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Complex

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This story is No. 13 in the series "Midnight City". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy's right. John does have a complex.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
DC Universe > BatmanVashtiFR1312,277031,1665 Jan 135 Jan 13Yes
Title: Complex
Fandom: BtVS/The Dark Knight Rises
Character(s): John Blake, Buffy Summers, Sarah the OC Slayer
Rating: PG
Summary: Buffy's right. John does have a complex.
Length: ~2320 words
Disclaimer: Only the words are mine, and that’s probably up for philosophical debate.

§§§

A coil of fear knots Batman’s stomach as he levers himself out of the prowler and no Sarah. He’s halfway back inside, ready to track her down, when he remembers… She’s out with the Slayer, spending quality time with the family she hasn’t seen in six months. The knot tightens before releasing him. He takes off the cowl, leaves the mask, and walks across the dripping catwalk to the cave’s interior.

It’s strange coming back to the cave without Sarah in it. She should be there, radiating worry and exhilaration both, waiting for him at the end of the catwalk. He should be tossing his mask to her. He should be pulling her into a sharp, fierce hug that would bruise any other person. She should be berating him for a stupid risk he’s taken, or continuing a conversation they’ve been having all night. She should be here, helping him lay Batman to rest for the night so John can get a break, too.

It’s hard getting out of the suit on his own. He realizes he’s never—ever—had to do it before. He hadn’t gotten around to trying on the suit before he left for Scotland, and he’d brought Sarah back with him when he’d come home. Although he must have known it all along, he realizes that this is his first time working without her; it’s her first night away from him and the cave.

“Must be what a parent feels like,” he says, but his voice is still midnight deep. He doesn’t say anything else, not even that what he feels for Sarah isn’t parental, until he hears the familiar sound of a body hitting water.

When he turns, Sarah is shaking water out of her hair. “Dude, that is so different at night. A little too much fun, you know?”

“Sarah. What are you doing here?”

“And hello to you, too, Bats,” she says crossing the catwalk and shedding the anorak she’s worn to protect her clothes. Shaking her head, she glances back at the waterfall glittering in the moonlight beyond the cave-mouth. “I’m going to have to figure out a better way to get in here.”

When she’s close enough, he draws her into a fierce embrace which she returns. “Had a good night?” she asks.

He nods. “You?”

Grinning, she nods and all but dances on her toes. “We have a break in the missing persons case.”

“How? Tell me.”

She does, helping him out of the rest of his suit and mask as she does.

***

John was bowed, tired and cold when she was done, but he felt lighter. He breathed more easily.

“The kid was waking up when I left,” Sarah said as she replaced the suit in its case. “But apparently this is what Buffy was here to investigate anyway, so she’s probably questioning him now.”

“The case that Buffy was going to tell us about in the morning?”

Sarah nodded. “Yup.” She tossed him the neatly folded, and blessedly dry, sweats waiting beside the case.

“Sarah…”

“What? So we talked business. It was either that or Jeffrey and—“ Her eyes went wide.

John stiffened. “Who’s Jeffrey?”

“Crap.” John watched her scramble for a moment, then: "Did I also mention that I spoke to the Commish yesterday and gave him half of all my theories on the case?"

"Sarah! We talked about this."

"And I disagreed! There are a heckuva a lot more cops than there are of you, or me. Or even all of Slayers, Inc. if it came down to it. John, you know this better than anybody. We should use the resources we have."

Long years of practice meant only his jaw was clenched instead of his fists, too. Not that he’d ever hit her (and if he did, not that he’d ever survive it), but he didn’t want her to have even the impression that he might. John knew that sometimes perceptions were the only thing that kept you going.

He took a deep breath and let it out in a huff. "I don’t have time for this tonight, Sarah. I still need to make an entry on Meroni’s activities, and you have to go to work in the morning."

"How did that go?"

"Fine."

Sarah’s shoulders dropped, but John was too irritated to make her feel any less guilty.

"And don’t think I’ve forgotten about ‘Jeffrey’."

She stomped her foot. "Crap!"

***

Breakfast with Buffy was nice. John didn’t often eat breakfast, at least not during breakfast hours, and accordingly he rarely ate it with anyone. There had been a minor scuffle over who got the seat facing the door, until he’d found a table for them against a mirror. He’d graciously taken the seat facing it, conceding that if there was danger Buffy’s reaction time was faster.

"Sarah made me do it," she’d said as soon as they were both seated.

Surprised, John had laughed. "Whether or not you actually put up a fight, I believe you. Did she tell you that we argued all the way to Tibet about whether she could come back with me?"

Buffy nodded. "She mentioned it."

"Did she tell you that she was arguing the minute you and the car dropped us off at the airport?"

"Really? No way!" She chuckled. "Well no one ever accused slayers of of being anything less than mulishly stubborn."

John smiled.

"So does this--" Buffy waved a hand to include the restaurant in general. "—mean we’re five by five, as Faith would say?"

"If you’re asking if I’m still mad at you for upsetting Sarah last night, then no. You two seem to have made up the way girls do. Does this mean you’ll be fighting again by this afternoon?"

Coloring, Buffy said, "I hope not. I’m here for the mission and to check in on the baby slayer."

John frowned. "Is Sarah the youngest?"

"Pfft. Not by half. Just, y’know, a turn of phrase. They all look like babies."

"Ah." They paused as two large breakfast platters were set down in front of them, and a carafe of coffee for John. "Bon appetite," he said.

"You eat almost as well as a slayer," Buffy said, eying their two plates. "Except for the coffee. You do not want me near a cup of coffee."

Nodding, John said, "I will keep that in mind. Actually..."

"What?"

John was thinking of the coffee Sarah claimed she needed in every morning. "Nothing. So tell me about the young man you and Sarah rescued."

"Fits the profile Detective Montoya and Sarah both came up with separately: young, white male college student taking primarily evening classes. Falls right in the middle range of ages so far--"

"Which is?"

"Somewhere between 23 and 30 years old. Whoever this is, they definitely seem to be looking for an older student. Maybe grad or post-grads."

John nodded, indicating that she should go on.

"They also all seem to be decently fit, if not actually athletic."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, the guy me and Sarah saved? Ran track. He didn’t look like much when Sarah and I found him, but apparently he’s a good runner."

Eyebrows raised, he said, "You’ve had a chance to speak to his coach?"

"It’s not seven in the morning, John," Buffy returned, her own eyebrows climbing. Then they fell and she was smiling. "Actually, that was Montoya. I think she went by the school last night in case Coach-guy was around. Lucky us, he was."

John nodded. "I see. Why don’t we eat something before our food gets cold?"

"You don’t have to tell me twice!"

They breakfasted in relative silence, exchanging small, inconsequential pleasantries as they ate. John was duly impressed by her appetite. He said so.

"But you see Sarah all the time."

"Not at mealtimes. We always miss breakfast and lunch, and usually dinner, too. When we do have dinner it’s a family style thing with--" He didn’t want to name the Commissioner in public. "—friends. I guess I don’t pay attention to how many times she goes up for seconds."

Buffy smirked. "I bet she sneaks from the kitchen so it won’t be obvious at the dinner table."

John shrugged, conceding the possibility. "Speaking of Sarah..."

"Mmhmm?"

"Don’t make her cry again."

The forkful of omelet and home fries never made it off her plate.

"Not if you can help it."

"I—"

"Because very soon I’m going to do something...and I don’t want her to feel like I’m making her choose."

"Do what?"

John heard the suspicion in Buffy’s voice and realized he wasn’t looking at her, but over her shoulder. He met her eyes, shunting the fear coiled in his gut. He cleared his throat, picked up his glass then thought better of it—setting down his utensils as well.

"I’ve been talking to the Wayne lawyers..."

***

John snagged Sarah’s hand as she passed him on the way out of the cave. Fox wasn’t quite ready with her suit, but with Buffy in town there was no reason not to patrol. Two women "defending themselves" would seem less strange than a single, diminutive woman beating up thugs. (Personally, John hoped that Fox would do something to cover up Sarah’s distinctive red-brown hair.)

Sarah turned, giving him a lopsided smile. The two days with Buffy had been the most relaxed John had seen her since their stay in Tibet.

Had it happened then, he wondered. Maybe one of the times she’d fallen asleep on his shoulder while traveling?

"Hey! Things to do, places to go, slayers to meet and beat things up with," she said, eyes wide. "What’s up?"

"When are you supposed to meet up with Buffy?"

Sarah slipped her hand from his and checked her watch. "Um...I’ve got half? Why? What’s going on?"

He beckoned her to the desk. "Take a look at this and tell me what you think," he said, handing her an envelope.

"Can I take it with me?"

He shook his head. "No, I need you to look at this now."

Sarah shrugged, dropping her bag next to the desk. "Okay." She wandered away.

John turned back to the case files Buffy had been able to get for him from Montoya, large and all-encompassing on the cave’s massive computer screen. But he wasn’t reading them. The words had become meaningless an hour ago. He was battering down fear and he was waiting. That’s what he was doing.

Not for long. She came jogging back, the file trembling in her hands. "What does this mean? John, what does this mean?"

He turned to face her. "It doesn’t have to mean anything," he lied. He’d been telling it for a long time. "If you say no, nothing changes. If you say yes, then you have more options." He smiled.

"Are you serious?"

"Aren’t I always?"

"No!"

John laughed.

"Do I have to choose right now?"

"Of course not." Yes! You only ever get right now! She ought to know this. He was the one who had grown up with nothing and no one. She’d had it all ripped away.

"And you’re not mad?"

Forehead wrinkling as he drew the mask on completely, he said, "Why would I be mad, Sarah?"

"You’re only, like, making yourself my real, honest-to-God guardian and family member. And I can’t make up my mind."

"I also sprung this on you."

"True." She worried her lower lip. "I just want to talk to Buffy first."

"I already did."

Sarah’s demeanor instantly shifted. "You what? You talked to Buffy first?"

"Technically, I talked to the lawyers first."

Laughing, she danced forward and hit him with the paperwork still clutched desperately in her hand. Moving out of reach—he had no idea why—she said, "I want to say yes."

"Then do." Please.

"But I’m...scared."

John frowned. "Of what?"

"What if you die like my parents? I couldn’t save them."

John stood and took Sarah’s hand, drawing her in for a hug. Sometimes he forgot how bright and brash her own mask was. "I won’t make any promises, but I’m planning on retiring from this job, not dying in it."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

Pushing back from him, Sarah looked up and said, "You know you don’t have to adopt me to be overprotective. You were doing just fine without the legalities."

"Sarah...I don’t have any family, either. The closest I’ve ever had has been the staff at St. Swithens, and some of the guys on the force. I wasn’t expecting to make a little sister out of you. Not a real one. But you’re here and..." He took a deep breath, trying not to feel all that was breaking through the mask, trying not to hug her until he crushed her or push her aside so he could wail on something in his frustration. "I need to do more than just be an overprotective coworker who goes home and has a separate life. I need to know about the Jeffries."

She laughed. "Okay."

"So we’ll talk about it in the morning?"

"Um, if by ‘talk’ about it you mean go to talk to the Wayne lawyers about it, sure."

He pushed her away. "Yeah?"

"Um," she smiled up at him. "Yeah."

John let out a whoop, picking Sarah up and tossing her over his shoulder. The paperwork and envelope went fluttering to the floor.

"John! John! What are you doing?"

He jogged them to the mouth of the cave....to the pool.

"John?!"

And jumped in.

Fin[ite]

The End

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

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