BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

SPACEANJL

C.C.M Ch 3
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Don't know if it was worth waiting for, but here's the next bit. Serenity meets Deadwood, and Ilargia meets the rest of the family.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1614    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The ‘port is the same as any the ‘verse over. Not as modern as some, but functional, workshops giving way to a gaudy strip of what might euphemistically be termed service industries. (One of them is the Painted Cat.) Serenity is tucked between a superannuated cruiser having an engine replaced, and two halves of a long-range transporter, nothing more than shell. Yard shuts down for the night, which meant they had some sleep, but it also starts quite early, a dawn chorus of welding and banging that penetrates the hull.

The man in the shipyard office is a pleasant enough sort, fair hair cropped to hide both the grey and sparseness. He slides a pair of spectacles down his nose, looks over them to peruse the list Mal’s given him.

“Can get you the parts, without a doubt, Captain. But if you‘re on a clock, gonna be a double shift to get all that done today.”

“What about tomorrow?”

The man (who is Lyall Whitfield) looks scandalized.

“Nobody works on the Lord’s day.”

Mal blinks.

“I kinda lost track of the days.” He lies. Reckons on why Jayne and the Shepherd got along now. “Double shift will have to do.”

Gets back onto his own ship and peers onto the bridge. River is running some kind of simulation on the screen, both hands moving independently as she types data with one, makes notes with the other. She gives him a tired smile.

“You got us a course yet, then?”

“Got a launch window. Like fishing - got to wait on the bank for the current to flow right.” Points to one speck of colour in the moving pattern on the screen. “Found our fish.”

“We’ll wait for it to surface, then.” Mal sits, and watches the spin of colour for a moment. Blinks and rubs his eyes. “That could make a body queasy.”

River doesn’t tell him that she’s slowed it down. No need to worry him until it’s necessary. Instead, she shuts the screen.

“Quieter without the Cobbs on board.”

“Don’t say it like it’s a bad thing, mei-mei.” Mal puts his hands behind his head, stretches in his chair. “Lived in the rough and tumble a while, thought a few days peace wouldn’t fret you.”

River gives him a doubtful look, searches for the words.

“No. Jayne and his Larji...are like fireworks. Fill the Black. Without them...it’s colder. Can hear a lot more.”

Can hear you. Slow turning pain.

Zoe lost Wash. And she mourns him. But it was an event. A moment in time, clear and defined. The nebulous, undefined nature of Mal’s feelings don’t allow him to recognise such things for himself. How can one mourn the ending of something that did not really exist?

0000

The work-gang arrive, laden with gear, a tide of noise, striding figures in overalls and face-masks, looming and shouting.

Kaylee is happy as a clam, bossin’ men twice her size about. This place reminds her of home, somehow. The men don’t have fancy manners, but they are good workers, as listen to engineers, even ones as only come up to their collar-bone.

Zoe, about to start welding a plate, finds a hand as big as a ham in the way.

“Now, then, ma’am, this here is a shipyard, and this is our craft. You just take your ease.” A wide grin. “Sooner we get this done, sooner we can all knock off for the day. My cousins’ folks are havin’ a pig-roast.”

Zoe ain’t a small woman, and she ain’t used to speaking up at folks all the time. Makes her cranky. She ain’t used to being ‘ma’am’, neither. But these men know their business, and the extra plating goes on sweet and simple. There ain’t a deal to do but watch.

“I keep seeing people that look like him.” Simon peers around. “Am I imagining it?”

“No.” River says cheerfully. “Planet of the Jaynes. Unnatural selection at work.”

“Oh, that’s gonna give me nightmares.” Mal shudders.

“Wonder what Jayne’s doin’ about now?” Zoe asks idly.

“Something dreadful, probably.”

0000

Jayne is, in fact, standing about half a mile away. Slouching would be a better term; propped against a wall, hemmed in with a number of bags.

Saturday morning had brought a breakfast of fried ham and eggs, and a stern injunction to stop dallying and be useful.

“We’re taking that girl down the Store, get her a decent frock.”

The Store had started life as a utilitarian block, issuing Company rations, overalls and tools. Over the generations, it has spread, acquired more floors and a fancy facade, but it still sells everything from beans to boots to hatchets to hair-ribbons. Shopping ain’t something Jayne cares a deal for, less’n it’s blades or bullets. Too many childhood Saturdays spent lugging the basket round behind his Ma. Just ‘cos he towers over her now, an’ the basket fits in one hand, don’t mean he likes it better. His father and Mattie have already been despatched on other errands, and his wife lets him down by examining her boots critically and asking wistfully after sandals.

Only thing as makes it bearable is to see that he ain’t alone in purgatory. There are a number of menfolk with faces ranging from glazed to hunted bein’ dragged about, laden with packages and gloom.

Ilargia finds it hilarious. Her large, tough husband reduced to childhood again, trailing after his mother with an expression of suffering. Sidles up beside him, and pats his rear.

“You’re bearing up nobly, darling.”

He gives her a wounded look.

“You ain’t gonna try on every pair of shoes, are you?”

She grins at him.

“Don’t look so scared, darling. Soon as I find a pair to fit, we’re done. Apparently, your mother has invited everyone round for supper this evening.”

0000

Out back of the houses, the gardens stretch out, a patchwork of scrubby grass and small vegetable patches. Beyond the end of the Cobb’s fence, it’s open ground, edge of the town, but the fence is still there, a boundary to the home. Jayne remembers the barbeque - helped his father build it, can’t have been more than seven or so, heaving the bricks over one by one. Still a wobbly ‘J’ in the mortar, and a thumb-print from Mattie.

Cooking meat is men’s business. Women take care of the fripperies, the salads and slaws, pies and pickles. This means that the kitchen is an orderly place of quiet activity, plates and bowls set out ready. The garden is full of smoke and temper.

Carrie has to admit, Larji is quite handy in a kitchen, briskly chopping cabbage for slaw. They’ve had a cosy day. Girl knows how to lay her money out, and go after a bargain. And though she ain’t got the lightest hand with pastry, there’s a respectable turnout of pies and cookies.

They both look out of the window, to where the debate around the firepit is getting...technical. The famous Cobb Family Barbeque Sauce recipe is being debated. This is an honour, Ilargia understands, a Mystery for the Initiated.

“Best take ‘em some more cold beer.”

“Serve it, or throw it over them?”

Carrie laughs.

“Don’t you be wasting good beer, girl. You get.”

Watches from the window, as Jayne stops arguing with his brother long enough to kiss his wife. Her big son, looking more like his father than ever, gentled some from the rough gunhand who scares her. She don’t want to think on the kind of life he leads, but he seems to have found some measure of peace now, an’ a woman who cares for him. She sniffs. Leastways he’s got some sense now, grown out of chasin’ women all bosom and no brain. Just hope that Mattie steadies some, too.

Stops being ‘family’ and becomes ‘clan’ after about the first hour. Both Ray and Carrie have siblings, and some of their children have children, too. It’s a parade of names and faces, Cobbs, Bartows and Pauldings mainly, with a few Fultons, and the odd lost soul from outside the circle.

Ilargia knows exactly what Jayne looked like as a teen. Tyler, Grady, Dawson, Franklin Jr., gangly, awkward youths, trying to be big men. Dawson is trying out a moustache, but it isn’t really working. Occasionally, a voice swoops and cracks still. They blunder enthusiastically about, talking of guns and girls, trying to emulate the confident stride of their older kin. She finds them terribly sweet, though she would never hurt their pride by saying so.

“I do like your family, Jayne. I think you must have been just like Tyler at that age.”

“Prob’ly.” Jayne agrees gloomily. Makin’ him feel old, seeing all these gorram kids. There’s certain numbers have an ominous ring to ‘em. 4 is one of ‘em, especially when it’s got a 0 followin’ behind.

“He was just like Tyler, all feet and fumblin’.” The speaker is Jolene Cobb. Unsurprisingly, she’s a big, fair woman, though nature has been kind enough to soften her features a little. Ilargia likes her; she laughs easily, and her first reaction on seeing Ilargia was to be loudly grateful that someone else was wearing trousers.

Emmie-Lou takes after the Paulding side, being smaller and slighter than her sister. Most folks came round the side of the house; she had to knock at the front door. Spends a lot of time talking about her husband, a rather stolid young man standing uneasily on the edge of the group, and waving her ringed hand under Jolene’s nose. She won’t come near the smoke and fuss, sitting on the porch and sipping lemonade.

Ilargia takes a chance.

“Was she a brat growing up?”

Jolene’s face relaxes.

“Was she ever. In an’ out of hospital a deal as a baby - rather left poor Jayne to take care of me and Mattie - an’ she’s kept on bein’ delicate ever since. Allus meant she din’t do a hands turn of chores more’n she ever had to, an’ then she went and married Calhoun Webster. He’s got an office job, makes her a cut above, an’ they live up north of Main, by Liberty Park. She says they’re waitin’ to start a family.” A pause. “She ain‘t ever forgiven me.”

“Oh?”

“Had myself a little accident at the age of sixteen. Name of Tyler.”

“He’s yours?” He’s nearly as big as Mattie, but not quite filled out through the shoulders, unruly dark curls and what she’s beginning to recognise as the Cobb nose and jaw.

“His father din’t want to know. Oh, Pa and the boys brung him back, but I din’t want him around, so they ran him outta town again. Heard tell he died out in the Belt a few years back. Bin just me an’ Tyler, since.”

Jolene has the one thing Emmie-Lou wants, and Emmie-Lou has everything else. The ‘Verse has a way of evening scores.

Once the conversation turns to pigs, Jayne sidles away. Hog-killing ain’t something he ever reckoned on her knowin’, but she’s telling a real nasty tale of black pudding, which he don’t want to be hearing; a man don’t like to be thinking on scabs when he’s eating. Goes to find another beer.

“How long you gonna be stayin’, then?” His father asks. “Not that you ain’t welcome.”

“Waiting for a call. Cap’n’ll let us know when he wants us.”

“You ever think on settling? Can maybe get you a place on the gang...”

“I ain’t stayin’, Pa.” Jayne stares at his father. “Got me a job, and folks as rely on me. Cap’n’s a fine man, but he has a tendency to walk us into situations I gotta pull him out of.”

Ray sighs.

“Never thought you’d stay, but your mother wanted me to ask.”

“Wanted you to tell me, more like.” They share a wry grin.

“You got to make your own way, boy. I know it. And you got yourself a fine woman there. You be good to her.”

“Anything happens to me...”

“Nothin’s gonna happen to you. You’re a Cobb - we happen to other folks.” Ray claps him on the shoulder.

“M’serious, Pa. My kinda life...”

“I don’t want to be knowing, son.” Ray is firm. “But that little woman of your’n, she’s kin, now.”

“All I was asking.” A weight he didn’t know he was carryin’ lifts from him.

0000

Evening on Serenity, and Mal finds the other Tam in the kitchen. Swathed in the apron, and small face serious as she stirs the pot. He sniffs.

“That smells...interesting.”

“Yes.” River agrees. “But there is a difference between the conception and the resolution.” Big tragic eyes. “I think I burnt it.”

“You mistreatin’ innocent protein again, sir?” Zoe sniffs, too.

“My fault.” River pokes the pan gloomily. “Did exactly what Gia does, but the results are...different.”

“Just lack of practice, mei-mei.” Mal wonders about giving her a hug, settles for patting a shoulder. More...Captain-y. “Put enough hot sauce on it, won’t matter. Can‘t be worse than the eating on Priam, can it, Zoe?”

She shudders.

“We woulda done harm for something tasted like Simon’s cookin’.”

They regard the pan some more. Then with one accord, Mal flips open the bin, and River dumps it.

“Reckon we could see what Deadwood has to offer the discernin’ diner.”

0000

The site office is closed for the evening, only a bored security man in a booth. He livens up considerable at the sight of womenfolk.

“Most folks don’t venture much beyond the ‘Port, but you look like nice folks, as want more than a bar and a...bed. There’s good eating at the corner of Main and Liberty, just past the Store. Or you can go down to Chinatown, eat at Long’s.”

“Is there a decent bath-house?” Zoe asks, suddenly.

“Well, now, ma’am, reckon there’s Putnam’s hotel, one block past the Picture House.” Kaylee actually squeaks, and he smiles at her. “They got a new film in, all the way from the Core. If’n you young ‘un’s want a seat, I’d be hurryin’, ‘cos Saturday’s a real popular night.”

Beyond the spaceport strip, they stop, surprised. Main Street before them, a double row of businesses, dominated by the large building that is the Store. Boardwalks are humming, with folk going about their Saturday night. There’s a deal of young people, groups of boys and girls, eyeing each other with feigned indifference. Or the odd couple, braving giggles and ribald teasing, arm in arm. There’s a couple of honest restaurants, too, chop-houses, rather than real high-toned dining, but with table cloths and menus.

“This is Jayne’s hometown?”

It doesn’t have quite the impact for the others, but for Mal and Kaylee, it’s strangely familiar. In fact, it’s a deal fancier than Kaylee’s hometown. Mal looks at the company scrip in his hand.

“I feel like I’m doling out ‘lowance here. I gotta tell you to be back by eleven?”

“No, Cap’n.” Kaylee grins. “My folks was always groundin’ me, anyhow.”

Zoe takes her share, already with that dreamy look she gets in anticipation of soap and soft towels.

“I may well stay out all night, if the beds look soft.”

“Saturday night in Deadwood.” Simon looks around with a certain horror. “I shudder to think what they do for fun here.”

River looks closely at him, then thumps him.

“Not that sort of planet. Not that sort of sister. And the fighting doesn’t start until the bars shut.”

“Were you displayin’ a degree of unwarranted cultural superiority there, doc?” Mal grins. Simon is rubbing his bicep; River is always accurate. “They do the same as most folks, I’d wager. A little drinking and dancing, a deal of flirting.”

“Sounds real fine to me.” Kaylee grabs Simon’s hand, before he can attempt to stay with River.

Mal looks at River.

“You not goin’ with your brother, then?”

She pulls a face.

“Going to be kissing all through it.”

“Time-honoured tradition.”

They look at each other, a little unsure. It’s been so long since Mal was out on the town with a girl, he’s forgotten...’cept he ain’t out on the town with a girl, he’s just mindin’ River, is all. He smiles at her.

“Got enough credits in my pocket, we can go find that place in Chinatown...”

River smiles back. She’s annoyed with his dismissive thought, but she still has him to herself for an evening.

“Dim sum would be good.”

0000

Things Simon Tam never thought to be doing. Sitting in a picture house, back end of the ‘Verse, watching a film made before his grandparents were born, and eating something that actually seems to have a negative food value. Popcorn is not something he is acquainted with. It is oddly moorish, though. He casts an eye around. Stretches, oh so casually, and puts an arm along the back of Kaylee’s seat.

Kaylee grins. Simon’s beginnin’ to get the hang of things now.

COMMENTS

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 3:43 AM

REENIE


It's back! It's back! And it's GOOOOD.

A planet full of Jayne's. I'd like the address of that planet, please.

I think River was adorable with Mal. Simon and Kaylee at the movies was good as well.

And all the Jayne/Largi stuff was wonderful. His beaten down expression while shopping. I can see it; he's a good pouter. Also, talking to his dad about caring for Largi should he die. Very sweet.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 4:06 AM

QWERTY


"It's back! It's back! And it's GOOOOD." Amen to that. I didn't realize how much I'd been missing this story line until I stumbled onto it. You've got to take shorter breaks, SpaceAnJL. :)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 5:55 AM

LILKRISTY


Wonderful!

As always Jayne and Gia just charm me. Jayne's family feels familer to me. I love them.
Simon is so cute in the theater. And River got Mal for the eneving. (I still can't believe you managed to get me cheering for those two)

I was so glad to see an update.

Oh and you live in Georgia don't you? Clever use of county names. I live in Paulding.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 6:15 AM

MAL4PREZ


Definitely worth the wait, or it would have been if I had had to wait! Dang, but now I'm caught up and have to wait for real. :(

Too many good lines to quote... I'm just completely captivated, it's easy to read, easy to picture, and your OCs come and go so smoothly with the BDHs. I love being in your 'verse! I gotta agree with the GOOOOD!!

So... how long till the next?? Not too long, I hope...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 9:35 AM

ARTEMISPRIME


So very happy to see another chapter from you, SpaceAnJl. And it was certainly worth the wait. I like how you bring in the family as though we are meeting them in the same way Larji is. You've got Jayne down pat and your understanding of each character shines through making this piece, and the entire series, wonderful reading. You've expanded the 'verse without getting us lost.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 11:15 AM

ARTEMISPRIME


I think I figured out what I like so much about this series: Jayne's not seen as an idiot by everyone around him. Oh, you're a good one, SpaceAnJL.

Thursday, July 27, 2006 8:50 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...this is all manner of wonderful, SpaceAnJL! Loving it at FF.net and and I loving it here:D

BEB


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