I don’t own House or BTVS. No infringement is intended. Sadly, no profit will be made from this either.
Buffy was surprised how well her tutorial went. The little chat with Chase had helped even more than she had hoped. Of course, now that she had nothing to busy her mind with, the fear of losing her new friends came back full force.
Buffy shuffled out of the room slowly with her head hung low. It was her allotted lunch-break, but she didn't really feel very lunch-y at the moment. Should she go to the roof for some peace? Or should she try and find Allison, enjoy her company a last time before she was going look at her like she was a monster.
Buffy was just contemplating if it would be worth to find a coin and leave the decision to luck when it was taken out of her hand.
"Buffy, hey!" Allison pushed herself off the wall and walked over to her friend. Chase had been right – she looked miserable. "Care for some lunch?"
Startled, Buffy looked up and gave her soon-to-be ex-friend a shaky smile. "Would you listen if I said no?"
Grinning, Allison linked arms with Buffy and started to pull her towards the stairs. "Nope. You need to eat – at least for your baby."
Grumbling all the way, Buffy followed – a tiny spark of hope lodging itself in her heart. Allison took the grumbling as what it was and grinned. "So, Chase is huggable, huh?"
"Very." Buffy pushed open the door to the stairs. She never used the elevator unless absolutely necessary and it was one of the more obvious adjustments Allison had been willing to make for her friend. "And chatty."
Allison stopped. "You're not mad at him, are you?"
Schooling her expression, Buffy did her best to look miffed. Judging by the growing worry radiating off of Allison, she did a very fine job too. "Buffy?"
Giving in, Buffy started to chuckle. "Got'cha!"
Allison rolled her eyes. "No wonder House likes you."
Shrugging her shoulders, Buffy started to move again and Allison followed quickly.
The closer they came to the cafeteria, the more Buffy started to drag her feet. Knowing the efficiency of the hospital grapevine, it was almost unbelievable that Allison hadn't heard anything yet. But with the cafeteria being a major meeting point there was bound to be someone inside who knew just who the rumours were about. They'd probably start pointing and whispering as soon as they realised she was there. Then Allison would know and only look at her in disappointment.
Taking a deep breath, Buffy followed Allison inside, head held high. She didn't look around the room like she usually would, but went straight for the food line and concentrated on the food. Sort of.
Allison pointed at Buffy's tray, grinning widely. "So much for not being hungry, huh?"
"Wha-?" Following Allison's finger, Buffy took in her tray for the first time. There were two different chocolate-laden desserts plus another chocolate muffin. Next to that were two Reuben sandwiches - something she had to give House credit for, they were delicious – a portion of fries and a bottle of orange juice.
"The baby took you by surprise?" Allison asked, smiling widely at Buffy.
Buffy shrugged her shoulders. "Seems to have a thing for chocolate." Giving her friend a weak smile, she added, "I agree."
Chuckling, Allison paid for both their food before looking for a place to sit. There was a table in the back of the room, and, knowing Buffy's preferences, she walked towards it. Then she stopped short and stared.
Only Buffy's reflexes prevented her from running straight into her friend. "Hey, what's up?"
Allison didn't move but continued to stare.
"Hello?". Still nothing. Gently moving her friend to the side, Buffy estimated which direction she was looking in and followed her example. "What, is there a new- ... huh."
There, in a somewhat secluded corner was her mother having lunch. That, in itself, wouldn't be stare-worthy, but the person she was with - well, that was another matter. Her little sister will have a lot of explaining to do. She was supposed to be at college, studying. Not sitting in a hospital cafeteria, thousand miles away from said college. And, judging from Dawn's relaxed posture, she wasn't here because of an emergency.
Allison finally found her voice again. "Do you know her?" Before Buffy could answer, though, Allison continued in a curiosity-laden voice, "I bet they are related. Their mimic and gesture is just so similar!"
Buffy shut her mouth with an audible thud. That
she hadn't expected. However, taking a closer look, she had to admit that Allison was right. One could easily mistake them as relatives. Buffy gulped. They were
close relatives. She just never thought it would be that obvious. From taking a closer look around the cafeteria, she could tell that Allison wasn't the only one thinking along those lines.
Buffy groaned. This was just getting worse and worse.
"Come on, let's go over."
"What?" Buffy stopped short, looking at Allison as if she had just gone mad.
Chuckling, Allison nudged her with her elbow. "Afraid Dr Cuddy will bite? She knows you already, doesn't she? She's nice - despite what House tries to make everyone believe."
Oh boy. She was in so much trouble. As it would be futile to resist, Buffy grudgingly followed her friend to her mother and sister.
Lisa Cuddy had a great time. Somehow she felt just as comfortable in Dawn's company as she did in Buffy's. As it was lunch-time anyway, they had quickly turned the coffee-break in a lunch and coffee break.
At the moment Dawn was telling her some anecdotes from her time as a kid. Naturally, all those stories put her in a good light while Buffy wasn't as lucky. Lisa still found it hard to see Buffy as the Valley Girl, having met her so much later. It also made her sad, seeing how much being the Slayer had cost her daughter. Dawn, recognising the tell-tale signs of guilt and doubt creeping up on Lisa, quickly reassured her that there was nothing she could have done.
Buffy had accepted it a long time ago. Otherwise she would be long dead. Lisa was shocked at the bluntness of Dawn's statement, but then she started to really think about it. And agreed.
Knowing it was time to lighten the mood again, Dawn asked Lisa, her eyes twinkling with mischief, "So, did Buffy tell you about her first boyfriend?"
Lisa was about to say yes when she realised they had only talked about him in very general terms. "Actually, all I got was his name. Angel. Kinda romantic isn't it?"
There was no way Dawn could have stopped the bubbles of laughter coming from deep inside her. Buffy would probably kill her, but this was well worth it. Seeing Lisa frown, she quickly tried to reassure her. "Don't get me wrong. Those two? Big feelings, true love, big tragedy and all that."
"One could say they were doomed from the start." Dawn winked at her. "And that you would have disapproved of the age gap."
Lisa had been so intend on listening to Dawn that she hadn't seen Allison and Buffy approach their table. In fact, she only had time to raise her eyebrows in surprise before Buffy hit the back of Dawn's head. Hard.
"Hey!" Adrenalin suddenly flooding her system, Dawn jumped up to face her opponent. Or, rather, would have if she wouldn't have been held down. Still, she had time to turn her head and glare. "Ops?"
Hearing the confusion in Allison's voice, Buffy put her tray on the table, turning to her. "Allison, this is my very-much-in-trouble little sister, Dawn."
Having recovered from the shock of seeing Buffy hit a random person, Allison finally had time to look at the young woman opposite Dr Cuddy. When she did, she recognised her. Smiling, she held out her hand, "Hi, I'm Allison. Sorry, I didn't recognise you at first. Buffy has quite a few pictures of you in her apartment."
Dawn gave Allison her best smile. It never hurt to get as much help as possible if her sister was out for blood. Her blood. "Hi, nice to meet you too. Buffy talked about you as well."
Rolling her eyes, Buffy gave her sister a little nudge. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be studying? Read stuffy old books?"
"Yep." Seeing her sister's face darken, Dawn added quickly. "I mean I am. Brought tons of college stuff with me and there's more work sitting in my email account. I just-" Dawn stopped and shrugged. "I just missed you?"
Hearing the honesty in Dawn's voice, Buffy huffed but pulled her into a hug. Only then did she realise how much she had missed her little sister in the past weeks. Not so much the annoying teenager but the young woman Buffy just realised Dawn had grown into. "Missed you too."
The two doctors exchanged a knowing smile while the two sisters hugged. Looking at her watch, Lisa sighed. "Sorry, I'm afraid I'll have to go back to work."
Exchanging a long look with Buffy, she gave her the tiniest of nods before standing up. Giving Buffy a small smile, she tilted her head, "Show those two your house tonight."
And then she was gone, leaving a bewildered Allison behind.
Smirking, Buffy pointed at the now vacated seat. "You might wanna close your mouth. It looks kinda odd, you know."
Allison did as she was told, sitting down and shutting her mouth. "How? Why? Wha- ... what's going on?"
"Oh!" Dawn piped up before Buffy could say anything. "I kinda run into the infamous Dr House and his mixed harem earlier. Lisa dropped in too."
Once again, Allison looked lost. Buffy, however, both feared and hoped she knew just when Dawn had run into them. "And?"
Covering Buffy's hand with her own, Dawn tilted her head before giving her a smirk. "Everything's five by five."
Buffy wasn't convinced. Rolling her eyes, Dawn continued, "I simply gave them something to think about. Lisa was pretty cool too, made sure everything stayed in that room."
"Hello?" Allison tried again. "Am still confused."
Buffy sighed, giving Allison a calculating look. Then she sighed again. "Interested in some house-hunting after work? Well, not so much hunting as having a look as I found the perfect house yesterday. We'll get some take-away on the way back and I'll explain everything?"
Allison nodded. Then an interesting thought crossed her mind, "Does this have anything to do with Chase being huggable?"
"Oh! Who's Chase? Who says he's huggable? Can I meet him?" Dawn asked excitedly.
"Stop drooling." Buffy slapped her sister playfully. "Allison's boyfriend. I. Maybe."
"Damn." Dawn looked sadly at her plate. "I'll never find a boyfriend at that rate."
"Good." Buffy didn't even look up but, having suddenly found her appetite, took a hearty bite from the first Reuben sandwich.
Cuddy rubbed her eyes tiredly. It had been a long day and it still wasn't finished yet. Time wise it wasn't all that late, but as it had been a rather eventful day, she was more than ready to go home.
Having seen Buffy in the cafeteria, or more precisely the defensive look in her eyes, had hurt. A lot. It had only helped marginally when Dawn had popped in later, telling her that Buffy was more or less alright.
And now she had to face the man who, in his false zeal, had hurt her daughter. Just the thought of the venom in his voice as he had talked about Buffy was enough to have her anger at him come back to the surface. Taking a calming breath, she looked at her watch.
Hearing Wilson knock, she told him to enter. She didn't get up to walk around her desk to greet him like she usually would but remained in her chair, arms crossed in front of her. She kept her face emotionless as she looked at him while he walked over to her desk. Pointing to the chair in front of it, she waited till he was seated. Taking a closer look, she noticed the haunted look in his eyes.
Good. So he was feeling bad, or at least uncomfortable.
She didn't smile. Instead she looked him straight in the eyes, raising her eyebrows and willing him to start talking. She wasn't sure if she had her voice back under control yet.
"I … I'm sorry."
Cuddy almost laughed. Even House was better than this. Okay, she might be a bit biased, but Wilson had to do much better to appease her.
Thankfully he knew that too. Taking a deep breath, he started to talk but avoided to look Cuddy in the eyes. "Tara's mom, Debbie, and I spent the summer holidays at our granny's farm as kids. We were close, closer than I ever was with my own brothers. She was a couple of years older, but I didn't care. We always stayed in contact throughout the year, always busy planning our next summer together."
Wilson smiled wistfully, his unfocused eyes telling Cuddy that at this very moment he was reliving the past again. "Then we grew up. She had her first boyfriend, I preferred hanging out with the guys. Suddenly there was no time to go to granny's in the summer anymore. Then she started to date this guy, Michael. She was head over heels in love with him. I went to med-school, she married. She was a beautiful bride."
Wilson rubbed the bridge of his nose and stood up. Walking to the window he looked through the glass, unseeing. "You know how med-school is. There's not much time for anything else. We still wrote each other, though. But the letters became less frequent. Tara was already one year old, her brother even older, before I managed to visit them again. I was just about to get married myself, so maybe I just wanted to see Debbie still happy, still in love. After that I got regular updates on the kids."
Stopping for a moment, Wilson kept on staring into the outside world. Sighing, he eventually continued. "I didn't realise that the accompanying letters became shorter and shorter. Somehow we never came to the same family events. The last time I saw her was the funeral of our beloved granny. Tara was eight then. Debbie looked tired, but I just thought it was because of granny. Because she missed her… I really didn't know."
The last sentence was said with so much regret that Cuddy almost stood up to go to him and offer comfort. Almost.
Taking a shaky breath, Wilson continued his story. "Time just flew by. Suddenly Tara was a teenager. A moment later she was close to finishing high-school and I received a letter that Debby had died and I went to her funeral. It was the first time I had seen Tara for years. But I didn't stay, didn't even speak to her. She looked so much like her mom it hurt. So I left directly after the funeral."
Walking back to his chair, he plopped down tiredly. "Next time I called I was told Tara was dead as well. That she had been shot. That she had made the wrong friends, broke off contact with her family when her so called friends asked her to. Buffy Summers was the name that stood out. I was so angry when she turned up here."
Cuddy's anger was almost gone. She could hear in every word that he blamed himself, yet she kept her voice neutral. "And now?"
"I made a lot of calls today. I spoke to people I haven't seen in years." Wilson covert his face with his hands. "She was right. Buffy, I mean. Tara's dad had started hitting Debbie a few years into the marriage. Some had tried to help her, but she had been too scared. And he had left the kids alone. After Debbie had died, he had started the same with Tara. Even her brother had been against her. But Tara was strong. She left home for Sunnydale." Wilson laughed humourlessly. "Her father and brother went to bring her back home but she resisted. Just like Buffy's sister told us today."
Finally meeting Cuddy's eyes again he finished, "Buffy and her friends didn't kill Tara. They saved her."
Having finished, he slumped against the back of his chair with his eyes closed.
Cuddy sighed. Even if she wanted to she couldn't really chew him out now. It would be like kicking a defenceless puppy after all. Tiredly rubbing her face, she nodded. "Make sure House and his fellows understand this as well."
Cuddy nodded. Remembering a comment from Dawn, she studied him closely. "Did you talk to anyone else about this before? About Buffy, I mean?"
"No… only Dr Marmine. Why?"
Cuddy frowned. "You talked to her supervisor? Why?"
Wilson shrugged his shoulders. "He asked me if I knew her.". He sighed at seeing Cuddy's questioning look. "I'm not really sure what to think anymore."
"He wanted to know more. Something about his fiancée being related to Buffy's boyfriend. His sister or something. He told me how he had died when he was with Buffy."
Cuddy gasped and could only stare as if Wilson had just grown a second head. "You've got to be kidding me!". Would her daughter ever get a rest? "Did he suggest you pursue this? Confront Buffy, accuse her of killing Tara?"
Now it was Wilson's turn to look flabbergasted. "No. Why would he do that?". Cuddy glared at him. "Maybe?" Wilson said finally. "I never really thought about it that way."
"Next time you see him, set him straight about Tara. Do not
mention today. Neither the conference room, nor this meeting."
Rubbing her face again, Cuddy sighed and her voice softened considerably. "Go home. You look like hell."
Wilson couldn't agree more – he certainly felt like he'd just been there.
--A/N: Happy Holidays, everyone! My brain was on holiday when I booked my flight home, so I had five hours to kill while waiting for my connecting flight (basically, taking a train would have been slightly faster). This chapter is the result of it, so I guess you aren't as mad as I am at my brain. LOL. Anyway, hope you liked it!