Everything I Know About Hunting I Learned From My FatherRating:
Buffy-centric gen, with a dash of Buffy/DeanSummary:
In which Hank Summers is a hunter, and Buffy grows up learning the family business.A/N:
AU where Buffy is not the slayer, but grows up in a hunting family.Disclaimer:
None of this is mine. I'm just playing in Kripke and Whedon's sandboxes.
Buffy peeks her head around the corner of the doorway. Joyce sleeps soundly, curled on her side in the bedroom with her eyes firmly shut. Buffy should be in bed, too, but her father is home for the first time in a week, and he always has a new and exciting story to tell - ones her mother forbids him to speak, that he can only share when Joyce is asleep.
"Shouldn't you be in bed, kiddo?"
Buffy freezes, little hands clutched around the stuffed pig in her arms. She shuffles into the den, pink bunny slippers sliding across the carpet. She perches her chin on her hands on the table, where Hank continues carefully cleaning the pieces of his gun. She isn't allowed to touch her father's weapons, but the smell of gun oil is as familiar to her as her mother's cooking.
"I can't sleep," she says, tilting her head to side, biting back a yawn.
Hank chuckles. "Don't want to sleep, is more like it. C'mere."
Buffy grins, wriggling up into her father's lap. Hank settles her on his knee, carefully assembling the gun before pushing it to the side. A drawing outlined by squiggles and scribbled notes sits in front of him, making Buffy's brow furrow.
"That's a weird star, Daddy," Buffy says, giggling a little.
Hank smiles, pulling her a little closer, arms tightening around her waist. "It's a special star. It keeps the bad things away."
"The bad things?" Buffy whispers, eyes widening, clutching Mr. Gordo tightly to her chest. She doesn't know much about her father's job - he fights monsters, real
monsters, "Like a superhero," she said once, making him laugh and her mother frown. She makes him check under her bed and inside of her closet before she goes to sleep; he puts salt along the floor near the door and window sill, says that will keep the monsters out.
Hank kisses her cheek, softly running his hand through her hair. "Don't worry, sweetheart. The bad things won't get you. Not while I'm around."
The problem, of course, is that Hank Summers is never around.
Her parents argue constantly, over the phone, and, on the rare occasion, in the den, whispered words of anger she overhears when she should be asleep.
"This isn't safe, Hank." Joyce's words carry through the house, despite her best attempts to keep her voice down. "Not for you, not for me. Especially not for Buffy."
"This is the only way to keep Buffy safe." Hank's voice is a deep, familiar rumble, a quiet force not to be reckoned with. Buffy shivers under the covers and pulls the pillows over her head to drown out the noise.
Things weren't always this way.
When Buffy is young, she spends half of her weekends at The Roadhouse. Her mother and father sit at the bar, talking shop with Aunt Ellen and Uncle Bill, laughing into their beers. She and Jo run the length of the property, pretending to be hunters, sticks and stones taking the place of guns and bullets.
When Buffy turns eight, Uncle Bill takes them out behind the storage shed, teaching her how to shoot with Jo’s bow and arrow. Her mother draws the line at the guns, while her father rolls her eyes.
“She’s gotta learn sometime, Joyce,” Hank says, but her mother purses her lips and holds her ground.
Then, Uncle Bill dies; Jo’s sweaty hand clenches in Buffy’s while her father’s body burns. The bitter smell of smoke and ash still permeates the air when Buffy says goodbye to Jo and Ellen and her mother pushes her into the car.
“That could have been you,” Joyce says as they pull out onto the highway. Hank’s hands clench around the steering wheel. “You need to stop this, Hank.”
“You knew who I was when you married me, so don’t try to change me now,” Hank growls.
Buffy closes her eyes, pretending to fall asleep while her heart beats wildly in her chest.
Hank comes home limping one night several months later, all of his weight resting on his left side. There's a gash across the right side of his forehead; his cheek is coated with blood.
Buffy immediately pushes her father into a chair and rushes to the kitchen for the paper towels. She presses a wad of them against the wound on his face. She's had enough scraped shins and knees to know she's better at the sight of blood than her mother. Hank doesn't flinch. Instead, he talks her through the basics of first aid.
"Shouldn't need stitches," he says, lips pulling into a wry imitation of a smile, "I'm not teaching you that yet."
Buffy smiles, pulling butterfly bandages from the kit her mother places at her elbow. She bites her lip as she sticks them across the cuts on his face.
Joyce doesn't say a word; she goes up to the bedroom shaking her head, arms crossed over her chest.
Buffy sits at the table while Hank nurses a large glass of whiskey. She watches as he cleans his knives, pushing her tongue between the gap left by one of her lost lower teeth and the loose tooth beside it. A look of fierce determination pulls across her father's face before he pushes one of the knives in her direction.
Her head snaps up. "Dad," Buffy says, voice hushed, "Mom says I can't play with knives."
"What Mom doesn't know won't hurt her, and damn it, you're my daughter, too," Hank says gruffly, pushing the knife further across the table. Buffy curls her hand around the handle, slow and careful as she runs her finger across the flat of the blade. The metal feels cool and comfortable against her palm.
When Buffy is thirteen, her best friend kisses her in the schoolyard.
Buffy rambles on about movies and homework and her father when Pike suddenly leans over and presses his mouth against hers. The kiss is quick and awkward, and her stomach flutters in ways she doesn't like and doesn't understand.
Pike pulls away. They stare at each other, eyes wide. Then, she punches him in the mouth.
She proudly shows Hank her bloody knuckles, and he winces dramatically, fighting the smile tugging at his lips.
"We need to teach you how to throw a proper punch," he says, knuckling her lightly beneath her jaw, and Buffy lights up like Christmas has come early.
Joyce continues cleaning the dishes in the kitchen, and they clang just a little louder against each other in the sink.
The divorce is inevitable, and Joyce packs her all of her belongings into her SUV - including Buffy, who spends the entire ride to Sunnydale kicking and screaming.
"This will be good for you," Joyce tells her, while Buffy stares out the window, vowing never to forgive her mother for taking her away from Hank, "For all of us."
you," Buffy whispers under her breath.
She hates Sunnydale, too.
Los Angeles was always too big, too bright, too loud; the only person ever comfortable living there was her mother. Sunnydale is exactly the opposite, too small, too dark, too damn quiet. Buffy feels caged, like a cat ready to pounce.
The only person who makes things bearable is Giles, one of Dad's old hunting buddies. He corners her in the library on her first day at Sunnydale High and presses a worn, leather-bound book about vampires into her hands.
“That’s not what I’m here for,” she says, nose wrinkling as she pushes the book back towards him, and Giles sighs.
He teaches her how to fight, how to properly use a crossbow, the exact amount of force it takes to send a wooden stake careening into a vampire’s heart. Hank visits often, drinking whiskey with Giles in the back office in the off hours and dragging Buffy away for as many weekends and holidays as possible.
For Christmas break, Hank drives her all the way to South Dakota, to a salvage yard out in Sioux Falls. There’s a man she doesn’t know standing out on the porch with a shotgun in his hands and an old dog barking at his side.
He drops the gun as soon as Hank gets out of the car, rolling his eyes at the dog, who takes off as soon as the man lets him off his leash. He tips his chin towards Buffy, arching an eyebrow at her, and her hackles rise under his appraising gaze. "This the sprog?"
Hank puts a hand on Buffy's shoulder. "Bobby, this is my daughter, Buffy. Buffy, this is Bobby Singer - one of the best hunters I know."
"Flattery ain’t gonna get you nowhere, Summers." His lips quirk. "Keep it up anyway, though. My ego could use the feedin’."
Hank snorts. "Sure it could."
The front door slams open, and Buffy's head swivels around at the sound of boots clomping across the floorboards.
"Here comes trouble," Hank mutters, lips twitching when Buffy glances up at him in question.
"Bobby, I can't find the shotgun, it's not in the damn -" The voice and the footsteps stop short as two boys come into view.
The shorter, younger of the two eyes her with mild interest before flopping down on the ground beside Bobby's porch with a book in his lap. He doesn't lift his eyes from the page as he says, "That's Buffy."
The other boy stares. Buffy stares back, resisting the urge to brush her father's hand off of her shoulder. Hank chuckles quietly, dropping his arm to his side.
"What the hell is a Buffy?" He finally slides his gaze away to look down at the boy sitting near his feet.
"Hank's daughter, Dean," he says with the exasperated tone of a younger sibling that has always made Buffy infinitely thankful Joyce and Hank never had a second child.
Dean slaps him in the back of his head, just hard enough that he looks up and scowls, grabbing at Dean's ankle. Dean easily slips out of the way. "Don't be a wise-ass, Sammy."
"Don't be a jerk. And it's Sam," Sam grumbles, turning back to his book.
Dean rolls his eyes. "Princess."
"That's enough, boys," Bobby says; he angles his chin around the back of the house. "Dean, take Buffy around back. I wanna see how well she spars against you."
Dean's eyebrows shoot up to his hairline, and he eyes Hank with trepidation. "But she's tiny,
" he protests.
Buffy's eyes narrow. "I can still kick your ass." She crosses her arms over her chest.
Dean rolls his eyes, mimicking her stance. "I'd like to see you try, sweetheart."
Sam chuckles, looking up from his book to Bobby with a grin on his face. "Can I watch?"
Dean kicks her ass from one end of the yard to the other, dodging every hit she throws his way with practiced ease. The fifth time she ends up on her back with Dean standing over her, all of the breath rushes out of her lungs.
“Okay,” she wheezes, “You win.”
He helps her to her feet with a cocky grin, and Buffy knees him in the groin, not even a little bit sorry when he falls to his knees.
Hank takes her to visit Bobby often after that, setting her up in the library with books about the supernatural. The house smells of coffee, gunpowder, whiskey and musty books; the sounds of pages turning, the coffee maker brewing, and her father’s voice lull her to sleep at night.
She tries to make friends when she’s at school, talking fashion with Cordelia, getting help with her homework from Willow, and laughing when Xander almost falls off of the steps when he tries to make a joke. She talks a lot about her father, which inevitably leads to questions about his job and her weekends away. She skirts around the subject, every lie tasting more bitter in her mouth than the last.
She’s still most comfortable when she’s holed up in the library with Giles or at Bobby’s house, where she doesn’t have to pretend to be normal. Even if she spends half of her weekends resisting the urge to punch Dean Winchester in the face. Hank presses a shotgun into Buffy’s hands, and Dean's lips slide up into a challenging grin that sets her teeth on edge.
Working alongside Dean makes her up her game, wanting to prove herself as a hunter in her own right, more than just her father’s daughter. Sam works with them, too, a quiet presence at Dean’s side; he throws his knives with deadly accuracy, shoots every single can off of the fence surrounding the property with lightning-quick speed. Dean ruffles his hair, giving him a proud grin. Sam ducks out from under his hand with a half-hearted scowl, but his eyes are wide, bright and pleased.
Dean tosses insults at Buffy every time she misses the target, but he also corrects her stance when Sam hands her one of the throwing knives, fingers cupping her elbow and pushing her shoulders down. She leans into the touch, and Dean smirks.
“I know, I’m irresistable,” he drawls, and Buffy glares, pulling away with a scowl while Sam rolls his eyes.
She hits the bullseye of every single target except one. Dean tosses his knife, and it lands dead-center.
“Nice work, sweetheart,” he says, grinning wide. Sam cackles when Dean folds over, winded after Buffy drives her elbow back into his ribs. Hank and Bobby roll their eyes.
For her sixteenth birthday, her father takes her out on her first real hunt.
There’s a haunting out near Salinas, a family being terrorized by the ghost of the previous owner, who committed suicide in the boiler room. Pictures fall off of the walls, lights flicker and burst. The couple has a daughter, a four-year-old named Brenda with wide eyes and six stitches across the sole of her left foot - she stepped on broken glass after a lamp was hurled across the room.
It should be an easy salt and burn, but Hank gets thrown backwards into one of the headstones as soon as they dig down far enough to reach the casket. Buffy grabs his shotgun, firing off a round like she’s been doing this her entire life. Hank drags himself to the edge of the grave and breaks open the casket, spreading salt and lighter fluid over the bones. Buffy watches his back, getting tossed into a tree for her troubles. She scrapes her cheek open on the exposed roots.
Hank hauls her to her feet and hands her the matches. “Do the honors?”
She grins and lights the match, tossing it into the open grave. The air shivers and flashes, the ghost screams, and then there’s nothing but the crackling of the flames.
“Holy shit,” Buffy says, eyes wide, and Hank chuckles; he lifts her chin, examining the cut on her cheek with a look in his eyes that she can’t quite interpret.
“What?” she asks quietly; Hank shakes his head, wrapping his arm around her shoulders while they watch the body burn.
Hank takes her on other hunts after that - a rusalka on the Port Angeles coastline, a pair of vetalas in Phoenix. There are an absurd number of vampires in in her own backyard; for every nest she and Giles destroy, another two pop up in it’s place. She hides the bumps and bruises with makeup, long sleeves, and scarves, keeps her distance from Xander and Willow when they start asking too many questions, and learns how to get rid of blood and mud stains before tossing her clothes into the laundry.
They’re hunting a wendigo in Nebraska, and Hank drives the extra ten miles to The Roadhouse. It’s the first time she’s seen the Harvelles since the night of William’s funeral, and Buffy throws her arms around Jo’s shoulders as soon as they walk in the door.
Ellen pulls Buffy into her arms, cupping her cheek in one of her hands to examine the scrape on the underside of her chin. There's a matching bruise at her temple. She shoots Hank a dirty look over Buffy’s shoulder.
“I don’t want your girl givin’ Jo any bright ideas,” Buffy overhears Ellen saying when she sneaks down from Jo’s room for a glass of water. The two of them stayed up far too late, Jo asking a million and one questions about the hunts Buffy has been on, offering stories of the hunters that come through the bar in return.
Her father’s back is a tense line beneath his jacket as he brings his beer bottle to his lips. “Jo already knows what she wants, Ellen. Talking to Buffy won’t change her mind one way or the other.”
“I don’t want my daughter hunting,” Ellen snaps, and Hank slams his beer down on the bar so hard, liquid sloshes over the rim of the bottle.
“And you think I do?”
Buffy’s eyes go wide and she turns, running up the stairs, all thoughts of water forgotten. She’s quiet on the ride home the next morning, staring at the trees blurring past her window.
Hank frowns, knocking her lightly in the shoulder before returning his hand to the steering wheel. “You okay, kiddo?”
Buffy shrugs a shoulder and leans her chin on her hand. “Fine,” she mutters, and stays silent for the remainder of the drive home.
Hank doesn’t take her out on another case for months. He drops her off at Bobby’s house and leaves her there, while he and Bobby take care of a haunting in the next town over.
“Sucks, doesn’t it?” Dean says, while Buffy watches her father’s car disappear in the distance. She glares, punching him in the shoulder, satisfied when he winces.
Dean raises his eyebrow and shoves her towards the back of the house. Sam raises his eyebrows from his spot on the hood of a beat up Ford pickup, but he jumps down when Dean beckons him forward. He gestures his hand in a way that makes no sense to Buffy, but a moment later, Sam snaps his arm out, catching her elbow as she spins out of the way of Dean’s fist.
She takes a step back, eyes narrowing before she launches herself at Sam. She tries to keep her attention split, ducking Dean at her left, dodging Sam at her right, not even bothering to try and land a hit until Sam gives her an opening. He spins out of the way as Buffy kicks her leg out, knocking Dean’s knees out from under him and sending him crashing to the ground. She straddles his legs, holding his arms down at his sides with a triumphant grin.
“Nice work, sweetheart,” Dean says with a grin, just before Sam flips her over and onto her back.
Buffy waits until Sam goes to bed that night to grab two beers from the fridge. She brings them outside, where Dean is lying back on the hood of the Impala.
He sits up as she approaches, raising his eyebrow when she pops open the bottles, keeping one for herself.
"Your father know you drink?"
"I don't drink," she says, making a face as she chokes down a sip. Dean chuckles, taking a sip of his own beer. He makes room so Buffy can sit down next to him, using the bumper to climb up.
She taps her fingers against her leg, looking out at the full moon in the sky. Dean glances at her out of the corner of his eye, regarding her like a puzzle he can't quite figure out.
She huffs, eyes narrowing. "What?"
Dean reaches over the side of the car to place his bottle on the ground. He cups her cheek in one hand, sliding the other around her hips to pull her closer. Her skin tingles at the touch.
“What are you doing?” she asks, eyes wide, and Dean huffs a laugh, breath warm against her lips.
“What does it look like?” He moves slowly, carefully, giving her a chance to pull away before his lips press against hers, warm and inviting, chapped and rough against her mouth. It's nothing like kissing Pike, the fluttering in her stomach replaced by a fire that Dean stokes to life as he strokes his hand through her hair and down her spine.
Buffy wraps her arms around his neck, pulling herself closer. Dean slips his hands around her waist under her shirt, pulling her down into his lap, and she gasps. She pushes against his chest until he tips backwards, and she moves with him, straddling his thighs and rolling her hips.
Dean's breath stutters out. "Your father is going to kill me." She bites back a moan as he mouths down the column of her throat.
"Probably." For once, she can't bring herself to care.
When Buffy gets her acceptance letter to Sunnydale Community College, her mother buys her a cake shaped like a graduation cap.
Buffy tries to act excited, like a regular teenager, but a wanderlust creeps under her skin, threatening to consume her completely. She wants - no she needs
to break free.
“Why don’t you want me to hunt?” The question spills out over the phone against her will, spit through clenched teeth. She hasn’t seen her father in weeks.
“No one in their right mind wants this for their children,” Hank says, after a long moment of silence, “But I know you. If I tell you no, you’ll run off and hunt anyway, and there are plenty of other hunters out there who will just get you killed. At least with me, I know you’re safe.”
He sighs, and Buffy hears the clink of a glass against a table. “No more hunting until you graduate.”
She clenches the phone in her hand, lips stuttering over her protests. "But Dad-"
"Buffy Anne Summers," he says, and Buffy purses her lips together, "You will
finish high school, and you will
listen to your mother. If you show up on my doorstep without a diploma in your hand, I will send you straight back to California, do you hear me?
"Yes, sir," Buffy grumbles, the order crystal clear even over several hundred miles of phone lines.
The following months are absolute torture. Giles keeps her busy, researching for cases that she isn’t allowed to go on, continuing her weapons training after hours, but going no further than the parking lot behind the library. Her mother is overjoyed to have Buffy safe at home, spending dinners talking to her about her work at the gallery, asking her about school and planning shopping trips for college-related supplies that Buffy has no intention to ever use.
Instead, she packs a duffel bag full of clothing and the weapons from their hidden compartment in her desk drawer. She rubs the handle of one of the knives between her palms and presses her thumb against the tip of the blade before shoving the bag into the back of her closet.
Hank stands in the back of the gym with Giles at her graduation ceremony, both of them grinning wide as she walks up onto the stage. Buffy takes a running leap down the aisle, throwing herself into his arms.
“Congratulations,” Hank says against her shoulder, and Buffy holds up the fake diploma, wiggling her eyebrows.
“Not yet,” he says, chuckling, and she huffs, rolling her eyes.
Her real diploma finally surfaces in the mail two weeks later, and she clutches the sheet of paper to her chest, hands clenching around the envelope so tightly, the edges cut into her palm.
That night, she confesses her true plans for the future to her mother - not college, a well-paying career, marriage and two point five children, but the family business. Her father's
Joyce forbids her from leaving, of course.
The argument that ensues lasts for hours, far worse than any Buffy remembers ever having with either of her parents. Both of their voices climb, fighting to rise above the other.
Joyce bangs her mug against the kitchen counter. “You’re not going! And that’s final.”
Buffy slams the door to her bedroom, effectively ending her side of the conversation. She grabs her duffel bag from the back of the closet and strides back down the stairs, slinging her backpack over her shoulders.
Then, Joyce utters the words that officially severs all ties between them. "If you walk out that door, don't you ever come back."
Buffy bites the inside of her cheek. She squares her shoulders, grabs her diploma off of the counter, and turns her hand on the doorknob.
When Hank Summers opens his motel room door, Buffy smiles as she waves her diploma in his face.
Then, she drops her bags, collapses into his arms, and cries.