[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Part three of three

Episode One: Foundation

by cousinjean


Angel parked his car near the emergency room entrance, and turned off his cell phone as he headed inside. The team knew where to look if they needed him. Wesley had given him the news. He and Gunn had been listening to Gunn's emergency frequency scanner when an ETA call had gone through to St. John's about bringing in a Dawn Summers from a car accident.
The desk attendant told him that she'd been taken to surgery, and directed him to the OR waiting area. On the way, he thought over what he'd say to Buffy. Spike would no doubt be there, and Angel really didn't feel like dealing with him; but Angel felt confident they could put their differences aside, if only for one night. All that mattered right then was that Buffy needed him.
She was the first thing he saw as he reached the waiting area. Angel hung back in the shadows and studied her, trying to get a bead on how she was doing before he approached. She hugged herself as she paced the floor. She looked scared. Helpless. She was alone, he noted with rising irritation. Well, not entirely. The man in the chairs resembled pictures Angel had seen of her father. Spike, however, was nowhere to be seen. For all their talk about being partners, the son of a bitch couldn't even be counted on to be there for her when her sister was in critical condition.
Angel was about to go to her when, speak of the devil, Spike entered. He handed her a diet Coke and coaxed her to sit down with him. Angel withdrew further into the shadows, feeling a little foolish for believing Spike wouldn't be there. He watched them. Buffy leaned into Spike, and he brought a hand up to stroke her hair as he murmured words of encouragement in her ear. She took his other hand in hers, lacing their fingers together, seeming to draw strength from the contact. Spike kissed her forehead, cradled her head against his shoulder, and just held her. Spike looked up at a clock, and then towards the OR that held Dawn. Angel realized that Spike was just as frightened and worried as Buffy. He had the same lost, helpless look in his eyes, though he tried to hide it whenever she looked at him. He whispered something in her ear, and Buffy smiled. Despite the awful circumstances, Spike could make her smile.
Buffy already had what she needed.
Angel turned around and headed back to his car.
Hank got up to stretch his legs, but kept an eye on the couple in the chairs. They were so wrapped up in each other and their own worry that they seemed to forget he was there. Hank didn't mind. It gave him a chance to watch them with their guard down.
At the accident, he and Spike had barely kept it together. Buffy, on the other hand, had been amazing, helping each of them stay focused as she made sure the injured got the help they needed. So incredibly strong, and so determined that her sister would pull through this okay. For her there was no other option.
But once they'd gotten to the hospital and Dawn went into surgery ... once it was all out of Buffy's hands, her adrenaline had worn off and reality hit. She collapsed in the chairs, and zoned out, her mind going elsewhere. Spike wouldn't let her go. He called her back, kept her anchored. It was a complete role reversal. Suddenly he was the strong one, girding her up where she needed it, keeping her full of hope.
Whoever this Spike was, what ever the hell he was, his love for Hank's daughters was undeniable.
Buffy stood up and excused herself to go to the restroom. Hank and Spike both watched her go. Once she was out of sight, they eyed each other warily. As haggard as Spike looked, he still managed a smirk.
"I won't bite," he said. "Scout's honor."
Hank raised an eyebrow at him. "You were a Boy Scout?"
"Hell, no," Spike said with a little laugh. "I was before its time. But I ate a Scout Master once, does that count?"
Hank shoved his hands in his pockets and glared at the vampire. "And just when I was starting to think maybe you weren't the worst thing that could ever happen to my daughter." He looked at his watch, then checked it against the clock on the wall, trying to ignore the fact that Spike was staring at him. When he couldn't take it anymore, he met his gaze. "What?"
"S'funny," Spike said. "You don't seem all that daft."
"If that's your idea of a compliment --"
"It's not." Spike shifted in his chair, and cocked his head to one side as he scrutinized Hank. "I'm just trying to wrap my brain around how the hell you could possibly give them up."
"What are you talking about?"
"You. Leaving them. And then staying away as much as you could for so bloody long."
"I really don't see how that's any of your business," Hank said.
Spike leaned forward in his chair and fixed Hank with an all too serious frown, ice blue eyes blazing yellow as he spoke. "Something hurts these girls, I make it my business."
A chill shot through Hank. He looked away, lest his face betray his intimidation. Vampire or no vampire, he refused to show fear to this punk. To that end, he strode over and sat down near Spike, keeping a seat between them. He could feel Spike's eyes on him the entire time.
"I thought it was for the best," he said. "Joyce and I ... things just weren't going well between us, and they weren't going to get any better. Everybody was miserable. Seemed like everybody would be better off if I got out of there. Then I threw myself into my work and ..." He shook his head. "I know I haven't been there for the girls like I should have, but I did the best I could."
"Great," Hank muttered. "I'm being judged by a blood-sucking creature of the night."
"Just bein' honest, mate. We both know you could've done better." He shook his head. "I just don't get it. Not just that you could leave Buffy and Dawn, but Joyce." His expression softened, the frown replaced by a wistful little smile. "A hell of a woman, she was. Good with an axe, and not afraid to use it. Great taste in television, too. Always knew how to make a bloke feel at home."
Hank looked at Spike. "Good with an axe?"
"Yeh." His smile widened into a grin. "First time we met, she knocked me in the head with one. Oh, you shoulda seen her, standing there, brandishing it at me, shouting 'Get the hell away from my daughter!' Like some kinda bleeding Boudicca."
"I take it you weren't trying to dance with Buffy when this happened?"
"Oh, no. I was trying to kill her." At Hank's horrified expression, he at least had the decency to look guilty. "She was doing her best to kill me too, y'know. It was this whole Slayer, vampire, mortal enemies thing." He shrugged. "We got over it."
"Good to know."
"Anyway, the point is, you had a good thing, and near as I can tell you threw it all away for no good reason."
"I told you," Hank said, "I had good reasons."
"Not good enough," Spike said. "There aren't any reasons good enough to explain giving up what you had."
"No," Hank said. "No, there aren't."
Spike sighed, and looked down the corridor where Buffy had gone, no doubt willing her to come back and ease the tension. Hank found himself doing the same. When it became apparent that it wasn't working, he sighed. "Look," he said, "about your car ..."
"What about it?" Spike asked absently, still watching for Buffy.
"I figure you're probably not insured. I just want you to know, I'll cover the damages. You can send me an estimate --" He stopped as he realized Spike was looking at him again, and he was not happy.
"I give fuck all about the ruddy car."
"I realize that," Hank said. "I wasn't trying to insult you. I just want to take responsibility for what my daughter did to your property."
"Let's get something straight right now," Spike said. "She may be your daughter, but she's my little girl." He leaned back in his chair and nodded as if that were the final word on the matter. Then as an afterthought he added, "Although, seeing as how you had nothing to do with bringing her into this world, and you haven't had all that much to do with raising her of late, I'm not sure how well your claim on her holds up."
Hanks fingers curled into fists, but he fought the urge to jump up and hit Spike. It wasn't only the fact that the vampire could snap him in two that kept Hank's temper in check, but also, Spike was right. But then again, he couldn't be.
Could he?
Despite what he'd seen earlier, despite what Dawn could do... it just couldn't be true. Random images danced through Hank's memory: bundling her up to take to the emergency room when she'd had the chicken pox and her fever had gotten too high; taking the training wheels off her first bicycle; consoling her with ice cream after he'd been too late to see her part in the school play; the way Joyce's eyes lit up when she told him she was pregnant again. It was all too real. So what if they were made-up memories? Did that really matter?
"No," Hank said, more to himself than to Spike. "She is my daughter."
Spike watched him for a moment, then nodded. "Yeh, she ... yeh. I shouldn't have said..." His voice trailed off, and he looked over at the corridor a split second before Buffy emerged.
"Any news?" she asked.
"Not yet," Spike told her.
She took the empty seat between them. "That's probably good, right? I mean, if there wasn't anything they could do for her, we'd have heard something by now."
"Probably," Hank said, reaching up to stroke her hair.
Buffy took hold of Spike's hand, but she leaned against her dad. "This is the hardest part, the waiting. And here I thought I'd filled my quota of waiting around in hospitals last year."
She sighed, and at that moment Hank thought she looked much older than her twenty-one years. Her eyes were those of someone who had seen far too much. It hit him just how little he really knew about her, or what she'd been through. He couldn't imagine the weight of the burdens she must carry. And here he was, adding to them.
"It must've been hard," he said, "dealing with your mother's illness. I'm sorry I let you go through that alone."
"I wasn't alone," she said. "I had Dawn."
Hank kissed the top of her head. "I still should have been there."
Buffy said nothing for a moment. Then, "It would have been nice."
Before either of them could say more, the operating room doors swung open and a figure emerged, clad head to toe in scrubs. She removed her mask as she approached. The three of them stood to greet her.
"Summers?" the doctor asked.
Buffy nodded. "How is she?"
"The good news is she's no longer critical," the doctor said, "but her condition is still serious. Both of her legs were broken, as well as a couple of ribs, but there were no serious internal injuries. Our biggest concern is her head injury and some slight damage to her spine. We won't know the extent of the damage until she wakes up. The next several hours are critical. If she doesn't regain consciousness, she could slip into a coma. Obviously, the sooner she wakes up, the better."
At the word "coma," Buffy went slack. Spike slipped an arm around her. "S'okay, Love," he murmured in her ear. "She's alive. She'll be okay."
"Can we see her?" Hank asked.
"She's in recovery right now," the doctor said. "You'll be able to see her as soon as we move her to her own room. It shouldn't be much longer." The doctor gave them a sympathetic smile, then excused herself.
The three of them went back to the chairs and sat down.
And waited.
Buffy eyed the contraption that held her sister's legs in place, and the wires and tubes that ran from her to an IV and various machines. She felt a sense of deja vu. She'd thought nothing could be worse than seeing Giles like that, so broken and vulnerable. She'd been wrong.
"Jeez," she said, trying to keep her tone light. "I always said you could sleep through anything, but that looks uncomfortable enough to wake even you." She reached out and took Dawn's hand. "Come on, Dawnie. It's time to wake up now."
Nothing. Not a muscle twitch, not an eye flicker ... nothing. They'd been trying for two hours, talking to her, singing to her, telling her stories. But she remained unresponsive. Buffy leaned forward and brushed Dawn's hair back from her forehead. "Please open your eyes," she said. "Everything will be okay, I promise. Just open your eyes."
Buffy felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up to see her father.
"Anything?" he asked.
She shook her head.
He sighed, and pulled up a chair beside her. "If she doesn't wake up soon --"
"I know." She leaned back, but didn't let go of Dawn's hand. "Where's Spike?"
"He said he was going to get you a change of clothes," Hank said. "I told him he should get you out of here, take you back to your hotel to rest, but ..."
"He knew I wouldn't go."
Hank nodded. "Still, there's an empty bed right over there. You should go lie down, get some sleep if you can. I'll sit with her."
"I will," Buffy said. "Just not yet."
Hank reached out and smoothed a wrinkle in the sheet. "I've been thinking," he said. "About the custody thing."
Buffy sighed. "Can't this wait?"
"No," Hank said. "I've decided to drop it. You're so much better for her than I could ever be."
Buffy gave him a tired smile. "Thanks. But I wouldn't go that far."
"But it's true," he said. "Now your boyfriend, I'm not so sure about."
Buffy's smile deepened, and she managed a laugh.
"But ..." Hank began, "any guy who's smart enough to realize what a treasure you girls are can't be all bad."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Dad ..."
"Sorry," he said. "Didn't mean to get quite that sappy."
"It's okay," she said. "Occasional sap is of the good."
Hank took her hand in his. "Buffy, I want you to know that I'm not abandoning you to handle this on your own. I'm going to be there this time, to help take care of you both."
Buffy looked down at their hands, and gave his a squeeze. "You promise?"
"I do promise," he said. "And I want you to consider checking out of your hotel and staying at my place. Dawn will have to stay here for a while, and even if you are making good money, there's no reason for you to spend it all on a room if you don't have to."
Buffy looked doubtful. "You do realize that if I stay there, Spike comes with?"
Hank nodded, and looked resigned to his fate. "I suppose I can put up with Spike if that's the price I have to pay for some quality time with you. As long as he won't sneak in while I'm asleep and try to suck my blood or anything."
"Don't worry, he's on a strict human-free diet these days."
"I'm very glad to hear it." He jerked his head towards the bed. "Go on, go lie down."
"But she might --"
"I'll wake you if there's any change." Buffy hesitated, but Hank was adamant. "Go on. No arguments."
"All right," Buffy said, standing up. "This is me, going." She pulled the curtain between the two beds to block out some of the light, then she settled on the bed. She didn't bother getting under the covers. She only planned to rest her eyes.
She wasn't sure how long she'd been there when she felt an extra weight drape over her body. She opened her eyes as a familiar pair of lips pressed against her cheek.
"Any change?" she asked.
"Not yet," Spike whispered, settling into the bed and spooning against her. "Go back to sleep."
"I wasn't sleeping."
"Sure you weren't."
Buffy turned over and buried her face against his chest. "Why ... what the hell was she thinking?"
Spike slipped an arm beneath her and held her close. "When she wakes up, we can ask her."
Buffy was about to drift off again when she realized that the blanket he'd covered her with felt way too snuggly to be hospital issue. She raised her head and saw that it wasn't a blanket, but a quilt. "What's this?"
"Remember that quilt you had your eye on in Paris?"
"Yeah," Buffy said, "but it was already sold."
"I had this one made special."
Buffy sat up and turned on the light over the bed. The quilt was a patchwork of Paris, each square an homage to their trip. "It's beautiful," she whispered.
"Thought you'd like it."
Buffy studied it more closely. Some of the fabric looked familiar, particularly the little Eiffel Tower design that was scattered throughout. "This looks like ... is this my Paris dress?"
"Was," Spike said. "And I gotta say, it looks better where it is now."
Buffy pouted. "Willow will be heartbroken."
"Pft. Willow got to see you wear her Paris dress whilst in Paris. I'd say it served its purpose. Not like you ever wore it anywhere else."
"It wasn't really my style," Buffy admitted. "What else is on here?"
Spike considered it a moment, then pointed to some silvery patches of silk making up the Arc de Triomphe. "This was the tie I wore on our first real date."
"I bet it killed you to give that up," Buffy said.
Spike poked her in the ribs. "Wasn't really my style."
Buffy giggled, then caught herself and glanced in Dawn's direction.
"S'okay," Spike said. "It'll do her good to hear you laugh."
She sighed, then looked back at the quilt. "I love this," she said, running a hand over it. She looked at Spike. "And I love you."
He put his hand on the back of her neck and pulled her down to meet him in a deep, tender kiss. Then she snuggled up next to him underneath the quilt.
"Happy anniversary, baby," he said.
Buffy frowned. "You sure didn't get much use out of your present."
"I enjoyed it while it lasted," he said. "Don't worry yourself about it. We'll have better luck next year. All of us."
Buffy closed her eyes, and prayed that he was right.


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