Discussions With Daddy - Part 1
Disclaimer and such (see previous chapters).
Notes: My apologies for the long delay, but I haven't been particularly happy with how this story was progressing. I like this first part of the chapter much better than my previous attempts and will hopefully not take nearly as long to complete the second half of the chapter. Merry Christmas!Discussions With Daddy - Part 1By Beriaearwen
Chris stepped onto the porch, a steaming mug of coffee in hand. The sky had yet to acquire the light gray of pre-dawn, but he wanted to get some of his chores out of the way early so he would be free to spend time with Buffy and Dawn today. Not that he had a clue what they would discuss or do. He'd been thinking they could take a ride up to the pond and have a picnic, thinking that at least the scenery would give them a discussion topic, but since it appeared Dawn feared horses, that plan wouldn't work.
He tried to think of something they could do in the area, but he never really paid attention to the local attractions. Adam was too young for most of them and after he and Sarah, well, it just didn't seem important. At least he knew there was a zoo.
A breeze rustled the leaves causing him to look up as another thought came to him.
There was the national park... It would be a bit of a drive, but at least they could hike. Or, if the girls didn't have hiking boots, walk some of the easier trails. Or maybe go to one of the other parks or reserves in the area.
From what they had told him, they grew up in the city, so maybe introducing them to a bit more of nature would open a door for discussion.
Of course, if Buffy really got here as late as Dawn suggested, they may not have time to drive there. Perhaps they could do that Sunday...
A rustling in the bushes nearby drew his attention away from his musings. He waited to see what would show up. Hopefully it wouldn't be the neighbor's dog - again. If he had to speak to his neighbor one more time, it would not be a pleasant conversation.
He didn't object to dogs wandering per-se, but the particular dog in question had nearly ruined one of Sarah's roses. Thankfully Buck had been dating an avid gardener at the time. She happily helped save the rosebush.
His thoughts broke up a few minutes later when a cat trotted out of the shrubs with a small rabbit hanging from his mouth. There were always a few cats around, but most of them wore collars and tags. Most likely someone dumped this cat off thinking that a farm could always use a cat.
A sigh escaped the blond at the thought of trying to capture the cat and bring it to the ASPCA. From the looks of it, the cat hadn't been here all that long.
The sigh drew the attention of the cat who turned and stared at him.
Chris felt his own eyes narrow as he looked at the little furball. A low growl escaped the cat. Chris felt his own predatory side smile in amusement at the little creature, but the man nodded nevertheless, one lethal predator to another.
As the cat drifted back into the shadows with its bounty, Chris smile faded as his mind made an unexpected connection.
He'd been so nervous about meeting his daughters, that their behavior didn't fully register at the time. Yes, there had been the moment outside when they both went on alert, but that wasn't his first sign that night that his daughters, had a situational awareness rarely seen in ones so young who were not in the military or from a war zone. The thought of his daughters being in a war zone set his teeth on edge. He made a mental note to ask them and then do a little research on his own.
Thinking back to the night they met, it was possible their behavior didn't register at first because everyone he knew carried themselves the same way, had that same awareness. Thinking about it now, why would two young women be that aware of their surroundings? And how would his eldest have been trained well enough to move like him - like a lethal predator - a killer.
His lips pressed together into a thin line.
Today, before he let them any closer, they would be having a serious discussion. He needed answers. As much as his heart and gut told him these two girls were his, his experience told him to be cautious, especially with the threat of Ella Gaines still out there.~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~
She was dreaming. She knew she was. And it wasn't even a slayer dream. It was a really nice dream. She, Chris and Dawn were picnicking by a pond. Joyce came up and joined them just as Vin appeared behind her, wrapping his arms around her.
As the knowledge she was dreaming sank in, Buffy became aware of other things – the brightness of the room and something brushing against her cheek. Turning her face further into her pillow, her brow furrowed slightly at it's firmness. In fact, it didn't feel like her pillow at all. Nuzzling the thing acting as her pillow she took a deep breath and immediately relaxed as she identified Vin.
Before she could slip into the peace of sleep once more, her pillow started moving up and down, chuckling.
With a sigh, Buffy gave up her fight to return to the Land of Nod and opened her eyes.
A small smile tugged her lips as she found herself staring across Vin's t-shirt covered chest. She felt his arms wrapped around her and the length of their bodies pressed together.
Lifting her head slightly, she met two very amused blue eyes which were far too alert for this time for this time of the morning – whenever it was.
“M'rn'ng,” she mumbled as a sigh escaped her and her head fell gently to his chest once more.
“Morning,” Vin returned before shifting her slightly so they could both sit up.
Buffy didn't help much, but certainly didn't object to ending up in Vin's lap. Reaching up, she tried to rub the sleep out of her eyes. “What time is it?”
“There's a six-thirty in the morning?” she asked, enjoying his laughter before her brain caught up with what she'd just said. “Need coffee,” she grumbled.
Vin leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. “I'll make the coffee, but you need to get up.”
“But your so comfy,” Buffy replied, pouting a bit. Her pout earned her another kiss and a beautiful smile.
Wrapping his arms around her, Vin stood, slowly allowing her feet to meet the ground. “As much as I enjoy snuggling up with you, we need to get you out to Chris'.”
A sigh escaped her as Buffy. “I can't remember the last time I woke up this early,” she said, stepping toward the bathroom and stretching. “Stayed up until six-thirty, yes, but gotten up...” She smiled at Vin's gentle laughter floating toward her from the direction of the kitchen.
“Might as well get used to it,” he advised. “Day starts early on a ranch.”
“Ranch?” Buffy asked, turning, only to discover Vin had disappeared into kitchen. Entering the bathroom, Buffy couldn't help the small finger of unease that crept into her. Ranches has animals – big ones.~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~
Chris stepped out of the barn and paused. He recognized the engine coming down the road. Glancing at his watch a small smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. From what Dawn, and even Buffy said, he hadn't expected to see her for several more hours. While there could be several reasons for her early arrival, he hoped a desire to see him motivated it.
Glancing down, he brushed off some stray straw as Vin's Jeep came into sight.
He watched as his friend parked easily identifying the two figures inside as his smile widened, causing his eyes to crinkle at the corners. His smile faltered slightly when he saw them lean in for a quick kiss, but shook it off. His daughter could date who she wanted, as could Vin. He just sort of wished it hadn't been each other.
Moving forward toward the car, he also admitted to himself that there wasn't anyone he trusted more, even with his daughter's heart.
He stopped several feet away from the rear of the battered Jeep, allowing his eyes to sweep over his daughter, doing a quick inventory to make sure she was all right. He smiled as Buffy closed the door behind her and turned toward him.
Chris saw her hesitate a moment before moving forward.
Knowing exactly how she felt, Chris also hesitated before stepping forward and accepting the hug she offered.
He felt a pang in his heart as he realized he hadn't hugged like this since Sarah and Adam passed. None of the few hugs he'd received since losing his wife and son had felt like this, though, like family.
Releasing the hug, he moved to stand beside his daughter, keeping one arm around her shoulders. “I wasn't expecting to see you until nearly lunchtime,” he teased, meeting her eyes.
Buffy blushed slightly before muttering, “Yeah, well... Family's important.”
He couldn't disagree with her and gave her a brief sideways hug to show his agreement.
Tearing his eyes away from the wonder that was his daughter, he eyed his close friend and her boyfriend. Vin too seemed well rested and at ease.
“Don't want to intrude too long,” Vin said, holding Buffy's overnight bag out toward Chris who took it. “Just going to greet Peso and maybe get in a quick ride.”
“I was just about finished in there,” Chris informed, indicating the barn.
Vin nodded. “I'll finish it up before I go out. You best go fix some breakfast. I'm pretty sure I caught Buffy eying the upholstery in the Jeep.”
“Hey!” Buffy piped up indignantly, taking a swipe at her beau who managed to dodge back quickly, a brilliant smile on his face.
Chris couldn't help but chuckle at the antics. It was good to see Vin so relaxed and happy. “I may not be as good as Josiah or Ezra in the kitchen, but I'm sure I can come up with something more tasty than Vin's Jeep.”
Seeing the smile on Buffy's face and the slight shaking of her shoulders as she suppressed her laughter, a long-empty, aching part of his heart started to fill and heal. “So, would you like to greet the horses before we go inside?” Chris asked as they started moving away from the Jeep. He watched the expression on his daughter's face and felt the tension in her body before it relaxed. She may not be as open about it as Dawn, but obviously neither of his girls were comfortable around horses – yet. He blinked several times as his thought replayed in his mind and a soft smile appeared on his face. His girls.
“Maybe later,” Buffy finally replied, gently nudging him toward the house.~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~
Dawn glared at the two blonds as best she could through her eyes still half-closed with the remnants of sleep.
Oddly, it wasn't the banging around in the kitchen preparing breakfast that woke her, it was the sound of Buffy's laughter, something she realized, she heard far too rarely.
Still, it just wasn't fair that they were all awake and perky and awake and chipper and awake at eight-freaking-o'clock in the morning on a Saturday.
And what was with that? Buffy was worse than her when it came to chances to sleep in.
“You going to glare all morning or are you going to eat something?” Chris asked, slipping a cup of coffee in front of his younger daughter, amusement clear in his tone.
Dawn offered a noncommittal grunt in response as her hands automatically reached for the sugar and milk. Later. She would answer that question later. “Caffeine now,” she managed to say before the mug of coffee reached her mouth.
As the first drops of coffee touched her tongue, her eyes slipped closed and a shiver raced through her.
Yeah. Coffee was the best.
Savoring one sip after the other, she finally opened her eyes and set her nearly empty cup on the table only to spot her father staring at her with an unreadable look on his face. “What?” she asked, her mind still working its way up to human.
Chris opened his mouth, had words fail him, closed his mouth and shook his head. “Nothing,” he offered as he slid onto his chair.
The sound of a plate being placed on the table distracted Dawn from staring at her father. Her eyes grew wide in excitement and appreciation as she inhaled the smell of fresh pancakes, sausages and eggs.
“Food,” she quickly identified, reaching immediately for the eggs. Her hand froze over the edge of the plate, though as she locked her gaze on her sister. “You didn't cook it did you?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “You survived my cooking for over a year. You know I've gotten better, but, to answer your question, no, I did not cook this. Chris did.”
Dawn's shoulders relaxed in relief. “Thank God for big favors,” she muttered , ignoring the indignant protest from her sister as at least a quarter of the eggs landed on her plate before she handed them to her father.
She froze for a moment, the thought still alien to her, even with the implanted memories of Hank. Her eyes slid to take in the man on her right. Her lower lip found its way between her teeth as worry began to fill her.
Quickly turning her head toward her sister, Dawn saw Buffy offering the plate of pancakes. She also saw the assurance and love in her sister's eyes and let go of her own fears. Offering a small smile of thanks, Dawn took the offered plate, glanced at it, then at Buffy's plate and spared a glare for her older sister before taking the majority of the remaining pancakes – not that there were that many. Stupid Slayer metabolism.
“Enjoy a big breakfast?” Chris asked.
The sisters exchanged a brief glance. They'd faced this before and Dawn felt a moment of wistfulness as she heard Buffy give the standard response.
“Most important meal of the day.”
Their mother had told them that, taught them that. Even after all this time, after discovering she'd really only known her mother for a few months, she missed her horribly. Her eyes then slid toward Chris once more. She might always miss her mother, but she now had the opportunity to not miss her father.
“So, I was thinking we might do some hiking today,” Chris offered, breaking the silence that had descended over the table.
“Around here?” Buffy asked, curiosity in her voice and apparent on her face.
“We could,” Chris offered. “But there are a number of national and state parks in the area. I thought we might give one of them a try today.”
She'd never really been an outdoor girl, neither of them were, but they were in Denver now, starting a whole new phase of life, and the outdoors seemed important to their father. A hike she could handle, especially since she was pretty sure he'd rather be riding. “Sounds like fun,” she piped in with a genuine smile.
Catching the bright smile on her sister's face and remembering the other woman's bubbly wakefulness earlier, Dawn briefly, she wondered if she could get Buffy lost in the woods.~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~
The small Larabee/Summers family made their way through the woods, chatting and laughing together.
The nervousness that seemed to plague their interactions earlier slowly dissipated as they hiked the sun-dappled trail and found things in common. Of course, Chris' favorite pastime was getting his girls to talk about their childhood misadventures. He noticed when he first brought it up that neither girl seemed particularly eager to share, but after sharing some of his own misadventures, first Buffy and then Dawn seemed to open up about their past.
Chris also loved their expressions of awe at the views along the trail. He could tell they hadn't ever really seen the land in this way before and felt pleased that he could bring them this experience. Maybe someday, once they got over their nervousness about horses, they could ride some of the trails as well.
The smile on his face caused his eyes to crinkle at the corners as he thought of the fun of teaching his daughters to ride.
"You're thinking about us riding again aren't you?"
Looking over at his younger daughter, Chris' smile widened. "Yep."
Stepping up beside her father, Buffy slipped her arm around his. "Can't say I'm overly excited at the idea of being that high off the ground, but for you, I'll make the exception."
Slipping his arm out of her grasp, he draped it around her shoulders. "I look forward to it," he assured, placing a quick kiss on the side of her head.
Dawn appeared on his other side, slipping under his free arm.
Chris smiled down at her.
As the trio reached the top of the mountain they'd been climbing, Chris couldn't help but smile at the awe and wonder on his daughter's faces. ~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~
They were halfway down the mountain trail when Dawn noticed Buffy's stride change. The cautious looks her older sister was sending to their surrounding area let her know there something supernatural decided to take advantage of the day as well.
They didn't have to say anything. A few looks and a hand gesture or two let Dawn know that Buffy would handle it and return. Her job would be to keep Chris from noticing Buffy's disappearance.
She felt a faint flicker of guilt at the excitement she felt about having her father to herself for a while.
Focusing her attention on Chris, she did her best to draw her whole attention to him as she lengthened her stride, knowing he would unconsciously keep up and it would give them an excuse why Buffy fell behind. Sometimes being tall had its advantages.
Dawn felt her stomach knot as Buffy disappeared from sight. No matter how many times Buffy did things like this, she always worried.
After ten minutes or so, Chris stopped. "Where's Buffy?"
Dawn, who had been wondering that herself, felt worse as she saw the real concern on Chris' face. She had a brief wi... desire that her father wasn't as perceptive as she knew him to be.
Trying to think of an excuse, Dawn felt relief flood her as Buffy appeared on the trail in front of them. Her eyes widened as she took in her sister's disheveled appearance. Reaching up, Dawn brushed her cheek and hair.
Taking the hint, Buffy swiped at her cheek, removing the neon orange smear before wiping her hand on her pants.
Dawn cringed as she realized her movements had caught Chris' attention.
Turning, the blond man caught sight of his older daughter. "Buffy!" he exclaimed striding toward her, taking in her disheveled appearance and the rents in her clothing obviously made by claws. "What happened?" he demanded, scanning the area and becoming alert.
"I was looking around and lost track of you guys and then I saw the cutest..." Buffy's voice trailed off under the weight of her father's glare.
Dawn figured it wasn't so much the glare, though, as the compassion and worry behind the glare that caused Buffy to stop mid-lie.
Meeting Buffy's eyes once more, Dawn shrugged, feeling helpless. They were just beginning to get to know each other, to get comfortable with each other and now they might lose him. Dawn's eyebrows rose at the words Buffy muttered next.
"Of course Vin's right. Should have known." Straightening her shoulders Buffy met her father's eyes. "I promise you, it's not whatever you're thinking. We were planning on telling you later when we knew each other better, but maybe it's best to do this now."
Fear clutched at Dawn's heart. She knew how badly this could go. Her eyes locked on her father, her fear increasing as she saw how stiffly he stood, at how tightly he clenched his jaw. She unconsciously took a step back.
Her small movement drew Chris' attention to his younger daughter. Dawn knew her fear must be showing on her face - fear of losing this new family, fear of his reaction and his ability to hurt her emotionally even after so short an acquaintance.
She watched as her father closed his eyes and took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. When he opened his eyes again, the anger no longer showed in them.
"Whatever this is, we will face it together as a family," he said, his voice brooking no argument.
Dawn bit her lip and sent a hopeful look toward Buffy and saw her own hope tempered by doubt in her sister's eyes.
Buffy nodded at their father. “All right. But this isn't really the place.”
Chris nodded and took a step forward, this time avoiding contact with this daughters. “Let's head back to the ranch then.”
The girls nodded and followed.To be continued in "Discussions With Daddy -Part 2"