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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Jayne have a heart to heart on the way to see Mallory, and the captain learns more than he knew about his ex-merc. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1857 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
The ride out of town was surprisingly pleasant, despite the fact that Jayne hadn’t said more than a couple of words. Although that could have been a contributing factor to the enjoyment, Mal still attempted to engage his gunhand.
“I surely like this time of year,” he said, sitting easily in the saddle, letting the horse do all the work. “The leaves turning all red and gold, the clean air ...” He breathed in deeply. “Makes a man glad to be alive.”
Mal had been sure that last comment would elicit something, even if it was along the lines of ‘least someone is’. Still, it was worth one last try. “Jayne, you know there’s a new thing doing the rounds. It’s all the rage. ‘Parrently even the high ups on Osiris are getting in on the act. ‘Scalled ‘conversation’.”
“Ain’t got nothing I wanna conversate about.”
“No?” Mal spurred his horse forward so they were side by side. “How ‘bout this Mallory?”
“What about her?”
“How come you went pale when Addie back there mentioned her?”
“Believe me, Jayne, I was on this side. And you did.” He squinted into the sun, gauging the time. “She someone River needs to worry about?”
“River ain’t worried. Mallory’s ... just a girl.”
“Not that I was aware of.”
“Jayne, talk to me. Else when we get back to Serenity I’ll set Frey on you.”
“Could be fun.”
A playful wind caught up a sheaf of leaves and made them dance, twirling them along the ground in a tarantella before dropping them exhausted back to the earth, and it took that long before the big man responded.
“She was a whore. Mallory, I mean.”
Mal was surprised at the matter-of-factness in Jayne’s tone. “You mean –“
“What I said. A working girl.”
“Nope. Least not at first. If’n that’d be the case she wouldn’t have had the scars.”
Mal’s good humour dimmed. “She got beat up?”
“Off and on. Worked out of Vic Carroway’s place, ‘til I ... had a word.”
No matter what Jayne had been, and still was to the rest of the ‘verse, he’d always treated the women he bedded – if not with respect – then at least as human beings, something he’d never seen as atypical in his line of work.
Mal’s eyebrow twitched. “Was he still alive when you’d done?”
“Well, let’s just say it took him a while to walk straight again. And Mallory headed to Addie’s with most of the cash she’d earned.”
“Maybe River’s right, and you are a good man.”
“Nah. Mean bastard. When I first met yah, if you hadn’t offered me full run o’ the kitchen you’d be pushing up the weeds these past years.”
“I think maybe I got the best end of the deal.”
“You’re still alive, ain’t you?”
Odd thing was, Mal wasn’t lying. It had taken a long while, he admitted, if only to himself, since there were times, particularly after the first hospital heist on Ariel, when he’d honestly thought he was going to space his merc, and more than a dozen times since. But something always stopped him, and for the rest of his life he was going to wonder what it had been.
“You made it sound like you were here for only a few days,” he pointed out. “Except these folks seem to know you just a bit too much for that.”
“Yeah, well …” Jayne didn’t get embarrassed, but this was as close as made no difference. “Maybe it was only a week the second time. The first ... could’ve been more like six months.” He stared into the distance. “I … er … I…” He mumbled something.
The big man’s head came around and he said, perhaps a little too loudly, “I broke my leg, okay?”
Mal had to consciously stop himself from grinning. “You?” he still had to say. “Jayne Cobb?”
“Yeah, me, Jayne Cobb.” The man himself sighed. “It can happen to anyone. And there weren’t no fancy bone mender around, either, at least not for the likes of me.”
Mal was still entertaining himself with the image of the big ex-mercenary beside him in a full leg cast and on crutches. Diyu, but he’d have been hell to live with. “How’d you do it?”
“I … fell off a horse.”
That was it. Mal couldn’t help himself, and he laughed out loud. “You …fell off a horse?”
“Your hearing going or something?” Jayne asked belligerently.
“Just not sure the words coming in my ears are the same as’re leaving your mouth.”
“They are. You wanna make something of it?”
Mal held a hand up in surrender. “No, no. Just … you fell off a horse?”
“Don’t you be so high and mighty about it,” Jayne growled. “Seeing as how you’re a bullet magnet yourself.”
“Not talking about me.” Mal shook his head. “And how did this amazing happenstance occur?”
Jayne sighed. “Because I’m stupid.”
For a change Mal didn’t take the opening, instead merely saying, “Okay, now you’ve whetted my appetite, you’d better go on.”
For a moment the big guy just glared at him, then sighed again. “First time, me and Indigo ... we found ourselves here. It was the end of the war, and ... hell, we just ended up in Cason’s Point. Wasn’t mean to be anything over and above a few days, waiting for a transport off this rock, but ... truth is we got drunk.”
“Yeah. Me. Me and Indigo. Anyways, some fellers had been talking in the bar about how the Alliance had pulled out of the camp in the hills, and we decided to go take a look see. Just for something to do, you know?”
“Then when we sobered we figured why not, since there wasn’t much else to occupy us.”
“Seems ... reasonable.”
“And anyway, we thought maybe we’d see if they left anything worth selling behind.” He chuckled. “Surprised we found the place, considering we were partaking of liquor all the way, but find it we did.” Jayne lifted up in the saddle, half-turning, staring towards the horizon. “Not far from here, as it happens. Few miles.” He sat back, shaking his head. “Like a gorram ghost town, it was. The buildings were all still there, but it’d been pretty much stripped.”
“Folks ain’t gonna let good building material go to waste.”
Jayne continued as if Mal hadn’t spoken. “‘Cept me and Indigo stumbled on something worth more’n a turd.” He grinned. “Stash of weapons. We never could decide if they’d been hidden deliberate, or just forgotten about, but they were pretty fancy. We collected what we could carry, hid the rest in a shallow cave, and headed back towards town.”
“Jayne, you ever heard of a story getting to a point?” Mal asked.
“That was it. We were still mostly hungover, and ...” He shook his head. “Mal, you ever tell the others and I’ll...”
“My lips are sealed.”
“Well, I guess maybe I was more drunk’n I’d thought, and I wasn’t looking where I was going, and ... well, to cut a long story short –“
“I wish you would.”
“– I was in the air, and the ground was coming up awful fast. Horse got spooked by a snake, least that’s what I figure it was considering what was caught up in the shoe after he’d finished stomping it. Anyway, next thing I knew I was staring up at the sky, wondering how come I couldn’t breathe.”
“Knocks the air outta you,” Mal agreed, remembering a similar incident back on Shadow. At least he’d got up – eventually – unhurt apart from his pride.
“Hell, yeah.” Jayne steered the horse around a patch of sodden earth. “Anyhows, I’m on the ground, and thinking it’s my last moment, then I manage to get a lungful in. Then I tried to get up.” He chuckled. “Can’t say the pain was worse’n getting shot, but close. And I damn near passed out when I saw the bone sticking outta my leg, through my pants.”
Mal winced in sympathy. “What happened?”
“I was lucky. The luck o’the Cobbs. And Indigo. When he stopped laughing – and believe me, that took a long while – he stopped the bleeding, managed to get me back on the horse and into town. Shit, considering the ribbing he gave me after that, I sometimes wonder if maybe I’d’ve been better off breaking my neck.” He sighed again. “Anyways, Indigo stayed with me, since he figured I couldn’t be relied on to take care o’myself, and I spent the next few months in Addie’s back room, learning to walk again.”
“So where does all this fit in with Vera, that ticket and the like?”
“Well, with me laid up like I was, Indigo had to do the donkey work. He brought the guns back in, few at a time, sold ‘em where he could. Paid for the doc, the room ... everything.”
“He sounds like a good friend.”
“Yeah. Prob’ly the only one I ever had.” Until Serenity was the unspoken addition.
“Anyway, it was after I was back on my feet we did like I said, decided to pawn the last guns and asked Harrison to keep the tickets. Next day we each took a different ship, and that was that.”
“Except ...” Mal prompted.
“There has to be more.”
This time Jayne looked about as guilty as it was in his power to appear. “Sorta.”
“Well, you can’t just tell half a story.”
Jayne stared down at the pommel of his saddle, then nodded slowly. “Guess maybe you should know. It’ll only confirm how you always looked on me, but ... yeah.”
Mal waited, and was about to urge the big man again, when he started speaking, this time quietly, evenly, as if it was painful to get it off his chest.
“Year before I joined your boat, I was back on Ithaca. Things weren’t going so well, and I was down to my last brass nickel. Indigo was here ... always wondered if he came back regular, but never did ask. Anyway, the Tanners were putting a job together, and I leaped at the chance.”
“The Tanners ... the fellers we just met?”
“Yeah. Them and their brother, Troy. Medea Tanner always kept ‘em tied to her apron strings, doling out cash like it was rarer than rubies, and they were always looking to make some extra. And there are mines out in the badlands, and the miners got paid in cash, not credit.” Now Jayne had got down to the nitty gritty, he seemed unable to stop. “Should’a been easy pickings, ‘cept someone couldn’t keep his mouth shut. We got there, got set up, waited all day in the gorram sun, then just as the payroll came past I got this feeling on the back of my neck like someone was staring down a scope at me. I hung back, maybe just half a second, but it was enough. Turns out the payroll was a trap, and half a platoon of Alliance purplebellies were inside, just waiting for us.” He grunted. “I managed to get away, ‘though most of the others didn’t, and rode hell for leather for town.”
“How come I got the notion there’s more to it than that?”
Jayne shifted uncomfortably in the saddle. “Mal, it’s ancient history.”
“Not that ancient. And I figure we’ve got enough time.”
Jayne sighed. “Fine. Just ... don’t go telling the others, okay?”
“Why? What did you do?”
“What I said about someone telling the Feds ... I maybe wasn’t as truthful as I could’ve been.”
Realisation burst like a sunrise. “You mean it was you.”
Mal wondered why he was surprised. He’d known what Jayne was when he took the mercenary on, but maybe the fact that he’d changed coloured everything. “Best you finish, then.”
Jayne nodded slowly. “Well, like I said, I was broke. Indigo tried to lend me some cash, give me a start again, but I ... I don't know why, Mal, but I said no. Maybe I was prideful, I don’t know. He said I was crazy getting mixed up with the Tanners at all, but I knew it was gonna be a good pay day. ‘Cept I was greedy.”
“You sold ‘em out.”
“Seemed easy. The local Fed station was still manned then, and all I had to do was stroll in the evening before, give ‘em the info and they gave me a wad of change. A’course, I told ‘em the job was an hour later than was planned.”
Mal wondered, not for the first time, if being psychic was catching, because he knew what was coming next. “You thought you could get your share of the take first.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled unexpectedly. “Only the Feds maybe didn’t trust me.”
“They set their own trap.”
Mal sighed. “Jayne, you know damn well you can’t trust the Alliance.”
“I know, Mal. Maybe it takes a long time to get into my skull.” They both knew he was talking about Ariel.
“So what happened?”
“One of the fellers who got away must’ve reported back to the Tanners. I’m packin’ my stuff fast as I can when they burst in. I managed to keep ‘em occupied, tossed the oil lamp at ‘em and jumped outta the window. Only there were four more outside.”
“Yeah. If Indigo hadn’t been hanging around ...”
“Did they know? That you sold them out?”
“I don’t think they knew for sure, but they didn’t want to take any chances. And maybe they figured they could get me to talk.”
A small number of buildings were coming into view, and Mal knew Jayne was likely to clam up as soon as he got off the horse. “I’m guessing the guy you burned was Brad Tanner.”
“Yeah. You saw the scar. Wes ‘pparently put him out ‘fore he could go up like a candle.”
“No wonder they hate you.”
“Riv says time heals all wounds, ‘cept I figure maybe she’s wrong here.” He took a deep breath, feeling the cold air filling his lungs. “Anyways, between us we managed to kill the others, and Indigo gave me their guns, put me on a transport and told me to not come back.”
For the time it took them to reach the rough fence around the property Mal was silent, wondering again at the alterations that that been wrought in the man next to him. Truth was, if he hadn't changed, Mal was sure he’d probably have had to put a bullet in him himself. Finally he said, “Yeah, well, I guess it’s all in the past.”
If Jayne could have sighed any deeper it would probably have rattled the mountains. “Mal, I’d’a thought the same, but here we are.”
Mal pulled up his horse. “Jayne, you say the word and we go. Right now. Turn around and head back to town. Hank’ll have Serenity warmed over and we can be gone ‘fore the sun goes down.”
Jayne’s chin dropped to his chest, and he seemed to be seriously considering the offer, then he shook his head. “Nah.” He looked at his captain. “Indigo saved my life more times’n I wanna count. If I can't find out who killed him ... well, I weren’t his friend.”
“Okay.” Mal kicked his heels gently into the flanks of his mount. “Then maybe we should be getting on with it.”
“Yeah.” Jayne spurred his horse into a walk. “And ... thanks, Mal.”
“Just ... thanks.”
“Yeah, well ...” Mal nodded forwards. “Looks like someone’s home.”
In front of them, at the door to the small farmhouse, a woman had come out to see who the visitors were, her arm above her head to shield her eyes from the watery autumn sunshine.
“Mallory,” Jayne said quietly.
to be continued
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 2:42 PM
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 2:43 PM
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 3:31 PM
Thursday, November 25, 2010 4:26 AM
Thursday, November 25, 2010 4:15 PM
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