What? I just want to encourage a little Sleepy Hollow love, because I want more fics to read. I may or may not totally have a fandom crush on Abbie/Ichabod (which is NOT my style, I don’t tend to ship all that hard). The Boy sighs because this is one of the few shows we watch together and I spent most of the episode squeeing.
Hopefully you all like this (please let me know!). It will only be 7 chapters total. This fic is in response to Mhalachai’s old-school Normal Again Challenge. “Buffy's life as a Slayer is a delusion, but one she feels she has truly lived. When she recovers from her catatonic state and goes home with her mom and dad in the crossover world, she must deal with what she remembers from her "life" in Sunnydale.” I apologize for any medical inaccuracies. I am basing most of my descriptions, diagnoses, etc. from the Normal Again episode.
Did I mention this is the year of writing for me? 2014 is my 10 year anniversary writing at Twisting the Hellmouth and my 14th year writing fanfiction. Whee! Disclaimer:
I own nadda. Year One: Understanding
It had taken Buffy Summers considerably longer to believe that she wasn’t the Chosen One than it had taken to convince her that she was. Savior complex, her shrinks called it, one of the worst cases of schizophrenia, culminating in a catatonic state, they had ever seen. What was terrifying was unlike other patients, patients with split personalities and schizophrenia and PTSD, there was no clear indication of the breaking point that had been her mind. No trauma to point to the reason why a perfectly healthy teenager had suddenly withdrawn so far into a world of her choosing that experts thought she would never climb out again.
Seven years. Seven years spent fighting the ghosts in her mind. Seven years dying inside her own head.
What was more terrifying was that there was absolutely no reason to explain how she had found a way out. There hadn’t been some irrevocable loss in the world of Sunnydale, some moment of clarity that had shown her the man behind the curtain. The doctors who had spent months going over the contours of her broken mind had proposed theories. That her mother’s death in Sunnydale had led to a splintering of her constructed world view. That Dawn had somehow tipped the scales back towards sanity. After all, who but a desperate person imagined a not-quite daughter, crafted from her flesh and bone to call Buffy ‘sister’ and steal her hairbrushes. Dawn…
Buffy ruthlessly pushed away the constructed memory of the imagined memory of Dawn’s fifth birthday, when she had fallen and skinned her knee. Dawn hadn’t wanted Joyce or Hank that day, in that moment, she had reached, blonde pigtails and dirty chubby cheeks, for Buffy. And Buffy had taken care of her. Just like she always had, until she accepted the reality that any version of Dawn- five years old, tied to Glory’s improbable tower, or green ball of energy- wasn’t real.
It was pretty clear to Buffy that her doctors didn’t have a fucking clue how she had finally clawed her way out of good ol’ Sunny D. If she hadn’t woken from her imagined reality after her friends had resurrected her inside her own coffin, she seriously doubted that something in her mind had had anything to say about whether Buffy Summers returned to the real world.
And that, that was fucking terrifying. It was why Joyce and Hank, grim mouthed and determined, had packed the three of them up and moved them far away to New York state. Why at twenty-two she still had a curfew and lived at home.
Why the snide voice that had nothing to do with Hellmouths and everything to do with her, whispered that maybe she wasn’t better at all. After all, didn’t she spend every waking moment wondering why her? Why did she wake? What… purpose could it have served? Didn’t she wonder, in the dark of her bedroom at night, with her parents sleeping down the hall, that if she hadn’t rescued herself, maybe something else had.
Maybe because Buffy, broken, deluded Buffy, might be needed for some higher purpose.
Right, savior complex.
A white horse. A goddamned white horse was trotting down one of the main roads in Sleepy Hollow. At least, Buffy was pretty sure there was a horse. She saw the horse, but that didn’t mean much, really. According to the fine state of New York she wasn’t even allowed to drive for fear of hallucinations, so it’s not like she was a reliable witness.
She clutched her bags of groceries tighter to her chest and looked around.
Her parents had bought a house on the outskirts of town, so even though she was walking down a major road, there wasn’t any traffic at 9 pm at night. No people either, which was a bit more unsettling.
Just a white horse with a saddle and no rider.
Buffy felt the hairs on the back of her neck raise one by one. She screamed, surprised, as the streetlights began to go out with a pop, each as loud as the 22 rifle she had finally convinced her father to let her try before he became concerned about how accurate of a shot she was and took it away. Sparks showered the street as a herald for darkness, until the horse stood alone under the remaining streetlight.
She didn’t know what instincts to thank- her own somewhat questionable survival instinct, or seven years of memories from the Hellmouth- but she pressed her back against the brick of one of the storefronts in an effort to make herself seem as small as possible. The horse turned slowly and looked down the road, towards her but not at her.
That became pretty damn clear when its eyes started to glow an unsettling red. Hellfire red. The horse slowly reared, hooves glinting in the glow cast from the single lit streetlight, and screamed a challenge.
And the window to the shop that Buffy was leaning against busted outward with the clear sound of a gunshot as two figures tumbled out.
The first figure was slight, really, no taller than Buffy herself. She cursed as she landed and rolled away from the shop window, glass and dirt smudging her cheeks and glinting in her hair as she yelled for her companion. “Crane!”
The most likely candidate for Crane was the man who hurtled out of the window behind her. It was a miracle Buffy hadn’t already dropped her groceries but it couldn’t be helped once the man tripped and swerved away from his compatriot and towards Buffy. He managed to stop his momentum right before he crashed into her by boxing her in with his body- arms stopping him as they splayed out on either side of him. Her groceries slide out of her hands and fell onto the sidewalk at their feet.
Crane was tall, tall enough that she only got a brief impression of glinting blue eyes and a beard before crunching glass and manufactured memories of too many life and death chases caused her to peer under his arm and around his torso.
There was a third person who came out of the shop, and she was pretty sure she had found the horse’s rider. The man was dressed in a dated military uniform and though a distant, much-ignored part of her memory noted the complete lack of head, it was the shine of his boots, even in the evening, that stole her attention.
Who the hell polished their boots to go on a murder spree?
Feeling both completely out of her depth and amazingly at ease Buffy asked the niggling question at the back of her mind. “Just to be sure, I’m not the only one who sees the Headless Horseman standing right there, right?”
Crane’s voice was a curious mixture of amused and strained. “Indeed not madam. We are unfortunately under attack.”
“Well,” Buffy replied, oddly cheerfully, “you should probably take cover… NOW!”
And, she also found who owned a shotgun. Crane ducked just as the Horseman raised and fired- the blast blackening the wall where they had been standing together. Crane had rolled towards his partner, leaving Buffy standing a few feet to the side of the blast, feet wet in the milk that had spilled from her groceries.
It made a cruel sort of sense, that she had somehow been drawn from a world of danger and pain to be killed by a figure from American folklore.
The Horseman, even without his head, had clearly been intent on its original prey until Buffy entered his periphery. And suddenly, Buffy knew what it felt like to really be the focus of evil. Eyeless, evil. She stood, feeling helpless and weak, and oh so human.
The four of them stood frozen in that strange, otherworldly tableau, until the Headless Horseman holstered his shotgun behind his back and slowly tendered a perfect bow to Buffy, whose chest tightened with the silent beats of her heart.
The white horse screamed again and the Horseman strode to its side before mounting. He sent a mocking salute to his original quarry, wheeled the demonic horse, who glared balefully at Buffy, and galloped off into the night.
That alone was enough to have put Buffy back in therapy for months, if not years, but before she could even catch her breath the woman was in Buffy’s face, fear making features pinched and angry. “Are in league with him? Do you work for Moloch?! Because I’ve had a shit night and I can’t deal with something else trying to kill me.”
Buffy stared at the woman and felt wild laughter bubble up as the tightness in her chest eased. She laughed until she wheezed, spilt milk at her feet and the universe laughed too. All of them, the real ones and the ones in her head. Everyone had a great big laugh. “Do I dare guess that you’re some sort of mystically chosen warriors, here to push back the forces of darkness?”
Lieutenant Mills’ mouth opened and closed in righteous indignation and the gentleman, and it was clear he was a gentleman, sent her a surprised and pleased smile that warmed his face. “What a fortuitous guess. We both will stand as Witnesses, for the End of Days.” Abbie started to protest as the man spoke but he merely shook his head. “Miss Mills, we have been at this business long enough for you to realize that nothing in our lives happens by chance. This meeting has the weight of fate for even Death bowed out for it.”
Buffy stared, wide-eyed, and started giggling again, which did absolutely nothing to endear her to the other woman, not that Buffy blamed her. It was just, too, much. “Witnesses?” she gasped as she tried to catch her breath.
Crane nodded his head regally, but then he would. From the looks of his coat, he was likely some sort of immortal, transplanted from the 1700s. “We are the chosen ones.” And Buffy was here for a front-row seat to the action.
A savior complex indeed.