Chapter 6 - The Xan-man Waketh
Chapter 6 - The Xan-man Waketh
Intensive Care Unit
Sunnydale General Hospital
Friday, March 5, 1999, Evening
The elevator doors opened into the ICU waiting area expelling the Scooby gang, along with Jack and Daniel. Sitting on one of the hard plastic chairs is Willow staring forlornly into an ICU room, with the upper half of the walls consisting of large windows. The group immediately walks over to her but she doesn’t acknowledge them.
“Willow,” says Buffy in a quiet voice.
Willow turns her head slowing in Buffy’s direction and looks at her vacantly for a second. “Buffy…Buffy!” With that, she jumps into Buffy’s arms, holding on for dear life. The two girls hug and console each other silently, both struggling to hold back the tears threatening to fall. Eventually, Willow pulls back and offers the group a little smile, which is actually no more than a slight twitch of her lips.
“Has Matthew spoken to you yet?” she asks.
“Yeah, he told us,” Oz answers as he moves in close to offer her his support. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m…” She’s about to say she’s fine, but that’s so far from the truth it’s not even in sight of the truth. She turns her head back toward the ICU room and says “I’m scared.” Oz wraps his arms around her and pulls her close, kissing her hair tenderly.
“Have they let you in yet?” Faith asks.
“Matthew let me stay with him through most of the examination. He woke up for a moment before, so that’s good. He was in so much pain though, he could barely move or talk but he recognized me. Matthew says that’s a very good sign. He was out again quickly, though...” Willow finally noticing Jack and Daniel standing there, loses the momentum she’d been starting to build up and trails off, tilts her head questioningly and frowns slightly.
“Oh, that’s Xander’s uncle, Jake and his friend,” Buffy informs her dismissively.
“Jack,” Daniel corrects as Buffy just shrugs her shoulders, not really caring what his name is.
“I’m going in,” Jack says to no one in particular, completely ignoring the conversation and the people around him. No one tries to stop him but they do all turn to look into the room again. It’s as if their eyes are drawn to it or more accurately to its sole occupant. Even those who don’t want to, can’t seem to resist the pull for long.
Jack enters ICU Room 3 and approaches the bed in the middle of the small room. Xander has various wires and tubes attached to his body leading to monitors, IVs and miscellaneous medical equipment. Jack can hear the soft beeps and tones they’re emitting and glances at them briefly. They look familiar as he and his team have been hooked up to similar machines several times themselves in the base’s infirmary after a mission gone wrong.
Jack focuses his attention back on Xander lying amid the crisp white sheets. Despite the various bruises, Jack can’t help but think that he looks a bit pale. ‘Well, there was a lot of blood,’ Jack thinks. Jack tries to see the kid objectively: he looks like he’s probably around six feet tall (give or take), kind of on the thin side but not scrawny (not a linebacker by any stretch of the imagination but fit)...and yet all Jack can see is a little boy lying in a hospital bed with white bandages on his nose and right ear standing out in sharp contrast to the multicolored bruising on his face. His arms are over the blankets covering him; the left one has a cast on the lower half from elbow to wrist and is in a sling strapped across his neck to keep the shoulder steady, the right arm has tubes coming out of it hooked up to an IV and at least one machine that Jack can see.
Jack’s just standing there and has been for the last several minutes. He hasn’t tried talking to Xander; he hasn’t moved to find a chair to sit by his bed. He’s in the same exact position as when he first walked into the room. Jack is so busy trying not to see a broken young child that he almost misses when Xander begins to open his left eye (the right one being too swollen to open still). Jack watches as Xander slowly takes a look around the room and begins to get his bearings until his gaze falls on Jack.
“Hi,” Jack says a hushed voice. Somehow it feels wrong to speak too loudly, like it might make matters worst, which Jack knows is ridiculous but he continues in a near whisper, “I should get the doctor.”
“Wh-who are you?” Xander croaks obviously confused. Xander looks at the stranger standing near his bed; he looks slightly familiar but Xander can’t place him. He’s starting to get a little nervous, thinking he should probably know who this man is. He takes a closer look trying to recall, but nothing.
With a sadness in his eyes Xander doesn’t understand, Jack, remembering what the doctor said about Xander’s hearing, answers more loudly “I’m your Uncle Jack. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. You were about 8 at the time. It was up at the cabin in Minnesota. You probably remember running around with your cousins.” Xander begins to look relieved, he does remember that. He had a great time but, for some reason, he and his mom came back to Sunnydale after only a week, instead of the two originally planned. They never returned to the cabin again.
“I remember you. You’re mom’s brother, the one that always insisted that every kid needs to know how to fish. I never did catch anything.”
Jack brightens and says “Neither did I. Still don’t, but that’s not the point. Fishing isn’t about the fish.” Okay, what the hell is he doing talking to the kid about fishing?! Sobering again, he says “So...”
“So...” Xander is trying to keep as still as possible, without being obvious about it, as even just breathing hurts. He focuses trying to determine if there’s any part of his body that doesn’t hurt. Oh yeah, right there...the nail on his right pinkie doesn’t hurt...much.
“How are you feeling?” Jack asks, then winces. See, this is why Danny does the talking on the missions. He just got the crap beat out of him, how the hell is the kid supposed to feel? Jeez, O’Neill get a grip.
“Actually, I was thinking maybe I’d go dancing later but I might scare the locals making them look for their pitchforks and torches.”
The kid’s a smart ass! Jack can feel the smile that is slowly spreading into a grin on his face. Son of a bitch. The kid’s an O’Neill after all. Hey, if he can make smart-alec remarks then chances are he doesn’t have brain damage. Whoo-hoo!