Story: Three Years in Hell, A Lifetime of Pain (chapter 5)

Authors: BillGopher

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Chapter 5

Chapter 5

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.”


Sunnydale, CA
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.”

“Thanks Taylor.”


Sunnydale, CA
2weeks later…

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''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.

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