tay...sorry.” Ram mumbled softly thru his broken teeth. “Have to tell...’mmm dying.”
Taylor looked at Ram, “Don't worry, you'll be okay Ram.” He tried smiling reassuringly at him.
Ramirez shook his head, “Never wanted what happened to Beth...” Ramirez was overcome by a coughing spasm and unable to speak for several minutes. Weakly he spit blood out of his mouth, grimacing in pain. “.....was sent to kill Beth, make sure she never left...” Ramirez eyes fluttered for a second before passing out.
Taylor stared at Ram as if he had never seen this person before. “What?!?” Grabbing Ram Taylor shook him until he saw his eyes open slowly. “Why? She was a fellow Marine, you're friend!”
Coughing weakly Ramirez looked at Taylor, “I'm not Marine...work for..." cough spasms shook Ram's body again, finally the coughs subsided. “She's a threat to people...others will follow if I fail.” Grimly he smiled, “Guess I won't get that bonus....” Ramirez’s last words trailed off as he stopped breathing.
“No damn you!!!!! You can't die, I need answers!!” Taylor shook Ramirez's body but he knew no more answers were coming. Ramirez was dead and not going to answer anyone
The guards opened the door to his cell and several Marines flinched away as the guards came in. Roughly he was grabbed to his feet and out of the cell. Taylor saw a guard dragging Beth down the corridor from her cell. Her head was down and her hair, much longer now, obscured her face. As they got closer he whispered, “Beth, you okay?”
Tayor saw Beth stop and turn towards him whipping her long hair away from her face. “Five by five, Tay,” she said, but what scared him was the feral, almost predatory look in her eyes. Gone was the young woman he knew, this was the look of a killer. Without even flinching Beth slammed the heel of her foot on the instep of the guards foot breaking it. Screaming, the guard let go of her, Beth turned around and in one swift move, pulled the knife at the guard’s hip out and slammed the blade to the hilt into his chest.
Taylor swung his elbow at the face of the guard behind him hitting him but a blow to his head stunned him, looking up he saw his other guard lifting his club to hit him. Dazed, Taylor realized he couldn’t stop it and waited for the mind-shattering blow that would kill him. He barely saw Beth slid up behind the guard, and plunge the knife in the guards back and into his heart. The guard had a look of surprise cross his face before he slumped to the ground. Several more guards charged in tackling them both to the ground, Taylor heard them beating on Beth as more guards came and held him down. Yanking him upright they pulled him away, his last sight of Beth was her unmoving on the ground, her face bloody and swollen.
Ten days later…
“Fuckin' hell! Where the hell is it!” Beth crawled along the ground, feeling for the corner of the room. She hissed as the dirt mixed with the open wounds on her knuckles.
From her left she heard the slightest of noise. “Who's there?” The noise continued and she realized it was a steady tapping. “Please don't stop! Please don't stop!” She doubled over as she turned, feeling the sharp pain in her side. Somewhere in the back of her mind she realized that her ribs must be broken. “Please don't stop.” She gasped out.
She felt her hand hit something cold and hard and leaned against the wall that separated her hole from theirs. That's how she thought of it now, just a hole that she was locked in for days at a time, with almost no light. They had been reduced to the lowest of lows by some nameless enemy.
The tapping was a little louder now but still weak and she didn't know if it was the blood in her ear and her heart pounding, or if it was from Tay and Shin. Beth raised herself off the floor slowly, and used her hands to feel her way as she sat up and leaned backwards against the cold stone wall.
She moved hands over her head, feeling the dried blood on her forehead and over her brow. Beth felt a large knot on the back of her head and let her hand trail down to her left ear, which felt numb still. Carefully Beth moved her hands over her face, the skin felt puffy and very raw. Beth’s hands moved over the sides of her face to her eyes...she felt her hand tremble as she touched her eyelids. Pain shot through her and she jumped back hitting the wall. She could feel that the raised skin that was her eyelids had swollen shut from the repeated beatings. It had been days, as far as she could tell, since she was able to see. Leaning her head back against the damp wall she tried to prepare herself for the worst, that her sight could be gone forever. [I'm a Marine. I will not break!] she thought to herself, it was the only thing she had left now.
Taylor dropped the rock frustrated, he hadn't heard a sound from Beth's cell in 10 days. [Dammit Beth, are you alive?] Taylor felt the tears fall from his eyes, the desire to just give up was almost overwhelming. [Sanderson, O'Hara, almost everyone's gone but Shin and me]. He heard a faint thud from the wall. His breath caught in his throat, [Come on Beth, just one tap. Let me know you're alive.]
What felt like hours later he heard a faint tapping on the wall. [Beth?] Taylor listened to the taps, *Shin, Ram, Tay. Anyone there? It's Summers.*
Frantically Taylor grabbed the rock he had dropped. *Beth. Thank God you're alive! I thought you were gone too. What was that stunt in the hallway Beth? You know we have to wait till the right time.*
Beth frowned and instantly regretted it as a cut reopened. *Hallway?*
*Yeah, when you killed the two guards and told me everything was Five by Five.*
[What the Hell?] She didn't know anything about hallways and guards and she definitely didn't channel Faith. *Did you hit your head or something Tay?*
*Beth, 10 days ago you killed 2 guards right in front of me in the hallway. You looked right at me when I asked you if you were okay and said you were “Five by Five” whatever that means.* [Why doesn't she remember?] Taylor thought.
Beth leaned her forehead against the wall. [10 days ago? It couldn't have been...] *How long we been in this shit hole, Tay?*
Taylor was worried now,[First Beth doesn't remember killing the guards and now this] *Beth, we've been here for about 2 months. Don't you remember?*
Beth almost dropped the rock as she flinched back from the wall. She started to look around the room, but now it was no good. All she saw was the darkness that was her companion now. Beth shook her head, [It doesn't matter, I have to be strong. My heads probably scrambled from all the beatings this week.] She started tapping on the wall. *Tay, what day is it? I need to know how much time I've lost.*
*It's Sammy's 6th birthday today. I promised him I'd take him out for his birthday, Beth*
Beth noticed Taylor went silent suddenly after that last message, *Tay?* she tapped and got no response, *Tay? Answer me if you're okay damnit!* [Why won't he answer me?]
Beth finally heard a reply after several minutes of silence, *Beth, I failed them, I failed them all. Shin, O'Hara, Sanderson...even Sammy. I promised them we'd get out of here and they're dead......*
*Tay, knock that crap off. When I was heading to Sunnydale, you told me I didn't kill Finch and I didn't fail my family. I didn't fail them just like you haven't failed anyone, especially not Sammy. They were all soldiers, the knew the risks with this op going in.*
[Yeah, I did say that,] Taylor thought, *Beth, but...*
Beth cut off his reply before more doubt could enter his mind, *But nothing Tay, you told me I can't take responsibility for anyone else's actions and that if I'd done my best that was all I can do. Well the same applies to you. When you stop feeling sorry for yourself, then we can talk.* [Hopefully that'll give him a kick in the ass, I can't let him quit on me.]
Giles heard the phone ringing in the kitchen, walked over and picked it up. "Giles residence."
“Rupert, good day. This is Carol, it took some time but I have some information and someone who can assist you with your ‘inquiry’.”
Giles bit back his first words, anger here would not help him. “Carol, my daughter is dead. I no longer need your assistance. But thank you.” He hoped she would let things drop, but he didn't think she would.
“Yes, I am well aware of Miss Summers demise Rupert. However that does not negate the deal we made for my assistance however. Besides, where is the ‘Ripper’? Don't you feel the slightest desire for revenge for her death?”
"I damn well want to avenge her death!" Giles whispered angrily into the phone. "I'm sorry Carol."
“Don't apologize Rupert. You should be upset and what I gathered can help you get the vengeance you want.”
“I have a wife, a daughter...” Giles said his excuses sounded hollow in his own ears.
“Nonsense Ripper. You have a blood debt to collect for your daughter and I have the means for you to get it.” Carol’s voice was hard and cold as ice.
Giles felt his lip curl into an evil smile, “What is the price?”
“Ahh Ripper you know me too well,” Carol's voice replied cheerily.
“A life for a life Ripper. That is my price for your revenge.”
“Done. A life for a life.” Ripper answered.
“The information will be delivered to you in 24hrs. along with the name of the contact who can help you further.”
“And the life Carol?” Ripper asked impatiently. “Whose life am I to take in exchange?”
Soft laughter came over the phone, “A Slayer Ripper, she goes by the name of Faith Spencer. She is to be delivered to the Sunnydale High School library, alive and, well, relatively unharmed as it were. My clients are paying for a ‘live’ Slayer, not a dead one.”
[Faith?] he wondered briefly before squelching any further thought for her. [She deserves what she gets, if she'd never come to Sunnydale to begin with...] “Very well, when do you need her by?” Ripper asked.
“When you have ‘acquired’ Miss Spencer, contact me, but do not take too long. My ‘clients’ are most anxious to have her. It was good doing business with you Ripper,” Giles heard her soft laughter as the phone line went dead.
Continued in Chapter 9
[Author's notes: This chapter and the next few are really really dark and some may find them rather disturbing. The events that take place were not decided on a whim or for shock value, but after several long discussions between the authors it was decided that these events were a necessary element for the story and the characters.
Rating NC-17 or MA (or whatever it's called now)
“One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.”
Faith looked at her watch for the 5th time as she waited in the dimly lit parking lot. The message she had gotten was short and sweet as usual, but the meeting place was different. Instead of a meeting in a public area she was in an empty parking lot in south LA at 10PM at night, not her favourite place to be.
A black limo followed by a dark blue Lincoln Towncar pulled into the parking lot and stopped at the center of the lot. The doors opened on the Lincoln and out stepped 4 large men, dressed in black and openly carrying Uzi's. The four men spread out in front of the Limo and finally the door to the Limo opened and an older man of medium height and build stepped out of the car. He was dressed in a dark, conservative suit, taking several steps away from the Limo he stopped and leaned on the cane he carried.
Faith felt her Slayer sense on overdrive when she saw the old guy from the limo step out. [What the hell?] she thought. She brushed her hand against the stake on the wrist sheath on her arm. Stepping forward she walked towards the old man and his bodyguards.
The nearest bodyguard stepped in front of her, "Weapons check" and pulled out a metal detector wand and moved up and down her waist, legs and back. "Okay, she's clean." He stepped aside to let her go by.
Faith walked forward toward the old man and stopped several feet away, her Slayer sense was screaming at her now. But she couldn't tell what was setting it off. [I don't think they're vamps, when was the last time a vamp carried a gun.] "What's up and why the cloak & dagger in the middle of south LA?”
Faith saw the older man smile, "Ahh, you are charming as your file says Miss Spencer."
[What the hell? How’s this guy know my name?] Faith felt herself start to tense as she kept an eye on the 4 bodyguards.
“Do not be concerned Miss Spencer, or do you prefer your Nome-de-plume, Winters?” When he saw no answer was forthcoming, “Very well. We have an operation especially suited to your talents, it would require you to leave the U.S. however.”
“Who are you and how do you know my name?” Faith asked angrily.
The old man smiled at her, "You may call me Samuel, and the reason I know your name is because I had you 'recruited' to the agency Miss Spencer. Technically you could say I'm your boss."
Faith saw "Samuel" seem to grin at some private joke. "Well I'm 'thrilled' to no end that I've met the boss, but I'd like know why I'm meeting you now."
“Faith, may I call you Faith? Faith, we have an operation that your unique abilities are well suited to, but before I can continue I need to know if you are interested. What is your answer?”
[Nothing’s keeping me here anymore] she thought. “I’m in.”
Faith saw the man smile, “Excellent,” he replied. “Follow me,” turning he headed back towards the limo, opening the door and stepped inside. Faith walked over to the limo door and entered the car.
2 Days later…
Faith waited several hours until the cemetery was empty and made her way back towards Beth's grave. A drop of water hit her face and she didn't know if it was the rain or the tears from her eyes. Either way, she didn't care.
“They say you're dead. I don't believe them. They gave you the Purple Heart and something else and they call you a hero. You aren't a hero B. You were a slave to your birthright. You come and go when it tells you. Willow tells me that you were an aunt, I'll keep an eye on him for you. I'll make sure he's always protected. That day in my apartment I wanted to tell I... I... Dammit B why'd you have to be so noble.”
Faith reigned back her pain and focused on the simple headstone;
Elizabeth Anne Summers
Lance Corporal, USMC
B - September 13, 1982 D – October 17, 2003
Sister, Best Friend, Protector.
“She was taken too soon from us.”
“What do you want Red?” Faith didn't turn to look at her, she didn't need to see the pity on Willow's face. She wasn't worthy of it.
“I know you loved her. I just...well...” Willow paused, unsure how to continue, “I know it's hard, but you don't need to blame yourself Faith. And you don't have to play the hero. No one expects you too.”
“Get to the point Red. I don't have a lot of time.” Faith growled.
“What are you talking about?” Willow asked curiously.
“I'm leaving for a while Red, wont be back real soon.”
Faith turned and started walking away from Beth's grave and Willow.
[Stupid Willow, very stupid!] “Faith wait!”
Faith heard Willow call her name and stopped walking, “What now Red?”
“Buffy loved you Faith. She just wasn’t ready to admit it.”
“Maybe, but that doesn't matter now though. She's dead.
Take care of yourself and Tara, Red.” Faith walked away without ever turning around.
Willow watched Faith walk away, she had the strangest feeling though that she was watching Faith walk out of her life forever.
Faith walked over to her motorcycle, sat down and started it up. She wiped the tears she felt on her face with the back of her hand. [Take care of yourself Red, I'm never coming back here again.] Gunning the engine Faith flew down the road out of town and Sunnydale, CA.
Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) Headquarters
National Maritime Intelligence Center
The normally quiet office was bustling with activity, excitement over the latest batch of intercepts had enabled them to narrow down the possible sites for several POW camps and HQ wanted that made top priority. So here he was for the 2nd day straight looking over pieces of signal intercepts, UE documents, maps and possible sites as he tried to narrow the list down to something acceptable by the brass.
“Sir,” looking up at the speaker at his desk Connor looked at the sergeant standing in front of his desk. “Yes Sergeant, what is it?”
“This just came in priority from the 2nd MarDiv,” he held a piece of paper in his outstretched hand. Connor took the paper and looked it over.
“Where was this found?” Connors asked trying to keep his excitement under control, [This could be the break we are looking for].
“It was found in a bunker about 50 kilometers East of Aurillac by a recon platoon sweeping that area sir.”
“Thank you Sergeant, dismissed.”
Connors waited until the Sergeant had left his desk and hit the intercom button for his clerk. “Thomas,”
“Yes sir?” a young voice answered.
“Drop whatever your doing, get me a list of all Marines wounded, killed or missing in or around Bordeaux in the last 2 months. I need it yesterday, this may be the break we've been waiting for.”
“Aye sir,” Thomas replied.
3 days later....
13th MEU Headquarters
“How accurate is this sir?” Major Stewart asked.
Col. Gunther chewed his cigar for several seconds before replying. “The spooks at ONI are pretty damn sure the letter isn't a fake and that they've located a POW base with our Marines in it. The Commandant called me about this personally, he wants to see a plan to pull our people out of there by the end of the week.”
“That's not much time, but we can have something on your desk in 48 hours sir.” Maj. Stewart replied.
“Excellent. This could be nothing Bill, but if our people are there, they've been in the UE's hands for almost 2 months and I don't want them there one second longer. We don't leave our people behind, we lost a lot of good people in that clusterfuck of an assault, if we can get some of them back we'll do whatever it takes, understood?"
Maj. Stewart came to attention, “Aye sir.”
“What’s the status of the refit for Alpha and Charlie companies?”
“We have Alpha Co. back up to 100% strength, Charlie Co. is different story sir. The company took 45% casualties during the assault, if this were any other unit I’d recommend we transfer the orphans from the unit and rebuild from scratch. But they’re working hard sir, they all want a shot at payback with the huey’s, it’ll take time to integrate the replacements though.”
“Anything else sir?” Maj. Stewart asked.
“No, just have that plan on my desk in 48 hours.
4 Days later…
She walked quickly around the room, she had been here for a while she knew and that she had to get out. The exit to the room was always kept locked and the ‘others’ watched her carefully, and were never alone when they opened the door. [WANT OUT!! Want out now!!!] she felt the anger inside her build at those ‘others’ that were keeping her here. They had hurt her and she would hurt them back.
An image of a man popped in her mind. She knew him, he was a friend and he was locked in here as well. She knew that the ‘others’ that kept her here would become careless and then she would strike. She would get out, and get...get…“Tay?”
Lying down in corner she curled herself up to stay warm and close her eyes to sleep. Her eyes flew open as she ‘felt’ one of the ‘others’ was near and then she heard the CLICK from the door. Quickly she got up as she heard the door opening and leapt for the door to grab it and get out. As she landed near the door, something hit her on the back and she felt a powerful electrical shock course thru her knocking her down. She struggled to get up off the floor and keep moving [Need out! Get Tay and find mate] when she felt her body convulse under the dual electric shocks and collapse to the ground as she lost control over her body and felt her limbs shaking uncontrollably.
She lay there as she heard the door shut and waited for the shock to subside so she could move again. [Will get out, will find mate. Minutes passed before she could finally move again, as she cautiously got up from the floor.
[Need out! Want OUT! Out, Out, Out!] She moved over to where she smelled the food. Crouching down she felt around with her hands to find it. Her hand hit the plate and she snatched it up quickly. She cocked her head slightly, before heading over to the far corner of the room. Sitting down she grabbed the food in the plate and felt something crawl across her hand. Her free hand darted out grabbing the bug. She shoved it into her mouth and started chewing. She could hear them moving around her. [Don't go. Food, Need Food! Where food? Stay!] She jumped up, and felt something fall. Patting the ground she felt around till felt the plate. Greedily she shoved the food and bugs into her mouth until she felt the empty plate. Moving to the corner, she started to yawn, [Want mate, miss mate...] sleep was overtaking her. Her last thought was an image of a tall, dark haired woman, [Need mate...] then darkness.
Joyce walked slowly down Main Street when she arrived at the mall and stepped inside. Moving a little faster she walked towards the Food Court as felt her stomach rumbling. [When was the last time I ate? Yesterday I think] when she collided with someone and was knocked down. Looking up Joyce saw the person she had walked into, "Willow!" she said surprised. She hadn't seen Willow for over a month and had missed talking to her.
Willow looked up as she heard her name called and saw Joyce, [Oh great, just what I need right now. I really don't want an argument.] “Hi Joyce,” she replied in a subdued tone of voice. “Sorry about that, you okay? Good, I’m gonna go now, things to do and all that. Bye.” Willow turned and took several steps when she heard Joyce calling her name again.
Will stopped frustratedly and turned around. “Why? Is there something you forget to say to my face instead of just shutting me and everyone else out?” Willow said angrily. “Look Joyce, I really don't want to have this discussion in the middle of the mall. So why don't I just go.”
Joyce looked at Willow, confusion was written on her face at Willow's words, [What's she talking about? I thought that Willow blamed me for Beth.] “Willow, why would I be angry at you? Wait, why don't we go and sit down so we can talk. I think there's been some confusion here.” Joyce walked over to Willow and stopped in front of her.
"I don't have time. I'm.. I'm running an errand."
Joyce reached out to touch Willow on the shoulder, but
Willow flinched and moved slightly back.
“Don't!” Willow’s eyes flashed green fire, “Whenever I called the house or stopped by to see you or Dawn, you were either 'out' or you couldn't be seen. For 3 weeks I tried to see you, to be there for Dawn and just be supportive during that time. I understand it hurt a lot to lose Beth, but how about the rest of us Joyce? We were hurting just as bad then and you shut us out.”
Joyce dropped her hand to her side, "That's not what I meant to do Willow, but seeing you and the others...Can we talk, please?”
“Joyce, I don…”
“Fine, how about Friday's? They're usually pretty empty during the week and we can ‘talk’ there.” Willow suggested as she saw the ‘conversation’ was starting to attract attention.
Once they were seated at a booth Willow looked over at Joyce, "Okay, what do you want to talk about Joyce?"
“Willow, I didn't mean to shut you out. I just couldn't see anyone for a while. It hurt too much and I shut myself off from everyone. When Beth was the Slayer and I found out, I understood that she could be killed. But this is so different, what was the point? She wasn't fighting evil, there wasn’t any giant creature killing innocent people. Just a stupid war, somewhere where she was alone. They don't even have a BODY for me to bury Willow.”
“I thought you shut me out because you blamed me in someway for Beth dying, I felt I was being blamed for what happened and that hurt so much Joyce. I loved Beth as my best friend and family. She was the first person who talked to ‘me’, not to the brain or the nerd when they needed good grades or wanted to be cruel to me, but to Willow.”
“I'm sorry, I didn't know that. But I'm not sorry for what I did. I needed some space and time to deal with losing Beth. I'm not any closer to understanding it, but I'm here for you now.”
Willow could see the sincerity in Joyce's face, but she couldn't let go of the anger over being shut out. “Losing Beth was probably the hardest thing in the world for you Joyce, but shutting out Xander, Tara and me the way you did was wrong.” Willow saw the surprise on Joyce's face, “We were her family just as much as you and we were in pain when she died too.” Standing up Willow slid out of the booth, “I'm ‘happy’ you're here for me now, but you're a little late, about 2 months too late. Goodbye Joyce.” Willow turned and walked out of the restaurant.
Joyce sat at the table in shock, she hadn’t expected Willow to act the way she did. [Maybe I was wrong, but I can't change things and I won't apologize. She just doesn't understand what it is like to lose your child.] Joyce got up from the booth, opened her purse and dropped $2.00 on the table and left the restaurant and the mall feeling worse than when she had come in.
Somewhere in France…
Taylor saw the door open as he looked up from the ground where he was resting. Three guards came in, two grabbed him by his arms, lifted him up and pulled him out of the cell.
Taylor could hear the guards talking among themselves in French, “Ceci devrait être amusement à observer, elle le déchirera aux morceaux.” *This should be fun to watch, she'll tear him to pieces*
The guard holding his right arm answered, “10 francs indique qu'il ne dure pas 5 minutes.” *Ten francs he doesn't last 5 minutes.* Looking up he saw them dragging him down the hall, one guard at the end opened a cell door and he was thrown inside.
The door slammed shut behind him and Taylor looked around the dark, damp cell. It was mostly dark towards the walls, with only light some light from a dim bulb to illuminate the center of the cell. He couldn't see anyone, but he knew someone else was in the cell, peering into a dark corner he made out the shape of a person.
“Who’s there? Beth, Is that you?” Taylor called out.
The figure moved forward on all fours towards him, he could hear it sniffing as it got closer. Finally it moved into the light....Taylor saw it was wearing torn and tattered rags and was covered with filth and dirt and long, dark matted hair.. Looking closer he could see the torn clothing were once BDU's....The head looked in his direction and he saw thru the long hair a face he never thought he'd see again.
[Oh my God!!] “Beth? Is that you?” Slowly and carefully he reached out towards her. As his hand neared her face he heard her growl menacingly [Did she just growl at me?] Taylor thought in surprise.
Taylor thought about taking a step backwards. He saw her move closer and then lean towards him until she was inches from him. She cocked her head at him and sniffed. He saw her stance relax as she leaned back after she had sniffed him several more times and she looked up at him. Her face was still hidden by the long hair covering it. Slowly he moved his hand towards her face and moved the hair away from her face.
As the hair was moved away he saw that she had been beaten so severely her entire face was a deep purple and black, and was puffy. Her eyes were swollen slightly, but she made no attempt at any time to open them even though he was sure she could.
“Beth, open your eyes and look at me. Let me see those beautiful brown eyes.”
Taylor saw Beth shake her head, “No want to,”
Taylor touched Beth's cheek gently, “Please Beth, open your eyes. Look at me.”
Beth jerked back from him. “NO!!! No want!! Hurt... Hurt Bad!!!”
“Want out, want out now! You take out Ttt..Tay?" Taylor heard Beth mumble. She 'looked' at him, “Why not go? Want out! Want to see mate!” Beth pulled his arm hard, trying to move him towards the door.
[Mate? What's she talking about?] “No Beth, I can't go out either. We have to stay for now. I promise I'll get us out later though, okay?” he lifted his hand and touched her shoulder gently, feeling her shoulder bones under his hand. [Good god, she's as thin as a rail? How's she alive? it doesn’t matter, I'm going to get her out of here.]
Beth turned her head towards the door and then back at him, “Go later? Go see mate later!” she whispered. Taylor nodded sadly, “Yes, go see mate later...” When suddenly Beth jumped up and the door flew open and 3 guards rushed into the cell.
Beth ducked under the club swung by the first guard, Taylor saw her grab the guards arm and twist it. He heard a bone SNAP as she shattered his elbow, as the guard screamed in agony she slammed her elbow into his throat. He dodged the first swing from the guard who rushed him, but Taylor felt a club smash his head from the other side.
As they grabbed him and dragged him out he saw two more guards lying on the ground by Beth and then he saw another guard step in from behind her and shoot her with what looked like a stungun. Her body convulsed as the electricity coursed through it as she collapsed to the ground. “What the hell are you doing to her!!” Taylor jerked his arms trying to get back to Beth. “Let me go! Beth!!”
His eyes locked on the spasming body of his best friend. “Beth...”
For those of you waiting eagerly, here are the next chapters :-)
[ ] - thoughts
1 meter = 3 feet
1 kilometer = 0.62 miles]
"You're a little short for a Stormtrooper,"
Sunnydale, CA 1630 Revello Drive
Xander knocked on Giles study and waiting, shuffling from foot to foot. He was more nervous than normal. [Of course I'm nervous! Beth's dead, Will's not talking to Joyce or anyone for that matter, Dawn sounded like she was about to burst into tears!]
Seconds later Giles appeared, his hair was messy and he looked like he hadn't shaved in days. He looked surprised, "Xander what are you, um, it's good to see you."
"Giles you were never good at lying. Can I come in? I need to talk to you."
Giles shut the door and locked it, before sitting in his chair. "Xander was there something specific you want to talk about?"
Giles cleared his throat, "What about Willow was it that you wished to talk about?"
"Well, what is going on between Mrs. G and Will and why Dawn been so upset lately."
Giles raised an eyebrow, "Xander, why are you talking to me?" he said patiently. He really did not want to get ‘in the middle of things' as it were, between Joyce and Willow.
"Giles," Xander said exasperated. "You know why I'm talking you. Will hasn't spoken to anyone for the last week, ever since she spoke to Mrs. G. And Dawn's been a train wreck looking for an accident. You have to do something, like talk to her and get her to talk to Will."
Giles stood up and started pacing. "It is not my place to interfere in my wife's personal life in such a fashion."
"Then what about Dawn? This isn't just about Willow & Mrs. G anymore, not when it's affecting Dawn."
Giles stopped pacing and turned to face Xander, "What are you talking about?"
"Giles, she's been in four fights in the last 3 days. The last kid she decked went to the hospital for stitches." Xander felt the nervousness go away to be replaced by anger.
"What!? Why wasn't Joyce or I notified?"
"Because Dawn told them you were in England and Mrs. G was out of state for an art conference. I managed to calm the kids parents so they didn't press Assault charges against her. This has to stop, and I don't mean to go up and yell at her. I can tell you from personal experience that that does not work. Giles, ever since Dawn found out Beth was dead she's walled herself off so she can't get hurt. And now that things finally blew up between Willow and Mrs. G things have gone from bad to worse." Pausing to take a breath before continuing his steamroller speech, "With Faith missing, Dawn hasn't had anyone except for Will to talk to. And now that things finally blew up between Mrs. G and Will she's being pushed to choose between them and that's not fair to Dawn. I gotta tell you I can understand how Willow felt Giles. But someone needs to talk to Mrs. G and Dawn, and since you're her dad now, you get the job." Xander paused for a breath as he looked at the angry look on Giles' face.
A knock on the door stopped Xander from continuing and he turned to see Mrs. G step into the study. "Well this is my cue to leave Giles. Mrs. G, I'll see you later." Xander walked out of the study and closed the door behind him. As he got to the front door he paused with his hand on the doorknob and looked at the stairs, [Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound.] Letting go, Xander turned and quietly headed up the stairs towards Dawn's room. Xander moved down the hallway and stopped before a door that had several stickers on it; "Stay Out!!", "Enter At Your Own Peril" and "Vampires Suck!". Xander chuckled at the last one and wondered where Dawn had found it.
Raising his hand he knocked on the door, "Go away Mom!!" he heard Dawn yell from inside the room. "Dawn, its Xander."
The door opened a crack as he saw a red-eyed and sniffling Dawn. "Hey Xand, what's up?"
"Can I come in Dawn?"
"Sure," Dawn stepped away from the door and Xander pushed the door open and walked in. He saw Dawn sitting on her bed holding Mr. Gordo.
"How's that hand? You put ice on it like I told you?"
Dawn lifted an ice bag she had resting on the bed, "Yep, I just took it off. It's helping with the swelling. Thanks Xander."
"No problem," Xander smiled nervously at Dawn. "Look Dawn, I know things are really tough on you now. And I'm not going to snow you with stuff like ‘It won't hurt as much or It'll get better with time' ‘cause that's bull. But you can't keep getting into fights like this Dawn..."
"Or what Xander? They'll throw me in jail?" Dawn answered bitterly. "They already took Beth away from me and now Faith's disappeared too. So what are they going to take from me now?"
Xander walked over to Dawn and stopped in front of her, "Dawn. What would Beth or Faith say...actually scratch Faith, she'd be cheering you on. But damnit Dawn, you're gonna get kicked out of school at this rate."
"It doesn't matter Xander," tears fell from Dawn's eyes and left tracks down her cheeks. Dawn pulled Mr. Gordo into tight hug, he was all that she had left of her sister now.
"Yes it does Dawn. Beth loved you more than anything in this world and she wouldn't want to see you self-destruct this way." Xander kneeled down and put his hands on Dawn's shoulders, "She'd want you to move on, not forget about her, but to live your life. She once told me that living in this world is the hardest thing, ‘cause it's filled with pain and loss. But the only thing is had going for it is the people we love and who love us." Xander pulled Dawn into his arms and held her as he felt her shake and cry.
National Security Agency
Faith sat in the empty briefing room, [Well empty except for me and Samuel that is] Faith thought wryly as she saw Samuel turn on the projector and a map lit up on the wall of Lyon and St. Etienne's.
"Our agent is being held in what was initially thought to be an abandoned prison facility." Faith saw the image change, now it showed a large, black building. Nearby were several buildings [Guard barracks according to intel] further out from the buildings were guard towers, fences and razor wire. "Now we have found out that there is a large underground facility that is only accessible from the main building. The underground facility was used to house the criminals that were kept here prior to the war and is now being used to extract information from POW's. However, that is of lesser importance." The image changed again and a picture of a man showed now. He was Hispanic and about 5' 11". "This is the agent, his name on this operation is Ramirez." There was a click and the image disappeared and the lights came on in the room.
Samuel walked stiffly, leaning heavily on his cane as he walked forward towards Faith. "It is of paramount importance that we get him out of there, however, if for some reason you cannot bring the agent out. Then you are to terminate him. We cannot afford for the information he is carrying in his head to get out."
Faith spoke up for the first time since entering the room, "What about any POW's that may be down there? We can't just leave them there."
"We are not sending you there to ‘rescue' POW's." Samuel saw Faith's features harden. Sighing silently, "However, if you run into any you have our permission to free them and bring them back to the extraction point." Samuel watched Faith carefully, "You are not going there to rescue POW's, do not get sidetracked from your primary mission in a misguided attempt to ‘find' POW's there. Our intelligence shows that there are none and only our agent is being held there at this time. Are we clear on this Miss Winters?"
Faith nodded, "Yes."
"If you do find any POW's you will either get them out or terminate them. We cannot mount any further operations to ‘rescue' soldiers stupid enough to get themselves captured and the military does not have the available resources to mount any attempts to retrieve them. So you will be doing them a favour. Do you understand?"
Faith hid her feelings at the casual mention of murdering any POW's there. [I can't save you Beth, but maybe I can help one of the Marines there. And I'll be damned if I'm gonna just kill them at his say-so.] "Perfectly."
25 kilometers SW of Lyon Experimental Prison Unit 52 - Gehenna
Faith spied the building from her position outside the fence, the layout of the prison was exactly as she expected from her briefing, with a large two-story building in the center and further out, the guardhouses on the corners. Faith shifted the M4 Carbine she was carrying on her back as she waited. Checking her watch Faith watched the seconds count down until her ‘distraction'. The seconds counted down, 15...10...5, 4, 3, 2, 1. "Now" Faith whispered and suddenly there was a large explosion followed by gunfire over in the west half of the compound. A grim smile flicked across her features, "Show time," Faith murmured and made her way down to the fence. Two minutes later Faith was inside the compound and moving towards the prison building and where the NSA agent was being held.
Once inside Faith moved quickly and silently to the stairs that would take her down to the cells, turning the corner she spied a guard at the doorway to the stairwell with his back to her. Holstering her pistol, she pulled out a wicked looking dagger 6" long and slightly curved. Quickly moving towards the guard she smashed him over the head with the hilt just as he started to turn, dropping him. Turning the body over, she saw it was just a boy, "Sorry, but I don't kill children" Faith muttered and pulled out a syringe and vial she had gotten from Angel, pushing it in his arm and she filled his veins with the medicine. "Angel said this drug would keep anyone out for several hours, I hope he's right." Faith pulled him into the stairwell and sat him so to the casual observer he was sleeping. Grabbing his assault rifle, a FAMAS-2 French Army assault rifle, Faith removed 2 more clips from his belt and pushed them in her pocket before she headed down the stairs.
Most of the prison level was empty even of guards so far, moving to the last set of cells Faith took out the keys from a guard who no longer needed them and opened the door. Inside was a man lying down, a Marine by his tattered fatigues, and she moved forward towards him. Faith reached out to grab his arm and felt a powerful arm grab her and pull her down and the Marine was on top of her pinning her down.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"My name's Faith and I'm here to get you out."
"Do you expect me to believe you just waltzed in here?" he asked suspiciously. Looking at his dogtags Faith could make out the name ‘S.J. Taylor'.
"Well waltzed in isn't a word I'd use, however if we don't get out of here now, we won't be leaving, period." Looking at his figure she could see the left side of his face was a large bruise, his eye was swollen shut and his nose was crooked and looked broken. Slowly he let go of her and let her up. His movements were now slow and he seemed to favour the ribs on his left and limp. "Can you walk?" Faith asked as she handed him the assault rifle and clips.
"You're kidding right?" he grinned back at her. Walking out of the cell the two headed down towards the end when a shot rang out and Taylor grunted as he fell forward. Spinning around back the way they came Faith saw three guards. Firing a short burst, she killed one guard as she leapt into a cell and bullets filled the air where she had been. Looking back, she saw Taylor lying in a pool of blood. Faith fired several rounds blindly down the hallway hitting one guard and quickly popped her head out and saw the third guard jump into a nearby cell. ‘Two can play at that,' Faith thought viciously. Pulling a grenade off of her vest Faith pulled the pin and started counting "One potato, two potato, three potato" before she threw the grenade bouncing it in the cell with the guard. A loud "WARUMMMPH!!!!" and a short scream echoed from the cell. Checking inside she saw the guard or what was left of him at least.
"Faith," Hearing her name Faith ran back towards Taylor.
"I thought you were dead."
"Not hardly, but pretty damn close though" Taylor smiled an effort that caused him to cough up blood. "There's still one Marine from my squad here, you have to get her."
"Get her?" Faith asked. "I thought there weren't any women over here."
"There are only a few, Beth's been in my squad before the war started."
"Come on we gotta get you outta here. Beth...Buffy?" Faith whispered as the name suddenly hit her. Faith started to move Taylor but a loud grunt of pain came out as she started to lift him up.
"Look I'm not gonna make it out of here I can't even walk, but I can save you and her by buying you some time. She's at the end of the hall, just bring me the guards ammo first." Quickly grabbing up the ammo and weapons Faith brought them back towards Taylor how had pulled himself partially in the doorway.
"I can't leave you Taylor, I was sent to either bring you out or..." Faith trailed off.
"They aren't going to take me again and they aren't going to get past me till they kill me."
Seeing the young woman hesitate, "I'm a Marine, that means there is no ‘I'll do my best or try'. You do it, period." A wolfish smile crossed his face and Faith saw the look in his eyes and nodded.
"Give'em hell Taylor"
"One thing, do me a favour and when Beth is better tell her I said I'm sorry I couldn't keep my promise", Faith hurried through the door.
Leaning back against the doorway, Taylor thought about Faith and how she reminded him of Beth. They both carried themselves the same way, a casual grace that reminded him of a tiger he watched stalking a gazelle. Settling back he heard the sound of footsteps from the stairs and waited for the first moron to pop his head out so he could take it off. [It's time they learn why you don't fuck with a Marine,] he thought as a wolfish smile flashed on his face never reaching the cold look of Death in his eyes.
Faith moved quickly down the corridor to the cell Taylor had told her where B was. Unlocking the door and opening it Faith saw a figure lying in the center of the small cell.
"Beth... You awake B?" The form launched itself at Faith, slamming her into the wall. Before she could regain her wits, Faith felt herself being thrown roughly to the ground and her head slammed into the floor stunning her. Faith heard a low growl and looked up at the dirt and rags covering the person on top of her. Faith saw the matted long hair hiding the face, slowly she reached up and moved the hair out of the way and saw Beth's battered face. Beth's eyes were closed and she leaned in close to her neck and sniffed. Faith watched as Beth did this several more times before a look of recognition came over Beth's face.
"B, we have to get out of here. We have to go now!"
"Out? We go out now? Good." Beth moved off of Faith and took measured steps and stopped near the door. "Mate come too. No stay here, bad." Faith watched as Beth turned and cocked her head back down the hallway where she had come from. "T..Tay. Tay come too. Go now. More they come soon."
Faith heard gunfire from down the hallway where Taylor was. "Okay B, we're gonna go now. Follow me close okay?" Faith moved past B and stepped out into the hallway, [Shit, we're not going back that way. There should be another stairwell about 5 meters back.]
Faith felt B touch her on the small of her back as she started moving quickly back towards the stairwell. Faith reached back to take B's hand to guide her when Beth pulled her hand out of Faith's.
"NO! Not hold hand, can walk."
Faith sighed mentally, "Okay, I won't hold you're hand B." Faith took B's hand and put it on her right shoulder. "Now I'm not holding your hand B and you know where I am, k?" Faith heard machine gun fire from the doorway where she left Taylor followed by a large explosion and the gunfire stopped. "We'll see Tay later B. He'll be okay, but we have to go now." Faith opened the door and started inside the stairwell, B's hand was still touching her shoulder as they slowly made their way up. [Take care Taylor. Thanks.] Faith turned her attention back to climbing the long stairwell and getting her and B out of this hellhole and towards the landing zone where the ‘copter waited to take them home.
Stopping at the edge of the tree line, Faith surveyed the once open ground. Bodies lay strewn about the field, and several small fires as well as 2 large, flaming wrecks that were once helicopters. Faith moved towards the edge of the field and stopped, staying in the shadows. Faith took B's hand off her shoulder and turned to look at her. Beth's breathing started increase.
"Mate okay? We go home now. Home, we go home now!" Faith put her hand over B's mouth to stop her from talking. "I have to go check this out, you stay here B."
"Mate leave? Mate angry. Not come back. B is Bad." Faith saw the crestfallen look on B's face and moved back over to her. "I'm just leaving for a few minutes and then I'm coming right back. I promise." Faith reached out and lifted Beth's chin gently with her hand. "I'm not angry, really. I'll be right back. But you have to stay here and be quiet. There might be bad people out there. Okay?"
Faith saw a smile blossom on Beth's face, "Be back? Good. B stay, be quiet." Faith felt her heart melt as she saw the smile on Beth's battered face. Leaving Buffy hidden Faith moved thru the field quickly and quietly using every ounce of skill she had to avoid being seen. As she approached one wreck she could see it was the copter that was supposed to fly her out, about 30 yards away was the second copter. Looking at the second chopper she saw it was a Blackhawk and the markings on the tail said "US Marines", [What the hell is going on here?] She stopped at the first body and flipped it over. She saw the unit patches on the shoulder, a triangular blue field with two red 1's in the center. [Shit! Marines here? What the hell?] Faith mentally cursed as she started pulling the Alice Pack off the closest Marine and stripped him of weapons, ammo and rations, stuffing them in the pack and shouldered it. Faith checked the rest of the bodies repeating what she did with the first and found they were a mix of Marines and her NSA retrieval team.
[This is just frigging great!] Faith moved from body to body grabbing anything she thought could be of use and headed back to where she left B. Faith got back to where she left B, but there was no-one in sight. A figure pounced on her from behind knocking her down and making her drop both Field Packs.
"Back!" came a loud whisper from behind her. "Was quiet! Surprised mate!" Faith could hear the smile in Beth's voice and turned over to see B hovering only a few inches above her and a broad smile on her face. [What is with this mate thing she keeps saying?] Faith thought.
"Yes I'm back B. I promised. We have to go now. We aren't going home this way."
"We get Tay. Tay hurt. Tay take home." The smile started to slip off her face. "Go home now!"
"Please B, we have to be quiet." Faith pulled Beth away feeling the skin and bones underneath her fingers and shuddered. "If we're not quiet, the bad guys will get us again, okay?"
"No go back, never. Where Tay? We go get Tay. Go home."
Faith thought quickly what to say, "No, Tay's not back there now. He'll meet us later." Faith pulled out an energy bar and removed the wrapping. "Hungry? I have food B." Beth's eyebrows shot up, "Food? Yes hungry." Faith pushed the bar into B's hands and watched her almost swallow it without chewing. "Okay B, lets go now." [We have to get out of here before the fires bring every soldier in this country down around our necks.]TBC in Chapter 11
[Author's notes: Nothing that I haven't said already.
Rating - R or MA or whatever it is now.
Feedback – most definitely wanted. Thoughts, suggestions, criticism, whatever. I can’t fix something if I don’t know it’s broken… You can reach me at email@example.com
“When the world is darker than I can understand,
when nothing turns out the way I planned.
When the sky turns gray and there’s no end in sight,
I turn to you…”
“Turn To You”
3 Days Later…
Faith moved back to where she had left Beth hidden, the last few days they had kept moving east and away from the prison. She had wanted to put as much distance between it and them as possible. Faith wasn’t sure how, but Beth had managed to keep up with her despite the frantic pace she was setting. Exhaustion had finally overwhelmed Beth and Faith had been carrying her for the last few hours. Faith had finally spotted a house and left B hidden while she checked it out. The house had turned out to be abandoned for sometime, but it was what they needed for now, a place to rest…
Faith blinked and turned from the window and back towards the figure sleeping on the bed a few feet away. Frowning Faith moved thru the doorway to the kitchen. Inside, Faith grabbed a bowl from the counter and moved towards the sink, as she turned the water on the faucet coughed out a brown sludge before a brackish trickle of water drizzled out. [Merle lived in a better class of shit-hole than this!] Faith thought angrily. Dropping the bowl back onto the counter, Faith turned and looked inside the refrigerator, the light inside flickered twice before blinking out and a strong odor of rotting meat flowed out. Faith slammed the door quickly. [Damnit! We’re gonna have to move soon, we can’t stay here] Turning back to the faucet Faith waited several minutes for the water to clear before she filled the bowl and padded quietly back thru the small house.
Faith walked back into the bedroom with the large bowl of water and some towels. Putting them down on the dresser she walked over to Beth who was still asleep on the bed. [God she stinks! I wonder why I didn’t notice it before.] Gently, Faith put her hand on Beth’s shoulder when a strong hand reached up grabbing her and knocking her off-balance and she was tackled to the floor and held down. Faith lay still underneath Beth, “B it’s okay. It’s me, Faith. Listen to my voice B, you’re safe.” Faith gently ran her hand up and down Beth’s arm.
Beth leaned forward as she heard the voice, it was familiar somehow. She leaned close to the voice and sniffed the woman’s neck several times. She knew that smell!! “Mate?” Beth asked as the image of her tall, dark haired mate came to mind.
“Uh yeah B, it’s me. Faith.” [What is with the mate thing all the time? Did I miss something?] Faith wondered to herself.
Faith wriggled out from underneath Beth, “B, we need to get these rags off you okay?” Faith took the rags that were once a shirt on Beth’s shoulder and started to pull them off when she saw Beth smile widely at her.
“Mate want to play?” Beth grabbed the rags and started pulling them off of her.
Within moments Faith saw a naked Beth kneeling in front of her…”Uhhhhh B…uhhmm this is wash time. Not play time.” Faith managed to stammer out. Instead of being aroused by the sight of Beth being naked, Faith was shocked to her core by what she saw.
Leaning closer Faith moved Beth’s long hair gently aside and she saw the multitude of scars, burns and welt marks that criss-crossed Beth’s back, shoulders and stomach. [MOTHER OF GOD!! What did they do to you B?] Tears fell from her eyes as Faith saw the older scars underneath the half-healed new ones that covered Beth. Faith gingerly touched Beth’s left side where she saw a large, purplish area by Beth’s ribs and she was pretty certain that Beth had several broken ribs there as well.
Faith reached over and grabbed a wet cloth from the bowl, her hand shaking as she took the cloth and started to wash the layers of dirt off of B. Faith wiped her eyes with the back of her free hand.
Beth heard sad noises and felt her mate’s sadness wash over her. She reached out and touched her mate’s face and felt the tears on her cheeks. “Why mate cry? Do something bad we did? We hurt mate?”
Faith heard the hurt in Beth’s voice, “No B, you didn’t do anything bad. I just got something in my eye, k?” You stay still as you can while I clean you up some.” [Snap out of it Faith, you can’t go weeping like a little girl. Beth needs you to be strong for her, so suck it up!] Faith angrily berated herself and continued the process of washing the dirt off, rinsing and continuing to gently clean B. After making several trips for clean water, Faith finally finished washing Beth from head to toe and got her into some clean clothes.
Faith looked out the shuttered window of the cottage she was holed up in with Beth. The last few days had been really rough on them both. They had been forced to flee several times when patrols had come close to where they were hiding, and after 12 hours of being on the run they had finally thrown off the French Army patrols and found this abandoned cottage. Turning away from the window where she had kept watch, Faith looked over and saw Beth curled up on her side with a blanket on the floor, sleeping finally. [I don’t know how the hell she could keep up with me. Not with the shape she’s in.] Faith looked back out the window as she felt tears in her eyes, [I won’t let them take you back B, I promise.]
Yawning, Faith moved back away from the window quietly, trying not to wake Beth. As she moved past Beth, Faith heard her start mumbling, “I won’t break, I’m a Marine. I won’t break.” Faith could see the tension in Beth’s body, Faith reached down and brushed a strand of hair away from Beth’s eyes and gently ran her hand down Beth’s back over and over. Slowly Faith felt the tension leave Beth’s body and relax, satisfied Beth would sleep Faith stood up and walked out of the room.
Faith hadn’t gone far when she heard Beth’s voice crying out, “NO! STOP!! NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!” Faith turned and ran back into the room with Beth who was shaking and crying. Dropping down Faith pulled Beth into her arms, “Sshhh, it’s okay. Ssshhh. You’re safe now,” Faith kept repeating the words as she gently rocked Beth in her arms and held her until Faith felt Beth fall asleep. Beth was wrapped around her like an octopus, but when Faith started to untangle herself from Beth she heard Beth start to whimper. So she stayed there and drifted off to sleep, in the arms of the one person she longed to be with…
Faith woke to a sound she hoped she’d never hear again in her lifetime. A faint keening sound. Looking around the room Faith saw that it was empty. Quickly she got up off the floor and headed towards where she heard the keening. After a quick search through the house Faith found Beth sitting on the kitchen floor pulled into a tight ball, her arms were wrapped around her. Beth was covered in sweat and rocking slowly back and forth. Faith walked over to Beth and knelt down in front of her. When she reached out to touch Beth, Faith saw her flinch and pull away. “B, it’s me Faith. You’re safe now.” Faith moved her hand slowly towards Beth’s face and brushed the long hair away that was covering her face. She ran her fingers gently down Beth’s jaw and cheek. “It’s okay Beth, I’m here and no-one’s gonna hurt you, ever.”
Faith searched Beth’s face for any signs of recognition, but saw none. There was only fear in Beth’s face. “B you know me. Somewhere in there you know me. I’m Faith, you’re slaying buddy. We used to walk through the park on down nights when the cemeteries were quiet. We’d sit on the merry-go-round and talk. I won’t hurt you Beth.” Faith moved forward a few inches and stopped, “Remember the time you took me to play miniature golf and how much I said I hated it. But you knew I was lying, as long as I was with you it didn’t matter.” Faith kept her voice calm and soothing as she spoke and saw Beth relax just slightly so she continued to talk. “Do you remember the night I kissed you? I do. There was a full moon that night and we were done patrolling. I looked at you and leaned over and kissed you. I just wanted to ruffle your feathers, but you kissed me back. And…and…it was like nothing else B.”
Faith continued to gently caress B’s cheek and saw her slowly stop rocking back and forth. Faith saw the fear slowly leave Beth’s face and a semi-recognition take over. “Come back to me B, you’re safe now and nothing’s gonna hurt you ‘cause I’m here now. It’s okay.” Faith watched Beth move forward towards her until she was only inches away and then sniff her neck. .
“Mate? Mate protect from bad men?? Bad men come and take away and hurt. Leave and then come back and hurt more. Tired of hurting pain. Want it go away. Mate make it go away now?” Beth asked almost pleadingly.
Faith nodded and put her arms around Beth, pulling her close against her. “They won’t hurt you again B. I promise.”
Faith felt Beth’s arms hesitantly wrap around her before Beth settled closely against her. “Is tired now, need rest. Safe now. Mate protect us.”
Holding Beth closely Faith gently rubbed Beth’s back until she felt Beth’s breathing slow down, even as she fell asleep in her arms.
Gently Faith picked Beth up so as to not wake her and carried her into the master bedroom. She laid Beth down in the center of the bed and then lay down next to her. Beth immediately moved over and wrapped herself around Faith, holding her tightly. Faith saw a small smile played on Beth’s face as she snuggled close to her.
Closing her eyes, Faith felt drained emotionally and exhausted, she was scared by what she had found out and what could have happened to Beth to make her retreat into herself the way she was now. [I mean it B, I’ll kill the next person who tries to lay a hand on you.] With a fleeting glance at Beth, Faith let the sleep overcome her.
The room was dark except for the few lights on the walls that kept the total darkness at bay. There was a large circular table in the center of the room, seated around it were seven black-robed and hooded figures.
A large figure at the top of the table spoke, “Is everything prepared brothers?”
“Yesss, all hass been sset in motion. We need but one pieces for usss to complete the ritual Lord Vaarden” The figure to his left replied.
“What of the last piece?” Another figure asked in a deep baritone voice.
“Yes, what of the other?” a silkily seductive feminine voice asked. “We cannot verify that she has been ‘removed’ from the playing field.”
The large figure turned to look at the ‘woman’. “She will be taken care of shortly.”
A green-scaled fist slammed down on the tabletop across from the head of the head of the Council. The figure was tall and massively built even under the robes that hid its features. “You underessstimate her Varrden. Three timesssess you hass tried to kill her and three timessess you hass failed. Ssshe is becoming too powerfulss. We should have destroyed her long ago, before ssshe could be a threat…”
“No Sharas, you worry over nothing. It does not matter is she lives or not. She has been captured and is no longer a threat. Soon everything will be in place and then ‘nothing’ will stop us. The Watcher’s Council and their annoying Slayers will be unable to stop it. The time of the Prophecy is almost at hand, nothing can stop it and we will rule once again.”
Sharas hissed loudly, “A foolsss you are Vaarden, underssesstimate thisss ones and you ssshall follow in your predecesssor’sss fate. Do not forget her failure at the hands of the Slayers at Rakata. When Krakatau erupted we losst many of our brotherssss and sissstersss.”
“Enough Sharas!! I rule the Council and you will silence that forked tongue of your or I will remove it! We will have our Slayer and we will kill the other at our leisure, and then…then we shall have what is rightly ours.”
1 Week Later…
Faith snuck through the bushes at the side of the house. Her eyes darting wildly, searching for any signs of inhabitants or patrols, she made her way quickly to the back of the house, keeping low to the ground. She pulled open the door and entered the darkened hallway. Gripping the M4 carbine she darted quickly up the stairs. The stairs squeaked loudly underneath her feet and she flinched. [Damnit Faith! Damnit!] Faith checked the first bedroom and then the second room, they were all empty, just like the last house they hand been in. Quickly Faith darted back down the steps and out the door.
The driving rain hit her eyes and she blinked, covering them with her arm before moving back into the bushes where she’d left Beth. They’d been on the run for the last five days, and it seemed the heavens had decided to punish them for whatever they had done wrong because it had been raining for just as long. Faith slung her rifle over her back with the barrel facing down and bent down next to Beth, and touched her forehead, feeling the heat coming off of her despite the cold weather and the rain that was pouring down on them. “Okay Beth, there’s a nice house waiting for us just a few yards away.” Faith waited for a few seconds for Beth to reply but got none. Struggling to remain calm Faith pulled Beth upright and draped her arm over Beth’s shoulder, supporting almost all of B’s weight as they moved. Beth’s head lolled forward and her breathing was coming in rasping hitches, but Faith kept up the pace. They had to get inside before someone saw them. Beth stumbled, losing her footing and nearly pulling Faith down into the mud with her as the rain came down harder.
Faith pulled Beth out of the mud and started forward again. “Come on B, just a few more steps.” But she couldn't even see the house through the sheet of rain. Beth started to go down again but Faith quickly grabbed her, she winced as Beth let out a moan of pain. “I'm sorry B, here.” She tucked one arm underneath Beth's knees and cradled her against her chest.
“Faith...... hurt...... make stop....” Faith felt Beth rest her head against her shoulder as she collapsed into a wheezing fit.
“You just need to a warm bath B. I'll get you some blankets. Just stay awake please.”
“Can't...... make hurt...... stop..... please.”
****Beth slammed the door open to her room, storming across and into the bathroom. “Leave me alone Tay.”
Taylor smirked as the bathroom door slammed in his face. “No can do Beth. Marines don't leave Marines. What the hell happened out there?”
“Get out of here Taylor! It doesn't matter.” Beth threw a punch, barely pulling it before her fist smashed into the wall.
Taylor sighed pacing in front of the door. “It does matter. What the hell where you thinking Beth? You could have gotten us all killed. You know they are just looking for a reason to fry your ass. And as your squad leader…”
The door slammed open and Beth marched right up to him. “Don't pull that higher ranking bullshit with me Taylor. You know as well as I do that I could kill you before you ever knew I moved.”
Taylor backed up a few steps, raising his hands in surrender. “True. But as a friend, what is going on with you?”
Taylor watched Beth cross the room to the window. She pulled open the curtain slightly letting in the sunlight. “This isn't me Taylor.” She motioned to the fatigues she was wearing and the duffle she'd dropped in her haste. “I.. can't do this anymore, Tay. This isn't me.”
“You're right Beth, this isn't the you from Sunnydale.” He crossed over to her and turned her around so she could see the sincerity on his face. “But this is you. This is the new you, and you love what your doing in the Marines. I know this ‘cause I can tell by your eyes. On the practice field, the parade ground, even hanging out with the guys...your eyes light up Beth. Whatever's bugging you, it doesn't involve the Corps. So don't lie to me and please don't shut me out.”
Beth sighed but didn't back away from him, “Dawnie turned sixteen today, I promised her that when she turned sixteen I'd help her start a down payment for her first car. I failed her, just like I failed the guys during the combat exercise today. I can’t do this anymore Taylor.
“You made a mistake today Beth, that's what the exercise is for. And I've never met your sister, but I know she doesn't blame you for anything. If she's a tenth of the person you are, she'd never do that.”
“No Taylor I can't. I'm tired of this,” Beth waived her hands around, “of having everyone looking over my shoulder and every CO trying to get the ‘convict’ out of their unit as fast as possible. For the last year and a half I’ve played by all the rules and I've had to do everything three times better then anyone else just to be judged half as good. I can't do that anymore.”
Taylor reached over and grabbed Beth by the shoulders and shook her, “Yes you will Beth, because that's the choice you made when you chose the Corps, so deal with it ‘cause you're not going anywhere. And one more thing Beth, Marines don't say can't. It's not in our vocabulary.”
Beth smirked at Taylor, “Fine Mr. Smarty pants. Cannot,” and stuck her tongue out at him before she picked up her duffle bag and headed back towards the barracks.****
Faith kicked the door open, stumbling into the house. Rainwater pooled at her feet as she struggled to hold Beth and not lose her footing on the wet floor. Leaning against the wall Faith caught her balance and knocked the door closed with her foot. Walking a few steps, Faith felt her strength ebbing. Gently she laid Beth down on the floor, Beth shivered violently in her soaked clothing and her lips were blue from the cold…“T-T-Tired of pain. W-Want it t-t-to end...”
Faith forced herself up and towards the bathroom down the hall, [Gotta get some blankets and get B dried off and warm.] She pulled the linen closet door open and grabbed several towels and blankets. Turning Faith ran back towards where B was shivering on the floor. Faith started removing Beth's clothes hurriedly so she could get her wrapped in some warm blankets. A blow to the head knocked her back and Faith looked up from the floor and saw Beth struggling to stand up, barely able to stand, “NO! Not again! I'll kill you first!”
Beth fell back weakly against the wall, “No!” she mumbled weakly as Faith leapt up to grab her before she fell.
“Ssshhh, it's okay B. You're safe.” Faith said as she felt Beth weakly struggle against her grip.
Beth's struggles slowly ceased, “B, I have to get you out of those wet clothes okay? You're safe with me here.” Faith slowly started to remove Beth's clothes and got her wrapped up in the blankets she had grabbed. Picking Beth up again Faith moved her toward the living room and in front of the fireplace where she laid her down, moving over to the fireplace Faith threw several logs inside along with some kindling and after several tries got a fire started. Quickly she got it blazing and the temperature slowly began to rise, looking back Faith heard Beth mumble weakly and moved over by her side.
“I'm tired Tay...always alone now. Tay?” Faith sat silently trying to decide whether to reply.
Faith saw Beth shiver and put her arm around her and pulled Beth close to her. “Yeah, I'm here Beth.” Faith finally replied. “Beth, why are you hiding?” Faith asked.
Beth snuggled closer to Faith, "Not hiding, it hurt. Safer here now. Found Faith.” Faith saw Beth smile as she said her name.
“Are you sure it's safe there Beth? How can you tell?”
“It safe. If can't see, I can't hurt. Beside, Faith loves me, can feel it when she is nearby. All warm and comfy feeling from her.” Beth smiled again.
“You need to open your eyes look at the real world sometime Beth, you can't hide forever.”
“I'm afraid Tay, I’m afraid of what I'll see.”
Faith scowled as she heard B's words, “What are you afraid you'll see B...Beth” Faith asked, concern coloring her voice.
“Afraid...mate leave...” Beth yawned loudly, “Hate....me...” Beth drifted to sleep in Faiths arms, her head was pillowed on Faith's chest and she held Faith closely. Even in her sleep Faith noticed Beth seemed to hold onto her as if she'd disappear.
Faith eyes started to droop as exhaustion started to overwhelm her. Shaking her head, Faith tried to stay awake, but her eyes slowly drifted shut and her last thought [Gotta stay awake....]
Angel heard his private phone ring and picked it up on the fourth ring. “Yes?”
“Good morning Angel.” Giles said to get the pleasantries out of the way.
Angel sighed mentally, even after all these years he didn't like talking to Giles. The rift between them from when he had killed Jenny Calendar had never healed and had only grown over the intervening years. “Yes Giles? What is it?” Angel asked impatiently.
“Ahh yes. Always to the point. I need to get in touch with Faith.”
“Faith? Why do you need to contact Faith Giles?” Warning bells had gone off in Angel's head when Giles brought up Faith.
“I have a problem over here and Willow asked me to contact Faith and ask her to come down to Sunnydale to give us a hand.”
“If Willow asked you to call, why are you calling me instead of Faith? She ‘did’ give you Faith's phone number, right?’ Angel asked trying to mask his suspicion.
“Of course, however when I rang her number there was no answer at her flat. That’s why I’m talking to you, to see if you know where she can be reached.”
Angel walked over to his desk and started scribbling notes on a pad. “I see, well she's not here right now. Did you want me to have Faith call Willow when I see her?”
“Uh, no! No, have her call me at The Magic Shop actually it will be easier that way. Good day.”
Angel waited until he heard Giles hang up and then walked out of his office and headed over to where Cordy was sitting at her desk. Just as he reached her Angel saw Cordy grab her head as she was assaulted with a vision from TPTB.
End Chapter 11
[Author's notes: Nothing new.
Rating - M-ish mostly.
Feedback – most definitely wanted. Thoughts, suggestions, criticism, whatever. I can’t fix something if I don’t know it’s broken… You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Images bombarded Cordelia; Beth in chains in a small, dark, dank room. Beth screaming in pain as she was being tortured and beaten. Beth asleep in a bed somewhere wrapped around Faith.
With her head throbbing from the vision Cordy opened her eyes slowly, “Beth. It was Beth, she was alive but she was being tortured and held somewhere. I couldn't tell where, ‘they’ wouldn't tell me. God my head is killing me this time. Can't they do this without the mind-numbing pain all the time?”
Anything else?" Angel asked.
“Yeah,” Cordy rubber her temples trying to make the pain go away. “She was with Faith and I got the feeling they're ok. We have to tell Giles and her Mom Angel.”
“No we don't. Something isn't right. It's better if everyone thinks of her as dead for now, or at least it’s safer this way. I want you to go talk to Willow and Tara. Find out if they've noticed anything strange going on down there.” Angel waited for Cordelia to nod before turning and walking out the door.
2 Days Later…
Cordy pulled her car into the parking spot in front of the building where Willow and Tara lived.
Willow opened the door on the fifth knock. “Hold on! Cordy?” She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “It's what...”
“4 AM,” Cordelia answered her.
Willow glanced at the clock in the hallway. “Yes it is, and sane people would be asleep. What are you doing here?”
Cordy made a hissing sound, taking in the dark circles under Willow's eyes. “Retract the claws for a second, witch girl. Angel sent me.”
Willow opened the door wider, motioning with her arm for Cordy to enter. “That's nice Cordy but it’s still four in the morning. Couldn't you have come at a more normal hour? Wait! Angel sent you. What's wrong?”
“Calm down Willow, take a deep breath. Is Tara here? Of course Tara's here.”
“Wills hon, come back to bed!” Tara's voice called out from the bedroom.
Willow walked over to the bedroom door and stuck her head inside, “Tara, get up. We have company, Cordy's here.”
“That's nice Will,” Tara replied sleepily.
Willow walked into the bedroom and disappeared from sight. Minutes later Willow walked out followed by a still sleepy Tara wearing a blue robe.
Willow sat down on the couch and Tara sat next to her. “So why did Angel send you here?” Willow asked as Tara snuggled close and leaned her head onto Willow's shoulder as she closed her eyes.
“Two days ago I had one of my fun, pain-inducing visions from The Powers That Be, it's about Beth Will...she's alive!”
Tara's eyes popped open and she sat up. Willow's intense glare penetrated Cordy to the bone. “If this is a joke Cordy...”
Cordelia raised her hands in mock-surrender, “No joke Willow. Beth's alive, I don't know in what kind of shape she's in, but she's alive though.”
Tara studied Cordelia for a minute and then turned to Willow, “She's telling the truth. Beth’s alive.”
Willow's face turned ashen in shock, “But we saw...the funeralwhataboutthebodyandtheMarinesandeverythingelse?”
“Willow, did you ever ‘see’ Beth's body?” Tara asked.
“What do you mean Tara? I couldn't it was a closed casket...” Willow suddenly remembered something Joyce had said during their fight, “They didn't even have a BODY for me to bury Willow.”
“Oh my god Tara...” Willow thought of Dawn and Giles and how'd they react when she told them. “We have to tell Dawn and Giles, they have to know about...”
“No! We can't!”
Will turned her head towards Cordy, “What do you mean we can't Cordy?”
“That's the other reason I came down here. Angel thinks it might be better if people didn't know about Beth being alive. Better for her.”
Outrage colored Willow's features, “How can we not tell Dawn her sister isn't dead?!?”
Tara interrupted Willow and put her hand over Willow's. “There's something else going on here, isn't there.”
Cordy could hear Tara wasn't asking a question, she was making a statement. “Yeah, I don't know what. Angel clammed up and wouldn't say. He did want to know if anything strange has happened recently.”
Tara looked at Cordelia briefly, “What else is going on? You know something Cordelia.”
“I...I'm not sure. I didn't tell Angel because I saw something and I didn't understand it...I still don't.”
“What was it Cordy?” Willow asked. “Tell us, maybe we can help you.”
Cordelia fidgeted in the chair for several minutes as she dredged up the memories of the vision and replayed them in her mind. “There were two things,” Cordelia closer her eyes as she started to speak. “The last part of the vision with Beth was peaceful compared to the others, Beth and Faith were asleep in bed wrapped around each other. But it was the last image that I don’t understand. I was standing on a hill looking at the sun when suddenly the sun turned black and the sky darkened and turned into night. The ground shook like there was an earthquake and there were loud screams all around me as if millions of people were screaming in pain. I don’t know what it was and I don’t want to.”
Willow saw how visibly shaken Cordelia was as she recalled the vision. “Cordy, what else?”
Cordy finally opened her eyes and looked at Willow, “It felt like the end of everything….”
5 Days later…
The last week had been good for both of them. They hadn’t seen any patrols out here, and they had finally gotten some rest, something Beth had needed very badly. Beth’s injuries had started healing, although Faith suspected there might be some scars left. Beth had even managed to start gaining some weight back as her appetite had increased over the last week and she no longer looked like the scarecrow she had pulled out of the prison.
Faith walked back into the bathroom just in time to see Beth struggling to get up out of the tub and failing. Dropping the clothes Faith rushed forward and grabbed Beth before she could fall. “B, you gotta be more careful!” Faith instantly regretted her harsh tone when she saw Beth's face fell.
“Was trying to get up, wanted to do myself.” Beth's voice rasped out.
Faith sighed, “I know B, but you're still weak. You've gotta take it easy right now.”
Faith leaned over and snatched a nearby towel and then scooped Beth up out of the bathtub. “Here's the wall B. Stay, I'll be right back.” She leaned Beth against the bathroom wall and turned to retrieve another towel.
Faith turned around just in time to see Beth move her hands along the bathroom wall as she tried to walk using the wall as a guide.
Beth’s foot hit a patch of water and she tumbled backwards into Faith’s arms who scooped her up and carried her into the bedroom before lying Beth on the bed. “B, wouldn’t it be easier if you opened your eyes so you can see?” Faith asked, not really expecting an answer.
“No! Light hurts!! If open eyes, feel pain.”
Faith kneeled at the edge of the bed her hands held Beth’s, “B, all the lights are off in here. It’s dark, why don’t you try opening them just a little? Please??”
Beth turned and ‘looked’ at Faith, “What if hurt? Scared Faith-mate.”
Faith ran her hand gently down the side of Beth’s face, “It’ll be okay, really. Are you afraid of the pain or what you’ll see B?”
Beth was quiet for a long time before she spoke up, “Faces…pain…blood…”
Faith's breath caught in her throat, the pain in Beth's voice was tangible. She took a deep breath, trying to calm her breathing. She had to be calm. “Whatever happened to you in there, isn’t gonna happen out here. You're safe now and I'm not gonna let anything hurt you Beth.”
“Faith-mate not run away? Not leave me alone if open eyes?” Beth asked in a small voice.
A puzzled look came over Faith's face, [Run away? Why would I do that?] Faith wondered. “B, I'm never going to leave you...ever!”
Beth leaned forward towards Faith and stopped only a few inches from Faith's face. She could ‘feel’ Faith's love behind her words wrapping around her like a warm blanket until the memory of what happened to her drove it away and all she was left was the cold fear once again. That her mate would leave and she would be alone.
Faith saw tears drip down Beth's cheeks and raised her hand to gently cup Beth's face. “It's okay B, I promise. I lost you once and I'm not going to lose you again.”
“Faith not leave? Not hate me not being strong enough?” Beth asked again still unsure of what she felt from her mate.
Faith climbed up to where Beth had pulled back into the center of the bed curled up. She put her hands on either side of Beth's face, “Nothing, absolutely nothing matters to me except that you are alive and getting well and are close to me. That's all that's important. So you listen to me B, I'm not going anywhere unless you want me to. Okay?”
Tears fell down Faith's face but she ignored them. And then it happened...
Beth slowly opened her left eye just a little, and then a little more till Faith could just see the green of Beth's left eye.
Faith leaned down slightly, “See B, I haven't gone anywhere” and she smiled at Beth as she watched Beth's right eye open slowly.
And Beth looked at her mate and saw the tears running down Faith's cheeks. She lifted her hand and touched Faith's face softly caressing it. “Mate not leave, keep promise.” Gently she pushed Faith onto her back and climbed on top of her straddling Faith's waist.
Leaning over, Beth brought her face only a few inches from Faith's, “Loves you Faith-mate.” Beth brought her lips to Faith's and gently kissed her lips as she felt Faith's hands hold her waist and then caress her back. Beth nibbled on Faith's lips and heard her moan softly into her mouth, Faith's lips opened and Beth’s tongue slipped past her lips to play with hers.
Beth moved one hand teasingly down Faith's side and slowly move around her ribs and then gently brush and tease Faith's breast.
Faith felt like she was on fire when Beth started touching her, it was everything and more then she thought it would be. Faith felt her nipples harden as the teasing touches from Beth drove her mad. She felt Beth pull her shirt loose from her pants and unbutton it, as a hand glidingly brushed her stomach and moved up agonizingly slowly again. Faith felt herself arch up into Beth's touch when finally she felt Beth cup her breast and gently tease her nipple with her thumb. “Oh god, yesss!”
Faith flipped Beth over on her back and turned the tables, with Faith straddling her. Faith gently pulled the towel around Beth off and looked down at the woman she loved and desired so badly it hurt. [But this isn't Beth...I can't...What if she thinks I used her? No, I won't do this. God I want to, I want her!!] Faith felt Beth’s fingers push her bra up freeing her breasts and Beth's lips latch onto her nipple as the other hand cupped and teased her other breast. [Oh god, yesss Beth!!] Mustering all her willpower Faith forced herself to move up and gently move Beth back from her breasts. “B, hold up 1 sec.”
A confused look crossed Beth's face, “Not understand. Want mate. Mate not want be with?”
“Yes, B. I want you more then anything. But not right now.”
“Not now? Why? Can feel you want, why not now?” Beth asked, confusion was evident in her voice.
[Think fast Faith, we don't want to drive her away.] “Because you're still getting over from being sick B. Right now you need to get better first, otherwise you might get sick again.” Faith felt her body still tingling from where Beth had been touching her and was aching to be touched.
Faith watched as B seemed to think about what she had said before nodding and moving off of Faith’s waist, only to wrap her body and arms around Faith before closing her eyes and drifting off to sleep.
It felt like forever as Faith laid next to Beth and she tried to sleep.
Beth snuggled closer to her pillow and tried to ignore the light that was hurting her eyes. Lifting her hand Beth blocked the sunlight and slowly opened her eyes. Everything was fuzzy and blurred for several minutes, her eyes unused to the light. Slowly her eyes adjusted and her vision cleared slightly, but Beth forced herself to squint to lessen the pain.
Beth felt her ‘pillow’ move and turned slightly to notice for the first time that she was lying next to Faith. Actually she was sprawled across Faith's naked body and her head was resting....[Oh My God! Faith?!? Shit! I don't remember] Beth blushed as she looked at Faith's naked body and then she noticed...[I'm naked?! How the hell did I get naked and how did I end up in bed with Faith? God she's beautiful though] Beth moved slowly out of the bed, trying not to disturb Faith and quickly pulled on the pants and t-shirt she saw lying on the floor. She looked around the room trying to find something familiar other than Faith. [Where the hell am I?] Quietly she made the way to the bathroom and reached for the light switch. “Son of a...” Beth cursed as she stubbed her toe on something hard. Beth’s hand reached out to turn on the light switch and look at her toe.
Faith moved her arm from her face where it had been covering hey eyes from the morning sun. Groggily she shifted onto her side and moved her arm over by Beth, but there was nothing there. [Huh?!?] Faith's mind struggled to clear itself, “Beth?” she mumbled. “Beth are you...” When Faith saw Beth walk out of the bathroom and then suddenly cover her eyes with her hands, “AHHH! The light, it's...” Faith jumped out of bed and pulled the shade down by the window, cutting off the sunlight and darkening the room.
Beth slowly lowered her hands, the harsh light was gone. “Thanks Faith.” Beth paused as she saw Faith standing naked in front of her and looking at her with a concerned look on her face. “Uhmm, Faith? Aren't you feeling a bit drafty?” Beth asked, unable to take her eyes off the beautiful, sexy....[Hey! Stop that!!!]
Faith looked down and noticed she wasn't dressed, then it occurred to her it was ‘Beth’ talking... “Beth?!?”
Beth quirked an eyebrow, “Who else would it be and where are we?”
Faith started grabbing clothes and pulling them on, “Uhmm. that's a long story B. Why don't we get some food and start with what you remember last and work forward from there.”
Faith opened the refrigerator, pulled out the leftover cold chicken and walked back to the table where Beth was already seated. Cutting a leg off Faith dropped it on her plate, “I guess you're lookin for an explanation how you're here. It's kinda easier if you tell me the last thing you remember.”
Beth watched Faith start to eat the cold chicken and mentally sighed, this was not what she expected from Faith. She had also noticed the casual way Faith seemed to stay closer to her, almost protectively. Beth shook her head to clear her thoughts, “I remember getting captured and getting beatings for a while, but after that things are kinda fuzzy. Especially how I wound up here.” Beth quirked an eyebrow as she waited for Faith's answer.
Faith wiped her hands on the cloth napkin next to her, “I'm not sure exactly what happened to you inside that prison B. When I got there you were in pretty bad shape and really out of it. After I got you out of the prison our escape got blown to hell and we've been moving around while I took care of you for the last few weeks. I just found this place about a week ago, you were really sick and we both needed rest. Fortunately I haven't seen any French patrols so we've been able to stay and rest for the last week.
Beth looked at Faith intently, [She's not telling me something. I'm not sure how, but its like I can almost ‘feel’ she's hiding something.]
“Faith, what aren't you telling me?” Beth asked suspiciously.
Faith took a quick bite of her food so she couldn't answer and put a ‘who me?’ look on her face.
Faith watched Beth patiently wait for her to finish eating and sighed mentally. “What B? I told you what happened when I got in the picture and rescued your butt,” [And a damn nice butt it is too!! Bad Faith! No more thinking like that, Beth doesn't like women 'that way'.]
Beth quickly reached over and snatched the chicken out of Faith's hands, “Stop it with the stalling Faith, what aren't you telling me about what I don't remember.”
“If I'd arrived any later we wouldn't be talking B, when I found you it looked like you hadn't eaten anything in I don't know how long. And mentally you weren't in that great shape either.”
Beth thought about what Faith told her and was quiet for several minutes, “B? You there?” She heard Faith and felt the concern behind her words.
“Yeah, just thinking. One last question.”
“Okay, shoot.” Faith replied.
“How'd I end up naked in bed with you? We didn't....” Beth trailed off nervously, not sure which answer she wanted to hear from Faith.
“No we...we…” Faith trailed off shaking her head. “We didn't do anything B. Nothing at all.”
Beth looked up at Faith, she ‘knew’ Faith was telling the truth, just not everything, she also felt Faith's regret and sadness as it washed over her.
Beth looked at Faith for a few seconds, Faith wasn’t going to say anything else she realized. “I'm tired now Faith, I'm going to go lay down now.”
“Okay B. You...” Faith watched Beth turn and walk out of the kitchen. “...do that.”
End Chapter 12…
[Author's notes: None right now. Just a bunch of angst for Beth and Faith as Beth struggles to pull herself together and deal with what happened to her.
Rating - M-ish
3 Days later…
Beth paced in the room she was staying in now. Some of her memories from the prison had started to surface, but she still knew there were large gaps that had yet to be filled in. Last night she had woken up screaming and Faith had literally broken the door down to get in. After she had woken up Beth found she couldn't recall any of what had caused her to wake up that way.
Without even thinking, when she saw Faith Beth had pulled her into a close embrace and held her as she cried. She had felt safe in Faith's arms. Beth angrily stomped on her emotions, [I'm a Marine damnit! I'm supposed to be strong. How could I let myself fall apart that way? Because you need her, that’s why] the answer came unbidden in her mind
Meanwhile on the other side of the house....
Faith was depressed; she knew it, the weeds in the garden she was talking to knew it. Everyone but Beth knew it.
It had been three days since she had told Beth about what happened and since then Beth had limited her conversations to; Yes, No, Maybe. Nothing seemed to draw Beth out of the shell she was hiding in now. She had more conversation with Cave-Beth then normal Beth. Faith sighed, [I guess I just have to deal. She's never going to forgive me or let me forget what I did,] she thought sadly.
Beth walked up behind Faith who was standing outside. “Faith, I'm sorry. I've been a real bitch lately and I've been taking it out on you.”
Faith turned around and looked at Beth, “Accepted Beth. But I gotta tell you, you can't keep whatever it is bottled up inside. I know some of you're memories are coming back, why won't you talk to me?”
Beth frowned, “What are you talking about Faith? I'm fine. And they're just memories, nothing I can't handle.”
Faith took a step forward, “Bullshit B! Is that why I was holding you as you cried till you fell asleep last night and the night before that?? Whatever memories are coming back, you need to talk cause they're causing you to have nightmares.”
“Faith, I can handle it. I got through Boot Camp, 3 years in the Corps, combat and being a POW. I can handle a few bad memories.”
Faith grabbed Beth by the shoulders, “Wake up B! You're not ‘handling’ anything and the sooner you realize that the better.” Faith pushed past Beth and as she walked behind her she turned and put her hand on Beth's arm, “Qui est effrayé maintenant?” *Who's scared now?*
Faith never saw Beths' hand grab her arm or the punch the slammed into her jaw knocking her out.
Beth heard someone speaking French behind her and she just 'reacted'. Before she could pull her punch she had hit Faith and watched her fall like a rock to the ground. “Shit!” Beth swore as she dropped down and checked Faith to see if she was okay. [Okay, she seems okay. I just knocked her out.] Quickly Beth ran back into the house and got a small bowl that she put ice and water in it, and grabbed a towel as she headed back outside to Faith.
Beth soaked the rag, squeezed the excess water out and gently put it on the red mark where she had hit Faith. "I'm so sorry Faith, I never meant for that. I just heard French and..." [And that would be Faith's point exactly wouldn't it!]
Several minutes later Faith's eyes fluttered open, “Ow! Shit that hurts B! You see my point B?” Faith asked as she held the cold rag against her jaw. “You need to talk...”
“It was an accident Faith, that's all. Why can’t you leave it alone?”
“Because of this B,” Faith removed the rag to show the ugly red mark on her face, “you're a loose cannon right now and if you don't open up you're gonna kill someone. That's why!”
“How could you understand?”
“Cause I've been where you are right now. Except I made the wrong decision, don't do the...”
Beth shushed Faith with a gesture, and turned towards the rear of the house and then turned back to Faith. “Huey's...” she whispered.
Faith got up and started moving toward some cover and just got behind a rain barrel when two French soldiers walked around the corner. Faith looked back for Beth but she was gone. Faith watched as the two French soldiers started talking quietly as they meandered from one spot to another before they started walking towards the rain barrel where she was hiding and stopped only a few feet in front of her. They were so close Faith could smell the smoke on one soldier’s breath. She quietly watched as one of the soldiers turned and started walking towards the house and where Faith had last seen Beth. Faith felt a rising surge of anger and hatred in her stomach at what they had done to Beth.
Faith watched as the first soldier walked towards the house he passed a large patch of weeds which suddenly shifted slightly and Beth appeared behind the soldier. Faith saw him start to react and Beth wrap a strong hand over his mouth and a glint of sunlight off knife in her hand before Beth slid the knife across his throat slitting it and cutting off his cry.
Beth pulled the soldier down and into the tall weeds of the garden, taking his assault rifle from his limp grasp. The first soldier stopped only a few paces from Faith, still not seeing her. “Henri,” he called out as he turned and 2 rapid shots rang out and Faith saw the soldier fall. Faith got up and moved over to the soldier, turning his body over she saw two closely placed bullet holes where his heart was.
Faith watched as Beth started walking over to her, as she held the FAMAS-2 assault rifle keeping the barrel pointing down at the ground. “Well these two won’t be bothering us, we’re gonna have to dump their bodies somewhere else though” Beth said casually as she removed the rifle clip and checked it before she slipped the clip back in with a practiced ease.
Faith hadn’t felt afraid for a long time, not since Kakistos had murdered her Watcher in front of her and chased her out of Boston. She thought after that nothing would shock her, she was wrong. As Beth walked towards her Faith backed up several steps. “That’s fine B. But I’ve got some things I need to do. K?” Faith took a wide berth around Beth, never taking her eyes off her until she was far enough away and moved quickly inside the house. Faith stepped inside the house and quickly shut the door behind her, and willed her hands to stop shaking, it wasn’t death that bothered her or made her squeamish. But Beth had killed those two guards without a thought, and before that…For the first time in her life Faith was afraid, afraid of what would happen when Beth lashed out again, would she be dead as those soldiers?
Beth watched as Faith had back away from her and then walked around her and back to the house. At first she was confused by Faith’s reaction until she had seen the fear in Faith’s eyes. Faith was afraid of her. Beth looked down at her hands and dropped the rifle, one hand was covered with the soldiers blood. Beth stood there staring at the blood on her hands. What she had become?
Beth walked up behind Faith who seemed preoccupied doing something. “Faith?”
Faith jumped as Beth’s voice startled her from her thoughts as she oiled and cleaned the hand gun on the table. “Jesus Beth! Can you not sneak up on me?” She said as she turned around and a step back.
“Faith, I’m sorry I hit you. I should’ve checked on you before, I just got…distracted.” Beth went to put her hand on Faith’s, but Faith moved her hand away. Beth saw her Faith was careful to keep some distance between them.
“No prob B. It’s not like I haven’t gotten a shiner before.”
Beth winced mentally at Faith’s reply, she knew that Faith had been beaten when she was younger by her father. Beth moved back slightly and saw that Faith seemed to relax a little.
“Uhmmm, Faith…about this afternoon with the huey’s…” Beth said nervously, afraid she would drive Faith further away.
“You don’t owe me an explanation Beth,” Faith replied.
“Who’s shutting who out now Faith?” Beth snapped.
“Maybe, but can you blame me B?” Faith replied angrily, her nervousness about Beth fading. “You almost knock my head off and then I see you kill 2 soldiers and then afterwards you act is if it’s nothing.”
“This is war Faith, us or them. Those are the choices. Period.” Beth said flatly.
“Yeah it is B and that’s not the problem. The problem is I look at you and you know what I see?”
Beth shook her head.
“Me four years ago, when I was a crazy psycho killing people for the Mayor, that’s what. I know this is war and people die, but you’re so damn casual about it as if death means nothing to you. And I was right where you are now B, my problem was I made the wrong choices and look what it got me; hated, stabbed, in a coma for three years and trying for the rest of my life to make up for a fraction of what I did.”
“It’s not the same Faith, I’m a soldier and this is what I do. Kill the enemy.”
“Yes it is B. You need to look at yourself real close and see if you like what you’re becoming.” Faith rubbed her thumb gently of the back of Beth’s hand. “Because I’ll be honest with you B, what I see scares me. Not the person, but the path she is starting to go down. Okay?”
Beth thought about Faith’s words for a minute before she spoke again. “Okay.”
Faith let go of Beth’s hands and started to walk away when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning around Fatih saw Beth. “Wha…” When a pair of lips met hers and she felt Beth’s tongue tease her lips to open before slipping past her lips to play with her tongue. Faith returned the kiss with equal passion as the two moved against each other and continued for several more moments when Beth slowed down and moved back slightly.
“I want you to know one thing Faith Spencer…I love you.” Beth said very seriously before walking past Faith and towards her room.
Beth closed the door behind her and sat down on the bed. [Okay, I admit it. I love her more than anything. It’s weird to finally admit it. But I can’t stay here, not after what I did. She’s right about me being a loose cannon and I’m not going to put her in danger because of me.] Beth started throwing her clothes and pulled out the knife, the Browning 9mm pistol and ammo she had taken from the dead huey’s this afternoon.
After she was done throwing what she would take with her in the Alice Pack, Beth pulled out a piece of paper and started writing. [When she goes to sleep I’ll slip out then, by the time she wakes up I’ll be too far for her to find me. Hopefully this’ll explain why.]
Faith woke up suddenly with the feeling that something was wrong. Getting out of bed, she picked up the 9mm pistol from the chair by her bad and quietly padded out of the room. Moving quickly and quietly she moved though the house, [What the hell? No soldiers, and everything is fine. So wha…oh shit! Beth] Turning Faith ran towards Beth’s room and slammed her shoulder into the door and tearing it off its hinges. Faith looked over at the bed and saw it was empty except for a piece of paper lying on the pillow. She reached over, picked it up and moved into the hallway that was lit and started reading.
Since you’re reading this you know I’m gone. I’ve thought a lot about what I’m doing. You were right about me being a loose cannon and right now I’m too dangerous to be around. I could’ve killed you this afternoon and I couldn’t live with myself if you were hurt or worse because of me. I need to get away and figure out what I’ve become, someplace where I can’t hurt anyone.
Don’t look for me, just go home and try to forget. Tell Mom & Dawn and the others that I’m okay and that I love and miss them.
I meant what I said to you earlier Faith. It took a long time to figure out, but I love you and I will always love you with all my heart, nothing will ever change that.
Giles entered the hotel room, tossing the keys onto the table and bolting the lock. He shuddered at the filth on the door.
“Rupert?” Startled he turned around one hand moving to his chest. “Joyce. How did you get in here?”
“It wasn't hard. The nice... um, slob at the desk let me in.”
“Ah yes, well that's Joe. He's the night manager here. Why are you out at night?” He paused for a second noticing the weariness about her. “Nevermind. Why are you here?”
“I wanted... I needed to talk to you. I was going to come earlier this week but Dawn got into trouble again at school.” Joyce took several steps forward. “She won't talk to me Rupert, its like she blames me for this...”
“She shouldn't, I'm the one who was wrong. I shouldn't have hid that information from you.” Giles started to pace back and forth slowly. “I'll talk to Dawn later about that.”
“Thank you Rupert. Why though?” Joyce asked.
“Why did you have that information? Why didn't you tell me?” Joyce asked angrily.
Giles stopped his pacing, “I got the information from a ‘friend’ who I had asked to look into this. As for the second, what good would it have done you? Beth was dead...” Giles reached out for Joyce's hand and gently held it in his own. “Did you ever believe that Beth was guilty of murdering Finch Joyce?”
“No, never. I always knew Beth could never have done that. It had to be that other Slayer, Faith. That's what I never understood though, why Beth would protect Faith that way.” Joyce stepped back from Rupert, “I understand, I think, why you didn’t tell me. But I can't forgive you for lying to me. Not yet at least. I just need a little more time to work things out.”
“I understand Joyce. If you need me, you have my number at work.” Joyce started to walk past him, “I love you Joyce,”
Joyce opened the door and stood in the doorway, “I love you too Rupert.”
Giles watched the door close.
Faith ran to where she heard the yelling and saw Beth. Beth was kneeling above a soldier and was slamming a large rock into his skull.
Faith ran over to Beth and moved in front as Beth went to swing the rock down on the dead soldier Faith grabbed it, “Beth! BETH!! It’s over, he’s dead!!” Faith watched as Beth looked up and the crazed look on Beth’s faded away. “It’s over B, he can’t hurt you anymore.”
Beth tossed the rock to the side and moved away from the soldier, “Yes he can…”
Faith moved over by Beth, “What do you mean? He’s dead, he’s not coming back B.”
“He was one of them,” Beth whispered.
“One of who B?”
“One of the guards…he…they…” Beth trailed off.
Faith put her hands on Beths’ shoulders, “B, one of who?” she asked gently.
Beth stood up suddenly, “It doesn’t matter, he’s dead and they didn’t break me.” Her voice was cold and filled with contempt. “Why are you here anyway?”
Faith stood up, “I’m looking for you and it does matter. Who. Was. He. Beth?” Faith asked stubbornly.
Beth tried walking past Faith, who kept moving in her way and blocking her. “Out of my way Faith!” her voice was angry.
“Oh yeah? Make me B.” Faith stepped back slightly to give herself room, [If getting B angry is the only way to make her talk…]
Beth swung at Faith without any warning, only Faith was ready for her and blocked her punch. “You call that a punch B? That was downright pitiful. No wonder you got captured, you fight like a little girl. Dawn throws a better punch then you do.”
Faith kept blocking B’s attacks and staying on the defensive. Beth’s attacks became faster and faster and Faith continued to parry them content to let B wear herself down or so she hoped. “Is this why you couldn’t help Taylor B? Too weak? Too slow?” Or is it that you ‘need’ someone to save you all the time,” Faith taunted Beth.
“Damn you to hell Faith!!! I didn’t fail Taylor and I don’t need anyone to save me!” Beth yelled back. “I don’t need anyone!!” Beth yelled as tears rolled down her face, “I don’t need anyone Faith,” and Beth fell to her knees sobbing.
Faith dropped to her knees in front of Beth. “B, we all need someone at sometime.” Faith moved till she was right next to Beth and put her hands on either side of her face gently. “Right now you need to tell me what happened to you in that hell hole. What memory is so tearing you into pieces B?”
“I-I-I can’t Faith…”
“Yes you can B. Would you have told Taylor?” Faith asked.
“No…never,” Beth said almost inaudibly.
[What? I thought this guy was like a big brother, why wouldn’t she tell him…] “Look at me B. Now tell me what happened.”
Faith heard Beth mumble something but couldn’t understand what she said. “You gotta turn the volume up. Now what happened to you in there?”
[I can’t. If I tell her I’ll lose her. ‘You don’t have her now either’] Beth’s little voice answered her. “I was raped…” she whispered. Beth kept her eyes focused on the ground as she waited to hear Faith stand and leave.
Faith almost didn’t hear what Beth had said. [What?!?] Of all the things she thought could have happened, that wasn’t one of them or maybe it was one Faith hadn’t wanted to let herself dwell on. “B…”
“No don’t. Just go, I don’t want your pity.” Beth’s voice was emotionless and blank as she buried her feelings behind the wall she had built to protect herself from being hurt.
“I’m not leaving B.” Faith reached over and took Beth’s hands in her own. Faith saw the stiff way that Beth held herself, it was the look of someone waiting for the other shoe to drop. “That’s what everyone else has done, but not me...”
“I thought you were afraid of me Faith, you said so.” Beth asked softly, a part of her desperately wanting to believe what Faith was saying was true.
“No, I was afraid of what you were becoming, cold and hard and uncaring. But I was never afraid of you. Tell me what happened B.”
Beth’s eyes looked away as she brought the memory back of what happened. “It was a few weeks after we’d been there. Things had been pretty regular, they came dragged you out of your cell and tortured you for information. Then one day they came for me as always, but they took me to a different room and threw me inside…”
Faith softly ran her hands up and down Beth’s arms as she saw the anguish in her eyes, “I was wrong…you don’t have to tell me B. I shouldn’t have pushed.”
Beth looked at Faith, “No, you were right. I do have to get this out.”
“When they threw me inside this time there were five men inside and the guards said ‘Have fun boys!’ I knew I was in trouble, I managed to kill two of them but I was tired and weak…and they held me down…and…” Tears fell down Beth’s face as she remembered what was done to her and struggled to find her voice to continue. “And…”
Faith saw the agony on Beth’s face and pulled Beth against her and held her close, “It’s okay, you’re okay,” she murmured softly into Beth’s ear over and over.
Beth forced herself to continue, “They forced some liquid down my throat and everything became blurry and I felt like I couldn’t move. All I could feel was them pushing themselves inside me over and over until I passed out.” Beth leaned back so she could look at Faith’s face, afraid she would see disgust on her face. But all she saw was concern and love in Faith’s eyes.
“I’m sorry B. I’d kill the bastards that hurt you like that if I could, but together we’ll find a way to get through this.” Faith pulled Beth against her and held her in her arms and felt Beth’s arms wrap around her. “I love you B, I have for a long time. Let me help you.” Faith ignored the tears she felt in her eyes.
“I’ll try Faith, but it’s hard to let go of what they did. I just want to…”
“I know. But we can do it, together. Nothing can stop the Chosen Two.”
Beth moved back to look at Faith as she smirked, “You’re lucky I love you F, otherwise I’d have to hurt you for that corny Chosen Two…”
Faith kissed Beth gently on the lips cutting her off, “Hah! I laugh at the smell of danger!” a silly grin on her face.
“I can’t believe you said that! I thought only Xander said that.”
“Where do you think I got it?” Faith asked with a smile. “Come on, let’s get out of here. We have to get back and get ready to move, I heard it’s clearer further north, east towards Belfort.”
Faith and Beth stood up their hands still linked as they held on to each other and started the walk back.
Continued Chapter 14
Three Years in Hell, A Lifetime of Pain
The Magic Box
“Come on Will. I'm almost 18 and you were fighting and patrolling when you were a lot younger. I'm old enough to patrol.” Dawn paced back and forth in front of Willow.
Willow patiently folded her arms as she watched Dawn pace, “That's not the point Dawn, we patrolled because we ‘had’ to, not because we wanted to. So why do you really want to come with me, are you looking for something else to hit?”
Dawn stopped pacing and frowned, “That's not fair Will. I just want to do something to help.”
Willow sighed, she'd seen that look before. It was usually on Beth's face when she made a decision she was going to do something and they weren’t going to like it. “Fine, you can come along. But I'm setting ground rules, break them and I will teleport your butt home so fast it will make your head spin. Understood Dawn? Okay then, Rule number one; you stay out of the way. We run into something you let me handle it and if I say run, you go. Rule number two; when we patrol you pay attention to what's going on, if you see something you tell me and Rule number three; you break rule #1 or #2 you're gone. Clear?”
“Yeah, I get it.” Dawn answered sulkily.
“Good.” Willow smiled. “Be here at 'The Magic Box' around 7pm, okay Dawn?”
Willow saw the look on Dawn's face and walked up to her, “Dawn, I just don't want you getting hurt, that's all.”
“I know. I just feel you guys treat me like I'm still a kid sometimes and...”
“And you think if Beth were alive we wouldn't?” Willow reached out and moved Dawn's head up so she could see her face. “We'd still be just as protective as we are now.”
Dawn reached out and pulled Willow into a hug, “Thanks for being there Will. With Faith gone now, all I have left now are you and Xander.”
“I'll always be there for you Dawn.” Willow stepped back, “Now I've got a class to teach so I'll see you later, k?”
“Ok,” Dawn smiled, feeling better for the first time in a while and turned and left the shop on her way home.
Willow was happy, so far they hadn't really run into anything. The dead were staying that way tonight and she was one very happy Wicca about it too. Although Dawn was looking bored as the day is long Willow noticed, [Good, boring for her is a good.]
As they were leaving the Roselawn Cemetery something caught her eye and Willow stopped. Looking harder, she saw several figures standing near a grave. “Dawn, we've got trouble stay close.” As she neared the figures Willow saw that they were standing by Beth’s grave. [What are they doing by her ‘grave’? They’re not vamps. Well they’re gonna be toast in a minute!] Willow ran towards the creatures by the grave site.
Dawn looked over where Willow was running towards and saw several vamps by Beth’s grave. Anger filler her at the thought of Beth's rest being desecrated by vampires.
Two of the figures darted away into the shadows. “Solaris Luminae!!!” and Willow ‘threw’ a large ball of yellow energy at one of the shadows, there was a bright flash as it hit the creature and Will watched the creature absorb the spell into itself. Willow watched as the creature shattered Beth’s tombstone with one blow before it turned to face her. Its features were still obscured by a large, dark hood and she could only make out the red eyes that glowed inside the cowl. Willow barely had time to get a shield spell up around her and Dawn when a ball of black energy flew at her and hit the shield. Willow felt herself thrown back from the backlash as the shield shattered.
Dazed Willow looked around and saw the shadow figures had left leaving only her and Dawn still in the cemetery. Willow got up and checked on Dawn and saw that Dawn had cut her forehead on a rock when she'd landed, but she'd be okay. Willow slowly walked towards Beth's grave. The headstone was completely pulverized into little pieces and there were strange symbols burnt into the grass all around the grave. Willow slowly walked back to Dawn, she felt drained and exhausted from whatever had hit her shield spell.
Pulling out a cell-phone, “Tara? It's Willow, can you come by the Roselawn Cemetery we need a ride. Yes, Dawn and I are okay. Um hmm. No. Just pick us up, we don't need to see a doctor, besides there's something I want you to see. Ok, I love you too. See you in a few. Bye!” Willow closed the phone and kneeled by Dawn as she waited for Tara to arrive.
After several minutes Willow looked over at a still silent Dawn, “Dawn, what’s wrong. You’ve been quiet as a church mouse, which is very un-Dawn like.”
Dawn looked up at Willow, “Nothing’s wrong Will, I’m just tired tonight is all.” Dawn replied.
“Dawn, try lying to someone who isn’t a Wicca. So tell me what’s up, is it because of the demons by Beth’s grave?”
“What the hell do you think Will?!?” Dawn yelled angrily and stood up abruptly. “Why can’t they leave Beth alone? She’s dead Will!” Tears coursed down Dawn’s cheeks, Dawn fell to her knees her hands over her face as she sobbed.
Willow pulled Dawn into her arms and held her as she tried to comfort Dawn.
“It’s not fair Will, Beth suffered so much when she was alive, why can’t they leave her alone?” Dawn choked out thru the tears.
Willow sighed softly. “She is at peace Dawn, she earned it.”
[Willow’s barely said two words since we dropped Dawn home, something’s wrong.] thought Tara. “Wills hon, are you okay? You’ve been really quiet since I picked you and Dawn up.”
“I’m fine Tara,” Willow answered snippily. Closing her eyes Willow sighed softly, “I’m sorry Tara, I shouldn’t been taking it out on you.”
A look of concern crossed Tara’s face, “What’s wrong Wills?”
“I’m tired of lying to Dawn and everyone else! Every time I see Dawn I have to lie or pretend that Beth is still dead even though I know the truth.” Willow shifted uncomfortably in the seat.
“But Wills hon, you know why we can’t tell anyone. It’s to protect Beth…”
“That’s not the point, you didn’t see how torn up Dawn was tonight after those demons had done something to Beth’s ‘grave’. I-I just feel dirty lying to Dawn when we know the truth and it’s not going to get any easier.”
Tara reached over and put her hand on Willow’s shoulder, “I know. But for Beth, we can’t tell anyone.”
Willow leaned her head against Tara’s hand, “I know Tara, I just don’t know how long I can keep on lying about it.”
3 Days later…
15 kilometers South of Belfort, France
Faith stopped to fix the Alice Pack and let Beth walk past her. [Damnit B. Why are you pulling away from me? Don't you trust me?] Faith started to jog to catch up with Beth and slowed down as she reached her. “You're quiet today B. What'cha thinkin?”
“Not much, just tired of walking across all of France. I think I've seen enough of the ‘beautiful French countryside’ to last me is all.”
“Oh,” Faith tried not frowning at Beth's evasive answer. “Well we're only a day out from Belfort.” Faith tried to cover the hurt and gave Beth a sidelong glance. After she had found out that Beth had been raped, Faith had noticed Beth had slowly started to withdraw into herself emotionally. Now she wasn't even sure if B even trusted her, B was always looking at her oddly or double-checking something she said was done.
“We should probably make a camp for the night in about an hour and head into Belfort in the morning B. Okay?” Faith asked.
Beth looked at Faith, “Sure,” her voice was carefully neutral.
Faith stopped and stared at Beth's back before Beth finally turned around. “What Faith?”
“Oh come on B. Don't what me! I know it's hard for you, but you keep acting like I'm gonna hurt you.”
“I know you’re not Faith,” Beth answered patiently.
“Then what’s the problem B? You’ve been looking at me weird for the last few days and every time I go near you suddenly you jump.”
Beth turned away from Faith and started walking down the dirt road away from Faith.
“B, where the hell are you going?”
“Does it matter F?” Beth replied angrily.
Faith ran up to Beth and grabbed her by the arm and spun her around. “What the hell is wrong with you B?”
Beth pulled her arm free, “You, they way you’ve treated me since I told you about being raped.
“How have I treated you B? You don't talk to me unless I talk to you first. You don't listen, just like you aren't now. I'm not treating you any different Beth.”
Beth spun around. “You don't know what you're talking about Faith.”
“I don't know what I'm talking about? You better think twice before you bite off more than you can chew B. I saved your ass from that place when I had orders to kill anyone alive.” Faith said with a touch of anger. “So step back B.”
“Why did you even bother then F?” Beth's voice was cold as ice. “You should have just left me there.”
Faith shoved Beth back, “Go to hell B!” Faith yelled angrily before spinning on her heel and walking down the road.
Beth watched Faith walk away and felt the anger drain away. “Dammit,” she muttered before jogging after her, Beth continued to watch Faith from behind for several minutes [Damn, damn, damn!! Stupid temper.] thought Beth, [What is wrong with me?] Beth sped up her stride till she was walking next to Faith, “I'm sorry Faith.”
Faith stopped and looked at Beth, “For what exactly? You've been like a...a...I don't know what! But I’m tired of it B. I'm tired of feeling like I did something to you when I didn't. So what's going on?” Faith asked, desperately wanting to understand what was going on in Beth’s head to make her act this way.
Beth sighed and sat down on the ground.
Faith sat down next to Beth, “B, what's been eating you then?"
"When I told you I was raped in the prison I felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders, but then after we got back to camp...I just started to feel like every time you looked at me you were judging me, and that I had done something for them to rape me...that maybe I deserved it.” Beth answered softly in a quiet voice.
Faith sat in shock for several seconds and then grabbed Beth by the shoulders. “Don't you ever think that B! You didn't do anything to have that done to you! They were just sick scum B, that's all.”
“No B, that's all there is to it, no buts B.” Faith looked Beth in the eyes, “And I'd never judge you B, I'm not fit to judge anyone. I've done too much evil in my life to do that. But you, you've saved the world more times than I can count, you protected me when you had no reason to. You're a hero B, that's who you are. Not a victim or a screwup like me. Don't ever doubt that.”
Beth wiped the tears in her eyes with the back of her hand, “Okay Faith. And thanks.” Beth pulled Faith into her arms and held her tightly, she felt Faith's arms wrap around her and she knew that Faith was right.
Faith moved back and stood up, “Come'on B, we've got a little ways to go before we can stop.”
Beth stood up next to Faith, "You're wrong about one thing though Faith."
Faith's brow furrowed as she wondered what Beth was talking about.
“You’re not a screwup, you never were. You are a beautiful and intelligent woman who's gone through a lot and come out stronger inside than I could ever be.”
Backroom of ‘The Magic Box’
“Aha!!” Tara cried out, as Research-Fest ’03 came to a halt. “I found it. It’s a….Rylarn demon. They are or were powerful sorcerers and mercenaries of the demon realms. The last of them were supposed to have been destroyed on August 27, 1883.”
Willow frowned as she heard the date, [I know that date from somewhere, damn!] “What happened on August 27, 1883 Tara?”
“Krakatau blew up and destroyed over three quarters of the island, Rakata. According to this several Rylarn demons were seen on the island when the volcano blew up.”
“I always thought that it was a nature thing when that happened Will, why do you think they were there and why would they be messing with Beth’s grave?” Xander asked.
“I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out. Does it say anything else Tara?”
“Yeah,” Tara answered quietly, “A Watcher and her Slayer were there that same day the volcano blew.”
The Following Night
Willow had been walking around Sunnydale looking for any sign of the Rylarn demons for the last two hours and had found exactly nothing so far. She and Tara had cleared the symbols from Beth’s grave re-sanctified it and cast several protection spells they thought should keep the demons away from the grave. Willow found herself back at Beth’s grave minus the headstone, which was being replaced tomorrow.
Willow sat down next to Beth’s grave, “I know you’re not really here Beth, Cordy says that you’re safe with Faith right now. But you don’t know how much we miss you, especially Dawn. It’s been hard on her, harder than when you were sent away to the Marines. At least she knew you were alive then, so she could hope that one day she’d see you again. But she’s so angry now and I’ve been too wrapped up in my own problems to help her.”
Willow heard footsteps quiet footsteps behind her and whirled around, a large ball of glowing red energy forming in her hands, and came face to face with Dawn. “Damn it Dawn!! What are you doing out here?” Willow absently released the spell and the energy ball vanished. “Well?!? It’s almost midnight, are you trying to become dinner for some stray vamp?” Willow said angrily.
“No…I just needed to get out and I wound up here.”
“Dawn, this is the last place you should be right now.” Willow said in a calmer voice. “It’s dangerous with those demons on the loose.”
“What about you Will? Why are you here?” Dawn asked petulantly.
Willow leaned down and brushed the dirt off her pants, “I came to check on Beth, I wanted to make sure no-one was bothering her.” Something caused Willow to look up and she saw a shadowed figure appear at the edge of the woods about 50’ feet away. “Dawn! Don’t move, just listen. Those demons are back, I’m going to get his attention, I want you to run as fast as you can out of the cemetery and keep on running till you get to Xander’s,” Willow whispered.
“No buts! I don’t have time and I can’t protect you and fight this demon at the same time. Now reach into my left pocket, grab the cell phone. When you get out of the cemetery, call Tara and tell her what’s going on, okay?” Willow watched as the hooded figure started to move forward towards them.
“Okay Willow.” Dawn felt her heart race, she couldn’t ‘see’ the demon but she knew the way Willow had tensed up it was coming closer. She was scared for Willow after what it had done last time.
Dawn ran faster then she ever had towards the cemetery gates. She heard Willow yelling in Latin and but she didn’t hear explosions or anything. As she neared the gate Dawn saw something move out of the shadows by the entrance. “WILLOW!!!!” she yelled as she saw another of the demons step into the light in front of her.
Willow froze for a moment as she heard Dawn yell her name, she turned to look and saw Dawn backing away from the cemetery gate as another of the Rylarn demons stepped out of the shadows. Turning back to the first one Willow barely managed to deflect another of the black energy balls from this demon, the shock of the two spells destroying each other threw Willow back several feet. Quickly Willow got to her feet and looked over by Dawn. Willow saw the second Rylarn demon cast a spell at Dawn and threw a quick shield spell over her blocking most of it, when she felt a blinding white-hot pain in her shoulder and fell to her knees. Looking down she saw a knife in her shoulder and blood all over it. “Dawn! Come over here quick!” Willow called out.
Dawn ran over to where she saw Willow kneeling, as she got close she saw Willow had been hurt. “Willow!!”
“Help me up,” Willow said weakly.
Dawn helped Willow stand up and watched as both demons walked towards them, slowly.
“Now they’re gonna find out why they should have stayed dead.” Willow said angrily.
Dawn watched as Willow seemed to get stronger and a deep green fire burned brightly in her eyes. Dawn heard Willow start murmuring softly until Willow’s voice was echoing in the clearing, “Beatus deus cessum tui fidelus creatura tui imperium deleo nunc malus peior pessimus!!!”
Dawn felt herself pushed back by some force, a red glow surrounded Willow and she hovered several feet off of the ground. The stars disappeared beneath clouds that had formed in the sky and Dawn found herself too afraid to do anything so she stood still and watched.
Looking over at the demons, Dawn saw that they had stopped moving towards them and were watching Willow when from the sky 2 bolts of lightning shot down and surrounded both demons and trapping them. “You have threatened and injured MY servant and Chosen!!” Dawn looked up at Willow who was now hovering about 12’ feet in the air. Dawn watched as Willow gestured and the cages started to shrink and the demons began to scream in pain. “You are abominations to Nature and now you will be destroyed!!!” the Goddess’s voice echoed from Willow. The cages continued to shrink as the demons screamed louder, there was a loud clap of thunder as the demons disappeared, bits of ash gently floated where the demons had been a moment ago.
“Willow?” Dawn asked.
Slowly ‘Willow’ floated back down and walked over to Dawn, “My Chosen, who you call Willow will be fine. Have no fear little one,” said the Goddess.
“But her arm, the blood…” Dawn said nervously. [This is a goddess or ‘the’ goddess? Wow!]
“I have done what I can, Nature must take care of the rest. Sit and rest. You will be safe and under my protection this night, no harm will come to you.” ‘Willow’ sat down and closed her eyes, the reddish glow slowly faded away.
Several minutes passed before Willow’s eyes fluttered open, “Owww my head! What hit me?” Willow asked as she raised an arm to start rubbing her temples.
Relief flooded Dawn as she heard Willow’s voice, “Don’t you remember Will?”
“Remember what?” Willow asked puzzled.
“The two demons, that bad-ass spell you cast, the lightning. You know ‘the’ Goddess kicking demon butt!!” Dawn said excitedly.
“No, I just have a splitting headache and my arm is killing me.” Before Willow could say any more they heard screeching tires and then a car door slamming.
“WILLOW!!!!!” Tara yelled as she ran towards them from the cemetery entrance.
Tara ran up and grabbed Willow into a hug, “You’re okay, you’re okay,” she kept saying softly over and over as she ran her hand softly down Willow’s hair. “I had a dream you were hurt Will…”
Willow held Tara close, “It’s okay Tara, really.” Willow kissed Tara gently and deepened the kiss. The two lovers were oblivious to except each other until Dawn tapped Tara on the shoulder several times.
“Uhmm, Tara. Its not that I mind you two kissing, but I can really think of better places for that. Like anywhere but here!”
Tara moved back slightly, “Later?” she asked Willow.
“Yes, later,” Willow smiled and blushed at the same time. “But we should go to the hospital I think, my arm is killing me after whatever happened. And Dawn can fill us ‘both’ in on what happened on the way there.
Sunnydale Memorial Hospital
“Willow, hi!” Joyce said with forced cheerfulness.
Willow turned her attention to the doorway where she heard Joyce's voice. “Joyce, what are you doing here?”
Joyce walked into the room and over by the foot of the bed, “I came by to pick Dawn up, and I thought I'd see how you were doing.”
Willow looked at Joyce with a cool gaze, “I'm fine. Mostly a few bumps and bruises. But otherwise I'm okay.”
Joyce heard the withdrawn tone of voice from Willow and winced, “I wanted to say thank you for protecting Dawn. I don't know what I would have done...”
“I wouldn't have let that happen, Dawn's family to me.”
Joyce heard the unsaid comment, ‘unlike some’ in Willow's voice. “I'm sorry Willow. Maybe I should have done things differently, I never meant to alienate you or Xander. But I did and I can't change what happened.”
Willow shifted in the bed, wincing when she jostled her arm. She shrugged off Joyce as she tried to help her sit up. “I can do it myself.”
“I know you can Willow. Let me help please?”
“Like you helped right after...” Willow trailed off noticing the look on Joyce's face. “I'm sorry. I'm just in pain and grouchy.”
Joyce sat down in the chair next to the bed. "I realize you're angry with me Willow but we need to talk."
Willow turned her head, staring out the window.
“I'm not leaving until we settle this Willow. For Dawn's sake we have to. Maybe I was wrong the way I shut you out.” Joyce watched as Willow still refused to look at her. “Okay, I was wrong, no maybies. But it was a mistake Willow, and what about you. You shut me out as well and look what's happened Willow, Dawn won't talk to anyone.”
Joyce saw Willow flinch with her last words.
Willow turned her head to look at Joyce, “Maybe, so what do you think we should do then Joyce.”
“Talk Willow, that's what. We don't have to be best friends, but we have to work this out somehow for Dawn. She's caught in the middle of our fight and it's not fair to her.”
Willow grimaced clutching her arm, as pain radiated through her. Taking a deep breath she glared at the table. She felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Willow let me help you up, please.”
Sighing, as Willow started to answer Joyce the door opened and Giles walked in.
“Willow! Are you all right?”
Joyce sighed frustratedly and stepped away from the bed, [Well it’s a start of sorts I guess. It’ll have to do.]
“Yes, I’m fine Giles,” Willow saw Joyce start to move away, “Joyce wait!” Willow leaned over to the side so she could see Joyce clearly. “Stop by the apartment tomorrow, you’re right we should talk.”
Continued in Chapter 15
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