For Zombie fest on lj for the prompt "They never lie down," set post Serenity.
They moved too slowly to be Reavers, Kaylee observed calmly enough in her head even as her hand holding the gun trembled. These things had a yearning to clump in small groups and sometimes became distracted by each other's rotting flesh rather than the shiny meal a few steps in front of them. Their eyes were dark and blank, letting out none of the signs of a human gone mad.
The captain had not taken them seriously in the beginning, deciding to play instead of fight when the first rotted leg fell off and the being fell clumsily to the ground on its heels. He made this mistake only once. When the creature tried to take a bite out of his leg, Mal's gun had gone off in the vicinity of its head almost without squeezing the trigger and blood and guts had spewed out on the dirt on this god-awful planet.
"Well, that was unexpected." Kaylee wanted to giggle at Mal's words and realized that she might be in shock. Who laughs at a time like this?
Simon, used to seeing blood, still turned pale and looked as if he might spew his own guts as well. Kaylee shot him a look of concern, but quickly turned away and colored slightly when he caught her eye. He was not hers to worry for anymore—he had made that perfectly clear after Miranda. Though she did worry that they had foolishly left River with Inara on Sihnon, especially as that thought would be on Simon's mind throughout this fight.
There would have been no need to fight with River there.
"What should we do, sir?" Kaylee envied Zoe's calm, though she could see that her eyes were filmed over with a slight desperation and remembrance of the last time they had encountered Reavers. Wait. That look in her eye wasn't fear, it was almost…rage. Kaylee shivered before turning her attention to Mal.
"We hold. See if we can take 'em." He paused. "Not like we haven't seen these before and we do need the credits."
"We need more than just money if we have to deal with fucking Reavers." Jayne muttered this behind Kaylee, causing her to jump. She glanced back at him and he grinned, obviously ready to fight even as he complained about it. There had been little cause for violence lately. "Stand behind me, Bao Bei. Wouldn't want you gettin' hurt."
She wanted to protest, but knew her strength was no match for his. Jayne was strange like that, almost ignorant and brutal at times and then a downright sweetheart at others. And Kaylee was not going to complain about protection from rotting…things. No siree. She peeked out from behind Jayne's rather large form to see a line of drool and puss-infested forms approaching. What were these things? They were like nothing they had ever seen. And they had seen so much, especially in the last few months.
"Aim for the head. That worked well last time." Mal grimaced as he glanced down at the bloody mess on the dirt and then at the doctor. "You might want to step this one out, doctor." Simon nodded stiffly and held his gun firmly in his hand from a safer position behind Mal. The captain had demanded everyone learn a little about weapons after Miranda. Zoe had agreed firmly with his decision, pushing them to practice until they could load and unload a gun in their sleep. Not one person had dared argue with her, because no one could stand the bleak look on her face that settled there when she was not doing something with her hands to occupy her mind.
It was during one such practice session that Kaylee had gained new respect for Jayne. He took Zoe's place one evening at the large table in the dining area and was patient with her fumbling and corrected her hold with gentle hands that belied his usual rough strength. She caught him looking sometimes, just as she looked at the doctor. He never said anything about watching her watch him. But the feelings hung over their heads like the many things that the crew of Serenity never dared touch.
Times like these were when they all came rushing to the forefront. Times when there was no time to talk or listen or persuade, but only a little time left to survive.
The next hour passed in a rush of mangled limbs, gunshots, moaning, and scattered fluids. Kaylee kept her position behind Jayne, but also held her own in the fight, using her new-found confidence in her marksmanship to defeat more than ten of the dead-like forms. Even as they lost limbs and innards, they would keep moving. Kaylee watched as Jayne shot one in the head and it went to its knees, but never fell fully to the ground. It was as if when the spark of life flickered out, they froze and were unable to collapse and be at rest.
"They never lie down," she murmured as the line of bodies approaching dwindled, then ceased. The dark of her surroundings enclosed around her and she was feeling suffocated from the smell of rot and death and the feel of the gun in her hand. She was never meant for battle, especially not ones ripe with memory.
She did not notice when Mal left with Zoe to collect payment. Another job done, this time for an amount that would keep Serenity living and moving for a long while.
Her legs trembled and she felt a hand brush against hers. Thinking it was the doctor, she flinched and took a step forward to dodge the touch.
"It's okay, shh, it's over." Jayne.
What the hell was she waiting for? She was alive and she could lie down and rest. And when she died, which could be soon, she would not freeze, but continue on to whatever lay ahead. If anything, Shepherd Book had left her with that hope.
It was her turn to grab his hand, so she did and led him back home to their ship.