Eve felt tears leaking out of her eyes as she peered out at the world through the swollen slits of her face. Her entire body hurt. And itched. Don't forget the itching. It was beyond horrible. Every single supremely sensitive nerve ending in her entire body itched. Desperately, she wanted to scratch herself all over, scratch until she tore her skin off and somehow made the itching stop. Unfortunately, she was strapped down, both her hands and wrists immobilized by Slayer-proof bindings. A gag filled her mouth, preventing her from biting her tongue off with her teeth or scraping it against her teeth to try to alleviate the relentless itch. Don't forget screaming. Any of the the three would have been a relief. All Eve could do was make grunting, groaning noises of anguish.
Eve turned her head slightly as she heard voices outside her room.
“Doctor Frasier, how are our patients doing?” It was the old, bald guy.
“About as well as can be expected, General.” The red-headed doctor.
“And that is?”
“We never expected the pollen to hit them this badly. I mean when SG-1 stumbled into to it two years ago, it was pretty rough, but bearable. That's the reason Colonel O'Neill decided to make P3X-4991 one of the main training planets, as a lesson on not taking alien worlds for granted. And while it wasn't a lesson you would soon forget, there wasn't any permanent damage.”
“And the Slayers?”
“We've never seen a reaction like theirs. They have insanely sensitive nerve endings. I've never seen anything like it in any organism. Their sense of touch is off the scale. The pollen is hitting them so much worse than it hit any of the teams we sent there. Not even Dr. McKay had a reaction even close to theirs.”
“Doctor, how's Miss Summers?”
“Which one? Dawn's probably got another week or so. She's not a Slayer with their immune system. Which is actually good because she wasn't hit as nearly as hard. She's reacting like the members of the two SG teams that were exposed pulling them out. She's been uncomfortable, but no worse than the average case, about like a souped up case of the chicken pox. Buffy's... well I am confident she'll recover. But she was hit the worst of all of the Slayers. If we hadn't figured out a way to fasten her down, I'm not sure she would have survived. She bled so much. I had to give her two transfusions. She tore nearly fifteen percent of her skin surface off cutting and scratching. I'm still worried about scarring, although they might all make it out without anything permanent to show for it. I'm not even sure if Slayers do scar. Buffy only had one visible scar, the bite mark on her neck. I saw that during her physical. I'm almost as worried about her mental state. She put nearly twenty airmen in the infirmary when they were bringing her down, more than all of the others combined. We were lucky there were no fatalities. She was so much stronger and faster than the testing showed...”
“But she's going to be all right?”
“Yes, I am think so. As I said before, she was hit the worst by the pollen. Her nerve endings must be unbelievably sensitive, even more so than the other girls.”
Eve could hear the anger in the bald general's voice as he said, “Janet, what happened? How did we miss their sensitivity to the pollen?”
Janet's voice was anguished as she answered, “It's my fault. My department let them down. I had two new techs who did the allergen tests. When they got the odd results, instead of doing a retest, they just went with the 'standard,' which is 'minor reaction, okay to deploy.' I'm so sorry, General.”
Hammond sighed. “There'll be an investigation.”
“I know. I'll take full responsibility. I already fired both the techs, but that doesn't do any of these girls any good. If the Powers want my resignation, they'll get it.”
“I don't think it'll go that far, Janet, but you'll probably receive an official censure in your file. Don't even think about resigning. I need you here. I already know there won't be a repeat of this kind of snafu.”
“I'm almost as upset over the screw ups in their physical testing. We should have known just how strong Buffy was. Oh, I know she actively deceived us, but still we should have caught it before their first mission. We're rushing too much to get them into the field. We've done just fine without Slayers for years now. The world's not going to end because we take a few extra weeks to make sure to figure out exactly how to deploy them to make the best use of their strengths. And the trust level is going to hit rock bottom for both parties. Neither of us are going to think we can trust the other. It's extremely disappointing.”
The voices were starting to fade.
“Enough about that. How's Eve?”
“She's almost through it. Another six to twelve hours and she should be completely out of it...”
Eve tried to focus on the words, but was failing miserably. Another six to twelve hours of hell on earth? She wasn't sure she could stand it. Desperately, she tried to wiggle her butt enough to scratch it against the sheets she was lying on, but with the strap that fastened around her middle, it was a doomed effort. Her entire body was literally on fire. Every inch of her skin felt as if millions of insects were crawling around just under the surface. It was worse than anything Eve had ever felt in her thirteen years. She would have traded being beaten and put in a cage ten times over to have it stop instantly.
Eve felt a tear slowly crease down her skin. It was beyond horrible as it crawled along her face, making the itching even worse. Even her eyeballs itched. Blinking furiously, Eve tried to keep anymore tears from falling and maybe incidentally scratch her eyes. She wasn't sure she could take it.
Eve was certain that the only thing that kept her sane was that she'd been asleep for over half of the time since she'd first started itching. Even with the drugs, the itching was so bad that she hadn't really been completely unconscious. And her body fought the drugs desperately as it tried to rouse her to get her away from her torment.
To think she'd looked forward so much to the trip to P3X-4991. It had been the first time she'd been off-world. Now she never wanted to go again. It had all started so innocently...Four days ago...
Eve grinned with excitement as the gate winked out of existence behind her. She was on an alien world. It wasn't something too many people could say they'd done and it was supremely exciting, even it it did look a lot like Earth. But there were two
The gate was located on a hill overlooking endless rolling hills covered in waist-high grass. It didn't look like a great spot to train in, but then Eve admitted she wasn't an expert. Around her the other Slayers were moving forward and securing the perimeter, looking dangerous and alert. Eve grinned as a soft breeze brought the tang of alien odors to her sensitive nose. More than anything else, she wanted to throw off the trappings of civilization and just go running off through the tall grass, maybe stopping in an hour or two. But she resisted that siren call, aware that Buffy would be less than pleased at her lack of self-control. She was a Slayer after all and had a reputation to uphold.
Speaking of Buffy, Eve turned her head until she spotted her about seventy-five yards away speaking to Lt. Miller. Graham, he'd told Eve to call him. Talk about a major hottie, even if he did need to smile more. Of course, he was sooo into Buffy, who definitely was thinking it over. Eve had seen the two of them together and thought they were cute. Graham was completely head over heels in love with Buffy. Every time he looked at her, it was as if he were trying to memorize her face all over again. Eve hoped that someday she would have a guy who looked at her that way. A guy who wasn't gross like Jimmy Tyler from her English class, who thought farting on command to be the height of coolness. A muffled shout brought her attention back to the here and now.
Eve knew nothing too interesting was going to happen for a while. First they had to check out the surrounding area and make sure nothing dangerous was nearby, like those ickey snakies. Then they had to get everything set up for the big training scenario the soldiers were doing for the Slayers. Every Slayer, that is, except Eve. Darn it. She'd tried pleading, she'd tried pouting, but nothing she'd done had so much as dented Buffy. Eve would spend the duration of the training scenario with the observers, made up of Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter, or Jack and Sam, as she had started calling them, both of whom were coming in tomorrow.
Idly, Eve wondered if she should drop a hint to the two of them that they weren't really fooling anyone about not having feelings for one another. Nah. They'd probably just get upset. They'd both spent so much time trying to hide it and to find out just how badly it had worked would only make them want to shoot the messenger. In this case, Eve. Still, it would be more interesting than standing around watching the grass grow...The next day...
Eve bounced excitedly as she watched the Slayers moving forward to engage SG-15 and SG-16. The two SGC teams had set up an encampment with a secured perimeter using special equipment and it was up to Buffy and her teams to infiltrate the camp, stealing some alien doohickies once inside.
Even Eve could tell it wasn't as easy as it should be. The camp was on a hill with great views and fields of fire on three sides. There, the ever present grass had been unable to take hold in except patchily in the rocky soil. The fourth had been booby-trapped to make up for it being a bit of a blind spot. Even with it being booby-trapped, Eve still knew she would have gone that way if it had been her. Buffy was almost certain to go that way. Eve wondered if the two SGC teams knew that was well. Probably, but still, they couldn't ignore the rest of the perimeter.
Eve had heard Jack and Sam talking in low tones about something called “blue grass” and tuned into their conversation a little. They should know better than to try to hide something from a Slayer's hearing.
“They're heading towards the blue grass, sir.” That was Sam.
“Figures. Everyone does the same damn thing. I wasn't really expecting Buffy to do anything differently. It's good to know they do have their weaknesses like everyone else. They've been entirely too smug lately. This should take them down a peg or two, Carter.” Jack sounded amused. Eve wondered what the blue grass was exactly.
“Yes, sir, it should. You know, the funny thing is I would have told Buffy about this mission if she had asked me.” Naughty Sam, Eve thought.
“That's completely against regs, Carter. I should report you for telling me this.” Yeah, right, like you would report the woman you are totally hot for, Jack, Eve thought in amusement.
“Put a sock on it, sir. She let me look over her sword in exchange for telling her about one of the missions. Unfortunately for her, she asked about the next one, not this one.” Sam obviously agreed with Eve's analysis of the likelihood that any crap from Jack. Whoa, what was that Buffy had done? Definite screw up there.
“Well, I guess I can see why you were unable to resist. Learn anything interesting about the magic sword, Carter?” It's magic, doofus. It cuts things really well.
“No, sir, I did not. Oh, I know its characteristics, but that's small potatoes. I don't have the slightest idea how they were able to make it so sharp. It's like some kind of crystallized steel that's been forged into a single molecule. Incredible molecular cohesion. I could...” Eve lost what Sam was saying as soon as she started talking about molecules. Too bad, it was probably interesting. At least to someone like Andrew.
“Well I'm glad you enjoyed yourself, Carter. But let's not waste time on explanations that will only make me grumpy. Besides, Buffy's teams are about to hit that patch.” Oooohh, let's see what happens.
The two stopped talking to watch through powerful field glasses the events that were going on a half mile away. The hill they stood on was actually a fair bit higher than the hill that the SG teams had taken over. You could easily see the forms of men watching the surrounding terrain. If you really tried, you could see the forms of girls moving through the grass behind the hill, only only barely, and only if you assumed that some of the movements of the grass was not from wind but rather from someone hugging the ground. Staring at the area through her smaller binoculars, Eve saw the patch of blue grass that the two officers had been talking about. It was different than the rest of the grass, which was primarily a pale yellow-green in color. This grass was truly blue in color and stood slightly taller than the surrounding grass. And it was full of Slayers. Then Eve heard the first scream.
Startled, she jumped. The scream was long and blood-curdling, causing Eve to go into Slayer mode. Her breathing deepened, flooding her body with oxygen. Her pulse started to speed up, moving that oxygen where it would do the most good. Her senses sharpened, sight, hearing, touch, and smell, all heightened dramatically. Eve heard another scream sound and then another. Figures stood up throughout the patch of grass and clawed madly at themselves. Eve was moving before Jack's startled curses registered with her.
Racing down the hill at over forty miles per hour, Eve was both angry and frightened. Whatever was attacking the Slayers was causing them immense pain, based upon their screams. She wasn't sure what she could do, but she wouldn't stand by while the others were hurting. Even as she ran, her senses pushed out ahead of her. Eve saw every individual blade of grass in the field before her. She could feel the wind move every exposed hair on her body. She heard the movements of soldiers that were just starting to spill over the lip of the hill ahead of her in response to the disturbance below. And Eve could smell the fear in the air.
Hurdling a low mound, Eve raced to the nearest Slayer. It was Cho Ahn, her usual unfailing calmness disintegrating into the endless screams that ripped from her throat. She was clawing at the skin on her arms from which streaks of blood ran freely. Eve grappled with the slightly taller girl, trying to restrain her. Eve held Cho Ahn for all of ten seconds, before she was tossed into the air as the girl's entire body seemed to jerk. Eve crashed into the middle of the other Slayers, all of whom were going through the same thing.
Desperately, Eve sought Buffy. Where was she? In less than a second, her sharp eyes caught a figure that wasn't running around like the others. Moving towards Buffy, Eve stopped in horror a few yards shy of her. Buffy wasn't screaming or rolling around like the others. Instead, sobs tearing through her throat, Buffy sat and sawed at her arm using her own combat knife. She'd already cut the skin off of one of her forearms and was starting to work on the other. Blood was everywhere. Eve threw herself forward in an effort to stop her.
She hit the senior Slayer as hard as she could. Whatever she did, Eve knew she couldn't really hurt Buffy. Not compared to what Buffy was doing to herself. So Eve didn't hold back at all. The knife went flying, but Buffy didn't even try to fight her. Instead, she used her nails to scratch at herself. Desperately, Eve tried to hold her. It was like trying to hold back the surf. Buffy had never used her full strength on any of the Slayers, let alone Eve, even during her 'lesson'. But she held nothing back this time as she kicked Eve off of her. The only thing that saved Eve's life was the blood that coated them both, which caused Buffy's foot to slip so that instead of hitting Eve squarely in the pelvis, crushing it and crippling her, it merely caught her a glancing blow. Still, Eve landed nearly forty feet away.
Eve lay on her back for a second, the edges of her eyesight fuzzy. Desperately, she struggled to draw air into starving lungs. Then she felt it. A tingling on her skin, that rapidly escalated into a burning, itching sensation a thousand times worse than anything she'd ever dreamed possible. The last thing Eve remembered was tearing at her skin before she was hit by something that caused every nerve in her body to fire at once. It didn't put her out and she was hit again, and then one more time before darkness wrapped her in its blessed shawl...The present...
Eve couldn't believe it. She thought a day had passed since the conversation she'd overheard. Exhausted, she'd actually slept for a few hours as well. The itching was starting to fade. She still hurt, and she desperately craved a drink of water, but she wasn't itching even close to as bad as before. Eve had thought she would go mad, but somehow she'd survived. Now she was worried about the others, especially Buffy. There had been so much blood.
Eve looked around, trying to catch someone's attention. A nurse had just been here a few minutes ago, checking her vitals and hooking up a fresh bag of something to the IV in her arm. Now she was gone. Eve knew she couldn't break free of the straps holding her down, she'd already tried hard enough to tear the skin of her wrists and ankles to no avail during the worst of it. So she lay there waiting.
Finally, after what felt like hours, but was probably only another few minutes, Eve saw the red-haired doctor again. She came in and picked up Eve's chart from the base of her bed. Eve tried to make noise and get her attention, but Dr. Frasier was focused on what she was doing. After a moment, though, she moved to Eve's side.
“So how are you doing, sweetheart?” Eve could detect the strain in the doctor's voice as she asked her question. She must be really worried about them all.
Eve lay completely still, trying to let Dr. Frasier know she was okay. At first, Eve thought it was wasted, but then the doctor's sharp eyes focused on hers.
“Eve, are you feeling better? Blink once if the itching is receding.”
Carefully, Eve blinked once.
“Thank God. Sweetie, can you keep from scratching if I unfasten you?”
Again, Eve blinked once. And then sighed with relief as Dr. Frasier took out the gag that was holding her mouth closed. Eve tried to talk, but her throat was so dry she couldn't. Janet seemed to know what was wrong and quickly picked up a glass from a table to Eve's right, filling it with water from a pitcher. A hastily unwrapped straw allowed a thirsty Eve to suck down several swallows of nectar.
“Slow down, sweetheart. You drink too much you may make yourself sick. I know you're thirsty, but you don't want to drink too much at once.”
Eve stopped, but only because Dr. Frasier moved the straw out of her reach. Again, Eve tried to speak, and this time was successful. “H-how are the others?”
A gentle hand stroked sweaty bangs back from Eve's forehead. “They're going to be okay, Eve. Don't worry. Let's just focus on you for now. How badly are you itching right now?”
“On a scale of one to infinity, infinity being yesterday? About a three. I can still feel it, but it's almost gone. In the last hour or so, I've gotten a lot less itchy. Can you unfasten me? Pleeeasseee? I really want to get the catheter out. It's sooo uncomfortable.” Now that she'd drank the water, Eve was extremely conscious of the presence of the catheter inside of her. It was better than peeing on yourself, but only just.
“I'll tell you what, I'll unfasten one foot and then we'll see.”
Eve didn't know why Dr. Frasier wouldn't just untie her, but she probably had some mysterious medical reason. Patiently, Eve waited as her foot was unstrapped from the bed. It felt good to be able to stretch her leg. Eve suspected if she wasn't a Slayer, she would have been so far beyond stiff that she would have been unable to move. Luckily, Slayers seemed to stay relatively limber in the worst circumstances.
“Okay, Eve, it looks like it's all right to release you.”
Honestly curious, Eve asked, “Were you worried that I was going to scratch myself with my toes?”
“It's a good test to see how you're doing. Even if you thought you were better, it's possible that you would have still been unable to control the scratching. None of the SG teams that were exposed to the pollen at P3X-4991 reacted as badly as you or the other girls did.”
“Cause of our sensitive nerve endings?” Eve enjoyed the startled look that crossed Dr. Frasier's face as she asked her question. She deliberately didn't think as Janet did what she needed to do to get the catheter out. Once it was gone, Eve sighed in relief.
“Exactly right. Because of just how much more sensitive your nerve endings are than a ordinary person's. Slayers also have a much higher tolerance for pain that a normal person and will scratch themselves when anyone else would have stopped because of how bad it hurt. That really worried me.”
Eve, halfway out of the bed on her way towards the bathroom, stopped. Worriedly, she asked, “Did any of the other girls hurt themselves badly?” She didn't like the way the older woman's eyes slid away from hers as she thought over Eve's question.
“Nothing so bad you need to worry. They're going to be fine.”
“Even Buffy? I saw her arm...” Eve desperately wanted to wash her face and hands, but wanted the reassurance even more.
Dr. Frasier smiled reassuringly. “Even Buffy. I won't lie to you, Buffy had the worst reaction. But she also has the highest healing factor. She's regenerated all of the skin she lost back on P3X-4991. Right now, she's almost through it, I think. The two of you have recovered the fastest. You, because you weren't exposed as long and Buffy... well, we don't know why. I'll want to talk to you about that soon, by the way.”
Nervously, Eve replied, “Uhh... sure. Let me go wash up.”
Hurriedly, Eve hit the bathroom. Even as water filled the sink before her, she pondered what she was going to tell Dr. Frasier. Somehow, Dr. Frasier knew Buffy was special, even among Slayers. Eve remembered the conversation from earlier. Apparently, Buffy had taken out a lot of soldiers while they were fastening her down. Eve wondered if whatever they'd used to knock her and the other Slayers out hadn't worked on Buffy. It wouldn't have surprised her. Buffy seemed to be immune to pretty much everything these days. Not even magic had much effect on her, at least not according to a half overheard conversation Eve had caught a few months ago between Buffy and Willow during one of Eve's visits.
It was probably those Zat guns that had knocked them all out. Eve had heard Terry and Jen talking about them. Ray guns were real. Not that good, but still real. And they could stun someone, which you couldn't exactly do with a 5.56 mm hollow point.
Eve finally finished washing her face, neck, and hands. She also took the opportunity to grab a long drink from the tap. What Dr. Frasier didn't know, wouldn't hurt her. If she actually knew about Slayers, Dr. Frasier would have known that Eve could drink pretty much anything and wouldn't hurl, not unless it was poison. It would be a sad day when a Slayer's body rejected something that was good for her. The only Slayer Eve had ever seen hurl had been Autumn, and that had been since they got here, after drinking over a bottle of tequila. Yech, talk about nasty stuff. Eve looked around guiltily at the thought. She knew she wasn't supposed to even taste stuff like that. But Autumn had
Eve gave herself one quick inspection in the mirror. She looked too pale, but otherwise seemed fine. Girding herself to engage Dr. Frasier in a battle of wits, Eve headed out the door. At least she could probably get Dr. Frasier to let her go see Buffy...One hour later...
Eve answered Janet's latest question, “Buffy's been a Slayer longer than anyone else is probably the reason she's recovering so fast. She's pretty amazing that way. I remember this one time, when she was sparring with Illyria...”
Janet, who had insisted on the informality of her first name at the start of their conversation, didn't appear convinced. She interrupted with, “So you don't think there's any other unusual reason behind Buffy being so much stronger than the other Slayers?”
Janet's eyes narrowed. “Okay, Eve, I can see you feel protective of Buffy. I even know why. She saved you from those kidnappers after all. I want you to know that I only want to help her as well as the rest of you. I'm not trying to find out things to hurt her or you.”
Eve studied the face of the woman opposite her. She believed Janet, really she did. But some things were not hers to tell. “I...”
Janet sighed. “Why don't you let me show you why I know you're not telling me the truth. I did promise to let you see Buffy, so I'll show you something else on the way.”
Whatever reservations Eve might have had about the whole question and answer session flew out the window at the idea of visiting Buffy. Quickly she threw a robe on over her hospital gown and waited for Janet, practically bouncing on her feet. When Janet gestured for her to follow, Eve did so with alacrity.
They walked out of the room Eve was in and down a corridor past a dozen or so doors and several bustling figures. Halfway down the corridor, Eve saw a place where the concrete wall had been shattered, cracks extending several feet out from central point. A large piece of concrete was missing from the wall, and from the hole, Eve could see that the concrete was at least three feet thick. Steel bars were visible inside the hole. Eve thought it was called rebarb or something like that.
“Wow, what happened?”
Janet sighed. “Buffy happened.”
Eve was shocked. “Buffy did that?” Holy shit! Eve knew Buffy was strong. She sparred on more than equal terms with Illyria after all. Whatever had called the Slayers had also made Buffy so much more than a Slayer. But at the same time, the wall looked like it had been hit with a bomb.
“Buffy kicked the wall while they were taking her past it. Look, Eve, I know that Buffy did her best not to hurt anyone. Anyone who could do that to this wall, would have killed at least a few people if she hadn't had at least some self-control left. Several Slayers hurt people trying to help them. We know it wasn't their fault. The only reason Buffy hurt so many more is because we weren't able to render her unconscious at any point. The rest of you, Colonel O'Neill knocked out with Zat'ni'katels, but for whatever reason, they didn't work on Buffy. Neither did any of the tranquilizers I tried. And I tried several. Nothing was effective.”
Eve felt worried. “No, I guess they wouldn't have.”
“I personally watched five men try to hold just one of Buffy's arms down. And they couldn't. Three of them received broken arms for their efforts. Slayers are strong, but not that strong. We finally got her fastened down by looping multiple thousand-pound-test steel cables around her last free wrist and winching her arm down. Luckily, we had... something that worked to hold her down after that, but it was insane. And frightening.”
They had come up to a door. Janet ran a security card through a reader next to the door and it flashed green. She opened the door. Eve stepped into the room. Her eyes were drawn to Buffy laying on a steel slab in the middle of the room. Her arms and legs were fastened down by heavy metal bands that literally seemed part of the table itself. Additional bands crossed Buffy's midsection and head. She looked like she couldn't move a muscle. A similar gag to the one that Eve had worn completed the picture.
A familiar monitor beeped faithfully next to Buffy, wires leading to her head and torso. Her face was pale and drawn, so unlike the lively face that Eve remembered. The only evidence that she'd ever been hurt was that certain parts of her skin were slightly redder than others, including her forearm, the one that had been completely skinned. She was also unconscious.
“I thought you couldn't put her under?”
“She's asleep. The itching started to abate a couple of hours ago. Buffy was able to tell me that much, but not enough to allow us to let her go. She hadn't slept since she first arrived her, over five days ago, so exhaustion finally overcame the last vestiges of the itching. As soon as she wakes up and confirms she's free of it, we'll let her up.”
“She looks so...” Eve didn't want to say “small lying there.” But Buffy definitely didn't look like herself lying there. “You're sure she's going to be all right?”
“We're sure. I did want to ask you about Buffy's healing ability. She's completely regenerated all of the skin she lost in just five days. I think in another day, you won't even be able to tell she was ever hurt. I know Slayers heal fast, but this is ridiculous. None of the other girls have healed this quickly. Or rather, they've healed, but they weren't as badly injured.”
“I... I can't tell you about that stuff. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to wait for Buffy.”
Janet smiled reassuringly, “It's okay, Eve. I wish you would, but I understand your reservations. Would you like to talk to Dawn?”
Eve was surprised. “She's awake? I thought...”
“She's fine. Non-Slayers aren't affected as dramatically as Slayers. Dawn's been out and about this entire time. She's been in to see all of you over the last few days. The only real precaution we had to do with her was make her wear mitts. And give her tranquilizers to sleep.”
“Okay, sure, I want to see her.”
Hesitantly, Eve left Buffy's side, but not before bestowing a gentle kiss on Buffy's forehead and whispering, “I love you. Get better.”
Neither woman saw the eyes of the figure on the bed open briefly then close again.
When Eve entered Dawn's room, she was sitting up and reading a newspaper, the remains of a meal scattered around her.
“Dawn!” The tiny girl threw herself onto the bed, crushing Dawn's paper, as she pulled the larger girl into a ferocious hug.
“Hey there, Eve Marie! How are you feeling?”
“I'm good as gold, Dawn Marie.” Eve automatically replied. Her mind wasn't on their old middle name game, though. Instead, she searched Dawn's face. It looked... normal. Dawn had a few scratches, but nothing bad. She was wearing a set of what looked like orange oven mitts though. Dawn seemed pleased to see her, although a shadow lay over her eyes.
“I'm glad to see you're all better, munchkin. It's not fun to itch.” Dawn shuddered as she said the last sentence.
Vigorously, Eve nodded her agreement. “It sure isn't. Do you still itch, Dawn?”
“What!” Dr. Frasier exclaimed, bustling forward to check Dawn's vitals. Eve made room for her, but made no effort to get off the bed.
“Well, I stopped itching a couple of hours ago. I still kept on my mitts, but,” Dawn tossed the mitts off, briefly scratched her nose with a splintered fingernail, then casually folded her arms, before finishing, “You can see that I have full control. The nose itch was the worst
.” This last was directed at Eve, who nodded her agreement.
Having an itchy nose was horrible! That more than anything, had nearly driven Eve insane.
“How is that possible? The fastest case of recovery of anyone other than Eve, here, has been eleven days. It's only been five.” Janet spoke with authority, almost as if she were correcting Dawn's recovery.
“I'm not exactly normal. And no, I can't tell you about it. Suffice it to say that I'm the sister of a Slayer. I suspect that all of the girls are coming out of it about now. I was about to head over to check on Buffy, when you two came in. Yeah, I know you told me to stay put, but I'm not very good at doing what I'm told.”
Totally true, if even half of what Eve had overheard Buffy saying was true. Dawn was smart and a rebel. That was what Eve liked most about her.
Janet looked surprised. Well, reasoned Eve, she probably wasn't used to patients who didn't do what they were told. Or maybe she was, Eve thought, seeing the resigned expression on her face. Which reminded Eve...
“Hey! You're right! I don't itch anymore! Oh my God, I am so glad!” Eve stood up on Dawn's bed and started jumping up and down. A moment later Dawn joined her and the two of them jumped up and down together. Eve started giggling at the shocked expression on Janet's face, which set Dawn off. Soon both girls had collapsed on the bed and were laughing in relief...
Eve bounced back into Buffy's room. She immediately noted that Buffy was awake and not squirming, which was a good sign.
Self-importantly, she announced, “Okay, Buffy, blink once if you are no longer itching.”
Not waiting for Buffy to actually blink, Eve started to unfasten the gag she wore. She could tell that Buffy was okay. She could feel it. Grabbing the pitcher of water, Eve had a glass poured even as Dawn and Janet strolled into the room behind her.
“Eve!” Janet's scandalized tone didn't make a dent in Eve as she held the glass for Buffy who sucked thirstily through the straw she had provided. Eve let her drink the entire glass, because she knew Buffy was thirsty. Eve had certainly been. Then she waited for Buffy to speak.
“So, how is everyone?” Buffy's voice sounded hoarse and raw.
Janet spoke, “I have my staff releasing the others right now. That was what kept me or I would have been in here earlier, before Eve got to you.” This last was said pointedly to Eve who tried to look abashed. She didn't think she did a very good job, though.
Buffy said, “Don't scold her, she knew I was back to normal. It's a Slayer thing.”
“Buffy, I wanted to tell you that it's my fault that this happened. My department screwed up some of your tests and missed just how severe the reactions would be to pollen on P3X-4991. Please don't blame General Hammond or Colonel O'Neill. I take full responsibility.” Eve watched Janet's face as she spoke. The red-haired doctor was near tears as she went on to explain what had happened with the two techs and the results.
Buffy smiled crookedly up at Janet. “Well, I'm not going to say that you're one of my favorite people right now, Dr. Frasier. I've had a shitty last few days. But it was a mistake.” She shrugged. “Besides, no one died and the world didn't end. In our books, that's a successful mission. Besides, we haven't been all that honest with you. I figure you know that by now. So don't beat yourself up.” Then Buffy turned to Dawn. “I thought you would still be in itch hell, brat.”
Dawn shrugged. “Seems I was the first to recover from the effects after Eve. Or maybe even before. Turns out that being the Slayer's sister does come with a perk. Although I wouldn't mind trading it in for a bigger chest.”
“Dawn Marie Summers! Watch your language. And your chest is already big enough.”
“Actually, just because it's bigger than yours, doesn't mean it's 'big enough.'” Dawn pointed out with a shit-eating grin on her face.
Buffy smiled fondly for a second then frowned. “Someone unfasten me please so I can give my two brats a hug. Oh, lord, and get this catheter out.”
With that, there was a scramble to get Buffy out of the shackles. Although it took Janet doing something with a button underneath one edge to actually unfasten the restraints. Then Janet had to take care of Buffy's catheter. Eve and Dawn carefully kept their eyes averted while that happened. Finally, Buffy was free. She sat up, absently rubbing her wrists before almost being bowled over by Dawn and Eve. Eve hugged Buffy with bone breaking force for anyone not a Slayer. With Buffy, she was just hugged back even harder.
As Eve laid her head on Buffy's shoulder, she felt happy that everything had turned out all right. Everyone had survived. No one was maimed. The itch, while horrible, hadn't made anyone insane. Although Eve wasn't sure about Autumn, since she might have been insane before the itch. Hearing a sound, Eve looked up from her perch next to Buffy. She watched as the first of a stream of girls came in, all of them looking battered and bedraggled, looking for comfort and reassurance. Buffy dispensed hugs and kisses equally, doling out reassurance to whomever needed it.
Eve had moved a little away from Buffy and watched as the other girls mobbed her. It was nice to be with family. Eve would always miss her parents and brother. But she had another family right here. They might smack her around occasionally and give her a hard time, but she knew she was loved. That was the point of family, wasn't it?
Eve found herself thinking fond thoughts of the other Slayers. Even when Autumn hugged her a few minutes later, she didn't even automatically think “skanky” Autumn. Instead, all Eve saw was another sister. One who had come through a perilous time with her, even if it wasn't demonic on origin. Eve's thoughts were interrupted as both girls jumped as a cry rang through the room.
“Oh my God!” Buffy horrified shout rang off the walls. Anxiously, Eve crowded forward to see what had happened, pushing between Beth and Rose.
“Look at my nails! They are torn to bits! I need a manicure, a pedicure, and another manicure. And
I'm going to bill this to the Air Force! Janet, you make sure to tell General Ham-n-Rye that he's owes me for this. This is horrible, just horrible.” Eve could tell that Buffy was just saying that to relieve the tension. A number of other girls made the same demands, in equally dramatic fashion.
Yep, thought Eve, with a fond smile, it was a big, happy, dysfunctional family. But it was her dysfunctional family...