BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

ARTEMISPRIME

The Way Chapter Four
Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Life on the farm isn't all it's cracked up to be. All kinds of truths will come to light in this one. Much talk and less action in this one. Critiques welcomed.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1641    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon et al own the characters, ‘verse and everything else in them. I’m only playing with his toys and not making a single bit of credit off this.

Thanks to Jacqui for the helpful advice. And I'm glad you liked the pic!

See Chapters one, two and three.

Rating: Teen and up

Chapter four For the fifth time, Jayne cursed a streak that would have even made Mal reddened. For the fifth time, Jayne silently wished for Kaylee to arrive on the scene. She was the mechanical genius. He was just a merc. And mercs didn’t know how to fix gorram ta ma duh tractors. This was not his area of expertise.

Holding his finger to his lips, he sucked on the blood that was freshly sprung from the screwdriver that Jayne had lost a grip on and jammed into his finger. Examining his wound, he sat on the hard ground and leaned heavily on the tractor tire.

This wasn’t where he was supposed to be. No way in ruttin hell was he supposed to be trying to farm a farm that weren’t meant to be growing anything other than dirt. It was crazy and it was just the kind of stubborn that his mother was known for. The woman was determined to claim her stake and damn the consequences.

Feeling his stomach rumble, Jayne rose and trudged the half mile back to the homestead. Maybe some food in his belly, even protein rations, would help him focus and give him the motivation to want to fix the tractor.

The wind blew through the sheets that Emma Jayne had put on the line. It did bring a sense of comfort to her son, reminding him of younger times when the dirt had been a playground. He got swatted more than once for playing in those sheets and causing them to fall and thus, to be re-washed. He snorted on the memory and smacked his hands across the front of his pants to clear away some of the dust. With the amount of swirling debris, he didn’t see how his playing with them made a bit of difference. Sheets always had a bit of brown to them.

He entered the small home through the front with a call to his ma that he was there and needing some lunch. He tossed his boots off and went to the kitchen when no reply came. Shrugging at not finding her, he set about to making his meal. Setting the mash on the oversized wooden cutting block that doubled for a table, he went for a glass of water, though he would have preferred whiskey. Staring out the window, he became disgusted once again.

“Fields ain’t never gonna grow nothin’ but more dirt. Woman’s crazy fer not leavin’ after Mattie passed on.” He flinched a little on saying his dead brother’s name, but it had been close to four months and life was for living not rememberin’.

A flicker of dirty white caught the corner of his eye. Something about it looked wrong, like it was part up and part not. He figured he oughta fix it before his ma found out and likely blamed him for it.

But food came first and it would be ten minutes before he sauntered to the line. Getting closer, he could see that something was weighing it down. He yanked on the sheet to right it, but only succeeded in pulling it completely off the line. Pulling it aside, he looked down and felt his world stop.

Emma Jayne lay face down on the edge of the sheet, stone dead.



Before... Kaylee sighed and crossed her arms over her chest as though to hold herself in. Striding past Jayne’s vacant bunk, she felt an emptiness she hadn’t expected. Maybe River had been right. Maybe it was too quiet without the big one. She walked down to the infirmary and sank deep into the couch.

She watched Simon get up, check some bit of paper, sit, scan a readout and then the monitor. He did it all without noticing his girl a few feet beyond the door.

Everything was all wrong and she couldn’t for the life of her figure out what to do about it.

Simon stood once again and finally saw Kaylee looking small on the couch. He strode out of his medbay and carefully sat next to her. He placed his hands on his knees and tried desperately to think of something comforting to say, but nothing came. For a smart man, he was sometimes dim.

Kaylee watched him walk over, a smile forming that he had finally noticed her. Her smile, though, couldn’t hide her sad face. Simon recognised that, tried to smile himself as a cheer to her, but stopped. He couldn’t fake his emotions any more than Kaylee could.

The pair sat that way for long moments. It was very quiet beyond the hum of Serenity.

Simon slowly drummed his fingers on his knees, feeling awkward, but relishing the silence.

Truth be told, the last couple of months had been bliss. He was more than happy that Jayne had stayed behind on Harvest. His life was substantially less stressful without having to worry about Jayne turning him and River in. True, he had been helpful during the Miranda battle, but as Simon recalled, it was River who had saved their butts, not the hired gun. The hired gun hadn’t done much saving at all.

He could see, though, that Kaylee was upset and needed a little something from him.

Moving his hand to Kaylee’s knee, he attempted something consoling. “Kaylee, I know the last little while has been hard, with Jayne having left.”

“I think I miss him.”

Simon’s brain froze. She missed him? The same man that purposely made jokes to cause discomfort for her? He breathed and remembered that they had known each other far longer than he had when he arrived on Serenity. He supposed that that kind of friendship might be able to tolerate crude jokes, but it was a weak supposition.

“I guess I can understand that. You and Jayne...” He didn’t like the sound of that implication. “That is to say...”

Kaylee gently reached her own hand around Simon’s. “You don’t got to say it.”

He sighed with relief.

“But it sure would be nice a ya t’try.” She looked hopefully to his eyes. Please, Simon, please say something that’ll make Jayne’s leaving okay. Tell me that we’ll see him again. That this is just temporary. That our family will be together again. “‘Specially with all the trials this crew’s been through, be nice to hear somethin’ good fer once.”

Simon tightened his fingers around Kaylee’s. “I don’t know what to say.” He shrugged. “It’s Jayne.”

The mechanic glared. “That all ya got to say about him?”

“Well, it’s not like he’s dead.”

The look in the mechanic’s eye nearly broke him. Tears quickly formed and threatened to spill. She jerked her hand away and shifted her body to the far end of the couch. “How can you even say that? Not after everythin’...” She wanted to blink, the tears stung so bad, but she wasn’t about to let them fall. Not in front of Simon. She stood quickly with her back to the Doctor. “Thought doctors was s’posed to take care a folk. Fix em up.”

“Kaylee...I meant...just that...” He rose next to her and gently touched her shoulder.

With a violent shrug, she forced his hand from her. “I know what ya meant.” She waited for him to deny it, to say something to try to make her feel better, but he made no sound. Shutting her eyes, the tears fell. She swallowed hard, steeled herself then walked away.

Later... The saloon was probably the crummiest Jayne had ever been in and he’d been in some crummy ones. This one was right out of the old pictures he’d seen of the early west with dirt floors and walls filled with mud to keep out the wind. It stank of moldy beer and unbathed men. A lone light hung in the middle causing heavy shadows to confuse a body’s eyes. It was more than a little hard to tell if an approaching shadow was something to worry on.

Still, it had alcohol and that was what Jayne wanted. The more the better to forget the images still repeating over and over in his brain.

He could see the local doctor coming out and turning over his ma, her body stiff and unyielding. Her eyes were open and it made Jayne sick.

He could see his mother’s body lying in the mortuary, make up all cakey and wrong coloured as folks passed on by with their last respects. Whispers caught his ears of people wondering how Emma Jayne could have died so sudden-like, especially after the long-awaited re-appearance of the no account son. He knew what they thought; didn’t have to be no gorram genius doctor on that.

He took another swig of the vile and warm beer to block the remembrance of the conversation with the local pig farmer wondering if Jayne was interested in selling his land now that it wasn’t much use to him. He did smirk at thinking on the colour that fella’s eye was going to turn once the swelling came down.

But there had been truth there in that ruttin farmer’s question. What was he going to do with the land? Hell, he didn’t want it and it weren’t worth much to anyone else. If the gorram pigger thought he could make it a go then who was Jayne Cobb to say different?

God Almighty but he wanted to hit something else again! It was like he told the Shepherd near on a lifetime ago it seemed. Death made him want to live that much more, feel himself alive. With Mattie, the bar fight had done wonders to release the anger. With his ma, though, there was precious little to hit, ‘cepting that farmer, and any ruckus he did cause was more than like to have him thrown in jail. Then where’d he be?

He stood with a sway and ambled to the bar for another mug. Course, selling the farm meant leaving Harvest and having someplace to go. Serenity was his first thought, but then he wondered just how welcomed he might be. Taking the beer back to his corner table, he sat heavily and let his brain ponder the need for him on ship.

River proved that they didn’t need another merc. With Zoe more than capable in a fight, Jayne was just baggage.

He didn’t know how to fly a ship, so pilot was out. Besides, Crazy seemed to have that down, too.

Cook? He immediately threw that out of his head. Crew made a point of expressing their displeasure when his meal turn came around.

That left precisely no reason for there to be a spot for his hulking self. He wasn’t even sure he could go back anyways given that he left so sneaky-like. Just plum took off early in the mornin’ without so much as a grunt of a good-bye t’anyone other than Mal. Zoe wouldn’ta much noticed, her still pining after Wash - guess he could understand that. Couldn’t rightly imagine that Inara would pay it any mind seein’ as she was doin’ her own pinin’ over Mal. The Doc and Crazy might’n have been okay with his silent departure, but he knew li’l Kaylee liked to make shows of such things.

For Kaylee’s sake, he wished he’d at least said good-bye to her, even if she woulda made a spectacle of herself. Might even a given him a bit of hug. He scratched his forearm absently, feeling the need for some trim right then. He’d been far too long by himself and no matter how much self-serve he gave, he needed the feel of a woman around him.

He scrunched up his face when the first woman he thought on was Kaylee. He took a long drink to wash that image from his mind. Kaylee was the Doc’s, no matter how much he didn’t deserve her. Best not think on things that ain’t never gonna happen.

“Jayne Cobb!” a voice boomed from the bar.

He rolled his eyes and took another drink. He was about to turn and wonder what the hwoon dun wanted when his question was answered.

“You are hereby placed under arrest for aiding and abetting known fugitives and assault causing bodily harm and death of Alliance officers. You are ordered to stand down with your hands behind your head.”

With a slow push of his chair, Jayne rose and faced the officer who had spoken. Flanking him were three armed guards. He worked his jaw and wet his lips and saw that it made one of the guards flinch.

Only three, huh?



Before... “Inara?” Kaylee knocked again. She looked down the catwalks, hoping to see Simon come after her. To see him want to apologise and to do whatever it took for her to forgive his insensitivity. And knew it was a fantasy.

“Kaylee!” Inara’s smile was warm and geniune. “Please have some tea with me.” She stepped away from the shuttle door to allow her friend to enter.

“That’d be real nice,” Kaylee answered as she set herself on the velvet cushioned settee. She brushed her hand along the arms and bottom, feeling the soft richness. She gazed around the shuttle, seeing its crimsons and shimmery golds. This was a place of luxury, of wealth.

It was Core through and through.

Just like Simon.

Inara strode gracefully to the teapot and flicked the burner underneath to boil the water. Placing cups at the ready, she sat next to Kaylee. “Mei mei, what’s on your mind?”

Kaylee chewed the inside of her lip. “Don’t know if I can talk about it just yet.” She saw the flash of concern on the Companion’s face. “It ain’t nothing bad, just hurtful.” She angrily flicked away stray tears from her cheek.

Inara reached for a brush. “Then let me brush your hair.”

Without further provocation, Kaylee slide down to the shuttle’s floor and pulled the loose tie from her hair. Inara seated herself behind and began. Within minutes of the calming strokes, Kaylee felt herself relax. “You got such a way, Inara. Hypnotic like.”

She didn’t see the Companion smile. “Everyone has a way. It’s what makes us unique and exciting.” Or bothersome and annoying she thought on Mal.

“You ever been with a client whose way ain’t what ya thought it was?”

Inara noticed the subtle shift in Kaylee’s shoulders, how they tightened slightly. “Occasionally.”

Kaylee thought on this a moment. “So whaddya do?”

“Well,” she continued her brushing, “sometimes I just close my eyes and imagine him to be someone else.”

“What if that don’t work?”

“It depends then. If he becomes more hostile, then I end the arrangement.”

Kaylee’s eyes widened. “You ever get in a hostile situation?”

Inara thought on the many arguments she’d had with Mal the last year and a half. “It happens. You just have to maintain calm.”

The younger woman snorted lightly. “Have t’be a gorram saint,” she said just as lightly.

The Companion continued to brush Kaylee’s hair, waiting for her friend to go on when she was ready. She found herself become entranced with the steady rhythm of pulling the brush through. As much as the mechanic adored the attention of it, the Companion was the one who enjoyed the peacefulness of it.

Only when the tea pot boiled did she allow herself to be brought back to the moment. She handed Kaylee the ornate brush while she prepared the tea.

Kaylee examined the carving detail of the old ivory and wood-handled instrument. Didn’t seem right that something so fine should be used on hair that was routinely showered with engine grease. Still, she couldn’t help but think on how pretty the brush was. She could only imagine how much it would have cost.

“It was given to me by the housemistress once I passed my tests,” Inara explained. She gazed in memory at the item. “All the girls received a gift, but when she handed it to me, she said ‘There isn’t anyplace outside of Earth-That-Was where you can find ivory. It is a one-of-a-kind, like you.’”

Kaylee could see the hint of sadness in Inara’s eye, as though being out here in the black was a punishment. “I’m sorry, Inara.”

She blinked softly. “For what, honey?”

“That you got t’spend all yer time with folk like me. Out here an’ away from people that can afford t’give ya stuff like this.” She handed back the brush.

“Kaylee, don’t ever think that about yourself. You bring a light to this ship, a spirit that fills us all. And no trinket can begin to capture that.” She knelt and reached for Kaylee’s hands to hold in her own. “There is no black when you are here.”

Fresh tears formed in Kaylee’s eyes. Why couldn’t Simon say such things? He had the best schooling, best homes, best of everything like Inara and all he could do bumble his way through on the Rim.

He bumbled because he had to, not because he wanted to. And that separated him from Inara. She wanted freedom; he wanted security for himself and his sister. River forced him to run and hide far from their home.

Kaylee shut her eyes tight. No, no! She wasn’t going to think such bad things about River. She liked River, though maybe not so much when she was killing. It wasn’t her fault what they done to her. And Simon was only doing what he had to. River was his sister and was his first concern.

Always.

Inara handed her a small cup of hot tea. “Why are you upset, mei mei?”

The mechanic took a sip and tried to collect her thoughts. “I ain’t never gonna be first, Inara,” she finally said. “I ain’t never gonna be right.”

Sliding next to her friend, Inara wrapped her arm around Kaylee’s shoulders, understanding immediately her sorrow at the realisation. “He does care for you.”

“I know.”

“But not enough.”

Kaylee shook her head. “An’ what makes it worse, is that I ain’t got the right to ask to be more. I know he’s doin’ right with River. I do! An it’s selfish a me to say that I got to be first, that it oughta be me.” She let herself fall into sobs. She felt caught between the vacuum of space and a black hole. There didn’t seem to be any good ending.

Inara did the only thing she could and let her friend cry until she could cry no longer.



Thirteen.

Lying in her bunk, River counted the number of cycles of Serenity’s gravity spinner.

It gave her more focus and calm than anything her boob brother concocted. She giggled. He really was a boob. He’d spent the last three days hiding out in his medical lab, cleaning it, arranging and re-arranging it until it was so spotless it made her ill. Too clean was not good. People needed a little dirt in their lives. Made them human.

Fourteen.

She rolled to her side and faced the wall. She created hand puppets with the shadows and a story to match about dragons and sea monsters. About heroes and villains. She couldn’t tell who was the good guy or bad guy, but they were there, somewhere.

Nineteen.

She now lay on her back and closed her eyes. Kaylee was coming and she was nervous. She had been since her fight that wasn’t a fight with Simon. Her friend was afraid of what River could read in her mind. She knew, of course, but it didn’t matter. River had caused her brother to leave his life and be forced into this one. But she hadn’t caused him to put her first. That was the boob all by himself.

Twenty-one.

She heard Kaylee stop at her door, confused as to whether or not to knock. In the end, she went past and found refuge in the engine room. River slowed her breathing and let the ship’s pulse become her own. The humming, the vibration, filled her and it felt good. This was the clean that Simon craved, but he wouldn’t understand. Because he was a very smart boob.

Twenty-four.

Later... The remnants of the crew sat around the wooden table listening to the Captain describe the current dilemma. When he finished, no one said a word.

River watched everyone, hearing their thoughts all at once. Zoe was not calm on the inside. The last time Mal had made such a speech, she’d lost a husband. She was not altogether jumping at the chance to lose someone else.

Inara was focussed, understanding very well the level of loyalty the Captain felt to his crew. True, it was Jayne, but because it was Jayne, she realised that he was going to need help. His level of intelligence demanded it.

Kaylee was worried and fretting. Images of bad men and not-so-men bright flashed through her mind. But there was also worry that Jayne was not going to come home, that maybe this would be the final fight for the merc. She chewed her thumbnail.

Simon was the most perplexing. While he should be the most adamant about letting Jayne lie in his own bed once made, Simon was torn. He didn’t like the hired gun any more, perhaps even less, but his argument with Kaylee had caused him to pause and consider what the man meant for the crew. For Kaylee. As much as he still smarted over Jayne's betrayal, he didn’t want to further upset Kaylee and eliminate any chances at reconciliation.

“Confusing,” River said.

All eyes turned to her. “You got somethin’ to say, li’l Albatross?”

She looked at Mal with clarity and intent. “Jayne’s not part of the crew, but he is. He’s a bad man, but he’s not. It’s all very baffling with no logic whatsoever.”

“It’s not always about logic, River,” Zoe said.

“It’s about heart,” River replied. “And emotion and guts and feelings. I understand.” She looked to Mal again. “It’s about faith.”

The Captain shifted his stance slightly. “Well, whatever some such. Point is, Jayne’s in a heap a trouble. If you want in, give your say. Else stay on the ship.” He waited a beat then left for the bridge.

People scanned each other around the table, wondering who would be first to say something.

“It’s true,” Zoe began, surprising nearly everyone, “That Jayne and me never did see eye to eye on most things. But he’s still our crew.”

Simon spoke up. “Uh, well, in point of fact, no, he’s not.”

Kaylee glared and stifled a groan. Just like Simon to say that. Couldn’t let it go on by.

“He left this ship, and didn’t even have the decency to say farewell to anyone.” He looked pointedly at Kaylee, desperately trying to ignore her angry face. “I don’t believe that he’s shown much loyalty to us.” He now turned to River, knowing that she saw his thoughts on the Ariel heist.

“You just ain’t knowed him-” Kaylee started.

“I know him well enough. He’s made it quite clear that he doesn’t want River or myself here. He simply has no compassion for others.”

“That ain’t so!” Kaylee now stood and Zoe raised an eyebrow. “He cares plenty for folk here. He went after the Cap and Wash-” Her lip twitched at the mention of the beloved pilot. “When Niska took ‘em, he helped in the rescue. An’ he risked his own life when we went after the Lassiter. Then all the help he gave in protectin’ the Cap’n from the re...at Mr. Universe’s. Weren’t no one there to make him do those things.”

“He does it for money, Kaylee, and that’s all.”

River was now annoyed with her brother. Any chances he may have had at getting back into Kaylee’s good graces just evaporated.

Kaylee looked to Simon her arms crossed. “No, it ain’t all. Sometimes there’s more important things than money. And Jayne knows it.” She scanned the faces unable to comprehend why they was arguin’ ‘bout this.

“Family,” River said with a smile.

“Thank-you, sweetie,” Kaylee said. “We all are like a family and they look out for one another.”

River frowned. “Not us. His. Went to be with his ma. To help her, not look for money.”

“Well, there,” she continued, extending a hand towards River. “Don’t that warrant a bit a help from us?”

The rest of the table quieted once again until Zoe pushed her chair back and stood, straight as ever. “I’m going.” She looked to each in turn then went to her bunk.

Kaylee smiled, but stopped when Inara spoke. “Jayne has caused more than his share of grief to this crew, Kaylee.” There was something almost apologetic in her tone. “But River is right. He went to help his mother and that makes him...” She paused to add emphasis to the word. “Noble.” She caught Simon’s eye, hoping that he saw the parallel with his own familial situation.

He did. Shutting his eyes and gritting his teeth, he breathed deeply. “Fine, I’ll help rescue the man-ape.”

“Not a man-ape,” River reminded him.

Not in a mood to continue arguing, Simon relented. “Not a man-ape.” Turning his attention to the still standing Kaylee, he wondered what she was thinking. For once, her face was unreadable. “We’re likely to need a doctor regardless of what I think.”

“You’re all heart, Simon Tam.” Kaylee left for the engine room.

Simon followed her out with his eyes then saw Inara watching him, her Companion-trained expression revealing nothing. Feeling like a little boy, he sheepishly rose and headed back to the infirmary.

Inara remained seated a moment longer then delicately removed herself from the table. River looked around the empty kitchen. “No more pieces.”



“Mal,” the Companion called into the bridge.

He didn’t bother to look her way. “Quick verdict, I take it.” He flicked his thumb across his lower lip. “Didn’t reckon there’ll be many t’come t’the rescue.”

Inara stood a little behind his chair. “Everyone’s agreed to help you get Jayne out.”

Mal’s eyebrows bobbed up then down. “Weren’t figurin’ on that. Guess the bad boy’s made himself a few friends.”

“It’s not about Jayne. Not entirely.” She took a step forward. Her expression was soft and non-argumentative. She reached her hand to his shoulder and felt his sudden and slight jerk underneath.

He smiled in spite of himself. Turning in his chair, he looked to the woman that gave him such a fog. “Everyone agree?”

She nodded.

Mal stood, now inches from Inara. He smelled her light scent, saw light reflected in her dark eyes. “Then I guess I better not disappoint.” He halted. “Most like to be some ugly happen.”

Inara only reconfirmed her resolve. Mal saw it and smiled. “Good. But when the ugly does happen-”

“You’ll be filling it with holes.” She smiled now, bright and warm.

And Mal smiled back.



With a giggle, River walked down the hall to the kitchen. The pieces were coming back together.

To be continued...



Author's note: no rescuing in this chapter. Guess you'll have to post a comment to help inspire me to get the merc out...

COMMENTS

Wednesday, April 5, 2006 6:42 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Ok...first post:) Simon's still a boob but I think he has trust issues from his family being either negligent or cruel, so I can see he has issues with Jayne being an A-hole most of the time.

Still...Jayne has got to bat for the crew on several occasions. Besides, I think a little back-and-forth ass saving will help Simon to see that Jayne is part of the family....the black sheep of the group, but still a family member.

Write on, ArtemisPrime!

BEB

Wednesday, April 5, 2006 8:33 PM

CANTONHEROINE


I'm so sad for Jayne losing his Ma so soon after Mattie. (Not to mention Book and Wash). :(

Most folks are aware of my Jaylee leanings, so I'm crossing my fingers that that's where you're headed. Seems to me that Kaylee's starting to realize that she didn't know what she (coulda) had 'til it was gone.

Now, get on with the rescuin' already...

Wednesday, April 5, 2006 10:23 PM

JACQUI


I like this Simon much better. ;)

This chapter works very well, I hope you're not gonna make us wait too long for part five.

And of course I liked the pic, who wouldn't?

Thursday, April 6, 2006 1:20 AM

BOOKADDICT


Good chapter. I like the crew interaction and their realisation that Jayne is probably family.

I hope that Jayne gets rescued and like CH hope that Jayne & Kaylee end up together.

looking forward to the next installment

Saturday, April 15, 2006 6:53 PM

SQUISH


How did I miss these updates?! I feel like Simon!

Seriously, good chapter. You have the characters voices down really well.

And even though there are two more chapters I need to read and this is probably not necessary: Let your story unfold the way you want it to (I'm sure you did and I'm pretty sure I know where it's going, but still. It's your fic after all and you can go wherever you want with it.)

Off to read the next one!

Thursday, May 11, 2006 3:50 PM

MORDSITH


Awesome story. Excellent character voice. I'm desperate for more, so I'm off to go read more.


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