Scar Petals - Chapter 2
Saturday, April 8, 2006

Set at the end of the BDM, so spoilers. PG13 for gore and grimmity, but will be NC17 later I suspect. This story is for ItsAWash and EngineAngel.



River Tam hangs back from the crew of the ‘Serenity’, both hands pressed to her mouth, hair falling over her face like waterweed clinging to a fountain statue. Her eyes are wide, almost black, smudged underneath with blue shadows. She is tired, so tired. And Simon still hurts; she can feel it, his wounds are healing, but slowly. The Captain is blazing with anger, but keeping it back, simmering it just under his skin. River slinks back against the wall as he passes her, not wanting to be burned by his caged fury.

Zoe, dear Mother of God, Zoe. River stares as the warrior woman traces her hands over the standing stones, the grave markers. The markers themselves are just wrong; it’s like a mockery of a funeral, even though everyone is sad, everyone is feeling real pain, but not River. River knows.

Oh yes, River knows.

River knows Mr Universe is frolicking with beautiful angels, enjoying their heavenly cocktails, partying with them every night. He is happy. Shepherd Book is explaining the Amended Bible to the apostles and the archangels; they are intrigued by this white-haired scholar, and they take him to the Father, where they have long, complicated theological discussions. His family are safe and well around him. He is happy. Even if he has scary hair.

But this isn’t right.

She tiptoes over to the graves, what Mal calls the Cairns, piles of stones marked with holographic pictures. Book smiles out at her, kindly and wise. Mr Universe, grinning with joy. She feels their bones under her feet, their essences carrying her along, like walking on treacle, as if she will be sucked down to see them. It wouldn’t frighten her; she would like to see them again, but she doesn’t know if they would let her go home again…

“Just a pile of stones,” she murmurs, tracing Wash’s cairn with her toe, swaying like a willow tree in the brisk wind.

“Hmm?” Zoe finds herself drawn back to reality by River’s sinuous movement, almost hypnotic, like a cobra poised to strike.

“Hush, mei-mei,” says Simon quickly, not wanting his sister to upset Zoe further.

“Stones,” says River, turning those huge liquid-coffee eyes on Zoe. “All stones. No little dinosaurs.”

Zoe bites her lip, hard, to stop any tears that are threatening. For some reason she won’t cry before the Captain. He’s standing over by Book’s grave, looking calm, but Zoe can see anger in the lines of his body, the muscles jumping in his cheek, the tell-tale bunching of his fists in his coat pockets.

She wished River hadn’t mentioned the dinosaurs. That had hit her almost as hard as when she’d had to leave Wash behind. They’d kicked seven kinds of hell – ai ya, EIGHT kinds of hell in River’s case – out of the Reavers, then finally come back to Serenity, half dead, hanging on to each other, drawing on each others’ strength. Jayne had carried Kaylee, River supporting Simon, herself and Mal walking side by side, cold to the core, not daring to look at one another, both seething with anger and pain and loss.

And Wash was gone.

Not just dead, not just lost, but just – not there. The huge wooden post that had struck his chest lay in pieces on the floor, the pilot’s chair stained with his blood, and Zoe had struggled to keep calm. The Reavers must have taken him, they had cut his skin and sewn him into their clothes, torn his body to shreds, tain xiaode. She shuddered, remembering the empty cockpit. Would she run into a Reaver, days-weeks-years later, and see her husband’s skinned face looking out at her from the creature’s hideous clothes and armour? Her stomach had lurched at the thought, and she swallowed hard, trying not to think about it.

Then she’d seen the pilot desk, the upturned palm trees, the missing dinosaurs, and she’d just lost it.

“They took him out of here alive, sir!” she’d screamed, beating the Captain with her fists, trying to claw his face. All of her training had fallen back, and she’d fought him like a woman, like a lost little girl. She didn’t even think she’d hurt him. “He grabbed his toys and took them with him! You sent us all away, and they came and took him!”

Give Mal his due, he’d stepped back from her, completely unable to deal with Zoe-the-woman rather than Zoe-the-soldier. Jayne had had no such scruples, and caught her by the arms, holding her back, so she went for him, too. Fighting Jayne was like trying to pound on the side of a brick barn, though, and she’d finally collapsed into Kaylee’s waiting arms, shaking with the effort of not being able to properly let go, not being able to understand what had happened.

“River,” says Simon sternly, bringing Zoe back to the present, splintering those memories of the empty cockpit. She almost thanks him for it, til she sees River’s face.

She has her hands on Wash’s grave marker, like a faith healer, or some ancient naiad dowsing for water. Her fingertips brush along the stone, but her face is screwed up – whether in concentration, pain, or anger Zoe can’t tell.

“He ain’t here,” Zoe says, finally reaching out to River, as if she will hug the younger woman. “He ain’t here, little one. It’s just a memorial. There ain’t nothin’ under the ground. Not like Book. Not like - ” she bites her lip, not trusting her voice to carry on.

River steps back. Zoe feels a hand on her arm, and she draws in a deep breath, leaning back slowly, until the back of her head brushes his shoulder. Mal. It’s like he’s lending her strength. She glances round, sees tears in his eyes, and quickly looks away. His face and hands are scratched from where she attacked him, thin red ribbons decorating his tanned skin. Oh, Mal. I’m sorry.

She looks out over the grave markers, no longer seeing him, no longer seeing the crew. She can’t look at the shimmering picture of her husband. It hurts. Like the huge wooden harpoon is stuck in her chest, twisting, leaving tiny splinters every time she breathes.

If only it was. She had armour, she was a fighter. She’d have come back from it. She could have. She could. Not like Wash.

Wash with his Hawaiian shirts and his cute little toy dinosaurs. Wash with his azure-sky eyes and his gentle-sweet-sexy-joyful smile and his tender hands. Wash with his trademark crazy flying moves and his razor-sharp wit and his concern for his wife. His soft heart had been just ripe for breaking.

Zoe shakes off Mal’s hand and walks slowly, but very deliberately, back to work, back to safety, back to her armour.

Back to Serenity.

* * * *

Kate Malory sits alone in her bunk, toying with a shirt, trying to ground herself, trying to focus. There’s a new job to get on with, a buttload of dead Reavers lying in their take-off route, and a young man more dead than alive in the medi-lab. She puts both hands to her face, hoping the chill of her palms will soothe and calm her, but to no avail. She’s landed the crew with a lame duck, something they now have to take care of, a man who might die anyway.

Wuo de ma, Kate, she hears Stuart’s voice say, echoing in her head. You’ve really gone and done it this time.

He’d have laughed, would Stuart, at her concern for the lost, the lonely, the abandoned. She’d taken on their pilot, Tom Bettany, two years ago at Persephone, homeless and half-mad with hunger, and got Sallie Knight, who was now their medic, away from her arranged marriage to some nutjob on Whitefall. Recently she’d picked up two tiny kittens at Bellerophon, rescued from some guy who’d been carrying them in a bag, undoubtedly bound for death by drowning somewhere. It had been one of the things Stuart liked best about her; her need to help. Didn’t stop him teasing her about it, though.

Her face hardens as she remembers levelling the gun, sighting him from so far away. She’d refused to let herself close her eyes to his death, feeling that he was looking at her, wanting to be there for him. Well, the only way she was there for him was on the end of a gun, killing him quickly before the Reavers could start their gory knifework.

She shakes off the thoughts of Stuart and replaces his shirt on the pillow beside her own. She’ll have to clear the bunk out at some time; can’t go on living like a Captain-Miss Havisham type, sleeping among all his possessions, lying in the imprint of his body on her sheets, drowning in his sharp musky scent. She reaches for the bottle of his aftershave on the bedside table, turning it over and over in her hands. He’d had his own bunk, but neither of them had ever seen the point of him sleeping there.

She puts the bottle down and climbs out of her bunk, her boot heels spitting sparks on the metal floor. She’s at the door of the medi-lab before she knows where she was going, gazing in through the glass as if she doesn’t dare go in. Gorram it, it’s her ship.

She slides the door open and moves carefully across the room, as if each step might shake the man from his unnatural sleep. Sallie, small and dark and mischievous-looking – and absolutely covered in blood, like some kind of shiny red lipgloss has exploded over her chest - is busy with glass slides and tubes and needles and God knows what.

“Cap’n,” says Sallie, nodding to her, but for once she’s not smiling. “This is a real doozie you sent me here, y’know.”

“I’m sorry.” Kate really is. Sallie’s a great doctor, but a half-dead guy is seriously something the crew could have done without. “How’s he doing?”

“First off, what’s his name? I can’t keep callin’ him John Doe.” Sallie washes her hands thoroughly, scrubbing with some kind of antiseptic foam.

“Hoban.” Kate takes the dogtag from her pocket. She’d taken it carefully from his neck when the crew had arrived in the cockpit of the damaged Firefly. “Hoban Washburne.” She hands the tag to the medic.

Sallie loops the tag’s chain round the man’s wrist and nods to herself. “I’m keeping him well under for now. I think it’s best. He’s taken one hell of a lot of damage here, Cap. I’m not even sure if I can repair it all. Don’t know if he’ll ever walk again, for one. His spine’s bruised, there’s pressure on the cord, and I think he might’ve fractured some vertebrae. As to the rest of him, I’m not sure as to the full extent of his injuries. He’s got a collapsed lung, for a start, his heart was not a happy bunny either, and one side of his liver’s seriously ge zhen de hundan. He was rutting lucky not to die on the spot.”

Kate moves over to the medical bed. “I see. His heart WAS not a happy bunny? How happy is it now?”

“I’ll do what I can, Cap, don’t get me wrong,” Sallie says, and determination rings in her voice. She goes back to her microscope, changing slides. “I had to get both hands into his chest and start his heart with one kuangzhe de manual massage. Hence the pretty accessories.” She waves a hand at her bloodied shirt. “I got a chest drain into his lung and blew it out again and it seems to be doing some good. But I don’t know if I can get him through this, Cap. I don’t even know if he’s gonna be brain damaged when he wakes up. He wasn’t breathing for so long when we got him on board.”

“Just try, Sallie, dong ma?” Kate touches his head as he lies there unconscious, her fingertips moving through his hair carefully. She tries not to think about how the man had arrested as they’d brought him to the medi-lab, his body shuddering over and over, so silent, so frightening. And then the moment when she’d realised his chest was no longer lifting and falling. Wuo de ma. She’d stood there like an idiot as Sallie performed whatever version of basic CPR was popular this week. But she had herself in hand now, and she owed it to Stuart to keep this one alive.

“Poor bastard.” A young man appears in the doorway, scrutinising the scene through bright blue eyes. His sandy-blond hair, cropped short, is almost the same colour as that of the man on the bed. “Here, Sal – brought you something hot to drink. Lucy said you’d want something by now.”

Sallie nods and gestures to the worktop beside her. “Thanks, Tom.”

“How’s he doing? Our little kidnapped flower?” Tom Bettany approaches Kate, a half-smile on his face.

“Not great.”

“Sallie’ll get him dancing again, for sure.” He bends over the unconscious form, reading the dogtag. “Hoban Washburne. Hoban? What kinda gorram name is that?”

Kate shrugs.

“Hey, Hoban, you hear me? My name’s Tom. You may remember me from such amazing rescues as YOURS! Yeah. I was the guy with the whizzy and highly technical saw machine, cuttin’ on that Reaver lance spike thing you’d managed to get stuck through ya. Neat, huh? You can have a go with it when you wake up, if you want. How you doing? Sallie’s gonna fix you up real well.” Tom pats the stranger’s hand.

Kate wishes she’d thought of talking to him. But she had no idea what to say, or how to say it. She’s taken a man away from his ship, away from his crew, and all the memories he had on board. She should have checked the ship for other survivors. But there’d been no time. They’d had to get him out, or he’d have died there in that chair.


“Tom?” She looks up at him, stopping her careful rhythmic stroking of the man’s hair.

“What the hell have you got stuffed down your boobs?”

She follows Tom’s line of sight and realises the plastic dinosaurs are making really strange shapes in her flight suit. She shakes her head, unzips the suit, revealing a dark green fitted shirt, and slowly takes the toys out.

“Found ‘em on his desk,” she says, nodding towards Hoban Washburne. “Just – didn’t want to leave ‘em, I guess.”

“Are they his?” Tom look at them, puzzled.

“Don’t know. He might have kids.” Ai ya, she thinks. Have we taken a father away from his children?

“Cute,” says Tom, picking up the little blue stegosaurus and marching it along his arm. “I am a scary dinosaur! Grrrr, Argh.”

“Stop pissing about in my lab,” says Sallie, not even turning round. Tom grins and takes hold of the orange tyrannosaurus rex.

“Ah, but I am a scarier dinosaur! Hey, these are pretty good. Hey, Hoban, you want to come play? Better wake up, man, then we can have some real fights with these guys. They’ll look great in the kitchen.”

“No,” says Kate, as Tom turns to leave, scooping up the rest of the dinosaurs as he goes. “No, Tom. Leave them here. They’re his, after all. Maybe he’ll let you put them in the kitchen another time. But for now – just leave ‘em be, dong ma?”

Ever easy-going, Tom nods. “Sure, Captain. No problem.” He bends to the man on the bed, a laugh in his voice. “Hey, Hoban? You make sure you get well, yeah? We guys need to stick together on this ship. The Captain’s a girl. How’d you like that, huh?”

He drops a lazy salute and wanders out of the lab, laughing softly to himself.

Kate smiles in spite of her worries, in spite of her grief. Tom’s a good lad, a real great addition to the crew, even if Stuart did hate him for the first six months. Understandable; no man wants to know that the woman he loves is all cut up with worry about another guy. And Tom was sure something to worry about, when they first brought him on board.

She wonders how Stuart would have coped with Hoban Washburne.



Dong ma?: understand? tain xiaode - God knows what kuangzhe de – crazy mei mei – little sister ge zhen de hundan – a real bastard wuo de ma - mother of god


Saturday, April 8, 2006 9:11 AM


yay I review first. Is very good

Saturday, April 8, 2006 9:35 AM


Wow. That's all I can say. You've got a gift, my friend. Keep it coming.

Saturday, April 8, 2006 10:41 AM


Gotta chime with Guy....his own and wingedraksha [which I have been mispelling all this time:(]: this some good stuff here!

Though I have to ask a question: who are these people that have presumably found Wash? They don't seem like Alliance troopers or medical corpsman...more like the BDHs or mercenaries. If so (meaning closer to the BDHs in composition and roles) then why were they on Mr. Universe's Moon for the Alliance vs. Reaver battle?


Sunday, April 9, 2006 12:47 AM


BEB: they're not alliance or medical... all will be explained in later chapters, I promise...


Sunday, April 9, 2006 12:48 AM


Yay another chapter!

I like how you wrote Zoe's grief when she finds the body gone, very emotional.

The other crew are a great addition, can't wait to read more.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 8:41 AM


'Grrrr, Argh.'-- that was masterful.

I like how you write in present tense. It is unusual and hard to accomplish. Good job. Off to the next chapter with me.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006 1:14 PM


Have to admit I like the Grrr Argh myself :)

Thursday, May 4, 2006 2:07 AM


Ah, I like how you explained what happened and how Malory and her crew got Wash out and why. My heart bleeds for Zoe, the crew reactions were top notch but I also feel devastated for them. Especially Zoe imaginging pieces of Wash sewn into Reaver clothing after they've ripped him apart and eaten him. Ew, that doesn't even bear thinking about. Wonder if our little alatross is going to give Serenity's crew the heads up and if so, how they will react. Absolutely brilliant writing! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, May 4, 2006 11:35 AM


Love this line:
"Fighting Jayne was like trying to pound on the side of a brick barn"

I love the entire crew already, and the only sadness I am going to have is reaching the end of what you have written and wanting more. :)

Monday, June 12, 2006 3:50 AM


no one can resist the dinosaurs - brilliantly written!!



You must log in to post comments.



Scar Petals - Chapter 5
In which we find Wash is awake. This chapter is for bookaddict, guywhowantsafireflyofhisown, BlueEyedBrigadier and AgentRusco, who have seemed to enjoy it (yay) and kept me writing when I didnt feel like doing any more. Sorry, I've had a bad week. :)

Scar Petals - Chapter 4
Kate can't cope and has to run from The Kestrel, Hoban Washburne is still on board her ship, and there's a little private party in one corner of the bar...

Scar Petals - Chapter 3
Zoe tries to stay together. Mal tries to help. The crew of the Kestrel may have a problem. Set at end of BDM, so spoilers. Slight naughty language in translations. Occasional grimness. Please enjoy...

Scar Petals - Chapter 2
Set at the end of the BDM, so spoilers. PG13 for gore and grimmity, but will be NC17 later I suspect. This story is for ItsAWash and EngineAngel.

Scar Petals
The crew have gone to fight the Reavers, leaving Wash alone. Spoilers from the BDM - set towards the end of the movie. Will be NC17 later. PG13 for gory fighting, I guess. This fanfic is for ItsAWash and EngineAngel, who inspired me to get on with it and get it posted.