: I hold the rights to no copyrighted material. Any characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who are the rights of their respective owners.
Small story about Buffy. Then we're on to "Glorious"!
I do try to make my stories come from a real place, no matter how fanciful or crazy they become. For instance, while writing "Elizabeth", I remembered how I felt when I found out one of my high school friends had been killed in a car crash, and tried to write that into everyone in the story, to make their loss sound authentic.
Buffy's illness is actually based on an illness I got, in college, which was never diagnosed. But went away as mysteriously as it arrived. I don't remember much from that time, but anything I could remember, or anything I wrote down while it was happening, I put in here.
Hopefully, this will reassure all of you that this isn't just going to be some sappy "she's-got-cancer" plot. It's written from a true place, and it will go somewhere important by the end; trust me on that.
(If it wasn't needed for plot continuity, this story wouldn't be in here.)
Forgive me, by the way, for my not using the term "chronic illness", and instead using the term "long-term illness", which isn't medically correct. You'll see why I have to do this, when you read the story below.
Tomorrow, we dive right back into the action with Dawn and Seo, in "Glorious'!
"...after we chase it somewhere else," Buffy was saying, as she and Alison sprinted after an alien, down a back-alley. "Somewhere away from people."
Alison wrinkled her nose. "Don't tell me. This involves another sewer, doesn't it?"
Buffy shrugged. "Gotta do what you're best at!" she said, speeding off.
Alison sighed. Odd thing was, she'd learned more about sewers from fighting aliens with Buffy than she ever had from Dad. And he
worked in sanitation management!
"Well, then," said Alison, as they spotted the creature and slowed down. She crouched behind one of the rubbish bins, watching it as it snacked on another down the street. "You take the right, I take the left?"
Then realized... Buffy wasn't with her.
Looked back, found Buffy leaning against a brick wall, knuckles turning white, eyes squeezed shut. She looked like she was clinging to the brick for dear life.
"Ms. Summers?" Alison asked, creeping back.
Buffy opened her eyes. Planted a grin on her face, and let go of the wall. "I'm fine!" she said, in a far too loud voice. "All with the fine! Ready to... do... stuff!"
Her voice made the alien creature look up.
And then scuttle away.
Buffy's eyes went wide, and she swore. Began racing after the alien, fast as she could. "Well, whatever that thing is, it looks alien!" she shouted. "We better chase it off to somewhere without people! Somewhere like... oh, I know! The sewers!"
Alison ran after her. "You just said that."
"And now I'm saying it again!" Buffy insisted. "What's wrong with that?"
Alison wasn't sure what to even say.
Just stared at her best friend's mum, trying to work out... what was going on.
They rounded the next corner, and Buffy leapt out, somersaulting through the air and landing right in front of the alien monster. Began expertly dodging and ducking its blows, kicking and driving it back towards Alison.
Alison looked around for a manhole cover, something she could use, but... there wasn't one.
"There's no sewer entrance here!" Alison shouted back.
Buffy looked over at Alison, a moment of confusion passing over her. "Sewer entrance? Huh?" Then checked herself. "Oh, yeah, sewer entrance! Right!" Grimaced. "Just... um… I dunno... improvise!"
The creature struck out at Buffy, and she managed to flip behind its back, then grab it up by the legs and throw it against the brick wall. It crashed, sliding down the side and roaring out in anger. Teeth bared.
It lunged for Buffy.
Which was when Alison came in from the side, with her own attack.
Yep. Alison was getting good at this, now.
Alison might not have Slayer strength or Slayer instincts, but Buffy was a good teacher. Had been showing Alison how to use monsters' strength against them, study how they fought and deduce their weak-points, then go in for the kill.
Alison punched, struck, dodged and darted. Studying, analyzing. Looked like this creature was an instinct creature, not one of those types that liked thinking ahead. Alison maneuvered it so that it was racing forwards to strike at her, then stepped out of the way at the last moment, sending it off-balance and skittering towards a wall. A kick from Buffy helped it impact with a loud "BANG".
Alison gave a grin.
Never thought she'd grow up to be some sort of kung-fu hero!
The creature snarled. Then spun around and raced for Buffy, now angry enough that it was frothing at the mouth. Buffy expertly dodged, then flipped herself away, ready to do a variation of Alison's little trick.
Froze, swaying slightly, a sudden pain passing across her face.
Then she collapsed.
The creature still coming right for her.
Alison, panicked, raced towards her. But she couldn't run fast enough, wasn't strong enough to stop the creature by herself, and had no alien guns around to use.
So she did the only thing she could think of.
She gave her loudest, best imitation of the creature's shriek that she possibly could.
The creature slowed.
Turned, regarding Alison.
"That's right," said Alison, backing away. "I'm a rival animal on your territory. Like in all those nature documentaries." It began to stalk towards her, and she backed away a little faster. "Which means... you pursue me... before food."
Pursue her, who was unarmed and not Slayer Powered.
Alison backed away, uneasily.
Right. Probably should have thought this through a bit more, huh?
Alison grabbed up a glass bottle from a rubbish bin, nearby, as she backed away.
The creature howled.
Alison slammed the bottle against a brick wall, then rolled fast as she could, lurching up with the now-broken bottle to strike right in its belly.
The creature dropped, raking with its claws and scratching against Alison. She cried out, nearly dropping the bottle as she staggered back, but managed to keep it in her hand. Put all her pain aside and ran, hitting the creature when it was still weak and confused, digging the jagged end of the bottle as far as she could into its underside. Stabbing more and more until it stopped writhing, and slumped to the ground.
Alison looked down at herself. Nothing pretty, but nothing permanent. Some of the scratches were still bleeding, and she felt like she'd just been used as a human punching bag. But she'd live.
Then she spotted Buffy.
Buffy was sitting up on the ground, now. Staring straight ahead, her eyes unfocused. Her face blank.
Alison ran over to her. "Ms. Summers?"
"Ms. Summers," said Alison, again, shaking her. "Buffy. Please!"
Still no response.
Alison only knew one thing to do in this situation. One thing she could
She called Martha Jones.
By the time Martha showed up, Buffy was back to normal.
Which wound up being a bit of a problem.
"She's exaggerating," Buffy dismissed, after Alison tried to explain. "I just tripped on the concrete and fell. It wasn't anything... unusual."
Martha looked between Alison and Buffy. Nodded, taking this all in.
"And then, just before that," Alison continued explaining, "she couldn't remember what she'd just said. She kept repeating things, and didn't realize it."
"It's called repeating a point," Buffy said, sternly. "I didn't forget anything."
Alison, frustrated, turned on Buffy. "Look, I was there when Seo wiped her own memory! I've learned what to look for when people are trying to cover up memory loss!" She pointed an accusing finger at Buffy. "You didn't remember what you'd said. I could tell!"
Martha stepped in between the two, before they could take the altercation further.
Calmed them both down.
Then turned to Buffy. "There's probably nothing wrong with you," she said. "But considering everything that's happened, recently... let's just play it safe. I'll run some tests, perform some scans, and we can eliminate any possibility that—"
"Don't bother," Buffy muttered. Buried her face in her hands. "I've done the scan-thing. 'No tumor found'."
Martha and Alison froze.
Looked at one another, then at Buffy.
"What?" said Buffy. "I'm not stupid. I know what this is." She crossed her arms, leaned back against the wall. "I've been having great fun figuring out the British health care system, trying to see brain tumor specialists and stuff."
"Brain tumor?" Alison said. Trying not to panic. "What... what are you on about?" She turned to Martha. "She can't really mean...!"
"Tumors run in your family?" Martha asked.
Buffy nodded. "My mom," she said. "She died when I was a teenager. Brain tumor."
Martha nodded, gravely. "I see."
"And it's the same, right?" said Buffy. "I know the signs. Headaches, dizzy spells, craziness." She gritted her teeth. "And then there's Dawn and Seo. Glowing green. And all kind of hazy, like... they don't really exist. Like I can't even... really... remember them, all the time." She shuddered. "Freakiest thing ever."
"When did it start?" Martha asked.
"In 1823," said Buffy. "When we went after Bilis Manger." Then realized that, with time travel involved, the date wasn't helping, and amended, "About a month ago."
Martha raised her eyebrows. "It sounds pretty advanced for a month-long incubation period."
Buffy scoffed. "Yeah? Well, apparently, it's not that
advanced, because it's still too small for doctors to find!" Shook her head. "'Just stress', the doctors say. You think 'stress' makes you able to see mystical inter-dimensional Keys? Because I'm thinking... no."
"They can't find the tumor?" Alison cried. "Well... then maybe it's not a tumor after all! Maybe it's...!"
Martha held out a hand to silence her.
Then, to Buffy, "You've been scanning yourself using the Torchwood machines? In case they missed something?"
"In secret, right?" Martha guessed. "Which means you wouldn't want anyone to see the results. Which means you'd take them with you. Review them at home."
Buffy hesitated. Then... reluctantly... agreed.
"I'd like to see them," Martha said.
Martha sat in Buffy's apartment. Looking through the results of Buffy's tests. Both from the Torchwood equipment, and from the medical examinations in normal hospitals.
Alison was pacing, nervously, nearby.
"Look... just... don't tell anyone," Buffy pleaded with them both. "I don't want... I mean, if my sister found out..." She cringed. "Mom's death hit her really hard. I can't let her go through that, again."
"And Seo?" Alison asked.
Oh, God, Seo would probably drag Buffy to some hospital half way to the end of the universe if she ever found out! Talk about major freak factor.
"Shouldn't have to go through the whole waiting-game thing," Buffy said. "I did it. It sucked. And Seo has about 90% less patience than I do over everything
"It's not a tumor," Martha diagnosed, laying the papers out on the coffee table. "Not according to this."
Buffy turned on her. "Oh, not you, too! I mean, come on! I'm so not just making this up!"
Martha looked up at Buffy. "No, you're not. I know that." She gathered up the test results into a pile, before her. Then put her hands into her lap. "Buffy. There are two possibilities that I can see. And neither would be detectable by a normal hospital."
Buffy blinked. "Okay..."
"It could be alien," said Martha. "Given your current lifestyle, that's not hard to imagine."
"Yeah, I thought of that," Buffy snapped. "That's why I was all with the Torchwood tests!" She grabbed the papers out of Martha's hands, and thrust them at her. "Nothing! See?"
Martha remained perfectly calm. "But I think the real answer," she continued, getting up, "is that it's temporal."
Buffy froze. Her face melting into confusion. "Huh?"
"I'm not an expert," Martha admitted, "but I know a little about timeline... mess-ups." She turned to Alison. "You said that this Bilis Manger was... altering around each of your personal histories, right? To try to make sure none of you could rescue Seo?"
Alison and Buffy nodded.
"Then maybe this is what he did to you, Buffy," Martha proposed. "Implanted you with a tumor or some sort of long-term illness, and we're watching as time catches up. The Doctor always said it took longer for a timeline change to affect a complex point in space-time, and..."
"...and I'm a Line Hopper," Buffy realized.
"So... what?" said Alison. "She has a tumor... except she doesn't?"
"We might be seeing the effect before the cause," Martha said. "The symptoms are all there, but the tumor or source of the illness won't be physically present until time catches up. Until then, we can treat the symptoms, but we can't extract the tumor itself. Not until it appears."
"But... what if it only appears too late?" Alison asked. "What if—?"
"I don't know," said Martha. "And it's only a theory. There could be other explanations. Perhaps... Buffy's timeline's been mucked about with too much already, and when Manger began to alter it... that triggered something. Like the way that cells' DNA sequencing frays and develops copying errors the more they replicate, except... in this case... the fraying would be with Buffy's timeline."
Buffy didn't answer.
Her face was growing graver and graver by the minute.
Martha came over, put a hand on Buffy's shoulder. Met Buffy's eyes with her own. "Listen. Whatever this is, we'll fight this," she assured her. "Together. Promise."
Buffy still didn't answer.
"And I'll help," Alison offered. Stepping forward. "Just... with anything I can."
Buffy was silent a very long time. Just taking all of this in.
Then, at long last, she accepted it. Gave in.
"As long as you don't tell," Buffy warned the others. "Seriously. Don't say a word. I don't want anyone worrying over me until I actually know what's wrong."
Alison kept her word. Didn't tell anyone. Not directly.
But she spent all her spare hours trying to think up ways to hint to Seo and Dawn... so that they'd work out the truth.