Disclaimer: I do not own any characters relating to either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate SG-1. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only and does not provide any financial compensation.Far Beyond NormalChapter One
She was alive!
Her back suddenly jerked upright as if powered by an electric shock. Her lungs sucked back huge volumes of air, almost causing her to hyperventilate due to the trauma of recalling that she hadn’t been able to draw breath for the past several minutes. Without thinking about it her hand came up to her chest, verifying a heartbeat. And her heart was most definitely beating… probably 300 times a minute, was her frantic estimate.
It took some time for her to calm down enough to pay any attention to her surroundings. She gave a momentary thought to being surprised that it had taken so long for her to achieve even such a limited recovery; this was her third resurrection, after all. By now she should be used to coming back from the dead. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Perhaps it wasn’t something you ever got used to, however. She would be just as happy if she didn’t become any more familiar with the experience.
Even before she had recovered sufficient self-control to look around, Buffy knew she was in a hospital. The smell, the muffled sounds, the lighting… everything about it shouted ‘hospital’ to someone all too familiar with their particular vibe. With her heart rate down to a mere 200 beats a minute or so Buffy had enough control to look around and verify what she already knew. White sheets, starched uncomfortably, random pieces of electronic equipment, most of it turned off. A few blinking lights, and a dim fluorescent glow providing just enough illumination to show five other beds in the room, mobile cloth wall units pushed aside to show that all were occupied.
None of her roommates were awake. None of them were hooked up to any of the equipment she could see racked beside two of the beds nearest the door, so she assumed that nobody was injured too badly. Definitely not the critical care ward, she judged. She verified that by looking down at her body, happy to see that the normal complement of appendages were still attached and functional. No bandages in sight either. Not even around her waist, and when she felt around her back she didn’t feel a scar where the sword had penetrated. Even for a Slayer it would take a long time to recover from such a wound, and some time longer for the scar to fade. She had to face the possibility that a long time had passed since the events in the cavern. The fact that she had survived it at all came as a stunning surprise.
Looking over at her companions, she first noticed that they weren’t Slayers… five of them were male, the other woman well into her forties… and only then noticed how still they were, how vacant their expressions, how relaxed their muscles appeared. They weren’t sleeping, and she had to consider the possibility that they were in comas. She had visited Faith in a ‘long term care facility’ for coma patients, and the antiseptic, dehumanized room she was in, with its complete lack of any flowers or other human touches, reminded her suddenly of that unpleasant place. She also recalled Faith talking about awakening from her coma; how confused she had been, how she hadn’t realized so much time had passed.
Suddenly concerned, Buffy felt her face. No age lines; her hair wasn’t gray.
But the hair was at least six inches longer than it had been when she entered the cavern. And darker, almost brown.
Jumping out of the bed, Buffy was surprised at how lethargic she felt, how unresponsive her body was. Normally a Slayers’ body responded like a well-oiled machine. It was feline, subtly predatory. Effortlessly graceful, it was like a high-performance machine, tuned to respond to the slightest command. Buffy felt… strange. Not so much old as… weak
. Granted there was a teensy weensy possibility that she had just awakened from a coma of unknown duration, but even after awakening from a coma that would have left a normal girl unable to walk, Faith had been able to fight and run. It wasn’t so much that she felt injured, but more along the lines that Buffy felt the way she used to, before…
Getting out of the bed, she tried to lift it… and could barely budge a bed that couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds. A Slayer could lift that much weight with her pinky finger… and Buffy couldn’t. Which, when combined with the degradation of her other senses, made it pretty clear that she was no longer a Slayer.
Since awakening she had assumed that her impaired senses were the result of the coma, or possibly due to being drugged. But she couldn’t deny it anymore. Whatever had happened to her, it had turned her into a normal girl.
It was a lot to take in, and her immediate reaction of abject horror caught her by surprise. Hadn’t she hated
being a Slayer? Granted that having superpowers was moderately cool, but at the cost of having to fight to the death every night, having the weight of the world rest on her shoulders during all-to-frequent apocalypses, well, that part of it blew chunks. No longer having that sort of responsibility should have been an enormous relief. She had often claimed that she would unhesitatingly give up the power if ever given the chance. But she hadn’t been given a choice
, and having the decision imposed on her forced her to reassess exactly how much she had grown… accustomed… to having the powers of a Slayer.
It was possible the situation was temporary, a side effect of the coma or a drug used to restrain her during her recovery period. But it didn’t feel that way. She remembered the Cruciamentem
in nauseating detail, and this felt different. There she could feel that her powers were being repressed: this felt like they were gone
, possibly for good. That thought almost caused her to panic before hard-won maturity shook her out of an incipient tantrum. Even if she no longer had Slayer powers she still possessed the knowledge and experience gained over seven tumultuous years as a Slayer. That experience allowed her to prioritize, to realize that she couldn’t waste time worrying about ‘how’ or ‘why’ it had happened, or if it was permanent. The disastrous encounter with the First had only emphasized how suicidal it was to go off half-cocked, and reminded her to think things through before acting precipitously out of frustration. Before she took any actions, she needed to assess her situation while she had the opportunity to do so.
Giles had tried to drum the process into her head; assess the situation, determine her options, prioritize her needs, and determine the optimum path to achieving her objectives. Being Buffy, after careful consideration, she normally decided that she would just beat upon her enemies until their plans failed on account of being dead, but that wasn’t an option in her present situation. And one thing she didn’t have time for was recriminations. Because she could already feel her growing bitterness, not just over her failure, but over the failure of her entire support system. From Giles to Xander, they had screwed up by the numbers, in way over their heads without the slightest clue as to what was really going on. OK, they had kicked her out of her own home… but that was only after she had come up with a bizarre ‘plan’ for a suicidal, frontal assault on the winery, after getting her ass kicked by the Uber-vamp champion. They
might have overreacted to the situation, but that didn’t change a fact even Buffy had to acknowledge: she
must have been out of her freaking mind.
That train of thought was definitely not
one she wanted to follow if she wanted to stay away from recriminations. Yes, she had failed in her duty… but she couldn’t save everyone. Giles had little time or patience with angst. He felt it was a sign of conceit, not compassion. Demanding that everyone ‘acknowledge your pain’ over being unable to prevent the slightest harm to someone halfway across the world. One point he would sometimes bring up was a rhetorical question asking how many African famine victims they had saved that day. You had to face the fact that you simply couldn’t save everyone. Especially when your emotions were being manipulated, your very actions being subtly guided by a being so powerful they never stood a chance against it. It really sucked that they had lost, but she couldn’t afford to feel guilty about surviving…
That thought brought her up short. She had survived, and she would not feel guilty, or worse yet… disappointed
. Her priority now would be to find out who else had survived, and what the First was doing, and if it knew she had survived. Not that there was a whole helluva lot she could do about it now that she was a mere mortal when she hadn’t been able to stop it when she possessed the full Slayer package, but she hadn’t known what she faced then either. She wondered if anyone realized it now.
Getting back on the bed, she got comfortable and thought about what she would need to do first. As usual, what she really needed most was information. Normally that was the Scoobies job, while she acted as the muscle. Both of those were no longer the case. Her immediate priorities were to quickly find out how much time had passed since the disaster in Sunnydale, and to find out if the First knew that she was still alive. Any plans she made afterwards would depend upon those answers. Those plans would have to be pretty limited and flexible given her reduced circumstances and limited options, but the long-term objective would not change: Find out if Dawn had survived. If her friends had survived. Because come hell or high water, she intended to find a way to set up a rematch with the First. Under different rules this time. Rules which gave her a chance of actually winning.
Lying back onto the starchy pillows, Buffy paused a minute, momentarily diverted by the meaning behind the expression ‘come hell or high water.’ She wondered where it came from, and if it had actually been Hell they faced, or just a lot of water. Likely only a flood, she finally decided, before returning to thoughts of taking down the First. Nothing she could think of would do it… in fact, realistically speaking, nothing she considered had the slightest chance of even irritating the bitch, which truly sucked. Because it had her body, access to her friends, and as far as she knew none of them even knew it. One of those friends was the most powerful witch the world had seen in centuries, and another was Buffy’s sister… who just happened to be an avatar of the Key, a mystical entity potentially even more powerful than the First itself. The thought of the First manipulating them, using their love for Buffy to force them to do its bidding, was absolutely intolerable.
She was still considering her options for doing something about it when she drifted off to sleep.
Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t a good idea to lie back on the bed. As a normal human being, no longer programmed to hunt at night, she required far more than the few hours sleep that was all a Slayer needed. After so long, however, she had forgotten how much sleep a normal person needed, and how quickly sleep could sneak up on her. Never even noticing that she had drifted off, she didn’t realize that since she was lying in bed, under the covers, anyone who entered the room would think she was still just another comatose patient. When the nurse came in to reposition the patients so they didn’t develop bedsores, Buffy reacted to her impersonal, less-than-gentle touch like the Slayer she had once been, lashing out in a movement which had it been imparted with anything close to Slayer strength would have caused permanent injury. Fortunately for the nurse, her new 98 pound weakling status meant that the potentially disabling blow merely hurt like hell.
And fortunately for Buffy, the 250 pound nurse was far less interested in exacting revenge than she was in witnessing a medical miracle. She ignored Buffy’s embarrassed apologies to run into the hall, screaming for a doctor.
What followed was barely-restrained chaos and increasing frustration for the ex-Slayer. Nobody would answer her questions, as they didn’t want to ‘contaminate her responses.’ But she had no answers for the doctors either, which led to increasing frustration on their part as they tried to figure out how she could have suddenly, spontaneously, awoken from a catatonic state. Gradually Buffy figured out that as far as they were concerned, she had been in a state of increasing disassociation for the past five years, and catatonic to the point of stupor for more than a year. Which meant they weren’t going to buy into the whole Slayer mythos, the existence of the Hellmouth, or the threat represented by the First, because as far as they were concerned none of it had never happened and she had really been their patient the entire time.
Although she hadn’t been able to remain in college following her mothers’ death, Buffy had done quite well while she was there, particularly in psychology. She didn’t pretend that she would know a fraction of what the medical staff would know on the subject, but she knew enough not to make herself sound like a complete loon. However, the strain of having to maintain a believable story, to be subjected to the pokes and prodding of the doctors, plus her own distrust of hospitals in general, soon reached the point where she was losing both her patience and her temper. Perhaps it was a good thing she had lost her Slayer powers, or more than one doctor would have experienced some slayage up-close-and-personal over the next few hours.
With the hints she had already received, Buffy wasn’t overly surprised to recognize one of the doctors who finally arrived a few hours after the marathon interrogation session began. It wasn’t a face she was likely to ever forget. Dark skin, bald head, craggy face, expression just oozing a ton of sympathy if not a whole lot of competence. It was the quack who had messed with her mind when she was under the influence of the poison from the Glarghk G’uhl demon- thingy. The memory of him telling her to kill her friends and family made her want to lash out in rage, but she was able to restrain herself by reminding herself that she would never get out of the hospital if she started attacking the doctors. Also, if this clown had been so idiotic as to give her such asinine medical advice before, chances were he was the weak link in the medical chain binding her to the institution she found herself in. Almost immediately she zeroed in on finding his weaknesses, flattering him, leading him on, manipulating him slowly but inexorably in the direction she wanted him to take them both.
Unlike the other doctors, he wasn’t so discreet about her past, or overly concerned with ‘contaminating her responses.’ She made it clear she recognized him and the circumstances surrounding their previous meeting, which led him to talking about what she had told him of Sunnydale and her experiences there. Which turned out to be less than she had expected given his comments during the Glarghk-whatever fiasco. He knew about the Slayer, the vampires, and Glory. He even knew about the Nerds of Doom, although not about Willow going nuclear, or about the First. After only a few hours Buffy had her plan of action on how to deal with the hospital staff. They already knew that she imagined herself to be a hero in a world with supernatural monsters, and they also knew she had become increasingly disillusioned with that world. So she confined her story to be in line with what they knew, fleshed it out a bit, and made it clear that she now realized she not only wasn’t a Slayer but had no reason or desire to become one again, because it had become more of a burden than a blessing.
Since her story was pretty much in line with his own theories, and he was the physician of record, Dr. Vartan ensured that most of the staff was willing to accept her claims without much in the way of evidence. Others weren’t so easy to convince, and with them she had to be more subtle in her manipulations, use a story closer to the truth. To them she would acknowledge her previous delusions, but also make it clearly understood that she knew she was in the real world now, with no way to get back to Sunnydale even if she wanted to, which she didn’t. Whatever reasons she had once had for wanting to be there no longer applied, as her job there was finished and it was time to get on with her life.
Buffy was young and cute, tiny and blonde. She had been able to manipulate men since she was in diapers. She wasn’t a threat, she was obviously recovering from her traumatic delusions, and within a few days she had most of the staff eating out of the palm of her hand. Not all of them, of course. For various reasons a few were not willing to buy into her miraculous recovery, and wanted to investigate what had gone wrong with her brain to cause her to lose contact with reality so drastically. More importantly, they wanted to figure out how she had been able to overcome the delusion and return to reality virtually overnight, without the use of drugs or therapy, so that others might be treated similarly.
There was no way Buffy was going to allow them to examine her in that sort of detail. She knew just enough about brain chemistry to scare her, and was adamantly opposed to letting anyone screw around with hers. Unfortunately it turned out that she was in the hospital for trying to burn down her high school gym while a dance was going on inside, which meant that she was not a patient but a ward of the state, almost a prisoner. Her rights were extremely limited. If they wanted to start messing around with her head there was very little Buffy could do to stop them. To prevent that from happening she had to bring in the heavy artillery: her mom.
Their first phone call after her ‘recovery’ had all the drama and tears of a Shakespearian tragedy. Buffy had been 15 years old the last time her mother had actually been able to talk to her. To Buffy, her mother had been dead for two full years. The chance to actually talk to each other, to discuss simple things like the weather and… well, the weather, was, to each of them, a source of more joy than winning a Power Ball lottery. After the hospital had notified her parents of her sudden awakening it would have taken armed troops to keep them away from her.
Their daily visits became the highlight of her new life. The best part of being in this world instead of back in Sunnydale was that her mom was still alive, and her parents were even still together. Because Buffy had been remanded to a psychiatric hospital by the judge when it became obvious to everyone that she was too mentally unbalanced to be tried in juvenile court over the attempted arson, her parents had only limited powers as well. But since she had been in the hospital far longer than she would have ever been incarcerated had she been convicted of the crime, the doctors were very leery about pushing the bounds of their authority too far outside of the limits Buffy set, particularly in the face of parental opposition. And Joyce Summers made it abundantly clear to all and sundry that she wasn’t just opposed to further testing on her daughter, but that it would happen over her stone cold corpse.
Joyce didn’t care why her daughter had suddenly awoken from her dream life. She didn’t care how many other, similarly afflicted patients her daughter might save if the doctors could figure out which chemical switch had abruptly shifted. She hadn’t seen her baby as a functioning human being in nearly six years and she wanted to make up for lost time. Nothing the girl might do to help other people could justify risking changes to her brain chemistry which might return her to her catatonic state. And if the doctors couldn’t understand it, Joyce was more than prepared to bring in some heavy-duty lawyers to explain the situation to them.
To Joyce’s surprise, although the threat of litigation intimidated the staff doctors, it didn’t overly frighten the hospital hierarchy. The cultural and legalistic situation had changed radically since her daughter had been incarcerated. Had she tried to burn down a gym filled with students in today’s world she would likely be charged with terrorism and sent to Guantanamo Bay, regardless of her mental state. The problem was that her attending physician wasn’t overly committed to proceeding with the series of tests being recommended by the panel overseeing her treatment and progress. Legally that panel had final say over her treatment. But if anything went wrong, and the physician of record hadn’t endorsed the treatment plan, the parents would be able to sue the hospital. For a lot. And Dr. Vartan had his own reasons for not wanting to face a court of inquiry into some of his treatment methods.
The panel was composed of six senior physicians, who weren’t happy with the situation. They did not like surprises. They had nothing against the girl, in fact had barely given her a thought beyond ensuring that her attending physician was providing at least the minimum treatment mandated by the courts, but they also had larger issues to consider. The world had changed, and psychiatric matters had achieved a more prominent position within the environs of the higher echelons of government. Terrorism was a global issue of overwhelming priority, and anything which could provide insight into the terrorist mind –and especially anything that might provide methods of probing
the terrorist mind—was suddenly in high demand.
To them the Summers’ child represented both an opportunity and a danger. They might want to study her as a person who fell under the umbrella of terrorist psychology, but she was not only an American citizen, but also a minor, one who had parents who had made it clear they would not stand aside now that their daughter’s condition had changed.
Any aspect of ‘abnormal psychology’ which could be investigated with the possibility that it might lead to better ways to interrogate or otherwise manipulate terrorists was of intense interest to the government. Institutions which satisfied those intense interests were almost certain to be richly rewarded by a grateful government with lavish research grants. But if anything went wrong –and when it concerned the brain, research of the type they wished to investigate all too often went disastrously
wrong— the lawsuit was likely to be embarassing, painful, and extremely expensive.
Three weeks after her reawakening, and under increasing pressure from the parents, the panel called a meeting with all involved parties to assess the situation and see if they could come to an agreement concerning further treatment options. The Summers’ were not to bring their attorney, although they made it clear they had retained one. In turn neither did the hospital, although their senior representative had also consulted their lawyers before attending. For the first time since ‘awakening’ Buffy was permitted to wear casual street clothing. Her parents were in their Sunday best, the physicians wearing clinical gear. The meeting was supposed to be casual but emotions were intense, the stakes high for everyone.
Although supposed to be a discussion, all three Summers’ were quickly made aware that it was more intended to explain the reasons the hospital intended to proceed with a program that the board had already determined. Nothing they could say would change their minds, and it was soon obvious that they wanted her parents to overreact, to make threats or otherwise act in ways which could be exploited should it come to trial. After a few hours of increasingly intense give and take, Buffy, who had sat back and let the parental units fight her battle, finally asked if she could have a few minutes of the Directors time, just the two of them.
They hadn’t met before, but she knew the type. His arrogance and condescension didn’t bother her. She was used to it. Used to being underestimated. After he quietly made it clear that the decision had been made, Buffy casually reminded him that much of her treatment was being paid for by her father’s insurance, not the state. And the governors of that plan would not be happy to learn that she could have recovered a year earlier, had her physician not been retarded enough to tell her to murder all of her imaginary friends, which so far as she knew was contrary to all psychiatric logic.
Ordinarily that alone would have been enough to make them back down. Under normal circumstances no hospital admin in their right mind wanted to take on an insurance company. But State Security was willing to pay more than any insurance company, and research grants were enormously profitable. The Director was no longer so certain of his plan, but even though the insurance company would put them through hell, he still felt that it would be worth it…
It was only then that he noticed the tiny girl, who had seemed so cute and powerless, was looking at him with a thin smile, her eyes hard enough to cut steel. Suddenly he was no longer quite so sure it would be a good idea to piss her off just to grab a few government grants. When she spoke, her voice was no longer quite so sweet, but as threatening as that of the most dangerous offenders in the violent section of the asylum. “There is something else I’d have to bring up when the insurance company comes to investigate my treatment.”
His name was Dangras, he worked in what was quite literally an insane asylum, and he had faced human monsters of all kinds. Few intimidated him. But there was something about this girl that creeped him out, a ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibe that he rarely felt but knew better than to ignore. “And what issue is that, Miss Summers?”
Her voice was casual, not overtly threatening. He knew better. “I seem to have misplaced something since I arrived in this institution, Mr. Dangras.”
He couldn’t help but take a deep breath and clear his throat before responding. “And what is that, Miss Summers.”
Her green eyes seemed suddenly inhumanly intense, the eyes of a predator, and he knew that he was really, really in for it. In that he was very, very correct.