buffy

Zombification 1: BtVS: Die A Little, Every Day (Tara, Ensemble, PG13)

Title: Die A Little, Every Day
Author: Brutti ma buoni
Fandom: Buffyverse
Characters/Pairings: Ensemble as per prompt, Tara POV
Length: 900
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: goes AU from sometime non-specifically in canon roughly season 5 BtVS/season 2 AtS
Warnings: none (beyond past character death and zombie killing, which you probably expect)
Prompt: zombi_fic_ation prompt 084. Buffyverse -- Buffy, Tara, Faith, Angel, Spike -- Sunnydale was the first town to fall, and one by one all the other cities followed. The zombies didn't touch the vampires, and most of them smelled death on Buffy and avoided her as well.
Summary: It's a while since Sunnydale, and Tara is still alive. For what that's worth.




At the end of the world, there aren't many people. That really shouldn't be surprising. The only surprising thing, to Tara, is that Tara is one of them.

It was an accident, her survival, as the plague ripped through the cities when the mouth of hell opened and breathed out contagion. Tara had been spellcasting, out of harm's way, never quite a full member of the gang, and it is only that fact that means she didn't turn into the first wave of dead meat walking like Xander, and Anya, and Giles. And the other person whose name she doesn't think anymore.

Willow.

Dammit.

Tara's too human. She brings danger to all the other survivors. The zees scent many things, but one is emotion, and Tara has been too full of emotion. She's learned to avoid the thoughts, of what all those lurching threats once were; of what she had with another person whose name and scent and feel are best left unevoked.

It's a curious thing, that this hampered, painful life is still so precious that Tara doesn't want to give it up. But she fights, when the zees come. She fights like hell. She uses the dead men and terrifying living women who are immune to zombie bites, sacrificing their pain and fear for her own life. And she's glad of it.

They're glad too, and it's that which saved Tara and saves her still. There are too many humans that the Slayers and the vampires couldn't save. Legions of unknowns, and the too-known few. Their fallen.

Everyone has found their breaking point. Tara remembers Spike blowing a hole in Joyce Summers' lurching corpse, and then weeping over the body, "Sorry mum. Sorry Slayer." Buffy, too glazed by the loss of her sister and friends, didn't respond at all. Tara remembers the layby near LA where they met up with Angel and Faith (the sole survivor from a women's correctional facility where the contagion leaped too fast). She remembers Faith's warning look when Buffy tried to ask about Cordelia and Wesley, and the one syllable Angel spoke in response.

"Gone."

It's all that matters. How and why is irrelevant, and always the same. Gone grey, gone slack, gone bloody at the mouth, gone into mindless savagery, gone into the destructive hive mind. And, eventually, gone to dust, or splatter, more likely.

Tara wonders whether she would prefer to be one of the un-chosen. Her four protectors repel zombies with ease. (They thought it was Buffy's died-once-still-pretty mojo, till Faith turned out to have the same power. Now they know it means that Slayers are dead women walking, so the dead men walking leave them in peace.) At least Tara has a purpose. She wants to live. Needs to find sanctuary somewhere where she can breathe easy and sleep without one hand on a shotgun. Follows rumour and half-whispered contacts on ham radio, suggesting that Alaska, or Newfoundland or Tahiti may be spared. Dreams of sailing away on an ocean from the tainted continent, saving herself.

The others don't need to save themselves. They're not even zombie bait.

A familiar groan sounds in the motel parking lot. Then another. Then more. A tide, and it's Tara's fault, for she thought the name of power.

She picks up the shotgun, kisses the stock. "Love you, baby," she says to Willow-that-was. Just for a minute, she can remember in safety, because nothing will make the present plight worse.

The door to her room flies open with a bang, and she twists to shoot, but it's Faith. "Tara! Behind me! We're working the back entrance. Buffy has reception." Angel and Spike will be outside, Tara knows. The first shots are fired. Spike's laughter, wild and manic, competes with the groans for a second. She hears Angel shout (Spike must be in his sightlines. He hates that.).

She finds a good spot to await the first marauder from the rear entrance. It's not hard to fight them off, when you're surrounded by untouchables. But Tara still fears for the day when she's that little bit off-slow-distracted and the teeth sink into her. Just a little bite, a nibble of the finger, so long as the skin breaks, it's enough. The grey will sweep over her, and she will lose her self. Become a killing machine, bent only on death.

The rear door flies open. Tara shoots. The first zee's head explodes. Then the second. Reload comes naturally; she doesn't even need to count her shots these days. Faith covers, automatically. Blam. Splat. Blam. Splat. It's only twenty today. Pretty light work.

Some might say that Tara's a killing machine already. But that's not the case. She's bent only on living, and this is what you have to do to achieve it. She knows that.

When the grey comes for Tara, she knows that Faith, or Buffy, will put her down just like this. Not leave her corpse wandering, soulless and mindless and decaying on the run. Death will be their gift, and whatever remains of Tara will welcome it gladly.


***
Oh wow. This is heartwrenching. Poor Tara. To be trapped in this place where she can't safely feel... it's like being a zombie already.


Gabrielle
Thanks so much. This felt a little overdone when I was writing it (as you probably gathered from my not enthused comments on my journal), but it's good to know it did convey what I wanted.
Wow. Just wow. Powerful stuff - Interesting idea that Slayers are just dead women walking, with no appeal.
Thanks! The prompt really grabbed me from that aspect - you could write a whole bunch of ficlets exploring it from different POVs, though I'd get too depressed if I tried!
I liked it very much, intense and kind of depressing but most of all well-written and, despite the darker, darker tones, so incredibly close to the series it almost hurt. Kudos :)
Thanks so much! I've been chewing over this fic, because it's so very bleak, but the prompt was so fascinating and definitely trended into dark places.
I like this-- it's almost a Walking Dead crossover. But not quite, and it works beautifully.

Some might say that Tara's a killing machine already. But that's not the case. She's bent only on living, and this is what you have to do to achieve it. She knows that.

The image of Tara with the shotgun really works too. Very nice!
Tara with a gun is about the most alien thing I could think of; but she would do it to save others, and eventually herself too.
I really liked this bleak piece. With even her memories dangerous now, Tara is isolated when surrounded by friends. She's a liability but a liability that can't help wanting to survive. it's a fascinating dynamic, well handled.
Thanks! I loved the prompt - that odd-woman out Tara in amongst the immune superhumans. She's so human, yet eventually she'll have to become less so - because she's human enough that she wants to live.
Ooh, this was a very interesting story. Tara and zombies is a combination that I wouldn't have immediately thought of together, but it works great here, and you did fastastic work with the world building for such a short story.
That's just what intrigued me - Buffy or Angel and zombies, sure, Faith and Spike would probably have fun. But Tara? Oof, that's tough.
This was a bleak, but fascinating story. I enjoyed how you used Tara in this story. I felt truly sad for her.
OMG that's dark. Darker than dark. Very much a Tara voice, though a despairing one.

::shudders::
This is very lovely, in a very dark, and depressing way. Thank you for writing and sharing it with us!
Heh. Thank you! I'm glad it pleased you, though it's definitely not one I shall reread snuggled down with a cup of tea.
Such a bleak story, but well worth the read. Poor Tara, not wanting to die, but hating how she has to live.
Good story!

It did occur to me to wonder what would happen to Glory if Ben got zombiefied.

She's supposed to die when his body dies, but he's sort of dead and sort of isn't.

Plus she already has an appetite for brains... :-)
This is a great idea for zombies, that they are homing in on emotions - it sort of makes sense of the whole brains thing.
Given my recent Tara-centric meta (were your ears burning?) this is VERY timely. I've been looking for and asking for more Tara gen fic. And "zombies" is a subject I normally avoid like the plague (hah) but this is something else altogether. I always thought that Tara needed to embrace her "demon" (strength) little on the show, in order to protect herself and her friends ("My first axing") but this is a chilling reminder of the dark side of that, when there is almost nothing left but a warrior but she tries so hard to hang on to her last scraps of humanity.

Now they know it means that Slayers are dead women walking

Whoa.
I enjoy this zombie fest - the prompts are so varied you can get pretty much anything from them. And this one intrigued me, as I've said above - having Tara in that group, with so much of a soft, human characterisation. Which got me thinking about how it might be stripped away.
This was dark and awesome.

I love it when someone takes Tara beyond what she was in the show and really lets her grow.