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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
As River guides the crew in their attempts to zero in on Kaylee's improvized beacon, Jayne and Kaylee’s ordeal in the high mountains of Newhall continues.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 721 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Determined: Chapter Five
Disclaimer: All belong to Joss. I got nada.
Rating: PG-15, for profanity
Setting: Post BDM
Word Count: 2060-ish
A/N: Set on the same world as my Faith Trilogy. Hover for translation. Loved it? Hated it? Let me know what you think. Thanks.
X-posted from my LiveJournal
Second Day, On The Mountain
It was dusk by the time Jayne found game. The thick evergreens of the upper slopes had given way to a mixture of pines, firs and aspens, scattered across steep grassy meadows.
“Shhh…” Jayne hissed. He gestured for Kaylee to be still and with his good hand, he made the gesture of an animal walking and pointed ahead of them at a small clearing. Kneeling silently on the soft duff behind a fallen tree trunk, he drew his revolver, bracing it with both hands as he took aim.
Although Kaylee covered her ears, she still jumped when the shot rang out. She didn’t think she’d ever get used to the sound of gunfire. They clambered over the log and headed for their quarry.
“What’d ya shoot?” she asked, almost afraid to look.
“Groundhog.” Jayne nudged the small dark brown body. “Ain't the tastiest, but we need protein and meat’s meat. We need…”
“I know – tinder and wood for a fire.” The mechanic scurried back to the edge of the woods, stuffing her overall pockets with handfuls of dried grass. She gathered an armload of dry twigs, then went back for larger pieces of fallen deadwood. By the time she returned with an armload of reasonably dry branches, Jayne had skinned and gutted the groundhog and had the carcass lying on the inside of the pelt.
Kaylee looked down at their soon-to-be meal. “Poor li’l fella. Looks downright nekkid, lyin’ there like that.”
Jayne laughed. “I’d say he looks like dinner. Let’s get us a fire built so we got something to cook ‘im over.”
He carefully arranged the tinder Kaylee had gathered and soon had a brisk little fire going, which he stoked with short lengths of dry wood. “Gotta let this burn down some, make us some coals. How ‘bout we just rest a little?” It had been a hard day and both he and Kaylee were stiff and sore from the crash and all the ground they’d covered.
He lowered himself to the ground, grunting at the ache in his shoulder and lay back in the long grass, his good arm tucked behind his head. Kaylee pillowed her head on his middle, comforted by his presence. All around them was silent but for the pop and crackle of the fire.
* * *
It was dark when Jayne gently shook Kaylee awake. “Looks like that fire’s burnt down enough to cook over. Here, lemme up.” He picked up a straight, slender length of alder wood and with his knife lobbed off any twigs and sharpened one end. Skewering the carcass, he rested it across the forked sticks he’d earlier driven into the ground on either side of the fire. Within minutes, the scent of roasting meat filled the air.
“It’s gonna get cold tonight, so we best gather up more wood.” The merc glanced around. “I don’t know if’n they got bears around here or not, but a good fire oughta keep anything big away and help keep us warm.”
Kaylee’s chin jerked up sharply. “Bears?”
“Could be. Maybe wolves, too. I ain't seen tracks but that don’t mean they ain't around. How ‘bout helpin’ me get more wood up?” he asked. “You work on gatherin’ anything seems medium-sized and good ’n dry. I’ll drag up some bigger deadfalls.”
Half an hour later there was a substantial pile of firewood; enough, Jayne reckoned, to get them through the night. He squatted before the fire stoking and banking it as best he could given his injured arm and Kaylee hunkered down nearby, studying him and gnawing her thumbnail. Much as the merc tried to conceal his pain, she could see he was hurting.
He turned the groundhog, sniffing at the savory smell of the fat that dripped from the roasting meat to sizzle on the coals. “Now that’s gonna be some good eatin’,” he pronounced with a smug grin. He pushed a big pine log further into the fire, then sat down beside Kaylee.
She held her knees tucked close, arms wrapped around them, gazing into the ruddy flames. Above, bats swooped and danced, seeking the few moths attracted by the light of the fire, and the stars twinkled in the clear air.
The big man reached out to stroke the girl’s tangled hair, combing his fingers gently through it. “You done real good gatherin’ up the stuff for the fire.” He paused, struggling to put his feelings into words. “It’s one of the things I love about you, Kay. You’re resourceful. You got a way of figurin’ stuff out, makin’ things work. Makes me feel like, anything happens to me, you’ll do alright, you’ll manage on your own.”
Both of them knew the likelihood of Jayne dying on a job was a very real possibility and it was something they each struggled with but rarely talked about.
Kaylee grabbed his hand and held it against her cheek. “Don’t.”
“What? Don’t die? Hell, darlin’, we all gotta go someday.”
“No, don’t talk about it right now. Let’s just enjoy bein’ here together and this beautiful night and that uncommon dinner that’s gettin’ mighty done over there…”
He sniffed and squeezed her hand. “You’re right, babygirl. It’s a right fine evenin’ and I best turn that meat.”
Kaylee licked the grease and meat juices from her sticky fingers. “Who’d a thought you could eat a groundhog? That was real good, Jayne. I mean, considerin’ we didn’t have no salt or nothin’ and parts was extra crispy.”
The big merc tossed a bone into the fire. “That was ‘cause you distracted me. You got a way a doin’ that. “
“Is that a bad thing?” She wiggled a little closer and grinned up at him. “’Cause I been gettin’ the idea you like my distractin’ you.”
“Mal might disagree, but no, darlin’, it ain't a bad thing. Helps keep me outta trouble and sure has made my life a lot sweeter.” He slid his good arm around her and pulled her close against his side so that her head rested in the hollow of his shoulder, then gently kissed the lump over her eye, his voice thick with emotion when he spoke again. “You’re a remarkable woman, Kaywinnett.”
Serenity’s shuttles had made numerous passes over the mountainous area River had indicated, but without any sign of Jayne and Kaylee. The terrain was rough and convoluted and by late afternoon, deeply shadowed.
Mal peered over Zoë’s shoulder at the sharp, furrowed landscape visible through the viewscreen, and shook his head in frustration. “Those short transmissions make it gorramn hard to suss out their location. Gotta be Kaylee doin’ the signalin’ – no way Jayne could figure out how to do that. She’s probably relying on small batteries, just sending out short bursts so’s not to run ‘em down.“
Zoë looked at him solemnly. “As much as I hate to say it, sir, it’s getting too dark to see anything. I think we’d best call it a day.”
Mal crossed his arms, clearly struggling with the situation. Finally, he radioed Inara and Simon. “Let’s head back in to the boat, people. We ain’t likely to find ‘em in the dark. We’ll give ‘em another shot in the mornin’.”
* * *
Jayne tossed more wood on the fire, which blazed up brightly. The temperature was dropping and the warmth it generated was definitely comforting.
Kaylee yawned widely. “Guess I’m more tuckered out than I thought.”
“No surprise there. We hiked a long-ass way down a steep slope on top of all else we been through. Best see if we can get us some shut-eye.” He picked up a branch and used it to sweep debris from the ground in front of their woodpile. “If we lay down here, the wood will help reflect the fire’s heat a bit, maybe keep us warmer.” He drew his pistol and placed in within easy reach, then stretched out on his right side and held out a hand to her. “Come‘ere, darlin’.”
Kaylee nestled her body against his, her back against his warmth and her front toward the fire. Jayne settled his injured arm across the rise of her hip and she could feel his breath hitch against her hair. “That arm botherin’ you much?” she asked.
“It’s achin’ some, specially now it’s gettin’ cold. Mostly just makes doin’ things twice as hard.”
“Ain't all’s twice as hard…” She pressed her ass against his erection and giggled.
“Sorry.” Jayne chuckled. “Put a pretty girl near him, he’s rarin’ to go. Never had a lick a common sense about when and where.” He kissed the curve of her shoulder. “Much as I want you, it’s just too damn cold to be ruttin’ out here.”
Kaylee smiled. “You got that right, but you get us back to Serenity and I’ll make it up to ya.”
“Yeah, I just bet you will.”
Jayne got up several times to put more wood on the fire and was grateful that their supply seemed to be holding out. His stomach cramped with hunger and he dreamed he was back on the ship cooking pancakes.
After midnight, he finally dropped into a deeper sleep, until something jerked him awake. Had he heard something or was it his imagination? He listened carefully. Beside him, Kaylee still slept soundly, her body curled snugly against his for warmth.
Just when he’d decided that he’d just been dreaming, he heard the sound again: the scuffle of something big, moving toward them, shuffling, muffled steps interspersed with a low snuffle. As the sounds moved closer, they were punctuated by a low and very threatening growl.
He nudged Kaylee awake and cupped his hand over her mouth before she could say anything, then whispered, “Something’s checkin’ us out, most likely a bear.” He could feel her stiffen in terror. “You keep the fire between him an’ you, hear me?”
He lunged to his feet, pistol cocked and ready and Kaylee grabbed a stout branch and thrust it into the fire. It flared up brightly and revealed the dark, hulking beast. The creature surveyed them hungrily with its piggish eyes and its flaring nostrils, seeking the source of the scent that had drawn it. Casting its massive head from side to side, it raised its lips to expose huge yellowed teeth. Even across the gap between them, the bear’s rank, feral stench enveloped them.
Jayne knew his revolver didn’t have the punch to take out anything that big and wounding the creature would only enrage it. Fire was clearly their best option. “Gimme your torch!”
Kaylee placed the brand in his left hand and grabbed up another for herself. “Tienna, he’s big, Jayne,” she said, backing around so that the fire was between her and the animal.
“He’s probably as scared of us as we are of him.”
“He don’t look scared. He looks hungry.”
The bear half rose and snarled again. He’d caught the scent of the roasting groundhog from miles away and was most unhappy to find no meat other than the two humans waving torches at him. He began to circle the fire.
“Yell like hell and wave your torch, “Jayne advised. “Maybe we can scare him off.” He’d heard the racket Kaylee could make during lovemaking, and knew the girl had a set of lungs on her. Between their shouting and stomping and waving flaming sticks at him, the bear thought better of his plan to devour them and turned tail, lumbering off into the night to seek a more cooperative meal.
“We done it!” Jayne whooped. “I think he’s gone. Probably smelled our dinner.” The merc shook his head. “I shouldda known better, but damnit, we both needed some grub.”
Kaylee’s heart was pounding so hard she thought she might faint. “Damn, that was scary,” she said, adding her branch to the fire. “I seen pictures of bears on the Cortex, but never figured to get to know one, up close and personal.”
“Just be glad it didn’t get no more personal than that.”
“Will it come back?” she asked anxiously.
Jayne tossed his torch back into the fire. “I don’t think so, but I’m gonna sit up and keep watch.”
He hugged her close, filled with pride at her courage. “You done real good, babygirl.”
To be continued…
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