Family (Part 4/14)
Monday, January 9, 2012

Time for some questions.


Obadiah was, as it turned out, the brother of Jayne’s late father, and now it was undeniably clear to Mal that Jayne got his physical appearance from that side of the family, as he happened to end up in between him and his uncle as they stepped inside the house and for a moment felt terribly small.

The house was nice, simple but neat. The ground floor consisted of a small kitchen and a common room, and as Mal took in the details they immediately stirred to life a memory of a certain prairie home long gone. A bolt of sadness washed through him, but he didn’t allow himself to dwell in it and tried to shake it.

Kaylee was positively bubbling with excitement and happily telling Jayne and his mother how much she loved this and that and nearly everything there. Radiant smiled at her, and Mal also saw how she discreetly studied each and every one of them in turn, as if trying to get a clear picture of what they were all about. He understood her perfectly, you could learn a lot about a person from their reactions when they stepped inside your home.

Zoë, for instance, kept to the background and found herself a place in a corner, her back against the wall. A good advantage point, and Mal wondered exactly how consciously she had picked that particular spot. She was being polite and seemingly relaxed, but she was on the alert, as she always was meeting new people.

Wash shared none of her reservation. He had already settled and made himself comfortable in the old sofa, from where he tried to strike up a conversation with Obadiah Cobb about the older man’s kilt. He didn’t get much response though.

River was circling the room, intently studying every object with that glassy look in her eyes, and Simon hovered around her, prying things from her hands whenever she picked something up and constantly tried to get her to sit down on a chair by the eating table.

And Jayne… Jayne was suddenly hard to read. At first he was just standing there, as if feeling out of place, and Mal wondered again how strange it had to feel, stepping over a threshold and into your past like this, into a home that hadn’t changed at all but still wasn’t the same…

Seriously, he had to stop thinking about Shadow!

In the end the mercenary decided to join his younger brother, who had taken up a chair by the fireplace, but their conversation seemed to limit itself to a few standard phrases.

Mal swept his eyes across the room once more and suddenly a small chuckle escaped him. He tried to quell it, but Radiant, who just then happened to walk by on her way to the kitchen, still heard him and stopped to look quizzically at him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, smiling a little, and lifted his hand in an apologetic manner. “It just suddenly dawned on me that we’ve gotta be the strangest crew you ever saw.”

She returned the smile. “You seem alright.” And then she, after keeping her eyes on him for a few moments, added, “Thank you.”

He looked at her.

“For bringin’ my boy home,” she clarified.

“Don’t mention it,” he said. “I owed him a favor.”

She offered another smile and went on her way, and he followed her into the kitchen and watched as she opened a cupboard and pulled out a box of coffee substitute. “I’m sorry about your loss,” he said and added, perhaps a little needlessly, “Your husband.”

“Thank you,” she replied without looking at him, but she did pause a little in her task of opening the box.

“He didn’t tell us,” Mal continued. “If he had, I’d’ve brought him here sooner.”

“They…,” she began, before she managed to get the lid off the box and turned to face him. “They didn’t part on the best of terms, last time he was here.”

Mal suddenly felt rather uncomfortable, as if he was overstepping his boundaries, and so he went over to the window to look outside while Radiant continued with her coffee brewing. “You’ve got a nice place here,” he said, leading the conversation in another direction.

“That I’ve got,” she agreed and there was a smile in her voice. “My own little slice o’ heaven. Came cheap too. People don’t wanna live here ‘cause of the dogs, and they were practically handing out land for free when Matthew and I came here forty years ago.”

“You cultivate it?”

“No. That was the plan initially, but we never got around to it. Matthew got a job down at the factory and…” She stopped and he turned back towards her, again wondering if he’d asked too much, but she smiled bravely when she saw that he was looking at her. “Now it’s just too big a task for us. Ain’t got the money or the manpower for it. It’s just me and Jo, you see. Obadiah’s only here to help me get back on my feet, and Mattie can’t work ‘cause he’s sick.” She retrieved several mugs from the cupboard and placed them on the kitchen counter, adding, “It’s his lungs.”

Mal nodded. “Has he been sick long?”

“Always.” Upon seeing his confused frown, she elaborated, “He’s had good days and bad days. But now I’m afraid it seems the bad days are winning.”

Mal was about to answer when River suddenly came bursting through the door and started circling the room, picking up random objects to study them as she had done in the living room before. Then she suddenly came to a stop next to the kitchen table and turned to look intently at Radiant.

“River!” Simon came in after her and hurriedly put his hands on her shoulders to try and steer her back outside.

Radiant only met the young girl’s stare and smiled. “You’ve come to give me a hand, love?” she said. “Here, why don’t you take these out to the others?” She picked up a couple of the mugs and offered them to River, who after smiling that half-shy smile that ever so often would soften up her features, grabbed them and headed back out through the door.

Simon hurried after her and Mal watched them leave, but he was suddenly aware that Radiant now had shifted her focus to him, and turned to face her. Her eyes were still smiling. “You’re right,” she said. “You are a strange crew.”


The atmosphere in the Cobb house was still a little awkward as they drank their coffee (or the sour blackish liquid that went by that name in these parts of the ‘verse), but for some reason Mal felt strangely relaxed there. He honestly didn’t know why, but didn’t bother wondering about that now. It was better to just sit there and enjoy the calm; experience had taught him it would not last.

Glancing over at Zoë, he saw that her shoulders had slumped considerably; she was now in the sofa next to her husband. River had stopped moving around and instead taken up a footstool, from which she kept Mattie Cobb under close observation. If the young man noticed this, and he probably did, he didn’t seem particularly bothered by it. Simon was throwing little glances at him as well, obviously fighting the inner doctor who told him to start asking probing questions. But he respectfully kept his distance for now.

Radiant was sitting next to Jayne. The two of them were having a hushed conversation, and Mal could see that even though Jayne still seemed to feel slightly out of place, he was glad to be with his mother. Mal never meant to listen in on them, but he still picked up a few words now and then. He heard her remark on the faint scars on Jayne’s face and arms, and was thankful his mercenary had his shirt on so she couldn’t see how many of them there really were. He wondered what Jayne had told her, about how he earned his money. He doubted it was the truth.

In the end Jayne was tired of the prodding questions and started asking some himself. “You alright, Ma?” Mal heard him say. “You know I’d send more money, if I had any.”

“I know, sweetie,” she replied. “And I’m fine.”

“MacHaig trynna take your property?” Jayne spoke a little louder now, and the rest of the room happened to be rather quiet at that point, and so everybody heard him and shifted their attention to him and his mother.

Radiant looked uncomfortable, but she still smiled. “’Course he does, love, he always have. He ain’t gonna get it, though.”

“Jo said in her wave he’s plannin’ to force a sale. That he’s puttin’ pressure on the bank.”

“Jo waved ya?”

“Yeah, she didn’t tell?”

In that very moment Jo walked in through the door. “Of course I didn’t,” she said to Jayne. “She would’ve told me not to. And you wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t.” She turned to her mother. “And that hundan is buggin’ ya, Ma. Don’t tell him otherwise.”

“The bank management has been very understandable,” Radiant insisted.

“Yeah, but for how long?” Obadiah gloomily asked from his position on the other side of the room. “MacHaig’s got half the town in his pocket, including the banker. What he wants, he gets and what he ain’t gettin’, he takes. That’s how it works.”

A moment of pregnant silence followed. Mal decided to weigh in. “Why does he want your land?” he asked, ignoring the warning glare Jayne sent him.

“I don’t know,” Radiant replied. “He’s already bought up everything else around here. His property’s more or less surrounding mine.”

“Must be a reason why he wants it,” Zoë said. Obadiah nodded his silent agreement.

Mal sensed Jayne shifting in his chair and threw him a short glance, before looking back at Radiant. “How much do you owe?”

“’Bout five hundred credits. I know it don’t sound like much, but…”

“When you ain’t got it, they just as well coulda asked for a moon,” Mal finished for her.

She nodded. “The factory don’t pay well, but it was a steady income. After Matthew passed away…”

Jayne tensed at the mention of his father, Mal saw it and so did Radiant, because she stopped talking and looked mildly at her son. He looked away.

Mal decided it was safe to pry some more. “What happened, if you don’t mind my askin’?”

“Accident,” Jo answered. “At least that’s what they tell us.”

“Jo,” her mother warned.

Jo sighed. “He was doing maintenance work on one of the machines down at the factory. And then it went on. With him inside.”

Wash grimaced, Kaylee clasped a hand over her mouth and Simon closed his eyes for a while as if trying to shed the images of a man crushed to death.

“I’m sorry,” Mal said again.

“Well, this ain’t none of your business, anyhow,” Jayne snarled.

“Jayne!” his mother scolded. “They mean no harm.” She looked at Mal. “He’s right, though. These are my troubles. I ‘preciate the sympathy, but you needn’t worry yourselves with this. I suspect you’ve got more than enough of your own.”

Mattie broke the silence that followed with another of his coughing fits, and Simon was no longer able to just sit back and watch. Mal watched as he went into doctor mode and crouched down next to the young man to talk to him. It had caught Radiant’s attention too, and she was halfway out of her chair when Jayne spoke, “It’s alright, Ma. He’s a doctor.” He didn’t even look up, only stared at his hands.

Mal raised his eyebrows. Now, this was surprising.

Radiant sat back down and looked at Jo again. “You didn’t bring Jude?”

“She’ll come by later. She had to wait ‘til Fergus’ shift is over.”

Jayne snorted. Jo glared at him. “He’s a good man, Jayne! He helps us out a lot, even though he’s got his own family to worry ‘bout. You haven’t been here in ten gorram years, so don’t you go thinkin’ you know a damn thing ‘bout any of us!”

Jayne gritted his teeth, but still didn’t look up. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

Jo kept her eyes on him for a moment or two, then turned to her mother. “She’d heard the rumor, it’s all over town. I still had some trouble convincin’ her it’s true.” She smiled a little. “She’ll be here by suppertime. She’ll bring the kids.”

Kaylee brightened. “There’s children?”

Jo nodded. “Yeah.” She patted the back of Jayne’s head. “The nephew and niece you ain’t never laid your eyes on.”

A smile spread across Radiant’s face. “All my kids home for supper,” she said. “Can’t even remember the last time that happened.”

Jayne got to his feet. So suddenly and determined that everybody flinched a little and looked at him in surprise. “Where’d you put him?” he asked.


Zoë was standing outside the house, by the southwest corner, with her arms crossed and her eyes observantly watching Jayne as he paid his respects to his late father. The grave was beneath a tree at the far end of the garden, by the forest edge, and he stood there silently, with his back against her, his hands in his pockets, watching the stone.

Zoë was normally more than happy to not know what was going on inside Jayne’s mind, but right now she had to admit she was wondering what he was thinking. It had always been clear to her that Jayne had never been particularly close to his daddy, but she guessed he still felt some sort of loss, like a piece of his past had died too. She would now; she had lost parents herself.

But to Zoë grief was personal, and she had never been one to visit gravesites. Her mother and father were not in the ground. They had been space buried – like Travelers mostly were, before one of the Alliance’s many laws had put an end to this tradition – and were now drifting forever through the Black in their pods. She liked that thought, and law or no law, this was how she wanted to spend eternity herself. She had been born and raised shipside, she had always belonged to the sky.

She glanced upwards and saw Paquin’s two largest moons, Shinbone and Clawthorne, hanging in the sky to the west, and for once she allowed herself to be swept away by the memories of childhood. She doubted she was the only one of the crew doing precisely that today.


The voice awoke her from her reminiscing and she turned to acknowledge her captain with a nod as he stepped up to her. Mal quietly watched Jayne a little while, and then without taking his eyes away from the mercenary, he said, “This accident at the factory…”

She understood. “Sounds fishy, I know,” she agreed.

“Exactly,” he said, still not looking at her. “Tomorrow I want you to take Wash and head into town, see if you can dig somethin’ up.”


He turned to leave, but stopped. “It goes without sayin’ that you don’t go mentioning this to Jayne.”

“Of course, sir,” she said, and with one last look at her crewmate, she turned and followed the captain back inside.




Monday, January 9, 2012 4:44 AM


Interesting plot twists here. Wonder how long Mal can not get involved.

Monday, January 9, 2012 1:21 PM


Um, didn't you just read the part about Mal asking Zoe to go into town to see what she could find about that 'so called' accident Katesfriend? Mal is already involved, the rest of the crew just don't know it yet. Can bet your hide he is working on all the little snippets in his head and getting ready to form a plan. Really like how this story is coming along, MarKomi. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, January 9, 2012 1:44 PM


Robber land barons and murder seem to go together.

I like how Jayne's family and their problems have been fleshed out here.

Friday, November 23, 2012 12:47 PM


Well...wouldn't that just add to the sins McHaig has on his soul, having Matthew Cobb killed as a way to force the sale of the Cobb homestead. I can't imagine Jayne's father being anything but a more moral but still stubborn version of his eldest, so I could definitely the robber-baron getting some lackey at the plant to have the machinery turned on when Matthew was doing his job :S


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