Chapter 7 – ICU, You See Me
Chapter 7 – ICU, You See Me
Intensive Care Unit
Sunnydale General Hospital
Saturday, March 6, 1999, Morning
Awareness slowly begins to seep into Xander’s consciousness. His first thought is ‘danger.’ He immediately freezes, tensing his muscles, which hurts incredibly. ‘What the hell is going on?!’ Xander’s eyes are closed and he makes no move to open them. He gradually becomes aware of sounds around him. They’re not loud or abrasive, but soft, muted, almost rhythmical...and familiar. Xander recognizes the beeps and hums of hospital machinery.
‘Okay,’ he thinks ‘so I’m in a hospital. The feeling of danger must be leftover from fighting whatever demon we were fighting. Yeah, that makes sense, except it seems wrong. So if it wasn’t a demon, why am I in the hospital?’ The thought hasn’t formed fully in his mind, when the memories come flooding back. He tries to take a deep breath, but the pain is so great he nearly blacks out. ‘Ow! Okay, bad idea. Shallow breaths, shallow breaths. You’re safe, Xander. He can’t touch you in the hospital.’ Still not fully convinced, but telling himself to stop being a big girl, he pries his eyes open. Well, he tries to anyway but only one eye opens.
He slowly scans his surroundings. He’s in a room with half-glass walls. On the left are several machines and in the corner is a chair with a man slumped over uncomfortably in slumber. Xander blinks, bringing the man into clearer focus: Uncle Jack. His clothes are wrinkled, his face is sporting the beginnings of a scraggly beard, and he looks like he’s going to have one hell of a crick in his neck when he wakes up. Xander continues his inspection. He can see the nurses station outside the room in the middle of the ward. He turns his head to the right and comes face to face with Giles, his hazel eyes boring into Xander’s brown one.
“You got Xander duty, I see,” Xander whispers, trying not to wake his uncle up. While their first conversation in ten years had gone reasonably well, Xander doesn’t want to push his luck. Besides, he isn’t feeling his best – actually it’s the worst he’s ever felt – and he has a feeling he’s going to need to be at his best to deal with his Uncle Jack. He just knows the man is going to ask all sorts of uncomfortable questions, although he had managed to refrain himself last night (even if it did obviously take a great effort and his friend’s not-so-subtle nudging).
“I’m sorry,” Giles replies just as softly.
Xander looks at Giles confused. He knows he just took a little mental side trip but he doesn’t think he’s been gone long enough to lose the thread of the conversation. But, apparently he has because he can’t for the life of him figure out why Giles is sorry. So, Xander says the only intelligent thing he can come up with, “Huh?”
“This is all my fault.”
“Not unless you were possessing the Old Man. You weren’t were you ‘cause I gotta admit that would open a whole can of worms that I’d rather not be opened. What is it with me and insects, huh?” Xander jokes, his lips twisting up slightly.
“Xander,” Giles says as he quickly glances over at Jack, who’s still sleeping, “I should have stopped this. I should have known this day would come.”
Xander nods his head slightly a few times as if agreeing with Giles. “How? I didn’t even know this day would come...at least, I prayed it wouldn’t.” After a few moments of silence, Xander confides “You couldn’t have seen this coming, Giles. The truth is Tony hasn’t hit me in a while. I think he was starting to be afraid of me. I’m not the runt I used to be. Looks like fighting the forces of darkness is a great way to get into shape, better even than the Y. I’m not saying he respected me or anything like that, but I think he was kinda worried he might not be able to take me in a fight.” After a beat, he continues, “Looks like he had nothing to worry about there.”
Giles quickly moves the three steps to Xander’s bed and lays his hand on Xander’s right one telling him, “Don’t do that. This is NOT your fault. We all know why you didn’t fight him back.” Xander just looks up at him, obviously doubting his words. “Xander, what would have happened if you’d fought your fa- Tony?”
“I don’t know. Little girls would stop making fun of me?”
“Good God, man. To hear you talk, anyone would believe you incapable of defending yourself. But, that obviously is not the case,” Xander tries to interrupt, but Giles doesn’t allow him to and finishes “as the past two years will attest. You have fought, and survived, some of the worst” (another glance at Jack’s sleeping form) “um, things a-and been stronger for it. You always downplay your role and we, fools that we are, have let you. Well, no longer!” By the end of his little speech, Giles is quite impassioned. Xander stares at him in shock.
“Have I surprised you? Do you want me to tell you what I believe would have happened, had you fought Tony? I believe that he wouldn’t have walked away. You’re used to fighting those much stronger than you or me for that matter. And no, I’m not saying your weak, only that th-there are always others who w-w-will be stronger. I’ve seen you fight, Xander. It may not be pretty” Giles says with a crooked smile “but it definitely gets the job done. I’ve never seen you fight with anything less than all you have.”
“Well, sure ‘cause otherwise I’d be dead and that’s no fun, usually.”
“Precisely! When you fight, your survival instincts kick in and I’ve never met anyone with your instinct to survive, although you do seem to disregard it often, especially in favor of your friends. However, once engaged...well, you are still here despite the odds. A fact for which I am most pleased.”
“Thanks, G-man. That means a lot,” Xander says as Giles shakes his head fondly at the young man.
“Ah, good morning, Xander, Rupert,” Dr. Russell intones as he walks into the room. Jack sits up in his chair, moving his head from side to side, cracking his neck.
“Good morning, Matthew.”
“Hey, Doc. What’s up?”
“How are we feeling this morning,” Dr. Russell asks Xander.
“WE are feeling great, fantastic. I’d even say downright fabulous. Definitely ready to leave but don’t worry I’ll make sure I get plenty of rest.” Xander takes a quick look around the room. “So, where are my pants?”
“You don’t need your pants. You’re not leaving. Sorry, but I have definite plans of keeping you in my clutches for a while longer,” Dr. Russell says with a smile. He is used to patients demanding immediate release, especially these patients. Thankfully none of the teenagers are as stubborn at Rupert. Try as he might, Dr. Russell has never been able to keep him in the hospital for more than a day, two if the others force the issue.
“No, Xander. As we discussed last night, your injuries are serious. You can’t just laugh them off and go on as usual. You need time to heal. A lot of that is going to depend on how well you do as I say and that includes resting and not overdoing it. And, I know the only way to ensure that is to keep you here.”
“The gang will make sure I’m resting.”
“I didn’t just meet you last night, you know. I’ve seen you get around those girls of yours. One puppy-dog look and before you know it, they’ll cave. You all think you’re invincible, but the sad truth is that we are all very mortal.”
“Believe me, I know.”
“The good news is that so far you’ve surpassed my expectations. You had us all very worried. Now, let’s take a look at your eye,” Dr. Russell says as he walks up to Xander. After examining Xander, he says “Well it’s still very swollen, but I can get it to open slightly and I don’t see anything in there. We’ll definitely continue to monitor it, but I’m now cautiously optimistic that there may be no damage to the eye.
“Easy there, you don’t want to go overboard. ‘Cautiously optimistic.’ If you’re not careful someone might overhear and then your excitement and enthusiasm will lead to wild parties and chaos. Chaos, I say!”
“Hmm, perhaps I was too quick to rule out brain damage,” Dr. Russell says with a mock glare. “If you continue as well as your doing, I may be able to spring you from the ICU and onto a regular floor. Of course, disobey my commands and I’ll make sure you’re here for your entire visit.”
“You’re an evil man, Doc. I like you.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Flattery won’t get you out of here any sooner, Xander Harris.” Dr. Russell examines Xander some more, writes a few notes in his medical chart hanging off the bed, noting to increase the pain medication slightly, then leaves with a promise to return before his shift ends at midday.