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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Jayne is mending and Kaylee and Inara have returned.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1001 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer: all things Firefly/Serenity are the property of Whedon et al. I’m not making a bit of coin on this. Just playing with his toys.
Rating: R for violence and language
A/N 1: I mistakenly said that Jayne’s tattoo was on his right shoulder in an earlier chapter. I was thinking left, wrote right. Brain hiccup.
A/N 2: I strongly recommend reading “The Way” and “Judas and Mercy”. They are background and will make your understanding of this series that much clearer.
Jayne sat with a smile on his face as Mattie looked in wonder at the fresh tattoo gracing his big brother’s left shoulder. “Must have hurt something awful.” He continued to stare.
“Nah,” Jayne answered, admiring it himself. “Takes more’n a little bit a ink t’take down a Cobb.” He grinned. “You want, I can get one for ya.” He poked his brother. “Course, you’ll be needin’ some meat on them bones t’show it off good an’ proper.”
Mattie flicked away Jayne’s finger. “Hey, can’t help it if I’m the lean type. You got all the muscle genes, remember?”
The older man huffed with a sly smile and flexed his arm. “I sure did.” He rose from the small table, adjusted his sleeve down and grabbed a glass from the pantry. He looked out the window to the blowing sheets in the dirty wind. He narrowed his eyes briefly, still not able to understand why his Ma bothered. Farm was dirt and was always gonna be dirt. He flipped the sink tap and filled the glass with the sulfur smelling water and grimaced as it went down. Only on Harvest would well water be warm.
“How long are you gonna stay, Jayne?”
He faced his brother as he leaned against the counter. “Can’t say, rightly.” He didn’t want to admit that times were a little difficult with the war going on. Decent mercenaries weren’t fetching a high wage given the lack of coin across the Rim. Finding good opportunities were more than a little hard to come by. “Man a my skills don’t come cheap no more.”
Now Mattie huffed, causing him to cough lightly. Jayne filled his glass once more and brought it to his brother. After finishing, Mattie said a small thanks. “So how much do mercs run these days? Five, six percent?”
Jayne looked strangely at Mattie, taking the glass. “How do ya figure I’m one a them mercenaries the general store’s always got wanted posters up on?”
The young man rose. “You may have gotten Dad’s brawn, but I got Ma’s brain. Doesn’t take a genius.”
“Yeah, well, genius boy, yer gonna get yerself in heaps a trouble you don’t start talkin’ like ya belong here.”
“Who says I do? Besides, there’s nothing wrong with proper English nor Chinese. Shows smarts.”
“You sayin’ I’m dumb?” Jayne stood toe to toe with Mattie, but the younger brother held his own, not flinching. Jayne had to smile inside on that. Boy may have been weak, but he weren’t afraid. Grown up tall, too.
“Of course I am. Only a dummy would wait seventeen years before visiting. And don’t tell me that you weren’t in the sector at any time. The ‘verse ain’t that big!” Grinning, he grabbed the glass still in Jayne’s hand and re-filled it for himself.
Jayne watched his brother take another drink and cough again. It worried the man somethin’ strong that his baby brother was sick. Always had been on the weakly side his whole life, if the letters from his mother were any indication. She never come out and said it, not at first, but he figured it out. Too many trips to doctors, too many pills to be takin’. The occasional capture showed a boy gettin’ thinner over time rather than bigger. Just weren’t right.
And now the idiot boy was working in the mining factory that pulled precious little ore from the ground outside of town. Jayne’d heard stories about those conditions and he worried on it. Tore up a strong body to pieces leavin’ bits of shell behind. Even if it weren’t in the furnace, Mattie would still be exposed to rough work. Plenty a men got sick from those places and it seemed that baby brother caught more than his share of illness.
“Gotta go, Jayne.” Mattie reached for the silver food pack near the sink. “The Boss’ll be mad if I’m late.” He grinned at Jayne then headed out the back door. Jayne watched him call and wave good-bye to their mother then set out towards town then to the factory.
He didn’t understand why exactly, but Jayne knew that Mattie working in that place was his fault.
“Jayne?” his mother called. “Jayne, come help me with this laundry.” Stomping outside, he helped Louise Emma Jayne fold the sheets. Once done, she hefted the straw basket into her son’s chest then made for the house. Something made her stop, as though she heard something she wasn’t sure was there. Scanning the horizon, she tried to find the cause, shrugged when nothing was spotted then resumed her walk. If her big lug son hadn’t noticed anything then there wasn’t anything out there.
Despite his best efforts to hide his occupation from his mother, Emma was not a stupid woman. She learned early on that Jayne had taken up work that was less than ideal and even further less on the right side of the law. Not that it was unexpected. He’d never done well with school learning and his size made him a target for all kinds of folks. The credits he forwarded were richer than she would have expected for a man like him. Still, she needed the money. Rather, Mattie did.
“Reckon we’ll be needing some wood for a fire tonight,” she said casually to Jayne as she entered the home. “I’d rather cook outside tonight. Too hot to be in.” She wiped her brow of the fine perspiration and looked to Jayne when she heard the snigger. “Something you have to say?”
He dropped the laundry on the table. “Yer pickin’ up Mattie’s habit.”
“What habit would that be?” Emma lifted the basket and went into the small living room en route to her bedroom.
“Talkin’ like yer from the Core, all fancy and proper.” Jayne followed. “Folks’ll think ya gone snooty.”
“That true, Emma? Ya done gone uppity on me?” the deep voice called from the screen door.
Both mother and son whirled at the sound, the laundry dropping onto the floor. She heard herself swallow and say his name, but didn’t know it was her making the sound. “Ren.”
Emma’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “You got no call t’say that t’me.” Any proper dialect pretenses were gone.
“Now that ain’t a proper greetin’.” He opened the screen door and stepped in, filling the frame with his bulk. His smile was yellow and crooked. Scars lined his face amongst the leathery skin. His hair was stark white and slicked back. Underneath the too big shirt was a body used to hard labour and harder times. “Boy, you done growed up.” His smile widened. “Chip offa me.”
Jayne knew how he wanted to respond to this new situation. He knew this man, knew him from sound and smell more than anythin’. Knew that this hwoon dun had caused more pain to his ma than any person ought t’have suffer through. Knew that this piece of go se had to leave. Now.
Gritting his teeth and lowering his head slightly, he let his body tense, ready for a fight. Before he could move, Ren laughed.
“Watcha thinkin’ there, boy? Reckon ya can take on yer old man in a fight, huh?” He huffed. “Ya are dumber than I recall.” He took a step in. “Or maybe ya don’t rightly remember yer dear old dad. Been some time an’ if ya turned out like I s’pected, that brain a yers ain’t doin’ ya none favours.”
“Ren, leave this house.” Emma’s voice was dark. Jayne understood her threat, but Ren seemed oblivious. He laughed again.
“What? That the kind a reaction a man’s t’get after comin’ home from a hard day? Shame on you, woman.” He threw his coat onto the nearby chair. “Come t’make up fer lost time.” He scanned the room. “Didn’t think on changin’ much, did ya?” He looked to Emma. “Where’s the runt?”
The impact of Jayne slamming into his father and then both into the wall shattered a window pane.
River couldn’t help but smile and lazily watch the black night sky. She felt the anticipation of the ship, as though Serenity knew that Kaylee and Inara were returning. But maybe it was River herself that hummed. The young woman had been lonelier than she had expected without her friend and was looking forward to more games and fun with the mechanic.
Shutting then opening her eyes, River breathed in. Simon missed the mechanic, too. She felt it every time he walked into the galley or past the engine room. He missed her presence and missed her affection. She grit her teeth at his stupidity. Dumb brother, she thought. Wrong priorities. Better pieces fitting now, though.
The beep of the wave screen drew River’s attention back to the now. Seeing who it was from, she flipped the switch and was welcomed with Inara’s porcelain face.
“Hello, River,” the Companion said with a warm smile.
“Flock is returning,” River answered.
Inara paused before answering, not letting her features change at being referred to as a mindless creature only following the will of everyone elese. “We should be ready to dock with Serenity in less than ten minutes. Will you be ready?”
“Bodies are always in a state of readiness. Just need the right stimulus.” She grabbed the com to her right and said into it “Captain Mal, incoming wave.” She holstered the microphone and resumed her conversation with Inara. “All better now?”
“Yes.” The woman looked beside her, cuing Kaylee to come into view.
“Hi, River! Still keeping Serenity shiny?”
“Of course. Don’t want to fall out of the sky. Although we did have a small problem with the capacitor and small explosion, but otherwise, no commotion to report.”
The look of horror on Kaylee face caused the pilot to convulse into a fit of laughter. “Simon’s not the only one.”
“Oh. Ha ha, River. Very funny gettin’ me all worried about my girl.” She chastised her friend, but then smiled her own self. “Least you got a sense a humour. Bet the Cap’n loves ya for it.”
“Doesn’t love me,” River said with seriousness, her eyes focussing on the now half image of Inara. A focus the Companion did not miss. “Ship is ready for docking.”
Inara blinked at the sudden change in conversation by River, but quickly realised that she shouldn’t have been that surprised. The girl’s thought processes ran crooked at the best of times. “Then we’ll see you very soon, mei mei.”
River grinned then flicked the switch. “Sorry, Captain Mal, you just missed it.” She swivelled to face Mal. “But don’t do it three times or there won’t be another.” River sprang from the chair and skipped out the bridge, letting her anticipation mix with the ship’s.
Almost family again. Almost home.
Jayne hated waiting. Hated it almost as much as just sitting. Course, they both tended to happen at the same time. It just made for boredom and a bored Jayne became a cranky Jayne became an angry Jayne became a violent Jayne. He huffed with a smirk. Being violent weren’t so bad, leastways he wasn’t just sittin’.
“Relax, Jayne,” Zoe’s calm voice broke through his growing agitation. “You don’t want the doctors rushing through this.” She didn’t even look up from the bulletin she was reading. In the last four months, she’d barely even seen one let alone had time to read it fully. Little had changed. The Alliance was still getting occasional pesterings by the media about some mysterious wave claiming to have evidence on the truth of Reavers. The Alliance adamantly denied such a wave, calling it nothing more than teenagers with little to do other than create fictional stories about ghosts and bogeymen.
Wasn’t a ghost that took Wash, she thought bitterly, or caused River to lose herself into some sorta violent fury. She tossed the bulletin back onto the table she’d found it at and stretched her legs some.
They’d been at the hospital the better part of six hours, five and a half of them waiting. The scan of Jayne’s brain had taken very little time, no more than about ten minutes with the other twenty filling in forms and showing papers. How Mal had come to have documents for a Thomas and Candice Cartwell was beyond her understanding, but she didn’t question it. Candi Cartwell? Zoe rolled her eyes at that one, finding the name to be so beyond her own character that it wasn’t worth the wretch.
Jayne turned left to face Zoe, aka wife Candi. “Yeah, well, we’ll see how tight you can sit waitin’ fer news on yer-” He stopped, staring blankly with a narrowed eye at a spot a few feet in front of him. They were getting worse, he knew it. Something in his brain was breakin’ down and it weren’t goin’ away. He grunted then leaned back in the chair, his hands limp on his lap. “What if they tell me I’m goin’ kwong-juh duh? And there ain’t nothin’ t’be done?” His voice was low, with only a little of the remaining gravelly-ness. He flexed his right hand, feeling the burn in the muscle. Whole gorram body was shot t’hell.
This wasn’t how he imagined goin’ out. He sorta romanticised ‘bout bein’ taken down by some hwoon dun husband of some woman he was sexin. Best way t’go, he figured, was in th’throes a passion and in th’arms a somethin’ pretty.
He flexed his hand again. This just weren’t right fer him. Not right t’all.
“You’re not going crazy, Jayne,” Zoe reassured. “We already have one of those on ship so the position is filled.”
“What else is open then, huh? Mal said I got a place on board, but ain’t surmised yet what that might be.”
Zoe had nothing to say. Jayne’s own thoughts were hers as well, something that caused a little shudder in her spine. The last year had seen a whirlwind of adventure where Jayne had proven himself at least marginally loyal to the crew, though she had wondered why he’d had a new bruise on his head after returning from Ariel. She had been positive that he’d returned with only one.
Still, Mal had said that the merc had a job on Serenity and she wasn’t about to let Jayne think otherwise. Too much splitting of the crew was causing the first mate heartache she didn’t think she could tolerate more of.
“Mr. Cartwell. Mrs. Cartwell,” a professional sounding voice called.
Both husband and wife perked their eyes up at hearing the doctor call them. “Doctor,” Zoe began, “you finally have something to tell us?” She looked to her husband and rested a light hand just above the brace holding Jayne’s broken left wrist together.
“Yes,” the doctor answered with a quick grin. “Please, come with me.” He ushered then down the hall and around a corner into his office.
“I have the results of Mr. Cartwell’s head scan.” He motioned for them to sit as he reached for his folder. Zoe opted to stand, but Jayne knew he couldn’t. His shoulder was pained with the crutch and his knee only ever seemed to feel remotely less agonising when raised up and straight. He drew an empty chair over, grimacing at the reach and pull, and hoisted his leg up. He huffed at the work and once again hated himself for becoming so weak.
The brought out a thin piece of clear plastic, tapped the top corner of it and watched the plastic turn into a small screen with three images. Tapping the first brought up an overhead view of Jayne’s brain in a rainbow of colour codings. “This is a broad spectrum scan of your brain, Mr. Cartwell. You can see here and here,” he pointed to two close areas, “that the colours are bright red.”
Jayne squinted with his good eye. “That don’t look good.”
“It’s not,” the doctor agreed. “I’d rather they be green, blue even.” He tapped the second corner which brought in a close up of the red area. “As you can see, the entire region has been subjected to what I can only say is rudimentary electroshock treatment.” He shook his head with disgust. “That therapy went out of fashion on Earth-That-Was. How any reputable doctor would even consider such treatment, well, it’s just barbaric.”
Jayne eyed Zoe, both knowing that no reputable doctor had done the shock.
The doctor then tapped a third quadrant. “This here is a different type of scan, looking at the actual brain. A capture of it, if you will.” The doctor continued. “This is good news, actually. Though this shows broken blood vessels, the actual amount was rather minor, all things considered. That explains the red from before.”
“And his memory loss?” Zoe asked.
The doctor nodded. “Amongst other things.” He looked to Jayne. “There are times when you can’t remember what you were talking about, correct?”
The big man nodded.
“And you just sort of stop, trying to remember something and being unable to?”
He nodded again.
“That’s because of the shock and damage to the brain as a result.”
“So where’s the good news, Doc?” Jayne fidgeted in his seat, his knee giving him a strong ache.
“Here.” He drew his finger around the third scan. “Your body is slowly repairing the damage. Though given your age, the process will take longer than someone say, twenty years old.” He put down the scan. “Whomever took care of you did a remarkable job and was able to administer the correct drugs to reduce the amount of damage. You are a very lucky man, Mr. Cartwell.”
“Yeah, lucky.” He hated owin’ folk and especially folk he weren’t keen on. Simon Tam wasn’t high on his keen list.
The doctor looked to the scan once more before shutting it down. He pulled a leg over the corner of his desk moving into more of a sitting position. “Now, the question I’m sure you’re both asking how much permanence there is.”
Jayne clenched his fist even harder. “Were thinkin’ on it some.”
Mal pulled the roll of money out and tossed it onto the table. Two-hundred credits. His nostrils flared. It wasn’t enough. Wouldn’t even be close to what it cost to get Jayne fixed proper. Simon was good, great even, at doctoring, but the merc needed more than Serenity could offer. He stared at the money.
“Mal?” Zoe ventured quietly.
“Huh?” He didn’t look away.
“It’ll work out.” She pulled her own savings out. Another seventy-five. “It will be enough to get what he needs.”
Maybe, he thought, maybe that’ll be enough. Gorram it! It had to be!
Without saying another word, he stomped from the kitchen to the cargo hold and eyed the weight bench. A kick to the bench only resulted in a sore toe and a few choice curses. He fell heavily onto the bench and bent his head into his hands. This was his fault. He had made the crew send the message, had made them even bigger targets, and now his crew was suffering for it.
“Not suffering,” River said quietly, standing in front of Mal. “You did the right thing.”
Mal laughed. “That’s right, li’l one. No good deed goes unpunished.” He smoothed his hands on his pant legs and looked into River’s eyes. She did not smile.
“To not have told the ‘verse would be suffering. Inside. In your soul.” She drew a small finger and pushed it into his chest. “Worse than reavers. They only eat the from the outside in.”
He pulled her finger away then gently wrapped his hand around hers. “Thanks for trying, River, but this soul is too shrivelled for your kindness.” Pushing her back, he stood.
“No, it’s not. Just hidden. Somewhere is you. Like me. Somewhere.” She turned her head in such a way that Mal believed her, if only for a moment.
She hadn’t meant to keep it. Really. It was just that after seeing Jayne lying there all helpless and un-Jayne-like, Kaylee hadn’t the heart to wake him up and show him the picture River had done. So she had taken it with her, back to her bunk, to the Training House and now back to Serenity.
She looked at it again after pulling it from her duffle while unpacking her things. The corners were bent and it had been folded and unfolded a dozen times, but the image was still striking. River had remembered completely the dragon and sun symbol from Jayne’s tattoo. Placing it on the small desk in her room, she told herself to give it to him just as soon as she could.
Thinking back, she had wondered why Jayne hadn’t come to greet her and Inara, figuring that he might have been healed enough to go for a least the short walk to the hold. Shrugging, she had immediately gone to her bunk to quickly unpack then head to the engine room. She had missed her girl something awful and was itchin’ to get back inside her.
First though, she wanted to visit Jayne and see how good he was doing.
“Cap’n?” Kaylee called into the bridge. She climbed the stairs and called him again. “Where’s Jayne? Went to his temporary bunk, but he weren’t there.” She stood next to him sitting in the pilot’s chair.
Mal raised an eyebrow. Her interest in Jayne was a mite disturbing given her lust for the Doc not so long ago. No, no, he thought, do not go down that visual path. He squished his eyes shut. Too late. “Gettin’ fixed up.”
Kaylee’s eyebrows shot straight up. “Fixed up? On Newhall?”
Her jaw dropped and she blinked. A smile formed on her lips. “Oh, Cap’n. I just knew you was the shiniest!” She wrapped her arms around Mal’s neck and kissed his cheek. “You do care about him.”
“Hey, hey now.” He unhooked her arms and moved forward in the seat. “Let’s not be spreadin’ rumours.” He pretended to check some scanners and relay readings.
Kaylee smirked, still bubbling. “Ain’t no shame in it, Cap’n. Makes ya human.” She swivelled on her boot heels and nearly skipped down the stairs with an air of contentedness she hadn’t felt in a long time.
Mal took a sidelong look at her, smirking himself. Felt good to see his mechanic re-gaining her chipperness. Made the boat feel almost whole again.
“Almost,” the small voice repeated from stairs down into the lower bridge.
“Wah!” The Captain jumped back in his seat and moved for his revolver until he saw River poke her head up from between the pilot and co-pilot consoles. “Wuh de ma, tee wuh duh pee goo! River Tam, how many times I gotta tell ya ‘bout sneakin’.” He sat back, catching his breath.
River only giggled and came up the steps. “Kato.”
Mal’s confused expression forced a deep sigh from River, the kind he immediately recognised as showing her frustration in people not understanding her. Like when speaking to babies or Firefly captains. “I’m Kato. You’re the Pink Panther. From Earth-That-Was.” She waited for the recognition that wasn’t coming. “To keep you on your toes.” She waited again. “You really need to get out more.” She flitted out the back leaving Mal with a still racing heart and hurting, confused head.
He jumped again, but not as high. What in hell was this, Grand Central? “What?” His voice was harsher than he would have liked, especially since his terseness was directed at one person he would rather be making amends with than arguments.
“Is this a bad time?” Inara inquired.
“No.” He stood and straightened his shirt and suspenders. “Why d’you say that?”
Her brown eyes looked to his. “About our arrangement.”
Mal sat back down.
“Mal, don’t do this. Don’t turn your back to me.”
He licked his now dry lips. “Ain’t gonna do it again, Inara. I won’t.” He busied himself with some scan readings. He felt a light hand on his shoulder and stopped.
“I’m not asking you to.” Her soft voice hung in the air amongst the sounds of Serenity. She gazed out the viewport to the world below, now bathed in night time. The bright lights of the docks were beacons in the darkened land, giving direction to travellers. Comfort in the shadows.
“You staying then? For good?” He continued to play with the dials, not really paying much attention to them.
“Yes,” her voice whispered.
He paused for a fraction before resuming his playing. “What about yer girls? Teachin’ and such.”
“Sometimes teachers need to learn some lessons themselves.” He heard her breath in. “They don’t need me anymore.”
A broad smile spread across Mal’s features. “Expect Kaylee knows yer decision.”
“Well, that oughta keep her happy.” He turned in the chair and looked up to Inara, resting a bent arm on the console. “You gonna be happy out here among all this heathenism?”
Inara chuckled at the religious reference thinking on her conversation with Book a lifetime ago in her shuttle when he had first arrived. “About as happy as you, I suppose.”
Standing, he allowed himself to take her in. Her scent was sweet and intoxicating. Her heat was radiating. Her cheeks were rosy. He swallowed, finding his resolve once more. “I meant what I said, Inara. I won’t do this again. You decide to leave, you won’t be coming back.” His soft voice was firm.
Smiling, she grasped his hand and softly stroked his fingers, her jewellery catching the light. Her own little beacons. Lifting her eyes, she let him understand without saying a word.
Bill had finished his sweeping and was about to turn the sign to “Closed” on his general store door window when a well-dressed though ugly man strode in, flanked by three large men. “Was just about to close up, gentlemen. If you’d like t’come back tomorrow, be more’n pleased t’help you.”
The ugly one smiled and Bill wanted to scrape his skin down to the bone. “We won’t take much of your time, sir.” He glanced around the shop, not seeing any customers. Pulling out a plastic sheet, he showed it to the shopkeeper. “Could you tell me if you’ve seen this man?”
Bill looked to the ugly man then to the three others, feeling their intimidation wash over him. He swallowed then stared at the plastic. “Sure, I know him. Come in here just th’other day with his ma.” Official looking notices scrolled across with words like “dangerous” and “murderer” highlighted. He looked up. “He in some kinda trouble?”
The ugly man smiled. “A little bit.”
Bill huffed. “No surprise there. That one always struck me as the criminal type. Left his ma and brother high and dry t’fend for themselves near on twenty years ago. Never did trust him even when he was here way back when.” He shook his head. “Comes back few months ago lookin’ t’make everythin’ all better, like we can’t figure out that he’s done some bad things. I mean, just look at him. Folk don’t look that way if they’s all sweet and innocent.”
“Yes, that’s very interesting,” ugly man interrupted. “Could you tell us where he lives?”
“Ain’t far. Few miles outside a town.”
“Where specifically?” Ugly man pulled a roll of credits out and handed Bill a 100 note.
Bill’s eyes widened. “Take the main road til the junction a mile down, head left til you see the first farm house on the right.”
Ugly man considered this. “That seems a long way off.” Flip. Another 100 note. “Does he frequent any drinking establishments?”
“You mean bars? Sure. Most men do.” He pointed across the street to the semi-permanent tent. “That’s the place. Just opened a couple of months ago. Ain’t the best-”
“Thank-you, sir, you’ve been most helpful.” He looked to his cohorts and motioned for them to leave. Stepping outside, he stared at the tent pub across from the store, said some low words to his men, then followed the walking path to the left.
Bill was still rooted, broom in one hand, two 100 notes in the other and wondering how his day could end so lucky. He sniggered. Easiest money he ever made.
He paused in thought. Maybe he ought to warn Emma, give her a heads up that someone’s come lookin’ for her boy. He frowned. Hell. She never did take a fancy to him. Not like she was any better than the rest, no matter how much that weak son of hers tried to convince her otherwise. He scoffed. No, if she couldn’t see how life would be better with a prosperous store owner then let her deal with life on her own, no matter what comes.
Flipping the closed sign, Bill removed his apron, tossed it onto the counter then locked his shop up tight. Tonight, he was going to celebrate his windfall.
To be continued...
Comments and helpful suggestions are welcomed as are things that you liked and things you disliked in the story. Thanks!
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