Family (Part 5/14)
Monday, January 16, 2012

New friendships are in the making, and brother and sister try to catch up.


So at least one of Radiant Cobb’s children had inherited her looks.

That’s what flashed through Zoë’s mind when she first saw Jude, or Judith as her full name was. At around thirty years old, she was small and slender, and with a certain shyness about her that made her look even smaller. She arrived at the house with her husband, a decent looking kind of man who introduced himself as Fergus Campbell, and their two kids, a five-year-old boy and a baby girl, and she threw herself at Jayne, planting a kiss on his cheek, with such affection that only an adoring baby sister could show. Jayne responded by hugging her with the same tenderness he’d shown his mother.

He was a little standoffish towards the rest of the little family, though. He politely shook the hand of his brother-in-law, but didn’t look him in the eye, and he glared at the children as if they were little bombs that could blow up in his face at any time. The feeling was mutual, at least with the older one, whose name was Finnegan. He stared at his ‘uncle Jayne’ with undisguised suspicion and then ran to his grandmother for protection. Wise kid.

Radiant had insisted that the crew of Serenity should stay for supper, and so they were all together fifteen people crammed into the tiny living room that night, too many to be seated around one table, but they had somehow managed to find sufficient room for everybody. Mattie, for instance, stayed in his chair by the fireplace, eating off a tray in his lap, and River apparently had decided she should stay on the footstool next to him, or at least Simon hadn’t been able to get her to sit anywhere else.

There was definitely no shortage of food; Radiant had managed to produce an impressively massive feast in that little kitchen of hers, mostly potatoes and some sort of meat. Jayne was eating like he hadn’t had a decent meal in years, and come to think of it he probably hadn’t; the awkwardness of suddenly being home certainly hadn’t ruined his appetite. It made Zoë smile a little, and when she noticed that even Mal was eating a lot more than usual, the smile grew even wider. It was good to see her captain so relaxed.

And it wasn’t just the captain. Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves tonight. Wash had talked Jo into sharing funny childhood stories about Jayne, and when she’d first gotten started there was no stopping her, and she soon had them all in stitches, in spite of all the angry glares Jayne threw at her.

Kaylee was constantly distracted by little Abigail, Jude’s and Fergus’ baby girl, who was seated opposite the table from her. “She’s gotta be the cutest baby ever,” she declared for the umpteenth time. “Simon, don’t you think she’s just adorable?”

The doctor was the only one in the room who didn’t look comfortable. He kept glancing over his shoulder at River and Mattie, and all this baby talk from Kaylee didn’t exactly seem to calm him. “Uh, yes, yes that she is,” he said, and then turn to address Radiant, “A fine meal, Mrs Cobb,” he said, ever so courteous.

“Hear, hear,” Wash said, overlapping Mal’s “Absolutely.”

Zoë silently concurred; it did taste good. “What is it?” she asked.

“Dog,” Radiant smiled.

Simon, who’d just taken a sip from his cup, choked on the water and coughed hard, and Kaylee tore her eyes away from the baby long enough to pound him on his back.

Mal had raised his eyebrows. “As in wild dog?”

“Yes,” Radiant nodded.

Simon eventually managed to regain his ability to breathe and talk. “You eat it?” he exclaimed, his subtlety and politeness suddenly gone.

“Why not?” Jo shrugged. “They eat us.”

Zoë smiled. What Jayne lacked in wit, his sister clearly possessed. “So you hunt it?” she asked.

“That we do,” Jo replied. “It’s the one thing Paquin never runs outta.”

Fergus nodded, pointing to his sister-in-law with his thumb. “Jo here’s the best hunter in town,” he stated.

Jo shrugged again. “And if I’d been a man I might’ve been admired for it too.”

Zoë sent her a sympathetic smile.

Simon was only staring wide-eyed at his plate as if the simple knowledge of what he’d been eating made him queasy, and Kaylee poked him not-so-discreetly with her elbow to snap him out of it.

“A dog wags its tail when it’s happy,” River said from her place by the fire, and they all turned to look at her. “A cow does the same, but to swat at flies.”

“Exactly,” Mattie smiled, amusement heavy in his voice. He was looking at the girl with a certain… Zoë wasn’t sure what to call it. Fascination, perhaps? Just not the creepy kind.

Jayne mumbled something. Nobody heard what.

“So,” Wash said, to break the following silence he obviously found uncomfortable, “hunting wild dogs… Sounds dangerous.”

“It can be,” Jo agreed. “If you’re not constantly on top of things. You have to do it at night, ‘cause they only come out when it’s dark.”

Radiant shook her head. “I don’t like her doing it. But it’s a good way to make money.”

“It’s the only way to make money,” Jo corrected her. “If you don’ wanna work at the factory.”

“I think it sounds like fun,” Zoë said, and smiled apologetic at her husband when he frowned at the statement.

Jo sent her a smile. “It’s fun too,” she said. “I’ll take you, if you wanna. Tomorrow night.”

Zoë grinned. Something about this place and setting made her feel like a little kid again. Her eyes flashed to her captain and he smiled broadly and lifted his glass at her in a salute. “I’d love to,” she said.


Simon stood in the infirmary and observed his patient with a worried frown. He hadn’t thought the short walk would wear him out this much. After supper the night before, Mal had sent Wash and Kaylee with Jo back to town to fetch Serenity; the ship was now parked on the field next to the Cobb home, less than two hundred yards from the house itself, and yet walking that short distance had proved to be more than sufficient to deprive Mattie Cobb of all his strength. Only after Simon had hooked him up to a nasal cannula and fed him oxygen through it, combined with half an hour rest on the operation table, did the bluish tinge on his face begin to fade and the coloring return to the ‘normal’ sickly pale.

“I’m sorry,” Simon said again. “I shouldn’t have made you walk.”

“You didn’t make me do anything,” Mattie pointed out. He spoke slowly, he was still panting a little. “People mostly don’t realize how bad it really is, and sometimes I forget too. It’s okay, I’m fine.”

You’re not fine, Simon thought, but he realized what the man meant and didn’t say it out loud. “How long has it been like this?” he asked instead.

“Like this bad? A year or so.” He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the table. “It’s been bad before, but I usually bounce back. But not this time.”

“And you’ve never seen a doctor before?”

Mattie turned towards him and raised one eyebrow. “This is New Inverness,” he said. “Don’t know how much of the town you saw, but it don’t exactly have shiny medical facilities lined up.”

“Of course,” Simon muttered. He sighed inwardly; he’d done it again, forgotten for a moment that not everyone had grown up the way he had.

“Poppa used to take me to any doctor, self-taught healer and charlatan that passed through here,” Mattie continued. “They diagnosed me with anything from pneumonia and TB to whooping cough and damp lung. Don’t think none of them knew what they were talkin’ ‘bout, though.”

Simon nodded and put on his stethoscope. “Let’s see if they were. Please take off your shirt.”

He did, and it became clear that he was even skinnier than at first glance. One could easily make out the ribs and the spine, and the doctor wondered again if Mattie would have looked like Jayne if he’d been healthy. It was hard to imagine.

“Sounds like a good man, your father,” he said as he rubbed the stethoscope against his shirt to heat it. “Not giving up on you like that.”

“That’s what fathers do, ain’t it?” Mattie said.

“I guess,” Simon replied, and tried hard not to think about his own. He put the stethoscope to the other man’s back and instructed him to take a deep breath. “Then exhale slowly,” he continued, and the frown on his face grew. Something was definitely wrong. “It sounds like there’s liquid in your lungs,” he said. “Do you often get infections? Fevers?”

“Yeah, ‘specially in the winter.”

“I see.” Simon pulled the stethoscope from his ears. “I’ll have to do further tests. We’ll do a scan and draw some blood, if you’re okay with it.”

“Sure,” Mattie said. “And thanks.”

His politeness almost surprised Simon a little. It was getting increasingly harder to believe that this man was really Jayne’s brother.

He turned to prepare his equipment, contemplating the lucky coincidence that he actually had a high-tech scanner at hand. They had spent some of the money they’d stolen from Badger on giving the infirmary a little face-lift, which in Simon’s mind was only reasonable, seeing as he was the one who had come up with the plan for the heist in the first place. The rest was set aside for a new mule when the opportunity to buy one came along.

He picked up the needle for a blood sample and turned back towards his patient, just as Mattie shifted a little on the table.

And there it was. Something about the way his mouth twitched as he turned his head. And it made Simon stare until Mattie became aware and looked up at him. “What?”

“I’m sorry,” Simon said, shaking his head. “It’s just that I suddenly saw some of Jayne in you. You’re not very much alike,” he added helpfully.

“Well, you tell me,” Mattie replied. “You probably know ‘im better than I do.” And when Simon gave him a puzzled look, he elaborated, “He’s fourteen years older than me. I was still a baby when he left.”

“I see,” Simon said again. He found a suitable vein in Mattie’s right arm, pinched him with the needle and started filling his sample container with blood.

“What’s wrong with River?” Mattie suddenly asked him.

Simon threw him a short glance. “She’s been through some trauma,” he said as he pulled the needle from the arm, not wanting to delve into all the details at this point.

Mattie seemed satisfied with the answer, or at least he didn’t press the matter. “She seems nice,” was all he said.

Simon eyed him, disbelieving and amazed.

Definitely not like Jayne.


Jayne found his sister Jo in the garden. She was working on one of the furs she had laid out to dry in the sun, and for a few moments he stayed back to just watch her from a distance. She was the only one of his siblings he’d ever been close to. They’d been like peas in a pod once, the two of them. And seeing this place again, and her, stirred long forgotten memories to life. It was like every little detail around here reminded him of places he’d been and things he’d been doing.

With Jo.

A long time ago.

But he wasn’t one for nostalgic reminiscing, and so he soon enough cleared his mind of these unfamiliar feelings and stepped up to her.

It was a quiet morning. Zoë and Wash had gone into town, apparently to look for work, but Jayne wasn’t really buying it. Hadn’t he made it abundantly clear to Mal that there were no jobs to be had in New Inverness, unless you had an unhealthy yearning for processing wood in a factory? The captain himself was busy doing some chores on the homestead he for some reason had offered to do, Kaylee made use of the opportunity to do some maintenance work on Serenity, and Simon had taken Mattie to the infirmary.

Jo looked over her shoulder at him as he approached her. “Morning,” she greeted him.

He didn’t reply, only handed her the rifle he was carrying. She took it, studied it, weighed it in her hands, got the feel of it – just like he did whenever he was presented with new weapons. “Nice,” was the verdict.

“Sure is,” he said. “Got it from a man on Ezra a few months back.” He didn’t bother mentioning that he’d killed the man in question. Not that it hadn’t been a fair fight, or not that Jo wouldn’t understand, it just didn’t seem all that important.

“Does it kick?” she asked.

“A little. Not more than you can handle.”

“Not more than I can…?” She looked at him.

“It’s a gift,” he verified.

Her face broke into a smile. “Thanks.”

It wasn’t his best gun, but it wasn’t the worst either, and he’d thought of Jo the moment he’d picked it up. It seemed to fit her somehow.

She lifted it, checked out the scope, and just then they both became aware of River wandering about in one of the floral beds nearby. She was looking intently at the half-withered flowers, sometimes bending down to sniff one of them.

Jo lowered the gun and nodded towards the moonbrain. “What’s her story?”

Jayne grunted. “The Alliance dug her brains out or some such.”

Jo turned back towards him, shocked. “What? Why?”

“Dunno. Made her stir crazy. They want her back too, badly. That’s why they’re on the run, she and her brother.”

“Really? Fugees?”


She smirked. “And you haven’t even tried to sell ‘em out for a reward.”

He was suddenly very interested in his hands. In the corner of his eye, he could see her smile disappear. “Oh you did try, didn’t you?” she exclaimed. Next she punched him in the shoulder.

“Oh,” he said, glaring daggers at her.

“You’re such a moron! You can’t trust the Alliance, Jayne! They won’t pay ya unless they really have to. Hell, they’d probably arrest you alongside them.”

Again he said nothing. And again she read him like an open book. “Gorram it, that’s what they did, didn’t they?”

“I got away, okay,” he muttered.

“Moron,” she repeated, and then stepped closer and lowered her voice. “And there’s still the other thing, and this is the most important. You don’t help the Alliance, Jayne! You don’t aid them or assist them in any way. If they want this girl back, then you take her and you run in the opposite direction.”

”It’s easy for you to say,” he hissed back. ”You don’t have to live on a ship with these people, lookin’ over your shoulder all the time.”

”Oh trust me,” she said, and her voice was suddenly very cold, ”I’d do anything to have your life.”

He frowned. “What’s wrong with yours?”

“Well, you should know. You never looked back on it.”

“I couldn’t stay. You know that. Weren’t no place for me in this town.”

“And you just assume there is one for me.”

He narrowed his eyes. “If it’s so gorram bad, why do you stay?”

“’Cause someone has to, Jayne!” she spat, louder now. “Jude got married, and Mattie…” She didn’t finish. She didn’t have to. Jayne had seen his brother for himself now.

Jo held his eyes for a moment, and when she spoke she no longer sounded angry, only sad. “You are the oldest, it was supposed to be your job. Guess I wasn’t fast enough.” She looked down at her feet, then took a deep breath and glanced back up at him. “Anyways, thanks,” she said and gestured with the rifle, “for this.”

She turned and walked away.




Monday, January 16, 2012 8:25 AM


Sad. No matter which of them left, one of them would have been miserable having to stay behind.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 4:52 AM


I really like Jo, and it was good for Jayne to have the fact rammed home that you NEVER trust the Alliance. I like how the crew are all trying to find ways to help and hope Simon can do something for Mattie. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:53 AM


I liked how you showed the interaction of Jayne with his two sisters, and how different it was for the two of them. How with the baby sister it was all affection and not so much of substance, and how with the older sister, they found common ground in the gift of a gun. I love the details you've included -- such as Jayne eating like he hadn’t had a decent meal in years, and even Mal having a big appetite; Simon's reaction to being informed that he was eating wild dog; Zoe saying that the hunting sounded like fun. I hope Simon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:54 AM

EBFIDDLER able to help Mattie. (I don't know why that got cut off!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 9:17 AM


Thanks for your comments, guys :)

Yes, Byte, it's sad. There's always one sibling who gets labeled 'the responsible one', and once you have that label, you're stuck with it. Jo is different than Jayne, more down to earth and probably smarter, but she too has that wild side she sometimes wishes she had the chance to explore.

Amdobell, glad you like Jo. I'm quite fond of her myself ;) Simon would probably say she's a female version of Jayne, but (I hope) there's a lot more to her than that.

eb, the interaction between adult siblings have always fascinated me for some reason. I feel Jayne views Jo as 'one of the guys' and doesn't really know how to relate to the 'girlie' side of her, the side that talks about feelings and stuff.

Friday, November 23, 2012 1:00 PM


I know all too well what it's like to be given the title of "responsible" child, the one expected to take over when things go pear-shaped and a steady hand's needed to support the parents. I'm basically doing everything these days due to my dad being in the hospital with a broken hip and a suppurating knee after a recent joint replacement...gets to be tiring after awhile :S

But still, I have to chime in and say you write the Cobb children so perfectly! All 4 children are separate characters and have their issues but still love their mother and each other :D


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Angels We Have Heard (Part 5/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 4/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 3/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 1/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

The Night Before (revised and reposted)
It's the night before Christmas and Jayne is having spiritual problems. Literally.

Book of Secrets (Part 8)
Mal drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, closing his eyes for a moment. "Gorram preacher," he muttered.

Book of Secrets (Part 7)
Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.

Book of Secrets (Part 6)
The captain dances, Inara's feeling out the new girl and the first secret is revealed.

Book of Secrets (Part 5)
Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.