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Paternal Pentagon

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Summary: Five guys Buffy slept with who could be Dawn's father (And one who didn't but wished he had). Torchwood, Big Bang Theory, SG-1, West Wing, White Collar, Iron Man/Avengers

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > GeneralJadedFR1316,52223544,28526 Jun 1226 Jun 12Yes
Author: Jaded
Story: Paternal Pentagon
Disclaimer: Joss owns Buffy; Torchwood is owned by BBC; The Big Bang Theory is owned by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady; Stargate: SG-1 is owned by Sy Fy; The West Wing is owned by Aaron Sorkin; White Collar is owned by Jeff Eastin ; Iron Man & The Avengers are owned by Marvel, and Glee is owned by Fox, with the song used owned by The Beatles. I write for fun, not for profit.
Summary: Five guys Buffy slept with who could be Dawn's father (And one who didn't but wished he had).
Warning: Non-canon character illness and death. Changes to Canon. FEELS!
A/N 1: This is based on the idea that A, Buffy is biologically Dawn's mother, not sister, B, that Dawn was born from a sexual encounter Buffy had in LA following graduation, and C, they decided to hunt said guy down. On that note...yes, I added a minor “prologue” to explain why they're hunting down said guy(s) down, even though they're all seperate ficlets...I need a life. :p

Prologue

“What do you mean you don't know who it is?!”

Dawn's shriek must have been heard across the ocean because less than ten minutes later, Giles called, demanding to know what was going on. Buffy cringed, looking between her daughter in the hospital bed to the phone where her pseudo father figure was currently sputtering.

“I'm sorry, I was, well, I wasn't in a good place that summer!” she finally said and yeah, everyone knew that cause, hello, Dawn existed didn't she? It was kinda hard not to know Buffy had been screwed—literally—that summer. “I made bad decisions, trying to forget Angel, thought Faith's way might be, you know, easier—”

“Dude, don't bring me into this B,” Faith broke in from where she was lounging against the hospital window. “I was in a coma when all this shit went down, remember?”

“--and I, you know, kinda sorta...sleptwithabunchofdifferentguysIdidn'tknow,” she said the last part quickly, hoping that, like with a band-aid, it was easier to do quicker. She cringed as her daughter gaped. Apparently quicker wasn't always better.

Faith, who'd been drinking a cola, practically turned blue choking on the swallow she'd taken. “Fuck, B!” she coughed. “How many guys we talking about? And any more than twice?”

Buffy resolutely ignored her slayer sister's leer as well as the questions to look at Dawn. “I'm sorry, I just...don't know who it could be.”

“You're telling me that you have no fucking idea who my biological father is because they're too many to choose from?!”

Buffy winced.

Yup, band-aid quick really didn't help.

~~*~~

Buffy had been pretty red once she finished going through all the, ahem, encounters she could remember. Faith had been impressed, though also somewhat disappointed, Buffy thought. She could pretty much understand why though – Buffy had always been the “good” slayer, at least in terms of social graces, and to know she'd sunk so low as to follow Faith's, er, advice? Was causing more than one person to get all discombobulated.

Dawn wasn't speaking to her at the moment, not that Buffy terribly blamed her. She had been through a lot the last couple months, from the shock of finding out she had leukemia to the astonishment that Buffy hadn't told her her fathers name because she didn't actually know. After all, its one thing to have a mother who had you during her first year of college, it was entirely another to have a mother who literally didn't know who your father was.

Giles, though just as disappointed as the rest of the Scoobies, had bounced back to help a lot quicker than the others. Xander was still being pretty pissy about the whole thing, which should have annoyed her but didn't. She honestly didn't care about his judgmental mentality anymore, not after he essentially kicked her out of her house and called Cordelia to take Dawn away from Sunnydale until the deal with the First had been settled, just as they had with Glory. While she'd appreciated the latter, the former was still a sore spot for her. He still hadn't apologized for that, almost ten years later. He was the only one still living who hadn't.

Willow had been the next to get over it, which was good because Buffy seriously needed help in the computer aspect of tracking the guys down. Willow had been all for that, as well as offering to scry if she could.

Which was how they ended up with a list of possible fathers (based on looks and academic interests) that Buffy had the dubious fortune to hunt down and demand blood tests and, if positive, marrow donations from.


1. Dr. Owen Harper Doctor Who/Torchwood

It took them entirely too long, in Buffy's eyes, to hunt down Dr. Owen Harper. Partly because Buffy had never gotten a last name, so Willow had to go hunting herself, and partly because when they finally did get a last name, they couldn't find the asshole.

And no, the asshole thing wasn't because he was hard to hunt down. The guy had the personality of a donkey, to paraphrase Willow. How he'd ever gotten Buffy into bed, she honestly couldn't tell you.

In a horrifying twist, it was Giles who finally found the guy, and on accident to boot. He'd been in meetings with some sort of super-secret British organization that had nothing whatsoever to do with the aliens who seemed to like attacking Earth via London (note the sarcasm), when he'd been introduced to the Cardiff team. Jack Harkness was a hottie (and a smooth talker and somewhat nice—why couldn't it have been him she'd slept with?!) but Owen wasn't bad looking either.

And he seemed honestly shocked and not a little concerned when he discovered he had a thirteen year old kid.

A thirteen year old kid with leukemia.

Yeah, for all his douchery, Buffy had to give him brownie points for immediately demanding access to all Dawn's medical records so he could deduce the extent of her illness for himself.

~~*~~

“...and then, I tased him!”

Buffy hesitated just outside of Dawn's hospital room. She'd been recovering from the bone marrow transplant quicker than the doctors had been expecting, almost being back to her normal self. Part of that, Buffy suspected, was the slayer genes coming out to play but mostly she just thought it was Owen.

Turns out that while he may be a douche, he was a damn good father.

Case in point, Owen was now telling Dawnie about some robot woman and his attempts to fight her off, making her baby laugh like a hyena.

“He says this like he wasn't hiding in one of the morgue cabinets,” Jack said, coming up behind her and shaking his head. “With Gwen on top of him.”

Buffy snickered. “Let's not tell Dawn that quite yet,” she said. “Don't want his image tarnished.”

“Just wait,” Gwen said, coming up with Ianto and Tosh. “I wonder if he's going to tell her about the weevils.”

“King of the Weevils,” Ianto murmured, smiling, and the team all laughed lightly. Buffy shook her head and pushed her way inside. Trust her to find a guy with his own band of Scoobies.

“Hey Dawnie,” she said and her daughter looked thrilled to see her.

“Owen said I could go and visit him in Cardiff once the doctors give me the all-clear,” Dawn said immediately. “Can I go, Mom, please?!”

Buffy laughed and shared a look with Owen. He was smiling slightly. Not a big smile, not an obvious one, but a smile nevertheless. He had layers. She liked it. She turned back to Dawn, a slight blush on her face when she saw the thirteen year old making a face at them.

“Already planned on it.”


2. Dr. Sheldon Cooper The Big Bang Theory

Dawn wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry when her mother dragged her father, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, and his friends into her hospital room. Tall, with dark brown hair and familiar blue eyes, he was emphatically arguing he could not be a father to a teenage girl. He said this completely oblivious to the stunned gaping the three men with him were doing.

“Oh. My. God.”

“Penny, please don't...” Whatever the guy was going to say faded off as he followed the blonde woman's stare to where Dawn was watching him. His eyes widened, his entire body tensing as he took her in. Same body structure, eyes, hair...

“Wow,” the guy with the glasses said, gaping now at her instead of at her father. She shifted uncomfortably. “Sheldon, she looks...”

“Like my MeeMaw,” he whispered and he sounded so very lost all of a sudden. “I don't...”

“Told you!” Mom said firmly. “Now, you gonna help or not?”

“Help with what?” Sheldon asked, snapping to her mother. “Why is she in the hospital?”

As Mom explained what had happened and why they'd been looking for him, Dawn looked over the group who'd come with Sheldon. Geeks, the lot of them, she decided immediately. The guy with glasses was looking about as lost as his friend and kept looking at her mother to Sheldon and back again, as if trying to figure out how it'd happened. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask if he knew about the birds and the bees. The other two guys had similar expressions but were talking quietly to each other in the corner.

“Sheldon, do you want me to call your moth--”

“No,” Sheldon broke in before Penny could finish. He hesitated. “Missy couldn't hurt though.”

“Alright, Leonard will go call her,” Penny said.

“I will?” the guy in glasses asked, looking surprised.

“You will,” Penny agreed with narrowed eyes. Leonard laughed nervously, reminding her strongly of Andrew for a moment, and then nodded.

“I will,” he agreed. “Come on, Raj, Howard.”

“We'll go over the paperwork and procedure for the testing in here,” Penny continued as the trio left with minimum fuss. She looked up at Dawn's father, her expression softening at his lost aura. “Alright Sheldon?”

“Alright.”

Dawn wondered fleetingly if she should start preparing herself for a step-mom.

~~*~~

Sheldon, thank God, turned out to be a match and the transplant went off without much trouble. Her Aunt Missy, however, informed her that if it he hadn't, she had been fully prepared to call every single member of the extended Cooper family until a match had been found.

Naturally, Mom and Missy had bonded quickly.

The best part of the entire experience, in Dawn's opinion, was after it took, she spent her evenings lying in the hospital room and watching Battlestar Galactica with Sheldon.

He might be able to give Andrew a run for most geeky guy she'd ever met, but he was sweet in his own, awkward way.

And she really liked Soft Kitty.


3. Sam Seaborn The West Wing

Explaining to Sam he was a father ended up being a fairly difficult prospect. Not only was he working in the White House when they decided to call him up, he had been drunk the night Buffy had slept with him. Buffy wasn't sure he'd even remember what had happened.

Luckily, Buffy, by virtue of being co-head of the Sineya Council, had built up quite a list of people who owed her favors. Lord John Marbury was one such poor soul and after learning of the situation, he'd immediately and personally arranged her meeting with Sam.

Sam did, it turned out, remember that night. Maybe not the exact specifics, just that he'd slept with her. Watching him blush and stammer when she walked into his office reminded her why she'd hooked up with him in the first place. He was hot, smart, and snarky, but he wasn't full of himself. In some ways, he was like a little puppy, all eager to please and make things okay. So unlike most of the guys she'd ever dated or been attracted to.

In lieu of telling him what had happened, like she'd rehearsed in her head, Buffy pulled out a picture of Dawn from her purse. It was Dawnie with her when she'd been seven, the two of them covered in flour and grinning hugely. Sam took one look at it and made the connection, eyes flying to hers in shock. She steeled herself.

“I was never planning on telling you,” she said, deciding not to mention it was because she didn't know who the father was (what he didn't know couldn't hurt him). “But things changed. Dawn's sick. She needs a bone marrow transplant and I'm not a match.”

Sam opened his mouth, snapped it closed, and then nodded slowly. She could tell he was hurt, that he wished he'd known before now, but it was eerily similar to herself when she had to push back her own feelings for the well-being of someone else. She felt herself relax slightly.

“What do you need me to do?”

“Paternity test first, to make sure,” she said. “And then, if you're willing, bone marrow test and possibly a donation. After that...its up to you.”

“I'll do it,” he said and then hesitated. “Where is she?”

“New York,” she replied. “We moved her there last week, when a new specialist took her case.”

He nodded and she could practically see him mentally making notes. The door suddenly flung open and Buffy tensed up as two people came inside, only seeing her after the fact.

“Sam, you'll never believe it, the Presidents hunting someone down himself,” the man was saying. “Apparently there's this woman he and Leo've been trying to meet since we took office, to thank her or something, and she's in the building and he's going postal...”

“Oh, Sam, sorry, we didn't realize you were in a meeting...” the woman said, looking at Buffy. The man, tall, with light blonde hair and brown eyes, paid little attention to her. He'd stopped talking though and she could see him staring at the photo Sam had placed on his desk, picture up. The woman seemed to notice and looked down. She sucked in a deep breathe, eyes flying from Buffy to Sam and back before settling on Sam, mouth pressed tightly together.

“Sam?” the man asked and that was what finally seemed to get through the Deputy Communication Director's mind.

“CJ, you're going to need to start prepping a statement,” he said, all business. He hesitated. “No names, she's only thirteen and she's in the hospital. This is...Mr. President!”

Buffy tensed up again, though for an entirely different reason, as she felt people at the doorway. Taking in a deep breath, she slowly stood up and turned around. President Bartlett stared back at her, grinning. “Mr. President,” she murmured.

“I have been trying to get you into this office for the past two years, young lady,” he said, still smiling, and Buffy winced.

“With all due respect, after Colonel Dumbass—er, McNamara, I wasn't about to step into a government building voluntarily again. Sir,” she added as an afterthought. The President merely chuckled.

“Understandable but I have something for you and I haven't been able to—wait a minute,” he said, finally seeming to notice all the tensity in the office. “Why are you voluntarily visiting a government building now? And with my Deputy?”

Buffy took in a deep breath and pulled herself up straight. “My daughter's sick,” she told him. “Leukemia. Needs bone marrow. I'm not a match.”

“I see,” he said and she had a feeling he actually, truly did. Like her, he would have gone to hell and back to protect his girls, just as Buffy would for Dawn.

“We're hoping I might be, sir,” Sam said and she turned just enough to see him swallow nervously. He took in a deep breath. “Seeing as how I'm probably Dawn's father.”

“I see,” he said again, slowly nodding, as the man next to Sam put a hand on his shoulder in support. “How much time will you need off, Sam?”

“Sir?” Sam looked stunned. The President gave him a look.

“You're daughter's sick, Samuel,” he reminded him. “How much time will you need?”

“I...”

“Three weeks,” the man behind the President suggested. And then he just stepped around Bartlett and into the room, issuing commands. “Three weeks and everything after is negotiable. Josh, call the airport, get Sam a flight. CJ, start preparing a release—nothing today, not until it can't be held any longer. The press if going to jump on this once it's out....”

Which was how, less then an hour later, Buffy was on a plane back to New York, Sam Seaborn sitting next to her.

~~*~~

Three days after her trip to DC, Buffy, Dawn, and Sam were sitting in Dawn's hospital room, going through the mounds of sweets, flowers, stuffed animals, and balloons that had been sent by what seemed the entirety of the White House staff (including a HUGE basket of chocolates from the President and First Lady), and watching as CJ Cregg announce to the world that Dawn existed.

“Earlier this week, Sam Seaborn, Deputy Communications Director, took a leave of absence upon the discovery that his previously unknown daughter is in the hospital fighting leukemia...”


4. Lt. Colonel Cam Mitchell Stargate: SG-1

Dawn was busy looking through the suitcase Andrew had brought from Rome when her mother came in. Dawn glanced up, one hand on her Lord of the Rings DVD's, the other on a pile of pens sprawled on top of the DVD's, and froze.

Mom wasn't alone.

He was tall, easily topping six feet, and kinda looked like the guy from Farscape. He was dressed in loose jeans a black t-shirt, and a black bomber jacket. He had light brown hair, the same shade of blue eyes as Dawn, and he had her ears. Or, rather, she had his ears.

Mom had found her father. Holy shit.

“Dawnie, um, this is Lt. Colonel Cam Mitchell,” the blonde said, looking between the staring man and her worriedly. “He's...”

“Yeah,” Dawn said and she knew her voice was dazed. She saw Cam swallow as his eyes locked with hers. “Hi.”

“Hi,” he replied just as faintly. She watched, fascinated, as he seemed to physically throw off the shock and gave her a warm, if nervous, smile. “I'm...I guess I'm your father.”

“Apparently,” she said. “I'm...well, you know who I am.”

“Yeah,” he grinned, hands going to his pockets. “So...what are you doing?”

“Trying to find something to do,” she answered, eyes flickering to where her mother was standing. The older woman gave her a look and Dawn inwardly rolled her eyes before turning back to...Cam. “Was thinking movie marathon. Possibly Lord of the Rings.”

“I haven't seen that in ages,” he noted, coming further into the room. He glanced at Mom and then turned to her with a hopeful grin. “Would you like some company?”

“Sure,” she agreed, thankful as hell she wasn't hooked up to the heart monitor at the mo; she'd rather he didn't know how fast it was beating.

Mom helped clear off Dawn's hospital bed and then crawled up on one side of her, while Cam took the uncomfortable looking armchair on the other. Halfway through Boromir's death, when she was trying not to cry, she felt him slip a hand in hers and squeeze. She gave him a tremulous smile and then quickly looked back at the screen.

He didn't let go.

~~*~~

Six months later, after the marrow had taken and Cam had convinced Mom it wouldn't kill Dawn to visit Kansas without her, Dawn met her grandparents. Both took an immediate shine to their new granddaughter, showering her with love and presents even as they berated Cam about not bringing her mother along. Sitting down with her grandmother one evening, watching Glee (her grandmothers apparent guilty pleasure), Dawn smiled.

“What?” Grandma Wendy asked curiously.

“Connotations,” she said simply and then snuggled under the blanket the older woman had made for her.

Grandma Wendy looked between Dawn, to where Kurt was singing on screen, and then out the window where Cam was playing horse-shoes with Grandpa Frank. A smile lit up her face and she settled back down to watch the show. They remained silent the remainder of the hour.

“Yeah, you've got that something
I think you'll understand
When I'll say that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand”



5. Neal Caffrey White Collar

If he wasn't bleeding or injured in some way, Peter was going to kill Neal. Peter had just been down to what should have been a nice dinner with El when his phone had rang, the marshals telling him Neal had broken perimeter. The only reason Peter hadn't taken backup, a tactical team or anyone besides himself and El, was that the address the marshals had given him was a local hospital (which was also why El insisted on coming with). A phone call to June had been left unanswered and Peter was really hoping either Neal was injured or June was, because anything else wasn't going to look good.

“June!” June was sitting just outside the hospital entrance, a book in hand and looking like she was waiting for him.

“Agent Burke,” she greeted him, standing up. She looked around, took in El, and then frowned at him. “Neal was expecting a tactical team.”

“Hospital,” he said. “Tell me he's hurt, tell me he broke perimeter because he was hurt.”

“I can't,” she shook her head and Peter felt his stomach drop. He could have protected Neal if he'd been hurt, or if June was.

“Then why would he break his perimeter?” El asked, putting a hand on Peter's arm. Probably to calm him down. “He had to know what would happen?”

“Do you have children, Mrs. Burke?” June asked and Peter frowned. He and El both shook their heads and June gave them a gentle smile. “Then you can't know what someone will do for their child.”

Peter stared, sure he was misunderstanding. June just gave him a look and led the way inside, past the front desk and to the bank of elevators. One quick trip up and Peter felt his stomach drop again, but for a completely different reason than before. They were on the pediatric oncology floor. Kids with cancer.

It wasn't possible. He'd hunted Neal for three years, he would have known if the man had a kid.

Wouldn't he?

“Her name is Dawn and she's thirteen years old,” June said as they walked down the hallway, past several rooms with children and their families inside. “Neal didn't know about her until quite recently—he and her mother had a quick one night stand when he'd been in California. The paternity test I ordered for him came back this afternoon. She's his.”

June walked into a room in the corner, near the nurses station, and Peter felt El slip a hand in his and squeeze. He suddenly didn't want to look in, to see Neal like this. But he had to, he was Neal's handler.

And his friend.

Stepping in after June, the first thing that crossed Peter's mind was that Neal certainly had a knack for attracting gorgeous women. Dawn's mother (and it was clear she was Dawn's mother, June having gone straight over to her) was sitting in the window seat, watching the hospital bed with a fond smile on her face, and looking tired but still radiant. If he hadn't been completely in love with Elizabeth, he probably would have had trouble breathing.

Then he saw the duo on the bed and all his breath whooshed out of his body. Neal was sitting with a tiny girl, tall but alarmingly skinny, his back to the door, as they played a card game that seemed to involve a lot of exchanging of cards and, for some strange reason, plastic spoons. On either side of them, sitting on hard plastic chairs, were two redheads (one older than the other—sisters?), a young blonde man, and a dark haired man with an eye-patch (uncles?).

That wasn't what caught his attention, however. No, it was the girl on the bed. She looked just like Neal, down to his ears and bright blue eyes, framed by thin dark brown hair. She was hooked up to IV's and a heart monitor and looked gaunt, like she'd lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time.

“Spoon!” the girl suddenly squealed, reaching out and snatching one of the spoons in front of her. That seemed to be all the others needed, each of them reaching out. Neal got one, no surprise there, as did the two redheads and the man in the eyepatch. The blonde pouted and Peter suddenly realized there were no more spoons on the bed.

“You snooze you lose, Andrew,” the girls said and good god, she even sounded like Neal. She looked up then, took him in with a glance, and gave Neal a wry smile.

“You're warden's here and he brought a friend,” she quipped and Neal turned, looking resigned. There was a flash of surprise when he saw Elizabeth but other than that, he just looked at Peter.

“How long do I have till you have to take me in?” he asked, moving to stand up.

“Peter,” Elizabeth said and he knew what she was saying. He couldn't take him, not when everyone in the room was looking at him like he was the bad guy here. Peter took a deep breath.

“You could have called and told me,” he told Neal. Neal just looked at him and Peter rolled his eyes.

“She's sick,” the blonde at the window said, standing up slowly. “Needs bone marrow. Neal had to get swabbed to see if he's a match. The hospital wouldn't do it at June's.”

Her tone dared him to take Neal away when her daughter needed him. Peter pinched his nose, closing his eyes. Damnit. Finally letting go of his breath, he pulled out his phone and dialed Hughes.

“Hey, I'm gonna need a court order to allow Caffrey to remain in St. Mary's Hospital for the unforeseeable future,” he said when his boss answered. Neal looked stunned but the rest of the group were smiling. Dawn, in fact, was beaming at him, as was Elizabeth.

“Is he hurt?” Hughes asked. Peter sighed.

“No sir, but it turns out Caffrey's got a thirteen year old daughter,” he answered. “She has leukemia. Needs a transplant and Neal might be a match. They need to test it.”

Hughes made a sound of reluctant understanding and after a few minutes of quiet discussion, he'd assured him Caffrey would get his tracker fixed. Hanging up, Peter turned back to the room. On the bed, Dawn held out a deck of cards as she and Neal smiled at him.

“Wanna play spoons?”


(And One Who Didn't But Wished He Had)

Tony Stark had been at the hospital under protest, at least at first. Fury had decided that a bit of good publicity wouldn't kill the team, so they'd all been drafted to go to a local hospital and play with the kids and teens in the pediatric ward. Steve, naturally, took to it like a house on fire and Thor seemed to enjoy having the more mobile and enthusiastic little terrors crawl all over him. Bruce alone had been exempt, though when they were introduced, several of the rugrats had immediately asked where the Hulk was. Natasha, surprisingly enough, had been the one to explain that Hulk was on assignment and wasn't able to make it. She'd turned out to be fairly good with the kids, which Tony would have teased her about if he hadn't liked his balls right where they were, thank you.

Still, there was only so much Tony could handle so after about an hour, he'd headed downstairs for the small knot of trees in the tiny atrium the hospital boasted, hoping for a bit of peace and quiet before had to brave the masses once more.

That was where he met her.

Sitting in a wheelchair, an oxygen chord hooked just under her nose, she was watching something in a nearby tree. He'd internally groaned, thinking he couldn't go anywhere without getting disturbed, but the kid hadn't paid him any attention. After a while, he'd relaxed.

Then her mother had shown up and blown that all to hell.

“Dawn, why are you out here without a coat?” she scolded, coming over with the aforementioned coat. It wasn't cold, it was kind of warm actually, but he knew those deprived of oxygen felt temperature differently than him.

“I'm fine, Mom,” the brunette said, sounding tired. He was surprised at the term, did the mental math in his head, and realized she had to have had the girl when in college or thereabouts. The girl looked up at her. “Did you know if you stare at a spider, it eventually runs away?”

“So do men, you don't see me staring at them like a creeper,” the blonde said and the brunette, Dawn, raised an eyebrow. The older woman made a face. “That totally didn't come out right.”

Stark snorted but despite a quick glance from them both, he continued to be ignored. Using his phone as a pretense, he pretended to pay them no attention as they got into a fight about Dawn staying in the Atrium alone. Her mother didn't want her to. Things were just starting to get really heated when Dawn said something that had all three of them freeze in place.

“I'm dying Mom, its not like a little nature is gonna change that!”

Faced with the blunt truth, the blonde left the room, tears glistening in her eyes. Tony didn't move, still stunned himself at the tactless announcement of her short life span. He might be a jackass a lot of the time, but no one that young should be forced to face their own mortality. He didn't realize he was staring until she turned to him.

“How did you do it?” she asked instead of demanding he stop staring at her like a dirty old man.

“Do what?” He was so unnerved that there was no hint of his usual sarcasm or inappropriate humor.

“Face death in that cave?” she asked and her blue eyes were so haunted, he was unable to look away. He knew that expression, had seen it every day in the tiny mirror back in Afghanistan. “Knowing there was nothing to do but try and make it to the next day.”

He swallowed. “I made it to the next day,” he said quietly, moving closer so she wouldn't have to do it herself and waste her breath. “I pushed myself forward—made a plan, put it in motion. I didn't think I'd make it out alive but I had to try.”

It was been more than he'd told anyone, even Pepper, but he felt an overwhelming need to tell this girl. He wasn't sure why, he'd probably never find out, but he did. Dawn frowned.

“I don't have anything like that,” she said, breathing in deeply a moment. “There's not much that can be done about my cancer except make me comfortable. All the treatments stopped working after a few weeks and my mom's not a bone marrow match.”

He was reminded forcibly of his grandmother, wasting away from chemo that hadn't worked. He remembered the pride in Yensin's eyes when they finished the original Iron Man armor, the way he'd looked so determined, yet so thin and weak, as he walked out of Tony's sight to give him the time he needed to escape. “Sometimes you face it head on,” he said, frowning. “When you know its inevitable, you have two choices—give in or kick its ass.”

She laughed at that. “Oh, that I can do,” she said once she'd gotten her breath back, which took longer than he thought it should. “Kick its ass, I mean. We don't look it, but us Summers women are strong.”

“Even your mom?”

“Hey, I wouldn't knock her if you know whats good for you,” Dawn warned. “She has a mean backhand and not even your precious good looks will save you. Ask her exes; one of 'ems military.”

He laughed. “I think I'll pass,” he said.

They'd spent almost an hour talking and joking around, no mention of her cancer entering the conversation again. When Steve finally hunted him down, he'd looked like he was about to start yelling then abruptly shut his mouth when he saw Dawn. A confused look crossed his face as he glanced between the two of them and Tony smiled at Dawn, thanking her sotto voice for saving him from a Captain America lecture. Dawn had grinned at him and then abruptly leaned over and hugged him. He'd been so stunned for a moment all he could do was sit there uselessly before he forced his arms around in reciprocation.

The brief spat of discomfort was worth it, he later decided, if only because of the astounded look on Steve's face.

~~*~~

When they'd gotten home to the newly renamed Avengers Tower, Tony had gone straight to his lab, making sounds about a waste of time, needing to check his experiments.

In truth, he'd locked himself inside the lab and then had JARVIS break into Dawn Summers medical files.

Doctor's prognosis: Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, which had been misdiagnosed three times before it was correctly figured out. By then, it had been too late. The spitfire he'd met had six months, at most, from the time of the diagnosis. That had been three months previously. She was truly living on borrowed time.

Remembering her lamenting how boring the hospital was, he ordered JARVIS to prepare a gift basket of Starktech, to be sent to the hospital the next morning. Then he'd had JARVIS find the best doctor available for Dawn's kind of leukemia and any new breakthroughs they could try. When it turned out the best doctor in the world had already been called on Dawn's case, he'd been disappointed. He'd been hoping, maybe, that he could miraculously find something for her, some new drug or treatment. There were none. The only thing that might save her was a bone marrow transplant and none of her family were matches.

The following months both crawled and went way too fast. Somehow, he wasn't sure how, Dawn found his phone number and began randomly texting him when she was bored. Considering she was stuck in the hospital, this meant she texted him a lot. Pepper alone knew about the girl, mostly because she'd found some of the texts and took entirely the wrong assumption about them. Having to explain his odd friendship with the girl when he didn't understand it himself was a lot easier than he'd thought it would be. Then again, Pepper took most of his shit in stride so maybe it wasn't as surprising as he'd thought.

He could have kissed her, however, when he got a text from Dawn the next day, thanking him, with entirely too many exclamation points, for the new top designer clothes and personal seamstress' that had been sent to her hospital room. He really did kiss Pepper when Dawn had called, squealing, about some ancient book she'd been hunting for that Pepper had found and had delivered. She'd been more excited about the book than she'd been about the clothes.

Her six month deadline came and passed and Tony, though knowing he was setting himself up for a fall, began to hope that maybe Dawn would recover. That maybe she'd get one of those miraculous remissions he'd read about. But as six months melted into seven and her heath continued to deteriorate, though at a slower pace than before, he knew it wasn't likely.

He'd only spoken to Buffy Summers once, when she'd called to demand to know what the hell he was playing at with all the gifts. He'd told her only to look into his time in Afghanistan and then hung up. She had never called back.

Until five months after he met Dawn. He'd been in Beijing at the time, in a meeting, when he'd gotten the phone call. JARVIS knew to only put through the really important ones, so when it rang in the middle of the Chinese plant managers update on production, he'd quickly excused himself and left Pepper to keep the meeting going.

“What?”

“Just thought you should know,” Buffy's rough, soft, voice came through the line and he'd just known, without her telling him. “Dawn died this morning. The funeral's in three days, in England. I think she would have wanted you to come.”

He'd sat down on the floor outside the conference room for almost an hour before Pepper called a halt to the meeting to find him. She'd taken one look at him and had immediately started crying. They'd left less than an hour later, Rhodey working some military magic to get the Stark Jet cleared on short notice.

The funeral was a nightmare in more ways than one. Pepper had done her damnedest to make sure the no one was aware of what was going on, but somehow, Fury showed up anyway and he brought along the entire team. Steve, it seemed, recognized the picture of Dawn from the hospital and had put two and two together. Thank god, because he'd designated himself the go-between of him and the rest of the team, all of whom were mighty confused at who Dawn was to him.

Between them, the hundred or so young women who randomly showed up (Buffy claimed they were Dawn's old classmates from boarding school), two guys who were entirely too pale and kept to the shadows, Dawn's funeral was unlike anything he'd ever seen. Dawn hadn't been overly religious, so she'd asked that it be kept simple and sweet, with everyone getting to speak and her ashes then scattered across the globe.

That was when things got tricky.

“Mr. Stark, Dawn had a specific request when she was outlining her funeral plans,” Buffy said, pulling him aside and speaking lowly. She hesitated a moment and then handed him a small urn, too tiny to hold anything but maybe a tenth of her ashes. “She wanted...she wanted part of her to be spread across Mt. Everest cause she always wanted to climb it.”

He'd taken the ashes, knowing full well what Buffy was asking of him. He'd nodded once, stiffly, and headed outside, aware his team and Buffy were following. He'd handed the urn to Pepper a moment and then stepped on his traveling suit, holding still while it folded itself across his body. Once he was settled, he took the urn back, cradled it in his hands, and blasted into the air.

Standing at the peak of Everest, aware of JARVIS constantly keeping track of ice buildup, he pulled off his helmet, ignored the freezing cold, and opened up the urn. Almost immediately ashes blew into the wind and he closed it again as it trying to keep her contained. Finally, when JARVIS told him he had less then ten minutes to finish before he'd be unable to get down without help, he slowly tipped the urn over, the wind catching the ashes and blowing them into the mountain top. As the snow, wind, and ash whirled around him, he could have sworn he heard her voice.

“Take care of yourself, Tony,” it whispered. “And thank you. For everything.”

Then it was gone and he was left alone with nothing but his memories of a snarky young girl and an empty urn.

The End

You have reached the end of "Paternal Pentagon". This story is complete.

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