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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
They knew it would have to end some time...but they didn't know it would be this hard...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1114 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
9. Guess Things Happen That Way
Ain’t often Jayne’s woken up with the same woman a second morning. Certainly never had one give him a bath before...makes him grin. Can see why the Doc is so keen on this washing thing now.
Gets a whisper of why Kaylee likes the Doc, too (though it don’t mean he likes the little turd any better) - there’s something about clean skin...
Though Larji don’t mind sweat.
(“It’s a manly smell...sexy.”
“I smell sexy yet?”
“Mmmm...getting there.” Tongue traces over his heart. “Taste sexy.”)
One pale shoulder turned away from him in sleep. He can cover her whole back with the span of his hands. Calls her his peach - warm, smooth skin, silk under his fingers. Careful, he picks up a strap of dark hair, inhales - woodsmoke, garlic and lovin’. It’s a good smell.
(“You’re the first man ever slept in this bed.” Thumb traces the scar by his mouth, warm, skin to skin.
“Yeah. I’m choosy.”)
An’ she chose him. He still can‘t reckon why, but she did. He don‘t pretend to be the handsomest man alive, and he knows he ain‘t the smartest. But Larji don’t want nothing from him but what he’s quite happy givin’.
There’s a crooked ‘J’ carved raw into the headboard.
(“So you don’t forget me.”
“You idiot.” He’s not the sort of man you’d forget easily.)
But it’s the thing they both know, and don’t say - soon...
She’d thought he’d be more gentle than first appearances would suggest, but a woman could get far too used to that hungry and hopeful look; strange how much a large grown man can seem so like an excited small boy when he grins like that. When you’ve grown so used to taking care of yourself, to be swept up in broad arms and held is almost a cruelty.
(Teaches him so much, this tender play of tongues. He never realised that a kiss could set a body afire. She’s willing and wanton, and he makes her cry his name...)
His skin, roughened by the weather of dozens of worlds, grained with dust and powder burns, scarred, a map of hard living. It would take a lifetime to read the history marked into him, and it’s time they don’t have. Little things - he keeps his hair short, because it curls a little when it grows, and he doesn’t like that. Tattoo on his shoulder is from his first gang, the arc-welders in the Marietta shipyards back on Deadwood.
He’s known a lot of women on a lot of worlds. And he knows that he ain’t her first, neither. But there is something new and exciting about the way they are together. Takes his strength, meets it with her own delicate ferocity. No need, no time for shame or second thoughts. For all she’s a lady, she knows some right wicked tricks.
(Rasp of bristles on soft skin, a sigh and she arches a little, feels his mouth curve into that wicked smile.)
Here, they are merely two people. He don’t have to bluster and shout, she doesn’t have to use her wits as weapons. Both unarmed, disarmed. The other is everything they never dreamed of. And all they have to be, is exactly what they are.
Simon is slightly peeved. It took him eight months to get round to kissing Kaylee. It’s taken Jayne four days to, well...And it’s not like Ms Donovan is some back planets trollop. Not that Kaylee is...His thoughts tangle as badly as his tongue sometimes. Kaylee is amazing, a revelation of warmth and fun in his life, and he’s terrified that she will grow tired of his inability to express himself, tired of the fact that he has to split himself, caring for River. He’s envious, too. He could never simply walk up to Kaylee in front of everyone and nuzzle at her, the way the big ape-thing does to Ms Donovan. It would make him feel awkward. Bad enough coming down from the bathroom to the barrage of knowing grins (one of them from his baby sister.) He supposes that he will get used to it, some day.
But he still can’t get used to seeing Jayne being (shudder) petted. He’d thought she might be better suited to the Captain, actually. (He knows that Mal and Inara have their own version of whatever passes for a relationship fouling up their lives, but he can’t see that it’s a healthy one.) But she’s obviously not interested in brains or charm or hygiene - any of the things the space-troll so conspicuously lacks, in Simon’s opinion.
Thank God it’s only for a day or so.
It’s not going to be that much of a rest, really. They need to clean out Serenity good, scrub the filters and the tanks. But Zoe’s right - it will do them all good, clean air and real food, and not having to look over their shoulders so much. Jayne ain’t sleeping on board - well, Jayne probably ain’t sleeping, but Mal won’t think on that - but he comes swaggering up for work next morning.
“Had me a bath.” Grin is something from the pits of hell. “Never knew that getting clean could be so much fun.”
“I really don’t want to be knowing.”
Mal can’t get his head round it. How did Jayne get so gorram lucky? Just ‘cos he can play guitar an’ all. He’s still the same crude thug he’s ever been.
Dirtside, or any place they have downtime, Jayne usually disappears, and they don’t care to speculate on how he spends his time (or money.) But this ain‘t a whore, or a woman so drunk she couldn‘t see through a window in two tries. Ms Donovan - Ilargia - blows all their conceptions out of the water.
Mal’s little plan to get Serenity clean runs into problems mid-morning.
“I done lost my crew. You got them stashed in there?”
“The girls are down in the town - there’s a snowman competition.” She grins. “Jayne’s too old to enter, and he’s sulking.”
“Am not.” is shouted from somewhere in the house.
“Well, I knew where he’d be.” Mal mutters. “Any clue on where the Doc is?”
“He’s helping Elspeth.”
Mal feigns an expression of terror.
“Is he her latest human sacrifice?”
“Be nice. He misses talking shop. You want to come in for a coffee? Zoe’s taken a flask down to the kids.”
“I ain’t playing gooseberry.” The terror is less feigned. “An’ it puts me off my food, watching you corrupting him.”
“Captain, neither of us want to contemplate what it would take to corrupt him.”
“You could try.” The voice is hopeful. Mal backs away.
“Snowmen sound nice and innocent about now.”
“Depends where Kaylee puts the carrot, I suppose.” Ilargia is a very bad woman.
He’s stopped twitching by the time he reaches the competition. Kaylee has not done anything appalling. Though the hat is familiar.
“Does he know you’ve pinched that?”
“I promised to give it back.” Kaylee looks about twelve, all bundled up. “He ain’t interested in clothes at the moment anyway.”
“Every time I manage to get that out of my brainpan, someone got to put it back in there...” He looks down at the other participant, who is earnestly packing the base of the snowman to keep it steady. “How you doin’, then, mei-mei?”
River looks up at him, unusual colour in her cheeks.
“Never got to be a girl first time around.” Smile is the sweetest thing he’s seen for a long time. A little gloved hand reaches up, pulls at his scarf. “That would help.”
Mal finds himself handing over his scarf to complete the assembly, and retreats back to Zoe and the coffee, before they want any more of his clothing.
She’s talking with a greying man, seems kind of familiar. Mal pulls the name out of his memory. Jenner, Ilargia’s nearest neighbour, and father of the three small boys energetically creating a mess. Catches a conversation, makes him pause.
“...lost my wife two years back. Still find myself ready to yell out, I can’t find stuff. Left me those three to raise.”
“I always wanted a girl...” Zoe sees him, “Sir.”
“I didn’t mean to...”
“It’s fine, Sir.” And it is. He can see that she needs to talk to someone who understands. And the comfort of strangers is sometimes easier to bear than the pity of friends.
The judging is over. River and Kaylee came second, which means they have a jar of toffee between them, enough sugar to keep them shrilling over the ship for weeks. That’s gonna be something to look forward to. Kaylee has the hat on, and River takes the scarf, looks to Mal, before wrapping it snugly round herself.
“’Spect that’s the first time you ain’t come first in something.” Kaylee sighs. “I do something wrong?”
“Don’t want offworlders winning.” River has a mouthful of toffee already. “Anyway, didn’t want the humbugs.” Shows a brown tongue in a grimace. “Simon likes those, and he’d steal.”
They take off to show Simon their prize, two small excited bundles of coat. Mal grins after them.
“Nice kids you got there.” Jenner looks at his own offspring, now energetically kicking the other snowmen to pieces. “Would you like to swap?”
“I think we’ll pass.” Zoe grins. “I’ll corral them up, then, shall I, Captain Dad?”
“You know how to make a man feel real good and old.” Mal sticks his hands in his pockets, regrets his scarf. “They ain’t my kids, they’re my crew.”
“Same difference.” The man beside him has a dryly humorous tone, belies his solemn face.
“You may have got yourself a point.” Mal sighs. ‘Cept you can’t spank crew...
He really don’t want that image in his head. Any of the images.
Beside him, Jenner tucks his gloved hands under his armpits, squints up at the sky.
“Weather’s changing. This is just the first bitty little blow.”
Mal grew up on a planet had big storms blow in. He knows it, too.
“Gonna have to a make a call on it, then.”
“Yep.” They both contemplate the slate-grey sky. “Reckon if you don’t get that bird of yours in the air next day or so, you’re gonna be stuck here.”
On the porch and looking in. Room’s lit by the fire, by lamps. Jayne’s retrieved his hat, is looking powerful silly in it, and clearly don’t care a bit, having scored a piece of toffee, too. People are laughing, at ease.
Ilargia has found some music on her old radio that doesn’t frighten them - Simon’s an unlikely fan of goth rock, but it scares everyone else, including Jayne - and River and Kaylee are dancing. Simon’s far too self-conscious to dance, but watching Kaylee with a softness in his face at odds with his usual aloofness.
Ilargia and Zoe are talking and laughing over something, and he realises that he’s never seen Zoe with a female friend her own age before.
Jayne comes padding over, puts his hands on Ilargia’s waist with a gentleness Mal ain‘t ever seen in him. The curve of her hip, the turn of her head, the way she laughs up at him...She looks...cherished in his arms, ‘cos Jayne’s near a foot taller.
Mal’s quiet during dinner. Zoe gives him a glance, and something passes between them. She knows.
“Jenner says the weather’s changing.” she says softly.
“Told me, that, too.”
“Given ‘em all the time you can, Sir.”
“I got the boat to fuel, crew to feed.” Manages a smile. “Don’t want to be wearing out our welcome, now, do we?”
He hates to do it, but he must.
“We’ll be leaving tomorrow.”
His words bring a little of cold space into the room.
Ilargia bites off a breath. Jayne’s grip tightens fractionally round his cup. And that’s all. They don’t look at each other.
He’s the captain. There’ll be no argument or discussion.
“I’m going to miss you folks.” They know she means one of them in particular.
“Maybe we’ll do business again, some day.”
Pain in her eyes.
“Don’t make promises, Captain. We all have to live in the now.”
Jayne stops short at the front door, as they leave, and the two men stare at each other a beat. Mal isn’t used to seeing pain in those eyes.
“I can give you one more night, Jayne, then we gotta get off this rock.”
“I understand, Mal.”
“Guess you got some goodbyes to make, then.”
“Guess I have.”
They are quiet, tender, lost in the dark. Salt on their lips might be sweat, might be tears. Fingertips must be eyes, memory. There is nothing to say.
A beautiful, clear, cold morning, and for two people in it, the worst day in the world.
Serenity stands ready to fly. Flushed out with clean air, tanks full of clean water. There’s been a deal of hugging, and now the rest of the crew are boarded, waiting.
Jayne and Ilargia stand, their last goodbye, and neither of them have the words. They dare not even touch each other again.
She doesn’t want him to go, but can’t imagine what to say - never imagines it could be as simple as “don‘t”.
Jayne knows he’s a bad man, and will go to hell, but thinks it a downright low trick for it to be happenin’ while he’s still alive. Swings briskly up the ramp, refuses to turn and look back. Until the last minute.
She’s already walking away, head up and proud.
Good thing she knows the path, because she can’t see through the start of tears.
Just a cute set of muscles, is all. Just a man. Going to forget her in the arms of someone else in days. But he didn’t make her feel bad for being herself. She’ll cry a fair few nights, but she’s not going to regret him. Regrets nothing but her own stupidity, at the pain. Not unexpected, but deeper than she thought.
Behind her, the engines roar, and the sound breaks her heart.
Kaylee gets one look up into his stricken face.
“You going to be okay?”
“Hell, I ain’t the settlin’ kind, Kaylee. Man like me don’t like to be tied down, take my pleasure as I find it, and move right on.” Hitches himself with a leer.
Kaylee ain’t fooled. Waits until he’s at the door.
“Why didn’t you stay with her?”
He stops, but he don’t turn.
“She never asked.”
~Dusk on a small, green world. Ice in the wind, sharp on the windows. Real glass. Not a lot of wealth in this town. Most of it is in this room. Plush carpet, electric lights, dim and concealed, low glow of a screen on an elegant desk.
Man who owns it is a slender Eurasian with a bland ageless face. Looking at him, you wouldn’t realise that he was in a killing rage. Unless you saw into his eyes. Touches the screen with one finger.
“Bitch defies me? So...I have clients who would pay a great deal for a girl with green eyes...”~
Wednesday, June 14, 2006 9:58 AM
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