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Summers Vacation

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This story is No. 19 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: A set of stories and vignettes that depict Hank's relations with his daughters in the the Waifs and Strays universe

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Action/Adventure(Current Donor)vidiconFR713,0972161,75825 Jan 1225 Jan 12No
Summers Vacation

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo and EllandrahSylver.

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. And you can thank Twilightwanderer for the Abbott and Costello.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

This story was written for a great part by Letomo and added to by me. Many thanks, Letomo!

The Tail gunner’s tale

Hank looked at his daughters as they giggled and laughed and mixed with their relatives, saying goodbye. He felt his heart contract when Dawn hugged and kissed Simon. That was a daughter’s embrace. *Have I lost her already?*

He sighed and shook his head. Dawn had shown affection to Simon, but that did not mean that he had lost her. And if he did, as his mother rather acidly had pointed out, it was his own stupid mistake for putting his career before his children and for thinking that money and worldly goods were the reason the girls loved Simon. His mother had moved to Florida with her second husband, a cousin of her father, to live out their golden years on the Keys.

Hank shuddered. Bill Summers was a great guy, his father’s cousin. And he and his mother had a very err… healthy relationship. Very healthy. The seclusion of their house, on the edge of the Everglades, allowed them to be as healthy as they wanted. Hank still shivered at the memory of explaining to an intensely curious six year old Buffy why Gramma and Grappa were making all those noises. Joyce had very firmly, and with a very wide grin, told him they were his mother and stepfather and therefore explaining that was his responsibility. *I can’t remember Mom and Pop ever being as loud… Oh God, I did not just think that…*

Joyce approached him and smiled. “They’re in the trunk, under the blanket.”

Hank smiled back. “Thank you. The surprise will be better that way.”

Joyce nodded. “It will.” Then she sobered and gave him a dark look.  “Hank? Why doesn’t your secretary know about the girls?”

Hank blinked. “Caroline? She’s known about them since they were born. He-ck,” Hank quickly changed his choice of words. The Ellis eyebrow had risen and Joyce was right, there were far too many children about to use language. “She’s seen the photographs on my desk. She got your call the day you went into labor with Dawn.”

Joyce’s eyes narrowed. “I see. Well someone in your office who said she was your secretary told Dawn she didn’t know you had children…”

Hank winced. “Ouch. I don’t know, Joyce. If Caroline was out, it may have been an intern, or a temp.” He shrugged rather helplessly. “I’ll apologize. And I’ll ask Caroline to inform anyone who might answer the phone about who Buffy and Dawn are.”

Joyce nodded. “So you didn’t sack Caroline and hire a younger woman?”

Hank hid his wince. “I wouldn’t even if I could. Sometimes I think Caroline knows more about my cases than I do. I’ll make it up to Dawn, I promise.”

Joyce nodded. “Very good. Have a nice weekend then.” She hesitated, and then left. Hank sighed. He doubted she would ever kiss his cheek again. He’d said things in the heat of his anger and fear that she could, would, never forgive. And the idiocy of cheating on her… He grimaced and grinned ruefully. *As a lawyer, I knew that was wrong. It sure as hell cost a lot of extra alimony and child support every month.*

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The drive to LA had started out quietly, but the longer they drove, the more the girls opened up.  Oh, not completely, Hank could tell they were editing a few things, but he figured it had to do with trying to pull Simon out of the stories to spare his feelings.  When they reached the City, he took them to his apartment first, so they could drop off their bags, being careful to get them out of the trunk himself, then out to a restaurant to eat a late lunch. He had brought flyers so Dawn could pick a movie they would go to later. Buffy pouted at that, but Hank hardened his heart. Buffy would just have to wait until later for her own surprise. He was fairly sure it would make up for it. He smiled a little in anticipation. 

The restaurant he’d picked wasn't one of the big, touristy restaurants, but a simple one.  One of the ones they had gone to before things fell apart.  One with lots of memories of laughter and love associated with it. It was a family restaurant and the waitress remembered them and brought them all their usual drinks. Her gaze rested for a moment on Hank’s hand, noting the absence of a ring. Hank smiled at her a little uncertainly and she smiled back, a touch of sadness in her eyes, and took their orders.

Hank sat between his daughters as they watched the movie and then he took them home and they made pancakes for dinner and Dawn got to go to bed late. Buffy went to bed early, at least for her, and Hank followed soon after. It had been quite emotional to listen to the veterans telling their stories.

He’d seen the shocked looks on people’s faces when they realized quite what the decorations on Colonel Carnahan’s chest meant. Hank shuddered. He wasn’t close to most of his college year mates anymore, but it would have been different to lose them all, one rainy day, while climbing out of a muddy trench onto a field in Flanders…

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Saturday morning dawned bright and early with Dawn jumping on his bed. Hank smiled. It was odd the things you missed. He got up and started breakfast. It was very rare that his youngest daughter was up before his eldest, so when he heard Buffy’s horrified scream he knew that Dawn had taken vengeance. And when he heard the squealing laughter, he knew that Buffy was enacting hers.

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 “So what are we doing today?” Dawn asked, stuffing her face with waffles and cream.

“Well, I was thinking of taking you to the zoo and watch the fishes…” Hank teased.

Buffy groaned. “Dad!”

“Well the shops are closed,” Hank continued teasing.

Dawn giggled. “It’s a surprise?”

Hank nodded. “I’d blindfold you, but I doubt it would work.”

“Puh,” Buffy pouted. But she followed him to the car without complaint. They talked about school, and Dawn rather diffidently told about how she met Kit. Hank suppressed his anger. *Joyce actually took that bully into the house, let her near Dawn?*

And then he heard the story of the beating, and how a nine year old girl had lived alone for months, surviving on a single meal per day. And Hank Summers very quietly retracted his earlier thought.

Dawn and Buffy got into an argument about whether or not Buffy was a shoe horse or a clothes beast and they ceased paying attention to where he was driving. He passed by the turn to the zoo and Buffy let out a sigh of relief and went back to talking to Dawn.   

After that, he drove them in a different direction.  The two girls seemed to be chatting to each other, Dawn in the backseat, Buffy to his right.  He was less concerned with what they were discussing, and more with getting the directions right, when Dawn yipped in the backseat.

"OW!"

"What's wrong, Pumpkin?" He asked rather worried. If anything serious happened to Dawn while with him, Joyce would kill him.

"I cut myself on something on the door," she mumbled around the finger she’d stuck in her mouth.

"Do I need to stop and get a Band-aid?"

Dawn pulled the finger out and inspected it.  "Uh, I don't think so.  It's not bad."

Buffy had turned around to look at it, and the younger girl showed the little wound to her. "She's right, it isn't bad. Just a little cut. Like a paper cut, just a bit deeper."

Hank was actually glad for the little wound, in a way. It distracted the girls, and they didn't notice where they were.  He pulled the car to a stop, and opened the door.  "Well, we're here.  I know there probably aren't a whole lot of places to do it in Sunnydale, but I thought you'd enjoy an afternoon here."

The two girls got out of the car, and squealed in near unison.  Hank was turned away, walking to the entrance, when he felt Buffy rush by his side.  Dawn, on the other hand, he didn't even see - she must have been on the other side of Buffy.  She somehow beat them both to the fence, and tried to get one of the horses to come near so she could pet it.

Hank smiled at the girls.  The horses, the riding, had always been his thing.  Joyce was scared of them, once having fallen from one as a child, so hadn't ever been involved with them. So, this was something special he could do with them, and had done before.  He entered the office of the ranch, paid the fees for the afternoon, and then walked back out for a moment.  "Girls?  Do you want to pick your rides?"

"EEEEEE!!!" the girls squealed again as they raced through the office area, to get to the barn to see the horses, and which ones were available for them to pick. Hank went and got the first of the surprise boxes from the trunk. The girls could put on their boots before they mounted.

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After a couple of hours of riding, which Hank knew would cause complaints later when the girls realised their muscles and backsides were no longer quite as used to this type of exercise, Hank whistled loudly.  Usually, this was the sign that they were going to be heading back.  This time, though, he started to lead them sideways to the route back.  Both girls got odd expressions on their faces when they reached the edge of a graveyard.  Hank dismounted and tied up his roan gelding to the fence, under the shade of a couple of trees. There was a watering trough with a spigot. Hank filled the trough and the horse gratefully started to drink.

"Uh, Dad?  What are we doing here?" Buffy asked from her dappled grey. Dawn nodded, showing she too wanted to know why she had to dismount from her lively little palomino. It was the first time Hank had allowed her to ride a horse rather than a pony and she was eager to continue the experience.

Hank smiled slightly at his little ones. *Don’t call them that, remember.* "Today is the actual Veterans Day, even if the ceremony was yesterday.  And, I thought I would tell you about your Grandfather, my father. Not Grappa Bill, but Thomas Summers."  He swung off the horse, and loosely looped its reins around the fence of the cemetery, not far from one of the gates in.  He then reached into the horse's saddlebags, and pulled something out.  Buffy was quick to follow, curious and a little apprehensive.  *Why are we here? Why a cemetery?  Does he know something?*

Dawn needed some help getting down, just as one of the stable hands had needed to help her get up. Hank lifted her off the horse after she had swung her leg over, put her down and then hugged her. Dawn hugged him back and a knot of fear that had been lying in his stomach untied. *It will be alright. I’m still her dad, I’m still her father, she still loves me.* 

Once the horses were safely attached to the fence, with enough slack so they had access to the grass around them, the trough and the shade from the pine trees, Hank led the two girls into the cemetery. After a minute or so of silence he started talking.

"I haven't told you much about my Dad. Just that he passed away in a car accident, when I was 25.  He got to see you, Buffy, just before he died. But, he too was a veteran of WWII. He was in the Army Air Corps – what later became the Air Force, assigned to a Bomber," Hank started, as he led the puzzled girls through the cemetery.  To Buffy's experienced eyes it looked busy, lots of people here today.  "He was a tail gunner.  That means he was in the very rear of the plane, with a machine gun he was supposed to fire at oncoming German fighters, to try to stop them from shooting the bomber down,” Hank’s face saddened. “It was one of the most dangerous positions in a bomber, the survival rate of tail and blister gunners was always much lower than that of pilots or other crewmembers.”

Hank looked at the sky. And then he smiled slightly.

"One mission, one of the fighters trying to shoot the bomber he was on down sort of succeeded.  It didn't shoot down the bomber, but it did manage to shoot the entire tail of the bomber off.  Including your Grandfather.  There he was, a couple thousand feet in the air, suddenly shot off the airplane he was in, and strapped into his seat."

Both girls gasped at the mental image.

"And, he wasn't able to get out of the section, before that tail section crashed." Hank grinned slightly, and stopped in front of a simple tombstone.  "And then he walked out.  Fell over a thousand feet through the air, strapped to the tail section of a bomber, and walked out. It happened over Germany... he made it to Switzerland, walking around Lake Constance. He was kept interned there until the end of the war.”

He stopped at a simple white marker lying flat on the ground. “Hello, Dad.”  He nodded to the tombstone, and pulled three small flower bundles from his bag, handing one each to his girls, before laying the third on the tombstone. He noted he’d have to have the letters blacked in again. He pulled some water bottles, sandwiches in wrap, and a thin blanket from his bag and spread the blanket on the ground next to it then sat down, placing the small picnic lunch on it.

"Care to join us, little ones?" *Ah… dammit, said it after all.*

To his surprise neither of his daughters complained about the term. They ate their sandwiches and Hank told them about his father, their grandfather, while his daughters cuddled close to him. He led them back to the horses, shovelling some droppings into the bin provided, and they rode back to the Ranch. He cooked them all dinner, rather surprised that both Buffy and Dawn helped in the kitchen. He listened to them babble about the dishes Joyce and Simon cooked, about the dinner conversations, about the fact they were cooking kosher, for Willow, and that Danielle cooked them Jewish dishes on occasion. Hank thought of his lonely dinners... sometimes take-out behind his desk at work and smiled sadly.

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The next morning, he got the girls up earlier than they had been getting up on Sunday mornings of late.  "Time for church, girls!" 

Buffy exchanged a look with Dawn. *Well, that explained why he had wanted us to bring nice dresses.* Buffy nodded to herself as she prepared for the services. 

Hank might not have been extremely devout, but he had been raised in the church. And, he continued to go. Sunday mornings, that was what the Summers family did. Joyce, with her family's history and background, hadn't had much to do with established religion, but went along with it. Among other things, it was a chance for Hank to network, to make contacts that helped him in his professional life. When the females moved to Sunnydale, Joyce had never found a church she felt like making the effort to go to. The girls had not minded at all and Simon tended to scoff at any type of organized religion.

Buffy was her usual grumpy self in the morning, and Dawn wasn't a lot better, but they still had the routine in the backs of their heads, and were ready on time. They did complain about their backsides after the long ride, like Hank had expected.

The girls found themselves back among friends, neighbours, acquaintances, the people they had known growing up in LA. Dawn found it easier to reconnect, while Buffy felt a little stand-offish. She had changed so much since she was last here, and there were a lot of people who only saw her as the troubled daughter of that nice family, the arsonist. She could feel their looks on her as she found the regular pew. Dawn was chatting amiably to Karen Cooper, a girl who’d been in her grade at school. Buffy tried to avoid Mrs. Cooper, Karen’s formidable grandmother, who tended to drone on about guilt and expiation.

Both girls, however, enjoyed the cadence, the rituals of Sunday services. The familiar songs, hymns and psalms, the unchanging rituals, the long sermon, today about love. It was something that they had done all their lives, and then been without for four months. It was like slipping into an older shirt. Not new, but very comforting. A part of being home.

After services was lunch at the all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet, another Summers tradition. After that Hank drove them home. He opened the trunk and got out the second mystery box, carrying it inside and putting it on the table. He opened the flaps and Dawn and Buffy craned their necks to look into it. “A sweater? What’s that for?” Buffy asked surprised.

“Well, it does get cold right up near the ice…” Hank teased.

Buffy’s eyes widened. “The Ice Capades? You’re taking us to the Ice Capades?”

Hank smiled. “Yes. I’m afraid I have a court date on your birthday. I hope you don’t mind doing it early this year…”

Buffy shook her head and then hurled herself at Hank, hugging him close. “I love you, Dad.”

Hank hugged Buffy back. “I love you too, Buffy. Never doubt that. Either of you.”

The End?

You have reached the end of "Summers Vacation" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 25 Jan 12.

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