In A Yellow Wood
By Barb C.
Disclaimers: The usual. All belongs to Joss and Mutant Enemy, and naught to me.
Rating: PG-13 for the moment
Author’s notes: This story takes place in the same universe as “Raising In the Sun,” “Necessary Evils,” and “A Parliament of Monsters.” It takes place simultaneously with the story “The Lesser of Two Evils,” and contains spoilers for the series to date. Many thanks to betas kehf, rainkatt, deborahc, hobgoblinn, & brutti_ma_buoni. Additional thanks to evil_little_dog and harmonyfb for the loan of their Buffys, who appear respectively in Backward Glances and All Dishevelled Wandering Stars. This is still a WIP; I’ll be posting the first couple of installments here, and later chapters will be linked on my LJ.
Someone was excavating a tunnel in her head. One of those major, state-connecting tunnels that ended up in two decades of litigation over shoddy subcontracting. At some point the roofing tiles in said tunnel had collapsed, and dozens of tiny non-unionized workers were dying all over her tongue.
Fuzzy. Achy. Swollen. Sandpapery… =What is Buffy’s brain for five hundred, Alex.=
Buffy squinted through crusted lashes into the blinding orb of the floodlamp overhead. Let there be not so much light. She wanted to raise her arm and shade her eyes, but her bones were made of lead. Maybe she should just lie here. Lying here was highly under-rated as a pastime.
Menacing ranks of machinery encircled her bed-table-platform-thingy, hissing and whooshing in time with her breathing. Hospital. She was in a hospital. Because…? They’d been in the parking lot at the grocery store. She’d finally gotten up the nerve to tell Spike about the baby, before he smelled it on her or something. And then Warren Meers had popped up out of nowhere and pointed that thing with all the tubes at her. Had she fainted? God, what a suckorama if she was going to spend the next eight months fainting at the first sign of danger. And she’d been carrying the grocery bag with the eggs in it, too.
Across a million miles of sheet her feet poked out, bare and tan, with a pale sandal-stripe across the arch. Hello, toes! She wriggled her feet, then her hands – were manacles really de rigeur in the emergency ward these days? – and managed to raise her head a little. Across the room, a technician in green scrubs was adjusting an IV line.
“…approximately six weeks of development, though it’s always difficult to pinpoint with these hybrids,” said the tech. “There’s nothing cross-referenced in Bundt’s Prophetic Index, and the genetic signature doesn’t match any of the catalogued species that are cross-fertile with humans.”
La, la, la, Buffy can’t hear you, because Buffy is heavily medicated!
A shadow eclipsed the artificial sun. A balding man in a white lab coat and Coke-bottle lenses bent over her, then turned to examine the pulsing crimson line on the nearest monitor. “Intriguing,” the doctor said. “This must be something of an occupational hazard in her line of work, don’t you think? Let’s take a closer look.”
Bedside manner closer to the Abominable Doctor Phibes than J. Dorian? Time to check out. Beneath the sheet Buffy tugged ineffectually against the wrist straps. Why was she so weak? That IV must hold something stronger than your average dose of Percoset.
A hand plucked the sheet away from her midriff, and something oozed across her belly like a metallic snail. She blinked and looked down. The doctor was running some kind of goo-covered probe over her abdomen, while the tech adjusted the settings on an overhead viewscreen.
It wasn’t a fuzzy grey blur, like ultrasound pictures. This was more like This Is Your Uterus by Industrial Light and Magic. Until a couple of weeks ago she’d never even thought about having a uterus. It was just one more pink squishy thing taking up tummy room. Now?
An alien squiggle of flesh with dark lidless eyespots stared out of the screen at her, floating in a transparent globe of fluid. Was that normal? Or some kind of freaky demon egg sac? It didn’t look like a baby. More like some kind of unshelled, squishy polyp or nodule or… was that a tail?
When the Shadow Men said live and grow inside you she’d never, never thought it meant –
Half a dozen monitors broke into a chorus of frantic beeps and boops in counterpoint with her suddenly-pounding heart. “Doctor Sparrow!” The technician backed off a step, eyes widening above his mask. “She’s regained consciousness.”
The doctor let go of one rubber glove with a snap! “So she has.” He frowned, pursed his lips, then shrugged. “Well, we don’t have the facilities to study it properly here. Extract it, and we’ll ship it back to the Home Office for analysis.”
“Of course, Doctor.” Techie Monster abandoned his attempt to control the horizontal and the vertical, and scuttled from machine to machine, switch-flipping and button-pressing. “Embryonic extraction initiated.”
Spidery cybernetic arms tipped with everything from razor-thin scalpels to buzz saws extended over the examination table, black claws going snik-snik against the light. Buffy tried to choke out a “Stop!” but it came out closer to “Thuf!” A constellation of tiny red stars blinked into being on her goo-covered belly. With a whir of servos, Edward Laserhands realigned the sights, inscribing a deadly scarlet tattoo on her stomach, and a needle the size of a PT Cruiser angled straight for her abdomen.
Buffy jerked uselessly at her restraints. There should be a She-Ra moment here, but she was so tired. In a second it would be too late. A second wasn’t enough. Was it?
A strange sick calm descended over her. She’d felt like this when it seemed so certain that Dawn would die no matter what she did, and some horrible cowardly part of her had been relieved, had just wanted it all to be over. In a second, all of this – the alien in her belly, the sleepless nights, the days of fear and nausea – would be over. All she had to do was lie here.
The technician looked worriedly at the Himalayan straggle of readouts on the nearest monitor. “Should I give her another dose of the adrenal blockers, Doctor?”
No one would blame her, sick and weak as she was. Especially not Spike, who’d turn all his rage and grief on the men who did this to her. To his child. (Their child? Her child? Not yet.) Buffy closed her eyes, seeing Spike’s face, alight with joy at the news that terrified her. Contagious joy. In its glow she could believe that the child she carried was the best of both of them, not the worst, and maybe, together…
Sparrow hesitated, stroking his chin. “She’s received the maximum dose already. Anything more might…well. Increase the anaesthetic drip and hurry along with the extraction, and we’ll get her back to her cell.”
Spike didn’t care if she was knocked up with Rosemary’s Baby; the only thing that mattered to him was that it was theirs. But she cared. She had to care, for both of them. One more second, and she’d never have to find out if that pea-sized alien blob would grow up to have scales, or horns, or a soul.
Or Mom’s nose.
Or Spike’s eyes.
Buffy arced up and sideways, straining her bonds to their limits. The waldo controlling the needle jerked after her as the technician cursed and wrestled with the controls. She flung herself in the opposite direction and half a dozen blades and clamps collided overhead. Panting, she rammed her elbow into the little panel of buttons on the safety rail of the exam table. The table lurched, jack-knifing her knees up to her chest. A stray scalpel-arm bumped her wrist, slicing a shallow groove in the skin before scraping across the nylon restraints. Fibers frayed, fuzzed, and parted, weakening the bonds just enough to –
“Put her under, now!” Doctor Sparrow shouted.
Snap. Buffy surged off the table with a sob, (what was she mourning?) ripping the IV line free. She yanked the release on her ankle restraints and one flying heel took Renfield in the breastbone – savage elation welled up as something crunched wetly and the tech crumpled to the floor. She reached up, grabbed a bouquet of blade-tipped waldos – ooh, bone saw, bonus! She wrenched the saw off at the joint, and hacked through the strap on her left wrist.
She rolled to her feet, swayed dizzily, and took an unsteady step towards Sparrow. The doctor stabbed frantically at the intercom. “Security! Security to the infirmary, immediately!”
Buffy ripped the intercom off the wall. “You tried to kill my baby.” Monochrome emotional haze gave way to blazing primary colors – fear, and anger, and a ferocious protectiveness that wasn’t quite love yet, but might be – might be. Someday. She said it again, testing the words on her tongue. “You tried to kill my baby.”
“Most extraordinary,” Sparrow murmured. Sweat beaded on his high forehead. Buffy watched a drop trickle down his temple with interest. “Young lady, you’ll be a great deal better off if you calm down and discuss this rationally. You’ve just damaged some very expensive equipment–”
She rammed the bone saw blade-first into the tangle of wiring and circuit boards in the wall. Sparks crackled. The lights flickered and dimmed for a second. A bank of monitors went dark. “Oopsie.”
“Security will be here at any moment – ”
An alarm sounded in the corridor outside, a steady whoop-whoop-whoop. “There has been a Class Twelve cell breach in Containment Block C,” a calm feminine voice announced. “Security to Block C immediately.”
“Sounds like Security has a hot date elsewhere,” Buffy observed. Across the room the tech moaned, coughing up blood. She took a step towards Sparrow, licking dry lips. She’d felt like this before, too. The night she’d rammed a big-ass knife in Faith’s gut. “If I were you, it wouldn’t be the machinery I was worrying about.”
“Miss Summers – ”
“There has been a Class Nine cell breach in Containment Block A,” the voice in the hall informed them. “Security to Block A immediately.”
Doctor Sparrow glanced at his clipboard and raised an eyebrow. “Quite so,” he said, as if the faux pas of getting her name wrong dwarfed any lesser transgressions. “You’re laboring under a slight misunderstanding. You may have convinced yourself that a blessed event is in the offing, but let me assure you that it’s anything but. Preliminary scans show a less than ninety percent correlation with baseline human DNA. Your average chimpanzee–” he favored her with a wintery smile, “would be a ninety-eight percent correlation. I don’t know what’s responsible for your current condition, but believe me, I’m doing you a favor in, er, relieving you of the burden.”
“Can you tell if it’s evil?”
The doctor blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“Evil,” Buffy repeated. “Can you tell for absolute certain if it’s completely, totally, leather-pants-wearing irredeemable?”
“Cell breach in Blocks A through D inclusive. All Wolfram & Hart personnel report to the transfer chamber immediately. All security personnel will facilitate the evacuation of civilian employees…”
Sparrow cocked his head to one side. On him, it wasn’t a very endearing mannerism. “It’s part demon.”
Rage boiled up like lava. “So am I.”
Anger burned the grey lassitude from her mind. Anger lent strength and swiftness to her still-drugged limbs. And anger drove her fist at his face, nothing held back. How much was Buffy, how much was Slayer-demon, whether that distinction even meant anything any longer – right now? Not caring. Sparrow collapsed in a broken-jawed spray of blood. “Next time?” she hissed. “Don’t do me any favors.”
The doctor cowered against the door, his face a smashed ruin of blood and shattered teeth. If she hit him again, she’d kill him. Probably she ought to feel bad about that.
As she raised her fist, a pair of security guards in Kevlar and riot helmets smashed through the door and stumbled into the exam room, tasers aimed at something behind them in the corridor. “Shit!” one of them screamed. “There’s another one in here!”
Buffy shoved Sparrow’s gurgling form at the intruders and leaped behind the exam table. The first guard fired. The electrode darts hit Sparrow, who spasmed and collapsed. The second guard hit the exam table – Buffy whipped a rubber glove around the connecting wires, and yanked the taser out of his hands. Flinging it aside, she vaulted the table, hooked her fingers under the rim of the first guard’s helmet, ripped it off, and bashed his head against the wall. He slumped to the floor and she wrested a billyclub from his belt and coshed the second guard in the kneecap before he could get out from beneath Sparrow’s dead weight.
Exhaustion hit out of nowhere, not just a wave but a tsunami. Adrenaline only took you so far. Buffy swayed, staggered, folded to her knees and then to the floor, arms curling protectively around her belly. Shouts and the raw crackle of an energy weapon echoed in the corridor outside. There was a crash, as of ceilings collapsing. “Here! They went this way!” an eerily familiar voice yelled. Footsteps pounded on linoleum. The infirmary door slammed open again, and three slight figures skidded to a halt at the pile-up of bodies on the threshold.
The last thing she saw was her own face in triplicate, blotting out the electric sun.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/234119.html