Disclaimer: I do not own neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel: the series, The Sentinel, nor Stargate: SG1. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of this author. This author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Willow was worried. Xander was an indifferent student, barely passing at the best of times, but lately things had gotten much worse. If he didn’t start paying better attention in all his classes, he would fail and get held back a year.
After the Hyena incident, Xander had gone camping for a week, for some time to ‘process’ as he called it. Ever since he’d come back, he’d been acting weird though. She would catch him staring into space, as if he was concentrating on something, or his head would be tilted as if he was listening to something, but there was nothing there that she could see or hear. Usually she just had to poke him to bring him back to ‘reality’, and when he did he’d mention seeing or hearing, or even smelling something that had captured his attention to the exclusion of everything else, but neither she nor Buffy ever saw, heard or smelled anything.
Then finally things came to a head. Xander had been particularly space-cadet-y in math class, and she had not been able to poke him into wakefulness, when Mr. Chalmers caught him at it.
“Mr. Harris! Care to share what is so fascinating out the window with the rest of the class?” Cordy and her Cordettes snickered, but Xander did not respond. “Mr. Harris!” snapped Mr. Chalmers, as he slammed his textbook down on Xander’s desk. The noise started everyone in the class but Xander, who continued to stare blankly forward, oblivious. Paramedics were called as it quickly became obvious that nothing could stir him out of his catatonic state. Xander was bundled into the ambulance and taken to Sunnydale General.
* * *
Buffy tried to console Willow, who was crying. The doctor had just informed them that Xander was still unresponsive to all external stimuli, despite the fact that a CAT scan revealed heightened activity in the areas of the brain responsible for the senses. There were no recent injuries that could account for the catatonia, and the CAT scan had also revealed there were no tumours or other abnormalities. Willow had confessed that Xander had recently been experiencing what they assumed were visual, auditory and even olfactory hallucinations. This combined with his childhood medical history, which clearly pointed to abuse, had the doctors convinced that he had suffered a psychotic break, and so he was admitted to the psychiatric ward for observation.
*sniffle* “Buffy, what if he never wakes up?! He’ll be stuck in an asylum for the rest of his life…” wailed Willow.
Buffy shuddered at this, remembering her own experience in the Hemery Asylum. “Shh, Wills, we can’t think like that. You have to be strong, and be research-girl for Xander. We know he isn’t crazy, this is Hellmouthy, it has to be. Tell her we can fix this Giles,” she pleaded with her mentor.
“She’s right, Willow, I won’t rest until I find what demon or spell caused this. Between you, I and Buffy, I am sure we’ll find it.” Giles hugged the both of them, and internally catalogued the books he thought might help, just as desperate as they to help the boy that was as near to a son as he could ever hope to have.
* * *
2 months later
Frustrated, Giles threw the book he had been reading into the huge pile of previously discarded tomes on the library table, with little care for any damage that might result, a measure of how deeply he was affected. “Blast! Bloody buggering hell!”
“What’s the matter Giles?” asked Buffy, walking into the library, having just finished patrol.
“What’s the bloody matter is I’m no closer to finding a ‘cure’ for Xander’s condition that I was two months ago. The only demonic race capable of inducing a state of catatonia were rendered extinct in the 13th century. And while there are a couple of dozen spells that might have had the same effect, without knowing *which* spell it was, we cannot cast the appropriate counterspell; casting random counterspells might do more harm than good. We need more information, or we may never be able to help the boy.” Giles ranted. He slumped into his chair with an air of defeat.
* * *
Willow sat beside Xander in the visitors’ room of the psychiatric ward. Dressed by orderlies that morning in PJs and a bathrobe, he sat in a wheelchair by the window, just as unresponsive as the day he had been admitted. Despite the lack of response, Willow babbled cheerily at him, as if he could hear and reacted to her every word. As visiting hour drew to a close, she gently kissed his cheek and told him, “Bye Xand, see you tomorrow.”
As she was leaving, she caught sight of Mr. and Mrs. Harris speaking with the doctor, and she hung back, curious to hear what was said, since the doctors had been less than forthcoming with the Scoobies about Xander’s condition and progress (or lack thereof.)
“Mr. Harris, all we need is your signature on these consent forms and we’ll be able to proceed with the experimental treatment,” the doctor explained, presenting a clipboard with the forms in question.
Tony Harris glared at the doctor, and shoved the clipboard away. “Not so fast, bud. I ain’t made of money, and I ain’t gonna spend none of it on that vegetable son of mine. Far as I’m concerned, he can just rot. at least with the State payin’ for his care, he finally isn’t costin’ me anymore.” Dragging Mrs. Harris behind him, he strode away to the elevators, fully intending to leave and never return.
Willow squeaked indignantly, and felt her magic coming very close to the surface. She’d curse that bastard for what he’d said! However, before she could recall a suitably vile hex, the doctor hurried after the couple to press his case.
“Wait! Mr. Harris, you don’t understand, due to the risks of the experimental drugs, there is ten thousand dollars compensation being offered to the patients included in the study.” Seeing the greed that flashed over Tony Harris’ face, the doctor knew he’d won. Without asking about any of the risks, Xander’s father grabbed and signed the forms, and told the doctor to mail him the cheque as soon as possible.
Willow fumed, but knew that there was nothing she could do. If only they had all been older, they had planned to exchange legal documents granting each other medical and legal powers of attorney. But they were still minors, and at the less than tender mercy of their parents.
Seeing the doctor prepare a syringe, she realized that he meant to start the new treatment immediately. “Doctor, I know I have no say in his treatment, but I hope you will allow me to be present at least,” she almost begged.
Knowing how much she cared for the patient, he saw no harm in allowing her to remain. He called out to an orderly, “Orderly, please bring patient Harris to his room. Ms. Rosenburg, you may stay, but do not interfere, or I will have you removed.”
Willow nodded, and walked with him to Xander’s room. While the orderly placed Xander on his bed, she withdrew to a corner of the room. “Doctor, can I ask what this drug is meant to do and how soon we might expect results?”
“Certainly, my dear. It’s an experimental drug meant to stimulate the areas of the brain responsible for the senses. With patients in this deep of a catatonic state, it is believed that those areas are dulled or ‘asleep’, and this drug will flip a switch that will increase the reception of stimuli, finally awakening the patient, or so we hope. Results should be seen fairly quickly. It’s actually been about 75% successful so far, my dear, so with any luck, your friend here will be talking to you very shortly.” That said, he tapped the syringe to get rid of air bubbles and injected Xander without further ceremony.
* * *
Floating in a numb haze, Xander felt something tickling at his awareness. He’d been listening to something in class, trying to figure out what the sound was that was buzzing in his ears and distracting him.
Suddenly, he went from numbness to total sensory overload. The pain was unbearable. Excruciating even. All of his senses were being assaulted at once. His skin, his flesh, his blood felt like it was on fire. When he opened his eyes the brightness pierced his brain. It seemed as if he could smell and taste everything around him. Someone spoke, and the noise was deafening. He leapt to his feet, and tore his clothes from his body to relieve the pain, he couldn’t bear anything touching him. He threw himself towards the door and tried to shut the light off but couldn’t open his eyes long enough to find the switch, so he huddled down into a corner of the room, squeezing his eyes shut and clutching his hands over his ears, screaming “Make it stop! Please, make it stop! It hurts, oh god! Too bright, too loud!” This was so disorienting, where the hell was he? He’d been in match class one minute, and in this strange room the next!
“Quickly! Restrain him!” boomed a voice, causing him more pain. An orderly grabbed him and he screamed in pain again, even though the orderly was not rough by any normal standard. Xander thrashed about and struggled so violently that he soon felt additional hands helping the orderly, strapping him down in a bed. He whimpered and moaned at the pain caused by the feel of the sheets on his skin, and of the restraints at his wrists and ankles. “Please don’t touch me! It hurts…it hurts so much…Please make it stop…” he begged. Despite the pain, he kept struggling, until finally, afraid he might injure himself, the doctor granted him blessed relief by the judicious injection of a powerful sedative.
* * *
At first Willow was happy as she saw Xander open his eyes. “Oh goddess, Xand!” Willow cried in joy. But joy quickly turned to distress and then anger as she witnessed the terrible pain he was in, and how he was restrained and finally sedated. Taking one look at the furious expression on her face, the doctor allowed her to remain at his bedside, afraid of what the redhead might do to him if he tried to make her leave.
When the sedative finally wore off, Xander whimpered after trying to open his eyes once more. Seeing this, Willow turned off most of the lights in the room and spoke softly “Xand? It’s me, Willow. I turned off the lights.”
Xander winced, “Hey Wills, mind not shouting? I’ve got a hell of a migraine…”
“O-okay Xand,” she whispered. “How’s this, better?”
“So, how are you feeling? Do you want me to call a nurse?” she asked.
“It feels like every nerve ending I’ve got is on fire, Wills. And everything is so bright, and loud. And smelly, too. It’s like a buffet for the senses but I’m definitely not appreciating the menu. What’s happening to me?!” tears ran down his face as the pain began to build again.
“Hold on Xan. We’re researching possible causes, and we’ll find whatever did this to you and fix it. Do you remember anything that could help? Did you get attacked by a demon? Did someone cast a spell on you?” Willow inquired, hoping to get any clues that might help discover the cause of his condition.
“No, nothing like that has happened since the field trip to the zoo. My camping trip was totally non-Hellmouthy…” The pain was getting bad again. “Wills, I think I need that nurse now….”
Willow called the nurse over, and after Xander was unconscious once more, she left the hospital and fled to the school library, where she flung herself into Buffy’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably.
Once she calmed down, she told Buffy and Giles about what had happened,
“Dear Lord! Girls, didn’t you say before this happened that Xander had been telling you of being distracted by things he had been seeing, smelling, hearing? It sounds to me like this drug, by increasing his sensory receptivity, may just have gone and made things worse! What you described Willow, was sensory overload.” Giles polished his glasses furiously. //Where the hell have I read about this? Some paper that was published a few months ago, wasn’t it? Hmmmm…\\ Pointing to the computer, Giles asked “Willow, do you think you can use that infernal machine to search for research papers having to do with sensory overload, or heightened senses? I think I read something, but I can’t remember in which journal it might have been.”
Willow jumped to the computer and began typing furiously. At first she got a lot of results that were not related to what they needed, but then she was able to narrow and refine the search to university databases.
“Bingo!” Willow crowed. “‘The Sentinel’ by Blair Sandburg. It’s a thesis on certain types of people with heightened senses. Oh thank the Goddess, he’s here in the states, in Cascade, Washington.”
“Good.” Buffy sighed in relief at finally having an answer, and being able to *do* something. Being action-gal and unable to do anything for Xander all this time had been so frustrating ! “Giles, Wills, pack your bags, I’ll go bust Xander out of the hospital. We’re taking a trip to Washington.”
* * *