No Rest for the Weary, Chapter 1
Buffy Summers was in the middle of the first vacation she’d had in a decade.
She lay on the Jamaican beach in the smallest bikini she had been able to find—quite small, we assure you— peered over the neon-pink stripe of zinc oxide on her nose, and took another swig of the booze-laden fruity drinks clutched in her hand. She had nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to slay.
It was actually kind of boring.
Boring, but at least I look good, she thought with a crooked grin, gazing down to admire her nicely browning limbs. Flipping over so her back and butt could get toasty as well, she pillowed her head on her arms and promptly fell asleep.
She was awoken an hour later by one of the resort employees. “Pardon me, miss, but there is a storm coming. You must come inside.” His dark, round face split into a sparkling grin. “We are having a hurricane party, miss.”
“Let me guess,” Buffy said groggily, pushing herself up onto her elbows. “A mountain of shrimp as tall as me, and more rum?”
He nodded happily. “Of course. This is Jamaica, after all.”
He left her there to follow at her own pace. She rolled over and sat up, gaze taking in the changes in weather. The breeze, always strong, was now a stiff wind, and her hair was whipping crazily around her face. She reached in her beach bag for a scrunchie and tied it back, continuing to scrutinize the area.
The palm trees were swaying briskly, and the blue-green waves were beginning to pound quite heavily onto the white sand. In the distance, the lowering clouds had gone a distinctly ominous shade of grey, and at least a dozen boats were trying desperately to make it back to shore as quickly as possible.
Buffy sighed and pulled her sarong wrap from the bag before shaking out her towel and cramming it in. Adjusting the sunglasses on her face, she slipped her feet into her sandals and made her way back to her room to shower and change... had to look good for the hurricane party, after all.
She’d come to The Port Royal Inn on Giles’ insistence she take some time to relax. She hadn’t wanted to come alone, but Xander couldn’t get time off work, Dawn had school, Kennedy hated the Caribbean and Willow wouldn’t go without her. Giles himself had returned to England for a few months of rebuilding the Council and couldn’t spare the time.
That left her, herself, and she. She was bored, but the booze helped. Laying in a pleasantly half-comatose state for days upon end was working wonders on her mood. And her hair was lightening into a rather attractive, streaky-blond mass, at the same time her skin was losing the pasty whiteness it had lapsed into after living for a year in Cleveland. Nice town, but not exactly known for its sunny weather and beach volleyball.
So, she’d come to Jamaica. This resort was fairly new, built on the restored site of the former governor’s mansion. Buffy was apparently staying in the former bedroom of the governor’s daughter—the pamphlet in the lobby said that she’d caused a big scandal by marrying far below her station when she fell in love with a blacksmith.
“Hah,” Buffy had said upon reading it, unmoved. After being one-half of the ultimate pair of star-crossed lovers, there wasn’t a lot that impressed her anymore.
She showered, then slathered herself with expensive post-sunning lotion and enjoyed the sensation of walking around in the buff whilst she pulled out various garments in preparation for the party. How sexy did she want to look? Attractive-by-default, or Come-shag-me? Did she even want to get shagged? And why was she using the word “shagged”? It just made her think of Spike, and even after a year, that hurt.
Frowning, she closed her eyes for a moment and tried to get a feel for her libido. Where the hell had it gone, in the past few years? She hadn’t had sex since her last time with Spike, back in her goth-but-for-the-gloomy-outfits phase after being returned to life, and honestly hadn’t missed it that much.
Buffy tried thinking of sexy things, to see if she could awaken a horny response. Angel in full-on King Of Pain mode: nah. Again with the gloomy. Spike in full-on let-me-corrupt-you mode: nah. That only worked when she was depressed, and she was far too tan and blonde to be depressed at the moment, especially with the prospect of a mountain of shrimp in her future. Riley in—oh, not even. Thinking of Riley made Buffy think of Sam, which then reminded her how short she was, which wasn’t even remotely sexy.
Right, then. Movie stars, it was. Buffy wandered around the room, doing her hair, putting on cosmetics, and wracking her brains for a memory of a hot film actor she could use to put herself in the mood. It was rough going, however, since she hadn’t seen a movie in almost a year. The last one had been that Harry Potter film, and a bunch of 13 year olds wasn’t exactly conducive for the sexy thoughts.
But what about that one kid’s father... the evil one, with the long white-blond hair. Buffy stopped, mascara wand in mid-air, and just thought about him for a while. He’d been a foxy little monkey, as she recalled. And, evil. Fake evil was actually kind of sexy, she considered. Especially if it came with long blond hair.
Buffy imagined that long blond hair trailing over her as Hot Evil Guy kissed down her body, then imagined grabbing said hair when HEG reached his destination and began using that mouth for more than just speaking with a British accent. And then she smiled at the usual telltale signs of arousal that followed on the heels of those thoughts.
Go me! she thought, slicking on peach lip gloss and hoping at least one of the several decent-looking young men at the resort were straight. She’d so far only seen them in pairs, sporting suspiciously well-coordinated outfits with their superbly barbered haircuts. It boded ill.
With a last glance of approval at her reflection in the mirror, Buffy left her room, slipping the card-key-thingy in her tiny handbag and striding as purposefully as a girl could manage in strappy backless Jimmy Choos (thank God for being able to guilt-trip Giles into giving her the Council corporate AmEx). Her frock, a floaty little chiffon slip-dress in kelly green, set off her hair and skin nicely and made her eyes seem greener, too.
She sailed into the party like a queen, and not a moment too soon: as soon as her daintily-shod foot stepped over the threshold, thunder boomed overhead and the heaven opened with a flash of blind-making lightning.
And Buffy only stood there, drawing all eyes with her poise, if not her immense stature, and bestowed a gracious smile upon them all. Amazing how long the rum’ll stay in your system, Buffy thought happily. She’d never have been able to be this calm and relaxed without all those mai tais on the beach earlier.
A waiter brought her a huge plateful of shrimp, a pint of cocktail sauce, and the biggest drink she’d ever seen. An improbable shade of day-glo blue, it was laden with ground ice, umbrellas, pineapple, cherries and what appeared to be a whole banana. She blinked over it at the waiter.
“We’re very concerned that our guests get as much fiber and vitamins as possible, miss,” he told her, managing to keep a straight face. “Be sure you drink the whole thing.”
Buffy waved him off and began to tackle her twin mounds of food and drink. It wasn’t until she’d polished off the shrimp and was halfway through the rum-soaked pineapple slices—and feeling pleasantly tanked, we don’t mind adding—that some odd sort of awareness began to prickle across the back of her neck. It wasn’t a demons-at-two-o’clock kind of feeling, but there was still something of the danger about it.
Something, somewhere, was wrong.
She stood—carefully using her napkin to make sure no cocktail sauce remained from her shrimp orgy—and made her way to the open side of the verandah, resting her hand on a pillar. The rear of the resort overlooked a steep embankment with an equally steep staircase of old stone cut into the hillside to the beach below.
“Hallo,” said a male voice beside her, and Buffy turned to find one of those impeccably-dressed men leaning against the opposite pillar.
“Hi,” she replied, but her heart wasn’t in it—all previous traces of sure-would-be-nice-to-get-laid had vanished in the face of that persistent sense of foreboding. She scarcely looked at him, smiling briefly before turning back to stare at the beach, and then the water. It was a roiling black mass, what she could see through the pounding rain, and her unease grew steadily stronger.
“—my family’s ancestor used to be a soldier on the island here,” the man was saying. English accent, sounded more like Giles and Wesley than Spike, early thirties, Buffy catalogued automatically even her stomach began to ache with apprehension. What was going on? Why was she so... worried?
“Not a direct antecedent, I’m afraid,” the man continued. “More like my great-great-great-great-grandfather’s brother.” He paused. “But you’re not really interested in that.”
Buffy flushed guiltily. “Sorry,” she said, pressing her hand to her belly. “I don’t feel well. Too many shrimp,” she lied. No, her nausea had nothing to do with the shrimp. She had to get away from here, right now. “No,” she said to his concerned offer of help to her room or the infirmary. “I’ll just go back on my own. Thanks.”
He tried to insist, but she held firm and lurched away under her own steam. Once inside the house again, instead of making for the huge curved staircase leading to her room, she slipped out the front door and crept around the side of the house. It was rough going, having to struggle through hydrangea and oleander bushes and nearly weeping at the idea of what the rain-soft grass and mud were doing to her shoes, but the unease that had filled her began to lessen with each step she came closer to the beach.
At the bottom of the stairs reaching to the sand, Buffy stripped off the shoes and flung them aside before scraping her soaked hair off her face. It was raining so hard she could barely see, even with her Slayer-enhanced sight, and she peered hard toward the waves crashing upon the shore.
Then a humongous bolt of lightning flashed out at sea, and for a moment, there was complete silence: electricity prickled along Buffy’s skin, making even the fine hairs on her body raise in shivery alarm, and the scent of ozone filled the air. She felt like she’d been struck deaf; even the pelting of the rain and smashing waves faded into nothingness.
Her heart thumped once, then twice—the sound of it was loud as a gunshot, after that profound silence, and then sound returned once more in a roar that made her gasp at the suddenness of it. And the discomfort was back in her stomach, stronger than before. Buffy thought she might actually vomit.
She stepped off the last stair, feeling the wet sand cake between her toes, and immediately, the soreness lessened. Another step, less discomfort. With each step toward the water she took, the better she felt. It was vastly ironic, she thought, because her fear of being swept away by the huge force of the angry sea ratcheted up correspondingly.
The outer reaches of the waves was lashing angrily at her feet when she saw it. A miracle she had, really, and only due to her Slay-O-Vision. But about fifty feet out, tossed up and down by the thrashing waves, was... something.
Buffy blinked hard, hoping it wasn’t the salty water flicking into her eyes that was making her see things. Nope, there was definitely someone out there. She sighed, hoping she wasn’t about to get herself killed as well as the poor jerk out there, and began running toward the water. A deep breath, a dive, and she was in.
The force of the waves nearly shocked her into a gasp as they snatched her small body and flung it around. Kicking hard, Buffy pushed herself to the surface and squinted until she saw the person again. She swam for what seemed like hours—but was probably only five minutes—and almost cried with relief to grab at his clothing. She treaded water, getting a better grip around him, and began to swim back to shore.
Time and again, waves swooped down over them, pouring into Buffy’s eyes and ears and mouth until she thought she’d choke on the salt. Her limbs felt like lead as exhaustion quickly set in, and it was only sheer force of will that kept her going.
Collapsing with profound relief onto the beach at last, she crawled out of the water, dragging the person behind her by the scruff of his collar. There was no shelter to be had until she regained her strength and could go for help, except for the stand of palm trees, so she slowly, painfully crept her way there with her insensible passenger in tow.
Once there, she turned him—she could see by now it was a him—onto his belly and pounded his back until he began to cough up copious amounts of seawater. When his paroxysms ceased, she rolled him over and propped his head on her lap as she leant against the trunk of a palm tree.
She couldn’t believe they were still alive. If she hadn’t been a Slayer, with all the strength and agility that went along with it, they wouldn’t have been. Buffy had never felt so overcome, so small, so helpless before. There was little a person, even someone like her, could do in the face of all that power. The First can go to hell, she thought with a grim smile. It’s got nothing on Mother Nature.
Buffy sat there for hours, just getting rained on as she slept. The sky was beginning to lighten when the man began to stir, and she studied him for the first time. He was wearing some seriously weird clothes, dressed pretty much like she imagined Ben Franklin had. Light-coloured pants tucked into tall boots, a high-buttoned vest, and a long coat with huge turned-back cuffs that seemed to be made of wool—no wonder it had felt like she’d been hauling several thousand tons. His entire outfit must have soaked up gallons and gallons of water.
He seemed not young, exactly, but not old, either—early to mid-thirties, was her guess, and ok looking. A little stern, and there was definitely something of Giles around the mouth and eyes. Must be a restrained Englishman thing, Buffy thought.
She let her head drop back against the palm tree and closed her eyes to doze a little. It was still raining, and her fingers were utterly pruney. Her careful hair styling and makeup from the night before was destroyed and she probably looked like some sort of sea-monster. Her dress was ruined, too—stained by salt water and ripped in parts from where the fragile material had ground against the sand.
“I must look like The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” Buffy muttered grouchily.
“No,” rasped a masculine voice. “Rather like an angel of mercy.”
Eyebrows raised, she looked down to find the man staring up at her. His eyes were a piercing, light blue and fixed on her face with an intensity that put her at a loss for words.
But only for a little while.
“An angel? Me?” She laughed, so amused by the idea that she didn’t even mind that it was raining into her mouth. “Um, no. Not even close.”
The man seemed to come back to himself then, for the dazed look left his face and he compressed his mouth until his lips nearly disappeared. “Of course not,” he said, his clipped tones so in line with Giles in full repression mode that Buffy couldn’t help but smile. “I beg your pardon,” he said then, sitting up, and she was baffled for a second until she realized he was excusing himself for laying his head in her lap, no matter that she’d put it there herself.
“Not a problem,” she replied, her tone benign.
“Where are we?” He combed back a shock of damp brown hair and tried to peer through the sheets of rain that poured down onto them.
“Jamaica,” Buffy answered. “The beach below the Port Royal Inn, to be exact. I found you a few hours ago. I exhausted myself pulling you out of the water and needed to rest before I could bring you up to the resort.” She stretched her arms and legs, relieved to find they felt at full abilities. “Shouldn’t be a problem now.”
The man frowned, his dark brows drawing together over a blade of a nose. “You... pulled me from the water? By yourself?”
Buffy nodded and massaged her right shoulder. “Yeah, and it was a bitch of a job, too. I was sure we were going to die.”
He seemed taken aback by her casual use of a less-than-ladylike word, but recovered admirably. “I can hardly believe that a tiny thing like yourself was able to—“
“Yeah, yeah. ‘You’re so small, there’s no way you could ever have been able to blah blabbity blah.’ Heard it all before, Mr. Rigid-Britches,” Buffy said crossly.
He blinked, and then the tiniest of smiles appeared on his clamped-shut mouth. “That’s Commodore Rigid-Britches,” he said after a while.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Right,” she said. “You’re a commodore.”
He nodded, managing to look quite serious and stately in spite of the rain coursing over him. “I am.”
Buffy folded her arms over her chest. “So where’s Lionel Ritchie and the rest of them, then?”
He frowned more deeply. “I am not aware of a Lionel, but the Earl of Eglinton’s family name is Ritchie. His son, Charles, was in school with me…” He saw that she had no recognition of these names, and trailed off. “And your name?”
“Buffy Summers,” she said absently, peering through the rain at the watery sunlight struggling through the clouds. “So, you ready to go?”
“There is nowhere to go,” he said pointedly. “Port Royal was abandoned after the earthquake three years ago.” He shifted to lean against his own palm tree. “but perhaps we can take shelter in… what did you say we were near?”
“The Port Royal Inn,” Buffy replied. “And yeah, we can ‘take shelter’ there.” She stood, brushing the thick coating of sand from her legs and backside. “I can’t wait to have a hot shower, and some food…”
‘”Tea,” the man said firmly, getting to his feet as well. “Definitely. I could murder about a gallon of it, right now.”
Buffy began to trudge through the rain in the direction of the stairs. “I think after this, even I could murder a gallon of tea.”
“Not fond of the beverage of kings, then?” he asked, and she glanced at him to find he was grinning at her. It relieved the sternness of his face, and she was surprised to find that he was quite handsome.
“You could say that,” Buffy replied, feeling a little breathless in a way that had nothing to do with the trek through the storm. Who needed evil wizards when you had a guy in a funky outfit to smile at you like that? “Why are you so perky now, anyway?”
“Glad to be alive,” he replied, staring out over the thundering surf. “I only just realized how close I came to death. You’d think after fourteen years in the Navy, I’d be accustomed to risking my life, but…”
“But it’s different when it’s your job,” Buffy finished for him, her own mind wandering to less-than-fun places. “You don’t expect to die in a normal way—you think you’ll go down fighting. You live your life accepting that you’ll probably die young, and nowhere near your own bed, and you get to feeling like it would be wrong, otherwise.”
He turned quickly back to her, his eyes wide. The rain had turned his lashes spiky, and rivulets coursed down his cheek. One fat droplet dripped off the end of his nose, and she watched as it absorbed into the lapel of his big weird coat. “Yes,” he said finally. “That’s… exactly how it is.”
It was Buffy’s turn to grin. “If you’re a good boy,” she said, “I might explain to you how I know that.”
“A… good boy?” His eyebrows lifted a little. “Madam, you have the most peculiar way of speaking.”
“So says the man dressed like Ben Franklin,” she retorted. “Now help me find the stairs… they really should be somewhere around here.” But there was nothing there, no matter that Buffy ignored his inquiries (about who Ben Franklin was and if he were a naval officer in order) to search extra hard. The stairs were simply—
“Gone,” she declared angrily. “Though if the wind were strong enough to blow them away, we’d be gone, too.” She combed her sodden hair back off her forehead with shaky fingers.
“Can we not simply climb the hill?” he asked with a God-you’re-so-stupid tone to his voice that Buffy was positive she didn’t like.
“Fine, do it the hard way,” she grumbled, and started pulling herself up. Several times he tried to climb ahead of her, reaching his hand down to assist her, but she just looked at him oddly.
“Trust me,” Buffy told him, “I’ll need way less help than you.” And she was proven correct when he slipped and started to fall backward, his equilibrium skewed, until she simultaneously locked her elbow under a protruding root and grabbed the back of his coat. He dangled from her grasp for a short, terrifying moment until she was able to swing him back and plant him against the embankment.
“You’re letting your centre of gravity lean too far back,” she told him. “Keep your chest flat against the ground.”
Eyes wide, he nodded wordlessly and let her lead. A few times she looked down and had to smirk; he was sneaking peeks up her skirt, even though he tried to pretend he was averting his eyes.
At the top, Buffy was too busy helping him over the edge to take a good look at her surroundings. When she finally straightened, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
His head positively whipped around at that. “Miss Summers, I really must protest—“
She slapped her hand over his mouth, effectively cutting off his words. “”Where the fuck did the resort go?” she demanded to no one, really, because obviously he wasn’t going to know, and… there was no one else there to answer here. Where a five-star, recently-refurbished hotel had been last night, now there was only the crumbling hulk of a deserted mansion, shutters hanging drunkenly off their hinges, empty doorways yawning open. Weeds grew tall and unkempt where before had been only manicured greenery, carefully pruned.
No one had been there in a very long time.
“What year is it?’ Buffy whispered.
He didn’t answer at first; she could feel his eyes on her, concerned and confused. “I don’t—“
“Please,” she said tiredly. “Please, just tell me.”
“It is 1695,” he said, and she hung her head.
“Doesn’t that just figure,” she mumbled after a moment. “I come to Jamaica to get away from it all, and end up getting further away than even Giles wanted me to go.”
“Er. Right.” He was obviously at a loss for words. “What year were you hoping it would be, then?”
Buffy waved her hand dismissively. “2005, but don’t worry about it.” The rain was still pouring down on them. “Let’s just see if we can’t get dry, ok?”
She picked her way through the debris, him at her heels, and she was relieved to find that the interior, whilst not closed to the outside, was still in fairly decent condition.
“This is the governor’s mansion,” he said. “I believe the kitchen is through here.” He led the way through what had been, not too long ago, an elegant dining room. Through a door which no longer swung on its rusted hinges—necessitating a hard shoulder to its surface to force the issue—they found themselves in a large room with an immense fireplace. A sizeable amount tumbled across the floor, obviously spilt from where it had been stacked in a bin in the corner, and he immediately set to rummaging through whatever drawers he could open from the warped chests and cabinets were there.
“Ah!” he said at length, holding up two items triumphantly.
“A rock,” Buffy said flatly. “And a curly piece of metal. Yay you.”
He huffed out an exasperated breath. “This is flint,” he said, brandishing his left hand, “and this is steel,” holding up the other. At her blank gaze, he continued slowly, “… with which one makes fire?”
“Oh, good!” she said fervently, and started grabbing logs from the floor, dumping it into the fireplace. “I’m freezing.”
He watched for a moment before his hand on her arm halt her. “Allow me,” he said, his tone especially gallant. “You have certainly endured enough toil today.”
Buffy stared up at him a long moment. “I’m doing it all wrong, aren’t I? And you’re just pretending to be considerate so you can do it right.” He nodded and she tossed the last log in before letting her shoulders slump.
“Go see if the pump still works,” he directed, pointing to the big stone sink against the far wall. Obediently, Buffy went to it. She grasped the handle and gave it a hard shove downward. With a shriek of protesting metal as rust was forcibly ruptured, after a shuddering gasp, a foul-smelling gout of reddish water spewed from it. “Keep at it,” he said, and so she worked the pump for a full minute until the water coming out was clear.
And then, she wanted nothing so much as a long, long drink of it. She was sure she’d have given up the treasure of the Sierre Madre if only she could have a few mouthfuls. Sadly, as soon as she stopped pumping to cup her hands under the spigot, the water trickled to a stop. “Help,” she whimpered. “Thirsty.”
On his knees before the hearth, clacking the bit of steel against the flint in hopes of catching the firewood alight, he turned to her with a fearsome scowl on his face. “Can you not see—“ But then his anger faded in the face of Buffy’s pitifulness. Sighing deeply, as if he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, he stood and walked to the sink. “You,” he said, looming tall over her, “are a very vexing woman.”
“It’s part of my charm,” was her reply. “Now, pump,” she ordered, pointing to the contraption as if he couldn’t have figured it out for himself.
He obeyed, and soon Buffy was cupping and drinking, cupping and drinking. It was far too soon, in her humble opinion, when he stopped her. “Too much and you’ll become ill,” he said, and motioned that she pump for him. She did, and soon he was drinking as well. “Nectar,” he declared it, and she was inclined to agree, but that could have been more because of the way one drop of water escaped his mouth and trickled down his throat. She watched it roll over his skin, watched as it got lost in the light stubble that was beginning to make its appearance, and felt that tingling within her again.
Funny, she thought. I’ve gone for over a year without being turned on, and now since meeting him, it’s happened twice. It was almost enough to make a girl consider doing something completely rash and impractical.
“What are you looking at?” he asked then, bringing his hand up to where she was staring. “Oh. My apologies, Miss Summers, for my disheveled appearance. I wasn’t mmph—“
His words were cut off, of course, because she was kissing him.