one for sorrow
Title: one for sorrow
Word Count: 3100
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Walking Dead
Prompt: #344 – murder
Warning: violence, death
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters are copyright of Joss Whedon and ME. The Walking Dead and all related characters are copyright of Robert Kirkman, Image Comics and AMC. No infringement intended.
Synopsis: Buffy had seen enough of death in the last few weeks that it had made her hyperaware of her own, and her dad’s, finite existence, but terribly desensitized to others.
The wide expanse of sky through the windshield was still full of dark blues and grays, but dawn was casting a pale shadow in the side mirror of the SUV as the sun made its way higher. Buffy Summers propped her elbow on the armrest as the wind whipped its way through the open window and brought with it the faint stench of burning. Her nose wrinkled at the scent and the memories it invoked; memories of the military’s first combative strike against the deadites
that involved napalm and large cities and the utter lack of help it had been.
It had happened suddenly, and without a warning of any kind, one minute Orlando had been behind them and the next the city was aflame and those that had bunkered down to wait out the surge of the undead hadn’t been given a second thought or chance. She shifted, her arm falling away from the window and the sudden sensation of cold, though she wasn’t entirely sure it was physical, as she dragged herself from serious thoughts and focused on her dad. He was facing forward, gaze intent on the road and his right hand was fiddling with the radio as he searched station after station of static in the hope of them receiving an updated from, well, anyone really.
Religious zealots were sometimes on the AM stations ranting about the end of days, and maybe it was, but no one in their right mind wanted to be reminded of that. Though her dad was the persistent sort; hence the fruitless daily ritual and that persistence was also why he was in the know about all of her tales of woe that involved the Slayer aspects of her life. With patience and soft inquiries he’d broken down each wall she’d set in place to protect her family and friends which left her vulnerable, but not unsupported, and him close to tears when things were all said and done.
Sharing what had happened to her at the hands of the Master, sharing that great weight with her dad, had been good for her—the circumstances that had brought on that over-share had, however, not been so great for the world. A world, or at the very least North America, that had become overrun with the deadites
in a little over two months and her dad, like most others they encountered, referred to them simply as infected, but that implied they could be cured.
Buffy was pretty certain you couldn’t cure dead and they were dead. Very dead.
She’d found it best to separate them, and herself, from who they used to be. It made slaying them easier when she didn’t dwell since dwelling led to hesitation and hesitation in the here and now led to death and she had no intention of dying again anytime soon. She’d seen enough of it in the last few weeks that it had made her hyperaware of her own, and her dad’s, finite existence, but terribly desensitized to others.
Static gave way to piano and the sudden normalcy of it, that wasn’t so normal nowadays, had her stiffening and turning a narrowed stare on the radio as her dad’s hand fell away. The digital numbers verified that it was an AM station, but the person on the other end wasn’t using their broadcast power to annoy and intimidate and that brought a small twitch to her lips.
Hank sighed and she turned her gaze from the radio to him and his smile was far more pronounced than her own. Blue eyes left the road briefly to offer her a wink and that smile spread into a grin as he explained, “Chopin.”
“And this is good?” She asked and found her own smile stretching with his enthusiasm.
“Very.” At his response Buffy leaned forward and turned up the dial so that the rhythmic sound of the piano filled the SUV and Hank nodded his thanks before stating, “Much better than static, don’t you think?”
“Anything is better than static,” Buffy agreed before shrugging, “Though this doesn’t suck.”
“Doesn’t suck?” The humor and exasperation in his words brought forth a grin to mirror her dad’s and he shook his head. “You’re incorrigible.”
“I think I’m very corrigible,” His smile stretched even wider and Buffy frowned at her own choice in words, “That is a word right? Corrigible?”
A silent laugh shook his shoulders before he conceded, “It is,” but before she could counter about her rightness Hank finished with, “But you’re not. Corrigible, that is.”
Sensing more than understanding his mockery she snarked, “Someone thinks they’re funny.”
“I think I’m hilarious,” her dad confirmed and then offered, voice somehow conversational and bland, “And I suppose by default, since you are my daughter and all, you might be as well.”
“So good of you to notice.”
Her dry response got another laugh before they fell into comfortable silence and the almost soothing sound of the music settled over them as Buffy turned her attention to the world outside the SUV. The rain had well and truly come to Florida, bringing with it mosquitos and a humidity that made the air thick and nearly tangible. The early morning drizzle that had woken them and dragged them onto the road before sunrise had broken up the heavy feel to the air, at least for a short while, and made it almost cool. The sky was mostly gray and purple now, but the scent of smoke was thicker and Buffy inclined her head and cast her gaze towards her open window.
Brown and dying grass, the rain hadn’t come soon enough, spread out on either side of the road and being as far north as they were in Florida meant hills surrounded them. They were nothing compared to the mountains in northern California, but they did obscure one’s line of sight something fierce and since interstate roads were congested with both deadites
and abandoned vehicles they’d mostly taken the country roads that ran alongside most highways and the SUV allowed for crossing rougher terrain if needed, not that she knew from personal experience. Her dad still wasn’t letting her near the steering wheel, regardless of the lack of (living) people or police on the roads.
The scent of fire grew sharper as the SUV reached the top of the next hill and Buffy looked out, into the shallow valley between this one and the next and she stiffened. “Dad!”
Her voice brought the SUV to a halt and Buffy frowned at the camp set back from the road and the swarm of deadites
that had surrounded it. Her dad had taken to calling this many of them in one place a murder; it was the word for a flock of crows, or something, and while they weren’t bird like in the least Buffy had to agree that the label was fitting and she’d wished she’d thought of it first.
A scream tightened the space between her shoulders as Buffy leaned forward to snatch her boots from their spot on the floor mat and tugged them up and onto her sock-covered feet. She straightened and pulled at the tab that made her window slide up before stating, as if it wasn’t the most obvious thing, “We have to help them.”
“I thought you might say that,” Hank replied as his window followed suit and he turned off the car, but left the keys dangling in the ignition.
He turned, upper body reaching into the backseat and pulled forward the Gerber Gear they’d raided from an abandon pawn shop outside of High Springs. He pulled out the hatchet that was weighted at the base and laid it across his lap before offering her the satchel. Buffy shook her head, bypassing her bow and arrow set that sat between them for the crowbar that had been beside her boots, it was an obnoxious green and the perfect close quarters weapon.
She took a moment to gaze at her dad before stating, voice terribly sincere even though her words lacked any and all flare, “Don’t die.”
“Right back at’cha, kid.”
Her chin dipped and her shoulder hit the door the same time her hand compressed the latch. Buffy was spilled into the early morning air and onto the dead grass. She took the extra moment to slam the car door closed behind her, unwilling to leave an opening for the deadites
to ambush them later, before heading further from the road and leaving her dad trailing behind her. The grass was high, overlapping her boots and snagging on her leggings—they’d have to check for ticks after this melee—and as she drew closer she could a woman climbing onto the hood of an ambulance while a man with a shovel watched her six.
Buffy scanned the immediate area surrounding them and just slightly beyond that. Taking note that she had visual on at least ten deadites
, but suspected there were more behind the small camp the group had arranged. They’d done a decent job of fortifying it, but apparently not decent enough. The three cars, an ambulance, truck and sedan, were parked in a ‘circling the wagons’ formation with metal fencing wedged between the vehicles to prevent the undead from getting into the inner-circle the cars created. Unless, well, they slid underneath the cars, but since deadites
weren’t known for their reasoning skills it was a good set up, but the fire raging in the center was what had probably drawn the murder.
The passenger side door of the sedan swung open and three gunshots, rapid fire and deafening, cut across the valley and Buffy flinched, body tucking low in the high grass. She spared a glance behind her and saw her dad, ten yards back and also ducking. She caught his eye and jerked her head towards the right, pointing her crowbar to a smaller straggling group of deadites
coming up on the group. They were slow and missing limbs and she wouldn’t have to worry as much, just heart clenching instead of breath stopping, with her dad taking on those.
She watched, eyes narrowed and focused, as he separated from the path she led and went the long way around the camp before turning back to the carnage at hand. The deadite
closest to the sedan faltered under the onslaught of bullets, but they were wasted on the body as a woman climbed free of the car and shot twice more. It crumbled as one took out a knee, but another took its place and the woman screamed as it tore into her forearm.
The gun fell as her hand spasmed and she continued to struggle, trying to break free of the deadite’s
teeth. Buffy swore under her breath and picked up speed as the one now on the ground dragged itself forward, toward the wounded woman. Buffy ducked to the right, her crowbar brought up and across the back of a small head; the skull gave under the blow and the deadite
nearest to her stumbled, falling to the ground unmoving. She struggled for apathy and tried to ignore the fact that it had once been a boy of about seven and moved on.
The next deadite
, an older woman with half her face torn away, lunged towards her and she shoved the crowbar forward, business end first and directly into the gaping hole that had once held her eye. Those reaching arms fell away and Buffy brought her boot heel up and directly into its chest, shoving it off and away. The body struck the ground with a meaty thud and Buffy leapt over it as another, more skillful, gunshot took out the deadite
she’d been heading for next.
Buffy looked up, saw the woman and man that had been scrambling onto the ambulance had made it and the woman was pointing the rifle towards the last few deadites
reaching for them from their place alongside the vehicle. Entrusting them, a hard thing that, to finish them off Buffy headed towards the sedan and the now dead woman being devoured by the two deadites
. She frowned when she approached the car and heard whimpering, her gaze was drawn to the back window and green eyes widened at the sight of a little girl staring back at her from a car seat.
Her tear streaked face gave Buffy some inkling why the woman had panicked when fighting back since most survivors nowadays had better heads on their shoulders, but she’d seen a lot of mothers do a lot of crazy, and terrible, things to save their children. She dispatched the two eating away at the mother’s innards and gazed down at the woman’s blood specked face before striking once, quick and violent, against her temple to ensure she didn’t rise as two more shots were fired and Buffy assumed the ambulance crew was safe as she moved on.
She came up along where the hoods of the sedan and truck were nearly touching and the fencing between them was bent to fit around and behind the hood of the sedan. Three deadites
were at the truck’s bed struggling to climb over it when they didn’t seem entirely sure of how to climb. Another gunshot spun one of them away from the truck, but it had taken it in the shoulder and thus was just slowed by the wound and not stopped. Buffy moved past the truck, further into the field since the woman with the rifle seemed competent, if not entirely accurate, and took out two more deadites
further from the camp before heading back to finish the wounded one.
It reached its working arm up, fingers grasping at her boots and she swung the crowbar down. It struck the skull with enough force that the neck snapped and the hand smearing her boot with blood tightened before it slipped away. Buffy bypassed the two deadites
with big holes in their skulls and made her way around the truck to the remaining three shoving their arms through the fencing. These ones were still able to make noises and their hungry grunts raised the hair along the back of her neck and the one furthest from her crumbled with the next shot of the rifle.
Buffy went behind the closest deadite
and heft the crowbar, business end out, and shoved it upward. It pierced the base of the skull and she felt it scrap against the top before she yanked it out and thick, noxious scented blood and thicker fluids came out with it. The urge to heave was ignored as the other turned on her and she kicked out, knocking it back against the fence and giving herself enough time to bring the crowbar back up and strike along the temple. It wavered and the blow grazed forward, over its face and the once pretty features were ruined as the cheekbone fell beneath the heavy metal.
She stumbled back and away from the deadite
as its eye slipped out from its place in the socket to dangle from veiny tissue. It swayed a moment before it fell to its knees and then forward to land facedown at her feet. Buffy’s mouth watered and she swallowed it and the bile burning the back of her throat as she turned away from the deadite
—that had once been a teenage girl about her own age.
Green eyes narrowed as they looked past the carnage around her to the valley and hills, searching for danger until they settled on her dad. Some of the tightness in her chest eased as she watched him yank his hatchet from the skull of a deadite
that looked to be missing both legs and had been sneaking its way towards the camp in the tall grass. Her dad had the eyes of a hawk sometimes and he’d had them before the world slipped into madness since he’d always known when she’d been out slaying, rather than in bed back in Los Angeles.
He caught her eye and smiled and Buffy turned back to the camp, or what was left of it, as the man slid down the front of the ambulance and ran to the sedan. He pulled the still quietly crying little girl from the backseat and hugged her tightly to his chest, murmuring comforting words against the crown of her head. Buffy had to assume they were comforting since those words were lost to the roaring of the fire and the slight ringing she had in her ears from the gunshot blasts. Her dad made his way towards her, his gaze now sweeping the immediate area as the woman made her way to the back of the ambulance and then used the lights on the back as hand and foot holds, as if she’d done it many a time before, to climb down.
A rifle was strapped across her chest and there was a box of bullets putting a bulge in the pocket of her jacket as she made her way forward and offered Buffy a hand. Glancing down at the crowbar still tightly clenched in her hands and the blood covering both she flinched before releasing her right and glancing down at the shirt she wore that was still relatively clean.
The hand reached out and caught hers, uncaring of the blood, and Buffy met a pair of brown eyes as they gathered at the corners. “Thank you,” the hand tightened and Buffy noticed the calluses as tears began to gather in those eyes, “Thank you.”
Her hand was dropped and the woman treated her dad to the same greeting before visibly pulling herself together and looking back and forth between them before stating, “I’m Sarah.” She turned, looking over her shoulder and Buffy followed her gaze to the man slowly making his way towards the fence that had the three very dead deadites
heaped in front of it. “That’s Grayson and his niece Emma. His sister…” she trailed off and rolled her lips together as the tears made a reappearance.
Her dad stepped forward, drew her focus away from the one they’d just lost, at least for a short while, by introducing them, “I’m Hank and this,” his hand settled over her shoulder, squeezed just a little, but his voice filled with something close to pride as he finished with, “This is my daughter. Buffy.”
Buffy felt her own stirring of pride when her dad continued. His next words were the simplest question, but meant so much in this new world, “Need some help?”