Disclaimer: Sunnydale and the characters therof are creations of Joss Whedon and company.
May 20, 1999
Flying, falling, the edge of the rooftop shrinking as it drew away from her. Her hand was wet with warm, slippery blood, fingers pressed tight against her belly to keep her insides from spilling out. She felt the wind rushing past her as she stared upwards, and there was barely enough time to hope that she had timed it right, that the truck would be there, before--
* * * * *
A blaze of white light ripped across her vision, a roar filled her ears; then came the pain. It smashed into her without warning; it was terrible, and it was everywhere. She tried to scream, but she couldn't feel anything through the unending torrent of agony, couldn't see anything but white, couldn't hear herself over the unintelligible clamor inside her head. She struggled to move, to escape whatever was happening to her. Nothing worked, and the torture went on and on, until she passed into merciful darkness.
* * * * *
"--Female, approximately eighteen years of age. Found in the back of a truck, fifteen minutes ago--"
"--Pulse is ninety-five and thready, pupils are unequal and unresponsive--"
"--We have a penetrating wound to the abdomen, and severe head trauma. Okay, let's roll her."
"Wow. Now that is nasty. How deep does this go?"
"Well, since we have a small exit wound low on her back, I'm thinking it's pretty deep. Roll her back over, gently. Type and crossmatch, give me four units of O-Neg, she's bleeding out. We've got to get her stable and then get a head CT. If she's already brain-dead then we're just wasting our time here."
"Respiration is slow and labored, we're going to have to put her on a ventilator. Intubation tray, now!"
She could hear, but she couldn't focus on the words. It was hard to think, and getting harder. Her eyes were open, but all she could see was that featureless white. Everything was hurting, and there were hands on her, doing things that hurt even more. Without warning, something cold and plastic-tasting was forced into her mouth, pushing down into her throat. She gagged, lashing out in a deeply ingrained reflex. She was weak, there was little strength in the blow, but she felt something crunch under her fist, and there was a sudden outburst of curses and shouts.
That one move seemed to have used her up. As the hands grabbed her and forced her arms to her sides, she felt herself spiraling down. Her thoughts ran slower and slower, until finally she stopped.
* * * * *
Cold. Cold and pain. Her entire existence seemed centered around those two things, and there was nothing else to think about, even in those isolated moments when she could think at all. Her head was filled with static; random sounds and sparks of light that meant nothing. She floated there, confused but aware, until something happened inside her. Some random circuit in her brain made a connection, and she could feel again. There was something going on in her belly, and there were people all around her. She couldn't see them, but she knew they were there. A quick stab of fiery pain went through her head, leaving behind an indistinct wash of sounds.
"--give me more suction, here. All right. There's the spleen, and it's ripped to shreds. That'll have to come out."
"Retract this. Okay... we have some lacerations to the kidney, too, but it's not too bad. Amazing how much damage there is in here, considering the size of the wound. This girl is lucky she's survived long enough for us to get her on the table."
"Yeah, lucky for her. We fix all of this, and she gets to live out her life as a vegetable."
"We don't know that. Head wounds are tricky."
"Come on. You saw the CT scan. She doesn't have a chance of recovering.
"I suppose not. It's still our job to keep her alive. Warm saline. Rinse this, let me see if the intestine's been ruptured."
"That's five units of blood in; all O-Neg, too. They couldn't find her blood type."
"Couldn't find it?"
"No. It's an exotic, no match on record. She seems okay with this, though. Forceps."
"Damn, is it me, or is this girl's insides as cold as ice?"
"You too? I thought I was imagining it. My fingers are going numb, it's so cold. Jeannie, check her body temp."
She could feel the cold, now. It was lodged in her middle, draining her of warmth, gnawing at her life. She tried to reach up and see what it was, but her arms were bound. Her panic made her fight all the harder, but the more she tried to move, the less control she seemed to have. Everything was confused, and that sparking haze grew around her thoughts again. Her connection to her body seemed to falter, and from a great distance she felt it begin to spasm wildly.
"Oh, Christ. Convulsions!"
"Again? I thought the ER people gave her lidocane to control that!"
"They did, twice. Hold her down, hold her!"
"Is she conscious?"
"No, no way she could be. It must be a result of the brain bruise; she's just got some crossed wires upstairs."
"Gee, you had to graduate med school to figure that one out?"
"Bite me. Hold her still! Give her another hit of lidocane."
"If she overdoses, Peterson will have our asses."
"Yeah, but if we don't stop her from jumping around, she's gone anyway. Got it in? Good, now keep her still--"
"Damn, but she's strong! All right... there we go. All calmed down now? Hurray. Someone give me a fresh scalpel, please."
* * * * *
Someone.... There was someone next to her, and it was important that she wake up.
"I'm sorry, but it doesn't look good."
No, not that person. That was only some man, not the one she'd sensed. Her eyes wouldn't open, but she knew....
"Explain it to me. How... bad is she?"
There! He was here, the one who would take care of her! She felt relief wash through her just at the sound of his voice. If only she could see him.
"Your... daughter, she was stabbed with a large knife of some kind, and that caused some fairly serious injuries. Her spleen was damaged; we had to remove part of it. Her kidney was torn, and there was massive blood loss, which she was lucky to survive. Frankly, that was the easy part. The head trauma is, well, it may not be something from which she can recover."
"You don't know my Faith, doctor. She'll pull through."
A large, warm hand took hold of hers; squeezing it gently, and she wanted to weep with joy. She had lost, she was hurt, but he forgave her. He still cared for her.
"I'm not sure you understand me. She's taken a massive impact to the head, and her brain is very badly bruised. A bruise swells, and inside the skull there's nowhere for it to go. We're giving her massive doses of steroids, which help control the swelling, but the damage is too severe. Her basic functions might continue indefinitely, but as for the rest.... I'm afraid that there's very little chance of her ever regaining consciousness. I'm very sorry."
Silence then, and she felt a twinge of fear. Not because of the words, she barely understood them, and she didn't have the energy to spare for thinking about what they meant. She was afraid because the hand had let go of hers, and she couldn't speak, couldn't move, to tell him that she was okay. Surely he knew. He knew everything, he'd been around for so long, seen so much. Of course he would understand that she was still here, still his girl. She needed to rest, just for a little while, and then everything would be all right. She wanted so much to leave this cold place and go back to the beautiful home that he had given to her.
She felt his hand caress her brow, the side of her face, and it was infinitely tender.
"It's your day...."
His voice was soft, and it held so much sadness that her need to weep was stronger than ever. But even tears were denied her. He was leaving now. She could feel him moving away, and her cries for him to wait, to stay, didn't make it past her motionless lips. She was a prisoner inside herself, and the walls were closing in. She felt her mind being pushed down, smothered. The glaring whiteness that surrounded her grew slowly darker and darker, until there was nothing left.
* * * * *
May 20, 1999
The two of them watched as the Mayor moved away from the girl's side. They observed with interest his attack on the Alpha Slayer, and the subsequent confrontation with the souled vampire. After the excitement had passed and the players in that little drama had departed, they turned their attention to the Beta. The man looked down at the girl. Her bruised and battered face was pale, mask-like. The monitors beeped and blinked, but the information displayed meant nothing to him. He glanced at his companion.
"What do you think?"
She scanned the readouts with a practiced eye, and then shook her head.
"It's too early to tell. She seems stable, but she's been out of surgery for less than half an hour. Things could change rapidly, at any time."
"So we can't just take her?"
"No. Not without a very large risk of losing her. I can't imagine being able to convince the staff to let us have her, either. Not in her condition."
He looked unhappy at that, turning to give the recovery area a long look.
"If the sorcerer succeeds, then he will destroy this place. To kill the Alpha, if nothing else."
She was examining the girl more closely, pulling back the sheet to look at the long incisions, now stitched closed. The skin was swollen and crusted with blood, her belly still stained orange with the disinfectant they had used. Small plastic tubes provided drainage for the fluids oozing from her abdominal cavity, but that was a routine measure.
"True, the Summers girl might well die. That wouldn't be a problem for us; we identified her heir over a year ago. No, it's this one who is giving us so much trouble." She reached out a hand, running her fingers along the line of the unconscious girl's jaw. "If we knew where her anima would jump next, we could have removed her months ago. Without that, though... it's too risky. This line is proving much more difficult to track than the Alpha Slayer's. If we eliminate her now, we could lose it entirely. It could take us decades to find it again, and by then it might well have merged once more with the Alpha. Our records of this phenomena are sketchy, as you well know."
He folded his arms, standing beside her and staring down at the helpless girl.
"So you think we should do nothing?"
"No matter what happens today, this one is safe. If he fails, she will be here, waiting for us. Even if the Ascension succeeds, she will still be helpless, and there will be opportunities to either seize her, or eliminate her. In the meantime, I believe we should put some distance between ourselves and this town."
"Agreed. If Sunnydale is still standing this time tomorrow, then we'll make arrangements to keep the girl under surveillance. I'll contact the others and let them know."
The two of them left the room, moving purposefully. In the hallway they passed by a group of people who were speaking to the Alpha Slayer, including the renegade Watcher. Fortunately, all his attention was focused upon the injured girl standing before him, and he failed to recognize the pair as they moved past.
Once outside of the hospital, they quickly made their preparations to depart. There was an excellent chance that this town would no longer exist; a few hours from now, and neither of them had any desire to share its fate.
* * * * *