“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...”