Back Stories I, Chapter 4/14 - Jayne
Thursday, May 10, 2007

A pleasant experience turns confusing for Mal, then – certain irritants in Jayne’s present life remind him of irritants long past.


Disclaimer: It belongs to Joss and all those business people. I’m just playing.

Rating: PG to NC17. I will not put warnings on each chapter, because I don’t want to give things away. In general, don’t be getting into any of this if you’re not prepared for adult storylines, violence, explicit sexual content, and - oh my - bad words.

Many thanks: to several members: LEEH and VERA2529 for hours of beta reading and entertaining discussions of many things. LEIASKY, TAMSIBLING, and LEIGHKOHL provided additional beta time on the early chapters. The talented MPHILLIPS did the lovely artwork. (Ain’t it nice?) FEI and provided many colorful Chinese phrases. One of AMDOBELL fine fics provided a useful plot bunny. (I won’t tell which yet!) Finally – kudos to GUILDSISTER for her inspirational fic The Blue Sun Job.

Links: Prequels: The Fish Job (FFF) (LJ) and Easy Tickets (FFF) (LJ). Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.

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Back Stories, Book I

by Mal4Prez


Chapter 4/14: Jayne

A pleasant experience turns confusing for Mal, then – certain irritants in Jayne’s present life remind him of irritants long past.



Cold brass bars press into the heated skin of Mal’s back as he looks into the eyes of the woman astride him. Her face says she won’t ever forget this, that it’s something special, and he savours it himself. He doesn’t take a woman to bed for nothing; this particular lady has something that’s drawn him to her, and he spoke the truth that it’s more than her rice wine.

(But, even now, he knows that this isn’t what he wants. It doesn’t shut out the ache of another he can’t ever have.)

Nandi’s beside him the next morning, lying still but her eyes open and watching him. She smiles to see him awake, and the sun on her face makes her look young, fresh and glowing like she’s just been bedded proper for the first time. He wonders if the light does the same for him. Can anything, anyone in this `verse bring him back his youth? Remove the weight that the years have piled on him?

That’s a stupid question to be posing; he knows the answer too well already. His heart’s locked up so tight that he ain’t even sure it’s there anymore. Useless gorramn lump of stone is about all he’s got left.

(And if that’s not the truth, if another woman has worked her way in, taking up what little bit of space there is, that’s not something he thinks on.)

Nandi’s smile turns soft with understanding, like maybe she knows what he’s thinking better than he does. It don’t bother him, in fact he’s glad if she does know, because he doesn’t want to have to say it out loud. He’s got nothing for her but the night just passed. Well – the night and the gunplay to come. He sits up; if the defense of her home and her livelihood is all he has to offer, he’d best get to it.

He’s only half dressed when he leaves her room. He closes the door behind him and looks up – and freezes in confusion.

Something should have been out here in the hall. Someone. He looks behind him, then forward again, taking in the rough wooden floors and walls covered in newspaper. Empty. There’s nothing here, no one passing by, not even any creaking of distant footsteps.

“Ain’t that odd?” he whispers to himself, and wonders where this idea, this expectation, is coming from. For a while he stands motionless, his forgotten shirt hanging from his hands. He’s got this feeling, and it’s near overpowering him. Something like déjà vu, but more immediate, and there’s something real and true behind it. If he could just dig it out of himself…

This much he gets: he’s been here before, pushing his arms into his sleeves while he talked to someone. Awkward words, words he can’t recall but just trying to brings him a vivid pang of regret and guilt, followed by a withering sense of dismissal, like he’s been found wanting.

Not good enough, never will be...

He tries to shake it off and keep moving, `cause this ain’t a place he needs to see (again?). Whatever was supposed to happen, whether it did or not, it’s left him feeling abandoned – not a safe way for him to be. He has to put this behind him and go on, no matter which direction he’s facing.

* * *

Zoë gave Jayne a glare of warning before she went out the ship’s airlock, following Mal down the ramp and into the foot traffic of Landsdowne Docks.

Chōng yù, Jayne thought as he followed. Like she ain’t warned me already.

He knew what was going on – Mal was crazy. Well, crazier than usual. Weren’t nothing complicated about that. Jayne got it, and he had no need to make things messier by playing with the man. Long as the jobs kept coming and kept paying, he was just fine, and he’d stick to doing his part and keep his mouth shut.

Most like.

As he wound through the crowd, he found himself checking the other ships parked at the docks, wondering where they were going and how many crew they had. Trying to see who was in charge, and guess how much they paid their gunhands and how big the bunks were. Wasn’t like he was aiming to move on, but a little fact gathering wasn’t a bad thing. A man had to keep his options open.

He slowed down a little as he walked past an old freighter. There was a small crowd inside the bay, yelling a gorramn storm at each other. Not fun yelling, not blowing-off-steam yelling, but the kind of pissed off that was gonna come to blows and end with someone on their ass and out a job. Jayne’d seen it happen plenty of times, and if he’d never been the one left in the dirt it was because there weren’t many could get the better of him. Also, he was good at what he did. He knew it, and so did the folks who hired him.

Jayne left the fight to finish itself and hurried to catch up to Mal and Zoë. He couldn’t deny, Serenity was the best job he’d had since… well… ever. His own bunk, run of the ship and the pantry, no one trying to take his stuff. It’d gone so far that he didn’t even lock his bunk when he wasn’t there. Not that he trusted the other folks on the ship, not at all. He didn’t even like `em. Not a one.

Except maybe Kaylee – but who wouldn’t take to a cheery bit of sunshine like her? And the Shepherd wasn’t bad to have around; he was handy with the weights and loose with the talk for a man of God. Zoë, now, she was a sight to see, a sight he did wish he could see a bit more of. He liked a woman who could handle herself, and if she talked tough it wasn’t anything he couldn’t take.

But Wash’s smart mouth, Simon’s tight pìgu, and River’s… well, River’s everything… were all stuff he could do without. He could walk away from those three and not look back a’once.

`Course, Wash was a damned good pilot, and that added a bit of security to Jayne’s life. It was a handy thing to get back to the ship after a job and know the worrying was over because Wash was at the helm.

Come to think of it, the doc was of some use too. He’d stitched Jayne up from time to time, and the way he’d let that whole mess on Ariel go was decent of him.

Could be, when it came down to it, Jayne wasn’t too upset over Wash or Simon. River, though, now that girl was a big handful of trouble. A crazy teenaged girl who played with knives and guns – and not the fun kind of playing, not just a spit shine and put it away. Damned girl attacked her own crew. Jayne raised a hand to his chest, feeling for a scar that’d faded to near nothing by now. But just because the doc was good with a needle didn’t mean Jayne’d forget what she did.

And it wasn’t just how she went nuts and talked gibberish all the time. All kinds of baddies – from the Alliance on down to hunters like Jubal Early – were out looking for her. It was only a matter of time.

Jayne spat in the dust and swore under his breath. Damn right – he’d be an idiot not to have an eye out for other work. This crew was doomed to go down, no other way about it. That girl was nothing but trouble, more trouble than Mal could handle even if he’d had his marbles in one place.

But, for the moment, Jayne was stuck. He’d best do his part; pull off the jobs, take his cut, and pile up coin while he could.

He caught up with Zoë and Mal just outside Badger’s den, when Mal turned back for some last-minute mouth-flapping.

“Stay sharp,” Mal said, making a point of directing this toward Jayne. “And by that I mean quiet. We gotta walk soft. Badger’ll only give us this job if we’re clean. The cop that came after Tracy most like won’t say a thing, but we can’t let it slip that we we’ve had a run-in with law types. Need more than a few days to be sure we’re free of it.”

Jayne frowned. That mess with Tracy just a few days back, not a whole three months?

“What the hell you talkin’ about?” he asked

Zoë spoke up quick. “We got it, sir,” she said to Mal, but she held Jayne’s eye. “Jayne’s gonna keep his mouth shut. We won’t be havin’ no problems from him.”

Jayne pulled himself together, annoyed that he’d needed Zoë giving him the evil eye to remind him to play along. “That’s right,” he said, trying to sound like a proper crew member, backing up his captain. “Not a word. You just… you just do the deal, Cap’n. We got your back.”

Mal gave him a doubtful look, then muttered to Zoë as he turned to enter the building, “Have the doc check on Jayne. I think he’s out of his head.”

Jayne opened his mouth to argue that, but Zoë stopped him with a glare.

They followed Mal down the hall, Jayne last. He all but snarled at the gunman standing outside Badger’s office, even though the man hadn’t done anything – yet – to make Jayne feel so ornery. The man didn’t care, he went in to check with Badger. The three of them had to wait outside, and Jayne was stuck in his thoughts for a few more minutes, which was a place he’d generally prefer to avoid.

The truth was this: he wanted out. Even if the food and the pay was crap elsewhere, didn’t matter. A man had to have his standards, and there was more to life than food. He needed peace of mind.

“Jayne,” Mal said in a sharp whisper, “you got some kind of infestation in your privates?”

Jayne gave the captain a confused look.

“Stop fidgeting,” Mal said.“You’re bugging me.”

Jayne snorted. “Hey – you got a helluva lot more to worry about than –”

“Jayne!” Zoë hissed.

Jayne swallowed down the words he had burning in his throat, and held his quiet until they were waved into the office. Mal said his usual less-than-fond hellos to Badger, but Jayne hardly paid attention. He could only think about how he wanted to get out of this mess. Time to move on, no doubt about that.

It was that stupid girl. Had to be, what else would bug him so bad? And the situation with her wasn’t gonna change. Mal’d made it clear that she wasn’t going anyplace – it was like she was gorramn crew. Mal was an idiot to have a soft spot toward her. Hell, Jayne had never given a damn for useless little girls, even ones who weren’t nuts. A waste of time and oxygen was all they were.

* * *

Thirteen years ago

Jayne’s crew has been busy, making a bunch of runs out near Ida Moon. They haven’t been near any kind of drinking or whoring place in near a month, so Jayne’s glad as can be when they finally dock with a station orbiting Greenleaf for some R-and-R.

He stuffs his pocket with money from the long, hard job and goes out right away, looking for anything that isn’t dirt or rock or leather faced old gunhands who smell like rot. He has himself a good ole time, best way he knows how. There’s plenty of drink, and food – a slab of meat, cooked tough but guaranteed to come from an actual cow, and that’s something to make it an occasion.

He also has a woman and pays her enough to work out the kinks of a whole month of hard labor and crime. That takes him late into the night.

The next morning, he wakes with his head aching and the wad of money in his pocket shrunk down to barely a thing, but he’s paid in advance for a morning tumble and leaves the whore’s place with the tight spots on his body all worked out. He has enough coin left for some high-priced black coffee, and he chugs it as he walks the station, meandering a bit `cause he’s forgotten exactly where his ship is docked.

He happens by the post and decides to check in – he gets notes from his Ma from time to time, and, as much as he has no need to go back home, it brings him cheer to hear the news.

It turns out that there’s a letter for him, and it’s been waiting for more than a month.

Dear Jayne,

     I am sorry to be passing this news to you by post. But I do not know
when you’ll be back by this way. You know that your sister Annie was
having a cough, because I wrote it in my last letter. Well, the cough
got worse, and yesterday it took her from us.

     I know you and Annie were not close, being so different in age. But
I know that Annie loved you in her heart to the end. We used the money
you sent to give her comforts in her last days. She was grateful for
that. I am sure that she is in Heaven now. She will be watching over
you wherever your travels take you.

     I am very sorry to tell you this way. I am not sure if you will be
visiting home. But I think you should know.

Your Mother

Jayne wads up the note and stuffs in his pocket.

* * *

Mal turned his back on Badger, and Jayne pulled his attention into the room just in time to catch the captain’s tense nod toward the door. The deal must not be going good, then.

“This job’ll fetch more money than you and yours seen in a good long time,” Badger called after Mal, speaking fast. “Think again `fore you walk out!”

Jayne gave himself a shake and opened his eyes and ears wide, trying to catch up on whatever he’d missed. Mal was clearly fed up, heading out of the room with Zoë behind him. Jayne put on a scowl that seemed to fit the situation and made to follow, but Badger’s next words had Mal pulling up short.

“Might get you four `undred platinum, you play it right.”

Mal turned back, looking ready to shoot rather than deal, but he talked smooth. “You got any proof of that?” he asked, then he folded his arms and glowered. Jayne glanced at Zoë, who was matching the captain, then he took up a similar pose himself. He might have missed some harsh words, but he could cover for it easy enough.

Badger nodded at one of his men, who picked up a gray metallic box sitting in the corner of the room and set it on Badger’s desk. The thing was about a half meter on a side, and had flashing lights on a small panel on top.

“Refrigeration,” Badger explained as he tapped a few buttons on the panel. “Gotta keep it nice and fresh.”

“Fresh?” Mal asked with a raised eyebrow and a look of doubt.

Badger released a latch and pushed the lid off the box. A wispy white cloud rose out of it, just like the container that River had come out of that first time, (Jayne held back a few bitter thoughts about that day) but this box was too small to hold a body, even one as tiny as hers.

Badger reached in and pulled out a clear bag. In it was a large mess of grey-pink meat, which he held up like he thought the light would sparkle on it.

Jayne squinted at it. “Pig ears?” he asked. “Fatty pig ears?”

Badger glanced at Jayne with a look of annoyance, then he turned to Mal. “If your dà năo sĭ wáng hired muscle is gonna be eatin’ this for a snack, forget the job right here and now. ”

“Hey!” Jayne snapped. “I ain’t stupid.”

“He’s not that stupid,” Mal said without turning to see the glare that earned. “What exactly is that?”

“Pure gold. Better than. But it needs explainin’.”

“And here we are with another catch,” Zoë said.

Badger shrugged. “Not a catch. It’s an advantage you happen to have, and it’s why I’ve been saving this lucrative bit a’ work. See – the buyer is particular about the source.”

“It’s always something with you, Badger,” Mal said. “Now why is that?”

Badger dropped the bag into the cooler and shut the lid over it. “Look,” he said, “it’s a legal job, more or less, and it’s got pay that the likes a’ you won’t find nowhere else.”

Mal continued glaring for long moment before he said, “Curiousity’s a dangerous thing, but I just got to know why you think that hunk of flesh is worth four hundred.”

Badger’s face switched from worried to cocky in a flash. “You ever `eard of an elephant seal?” he asked.

* * *
The box was surprisingly heavy, considering how small it was. Must be all the refrigeration tech, Jayne figured as he shifted the thing higher on his hip.

He was feeling downright pleased with himself. Mal might have passed it right by – very nearly had – but this job lay right in Jayne’s alley, and he’d managed to talk the captain into it. Well – he’d provided the info that had pushed Mal over the edge. Jayne knew exactly what this stuff was worth. Not that he’d ever bought it for himself. Hell, no – never had, never would. But he’d been to a few of the upscale whorehouses where it was for sale. Plenty of men out there needed help, and they’d pay dear for it.

Selesta, it was called. Little bits of tender raw meat to be chewed on in the whorehouse waiting parlor – or it could be dried and cooked up in a fancy tea, if you were the pinky lifting kind of guy. And what exactly was it? Jayne knew – he’d heard the story from a high class lady he’d gone to a few times during in his early days in the Black, when he got a payoff high enough to afford her.

Selesta was the most potent part of one of the most potent male animals out there. The elephant seal: a good seven meters in length, weighing in at a solid ton, and a bad-ass defender and full time lover of his own private herd of lady seals. What overpaid upper class lilly wouldn’t pay for a piece of something like that?

Yeah, this cargo was worth every bit of what Badger’d said, `specially if they managed to palm it off to a Companion house. Those women would pay tops for it, `cause they could sell it for even more.

Once back in the cargo bay, Mal snatched the box out of Jayne’s hands without even a thank you, and carried it away like he meant to lock it up. As if anyone on this crew was desperate enough to want to partake in that.

Well, Jayne thought, maybe Simon….

“Nice work,” a gruff voice said behind him.

“What?” Jayne asked, turning to see a very unhappy Zoë glaring at him like he was her new worst enemy. That kind of look made him uneasy, when it was coming from Zoë.

“Mayhap you like the idea of gettin’ into the sex trade,” Zoë said, “but there’s more goin’ on here than business.”

“Hell, Zoë,” Jayne said defensively. “It’s good money. If I hadn’t a’ spoke up, captain would’a walked away from it.”

“And we wouldn’t be going to a Companion House. Yesu, Jayne, are you really that dumb? For all we know, Inara could be workin’ at that house that Badger’s steerin’ us toward!”

Jayne sputtered, feeling blood heat his cheeks as he realized her meaning. He tried to cover up the fact that this little complication had never even occurred to him.

“Now, how d’you know it wouldn’t be good for him? Maybe it’s exactly what he needs – wrangle a little kŏu jiāo out of Inara and then drop her like a stone. That’d fix him up – you ever think of that, huh?” Jayne folded his arms and nodded to himself; it wasn’t a bad idea. Best way to cure a hangup on a lady, and one he’d seen work plenty of times. But Zoë glared at him like he’d suggested sacrificing baby bunnies to Buddha.

“Stay out of my face,” she said, her eyes narrow in that scary way she had. “And if I see you so much as think of talking to the captain, about anything, I will have Simon cut out what parts of your brain control your mouth. If there are any.”

Jayne huffed as she walked away from him. “That ain’t fair! I was just tryin’ to help!”

Zoë didn’t reply, but another soft voice did:

“I understand.”

“Huh?” Jayne looked straight up to see the outline of a small figure lying on the catwalk above the cargo bay doors.

“Mean well,” River said softly. “She can’t see, but I do.”

“Could you ever not sneak?” Jayne snapped at her.

River sighed. “Could you ever not be grumpy?” she replied.

Jayne shook his head and left her be – he wasn’t up to arguing with a mental case. He looked around for some other source of entertainment, something to keep him from thinking. Too much of that wasn’t ever healthy.

The hovercraft was hanging in the back corner of the bay, Kaylee’s feet sticking out from under its side. The mule was looking better; that chatty old lady Xiaojun had given Kaylee some steel plating that she’d molded into panels to cover the machine’s innards. It was all a dull gray, but Jayne imagined that Kaylee’d be prettyin’ up it before too long.

He didn’t bug her straight off – Kaylee’d been a bit tetchy about her alone time ever since Niflheim, since she’d shot that guy. But he wouldn’t be in her space if he got out the weight bench, right? She could talk to him if she wanted, or not.

Turned out that it didn’t take long. He took off his coat and gun and was just started setting up the weights when she spoke up.

“How’d it go?”

He turned and could see her face peeking out from the shadows under the mule.

“Usual,” he told her. “`Cept as how Zoë’s all over everything gettin’ said. Like Mal’s some gorramn toddler.”

“She’s just tryin’ to take care a’ him. That’s what she does.”

“Yeah, well – it gets on my nerves,” Jayne snapped, and that was the truth. It bugged him, bugged him enough that he found himself thinking again about all those ships parked out in the docks. Other crews might have their problems, but at least things would make a bit of sense.

Law of the jungle was how it was supposed to be in the Black. Survival of the fittest. You’re strong, you got a big gun, you win. The weak go down. Simple.

By those rules, Mal was all done.

“Jayne?” Kaylee said, still in that quiet voice that wasn’t right for her. “I been thinkin’ about the captain…”

Jayne wrinkled up his brow, not wanting to let on that he was doing the same. “Yeah?”

“Well, it’s just… maybe forgettin’ stuff ain’t such a bad thing. You know?” She looked away from him, staring up at whatever bit of the mule she was working on, and grimaced a bit as she tried to loosen a part. “Captain’s had bad stuff goin’ on lately. Maybe it’s best for him if he don’t have to think on it no more.”

That confused Jayne. How could it be good, when it made the man so gorramn helpless?

“I mean,” Kaylee continued, “seems everybody’s got some scaries that keep ‘em awake at night. Stuff that don’t sit back like it should. If the bad could be erased, made to go away forever, seems that’d be a blessin’.” She wasn’t working anymore, just lying with her arms up, holding onto the tangled engine pipes but not moving. Her eyes were all soft like she was looking at something further off, something that made her sad.

For some odd reason, Jayne found himself thinking again of that time years ago, when he’d put his mother’s wadded up letter in his pocket. He remembered how empty that pocket had been. All that money, more than what he’d sent them to care for his little sister, spent in one night.

It hadn’t bothered him at the time. He’d barely known Annie – and it wasn’t like he could have done anything about how she died when he was half the `verse away. Wasn’t his problem.

“What’re you thinkin’ about?” Kaylee asked.

Jayne started, wondering how long he’d been sitting there.

“Nothin’ important.”

Kaylee had crawled out from the mule and was sitting on the deck. She was staring down at the wrench in her hands like she was shy, and that wasn’t right. Kaylee wasn’t ever one to be shy.

“Jayne?” she asked again, her voice quiet.


“You `member the first time you killed somebody?”

Jayne looked at her sharp, but she still had her head down. “Yeah, `course I do.”

“What was it like?”

“What d’ya mean? I shot a guy. It was dark, and those gorramn fools didn’t have no cover. Nothin’ fancy `bout it.”

“But how… ” She didn’t finish her question, just stood up and turned away. “I really should be workin’ on Serenity,” she said. “We got a trip ahead a’us. I should make sure she’s runnin’ smooth.”

Jayne watched her leave, still feeling bugged in a way he couldn’t quite figure for sure. One good way to deal with that – he loaded up the bar.

* * *

Sixteen years ago

It’s been three years since Jayne left home to work on a freighter. He’d had a solid build even then, and he’s only gotten stronger – it’s been three years of working hard for his pay, carrying cargo all day. He’s also learned to drink cheap booze and visit whores when he has the chance. It ain’t a bad time. His ship don’t visit the best places in the `verse; they mostly work border worlds far from his home. But it’s all like some kind of adventure, and that’s plenty for him.

Even better, Jayne gets paid, more than his dad ever got out a’ working the factories. Jayne sends a little home, but keeps plenty for himself too. It’s his chance to finally live good, to see something of the `verse and have life his own way.

Things had got a little tight his second year out, some trouble with government types wanting to charge higher tariffs. The leader of his crew still thinks it’s a plan to keep the business with the big companies, to screw over independent workers like themselves. Jayne doesn’t care much about that, except that suddenly he find himself with less coin to jingle.

As the months go by, the food gets worse and the crew shrinks. Jayne keeps his spot, seeing as how he’s young and big and works hard. But the upstanding jobs are scarce, and nowadays they stay far out on the Rim, not even getting in to halfway decent places like Persephone. They move cargo around between dusty little worlds; it ain’t the kind of cargo they want anyone but the buyer and seller to know about. No one tells Jayne that, but it isn’t tough to figure – deliveries are made in the dead of night, on deserted moons with no one around.

Jayne knows how to work guns, but he never had one until the jobs get shady. Once that happens, the crew sets him up with a pistol. Just in case, they say.

It doesn’t take take long before he makes use of it. They’re picking up cargo on some dark corner of a moon he hasn’t caught the name of when a bunch of crazy hundan come running out of nowhere, trying to steal the stuff.

Survival is survival, and he needs his pay, so Jayne doesn’t think twice. He draws his gun and defends the cargo. There aren’t many raiders and they aren’t tough to shut down, probably some hard-up locals that have gone and got themselves drunk enough to try something stupid.

Jayne only shoots one before it’s all over. Never even sees the face – the crew leaves the bodies where they fall so they can load up and turn tail quick as they can.

* * *
Never thought a thing about it, not `till Kaylee asked. Was he supposed to be bothered? He’d had to protect what was his. That was the way of things.

He sat at the weight bench, resting after the single warm-up set he’d got done so far. He was so caught up with his thoughts that he didn’t even hear the moonbrain coming down the stairs until she spoke to him.

“Done?” she asked.

Jayne jumped and snapped at her. “How the hell d’you do that?”

River’s jaw set. “Sneaky,” she said pointedly. “Are you done?”

“Nah. Just gettin’ started.”

She tilted her head to the side in that way she had, like she was listening to something no one else could hear. It gave Jayne the willies when she did that.

Suddenly, she straightened. “Need a spot?”

He grinned and tipped his head toward the heavily loaded bar. “You think you can lift that?”

Crazy girl seemed to take it as a challenge. She moved to the head of the bench, set her feet solidly on the deck, and gripped the bar. It didn’t move a bit, but her face started turning red, then her lips pressed together and her skinny arms began to shake.

Eventually, she let go of the bar with a fast exhale. “Strength isn’t everything,” she said.

Jayne laughed. “It is when you’re liftin’ heavy stuff.” He reached out and squeezed her arm. “It’d help if your bicep was bigger than the bar.”

She didn’t pull away like he half expected her to. “Wasn’t talking about lifting weights,” she said.

He let go of her. Wasn't no fun if it didn't bug her. “Then what the hell are ya talkin’ `bout?”

And then River did something confusing. More confusing than usual, that is. She set her pointy finger on the bar near one support, then ran it lightly across the dark grey metal.

“Soft touch…” she said. “Better than strength.” She kept her head tilted down, but lifted her eyes to look at him.

That baffled Jayne. He chuckled uncomfortably. “What – you gonna pet the bar `till it moves on its own?”

She smiled. “Hmm – something like that.”

She took her hand off the bar and reached out to him, setting her finger on his shoulder. Jayne cranked his head to look at where she was touching him, just to make sure she wasn’t hiding something sharp in her palm.


He looked back at her face, then at her hand again as she began tracing a line up his shoulder to his neck. There was something about this that was wrong. Very, very wrong. He couldn’t figure it, not until she leaned over the bar, looking like she had some idea of following the trail of her finger with her mouth.

Wa shǐ!” he said, jumping to his feet. “You puttin’ a move on me?”

River slid around the bench toward him. “Would it be so bad?” she asked.

Jayne backed away. “You crazy gorramn freak. What the hell you thinkin’?”

“It’s time, and I choose you.”

“Time? Time for – ?” He decided he didn’t want her explaining that, so he skipped on to the second thing she’d said. “But… why you comin’ after me?”

“Because… “ She paused and looked toward the ceiling, like she was trying to dig out the right words. “You’re… special. I have…” She flopped a hand around in front of her, as if it would help. “… deep… feelings… for you. And I think it’s time we – ”

“You feedin’ me a line?” he asked. “I got crazy girl feedin’ me a gorramn line?”

River dropped her hand and fixed a hard look on him. “It works for you, doesn’t it?”

“It works for me, not on me!”

River looked hurt, and she did that tilty head thing again. “But… aren’t you tired of your hand?”

“Hey – my own hand don’t ever try and kill me. Anyhow – I got plenty a’ whores I can go to.”

She smiled brightly. “Save money. Won’t need whores when you have me.” She moved toward him again, reaching up like she meant to grab him. Jayne backed away, holding out his hands to block her.

“Now you just… just stop right there. I dunno where you got this idea, but you need to lose it, right now.”

“Why? I know you’ve had thoughts about me.”

“Yesu, girl, I have thoughts about anything with two legs and titties. Don’t mean I’m stupid. If Mal don’t kill me, sure as hell your brother’d be dropping meds in my tea first chance he got.”

“You’re afraid of Simon?”

“Hell no, I ain’t – ”

“Won’t tell him.”

Gorramn if she wasn’t worming her way around his upheld arm and getting all close to him again. It wasn’t like she was ugly, but she had no flesh on her. Jayne liked to have an armful of something to hold onto, liked a woman with experience who wasn’t like to break in half when things got rough.

River did have a way of moving, though, and she was like to be bendy…

He saw a smile stretch the girl’s lips, and he shook the idea out of his head. Then he shook it again when the thing he was picturing wouldn’t go away. A skinny young thing like River wasn’t for taking to bed. Especially with her history with guns and knives, he wasn’t gonna be trusting his privates with her. `Sides, there was something about her that creeped him out. Something more than the cracks in her brainpan. Something that made it so wrong

* * *

Nineteen years ago

Jayne sits on a wooden bench, leaning back against the stone wall it’s built into. His mother might see the smoke rising over the top of the wall, but she won’t know that it’s him blowing it out.

His buddy Cody sits next to him, wasting most of his cig `cause he can’t stop talking long enough to take a decent inhale. Cody’s seventeen, a year older than Jayne, but it never does seem that way. Maybe it’s `cause Jayne’s been able to out-wrastle Cody for going on ten years now. Jayne’s always been able to out-wrastle most everyone, and that’s something he enjoys knowing. And doing.

They’re waiting for the rest of their bunch to show up so they can go into town and look for some fun. Or trouble – whatever they get to first will do. Jayne’s learned some time ago that he’s the boss, and he can get away with lots if he sticks with his gang. His mother calls them the Pack, like they’re a bunch a’ wild dogs or something. Jayne grins at the thought. Hell, yeah, they’re a dog pack. And Jayne’s Top Dog.

“Momma’s gonna whip you, she sees you smokin’,” a high voice says from above his head. Jayne twists around to look up at the thin white face hanging over the wall. Little Annie’s six now, and able to do more spying than she used to. It’s getting to be a problem.

“You say one word `bout this, I’ll be doin’ the whippin’,” Jayne warns.

“You goin’ to town again?” she asks, ignoring his threat. Ain’t anyone else besides his Ma who’ll do that, but Annie’s not afraid of him. He’d never actually beat on his little sister, and she knows it. She sure as hell asks for it plenty of times, but she’s so tiny and frail that she’s like to break if he ever touched her rough.

He drags on his smoke. “Whassit matter to you?”

“I’m buildin’ a house. For Nettie.” Nettie’s her favorite ragdoll; goes everywhere she does. The thing’s torn-up dirty face appears next to Annie’s, staring down at him. “Help me?”

Cody laughs. “Yeah, Jayne. Stay home and play with dolls! Maybe you can play dress up, too.”

“Shuddup,” Jayne snaps – at both of them. “I ain’t buildin’ no damn house for that rag.”

Annie pouts at him. “Please? Mattie’s busy with Ma. I ain’t got no one else to play with.”

Jayne frowns; his little brother Mattie ain’t quite old enough to work the factory yet and he has to do chores around home. Jayne brings in pay, so he can go out on his own on his free night. Don’t have to fix things when they break, don’t have to cook or clean, and don’t have to babysit no whiny whelp either.

“`At’s cause you’re a snotty-nosed dirty-butt brat,” he says, then he throws his smoke down and stomps it out. “Go on back inside – and don’t be tellin’ Ma I was smokin’, or I’ll take Nettie to work and put her through a thresher.”

Her face pinches angrily. “I’ll tell Ma you’re going to see whores!” she threatens. Jayne scowls and jumps up toward her, reaching for that silly doll. Annie disappears behind the wall with a yelp.

“Come on,” Jayne tells Cody, and he starts down the street. They’ll just move a few houses down the lane, where Annie can’t bug them no more.

“I’m glad I’m the youngest at home,” Cody says as he follows Jayne. “Ain’t got no little sister whinin’ at me all the time. How you even take it?”

“Won’t be takin’ it for long,” Jayne says. “I’m getting the hell out a’here.”

“How’s that?”

Jayne stands a bit taller as be brags. “My cousin’s lookin’ out for freighter jobs. First chance I get, I’m gonna travel the `verse. Ain’t gonna waste away in that gorramn factory the rest of my life. No way. Not me.”

* * *
The memory flashed by in the time it took River to slip inside Jayne’s arms and pull herself close. She must have been up on the tips of her toes to be getting her mouth nearly up to his, her lips pursed and straining to close that last bit of distance.

“Cut it out!” Jayne said, and he pushed her away. “Cool your… whatever it is that needs coolin’!”

River opened her eyes and stared icy lasers at him. “You’ll go to any whore, but I’m not good enough for you?”

“No! No – that ain’t how it is. I know you got needs. We all got needs. At your age, I was, well, I was needin’...” And that was the truth. Jayne knew all about the way she was needing. “But that don’t mean you can just…”

Jayne paused as an idea came to him

“What?” she asked, pouting fit to compete with little Annie, but with an edge of something angry and dangerous. Jayne gave her a look down and up – nah, she may look like a little girl, but he’d be wrong to mistake her for one. River had surprises; probably more of those than anyone knew.

Somehow, that idea made him think he might actually like her – just a little. She wasn’t really so helpless, and that interested him. Didn’t mean he was gonna bed her; the thought of that turned his stomach. But not in the way he’d have expected. He didn’t feel like throwing her out the airlock or selling her off to some slave trader just to get her out of his face.

Truth was, he felt for her. And who else besides him was willing and able to do anything about her kind of problem?

“Now, you listen up,” he said. “Keep yourself cool, and don’t be doing this gōu shī no more. You stay off a’ me, and I’ll help you out.”

River’s eyes narrowed. “How?” she demanded.

“Don’t you worry, I’ll take care of it,” Jayne nodded to himself. Yeah – it was definitely a good idea he was having.

River gave him a long look, then she smiled at him. “I believe you.”

It wasn’t her usual creepy smile, but friendly-like – sort of how she smiled at Simon. Jayne was just thinking on that, and on how him made feel a bit taller than he usually was, when she stepped forward and jumped. She grabbed his neck and pulled herself up to kiss his cheek.

“Thank you!” she said, then dropped back onto the deck.

Jayne chuckled, oddly satisfied at her reaction, and he turned to go back to the weight bench. He was met by a fist crashing into his jaw.

“You keep your hands off of her!” Simon yelled, which wasn’t a bit fair, so Jayne shook it off quickly and punched the doctor right back. He did a better job of it – Simon ended up on the deck, landing on his butt with a thud.

“Hell with this,” Jayne muttered, and he turned and headed up the stairs without bothering to put the weights away. Simon yelled after him.

“If you take advantage of her, I’ll – ”

“Like I want that nutjob anywhere near my xiăo dìdì!” Jayne yelled down, swiping his hand over the precious thing in question. “I didn’t ask her to move on me!”

Simon glared up from where he sat on the deck, rubbing his cheek. “As if I’ll ever believe that,” he said.

Jayne didn’t have to respond. “Said no!” River explained. “I tried, and he said no. Doesn’t want me. I’ll be a lonely old maid.” She hung her head.

“River – you didn’t,” Simon said.

“Gorramn right she did!” Jayne told him. “You better get a handle on her. Girl’s ruttin’ insane and out a’ control!”

Simon was getting set to bust into River, but all Jayne saw was the girl looking up at him, eyes big and sad. But then her mouth pulled sideways a little and she winked at him. Jayne turned away before he could do something silly like smile back – not that he cared what Simon thought, but he didn’t want the girl forming more ideas she shouldn’t have. None of this meant he was her friend or nothing.

He went up the stairs two at a time – he had a mission now, and if it looked like a mission of mercy he didn’t have so much of a problem with that. This could even be fun, what with going behind the doc’s back and all. Jayne’d need to make sure the ship was staying on the ground for a few more minutes...

Yep, he liked this – a good deed to do before he moved on to another job. He had to admit, there was something about doing a favor for River, something that made him feel warm – but not in a tingly, sexed-up way. More like he was taking care of a debt long overdue.

That thought made him pause. He felt good about being nice to River? But he was still sure he needed to leave?

If that girl wasn’t the thing that bugged him about being on Serenity – what the hell was?

* * *


chōng yù:   enough
pìgu:   butt
dà năo sĭ wáng:   brain dead
kŏu jiāo:   oral sex
wa shǐ:   holy shit
gōu shī:   crap
xiăo dìdì:   cock (lit. "little younger brother")
* * *

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Thursday, May 10, 2007 3:51 AM


I have to say - damn I love this picture of Jayne!! mphillips is The Master.

Thanks HeWHo KicksAlot! And Chazzer! And SwedishMystery!

Leiasky - I thought you'd like the Simon drawing LOL!

tkid - I just laugh evilly....

nbz - hmm re implanted suggestions... I didn't intend it that way, but it totally works! Um... I mean.. Yes, that's exactly what I planned... ;)

TamSibling - I like your interpretation! Your take on Simon and Kaylee fits my feelings - a simple sudden hookup wouldn't solve much, as fun as it would be. (sorry tkid)

Katesfriend - does this chapter do anything to confirm your guess on where I'm going?

BEB and Platonist - It's funny how Inara's generally so separate from the rest of the crew, but they really do feel her absence when she's gone.

Platonist - thanks for the agreement! I've found that showing a needy, frightened, out-of-place, and very human side of Simon explains a lot about him that the rest of the crew never sees. Or maybe I just like my men better if they come with a healthy dose of angst. ;)

Thursday, May 10, 2007 5:59 AM


Good slant on Jayne's back story. Looking forward to the rest.


Thursday, May 10, 2007 8:08 AM


You got me to read a whole chapter focused on Jayne. That's a feat in and of itself:)

Of course, the writing was as good as always and I liked the back story you developed for Jayne as well.

And Jayne doing something for River... [singsong voice] I know what he's getting her [/end singsong voice] ohh, I can't wait to see Simon's reaction . . .

Thursday, May 10, 2007 9:53 AM


Well I smell a Rayne subplot bubbling up from the deep, dark depths of your mind, mal4prez? Cuz if my nose is not lying...I think some interesting times are ahead for those two;D

Utter brilliance here, m4p! Jayne, I think, is a difficult character to really work with, since you have to really dig deep to create motivation and backstory that allows the existing hard-ass side to blend with a background of being a big brother and provider to his family. And his perusal of the other ships is a definite plausibility at this stage, since his continued shift in perspecetive is something that I would imagine is troubling for someone who's spent 20 years or so focused on his own needs.


P.S. Will Inara's chapter be the last one in this series of perspectives? Cuz I can imagine having Inara be last and getting a WAVE from Kaylee about what's been going on that causes her to "temporarily" return;)

Thursday, May 10, 2007 4:08 PM


Wow, what a chapter. You wrote the most realistic Jayne I've ever read - true to the series and movie and still just as likable. He's not mutated into someone lovable - he's simply Jayne as Joss created him. Love it!

You are going to drag out the torture for Mal (and us) for awhile, aren't you? Playing us along bit by bit as you weave the story out slowly and wonderfully, line by line. Can't think of a better way to spend the summer.

What really impresses me about your work is how you are interweaving all the character's storylines bit by bit. Kaylee's especially I think will be wonderful against the background of the whole theme of the fic. I can imagine how you can converge them later - and can hardly wait!

As to whether I'm guessing right or not, am I?

Friday, May 11, 2007 6:19 AM


Aaahh, Jayne's thought process. Who'd have thought it could be so deep?

And Simon taking a swing at Jayne? Kinda tuggin' on the tiger's tail, wouldn't you say? But I've always liked how Simon will thoughtlessly throw himself in harm's way to protect River.

Most excellent. Oh, and a grammatically correct Fic really goes a long way with a lot of us. ;)

"Man lookin' to kill some folk."

Rob O.

Saturday, May 12, 2007 8:46 PM


I really love your Jayne voice! He is sufficiently crass without being a complete degenerate, and his 'dumbass'-ness is mostly a result of his wandering thoughts and general distractibility.

I loved his reaction to Simon's punch, and how his physicality is what gets him by.

Nice job!

Thursday, May 17, 2007 3:28 PM


I was all manner of amused at how uncomfortable Jayne felt with having River trying to make a move on him. I also found the whole bit where Jayne is considering his options in case he needs to move on very believable. As for their carge - yuck! - sooner them carting it around for Badger than me. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.