- FIC: Proud Trophies Won in Foreign Fight (Prologue)
- FIC: Proud Trophies Won in Foreign Fight (Chapter One)
- FIC: Proud Trophies Won in Foreign Fight (Chapter Two)
- FIC: Proud Trophies Won in Foreign Fight (Chapter Three)
Continuing on from the prologue…
“OHHH FUUUU…!” she screamed in agony, her body slamming into the hard ground and leaving her gasping for air. She lay there moaning, unsure of what the hell was going on or even who she was. Muscles screamed in protest as she tried to sit up and fell back with a whimper. Her entire body was one big bruise with a side of broken ribs.
Little pants escaped her, soft puffs of pain floating away on the air. Bit by bit she recovered her senses. The intermingled stench of blood, dirt and death overwhelmed her, as well as something more acrid. Gunpowder, maybe? She realized then what she was hearing over the ringing in her ears: the sharp rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire, the arcing screams of shells whistling overhead, the shouts and grunts of dying men.
This wasn’t peaceful, wasn’t the eternal rest she’d been expecting. Her head pounded in time with the percussive force of the shelling, forcing her to roll to her side and vomit onto the cold earth.
I’m in hell, she thought. If death is my gift, I’d like to take it back now.
The pain overtook her and she passed out.
When she came to, minutes or hours later, she was only slightly more lucid. Once again her senses picked up on the sounds and odors of death, of battle raging around her. Was there a hell dimension the opposite of Elysium, where the heroes spent eternity in pointless battle and endless torment?
How had she ended up here? And who was she again?
Slayer, her mind whispered. Buffy.
Great. That answer might help if she knew who Buffy was.
Somehow, she knew it was nighttime, even though she had yet to open her eyes. The hard earth that crumbled under her lacerated fingertips held no warmth. A burst of gunfire peppered the ground near her, sending clods of dirt and small pebbles smacking into her legs, her tender, exposed face. With a cry she curled into a ball until it was over, then forced her eyes open.
Nighttime, as she’d suspected, but the intense explosions provided sufficient ambient light to confirm that she was indeed in the midst of a battle. Peering around, Buffy took in what she could. Blurry forms streaked through the night, wearing uniforms reminiscent of… Well, sometime in the past. The gunfire sounded machine gun-y, so not too long ago, right?
Unless it was the future? Or somewhere else entirely? Like hell? She didn’t know.
Fuckety-fuck fuck fuck.
Oh look, at least I still know how to curse.
There was barbed wire strung out here and there along the ground, and in the in between spaces, large pits. Trenches. Foxholes, Xander’s voice supplied.
Okay, I don’t know who I am, but I have an invisible friend named Xander, and he knows something about war.
A foxhole sounded like a good place to be right about now. Buffy crawled arm over arm to the nearest trench, gritting her teeth against the pain, then tumbled into the hole as the ledge gave way beneath her. She fell in with a thump and landed in the cold ooze below, her long woolen skirt flying up above her knees.
“What’re you doin’ in here, lovey?” a filthy young man asked. His surprise quickly gave way to a leer as his hand slid up her exposed calf. “Didn’t know you girls were making house calls now.”
Buffy slapped his hand away with a wince, blushing in mortification and tugging her heavy skirt down. “I- I…” she spluttered, unsure of what to say. Maybe she was making house calls, whatever that was. She didn’t really know.
Another man crouched beside her, his roughly accented voice reminding her of somebody. Somebody with a shock of white hair and impossibly blue eyes.
“She ain’t no nightwalker, Clay. Look at ‘em togs she’s sportin’.” Buffy wanted to protest. She could be a nightwalker if she wanted to. She didn’t know what a nightwalker was, but it felt like something she did – walking around at night.
Clay reached for her again and Buffy glared at him. “So izzat you, missy? A workin’ gal? A doxy? Come to earn a piece?”
Working gal sounded good – very modern and feminist – but Clay’s leering face and grabby hands said otherwise. Buffy just wanted to figure out who and where she was, what was going on, but with the earsplitting noise, the squelchy mud she was sprawled in, the cold, the pain and terror – well, it wasn’t happening anytime soon. Instead of answering, she gave Clay her most frigid look and turned to the other man. He was filthy also, but seemed more human at least.
“Is this hell?” she asked, looking into his concerned, dark eyes.
He chuckled. “Reckon it is for those of us stuck here. Hell itself is likely far more pleasant than the Battle of the Somme.”
She frowned at him, trying to understand his words. “I think… I don’t…” she tried. “I’m hurt, and I don’t know what’s happening,” she settled on.
“S’all right, Miss, don’t you worry. When the push ends for the night, we’ll get you over the ridge and back to yon hospital tent. Prolly where you came from in the first place,” he said. “You have the look of a nurse. Our own angel of a Nightingale, come to fetch Tommys back from the brink.” He smiled and held out his hand. “’M Roger Stackhorn, Miss.”
“Hi,” she answered, holding out her own hand a little ways, trying not to strain her ribs. “I’m… not sure who I am at the moment.” It seemed better to keep what little information she knew close to her chest.
There was a high-pitched whine, followed by a boom which shook the ground. She gasped and covered her ears, the movement of the earth tumbling her body into the side of the trench, jarring her broken ribs. Roger and Clay whirled away and into action, forgetting about the misplaced woman who’d fallen into their small world.
Eventually the noise abated into a distant chatter of gunfire. Buffy dozed in fits and spurts, propped up against the earthen wall, hazy with pain and shock and cold. At some point one of the men had wrapped a ratty, smelly blanket around her. Clay returned, handing her a small flask. “’Ere, Miss, have a drink a’this,” he said.
Buffy eyed him mistrustfully, but Clay was behaving now, as if somebody had slapped some respect into him. “S’only rum, Miss. Help you warm up a bit. Just a nip, make you feel better, yeah? Then we’ll get you to the Fricourt ‘ospital.” He shook his head. “Not sure how you made it this far, but least you weren’t to the front lines. Would’ve got yerself kilt for sure.”
She reached for the flask with a grateful nod, then took a gulp. The liquid seared its way down, leaving her belly on fire even as she coughed at the sensation. “Bleargh. That’s gross.”
Clay chuckled. “Aye. Come now, me’n Davey’re gonna help you.” Another man loomed closer in the darkness, and Buffy shrank back in fear. Sure, they said they were going to help, but…
Clay stiffened. “He done bought it. He’ll be accompanyin’ us no more.”
Buffy’s face fell as she worked out his meaning. “Oh. I’m sorry.”
Shrugging, Clay said, “Welcome to the Somme. You be sure’n pass on what it’s like up here to the Butcher if you sees him.” This was the second time somebody had mentioned the Somme, but since Buffy still had no clue what that meant she simply nodded as if she understood. Clay hoisted her to her feet, more gently than she would have expected, and Davey took her other side.
They moved sideways through zig-zagging narrow trenches, dodging fallen men and the rats preying upon them. Grimy faces peered at her in surprise. Like Clay first had, many of the men reached out to touch her, but Clay had made himself her protector, slapping hands away and growling at the offenders to treat a lady proper.
At times it was necessary to leave the earthen channels that protected them from German snipers and they scurried across the land, Clay and Davey urging her to hurry, hurry, hurry until they were below ground once more. Most of the trenches had boards to walk upon, and Buffy preferred those to the others, which left them slogging through sludge and water. Her heavy, muddy clothes clung to her body and her ribs screamed with every step, but they were moving farther away from the bursts of gunfire and that counted as good as far as she was concerned. She sighed in relief when her escorts indicated they were almost there, certain she’d been about to drop from exhaustion.
“We’ll be in trouble for abandoning our post if the Red Tabs sees us,” Davey said, speaking for the first time. “Exit yonder, there’ll be help.”
Buffy clutched at the two young men, afraid to go on alone. Sure she didn’t know them, and okay, Clay had been a real pig at first, but… they were the only people she even sort of knew in this hellish place. The only even remotely familiar things to cling to. They pulled away though, leaving her to face this brave new world alone.
“Thanks guys,” she called after them. They raised their hands in a silent salute and disappeared.
Gathering up her courage, Buffy heard voices drift through the gloom, including a soft, feminine accent that had her ready to spring out of the trench (help is here!). Some instinct, however, left the nape of her neck itching and tingling, and held her back. As the speakers drew closer she had the overwhelming urge to reach for a wooden stake, checking for one in the waistband at the back of her skirt as if it were the most natural thing to so.
Vampire Slayer, her mind reminded her.
Because… vampires. Memories came with the knowledge, assaulting her, the force of them as painful and as visceral as the wounds her body sustained. She knew in that instant who she was, what she was. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Chosen One. The one who walked the night, saving the world from the evil that lurked in the shadows. From vampires.
From the nearby vampires that sounded very, very familiar.
Buffy was torn between wanting to see, wanting to know, and hiding. She lacked a stake – or anything to fight with – and she was injured. Too injured to be engaging what sounded suspiciously like several members of the Scourge of Europe.
Which places me – when? And where? Looking down at her unfamiliar clothes, she added, And in who? How did I get here? Her mind hadn’t caught up to that part yet.
She settled for crouching on a ledge, hidden in the shadows, raising her head only enough to see over the edge of the trench.
“Ah, come on, Darla, give it a go. You’ll find Fritz is plenty fine eating,” a male voice said, and Buffy flinched. Because – there he was. The man (vampire) she’d been reminded of earlier. Her eyes expected to see bright white hair but were instead treated to something darker, a soft brown maybe, and a little longer than she was used to. It was hard to tell under the cap he wore. He was dressed in a soldier’s uniform, much as the men who’d helped her, and he strutted across the land like he owned it. Like he had no fear.
He probably didn’t.
Darla and Drusilla each held one of his arms, their hands tucked into the crooks of his elbows, no Angel in sight.
It hit Buffy where – or at least when – she was.
And when were you ‘at your worst’?
That’d be the Great War, then. World War One to you children. Angelus had left us, and I was cock of the walk, only rooster in the henhouse
You don’t think you’re more dangerous now?
More dangerous, yeah. But not at my most evil.
And somehow, here she was, in his past. Or an echo of the past. Seeing Spike at his worst. Except, well… his worst seemed rather tame at the moment, all things considered. He was doing nothing more than swaggering across the landscape, women in tow.
Buffy’s heart sped up as he slowed and looked in her direction, the hard ridges of his brow and amber eyes visible even across the distance. His predatory eyes narrowed, and her heart began doing little flip-flops against her already screaming ribs. She ducked down, panicked. If he saw her… If they came this way… She couldn’t fight them could she? Not only because of her injuries and lack of weapon but… if this was the past, would it mess up the timeline somehow? She wasn’t sure how these things worked; Giles had never prepped her on what to do if she suddenly found herself in the long ago and far away.
The moment passed, Drusilla crooning something insane and incomprehensible, distracting Spike’s laser-like focus. Huh, laser-like. Probably not an expression yet. Buffy watched as they drifted away, straight towards the front lines, proud and unafraid.
She was afraid. If she’d somehow been sent back in time to face Spike at what he considered his worst…
She was very, very afraid.
Buffy felt like she had been staring after the long-departed vampires for hours now, her muscles cramped from holding her position so long. For a moment she wondered how she could be completely alone in the middle of a war zone, nobody else around to witness the apparitions she had seen, but she shrugged it off as one of the vagaries of the universe. Letting out the breath that had caught in her lungs, she considered her position.
Okay, stuck in the past, possibly during World War One. Beyond the vague memory of (jumping? a portal? an expectation of peace and serenity?) a battle of some kind, Buffy didn’t know how she’d arrived here. Or how she would return to her own time.
Second issue. Tugging on the sodden skirt clinging to her legs, she had the sneaking suspicion that she wasn’t quite herself. Something is wrong with me, something beyond the cuts and bruises and broken ribs. Buffy felt a bit too stretched out, as if she’d gained an inch or two. In the hours since she’d come to sudden awareness, slamming into the hard ground, she hadn’t really noticed the differences. Until now. Kinda distracted, after all.
She moved carefully, testing her suspicions out. Reaching for a rock embedded in the earthen wall, her fingertips grazed it moments faster than she’d expected to. Her stride was off as well, which she’d first attributed to her injuries, but no, her legs seemed a little longer. Frowning, she dug the rock out of the wall and aimed it at a wooden crate at the other end of the trench. It plowed through the box, dead center where she’d aimed it. Buffy cringed, belatedly wondering if the crate contained something explode-y. When nothing happened, she relaxed.
Yay for Slayer strength and coordination.
Brow furrowed as she pondered the mysteries she had yet to solve, she sighed. No point hiding out in a semi-abandoned trench all night. Either the promised hospital would hold the answers of who she was or it wouldn’t, but whichever way you looked at it, she was too filthy, miserable, and hungry to stay down here a moment longer.
A tremendous explosion rocked the night, lighting up the sky around her in a red haze and illuminating where she’d been. Buffy wondered if Spike was okay, and then she shook her head at the foolishness of it. One: evil vampires are not to be cared about. Two: obviously nothing dusty happens to him because he lives on to annoy me in however many decades from now.
Unless this is a different dimension…
She shook her head again. Brain hurts. Body hurts. Explosions bad, hospital good. And with that, she finally clambered out of the damn trench.
She found herself in the middle of a field, several small tents scattered a few hundred yards ahead of her. Near the tents, people bustled about in the inky pre-dawn light. Even from this distance, she could hear the eerie groans and moans emanating from one of the tents, and she figured that had to be the hospital. An old-timey truck thing with a big cross painted on the side bolstered her assumption. Buffy aimed herself at the tent, picking her way across the battle-scarred field.
Nearing the tent, the glow of several lanterns lit the surroundings, and the few people working in the area turned to see who was approaching. Voices buzzed to each other. The sole female stared at her with wide, round eyes, her mouth a perfect ‘o’ of shock.
“Mrs. Barrowman? Anne? Is that you?”
A/N: While I did do a fair bit of research on WWI, in no way do I claim to be an expert… so there are sure to be historical inaccuracies. I’ve done my best to stay true to the time and place, though.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/814683.html