BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

HISGOODGIRL

That Which Shapes A Man 12/13
Friday, January 26, 2007

Following Mattie’s funeral, Jayne bids farewell to his Ma and prepared for reunion with Serenity, while Mal and the others complete the whisky job and reflect on his absence.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1466    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: That Which Shapes A Man

Author: hisgoodgirl

Chapter Twelve: Family of Choice

Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss. Just one woman’s take on the story. Rating: PG-15 for strong language Characters: Jayne, ofc crew Pairing: Jayne/Kaylee Setting: About the time of "Those Left Behind" Word Count: 3,211; chapter twelve 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. This story emerged from the questions I asked.

Thanks to my excellent beta, ArtemisPrime. To read previous chapters, click on my name above. Your comments are sincerely appreciated. Thanks!

*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*

Chapter Twelve: Family of Choice

On Newhall…

Malcolm Reynolds pries opens the top of a case of the fine and very illegal whisky he has just smuggled in from Bethany and does a quick count to make sure the case is full.

“Yep, it’s all there. I’m kinda surprised my own self, ‘ceptin’ we ain’t got Jayne on board this run.”

Chester Benning grins back at Mal, “I can see how a big fella like your merc might be both asset and liability. What happened?”

“Had a death in his family back on Sunderland, took my spare shuttle home, which is how come I needed you to handle delivering your ore shipment to us this time around.”

Benning manages an Alliance-owned facility that concentrates tantalum ore, a rare metal necessary for star ship catalyzers. Not so long ago, he first contracted with the Browncoat captain to transport a load of diverted ore concentrate to a black-market buyer. The whole experience proved more complicated than either would have preferred, but ultimately most lucrative.

The two men share certain independent allegiances and have developed a relationship that mixes business and solid friendship. Benning opens the final case and removes a bottle, handing it to Mal, then closes the lid on the case.

“Enjoy, my friend.”

“You can sure count on that!”

Mal grins widely, as tickled as a kid at Christmas. Benning drinks the best and Mal chuckles when Benning calls out to the man carrying the final case of liquor, “Hey, be careful! You handle that like you would a newborn babe, ya’hear? Precious stuff, that.”

The whisky off-loaded, Benning’s men and several members of Mal’s crew begin moving the heavy containers of ore concentrate pellets into Serenity’s cargo hold.

Kaylee secures the newly repaired yellow hovermule into storage high above the deck of the bay, while below, Wash, Zoë and even Simon are working with Benning’s men, shuffling the weighty crates into an orderly arrangement. It seems strange to her not to see big ol’ Jayne down there, using those beautiful muscles he’s so gorram proud of. Shepherd Book has volunteered to play chess with River, freeing up Simon to help with the labor, a role the doc is not happy about.

Simon rubs palms sore from unaccustomed lifting and then massages at a strained shoulder. The young doctor’s handsome face reflects his disdain as he gripes to Wash, “All those years of education… university… medical school, so I can be… a… a stevedore? As much as I loath Jayne, right now I’d be glad to see him back on board, doing what his genetics prepared him for.”

“You gotta admit it’s been mighty quiet with the big guy gone,” Wash remarks.

Giving the crate a sharp tug into alignment, Zoë begins to secure the stack of crates with tie-downs to assure they won’t shift in flight, her lithe, muscular body moving gracefully at the task. “We can all do with a little quiet for a change.”

The pilot nods to his wife over his shoulder. “Quiet is good. And there’s been a lot more food to go around, too. Oooff!” he grunts as he and the doctor help one of Benning’s men lift another heavy crate onto a second stack.

Simon snarks, “Well, I, for one, have enjoyed the somewhat more civilized conversation over shared meals and not getting body-slammed into the bulkhead every time the man-ape stomps by.” He dusts off his hands, unaware as Kaylee scowls at his characterization of the big merc. “That’s it! We’ve swapped a gorilla for a more gentile environment and gracious meals.”

Mal walks over, bemused by the conversation, and slaps the doctor on the shoulder. “Can’t have it both ways, Doc. If you want Jayne’s muscles, you gotta put up with the mouth and the appetite.”

As Wash and Zoë give one another arch, knowing glances, Simon looks vaguely ill. “Can’t we just buy a forklift that has guns?”

* * *

Jayne rises early on Monday to pack his gear and prepares to bid Sunderland and his family farewell. Their hopes and expectations are a heavy burden he is unwilling to bear. After dreaming so long of being reunited with them, he has reached the painful realization that theirs is a world where he no longer fits, a world too small, too proper, too rigid.

The old bed creaks as he sits down to put on his socks and boots, the sound plaintive and familiar.

Ain’t no ruttin’ way I can handle five days a week workin’ a shift at the plant, dressin’ up in some gorram monkey suit and sittin’ through all that hellfire churchin’ every Sunday with Ma. I’d turn into a xiong meng de kuang ren for sure. I done the right thing to take off the first time, and I’m doin’ the right thing now.

He stands and scouts the small bedroom, doing his best to imprint its simplicity on his memory, then removes two books from the shelves and tucks them into the bottom of his duffel. One is the Firefly service manual for Kaylee, the other the text on astrophysics. Maybe if it keeps Little Sister occupied, she won’t be so like to go a’roamin’ through everybody’s heads, he reasons. Last thing I need’s fer her to be playin’ about in my brain.

Then he picks up the little Firefly and studies it, wondering at the deft assembly and care that Mattie lavished on the model. In his big, roughened hands, the little ship looks lost. Wonder how I c’n git this back in one piece? He drags out a couple of T-shirts and carefully wraps the model in the cushioning soft fabric, then pads around it with other clothing before cinching closed the bag. “That oughtta do it.”

As he has each morning since arriving, he fills and lights the old kitchen stove and starts breakfast one more time.

I guess Mattie used ta do this for her once she got old, least-wise when he was well enough. She don’t need to be living alone and I think Rachel’s got the right idea about her movin’ in with them. She’s a stubborn ol’ gal, though, an’ it ain’t gonna be easy talkin’ her into sellin’ this place.

Annalee emerges from her bedroom, still dressed in mourning black, looking even more shrunken than the day before. Jayne pours her a cup of coffee and asks with concern, “How are ya feelin’ today, Ma? I know this has all been mighty hard on you.”

She smiles up at this huge man who once lay in her arms as a plump and voracious infant. “I’ll be alright, son.” She sips the steaming drink he sets before her and studies his face. “You’re gonna go back to that starship, ain’t ya?”

“Yeah, Ma, I am.” He feels like a real hún dàn telling her this, but it has to be said. “This just ain’t the place for me no more. Captain’s countin’ on me returnin’ his shuttle and my girl’s back on Serenity. I promise I’ll bring her home first chance we get. That make you happy?” He squirms under her pointed gaze.

“Soon, Jayne. Soon.”

He hangs his head a little sheepishly. “Yes, Ma.”

Fork in hand, he turns the last of the ham in the old iron skillet, and as it sizzles fragrantly, he tells her, “I want ya to think hard on movin’ in with Rachel, Ma. Yer gittin’ on and she an’ Wallace said they have plenty of room and really want ya there.”

Annalee clasps her bony old hands together and rests them on the table before her. “They spoke with me ‘bout it on the way home from th’ service yesterday. I told them I’d have to talk with you first, learn what you was a’plannin’ on doin’.” Her gnarled old fingers nervously press the already smooth tablecloth.

Jayne pulls a pan of re-warmed biscuits from the oven, cursing under his breath when he burns his thumb on the pan. He turns them out into a shallow basket he remembers from childhood and puts plates with ham and fried eggs on the table.

With a faintly wistful look, he asks, “Know it’s a long shot, but you got any strawberry jam like you used ta make when I was little?” This rare treat remains one of his mother’s culinary specialties he’s missed the most.

Annalee smiles a mother’s knowing smile. “Look in the cupboard, son. There’s two jars. Open us up the one and take the other’n with you to help you think on home.”

Jayne grins widely and retrieves the longed-for treat.

The merc slides his big frame into the chair and slathers butter and jam onto a trio of biscuits, then stuffs half of one into his mouth and washes it down with coffee. “You want my thoughts, I hope you’ll take ‘em up on the offer. This old place is drafty as hell and a bear to keep warm. I’d rest a heap easier knowin’ you was with family an’ not here by yerself, Ma.”

Mother and son appraise one another. “Well enough,” she tells him.

* * *

The parlor clock chimes nine, and outside, the fog has begun to lift as Sunderland’s big red sun creeps over the mountains. Jayne heads into Mattie’s room to grab his gear. He slips his gunbelt around his waist and straps the holster snugly around his thigh, finding an almost sensual pleasure in the solid weight of the revolver nestled against him. Ah, that’s better. He’s felt plumb nekkid unarmed. He pulls his coat on over the weapon, then calls out to his mother, “Okay if’n I take this ol’ guitar with me?”

“T’was yours to begin with,“ she tells him, “and yer brother’d a’wanted you to have it back.”

The merc grabs his duffel, with the carefully padded Firefly model and jar of strawberry jam inside, in one hand, and clumsily grasps the guitar neck in the other, his hat clutched against it. At the back door, he sets things down to say his good-byes.

Annalee Cobb looks up at him, her sapphire eyes shining. “Don’t be gone so long this time. I don’t know that I’ll be around after another twenty-some years.” She tenderly strokes Jayne’s stubbled cheek. “Keep yourself neat, son, ‘else folks’ll think you’re some kinda outlaw. And be a good man.”

He swallows the lump in his throat and affirms, “I’m tryin’, Ma.” He bends and softly kisses her cheek. “Love you.”

“I love you, too, Jayne. Now get on back to yer shuttle so’s you won’t annoy that captain of your’n.”

She holds the front door open for him as he plants his hat on his head and gathers up the guitar and duffel. “Take care, now, son.”

“You, too, Ma. I’ll write soon… Honest.” * * *

With silent grace, Serenity heads for Sunderland. Newhall is a tiny speck now far behind her, one of millions scattered across the velvet blackness of space. As one family adjusts to the loss of a member, another awaits the return of one.

Mal is sprawled in the co-pilot’s chair, chatting with Wash in the warm, familiar darkness of the bridge, their faces limned with light from the consoles.

“Now that’s the kinda run I like - easy-peasy. No shootin’, cashy money all as agreed… like to get us spoiled. Benning’s a fine fella – wish there was more like ‘im.” The Browncoat captain laces his fingers together behind his head and smiles a satisfied, mellow grin. “Just as well all was smooth, seein’ as we’re a gun-hand short. Funny how the boat feels kinda empty without Jayne on board, but don’t you go tellin’ the man I said so.”

Wash grins sidelong. “Kaylee’d probably agree with that. Things have been mighty quiet next door with him gone.”

He glances at the comm panel, checks some navigational data. “You know, Mal, I don’t think Simon’s any too happy about Jayne coming back. Those two have rubbed each other the wrong way since the doc and his sister came on board. You heard him grousing earlier.”

“The boy can whinge all he wants. He’s good at his doctorin’ but until he grows some muscles and learns to track and shoot worth a damn, it ain’t gonna be either/or. We need Jayne and we need him, much as he and the girl have complicated our lives.”

Mal smacks his palm on the console in front of him and looks affectionately around the compartment. “She’s a small ship, an’ there’s times we all rub each other wrong, but they’d both best get over it. Jayne’s on my crew just as much as Simon, and I ain’t allowin’ their differences to make life harder for the rest of us.”

Wash nods. “Zoë used to talk about how you and she and the rest of your squad looked out for one another during the war, and I thought at first it was just a bunch of nostalgic fei hua. Other jobs I’ve had were just jobs. Throw switches, plot courses – that sort of thing.”

He reaches over and picks up his plastic T-Rex and his Diplodocus and fondly cradles them in his hands, engaging them in mock battle. “But you’ve built something different here. Granted you’ve done it by yelling and waving guns around, but this isn’t just a crew anymore, Mal.” He snuggles T-Rex and the Diplo together, looks over at the captain. “We’re a family. And when a member or two of a family are missing, well, it throws things out of whack.”

Mal’s mouth curls in irony with the realization that not only does Jayne’s absence strain things, the ship hasn’t felt right since Inara left. He hasn’t felt right, either.

He’s been walking around with a big void inside, holding his breath and pretending he doesn’t hurt, that everything’s just peachy. Family means Inara, means Jayne, means all of them, much as they aggravate and exasperate him.

* * *

Back on Sunderland…

At the bottom of Weaver Street Hill, a man steps out from the alley and blocks Jayne’s way. He’s tall and fair, with blue eyes much the color of the merc’s, and a lawman’s star gleaming on the left chest of his duster. His solemn face is vaguely familiar, and then it hits Jayne, this is Jared’s younger brother, Bryce.

“Been awhile, Bryce. How’r ya doin’?” the big man asks, resting his bag and the guitar on the ground. Cousin or no, Bryce is still a lawman and Jayne can think of all manner of reasons he might be standing there, staring coolly back at him. Unsettled, the merc holds out his hand to greet his cousin only to have the gesture ignored.

“So that’s the way of it?” he asks and shakes his head.

“I understand why you came back for Mattie’s funeral.” Bryce’s voice is low and tense. “I had to attend a brother’s funeral, too, y’ know. I know the truth of what went down in that job you helped Jared pull and I know he was hung fer what you done.” The deputy’s hands clench and release nervously and Jayne prays he won’t have to shoot this man.

Bryce goes on, “You were coward enough you took off and ain’t been back ‘til now. I’m just here to make sure you don’t stay. There’s no place for you on Sunderland, Jayne. I know the warrant’s run out, but I’m here to tell you that if you stay, I will hunt you down.”

Under normal circumstances, any man heedless enough to call Jayne Cobb a coward to his face would wind up dead in the dirt. Jayne thinks of his Ma, of Kaylee, and makes a conscious decision to restrain his impulse.

“Ya ain’t gotta worry on that none. I’m headed back t’the spaceport now, meetin’ my ship in orbit in a couple hours.” Jayne glances skyward. “You ain’t the only one to figure out I don’t belong here. I’d just as soon be on my way and thank you not to shoot me in the back.”

Bryce’s posture relaxes enough that Jayne decides it’s safe to pick up his gear. “You got reason ‘nuf to hate me, Bryce. Just remember that Ma an’ th’ girls are family, too, an’ keep a watch over’ em. They ain’t done nothin’ to earn your ire.”

His mouth clamped tightly, the deputy steps grudgingly aside and Jayne continues on his way.

* * *

A sooty, cloud-covered orb hangs against the Black, filling Serenity’s view-screen. Mal stands and grabs the intercom.

“Head’s up, people. This is the Captain. We’re coming into high orbit over Sunderland. Soon as we rendezvous with Jayne, we’re on to Boros to deliver Mr. Benning’s contraband. Ain’t expectin’ anything out of the ordinary, so’s y’all go on about your business.” Mal slips the intercom handpiece back into its cradle and starts to turn around, almost falling over Kaylee.

“Waaah!” He flings his arms wide in surprise and grabs the console rail to steady himself.

“You tryin’ to give me a heart attack, li’l Kaylee?” he gulps in surprise.

Wash guffaws loudly at the near-collision.

“No, Cap. I was just wonderin’ if we got a wave from Jayne, ‘s’all. Didn’t mean to startle ya.”

Mal looks at his mechanic, notes she looks different than usual. Her hair’s all neatly brushed, face and hands scrubbed clean. She’s even put on a fresh and especially snug pair of overalls. He peers closer, cocks an eyebrow, puzzled. “Mei mei, you wearin’ makeup?” he asks, incredulous. “Lipstick, too? Look, you know we ain’t hittin’ dirt this time around.”

She plants her hands on her saucy hips and makes a face at him. “Can’t a girl get all spruced up for her fella around here without you makin’ a fuss?”

Wash glances over at his bewildered captain. “She’s got a point, Mal.”

Mal gives him the stink eye and snorts, looks at Kaylee quizzically. “Well, it wasn’t all that long ago you were getting’ all gussied up over the Doctor, an’ the thought of you an’ Jayne… well, it’s just takin’ some getting’ used to.”

Gwon nee tze-jee du shr! Leave me an’ Jayne outta this,” she snaps at him, crossing her arms indignantly over her bosom.

She pointedly turns her back on Mal. “Wash, have we heard from Jayne yet?” she asks in a cold, stilted voice that lets Mal know he is now persona non grata.

“No, Kaylee. We’re still a little early.” He glances back over his shoulder at the irate girl, then tentatively offers, “But you do look nice…”

“Thank you.”

The radio squawks with static and Jayne’s familiar growly voice comes over the channel. For once he’s early. “This is Serenity Shuttle Two. Hey Wash, you out there?”

The pilot picks up the mike and answers, “Yes we are, yes we are, although you’re running half an hour early. Nothing wrong, is there?”

“Nah,” comes the reply. “Just no reason to be stickin’ around.”

“I’ll forward our docking coordinates. Good to have you back.”

Before he’s put down the mike, Kaylee’s out the hatch and on her way to the docking port for Shuttle Two.

*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~* Chapter twelve of thirteen

COMMENTS

Friday, January 26, 2007 8:36 PM

PADDYFLY


A really well written fanfic.

Friday, January 26, 2007 9:02 PM

QWERTY


I can't blame Kaylee. I'd be rushing to the docking port for Shuttle Two too. ;o)

I was sort of hoping for more of a confrontation between Jayne and Jedd however. Seems like that part got left hanging a bit.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 10:28 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Gotta agree with qwerty....the Jayne vs. Jedd issue is hanging mighty blatantly in the wind. Hope it will get cleared up in the last part...or a sequel where Jayne brings Kaylee home;)

BEB

Sunday, January 28, 2007 5:33 AM

HISGOODGIRL


I want to respond to BEB, Querty and anyone else who may be wondering about the lack of a bloody confrontation between Jayne and his Pa. I’m sorry if you feel I left this thread hanging. In fact, I thought very carefully about how to handle that encounter and its aftermath. Permit me, if you will, to share some of my thinking in writing the scenario as I did.

My intention, from the beginning, was to write a story that might visit the circumstances and events that formed Jayne Cobb. As a man, he is characterized by numerous defense mechanisms (physical and emotional) that are survival based and esteem driven. In the series, we saw many occasions when Jayne acted out of self-serving motives; we also saw moments of growth that saw him starting to embrace Mal’s “intentional family” philosophy. This fic has been my take on factors that might have initiated that shift.

Certainly, given the trauma inflicted by Jedd, Jayne would carry a tremendous about of inner rage. Over time, I imagine that his father would have taken on a larger-than-life quality (as parents often do.) Consider the following passage from the previous chapter:

There, a lone figure, bent with age and worn by hard living, draws his glance…Jedd Cobb, rail-thin and haggard, sits huddled at the end of the final pew. He is bearded, dressed in worn, patched clothing. Jayne can see that his once powerful frame is wasted now and his piercing gray eyes are milky with age. Through all the intervening years, Jayne has remembered his father as a brutal giant of a man, and yet the frail, shriveled ghost before him now is but a shadow of that memory.

The monster from Jayne’s nightmares turns out to be a pathetic, broken old wastrel, a broken man who longs only for forgiveness. What’s the merc gonna do – beat him up during the funeral? Hunt him down and shoot him? Jayne’s already carrying a lot of regret and a new-found awareness of how his choices impact others – a key reason he didn’t shoot his cousin Bryce (the deputy) for calling him a coward.

Instead of responding out of his rage, as he might have in the past, Jayne instead refuses Jedd’s conciliatory gesture and coldly responds:

“You ain’t my Pa, lăo hàn. That man died thirty-odd years ago.”

Jayne has not forgiven Jedd for brutalizing him, but he has grown enough to recognize that there’s no satisfaction to be gained from beating up or killing a ghost from his past. The merc’s satisfaction comes from refusing to acknowledge Jedd as his father, through withholding the forgiveness Jedd so desperately longs for.

If anyone wants to discuss this further or has other questions or thoughts to share, please feel free to e-mail me at Lumenea@aol.com.


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