By "Painbow"

Summary: Buffy's dad returns; S6, post DoubleMeat Palace

Disclaimer: I don't own Hank or Buffy or Spike (::sob::) or Dawn. Actually, I don't own any of the characters...yet! Mwahahaha! ::ahem::

A/N: Ok, ok...I hate Hank like any good Buffy fan. But I was always interested in him as a character...like one is interested in some kind of bug...or possibly fungus. So I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and see where it would go. Don't worry, this is not a story that idolizes him, or allows him to get away with the whole deadbeat thing, but I did want to humanize him a little...he seemed to really love Buffy and then BAM! no longer on the show. So I'm writing a story that at least gives him a little dignity. He will get lumps, cause no one gets away with abandoning children like that, but I really wanted to make him at least a little human. So, there, that's my reason...

Buffy lay in bed. It had been four weeks since Giles left, and things were...

Who would have thought everything would go downhill so fast? Who could have known how much Giles did to keep the group together? Who could have guessed that without Giles' calming and levelheaded presence everything would get so bad?

Willow was addicted to magic, Dawn was hurt and barely speaking to her, there were nerds on the loose, and she wasn't sure about herself...the relationship she was having with Spike...it was disturbing her. She was doing awful things, but she couldn't seem to stop. Everything was just so messed up.

It was hard not to cling to the idea that if Giles were here everything would be fine, that he'd clean his glasses and make everything work. As Buffy lay in bed staring at the ceiling she knew. If her father figure hadn't left her, like all the other men in her life, things would be better. She wouldn't be screwing up as a parent, sister, friend, and girlfr—slayer. Her life was just one huge train wreck.

She turned her head to look at the phone. Her hand began moving towards it of it's own accord. What time is it in England? 11pm? Later? I wonder if he'd be awake...

Buffy stopped herself. Giles wouldn't want to hear from her. And what could she tell him anyway? "Hey Giles! You thought I was adult enough to take care of myself...well, funny story..."

Buffy rolled over away from the phone. Calling Giles wouldn't help. He'd made it clear he was tired of dealing with her crap, that he didn't want to be in Sunnydale anymore. So why make him feel obligated to return?

Secretly Buffy knew why she wouldn't call. What if he said no? What if he refused to come back? "Sorry, Buffy, but you're not worth it. I have my own life now, and I don't care to uproot to come deal with yours."

It was the reason. Buffy knew deep down that it wasn't circumstance or fate or even coincidence that made men leave. It was her.

A tear rolled down her cheek. She clenched her fists and her face and no further tears fell. She was the Slayer and she could deal with this. It just meant being the Slayer. She needed to meet problems head on and deal with them with no emotional entanglements. She could do it!

Buffy rolled on to her back again and began to stare at the ceiling. There was a tiny crack of paint near the light that looked just like something she vaguely remembered from Heaven. Buffy lay there, staring at it, until she was interrupted by Dawn storming out of the house.

Buffy practically limped home after her double shift at the Doublemeat Palace. Sixteen hours should just not be allowed. Managers also shouldn't be allowed to spring them on you at the last minute...and should possibly be thrown in the meat grinder for doing so.

As she walked past Restfield, she indulged in another mental list of all the things wrong with her crappy life. Her failures as a guardian and provider took her all the way to the front steps of her house. Her failures as a friend, in the door and up the stairs to the shower. Her failures in love the entirety of her shower, and her failures as a slayer the entire time she dried off and changed.

She headed down the stairs to get something to eat, realizing that they probably didn't have much of anything in the house. Perusal of the refrigerator proved that very thing, and Buffy made do with leftover anchovy pizza and water.

Buffy sat at the counter, munching on her pizza dispassionately. Between bites she would stare at the fridge, as if it held the answers to all her problems. Of course, the fact that it held nothing was one of her problems.

A repeating noise broke through her daze. Woodpecker? No. Sounded like knocking. Buffy sighed. With her luck it'd be some huge Scooby emergency and she'd have to pretend to care. Bleh.

She put what was left of her pizza down wearily and shuffled to the front door on sore feet. Vaguely she wondered where Dawn was, but was distracted again by the knocking on the front door.

"Ok, I'm coming!" She sighed. "Very tired slayer here."

Grabbing the handle, she opened the door. She gripped the handle harder, causing the metal to become indented. In front of her stood the last person she thought she'd see.

Buffy stared.

Buffy stared some more.

Hank smiled.

"Dad..." she began, still trying to come to terms with the man standing on her front doorstep. Well, she had been wishing this morning for her father figure to return...of course the Powers that Whatever sent her Hank instead of the infinitely more useful Giles. Of course...

"Sweetheart," said Hank, smiling. "How have you been?"

Buffy stared again for good measure.

"Well," she finally replied, "isn't that a great question."

Hank had the decency, albeit delayed, to look embarrassed. "I know it's a helluva question, what with your mother being ill, but I finally got the message, sweetie. I'm here to help."

Buffy's brain shut down. He didn't know. How could he not? But he didn't. There he stood, looking cheerful and helpful...and something else ending in ful and he wanted to help. It was like her dream from a year ago. And now, on top of everything else, she had to tell her father that her mother had died last year, come next month.

It was a surprise to her when she was suddenly looking up at her father, who looked concerned. God, she hadn't seen that look for her since...in a long, long time. The last thing she remembered that night was her father calling her name, looking worried and loving and so much like a dad. Her dad.

Buffy woke. Sun was streaming through the windows, birds were chirping in the trees, and Dawn was creeping into her room. Buffy opened her eyes.


"Oh...you're awake."

"Yeah." Buffy vaguely remembered a dream she'd had the night before. He father had come home to help out her and Dawn. She couldn't decide if it was a good dream or a nightmare.

"Do you girls want pancakes?" a voice called from downstairs. Buffy tensed.

Dawn saw her reaction and sat on the edge of the bed. "I know. I came in last night. He said you'd gone to bed. I sorta stared and then ran to my room. What's he doing here?"

Buffy sighed. "He wants to help with Mom's illness."

Dawn gaped, eyes filling with tears. "He—he doesn't know, does he?"

"No," said Buffy softly.

"Oh," said Dawn in a choked voice. She looked down at the comforter.

They sat together on the bed in silence. Hank's voice rose from the kitchen again. "Girls? You awake? We should get breakfast, and then go visit your mother!"

Buffy frowned, jaw tightening. "Fine," she said quietly. She sat up.

"Buffy, what are you doing?"

"I'm getting up. We're going to eat breakfast with dad, and then go visit Mom."