No Rest for the Weary, chapter 4
Buffy’s dreams were unsettled and confusing. Xander appeared before her, trying to tell her something—he kept banging on a sheet of metal with a hammer, making a horrible racket, and ignoring Willow’s yells for him to cut it the hell out.
“But it will bring her home!” he protested, and sent the hammer against the metal with another crash. Giles only pinched the bridge of his nose and gazed imploringly at Buffy, as if she knew what Xander was up to.
She was thus very happy when James woke her the next morning, a mug of steaming-hot tea held out to her. “I unearthed a pot of honey,” he said, “so at least it’s sweetened.”
She smiled at him, taking the mug gladly, and sipped some whilst studying him. He’d dressed in more of the clothes they’d found in the deserted house, this time rough brown trousers and a tatty green shirt. His hair was combed, but still that errant lock fell over his forehead, and she brushed it back. He turned his head and pressed a kiss to her palm, that tiny smile on his lips, but he wasn’t meeting her gaze.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
By way of answer, James tugged her from the bed and guided her to the window, rubbing a spot clean with his sleeve. In the distance was a dark shape, and Buffy’s excellent eyesight easily picked out the blue, white, and red Union Jack flag gracing its tallest mast. “They have come for me,” he said. He sounded tired, and disappointed.
Buffy carefully replaced the mug on the windowsill before she could drop it. “How long before they get here?”
“An hour if I make some sort of signal that I’m here,” he said. “Two if I do not.”
“What will you do?” Buffy was blinking rapidly, trying desperately not to let him see how close she was to tears.
James forced a smirk. “Oh, I think I can let them earn their supper and search for me a bit,” he told her, pulling her back toward the bed.
They made love again, and again. Each time was tinged with desperation, and their climaxes were almost violent—Buffy writhed against him as pleasure raged through her body, wailing as she came, and James roared like a bull, rearing over her and pounding her into the mattress. The silence that fell after all that noise was nearly deafening. Buffy forced her hands not to wander over him, memorizing the shape and feel of his shoulders, belly, thighs; learning anew the raised texture of his scars, tasting the salt of his skin.
Finally they could delay no longer, and James got out of bed. He dressed slowly, and Buffy hated each button as it slipped through the opposite hole, hiding him from her sight. “What will happen now?” she asked him. “How do I get back?”
“I don’t know how you got here to begin with,” James said. “I am just glad you did,” he added, his voice low, and with a thread of pain in it that made Buffy stand and grab his hands.
Buffy thought hard, and the dream with Xander suddenly started making sense. “There was this big bolt of lightning,” she said slowly, memories coming reluctantly back to her. “It made everything slow down, and I couldn’t hear anything… it was really weird. Then the thunder came, and I could hear again. I think that’s it.”
He nodded. “Then you must stay here,” he said. “And wait for the lightning that will return you to your time.” Shouts came from the beach, and they looked out the window to find that a skiff had been rowed out from the huge ship parked offshore. A small group of blue-coated sailors clambered out whilst one man, the gold braid on his uniform glinting in the watery sunlight, followed at a more sedate pace.
“That will be Gillette,” James said. “I should have known he’d come to search, personally.” There was much gruff affection in his tone, and he smiled his little half-smile that Buffy was becoming addicted to.
“You should go,” she said. “I’ll stay here; it’ll be easier if we don’t have to explain.” She breathed deeply, trying to alleviate the pain that was beginning to well up in her chest. “Though I would have liked to meet him.”
“What if we are wrong?” he asked. “What if it is not the thunder and lightning that will return you? What if you remain here?”
Buffy considered that possibility. “Then I’ll find my way to Kingston eventually,” she said, but he was shaking his head even before she’d finished speaking.
“Indeed not. It’s several days’ rough journey from here to there, even well-provisioned. You’d never make it.” He took her shoulders, his hands warm on her bare skin. “I will return in a week’s time. If you are still here, I will take you with me to Kingston.” His tiny smile widened a fraction. “Though explaining how I returned from Port Royal with a wife will surely take some doing.”
And hello to the tears, Buffy thought upon hearing that. “I hope I don’t go back,” she said passionately, the declaration only slightly diminished by her sniffle. “I hope I stay here.”
His fingers tightened on her shoulders. “Think of your sister and friends, Buffy,” James said. “No matter how I wish you to stay, you have a duty in your time. It—“ His throat seemed to be fighting his speech, for he swallowed and tried again. “It is more important, what you are doing there, than we are.” He pulled her close, and she went into his arms eagerly, again thrilled at the perfect fit of her diminutive frame against his larger one. “Please stop,” he whispered. “I cannot bear to see you cry. Though I wish I could join you, if I’m honest.”
The sailors’ voices were getting louder, and Buffy lifted her face from his shoulder to see out the window that Gillette and the men had crested the embankment and were almost to the house.
James stared down at her, his piercing gaze seeming to be memorizing her features. “Buffy,” he said, his voice low and urgent. “I will come back for you.”
“Good,” she said fiercely, hugging him tight again. “You’d better, because if you leave me here in this dump, you won’t believe how pissed off I’m going to be.”
“I will always want you, Buffy,” he muttered against her hair. “Always.”
“Commodore?” exclaimed a voice from downstairs. “Sir?”
Buffy pulled back from him, scrubbing at her wet cheeks. “Go,” she said. “Hurry.”
He stared a moment longer, then nodded firmly. One last touch of his fingertips to her face, and then he strode from the room, shoulders back and head high. He looked every inch the naval commander in spite of his rough clothes and bare feet.
“I am here, Gillette,” she heard him say. Voices were raised in relief, and all too soon James was ushered from the house. Buffy pulled on one of the poufy shirts and crept downstairs, watching as the men scrambled down the embankment toward the beach. Once they were on the sand, she slipped forward, laying on her belly at the edge of the steep hill so she could continue to look without being seen.
James turned back, looking up toward the bedroom window, and Buffy shied back, not wanting him to see how she was face-down on the ground, watching. But he knew she was there, somehow, and their gazes locked one last time when his swept the top of the embankment.
“What is it, sir?” Gillette asked, his round face puzzled, when his commander paused and seemed to stare back toward the house.
“It is… nothing,” James replied, and Buffy knew that “nothing” really meant “everything”. Biting her lip, she managed to keep from crying out as he stepped into the little boat. The oars were manned, and then it was sliding out to sea, taking him away from her. Only when she was sure they wouldn’t notice did she stand and make her way back to the house.
Her tea, the tea James had made her, had gone cold. Buffy drank it anyway, tasting the gritty crystals of honey that hadn’t had time to melt entirely, and gave a humourless smile when she heard the first rumblings of thunder. Wandering through the house, she touched every piece of furniture they had touched; she lay on the divan in the receiving room and wished he lay beside her.
She finished the oranges they’d gathered. The lightning flashed brighter, and the thunder crashed louder and louder, and when the time seemed right, Buffy went to the bedroom that would be her hotel room at the resort in three hundred years. This room was in terrible condition, and she was fairly certain there were bugs in the bed. A strange sense of lethargy overcame her, and she was unable to continue to stand—her knees bent against her will and she slumped to her knees, barely able to drag herself to the wall and prop herself against it. Buffy stared at the weak, cold sunlight that managed to penetrate the heavy cloud cover and filthy windows, and shivered.
The lightning grew closer, the thunder louder, and she wasn’t surprised when one bolt seemed to go off right by her head—a crashing, splitting blast of light, and everything went silent, even her heart. Buffy was awash in a sea of white light, breathless, and then there was a single, booming heartbeat as sight and sound returned in a lush wave with the thunder that followed.
Buffy didn’t open her eyes right away. Part of her still felt that if she didn’t see obviously modern things like the television and phone, she could pretend she was still there, and that James would come for her in a week, and everything would be good. She knew he was right—damn him—about how she was needed here, but at the moment her entire soul was aching. Only sending Angel to hell had ever hurt this much, and she hadn’t been eager to repeat the experience. It sucked just as much now, at the age of twenty-four, as it had when she was seventeen.
Her hands gripped at whatever they could; it turned out to be plush, soft carpeting that hadn’t been there when she’d fallen to the floor 300 years earlier. Unable to hide any longer, and opened her eyes and was confronted by the gleaming black surface of the television. She was sitting in a pool of light thrown by one of the electric lamps, and she closed her eyes against the proof she was back in her own time once more, irreparably sundered from James, forever.
~ * ~
Buffy remained in her room the rest of that day. She showered, dressed, ordered food from room service, but didn’t feel the sting of the hot water on her skin, nor smell the scent of the shampoo. She didn’t taste the tart berries of the clafouti, nor the tang of the juice squeezed from the oranges grown right there on the resort. Drinking it reminded her of the oranges she’d shared with James, and she replaced the glass on the tray after a single sip.
Her poufy shirt was dirty from laying on the ground, watching James leave, so she washed it in the shower whilst she bathed and hung it out on her little balcony to dry whilst she wasted the day slouching around her room. The TV and radio seemed too loud and intrusive, and she realized that even three days pre-technology had gotten her used to not having the constant noise blaring in the background.
But without something to break the silence, all she could think were thoughts of “this time yesterday”. It was with great relief that she grew tired enough to go to bed, and she pulled the dry poufy shirt off the balcony railing and then wore it to sleep. The bed felt as large as an ocean with only her in it. She didn’t sleep well.
The next morning, she called the front desk to inquire about any missed phone calls. A porter came with a stack of messages for her, of increasing urgency. Giles had become concerned when she’d missed her daily calls for three days in a row, and was on the verge of flying to Jamaica to find her.
Buffy sighed. The last thing she wanted at that moment was to hear a mellow English accent, even if it belonged to her dearly cherished, if intermittently annoying, erstwhile father-figure. She cleared her throat and set her mind to being Perky!Vacationing!Buffy instead of Depressed!Heartsore!Buffy, and punched in his number.
“Giles,” Buffy said after the usual pleasantries had been exchanged and she’d managed to convince him that she was not in danger, “I need you to do some research for me.”
She could imagine him sitting straighter in his chair, that alert expression coming into his eyes as it always did when a mystery was afoot. “Oh?” he said. “Has something happened?”
“I’ll tell you when I know more,” was all she’d tell him. “I need you to find out anything you can on Commodore James Norrington.” Just saying his name was a relief.
Silence. “Buffy, what is this about?” Giles asked, in a suspicious damn-you-tell-me tone of voice.
“He was born in 1661, the third son of some count guy,” she continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “He worked in Port Royal, and then Kingston after the earthquake.”
“Alright, Buffy,” Giles replied after a moment, and she could hear the scratching of a pen on paper. “I’ll fax you what I find. What’s the number there?”
She read it off the pad on the desk, and hung up after thanking him. Not feeling up to being with anyone, and certainly not able to endure spending time on the beach where they’d “met”, Buffy returned to her room and put on her tiny bikini— wondering what James would have thought of it, and imagining his delight in stripping it from her— and lay on the deck chaise on the tiny balcony off her room.
The sun had finally decided to come out, now that all traces of the hurricane were gone, and so it didn’t take long for Buffy to doze off in the sunshine, enjoying the feel of heat seeping into her bones. There was a hollowness within her, like when Angel had left her, and when Spike had died. She felt like a piece of her heart had gone missing, and she was bleeding inside.
It made no sense. She hadn’t loved him, had she? They had known each other too little a period of time for love, she felt sure, but she would have, given a little longer. There was, in hindsight, a rather strong sense of inevitability, as if it were only a matter of time until she did love him. Another day, perhaps two at the outside, would have seen the deed done for sure.
The blaring of the telephone broke into her half-awake musings. It was the front desk; Giles’ fax had come through and would she like to fetch it, or have it brought to her room? Buffy decided it was time to enter the world of the living once more, and said she’d come get it.
She pulled the poufy shirt on over her bikini, jammed her feet into flip-flops, and ambled downstairs. The clerk smiled at her, and she had to work hard to offer a smile of her own. Taking the short stack of papers, she rifled through them on her way to the verandah, taking a seat at one of the little tables whilst looking for the arrows Giles typically used to point out pertinent information. Most of the arrows indicated the same information: basic, bland mention of James being quite the pain in the ass to the pirates of the area, and being the one in charge when the earthquake occurred.
But then she came to the page which bore a particularly emphatic arrow, and Giles’ fastidious handwriting in the margin demanding, “I shall expect a full explanation of this immediately!!” The fact that he had used not one but two exclamation points boded ill for Buffy, but she was too busy scanning the page to care about that just then.
“It is certain that establishment of the British presence in the Caribbean could not have been successful without the sterling efforts of various of its Naval and Marine officers. One such man is of particular note; Commodore James Norrington was in command at the time of the infamous earthquake of 1692. Only having been promoted in February of that year, many were favourably surprised by the efficiency and speed with which he dealt with the disaster. It is commonly believed that his calm thinking and determination are responsible for fully half of the lives saved on that bleak day.”
Buffy’s eyes burned with unshed tears; he hadn’t, of course, mentioned any of that. But then, he wouldn’t have; it was not in his nature to brag about what he simply saw as his duty. Wiping her eyes on the cuff of her shirt, she continued to read.
“Whilst Commodore Norrington was known as a considerable scourge of piracy throughout the Caribbean, and indeed took it upon himself to not only defend the British colonies against their attacks but also to seek out, through means of intelligence and surveillance, those who flew the Jolly Roger, he also had a long and interesting rivalry with one particular pirate by the name of Captain Jack Sparrow.”
She smiled to remember the distaste and grudging admiration James had expressed for this Jack Sparrow; it was almost as if he were upset at the man for not being able to dislike him.
“They led each other on a merry chase over the course of two decades, neither quite able to best the other, and thus it is perhaps fitting that they brought about each other’s demise. On the morning of 12 August 1713, Commodore Norrington was in command of the Excelsior when it engaged Captain Sparrow, whose ship, The Black Pearl, was notorious for its ruthless and, some said, supernatural success on the high seas. The battle endured for hours, until both ships were smashed to tinder, and yet neither man would cede victory. Norrington led a party intent on defeating the now-languishing Black Pearl once and for all, and with Captains Gillette and Groves by his side, boarded the pirate vessel.”
Buffy could just see him doing that, sword in hand and high colour in his cheeks as he clambered on board to face down the pirate captain, and couldn’t help but give a little laugh.
“His swordfight with Captain Sparrow is the stuff of legends, supposedly enduring almost an hour before they began to tire. Sparrow was the first to strike a critical blow, but Norrington refused to be defeated and followed his nemesis round the ship until he, too, managed a fatal wound, killing Sparrow instantly.”
Her heart was in her throat, reading this; she was proud of him finally defeating his opponent, but felt something akin to panic rise up in her belly at the idea of his being critically wounded. It made little sense; he was already dead, many years dead in fact, and knowing the way he’d died certainly wasn’t going to make him any less dead. Biting her lip to silence the sobs that threatened to burst from her, she forced herself to read on.
“A curious note: Whilst Norrington lay dying, surrounded by his longtime friends Groves and Gillette, his last word is recorded as being “Buffy”. This is thought to be a nickname for one Elizabeth Turner, née Swann, to whom the commodore was betrothed for a period of just days in 1692. One marvels at the devotion of a man to a love which had come and gone so swiftly, so many years previous.”
At that, Buffy could no longer contain herself; she had to cover her mouth with both hands to keep from wailing aloud. She shuddered, her body wracked with a long, hard sob, and she hunched over the book, crying.
“Miss,” said a voice beside her. It sounded remote, as if from a great distance. “Miss, please,” it entreated. Buffy lifted her face from her hands and found the blurry figure of someone, a man, standing beside her. In his outstretched hand he held a napkin, and flapped it gently in her direction. She ignored it and him, burying her face in her hands once more as she began to weep again.
“Please, Miss,” the man said, and sat in the chair across the table from her. “Take it.” Who the hell was he? Buffy wondered. Couldn’t he let her have a nervous breakdown in peace? She grabbed the napkin and hoped he’d leave her alone. “I’ve seen you round the resort for a few days now,” he was saying. He’s trying to pick me up? she thought, incredulous. Was he insane? Did he have some sort of weird fetish for crying women?
“I can’t seem to stop looking at you,” he continued, and Buffy began to get truly alarmed. She so didn’t need a stalker just then, no matter that his voice was nice and deep, and had a lovely English accent. She must be insane, because she could have sworn he sounded a little like James.
“It’s the oddest thing,” he told her, that voice now carrying a note of wonder. “The first time I saw you at the hurricane party, I tried to chat you up, but you weren’t feeling well, and left early. All I could think was how I wanted you.” He laughed, a little nervously, and didn’t notice how her crying suddenly stopped. “Isn’t that peculiar? I never go round thinking those sorts of things about women. Nor about men,” he hastened to add. “I’m usually far too busy with my career to bother with much socializing.”
Buffy slowly raised her head. “What work do you do?” she asked, trying to peer through tears and salt-swollen eyes at him.
“I’m an officer in the British Royal Navy,” he replied absently, still puzzling over bizarre things that had apparently been happening to him lately. Staring out over the beach below, he added, “I’ve been drawn to that stand of palm trees over there for days now. And the minute we arrived here, I insisted my room be changed… I had to have the one at the end of the hall.”
The governor’s bedroom, Buffy thought dazedly. Then she clued in to something he’d said. “We?”
“My brother and I,” the man replied. “I had leave coming to me, and we decided to take a holiday… I’ve always wanted to explore the Bermuda triangle—have been after him for years to go, actually-- but for some reason the moment he suggested we take a trip, I knew we had to come to Jamaica. And the moment I heard The Port Royal Inn used to be the governor’s mansion, I knew we had to stay here.”
Buffy wondered idly if she were having a heart attack; the organ in her chest seemed to be trying to leap out of her body. “Are you the heir or the spare?” she asked, and he seemed startled at the question.
“Neither,” he replied with a tiny half-smile that was eerily familiar. “I’m the third son.”
Was she hallucinating, or was he starting to look rather remarkably like James the more her vision cleared after her weep-fest? Buffy scrubbed at her eyes with her fists. Nope, her eyes weren’t deceiving her—the hair was a little lighter, a little more reddish, and the eyes were a darker blue, but there was no mistaking that blade of a nose.
He came back for me after all, she thought, and began to cry once more.
The man turned anguished eyes her way. “Please, Miss,” he said a third time, his voice pleading. “I cannot bear to see you cry.”
“James,” she whispered, and he jolted, as if she’d struck him.
“Yes,” he answered slowly. “How did you know--?”
“James Norrington,” she clarified, uncaring of the tears that ran unchecked down her face as she stared at him, hands stretching across the table to touch him. “From Wentworth.”
He reached out to her, his hands warm as they clasped her cold ones, and rubbed gently. “Yes,” he confirmed, wary and apprehensive.
“You’re James Norrington, and you want me,” she said, feeling almost idiotically giddy as thoughts raced through her head, amazement and joy and disbelief pinging back and forth like pinballs.
A faint tinge of pink rose up from his throat. “Yes,” he murmured, his gaze flitting away but always returning to her, like he couldn’t look his fill. “I want you.”
Buffy stood, her legs wobbly, and walked around the table to him. “You have me,” she said, and sat in his lap. Winding her arms around his neck, she curled herself against him and wasn’t at all surprised to feel how perfectly they fit together as his arms slowly came to enclose her, gripping tightly in that eventual way James always had. “You have me.”