The Return of St. Christopher - Chapter 1
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The crew has an entanglement, Inara makes a decision and Jayne is not quite Jayne. The epilogue to "The Way", "Judas and Mercy" and "Redemption of the Broken Vessel".


Disclaimer: all things Firefly/Serenity are the property of Whedon et al. I'm not making any moeny off this, just playing with his toys.

A/N: I strongly recommend reading the above-mentioned stories to fully understand what is going on here.

Zoe Washburne had made some hard decisions in her life. She could have let the Alliance waltz through her home. She could have left Sergeant Reynolds behind after the prisoner camp. She could have left that silly pilot alone.

She chuckled. Reality was that none of those decisions were even decisions. She hadn’t had to think a moment on what to do. She’d had no choice but to follow her gut and her heart. And she didn’t regret any of it.

Lifting her glass, she made a silent toast to Wash. “Happy anniversary, baby,” she whispered. She set the glass down after drinking and rose from the table. The bar was crowded and smelled of men and women who hadn’t seen the inside of a bath in far too long. Her long legs quickly led her to the door and sweet freshness. It was spring here and cherry blossoms snowed upon the town.

Breathing deeply, the first mate headed to the docks at the north end of town and met Mal on the mule along the way. She climbed aboard and nodded briefly to Jayne in the back. She pulled her action loader from her hip and checked its contents. “Ship’s there,” she said above the mule’s engine. “Should be about five standing guard.”

Mal nodded. “Good. Means that pissant Badger weren’t lyin’.” He pushed the throttle forward pressing the passengers into their seats.

“Small miracles, Sir.”

The Captain eyed his mate. “I’d hold off on the miracle believing until after we’re skybound.” He had to yank the stick to avoid crashing into a stand of dogs. “Deals with Badger tend to be less deals and more escapes.”

“Yes, Sir.”

They reached the outskirts of the town and settled the mule a ways back from the ship. Protected a little by the natural rise, Mal instructed Jayne to wait while he and Zoe made the deal.

“You up for this?” Mal looked at his mercenary with a hard eye.

Jayne nodded twice, lifting the safety off Mary for further emphasis.

“All right then.” His turned and the wind caught his coat. “Let’s make some money.”

Zoe followed Mal over the rise and towards the transport ship. The woman’s information had been correct with only five men outside of it, their guns held confidently across their chests.

“Remind me to let you go drinkin’ more often,” Mal said under his breath as they walked. “You got ears that make me proud.”

They approached, identified themselves and found that the cargo was very easily handed over.

“That seem easy to you, Zoë?” Mal grunted as he carried his side of the container while Zoe held the other.

“Should we be complainin’?”

Mal shrugged as much as he was able. “Badger’s deals don’t just seem t-” He ducked his head as a shot whizzed past his ear.

A shot that came from Jayne’s direction.

Before... Kaylee set her tray down on the small table in the lounge near the infirmary and smiled over at Jayne. “Hope ya like protein,” she said with a lilt, hoping to make it sound better than it tasted. Lifting the plate and sitting back into the couch, she held it out to the man. He looked at it a bit then decided to take it.

His jaw hurt opening to take a mouthful of the food. Hurt some chewin’, too.

Kaylee pulled her legs onto the sofa and rested her arm along its back. “Know it ain’t the greatest, but it’ll do ya.” She smiled when he took another bite. “Help make ya get big an’ strong again.”

Jayne’s eyes shut for the briefest of moments and the woman knew she’d said the wrong thing. “Oh, Jayne, I only meant...”

She stopped when he laid his hand on her knee.

“What in Hades’ multi-layered hell is goin’ on here?” Mal’s voice inquired, louder than it oughta been for a small space.

“Nothin’ Cap’n,” Kaylee answered, another smile on her face. She noted the cool replacing the heat on her knee as Jayne’s hand was quickly removed. “Just helpin’ some is all.”

Mal’s eyes narrowed and squinted at Jayne’s face. “You drunk?”

Kaylee laughed awkwardly. “No. Just a little... discombobulated.”

He straightened, arms folded and remained unconvinced that his mercenary was anything other reeling from the effects of too much booze and brawlin’.

“It’s okay, Cap’n. Really.” She rose up to meet Mal. “It’s okay.”

He looked at his mechanic and saw the same look as that morning on Higgin’s Moon. Leave it alone, Mal, she had said with that expression. It’s all under control. Mal accepted her reasoning, but added “Hope th’other guy looks worse.” He waited. “You get done bein’ Drunk Boy, you an’ me’re gonna have a little chat.” Glancing back to Kaylee, he added, “Get some coffee in him. He looks like go se.” He then left the pair.

Kaylee flopped back onto the couch. “That were close. Don’t think the Captain’d much like findin’ out his merc and his pilot were come t’fistacuffs.” She laughed a little, but stopped.

Jayne’s expression nearly killed the young woman.

That had been the trouble, hadn’t it? The other one didn’t look worse, none of them. River didn’t have a scratch, that Ugly Man didn’t feel the revenge of Jayne Cobb and there wasn’t anyway that Jayne could punch Mal and still keep breathing. All the hurt he’d gone through and he’d had no way to release it.


Grabbing the plate, she replaced it onto the tray. Kaylee straightened herself to Jayne. “Now look here, Jayne Cobb. Y’ain’t got nothin’ t’be worried on or frettin’ over. The Cap’n won’t be throwin’ ya out the airlock. An’ there’s no shame in gettin’ whooped by River. We done both seen what she can do. So let it go and start focussin’ on gettin’ better an’ bein’ yer old mean self again.” She once again held the plate out to Jayne. “Now eat.”

If she weren’t so cute with the furrowed brow and menacing stare that could only frightened a bunny, he would have been angry.

For the first time in longer than he could remember, he smiled. And Kaylee smiled right back.

River grinned, feeling the happy emotion between the big one and the mechanic. Caressing Serenity’s walls, River wound her way from the crew quarters to the cockpit.

“‘Bout time you showed, li’l One,” Mal admonished lightly. “You wanna pilot this ship, you gotta do it from here.”

River slid easily into the co-pilot’s seat and grasped the steering control. “Yes, sir, Captain Worriedpants.”

Later... Mal liked the night time on Serenity when the crew was asleep or at least keeping to themselves in their quarters. He would sit in the galley and ponder some. Had used the shuttle, but it was re-occupied by someone who seemed to fill his thoughts on a near constant basis.

It worried him deeply that Inara could seep into him in this way. Worried him because he wanted her to seep. He loved her, no doubt in that, and wanted to have her for as long as possible. But she’d been right all those weeks ago - he didn’t like to share.

It wrenched his heart plenty when she still booked and saw clients. He could imagine the charms she put on them to get them all pliable and weak-kneed then dashed those charms just as quickly. He’d arrogantly thought that she wouldn’t do the same to him if there ever came a time when they would be together, but he wondered on the truth of it. He’d always wonder if she was doing her womanly wiles on him because she wanted to or because she was trained to.

Ached his heart some to think that it was the latter.

Leaning his arms onto the table, he laced his fingers and thought about other, less beautiful things. Jayne’s face being the most prominant.

The mercenary was fast becoming a liability. This upcoming salvage would be the final test. If Jayne could manage to stay sober and do the job then Mal would keep him on. Otherwise, he just didn’t have the coin to keep springing him from the drunk tank. Money was needed elsewhere if he was to keep this boat flying.

Finishing his coffee, he pushed the chair back and headed to his bunk, but stopped before reaching the kitchen’s steps. Something fluttered in his memory about Jayne and Kaylee and he needed an answer. Now.

Switching directions, he went down to the lounge instead and found what he most did not want to.

Jayne was sprawled on the couch, his head cradled in his mechanic’s lap while her head was lolled back in sleep. It looked innocent enough, but situations like this tended to result in breaking of Captain’s rule number two: no shipboard romances.

“Didn’t object with Simon,” River’s quiet voice called from the far chair now shrouded in darkness.

Mal removed his hand from his revolver and bit back the curse in his mouth. “That was different.”


“Listen, girl-”

“Not a girl.”

“Fine. Listen, woman-”

“Kaylee. Not a girl.”

What? “Sure. Whatever. Point is, I don’t need lecturin’ from you on how t’run my ship. If I say it was different then it surely was.”


Mal stopped. Now she agreed with him?

“Different than before. Not the same boy named Jayne.” She stood next to the sleeping man now. “More than before.” She turned her head and Mal understood her. That made him shiver. But he understood. He’d seen something similar in the recruits from the war, the ones who couldn’t deal with killing and body parts. They’d come in all blustering and touting great causes and other nonsense, but when bullets and shrapnel started flying, many had retreated into themselves. Hollow eyes and faceless faces stared back.

Yeah, Mal understood Jayne’s situation, but that didn’t give the merc the right what? Mal had given his word, come hell or high water. Promised there’d be a place on Serenity for him. Man had seen too much suffering to be turned out now.

Still, seeing little Kaylee with the somewhat smaller but still big Jayne unnerved him.

River grinned. “Don’t want to see how the pieces fit. Scared to find your own.” She reached up and kissed his cheek then nearly skipped to her quarters.

Mal slumped. He could see why Jayne would find the girl-

“Not a girl,” she reminded from the back.

He rolled his eyes. He could see why Jayne would find the woman(!) annoying and bothersome. Mal knew his curse was being right all the time. Her curse was in telling them what they already knew but didn’t.

Later... Simon could only shake his head. Anything else and something would get broken, likely his fist as he shoved it through a wall. He worked his jaw, opening and closing his mouth several times before deciding on what to say.

He took a step and was about to speak, but shut his mouth and swivelled, his hand clenched into his hair. This was just beyond his comprehension.

“It’s alright, Simon,” Kaylee ventured. “Place was clean.”

Simon gawked. Clean? Not fucking likely. Those kinds of places were never clean. And Simon Tam knew from clean.

The mechanic sighed into another smile and held the Doctor’s arm. “She’s fine.” She leaned in a little. “And as I recollect, you didn’t squawk on mine none.”

“But that’’s! No way is my little sister going to be...ick!” He stomped from the infirmary.

Kaylee looked to River who looked back. Both women snickered.

“Let me see it again,” Kaylee asked after their fit of giggles died down.

River pulled the wide strap of her dress down her arm, revealing the image of a leaf on a breath of wind tattooed onto her shoulder blade. “Watch how I soar,” she whispered.

“That’s quite a pretty marking,” Inara said as she stepped into the infirmary. “I imagine Simon might have a thing to say about it.”

The young women eyed each other. “Oh, Simon couldn’t rightly say nothin’ on it.” Kaylee stifled a laugh.

River shook her head. “Still a boob.”

“Yes, well,” Inara began, “is Simon anywhere around here? I need to speak with him.”

Kaylee stopped, her face serious. “You okay?”

The warm smile spread across the Companion’s lips. “Perfectly. I just need to discuss something with him.”

Both River and Kaylee were unable to help. Inara excused herself and returned to her shuttle to find Mal waiting outside of it. “I see you are learning some manners, Captain Reynolds. Waiting to be asked inside. How adult of you.”

Mal shrugged. “You changed the lock code.”

Of course. “What is it you want?”

He stepped close to her. “You wanted t’know when we were close enough t’Ariel.”

Inara straightened. “Ah.”

He eyed her. “Still ain’t gonna tell me?”

She lowered her eyes then stared up at him.

“My speech earlier? Very adamant. If you’re lookin’ t’leave again, don’t be lookin’ on returnin’.”

“I promise to tell you once I return.”

He leaned against the wall, his toe kicking at some non-existent dust. “There a reason ya can’t say now?”

The Companion reached her hand to his arm. “It’s not a client. I’m not working on Ariel. Does that help?”

He lifted his eyes to her, the soft running lights catching in them making her cheeks flush. For all his bravado, sometimes the Captain was nothing more than a scared little boy. “I’ll meet up with you once you’re done at Athens.”

Mal nodded. “Right then.” He pushed off the wall and looped his fingers around his suspenders. “Best be off ‘fore ya miss your window.”

“Yes, window.” Inara unlocked the shuttle and stepped inside. Before she shoved the curtain to the cockpit aside, she heard the door open once again and felt strong hands grasp her shoulders and turn her. She hardly had time to speak let alone breathe when Mal’s lips engulfed her own. Losing herself, she closed her eyes and simply enjoyed the realness of the contact. This was desired for no other reason than he wanted it. Nothing to prove, nothing to pay for.

Gently releasing her, Mal’s lips curled into his trademark half-grin. “T’make sure ya don’t forget what’s waitin’.” With an abrupt turn, he exited the shuttle and was halfway down the catwalk when he felt his legs give out. Ai ya, but that woman knew kissing!

Later... The Athens salvage went better than expected. Everyone had done well in their part, even Jayne. Maybe the merc was finally coming around to his self again. Maybe Mal’s lecture about needing working crew to help support other working crew finally sunk into the man’s thick skull.

Even better was finding willing buyers on the planet itself. That tickled Mal a bright shade of pink. As reward, he let the crew have some down time, himself included.

Zoe had left early in the morning for destinations unknown. Had been a time when Mal would have worried on that, but no longer. His first mate was changing, doing more on her own than she had in a very long time. He only wondered when she would have enough of his orders and completely break away.

River had forced her brother into leaving the ship to experience the great outdoors. Never one for camping or wild outdoor adventures, Simon had difficulty in places where the trees outnumbered buildings and walkways were overgrown and unmarked. Still, River had been insistent and given her memory, there was little chance of getting lost. And little chance of any Alliance men spotting them.

Kaylee argued that her girl needed some work and felt that planetside was the best place to do a full engine shutdown. This would allow her to get in deep into Serenity’s workings and listen to what needed tweaking and what was just fine.

The mechanic wiped the sweat from her brow with a greasy backhand and smiled at the engine. It may not have looked pretty, but she sure sounded good. Patting the exterior plating, she grabbed a cloth and wiped down her hands. A rumbling tummy had prompted Kaylee to take a break and now she entered the galley to see what was available. The Cap’n had promised fresh food, but that was apparently forthcoming. She settled for protein in the shape of a sausage and settled down in one of the more comfortable lounge chairs.

A low moan from the crew quarters brought her into the hall along with Mal who had taken watch at the bridge. They both stopped at Jayne’s bunk and Kaylee was about to enter when Mal stopped her.

“Needs to get through this on his own, li’l Kaylee. Can’t be goin’ in t’rescue him all the time.” Another moan, but quieter. “Bad dream is all.”

“But, Cap’n-”

“No buts,” Mal admonished softly. “Man’s gotta have his pride come back to him.” He watched his mechanic a moment. “Gotta conjure that you might’n had something t’do with that.”

Kaylee shrugged. “Didn’t do nothin’.”

“That a fact? Then how come I see you and him in the lounge all cosy up?”

“Who I spend my time with his my own decision.” She stood a little taller. “Got no call to talk to me like my daddy, thank-you very much.”

“Ain’t tryin’ to be yer pa. But you best think on this course of action. State that man’s in he’s liable t’think ya might be wantin’ more than yer willin’ t’give. Mayhap be a tad dangerous.”

A wry smile spread across Kaylee’s face. “So ya sayin’ that it’d be okay if that’s what I wanted, too?”

Mal took a breath. “Now listen-”

The hiss of Jayne’s bunk door opening stopped Mal dead as he and Kaylee stepped back. Jayne climbed into the hall and was startled to see them standing there, Kaylee all smug and Mal lookin’ like he lost another fight with Inara.

Choosing to ignore them, Jayne ambled to the kitchen, cracking his neck and stretching his shoulders.

Before Mal could finish his little tirade, Kaylee bounded off after Jayne, her hair swishing across her back. The Captain rolled his eyes. This was going to get mighty interesting.

To be continued...

Comment? You know you want to.


Thursday, July 27, 2006 1:32 AM


This whole series has been a fresh look at one of our BDH's suddenly dealing with his vulnerablity after a lifetime of counting on his strength. You're tackled some difficult - often painful - stuff, AP, and done it thoughtfully and well.

Friday, July 28, 2006 9:07 PM


Fabulous stuff, ArtemisPrime! Really loving how you've run Jayne through the wringer and are rebuilding him as a new and possibly better man;)



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