Flesh To Clay
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The crew of Serenity make a delivery to the settlement of Payton, only to discover that Reavers have been there first. In the aftermath, Jayne struggles with memories and survivor guilt. Kaylee POV.


Title: Flesh to Clay Author: hisgoodgirl

Disclaimer: All belong to Joss. I got nada. Rating: PG-15, for dark content Setting: Between War Stories and Trash Paring: Pre-Jaylee Words: 1890

Summary: The crew deals with the aftermath of a Reaver attack and Jayne struggles with survivor guilt. Kaylee POV.

A/N: Written after I listened to a soldier on leave from Iraq share his struggle with his own memories and emotions.

X-posted from my LiveJournal

* ~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~ * * Flesh to Clay * * Most anybody growin’ up on the Rim in recent times has heard tell of the Reavers. If you’re lucky, somebody tells you stories about ‘em to scare the be-jeebus outta you, stories about how they rape and torture and eat folk, like monsters outta some nightmare.

An’ if you’re not so lucky? Well, you get to learn about ‘em up close and personal.

We’ve had our share of close calls with ‘em, like on Whitefall, but I was still dopey enough from all the meds Simon pumped into me that I didn’t realize at the time what we came near to bumbling into. It took landing at the settlement of Payton on Dib’s Moon for me to get my head around just how horrific them creatures are.

The Cap’n had lined up a straight-up transport job on Three Hills, moving grain and crates of housekeeping supplies and freeze-dried foodstuffs that the owner of the drygoods store in Payton had ordered. Easy-peasy li’l job, just a hop ‘round the Chambers Quadrant.

About twelve hours out, the Cap’n had Wash wave the dockmaster to let ‘em know we were in-bound but he didn’t get no response. Nothin’ but static. ‘Course, there’s always reasonable explanations why the signal’s down – like a lightening storm hittin’ the transmitter or some kind of power blackout. Cap told Wash to keep on trying to make the connection and our ETA was for 0800 the next mornin’.

River was more fretsome than usual at supper an’ kept twisting her hands in her hair and mumblin’ in that agitated way she does when she’s havin’ a bad spell. None of us could figure what had set her off, although lookin’ back on it, I got a good idea. Simon finally excused them both and took her off to her quarters to sedate her. I know he don’t like doin’ that, but Cap’s made it pretty clear he’d best keep her under control. After that, we were all pretty quiet, ‘cept for Jayne talkin’ to Zoë about a new scope he’d just bought for one of his guns.

I turned in early, knowin’ I’d have to get up at 0500 to get the ship ready for planetfall an’ set my alarm to make sure I’d wake. I’ve done the protocol a hundred times but I still like to allow plenty of time to make sure everything’s calibrated right. Seemed like I’d no sooner laid my head on my pillow that the alarm was beepin’, so I got up and dressed and headed back to the engine room, thinkin’ I’d grab some breakfast once we were dirtside.

Must have been pretty clear the town had been hit by Reavers before Wash put us down. In fact, Cap’n even had him hold off landing at first, just to make sure the coast was clear. Like Jayne said, them vultures don’t stick around long. It’s eat and run.

I wasn’t on the bridge, so I didn’t hear first hand what was said, but apparently Wash, Simon, Inara and Shepherd Book were all for landing and seein’ whether there were survivors might need aid. Jayne and Zoë said we’d be crazy to do that an’ the Cap’n agreed with them. From what Wash told me later, it was the Shepherd finally convinced him we needed to land and at least bury the dead.

If he’d realized just what we’d find, I ain't so sure he’d have pressed the point.

Inara offered to stay with River so Simon would be free to concentrate on his doctorin’ in case of survivors, and he loaded up his bag with the supplies he thought he’d need. Cap and Jayne and Zoë all armed up pretty heavily and said we was to stick close together, let them make sure things was clear. I was scared, not knowing what we’d find, but stayed close to the Shepherd an’ made myself buck up outta the hope we might be able to help somebody.

Nothin’ much disturbed round the dock, so’s I got my hopes up things might not be so bad. Well, that idea went south real quick. What struck me first when we lowered the bay ramp and doors was the smell. The air was full of smoke from the buildings still smolderin’ and there was the overwhelming stench of death. I cupped my hand over my mouth but it was pointless. That smell got into everything an’ I later wound up burnin’ the clothes I was wearin’ ‘cause I never could get ‘em clean.

The Cap’n and Zoë went first, with Jayne keepin’ an eye ‘round and behind us, lessen someone try an ambush. We hadn’t gone much more’n a couple hundred feet before we found the first body.

I seen dead folk before, but mostly they looked like folk, just real peaceful an’ still. No way to compare this poor fella, ‘cept to say, think of what’s left of a turkey after a big ol’ Thanksgiving dinner. I never seen a body like that, just flies and bones and sinews. The Shepherd put an arm around me and told me to be strong, but I could feel he was shakin’, too.

The further we got into town, the worse it was. Most of the buildings had been burnt down, and them monsters had tore through everything, taking whatever was of use to ‘em. That included the poor folk of Payton, parts of ‘em anyways. It’s one thing to think about a battlefield, to imagine all the carnage rained down by bombs and explosive shells. While you’re just as dead and the mess is horrific, there’s a measure of impersonality to that sort of death, not like the ‘up close and personal’ sort of death we were seeing there.

The Cap’n told us that Reavers take a lot of captives back onto their ships, women for breedin’ with, others for food. Looked to me like they sure as hell got their bellies full there on Dib’s Moon. Couldn’t have been too long since it happened, either.

I threw up until there was nothin’ left to come up.

There weren’t nobody left alive, so we concentrated on gettin’ all the remains, such as they was, to the center of town. Never seen so many skeletons, cause that’s about all they was. Big ‘uns and little ‘uns, even children an’ babies. You could see teeth marks and hack marks on the bones where the gorram Reavers gnawed them people or cut the meat off ‘em. Zoë and Jayne found some blankets and we used ‘em like litters to carry the dead.

The ground was hardpan clay, packed down like concrete, so buryin’ ‘em wouldda been pretty nigh impossible. Cap’n said we’d make a pyre, so we laid ‘em all close together and heaped on all the wood we could scavenge. Jayne found a big drum a kerosene an’ he and the Cap’n dumped that over the pile.

Shepherd Book scattered a handful of earth as we all stood there kinda lost in our own inner horror, and then he said a prayer: “From clay You made us, forming each of us in Your own image, and to clay we all return. For flesh is as the grass, and lo, the grasses wither and the flesh doth decay.”

Then the Cap’n lit the pyre and the flames spiraled up like a black whirlwind against the pale sky and we headed back to Serenity.

We took off, headin’ back into the Black, and the Cap’n began checkin’ around for somebody interested in purchasin’ the stores we’d been haulin’ to Payton. We was all mighty quiet, everyone just tryin’ to come to terms with the carnage we seen, tryin’ to make some sense of how anybody could do such things. Come time to turn in, there was no way I could sleep. I went back to the engine room and tinkered with the grav generator until I was so tired I thought that maybe I’d be able to finally conk out, so I headed up to my bunk.

Jayne was sittin’ all by himself at the table in the galley. When I come round him and could see his face, I realized he was most way through a fifth of bourbon an’ he’d been cryin’. Now that was something I never looked to see – Jayne Cobb with tears on his face.

He looked up at me and I swear he looked like a big lost child. “Why, Kaylee?” he asked, his voice all hoarse with the pain of it. “Why’d them poor people have to go through somethin’ like that? I just don’t understand...”

I sat down in the chair beside him. “I don’t know, Jayne. I talked a while with Shepherd Book about it, but about all he could say was that Death is part of Life.”

“Well, I’d rather pick another way a dyin’, I was to have my choice,” he said wearily, an’ took another sip. “There ain't much scares me, but them ruttin’ Reavers... Can’t think of a more awful way to go. Hell, Kaylee, I’d rather git spaced.”

I’d never seen the man look that way.

“Don’t know as I can sleep,” he said. “Seems like every time I close my eyes, I kept seeing that shit back in Payton.” He scrubbed at his face with the back of his hand an’ handed me his bottle. “Wanna sip?”

“Yeah,” I said. I took a swig, feelin’ the whisky burn all the way down to my belly. “This the first time you seen what them bastards do?” I asked him.

“Nah,” he shook his head. “I was in a town once when they hit. Managed to hide out so they missed me.” His eyes had that far-away look to ‘em, so I knew he was thinkin’ about it. “Only one who made it...”

He looked helplessly down at his hands.

“I don’t much ken bunkin’ by myself tonight, “ I told him. “Can... can I just sleep in your bunk? Just for tonight?” His head came up and I could see, drunk as he was, he was tryin’ to figure out what I was meanin’. “I just wanna feel safe, an’ don’t neither one of us need to be alone right now.” I put my greasy hand over his. “Cork that bottle and come on.”

He stood up, swayin’ just a little and we headed up to his bunk and down the ladder. Now there’s been plenty a times Jayne’s put the moves on me, and there’s been times I’ve considered takin’ him up on it, but that wasn’t what either of us was needin’ right then.

I guess he knew what I was thinkin’. He sat down on the bunk and pulled off his boots, then turned his sheet and blanket back an’ lay down in his clothes. “Come ‘ere, gal. Ain't gonna mess with ya.”

I smiled. “I know.” I unlaced my boots and set them out of the way along with his, then slid in next to him, both of us still dressed. He was big an’ warm and I felt safe there, with him just holdin’ me, and for those few minutes before we both dozed off, we could forget about the Reavers and that column of oily black smoke rising from the clay of Payton.




Wednesday, November 21, 2007 6:55 AM


Very sweet fic.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 2:45 PM


I'd say bittersweet, myself. :) Well written, the voices well and truly caught, and the images..of the town, the victims and Jayne sitting there, crying through a bottle..really very well done. Sequel, please?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 10:20 PM


Hello <G>

Nice to see you here as well as on LJ!


Monday, August 22, 2011 5:27 AM


I second BBJ's comment. 10 shinies for it


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