Daddy's In Denver
By MMW (a.k.a. Beriaearwen)

Disclaimer: The characters of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” belong to Joss Whedon. The characters of “The Magnificent Seven” belong to John Watson, Trilogy, etc. All are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Note: This is just a really odd idea that came to me. Don't expect a lot of detail in this tale, it's mostly written to get it down on paper before the idea disappeared. It's nice to get something finished again. :-)
Buffy Season: Post Season 7 (AU) (For more information on Buffy, check the Episode Guide)
M7 Universe: ATF
Main Characters: Buffy Summers, Dawn Summers, Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner
Pairing: Buffy/Vin
Warning: this is a cross-over. It will not be everyone's cup of tea. If you don't like it, stop reading it.
Rating: Suitable for people over 13
Feedback: To MMW/Beriaearwen

Daddy's In Denver

____ Cemetery, outside of Denver, Colorado
Two months after the formation of ATF Team 7

Chris knelt before the graves of his family, lost in his memories and to the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. Staring at the names of those who meant the most to him, of his family, of his child and the wife he lost, he failed to feel the chill of the evening rain as it fell, drenching him.

Reaching out, he touched his wife's name, Sarah Larabee. He could almost hear her laugh, feel her warmth, but the illusion faded quickly and tears he fought against for so long gathered in his eyes. As he closed his eyes against the pain, he could almost feel her arms wrap around him. He relaxed into the feeling.

A moment later he would swear he heard her voice as she whispered, “Don't be alone. Let them in. Your family, your friends, your strength.”

“Sarah,” came the pleading whisper, the emotion behind it turning the name to a prayer. The feeling of her presence faded, but the whispered words stayed.

A single tear tracked down his face as Chris opened his eyes. As much as he wanted to keep his distance from his team, he would do as his wife asked. He never could deny her anything, he would even try to mend the fences with his parents for her.


Council Headquarters, somewhere
Two years after the previous scene

“I'm twenty-three,” Buffy pointed out, her voice eerily calm.

Dawn shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah, about that,” Dawn mumbled. “You're twenty two.” She closed her eyes wondering which revelation would finally push Buffy over the edge. The very air around her older sister seemed to vibrate with carefully controlled emotion.

Buffy took a deep breath and slowly released it, then repeated the action five more times before she felt herself in control enough to speak. “Is my birthday at least my birthday?”

Opening her eyes, Dawn met Buffy's and shook her head slowly. Shortly after the final battle with the First and before they made any major plans, Giles insisted that the entire Scooby Gang – including Faith and herself – met with a Council psychiatrist. Apparently there was one staying in LA after surviving the attacks on the old council, watchers and potentials.

During their therapy, they discovered that most of the major issues they'd been having in the past months/years were not nearly as large as they originally thought. Ever since Angel returned from Hell, the First had been slowly playing upon their fears and insecurities. Faith, as the newest and most inexperienced of the group had been easy prey for the First after the accidental death of the Deputy Mayor. To say she felt anger at the revelation that she'd been played so well by the First Evil, would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Though it took several months of work with the psychiatrist both as a group and individually while they created the New Council in their own image, the Scoobies now found themselves closer than they had ever been. The Council was up and running. They'd put good people in charge of most of the daily work, freeing all of them to work only as much as they wanted and, though their experiences changed them, now, they were stronger than they'd ever been.

Most surprising, however, were the changes with the slayers. Though the spell Willow did only lasted a short time, the powers sent Whistler down to let the Scoobies know of some changes with the slayer line. The Scoobies did their own negotiations and demanded changes. Eventually both groups agreed on the terms and, though neither got everything they wanted, both groups were happy with the new set-up.

With two active slayers on each continent, a much more supportive Council in place and a choice for the potentials regarding whether they would fight, things couldn't be better.

Now, as things finally began to settle down, all the Scoobies were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of personal items thought lost in Sunnydale. A present from the Powers.

Unfortunately, like most presents from the Powers, these presents were more than they appeared. In fact, after Willow and Faith had sorted through their items, the others didn't want anything to do with the contents of their boxes. Unfortunately, they knew they had little choice. Buffy and Dawn decided to look through each others' boxes to hopefully reduce the impact of whatever little surprise the Powers left them.

This plan, however, did nothing to lessen Buffy's shock.

“Wha... Why...”

Dawn cleared her throat. “Apparently, at least what I can gather from the letter, Mom wasn't biologically our mom. Your – our – real mother was Mom's best friend from elementary school. They lost track of each other for a number of years, but when she... uh... Lydia, nearly lost you to the Council, she begged Mom – Joyce – Mom...”

“Call her Mom,” Buffy stated. “That's who she was and who she will always be to us.”

Nodding her understanding, Dawn continued, “ Lydia begged Mom to take you and hide you. She knew that mom had lost her child to SIDS a year before and Mom agreed.”

“So I took the place of Mom's daughter, became Buffy Anne Summers, parents, birthday and all.”

“Pretty much.”

Leaning back, Buffy stared at the ceiling. “I always wondered why Mom's friend Karen looked at me so oddly. Guess I know.” Seeing the confusion on Dawn's face, she explained, “Karen worked in the County records department. Mom would have needed Karen's help to make me Buffy and get rid of the death certificate and stuff.”

“Your real birth certificate is in here.”

Buffy sat straighter and looked Dawn in the eye.

Dawn waited a moment, studying her sister's face. “There's also a report on your birth parents.”

With a slow nod, Buffy accepted the information. “Tell me.”

Taking a deep breath, Dawn shared the information. “Your mother is Lydia Callahan. She was twenty when she gave birth to you. She passed away shortly after... well, it would have been shortly after I was born.”

Buffy stared at Dawn for a moment and nodded slowly, uncertain if she wanted to laugh or cry over how well the Powers planned this. “And the fathers?”

“Our father.”

Releasing a sigh, Buffy still couldn't decide if she should laugh or cry. Dawn really was her sister, legally and by blood. They had a mother and father and, the birth certificates meant that they would never have to reveal Dawn being the Key. “So... our father?”


Scooby Meeting Room, Council Headquarters
Two hours later

The group sat in silence, looking at each other, unsure what to say.

All of them had gone through their boxes of information and received the subtle orders from the powers. Tomorrow they would all be leaving to go their separate ways, at least for a while.

Giles needed to get back to England to deal with some Council issues. Faith discovered family in Cleveland and would head toward the Hellmouth there to help Rona who watched it while Caridad roamed the rest of North America. Xander found himself Africa-bound and Willow would shortly be in Brazil.

Dawn, having earned her GED would be heading out with Buffy. Both quite clearly getting the message that they needed to be in Denver, Colorado. If the information they discovered about their birth parents didn't convince them, the acceptance letters and partial scholarships to college there combined with the reports of rising demonic activity in the area left no doubt.

Each of the Scoobies knew there would be more than just the information they received waiting for them in the new destinations, new challenges and particular reasons for them to be in those locations, but each of them hoped for the chance to hold onto their new-found peace just a little longer.

“So... Movie?” Xander asked.

The others sighed in relief as the awkward moment broke. All quickly agreed.


Buffy and Dawn's apartment, Denver Colorado
Two months later

Buffy walked into the apartment she shared with Dawn and dropped her book bag with a sigh. All day, actually ever since Dawn discovered the truth about their parents, Buffy waited for the question, waited for the demand, waited, if she was being honest about it, for Dawn to command her to act upon the information they uncovered.

From the looks Dawn had been giving her, Buffy knew today would be the day. The only problem she had was that she still couldn't decide if they should meet send him a letter, call him or meet him in person. No matter what way they did this, discovering he had two full grown daughters was bound to be unsettling at best, traumatic at worst.

Stepping into the living room, Buffy took one look at the fear and expectation in Dawn's face and knew she couldn't put her sister in the position of being rejected in person. Talking on the phone, he could hang up too easily that left one option. “I'll get the papers together and write a letter tonight.”

Dawn nodded, standing and handing Buffy a slip of paper. On the paper were two addresses, one for his work and one for his home.


Nearby dance club, Denver Colorado
Later that night

Buffy laughed at the sight of her little sister trying to get rid of the would-be octopus with whom she was dancing. Though not normally one to encourage such things on a school night, after writing the letter and gaining Dawn's approval on it, she needed to blow off steam. Both women had heard of a rather popular dance club in the area and decided to try it out.

Stepping away from their table in order to save her sister, Buffy gasped as she ran into someone and felt the cold, stickiness of beer cover the front of her shirt. Immediately, she reached up and pulled the shirt away from her chest, cursing the fact that the shirt was translucent when wet and didn't allow for a bra. She really didn't want to give anyone here a peep show.

“I apologize,” a soft, accented voice said as the two beers he carried were quickly placed on the table behind her.

Looking up to berate the man, Buffy felt her breath catch as she met the most beautiful pair of blue eyes she'd ever seen. After staring for a few minutes, Buffy shook her head to snap herself out of her stupor. “I'll live,” she admitted, feeling heat begin to creep up her cheeks. Tearing her eyes away from the man before her, she turned to reach for one of the napkins on the table behind her. Her hand landed on the small bit of paper the same time his did. Both froze.

Buffy could feel the heat continue to creep up her cheeks as she shifted slightly and realized exactly how close she stood to this stranger. Taking a breath in order to say something – anything, she caught his scent and her eyes fluttered shut as a pleasurable shiver raced across her skin. He smelled of male, outdoors and leather. There were a few other scents she couldn't identify, but whatever they were, they combined to caress her senses in a way no other had. She couldn't see him with her eyes closed, but she heard his breath catch.

Clearing his throat, the man slowly slipped the napkin from beneath her hand. “Let me,” he said, his voice suddenly a little lower and a lot huskier.

Her eyes opening at the sound of his voice, Buffy turned her head slightly and locked eyes with him. She simply nodded and watched intently as he dabbed at her exposed skin. When his cleaning closer to the neckline of her shirt, she let go of the fabric and reached up to stop his ministrations, barely aware of the damp fabric clinging to her skin.

“Buffy!” Dawn calls, walking up to the duo, startling them both out of their staring contest.

The man glanced down and flushed as he sees the effect of the cold beer on Buffy's shirt. His eyes almost immediately look away.

Taking in the situation, Dawn quickly slips her jacket off and hands it to her blushing sister who quickly slips into it. Smiling at the blushing man and almost instantly liking him, she holds out her hand, “I'm Dawn and this is my sister, Buffy.”

With a nod, the man – gentleman, took her hand and shook it, his eyes once more drifting to Buffy. “Vin Tanner,” he introduced.

Dawn suppressed a chuckle and released his hand, watching as Buffy offered her hand. Shaking her head slightly, she moved around the table and took a drink of her soda, amused at the way their eyes were locked. The only thing she could think of was the scene at the end of “Sleepless In Seattle” when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan finally met at the top of the Empire State Building and got lost in each others' eyes.

“Vin,” Buffy practically hummed.

“Buffy,” he replied.

Dawns soft laughter snapped them both out of whatever it was that had them so entranced. “I'm just going to go dance for a few minutes.”

Buffy nodded and smiled at her sister. Turning her attention back to the man before her, she asked, “Sit with me?”

Vin smiled and agreed. “Just let me drop off this beer to my friend and I'll be right back.”

Buffy watched him dodge through the milling crowd and stop at a table where a young, dark-haired man sat with a girl who looked about Buffy's age. The two were obviously a couple. She didn't have to wait long before headed back toward her.

Settling on her seat, Buffy thought this night was going better than she could have imagined.


Denver Federal Building, Team Seven's Area, Denver Colorado
The next morning

Vin walked into the office the next morning with a smile on his lips and a bounce in his steps. Such a strange action coming from the quiet sharpshooter caught the interest of the other members of Team Seven, all of whom watched curiously, not only because of the unusual contentment flowing from the young man, but also by the fact they arrived in the office before he did – a rare occasion indeed.

Things progressed more or less normally throughout the day. The team tried subtly and not so subtly to get information from the young agent. When Vin proved immune to their manipulation, threats and pleas, they turned their attention to JD who would only grin and say it was Vin's tale to tell.

Shortly after lunch, Chris left his office and headed toward the elevator. The others exchanged glances and waited for their Team Leader to return.

When the blond returned, he held an express delivery envelope.

Unable to miss six pairs of eyes focusing on him, Chris simply shrugged and entered his office, closing the door behind him.

About ten minutes later, a loud curse sounded in the office followed by the sound of shattering glass.

The men exchanged a look. Buck and Vin locked eyes for a moment before Buck tilted his head toward the closed door. Together, both men moved to the entrance to Larabee's office and opened the door, Vin entering just before Buck, who closed the door behind him.

Both men paused and looked at their friend and boss pacing behind his desk, hands furrowing through his hair.

“A burden shared is a burden halved,” Tanner said simply, only to find himself meeting a blazing green glare, which he returned with his own calm stare, knowing Buck's expression matched his own.

Chris finally sighed and collapsed into his chair. He stared down at his hands for a moment, gathering his thought. Finally, he looked up. “Sit.”

Buck and Vin glanced at each other and moved to the chairs in front of the desk.

“What is it, Stud?” Buck asked, returning his friend's fleeting smile at the old nickname.

Taking a deep breath, Chris lifted the papers from on top of the envelope and shook his head. “Before Sarah, before Ella, there was a woman... When we met, I was eighteen, just getting ready to go to basic training before starting college. She was older, exciting. Lydia taught me things most eighteen year old men never dreamed of. Years later, after Ella, before I started Seals training, we hooked up again, just for old time's sake. When I finished Seals training, I went looking for her again, but she'd died.” Reaching out, he passed two pieces of paper to the men sitting before him. He watched as their eyes widened in shock before they exchanged papers.

Carefully placing both papers back on his desk, Chris found himself the object of two very different but very familiar pairs of blue eyes.

“They found you,” Vin stated.

Chris nodded, lifting another piece of paper and staring at it a few minutes. “They just recently found out the truth themselves and included copies of everything they found. They're very clear about leaving the decision to meet or not entirely in my hands. They only ask that I let them know what I decide.”

“What happened to Christine Marie and Autumn Anne?” Buck asked softly.

Taking a deep breath, Chris related what he knew. “Someone tried to kidnap Christine. Lydia panicked and somehow convinced an old friend to take her daughter. Four years later, she convinced the same woman to take Autumn. The woman's name was Joyce Summers.”

Vin stiffened in his seat, already knowing where this would end up. He felt a rush of conflicting emotions. He'd enjoyed his time with Buffy and wanted to continue seeing her, but would he be able to date his best friend's daughter? And what would Chris do? Would he give the girls a chance? Cut them out? A small portion of him felt conflicted with jealousy and joy at the thought of his friend being given another chance at family when he hadn't had family in so long. How would this affect what was just beginning with Buffy? What would happen to the family Team Seven had become now that Chris had blood family once more? All of his questions and doubts, he knew, were nothing compared to what Chris had to be feeling right now.

“The girls go by the names she gave them. Christine goes by Buffy Anne Summers and Autumn goes by Dawn Marie Summers.”

Vin felt a twist of discomfort low in his gut at having his suspicion confirmed. Taking a deep breath, he decided he would deal with this situation one day at a time. He did know he wanted to see where things with Buffy would go.

“What do you plan to do?” Buck asked.

Chris stared at his friends. “I'm not sure,” he admitted. “With Ella still out there, knowing me would only put them in danger. But...”

“But they're family,” Vin supplied, his voice soft with longing and understanding.

Chris' eyes unfocused briefly as the words he heard at Sarah's grave so many years ago echoed in his memory – let them in. Focusing back on his friends, he nodded his head. “Yeah.”

Silence fell over the room for several minutes, each man left to their own thoughts. Vin finally took a deep breath, deciding he would tell Buffy tonight and deal with Chris when the time arose. “You need to tell them yes. You need to let them in.” His words unknowing echoing the ones sounding in Chris' heart.


Local park, Denver Colorado
That night

Buffy rested her head on Vin's shoulder, a soft smile on her face as they strolled through the park. It had been so long since she'd dated and even longer since she felt such contentment and happiness at doing something as simple as walking in the park. The fact she just met this man the night before didn't seem to matter at the moment. Oh, there was still a lot she needed to learn about him, but she felt a connection with him she hadn't felt since she first met Angel, but even that didn't really compare.

Her smile widened slightly as she mentally scolded herself for her silliness. Still, maybe, just maybe, if Vin did turn out to be The One, the kinder, gentler Powers That Be would let her have her happiness

Vin turned slightly off the path and guided her to a nearby bench.

Settling beside him, Buffy's smile faded at the serious look she found there. Or maybe not, she told herself, wondering if her chance at happiness with Vin would end before it even began.


Buffy and Dawn's apartment, Denver, Colorado
A few hours later

Dawn popped up from her position on the couch as she heard the door open and close. She'd actually been excited and amused when she realized her sister would be going out with the hottie from the club the night before. Now she just wanted to get the post-date details.

Waiting impatiently, she nearly pounced on her sister when Buffy finally entered the living room. Her brow furrowed slightly at the indefinable expression on Buffy's face. “Well?”

Buffy smiled, a dreamy looked passed over her eyes, before the inscrutable look reappeared. Flopping down onto the couch, she sighed. “Vin is...”

“Is what?” Dawn demanded, hands going to her hips as she stared down at her sister. This was the happiest she had seen her sister with a man in a very, very long time.

Buffy ran a hand through her hair and sighed before meeting Dawn's eyes. “Vin is Chris Larabee's best friend.”

Dawn's jaw fell open and she dropped onto the seat behind her. “How... I... What are the chances?”

Buffy let out a bark of laughter. “This is us, Dawn. We should have expected it.”

“You're right.”

“I know.”

“So, other than that, which I'm really not ready to deal with, how was it?”

A wide smile spread across Buffy's face, mirrored on Dawn's.

“That good?” the younger girl inquired, pleased for her sister. “Well... Dish!”

Half an hour later the girls wrapped up their discussion. “So, barring anything work-related cropping up, we're going out tomorrow.”

Dawn squealed in joy and lunged across the room to hug her sister. “I'm so happy for you. I really hope this turns out well.”

Buffy cringed slightly. “Yeah, I do, too. But the whole 'Dad's best friend' thing is a little... weird.”

“A complicating factor,” Dawn agreed. The two girls thought about that for a few minutes before Dawn asked the one question she'd been putting off. “Did he say if Dad wanted to meet us or not?”

A half-smile appeared on Buffy's face before fading. “Vin said there are some things in Chris – Dad's - life that worried him, but Vin and Dad's other best friend Buck managed to talk him around. He's going to call us tomorrow to set up a meet and greet.”

Dawn's eyes grew impossibly wide as emotions flashed through them. “Oh.”

“Yeah. Kind of leaves you speechless.” Buffy met Dawn's eyes and felt tears spring to her own. “We have a father,” she breathed.


Both of them left unsaid their fear that Chris Larabee would turn out to be like every other father figure in their life and leave them just when they needed him.


Chris Larabee's office, Federal Building, Denver Colorado
The Next Morning

Chris picked up the phone and put it down for the fifth time. With all the things he faced, all the dangerous situations he'd survived, this one phone call terrified him more than almost anything else he ever experienced. In fact the only thing he could think of that was more terrifying was waking up the day after Sarah and Adam died and realizing he had to continue living without them.

Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply and did his best to push those thoughts and the pain they brought with them away.

“You going to call them or just stare at the phone all day?” a quiet voice asked from the doorway.

Looking up, he saw the lanky form of Vin Tanner leaning against his door frame. A frown marred Larabee's features.

Vin stepped into the room and shut the door behind him. He quickly crossed to one of the chairs in front of Larabee's desk and sat in it with perfect posture.

Vin's posture immediately put Chris on alert. Larabee's eyebrow rose in surprise and worry. The only time his friend displayed good posture was when he was uncertain. Knowing his friend would eventually tell him what was bothering him, Chris waited silently, waiting for the younger man to begin.

Vin met his friend's eyes, which, he realized, looked so very much like his daughter's, and began his explanation. “A few nights ago JD, Casey and I went out dancing. While out I met a woman.”

Chris' brow furrowed and he nodded for Vin to continue.

Vin's tongue flicked out to moisten his suddenly dry lips. “I really got along well with this woman and we went out again last night. I think we could really have something and we're both looking to take it slow and get to know each other.”

Chris knew his puzzlement showed on his face as he wondered where his friend was going with this. This wasn't the first time Vin had met a woman, though it was the first time he seemed serious since the Charlotte debacle. “I'm happy for you Vin. But what... Do you need a few days off?”

Vin took a deep breath and closed his eyes momentarily as if centering himself before sharing information he didn't want to share. “The woman I met is named Buffy Summers. I met her at the club with her younger sister Dawn.”

Larabee froze in place as Vin's announcement, uncertain about what he should be feeling and fighting against the flare of protectiveness that took him by surprise. Chris knew himself well enough to know that he only felt such protectiveness for his family. Somehow, and he honestly blamed his team for it, he already considered his daughters family. His team was responsible for breaking down the emotional walls he so carefully build after Sarah and Adam's death. Vin and Buck were the most responsible and he considered both men his brothers. Now, Tanner admitted to dating Buffy and the first thing that ran through his mind was 'he isn't good enough for my little girl', despite being one of the best men Chris knew. That revelation sent a twinge of fear through him that his daughters wouldn't want to be involved with him once they knew about his life.

Still, this was Vin and the younger man admitted to taking things slowly, to wanting to get to know the woman his little girl became. Taking a deep breath, Chris closed his eyes and silently prayed for Sarah's guidance. What he got instead was the memory of a comment Josiah made several weeks ago, 'Who else would you trust with those you value the most?' The only men Chris trusted with what he valued most – the family his team had become and the memories of Sarah and Adam – were the only ones he knew he could trust with his daughters. Still, he had no idea what to do with the conflicting emotions and thoughts. What does one say when their best friend is dating the daughter they had never met and didn't know existed until the day before?

Opening his eyes, Chris could see that Vin waited patiently while Chris processed. “My daughter. You're dating my … I don't know what... How could you... My daughter?”

Releasing his breath slowly, Vin nodded. “At the time I didn't know she was your daughter. At the time, you didn't even know you had a daughter.”

“You're my best friend. You're dating my daughter.” Chris still wasn't sure how to feel about this, what to think about it.

“She's twenty-two. I'm twenty-eight.”

Chris rose from his seat and paced back and forth feeling Vin's eyes on him as the younger man watched carefully. Larabee felt lost in this situation. Yesterday his world turned upside down with the revelation that Adam had older sisters. Sisters who, for all intents and purposes, were full grown and probably didn't need a father anymore. Sisters about whom he knew almost nothing. Sisters whose past was hidden even from JD's computer snooping. Not that Chris would want to read a file on them, he felt that would be a betrayal of their trust, even if it would be the smart thing to do. No, he wanted to get to know his girls the old fashioned way, by spending time with them and talking to them. As it was, Buffy and Dawn had suggested a paternity test so that they all knew for certain they were who the birth certificates said they were.

Of course, wanting to get to know them personally didn't mean Chris wasn't burning with curiosity about his girls. His eyes drifted to his younger friend. He had a first hand source of information sitting in front of him. All he had to do was ask.

After several minutes Larabee collapsed into his seat sighed and rubbed his face. “I don't know her. I don't know them. I haven't even called them yet to set up a meet. Ella Gaines is still out there and being with me will paint a target on their backs, but … I already think of them as mine, my daughters, mine to protect, mine to guide and mine to love. But they really don't need a father do they? They're already grown.”

Vin shifted uncomfortably, looking completely out of his depth. “You know I don't have much experience with family, but I've seen you with yours. You still call your dad on stuff and you're older than twenty-two. From the look of things, you never stop needing your father.”

Chris studied his friend for a few minutes before offering a small smile. “Thanks, Tanner.”

Taking this opportunity to escape, he simply nodded and left, leaving Chris to his thoughts and phone call.


Buffy and Dawn's apartment, Denver Colorado
The next night

“Do I look all right?” Dawn asked, barely standing still long enough for Buffy to take a look before flitting away.

Buffy sighed, reached out and physically stopped Dawn's movement. Staring directly into her sister's eyes, the blond assured, “You look perfect, Dawnie. If he doesn't love you straight off he's a fool and I highly doubt Vin would be best friends with a fool.”

Dawn sagged slightly in relief before a mischievous smile appeared. “Vin, eh? Interesting way you use to judge people, sis.”

A soft smile spread across Buffy's face, rather than the blush she normally expected when being teased about her boyfriends. Things were going really well with the handsome man and felt right in a way she'd never felt before. They weren't rushing anything and spent their time just being with each other, letting the conversation take them where it willed.

Letting out an excited squeal, Dawn hugged Buffy.

“We still don't know each other all that well and we haven't exactly talked about our jobs and such...”

“Stop trying to talk yourself out of happiness,” the younger girl commanded as the two young women picked up their bags and checked to make sure they had everything they needed. “I like him. I think he's good for you and...” Dawn stopped suddenly and froze, obviously choosing not to finish the sentence.

“And what?” Buffy asked, not liking the thoughtful look on her sister's face, or the fact that she cut herself off so quickly.

Dawn looked at her sister seriously, hoping what she said next wouldn't take away from her sister's happiness. “And, somehow, when the time comes, I think he'll be able to handle our world.”

Buffy felt a small weight lift from her shoulders. One thing she discovered over the past few years, was that Dawn could usually tell who could and could not handle their world of demons and darkness. She learned to trust Dawn for that. Receiving a positive report about the man who was far too quickly becoming an important part of her life relieved some worry.

As they stepped out of the apartment, Dawn froze and stared at her sister before her eyes narrowed into a glare that, unknown to them, would make their father proud. “You distracted me.”

A grin spread across the older woman's face. “Calmed you down didn't it?”

Dawn shoved her sister's shoulder before joining her laughter.


______'s Restaurant, Denver Colorado
Twenty minutes later

Chris reached up to run his hand through his hair only to stop and drop his hand, wanting to look his best when he met his daughters.

When he called, he hadn't had a clue what to expect – a situation he found very uncomfortable. But the girls made it easy for him. They didn't know the town well, and asked him to pick out a quiet restaurant where they could have dinner and talk.

In all honestly, it had been so many years since he ate anywhere but The Saloon, he didn't know where to suggest. That was until he remembered Nathan talking about a restaurant Raine seemed to love.

Now he sat alone at the table, not knowing what to do with himself and wondering if he should have asked Vin along to play mediator.

And wasn't that another can of worms? He had yet to meet his girls and already he felt protective of them, the same way he had of Adam. The revelation that Vin was dating his older girl still left him reeling.

At the thought of his son, the image of his wife popped into his mind. He closed his eyes against the pain the memories brought. The pain lessened over the years, but he still felt it and knew he always would. Thoughts of his wife and child brought back the arguments he had with himself. He found himself with some of the same worries he had before he let his team become his family – that having any family was a betrayal of Sarah and Adam. The fact that both girls were born before he ever met Sarah helped a little. It also helped that he knew Sarah would have forced him to meet the girls, to make sure they knew they had family that loved them and he knew Adam would love being a little brother.

With those fears assuaged, he just had to worry about what to say. He had so many questions, but knew he would have to wait to ask a lot of them until he knew the girls better, this was a dinner, not an interrogation. He also knew that many of his questions would be answered just by spending time with them. Chris really hoped his job would allow him time to be with them. Things had been quiet, though, and that never boded well for Team Seven.

The door to the restaurant opened and he turned his attention to the doors.

He gasped softly at the sight of the two beautiful young women who entered and a small smile appeared on his face. He would never mistake the two of them as anything but his. Buffy had inherited Lydia's height and build and his coloring. Dawn seemed to be the opposite, with his build and Lydia's coloring. Both of them had features that mixed their parents in equal parts. He might not have loved Lydia, but, he decided, she had given him two very precious gifts.

Standing as the hostess led them toward his table, Chris offered a genuine smile and felt the nervous tension fall away. He was having dinner with his family.

End – until the next story

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