Disclaim Her: I own neither Buffy nor the Winchesters. They belong to Whedon and Kripke. I make no money from this.
A/N: I finally caved and wrote Supernatural. I blame my sister for roping me into watching it after I bravely resisted for three whole seasons. Sucker. Thanks to Anneliese for playing beta and if this whole thing seems a bit incoherent and plotless to you, that's because it is. Concrit as always, is greatly appreciated.
+Play a Game of Make Believe
Growing up, the three of you curl up on a bed; Buffy snuggled into your left side with her ear always, obsessively, placed right above your heart. Just to be sure. Sammy either takes your right side or flings himself spread eagle across your legs, like a breathing blanket. And then you dream up the craziest dreams you can come up with.
You are rock stars and astronauts, superheroes and, around that time Buffy first discovers Dad’s books on old lore, you are gods and kings and warriors of old.
Once, with Dad gone on a hunt and the three of you stuck in the latest ratty motel room, the sky falling down in a torrent of rain and thunder, you play for three whole days. You make hot chocolate and order pizza with the last of the money Dad left in your care and the three of your become the entire cosmos.
But even then, even during those three magical, rainy days somewhere in the middle of Colorado, one thing always goes unsaid but is perfectly clear:
These dreams, they will never be anything more than that.
It’s a game. Nothing more.
Eventually, Sammy forgets that.
You dream sometimes, of course. Different dreams, the kind that might be, could be real. But those dreams are abstract and never last for more than a fleeting moment.
You drive through suburbia and see a guy playing with his son and dog on the front lawn and think, you know, that could be me. You sing along to Zeppelin III
at the top of your lungs and consider, just for a second, learning to play the guitar. Your singing voice isn’t half bad. Sometimes you dream that Mom’s alive and you live in Lawrence, Kansas and don’t scrape through high school without ever doing your homework because you are too busy hunting on weekends and working at the local garage in the evenings.
In those dreams you have another little sister, and her name’s probably Mary, or Hope or something ridiculously sentimental like that and she’s two years younger than Sammy because that’s how it works. Buffy’s two years younger than you and Sammy’s two years younger than her. Two years between every kid – it’s a trend.
And you teach her how to ride a bike and threaten to beat up everyone that looks at her sideways until she’s about forty. You’d do the same with Buffy, only she has this slightly unsettling tendency to do it herself. The beating up, that is. She looks like a strong wind could knock her over but she’s a Winchester at heart and it shows in her right hook. You know. You got a taste of it a time or two.
Driving through America’s small towns you don’t dream fancy dreams. You dream of remembering your Mom properly, of seeing your little sister smile more often, of making Sam happy and seeing Dad without a weapon of some sort in his hand.
You dream of things you know can never happen.
Mom is dead and Dad’s a warrior in her name, Buffy’s a bit messed up and Sam’s getting old enough to see the ugliness of the world.
But there is one dream, born of all those impossibilities, that you do dream, that you do cling to. It’s a dream of hunting with Dad in front of you and your siblings on either side of you.
It’s a dream of family, together, as one.
Buffy dreams in red and flame.
If it was ever any different, you can’t remember and you think that maybe that’s best. The night Mom died, Dad pushed Sammy at you and told you to run, run fast. He didn’t give any orders to a two-year-old Buffy, standing in the corner of the hallway, flattened against the wall, eyes wide.
You remember that she had a phase back then where she locked onto someone and then followed them around, endlessly. It annoyed the hell out of you, you remember. And when you rushed past her with a screaming Sammy in your arms, heavy, so heavy, she didn’t follow you. She locked onto Dad and toddled after him.
Into the nursery.
Into the fire.
Where the screams were.
You don’t know if she remembers actually seeing Mom burn and you never ask but it’s there in her eyes, green like her mother’s. Something broke in two-year-old baby Buffy that night, and it never quite fixed itself.
It’s not revenge that drives her like Dad, not love like you. For her, much like Sammy, it’s simply all there is. They’re too young to remember living normal lives. Sam struggles with it sometimes, but Buffy never does.
She’s twelve when she comes up to you after a hunt and whispers in your ear how she likes the part where you burn all the evidence at the end the best. She likes fire, she says. Dad overhears and walks away, his face set in stone. Sammy, sitting in the car, doesn’t hear a thing and you look at your little sister and you know, once and for all, that normal was never in her cards.
She’s born to hunt, to kill, to rage at the dark and shoot whatever comes out of it.
Buffy dreams of guns and knives and spirits, of werewolves and witches and she wakes screaming sometimes, but with her hand wrapped around the knife Dad gave her when she was six. Of your whole family she’s the one who seems most fragile, but you never worry about her because you know that your baby sister will claw her way out of hell if it ever comes down to it.
Made of gun oil and salt, she is.
So when she turns fourteen you manage to scrape together the money to get her a pair of Smith and Wesson fifty millimeters with a four inch barrel. She can only use one at a time, both hands clenched tightly around it, the recoil giving her bruises that last for weeks and putting a smile on her face that makes twelve-year-old Sam look at her funny out of the corner of his eye.
And you let her dream her dreams of blood and fire.
To her, it’s all a game.
Sammy’s dreams are an entirely different batch of cookies, if you do say so yourself.
Sammy dreams from the age of six on, of being like the other kids. He wants a mom, not Mom, but any mom, like the others all have. He wants a home. No motel rooms, rented apartments for a month or three, never long enough to become entirely familiar. He wants to not know the basics of gun safety. He wants to get a bike for his birthday, not a knife.
In a word, Sammy dreams of normal.
It confuses Buffy, makes Dad sad and you angry. You’re not normal. Winchesters aren’t normal. Not as long as Mom is dead and Dad is hunting the things that go bump in the night. Not as long as there are monsters and hunts to be had. Not until the thing that took your Mommy from you is dead, never to return.
But that doesn’t stop Sammy from dreaming.
He neglects his training in favor of homework, joins the soccer team for three glorious months, tries out for drama group and has screaming matches with Dad that always make Buffy crawl into your bed with a stack of cards, determined to ignore the accusations flying all around you.
Over the course of a few years, she becomes a mean poker player.
Sam wants the exact opposite of his big sister, wants the things his big brother never dares to put into words. You dream of them, half heartedly, but you never intend to make them true.
The only dream you have that counts is the one where all four of you are together and kicking ass.
But Sam, Sam wants to make every one of his dreams come true and he’ll walk over corpses to get there. He will. Just watch him. He’s practicing on Dad’s heart already, yelling incoherently until the motel manager knocks and politely asks them to tone it the fuck down or get out.
You step in, break up the fight while Buffy flirts with the manager long enough to talk him into leaving you alone and Sam crawls into his bed to sulk, silently glaring out the window. In his head, you know, he’s anywhere but here.
Anywhere at all.
You’re seventeen, going on eighteen, when Buffy gets pushed down the stairs by an angry spirit and breaks her leg into so many pieces, you swear you can hear them rattle as you carry her to the car, panic badly concealed in your every motion.
At the hospital they tell you she won’t be walking for months.
You look at Dad and the forbidding storm cloud hanging over his head and you know what that means.
Joyce arrives three days later, more than willing to take her niece in. She never liked the way her brother-in-law raised the three of you and she’s happy to get her claws into at least one of you before it’s too late.
Or so she thinks. She doesn’t know the things Buffy dreams. She doesn’t know that deep down, your sister is just a bit fucked up and she takes her home to California.
And four become three, with Sam raging endlessly, Dad mute with grief at failing one of his kids and you never quite able to say the words. To say, we could have stayed in one place for six fucking months just
once couldn’t we?
By the time your birthday rolls around, it seems you’re the only one who remembers that you have a sister. You develop a new habit of sticky fingers when it comes to change. Any loose change lands in your pockets and from there, it goes straight into the nearest payphone. Buffy is always home when you call.
But your dream, like your family, is broken.
Six months later she asks you to tell Dad to call her. You jog back to the motel and deliver the message.
He comes back half an hour later, pale faced, with a glint of pride and despair in his eyes. Sammy straightens from his obligatory teenage slouch and asks if his sister is alright, finally remembering he has one.
Dad nods and sits down hard. Your sister, he says, is a slayer.
You blink dumbly because, seriously, what’re the odds of that? Your sister, the only card carrying female member of a family of hunters, goes to Cali with a broken leg and comes back a slayer.
No, hold on, she’s not coming back. Dad looks at you grimly as you ask why. Joyce moved her to the hellmouth. Buffy’s got a job now, a duty.
No Winchester ever leaves a hunt unfinished.
Buffy’s getting her dream.
She’s not coming back.
Sammy is the next to break away, screaming, throwing things, waving that damn letter in Dad’s face like a trophy and packing his bags in between rounds.
He’s as good as gone long before Dad tells him not to come back if he does.
He slams out of your life, actually breaking the door when he does and unlike Buffy, he’s never home when you call. The only way you see him at all anymore is when you sneak through Stanford to steal glimpses of him on campus, at parties, with his girlfriend.
Glimpses of your baby brother playing soccer and pouring over law texts instead of demonology books, pretending his scars come from being a clumsy child and that he’s never fired a gun.
He doesn’t even carry his knife, the one he got for his sixth birthday, like you all did, the one all three of you always
carry wherever you go. He’s completely defenseless against anything that might jump him and that idea makes you cringe.
For his dream of normal, Sammy’s gonna get killed.
Well, you decide, not on your watch.
Your brother’s living his dream and you’ll keep him alive to do it.
After that, any strange occurrences within a hundred miles of Stanford stop almost before they start.
Somewhere in the middle of that dead zone, Sammy sits and makes pretend, forgetting the first rule.
It’s a game.
Dad is the last to leave. He just takes off for a solo hunt one morning and never comes back.
You’re twenty-five and you’ve spent your entire life protecting your family, keeping them together. But they still left, all of them getting whatever they dreamed of - revenge and blood and flames and normalcy. They left you in the dirt, clutching the pieces of your own dream, the most simple dream of them all.
The dream of family.
But Sammy still needs protection and Buffy still needs someone to tell her tall tales to and so you keep dropping by his college and calling her number. And when that’s done you leave message after message for Dad.
You never get an answer.
Buffy’s call to your cell comes late in May, when you’ve been on your own for almost a two months. It’s over she says, the hunt is finally done, after eight full years. The mouth in Sunnydale is closed and the one in Cleveland, too. There are no more open gates to hell on this continent, she tells you, tired, exhausted, but obviously happy.
She’s finished her first solo job, she jokes. Just took a while.
Then there’s someone shuffling around in the background and a voice asking if she’s done, they want to go to dinner now. She tells you goodbye quickly, the way she always has, without saying the actual word. Never has.
After that night, her calls turn drab.
The gates are closed. And her purpose gone. Her friends all live happily normal lives now, lives with dates and school and college and love and fun and club hopping and she’s trapped with them somehow, unable to get out.
At this rate, she says, she’ll forget which end of the knife goes in the enemy before she hits thirty.
You offer to pick her up, to just take her back on the road with you, your heart surging and the long forgotten pieces of a dream roaring at the back of your mind.
She can’t. She says she has duties. She tries to sound happy about it, but she’s not. Her voice, then and forever after, is strained when you call.
You can’t take it anymore after fourteen months on your own. You’re made to run in a pack, you’re not ashamed to admit that. You belong with your family.
So you go to Stanford and break into Sammy’s place, almost getting a bit killed in the process. You ogle his girlfriend just to annoy him and drag him off on a hunt and within hours, it’s like he’s never been gone. All the research and the hunting and you can’t help the grin that splits your face when he pops the trunk and tucks two knives into his jacket and waistband at the first stop they make.
Twenty-four hours later, it’s all in ruins.
Jess is burning high as the sky and Sam’s eyes are dry. Dry and dead, filled with rage, filled with the need for revenge that lurks in Dad after all these years and the glint of not-quite-right that made your little sister fall in love with matches and lighters.
Sammy’s finally broken.
His dream of normal rises with the curling smoke, a message to the heavens, a declaration of war on the world that took his girlfriend from him. He wanted normal and he got the blood of his woman on his hands even while Buffy, who wishes for an endless war and a glorious end, is suddenly stuck playing house after the end of the world.
Sam dreamed of picked fences and got blood and Buffy dreamed of blood and got picket fences.
It’s a game.
You thought you stopped dreaming years ago when they all started to leave you but you didn’t. Deep down, you never let go of that image. Dad in front, Sammy on your right, Buffy on your left. The Winchesters. Hunting together.
Looks like you’re getting your dream.
Only Dad’s not leading. He’s running from you. Sam’s not walking tall but slouching, fury curling in his gut, burning a hole in him. And Buffy, she’s still too fond of fire and strains, trying to lead, just a bit suicidal, after all these years.
It’s your dream come true.
And you’d give it willingly, gladly, just to give them back their own silly dreams.
You’d give it all if you could dream of astronauts and rock stars again, just the three of you.
It’s a game. Nothing more.
Instead you flick your phone open and call your sister, one eye on the road, the other on Sammy sitting next to you, staring straight ahead as the Impala eats the miles beneath you.
It’s a game.
Buffy doesn’t pick up.