Author: babies stole my dingo (agilebrit)
Rating: Hard R for general Reaver-y horror.
Length: Short story (a little over 2700 words)
Disclaimer: Joss is the genius behind these characters; I am but a lowly follower. I make no money from any of this, so please don't sue me.
Feedback: Concrit adored! If you see something that can be improved upon, please let me know, even if it's only a typo.
Written for: This is one I came up with on my own, folks. The only one to blame here is me.
Notes: Um, yeah. Reavers. Rape. Major character deaths. You've been warned. Many thanks to justmalea who helped tremendously with the PTSD stuff, and whose info made this much more realistic than I could have hoped. Any mistakes or liberties are completely my own. Many thanks also are due the Hubby, who provided several valuable suggestions and patted my shoulder while I was getting all shudder-y. I've also been told to put a "Do Not Eat While Reading This" warning on it. Apologies to the nice folks who were made ill by this.
River was sick.
She'd picked up some bug or other on the last planet we'd visited. Inocs were only mostly effective, and this time it hadn't worked. It'd really knocked her on her ass, too; she spent her time in her bunk, sleeping, while Simon tended her. She weren't gonna die or nothing like that, but she had a fever and some sorta spotty thing goin' that looked all manner of uncomfortable.
I guess that's why we didn't have no warning of the Reaver attack. The smart ones were gettin' real good at bein' stealthy, and the first idea we got that they was anywhere around was when the ship come to a complete stop and scattered us off'n our chairs in the middle of supper. Plates and food flew every-damn-where, but we had bigger fish to fry than that, as the Reavers swallowed Serenity into the hold of a much bigger ship quicker'n they had any right to. Kaylee tried to rig the doors so they wouldn't open, but another thing they'd gotten good at was overrides.
They took her first.
We fought a holding action for a good bit in the passenger dorm, even looked like we was winnin'. They wanted us alive, and we wanted them dead, so they were a mite more careful than they ought to have been. 'Course, we was pretty liberal with sprayin' ammo around, and it weren't long before we was runnin' low. With our resident Reaver slayer out of the fight, we never did have much of a chance, not really. And when the second wave hit, we could tell it was pretty hopeless. We kept fighting anyway, because it weren't in none of our natures to just give up.
Kaylee's shrieks rose and fell over the action. We was all relieved when they stopped.
They got Zoe next. In silent agreement, Mal and I both shot her dead before they could do anything unspeakable to her...but when we tried to fire again, to kill the Reavers holding her, we found out our weapons were empty.
We was pretty easy pickin's after that. They hit Mal and Inara with their dart things, and Simon just got yanked bodily out of the room. Boy had heart, but they don't teach hand to hand combat in doctor school, and when you've got four Reavers on ya...well.
River had woke up during the fight, but she was kitten-weak, and no challenge at all. They took one of my knees out with a bladed iron ball, and then they drug us all down into the cargo bay.
Don't wanna talk 'bout that.
Don't wanna talk about any of it, really.
Everyone says I'm a bad guy. But there's lines even the likes of me don't cross, and wearin' the skin of a human as a coat is one of 'em. Gnawin' on 'em while they're still alive is another. Hell, gnawin' on another human, period. And I ain't even gonna get into what they done to her beforehand. And after.
It lasted for hours and hours, and they made me watch it all. Trussed up like a turkey, lyin' on the floor with a boot on my neck, I couldn't even turn away. Could close my eyes, but that didn't help, because weren't no way I could shut out the screams. Mal and I had our share of not gettin' along, but damn. I'd never wanted to hear him scream like that. Being raped to death ain't no kind of pleasant way to go.
Same with Simon and River. River was the luckiest; she died first. Two of 'em practically tore her in half, one in front, the other in back, and both of 'em with filed teeth sunk into either side of her neck. One of 'em scalped her and danced around wearin' her hair. I wondered if he knew that she was the one who'd single-handedly taken about twenty of his brethren out. You think funny things under stress.
Simon was catatonic after that, and they killed him pretty quick. I guess he weren't fun to play with no more. Inara and Mal, they lasted longer. That was a gorram pity.
Once they got done with the others, they yanked my pants down to my knees and flipped me onto my stomach. Three of them took turns with me, and, yeah, it hurt and was all manner of humiliatin'...but I'd been in worse pain, you know? Comes with the territory of bein' a mercenary, after all. The bad part was wonderin' when they was gonna start eatin' on me.
They had worse things in mind.
After they finished up with...what they was doin', they tossed me over onto my back, and a Reaver knelt in front of me with a dripping chunk of raw meat and forced it into my mouth. My choice was to choke or die, and I pretty much wanted to die by that point, but the body is a stubborn ruttin' thing and I swallowed it down. They fed me more, and God help me, I ate it all while they stood around. Approving, leering at me with their scarred faces. Tears runnin' down my face, blood drippin' off my chin, shakin' my head "no" and doin' it anyways.
And then they left me there.
They untied me, dumped Serenity out of their hold, and left me alone in her with my dead, skinned, half-eaten crewmates. I pulled my pants back up and huddled on the floor for I dunno how long, hiding my head in my arms and shaking.
Survival instincts kicked in eventually, and I hauled myself into the infirmary to do something for my knee, and other parts, 'cause they hurt like hell. Weren't much I could do, when all was said and done, but I knew how to use a painkiller right enough. Simon knew his business when it came to those, and parts that had felt like they was on fire just had a dull ache after I injected myself and swallowed a half a dozen pills. I wondered what sort of shiny drugs he'd had for River to help her forget what they'd done to her at that school, because I for sure wanted to forget everything I'd just seen. The tiny part of my brain that was still halfway sane vetoed what was a stupid idea, even for me.
As I poked through a drawer, the glint of the overhead light caught a scalpel. I stared at it for a sec...then slammed the drawer shut.
I knew where Kaylee stowed her homemade brew, but the journey to the engine room was a nightmare of grabbing the stair rails and having my hands come away sticky and red, combined with slipping on stuff on the steps. The lights weren't doin' their job at all, and I come to realize that the Reavers had knocked out about three-fourths of them, making the ship all manner of shadowy and creepifyin'.
I came down once on my wounded knee, and the pain from that made my vision go white for a minute. When I could see again, I gritted my teeth and somehow made it up the rest of the way. The hootch was exactly where I expected to find it, and I unscrewed the cap on the bottle and took a huge swig.
And spat it out again.
They'd contaminated it with blood.
I threw the bottle against the wall. Made of metal, it just sorta bonged and rolled to a stop, pouring out its contents with a horrible "glug glug glug" noise that sounded wrong, thicker and slower than it ought to have.
Weren't nowhere on the boat I could go to try to get away from the memories. The Reavers'd redecorated while they were aboard, and red paint was splashed everywhere, including inside the crew bunks. They'd covered up Kaylee's flower-y things in the kitchen, done a right sloppy job, but it was like they'd wanted to erase anything at all that said "home" on the ship. It weren't all paint, neither; the odor of blood hung in the air so heavy that the processors couldn't scrub it.
I think I'll be smellin' that smell long after it's actually gone.
I tried to send out a distress signal, but they'd disabled that, along with our connection to the Cortex. Couldn't steer or navigate either. Adrift in the black...
"Know what the chain of command is? It's the chain I go get and beat you with until you understand who's in ruttin' command here."
"You wanna run this ship?"
No. No, when all was said and done, I didn't want to run the ship.
Finally, I parked my business at the kitchen table, staring at a perfectly round red spot on the surface. When I started hearin' the whisperin', at first I thought it was just engine noise or some such. But it didn't matter where I was, the sound was the same whether I was in the cockpit, the engine room, or one of the shuttles. I staggered from one end of the ship to the other, tryin' to get away from it. Avoided the cargo hold. Couldn't make out no real words at first.
Then it was whispering my name. "Jayne. Jayne. Jayne." Over and over again, echoing. I put my hands over my ears, but it didn't do no good. I fell back against the bulkhead in the corridor of the bunks, arms over my head again, and slid to the floor. Now it was River's voice. Couldn't get away from the crazy girl even when she was dead. "Killed us. Didn't do the Job." I could hear the capital "J." "Betrayer."
"It wasn't--I didn't--that weren't the way of it..."
And then the whispering stopped, and the ship was silent again. That was almost worse. Now I was sittin' in the half-dark with my memories, and my skin like to have started crawlin' off my bones, 'specially since I was gettin' the feelin' I wasn't exactly alone. Kept seein' motion out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked at it directly, weren't nothin' there.
I needed a shower, bad. Water was always at a premium on a boat like ours, but weren't no one left to use it but me--
I tried to clamp down on that thought before it actually completed itself, but it was too late. My heart tried to pound out of my chest, and I couldn't catch my breath. Screams sounded in my head, and flashbacks paraded acrost my closed eyelids.
I dunno how long that lasted, but eventually my overloaded brain shut down. I think I mighta fell asleep, but that just opened the door for a vivid nightmare where I stood over Kaylee with a dripping knife while she gasped out her life and River's voice told me that I'd killed them all. Maybe it was just a continuation of the flashbacks; I was havin' trouble rememberin' what had really happened and what was part of the dream. Jerking my eyes open, I huddled against the wall for a fair bit, panting like a terrified dog.
Wouldn't make the mistake of closing my eyes again. Ever, if I could help it.
Shower. Wanted a shower. I latched onto that notion and followed it to my bunk for some clean duds and a towel, then to the passenger lounge, still avoiding the cargo hold. After shucking off my filthy clothes, I turned the taps on full pressure and tilted my face into the hard spray. I opened my mouth, wanting to rinse it out.
The taste hit my tongue about the same time my vision registered that something was wrong with the water. Diving out of the shower, I scrubbed at my arms and chest with my nails, spitting furiously, tryin' to get the flavor and feel of the blood the gorram Reavers had polluted the water supply with off of me. I snatched up my towel and scoured myself dry with it, swearing, shuddering, teeth chattering.
"Never be clean again." Something flitted past the door to the washroom, and a low laugh echoed off the walls. I didn't like the idea of being nekkid with whatever the hell was keeping me company on this ghost ship, so I threw my clothes on quick as I could and limped back to the kitchen. I wished I could do something about the lights, which were too damn dim for my likin'. All them shadows--I kept waitin' for something to jump out at me.
Good memories in the kitchen, of meals cooked and eaten together, laughin' around the table, cleanin' weapons after a job...
Considerin' what I last et, I weren't in no mood to eat anything else; my stomach lurched at the notion. I didn't want to laugh and joke with whatever wraith was haunting me. But I could sure as shit clean my weapons.
I gathered 'em together and laid 'em out on the table, along with the cleaning supplies. The smooth routine of taking the guns apart, running the brushes through the barrels, oiling them up, and putting them back together was comforting, in a way.
"Don't deserve comfort." Something stirred in the gloom of the crew lounge. I caught an impression of long brown hair and big brown eyes, although how I could make that much out was beyond my understanding. "Know why you were spared?"
My hand closed on the handle of my biggest, favoritest knife, and I rose to my feet and began moving slowly across the room. "Do tell."
"Kindred spirits. They knew you'd make a good one."
I thought I'd blocked out the smell of blood, but it come back full force. I found myself back in the cargo bay, watching the horror from the floor, boot on my neck. Next thing I knew, I was starin' River in the face, my fingers digging into her shoulders while she screamed and cried. The bitter thought came to me that she knew for sure I had man parts now. I opened my mouth wide and sank my teeth into the side of her neck, ripped out a chunk, gulped it down while hot gore sprayed across my face.
"Jayne--" she gasped.
And I was back in the kitchen, lyin' on the floor with my arms over my head. "Weren't me, didn't do that, wouldn't do that..."
A shadow crossed my vision, and I tried to pull further into myself. "Oh, but you would."
"Lines a man don't cross."
"You'll cross them. And laugh while you're doing it." The voice was right above me.
My grip tightened on the knife, which I hadn't dropped. Weren't no way that whatever was talkin' at me belonged on the ship. I coiled my legs under myself and exploded to my feet, driving the blade up and in, right to the hilt, twisting it to be sure of the kill.
And then I saw who it was. "Ohmigod, 'nara--"
Blood bubbled from her lips and nose. I let go of the knife as she staggered backwards and her hands fluttered at the wound. Inara fell, but Kaylee hit the ground, Zoe sank onto her back, and River smiled up at me through the blood and said, "Told you."
Black spots burst across my vision. When I could see again, I was alone on the floor, but a low giggle echoed around the room. I wasn't sure if it came from my own throat or something else's.
"I'm goin' crazy," I said wonderingly.
"Well, yes. I'd say you're pretty much there, in fact." Simon squatted in front of me. "The 'going' part happened awhile ago." He was covered in blood too, his throat sliced open from ear to ear. Weren't nowhere I could get away from it. Maybe the airlock... "You won't do that. You're a survivor, Jayne." He stood up and walked away, tossing a final sentence over his shoulder. "You'll do what you have to in order to live and fight another day."
Live. Fight. Survive. The Reavers'd be back. Oh, yeah.
I'd need to be ready for them. They'd expect to find me broken, a sheep to be sheared, a whipped puppy to be bent to their will. They wouldn't figure on bringin' a wolf back to their own fold. But I'd need to be disguised.
With a commendatory nod, Mal handed me my knife; and wild, mocking laughter echoed around Serenity as I started cuttin' on my face.