Disclaimer: DC and Dark Horse Comics, respectively; Heel and Toe; Warner Bros.; Whedon, et al. own all but those unrecognized. "Passive, Orestes, The Noose, The Outsider." EMI, Virgin, 2004.
Summary: "Shut up, Dad," Elizabeth said in a low, vicious tone that caught him up short. Tim's eyes widened further. This wasn't his daughter he was talking to so much as The Slayer.
Notes: I just rewatched 'The Pack' and it was actually creepy as shit this time when I was paying such close attention to their behavior and other nuances. *winces*
Notes, Part II: If it weren't for Adoxerella, this part would have taken far longer to post. I thank God she found that part. I'm extremely partial to my work, it has been proven.
Timelines: Batman: post-Heart of Hush; Buffy, (including the following comics) post-Viva Las Buffy, Slayer, Interrupted, and A Stake to the Heart; post-'Becoming, Part II';
General storyverse, post-Acquainted with the Night by marag, which is encompassed in its own wonderful universe where Gregory House was once our dear Timothy Drake...
House, M.D., 'No Reason' - AU after that.
Part XI: Caring
...Wake up and face me, don't play dead 'cause maybe someday I will walk away and say 'you disappoint me, maybe you're better this way...'
It was Tor's words when Xander finally sought him out that hit Xander the hardest. "You have no idea how hard it is not to go looking for you every day when I finish breakfast, lead - "
Tor shivered and frowned, balling his fists as he struggled not to crawl up to Xander and brandish his neck in supplication.
Xander squirmed with some discomfort but, in the end, gave into his instincts as pack leader and knelt down, allowing himself to embrace Tor, giving long-sought approval. The happy whine Tor gave in response was almost more than Xander could take.
He forced out a breath and then lunged back into a standing position, leaving Tor cowering before him on the grass here in Weatherly Park where he'd come to find them all since they'd left their families so long ago.
Xander ran his hand over his hair as he took in Tor's haggard appearance. "Just promise...promise me you haven't been trying to eat any...people. Just...just animals, Tor - swear."
Tor gave off animalistic whimpers and the tears that came to his eyes that let Xander know that Giles had been right. This was his pack...and he'd flat out abandoned them. What else could they do but be themselves?
...Go ahead and play dead, I know that you can hear this...
It wasn't as if he didn't know how difficult the urges were to ignore, the voices in his head telling him to pick off this or that classmate even now. Tor, Heidi, Kyle, and Rhonda...he'd left them all alone. How could he begin to judge them?
At least they'd done something comparatively decent and moved into the park where there was less temptation, less human prey on a constant basis. He couldn't blame them for taking anything - the things he'd done, still wanted to do...he had no right.
Xander forced himself to relax, breathing slowly and forcing himself to sit down. Tor began to back away, however, now beginning to growl, and Xander's head snapped up, the lieutenant asserting itself almost before he realized it, "Who the hell said you could take your sorry ass anywhere? Leader, superior officer, who gives a shit, get your ass back here."
His voice was low and dangerous and despite the fact that he didn't have a weapon - Giles had made sure to pound that into him, forcing him to learn hand-to-hand in favor of giving him a weapon of any kind less instantaneous loss of his human senses allow for someone to get hurt or, far more likely, killed - Tor froze and his mouth dropped open slightly before he almost bowled Xander over, whimpering madly this time, baring his neck once more.
"Fuck," Xander muttered, taking hold of Tor's head and forcing him backward. "Listen to me. SIT!"
Tor crashed to the ground and whimpered again, leaving Xander to almost turn away from him, swearing viciously.
Shit, Giles was right! This was way harder than he imagined.
Xander breathed out once more before turning back around and then growled as he allowed the Hyena to come fully forth and descended onto his hands and feet. He nuzzled and sniffed at Tor, indicating the deeper parts of the park. Show me where they are.
Tor whimpered again, dashing forward into the darkness around them.
Xander carefully took note of the direction he was running in - east - and then began running after him, catching up with ease.
...Maybe you're better this way...
Elizabeth stood anxiously, chewing her thumbnail as she watched her father inject the antidote to the etorphine into Angel's jugular vein before jerking to his feet with some trouble - Tim was still very unused to being able to use both his legs, let alone without the cane - and dashing backward, all the while hating himself for the feeling of burning his daughter at the stake, what with leaving her defenseless against a borderline rabid vampire who would be doing hell only knew what within moments.
Surely enough, Angel's head popped up, growling as he looked around the Cave once more. It was only a few seconds before he caught sight of Elizabeth and immediately was up and running toward her on all-fours before she stopped him with little trouble yet again.
He whimpered, then, and nuzzled at her, whining and trying to get closer to her. Notably, he didn't try to lunge past her again.
He wants to be stopped, both Tim and Bruce realized and glanced at each other in agreement before turning back to the scene before them.
"Angel, stop it," she commanded quietly but with enough assurance that he halted completely and stared at her again before suddenly yawning widely and faltering, blinking as his body caught up with what was left of his mind and he tried to throw off the effects of the sedative.
Elizabeth knelt and wrapped her arms around him, following his eyes with her own when they were open, forcing Angel to see her. "Here I am, baby. I'm right here. You don't have to find me anywhere. Help me find you."
Angel growled lowly, a slur evident even then, and leaned into Buffy's shoulder, nuzzling her neck.
Gently but firmly, Elizabeth pushed Angel's face backward away from her neck, knowing perfectly well that if Angel bit her, husband or no, her dad was going to kill his poor, helpless ass. Any protestations on her part that he couldn't control himself were going to go in one ear and out the other. Dead Angel would be the result all the same.
"Angel. Come. Here." Elizabeth was going to repeat that as long and as often as she needed to and if it took weeks, well then her dad and Bruce were just going to have to get used to her camping out down here in the Cave. "Angel. Come. Here."
"You said he thought you were in danger before," Bruce said in a rather unexpectedly calm voice and Elizabeth placed her hand over Angel's mouth to keep him from going for her neck again as she looked back at her grandfather.
"'Hmm', she says," Tim sniped, his arms now folded as he leaned back against the console and glared at the scene before him. He reached into his pocket and fingered the plastic Batarang he now kept with him at all times while Angel was here, knocked out or not. "Like this is just - "
"Dad, shut up," Elizabeth cut him off curtly and Tim narrowed his eyes at her but said nothing else since he'd interrupted Bruce, himself.
Bruce sighed quietly, but continued, "Elizabeth, you told Angel that I wasn't anyone who hurt you, that none of us were, when he first fell in front of the statue and came after me. You believe he views any foreign party as a threat against you. He feels the same need to protect you that Tim does."
"The hell he does," Tim muttered, but fell silent again at Bruce's subsequent look of warning.
"And you, Timothy - " Tim flinched at Bruce's use of his full first name, his entire face putting effort into it as his left eye clenched shut and the right looked upward toward the ceiling of the Cave. "Told your daughter that Angel was lost and thought she was, as well. That he's looking for her and that his being a psychic only makes things more difficult because it gives him so many places both to look and to get lost himself."
Bruce frowned, "We need a way for Buffy to connect with Angel psychically. That would be the easiest way both for her to locate him and for her to draw him out. She is the only person he responds to and rather than wait months, possibly years for Angel to surface on his own - "
"You'll, what, shoot her up with Orpheus and toss her into a crazed vampire's head to pick her way through that briar patch of psychosis?"
"If you have any helpful ideas, kindly share them," Elizabeth finally snapped, tired of Tim's possessive attitude when it came to her, despite her understanding of it, and wanting to get Angel back sooner rather than later. "Orpheus, what is it?"
Bruce answered in his now standard, she was coming to see, calm tone, "A psychogenic drug rather like lysergic acid diethylamide - "
Tim interrupted again before he could help himself, "We are not letting my daughter drop demonic acid that could kill her just to get her vampire boyfriend back!"
Before Tim knew it, Angel had knocked Elizabeth aside and was now headed straight for him.
Whipping out the Batarang before he could think, Tim flicked it open and sent it flying at Angel, who caught it in his left bicep, snarled loudly enough to echo through the Cave...and kept coming.
"Shit! Shitshitshit!" Tim turned and began running for the stairs when he heard a heavy tumbling noise and Elizabeth grunting.
Looking backward, he saw Elizabeth practically strangling Angel (or she would have been if he'd needed to breathe) as she hauled him back to the wall and shoved him against it, forgoing any consequences and kissing him hard even as she ripped the Batarang back out of his arm and then pressed her hand to the wound to staunch gravity pulling his blood out of his body.
Tim felt his mouth drop open and his legs go weak once more, this time in horror, as she watched Elizabeth use her body to manhandle Angel back to the wall before - Oh. Well, hell. Fuck. - suddenly there was the clipping of brand-new, reinforced, padded, silk-lined manacles as they went around Angel's wrists.
"You'd - "
"Shut up, Dad," Elizabeth said in a low, vicious tone that caught him up short. Tim's eyes widened further. This wasn't his daughter he was talking to so much as The Slayer.
"Rule number one around unstable anything - no sudden moves. With all the stories you've been telling me about Arkham inhabitants, I should think that rule would be second nature to you now, but I guess I see now what Uncle Dick's talking about.
"You've completely lost any and all sense of where you came from or of danger living in Princeton. I have to say I agree, because just now? YOU COULD HAVE GOTTEN YOURSELF KILLED BECAUSE YOU JUST HAVE TO MAKE A FUCKING POINT THAT DOESN'T NEED TO BE MADE!"
Behind her Angel whimpered and Elizabeth looked backward, presumably to reassure him in some fashion before turning dead serious eyes back on Tim.
"You are my father, we've established that, but this isn't your world, Dad. You already have to reacclimate to Gotham and I understand that but, until you do, let me handle the supernatural before you get yourself killed good and dead.
"I understand that you have this whole thing where I'm your shiny new little girl, except we both know I'm not a little girl so letting yourself get into that mindset won't help anyone. It also won't help anyone if, by the time he's sane again, my husband has ripped apart his own father-in-law. So: do yourself and the rest of us a favor and cut the wisecracking. Cut the lack of helping us get anywhere.
"Right now? I don't want to hear anything that isn't solution-oriented. If you're not interested in helping Angel, then you're not interested in helping me because we're a packaged deal, Dad, and I want him back whole and healthy. You and I are, too, but so are Angel and I.
"If you don't get used to sharing me, then you and I won't have much to talk about for very long and I'd hate that almost more than either of you dying. I'm not saying this to be manipulative, Dad. When Mom threw me out, it was like a whole chunk of my soul was gone. Don't do that to me again!"
Tim watched, wide-eyed, as Elizabeth breathed deeply, trying to calm down, and found himself blinking, actually speechless. "Are you going to help us? If you're not, then I would suggest you don't come down here and you and I just see each other at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you're on our team, then please come up with something constructive before I'm forced to punch you for your unnecessary asshattery."
With that, Elizabeth turned back and stomped over to a now cowering Angel, stopping to breathe deeply before kneeling down to stroke his hair again and attempt to reassure him as best as she could. Tim refused to look at Bruce, feeling the 'I told you so' from all the way down the half-set of stairs he'd managed to climb in his haste.
Tim clenched his eyes shut, trying to think back to when he'd been in Buffy's position regarding choosing Bruce and his home over persuing Black Mask after Stephanie's death. Instantly, all the old anger and resentment flooded his body, showing him Buffy's point from his own so long ago.
God, I'm putting her through...what I went through...I...idiot...fucking asshole...
Shoulders slumping, Tim ran his hand over his mouth, shuddering. Was he...jealous? Because Buffy got back what she'd lost and he never would? What kind of petty son of a bitch was he? Reaching up and rubbing his hands together as though to warm them, Tim then rubbed the back of his neck.
"When did you become so fidgety?" Bruce asked quietly, his voice echoing up from the depths and Tim winced.
"When I lost my ability to expunge my excess energy in the form of kicking goon and baddie ass. When I lost the use of my leg. I...fidget a lot now." Tim glanced over his own shoulder for no reason before throwing out a hand and merely saying now, "J'onn J'onzz."
"Who," Elizabeth asked cluelessly, but she watched as Bruce's face lit up before he turned to her, a strangely bright yet cunning expression on his face.
"I believe your father might be ready to help us now, Elizabeth."
The glowing smile that came to her face as a result was all the further persuasion that Tim needed.
Help me if you can - adjust to this, it's not the way I'm wired, so could you please help me understand why...
Joyce was sorely tempted to roll her eyes. Certainly, there had been an expected amount of shock - well, obviously - but this was ridiculous. Rupert had stared at her, his mouth agape, before commencing cleaning his glasses for the next five minutes straight.
She was thisclose to kicking him in the shins. Alright, so her temper had been reduced to hair-trigger over the previous week. She knew she'd get over it eventually. But right now? NOT the time to sit there twiddling like a moron.
"RUPERT! Did you hear a word I said?"
Which was when he started gibbering. God, Joyce thought, giving up and slowly getting to her feet to return to her room. "Never mind. Let yourself out."
"Joyce, I - " Rupert finally managed to say something and Joyce eased herself the few inches she'd risen back into the chair. "Yes?"
"Well, I - this is certainly a shock, but...well, it's completely...understandable. I..." Giles resisted the urge to remove his glasses again and simply took a deep breath. "I wasn't one for..."
"Protection?" Joyce asked blithely and Giles face lit up like a fire hydrant. Biting her lip, Joyce decided he wasn't a prick and reached out to pat his hand.
"Don't worry, you're not the only idiot in this room. In the interest of full disclosure, the reason Buffy even exists is because this is not my first time doing this."
Giles blinked, struggling to keep his mouth shut again, and Joyce chuckled. "Oh yeah, repeat offender here. Her...Hank wasn't her biological father. There, I'm being honest with you, since apparently you're not running screaming calling me a lying anything. She was born when I was seventeen - so, really, it was a little hypocritical to be so - well, they say the things you can't stand in others are what you've done yourself. I just didn't want to - oh, God, not that I think Buffy was a mistake. Anything but - God, she was a gift..."
Joyce clenched her eyes shut, once again feeling hot tears begin to course their way down her face before suddenly feeling the slightly rough pattern of an Oxford button-down collar, as well as the softer feel of a sweater vest.
Suddenly wanting to laugh, she did so. "You changed so much!" Over her head, she heard a snort and giggled again.
Breathing deeply, Joyce clutched at Rupert's arm and sighed. "Buffy's biological father, I...we met when he was - well, we had both just turned seventeen. Like mother, like daughter, I know. Though Buffy actually knew Angel for a year before...well, let's just say she was more patient than I've ever been. Or something like that, I'm not sure. I...he disappeared a few days later. I think he was killed."
Joyce felt Rupert's arms freeze around her for but a moment before relaxing. She sat up slowly, looking him critically in the eye.
"Rupert, tell me you don't think Buffy's dead. Tell me...oh, God, you think she's gone to find Tim - uh, that was his name, sorry, Timothy Drake - and meet him if he's still alive?"
Giles sighed, pinching his nose slightly. "Joyce, you have to understand...what you did when you threw Buffy out - it's a completely normal reaction as far as humans like ourselves are concerned - "
"Humans? What, are you saying Buffy's not human?"
Giles shushed her then, breathing deeply and obviously asking her to do the same. For hope of not losing her mind, Joyce did so, both for her own sake and the baby's.
"Slayers are not completely human, no. It is merely their makeup - I don't want to infer that they are built, by that idea, all human beings are built..." Giles glanced with some nervousness down at her midsection before blushing again forcing himself to regain his focus. "But the reason Slayers are able to do what they do, heal as they do, engage in acts that would kill a normal human being...they are not entirely human, no. They are, by virtue of their creation millenia ago, part-demon - "
Rupert gently shushed what he knew would be her next question. "Yes, Slayers were made to fight demons, find them, destroy them...but the only way that could be accomplished was for the girl chosen to take on the essence of demonic being.
"It doesn't make her anything less than we knew her to be. The fact that Buffy wasn't realized to be a Potential Slayer until after she was Called meant that you raised her, she was given the humanity and personality that every Slayer before her lacked. That disconnect killed them.
"You kept your daughter alive by hiding her from...from those who would have trained her in nothing but her calling, never allowing her to be a person, merely a weapon. I have yet to meet a Slayer who has lasted longer than two years with that background. Simply put, they have nothing to fight for."
Giles sighed, rubbing Joyce's back even as he felt hot tears leaking into his vest and shirt. He had to continue, nonetheless.
"It's rather like being consigned to a military in another country. What the bloody hell would you care for their cause? Oh, yes, you'd be indoctrinated, you'd know what they'd want you to do...but you wouldn't care. More simply put..."
Rupert sighed again and gazed at Joyce in a way she hadn't been in decades...the way she suddenly recalled Tim used to look at her once, after he'd found out about her father and how she'd longed to get away from him. Joyce bit her lip.
"Simply put," Rupert repeated, "You taught her how to be a human being and how to love. I...I can't thank you enough for that. I've had two years now to see all the errors the Watcher's Council makes in their handling of human beings given demonic essence. It started when Buffy met Xander, Willow, and their friend Jesse.
"It has continued. Slayers have been lone creatures, but how many times have I watched these three - and Cordelia - Daniel, that's Willow's boyfriend, he is addressed by 'Oz' - most importantly, Angel, before he lost his soul...pull her back from death's door? I fear she would not have lasted at all had it not been for any of you, nor whomever helped her when she was in Los Angeles. You feel you have failed her."
Joyce was gritting her teeth, trying in vain to keep the tears at bay yet again, but eventually gave in, "I threw her out, Rupert! I found out she...was the Vampire Slayer and it was...Gotham all over again. So many secrets, so many lies. I couldn't...handle it. But I...I had no right. I had no right."
Giles was confused now, not to mention slightly angered at the memory of the locks on the mansion, "What does Gotham City have to do with any of this?"
Joyce breathed out through her mouth, "Rupert, have you ever heard of Batman or Superman or Nightwing or Robin or..."
At Rupert's utterly blank stare, she laughed.
"Well, that answers that. Funny, you know all this demon-type stuff, though. Ask anyone - they don't officially exist, but ask anyone. Anyway, the point is that none of this was a new concept to me, secret identities. I always wondered who they were under those masks and capes. What lives they led during the day...they had to be normal people some of the time, right?"
Joyce trailed her finger along the kitchen table beside them. "Anyway, the point is that none of this was a new concept to me, secret identities. I guess I just couldn't handle the idea that it was my daughter putting herself in that harm and I..."
Joyce bit her lip. "God, I wish I could call her father. I don't even - you've said that it's likely Buffy's left town - again, just like I did. I can only think of two places she'd go besides here and since Hank is ignoring us, that leaves Gotham. But if Tim's dead, then she...she has nothing to go to."
Joyce shuddered now, a new cascade of tears falling down and found herself wrapped in Rupert's arm again. God, if she didn't stop laughing and crying like this, he would think she needed to be in Arkham if he'd known about it.
"I told her never to come back, Rupert," she cried, clinging to him like a life raft. "What do I need another child for? Because I did such a stellar - "
Rupert backed up, glaring critically at her. "Did you not hear a thing I said, Joyce Summers? You are human. We make mistakes. Just trust in the fact that Buffy can take care of herself and you're no small part of that. I have no doubt that, if your own theory is correct, she is in Gotham."
Giles hugged Joyce again now, "But you have to remember, just as you didn't want to go back there to live with the demons around you, Buffy has those same feelings about this place we currently call home. Perhaps her biological father is dead, perhaps he is not. That almost isn't the point.
"We still don't know everything about Slayers, but I must tell you - and this will hurt, so I'm preparing you - you opened a hole in your daughter's soul that can only be filled by a parent's love. You were rash and misunderstanding. You leapt without looking."
Giles could feel his shoulder getting wetter and wetter but forced himself to finish because, if he didn't get this out now, he never would. "But that's part of life." He gently moved her backward so they shared each other's field of vision.
"We both did - we leapt. That doesn't end when we stop being Buffy or Xander's age. Not much does."
Joyce was confused now. "What does Xander have to do with this?"
Giles sighed, "Well, his homelife is severely lacking in...anything approaching a home. He's eighteen, already, so he's a legal adult. I want to ask him to live with me and hopefully I can at least undo some of the damage those damnable cretins heaped upon him. But that also means...if it would be alright with you, that I would have to tell him about...all of this, regarding you and I and..."
Giles blushed again, but managed to get out. "Whomever's in there."
Joyce blinked, almost laughing again. "Wouldn't that make...Xander my stepson?"
Giles laughed nervously again, this time giving into the urge to remove his glasses and running his free hand through his hair. "Er, yes, yes, I suppose so."
Joyce bit her tongue before she pointed out, "He has a crush on Buffy."
Giles perked up, "Ah, er, no - actually, we've discussed that and he's come to realize some things. She was a distraction. He truly knows whom he cares for in that regard now. We're working on him actually acting on that feeling instead of pushing her away as he usually does."
"Cordelia," Joyce said knowingly and Giles smiled and nodded.
"Er, yes. I'll ask you not to share that, though. We quite have our hands full with the children as it is. I'm trying to teach him impulse control. As it is..."
Giles' hands inched toward Joyce's belly for but a moment before he snatched them back and Joyce bit her lip at his bashfulness.
"I believe there's a rule about this - he who contributed half the DNA gets to touch the belly. Though it's thoughtful that you more or less waited for permission. I guess it's those British manners. I'm not looking forward to work or...anywhere else, really. People here think a pregnant woman's belly is a free-for-all."
Joyce subsequently laughed at the affronted expression on Rupert's face. "So, now that we have that taken care of, we should at least tell 'the children', as you call them. And figure...the rest of...us out, since from the look on your face, I can tell you're not going anywhere."
Joyce smiled gratefully as Giles nodded as though even more affronted at the very idea and then stood. "What would you like to eat?" Joyce smothered a laugh and then a hiccup before wincing. "You're probably - no, definitely going to hate this..."
...You're better off this way...