Under Your Skin - Part 2
Me again! I wanted to do more with this chapter, but my mojo was kind of sluggish this week. Still, I hope I manage to entertain you folks.
As always, a thousand and one thank-yous for the kind words and feedback.
Disclaimers on the first chapter. And if you don't know that by now, boy howdy do you fail at literacy.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
"...so, the long and the short of it is, I have to go back in a month to figure out how much of the chemo is out of my system and get a checkup. Then
I might be able to start 'strenuous exercise'. Until then, I'm only allowed to do like a half-mile jog." Jesse was informing Buffy.
After General Hospital
was over, Buffy went and waited for Jesse to finish his chat with Wilson, so they could head back to the library. To fill the time while they hiked over, Jesse was reporting on his chat with Wilson.
"Well, it makes sense you know. You don't want to be out fighting a vampire and have something happen." She tugged on the cap sporting the '1' on it, that Jesse had given her as a place marker for 'owing her one'.
"I know," he grudgingly admitted. "But it still feels like I wouldn't be helping out enough."
"Yeah, you slacker, you. Not helping when you're recovering from cancer and chemotherapy. For shame!" Buffy was stretching the boundaries of abusing sarcasm, or trying to.
Jesse made a face. "Okay, shut up. Nobody said you could be logical at me."
"Don't blame me because I make sense!" She cheerfully retorted as they turned the corner in the hall to get to the library.
From inside, they heard the weary grunting and commotion that Buffy associated with weapons training. She exchanged a look with Jesse and they pushed the doors open, revealing Xander hefting an axe and taking practice swings at a target dummy, with Giles standing on the sidelines correcting him as they went along.
"No, no, no. Xander, you're still leaving yourself open with the overhand swing. I- Oh, Buffy. Could you help please?" The Watcher caught the motion out of the corner of his eye. Xander, meanwhile, lowered the axe for a moment, breathing heavily.
"Sure! What with?" The petite blonde skipped over to stand by Giles and Xander, while Jesse sidled over to pull up a seat next to Willow. Willow absently reached out to squeeze Jesse's arm affectionately, before promptly reaching up to snatch the fedora from the boy's head and place it atop her own. Looking adorably ridiculous, she went back to flipping through one of Giles' books, pushing another for Jesse to begin browsing.
"Demonstrate, if you would, how Xander is leaving himself open with an overhanded axe blow," Giles instructed, taking a few steps back. Buffy set her bag down and gave Xander the 'come on' gesture, before settling into a defensive fighting posture.
Xander blinked as he caught his breath. "Wait, what? Oh, nono... I saw what she did to those vampires.. I like my limbs attached, not laid out in a neat row on the table!"
"I'm not going to de-limb you, Xan." Buffy snorted. "It's okay. Just swing like you were. Promise, I won't even punch you."
Uncertainly, Xander looked from her to Giles and back again, before a reluctant nod. "Okay, then..."
He took up a guarded stance, and the two began to circle one another, Buffy simply watching calmly while Xander bided his time. He then wound up and took a high, sidelong swing at Buffy, which she ducked. Xander followed immediately with a low swing that the Slayer jumped over. Finally, Xander pulled the axe back over his head for a downward strike.
Buffy dashed in close so that the axe's reach was useless, and yanked up his shirt so she could begin slapping his midriff as one might if they were administering a 'pink belly'. Xander promptly emitted an un-manly squeak, and the axe slipped out of his hands to clatter loudly on the library floor behind him.
Giles arched his eyebrows in a mixture of amusement and annoyance. "Well, I don't believe an enemy will do that, but it does get the point across." He allowed, ignoring the snickering of Jesse and Willow from the sidelines.
was no fair!" Xander exclaimed, once his surprise wore off.
"Well, not like vamps are really worried about playing by the rules, Xan." Buffy pointed out.
"Hm? No, much prefer the pink belly. It's a lot less lethal and all." He then directed a pointed glance at Giles, "But sending a pretty girl to pull up my shirt? That's just mean
Giles carefully smothered any amusement at Xander's not-protest. "A distraction is a distraction, Xander," he pointed out as Buffy gave an embarrassed smile at being called 'pretty'. "Better you learn this way, than in the field with a much angrier and less attractive adversary."
The Watcher considered for a moment. He'd been doing a variety of training, as to avoid the teen getting disenchanted with the training process. He did have a skilled fighter onhand, now. Perhaps it was time to delegate.
"Buffy, would you be kind enough to give Xander a primer on the art of staking, while I help Willow and Jesse with the research?" He requested politely, being genetically incapable of making a request any other way.
"Me?" Buffy was confused by this, "Shouldn't you be the one doing the teaching, your Watcher-liness?"
"Well, we have only one of me, and more of you to be trained. You already know how. And I'd like to see how you'd do trying to instruct another." Giles was, of course, plying the adage, 'you learn more when you teach'. Not that the children were aware of this quite yet.
Buffy shrugged agreeably. "Sure, I guess. C'mon, Xand. Time to get our stabby mojo in gear."
"Is it bad form to make 'wood' jokes when staking vamps?" The boy wondered as they went to fetch stakes and target dummy.
"Only if they're not funny."
Giles shook his head as he stepped over to see how Willow and Jesse were doing. After a brief consultation, he swapped out the books they were reading, replacing them with fresh volumes, before settling down with another text himself. As they scanned for clues, Willow was holding forth with a minor bit of academic frustration from that day.
"So anyway," the redhead was saying, "we got split up into groups. And I get stuck with Cordelia and that one girl that started this year. Tiffany, I think her name is?"
"Cordelia? That's got to be a special, mind-numbing experience." Jesse snorted.
Willow nodded her head in exasperation. "That's not even the worst part, though. That Tiffany girl, she's... She makes Cordelia look like a saint. At least Cordelia listens when you have an idea."
"Isn't she like, way smart, though?" he asked, as he flipped through the pages, leaning over to squint at a caption on a picture.
"Smart, sure. But she's acting like she's done it all and seen it all, and nobody else's opinion matters." Willow was clearly put out by this. Accustomed to being the one that was given the defacto lead in group projects, being shouted down rankled more than a little bit.
Giles chimed in absently, "Perhaps you should try being a bit more assertive, Willow? Not everyone in the world is going to be easy to work with."
"I don't know," she hedged. "I'm not very good at assertive."
"Well, it's only high school. It'd be good practice for you, I should think." Having said that, Giles re-focused his attention on the research.
Willow frowned. She didn't think he quite remembered what being in high school was like. Oh, well. She didn't have to deal with it again until tomorrow. -:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
House stared at a report for blood work, done on Hank Wiggen's spouse, frowning slightly. Well, it'd been a nice idea. She would've made an ideal liver donor. Too bad that whole pregnancy thing was going to get in the way. He shook his head. Well. Time to go ruin someone's evening.
However, before he could go deliver his bad news, he was intercepted by Wilson, who was checking in with the surly physician at one of his random intervals. After a brief exchange regarding the mixed news for the Wiggens', Wilson glanced around.
"Did Buffy go home?" He wondered idly.
House shook his head. "Said she was going to the library to do homework."
"Well, that's refreshing. Think that's what she actually went to do?" Wilson asked in a rare moment of pessimism.
"Why wouldn't she?"
Wilson rolled his eyes, "So, everyone lies, except for your own groin spawn?"
House stared at Wilson in disbelief for a moment. "Groin spawn? That's awesome. I've gotta write that one down," he murmured in approval, going so far as to grab a pen and begin hunting for a post-it note.
"All I mean is, maybe you should be doing a bit more active parenting," Wilson amended with a sigh. "You know, provide some stability, even if she might not fully appreciate it."
"Groin... spawn...." House ignored his friend as he jotted down the insult that'd tickled his fancy. "That's a great
phrase. Possibly even better than 'hyper-gonadism'."
House's only friend snapped his fingers in front of his face. "Care to rejoin me in the land of adulthood, Doctor Attention Span?"
"Hush. I didn't take my Ritalin today." By 'Ritalin', of course he meant 'Vicodin', which reminded him to reach into his pocket and fish about for his pills. "So, what? I should overcompensate? Behave as if she's not to be trusted, when she hasn't done anything to deserve that assumption?" House clucked his tongue at Wilson. "Of all the people here, you were the one I was counting on to be the dandelion nibbling, tree-hugging, chipmunk molesting pansy of a flower child, encouraging me to let her become her own person."
"I don't mean you shouldn't trust her, House," he protested in exasperation. "Just, she needs some stability. The knowledge that you care enough to check in on her now and then. Or ask how her day went. It's not like you're not nosy enough to pry."
"She's a teenager. What's she going to go through, that I haven't already? Not counting female hormonal issues. They all go through the same things. Peer pressure, homework stress, social anxiety. In a year or so, she can add collegiate acceptance to her list of worries, and after that-"
"And those things go a lot easier for a teen, if they can rant about it sometimes." Wilson interrupted. "Just... talk to her. You're already making progress. She's come in with you to watch General Hospital
two days running. Why not see if you can take another step with her?"
House took a deep breath to respond, before remembering that he had, in fact, promised to do something on his daughter's behalf. Absently, he passed the chart for his patient over to Wilson. "Will you go tell the wife that she can't be a donor? I have something to do."
"What, you're suddenly overcome by compassion for her and the steroid-pushing athlete?" Wilson asked skeptically.
"Nope. Just don't wanna deal with the crying. Don't worry - she'll probably excuse herself after thirty seconds, so she can go talk to Hank." Having successfully passed the buck, he began to make his way down to the morgue.
Once there, he found the dead freshman easily enough, and began to skim the coroner's report. Cause of death a puncture to the base of the skull? What kind of teenager knew how to cause that kind of injury? It had to be one of the students - not very many people who weren't a student, could get into the girls showers without being noticed.
Curious now, he uncovered the cadaver and began conducting his own inspection. There was a hole, alright, but the location....
Well, this would be entertaining. First time he ever got to perform an MRI on a corpse. At least this one wouldn't complain or move around on him. -:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
The next day at school, Buffy was sidetracked from going to find the gang or checking in with Giles to report on her brief patrol the previous evening, by the emergency vehicles that were parked outside of the weight room. Am I going to end up seeing the ambulance every day?
Buffy wondered in a mixture of worry and exasperation. She went over to find out what happened. Apparently, one of the students that had come in early to workout, had been found with her ribcage crushed by the free weight bar. Police were also investigating the scene, but this seemed different from the previous day's fatality.
There was a brief span of time where the paramedics and law enforcement were all congregated outside for a brief discussion. Buffy elected to use this opportunity to slip inside and have a look for herself. The first impression that she had was, ...ew.
But beyond that, it certainly didn't seem like it was anything beyond her sternum being smushed by the weight bar.
Except... Buffy paused. There was something reflecting slightly off the weight bench, behind the girl's head. She crouched down and looked carefully. Barely visible behind her hair, was a hole. Except it didn't seem to be bleeding. Just
oozing something else.
For that matter, she was pretty sure a person couldn't have their ribcage crushed by only sixty or so pounds of weight. Not unless it was dropped off a building. Buffy slipped out of the weight room again, leaving the police and medical people behind to discuss whatever it was they talked about at a time
like this. It was time to bring this to the attention of minds that were more analytical than hers.
"Giles!" She burst through the doors of the library, startling the keeper that was laboring therein and making him drop an armful of books. "..oh, sorry," She added meekly, seeing the result of scaring the poor Watcher.
"Was there something I could help you with?" He asked, after he'd successfully managed to choke his heart back down into his torso.
Buffy shook off her brief bout of sheepishness. "Did you see the ambulance over by the weight room?"
"Well, yes." He blinked owlishly at his Slayer, "I assumed a student had an early morning mishap."
"Oh, there was a mishap alright. Someone got a weight bar 'mishapped' halfway through her torso!" Honestly. Didn't the man posses an ounce of curiosity?
"Good lord." Giles straightened. "An accident?"
"Sixty pounds doesn't 'accidentally' try to bisect someone's sternum unless someone put it there. Plus, there was something weird. She had a small hole at the base of her skull, and something not-blood was on the weight bench."
"Perhaps she hit her head, or was hit on the head before the weight bar?" Suggested Giles, scratching his temple thoughtfully.
Buffy still had a point to make, however. "Yeah, but the stuff coming out of the back of her head-"
"Buffy, there are
other fluids besides blood in the human body. It might be the fluid that protects the brain, or perhaps spinal..."
She held up her hand, "One sec." Inspired, she pulled her cell phone out and began dialing. A few seconds passed before she received a grunt on the other end as a greeting.
"Good morning, sunshine!" Buffy chirped perkily. Then held the phone away from her ear. "Jeez. Take a-- oh, you are. Sorry, Dad. I just had a question."
She paused while House struggled towards coherency, "No, the coffee is in the glass thingie on the counter. Y'know.. the one that's warm?" Another pause. "There y'go. OKay, so, what was the deal with that student I found yesterday?"
Giles watched the pause while Buffy listened before replying. "There was a hole in the back of her head?" Buffy gave Giles a knowing look, before her expression twisted in confusion. "Her what was missing?"
Another, more lengthy pause. "Her pita-hairy gland?"
"Pituitary gland," Giles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. Honestly. She'd just heard the word not two seconds before.
"..yeah, that's weird alright. Maybe it was just punctured and it .. leaked out?" She looked anxious for a moment, prior to looking immensely relieved. "Wow, that does suck. Well, if you can find out... no, I'm not being a ghoul! Another student was found in the weight room this morning - you're probably going to get her at the hospital again before too long. I was just.. I wanted to know what was going on. Okay, sorry for waking you. See you after school, Dad. 'Kay. Bye."
Buffy flipped the phone closed and whirled to face Giles. "He thinks the pit... pit... um, pituitary gland? from the student yesterday was removed, from a hole at the same spot that the girl today had."
Giles began to look thoughtful. "There are magical rituals that require certain organs or glands from the human body," he allowed reluctantly. "But it'd be beyond the power of a teenager. A ritual like that takes years of study before it could be successfully cast."
"Sounds like a research thing. Want me to point the guys at you after school?"
He nodded slowly. "Yes, I think that'd be best. Although, I'm not sure where I'd have them start.."
Holding up her hands, Buffy replied. "Let me call my dad again after he's had a chance to evolve into a mammal, see what that gland thingie does."
Giles snorted. "I know what it does, Buffy. The pituitary gland is what regulates hormone distribution during puberty. It makes the body prepare for procreation...." He shook his head. "Normally, the magic and the medical aren't supposed to mix, though. I'll have to call some old friends of mine, see if they know what mystical uses this particular gland would be put to."
From the hallway, the bell rang. Buffy sighed. "Speaking of, I have to get to biology. Come find me if you need anything."
"Yes, of course. And please... be careful?"
Buffy shrugged carelessly. "Always am. Later, Giles!"
Giles exhaled slowly. Well, they said being the Watcher of an actual Slayer would be taxing. They just didn't say exactly how