Story: Three Years in Hell, A Lifetime of Pain (chapter 6)
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[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.
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