That Which Shapes A Man 6/13
Monday, January 15, 2007

Having just learned of the death of his beloved younger brother, Jayne struggles with painful memories and dark dreams.


Title: That Which Shapes A Man

Chapter Six: Tormented

Author: mercsgoodgirl

Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss. Just one woman’s take on the story. Rating: PG-15 for heavy angst Characters: Jayne, Kaylee, Crew, ofc, omc Pairing: Jayne/Kaylee in some chapters Setting: About the time of "Those Left behind"; also, twenty-five years previously.

Word Count: 2,462; chapter six of thirteen

A/N: From the first time I watched Firefly, I wondered what circumstances might have shaped the character of Jayne Cobb, an exceptionally complex man. The given name "Jayne" was a common variant of "John" in Victorian England. This story emerged from the questions I asked.

Thanks to my excellent beta, ArtemisPrime. Italics indicate memories and dreams. To read previous chapters, click on my name above. Questions, thoughts and comments are sincerely appreciated. Thanks!


Chapter Six: Tormented

Back on Serenity…

Alone in his bunk, Jayne stares blankly at the far bulkhead, sipping every so often from the whisky bottle Kaylee’d provided. He’s lost in the past, his mind turning over and over memories of pranks he and Mattie played, going fishing together, sledding down Weaver Street Hill in their mother’s washtub, telling ghost stories late at night. He remembers how Mattie felt, curled up beside him at night, the soft, familiar smell, the chronic cough. Of his Ma reminding him, “He’s yer little brother, Jayne, an’ it’s up to you to look out for ‘im.”

And he remembers his brother’s final, haunting question, those bewildered dark eyes filling with tears. “Will I ever see you again, Jayne?”

He empties the bottle and pitches it into his laundry basket.

“How come you’re leavin’, Jayne?”

How do you tell the kid who thinks you’re a hero that you’ve killed a man in the course of a robbery and just signed on with the next ship leaving the world because you’re a wanted man?

“You keep on like this, Jayne Cobb, and you’ll end up in prison. Those fellas yer runnin’ with are bad news an’ you know it! Now yer Pa’s moved out, you can come home, finally get some decent work, come back to church. Just repent, son, and the Lord’ll wash yer sins away…”

“I done let so many people down, made such a gorram mess a my life,” he mutters. His chest aches with the grief and shame and regret that fills him, feeling like it’s going to explode. Unable to contain the anguish any longer, he rolls onto his side, his face turned toward the hanging that covers his armory. “Aw, ruttin’ hell… “ he curses, clutching the pillow to his face as he shakes with silent sobs.


The crewmembers seated around the big oak table in Serenity’s mess are unusually subdued. Using some of their newly restocked supplies, Zoë has made vegetable soup, served up with bread and cheese. Comfort food, her mama would have called it. Sure enough, they all need a bit of comforting. The news of Mattie’s death has a somber effect on all of them.

Kaylee sits, red-eyed, next to Mal, with Shepherd Book to her left. Mostly she just stares at her bowl and pushed the savory mixture around and around with her spoon. With Jayne down in his bunk, the table seems uncommonly empty, and she feels helpless to comfort him.

“Captain,” the Shepherd ventures, “perhaps, given the circumstances, the boy would appreciate some spiritual comfort. I’ll be glad to…”

“Wants to be left alone,” River interrupts. “The bear is hurting and wants to be left alone.”

“River!” Simon’s startled by his sister, who has been silent throughout the meal.

“Well, Jayne’s certainly a bear,” he agrees.

Kaylee looks up. “River’s right.” Her voice is soft and pain-filled. “He don’t want to see nobody. Not even me.”

“Well, Preacher,” Mal observes, “I guess you’ll have to find someone else as needs your ministerin’.” He swabs the last of the soup from his bowl with a piece of bread and tries to reassure his mechanic. “Don’t take it personal, mei-mei. Lotsa menfolk pull into themselves when they’re hurtin’.”

Zoë looks sharply at the captain and raises one eyebrow pointedly. “You know this from personal experience, Sir? Seein’ as how you’ve been uncommonly antisocial since the lovely Miss Serra made her departure, I mean.”

“Have not!” Mal snaps back indignantly.

“Pride is an obstacle to truth.” River points her spoon at the captain. “In the reasoning of some, that which remains unacknowledged, remains nonexistent.”

“Girl’s makin’ more sense than ever,” Zoë affirms, leaning toward Wash and clapping her warm, dark hand on his shoulder. “As I recall, you owe me a round of dishwashing, Lambie Toes.”

“You’re hallucinating, Sweetie,” Wash contradicts his wife.

River and the first mate grin at one another behind Wash’s gaudily-clad back.

“See!” River’s grin is triumphant.


For the first night in weeks, Kaylee lies in her own bunk. More than any thing in the world, she wants to climb her ladder and cross the corridor to the man she loves, wants to somehow comfort him, to ease his pain. She’s no Reader like River, but she knows how bad Jayne is hurting. She hurts for him, and she hurts because he’s closed her out.

It’s the last part that bewilders her. When she’s in pain, she wants to be with Jayne, to find reassurance and comfort in his bulk and strength and warmth, in the balm of his love for her. Why, then, has he shut her out?

She looks up at the fancy pink dress she’d worn to the party with Mal the previous year, and realizes that it’s dusty. This space had once been her haven, like her little corner in the engine room, and now, it’s increasingly just a storage space. Her clothes and personal belongings are still here, but for all purposes, Jayne’s bunk had become home.

This is crazy. When somebody’s grieving, it ain’t right for them to be alone. I don’t care how prickly Jayne Cobb can be, we need to be together goin’ through this.

Kaylee flings back the bright afghan she’d pulled over herself. She hits the button to open her hatch and climbs her ladder, unprepared to find River standing just outside her hatchway.

“River?!” The little mechanic almost tumbles back into her hatch in surprise.

“What are you doing, Kaylee?” The slender girl blocks Kaylee’s way, her liquid, dark eyes darting from the corridor back over her shoulder toward Jayne’s bunk hatch.

“Well, I think I need to be over there with Jayne. Ain’t right, him bein’ alone now.”

“Leave the bear alone. He’s proud, will feel less a man if you go down there.”

“But River, that’s silly.”

River crosses her arms, hugging herself through her oversized sweater, and looks intently at the mechanic. “I know. Men are silly. Function better with dignity left intact.” Her smile is pensive. “He will hurt less in time. Poor sad bear has thoughts and feelings to digest.”

Maybe she’s right, Kaylee frets. Don’t wanna make the situation worse. Ain’t no reason for Jayne to feel ashamed a bein’ sad, but the man’s so gorram prideful… maybe I best leave him be.

River nods, glancing back over her shoulder at the hatch to Jayne’s bunk. “He’s already too ashamed… Give him space, Kaylee.” The younger girl takes Kaylee’s hand and grins conspiratorially. “Wanna come make cocoa? Simon bought some and hid it in his food locker.”

Kaylee breaks into a grin, persuaded. “Okay. We’ll go snitch Simon’s cocoa.”


The kettle whistles shrilly and Kaylee quickly turns the heater off and pours steaming water over the cocoa mix she’s spooned into a pair of mugs.

“More,” River prompts her, pointing at the tin of cocoa. A wide grin echoes her twinkling eyes. “Additional saturation results in more intense flavor.” Her excitement makes her bouncy.

Kaylee giggles. “Guess you must love chocolate ‘bout much as me, River. Okay, then, a little more, but if Simon starts asking where his cocoa went, you’re on your own.” She spoons more of the fragrant, dark powder into each mug and stirs well, then hands one to River. “Careful, they’re hot. But then, I guess you know that, huh?” She sticks the tin of cocoa mix back into Simon’s food locker and closes the door. “Let’s go sit down.”

The girls move to the small couch next to the games table on one side of the mess. River gracefully tucks her bare feet into a lotus position while Kaylee props her flip-flop-clad ones on the table and leans back against the cushions behind her. For some minutes, they sit in companionable silence, then River speaks.

“Going home will be hard for him.”

Kaylee is startled. “You mean Jayne?”

River nods her head. “He feels guilty, ashamed. Left them all behind. He had to.”

The girl mechanic has always wondered why Jayne left Sunderland but never dared to ask the big merc about the details surrounding his departure.

I guess it’s snoopin’ but I just wanna know…

“Curiosity about someone you love is natural.” River declares. “He accidentally killed a man. Didn’t mean to. Never dared go back.”

Kaylee’s mouth falls open. Of all the reasons she’d imagined for Jayne leaving Sunderland, this was not one she’d considered. “D’ you suppose there’ll still be a warrant out for him?” she asks anxiously.

The younger girl studies her hand through the veil of her long, dark curls. “Don’t know. But he has to go. Needs to lay the burden down. He’s tired of carrying so much pain…”


Alone in his bunk, a drunken Jayne Cobb tosses and turns in a fitful sleep, his dreams troubled and chaotic.


“Why does Pa beat on me, Ma? I ain’t done nothin’ wrong.”

“I don’t rightly know, son. Just try to forgive him, if you can.”


“Keep yer eye on that guard, Cobb, an’ shoot ‘im if he goes for his gun.”


Mattie pleads, “Will I ever see you again, Jayne?”

“I sure as hell hope so.”


“Come here, big fella, an’ do me again…” The blowsy whore lays back and reaches for him.


“Jayne’s a girl’s name. Can’t you punch no harder than that, you dumb punk?”


Kaylee shouts at him. “Jayne, you lied to me. You lied about Ariel. You lied about your past. You lied about gorram everything!”

He takes another swig of booze. “The ruttin’ hell I did!” he hollers and draws his fist back…


Sometime late in the night he awakens and by the dim light of the lamp left on above his bed, he sees a form, darkly silhouetted on his floor. “What the fuck?” he whispers and gently rolls the body over. The lifeless face he sees is Kaylee’s, her hair matted with dark blood. The shattered remains of a whisky bottle lie scattered on the floor around her.

“Oh Jesus, no!!!”


Jerking awake, Jayne lurches up in a cold sweat, shaking. He rubs his eyes, stares hard at the floor beside his bunk. Nothing. No body, no blood, no murdered Kaylee. At the memory of the dream, his gorge rises and he barely makes it to the wall lav before he vomits. Bile and whisky and anguish, that was what had filled him, that is what pours forth.

The stink of his own rank fear fills his nostrils and he strips off his sweat-soaked t-shirt, pitching it at his chair. He clings to the fixture for a minute, steadying himself, then turns on the tap and flushes the bowl clean before splashing his face and torso and rinsing his mouth with the cool flow.

He stares at himself in the dirty mirror. His steely eyes are bloodshot, their pupils huge in the dimness of his bunk. He runs his hand over his face, his thumb and fingers coming to rest, framing his chin. “You look like hell, Cobb,” he tells himself, lightly fingering the star-like scar to the right of his mouth, then studying the crusting scabs on his knuckles. He recalls the many other scars he bears, tokens of his hard and reckless life.

At one side of his throat is a fading, ruddy bruise left by Kaylee in a moment of passion. Wonder why she puts up with me? he puzzles. Is it just fer the sex, just to scratch an itch, or is there really somethin’ more between us? How could a woman so sweet and lovin’ settle for a beat-up old gun-hand like me?

He flashes on the nightmare he’s just awakened from. Kaylee. Where is she? He quickly towels off. He has to see her, has to prove to himself that she’s unharmed.

The merc hits the button unlatching the hatch door and unsteadily climbs the rails. Her bunk hatch is already open, so he reasons she has to be somewhere else on Serenity. Wobbling down the steps into the mess, he heads toward the engine room and sees her curled up on the couch, sound asleep.

Thank God. His relief is visceral. He crouches down beside her and studies her face, open and peaceful in sleep. Lord, she’s so beautiful. His girl, his sweet Kaylee. He tucks her hair behind her ear, the gesture habitual and tender, and her eyes flutter open.

“Hey, you,” she greets him sleepily.

“Hey, babygirl. How come yer sleepin’ up here?”

“Guess I just dozed off. River and me made some cocoa and talked and I guess the day just caught up with me.”

She reaches out and caresses his face. He looks sheepish and tired and sad. “I been worried ‘bout you, “ she tells him. “How come you told me to go away earlier? I knowed you was feelin’ sad. Shouldn’t oughtta be by yourself at a time like this.”

“Figured that one out… Wanna come to bed?” he asks her hesitantly.

Kaylee sits up, facing him. “Are… are you sayin’ you want company?”

He studies her face. “Yeah. But maybe we best use your bunk tonight, if that’s okay.”

The big man’s a mess, swaying slightly, dressed only in a grungy pair of cargo pants that hang low on his hips. He takes Kaylee’s hands and pulls the sleepy mechanic to her feet. She slides her arm around his bare waist, and he drapes one huge arm across her shoulders. As he bends to kiss her, his breath is rank and sour. Kaylee turns her face aside and grimaces.

“Killed that whiskey, didn’t ya?”


“Thought so.”

Together, they head up the steps and along the corridor to the cheery little yellow sign lettered ‘Kaylee’. “Maybe you’d best let me go down first, in case ya slip or somethin’.” She looks up at all six-foot-four of Jayne uncertainly. Like I could actually catch ‘im if’n he falls... She quick-foots down the ladder, then peers back up at his face framed in the hatchway. “Come on, now, but be careful.”

The big merc snarks, “Hush yer fussin’, woman.”

Jayne makes it most of the way to the bottom of the ladder before his foot misses the rung and he lands hard on his butt.

“Gorrammit, Kaylee, you moved the floor.”

She just shakes her head and helps him to his feet, then hits the button that closes the hatch. “Bed, Jayne.” She points him in the right direction and he flops down, snoring heavily before she can even undress and worm in next to him.

“Bunk hog…” she mutters, shoving him over with a poke of her elbow, then drags the blanket over both of them.


Chapter six of thirteen


Monday, January 15, 2007 3:29 PM


First again! Yay! :o)

The last part of Jayne's dream sequence got a serious "Meep!" out of me. Seems to show that he's still got a lot of demons inside he needs to deal with.

I love River's insight, and description. Big bear, indeed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 8:37 PM


Honestly doesn't surprise me that Jayne's carrying some deep issues about following in his father's footsteps...knowing that he went from being one kind of person in his youth to where he is now? Tends to make a person a tad worried:(

Still...amazing work here, HGG! Definitely wanna see how things go when they finally reach Sunderland:D



You must log in to post comments.



A Different Point of View
Increasingly frustrated with her limited love life, Kaylee puts her creativity to good use and sneaks a peek at the big man across the hallway.

How A Gun Is Like A Woman
A late night gun cleaning session has Kaylee looking at Jayne Cobb in a new way.

Show and Tell
An unexpected change in circumstances on Serenity cause Mal to reconsider the concept of family. One-shot, post BDM.

Growing up isn’t easy, and that first step to independence can be a big one. Just ask Kaylee Frye.

What’s to Understand?
A little one-shot snippit in which Simon learns that that love can manifest in unexpected ways.

A thoughtful Jayne Cobb reflects on how his life has turned out.

Big Fella - 1/1
Jayne Cobb makes quite an impression on a “working girl” from Albion. Thought I’d post this over the weekend 'cause it’s most definitely NOT workplace safe.

Give and Take
A little scene from “Our Mrs. Reynolds” that we don’t get to see in the episode, wherein Jayne contemplates the fine art of barter.

Handle With Care
Jayne’s up late, cleaning his gun, and can’t help appreciating a late night visitor.

Taking Up Arms – Part 3 of 3

Jayne and Kaylee set out to establish a new life together when Mal joins the Rebellion that follows the Miranda announcement. The big man must reconsider his solemn vow to Kaylee to hang up his guns when Alliance raiders hit the rim world of Ezra.