The Fall of Humanity
What About the Place That We Call Home?
Buffy was relieved when they finally reached the furniture store. If she had been on her own it would’ve taken half an hour, 45 minutes at the most, not over three hours, and it wasn’t just because of her Slayer abilities either, although those most definitely helped. Of course she also knew where to go and which places to avoid due to blocked roads and barricaded areas and the places where the walkers tended to shuffle towards. The extra supplies they’d gathered would be useful though, she couldn’t argue against that.
It was strange really, as a teenager she couldn’t go on a weekend trip without at least two big bags of clothing, a separate bag for her shoes, and a whole lot of other ‘necessary’ items, and then when she began travelling after the Battle of Sunnydale she learned to pack everything she needed in two medium sized bags with the understanding she would be on the road for months without returning to her base. Granted by the time she returned she always had a third bag full of new clothing and other things she’d bought along the way, but still the difference was remarkable.
This did not include her weapons though. That was a whole other issue she refused to compromise on, and now, post-apocalypse, she was reassured that this had been a good decision. It meant that when the infection had first broken out she’d had the vast majority of her weapons with her, instead of much of it being left somewhere else. Thanks to Rime being her unofficial Watcher, and Buffy’s habit of slipping away from whoever the Council officially assigned to her, the two of them also had a large collection of demon reference books, books on prophecy, and other associated books and things Council employee’s needed when they were assigned to a Potential Slayer or an Activated Slayer to back her up.
The unofficial job title had also caused Rime to finally make Buffy read the Slayer Handbook, after Rime herself had read it, which to her surprise had turned out to have valuable information regarding her Calling. While the book was clearly written in Old English it was understandable enough given all the time Buffy had spent reading and researching during high school, college, and all the years after that. She would never have admitted it to any of her official Watchers, but Giles had been right: making her read this when she first began attending Sunnydale High would’ve been a waste of time.
Rime always packed light, at least as far as people knew. A comfortable backpack and a medium sized bag was all she had owned Before. Of course her backpack had some kind of fancy spellwork on it to make it bottomless and to make sure it was always a comfortable weight on her back. The extra bag had mostly been for show, and to a lesser degree for easier access to various things she used often. Once things got out of hand the bag had unceremoniously been placed in the backpack since there was no longer a need to pretend. Nowadays people only had what they could carry easily.
It had joined what Buffy suspected was about a millennium’s worth of discarded stuff down there. Archeologists and history lovers the world over would probably have sacrificed just about anything to get their hands on it and it's priceless content, especially if Rime was present and could explain the use, the context, and which area and time period it was all from.
The second Christmas after they met she had given Buffy a similar backpack with the same magical properties. It was, without a doubt, one of her top three most prized possessions. The apocalypse had only increased its value to her. Incidentally it had also increased the amount of luggage she brought with her.
When the apocalypse had become a fact they’d used what little spare time they’d had in between killing/avoiding the walking dead, saving/avoiding the living, and gathering supplies to skim through every single book they had with them to try and find something, anything concerning what was going on. There had been nothing. No prophecy, no mention, no vague or unclear hint pointing towards the current happenings. Nothing. Which was the main reason why both Buffy and Rime believed that the current mess they were in was man made, or at least some kind of natural causes, and not the result of something demons and/or vampires and/or magical humans had caused. There was a chance there was a book somewhere out there, most likely in the Council’s vast and widespread library, which could explain the not-zombies and how to permanently stop them from spreading their infection, but right now it wasn’t helpful to the two of them.
Buffy hadn’t brought the backpack with her on her little sojourn into walker territory though, it was safely back at the temporary base with Rime. Which meant taking a new, normal one from a random shop to put her loot in, and then add to it as they moved closer to their goal. The drawback was that should could take less things with her, but it was her own fault for leaving the enchanted backpack behind when she ventured outside to appease her inner Slayer.
All three of them had managed to fill their packs to the brim by the time they made it to the furniture store. Water had been their main priority, closely followed by food and medicine. Both Glenn and Andrea had also taken some clothes along the way, and in Andrea’s case she had also taken some for her little sister.
They entered through a side door Buffy had a key to, there had been several spare keys in an office which they’d found after breaking in through a window on the second floor to avoid unpleasant dinner guests later on, and walked quietly inside before ascending a flight of stairs to the second floor. Like any other shop it had had an alarm system but Rime had somehow managed to disarm it.
“Rime. I’m back and I brought guests.” Buffy’s voice was low so as not to disturb anything or anyone they didn’t want to know about their presence. It was unlikely that there were walkers or any other humans than her friend in the building, but it was better to stay safe than be sorry about it later. If there was a later. She didn’t sense anything dead or alive other than her friend, nor did she hear anything other than her soft breathing.
“How can you be sure she’s still in here alive if you left her alone?” It was Andrea who spoke, of course it was. Or rather it was Andrea who asked in a hissing whisper. Buffy supposed it was a good thing that she at least kept her voice down. There was a long chat in Andrea’s future about her desperate need to fit in and to prove herself, and how it only made things worse for her not better. But that for later, when the situation had calmed down a little and they could have a girl talk, just the two of them. Now there were other more pressing issues to deal with than a whining woman in her mid-thirties.
The three of them kept walking, the blonde Slayer in the lead, further into the main part of the second floor before veering to the left. She called out again, ignoring the recently asked question, and this time she got a reply from her friend.
“I am still here. Who are your new friends?” Rime’s voice was soft and came from their right side. Buffy stepped around a tall bookcase and came face-to-face with her long time friend. Judging by her appearance she’d been bored enough during the day to try and fix her hair as it was currently loose with only three braids on each side of her face, framing it in a complementary way, instead of the long braid she usually wore down her back. She had also changed into jeans and a blue, short-sleeved top with muted yellow stars on it. Essentially she looked like a sort-of modern day hippie. The two of them must’ve come off as really odd to the two outsiders.
“This is Andrea Harrison and Glenn Rhee. They’re part of a bigger group who have set up camp in a quarry outside the city.” She turned away from the two new survivors and towards her snowy-haired friend and then back again. “This is Rime.” Then she turned back to Rime and her explanation again.
“Those two and some others were sent into Atlanta to get supplies for everyone. Some guy named Rick decided it was a great idea to ride a horse into the city and started a feeding frenzy when he lost the horse to a hungry herd.” Buffy paused a little so Rime could absorb the news before she continued.
“He went back to the camp with the others. We’re here to fetch you and our stuff and then go to the camp as well.” She finished her recap of the day’s events so far. Unseen by the other two she gave Rime their long-time signal that they needed to talk, privately.
Buffy then expanded on her explanation, with running commentary from Andrea, and, to a lesser extent, Glenn. The added description from the other woman caused it to take longer than it should have, but if there was something they had a lot of now it was time.
Later on when they had finished going through everything, both the verbal rehashing of the meeting with part of the Quarry Camp and when they had finished going through all their provisions - excluding the content in their magically expanded backpacks - it was late enough that Buffy made an executive decision and decided they would spend one last night at the furniture store. Andrea protested immediately, but Glenn agreed while giving the soft-looking beds a longing look.
Full dark was approaching fast and it would make it more difficult to spot the walkers in between the shadows and to hear their shuffling footsteps over their own and the likely chatter which would no doubt occur, especially since they would need to go back and forth to load up Buffy’s car. Darkness plus big, heavy bags and boxes equaled a very bad idea. It was also a lousy survival strategy.
If nothing else it was probably the last time in who knew how long until they would be able to sleep in proper beds again. A fact which made even Andrea relent, and it was unanimous; they would get up bright and early the next morning, pack everything into the car, and then leave for the camp.
Buffy would usually go days, or occasionally up to a week, without sleeping if the situation called for it. She would patrol cemeteries, dance at nightclubs while surveying the locale for hungry vampires looking for a snack, and patrol the streets late at night before and after the other two. There was research to be done, self-study after she had to drop out of college, and she usually ended up doing all the housework she didn’t have time for during the day.
Her sleeping patterns had changed drastically after Willow used black magic to resurrect her; afterwards she hadn’t just felt like she was in her own personal hell, but more and more she was unable to find even temporary salvation in dreams. She had been able to sleep less and less, and when she was able to sleep her dreams were often of the prophetic kind, and if it wasn’t then she dreamt of past Slayers; their triumphs and their failures and it always, always ended in a violent death, which wasn’t conductive at all to the healing slumber she needed. First she had stayed awake for about two days before being able to rest for a full night, but soon her respite had gone down one hour at a time until she was lucky if she got three full hours.
It was both a blessing and a curse, one of the upsides to it was that she had gotten much less tired after receiving the additional power from the Shadowmen and then, not long after, another boost from the Slayer Activation Spell. Faith had told her later she didn’t tire much either after that, but the change had been different for her. The dark haired Slayer could still sleep if she wanted to, but she also had the option of going without it without compromising herself.
It also meant she didn’t lose five to eight hours a night to sleep, meaning she got a lot more done. Still, most of the time she would’ve rather had a full night of rest. Slayer healing was great for fixing her physical body, including the dark bags she should’ve no doubt have had under her eyes, but it did nothing to alleviate her mind. Once again her sacred Calling had taken something necessary from her, but in this case it was affecting her mental state in a way nothing else had. Buffy missed falling asleep at night and waking up well rested in the morning. At least that’s what she’d wanted Before. Now it was a key reason as to why she and Rime were still alive, and it would be a key reason to keep the dumbasses outside the city alive as well.
Last night however she had gotten into bed and made sure to get a few hours of rest despite having slept the night before, and to her own shock she had actually been successful in this endeavour. Rime had graciously agreed to keep watch for the few hours Buffy would be able to keep her eyes closed, then she would catch a few hours of rest while Buffy took over watch duties. Which naturally meant she was subjected to a Slayer Dream regarding the future of the Quarry Camp, and if the little she saw was any indication they were even bigger fools than she had originally thought.
What were they thinking, camping out in the woods with no protection whatsoever? That had been irresponsible even before the world ended. No walls, no fences, no barricades or fortifications of any kind, or even using their cars and buildings as a first defense; half the people sleeping in tents? A single older man as a lookout on the top of an RV? Using guns as their primary weapon when her first encounter with them clearly demonstrated their awareness that the walkers are attracted to loud noises? Had these people ever heard of self-preservation?
Buffy felt like banging her head against the nearest hard surface. Rather than giving in to the impulse she began mentally planning how to get these people into a more defensive state of mind, instead of just instinctively reacting in self-defense.
By first light she had an outline, but she needed to meet the rest of the camp before she made any specific plans. Who knew what kind of skills the various members were hiding but which could be highly beneficial to them all? She put her unfinished plan on the backburner and focused on getting Rime, Andrea, and Glenn out of the furniture store and into the two cars waiting for them outside. One of them was Buffy’s car; a four wheel drive Jeep she’d had Before and which was thankfully in good working order, and the other car was a FedEx van they had filled with various supplies. Andrea and Glenn would drive that one while Buffy and Rime took her car. A part of her protested against allowing most of their hard-won supplies being in the hands of two near strangers, but she could only be one place at a time.
When they finally reached the campsite several hours later they had stopped once to raid a sporting goods store for any number of things they needed for the group’s continued survival. It had somehow remained untouched and to their great surprise it was even free of the undead. Their ‘shopping list’ included but was not limited to knives, swords, katanas, scabbards, sheaths, crossbows, arrows, crossbow bolts, guns, rifles, ammunition, books on surviving in various natural regions and all kinds of weather conditions. Hiking gear; shoes for all seasons, clothing, flashlights and batteries, fishing equipment, rappelling equipment, cooking and assorted appliances, sunglasses, bug spray, hats, medical kits, maps of both Atlanta, the surrounding areas, and the US in general, compasses, and a whole lot of other things which might or might not come in useful.
Halfway through their looting of the store Buffy made a mental note to keep an eye out for other sporting goods stores and similar places; they were a goldmine and people seemed to have ignored them in their haste to get food and water. She also needed to have a meeting with everyone to figure out where there might be more useful things, and possibly stored food and water. She was a city girl and despite having prevented over a dozen apocalypses over nearly two decades she still didn’t really know where backup supplies were hidden, but she was relatively certain there were hurricane shelters and such which had to include at least the basic necessities.
Upon their arrival at the camp Andrea was enthusiastically greeted by a young blonde woman in her mid-twenties whom Buffy assumed was the younger sister she’d been talking about. This left Glenn to introduce her and Rime to the others and share the news of the supplies she and Rime had stolen from various places within the city, plus what their little detour on the way back had yielded. The news had been greeted with great eagerness and approval. Her disapproval of their lack of any defenses was less welcome.
“Why have you pitched tents when you know there are corpses walking around just waiting to find and eat all of you? Do you have any idea how vulnerable you are inside that little piece of canvas?” She should probably have waited at least an hour before starting in on them, but really. This was way beyond ridiculous, and the fact that they had stayed here for eight weeks without getting ambushed was a miracle.
A dark haired man in a blue striped shirt, several days worth of scruff, and a necklace with a ‘22’ on it jumped right in and defended what she quickly understood to be his decisions.
“Easy, girl. We’re relatively safe out here. A few walkers have come close to the camp but we have a sentry to keep watch.” Buffy actually rolled her eyes at that, and idly thanked herself for changing into a blue tank top and that she left her hair loose rather than re-braid them into the twin braids she’d had it in when she met the others. The numerous sheaths and holsters all over her body helped to give the impression she wasn’t as helpless as she would’ve looked otherwise. Thereby giving her words more validity.
“That won’t help much if, or rather when, the camp gets overrun. The guard will have to yell to get everyone’s attention, especially if it happens at night and everyone is asleep, and that will also get the attention of all the walkers in the vicinity since they usually roam in large, loose groups. Meanwhile the people in the tents will be sitting ducks whether they stay inside or if they try to get out. They’ll be vulnerable and easy prey.” She resisted the urge to cross her arms below her chest like an indignant teenager.
“If you’re going to stay somewhere this unsafe the least you could’ve done is make sure everyone slept in the cars, the RV, or somewhere high enough that the walkers can’t get to them. That way they would’ve at least had a chance of getting out of it alive.”
Unsurprisingly everything went downhill from there, and when the time came to sleep for the night the asshat chose to very deliberately and very blatantly go to and enter his tent. Lori, supported by Rick, who it turned out was Lori’s husband, asked if they could sleep in the back of the FedEx van rather than the tent she and her son, Carl, had slept in up to that point. Andrea and her sister Amy asked if they could sleep in the front seats of the same van. Buffy permitted both, along with allowing Glenn to sleep in the backseat of her Jeep while Rime took one of the front seats.
About half of the people in the camp who had slept in the tents so far ended up staying inside a vehicle that night, while others agreed with Shane and went to their own tents. The new arrangements were much more intimate than the older one, but it provided more shelter and protection. Buffy herself spent the night on the hood of her car, keeping watch from a lower position than the sentry on the top of the RV.
It wasn’t a great solution but she’d gotten them to take a few baby steps in the right direction, so she decided to count it as a small victory. The fact that no one had tried to chase her away from the camp helped, too. Although that most likely had more to do with the supplies she and Rime had brought along that Buffy herself.
Over the next few days Buffy, supported and aided by Rime, the two elder Grimes’, Morales, Glenn, Andrea, Amy, T-Dog, and Jacqui tried to make the campsite more secure. It wasn’t an easy task, and the preferable thing would’ve been to leave the area entirely. Unfortunately that idea was shot down by more people than just Shane.
In between she tried to teach those who were willing to fight with swords and knives. Starting with how to hold them safely, both when you were carrying them either in your hand or when it was in a sheath or holster, and how to use them properly and most effectively when dealing with walkers. Those lessons invariably also included how to fight hand-to-hand.
While Buffy was trying to teach self-defense and how to most effectively kill the walking dead, Rime offered her services as a doctor and began checking out everyone for any kind of illnesses, wounds, and other ailments. Predictably she was much more welcome in the group than Buffy was, but they made it crystal clear that they were a package deal.
Then, five days after their arrival, she was out in the woods hunting for deer along with Daryl, Merle’s younger brother. Daryl had proved himself to be a competent tracker and hunter, which had come as a relief to her. It was good to know that at least someone in this group had a skillset in the survival category. He turned out to be a slightly more friendly version of his brother, but without the racism and without most of the sexism. He was easier on the eyes as well, which was shallow of her to think given the situation, but it was true.
When they neared the camp after having successfully tracked and shot a deer Buffy suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of a woman screaming; it was quickly followed by gunshots and more screaming.
This chapter takes place during the Walking Dead episodes "Guts" (01x02), "Tell It To the Frogs" (01x03), and "Vatos" (01x04).
This is a merged and expanded version of the 'Watch the Fall of Humanity' chapter 8 (A Comfortable Bed For the Night) and chapter 9 (Reality Check For the Quarry Camp).