Word Count: 4060
Prompt: #350 – sarcasm
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: Hank didn’t want to push his daughter onward unless absolutely necessary, since the realistic part of him knew Sarah had a point, and the chance of them getting to California were getting slimmer with every passing day.
Sunlight spilled across the asphalt and brought with a heat haze that made the area above the main road leading into Blount Island Command look as if water was coursing over the length of it. Brown eyes closed a moment behind a pair of Ray Bans before Jacob opened them and pulled his gaze from the road to the field beyond it. He was stationed on top of the check-in station with Bradley, a Marine from East Texas, who was prone to bouts of swearing in the most colorful of ways and still, somehow, managed to have the patience of a saint.
The check-in station was one long platform that housed massive floodlights and covered the road leading into the base with a small thick-walled building beneath it. There was another Marine and a civilian inside that building with much larger and more intimidating weapons than the Remington M700, called a Bravo-51 by Bradley, which he currently held across his lap. They were under the buddy-system when on duty, a civilian always being paired with military, and Jacob had learned more from his partners than the training the base required before allowing people to volunteer—which he guessed was the point.
Classes were held every morning at eight o’clock and showed people the basics of hand to hand combat, which was dedicated to evading the bites of the infected, and weapons training followed. Those that wanted to volunteer with the military were separated from those that simply wished to learn how to protect themselves and tested under different situations and with a multitude of weapons to find which the station best fit them. Jacob had been assigned as a lookout and designated the Remington during those trials and while his position could be boring at times he’d found he liked helping to protect the 1629 people currently residing at Blount.
They’d been nearly 1800 a month before, but a breakout of the infection had culled their numbers by well over a hundred and the process in which allowing other survivors access to the base had been reassessed. Now all newcomers were put through a rigorous physical check that involved a thorough search of their person. A search performed by members of the CDC, the group that had lost the most members during the outbreak, but regardless of their recent losses still seemed to garner the majority of interest and volunteers.
Most survivors of the infection were still hoping for a cure and more than willing to help those in search of one and since all members of the base were required to volunteer somewhere in the compound it worked in the CDC’s favor—though they tended to turn away those without some form of medical training. Jacob’s mom would’ve been a perfect fit since she’d been a registered nurse, but he’d lost her the night she came home from work after being bitten on the wrist while administering first aid to a patient.
A shot and a bandage had been the doctor’s prescription, before anyone had known what the hell was going on, and the next morning Jacob had found her and what was left of his dad in their bedroom. His mom had given chase, the sounds she’d made were still the most terrifying things he’d ever heard, and he’d locked her out of his room with a computer chair wedged beneath the knob. Jacob had somehow had the presence of mind to pack a bag for himself before fleeing his childhood home and run straight into his elderly neighbor, Mr. Waters, a Korean War vet who’d known exactly what to do and where to go.
Jacob’s hands tightened around the Remington as the memories of his mom’s grunts and cries raised the hairs along the back of his neck and he refocused on the task at hand, returning to his search of the field for signs of the infected. He unfocused his gaze, like Bradley had taught him, and waited for movement to draw his attention as the canopy they’d set up over their heads fluttered in the slight breeze. Sunscreen was a hard commodity to come by which led command to find ways around the need of it that usually involved light layers of clothing while patrolling or canopies when on lookout.
“What do we have here?” Bradley spaced out the words, making the question last longer than it needed and thus racketing up the tension that followed it.
Jacob turned his head, drawing his gaze away from his search of field to glare at the side of his companion’s head as Bradley focused and refocused the binoculars he used to search the road. Jacob watched him a few seconds before prompting, “Well? What do we have?”
His question dropped Bradley’s arms and his eyes gathered at the corners, the eye black he wore made the smile more pronounced as he offered the binoculars to Jacob and pointed west. Jacob didn’t bother to return his smile as he accepted the binoculars and followed the road a bit before frowning at the sight of three vehicles heading their way. A black SUV led the caravan with a truck following only a few yards behind and an ambulance carried up the rear.
The ambulance raised his brows and he dropped the binoculars and turned to meet Bradley’s smile with confusion and the Marine chuckled at his expression. “Fresh blood is a good thin’, Smith.”
“If they pass the physical.”
“Fair enough,” Bradley agreed to his counterargument and Jacob went back to watching the caravan’s approach and searching the field as Bradley grabbed the two-way sitting between them. “Parker, we’ve got company comin’.”
“Good or bad?” was the static filled reply.
“Leanin’ towards good.”
The SUV hit the turn off for the base and slowed to a crawl before stopping a few feet from the platform and Jacob watched it sit idle a moment before shutting off. The truck followed them, but remained idling, and the ambulance stopped on the road as the driver and passenger doors of the SUV opened. The driver looked to be a man, older than Jacob or Bradley, but young enough that he appeared fit and able bodied with an impressively sized shotgun propped against his shoulder.
The passenger was smaller, blonder and Jacob made his way forward, outside the canopy’s shade and to the edge of the platform, Bradley only a step behind, as she made her way around the back of the SUV to the truck. She reached the driver’s side and the window rolled down, giving the pair a glimpse of a man that was closer to Bradley’s age than Jacob’s, as she ordered him to stay in the truck. She completed the process with the ambulance driver that was appeared to be a woman before the passenger went to the back of the ambulance and proceeded to climb the lights on the back of it with the familiar ease.
She pulled herself onto the roof of the vehicle and completed one rotation in which Jacob assumed she gathered her bearings before focusing on the field at the group’s back. She wore a shoulder harness, but instead of pulling the gun that sat beneath her left arm she slid a bow off her right shoulder and Jacob frowned at the feathered end of the arrows sticking out of a circular bag on her back.
She freed one of them and tucked it against the string of the bow as she studied their surroundings and Bradley cleared his throat before stating, “Don’t see that every day.”
“Not usually, no.” Jacob agreed.
“Think I’m in love.”
Jacob rolled his eyes even as his interest peeked and he countered, “Hold off that emotion ‘til they make it through the physical.”
Emma’s excited chatter accompanied Buffy’s vigil as Grayson walked the four year old around the ambulance to help her burn off some of her excess energy after her nap. Her steps were closer to a run, skipping along in front of Grayson as she spun a tale about all the animals she’d seen that day outside her window and since Buffy was certain there’d been no animals on the way there it made her claim of zebras all the more interesting. Her mouth quirked, a smile threatening to spill over as she added a yellow dinosaur to the adventure and Grayson questioned the color rather than its presence.
The clatter of metal clanging together drew her gaze away from the field to the platform behind her and Buffy’s head inclined at the sight of a ladder now hanging down from the center. Emma’s voice quieted and Buffy assumed she was now watching as one of the men guarding the entrance to the base climbed down as the two men below held the ladder steady. He replaced one of them as a spotter and that man made his way upward before the process was repeated and the new pair made themselves comfortable on the roof.
Her chin dropped and watched as the two men that had been watching them make their way forward and Buffy’s palm itched to pull the Glock. Guns tended to work better with the living than her bow when it came to intimidating those that wished to cause her and those around her harm. Buffy turned, spared one more glance back at the field before watching the pair walk down the small drive leading to the road and the ambulance still parked on it.
Grayson now held the keys to his ambulance and truck and Buffy was holding onto the SUV’s since Sarah and her dad were currently being processed. They’d wanted to bring them all in at the same time, but Buffy had declined, unwilling to leave their vehicles unattended. Grayson had agreed to wait with her and the fact that his hand strayed to the shotgun strapped to his thigh as the two men reached them made some of the tightness in Buffy’s shoulders ease and her grateful for his presence. Emma had placed herself behind Grayson, arms wrapped around the opposite thigh and her face buried against the back of it.
“Hello.” Buffy’s gaze was drawn from Emma to the man with the close cropped hair, which screamed military, and stood straight and stared at Grayson, Buffy assumed he was giving intense eye-contact, as he stated, “Lance Corporal Bradley J. Michaels.”
“Grayson Lewis,” was replied and his left hand, the right remained on the butt of the shotgun, lifted to scratch at the back of his head before he offered, “I feel like I should tack on paramedic.”
The other man grinned and the black paint beneath either eye, reminding Buffy of strongly her cheerleader days, made his cheeks more pronounced as he offered, “We’re always in need of medics.”
There was a soft twang to his voice that Buffy had heard on their way through Texas and the other man, who on closer inspection looked about her age, stepped forward and offered his name. “Jacob Smith,” the teenager went to one knee and addressed Emma, “And who’s this?”
Buffy stepped back, looking both ways down the road the ambulance was parked on before turning around and looking across the field as Emma quietly told the men her name. Her excitement having melted away with their presence, but the teenager managed to make her smile reappear by asking about the scarf in her hair. Buffy looked down at the group and saw Emma’s head tilted all the way back so she could see her and exclaimed, “Buffany made me!”
She smiled at the butchering of her name, wondering absently if it was Karma, before noticing she now had everyone’s attention. Grayson was watching her with thinly veiled amusement, his hand still on the shotgun, and the lance corporal seemed more interested in staring at her legs than anywhere else on her person. The teenager was offering her an easy smile that highlighted the dimple in his chin and made the dark color of his eyes a little more welcoming.
His smile widened just a bit and Buffy realized, belatedly, that he was cute and she was staring. She could feel the blush burning her cheeks as she dragged her gaze away from Jacob and his knowing smile before offering, “Buffy Summers.”
“Miss Summers, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
Her lips rolled inward, suppressing the smile Bradley’s thickly laid words invoked and Grayson’s amusement only seemed compounded by the obvious flirting. He grinned up at her and countered, “I suppose it wasn’t nearly as much of a pleasure to meet me.”
“I guess not,” Buffy agreed her smile spilling forth so that she and Grayson shared the moment.
“What can Ah
say?” Bradley offered, “I’ve got an eye for the ladies.”
“Any lady,” Jacob snarked.
“Hey now! You’re fixin’—”
“To state the truth?”
The two men shared their own easy smile and Buffy glanced over at Grayson whose hand had left the shotgun so that he could set Emma on his hip. She was watching the interaction between the two with obvious interest and with such attentiveness that Buffy wouldn’t be surprised if mimicked Bradley’s accent for the next little while. She turned away from the conversation to look out at the field and found it empty once again.
“Where are all the deadites?” She turned around and looked down at Bradley and Jacob. “People usually equal deadites and there’s an obvious lacking of them.”
“Deadites?” Jacob questioned with a raised brow.
Bradley ignored that comment and addressed Buffy, “We keep a clean house. Allowing one at the fence brings more so we don’t allow the one.”
“And their bodies?” Grayson inquired.
“Cremated.” Jacob explained.
The gate ten yards back from the platform opened, distracting Buffy and Grayson from their line of questioning to reveal her dad and Sarah making their way forward. Their hair was damp and a colorful bit of tape was wrapped around the bed of their left elbows which had Buffy assuming the exam, that had taken the better part of an hour, included a blood sample. Buffy looked out, past them to the fence topped with barbed wire that stretched on for as far as the eye could see and surrounded a compound that looked massive when compared to Camp Blanding.
Her mouth turned down with the thought of all the people that had succumbed to the deadites there and Buffy tried to ignore the guilt making itself known with a sudden weight in her chest and tightness around her eyes. She widened those eyes and willed the tears away as Sarah reached the ambulance and Grayson handed over the keys so that she could open the door and obtain the rifle she’d left on the passenger seat. Civilians weren’t allowed to carry guns in the buildings of the compound unless they were military personal and thus her father and Sarah and went in unarmed except for defensive weapons. Buffy hadn’t been entirely comfortable with that, but her dad had insisted they’d be fine and, to be fair, they were.
Sarah made her way around to the back of the ambulance and slid the strap over her chest before climbing up the back to relieve Buffy. Her freckles were a starch contrast to her shallow parlor and Buffy found the tears fading under her sudden worry for the other woman. “You all right?”
“Needles.” Sarah explained before turning to face the field and leave Buffy staring at the back of her head.
“Alright then,” Buffy complied with the dismissal by returning her arrow to its quiver and slipping the bow over her shoulder before making her way to back of the ambulance.
“Need a spotter?”
Bradley’s offer brought on a smile and Buffy replied, “I’ve got it,” before climbing down the back of the ambulance.
Her booted feet touched the ground at the same time Bradley agreed, “I can see that.”
A frown brought the lines between her dad’s brows to life and Buffy suppressed the urge to smile at his annoyance as he made his way to her. The possessive hand that landed on her shoulder didn’t help her efforts any as he led her away from Bradley and Jacob to the SUV with Grayson bringing up the rear. Buffy glanced back to see Bradley coxing a smile out of Sarah with his easy flirtation and Jacob watching their departure; he caught her watching him and winked.
Another blush was working hard at embarrassing her as she looked back to her dad and his still frowning face. His mouth thinned and he exhaled heavily from his nose, but he seemed to rethink his next move because he hesitated before stating, “I’ll take the Glock and the keys.”
Buffy handed over the requested items as Grayson inquired, “Can I leave the shotgun with you?”
“Of course,” Hank replied and opened the driver’s side door to retrieve the Mossberg and pop the locks on the back doors.
Buffy slide the bow off her shoulder and lifted the strap for the quiver over her head before opening the back door of the SUV and laying them across the backseat. Grayson’s placed his shotgun beside them and Buffy found Emma reaching for her as he leaned past her. She waited until he’d straightened before accepting her easily onto her hip and Emma’s head lowered to Buffy’s shoulder as tiny hands curled into the fabric of her shirt.
Hank was watching her, an amused smile replacing his frown, and he nodded to Emma, “Someone’s taken a liking to you.”
“Several someones.” Grayson observed and Buffy frowned at his smirk.
Hank chose to ignore his comment and instead addressed them both. “They strip you down, like Parker said, and check you for bites before they take any blood samples.”
“How many vials did they draw?”
Hank looked to Grayson and replied, “Three,” before directing the next at Buffy, “They separated us with curtains and someone of the same sex did the exam.” He reached out, settled a hand on Emma’s head. “I’m not sure who she’s going to prefer be with her. Maybe even both of you,” he looked to Grayson, his hand slipping away “So you might want to have Emma go first.”
“Thanks,” Grayson nodded, “I will.”
“Then they let you shower.”
Buffy blinked, green eyes suddenly looking very intensely at her dad’s damp hair before snapping, “What? They let you what?”
“Cold water,” he hastily added before finishing with, “But it’s an actual honest to God shower.”
“Buffany?” Emma lifted her head and Buffy was presented with some very intense eye contact from mere inches away as the little girl inquired. “Bath time?”
“Soon,” Buffy assured her, “Very soon.”
Her nose wrinkled, “I gonna like it?”
“I know I will.”
“Seconded,” Grayson readily agreed before inclining his head, “I really wish I had clean clothes to put on.”
Buffy huffed, “Don’t remind me.”
Hank nodded before adding, “We’ll move the cars into the compound and discuss living arrangements when you’re done.”
Grayson handed over the keys to the ambulance as he inquired, “There’re things to discuss?”
“I think so,” Hank answered his with a less than enthused response, but he shook it off and motioned them forward, “Go! Enjoy your showers. I’ll handle things here.”
Clouds spanned the sky above him and the moon cast the world in a blue tint as Hank listened to the quiet sounds of the base settling down for the night. They snagged a little corner of field, tucked away behind the eighteen foot tall fence that whistled when the wind picked up and was almost as comforting as the steel of the SUV. The main compound was several hundred yards away and if they’d wanted to sleep in the barracks, with the comfort of brick and mortar surrounding them, they’d had to of turned over their vehicles, any guns and all provisions.
The barracks were reserved for those able and willing to stay on indefinitely at the base. Something Sarah had done as soon as the group was behind the fence and as far as Hank could tell she hadn’t spared them a backwards glance as of yet. Grayson had hesitated at the prospect of an indefinite stay and held onto his shotgun. His ambulance was parked next their SUV and he was currently fast asleep beside Hank on a cot provided by the base.
Hank understood why they’d wanted their weapons turned over, it added to their own rotation and not everyone who had a gun knew how to use it, and—as far as he could tell—those on duty were always armed. Limiting the amount of those armed within in buildings dropped down the prospect of friendly fire pretty well and there was a heavy emphasis on self-defense training. A training Buffy had already signed Grayson and himself up for in the morning with the agreement that Hank would watch Emma during weapons training so she could better use her Glock.
The crunch of tires over grass brought on a smile and Hank sat up, the nylon of the sleeping bag draped over his cot made a whispering noise as he brought his boots to the dirt and stood. He waved to the two men patrolling the camp area using a golf cart before making his way past Grayson, his was face slack and worry free, and ducked under the clothes lines stretched out between the ambulance and SUV. Not only had the base allowed them a shower, one every two days actually, it also allowed them the use of their washing machines, once every two weeks, but dryers were seen as a waste of electricity; hence the need for the clothes lines.
Hank knew there was a chance that the amenities of the base might extend their stay from a few days to indefinitely which was why he’d scheduled himself an hour at the phone line tomorrow in the hope of getting through to Joyce. He didn’t want to push his daughter onward unless absolutely necessary, since the realistic part of him knew Sarah had a point, and the chance of them getting to California were getting slimmer with every passing day. The infected’s numbers were growing by leaps and bounds and Hank had found hope was a sparse commodity with most survivors.
A breeze brought the clothes lines to life and made the fence hum at his back as Hank made his way towards the tent he and Buffy hadn’t used since Ocala. He looked in the opening and saw his daughter and Emma fast asleep. The sight of Emma tucked in tight against Buffy on his daughter’s cot, while the other went unused, didn’t surprise him in the least. The little girl had grown attached to Buffy in the few days the group had been together and he was certain, that fact more than the possible loss of his shotgun, had kept Grayson in their camp.
He stepped back, smile still in place, as he looked down the few rows of cars in the same situation as their group. Wanting the safety of the base without the loss of their weapons and freedom and Hank was certain they’d been given the same warning. If a gun discharged for any reason other than to remove the threat of the infected than the person, or persons, responsible would be ejected from the compound with extreme prejudice. Hank had no intention of finding out what they meant by extreme prejudice and he’d made that plainly clear to Buffy as well.
The eye roll that had accompanied his chiding had made him smile and prompted him to stress the issue until Buffy huffed and took Emma off to explore. That had left Hank and Grayson with the rest of the late afternoon to relax and share stories about their lives before the world went to shit. Paramedics really had the most interesting stories and Hank wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know the truth behind random objects being put in random orifices, but surely there were only so many times a person could trip and fall on a broom. Hank head shook and he made his way back to this cot, casting one last look around before lying down for the night.