Chapter 2: Ties
BASEMENT TRIAGE ROOM – EARLY APRIL 2021, 4:43 PM
Buffy and Ken are putting Faith on the exam table as I get closer. Immediately cutting away her clothes I turn to the man, “You, what the fu…” ok wide-eyed child staring at you now, “Um, what happened to her?”
“She was shot by a bounty hunter in the Sanal Dimension. I cleaned and bandaged it last night, but it must have opened again when we came back to this dimension.”
As Buffy and I strip her down to her underwear, I notice the kid blanches, turns around and buries her face in her father’s stomach. “Daddy she can’t die too!” He picks her up as she starts to cry and tries to calm her. Letting my eyes roam over Faith, I shake my head; Jesus Christ, she’s a fucking mess.
“What about the rest of her?” I wait for an answer as I inspect the gash running down her head and throat. Ken peels away the blood soaked bandages from her stomach then steps back and grabs my arm to get my attention. I place one hand on the gun shot wound and the other on her neck then chant a spell to help stop the bleeding.
“Shhh baby,” He grips his child closer to him, gently smoothing her hair, “There was a creature, a guardian to the hell dimension, a two-headed snake monster. Stacey and I…” he stops, briefly closes his eyes then continues, “um, we charmed it to get past. Faith didn’t have that kind of power, so she had to fight it to get in.” He takes a deep breath, “She also should have waited for her injuries to heal better before making the dimensional jump, but she wanted all of us here before... well, before someone else died. The stress on her body most likely ruptured any healing that took place last night.”
I look up at Buffy for a second and a world of understanding seems to pass between us. So that’s what the “die too” was all about, shit. Buffy knows Ken and I will take care of Faith. And as much as she wants to stay here, she realizes she needs to get our new guests out of here so they can start to heal their own wounds. Reaching out with the back of her hand, she gently strokes Faith’s face, swallows hard, then turns to them.
“Martin?” Buffy gets his attention, “Why don’t you two come upstairs with me and we can talk a little, ok?”
He gulps then nods over to Faith, “Is she going to be alright?”
I look up from Faith’s hand where I just started an IV, “She’ll be fine, lost a lot of blood, but she’ll be ok.” I say this as much to Buffy as to him. I can feel the tightness in her chest, the worry giving rise to yet another lump in her throat.
Buffy’s mouth is set in a straight line, “I’m going to call Sophia and see if she can take emergency leave. I think we’re going to need both of you.” She leads them upstairs.
Once they’ve left, Ken shakes her head, “This is bad, even for Faith.” She’s holding two compresses to her: one on Faith’s stomach the other on her back.
“I know. Let’s get the bleeding stopped then see what we can do about a transfusion.”
Ken narrows her eyes, “Transfusion? But we can’t, the PtB changed her, we can’t give her blood.”
Taping the IV line down on her hand, I exhale, “I can give her mine.”
“Yeah, maybe in theory, same mojo and all, but, Em, we never tried it out.”
I look up at her and sigh, “I talked to Andrew about it before Faith left, he said the only way either of us would be able to get a transfusion that would do a damn’s worth of good would be from each other.”
Smirking Ken shakes her head at me, “Going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing you are already matching blood types?”
“Yeah, funny how that worked out, huh? I’ll bet the little girl matches us too.” I chuckle to myself as I adjust the speed of the drip. “Let’s patch her up then we’ll do a pint now and see how she reacts. If I’m up to it in a couple of days…”
Kennedy cuts me off, “A couple of days? Have you lost your mind? I’m no doctor, but I do know regular people need to wait almost 2 months so you should probably wait one, ok 3 weeks at the very least.” Taking in the determined look on my face she narrows her eyes at me, “Emma, don’t fuck with me on this and do something behind my back. I swear to God I’ll kick your ass.”
“Ok, ok, let’s see what Sophia says and if Willow can help speed up the process.” Ken is still giving me the hairy eyeball, but she nods at last. “Come on; get her hooked up to the monitors while I draw a pint for her.” I can’t help the nervous laughter, “Although this is probably not exactly the type of pint she’s wishing for.”
HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – 9:43 PM
I’m amazed she was able to get out here tonight. Talk about things falling into place: when Buffy called she was just finishing her shift at Northwestern Memorial. She always has a packed bag in her office so hopping the 7:30 flight was not a big deal. Having the next three days off was almost too good to be true, so she has plenty of time to call in and ask for an extended leave.
As best buddies go, I’d have to say she’s the greatest. Ever since she first arrived in Sunnydale with a small group of Slayers from Spain we hit it off. I helped her with English and she helped me with Latin. Together we managed to tackle so many languages, Giles and Willow were dumbstruck. We were the unofficial official translators of the new Slayer community.
Then through the fight with the first, regrouping in LA, settling here, college years together at Kent State, her deciding to stay quasi-local and go to med-school at Northwestern in Chicago, we’ve stayed thick as thieves. She’s the Assistant Chief of Staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital now. It’s an incredibly important and time consuming position so we haven’t seen much of each other. But, no matter when we need her expertise, whether it is as a Slayer or a medical mind, she drops everything and comes ‘home’. She’s just one of those people who always seem to make time for others when they need it.
A dumpy rent-a-cop is swaggering his way over to me and I break from my thoughts to put on a steely face when I see her coming out of the arrivals hall. He follows my gaze and stops in his tracks. Well, if I were so inclined, I’d say she’s pretty hot; a real Spanish beauty: 5’7”, long brown hair, deep green eyes, olive skin, you know, basically drop dead gorgeous. “Sophia! Over here!” I call out as I slide off the hood of my car; take that, freaking airport police.
A smile that begins to form on her lips slowly creeps to her eyes as she spots me. Coming near, she scoops me up in a huge hug. “God, it’s so good to see you,” I step back and look at her, “Come on, let’s get you home.”
She nods, quickly eyeballs the airport security dude, then returns her gaze to me “How’s Faith?”
I guide her to the passenger door, “Ok, Emma has her stable.”
“Emma? She’s not at the hospital? I don’t understand, Buffy said it’s really bad.”
I sigh, then chew on the inside of my lip for a second, “Come on we’ll talk in the car.” Once we get going I can’t help but feel the heavy stare coming from Sophia. “Ok, here’s the deal, number one: don’t yell at me, I’m just the messenger. Number two: you weren’t there for the first go around, so let’s just say Faith doesn’t do hospitals. Number three: we have everything we need at the house; you’ll be impressed with my latest purchases since Emma’s gone to med school and asked for half a hospital in supplies. And finally number four: Buffy won’t let anyone take Faith out of the house, so all of the other points are kinda moot.”
Hearing a heavy sigh escape her lips I glace over and see her shake her head. “Your sister is the most stubborn - ”
“You are so not going to get an argument from me there.” We both laugh for moment then I take a breath, “Look, Soph, Faith was in a coma for 8 months back when things were bad between them. Then on top of that, there were a lot of ‘accidents’ that happened to her, when she had that 3 year stint in prison, which landed her in the infirmary, all care of the old Council. She has a lot of really good reasons for not wanting to be in the hospital. We need to respect their wishes on this, ok? So please don’t give Buffy a hard time; this is tearing her up as it is.”
She nods, “Ok, as long as I’ll have everything I need to help her.”
“Good. And of course you will also have Emma. Did she tell you she’s running a perfect 4.0 for the year?”
Sophia chuckles, “Of course she is; she’s my protégé.”
LIVING ROOM – 10:30 PM
It’s taking every ounce of my control not to run downstairs and see how Faith is. I haven’t seen her in over a year and now she’s here, hurt, unconscious, and I’m up here trying to have a conversation with this poor man who lost his wife yesterday. God, every time I think our lives can’t get any more fucked up, the Gods or the PtB show me how wrong I can be.
It all finally got to the little girl, she’s curled up sleeping on his lap; she looks like a little angel. She kinda reminds me of Dawn when she was her age; seems like a million years ago.
Seeing as Martin is basically trapped in his position, Andrew refills his glass. Andrew, Willow, Sara and I dispensed with any formalities and are drinking vodka on the rocks. We need something that’s going to dull some senses, quickly. We are just waiting for Dawn to get here with Sophia so we can lock the house down.
As if on cue, the front door opens, “Dawnie?” I ask as I get up.
“Yeah Buff, I’ll lock down now.” I hear her go to her office.
“Hey,” Sophia pokes her head in then strides over to me, “How you holding up?” She pulls me up into a hug.
“I’m fine. Faith on the other hand… Ah, Martin, this is Sophia. Sophia this is Martin and sleeping beauty over there is Nicky.”
Sophia reaches out her hand to clasp his, “I wish it was under better circumstances.”
“Yeah, me too,” he returns to his drink.
She turns to me, “I’m going downstairs; what room are you putting me in?” She points to her bag.
“Second floor, next to Emma, go ahead, I’ll bring your stuff up.” I take her duffle as she quickly walks to the basement with Willow. “Martin, you look pretty beat, want me show you your room?”
“Sure,” he scoops Nicky up, “it’s been a while since we slept in a real bed.” He turns to all of us, “Ah, I don’t know how to thank you all.” he chokes out then follows Buffy to the stairs.
Sara pipes up, “Hey, I’ll bring him Buffy; I’m going up now anyway.” She takes Sophia’s bag from me. “Go see Faith.”
I smile at her, “Oh, ok, thanks Sara, good night everybody.”
BASEMENT TRIAGE ROOM – 11:08 PM
For the first time tonight, I really think Faith is going to make it. I hate to say it, but the transfusion made the difference. Emma is catching hell for it right now from Sophia, it’s bad: ‘taking chances with someone else’s life’, ‘do you think you are above the laws of nature?’ ‘Did you stop to think you are interfering with the PtB?’ Man, once Sophia said that, I grabbed Will’s hand, hastily said goodnight and we nearly mowed Buffy down running up the stairs.
“Oh my God, what’s wrong?” Buffy looks petrified as she guides us back to the room.
“No, no, no, it’s nothing like that, Faith is fine, stable, it’s all good. Sophia is reading Emma the riot act, um about procedure and stuff. We just wanted to get out of the line of fire.”
“Oh…” Then Buffy looks confused, knowing there’s more to the story, “Why is she reading the riot act?”
“YOU HAD NO EVIDENCE THE TRANSFUSION WOULD WORK!” Sophia bellows.
I point to triage, “Pretty much that.”
Emma retorts, “ANDREW IS THE BEST SCIENTIFIC MIND ANY OF US HAS EVER MET. HE SAID IT HAD AN 86% CHANCE OF WORKING!”
“AND WHAT ABOUT THE 14%?? ARE YOU FORGETTING THAT?”
“NO,” she shouts back. “If I didn’t do it, she would have died! Then Emma’s voice lowers to a normal level, “Sophia. I couldn’t let that happen. No, I wouldn’t let that happen.” Damn, you can hear the weariness in her voice. “It’s done now, it worked and Willow thinks she can work a spell to rejuvenate my blood supply enough to give her at least another half pint in a few days. Trust me, this is the only way. You know I would never put anyone’s life in danger, especially Faith’s.”
Sophia pushes out a deep breath as she shakes her head, “Emma…”
“Ok, everybody upstairs.” Buffy obviously had enough of this argument. As Emma comes to her, Buff wraps her arms around her and buries her head in Emma’s neck. With Faith stable and her adopted daughter in her arms, she finally allows the tears to flow. Her voice cracks as she manages, “Thank you so much.”
Emma’s resolve betrays her as well as her grip on the blonde tightens, “She’s my world too, Buff.”
“I know,” Buffy nods and pulls away, wiping her face, “I’m going to stay with her, see you tomorrow.”
Finally upstairs, Will and I flop down on the couch soon followed by Emma and Sophia. “You two aren’t going to scream at each other any more are you?” I’m tired, and really just want to chill.
“No,” Emma looks at Sophia and chuckles, “I think we’re done.” She sits heavily on the other couch and puts her face in her hands. “Or at least I’m done.”
Standing behind Emma, Sophia rubs her shoulders, “You ok? You put in a lot of time down there and gave blood, you must be beat.”
“I think we could all use some rest.” Will looks at Emma, “We’ll work on the spell tomorrow while Sophia is checking on Faith, ok? Get some rest tonight.” She takes my hand and stands.
“Night guys,” I say as I chuckle. It’s funny how my girl knows just when we aren’t really wanted in the room.
“Night,” Emma and Sophia call out together.
Leaning into the massaging hands, I murmur, “If you keep that up I’ll love you forever.”
Sophia’s hands freeze on my shoulders for a moment as she laughs then continues working out the knots in my back, “Hey, what about the boyfriend? Don’t you think he’ll mind?”
“Nope, the Larry ship sailed. I’m a free agent again.” I say casually.
“Get out; he was long term for you! What was it - two, three months? Are you living up to your birthday rites or are you just getting dating pointers from Faith?
I laugh, “Hey, can I help it if I was born in the middle of the ancient Celtic celebration of promiscuity? And as for Faith, she’d actually have to be around to give me pointers.” I don’t mean to sound as dejected as I do. “But, I can see how it appealed to her: get some and get gone, no muss no fuss.”
Sophia gives me a sideways glance; I can almost see her decide to table that comment for the moment. She ventures, “How about a nightcap to help bring on the sandman?”
“Sounds good to me,” I lean my head back in her direction, “red good? Cause there’s an open bottle on the counter”
“Perfect,” she calls from the kitchen.
Coming back in, she hands me a glass and takes a seat next to me. We sit in silence for a while, not really having to say anything to fill the air with sound. There’s a comfort level between us, always has been, even when I first got here. Yeah, there was some blind hero-worship when I first got back from Ebih, but it turned into a friendship found in our deep rooted desire to heal people. It’s funny, as Slayers it’s our first duty to kill, not to save. But seeing as there are so many of us out there now, we have choices the Slayers before Buffy and Faith never had. Although sometimes it seems those two never had many choices either. Or probably more true, the choices they had were never easy ones.
I shake myself out of my thoughts, “Huh? What?”
“Thinking about Larry?” she ventures.
I laugh, “Hell no.” Ok, that gets a huge laugh. “He was a loser, it’s like I’m in my second year of med school, hello, I’m studying all the time. He was always lurking trying to catch me cheating on him, freak. You have no idea how many times he set off the perimeter alarms. He’s lucky Faith wasn’t around; she would have done some serious damage to him.” I shake my head, “I’m staying single for a while.”
Sophia finishes her wine, “Right, I wish I had a dollar for every time you said that!”
“But I mean it this time.”
Grrrr, “Alright fine, want another glass?” I point to her empty one.
“One more then sleep.”
“You got it.” I get us a refill then lie on the couch, my head resting in her lap and prop my feet up on the arm of the couch. “Do you mind if I ask what happened with Norberto?” He was her long time boyfriend. They grew up together in Barcelona, their parents were friends, for Christ-sake their grandparents were friends. They still saw each other after she came to the states, hell he even went to college and grad school in Chicago just to be close to her. Everyone expected them to get married, but they never did and last I heard, he just went back to Spain a couple of weeks ago.
She starts to absently play with my hair, “Nothing much to tell, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
I look up at her, “How can you say that? You guys have been together forever. Something had to happen.” I realize what utter stupidity is flowing from my mouth and stop. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but if you need to talk...”
She takes a sip of wine then leans her head on the back of the couch. “Nothing in particular happened. We just kinda realized it wasn’t going to work. I mean, he’s known about me being a Slayer almost from the second it happened and he’s always supported me. But it was always a stumbling block between us and it just seemed to grow as we got older.”
I turn to take a sip of wine then replace my glass on the coffee table. Leaning back in her lap, not saying a word, I nod, encouraging her to continue.
“Then he asked me if I was ready to give it up so we could get married and start a family.” She’s looking out the window now and she breathes out a very long sigh. Shaking her head she laughs in a very ‘not funny’ way, “I always thought I wanted that, you know, to make ties, to have a good man, a family. We planned that life together since we were kids. But as I got older I realized I could never stop being a Slayer,” she nods again, “an active one at least.” She drains her glass then places it on the end table. “He needed more, he deserved more and I, well, I just couldn’t give it to him.”
“You deserve to be happy too, you know,” I offer.
She looks down at me and narrows her eyes. I can see the conflict there, another sigh, then the decision to proceed. “And then there was always the nagging fear for his safety. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if anything happened to him because of me. You know? Like an assignment gone wrong or retribution from a vamp or demon; and if we had a family? Jesus, I’d be a wreck if I had children, I’d be so scared some THING would be out there lurking, just waiting to take them away from me. Taking care of myself or you guys is one thing, but innocents?” She shakes her head cutting me off, “And I know other Slayers do it but, it finally came down to ‘can I handle this or not’ and the answer was not.”
Wow. I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing. Sophia doesn’t need me to say anything though; she just needed to say it all out loud. I can feel her pain swirling around her and I really wish there was something I could do to stop it, but I know there isn’t.
She looks down at me, “It’s funny, years ago, when everyone here started to hook up I thought, ‘Jesus it’s nuts to be so incestuous.’ But now I see the draw, having the person you’re with understand exactly what you’re going through, think, feel; it’s gotta be a plus.”
I sit up and turn to her, “That’s true, but you still have to worry about each other all the time, just look at Buffy and Faith. They go through such highs and lows, it can’t be healthy.” I watch her as she nods in acquiescence. “Buffy has this whole ‘I can handle anything’ thing going on, but I saw how scared she was of the shape Faith came back in this afternoon. I mean, I love Faith, I know I was terrified she was going to die today, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I were in love with her.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. The grass is always greener, huh?”
I smile, “So I’ve been told. You gonna be ok?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’m going to call the hospital tomorrow and see if I can take a few weeks. That way I can be here to help Faith and have some time to get my head together. Staying here always makes me feel better, you guys kinda ground me. This place has become more of a ‘home base’ than my parents’ house.”
A broad smile creeps onto my face, “I’m glad you still feel so comfortable here. And I’m really happy you’re going to try to stay for while, we like it when you’re here too.”
“Totally off topic here but Martin seems incredibly drawn to Willow”
I tilt my head to the side, “You picked up on that fast.”
“He’s a witch too, isn’t he? I could feel his power.”
Nodding now, “Yeah, me too, his power then his pain. It shot right through my barrier.” Furrowing my brow, I realize something, “I think he’s trying to make a connection with Will. He must sense her strength and probably trusts her to help protect his daughter more than a houseful of Slayers.”
She shakes her head as she reaches over to ruffle my hair, “It’s easy to forget you’re only 22, kiddo.”
“Hey 23 in a couple of weeks, but yeah, I’m an old soul,” I laugh. “You know: mythic relation to an ancient goddess, demonic as well as Wiccan powers, all on top of being a Slayer? It kinda ages you.” I push her shoulder, “Come on, let’s get some sleep.” We chuckle again as we shut the lights and make our way upstairs.