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Chapter 10
Tuesday Morning
Buffy rests her head on Angel's shoulder "I'm glad Dawn's not here" she looks at him "She doesn't need to be upset anymore than she already is."

"The judge is ready to meet with you" the bailiff announces

Buffy and Angel stand following their lawyer, James Monroe, into the conference room. Buffy glares at her father

"Let's get to work shall we" a kind man says "My name is Judge Jeffrey Richor. Now this case is about the custody of the minor child Dawn Rebecca Summers. Now Dawn is your sister" he looks at Buffy

"Yes sir" Buffy nods

"And she's your adopted daughter" he looks at Hank

"Yes your Honor."

"And you" he looks at Angel "are Dawn's biological father."

"Yes I am."

The Judge nods "Who has custody of Dawn?"

"Hank gave up custody of both of us in the divorce." Buffy replies "Mom left custody of Dawn to me and Angel."

The Judge looks at Hank "You gave up custody?"

"I thought it best that they live with Joyce. I was working long hours and traveling on business"

"And suddenly your ready to raise Dawn" Buffy says drily

"Buffy your sister is a teenager. Can you handle her... school and your own problems?" Claudia asks

"I've done it for 5 years. Mom was working a lot because he didn't give a damn about either of us. He didn't even think that Dawn deserved child support."

"That was your mother's idea" Hank argues

"Only because she didn't want to get into a hug custody fight over me and risk Dawn finding out you didn't want her."

"Buffy" Angel squeezes her hand

"Mr Sullivan did Mrs Summers know who you are?" asks the Judge

"Yes" Angel nods "I told her when I first met her. Dawn didn't know until last week."

"Your honor Mr Sullivan gave up rights to Dawn at the adoption." Hank's lawyer says "I have the signed adoption papers right here."

"Mr Sullivan did you sign them?" the Judge asked

"Not knowingly" Angel replies "After I saw my signature on the papers I spoke with my parents. They admitted that they told me that they got me to sign the papers by saying it was for my stocks."

"Didn't you read the papers?" the Judge questions

"I was 13. I didn't think to ask."

"Mr Sullivan's parents, Dawn's biological mother Darla McDonald and all the lawyers involved in the adoption sign affidavits to the fact." Mr Monroe says removing some papers from his briefcase he hands them to the Judge.

"Your honor Mr Sullivan was a minor at the time. His parents also signed the papers. They were his legal guardians at the time."

"Your honor my parents did sign the papers knowingly. That's fine I am not challenging Dawn's adoption because I know how much Joyce and Buffy love her. What we want is for Dawn to stay with us. That is what Joyce wanted as well." Angel says looking at Buffy "Dawn wants to stay with us."

"So you are challenging Mr Summers rights" the Judge says

"Dad gave up custody of us." Buffy reminds "Dawn barely knows him even before the divorce he barely spent time with her. She knows Angel. She loves him and spends time with him."

"Miss Summers you are only 19 and raising a teenager is hard. Are you sure you want to raise her?"

Buffy nods "Of course I do. She's my sister. Dawn's had enough change for such a short time. We just lost our Mom and to seperate her from her life isn't fair. She has friends and family in Sunnydale not LA"

"She can make new friends in LA" Claudia says snidely "In LA she'd have every advantage"

"Dawn won't lack for anything with us." Angel assures

"Does it set a good example for Dawn to live with the two of you?" Claudia asks "Buffy has a record for trouble. Mr Sullivan is well-known as a playboy. Add their age and the fact that they aren't married."

"Your honor my clients are well abiding citizens. Miss Summers took care of her sister even before their mother became ill. Mr Sullivan has a well paying job and a college degree. When Miss Summers contacted her father he told her that he couldn't be bothered to come home when his children needed him."

"Mr Sullivan you reside in New York is that correct?"

Angel nods "Yes. I have already spoken with my father and we have decided that I can do my job from Sunnydale and travel back to New York when needed."

"Miss Summers what are your plans?"

"I'm going back to school next term."

"And how are you going to pay for that?" Claudia demands "Your broke"

"No. I have another account that isn't in Hank's name." Buffy retorts. "I'm applying for a loan and a scholarship."

"And a job?" Hank asks "You need to work."

"I have a part time job working at the bookstore. As does Dawn when she needs money. But hey we'd have money if you hadn't cleaned out our accounts" Buffy accuses

"I'm not going to pay for you to raise Dawn when I can." Hank argues

"Its our money Dad. The money you agreed to give us every month for our college funds."

"Your honor my clients are willing to allow Mr Summers to visit Dawn and for Dawn to visit him on weekends and in the summer." Mr Monroe says handing the Judge some more papers "This is the proposal. Mr Summers can have unlimited visitation in Sunnydale. Along with set times for visitation on weekends and in the summer. They won't request child support but they would like Mr Summers to repay the money he took out of their accounts and the stocks and bonds he cashed out. The amount is written. All they want is for Dawn to stay with them like Mrs Summers wanted."

The Judge looks at Hank disbelieving "You cleaned out your childrens accounts?!"

Hank looks uncomfortable then nods "Yes your honor."

"I would like to speak with Dawn. Bring her in tomorrow so I can speak to her." The Judge closes the folders "I'll look over the evidence and you'll know my decision in a few days."


That afternoon
"I'm home" Dawn calls entering the house

"How was school?" Angel calls

Dawn heads back to the kitchen "It was OK." she goes to the refrigerator opening it "Where's
Buffy?"

"She needed to get out for a while." Angel says

Dawn nods popping the top of the pop can "So what happened? Am I staying?" she asks sitting at the counter

"The Judge wants to speak to you tomorrow."

"About what?"

"What you think" Angel shrugs

"No school?" She asks hopefully

"Well the meeting is early but we decided that we'd go do something afterwards. I already called the school and told them you wouldn't be in"

Dawn grins jumping up "Angel your the best" she says hugging him

Angel returns the hug "So tell me how was school?" he listens attentively as Dawn tells him about her day


Next Morning
Dawn looks at the judge waiting for him to ask her something

"Dawn how old are you?"

"14."

"Dawn I've heard a lot from the others now I want to know what you think about all of this."

"OK" Dawn nods

"Dawn who do you want to live with?"

"I want to stay with Buffy and Angel."

"Why?"

Dawn looks at her sister "Because they don't ignore. Hank does."

Hank winces

"How does he ignore you?"

"I've only seen him maybe 5 times since we moved to Sunnydale. He didn't even come to help us when Mom got sick or to her funeral."

"That must've been hard"

Dawn shrugs "I'm getting used to it."

"Do you want to spend time with Hank?"

"I guess. I mean after all he still is my Dad. I just want to stay with Buffy and Angel."

"What about your relationship with Mr Sullivan?"

Dawn grins at Angel "Great. Me and Angel talk. He helps me with my homework. He and Giles help me out with my homework... well Willow helps with Math and Science."

"Who is Giles?"

"Giles owns the bookstore."

"You spend a lot of time with this Giles?" asks the Judge

Dawn shrugs "Sometimes I stay at the bookstore after school. When Mom had to go out of town and Buffy and the others were busy he would stay with me."

"Is your sister busy a lot?"

"Not really. I mean everyones busy at certain times but she always makes time for me."

"What do you and your sister do together?"

"We go to the park, the mall we do lots of things."

"How long have you known Mr Sullivan?"

"Since I was 10 I guess"

"Dawn how would you feel if you had to move in with Hank?"

"Uncomfortable" Dawn shrugs "I don't know him. I don't mind spending time with him but I don't want to live with him. I want to stay with Buffy and Angel."

The Judge nods giving her a smile "Dawn it was nice talking with you." he looks at the others "My secretary will call you when my decision is made. We'll meet to discuss it." he stands walking out of the room


Next Evening
Angel enters the diningroom "That was the Judge's secretary. He wants to see us tomorrow at ten." he sits at the the table.

"What if he makes me go live with Hank?" Dawn asks moving her dinner around her plate

"We'll just have to see what happens" Buffy says

"OK"


Hour later
Angel looks up from his reading as Dawn enters the livingroom. "Dawnie you OK?" he asks closing his book

Dawn shrugs sitting beside him on the couch "Where's Buffy?"

"She had to go pick up some things from Willow." he answers "You OK?" he asks putting his arm around her shoulders

"I don't want to go live with Hank" Dawn says sniffling

"Dawn we don't even know what the Judge has decided"

"I'll runaway" Dawn says quickly

Angel chuckles softly "No you won't" he kisses the top of her head "Don't want to worry your old man do you? After all I've waited 10 years to be with my baby girl."

Dawn snuggles against his side "But I don't want to live with him"

"Dawn you won't run away." he says sternly "Besides if you have to live with Hank we'd see you whenever possible and talk everyday. If you ranaway we'd worry about you and never see you or talk to you." he hugs her kissing the top of her head "Don't worry about it Dawn. Whatever happens it'll work out... I promise"

Dawn nods her head


Later that night
Buffy enters the house walking into the livingroom she smiles finding Angel asleep on the couch with Dawn snuggled against him also asleep. 'They look so cute' she goes over to Angel kissing the top of his head.

Angel slowly opens his eyes smiling groggily "Buffy"

"Hey baby looks like you fell asleep" she says softly

Angel looks down at Dawn and smiles "She fell asleep while we were talking." he says

"Why don't you take her up to her room" Buffy suggests

Angel nods carefully standing with Dawn in his arms.

"I'll be up in a minute" Buffy says "I'm going to turn off the lights" she watches as Angel carries Dawn up the stairs. She makes her way around the first floor turning off lights and locking doors. She makes her way upstairs passing Dawn's room she finds Angel sitting on the edge of the bed watching Dawn sleep. "Angel?"

"She looks so young when she sleeps" he remarks

Buffy rests her chin on his head after a moment she speaks "We should go to bed its late"

Angel nods following Buffy out of Dawn's room into Buffy's room "She doesn't want to leave Buff. She's scared"

"So am I" Buffy admits "aren't you?"

Angel nods reluctantly

"Its not much longer until we know huh"

"Yeah" Angel leans down kissing Buffy "I love you Buffy"

Buffy smiles "I love you too Angel"


Next Morning: 10 AM
Dawn sits between Buffy and Angel watching the Judge nervously 'Please let me stay with Buffy and Angel.'

"I have come to a decision on all matters" the Judge says watching the group "Mr Summers I have no intention of terminating your parental right since you gave up legal custody of Dawn. But Mrs Summers believed that it was in the best interest of Dawn to be raised by Miss Summers and Mr Sullivan. I am though agreeing with the proposal for visitation rights to be decided by you. Also Mr Summers I am ordering you to return all the money even the stocks and bonds you cashed out to Buffy and Dawn's accounts. You have two weeks."

Hank nods "Yes your honor"

"Good luck all of you" The Judge says kindly

Angel hugs Dawn his eyes meeting Buffy's over the teen's head "Let's go home" he smiles

"Yeah home" Buffy grins

TBC....