BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Streets of Laredo
Monday, March 23, 2009

A standalone one-off little fic, with no OCs so can be read by anyone. A young would-be gunhand comes across an old mercenary ... and yes, faintly based on the old folk song.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1864    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

I slid the brand new gun into the brand new holster, letting it rest against my thigh so’s I could get a feel for it. It seemed to sit, being at home there, and I grinned, tying the strings so it wouldn’t flap about.

“Looks good,” Ned, the store owner said. “You’ll be ready to take on the ‘verse now.”

“That I will,” I agreed.

“Just don’t shoot yourself in the foot, first time you try to use it.”

“Hell, I ain’t gonna do that.” To prove it I drew the pistol, cocking it on the way up, aiming on the way down, just as I’d practised.

“Damn, that’s good.” Ned seemed surprised.

“Accurate, too.”

“Then maybe we should be warning folks not to mess with you.”

“Maybe we should.” I pushed my shoulders back and slapped the cashy money down on the counter. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” His thin hands snaked out and grabbed the coin, slithering back from view. “And tell your Ma that cord of linen’s in, if’n she wants to decide what colour she wants me to dye it.”

“Sure.” But I was already itching to get out into the sun, show off my fancy new rig, and my man’s walk. “See ya, Ned.”

I walked outside, hitching my thumbs into the gunbelt, and looked up and down the street. Pity there weren’t more people around, ‘specially maybe Tom Fletcher, seeing as he’d been pushing me to a fight for a long time. Well, let’s just see him do it now. I’d been saving all my pennies for as long as I could, and I was ready for him or anyone else.

I stepped down into the dust of the street, breathing deep of the air faintly tainted with the smells from the factories a few miles off. A noise overhead made me look up, but it was just a shuttle coming in to land at the dock. Be me ‘fore too long, I considered. I’d had enough of this rock, and soon I’d be setting off to see the ‘verse, selling my gunhand to any as’d buy it. I’d send money home, a’course. Can’t be letting my Ma go without, but there ain't no way I was gonna end up in those factories. Too many men came out crippled, their lungs busted all to hell, and I wasn’t gonna be one of ‘em.

The sound of the piano over in Rosie’s tinkled on the edge of my hearing, and I wondered if my new-found confidence would get me a drink. Or maybe something better. Only one way to find out.

I headed that way, the sun beating down into my eyes, so that’s how I didn’t see him. Not ‘til he spoke, anyway.

“Hey, watch where you’re putting your feet,” he growled.

“Sorry, sir.” It was habit, calling someone that, when maybe they didn’t deserve it, but as my eyes got adjusted to the light I figured maybe I’d done the right thing.

He was big, even sitting on the edge of the raised sidewalk, an untidy goatee adorning his chin. But it was his eyes, hard blue like sapphires, that made me think I didn’t want to rile him.

“S’okay. Guess maybe I shouldn’t be resting here.” He grunted, something like a laugh, but it turned into a cough that obviously pained him.

“Can I … do you want to go inside?” I looked up at Rosie’s.

“Nope. Had me enough of being cooped up to last a lifetime.” He rubbed at his chest, and I noticed for the first time he was wrapped in bandages under his shirt.

“Do you need a doc? Only our’s kinda left town a week ago, and the only other one deals more with horse complaints.” I could hear something in my voice, a sort of concern, and wondered if it was weakness.

“Thanks, but there ain't no point. I know when it’s my time.” He scratched his beard. “Wouldn’t mind a shave ‘fore they plant me, though.” He looked me up and down, his gaze resting on the gun rig around my hips. “Nice set up,” he said. “You got a name for her, yet?”

“A name?”

“Always named my guns, normally after girls I’d grown attached to. Most of ‘em were workin’ girls, a’course, but that didn’t matter. Better, mostly. Pick ‘em out, do what you need to, pay ‘em … no ties, no responsibilities. And I musta done something right, ‘cause they’d go more’n one round with me.” He laughed again, then seemed to almost double over. He spat, the red mucus rolling thickly in the dirt.

“I think we’d better get you inside.” I hadn’t ever seen a man die, but I was beginning to wonder if that was about to be changed. Bending down, I tried to put my hands under his arms, but he just waved me away.

“Like I said, no point. Went through my lungs,” he explained. “My own fault. I wasn’t looking to see anyone behind me. Not that it did ‘em any good. They’re still deader than I am, and it serves ‘em right for trying to rob me.” He patted the bandages. “Sheriff wrapped me up, tried his best, but I know what’s happening.” He coughed again, this time swallowing as he grimaced at the taste of tin.

“Are you … a gun hand?” I asked slowly, not wanting to get on his bad side. As I leaned over him I’d caught a glimpse of a weapon, and it looked well-used.

“Me? Nothing so fancy. Hell, I'm a merc. You tell me who to kill, I’ll kill ‘em.” He almost smiled. “Thought once I was gonna be something different, but …” The smile froze. “Gorram Alliance.”

“What happened?” I knew as soon as I said it I’d maybe pushed a bit too much, but he just looked at me with those cobalt eyes.

“A woman. What else. Thought she could tame me, make me into a better man, and I … I was stupid. Always looking for the angle. Sold her and hers out to the Alliance. Got paid a whole heap of money, and lost the only friends I ever had.”

Now he was talking I didn’t want him to stop. “What … what happened to her? To the others?”

“Why’d you want to know?” he asked in turn.

“I … nothing.” I looked down at the dust on my boots.

“That what the new gun’s for?” he asked, surprising me with his insight. “You wanna be a big man? Maybe go off-world and seek your fortune?”

I raised my head, looking into his face, my lips tight. “Maybe.”

“Son, you do what you have to. But you think on this.” He wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand, and I could see a red stain across his skin. “She died. They did something to her, and she died. Her brother and the others, they got caught trying to get her out, and they ended up swinging from a gallows.” He poked me in the chest. “You want that? You want to see the only people who ever trusted you strung up?”

“N … no.” I couldn’t help the stammer.

“See, ain’t nothing good comes from something bad.” He looked into the distance. “Used some of the reward to set my Ma up in a house, a proper place, with servants’n’all. Only some damn fool tried to rob it, and she got in the way.” It was probably my imagination, but his eyes looked misty. “I whored and drank most of the rest. Ended up giving it away.” He reached into his pocket, pulling out a small cloth bag. “This is for my funeral. All that’s left. Enough in here to pay six men to carry my satin-lined coffin, and some of the local working girls to follow on, crying if they can.” He tucked it back. “Prob’ly enough to buy ‘em all a drink after. You too, if you’ve a mind.”

He was tiring, I could tell from the slump of his shoulders, and the way he leaned against the hitching post.

“But you had the life you wanted,” I said, not wanting to believe that it could all be taken away that easily.

“Sure. For a while. Then I realised I didn’t want it, and I would have given everything I owned to have what I had back, even for a day. For an hour. Hell, even for a minute.” He looked almost wistful. “Just a few seconds, to tell ‘em I'm sorry. To stop myself from doing it in the first place, even if I had to cut my own throat, but even … she couldn’t do that.”

There was such heartbreak in his voice that for a moment I lost mine, but I managed to clear my throat before saying, “But there must have been good times.”

He sort of smiled. “Course there were. But they ain’t worth it. Knowing what I know now, I’d never’ve …” His words faded and he coughed again, not even bothering to wipe the slick of blood from his chin this time. “Funny. Don’t hurt that much no more.”

He lifted his head, as if he could hear something. I followed, staring at the point in the clear summer sky where his eyes were fixed, and although it was empty but for a few birds wheeling mournfully, I was sure … no, there. Just on the edge of nothing, maybe, but something. It got closer, and I could see it was a ship, two stubby extenders on the side with engines flaring as she came in to land, her neck almost craning to see the man next to me.

My skin chilled, and something like a million ants ran down my back as I realised I could still see the birds through it.

Nary a single dust speck swirled up into the air as the ramp lowered in its belly, and I could see someone waiting. She walked out into the sunshine, her dark hair billowing in an unfelt breeze, her soft dress flipflapping around her knees, while her bare feet didn’t even seem to touch the ground. It seemed to take forever, but suddenly she was in front of me, in front of him, and I scrambled to my feet, not wanting to get between them.

He hadn’t taken his eyes off her, and there was something in his blue gaze that made the ants be still, and my blood to run warm again. I ain't seen it but the once, when my Ma spoke about my Pa …

She leaned over him, reaching out a slim hand. “Time to go home,” she said.

He looked up at her. “Yeah?”

“Yes.”

“But what I did … they can’t’ve forgiven me …”

She laughed, and it was like the dawn and sunset and all the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my short life. “Of course they have.”

“Have you?”

“Oh, yes. My …”

She called him by name, but I must’nt’ve heard right. Sounded … nah. Had to be I got it wrong. Ain't no man like that called something so … nah.

But he smiled, and let her lift him to his feet like he weighed nothing. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe all the sins on his conscience had been finally wiped clean.

I watched as they walked towards the ship, waited as they went inside and the ramp closed, then the engines burned and it took off, its downdraft moving not a blade of dried grass. It rose into the sky, became nothing but the blink of a sunbeam, and vanished.

For a long moment I didn’t move, I couldn’t, then I turned back to the corpse. He looked … almost peaceful. Reaching down I closed his eyes, first time I’d ever touched a dead man, then tugged the cloth bag from his pocket. I crossed the road back to the store.

“You forgotten something?” Ned asked, surprised to see me.

“Kinda.” I put the bag on the counter. “There’s a dead man outside Rosie’s. This here’s for his funeral, for a coffin with satin lining, to pay six pall bearers, and some of the girls to walk along behind.” I leaned down and untied the holster from my leg, then unbuckled the belt, laying it next to the money. “Ned, this ain't been used. I don’t need it no more, so I’d be grateful if you’d put the money for it as credit. And I’ll tell Ma about the linen.”

I didn’t wait to see him close his jaw with a click of his teeth, just walked back out into the sunlight, feeling lighter and younger than I ever had before.

COMMENTS

Monday, March 23, 2009 7:29 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


I will say this. You are always amazing me with your writing. I love Jayne in this, but you did break your promise and killed Mal. LOL! I fogive you, of course. ;) Nicely done!!

Monday, March 23, 2009 12:26 PM

AMDOBELL


So sad but I really loved it that at the end they all forgave Jayne and came back for him. Also, his story stopped another poor boy from going wrong. Very glad this isn't your current MAYA story because then all the good stuff would be over. Kudos, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 2:58 AM

SERENITYRIDDLE


Oh my.. Such tenderness in this... it brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written.

Thursday, March 26, 2009 11:49 AM

ADMIRALIRONWING


Goodbye Jayne

Saturday, March 28, 2009 8:08 AM

KATESFRIEND


Beautiful story and beautifully written. Glad this is a AU because it's pretty chilling. I always love your ghost stories! Glad it has a happy ending too.

Saturday, March 28, 2009 7:22 PM

SLUMMING


Well done, but achingly sad for our favorite merc.


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