- 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)
And the final chapter to be posted for today…
Life in Albert was no America in the twenty-first century, but it was a damn sight better than Fricourt and the trenches. After a good night’s sleep and a long, hot bath in a claw foot tub, Buffy felt almost human again, if not quite herself. Now dressed in clean clothes, she sat in front of the small, square mirror in the common room, staring.
Buffy had figured Anne, being a distant relative, would look something like her, but the face gazing back from the mirror was that of a complete stranger. Gone was the familiar face she’d grown to know over the last twenty years; in its place a round-faced, brown-eyed, and raven-haired woman stared back. Her ears were more prominent than she was accustomed to, her eyes more round than almond, and she found herself passionately missing the little bump on her nose she’d always hated. The small mirror didn’t show it, but she knew this body was also taller and fuller than the Buffy Anne Summers model she’d previously sported.
Even the body-switch with Faith hadn’t been this disconcerting. At least then Buffy had recognized the face and body she’d worn.
After spending the rest of the morning pouting over coffee and croissants, bemoaning to herself the crazy things that always happened to her, she sucked it up and moved on. It wasn’t like she could do anything about it, not really, so instead Buffy threw herself into learning her new life as quickly as possible, questioning Edith nonstop and reading as many newspapers as she could to get a feel for the time and place she now lived.
And if me avidly reading every newspaper I can find doesn’t prove I’m a whole new person, I don’t know what will. Not like there are any People magazines as an alternative…
She sat side-by-side with Edith later that evening, looking through Anne’s box of mementos, the pillows from the bed they shared propped up behind their backs.
“So, tell me…” Buffy said, gazing at a daguerreotype of two small girls who looked to be little more than toddlers. “Do I ever talk about my family? My children?” Even though it hadn’t been herthat had left her family in America, guilt still coursed through her.
Edith hesitated. “In the few weeks I’ve known you, you haven’t said much. I know their names are Annie, and Charlotte, after your husband. There were… issues with Charles that you felt you couldn’t resolve, and so you decided it would be better if you left – which you could, since you have your own money. Not many women have that choice.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” Buffy said. “About the money, I mean. I was worried about that. Not so relieved about the rest though.” She wondered what would have possessed Anne to leave her children. “Is my husband abusive or something?”
“I don’t know,” Edith said apologetically. “But I do know you’re happy with your choice. You’re doing a lot of good here, and I’m glad you’re on ambulance detail with me,” she said, glancing up at Buffy from under her lashes. “You have a good head, very calm under pressure, and you’re… you’re a real hero.”
“Well, thanks,” she blushed, uncomfortable. “I wish I could remember why you think so.”
Edith smiled ruefully. “You write to them. Every week. There is never an answer, and you don’t know if Charles shares the letters with them, but you do it all the same.”
It was little consolation to Buffy, who knew what it was like to be abandoned, but at least Anne Barrowman hadn’t completely forgotten her children the way Hank had. The people here seemed to like and respect Anne, at least, so maybe she’d had good reasons for leaving. Buffy just wished she knew what those reasons were; she couldn’t find a diary or anything personal which might shed some light.
Wondering if she should continue to write to the children she knew nothing about, she decided that if she could find the address, she would. Better an uncomfortable letter from a stranger than no letter at all.
As the sun began to set and the light in their room dimmed, Edith got up to prepare for bed. “We’re only rationed one candle a week, so we usually go to bed when it gets dark,” the British woman explained. “But if you’re not yet ready…”
“Maybe I’ll go for a walk, try to keep my muscles loose.”
Edith bit her lip. “We’re not supposed to be out past the sunset curfew excepting on hospital business.”
Buffy glanced out the darkening window, her fingers twitchy. Not the Slayer here. “Yeah, okay, let’s go to bed.” She could always sneak out in the middle of the night if she couldn’t sleep.
She settled in beside Edith, holding herself stiffly on her side. Last night she’d been too exhausted to freak out over sharing a small bed with another woman, and a stranger at that, but tonight she found herself uncomfortable, unable to fall asleep. It was almost impossible to keep from touching, and that was just… weird. In a non-gay way. Not that she had anything against lesbian loving – gay best friend after all. But this wasn’t that kind of bed sharing.
Edith didn’t seem to think so. She fell asleep quickly, her breath evening out into delicate little wheezes, her body confined to her side of the bed, but comfortably so. Not leery of touching. Buffy sighed and tried to relax, realizing the issue was all hers. Hadn’t the common people staying at inns, travelers back in the whenever, shared beds with perfect strangers? She seemed to recall learning that somewhere.
She rolled onto her back, spread out a little, let her arm and leg touch her bedmate’s. Okay, that wasn’t so bad.
Kinda like sleeping next to Riley.
Buffy froze again. What if she had… an interesting dream? The kind that left her feeling a little grabby? Or just cuddly? She rolled back onto her side, stiff as a board once more.
Eventually, after what felt like hours, Buffy got up and pulled on her shoes. Surely an area as rife with violence and bloodshed as this would attract demonic activity and provide her with slaying opportunities. She hoped. She needed something to work out the tension.
Her assumptions were correct. Buffy found a small nest of vampires on the edge of town, which provided the physical release she needed, although her quips were sadly wasted on the French-speaking vamps. Slipping back into the room a few hours later, the dust-covered Slayer managed to fall asleep immediately this time.
The next several days passed in much the same way. Buffy’s ribs were long-healed, but the doctor had arranged for them to have the rest of the week off, so Edith used their free time to familiarize Buffy with the area – and herself.
Today they strolled down the street, stopping at the boulangerie – Edith had explained it meant ‘bakery’, Buffy’s high school French having proven entirely inadequate for actually living in France – for bread and small cakes. Wartime rationing had drastically limited the availability of baked goods, but Buffy was still delighted by the offerings.
Her cloth bag filled with purchases to share, they found a wooded area on the outskirts of town to picnic in.
“Do you think you’ve lost your memories forever?” Edith wondered aloud.
“I dunno about forever,” Buffy hedged, “but it doesn’t seem like they’re coming back anytime soon. Still, with all your coaching I should be able to fool pretty much everybody else.” She wrinkled her nose. “I’d hate to be told I’m unfit for duty or something and have to leave. Not sure where I’d go.”
Edith patted her arm. “You’d be fine, I have no doubt. You’re as smart and resourceful as ever – even if you don’t remember being so.”
“And rich! Well, rich enough to keep me out of trouble, which is pretty damn important in this society.” Oh how Buffy missed women’s lib…
“And out of menial jobs,” Edith added. Buffy nodded, thankful for that as well. Because, really, her? Trying to find a job? There wasn’t much she was qualified for, and in this era it wasn’t due to her lack of college education. She tried to imagine herself as a domestic or housekeeper of some sort and shivered.
Speaking of skills… “Hey, so today you show me how to drive,” Buffy said. She’d come to the conclusion that perhaps Anne’s fatal accident had been due to Edith’s driving, and she was determined to learn how to drive for herself.
The other woman huffed. “Oh sure, you say you don’t remember who you are, but you still don’t want to let me drive…”
“I think you’re the reason they coined the phrase ‘women drivers’,” Buffy teased, then laughed at herself, knowing she wasn’t much better.
A few hours behind the wheel later that day more than proved it, but by the end of the lesson, she felt confident that she’d be able to drive the ambulance into Fricourt the next morning. At least better than Edith.
Her first day back on the job she didn’t remember having was almost over. It had been so many kinds of not fun, Buffy had lost track. Driving back to Albert with a truck full of wounded soldiers, she tried to decide which had been the worst part of the day. She’d thought the worst part would be trying to fake her recovery for Doc Reynolds, but she quickly discovered him believing her was far worse, because then he expected her to do things. Disgusting, hurl-worthy things, like changing bandages covering putrefying flesh, helping patients to fill bed pans, and then emptying those bed pans.
She gagged just thinking about it, swerving the ambulance as she did so, then cringing at the chorus of moans from the rear. “Sorry,” she muttered. “Between you and me it’s a wonder we haven’t smashed this truck into itty bitty pieces yet.”
“We didn’t inherit all those dents,” Edith grinned back at her.
Buffy grimaced and gripped the wheel tighter, her palms sweating. The sooner she dropped these guys off at the hospital, the sooner she was done with this day.
Naturally, the ambulance chose that moment to blow a tire.
“I don’t swear, I take it?” Buffy asked.
“No, never! Not that… if you want to swear, that’s okay…”
Buffy stared sightlessly out the window. “It seemed like a swear-worthy moment. So what do we do, call Triple A? Wait for some hunky soldiers to come by?”
Edith snorted. “Nope, we get to fix it ourselves.”
“Seriously? I fix tires?” Edith was already out of the cab and rummaging around in the back. Buffy banged her head on the steering wheel then opened the door with a sigh. “I fix tires. No problem. Can’t be any harder than averting apocalypses. Go me with the auto repair. While wearing a skirt and a cheery smile no less.”
Her companion returned with the necessary tools. “Don’t worry, we’re good at this. We can even do it while under enemy fire,” she said. “Just follow my directions.”
“What else do we do with this hunk of junk?” Buffy asked when they were underway once more.
“Just about anything. We are, after all, modern women.”
Night had fallen by the time they’d reached the hospital, and after helping unload, Edith grabbed Buffy’s arm with a reminder about curfew, trying to hurry her back to their room. “It’s dangerous to be out and about after sunset,” she insisted.
“I thought we were modern women,” Buffy snapped, the stress of the day making her grumpy. “Can’t we handle ourselves?”
“It doesn’t do to upset the brass hats, not if we want to stay on, Anne.”
Buffy relented, keeping stride with the hurrying woman, until she saw something that made her pull up short. Down a side road, she saw… Spike? Leading a child by the hand? It was hard to tell for sure, seeing as he was decades away from sporting his signature look, but Buffy would know that strut anywhere.
She shook Edith off. “What’s down that way?”
Edith peered down the darkened street. “Just some houses. Come on.”
Shaking her head, Buffy said, “You go on, I’ll catch up. I just need to…”
A hand gripped her fiercely. “Anne. Let’s go.” Buffy, realizing Edith was terrified, turned to face her.
“Are you okay?”
Edith tugged on her until she started moving again, then said, “I’ve had run-ins with soldiers after dark. Some of them are decent, but strict. Following orders about curfew, you know? Some of them are best to avoid if you don’t want any untoward advances. And some…” Her eyes were wide and her face pale.
“Some?” Buffy prompted.
“Some are monsters,” Edith answered, her voice shaking. “Not men that are monsters, but true monsters. I’ve never seen one myself, but I’ve heard stories. And seen the victim’s bodies,” she whispered. “So please, don’t go off on your own at night.”
Buffy nodded, soothing the frightened woman. “Okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” Well, I did, but I can’t really tell you, can I?
She resolved to be more cautious about sneaking out, to keep Edith from worrying, although she knew she would be out the door the moment the other woman fell asleep tonight. A backwards glance told her the maybe-Spike was long gone, but she would definitely be back to search for him.
Because Spike – this Spike – and a small child? Not good. Buffy didn’t think the vampire was helping a lost child find his way home.
A/N: Well, hopefully I’ve got you hooked! The story IS complete. Sometime next week I’ll start posting to my usual sites, and you can follow along there: Elysian Fields, Archive of our Own, andFanfiction.net.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/815227.html