Chp 17 Soup and Sympathy
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Chapter 16 Soup and Sympathy
“Soup?” Joy handed Buffy a bowl full of thick, rich, vegetable soup. The American Slayer moaned gently and burnt her lips as she gulped down he first mouthful.
“Ow! But jeez, that’s good.”
Joy smiled briefly and hoisted her baby further up her hip.
“My mother-in-law made it!”
Buffy stared around the farmhouse kitchen, but it was hard to tell which of the black dressed women working there she should thank. “It must be weird, being married and a mom and still a Slayer.”
Joy shrugged in a very French fashion. “It was my choice. I recognise my calling, my mission, but I am a woman, too, not just a Slayer. I wanted Pierre and – “ she laughed – “Aurora here followed on! I can just imagine the Council’s reaction when they know. Perhaps if I had met Pierre in peacetime – but then, I wouldn’t have been here in France if there hadn’t been a war! And the very fact that you are here, Buffy, means that in wartime, all the rules change. I’ve never heard of there being two Slayers alive together.”
Buffy muttered vaguely and sipped her soup with a little less haste. Obviously Joy had never died and come back from the dead! No other Slayer had been called to replace her. There was no Kendra, no Faith in her life.
She sighed, feeling oddly detached from the busy scene around her. She and Spike had been escorted in silence through the forest, out to a stretch of rolling farmland and up a rough track to a rambling farmhouse.
The stone flagged kitchen was dark and smelt of garlic, onions and Gaulouise cigarettes. Plans for the attack on the Chateau later that night were obviously well advanced and silent, dark eyed Frenchmen came and went like shadows. Buffy had seen rifles and guns being removed from their hiding places in the ceiling and could feel the same sense of anticipation, fear and excitement that she recognised from when she and the Scoobies had gone up against forces far bigger than them.
But this time she was not involved, and that was what made it so weird. She didn’t know the plans, hadn’t been asked her opinion or consulted in any way. Buffy knew it was all happening and was real, but she couldn’t get over the fact that it was like watching a film on TV, one you’d started looking at halfway through. You didn’t know the beginning and wouldn’t know the end because you were going out to the Bronze in a minute and this was just to pass the time.
“Why is your vampire sulking?” Joy asked suddenly, handing Aurora a rusk to chew on – from the red patches on her cheeks, the child was obviously teething.
“He isn’t my vampire.”
The English Slayer raised a dark eyebrow and sighed. “OK, why is the scowling vampire sitting on the floor in the corner over there, sulking?”
Buffy hesitated; Spike had said nothing at all to her on the journey to the farm. There was obviously something wrong; she’d never known him silent for more than a few minutes. “He might be hungry. And to be honest, Joy, I need him to fly me back to England. He’s no use if he’s too weak. Have you got any blood at all – pig, sheep, cow?”
Joy frowned; it obviously went against her whole being to feed a vampire, but even she could see the logic behind Buffy’s words. She vanished into the back scullery and returned with a small mug of blood. “My mother-in-law slaughtered a pig this morning,” she said briefly. “We use the blood in sausage.”
Buffy tried not to shudder, thanked her and took the mug across to Spike. “Here. I thought you’d prefer this to soup.” She sat on the floor next to him as he drank, trying to avoid the sight of the blood glistening on his lips and teeth. “You’re very quiet,” she said at last, puzzled by the lack of barbed remarks coming in her direction.
Spike wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Buffy had returned his flying jacket to him and although the worn leather was dark brown, not black, it still creaked in fashion that was oddly familiar.
“Nothing to say, pet. You and your Slayer pal have the got the whole situation under control, that’s obvious. Look at them – running around playing soldiers. Think they’re all so clever. Wankers!”
Buffy frowned. “They’ve got a plan. OK, I don’t know what it is, apart from attacking the Chateau, but it doesn’t concern us, does it? We’ve just got to get to the plane and get out of here.”
“Without the Slayer.”
“OK, yes, without Joy. OK, I know it isn’t what we were sent here to do, but there’s no way she’s going to leave France and her husband. The Council will just have to accept that.”
Spike splayed his legs out in front of him, tapping his boots together, watching little bits of mud fall to the floor. “All right for you, Slayer. You’ll just get a slap on the wrist and be sent on your merry way back to the good old U S of A. But if I fail, then my Dru gets staked.”
Buffy felt the words “good thing, too” swim up into her mouth and she swallowed them back desperately before they could escape.
“So maybe it might be better for me to stay here in France. If the Council doesn’t know I’ve failed, they might not top my girl. As far as they know, I’m still sodding well trying to get Joy back home. That should count for something.”
“How do I get to England? I can’t fly a plane.”
Spike sighed. “Think, Slayer. Even if I agreed to go, do you really believe the Germans will let us fly out of here? I might not be much for plans, but even I can sense that these Resistance blokes are walking into a nice little trap. Just one guard on a British plane? VIPs at the chateau? Oh, come on, pet. I haven’t stayed alive this long by ignoring the obvious. It’s got ‘walk into my parlour said the spider to the fly’ written all over it. The Germans want this Pierre bloke; they’ll use every trick in the book to get him.”
“You may be right, so shouldn’t you talk to him and Joy – tell him what you think?”
Spike looked at her, frowning. What planet did this American girl live on? “Hey, vampire here, remember? They wouldn’t listen to me if I told them their house was burning down and pushed their hands into the flames to prove it! You might as well go along with them for the ride and have some fun killing Germans.”
Buffy fell silent, staring out across the big, farmhouse kitchen, watching as various members of Pierre’s group get their final orders. She had never felt so helpless or so confused. Was this what she should be doing? Helping Joy and her husband attack the Nazis? Should she forget about going to England? For the first time, she wondered exactly what she would find, whom she would speak to if she did get back. Some sort of 1943 equivalent of Quentin Travers, she supposed. But they would have no idea who she was or how she had come from the future to help. They might even reckon she was completely nuts and lock her up.
Bleakly she contemplated her future: at home, Willow didn’t know what Travers had arranged, so she could do nothing to help. And here, in this time? Perhaps she could convince the Council that she was a Slayer. Maybe they would – what? – give her some sort of pension? Find her a job? No, more likely they would just get rid. A girl out of time and a Slayer, that was a combination far too volatile for any good Council boss to sanction. And the one person she knew in this time would be returning to his lover!
But if she stayed here in France? Could she make some sort of life here? Get involved with the Resistance? Kill people? Make a difference? No, she was the Slayer; she couldn’t just turn into a soldier, out of time and place.
“So now it’s your turn to be quiet. What’s going through your pretty little Slayer head? Bet it involves me and death somehow. And do you have to lean on my shoulder? It’s giving me the willies.”
Buffy inched away from him, angry with herself for the way her body seemed to have a life of its own when it was anywhere near the vamp. Jeez, how many times did she have to say William the Bloody, not your Spike before her brain would start to accept the fact? It was just that when she was tired, Spike’s shoulder seemed – comfortable.
“Oddly enough, Spike, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you’re not the central feature of every thought I have!”
Eyes glittered towards her and one eyebrow lifted sardonically. “You’re lying, Slayer! I’ve no idea why, but I can tell that you are. You smell different when you lie. Sort of vanilla mixed with carnation. Of course, there might be a touch of garlic from that soup you’ve been drinking!”
“Oh gross! What’s with all this vampire smelling and scenting? And I so do not smell different when I lie!”
“Ah, so you admit you do lie?”
Buffy glared at him. “If you must know, I was wondering if Joy could find someone in her group who could fly the plane, if you’re determined to stay in France.”
“He’d have no idea where to go. Private airfield, Watcher’s Council property, all very hush-hush. You’d be shot down as soon as you neared the coast. Anyway, Slayer, you were sent here by the Council, so they must have given you an escape route out of the country. Why are you so determined that I should fly you back to Blighty?”
Buffy fingered the little glass bottle in her pocket: the charm that hadn’t worked, the charm that told her Quentin Travers had never meant her to return to Sunnydale. “I thought – the route I was given collapsed,” she said at last. “I just – I want to go home.”
Her last words were whispered, almost to herself and she realised with a flash of surprise, that she meant them. She’d felt nothing for Sunnydale or her friends, or even her sister since Willow had pulled her back to this world. Now, she was overwhelmed with sensations of longing; she was, she discovered, desperately homesick. For her home, her friends, Dawn and – she forced herself to be brutally honest – she wanted the Spike of that time. The chipped, snarky vampire who would do anything for her, who professed to love her – a guy she could rely on one hundred percent.
Spike glanced at the white-faced girl sitting next to him. There was a tremor in her voice that unsettled him in ways he couldn’t understand. The Slayer was upset, unhappy – he could sense that, which was odd in itself, but even so, he should have been delighted. Sod it, he was delighted! An unhappy Slayer was a plus, her guard would be down and one day soon, when they weren’t on the same side, he would strike and kill his second Slayer! That was more than Liam had ever managed.
So there was no reason to feel on edge, as if her unhappiness was seeping into his own body. No reason at all to want to help her get home if that would just take that sad expression off her face. And so he was appalled to hear a voice that sounded like his saying, “Bloody hell, Slayer, stop whining. I’ll fly the poxy plane back to England!”
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