(See Chapter one for main spoilers and disclaimer. Thank you for keeping my muses fed with the reviews! Because of that, I decided not to leave you all for too long at the end of the last chapter. So two chapters tonight :-), enjoy! )
It took every ounce of willpower and training he possessed to keep from running full out into the hospital emergency room. The nurse behind the triage desk saw the worried look in O’Neill’s eyes and braced herself for a confrontation. Still having the presence of mind to notice how frantic he was, Jack took a moment to steady his self. The phone call he received from Cassie had his mind almost completely jumbled with fear. Taking a deep breath he was about to open his mouth and ask the nurse about Joyce when suddenly he felt a brunette teenager attach herself to him. All the worry and apprehension he held got shoved to the background as the officer in him came out and took charge.
He held Dawn for a moment, just letting her know that he was there. Cassie came up behind Dawn, looking relieved that Jack had arrived. After a few moments Jack’s anticipation was building, he looked to Cassie, “What happened?” Between a hiccoughing, sobbing Dawn and a bit more calm Cassie, they told Jack about the early afternoon events. “Ok, you two wait here, I’ll go talk to the doctor.”
Jack came back after a few minutes looking a bit relieved, he explained to the girls plainly what he had been informed. It seemed that some pressure had built up in the area of Joyce’s former tumor causing her to pass out, but it was nothing all that serious at this point. However, with what little they knew of her medical history, the doctor wanted to keep her overnight for observation and to run some tests. Turning to Dawn, Jack asked, “Do you know the phone number for your mom’s doc, back in Sunnydale?”
Dawn shook her head, “No, but I can call someone and get it if you want.”
“Here,” Jack handed her a cell phone, “the sooner they get the records here, the easier it will be for them to take care of this.”
Smiling, she took the phone, “I’ll go outside so this doesn’t interfere with any electronic stuff.” Dialing as she walked, Dawn pushed the call button once outside. She waited a few seconds as it connected.
“Magic Box, Anya speaking,” the former vengeance demon answered.
“Hey, An’, it’s Dawn, how are you guys?” Dawn asked, trying to keep her voice upbeat.
Dawn listened for a little bit as Anya began a play by play of the gang using the Buffybot over the summer. “… But now we don’t need her. Now that the real Buffy is back!”
“Buffy’s back?” Dawn whispered, not believing her ears.
“Yeah, last Friday night, Willow did this major mojo and resurrected her. It’s weird though, Giles and Spike actually agree on the idea that there’s gonna be consequences and stuff, but they won’t agree that they agree,” Anya chuckled. “OH! And, well Xander doesn’t want me to tell anyone yet, but he proposed!”
Biting her tongue Dawn forced her voice to sound as happy as she could, “That’s wonderful, you guys are so great for each other. Hey, Anya,” The teenager cut it, “I’m actually calling because I need a Sunnydale phone number, and well, no Sunnydale phone book here in here in Colorado.”
“Sure, what number do you need?” Anya asked, digging the phone book out from under some papers.
“The one for my mom’s former Doctor at Sunnydale Hospital,” Taking a pen out of her back pocket, Dawn wrote the number down on the back of her hand. “Thanks, Anya, I appreciate it, bye.” Hastily, the young Summers hung up and ran back inside. Her mind overloaded with what Anya had said about Buffy being back and Giles concern.
Back inside, Joyce was now awake. After a brief ‘hello’ she was whisked off for some testing. A couple of hours later the doctor Jack spoke with earlier came out to them. There was nothing conclusive he could tell them yet, but they could go in and see her if they wanted. The doctor shot all three of them a warning glance when they bolted toward the room. Jack tried to play the adult figure by coughing and warning the teenagers to slow down.
Dawn knocked on the door and slowly cracked it open, “Mom?”
Joyce looked at the doorway and smiled, “Hey, sweetie.”
The trio walked in quietly, the girls immediately going to Joyce’s bedside. Jack stood near the door a moment, allowing Dawn and Cassie time to see that Joyce was still alive. He could imagine the shock they must have gone through at finding her unconscious earlier that day. Finally, the girls pulled back a bit; Jack smiled comfortingly as he walked to the bedside. After giving Joyce a soft kiss, he stepped back, snickering.
“What’s so funny?” Joyce asked. After the months of dating him, she was becoming afraid of hearing what his answer to that question would be.
Bouncing on the balls of his feet he stuffed his hands into his pockets and looked around the room pointlessly before answering, “Oh it’s just, you know, I’ve heard some lousy excuses from people trying to get out of going fishing with me. Beautiful, yours takes the cake.”
“Yeah, mom,” Dawn piped up, not wanting to be left out. “If you didn’t trust Cassie and me alone for two days, you didn’t have to be so dramatic about it all.”
“Joyce how could you?” Cassie asked, “I mean you totally ruined our evil scheme for the weekend.”
Joyce looked between Jack, Cassie, and her daughter questioningly. “You are a bad influence on these girls,” she accused Jack. Then turning to Cassie, “And what, pray tell, was this ‘evil scheme’? To take over the world, no doubt?”
“Taking over the world is like so five minutes ago,” she answered with a roll of her eyes.
“Totally,” Dawn agreed. The girls each glanced at Jack smirking.
Leveling a glare on her boyfriend, Joyce waited for him to respond. “I admit it,” Jack started with an unconvincing sigh, “They were helping me take over the universe. I’ve brainwashed them into being my henchmen.”
“That’s ‘henchwomen’,” Dawn corrected.
“Ha, ha,” Jack responded sarcastically, and then half mumbled, half coughed, ‘henchwomen’.
Joyce didn’t look convinced, “All right, I give, what’s really going on between you three?”
Jack took his hands out of his pockets, Joyce thought it looked like he was holding something, but couldn’t tell for certain. “Now you’ve really done it,” he pouted, “Here I had this whole weekend planned, tomorrow night we were going to be out on rotted old boat landing, covered with mosquitoes, cooking hot dogs and drinking cheap beer while I gave you this.” He held out a small box.
Joyce took it cautiously, her eyes still scanning the trio. Opening the box, when she saw the ring inside, she gasped, “Oh, Jack...” Tears began to form in her eyes and the girls took it as a cue to go get something to drink down the hall.
Moving up closer, Jack sat down on the edge of the hospital bed, trying to be patient. “So, what do you say?”
Wanting to have some fun, Joyce decided to play his game. “Say to what?” She asked as innocently as she could manage, a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
“Oh, you’re actually gonna make me ask aren’t ya?” Jack shot back, amused.
Pursing her lips tightly to try and contain an excited grin, Joyce simply nodded once.
Sighing Jack took the box from her and pulled out the ring. He held her hand gently, “Joyce,” He took a deep breath, “Will you go steady with me?”
It took half a moment before Joyce groaned then started laughing.
“All right, all right,” Jack gave in, “Just say you’ll marry me already, will ya?”