hell in a handbasket
Title: hell in a handbasket
Word Count: 1022
Prompt: #339 – head games
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.
Note: This will be a series of short stories written as the prompts from the livejournal community 'tamingthemuse' inspire.
Synopsis: The images on the television, despite Hank’s best attempts to rationalize them, implied that the supernatural was very real and he and Joyce had locked their baby girl up for telling them the truth.
Hank Summers stared at the television, transfixed by the sight of the dead rising to devour the living. His complimentary cup of coffee forgotten and cooling in his hand as he watched the news coverage of the wide spread pandemic that had, just days before, been miles, states away from him and his daughter. A pandemic that had been, apparently, quietly eroding parts of the country as he, and everyone else, sat idly by completely unaware of what was really going on in the world, in their backyards.
His hand clenched, lukewarm coffee spilling across his fingers as the styrofoam cup crumbled beneath his tightening grip and he came slowly to the realization that not everyone was as unaware as the populace, not entirely. The images on the television, despite his best attempts to rationalize them, implied that the supernatural—vampires—were possibly very real and he and Joyce had locked their baby girl up for telling them the truth. His daughter had told him, them what really went on in dark of night and now that world, that terrifying world his daughter knew, was spilling out into the light of day.
The granola bar he’d eaten earlier in the morning solidified in his stomach and he could feel the heavy weight of it as he continued to stare at the television. A woman with large eyes and perfectly coiffed hair, hair Joyce had spent a near fortune attempting to emulate back when they’d first been married, continued to drone on, but it was the images in the background that drew Hank’s focus. The dead things, which had once been people, were being dragged into the streets of Atlanta to be disposed of by the National Guard.
It was only hours away by car from Kissimmee in Florida. The destination of the month long road trip that Hank had taken with Buffy, a destination they’d reach just days before and they’d spent almost every hour since in the numerous theme parks surrounding this area of the country. He’d wanted to take his daughter on one last trip before she became too old and unwilling to hang out with her dad. Hank knew that the time when Buffy had found him relevant had, more than likely, passed and it had nearly been proven by their lack of interaction—at first.
She’d been quiet and withdrawn at the beginning, but gradually she’d opened up. First with complaints and sarcastic quips that did more to set Hank’s teeth on edge than bring them closer, but half way through Texas she began to ask questions rather than make snide comments. Buffy showed interest in the world outside the windows of the SUV and inquired about how to make the campfires they shared s’mores beside almost every night. Hank was certain, at first, his daughter had been humoring him, but by the third week, and Louisiana, she was learning how to fish and telling him about her newest best friends, Willow and Xander.
Who, by her account, seemed to be far better friends, and a better influence, than her Hemery clique—the nicest word Hank could think of to describe the group of teenagers his daughter use to keep as company. Teenagers that had turned on his daughter at her hearing and their testimonies had played into the reasoning he and Joyce had used when putting their little girl in a mental institution.
It had been the best hospital his health insurance and he and Joyce’s savings could afford and he’d thought she’d come out of it cured but, apparently, she’d simply come out of it a better liar. A lie she’d been perpetrating for the last year and a half because her parents hadn’t had enough faith in her. Regardless of how very strange and terrible the truth had been, she’d spoken it and they had failed her.
Hank rose from his place on the edge of the bed, the coffee and its cup a forgotten mess on the floor, as he made his way towards the small bathroom area of their shared hotel room. Buffy was standing in front of the sink, blonde hair piled high on her head and a brightly colored tank top showed off the tan she’d acquired during their daily fishing expeditions in Louisiana. The running water must have drowned out the sound of the television since his daughter was still brushing her teeth as the reporter explained the CDC’s newest announcement—apparently the Center for Disease Control had finally
decided to comment using a mouthpiece with a smooth voice to deliver shitty news.
His hand settled over a shoulder as he decided, for once, to ignore the outside word and focus solely on his daughter. Buffy met his gaze in the mirror a moment before she turned to him and his hand slipped away to fall to his side. The steady back and forth motion of her toothbrush didn’t falter as her head titled inquiringly and Hank found himself distracted by his own reflection in the oversized lenses of her sunglasses that sat atop her head. He blinked, refocused and a brow rose in question at his antics.
Hank took a step back, the granola bar turned to lead in his stomach, as he told Buffy, his voice quiet and the words far too late, “I’m sorry,” his voice grew quieter still as he finished, “I’m so sorry, honey.”
The brush stopped, brows lowering in obvious confusion as green eyes stared up at him and she asked, around a mouth full of frothy toothpaste, “Huh?”
Hank didn’t explain, he couldn’t yet.
Instead he tugged her forward into his arms and held her as tears blurred his vision. Buffy stood stiff and awkward against his chest before she gave into the hug and an absent hand rose to pat his back. He felt the toothbrush dig into his chest as she questioned, voice terribly confused, “I love you too?”
An abrupt laugh escaped him and he pulled back, watched as Buffy wiped at the toothpaste he’d smeared across the both of them and nodded before agreeing, “I love you too.”