Story by Zahir al Daoud
Written by Zahir al Daoud, Chris Cook and CN Winters
Directed by CN Winters
Produced by CN Winters
Edited by DragonWriter17
Sound by CSR
Art Direction by Chris Cook
Artists – Chris Cook, Zahir al Daoud, Robert Kidman, Sarah and Humaira
Watchers Council – Infirmary Waiting Room – Night
A crowd stood in the waiting room, extending out into the hallway. Giles, Robin, Kennedy, Willow, Rowena, Xander, Andrew, Jeff, Brell and so on—watchers, slayers, coven members, friends, and family. Besides the ticking of the wall clock, there was only the faint sound of feet shuffling as they waited.
All eyes turned to the examination room door as Dr. Miller emerged, wiping his forehead.
"Doctor, is she—" half a dozen voices said nearly at once.
"Resting," Miller replied, holding up his hands to stem the tide of anxious onlookers. "Her injuries are extensive, but nothing that won’t heal."
Several of the crowd retreated to the corners of the room, where they relayed the news via cell phones to others whose duties kept them from attending in person.
"What did they do to her?" Robin demanded.
Miller sighed. "It’s difficult to say, exactly. She has a curious skin irritation, which I believe is a product of being…‘absorbed’ by this demon Miss Rosenberg mentioned. It will pass. She has a stunning collection of bruises, abrasions, cracked and broken bones, some internal bleeding, all of which seems very recent, taken during her escape, I imagine. I don’t believe she was physically abused during her incarceration, though. She’ll recover physically. Mentally though..." Dr. Miller let the sentence hang for a moment.
"Can I see her?" Robin asked, breaking the silence.
Miller considered this, then nodded. "She’s asleep," he warned. "I’ve got her sedated while her body heals, so she won’t wake up."
"Understood," Robin nodded. "I just…I’d like to see her."
"She’s in room three."
Robin hurried out of the waiting room, while Giles turned to the doctor.
"Are you sure it’s her?" he asked in a low voice.
"I’ve compared x-rays and ultrasounds with the shapeshifter corpse," Miller said. "I’m confident this is the real Faith. Or if it’s a copy, it’s not the same kind as the one we had, and it’s even more faultless. But I can’t see how that’s possible. Unless I find evidence to the contrary, I’d say it’s her."
"Is there any physical indication of how long she’s been…away?" Giles went on.
"I can’t say," Miller replied. "I have no familiarity with the effects of this Chrysalid creature. She may have been absorbed for less than a day, or weeks. I simply have no way of knowing."
"There’s nothing in the library with that kind of medical detail," Willow supplied glumly.
"I suppose we’ll just have to ask her when she wakes up," Miller concluded. "Mister…Brell?" he added.
"Brell, yes," Brell said, approaching the doctor.
"During my examination I saw indications that she’d been treated magically, her condition stabilized, at least long enough to get her here. Was that your work?"
"No," Brell said, shaking his head. "Demon friends do magic, Faith very badly hurt. Not know humans, but do magic to keep body from changing, becoming worse. Was right?"
"I’d hazard a guess it was," Miller said. "Under the circumstances. Thank them for me."
"For all of us," Giles added, as Miller left to attend to his work.
"Creed, and many demons with him, not like humans," Brell said quietly, "but saw Faith fighting in Presidium stronghold. Respect her now, as warrior. Red Witch, Brell have artifact for you, sent by Creed. Needs magic to work. Brell cannot understand."
"Okay," Willow nodded. "We’ll…aw geez," she yawned. "All right, I’ll take a look at it now. We’ll see if it can wait until morning. It’s been a long day."
"Count yourself lucky you don’t have to write up reports for our friends in city hall," Giles lamented.
Willow winced. "Yuck. Want some help?"
"No, no, you get some rest. Normally Robin would handle this, but…not now. He’s had a longer day than any of us. I only hope nothing else crops up."
St. Josephine's Hospital Waiting Room – Night
One figure stood in the waiting room, staring out the window at the thunderstorm raging outdoors. The room itself was very modern...all rounded edges and pale pastels. Florescent lights in the ceiling illuminated the tan carpet, or did when they were all engaged. Tonight, someone had turned them off. An ambient glow from the hallway joined with the moving light from a television screen to provide what little illumination existed—save for those moments when lightning flashed across the sky and the windows let those flashes create brief, stark shadows across the room.
The television provided a little sound. Its volume control was tuned very low indeed. Still, a few words were audible. "What a lovely day for an exorcism," growled the raspy voice from a sick little girl on the screen. A pair of priests in the full regalia of the church approached her bed.
But the one lone figure seemed not to listen. He stared out at the rain and thunderstorm, not moving, not even blinking his violet eyes. Yet something about the way he stood conveyed tension, waiting. Even had he not been lean, with a vaguely feminine and saturnine cast to his features, the way he stood and stared would have seemed catlike.
Maybe it was sensing that which made the doctor entering the room hesitate. Or perhaps it was some mild phobia of the dark or of lightning.
The man at the window did not turn around. He did, however, alter his gaze. Now he looked at the doctor’s reflection in the glass.
"You are Miss Bujold’s...?"
"Her partner," said Dorian.
The doctor walked towards him. Not all the way to his side, but closing the distance between them by more than two thirds. Enough to speak quietly and still be heard. "Miss Bujold..." he began.
"Yes, Alyssa." Now the doctor sighed. "As you know, Mr. Dorian..."
He was interrupted again. "Not Mister. Just Dorian."
The doctor took this in. "Well, the labor was very premature. Alyssa was only halfway through her second trimester. And we all thought this must be a case of multiple births, given her size. You recall our asking you about fertility drugs?"
"Well, there was only one. And that one was...well, large. Larger than some full-term newborns I have seen. Offhand I have no explanation for that anomaly, although in and of itself that may hold the key to the early onset of labor. More importantly, the baby was...the baby suffered from several congenital defects that were immediately apparent. Extreme measures were called for and utilized. I am very sorry to have to tell you those measures were to no avail." He said this last part lowly but distinctly.
Now Dorian turned. His violet eyes nearly made the doctor do a take, not only for their color but also for the pain in them.
"Dorian, we are all so very sorry..."
In a startlingly fluid motion, Dorian stepped past the doctor and reached out to one of the chairs in the waiting room. This chair was heavy, a cumbersome thing designed to remain precisely where placed. Bottom-heavy, lacking arms, somewhat low to the ground, it should have budged only with difficulty. Dorian should not in theory have been able to lift it so easily. Nor should he have been physically capable of turning around so quickly carrying such a burden, lifting it over his head as he did so.
"No!" The word escaped the doctor's lips as he found himself diving to the side.
Without speaking, Dorian hurled the chair at the window. The glass was thick, so it only cracked, and the chair itself rebounded back into the room.
The doctor gaped from the floor. He continued to gape as Dorian turned in one motion to pick up another of the awkward, supposedly difficult-to-move chairs. With little or no difficulty he lifted this one as well. His face was a rictus of pain, of rage, and those violet eyes seemed on the verge of tears. Dorian turned those eyes to the television set.
On the screen, the elder of the two priests peered through his glasses and spoke. Mist formed with his words. "It is the power of Christ that compels you! It is the power of Christ that compels you! It is the power of...!"
The chair smashed into the television screen before the next words were said. Sparks flew, and as if in sympathy, another jagged dance of lightning went across the Cleveland sky, casting Dorian’s shadow across the far wall. For a moment, that shadow appeared bestial, not unlike a wingless gargoyle. From his place on the floor, the doctor stared, repulsed and fascinated. When Dorian turned to look at him, the eyes seemed almost luminescent.
He cowered, flinching away. But when nothing happened save the sound of thunder rolling in from the storm outside, the doctor looked again.
Now, the waiting room was empty. Dorian was gone, although the destruction left behind bore witness to his past presence.
Moments later, a security guard rushed into the waiting room, hand on his weapon. He found the doctor still on the floor, still staring at the place where Dorian had been.
"Dr. Baker? You okay?"
In answer, Baker slowly stood up. He seemed to do so with little or no difficulty. "Fine," he said. "I’m fine."
The guard looked at the room. Two chairs moved. One window cracked. Smoke rising from the wrecked television, where a chair was embedded. "What happened?"
Before Dr. Baker could reply, a nurse rushed into the waiting room.
"Alyssa Bujold is in cardiac arrest!"
Dr. Baker hurried to follow the nurse out of the waiting room.
End of Teaser
Onto Act One