BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

SPACEANJL

Another Girl Another Planet Ch 15
Monday, May 22, 2006

After the heroics, the questions.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1620    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

15. Cowboy Take Me Away

A man’s got all sorts of bodily needs. Jayne reckons if he’s real quick and quiet, he can fix them some mash, mebbe some coffee, get back down into his bunk before Mal...

“We got things to talk over.”

Go se. Captain can walk real quiet if he has to.

“I know it.”

Jayne ain’t keen on facing Mal. There’s an ugly word for what he did - called ‘mutiny’. Hopes it’ll be stranding rather than shooting - leastways, he’ll be with ‘Larji, but it ain’t how he’d like to leave.

Mal looks at him. He’s used to defiance and aggression from Jayne, but he can see uncertainty too, touch of fear, and more than a little misery. Can’t find it in him to blame the man for his actions. And nobody would doubt his heart. Wasn’t just the rescuing - Mal’s seen him under gunfire and the like many times - no, it was the sitting and praying quiet-like in the infirmary when he thought no-one saw him. But there are things need sorting.

“You ‘jacked my ship.”

“Know that, too.” Quick glance. “Weren’t time to ask nice, or reasons you’d listen on.”

“You saying I don’t listen to my crew?”

“I’m saying you don’t listen to me. Let me off the leash when you want killin’ done, then it’s ‘back in yer bunk, Jayne, an’ don’t scare the ladies.’ Bin on this boat near three years an’ you trust to River more’n me.”

“River never tried to sell us out.” Hangs over the conversation like a poison cloud. Mal can see shame under the anger.

“I got stupid, once. Bin at your back solid ‘fore and since. But that don’t matter none, do it? ‘M just the big gun with no feelings. Only person sees me as a man is her, Mal.” Draws himself up. “I know what I done was wrong, but I had to do it.” Swallows. “Reckon this ship has been more of a home to me than most, though. Ain’t how I wanted to leave, but I gotta be with her.”

“Ain’t asking you to leave. And I ain’t gonna shoot you, neither.” Adds, as the eyes widen in panic. “Guess we’re both kinda stubborn. But...I’m needin’ your skills here. And I reckon we can find room ‘mongst our waifs and strays for another, she‘d care for it.”

They look at each other. Two tired men, reaching an understanding. Jayne nods.

“Wasn’t an accident, was it?”

“Why would you be thinking that?”

“’Cos I ain’t totally dumb. An’ I know Larji wouldn’t leave a fire under the still unattended, ‘cos she ain‘t dumb either.”

Mal concedes that. First point might be debatable. Second isn’t.

“We got ourselves a suspect right enough. But we need him to talk first.” Adds hastily.

“Won’t be a problem.” The big man’s expression scares Mal somewhat. “You need him alive afterwards?”

“River can pick the information out of his head...”

“Well yeah.” Jayne turns his knife over in his hands. “But that ain’t no fun for me, is it, Captain?”

“Doc’s got him strapped in the hold.”

0000

The doctor gives them an enquiring look as they stride down. They’ve collected up Zoe, too.

“Where’s Ms Donovan?”

“She’s asleep in my bunk.”

“Hasn’t the poor woman suffered enough trauma?” murmurs Simon. Jayne gives him a filthy look, but there’s no malice in it, just their usual bickering.

“Your other patient well enough for visitors?” Mal asks.

Simon looks at Mal, and then at Jayne.

“He is at the moment.” Sighs. “I assume that’s going to change. I really can’t know anything about this.”

“Best take a walk outside, then. See if there’s anything to salvage.”

0000

Man just curses at them in a thick dialect.

“Better be a sight more forthcoming than that.” Mal tells him. “I’m the patient one. Got a man here just itching to kill some folks for this.”

Jayne looms up, and the man’s cursing dies in his throat.

“Well, you ain’t much to look on.” Turns to Mal and Zoe. “You take your tender consciences outta here. You ain’t gonna like this.”

“You gonna let him torture that man to death?” Zoe sounds only mildly concerned.

“No, I’m gonna let him torture that man into some answers.” Mal shrugs innocently, a man helpless in the face of circumstance. “Man’s got a powerful need to hurt someone for this here situation, and I conjure it’s as well on it not being me.”

Mal gives Jayne a long look that says, ‘don’t kill him‘. Jayne’s look back says ‘go away’. Mal does.

0000

Crew are experienced scavengers, picking over the burnt carcase for anything salvageable. There isn’t much. What isn’t burnt is sodden, and there are flurries of snow coming out of the iron sky. Kaylee finds the capture of Baphomet, but the screen is dark, cracked.

“Might be able to save the chip.” Her voice is sad.

Simon’s a bit choked himself - this was a place to be happy in. The great bathtub sticks up out of the wreckage, claws raised in mute appeal.

“We’re not going leave her here, are we?”

Kaylee grins at him.

“I don’t reckon on Jayne lettin’ her go anytime soon. An’ he never wanted to leave Serenity.”

Simon sighs.

“And I was looking forward to some peace and quiet.”

“Simon. This is us. We never get no peace and quiet. Oh...I found a spoon.”

River cradles the burnt remnants of a book, mourns it. The loss of these will hurt more than the loss of boots, she knows. Not even frogs and turtles will make up for it...

0000

Jayne pulls up a crate, settle himself comfortably. All the while, the man is pulling on his bonds, swearing. Stops when Jayne pulls out his knife, and his eyes go very wide.

“You an’ me are gonna have a talk.” There is nothing at all of humour in the big man’s smile. “Don’t matter to me none if I can’t understand you, neither. Long as you understand me.”

Suddenly leans on the man’s splinted leg. He screams. Jayne’s smile widens.

“Just you an’ me, right here.” A little more weight. “An’ that’s a long way off from anyplace else. You’re gonna squeal plenty.”

“I tell you what you want.”

“Found your tongue? Good, saves me reachin’ down your throat for it. Now...”

0000

Mal is thoughtful, as he absently picks his way through a heap of cinders.

“I’m thinking this might be our fault, in some way.”

“And how do you figure that, sir?”

“We brought the shipment in, and we didn’t pay anyone for the privilege. And maybe that’s not the way to do business here...” There’s a piercing whistle from the ramp. “That didn’t take long.”

“Jayne can be a mighty persuasive man, he needs to be, sir.”

They walk back.

“Our man works for a fella by the name of Carlton Wei Fen. Runs most everything dirty out of Southam.” Jayne cleans his knuckles off, uncaring of the looks he’s getting. “It was a two man team. But they didn’t know about the still. Plan wasn’t killing. Smoke her out, then take her back.”

“Slaving.” Zoe looks sick.

“Revenge. Woman’s a thorn to him. She don’t bow, so maybe she’d break.” Jayne looks at Mal. “Tanaka was right - he don’t like independent trade.”

“Then I’m thinking Ms Donovan might know more than she’s telling.” Zoe says. Jayne growls at her. Mal pushes a hand into his chest.

“I’m thinking Badger might.”

0000

“Badger.”

“Captain Reynolds. As ever, a pleasure.” Camera image isn’t good enough for fine detail, and Badger normally looks shifty. “Now, I’m a busy man...”

“Ms Donovan.”

Badger’s grin loses a little of its manic intensity, becomes sly.

“Now what would be your interest?”

“Got a man here seems to think he’s owed a cut of the business. Would you be mindful of this?”

“I would not.” The grin drops. “What did you let that silly woman run herself into?”

“I...let...she’s provoked a local low-life, name of Wei Fen.”

“Never heard of him.” Regains his mask. “Hazard of the business.”

“Did you send me and my crew into another situation, Badger?”

“Swear on my mother’s life, Mal. I was...professionally embarrassed over our last venture, and I don’t care for that. Leaves me in bad standing, and I have a position to maintain in the community.” Righteous indignation don’t sit well on that face.

“’Cos no-one wants to walk into a snipe shoot, certain. That why you lined us up, Badger?”

“Doing you a favour, like I said. Ms Donovan’s a real lady. I wouldn’t send her out with just anyone, Mal. And I know you got a liking for women with fancy ways.”

Mal looks at him, enlightened.

“You figured she’d annoy all hell out of me, didn’t you?”

“That, too.” Badger admits.

Ugly and unlikely little Cupid, in his bowler hat and shabby coat. Mal smirks.

“Wasn’t me took a liking to her fancy ways, Badger. Best hope we don’t find out you got a finger in anything, or Jayne’s gonna kill you.”

Cuts the wave on the spluttering.

“Badger was match-making?” Zoe’s lips twitch.

“Seems to be that way.” Mal don’t quite know how to take that. Specially as it didn’t work out.

0000

Jayne is trying to figure the best way of tellin’ Larji she’s got an enemy, when Kaylee bustles up with an armful of things.

“All we got clean an’ spare.”

“Huh?”

“She’s gonna need something to wear, Jayne. You can’t just keep her naked in your bunk.”

Jayne glazes over for a moment.

“Why not?”

Kaylee slaps the bundle into his chest.

“Sometimes, you’re just a big, dumb ape, Jayne Cobb.” But it’s the smile they’ve been missing the last little while. “We want to see her, too.”

0000

She wakes reluctantly at the sound of their voices. Doesn’t want to leave the warm nest of blankets - too much to face. Smells of him, which she associates with safety. Smells of smoke, too, which brings other things to mind, and she sits.

Can’t make sense of what she does remember - fragments of darkness, shock, smoke. Noise becoming solid, slamming her over in glass and heat. Being grabbed by something huge...she’d obviously flailed some by the scratches on his neck. Touches her jaw with a wry grin, - “gentle as he could be.”

She looks about her. Hadn’t really taken in her surroundings before, being somewhat preoccupied with Jayne. Much neater than she might have expected. Only signs really that she’s not in an ammo locker are the bunk she’s sitting in - she looks with rueful amusement at the girlie pictures on the wall above - and an incongruous splash of colour in the crate behind his guitar.

There’s a fuzzy toy turtle looking at her.

Ilargia blinks. No, still a turtle. Big, tough mercenary has a stuffed toy, looks like someone gave it a botched tracheotomy. She’s staring at it, when Jayne slides back down the ladder, raises a quizzical eyebrow at him.

“Kaylee figures on you needin’ some clothes.”

Looks at her. Never had a woman in his bunk before. Small and tired and dirty, she’s still the best sight he’s ever seen. Bows her head briefly over the offering.

“Everything’s gone, hasn’t it?”

“Reckon so.” He can’t be doing with weeping women normally, but this is Larji, so he lets her soak the front of his t-shirt a while. Pats her back awkwardly. “You still got me.”

Amazingly, this seems to be the right thing to say. She gives a weak, sniffling little laugh.

“How can I resist a man with a stuffed turtle?”

“Cunning, ain’t he?” Sight of him grinning proudly at it makes her smile properly. “Now, get yourself washed up - there’s other folks fretting on seein’ you.”

Ilargia squints into the little mirror he has for shaving.

“Not looking like this, they don’t.” Pulls her hair back. “You got a comb?”

Jayne watches her, content. Nothing secure in the ‘verse - time’s taught him that. But for now, she’s fussing around in his bunk, safe and whole. An’ there’s nothin’ gonna take her away from him, while he’s got breath to fight it.

0000

The overalls have a rabbit on the pocket. But they are clean, and they fit well enough, if a little snugly. Once she’s washed her face, she feels ready to face people. No-one has spare boots that fit, though, and the decking is cold on her feet as she walks, soundless.

Conversation she can hear is...interesting.

“I’ll look after her, Mal - she won’t take up room, can stay in my bunk...”

“Can’t just pick her up like a stray kitten...”

“You suggestin’ we drop her back in the ashes, then?”

“I’m suggestin’ you ask her, ‘stead of assumin’.”

This seems like a good point to step in.

“Gentlemen, is this a private war or can anyone join in?”

Mal thinks she looks nearer River’s age than ever, loose hair and bare feet.

“Should you be up yet?”

“Doc says I’m fine.” But she allows Jayne to fuss her into a chair. “So who is this asshole tried to barbecue me?”

The two men exchange looks. She sighs.

“I’m not stupid. And I’m not careless. Someone blew up my still and I doubt it was the Revenue.”

“Carlton Wei Fen. How’d you cross him?”

Her face changes. She knows that name.

“Declined to drink with him before I shipped out.”

“Guess some men don’t take rejection well.” Mal says.

Look she gives him would drop a man not used to Zoe’s glaring.

“Asked if I would be interested in doing a little business with him. Didn’t take to his face.” Her face becomes bleak. “So, I guess this is my own stupid fault, then?”

“Think you might have made yourself a bad enemy.” Mal agrees.

“I say, we take this Wei Fen out.” Jayne growls.

“Can’t get ourselves involved in someone else’s private business. ‘Specially without an upfront payment. I’m downright surprised at you, Jayne.”

“Man tried to kill my woman. Makes it my business.” Jayne thumps a roll of notes onto the table. “I’m payin’.”

“Put your money away.” Mal pushes it back at him. “We ain’t poking any more sticks into this hornet’s nest.”

“Best we all get ourselves off this planet, then, if you ain’t gonna let me go kill him.”

Ilargia looks at them. Her face has been darkening since the words ‘my woman’ came out of Jayne’s mouth.

“At what point did this get settled?”

“Well, we ain’t leaving you here.”

“Were you actually going to ask me, or was I going to wake up in orbit?”

“You got no money, no home an’ you’ve pissed off the local crime lord. Get some sense, Larji.”

She gapes at him, and then the fight goes out of her. Jayne shifts his grip, pulls her into his arms.

“I’m gonna keep you safe, if I have to lock you up someplace. Now, stop fussin’, woman. We’ll fight about it later.”

“We will.” she promises him. But he holds her gently, and she rests against his chest.

“You ain’t safe to be left on your own.”

“Lot of dangerous things out in the ‘verse.”

“Yeah. One of ‘em’s me.” (She believes that.) “Anyone comes at you again, I’ll kill ‘em.” (She believes that, too.)

(“Their first domestic.” River counts to five. “Making up now.”)

Mal had a speech all thought out. Had it in mind to tell her, tactful like, that she don’t need to do nothing out of misplaced gratitude; she wants to get off on some Core planet, they’ll take her and drop her off, no strings. But the way she’s glued to Jayne’s face suggests this may be redundant. Mr ‘Don’t-kiss-on-the-mouth’ is making up for lost time, and she ain’t exactly fighting him off.

Coughing tactfully don’t work. So eventually he bangs on the table. They jump, but Jayne don’t let go of her.

“Jayne. I need a word with Ms Donovan. Alone.”

Ilargia stills the beginnings of a growl by putting her hand on his chest.

“Captain’s orders. I’ll be fine.”

He retreats, but only out of sight round the corner.

“Looks like I’m fresh out of options here, Captain.”

“You got friends here.” It’s half a question.

“People would take me in, but...Jenner’s got kids. Elspeth’s sixty-two. Mallie’s pregnant. It wouldn‘t be safe for them, and we both know it.”

Not like the Heart of Gold. Here, it’s one lone woman in the ashes of her life, trying to keep the trouble from others. She’s too clever to let pride stand in the way of common sense. He hopes.

“I got something for you to think on. We could use a cook on board.”

There’s a muffled whoop from outside in the corridor. Mal resolutely ignores it. Ilargia stifles a smile, and there is relief in her eyes.

“I don’t want to involve you in this.”

“Reckon it’s a bit late for that, Ms Donovan. Got a man here taking your trouble real personal.”

Her face softens.

“Did he really pull a gun on you?”

“Man’s got no patience.”

“Man’s got no sense.” But she’s smiling.

“I’ve never seen him...he was gorram pining.”

“So was I.” Smile becomes a grin. Raises her voice a little. “Reckon I could sign on for a while.”

There’s a wild rebel yell, and Jayne crashes back into the room, sweeps her up in a hug.

Jayne’s heart, he don’t doubt. But he don’t know hers. Could be she’s just scared and looking for a safe berth. Somehow, he can’t make that fit. ‘Specially not the way she laughs at the big ape, cradling his grinning face in her hands and kissing that pointy nose.

“Put me down, you fool.”

“Gotta go tell the others. Larji, darlin’, we’ll have us a fine time.” Spins her once more, and heads out of the door, towing her by the hand. They can hear him yellin’ for Kaylee.

0000

Breakfast is a noisy meal. Ilargia gets to hear exactly how she exited her house.

“So...you flung me over your shoulder, and carried me off half-naked in front of the entire town?”

“Weren’t gonna wait for you to get pants on, woman.”

“Oh, Jayne.” What they can see of Ilargia’s face behind her hands is scarlet.

“Is it the carrying off part or the half-naked part worrying you? Because it was really terribly dignified.” Simon says cheerfully.

Kaylee thinks it’s dashing and romantic and says so. Jayne smirks.

“Your boy’s gonna hafta bulk up some more before he tries them kind of heroics.”

Mal leans over, says quietly,

“So, you’re really gonna let him crash back into your life and carry you off into space like some kind of prize?”

Ilargia wrinkles her nose with a rueful grin.

“Looks that way, Captain.” Bats her eyelids at him. “Guess I’m just a weak woman looking for a strong man to take care of her.”

Mal holds up his hands.

“I am not touching that one.”

She looks up at him, suddenly serious.

“It didn’t need this, you know.” she says quietly. “He could have just landed back, said ‘do you want to?’ Does that shock you?”

“Surprises me some.”

“Surprised me, too. But...I want to be with him.”

“You’d give it all up for him?”

“Give up what? I’ve nothing to tie me anywhere I don’t want to be, and the few skills I have are portable.” Her face lights up with mischief. “Besides, I can’t resist a man with a guitar.”

Mal is trying to reckon what an educated, respectable woman from the Central Planets sees in a rough, uncultured thug. If he can figure it, perhaps it’ll work out for him, too, some day. After all, he’s smarter and prettier.

“Maybe she sees something in him we don’t.” Zoe has a knack of finishing his thoughts. “Weird and unsettling as it might be, maybe it is love.”

He needs something stronger than coffee to be dealing with that notion.

0000

“You left Cheng Shu behind? Dead?”

“I...don’t know.” Hong Da sweats with fear. “There was a ship.”

“Nothing comes through the storms.”

“This did. And there were soldiers. I was fired upon.”

“So. A failure and a coward.”

Carlton Wei Fen doesn’t carry a gun. He doesn’t need one. Palm slams out at heart height, and there is a noise, soft and solid at once.

Hong Da chokes, a gout of scarlet, and Wei Fen takes the smallest step back to keep his shoes clean.

A ship.

He sits at his desk, calls up the link to the fuelling depot. Two ore freighters out of Nimway, domestic shuttles and - his finger pauses - a Firefly.

COMMENTS

Monday, May 22, 2006 4:52 AM

ARTEMISPRIME


You've left me breathless and wanting more. Larji is a wonderful match for Jayne and will certainly keep him on his toes. And now that she has a place on Serenity, he can explore more of his emotional self than his physical self. You are leading him down the path of growth and this is good.

You're writing style is completely in character, allowing me to actually hear the actors voice the words in my head. Excellent work!

I would like to see Larji and Jayne have a real argument and I thought it might come with the "my woman" part. She seems too intelligent to let that ownership comment slide, especially since she was going to be enslaved not that much earlier.

Of course, it's your story and I can hardly contain my anticipation at the next chapter. Wonderful storytelling!

Monday, May 22, 2006 9:18 AM

DRAKB


Wow! Ditto to the comments above. I especially like the part where Jayne spouts her situation and option in one sentence and tells her to get some sense. It's good she quickly realized he was right. Jayne's smart about the survival things.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:58 AM

HISGOODGIRL


<“Lot of dangerous things out in the ‘verse.”

“Yeah. One of ‘em’s me.” (She believes that.) “Anyone comes at you again, I’ll kill ‘em.” (She believes that, too.)>

Amazing thing, love.


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