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Feast of the Heart

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This story is No. 17 in the series "Midnight City". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Oz was wrong: connections were the last thing John needed.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
DC Universe > BatmanVashtiFR1312,259021,0058 Jan 138 Jan 13Yes
Title: Feast of the Heart
Fandom: BtVS/The Dark Knight Rises
Character(s): John Blake, Commissioner James Gordon, Buffy Summers, Sarah the OC Slayer
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Oz was wrong: connections were the last thing John needed.
Length: ~2175 words
Disclaimer: Only the words are mine, and that’s probably up for philosophical debate. Title from Jesca Hoop's Feast of the Heart, a lovely and strange song that I was not listening to while writing this story, but had been part of the playlist for the latter stories.
Notes: "Feast of the Heart" was almost the name of the previous chapter, and it was also almost the name of the series.

§§§

John sprinted from the elevator to the nurse’s station in a few strides. “I’m looking for my sister.”

The nurse on staff bent toward her computer. “Her name, sir?”

“It’s—“

A heavy hand on his shoulder interrupted him. “John.”

He turned. “Commissioner Gordon. Have you seen her? Do you know where she is? How did you know that Sarah was here? Did you know? Was it one—“

“Whoa, whoa…slow down, son.” Hand still on John’s shoulder, Gordon steered him away from the nurse’s station to the large picture windows in the waiting area. “I know you’re worried. I am, too. That’s why I’m here. But we can’t go in to see her just yet. You already know she was attacked tonight. I can’t give you more details than that right now, but there was…” Gordon hesitated. “There was a needle jammed into her back.” At John’s sharp intake, he quickly added, “They’re working on her now, son. Should be done any moment.”

John dragged a hand over his face, trying to hold together in spite of the adrenaline that made him feel like he was flying apart. He inhaled deeply through his nose. Letting it out, he said, “Weren’t Barbara and Jimmy supposed to be visiting for the weekend?”

Gordon nodded. “There was some delay with their flight, so they won’t be getting off the ground until about six tomorrow morning. How are you doing, son?”

“I don’t know,” John answered honestly. “This…this is not the call I was expecting to get on my way home.” That lie he told glibly, but how easily it could be true. And if she got hurt after she started patrolling the night in earnest, who was going to give him the call then?

“I know, son. I know.”

“Honestly?" He glanced over at Gordon. "Honestly, I just want to break something.”

Gordon nodded.

John found the nearest seat and dropped into it, bending over his knees as a wave of nausea struck. “Anyone told her sister?” he asked from between his knees.

“One of them’s in town?” They’d long ago explained to Gordon that Sarah and her ‘sisters’ were related by mutual affection, not blood.

John nodded. “The oldest.”

“Sorry, son, I didn’t know. I’d have had someone call her, too. Give me your phone and I’ll do it.”

John sat up long enough to fish it out before hunching over his knees again. He had not been expecting this. Gordon being at the hospital ahead of him? Likely. When Batman showed up in an ER with shaking and trembling comatose girl, claiming to have rescued her from an attack that included her being stuck with a needle full of an unidentified poison, you were nearly guaranteed a hospital visit from the Police Commissioner himself. But this sudden wave of sickness twisting up his guts? John had lived through worse in the system, and then again during Bane’s occupation. He knew why it was happening physically—unspent adrenaline, fear, anxiety and pure fury were a noxious mix—but he couldn’t wrap his head around it.

John shot up with an oath and paced the waiting area. Gordon watched him, but did nothing to stop the jerky motions. “What’s Sarah’s sister’s name, son?”

“Buffy.”

“Buffy? Not Buffy Summers?”

“Yeah, not a name I would have chosen either,” he said as he stopped at the far wall and stared at the over-patterned wallpaper. Punching it would hurt, but he was positive it’d make him feel better. He used to do a lot of punching before he figured out adults didn’t like it.

“How do you know Buffy, son?”

“I stepped between her, her sisters and a mugger in the Czech Republic,” he repeated numbly. It was a really ugly wallpaper, too. Sarah hated this shade of pink. “Why?”

“Unless there’s another Buffy Summers running around Gotham City, it looks like Sarah’s sister has been consulting with the Department.”

John’s heart clenched. He and Buffy had already discussed this, after he’d dropped Sarah off in the ER. They had a plan and a story. "On what?"

"You know that missing persons case? The one Sarah’s been following in the news. With the college students."

She really hated this shade of pink. "Oh yeah? She said she was here on business. Didn’t say what."

"You wouldn’t happen to know-- John!"

It did hurt. A lot. And John had hit the wall hard enough to draw a nurse. But he was right. He felt better.

***

"I’m looking for Commissioner Gordon or Sarah Pradchaphet’s room. Actually, he’s probably in her room so if you could just give me that..."

John stood. "Buffy."

She turned and strode to him. "Thank God someone called you." She threw her arms around him. "We okay?" she whispered in his ear.

He nodded.

Releasing him, she said, "What’s the story with Sarah? Have you heard from the doctor?"

"Doctors, Miss Summers," Gordon said. "She was in surgery until a few minutes ago, but none of her doctors have come out yet. I didn’t know you knew John, here."

"Saved me and the girls from a mugger. In all honesty we probably could have handled it ourselves, but it was a sweet gesture. There aren’t too many white knights left." She slipped her hand into his. "Hey! What’s this?" She lifted and examined the bandaged knuckles on his right hand.

John pulled away from her scrutiny. "I don’t want to talk about it."

"He, uh, had a run-in with a wall," Gordon supplied, watching John walk away.

"It’s an ugly wall. Sarah would hate it. Will hate it."

Eyes on John, Buffy said, "I guess I should call the rest of the gang." She turned to Gordon. "Have you heard from Bats?"

He shook his head. "Not since he dropped off Sarah. Did you get our guy?"

"Yeah. Detective Montoya has him for questioning under serious lock and key. It shouldn’t be too hard to get a confession out of him. Not that you’ll be able to keep him."

"Wait...what? Not keep him?"

"What are you going to charge him with, Commissioner? Kidnapping...sure why not. But what are you going to use as evidence, the decaying bodies of the Camazotz rotting in the street? Besides, you really don’t have the ability to hold on to him."

"I’m sure Sarah would be willing to testify," Gordon countered.

"Assuming she even saw what hit her. Batman spotted and rescued her. Is he testifiable?"

Spinning on his heel, Gordon swore and took a step away from her. Facing Buffy again, he said, "Can he at least give us enough evidence to nail Meroni to the wall? There’s a lot of families who won’t be getting any closure if Meroni walks. Again."

She nodded. Sighing, Buffy ran her hands through her hair. "God, I feel so old. I could be one of those families. I’ve known Sarah since she was fifteen."

"You have to wonder why your magician friend attacked her. She doesn’t fit the profile. Do you think he knew about her connection to you?"

"Maybe." Buffy shrugged. "Though Sarah didn’t go out with us when we were working. I think it’s more likely that Ethan mistook her for a guy. I mean with her coat on, from a distance and in the dark Sarah could be mistaken for a guy. The short hair. The solid build. And we guessed that his next target would be Asian. We’re lucky tonight was the night Bats and I were going after him anyway."

Sighing, Gordon rubbed the back of his neck. "She’s not...part of your group, is she?" he asked softly.

Buffy shook her head. "Sarah kinda fell in with us after her parents died after a series of awkward events. She doesn’t have any family here, so when we left the States she came with. The internship at Wayne Enterprises was supposed to be it. Her launch-pad back into the real world."

"Hey, let’s wait to hear what the doctors have to say before we count Sarah out."

John knew that everything Buffy said was for his and Sarah’s benefit, to protect their secret, but it still made him sick. Unclenching his fists, he turned away from the window intent on breaking in and changing the subject. Instead, his feet were carrying him beyond Buffy and Gordon—to the man striding purposefully their way. "Doctor?"

"You’re here for Ms. Pradchaphet?"

Nodding, John felt Gordon and Buffy flanking him.

"Okay. She’s still in recovery. She didn’t respond well to our usual course of anesthetic--"

He nodded again, unsurprised.

"—so she’s still pretty heavily sedated. But the needle that was lodged in her spine has been successfully removed with little apparent nerve damage. Unfortunately, we won’t know that for sure for some time. Um...who here is family?" he asked, his eyes scanning over the three of them.

John raised his hand. "I’m her bro—legal guardian. I mean, I will be once the paperwork goes through. We just filed it the other day." Why was this so hard?

"Good enough for me," the doctor said. "If you don’t mind an audience."

"They’re like family to us."

"Okay. So, first of all, Ms. Pradchaphet’s status is serious but stable. She is extremely lucky to be alive.

"You know tetanus poisoning, right? You get it from being scratched by a rusty nail, gives you lockjaw...?" At their nod, he continued, "Untreated, it’s a slow, painful death, but as you know it is treatable. It’s why you get those nasty tetanus shots every few years. Ms. Pradchaphet, however, had the toxin injected directly into her spine. To be honest with you all, she should have died on the spot. I’ve never seen anything like it...like whoever attacked her had intended it for an elephant. The needle we removed should have been the least of our worries."

Unclenching his jaw, John said, "What’s your point?"

"Ms. Pradchaphet has had serious, major nerve damage. At lower dosage, the toxin would have been counteracted by the vaccine already present in her body. The vaccine, however, is no match for the amount of poison in her system. Even though she is alive, and we believe out of danger, I can’t tell you the extent of the nerve damage she has sustained. Because that’s what tetanus is, a neurotoxin. Lockjaw is just its most famous symptom. I also can’t tell you how much she’ll recover.

"Right now, she literally can’t breathe on her own and so we have her on a ventilator. When she wakes up, she’ll likely be paralyzed from the neck down. After that? Who can tell. Again, under normal circumstances I could give you a prognosis, tell you what comes after this. But this is so far from normal, we’ll have to keep her here under constant observation until she stabilizes."

John nodded, calmed somewhat by the doctor’s words, as Buffy slipped a hand into his. Nothing he had said was very surprising—Buffy had gotten Willow on the line and the three of them had discussed possible results while he’d changed—but apparently he’d needed to hear it from a medical professional.

Gordon put a hand on his shoulder. "You all right, son?"

"I think so." To the doctor, he said, "Can I see her?"

"As soon as she wakes up from the anesthetics. Check in at the nurse’s station. I’ll be on duty all night, but I can’t promise you where exactly I’ll be."

"Thank you, Doctor--"

"Allen. Doctor Allen. And you’re Detective John Blake," he said, extending a hand.

John took it. "We’ve met?"

"Not personally. I remember everyone who helped keep the hospital going during the occupation. We’ll talk again later."

***

You were wrong. Connections are the last thing I need. Blake.

Sitting in the dark, watching Sarah’s chest rise and fall with the pulse of a machine as she slept, John’s thumb hovered over the Send button. Was this what Oz had had in mind when he’d begun the alchemy that had knit Sarah to him? She would always have a place with the slayers. He’d always have his ties to St. Swithens and the GCPD. They would have been fine without each other. He should have never let her come with him to Gotham. Hadn’t Wayne worked alone for all those years, himself the only one in danger of getting hurt? Now Sarah was paralyzed, whether permanently or not no one knew, and Buffy was promising to take over patrol until she was better.

John’s erased the message and started again. Did you mean I should let connections show me how precious life is? Too late. Blake. Which made no sense. He liked the first one better. He cleared the new one and started typing again, blunt fingers punched hard into the tiny buttons.

"John?"

He was up and out of his seat in an instant, phone and recriminations abandoned.

Fin[ite]



AN2: Info on tetanus poisoning, and awful it can be, can be found on Wikipedia. I have a fairly low threshold for descriptive pain (I'll help you reset that popped shoulder, but please don't describe it to me), and nearly made myself ill reading it. It's pretty awful.

The End

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