Pain! (Final Part)
That's pretty much all there is right now. Pain. Mind-numbing, skull-splitting pain. I'm surrounded by darkness and all I can feel is pain. Why can't it stop? Is there anything but the pain? Did I ever not feel it? I don't remember.
There was something about a fight. I fought someone and then she fell. Or did I fall? I'm not sure anymore. I remember seeing someone fall off a roof. I also remember falling myself, looking up at an empty roof. Which did happen? Did both?
"Well, here's another fine mess...," I hear your voice. Suddenly I find myself standing in an empty street. The building I remember is right in front of us, we are not standing on the roof anymore, if we ever did. We are down in the street, you and I.
"What happened?" I ask you, confused.
"Why don't you just look down?"
I do as you tell me and there is a body lying on the ground before us. It's lying on the hard concrete, motionless, limps at impossible angles. It's not moving. I'm not sure it's even breathing. A pool of blood is slowly forming beneath the head of the body, which is lying face-down, the features hidden from view by strands of long, dark hair.
"Who is that?" I ask you, not understanding what I'm seeing.
"That's the one million dollar question, isn't it?"
You're looking at me across the fallen body and your face is full of sadness. There is a trickle of blood running down from a gash on your forehead.
"You're hurt." Who hurt you?
"Yeah, that's generally what happens when you're thrown off a roof, B. Don't think too much about it!"
I've forgotten something. I'm sure about that. There is like this big hole in my head and I'm sure something should be there. Something important. It's so hard to think, though. It hurts to think.
"I think I got to leave now, B," you tell me, coming over to touch my shoulder. The touch feels strange. Not real.
"You have to?" I ask you. Why are you leaving me?
"Afraid so. Not sure why, but that's the way it is. Guess I'll be seeing you, B!"
With that you are gone and all that's left is the empty street and the body on the ground in front of me. Looking closer, I can see that it is still breathing, though there is a wet sound to it. It doesn't sound very good. Not good at all.
I lean down. I need to know who this is and how I can help her. It's a her? Yes, I'm quite sure it's a woman. Dressed in leather pants and a black top. Long dark hair. Somehow that all sounds familiar.
Where did the body go? I don't remember lying down. Why should I be lying down on cold concrete? It's not very comfortable. There is pain. Pain all over, like a blanket covering me. Why does it hurt so much?
"My God," someone whispers. This isn't a dream, is it? I try to move, but my limps don't obey me. What is happening here?
"Is she ...?" someone asks. There is the barest sensation of someone or something touching me. Where? Is there someone here?
"She's alive. Barely. We need to get her to a hospital and fast!"
Hospital? No, I don't want to. Hospitals are bad! I don't want to go there. I hate the smell of hospitals. I hate the way the people are forced to ridicule themselves by wearing those gowns with the open backs. Why should I need to go to a hospital?
"Don't move her! We could make it worse."
"Buffy, can you hear me?"
I know that voice. There is a face to that voice somewhere. A handsome face, dark eyes, spiky hair. A name. Yes, sure. Angel. How could I forget? Where is he? Why can't I open my eyes? Damn, why does it hurt so much?
"Buffy, if you can hear me, try to give me a sign. Move a finger, anything!"
His voice sounds urgent. Desperate. Is he afraid? Why should he be afraid? I decide to try and move a finger, since I can't seem to work my mouth. Why can't I move my lips? Why does breathing hurt so much?
"Thank God," Angel whispers as I can feel him touch my fingers. I think I wriggled them a little, though I'm not sure. Why is it so hard to be sure about anything? Even thinking seems hard, hazy. Something wet is touching my face, something warm, sweet, and coppery. Blood? Where does blood come from?
"The ambulance will be here in five minutes," someone says. Xander? Is he here?
"Buffy!" Yet another voice. Giles? I think I'm mad at him, though I have trouble remembering why. "Buffy! Can you ... can you hear me? Or ... Faith?"
Faith? Where are you? I remember you saying that you had to go away. Why? I don't remember why you left me. Remembering is hard. Thinking is hard.
"She's gone," I think I managed to say those words, though I'm not sure again.
I think I missed some minutes there, because the next thing I know there are hands touching me, moving me, and every little bit hurts. Someone turns me on my back and I can see fuzzy shapes leaning over me, asking me things, telling me to hang on.
Another slice of missing time and suddenly I'm in a room, no longer in the street. There are people in green gowns moving around me, their faces covered, only their eyes visible. I know this smell. Sterile. Industrial cleaners. A hospital. No! No, I don't want hospitals! I want to get out!
Something presses against my arm and everything vanishes into darkness.
I'm sure some time has passed, but you couldn't prove it by me. Light penetrates past closed eyelids and there are voices all around me.
"... need to be sure that no long-term damage ..."
"She's coming awake!"
I open my eyes and after a few moments I can recognize some of the figures around me. There is mom. Giles. Willow. Angel. A nurse? Right, this is a hospital, isn't it? I know that smell.
"Buffy?" Mom asks me.
"Hi, guys," I manage, though my mouth tastes like the Sahara desert.
"I'll go get the doctor," the nurse says and vanishes. Angel is standing at the other side of the bed from my mom, safely out of the sunlight, holding my hand.
"How are you feeling, Buffy?"
How am I feeling? Good question. I have no idea. There is that hole somewhere inside me, I can feel it. Something is missing there.
"Great," I manage to produce a smile, I think. "Can we get out of here now?"
Mom gives me a smile, but Angel and Giles look worried. What are they worried about?
"Buffy." Giles comes closer. Wasn't I mad at him about something? "Do you ... do you know where ... where Faith is?"
I shake my head.
"She's gone. She told me she'd have to leave now."
"How much do you remember?" Angel asks. I realize there is a huge bandage around my head. Did I fall on it or something? Everything is so hazy.
"Not much," I admit. "I ... I think something bad happened. Faith and me, we ... we were ... fighting, I think. We were on this roof and then ..."
My head hurts. Did I kill Faith? Did I throw her off the roof? Did we both go over? Well, I'm in the hospital, so I guess something must have happened.
"Did you find any trace of Faith? I think she fell off the roof, too."
Angel and Giles exchange a glance, then Angel gives me his best half-smile and it makes me fell warm and safe. God, I'm tired.
"Just rest now, Buffy," he says. "Everything will be fine."
I believe him. Angel never lied to me. Did the others? I'm not sure anymore. Must have banged my head pretty badly. I'm drifting off to sleep and can hear Angel and Giles talking about calling a specialist or something.
Everything will be all right. Angel said so.
I believe him. The pain will go away.
There is a hospital room. It's not a room in the strictest sense, more like a fictional image of a room, buried somewhere deep inside a mind that is desperately afraid of hospital rooms and what they represent. Sickness. Death. Emptiness.
In that room that is not a room there is a bed. A bed with a single occupant. A girl, sleeping, dreaming the days away in this room that is less than a dream itself. Just like the machine that is attached to the sleeping girl, a crude image of what the mind this all takes place in imagines a life support monitor to look like.
The monitor that is not a monitor shows a green line. The line is even and straight, but every now and then it makes a sharp twist, warping into a spike, then levels out again. Every spike is accompanied by a loud beep, though there is no one around to hear it. This is, after all, but a dream. Less than one, actually, for the dreamer is not even aware that there is such a dream to be dreamt here.
The girl on the bed does not move, except for the barely perceptible rise and fall of her chest. She is not breathing, of course. To breathe one would need to be real, which she isn't. Not in the corporeal sense anyway.
The monitor gives off its steady beat. The girl sleeps and dreams, thinking of a life she almost had. There is a small cardboard sign fastened to the bed, the words "Do not disturb!" written on it with a red marker.
The room has no windows and no one comes to visit. There is only one person who might conceivably come for a visit to this place, and she does not know about it.
The girl smiles in her sleep. She has her dreams and maybe, just maybe, someday she will wake. Wake to find that the girl whose mind she is sleeping in will need her again. It's little more than a slight chance, but she doesn't mind.
After all, you must always have Faith.