BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Dead Man's Chest - Part IV
Monday, January 12, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne and Matty talk, Bethie gains a new possession, and the man in the desert finds ... something. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1967    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

He’d lost track of time. He could have been digging for a day, or a month, or a thousand years, and it would still have felt the same. He was too far from the entrance to see if it was sunlight or stars outside, and the darkness, broken only by the light from the lamp next to him, wrapped around him, touching his skin at all points, fighting for possession with the dirt encrusted into his flesh.

He’d only paused for a protein bar when the hunger pangs got too bad, and for a mouthful of water that made the whispers louder and more insistent, almost fighting with each other for control of him.

Swinging his spade into the wall of earth in front of him, he almost overbalanced as the edge met no resistance. His face splitting into a rictus grin, he attacked the remaining dirt, seeing it fall away in front of him until there was nothing but a gaping mouth of black.

He picked up the lamp, leaning through the hole and letting the thin light wash through.

There. There it was, resting in all its glory, the marks of its passage hidden beneath fallen rocks and damaged supports. It looked whole, complete, at least from this side, but even he could tell it would never fly again. The thrusters were damaged out of all recognition, and the flight planes buckled.

He walked forwards, stumbling on debris but ignoring it, until he was up against the hull, his face pressed against the cold metal. His fingertips outlined the flag painted there, scored by a thousand micro-meteorites but still visible, a version not seen for almost half a millennium, and he sighed in utter completeness.

“Mine,” he murmured, and the voices in his head cheered silently with him.

---

Friday dawned clear and cool, the crew of Serenity waking slowly in their various beds. Mal thought he was the first one up, but he could smell coffee brewing in the kitchen, and as he stepped down into the galley he realised River was behind the small counter, making breakfast.

“Ain’t it Jayne’s turn to burn stuff?” he asked, scratching his head then pushing his hair flat again.

“We swapped,” the young woman said, flipping a pancake to brown the other side. “He’s out.”

“Oh? Doing what?”

“Visiting.” She looked at him, her big dark eyes asking him to understand.

“His Ma?” Mal said quietly.

She smiled at him. “First chance.”

“Seems he’s got his priorities straight,” Mal said approvingly as he poured himself a coffee. “You know, there was a time I wondered whether she ever existed at all, that the things he got sent to him was all some kind of elaborate ruse.” He reached for one of the pancakes on the stack, and she swatted him lightly with the spatula on the back of his hand.

“Not ready yet,” she admonished. “Your momma wouldn’t let you eat standing up.”

He grinned. “You ain’t wrong there, albatross.”

---

Out in the cemetery Jayne was hunkered down by a grave stone, his fingers brushing the dust from the top even as he read the inscription. It had two names, two dates, one for his father and the other for his mother, and underneath was written Together in peace forever.

“Hope you are, Ma,” he muttered, laying the small bunch of wildflowers he’d picked from a bank next to the entrance down onto the earth. “At peace, I mean.” He half-smiled. “And that Pa’s treating you right. ‘Spect he is, seeing as I know he loved you. ’Cause that’s kinda the way I feel ‘bout River. Being together forever, ashes to ashes ‘n’all.”

There was no answer, but he felt a deep warmth fill him, and he wondered if maybe River and Mal had the right of it, and that there were things like ghosts around, keeping an eye on them all.

“Gonna bring ‘em to see you, just so’s you can get a good look at my son, but this time was just for me. Miss you,” he added, then glanced up as he heard someone walk up behind him.

“Thought you might be here,” Matty said. “Saw you looking as we came past yesterday.”

“Yeah, well.” Jayne stood up, dusting himself down as he tried to push the faint discomfiture at being caught under control. “Was that your idea? The head stone?”

“Kinda. We all came up with it.”

“Even Gilford?”

Matty smiled. “Jason paid for it. Told the man doing the carving exactly what to put.”

“And what happens when he gets to the end of his three score and ten? He gonna go in the same hole?”

“Nope. But there’s a space reserved next door.”

Jayne couldn’t help laughing. “There’s likely to be some arguing in the afterlife.”

“With Ma around?” Matty joined in. “I think she’s gonna have words over that.”

“More’n like.”

“So, you gonna help me move my stuff?”

“Sure.” They walked out of the cemetery together, towards the old house. “You know, you don’t have to go to Gilford’s,” Jayne added. “I’m pretty sure the Cap won’t mind if you bunk down with us.”

“Nah, that’s okay. I mean, it’s all arranged.”

“So? Unarrange it. ‘Sides, if Jolene’s so all-fire intent on those traditions, then you’re supposed to spend your last nights of freedom with your family too. And as far as I can tell, that’s me.”

Matty gnawed on his lower lip. “I don’t know. I mean, Jason’s been like a Pa to me, these last few years. And -”

“Then bring him too. Hell, the more the merrier.”

“Won’t Mal object?”

Jayne waved away his captain’s possible opposition, still feeling full of the warmth of family. “Nah. We got space.”

“I guess I can ask.”

“Good. That’s settled.” They ambled along for a while, then Jayne asked, “So how’d you pop the question?”

“I bought her a bunch of honey roses, her favourites as it happens, then went down on one knee.”

“What’d she say?”

Matty grinned, somewhat ruefully. “Told me I was crazy wasting money on buying something as useless as flowers, then said if I’d shillyshallied much longer she was thinking she was gonna have to ask me herself.”

“Seems like we’ve got ourselves tied up with a pair of strong women,” Jayne observed, stepping up onto the porch of his old home.

“I guess we have.” Matty opened the door. “Come on inside.”

Things hadn’t changed, and Jayne wondered why he thought they would. Even the old comforter still lay on the back of the sofa by the empty fireplace, its faded colours reminding him of the day he’d wrapped it around his mother, after -

“Ain’t done nothing with it,” Matty said, breaking into his thoughts. “Seemed wrong, somehow.”

“What’s gonna happen to it? I mean, if you and Jolene are moving into her place … you intending on selling it?” Jayne couldn’t help the twang in his chest at the thought of it.

“Don’t know,” Matty admitted. “Ma left it to the both of us, me and you, so you’d have to agree. I was thinking of renting it out, seeing as there’s a whole load of young folk starting out with no place to live, but ….”

Jayne swallowed the lump in his throat. “You know, I think that’d be right. Give someone a good start as couldn’t otherwise.”

“And it’d still be ours. Yours, if you wanted one day.”

“You mean me and River?”

“Yeah. Someplace you could call home.”

Dragging his heart out of his boots, Jayne forced a laugh. “Nah. Me and Riv, we’re not planning on retiring any time soon. Too many places to go, people to kill.”

Matty’s eyes widened, then he realised his brother was joking. Mostly. “Sure. Anyway, it’ll be here if you need it.”

“Thanks, Matty.” Jayne nodded towards the stairs. “So, we’d better get your stuff together, dong mah?”

It didn’t take long to pack enough for Matty to survive the next week, and Jayne couldn’t help smiling as they stood in their old room, although it seemed a lot smaller than it ever had done. Not that it had changed either, down to the marks on the wall where they’d checked how tall they were growing when they were children.

He glanced at his brother. “You gonna have more kids? I mean, over and above Jolene’s pair?”

Matty shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, we’re not exactly kids ourselves, and it’s … I don’t know.”

“Oh, bro.” Jayne chuckled throatily. “I’m eight years older’n you, and I only just got to be a Dad.”

“And River’s young enough for both of you.”

“True. But Frey’s aching for another, and the Cap’s doing what he can. Then there’s Hank and Zoe, and they ain’t striplings either. I figure age don’t have a thing to do with it.” He looked his brother in the eye. “You want kids?”

Matty sat down on the edge of the bed. “Oh, Jayne. More’n anything. To hold something that was made out of me and Jolene, just a few minutes old. Hell, I’d have a hundred if I could.”

“And Jo? What does she think?”

“We’ve …” Matty managed to look embarrassed. “We’ve not exactly talked about it.”

If he’d expected his brother to find it hilarious, or maybe berate him in exasperation, he was mistaken. “Well,” Jayne said quietly. “It’ll give you something to discuss during the long winter nights coming. That is, when you ain’t sexing each other to a standstill.”

“Jayne!”

“What?”

“You don’t …” Matty looked around the small room. “We were babies here, Jayne.”

“So?”

“Talking about … that kind of thing … it’s not right. Disrespectful.”

Jayne had to laugh out loud. “Matty, if you knew where I’d done stuff, with whom -”

The younger Cobb held up his hand. “Stop. Right there. And not right now.”

“Tonight, for sure,” Jayne said, slapping his brother on the back again. “I’ll give you benefit of my wide and varied experience.”

“Is River going to let you?” Matty asked shrewdly. “Only she doesn’t exactly seem to like you talking about things like that. You know, before you two got together.”

“My moonbrain knows me. What I am. More’n you could possibly imagine. And loves me for me.” Jayne smiled, but this time it was tender. “Don’t know how I managed to ever be so gorram lucky, but I ain’t doing a thing to jeopardise that. Not ever.”

Matty nodded. “I know what you mean. That’s how I feel about Jolene.”

“Good.”

Standing up, Matty thrust the last of his clean shirts into the bag. “Ready,” he said.

“Then we’d best be getting back.”

As they reached the door, though, Matty stopped. “Wait. Almost forgot.” He darted back to the bed, going down on his knees and reaching underneath. “I was cleaning out the attic a few weeks ago, and found this.” He scrabbled deeper. “Where the hell is it?”

“What?” Jayne asked, stepping closer, his curiosity itching to be scratched.

---

Mal stood on the ramp, a mug of coffee in his hand as he watched the two Cobbs heading back towards the ship. There might be eight years between them, but since Matty had been getting better and putting on weight, it was like looking at one of those fairground mirrors that only distorted things a little. Two of ‘em, he thought to himself. What did I do to deserve this?

It seemed like River had been right, though. They’d been just finishing breakfast when she’d stood up, saying she had to get a room ready for Matty, and ran out of the kitchen.

“Cap,” the elder Cobb said as they got closer.

“Jayne.”

“Matty’s staying with us for the week.” He didn’t ask, since in his experience requests were often turned down, whereas a statement might not be.

“Really.”

“Otherwise it was being in that dusty old room over the store, and that wouldn’t be any good for his lungs.”

“Well, it’s not that bad -” Matty began, but stopped at his brother’s look.

Mal felt his lips twitch. “It’s okay,” he said. “River’s putting clean sheets on the bed.”

Jayne looked relieved, but it was so fleeting it might have been gas. “Shiny.” He added, “We dropped by Gilford’s on the way back, asked if he wanted to come too, but he said no. He’s coming with us tonight, though.”

“Tonight?”

“Matty’s stag do.”

“God, I’d forgotten.” Mal took a quick mouthful of coffee.

“We’re all of us going. All the men.”

“Even Simon?”

“Yep,” Jayne agreed magnanimously. “Even him.”

“Does he know?”

“Soon will.”

“I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.”

“Give him something to write in that journal of his other than how many bullets he took out of us.” He chortled, then pushed Matty forwards. “Come on. I’ll take you through.”

They walked into the cargo bay, then came face to face with Bethie, standing in the middle of the floor, smiling widely at Matty.

“You can play with me,” she announced. “I like to play pirates.”

Matty looked down at the little girl. “I remember. But what about your … Ethan and the rest?”

Bethie screwed her face up. “Not speaking to them.”

Mal sighed. “What now?”

“Nothing,” the little girl admitted. “Just not.” Her foot began to roll. “So I need someone to play with.”

Matty chuckled. “Okay. But I got to put my stuff away first, okay?”

“’Kay.” She turned to her Uncle Jayne. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to something under his arm.

“What, this?” Jayne took it out, holding it in both hands.

“Mmn.” She moved closer.

“What does it look like?”

“Pirate’s chest,” she said immediately, staring at the metal bands holding the small box together, the lid made from slats of wood forced into a curve, an empty lock like an eye at the front.

Jayne grinned. “Maybe it is. It was mine,” he added. “Matty found it, said maybe I’d like to have it back.” He went down onto his heels. “When I was pretty much your age, I used to keep my special things in it, you know, stuff I’d found, bits and pieces and the like.” He tilted his head slightly. “You wanna look after it for me?”

Bethie’s eyes widened. “Can I?”

“Gotta keep it safe. No drawing on it or anything,” Jayne said, handing it across.

Bethie cradled it like a baby but glared at him. “Uncle Jayne.”

The big man ruffled her hair. “I know, short stub.”

“I’ll go and put it somewhere safe right now!” She turned on her heel, running towards the lower crew quarters.

“Whatever she’s on, can I have some?” Matty asked, watching her go.

“I think we’ve all felt like that, one day or another,” Mal admitted, then looked at his ex-mercenary. “Nothing in there gonna leap up and bite her, is it?”

Jayne shook his head. “Nah. Tossed most of the junk ‘fore we got here.” He didn’t mention the small Bible he’d found inside, which was even now tucked carefully inside his back pocket. It had been a gift, a present for his fifth birthday from his Ma, inscribed in her rounded hand to him personally. Matty had seen him remove it, but hadn’t spoken, knowing his own was sitting at the bottom of the bag on his shoulder. “There’s only a few trinkets in there still,” the big man added.

Mal couldn’t stop his lips twitching. “You? Trinkets?”

Jayne just growled and stomped towards the back of the cargo bay, Matty trying hard not to laugh as he followed.

---

Bethie set the box down next to her ship in a bottle, running her hands over the edges, imagining what might be inside before lifting the lid.

“What’s that?”

She slammed it closed, spinning on her heel to face Ethan in the doorway. “Nothing.”

“Don’t look like nothing.”

“And I said it’s nothing.”

Ethan tried to see past her, but she blocked him, moving from side to side to keep herself between him and the box.

“Fine,” he said at last, giving up. “Mama says it’s time for lessons.”

She faked a smile. “I’ll be along.”

“Now.”

The smile switched off. “In a minute.”

“Mama said –“

“In a minute!” She crossed her little arms, a stubborn look set on her face.

Ethan sighed, resisting the temptation to remind her that his Daddy was captain so she had to do what he said. He’d tried that a few days ago, and it hadn’t gone down well. Instead he shrugged, very expressively, before heading back to the stairs without another word.

Bethie waited until she could hear his footsteps fade to nothing, then looked round at the small chest again. Her eyes narrowed as the thought crossed her mind that Ethan might take the opportunity to sneak a peek before she could thoroughly explore it on her own, and that would never do. She had to do something to stop him.

Taking one of the blankets from the mattress, she wrapped the chest inside, folding it over and around the box until it was just one big lump of fabric. Pleased with her efforts, she opened the loose panel under her bed and slid the entire thing inside, pushing it until it was against the corner of the two walls and could go no further. Replacing the panel she stood up, dusting her hands, a satisfied smirk on her face.

“Bethie!” Freya’s voice echoed down the stairs. “You’ve got thirty seconds …”

Taking one last glance to make sure nothing out of the ordinary was obvious, Bethie called, “Coming!” and ran out of her room.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Monday, January 12, 2009 7:03 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Oooo...what trickets are in that chest?! This was so good. I loved the way Jayne talked to his Mama and the way Jayne volunteered a room on Serenity for his brother. More please....

Monday, January 12, 2009 11:00 AM

AMDOBELL


I liked this slice of family life and smiled at River already knowing Jayne would be bringing Mattie back and getting a room ready for him. And tut, tut, Bethie, she has certainly inherited her mother's curiosity, or as the Aussie's say, 'sticky beak'. Lucky there is nothing in the box that Jayne wants to keep secret. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, January 12, 2009 6:41 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Why am I thinking about Pandora's box? I can't wait myself to see what's inside but I know you have "something" going on.

And the stag party. I know it'll be good.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 2:39 PM

FREEVERSE


Definately getting that Pandora feeling. And why is Bethie so cross at Ethan et al.? Just pre-kindergarten angst, or is somthing else going on, a redsidual of the Big Damn Adventure?


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