What makes a Death
A/N: Thanks to all who have been reading and reviewing. This one came from left of field and it is set some time before Graduation but after Buffy's 18th birthday.
Disclaimer: I don't own SPN or BTVS and this is purely for entertainment purposes and not for profit. Woe is me.
Cooke city, Montana, wasn’t even a town. It was a fork in a road in the middle of a forest where someone had stopped one day and built a house. That was what Dean thought, anyway. There were about a hundred people, maybe, scattered around the ‘town’ and yeah, it had a school, but it wasn’t a town, much less a city. But they went where Faith’s dreams took them, and this time, they were in Cooke city, seeking out the something that had been eating hikers and hunters. Faith swore it’d be here next and Dean could only trust her- she hadn’t been wrong yet.
The last snows were on the ground but it wasn’t difficult to maneuver in the woods- not if you’d been doing it for years, anyway. Late February and the change of weather was in the air- Dean hadn’t spent much time in Montana, but he could taste spring in the air. Thank god. He hated hiking, but John and Sam were in Butte and John had insisted that they could handle a wendigo between them. Well, what John thought was a wendigo anyway. Dean thought they were too far north, but he didn’t argue- whatever it was, they could handle it. Hell, Faith could probably take it on alone, but she wasn’t confident driving in the snow, so even if they had allowed it, she couldn’t have gone alone.
They split up in the woods, staying within each other’s eyesight and close enough to call out, though it was daylight and wendigos only ever attack at night. Caution never cost anything, their dad always said- except, of course, when it was John on a Hunt and he decided that caution wasn’t worth his time. Sometimes, Dean wondered if his father was actually suicidal because it would certainly explain some of the shit he pulled, sometimes.
Dean paused, listening. Around him, the forest was quiet- too quiet, for a spring afternoon in Montana. There should be birds; bats; bears, even, but there was nothing. But it was warm and the air was heavy and windless and the shiver that ran up his spine was anything but comforting.
“Faith?” He was supposed to be quiet and stay out of sight while they waited for the thing to show, but there was something wrong. He could feel it in his bones. “Faith? Where are you, kid?” When had he lost sight of her? He couldn’t remember. He kept his voice calm and controlled, despite the growing fear in the pit of his stomach. Overhead, the sun lit the forest in patches and he couldn’t see her anywhere. Carefully, quietly, he made his way toward where he’d seen her last; where she’d been stationed. She’d been on point- she was the Slayer. She was always on point.
The ground sloped downward and he was almost running, trying to be quiet but not succeeding. He saw her, lying there, from what felt like miles away but was really only meters. He didn’t remember moving, but he was suddenly at her side, checking her pulse and finding none. For a second, he was certain that his own heart had stopped beating, too. She wasn’t breathing. She had no heartbeat. The part of him that loved her was screaming and crying and calling her name but Dean pushed it away; pushed it down and forced it to hush- he’d seen worse, he remembered.
There was an ugly purple bruise on her neck and he could only hope that she had been strangled and not had her neck broken. His hands should have been trembling, but they weren’t. His fingers were steady and sure and he didn’t even feel relief when he realized her neck hadn’t been snapped. She wasn’t breathing, sure. She had no heartbeat, okay. She was still warm, though; not moving, but warm. With one hand, he forced her mouth open and checked her tongue, even as his other reached for his phone and dialed. He didn’t bother with his father; didn’t even think of calling Sam. He went straight for the emergency services, ignoring everything that they normally avoided like the plague.
“911 emergency” The woman sounded cool and calm and Dean appreciated that, even as he started chest compressions.
“I need an air evac. My sister has been strangled- she’s not breathing and I can’t find a pulse. We’re in the woods off the road outside Cooke city, three miles up the Daisy Pass trail road. We’re about a hundred yards in on the eastern side, and my car is parked on the side of the road as a marker.” There was silence for a second and when the lady spoke again, there was a tiny note of sympathy in her voice.
“Sir, I’ll need to send you an ambulance to remove to Cooke city before we can get your sister an air evacuation, okay? It’s on its way. We’re going to keep this line open and I’m going to talk you through emergency CPR, okay?” Her voice was far away, tinny, lying on the ground with the speaker on.
“I’m doing compressions already.” He stopped compressions, forcing air into her mouth instead, before restarting the pounding on her heart. He hadn’t done CPR in years, but he wasn’t sure that the air was going anywhere. “But I don’t think mouth to mouth is working.” She wasn’t blue yet. She was still warm. That was a good sign, right?
“Just keep doing the compressions, sir. The ambulance is on its way.” She said some other things, to, but Dean stopped listening, forcing himself to keep going; keep the pressure on her chest and air down her throat.
It wasn’t working. He didn’t know how long he’d been doing it, but he could tell it wasn’t working, all the same. The bruising was too bad; too quick- there was nothing getting into her lungs. He couldn’t remember what he was supposed to do to make that better- nothing he was trying was working. But he kept doing it; listening carefully for any sign of life and for the scream of sirens that would tell him there was help on the way. And god, he needed help.
The EMTs, when they arrived, weren’t exactly what he thought they were going to be- Park Rangers, not EMTs, but they knew what to do all the same. One of them moved him to the side while the other checked her for breath sounds and a pulse, and then there was some medical mumbo-jumbo that he didn’t understand.
“We’ll do our best, son. Joe is a doctor, he’ll do everything he can to help her, okay?”
He understood the scalpel, when it was raised against her throat. He almost protested, but what could he do instead? Nothing. He watched as they sliced into her throat and his gaze followed the beads of blood as the leaked down the side of her neck. He flinched away when he saw the layers of skin pulled aside and something being forced through, into her windpipe. But then she was breathing, or they were doing it for her, and all Dean could feel was relief.
“Son, we’re going to need your help, okay? We need to get her back to the road and into town. I need you to help me carry the stretcher.” He nodded, numb but agreeable, and watched as they rolled her onto the stretcher with practiced ease. “The chopper is going to meet us back in town, but we need to move fast, okay?” The doctor was on the stretcher, too, continuing compressions and forcing air into her lungs. It should have been difficult and unwieldy, but Dean didn’t think he’d ever moved so fast, racing back to the road and to their transport.
It wasn’t an ambulance- it was an off-roader, green, with an open bed at the back. Dean and the doctor hopped in the back and the other man into the driver’s seat.
The doctor shocked her twice – portable defibrillator- on the way to town, and they were loading her onto the air ambulance when he shocked her a third time.
Dean let himself cry when, in the ambulance, her heat started to beat again. Weak, unsteady, but beating.
He didn’t have time to be afraid of flying (helicopters were different to planes, anyway) because all his attention was focused on his sister. He was crouched by her side, holding her hand and concentrating on the pulse under his thumb, thanking anyone who would listen for bringing it back.
At the hospital, they took her away into surgery and Dean paced the waiting room. Cell phone in hand, he debated calling his family. They’d want to know. They’d want to be there- but Dean didn’t want to tell them. If he told them and his dad turned up, then it’d be real and Faith would really, truly be fighting for her life and he wasn’t ready to face it.
But they’d want to know; no question.
He didn’t remember dialing, but he must have because he could hear the phone ringing in his ear.
“Dean?” His dad answered, gruff and suspicious. Dean had been supposed to check in hours before.
“Dad?” He barely managed to keep his voice from breaking. “Dad, we’re at the hospital in Billings. It’s Faith, dad- she’s pretty bad. They, uh… they don’t know if she’s going to wake up.” He could hear his dad inhale and a thump that he was pretty sure meant he’d dropped into a chair.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I didn’t even see what happened, but it choked her, Dad. It wasn’t a wendigo.” Wendigos would eat you, sure, but they wouldn’t bother choking you first. “She’s in surgery to repair her trachea but her heart was stopped for a long time. We took the air ambulance in.” There was silence on the line for a long time and Dean could have sworn he heard a hitch in his dad’s voice when he spoke again.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, kid, okay? I’ll get Sammy and we’ll be on the road in a half-hour. You need anything?” Dean answered no, but he’d really love it if his dad could just walk in the door right then and take over. “We’ll be there soon. Hang in there.” And his dad was gone and Dean had nothing else to do but wait and pace.
Across the country, Buffy Summers had been sleeping soundly; pleasant dreams for once, not haunted by the horror that she’d seen and dealt out.
But she woke suddenly, ripped from peace into certainty beyond questioning that Faith had died. When she cried, it wasn’t quiet or pretty; huge, racking sobs that robbed her breath and left her head aching. She called Giles, confessed to him in short words that she’d been in touch for months with the missing Slayer and that she was dead and gone and the Council could have their shiny new toy, now. She was bitter and he was apologetic and when they hung up, there was another barrier between them.
She toyed with her phone, dialing and redialing Dean Winchester’s phone number but not letting it ring; hanging up and starting again. She knew it was true, she could feel it in her bones, but she didn’t want to be the one to tell him if he didn’t. She didn’t want to deliver that news to anyone, ever.
But she had to. Faith was out there somewhere, dead in a ditch or in a pool of her own blood or worse… she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t tell the girl’s family that something had happened.
When the call connected, her heart started to beat faster and bile rose in her mouth. How could she do something like this over the phone? God, she hoped that they already knew. She hoped that he wouldn’t answer, maybe.
“Yeah?” His voice was gruff and tired and if she’d known him better, she would have heard the tears.
“Dean? It’s Buffy. I… something terrible happened to Faith.” There was silence for a beat and her heart was in her throat, waiting.
“I know, kid, I know. She’s… the doctors don’t know if she’ll wake up.” He sounded exhausted and she could almost picture him pacing in a waiting room. Hope soared, though, and relief washed over her in a wave.
“But she’s alive? She’s not… I thought she was dead.” He must have heard her grief because he was quick to reassure her- yeah, it had been touch and go but her heart was beating and there was a machine breathing for her. She was alive, if barely.
“Is there anything I can do? I don’t… I don’t even know where you are. I just woke up and I knew that something was wrong.” She’d died once herself, too. “But she’s a Slayer and Slayers are tough- she can make it through this, I’m sure of it.” She knew what it felt like, now, to believe that Faith was dead- it wasn’t something she wished to repeat.
“There is one thing… you can tell the Council that Faith died.” She blinked, surprised, and then grinned, a little. Faith had been so stressed and so worried about the Council following her; tracking her down and taking her away from her family.
“I can do that. Will you keep me updated? Call me, or have her call me when she wakes up?” She was certain that the younger girl would wake- Buffy knew her well enough, now, to know that if Faith was anything, she was a fighter.
“Sure. No problem.” She could tell he was relieved. “I have to go- the doctors here.” He hung up before she could say goodbye but she wasn’t even annoyed. Faith wasn’t dead; unconscious, yeah, but what was unconscious and injured to a Slayer? She’d be back on her feet in no time and the Council would be off her back for good. Right?