Originally written for the Choose Your Author Ficathon on Livejournal, and first posted on my LJ account, tiny_white_hats.
The assignment was:
Gen w/ some humour
Crossover: BtVS x Supernatural
Timeline: BtVS early S5 (pre key/Glory), Supernatural S1 or S2
Characters: Dawn, Dean
Location: A kitchen
Request: Dawn and Dean are preparing a surprise/special family dinner
Must have: Super-ranty, curious Dawn; irritable, sarcastic Dean,
Don't want: Anger, dark, pairing
Hope for: Dawn a bit impressed by Dean, Dean a bit flattered
Word count: 1000 minimum
* * *
Buffy’s throwing one of her psychotic dinners again tonight, the kind where she’s absolutely certain that if everybody chips in and then eats together, it’ll magically seem like we’re all painfully normal and well-adjusted. They’re a waste of time, if you ask me. No power on this earth could make this group of people seem “well-adjusted,” much less “normal.” But nobody ever does ask me, so I haven’t shared that personal opinion quite yet.
This time, the Winchesters are visiting, again, and somehow that merits a big crazy Buffy dinner. I can’t really see why that deserves a big dinner, since they visit, literally, all the time (as in, every time they pass through California), but it’s not like Buffy really cares what little Dawnie thinks. Honestly, I don’t mind having dinners with the Winchesters too much though, because I actually like Sam and Dean, unlike some men in their 20s who eat dinner at our house way too often (Riley). I like them mostly because they’re way nicer to me than most people (Buffy) are, plus, they’re kinda cute, even though they’re even older than Buffy’s friends, who are already old enough.
The Winchesters, mainly Dean, don’t really believe in following schedules, so they ended up arriving a little earlier than expected. I thought it was awesome, since I actually like them, but Buffy wasn’t exactly pleased that they got here before her chicken got out of the oven. I didn’t see the crisis, still don’t, but Buffy seemed fussed about the whole thing.
“No problem,” Sam had smiled easily at Buffy, when she ushered them in, waving them through the doorway and apologizing excessively for the unfinished meal. “We didn’t realize we’d be so early. We’d be more than happy to help you finish up, though.” Next to him, Dean had started in surprise, as if Sam had jabbed him with a live wire, not volunteered his culinary services. “Right, Dean?”
“Uh, yeah. You got it.” Dean had sounded about as enthusiastic as I felt. Which is to say, minimally enthusiastic, if at all. So, the moment the opportunity had presented itself, I’d grabbed Dean by the elbow and had volunteered him in helping me make the salad. Buffy had seemed pleased, as if she was worried I would accidentally cut myself with the big pointy vegetable knife without supervision. I hadn’t so far, but, obviously, she couldn’t ever be too careful with poor, clumsy me.
Dean is my favorite of Buffy’s friends. Sure, he and Sam aren’t near constant presences in our house, unlike Willow and Xander are, but he treats me like more than just Buffy’s helpless kid sister. That’s more than I can say for Buffy, or any of Buffy’s friends, as much as I really do like some of them.
“So, what do we have to do?” Dean grumbles good-naturedly as I drag him to the dining room table. I had been booted out of the kitchen when Buffy realized we were running out of counter space, on the grounds that salads didn’t need ovens. On the wooden surface of the table, on top of a large plastic stain-proof cover, I had arranged a couple of bowls, a head of lettuce, a cutting board, various uncut and cut vegetables, and a pair of salad forks. Personally, I think that salad making is as easy as it gets, as far as cooking is concerned, but I appreciate Dean letting me be in charge, for once.
“Hmmph,” he grunts after I've explained my take on salad making to him. “Don’t know why you people bother with all this rabbit food. Burger’s just as good as any of this crap.”
On second thought, I’m realizing that maybe I’d needed to explain salad making to him for a reason.
Nevertheless, he helps me make the salad, cutting the vegetables I point out and putting the relatively uniform pieces where I tell him to. Despite his feelings on salad in general, he's actually a big help, since he can cut vegetables twice as neatly as I can, and he can do it in half the time.
“You sure you’ve never made a salad?” I tease cheerfully, as he slices a carrot to bits with the repetitive ease of chopping firewood. “You’re awfully good at it…”
“What? No!” Dean barks defensively, like I’d just gravely insulted him, before he notices that I'm just joking. “Oh, uh, right. The cutting? This is nothing. You should see what I can do with a machete. Way more effective than a kitchen knife.”
“I wouldn’t know,” I grumble under my breath, but somehow Dean still hears me. Stupid hunter hearing.
"What do you want to know about machetes for, Dawnie?" He narrows his eyes and gets that suspicious look on his face, the one that normally means I'm about to get lectured. I hate safety lectures, with a deep burning, fiery passion.
"I don't know," I mumble looking everywhere but his suspicious green eyes. "I just think it could be useful, or something. You know, in case of emergency."
“Yeah, I do, actually.” I look up with a start at his words. This is not how a “Dawn, you are fragile and need to be protected” lecture starts. He sounds mostly understanding, not preachy and uppity, like Buffy does when she tells me why I'm a liability and would get in her way, and therefore am not allowed to help patrol.
“Dawnie, did I ever tell you how Sammy and I got into hunting?”
I shake my head, eyes wide as dinner plates. I’d heard Buffy’s story before, several times, but never the Winchesters’.
“It was my dad. He was a hunter, started when Sammy was just a baby. He took us all over the country for jobs, never told us a thing about 'em. Drove me batshit crazy, never knowing what he was doing.
“He told me, eventually. Only made things worse. I knew what he was hunting, but I had to stay in the hotel and protect Sam.
“I hated it. Made me feel useless.
“But it's the same thing Buffy's doing; trying to keep you safe. She's scared you'll get hurt fighting her fights.” Dean had stopped chopping carrots sometime during his speech, and now he’s facing me, a serious look on his face. “It's 'cause she cares, Dawn,” he says gruffly, before turning back to his cutting board with a grunt.
He looks embarrassed, and he probably thinks he's said too much. It's kind of like how Giles gets flustered whenever he says anything actually emotional, only without all of the stuttering and the glasses cleaning.
“Well,” I snap back, quick as a whip. I am very unreservedly not convinced by his testimonial, and I want to make sure he knows. “If that's why, then why does she let her friends help? Xander and Anya are just as useless as I am! And stupid Riley just has his stupid guns, and I could shoot a taser too, you know!” I’m not totally convinced that I could shoot a taser, but I don’t think I’ll mention that bit.
“Dawn,” Dean starts to speak, sounding a little weary, but I cut him off, not yet finished.
“And it's not because I'm so very young and fragile, either! Buffy was my age when she got called, and Willow and Xander and Oz and Cordelia were all about my age when they started helping. They were just as useful as I am, but Buffy let them help!”
Dean sighs next to me, but I pointedly refuse to acknowledge it. I have things that need saying, and I'm not gonna stop until they're said!
“I just don't get why I can't help, too! It's like, why does Buffy hate me so much?!”
“Dawn!” Dean snaps, finally fed up or something. He sounds like Buffy does when she thinks I'm talking too much. Whatever. Like I care what she thinks anyways. Why should I, when she doesn’t care about what I think? “You're sister doesn't hate you.”
"Yeah?" I sneer, like I remember Cordelia doing when Buffy got preachy. "How would you know?"
I snort, only it's way cooler and more dignified than you’d expect. "Yeah. That's an answer.”
"She worries. It's what older siblings do, alright? She knows her friends can take care of themselves, so she let's 'em help. She doesn't get that you're just as capable 'cause you're little sis. It's her instinct to take care of you, y'know?"
"You let Sam hunt," I glare at him, like a cornered wildcat. His logic is making that stupid kind of sense where I just don't like it.
"Hah!" he bites out a laugh, like I told some great joke instead of pointing out an error in his logic. "Don't let Sasquatch do anything. Kid's 23, I can't stop him. I'd rather he hunt with me so I can keep an eye on him than let him wander off and get himself killed."
“Why can’t Buffy see that! She doesn’t have to oppress me to keep me safe! I swear, she is just doing this to make me suffer! I offer to help and I get stuck under house arrest!”
“Whoa there, kid. Time to slow down, alright?” Dean holds up a hand for calm, traffic controller style, and looks me straight in the face, looking as exasperated as I’ve ever seen him. “Buffy doesn’t hate you, got it? Now cut your damn vegetables!”
Geez, someone’s pissy tonight. I sniff condescendingly and turn back to my cutting board, head held high. I wait for him to start talking again, but he makes no attempt to cut through the oppressive silence. The only noise is the rhythmic chopping of his knife (and the more sporadic slicing of mine) and a murmur of voices from the kitchen.
“Dean?” I ask, after a few minutes of brain-dulling hush, using my best innocent voice. “Can you tell me a story about one of your hunts?” Somebody’s got to be the bigger person, and if Dean is going to act immature and whiny and cranky and generally PMS-like, then I guess it’s my job to act like an adult.
Dean brightens, just barely noticeably, and puts his knife down. “Sure,” he nods, smiling sort of smugly. “Got a coupla good ones. Wanna hear about the time I saved a kid from a ghost or when I saved Sammy’s ass from human hunting psychos?”
“Umm, surprise me!” I can’t choose, really, since I want to hear both. Dean tells the best stories, probably because he and Sam get to do such cool things.
“You got it, Dawnie,” Dean smirks at me and starts telling the story of small town with a haunted lake. The story is, predictably, fantastic, and, just like that, it’s like we had never argued.
* * *
It seems like the dinner table quivers with a tension only I can feel, tension like a guitar string pulled too tight and waiting to snap. At the other side of the table, Sam laughs with Willow as they tell stories and make jokes that the rest of us don’t really follow. Willow’s always been Sam’s favorite of the gang, because they’re both total brains. Willow seems like the lynchpin holding this ragged group together tonight. She’s desperately trying, and failing, to pull the rest of the table into the conversation as possible, while still joking with Sam and grinning at Tara, sitting beside her as quiet as a dove. Xander and Anya are talking far too loudly amongst themselves, as always, and Buffy, from her seat between Sam and Xander, alternates throwing glares at them and at me. For once, I’m not sure what I did wrong. She may be irritated that the salad was somehow the last dish ready, for reasons completely unknown to me, but I’ve yet to receive confirmation on that.
Dean’s silent in his seat next to me, picking distractedly at his chicken as if it was on the autopsy table. With Riley next to Buffy, he doesn’t want to talk to her, so he doesn’t engage much in the conversation. After all, Dean never really got Willow or Xander, and while they’re all perfectly polite, Buffy was the only one of the three he could ever talk to. Dean did get Oz, though, even better than he got along with Buffy or me, and the two of them could talk about music and cars and whatever for hours, five words or less at a time. Oz isn’t here anymore, hasn’t been for a while now, so I guess he’s sticking with me for now.
Sam seems to realize that he and Willow have been dominating the conversation so he desperately fishes around for a new topic to reel the rest of us back in.
“So, how’s school, Dawn?” he finally asks, satisfied that talking about school should be easy and inoffensive.
“It’s school,” I reply absently, spearing peas on my fork. So far, I’ve managed to rack up a pretty impressive total of 23 peas, but I’m running out of fork. That could be a problem.
“Don’t play with your food, Dawn!” Buffy snaps. Mom never talks to me like that, but she’s out of town, so I guess it’s magically okay to treat me like I’m four. “And stop being rude. Sam asked you a question; the least you can do is answer it properly.”
“Sorry, Mom!” I spit out, frustration burning my tone like I’d spit out boiling hot soup. Her eyes widen and she looks ready to breathe fire at me, but, after a quick glance at our guests, she reins in her temper.
“Dawn!” Buffy growls, like one of those angry little dogs that are too small to be intimidating, but somehow are scary anyways.
I smile sweetly at her and turn to look back at Sam. “School’s fine, I guess. Kind of boring. I do like Latin a lot, though.”
“Your school offers Latin?” Sam asks curiously, and it’s enough to jumpstart a conversation on language, language education, and exorcisms that draws in the entire table. Everyone except Dean, of course.
“Why are you sulking?” I stage whisper to him, watching out of the corner of my eye as I take a ridiculously long time to butter a roll.
He rolls his eyes and shakes his head good naturedly.
“Dean!” I whine exaggeratedly at him, giving him my best Willow style sad-face. It has an alarmingly high success rate, and, once again, it wins the day.
“Relax. ‘M not sulking, Dawnie. Just don’t give a shit about California’s public schools.” As far as arguments went, it was a fairly legitimate one. Dean hadn’t bothered to finish high school his home state of Kansas, much less any other state, including California, so it would come as a surprise if he suddenly took an interest in statewide education.
“Hm. Guess you know how I feel then, right, Dean? Being left out’s the worst.”
“Different circumstances.” He ruffles my hair like he would a shaggy dog and turns to face the suddenly silent mass of young adults and Giles, in between stories. “Hey, so did I ever tell you guys about the hunt we went on in Des Moines? The one with the witch who had it out for Sam?”
“Uggh, Dean!” Sam moans and drops his face against the surface of the table. “Don’t tell that one!”
Dean grins and starts telling the story, smiling warmly at his brother the whole time. I watch the two of them, listening intently the whole time. As Dean tells the story of the witch that tormented Sam for weeks, Sam groans and winces at all of the appropriate parts, but he’s hiding a smile the whole time. Even when Dean’s teasing Sam, they still get along. I can’t even remember the last time Buffy and I joked around like that, without the slightest hint of insult or bickering.
Surprising everyone at the table, even myself, I jump to my feet as quick as a coiled spring. “Uh, bathroom,” I mutter lamely when all eyes latch onto me. I shove my chair back and stalk away from the table, ignoring the stares following my hasty retreat.
I make it around the corner and the bathroom is in sight when a hand drops onto my shoulder, heavy as a weight. Buffy.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she hisses, eyes flashing at me like police lights.
“Going to the bathroom,” I answer, chin high and tone haughty. I’ve done nothing wrong, I’m pretty sure, so this is making me a little bit pissy.
“Cute. I meant, why the hell are you acting like this?”
“Like what, Buffy?” I snap. After all, I’m certainly not the one who’s been running everyone around with an iron fist today. That’d be Ms. Iron Chef over here, not me. I’m exhausted from the awful week at school I had and I’m tired of being bossed around, but I’m pretty sure I’m not being too out of line.
“Would it kill you to show some manners once in a while?” Her tone is completely self-righteous, like the televangelist I stumbled across while channel surfing last weekend. I glare at her; I'm not an infant! Why does she keep treating me like one?
“We have guests, and you’re embarrassing me, Dawn!”
“Well, would it kill you to treat me like a real person once in a while?” Even I can hear the bitterness in my tone, and I don't even care that everyone in the other room can probably hear me. I’m frustrated enough that I can’t hold this in. I've let my big sister push me around long enough, and Slayer or not, I'm tired of it.
Buffy uses the icy intimidating tone she usually saves for the undead, but I'm past the point where I care. There’re too many things that I need to say and holding them in is as effective as stopping a stampede bare handedly.
“You always do this, Buffy! You treat me like I'm four, and then you act like it’s my fault. Why can't you treat me like a sister, not a problem child! I just want to help, but you never let me do anything and you treat me like I'm worthless.
“God, Buffy! I’m so sick of this!”
I turn on my heel and stomp up to my bedroom, the vicious echo of my words hovering in the air between us. I don’t feel any better. I had thought that getting all of that off of my chest would make me feel better, feel like I could stand up for myself, but it didn't. I was harsh and cruel, and I didn’t mean quite what I said to her. I tried to get my point across, but I’m pretty sure all I did was hurt Buffy.
God, I feel useless.
I sit, curled up around a pillow and stuffed monkey, and I mope for a bit, trying to forget the broken look on Buffy's face when I stomped away. It doesn't work, and I can't forget, the scene playing in loops across the undersides of my eyelids. In the heat of the moment, all of my irritation and upset had made everything I said feel justified, my fury righteous, but now, a flight of stairs and five minutes after the fact, I can’t muster any sort of anger.
I hadn’t meant to get angry and cause a scene. All I wanted was for Buffy to understand me, so she’d let me help her, so I could make a difference, too.
After a few minutes there's a quiet knock at my door, soft enough that I could have imagined it. It comes again, not a figment of my imagination then, and I give a grunt that could be an invitation.
“Hey.” Dean closes the door behind him and sits down on my bed, right between my feet and the throw pillows I keep on the foot of my bed. I nod and wait for him to talk. I don't know what to say anymore, not after the last time I opened my mouth. It seems like the only thing I’m good for is getting myself into trouble.
"Your sister's real upset," he finally says, after we've spent a number of silent minutes contemplating my cream colored walls.
I don’t respond. Every time I try and open my mouth, I’m struck by the look on Buffy’s face, and I’m afraid that I can’t talk without causing pain. We sit quietly, and the silence builds up like scum on a pond. Finally, it’s thick enough to suffocate me, and I break the quiet.
“I didn’t mean to. Really. I just wanted her to understand how I feel, that I just want to help.”
“Dawnie,” Dean murmurs quietly, still staring at the ancient N*SYNC poster on my wall that I’ve been meaning to take down. “Cut her some slack, alright? She’s got a tough gig goin’.”
“And I don’t?” I sound a little whiny, even to my own ears, and I wince. I’d been trying so hard to break that whining habit, but it’d proving to be pretty stubborn.
“Look, no one’s saying your life is sunshine and daisies, ‘cause that’s bullshit. All we’re sayin’ is that Buffy needs you, more than she’s gonna tell you. She can’t save everyone, Dawnie. She needs to know that she can save you.”
“Saving me doesn’t mean coddling me. I’m 15 years old, and I’m perfectly able to take care of myself. I’m not useless!”
“What are you tellin’ me for?” Dean shoots me an ironic, sarcastic smile that manages to be kind under the harsh façade.
“Tell her.” He’s so matter of fact when he says this that it feels like it should be the most obvious solution in the world.
Maybe that’s because it is.
“Tomorrow,” I answer and finally release my death grip on the monkey. “Dean?” He grunts in response. “What happened after you found the witch?”
He barks a laugh and continues with his story from earlier. Right now, I know Buffy’s downstairs, hurt by the things I said to her. There’s nothing I can do to make it better right now, she’s got Riley and Willow and Xander for that, so I lay back and listen to Dean’s voice.
I’ll make things right tomorrow.
* * *
We stand side by side on the front porch the next morning, watching as the Winchester’s black Impala disappears around the corner, as they head out to take care of their case. Buffy’s back is stiff and straight, like the walls behind us and the sidewalk before us. Neither of us seems willing to initiate conversation, but I’d told Dean last night that I would talk to Buffy, and I needed to apologize for all of the things I hadn’t meant to say.
“Um, Buffy? I...I’m sorry,” I mutter, my tongue feeling slow and clumsy as it trips over consonants and syllables.
“What?” She’d been staring off in the place we’d last seen the car, holding the porch railing in a death grip as I spoke. She fixes me with a cool glance, pulled out of her musings by my voice.
“I’m sorry. For, y’know, yelling last night. I didn’t actually mean most of it, not really. I just, y’know, said all of that ‘cause I was annoyed and stuff.”
A beat of silence between us, interrupted only by the sounds of my sneaker scuffing against the ground and few birds singing from their telephone wire perches, and then, “Thank you.”
Buffy looks down at the earth between her feet, as if there was an invisible cheat sheet there, one that could tell her how to successfully deal with teenage siblings. “I’m sorry too, Dawnie.”
An airplane buzzes overhead, the whir of its engines gently stirring the not yet cool fall air. I watch its path with more focus than it deserves, an ivory trail streaked across the sky, and wait for Buffy to elaborate. She seems frustrated, combing a hand through her hair and shifting from foot to foot, like she can’t figure out which words to string together.
“I don’t mean to baby you, Dawn.” I can hear her putting a little bit of emphasis on my name, hoping that calling me ‘Dawn’ instead of ‘Dawnie’ would show that she recognizes my maturity. “But, I worry about you, alright? I only get one sister, and I don’t want to lose you.”
I return her weak smile with one of my own, and it feels good, even though it also feels more like an apology than a heartfelt grin.
“You’re the Slayer, Buffy. If anyone can keep someone safe in this town, it’s you.” Buffy chuckles half-heartedly, with an obvious bitterness underlying the laugh. I guess she’s lost too many people to really believe that anymore.
“And, speaking of Slaying,” I begin slyly, hoping to capitalize on Buffy’s guilt at babying me, now that we’ve patched things up a bit. “Can I help patrol?” Buffy looks like she wants to respond, but I cut her off before she can take the breath. “I mean, you’ve always told me no, but you just said you don’t want to baby me anymore, and Willow and Xander helped when they were just about my age, so if you cut me out, that’s totally treating me like a little kid, and you know how I feel about that. I could really help, honestly, and I promise I won’t die.
“So, can I? Please, Buffy?”
Buffy closes her eyes for a second, like a silent prayer for strength, and visibly steels herself for combat. “Maybe.”
“Maybe. But only if you agree to train with Giles first. Learn how to fight, when to run, all that fun stuff.”
“But maybe always means ‘no’!” I whine, and turn my biggest puppy dog eyes on her, hoping she’ll melt like butter when faced with my pout.
“Maybe means maybe,” Buffy smiles fondly at me and begins heading for the door. “But, if you train with Giles, there’s a distinct possibility.”
I nod happily, interpreting her answer as a ‘yes’, and I bounce behind her into the kitchen for breakfast. I absently hum the chorus of a half-remembered song and bustle around the cupboards in search of sugary cereal, an empty bowl in my hand and a broad smile on my face.
“Thank you so much! I love you Buffy!” I squeal at her, yanking a box of Captain Crunch out of the cabinet and smiling like I’d won the lottery. I dance towards the fridge with a distinct spring in my step. I’m gonna get to patrol!
Buffy laughs, amused at my antics, and she waits for me to finish with the milk. “I haven’t said yes yet, Dawn!” she chuckles and yanks the nearly full carton out of my grasp while I’m still pouring my cereal.
The second Buffy’s finished with the milk, I snatch it back, and flash her a bright grin. Things aren’t perfect, and they never will be, but they’re pretty good right now.
“Love you too, Dawnie.”
I grin at my cereal and dig in, absolutely starved. It’s a Saturday, I’m starting my day with delicious, sugary cereal, and Buffy and I are actually getting along for once. As far as I’m concerned, things couldn’t be much better.