Hank looked up at the house. He’d been there a couple times, years ago. Before he’d been banished. Spike didn’t let him think too long. He pushed him to the door.
“Stay here,” Spike said. Then Hank was left on the doorstep, holding his suitcase and more bags than he could comfortably fit in his hands. After few minutes, he began to think things. Like, what if they didn’t want to see him after all? What if they changed their minds? What if this Spike guy was just getting his kicks? Who the hell was he anyway? He just walked right into the house like he owned the place. At 1:30 in the morning, no less. He’d driven like a lunatic. If he drives like that with Dawn in the car …
His musing were interrupted by the door opening. Buffy, his little Buffy, was standing there in the sushi pajamas he’d gotten for her. And she was so beautiful. He stepped forward, ready to take her into his arms, but she stepped back.
He tried to think of it as a good thing, like she was letting him come in from the cold. He forced himself to move forward, into the house. When he got through the door, she closed it behind him. Only then did she offer him a hesitant smile.
“Hi.” Buffy stood in her foyer, Spike a silent presence at her side. Hank watched as she glanced up at the blonde, then back to him. “Um …” She was apparently as stumped as he was about this conversation.
Spike saved them both. “Com’on mate. Put your stuff in here. And keep your voice down, if you ever get ‘round to speaking. Nibblet and Red are asleep and we’re gonna keep it that way.” He sat down on the couch in the living room, Buffy beside him. Leaving Hank to sit in a chair.
Hank knew he had to say something. “I, um…” Then he realized he had the bags still in his hands. He put two down next to his suitcase, and handed the other one to his daughter. “These are just … I just picked up a few things here and there. I didn’t know what you might be interested in these days, so I didn’t …” he trailed off as Buffy pulled a few boxes out of the bag. Some were wrapped, some weren’t. There was a book about becoming a fashion designer. “It’s got a whole chapter about the people that buy the fashions to put in stores. You said once that you wanted to do that.”
She looked at him with such sadness in her eyes that he thought he must have gotten it wrong.
He mumbled, “I might have misunderstood.”
After another moment of staring at him, Buffy let Spike take the book from her. She unwrapped a video. It was a VCR tape with Christian Slater on the cover. Several gifts later, she came to the small box at the bottom. Unwrapping it, she opened the box. Her breath hitched, but she still didn’t say anything.
Hank knew what was in that box, although he’d bought and wrapped it several years ago. It was a necklace. A little white-gold pendent of a pair of ice skates. “I know I let you down, Buffy. I wish…”
Hank was startled by the interruption.
Buffy explained, “we don’t say the W word here. Please respect that.” Her eyes – they weren’t just sad, they were old, defeated.
Hank’s brow knitted. “All right.” He decided he should probably stop talking for a while.
Buffy stood, putting the gifts back in the bag. “This is a lot to take in. Spike didn’t tell me … anything. Until you were here. And, I think I’d like to go to bed now. Spike said he’d …”
Both men stood. “Com’on mate. I’ll take you to a hotel.”
Hank looked from one to the other. This wasn’t what he thought it would be, his happy reunion. His daughter seemed so sad and… distant. And thin. And tired. Maybe that was it, it was just so late. She probably had to get up in the morning. He really should be going.
“Of course, of course.” He gathered his things, pausing over the bags for Dawn. He looked at Buffy.
“Take them with you,” she said.
It felt like she’d punched him in the gut. He picked them up and moved to the door.
“Dad?” His heart nearly stopped at the word, but he turned to his beautiful girl.
“This town – it’s not safe. At night.” She paused, her eyes moving to the upstairs, then back to him. He wondered then if she was all right, mentally. She never really was the same after her little stay at the hospital. His worry for her only increased as she turned to Spike and said, “Get him there safe.”
At Spike’s nod, she turned back to Hank. “I’ll call you,” she said. Another awkward moment, then she turned and silently moved up the stairs without looking back.
Spike and Hank went back out into the night.