Another Girl Another Planet Ch 14
Monday, May 22, 2006

In which Jayne gets to be a Big Damn Hero


14. House Burning Down

Place is on fire, an’ then some. Jayne don’t even slow down.

A weeks’ worth of booze and brawling pull at his muscles, and he pushes it away. No time. He ain’t pulled his whole life down around him to lose her like this.

Smell of burnt sugar heavy on the air, ash blown in the icy wind. Chou ma niao place like this ain’t even got a fire service, he’ll bet, gonna be a mess of folks with buckets, and that ain’t enough. Still fires burn fierce and fast, and he has a picture in his mind of them rows of bottles.

Windows are blown, crazed from the heat, but the roof is still intact. Means the upper floor should still be there. Long as the stairs hold...

Tearing off a sleeve, dragging it through the snow, wrapping it over his mouth. Door‘s designed to keep out most things, but not six foot four of determined and frightened mercenary. Nothin’ fancy, just a shoulder into it, takes the lock out of the frame. Prays to anyone may be listenin’ as he dives into hell.

Kitchen ain’t nothing but a firepit, timbers of the wall blown in and the plumbing skewed from the wall. Takes it in, in a glance. Blast’s thrown the furniture over and it adds to the chaos, smell of burnt horsehair and feathers, and books flutterin’ like wounded birds.

Three of his strides in to the left and the bottom stair, there’s twelve, take ‘em two at a time, second door on the right and please God let her still be breathin’, let the floor hold, let the gorram floor hold, hot even through his boots, feeling the hairs on his arms crisp in the heat, but there’s the door through the smoke...


Mal can’t even take the time to swear after him - he’s too busy.

“Reckon on the gorram still...”

Gunshots over the flames, distinctive.

Mal and Zoe look to each other. Then, like old times, Zoe low and fast, sweeping right as he goes left.

Somewhere ahead of them, an aircar lifts off, listing heavily to starboard and limping fast back to Southam. A few more shots follow it, then a voice yells,

“Hold your fire - I’m puttin’ up my gun.”

Man comes out of the trees, rifle above his head. It’s Jenner.

“Figured that was your bird coming down...”

Behind them the roof goes, in a gout of flame and cinders, and suddenly, they are all running, mindless, helpless, hopeless.

But a small figure is heading towards them, stumbling and gasping. Runs straight into Mal, clutches at him.

Kaylee, near sobbing, she’s so breathless.



The house can’t be saved. All they can do is make sure the fire doesn’t spread into the woods. The weather helps, the winter drizzle closing its fist upon the fleeing heat. Word has spread that Ms Donovan is safe; already the story of her dramatic rescue is being told and retold. Jayne’s gonna have himself a proper legend out of this one.

“I don’t reckon that fella was alone.” Jenner gnaws his lip.

“Think we should look a bit more carefully, sir?” Zoe is still alert.

“I do.”

And it’s not difficult, after all. Mal finds him out through the back wall, groanin’ some in the dirt, where he didn’t move fast enough when the still blew. Can’t get his gun levelled before Mal has his upside his head.

Being mindful of the fire, Mal twists a hand in the man’s collar, drags him round to dump him in a dazed heap by Serenity’s ramp.

“Found someone here might know something about it.”

Jenner looks down at him.

“He ain’t local.” Frown deepens. “Juno had a fire at her place last week. Reckon I’ll go tell Elspeth. This may be more’n a firebug.”

“We’ll dump him in the hold for now.” Mal stirs him with a boot. “He ain’t running no place on a broken leg.”


Mal heads straight for the infirmary, rousts the doctor to look at their captive. Peers in through the window.

Ms Donovan looks near River’s age, dark hair spread over the pillow. Thin nightshirt shows the delicate line of her collar bone, and her face is pale, smudged with ash.

Beside her bed, a tired man, worry etched in the lines of his face, the set of his shoulders, as he sits, hands hung between his knees. Knuckles clasp, and he bows his head...

Quietly, Mal backs away. This ain’t the time.


Doesn’t have to look far for his other mutineer. Curled like a kitten in the pilot‘s chair.

“Stopped being a mutiny when you took the comm.”

“Should have come to me first.”

“But I’m crazy and he’s Jayne.” Tilt and look. “Came and rescued me from fire once.” Sorts the images, finds the one fits the shape in his mind. “His heart was calling to her. Can’t stop the signal. But if we had been later...” Dark eyes suddenly wash with tears, “Broken like me, then. And nobody to care about putting his pieces back together.”

Her simple, skewed view of the ‘verse. But Mal don’t want to imagine that outcome.

“You can read over that distance?”

River shakes her head.

“His heart was very...focused.”

“Don’t sound like his heart, then.” Mal starts to grin. So does River, wipes her eyes.

“Trying to be poetic about it. He does love her.”

“That I don’t doubt, mei-mei. Now, don‘t you go hiding off again - need my pilot getting proper sleep.” I don’t want you stowed somewhere I can’t get to you, anything happens.

Cardiac rhythms strangely affected by the curvature of his mouth muscles...River’s thought process is interrupted by a yawn.


She peers round the door to where Jayne is keeping his vigil. He looks at her, doesn’t even try and hide the worry. No point with the cr...with River. Jayne’s never gonna be mean to her again - girl’s a gorram blessing.

“Got to be epic. Jumped the ring of fire for his lady.” She whispers, grins. “Big Damn Hero.”

“What was I s’posed to do?” Never been a proper hero before - Canton don’t count. Still makes him itchy under his skin, thinking on that. Don’t even know how to start thanking her. She knows.

“Family now. We all take care of each other.”

“You...forgiven me?” They’ve never spoken of it, but it’s in his mind, a thorn of shame.

“Broken then. Scared you. Scared me. Won’t do it again. I know.” She knows how he needs reassurance. Leans and kisses him on the forehead. “Forgiven.”

Jayne actually blushes.

“Gonna get me in trouble, kissin’.”

“Not my prince. Still a frog.” River smiles at him, and stumbles sleepily off.


Ilargia wakes up. Since the last thing she remembers with any clarity is her house blowing up around her, she’s confused as to the where. White and clean, bright lights in the ceiling. Finds she can move her head sideways. Something not white and clean. Something very big and grimy and smoke-stained, all six foot plus and snoring.


Snort and a grunt, hand going for a weapon...yeah, that was him.

“Larji...hey, doc, she‘s awake!” The last at considerable volume.

“And so is everybody else, now.” Simon grumbles as Jayne hustles him in. He gets in the way considerable as the doc tries to work.

“She gonna be okay?”

“Minor smoke inhalation. There’ll be a sore throat for a couple of days.”

“So why does my jaw hurt?”

Jayne shifts uncomfortably.

“You were a mite panicky. Hadta knock you out to carry you.” Large, calloused paw hovers by her cheek, drops away. “Tried to be as gentle as I could, honest.”

Simon stifles a grin. A mite panicky didn’t even begin to describe the state Jayne had been in. Ilargia coughs herself into a sitting position, rests back against Jayne’s ready arm.

“What happened?”

“Your house caught fire.” Simon finishes washing his hands. “And Jayne here got you out.”

Bravest, dumbest, scariest thing he’s ever seen. Which just about sums up Jayne, really.

“He ran into that.” Not a question. Looks up at him, puts her hands on his chest. “You. Utter. Bloody. Maniac.” Then they are in each other’s arms.

“What are you doing back here?”

“Came back to see you.”

“To see me?” Pause, as she digests this. Then, speculative, “Miss my cooking, then?”

“Missed you, so stop fishin’, woman.”

Simon attempts to exert his authority in his own infirmary.

“She needs to rest.” They aren’t listening. “She needs to be in bed.” Oh, god, that was the wrong thing to say. Jayne’s grin is dreadful.

“You heard the doc.”

Neither of them even supposes that Ilargia will sleep in the passenger dorm. In Jayne’s mind, only one place for his woman to be, and that’s safe in his arms. Ilargia is tired, frightened and confused - but everything can wait until later, because here and now, they are alive. And he’s come back to her.


“Well, that was a bracing sort of day.” Mal slumps wearily into a chair. Streaks of soot on his face, but the edges of a grin round his mouth. Eyes are tired, but alive again. Zoe pushes over a cup of coffee. Beside her, Kaylee droops. Relief leaves exhaustion in its wake.

Simon walks in, looking a little wild eyed, and they all look to him, past him.

“How is she?” Zoe and Kaylee.

“Where is she?” Mal.

“I threw them out of the infirmary before they broke the couch, Captain. I don’t want to know where they are.”

From someone who has been known (and seen) to be a little too ‘hands-on’ in the engine room, Mal finds this amusing.

“I’m assumin’ she’s well and healthy, then.”

“She was until the ape-thing dragged her off.” Simon shakes his head, but he’s beginning to grin. “I wouldn’t have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it. He came storming out of the flames with her slung over his shoulder like something out of...a space opera.”

“The man has his moments.”

“It was just somethin‘ wonderful, Cap’n.” Kaylee pushes herself to her feet. “Jayne’s a real hero. An’ if you still want to chuck him off the boat after that, then you’re a...beast!”

Kaylee being fierce is a bit like being savaged by bunny rabbits. Mal hides a smile.

“Nobody is goin’ anywhere they don’t want to. Now you go get some sleep, darlin’. This rescuin’ caper’s got you all crotchety.”

She gives him a glare somewhat ruined by a large yawn, and takes herself off. Simon makes a vague gesture, disappears off to his own bunk.

“You meaning it, about not throwin’ Jayne off?” Zoe asks.

“I meant it about no-one goin’ any place they didn’t want. He wants to be with her, they’re gonna have to think on the where.”

“So, we could be losing our gun hand. Or...”


“We could try to hire ourselves a cook.” Zoe smiles over her mug. “I ain’t much of a hand in the kitchen, and neither are you, sir.”

Mal thinks on it. There’s wisdom in it, as there usually is.

“Can’t see the rest of the crew kicking much on it.” Especially one of ‘em. “But she‘s got a life here.”

“Which someone tried endin’. You drop her back, they’ll maybe try again. Safest place for her is off the planet.” And anyone wants a piece of her would have to go through Jayne, which would give most pause.

Mal nods. It could work out. Zoe watches him.

“Needn’t be forever.” She knows how to play him. “And it keeps our field strength.”

If it weren’t for the fact that this was Zoe, Mal would have suspected some streak of romance. Hard-headed common sense he can cope with. She sees the idea take hold.

“I’ll ask her, soon as she escapes his clutches.”

“And you’re reckoning on that being when?”

“Even Jayne gotta eat. I‘ll ambush them at breakfast.”

Zoe smiles to herself. ~Wash, baby, wish you could have met the woman made Jayne into love’s own fool. Just ‘cos we didn’t get our time, don’t mean they can’t have a shot.~


Ilargia rests her elbows on his chest, where she can look into his face.

“Jayne...why are you here?”

“Told you. Came back for you. Near burnt the gorram engine out getting here.” Shaky chuckle. “I put a piece on half the crew, too. Mal’s gonna rip that outta my hide.”

“You hijacked the ship?”

“I...hurried it along some. Didn‘t have time to ask nice.” Can’t even finish that thought, just crushes her up. “Hell, woman.”

She shivers in his arms. He clears his throat, continues,

“Anyways, I was fixin’ to come back. Sometimes I ain’t too bright.” he confesses. “Took River yellin’ at me to figure out what was wrong. I should never have left you in the first place.”

“Oh, yeah?” She’s teasing. “Why would that be?”

“’Cos I love you.” He’s not. Eyes are scared and sincere. “Heh. I’ve never bin in love before, dunno if’m gonna do it right.”

“You’re doing fine.” She finds her voice, can’t trust it completely.

It’s going to be far too easy to love him back, crude and tough and tender as he is. Because this big thug hijacked a damn starship and ran into a burning building to save her. She’s convinced.

She’s missed his warmth, his strength, more than she believed she could. How can a mere couple of days bend a life so out of shape?

His fingers touch the bruise on her jaw.

“I...hittin’ you...I weren’t raised that way, knockin’ womenfolk about. I feel sick about it.”

“You were saving my life. I’ll overlook it this once.” Puts her thumbs up, smoothes out that little scowl between his brows.

“I ain’t leaving you again.”

“Won’t let you leave me again.”

She feels so right in his arms. Tomorrow, he’ll have to face Mal. She’ll have to face the wreckage. There will be decisions to make, questions to ask and answer.

Tonight, they have each other again. And that’s enough for now.


Monday, May 22, 2006 8:36 AM


"Kaylee being fierce is a bit like being savaged by bunny rabbits. Mal hides a smile."

Wonderful line, great story.

Monday, May 22, 2006 9:01 AM


Love this story line. Your portrayal of River is so good. Loved her conversation with Jayne in the infirmary.
The line above from Kaylee is one of my favourites too.
Zoe playing her Captain with "common sense" is too funny.

Monday, May 22, 2006 5:24 PM


Love this series it on love it general, SpaceAnJL;)


Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:44 AM


< It’s going to be far too easy to love him back, crude and tough and tender as he is. Because this big thug hijacked a damn starship and ran into a burning building to save her. She’s convinced.>

Me, too.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 11:27 AM


~~“He ran into that.” Not a question. Looks up at him, puts her hands on his chest. “You. Utter. Bloody. Maniac.” Then they are in each other’s arms.~~

Liked that.

~~Relief leaves exhaustion in its wake.~~

So very true. I like the reality and the incredulousness of this story. And I can crawl out of my corner now.

Thank goodness.



You must log in to post comments.



The Road to Haven: Chapter 6: The World, The Flesh and The Devil
The crew are seeing things, remembering things...not all of it is good, not all of it is real and some of it is very strange indeed...

The Road to Haven: Chapter Five: Only Connect
A very old ship, a very nervous crew and a very pissed off Captain.

The Road to Haven: Chapter 4: In Strange Pursuit of Alternative Truths
More WytchAnJl weirdness. What secrets does this old ship hold?

The Road to Haven: Chapter 3: Girders of Babel
Last chapter for today. Wouldn't want to be flooding the BSR, would we? Still us, still crazy after all these years...

The Road to Haven: Chapter 2: In The Maybe World
A WytchAnJL production. Er...what was that? And why is a crazy old man waiting for it?

The Road to Haven: Chapter 1: The Everlasting First
A collaboration between Wytchcroft and SpaceAnJL. Set after 'Those Left Behind', and a sort-of sequel to 'Bell, Book and Candle'...I'm posting it, 'cos Wytch is locked out. Enjoy. Or run away screaming. Your call.

Tic Tac Tao: Ch. 1 A Game of You
Zen II. The start of the sequel, reposted. The usual AnJLverse weirdness - space pirates, assassins, government conspiracies, seafood...

Feegles on a Firefly
A little stand-alone Crackfic. It bothers me that my brain works like this.

Viva New Vegas: 6. Blue Harvest
All Jayne wants to do is finish his breakfast and get back to his wife. Just there's a gang of bikers think a bit different.

Viva New Vegas: 5. The Good, The Bad and The Aesthetically Challenged
Jayne meets the locals.