Disclaimers: Buffy and Co. belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and UPN. Were just borrowing them for a while.
Violence Disclaimers: There is definite bloodshed and violence in this, if that bothers you then go elsewhere.
Pairings: Buffy(Beth)/Faith, Willow/Tara
Rating: PG17 (violence, torture and character death.)
Feedback: A definite Must Have. Makes us write much faster, Thoughts, Opinions. We can be reached at either "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" or "mailto:email@example.com".
Authors Note: Military times runs on a 24 hour clock from 00:00 to 23:59, so inorder 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
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, she walked out and down the hallway to Dawn's room and looked in. She saw Dawn sleeping peacefully, < At least they can get some sleep.> walking back out of the room Joyce closed the door and 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 she had been coming down here to watch the news for the last week.
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 three 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 at this hour?
Actually I'm calling because I need some help Carol. I have a problem and I dont 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 her 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 she 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 a 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 to grin.
Well be in touch thru normal channels. Within a second he was gone.
<Dang 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 headed towards her apartment 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
13:15 hours local time,
Taylor, Beth and the rest of the squad 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.
Once the door was closed and Taylor was seated, Daniels pulled the cover off the first chart revealing a map of Pyrenees region and several cities. The 1st MEF are 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 one battalion from the 7th Light Cav and the 82nd Airborne 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 and artillery assets have had control transferred to the Armys I Corps who are launching a diversionary assault with the 1st Batt/69th Armour, 7th Light Infantry and the 23rd Mountain near Tours.
At 01:30 hours we'll be choppered in behind Cahors, command has decided that the battalion 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 and meet back at 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.
Gunny O'Hara'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 & 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 dangerous 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 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, France
05:30 hours local time
Beth shifted the Alice Field Pack she was carrying, it was a good deal lighter now. They had destroyed 2 supply depots, a fuel dump, and a satellite dish 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.
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 its clear signal me and I'll follow with the 2nd squad. Taylor, you stay back at the top with 3rd and the heavy weapons. 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 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! Whats he doing? Why are they bunched up?>
The LT signaled Taylor to come down, 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, give me some cover fire by that oak! Several other Marines started firing towards the oak as well and the enemy fire 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 he saw a group of about 10 hueys charging from behind them at the top of the hill. Summers, grab Ramirez 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. Well hold them here.
K, Beth replied as she fired two quick bursts killing 2 hueys and started to crawl over as bullets flew above her from two directions. She got to Ramirez first, Ram, youre with me. Have you seen Little? Hes got the M60.
Hes dead. Ramirez replied as he moved back, staying low.
Shit. Well then its just you and me then. Lets 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 were gonna do. Taylors holding the hueys that hit us from behind. Were 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, <Good, the roads clear. The didnt leave anyone behind.> Pulling back she got to Ram, Okay, its clear. When we get to the top, split left, Ill 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 hueys to her right and dropped down. She heard a WARRUMPH! as the grenade exploded, peeking out she saw the hueys were dead.
Taylor! NOW! Beth yelled, as she did something caught her eye on her left, as she turned her head she saw a huey pop out and fire at her. She heard the supersonic CRACK as bullets flew by her head. Dropping down she started to duck behind the tree stump when she felt a white-hot poker along her arm. AHHHH! she 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 doesnt look like it hit a bone.>
Turning her head back towards the road she 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 she slung it over her shoulder and forced herself to sit up, trying to ignore the pain. <Ok, on 3 were 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 hueys. Passing Taylor she slowed down on the other side of the hill and stumbled over O'Shea. Shit. O'Shea! 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.
She 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 O'Shea.
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, youre with me. Were gonna keep them a little busy. OBrien take the claymores & frags and mine this back side of the ridge along the road. I want a surprise left for anyone following us. Youve got 5 minutes to do it. Go.
Beth got the remaining seven injured Marines moving quickly as possible, <The LZs 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. Were 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 youre back. Im 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, didnt hit anything. Sanderson patched up best he could. Itll have to wait till we get back to base though. Ill 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. Ill see about moving things up. We may have to start ditching anything we dont 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 cant 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 hueys.
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 at least a company or so that I see.
It's no good Summers. We've got to get out of here.
No buts, we get captured we dont help anyone. Ramirez moved away silently, heading back down the trail they came.
Taking one last look back Beth looked for Taylor, but couldnt 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.
Im 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. Im 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-west, 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??? Shes okay, right? Joyce asked.
Mrs. Summers, Im sorry to bear 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 cant be Beth, there has to be a mistake. Shes too smart and strong, she promised shed come back and theyd keep in touch.> She 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 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.
The first thing Beth noticed as she woke was that she was on a cold, concrete floor and she was chained. Looking around carefully Beth saw the cell she was in was small, no larger then 4 x 6. 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 she managed to sit up with her back against the wall, her legs and arms were chained together only giving her the limiting her ability to move her limbs in any direction.
She saw that she was still dressed in her black and gray camo pants, but her outer shirt was missing and she only had her green tee shirt on her. <Well this is a great way to start the day,> she 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 she barely had time to notice two large guards before she was slammed into the floor. She struggled to fight back but the chains prevented any movement. Roughly she was pulled into the corridor and slammed into the walls several times.
Dazed she heard the weak calls of support from the other cells. Stay strong Beth, Semper Fi, before she was pulled out of the cellblock.
She 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 chair she was sitting on.
The wait wasn't long as two men walked into the room, the first man was about 5' 5", dark hair and eyes and the other man was short, thin and bald.
Beth noticed that no one so far was wearing any sort of uniform. The dark haired man grabbed Beth by the face roughly pulling it up So you are a soldier eh.
Beth kept quiet knowing they didn't want an answer or needed a reason.
Can't talk? Well dont worry little girl we will teach you some manners. This small gentleman is an expert in convincing individuals to speak. The door to the room opened and in walked a large guard, he moved to the table and put down a large, black bag, several odd implements, a car battery and cables 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,> she 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, RP6511298. Beth replied. Beth never saw the first blow, which slammed into her left eye or the next or the next. The blows finally stopped and Beth's face felt a bloody mess, her left eye was swollen shut and blood ran down her face from several cuts.
So Miss Soldier where is your unit located? What is its strength? What other units are on this base?
Spitting blood out, she struggled to speak thru her swollen lips, Summers, E. Lance Corporal, RP6511298.
Beth watched as small man attached a pair of jumper cables to the battery and then attached one of the cables to the leg of the metal chair she was sitting on.
One last chance little soldier. Where is your unit located and what is its strength?
Beth stayed silent. She saw the small man touch the other cable to her chair and Beth felt waves of pain as the electricity rolled thru her as she screamed in agony
Her throat was raw from screaming, Beth wasnt 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 grabbed her chained arms and jerked them upwards until she heard two loud pops and felt her shoulders pop out of their sockets, gritting her teeth Beth clamped down on the scream that threatened to tear its way out of her throat. She focused solely on her thoughts, <Don't Break, Don't Break, Don't Break.> 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, RP6511298.
The dark haired interrogator turned away, Take her back to her cell, let the pain be her companion for now.
The door opened and Beth was dragged out of the cell by her arms, the pain blinding her when she was thrown into her cell. She twisted to miss her shoulder and land on her back.
Beth rested her head on the cold, letting the pain subside; finally she pulled herself up next to the wall. Beth knew she couldnt let her arms stay dislocated and there was only one option.
Steeling herself for a moment, she 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 shoulder popped back in. Beth fell back to the floor, tears streaming down he face. As she lay 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. She 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
Slowly 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. Hes 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. <Mom should be cooking,> but there was a lack of cooking food smells in the house. Mom? Giles?
Dawn, Im in the living room, come here." she heard Giles call out. His voice sounded rough and she 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. <He's lying! Not Beth!>
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 Dawn's 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 she 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, she 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, whats 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 hard 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.
She took Willow's hand and lead 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 favourite toy, her Ninja. She had just gotten to work when she heard the phone ring. Crap, this had better be good, she growled as she got up and wiped her dirty hands on her jeans. Picking up the phone, Yeah?
Faith, it's Will. I'm in LA, we need to talk, Willow's voice was painfully blank and emotionless.
The bottom dropped out of her 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 Will answered with one word, Beth.
Stop by the loft, we can talk here Red, Faith answered, the feeling of trepidation washed over her.
Tara & 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 as 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, 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 & 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 on 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 & 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 either. 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, he 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, & blue of the flag draped over the casket.
She couldn't help the onslaught of thoughts that echoed through her head. Was she alone? She shouldn't have been alone, someone should have been there with her, holding her hand. Where was her infamous Taylor? Why didn't he do something to help her?
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 Ive 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.
Willows day dreaming was ended when she heard the Chaplains voice;
Family, friends, and fellow service members. We are gathered here 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 moment of weakness.
I had the honour of meeting Elizabeth when she was a sophomore in high school. Even then Elizabeth was a young and caring individual and in the short time that I spent with her, it was obvious that she 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, she continued to risk her life to protect the lives of the fellow Marines in her platoon.
Elizabeth strove to live by the highest ideals of the Marine Corps; Honour, Duty, Country. When she saw her platoon ambushed she broke free and attacked the enemy, freeing her unit from the ambush, during which she was injured by enemy fire. Later her unit was attacked, and 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 otherwise 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.
Stepping back the Chaplain moved out of the way allowing the Honour Guard to take their places.
Detail, Raise Arms! Ready! Aim! Fire! Five rifles fired as one shattered the silence, Willow felt herself jump in her seat. Aim! Fire! The detail fired their rifles 3 more times, each time she jumped in her seat. Shoulder Arms! About face! March! as they marched away and 4 Marines walked to the 4 corners 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, she whispered.
She 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 senior NCO who accepted the flag. Turning around he strode over to Joyce and Giles, he bent over and handed it to her. She 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 honour 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 therefore 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 they heard as the car doors closed.
Continue to chapers |8-10|