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Round Here

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This story is No. 18 in the series "Midnight City". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: "Round here we talk like lions but we sacrifice just like lambs." Round Here by Counting Crows

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
DC Universe > Batman > Buffy-CenteredVashtiFR1312,506171,0328 Jan 138 Jan 13Yes
Title: Round Here
Fandom: BtVS/The Dark Knight Rises
Character(s): John Blake, Sarah the OC Slayer, Buffy Summers, Barbara Gordon
Rating: PG
Summary: "Round here we talk like lions but we sacrifice just like lambs." Round Here by Counting Crows
Length: ~2380 words
Disclaimer: Only the words are mine, and that’s probably up for philosophical debate.

§§§

“John?”

John was up and out of his chair in an instant, recognizing his name despite the garbled sound. He strode to Sarah’s side at the head of the bed, surrounded by machines quietly chattering in the darkened room. A phone call from Buffy had gotten her a private room. When he’d thanked her, Buffy had shrugged and smiled. “Never did get around to taking her off the insurance.” If Gordon had found the statement odd, he hadn’t said anything. Maybe because they were all exhausted. John had no idea what time Gordon had left. Buffy had gone about an hour later, a call from Montoya energizing her more effectively than the coffee she’d finally conceded to drinking.

John was at Sarah’s side before she could start struggling with the apparatus helping her breath. Dark as the room was, he could still see the panic rising in her eyes. “Hey…hey…” he said softly, placing his hand on her forehead. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Just try to breathe normally. Rayne got you with a poison that’s effected your lungs. If you fight the machines you’ll suffocate. Okay?”

She tried to nod, only to whimper in distress.

“Don’t move. Don’t try to move…anything. A nurse will be here in a minute. They’ve got you so hooked up to machines your vitals are probably being broadcasted in New York’s Time Square.”

Sarah’s eyes crinkled, and John smiled in return.

True to his word, a nurse appeared moments later. He stepped out of her way. Long, slender and creamy brown, Nurse Juliet Antenor looked more like a fantasy creature cast in a ballet than hospital staff. She’d been Sarah’s primary nurse, thus far, and John had witnessed the gentle way in which she handled her patient. It only solidified the impression. She spoke in an accented mellow alto that rose and fell over her words as if she was singing. Every time she appeared in Sarah’s room John had a hard time focusing on anything but her movements, her words, leading him to wonder exactly how sleep-deprived he was. For her part, she either didn’t notice or was used to the strange vagaries of over-stressed, under-slept family.

“Ah, our patient is awake this morning.”

John scrubbed his face with his hands. “Is it morning?”

“Go outside this room and have a look for yourself, Mr. Blake. This will give me time to check on my patient, hmm?”

Ignoring a sudden wave of fear, he went around the other side of the bed so that Sarah could see him. “Okay? I’m not going to be very far, and Nurse Juliet is very nice. She’s been by to see you before.”

“One blink no, two blinks yes, Ms. Pradchaphet,” Nurse Juliet calmly advised, as Sarah began to panic in the face of such a daunting task as answering a yes/no question while paralyzed and intubated. “Three blinks for maybe or I don’t know.”

Sarah blinked twice, in rapid succession.

“You’re sure?” John asked.

“Mr. Blake, do not put such pressure on Ms. Pradchaphet,” Nurse Juliet said in gentle rebuke. “Remember that it has been a very trying time for her as well.”

Taking a deep breath, he nodded. “You’re right.” To Sarah he said, “I’m gonna grab a coffee and check in with Buffy, then I’ll be right back.”

As he backed out of the narrow space on the far side of the bed, he saw her try to suck in a breath, her forehead wrinkling as she willed her body to act. She closed her eyes, then opened them. Waited a beat and closed her eyes, then opened them.

“Sarah—“

Nurse Juliet laid a long-fingered brown hand against Sarah’s warmly tan skin. She stroked her hair back from her eyes. “Ms. Pradchaphet, I promise you Mr. Blake will only be a few feet away. He has been no further than the chair at the end of your bed, guarding you like someone precious all night. He needs to stretch his legs at the very least. Do you agree?”

Sarah blinked twice, rapidly.

“He will return. I promise it.” Moving a little away, just outside Sarah’s field of vision, Nurse Juliet nodded.

John grasped Sarah’s hand as he crossed the end of the bed, though he knew she couldn’t feel it.

***

Standing in the doorway of Sarah’s room, John quietly watched her exchange with the older woman, still in her coat, who had come to visit. He’d overheard her asking for the room when he’d gone out to coordinate that evening’s patrol schedules with Buffy. After nearly four weeks they had a system that made sure that Sarah was never alone, and neither was Gotham. He’d asked Buffy once if she wasn’t needed somewhere else.

"There are a hundred more just like me. Probably more than that. I swear I lost count after 2. Either way, the world will be fine. Plus, it’s still a little early for an Apocalypse." She’d said it with a smile, so John had let it go. When she’d gone home for Christmas, he’d understood and had, in fact, been grateful to not have to fight her on it.

For Christmas he’d given Sarah her official, completed adoption certificate. For Christmas Sarah had given John her first 24 hours without seizures since Ethan Rayne’s attack. Her doctors had been amazed.

The woman with Sarah stood very close, nearly over her, in a way that spoke of their familiarity. A tracheotomy performed early on meant that Sarah could now talk, albeit only in short bursts as the ventilator breathed for her, and shout if she was feeling threatened. But her voice was all brightness and smiles, though he couldn’t see her face. John shifted, inadvertently drawing the woman’s attention. She gave him a warm smile before turning back to Sarah.

"I’m going to be on my way. I have to check in on Chris before class tonight." Bending down, she gathered Sarah into a gentle hug, kissing her head through her hair much as a parent would. "I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to visit you sooner."

"It’s okay Ma—rie. I wasn’t fit—for company—anyway. Not for a—while. Thanks—for coming," Sarah said in the start and stop way she had now.

Gently laying her back down, Marie said, "I’ll be back soon, sweetheart."

"I know." John heard Sarah’s smile when she said it and smiled, too. So this was the Marie from her church that held the short Bible classes. From their limited conversations on the subject, he knew that Sarah liked Marie and her family very much. The hit-it-and-quit-it teaching style only seemed to solidify her feelings for them. "Thank you."

Marie kissed her forehead. "No need to thank me, sweetheart."

There had been other visitors: some from the church, some of the people she worked with, nearly all the interns in her program (although not, he’d noted, Jeffrey), and some of their neighbors. Gordon was a frequent visitor, except for Christmas when he’d had a rare visit with his family. There were flowers everywhere. Every few days a fresh bouquet came without note from a local florist. Curious and disturbed, John had gone back to the florist in hopes of learning more.

The boutique owner had shrugged. "The order was placed over the phone with one of my guys in the front. Fresh flowers every three to five days for Sarah Pradchaphet. No note needed other than her name. No end in sight until she gets out of the hospital, and then he’d call back to cancel the order."

"So you don’t know anything about the buyer?"

"My guys, they took the order by phone because the guy, he was real particular about what kinds of flowers, but he’d already paid online through PayPal. They verify he’s okay and deliver my money? I don’t care who’s doing the ordering."

"Thanks."


John had been standing outside the shop, phone to his ear when the owner had run out. "There was one thing," he said without preamble. "My guy who took the order? He said the number came up funny on the caller ID. I can’t remember the country code now, but I remember it was from someplace in Europe. I’ve got a lot of family over there, so I know."

John had thanked him and, walking back towards the hospital, tried to figure out how Wayne had learned about Sarah’s condition.

Marie grabbed the large red thing women euphemistically liked to call a ‘purse’ and slung it over her shoulder. John stepped back to get out of her way. Instead she paused, half in and half out of the door. "You wouldn’t happen to be Jeffrey, would you? She talks a lot about you."

Mouth quirking, John shook his head. Extending his hand, he said, "Not Jeffrey, though I’d like to meet him, too. My name’s John Blake, ma’am."

"So you’re John? Even better! She talks about you more than she does Jeffrey, though I would like to meet the young man."

Snorting, John could only agree.

"He hasn’t been by?"

John shook his head again. "Nope. And I’m sure someone would have told me if he came while I was out."

Marie looked thoughtful. "Hmm, Sarah and I are going to have to sit down about this one when she’s better. I don’t like the idea of her being half in love with a young man who won’t visit her in the hospital."

"If you don’t, I will."

Beaming, Marie left the room.

"I—can hear just fi—ne you know," Sarah muttered. "Probably better than—you can."

Coming to stand beside her, he ruffled her hair. Sarah frowned, but it was quickly followed by a bright smile. "Isn’t Marie—totally cool?"

"You say that even though she wants to end your fantasy romance with Jeffrey?"

"It’s what you w—ant, too."

"Yeah, but this is different."

"Blah blah—blah."

***

Buffy was back in Scotland the first time it felt like a hundred pins were dancing under Sarah’s shoulders and upper arms.

Doctor Allen called it a miracle.

Buffy, contacted via video-phone from the cave, had only smirked. "Doctors. What do they know? So what’s on the sched for tonight, Batboy?"

(Gordon, Jimmy and Barbara had volunteered for the morning shift, though the kids were only in town for a few days.)

***

"So it hurts?" Barbara asked, not for the first time.

Sarah tentatively shrugged, the slight motion setting her shoulders on fire for a long moment. It was a glorious feeling. "Yeah, a little."

"But it’s a good thing, right?"

"The best." Sarah flashed the girl her brightest smile.

Jimmy looked more like their father, but Sarah thought Barbara had more of Gordon’s manner. She’d turn her head a certain way, or narrow her eyes, or go super still, and Sarah would see Gordon’s face imposed over the fifteen year old’s smooth one, still plump and round with girlhood.

"Are you sure you—don’t want to go with—your dad and Jimmy—to pick up lunch?" she asked the girl.

Barbara shrugged. "My brother likes the cafeteria food. He’s so weird, sometimes I swear I don’t know him."

Sarah chuckled, a less boisterous sound than before but clearly a laugh all the same. "S’how brothers are."

"John seems really cool."

Grinning, Sarah said, "Does—somebody have a—crush on my big bro?"

"No!" But Barbara was turning as red as her hair.

Sarah’s grin broadened.

"Look, just don’t tell him. I know I’m too young but that’s no reason to step on my dreams."

"Mums the word." As silence began to grow between them, Sarah said, "I’m surprised you guys—wanted to visit with—me. You don’t see your d—dad very often."

Barbara raised a shoulder in an indifferent gesture that Sarah recognized very well. She was about to get a watered down version of the truth, but that was okay. "Dad talks about you and John so much that you feel like family."

Sarah smiled. "Thank—you. I’m an only—child, so I try to make— family wherever I go."

Barbara flashed her a smile. Which faded suddenly.

"What’s wrong? Changed—your mind about lu—lunch? Your dad will—get you something—edible."

"No just thinking...you came to Gotham for, like, your big break, right?" At Sarah’s slight nod, she continued, "But now you might be permanently paralyzed. I know that doctor, Doctor Allen, is saying this is the fastest recovery he’s ever seen, all things considered. What ‘all things considered’ does he mean, anyway?"

"He didn’t say." Sarah didn’t think Barbara knew that she’d been injected with the tetanus and how it should have killed her on the spot.

She laughed her breathy laugh when Barbara rolled her eyes. "Doctors think they know so much."

Sarah didn’t point out that they did, in fact, know so much. It wasn’t their fault ‘Slayer Physiognomy’ wasn’t a standard med school class.

"Anyway, I was just thinking that you came to Gotham to do something big and now...now you could recover and still never walk. Or worse." Shaking her head, she muttered, "Just like Gotham."

Barbara had been in a corner of the room, small and unnoticed, when Doctor Allen had explained the current status of her body to Sarah, John and Gordon. He’d freely admitted that she was making remarkable, if not actually miraculous, progress but that it was always possible she’d never get any further than the point she was at now. "In normal tetanus poisoning cases, full recovery takes months, about three to six. As you know, Ms. Pradchaphet, you received an extraordinarily lethal dose. I wish I could take more credit, but that you’ve come this far is a testament to your faith, and your will to live and thrive. I can’t make any promises regarding your future recovery."

"What will you do then?"

"Do when?" Sarah asked, dragging her mind back to the now.

Tucking stray hair behind her ear, Barbara said, "What will you do if the doctor’s right and you only get this far, or you recover more but you’re stuck in a wheelchair forever?"

Sarah shrugged, relishing the needle-pricks along her shoulders that threatened a white-out of pain. "Then I guess I—learn to fight—sitting down."

"That doesn’t scare you?"

"It terrifies me."

[in]Fin[ite]



Notes: This is it, the last story in what was a wild ride this Summer, although others are floating around my brain. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Once again, I have to thank TwistedShorts for the annual challenge, and everyone who posted a review while the fic-a-thon was running. I absolutely would have stopped somewhere around story 4 if not for them. They were great. :)

The End

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

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