Mother Superior
Thursday, May 17, 2012

All he had to do was look the other way, keep firing at his own opponents, and the problem that was Zoë Washburne would be taken care of.


A/N: The incidents in this story takes place pre-series. Sort of a prequel to my Eagle-series. A study of the wonderful Jayne/Zoë dynamics.


Her name was Zoë.

Not that it mattered. Names had never been that important to him, girls he met mostly just made up one anyway. No, there wasn't as much in a name as some people liked to think; being a not particularly feminine man called Jayne, he would know. So if there was anything about this new ship's first mate that made her stand out, it had to be something else. And at first he hadn't seen it.

The captain had introduced her in a more formal manner after they'd returned from collecting Jayne's personal effects (which his old crew had given up quite easily once a still whimpering Marco had told them to). She had simply nodded curtly at him as her name was mentioned, and a short glance in her direction clearly told him that even though she stood by her captain's decisions regardless of what they were, it didn't mean she always agreed with him. He saw her stone cold face and the eyes that never wavered, and he saw what he'd seen countless times before:

Another icy bitch.

He'd known his share of them. If a woman was to have any chance at all at climbing up the chain of command, she had to be one. Ruthless, distant bitches with sharp elbows that wouldn't let you touch them. Not that it mattered; he was usually not that interested in them anyhow.

He didn't see much of her the first night he spent on Serenity. She'd disappeared to somewhere unknown after they'd shown him his room (the captain hadn't been lying about that) and the kitchen (full run of it, the captain had said, he hadn't been lying about that either) and the rest of the crew.

"So," the pilot, a pale and puny-looking fellow in a ridiculous shirt and a goofy grin on his face, said after introductions had been made, "Jayne? That's an unusual name. For a guy, I mean."

Jayne responded with a glare, knowing that with guys like this it would usually be enough. He was right, it did the trick, and the pilot backed down, hurriedly adding, "It's a good name, though. I'm sure I'll get used to it."

Nope, pilot wouldn't be a problem.


The next day she came out of hiding, and started listing up all these rules. She called him out into the cargo bay where she waited next to a bathtub that had been pulled out of somewhere and filled with water.

"What's this?" he asked, glaring at it.

"Yeah, figured you hadn't seen one of these before," she humorlessly replied. "It's called a bath. And you only get one every third week, so make it count."

He narrowed his eyes in suspicion. She saw it and sighed. "Okay, I see I'll have to spell it out for you." She pointed at him with her index finger, speaking slowly as if to a retard, stressing every word. "You dirty. You smell. You clean yourself."


She seemed totally indifferent to the offended tone in his voice, and just droned on, "We try to uphold a certain sanitary level on this ship, so we expect you to make an effort even without the baths. We got water, splash some in your face and armpits on occasion. That's the third rule of Serenity."

He scowled at her. "Yeah, what's the first?"

"The captain's in charge."

"And the second?"

"Captain ain't around, I'm in charge."

He grunted.

"Clean yourself," she repeated as she made to leave the bay. "Everywhere."

He smirked. "You comin' back to inspect?"

She only looked coolly at him as she walked away. "Rule number fourteen: Keep your dirty thoughts to yourself."

But she did come back ten minutes later. She strode right up to him, and for some reason he almost unconsciously rearranged the soap bubbles to cover himself up as much as possible. Strange, normally it wouldn't have bothered him at all to be caught in the nude. He didn't get to ponder much on as to why he suddenly felt this shy, because next she grabbed his head and pulled it towards her and then upwards towards the light.

"What the hell are you doing?" he yelled, cringing his neck to get away from her as she pulled him a little by the hair.

"Checking you for lice," she said. "Rule number ten: Pets not allowed."


"No offence," – but her voice was loaded with offence – "but I saw the ship you used to live on, as well as your former comrades…"

"I ain't got lice!" he impatiently snarled at her, swatting her hands away. He was halfway out of the tub when he was once more reminded of the fact that he was naked, and stopped, scowling at her instead. "And I ain't got the crabs either, just so you know."

"What's inside your pants I've got no business with," she said, stepped back and glared at him, daring him to stand up. "As that's somewhere I'll never go."

"Wouldn't want you there," he replied.

But that was a lie, and he already knew it by then.


The puny pilot was her lover. Husband even. The two of them making out in the pilot seat was the weirdest, craziest thing he saw that first week on the ship, and that was saying something. Because he learned soon enough that this was not your average scavenger crew.

Take the mechanic, for instance. She was this bouncy, bubbly little thing in overalls and an ever-present smile smeared across her face. A cute face too, though not the kind he'd normally go for. He'd always preferred spicy over sweet. But seeing as the ice queen was the only other option if he was ever going to get a little trim on this boat, he figured he might as well give it a shot. Not that it helped. She didn't pick up on his flirting, only yapped happily and innocently along whenever he spoke to her.

"So where you from, Jayne?" she asked him on the third day, as they were seated around the eating table in the galley, he and the girls.

"Far from here," he vaguely replied, having learned long ago that not revealing too much about yourself and your past was crucial if you wanted so survive in this 'verse.

"He's a Paquiner," Zoë said, she sounded weary and looked straight at him from across the table while she spoke.

Jayne raised his eyebrows in a confused frown for a short second, then pulled himself together enough to scowl back at her. "How you figure?"

"Your tattoo," she answered, still cool as ever, nodding towards his left shoulder. "The red dragon's a favored symbol for guys hailing from the Red Sun system. That, and you keep mentioning dogs. Paquin's known for its wild dog. So – am I wrong?"

He waited a short moment before he answered. "No."

He thought he saw some malice in her eyes at that point. She definitely enjoyed this. "You might as well give up on comin' 'cross as mysterious, Jayne," she said. "I've known dozens of men like you and none of 'em ever impressed me."

He felt anger flare up inside him. "Yeah?" he spat. "I been on this boat three gorram days and you already know me? Then by all means, tell me what kinda man I am."

"Fine." She crossed her arms in front of her. "You left home early, never got much schoolin', or maybe you did and you're just plain stupid. You know your way with guns though, and you're big and strong, so you've got no problem findin' crews that'll take you on. You stay loyal to your boss as long as you find it profitable, and when the day comes when you don't, you stab 'im in the back. Always in the back. You won't look 'im in the eye as you do it, 'cause deep down you secretly know you're the lesser man."

Jayne had heard cruel words before in his life, and plenty of them. He knew which ones to let pass. "Your captain trusts me enough to take me onboard," was all he said.

"And I trust my captain, so I'll tolerate you. That don't mean I'll ever turn my back on you. And I'll watch his as well."

Silence fell between them. None of them looked away.

"Me, I'm from Harvest," Kaylee's happy, though now slightly tenser, voice chipped in.

Neither Jayne nor Zoë had taken their eyes off the other. This was turning into a staring contest. "How 'bout you?" he asked her, ignoring the mechanic. "What's your home world?"

"Ain't got one."

He smirked, leaning back in his chair, gladly accepting the ammunition she so carelessly had handed him. "Ah, Traveler. Not many left of you lot, is there?"

Yup, he had her now. Her eyes darkened, and for a moment he thought she was going to draw her gun at him – and boy, was he ready for that! – but in the end she just stood and walked out of the room.

"That was mean!" Kaylee scolded.

"Hey, they rebelled and they suffered the consequences," he pointed out. "It was the Alliance thinned their ranks. It had nothin' to do with me."

"Still…" Kaylee muttered and kept glaring at him for a long time.


"Best not get in her way," the captain told him on the fourth day when he'd first tried to complain. He then proceeded by saying something about cats that Jayne didn't quite get.

"She likes having a certain order around her," Mal finished. "Don't see nothin' wrong with that, as long as it don't bother me." His eyes narrowed a little. "And by the way, you make another comment like that one 'bout Travelers, you're off! We clear?"

"She started it," he protested. "She…"

"Jayne!" The captain cut him off with one single word. Not many people knew how to do that. "You wanna stay, you do your job and you follow orders. You don't like it, you leave. My ship, my rules."

"But they ain't your rules," Jayne exclaimed, "they're hers!"

Mal shrugged. "Well, I tend to agree with her."

"Tend to or have to?"

The captain then gave him a look he would later come to know as simply 'The Look', that stopped him from pressing the matter any further. He just threw his hands up and backed away.

He learned two things from that look, though. One, the relationship between the captain and his first mate was complicated and somewhat indefinable, and two, he wasn't supposed to ask questions about it.


Zoë was indeed annoying, but she was also intriguing, and that again made her even more annoying. She was a fine woman, no denying, one would have to be blind not to see it. Tall and toned and totally in control of herself, and every movement graceful, like she never moved a single part of her body without carefully planning it first. She never spoke to him unless it was to berate him or to inform him of another one of her stupid rules, and she never smiled, at least not to him. But he knew she was observing him, he could feel her eyes boring into his back wherever he went, and it made him want to push her up against the wall and tear all of her clothes off.

Or shoot her. He wasn't quite sure which.

Not that it mattered. She was untouchable.

And it made him want to touch her.

He hated it. Because he knew that was a game she'd never let him win.

Then again, Vera had been like that at first, and he'd managed to win her over in the end… The thought made him smile.

Now, Lil' Kaylee, on the other hand, there was nothing cold about her, and on the fifth day he finally managed to get her alone. He was yearning for a woman now, he was not ashamed to admit it, and having the ice queen around didn't help. So he decided it was time to put in a little more effort.

He bumped into her in the cargo bay. She was a little homesick and so he let her yap on about her folks back on Harvest, because he knew being a 'good listener' often paid off when it came to girls. She was in a considerately better mood when she finally wrapped up that endless string of words, and didn't seem to mind that he'd moved in closer.

And then suddenly Zoë leaned over the rails on the catwalk above them and called for Kaylee. "Captain needs you in the engine room."

Being the ever-reliable mechanic, Kaylee happily bounced off, and as soon as she was out of earshot, Zoë sent a warning look in Jayne's direction. "Paws off!"

Seriously, she was getting beyond irritating!

"What? She yours?" he spat back.

"Rule number seventeen: Nobody touches Kaylee."

"Oh come on! You're makin' these up as you go!"

"The mechanic's off limits," she just calmly repeated.

"But you can screw the pilot?"

She didn't answer, only turned and walked down the gallery towards the stairs to the bridge. He followed her in the bay below. "What kinda boat is this anyhow?" he shouted at her. "A gorram monastery?"

She didn't even stop or bother to look at him. "Yes, and I'm Mother Superior."

She continued on her way and left him there to stare disbelievingly after her.

Yes, he'd met his share of icy bitches, but nobody quite like her.

And two days later he almost got rid of her.


He'd been on the ship for a week when the captain got a job. They were to dig up some hidden goods on some rocky border planet and bring it to some guy on Persephone called Badger. An easy job, supposedly. The captain expected it to run smoothly.

It didn't. And Jayne would later learn that the 'easy' ones never did.

Another crew had beaten them to the loot. Some harsh words were exchanged and then some fighting ensued. Experienced as he was, Jayne had quickly managed to claim a strategic spot in the hills overlooking the dig site. There he'd found shelter behind a big rock and fired hurdles of bullets into the men who were stupid enough to try and climb up towards him.

Zoë was a little further down the slope. She'd hold her own for a long time, a good shot indeed, but her shotgun had to be reloaded often and without a backup weapon it made her vulnerable. That was why one of the men had managed to sneak up on her.

Jayne spotted him just as he was about to shoot her.

All he had to do was do nothing. Nobody would blame him. They would just assume he'd been busy with his own fight. All he had to do was look the other way, keep firing at his own opponents, and the problem that was Zoë Washburne would be taken care of.

No more condescending words.

No more rules.

No more confusing shivers ripping through his body as her eyes followed it around.

To hell with it!

Temporarily leaving his sheltered spot, he stumbled to his feet, aimed his gun and fired. It only took one shot and Zoë's would-be killer slumped dead to the ground. And only then was she made aware of the danger she'd been in. She looked at the downed man and then glanced over her shoulder at Jayne…

…but in the very same moment, he spotted a shadow moving in on him from the left, and he spun around just in time to block the arm his opponent swung at him.

He saw the knife a fraction of a second too late; he only caught a short glimpse of the blade before it tore into in his side. Pain flashed through his body and along with it came anger, and in a haze of adrenaline he pushed his assailant away and then raised his pistol and put a bullet in his brain.

Then the fight was suddenly over and when Mal called for them, Jayne pulled his jacket tighter to hide the wound and his blood-soaked t-shirt, determined not to show any weakness. Because for a mercenary that was bad for business.

The injury wasn't life threatening. If it had been, he'd be dead long before they got back. But it hurt like hell, and he had a hard time concealing the pain as he helped the captain loading the cargo unto the boat.

"Somethin' wrong?" Mal asked as they dropped the last crate down on the floor.

"No," Jayne replied curtly and refused to look at him. Instead he let his eyes drift across the crate and caught sight of a small eagle emblem nailed to it. "Hey, shiny," he said and tore it off. The pain in his side flared up at the sudden movement and he bit his lip not to groan out loud. "I think I'll keep this," he said, sounding a little strained. "This being our first job together and all."

Mal looked at him like he was crazy, but then just shrugged. "Suit yourself."

Jayne put the emblem in his pocket and then slowly made his way to his bunk to patch himself up. The wound had stopped bleeding, so he poured some alcohol on it and stripped it together, before drinking the rest of the booze.


He was headed for the kitchen when she found him. Her frame suddenly filled the door, blocking his way. She had her arms crossed in her trademark position and looked sternly at him. "You hurt?" she asked.

"No." The reply came instantly and instinctively.

Like before her eyes didn't waver. "I know you took a knife."

Glancing down, he saw the blood spatter on his pants. He wasn't fooling anyone. Slightly defeated, he waved her off. "I took care of it."

"With what? Whisky and a dirty rag? Lemme see."

She stepped forward, reaching for his shirt. He shied away. "It's fine," he insisted.

She glanced up to meet his eyes again. "Rule number fifteen: If you're hurt, don't hide it," she said, and for the first time he thought he maybe detected some emotion in her voice. He said nothing as she removed the bandage and inspected the injury.

"Strips won't hold, you need stitches," she concluded. "Come with me."

"Where?" He was still suspicious.

"Infirmary. You do know we have one?"

"'Course," he muttered.

"No medic though, just me. Not to worry, I picked up a skill or two during the war. It won't be pretty, but it'll do the job."

He followed her down the stairs, to the small room by the commons. She frowned as he got settled on the table. "I can smell you won't be needin' anesthetics," she said. The dry remark made him smile.

None of them talked much during the procedure. He concentrated on keeping the groans and whimpers to a bare minimum and she on the stitching. But eventually she opened her mouth and spoke. "You did good today," she said, but without looking at him.

He offered no response, only cast her a sideways glance.

"And I was wrong to think I know you," she continued. "I guess there's a chance you might still surprise me." She finally turned her head to look him in the eye. "But as long as my guts don't tell me otherwise, I won't be turnin' my back on you."

He felt a tug at the corners of his mouth, a smirk slowly forming. "You've had your back on me," he informed her. "Twice."

She just kept looking at him for a long moment, then peeled off her gloves and disposed of them. "Dinner's at nine," she calmly declared. "I suggest you get some rest before that. You bled a lot."

She left the room.

Still grinning, he jumped off the table and slowly pulled his jacket back on, delighted by this new turn of events. Perhaps the ice queen wasn't so unapproachable after all?

But when he stepped out of the infirmary and, rounding the corner, found her and the puny pilot in the hallway making out, he was reminded of the absurdity of the whole situation, and with a scoff he turned and walked the other way, giving up on that fantasy once and for all.

If this was her idea of an attractive man, she would never be his.



Friday, May 18, 2012 3:44 PM


Hello good story, I rather enjoyed it very much. I thought you captured the Jayne/Zoe dynamic very well. I guess looking from the outside she can come across as being an “Ice Queen” of sorts, but that may have been brought on by years of being let down by some of the people around her. That is until she entered the war and met up with Sergeant Reynolds.
It isn’t easy getting on Zoe’s good side. Jayne seems to have done this, and gotten himself out of a tub (bathtub) of boiling water. Not literally, but almost, at least for the time being.

Friday, May 18, 2012 3:48 PM


Really enjoyed reading this story with all its Jayne POV. Especially with Jayne being the new guy, the outsider, his views on what Zoe and Mal, and Wash and Kaylee, were like when he comes aboard -- very interesting. Poor Jayne, having to play tough guy when he's stabbed. I'm glad Zoe saw right through his act and doctored his wound. Great little piece establishing the footing for these characters' interactions.

Saturday, November 24, 2012 6:54 AM


Zoe's a difficult character to nail, I think, but you did in spades! You got both her "corporal breaking in the troops" voice and her softer side coming across in a most excellent fashion, and I loved her joke about "Mother Superior" role on the boat. Though she's breaking a vow or two with Wash ;P


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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)
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 3/5)
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 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.