Preface to the Eighty-Sixth Thousand
Obviously, I own no rights to either Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nor the Pitch Black universe. I have used them without permission, but with very deep respect. Some of the events of the following story closely follow the original “timeline” set up in the Pitch Black verse, and a few statements are close to those of canon text, but they occur differently.
Booted feet slapping against the dirt with a sort of dull thud, she dashed recklessly through the woods, weaving and darting between trees as though it was second nature. Branches slapped her face, her arms, her legs, catching in her torn clothes, her hair. At one point, a tightly woven bead adorned braid snarled on a tree branch, like reaching fingers, but she just tore herself loose with the fervour of a trapped animal, and left the braid behind.
Blood ran freely down her face, down the inside of her legs, but she didn’t let it slow her down.
It was only when her leg struck a rock and she went down with a cry that she showed the first sign of self-preservation – one hand was thrown out in an attempt to slow her fall, and her other arm cradled her child-heavy belly, fighting to protect the unborn one she carried.
Teeth grit against the pain, she struggled back to her feet, and paused for a moment. Her breathing wasn’t as laboured as might be expected, considering the circumstances, but every few moments, it would catch. When it did, she’d press the flat of her hand hard to her belly, as though trying to tell something to her child.
As suddenly as she had tumbled, she took her flight back up again, running towards an area where the trees thinned.
Bursting through the treeline, her boots slapped loudly on the wet pavement, drawing her up short at the obvious signs of human habitation. Headlights sliced through the pre-dusk gloom, slipping over her, and illuminating her for the bloody mess she was moments before the drivers of the car saw her, and slammed on the brakes with an aborted cry.
The van skidded, almost sliding off the road, but the woman didn’t even attempt to get out of the way. Too stunned, perhaps. Blood loss. Maybe some other reason.
It skidded to a halt, finally, mere inches from her knees, and then
she moved, laying her hands on the good as she cried out in pain.
“Oh my god, lady, are you okay?!”
The driver scrambled out of the front seat, dashing around to brace her arm. He was afraid, and not without good reason, really, that she’d just collapse if she stood another minute more on her own. His passenger was half out of her seat, door open as she fumbled with her heavy car phone, already on the line with 9-1-1.
“What happened?” the driver tried again, trying to help her around to the side door of the large van, to help her sit. “Was there a wreck or something?”
She answered – or it seemed like she did, at least. But the words she said made no sense.
“Ellen!” he called, looking up. “Tell ‘em she doesn’t speak English!”
His wife nodded, quickly, adding that information to what she had already given the emergency services. After listening to them for a moment, she called, “Is it Spanish?”
“Ah…” he fumbled, his pronunciation rusty, and asked the bloody woman, “Se hablo espanol
She gaped up at him, starting to tremble not that she was sitting instead of running, blood loss making her normally olive skin pale, the only thing keeping her conscious the now-ebbing adrenaline.
“I don’t think so,” he called back, then asked, “Do they just want us to drive her there? Might be faster…”
“Lavelle,” the woman said, shaking hands resting on her belly, looking genuinely terrified. “Lavelle.”
He touched her belly, beside her hand, eyes widening sharply.
“Fuck it.” He didn’t wait for Ellen to get an answer, and just helped the woman swing her legs inside, slamming the door shut. His own hands were bloody and shaky as he dashed back into his seat, barely getting the door shut before he was already peeling away, tires squealing.
“Keith!” Ellen gasped, jerking her door shut. “They said they were sending an ambulance – “
“She’s in labour, Ellen,” he gasped, which made her stop talking immediately. “And with the amount of blood it looks like she’s already lost…”
Ellen nodded, pale. “I’ll tell them to be ready.”
The woman shifted as they drove at speeds that were illegal on every road they crossed, pulling her knees up as much as she could, so that she was all but crouching on the seats, rubbing her rounded stomach and whispering to it in her unrecognizable language, murmuring soothing promises. She barely even flinched when they had to veer to avoid other cars, and when they pulled with a screech of protesting brakes into the hospital parking lot and a waiting paramedic slid the door of the van open, she slid off of the seat on her own power, standing fairly steadily.
One of the paramedics tried to guide her to lie down on the gurney they had waiting, but she bared her teeth at the suggestion, all but snarling.
They let her walk in on her own steam, though there had to be at least three paramedics around her, ready to catch her if she fell. One stayed back to have a hurried, low toned conversation with Keith and Ellen, to find out what they knew, but the major activity in the Sunnydale hospital that night was focused on the bloody woman walking herself into the emergency surgery room they had set aside for her.
There, they finally managed to get her to lie down, though she still showed no sign of understanding what they were saying. She followed basic demonstrated orders, but the stubborn woman with her jaw grit tightly simply did as she seemed to want.
One of the nurses managed to help her out of her tattered, singed and burned clothing, though she viciously refused to wear the worn hospital gown they tried to put on her, and finally just let them pull a blanket over her.
Now that she was naked, however, the urgency of the situation was hitting the medical staff hard. She was bleeding, profusely. Along with whatever head wound she had gotten that covered half of her face and down her neck and collarbone with gore, there was still the blood running freely down her legs, and the arm she had been using to cradle her stomach earlier was visibly broken in at least three places – two on her forearm, one on the upper. Minor superficial wounds covered her, and one of her shoulders was actually blackened along the edges of a massive, open and raw red wound, as though someone had lit her skin on fire.
They brought a translator in, but none of the languages they tried with her worked – not Spanish, not French, and absolutely not English.
Finally, they gave up on the attempts to communicate, and just tried to make sure that she was as comfortable as she could be as they tried to get the delivery – which was coming along faster and faster, the way it was going – to be as controlled and easy as possible. One of the nurses was tasked with setting up an iv, but the second she tried, the woman let out a shout that was almost like a bark, and wrenched the needle from her hands, throwing it away. Two subsequent attempts got the same reaction.
One of the doctors, a Dr. Marsha Goldstein, called one of the younger nurses, Jessica, over, and murmured, “If she won’t let us put in an iv for slow acting medications, we’re going to have to give her an epidural. But she doesn’t understand us, so we can’t give proper information… can you try
and talk to her, see if you can explain anything to her, so we can put it in?”
Jessica hesitated, and nodded, making her way carefully to the side of the woman’s bed.
Reaching out to carefully touch the other’s hand, she smiled hopefully when the stranger jumped, teeth bared, and said softly, as soothingly as she could, “Lean forward, okay? It’ll be easier on your back, just curl forward.”
She stared at her, non-comprehension on her face.
Gripping the woman’s hands gently, she tugged her forward, slowly, relieved that the woman followed the lead. She seemed willing to follow leading so long as it was simple and didn’t involve danger, so within a few moments, Jessica had the woman curled forward over her own belly, squeezing the nurse’s hands tightly every time a contraction rippled through her.
It was just as a contraction was beginning to ripple through her again that Dr. Goldstein attempted the epidural.
Just as the needle gently touched her skin, not even breaking it, the woman twisted, her face a mask of feral rage. She snatched the needle out of the doctor’s hands, and jabbed the needle deep and hard into the woman’s throat without a moment of hesitation, slamming her thumb down on the plunger and sinking the pain and numbing medication straight into the doctor’s throat.
There were shouts and cries of surprise and horror, and a security guard scrambled forward, a sort of terrifying anger in his eyes.
“Wait!” Jessica cried, reaching up to grab the stranger’s wrists again, trying to tug her back into a better sitting position. “No, wait… wait, she’s all right! She’s just scared!”
The security guard hesitated, slowly stepping back as the other doctors hurried to care for their injured colleague. Dr. Goldstein was gagging and gasping, tugging the needle slowly out of her throat, hands shaking. “I’m going to need… someone call Dr. Washburn… take care of her… don’t try anymore needles…”
Dr. Rodney took over, nodding quickly.
Just squeezing the strange woman’s hands softly, Jessica whispered, “It’s going to be okay, it is… you and your baby are going to be all right, I promise.”
The woman keened softly, squeezing the young nurse’s gloved fingers tightly, giving her a ghost of a smile, as though she knew what she was saying. She just curled over harder, though, breathing harder and faster through her teeth, squeezing Jessica’s fingers tighter.
One of the nurses had taken some of the copious blood for testing, to try and arrange for getting blood for transfusions, but if she refused all needles, that wasn’t really going to help anyway.
But the blood loss was clearly taking a toll.
The woman was almost paper white now, and though she squeezed Jessica’s fingers tightly, the grip wasn’t with the same tight squeeze that it was before. Jessica was actually starting to feel her fingertips again. Her breathing was harsher, ragged gasps as she bit down so hard on her lip she’d actually gone through it at one point, and blood was trickling down her jaw and throat.
But something worked, and over the sounds of people working and nurses talking to each other, and machinery pumping and working and beeping, there came a wail, a strong set of tiny lungs taking on air for the first time and howling his arrival to the world.
The woman let out a breathless, pleased cry, and slumped back in the bed, rasping for breath.
“It’s a boy!” One of the nurses called, holding up a small, bloody bundle, and already they could see the little one stretching his arms, reaching up at the sky, desperately. Grinning, the nurse started cleaning a little of the blood off, then turned to head for the corner, for the little table where she would do all the standard exams – length, weight, size, and, especially considering the circumstances, for injuries – when the woman bolted forward on the bed, reaching out to snatch the nurse’s arm, jerking her closer. Ignoring the woman’s shouts of protests, explanations that it would only be a moment to check on the baby’s health, the bloody stranger slid the little one out of her arm, and leaned back.
Cradling the infant in her broken arm so that his head lay against her chest, against her heart, she used her good hand to skim her fingertips over the infant, as though performing a search of her own, for something wrong. Finally, she slumped back, her search apparently finished.
She tried to hum a little song, some kind of nursery song, but before she got more than a few bars in, she started to gag and cough. As she did, blood started spraying in a fine mist across her own chest, across the infant. Someone shouted and reached for the little one, but Jessica didn’t even notice, just reached up to touch her own cheeks, surprised when she pulled her hands away and found blood smearing on her fingertips. The woman had sprayed her with what little blood she had left in her body, too.
“Someone get that baby,” Dr. Rodney said, firmly, shifting a table forward, various surgical instruments on it. “I need to get her stitched up, or she is
going to bleed to death.”
Jessica started to move out of the way, so that the doctors and the trauma nurses who had been waiting would be able to do their job. But before she could, the woman had bolted forward again, gripping Jessica’s wrist so tightly she could actually feel her bones grinding together. She gasped in pain, gaping at the stranger, even more confused when she tugged her closer and awkwardly shifted the little bloody bundle in her arms into Jessica’s.
She held the little one close, instinctively, trembling.
The last of her strength gone, the woman slumped back to the pillows, and reached towards the little one’s dark hair, which was still slick and wet with blood and afterbirth, almost touching his soft head. “Lavelle,” she wheezed, coughing again, and fought to control it.
“Lavelle?” Jessica repeated, holding the baby boy close to her chest. He was starting to squirm, as though knowing something was wrong.
“Lavelle,” she said again, voice going weaker, bright eyes starting to glaze over. “Lavelle Alexander.”
“Alexander – it’s his name
,” she gasped, suddenly understanding.
“La’elle Ale’nder…” she slurred, blood bubbling slowly out of her mouth, eyes only open the slightest slit now.
“Jessica! Get back
!” Dr. Rodney ordered, and she stumbled back as the doctor worked to save the woman, just cradling the little baby close as he wailed and the men and women crowded around her, struggling. She felt sort of numb, just standing in the back corner of the room, covered in a stranger’s blood, holding a stranger’s baby against her breast, like she was standing in a small soundless bubble as the men and women around her worked frantically and the child wailed.
She barely even heard when they declared time of death.