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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Episode twelve of my second season of Firefly: Jayne Cobb returns home to visit his mother and Mattie, but during his stay he encounters the toughest challenge he's ever faced.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1124 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Firefly: "The Man Called Jody"
Disclaimer: If I weren't just a poor college student and could finance the series myself, I would, but I can't. So all I can do is just play around in Joss Whedon's 'verse. Also, I don't know a lick of Chinese so I haven't bothered to put the translations because they're probably horribly wrong. If it were Japanese or Latin, well, that'd be another story...
Episode twelve of my second season of Firefly: Jayne Cobb returns home to visit his mother and Mattie, but during his stay he encounters the toughest challenge he's ever faced.
The Brutus was a clean ship. That was all her captain would repeat over and over. Jayne hadn't cared, nor had many of the people who booked passage out of Lu-se Cheng. Brutus was the only ship scheduled to pass through Whittier in a month, and since Jayne preferred going home without the crew of Serenity tagging along, it was the ship he had to book. However, he fould there was little he could do about Jonah Hex. The cook of Serenity had joined Jayne despite his very vocal protests, which were worthless since Hex was a grown man and had paid his own fare. If Hex wanted to take a vacation along with Jayne, well, then there was something wrong with Hex in Jayne's opinion.
The jangle of spurs told Jayne that Hex was coming. Sure enough, when Jayne looked away from the knife he'd been sharpening, he spotted Hex ambling over with two trays. Beneath the curtain of shoulder-length, snow white hair, Hex smiled at Jayne. It was an ugly smile, given the jagged scar that ran down Hex's hairline to his upper lip, cutting through his left eye in the process. Still, the glow in his red, right eye showed its warmth, but you had to know where to look.
"Lunch," said Hex simply in his gravelly voice. Jayne looked down at the steaming pile of brown goop that filled the dirty tin.
"Don't take this the wrong way, Hex, but I think your cookin' could use some work," remarked Jayne as he grabbed the proffered meal.
Hex simply snorted as he took the seat across from Jayne. "Weren't my cooking, Jayne. Brutus's got all variety of protein and supplements for twenty men and a three day trip."
"Ain't got no cook though," said Jayne around a mouthful of liquified protein.
"No, that'd cost extra," chuckled Hex. Looking around to make sure none of the other passengers were watching, Hex slipped a couple vials out of his leather jacket. "Here. Spices. Ought to do something to the taste."
"Better'n cardboard," agreed Jayne, palming both vials in his large hand; one looked to be yellowish in color, the other black. Jayne had no idea what either were, but he sprinkled them liberally over his dish all the same.
More people filed into the mess hall for lunch, and Jayne took the opportunity to look around. Brutus wasn't much larger than Serenity, but it was just shaped differently. The large mess hall and passenger bunks were all on one deck, but that meant less space for the cargo hold. Then again, the Brutus was more of a passenger liner than cargo transport. She also ran with a minimal crew of six--all of whom had quarters on the floor above. No mercenaries were with them, just a captain, two pilots, an engineer, a whore (not a Companion), and...well Jayne couldn't quite figure out what the boy did on Brutus. Maybe he was the kid of the whore? Wouldn't be the first time.
"Kinda figured there'd be more folk'n this," remarked Jayne idly.
"Folk in Lu-se Cheng ain't got much scratch," said Hex with a shake of his head. "Economic fall out shortly before the end of the war. Most people ain't got reason to go to Whittier these days, and if they do they stick to the main cities. Consider yourself lucky a transport came by at all. Might've had to ask the Captain to take you."
Jayne snorted into his meal, but otherwise said nothing. His Ma didn't know exactly what he did out in the black, and he sure as hell wasn't about to tell her. So far as his Ma knew, Jayne was nothing more than a temp doing whatever job was required of him anywhere in the Rim. Just a nicer way to say mercenary, really.
An alarm rang out over the loudspeakers in the mess hall, capturing the attention of everyone, but none more so than Jayne and Hex. A grave look passed between the two as they rose slowly to their feet. Time aboard Serenity had made them extra cautious about anything that might involve Feds.
"It's all right, folks! It's all right!" announced the young Captain in his hat and brown leather jacket as he descended the ladder that cut straight to the bridge. "Just a ship in need of distress. We'll give 'em what we need and be on our merry."
"Great, 'nother hero," grumbled Jayne under his breath as he settled back down into his chair. Hex, on the other hand, moved towards the nearest porthole to see if he might catch a glimpse of the ship. Something didn't sit right with him. If a ship could radio for help, they could certainly get on the Cortex to flag down an Alliance ship. There's no reason to bother a passenger liner with something like this. Experience told Hex that meant the ship was in more trouble than it was leading on.
Sitting out in the black was a red ship. In an abstract way it reminded Hex of a crab, even though its main body was a round orb with two sets of scaffolding-like arms poised on each side. Hex chewed his tongue thoughtfully as it passed out of his line of sight when the Brutus made to dock. Coming to a decision, Hex marched back over to his seat in front of Jayne, propped his foot up on it, and tore away a velcro strap on his boot.
Jayne observed with interest as Hex removed a compact, snub-nosed, .38 caliber revolver. Hex swung out the cylinder to make sure it was fully armed before snapping it shut with a flick of his wrist.
"Expectin' trouble?" inquired Jayne with a certain glint in his eye.
"Something don't sit right," was all Hex could say as he restrapped his boot and tucked the gun into his jacket. "Shotgun's with the luggage. You?"
"Got my knife," replied Jayne, motioning to the blade sheathed at his hip. "Three hand cannons, but they're all with the luggage too."
"Well, let's hope I'm wrong," said Hex with a bracing grin.
Hex, as it turned out, was far from wrong. Only the Captain, his pilot, and his mechanic had showed up at the access point, but they were all unarmed and unprepared for the man stepping through the doors. He was rugged with a few day's growth of stubble and dressed in clothes that had seen better days. The crew assembled behind him were a motley, untrustworthy sort that almost made Jayne look respectable.
Hex and Jayne had descended the main ladder after the crew and stayed hidden behind a stack of crates. Not all of it were passenger luggage. Most of it were the aforementioned protein that Hex had talked about, while the rest were just general supplies for the ship. They stood elevated on a stack of crates, ducking behind an even larger stack in front, with a direct view of the cargo bay doors. Brutus's cargo bay was narrow with a low ceiling, but it gave a decent choke point if things went wrong.
"We got the catalyzer here you asked for," said the Captain of the Brutus, gesturing to his grease covered mechanic. "Funny, I never thought this bitty part could cause any trouble."
"Yeah, me neither, but you learn stuff out in the black," replied the other captain as he withdrew a pistol; the other members of his crew followed suit.
"Wha-what is this?" demanded the Captain of the Brutus. "I thought your ship was in distress?"
"Oh, it is," replied the other man, pointing his gun straight at the younger man's face. "A distressing lack of cash."
"This is a passenger ship!" stated the pilot incredulously as she raised her hands. "We came from Lu-se Cheng on Whittier. You aren't gonna find anything of value!"
"Ship seems valuable 'nough," retorted the scavenger with a shrug, taking a cursory look around the cargo bay. Hex and Jayne ducked back behind the access ladder and crates to avoid being seen. "Heard tell there's a scrap yard on Lu-se Cheng too. Convenient. Won't gotta spend much on fuel. Of course, that means we can't have any survivors flapping off their lips, can we?"
"I hate it when I'm right," sighed Hex as he removed his pistol.
"Yeah, I hate it when you're right too," agreed Jayne, slipping his knife out from its sheath.
"Nothing personal, you understand," said the scavenger captain to the Brutus crew. "This is just business."
"Yeah, the business of me kickin' your sorry ass!" shouted Jayne, hurling his knife towards the closest scavenger. The large blade of the combat knife sunk deep into the scavenger's chest, but it only dropped him to a knee. Considering this wasn't the first time Jayne hadn't killed someone with a knife throw, he was beginning to think he should just stick with guns.
In the middle of a fight, however, there was little time for reflections or maybes. Jayne jumped headlong over the crates and into the group of scavengers, while the crew of the Brutus either ran for cover or called for help. Hex called out to Jayne in exasperation--wanting to have at least come up with a plan--but quickly had little choice but to provide cover fire for the dumb merc. Three shots dropped three scavengers while the rest concentrated their fire on Hex. Jayne dealt with two men simultaneously in close-quarter combat as they were too close for projectiles to be effective. That didn't stop them from pistol whipping Jayne, but he took the blows with a grin and gave back double the punishment.
Though the scavengers were aggressive, they weren't dumb. Seeing the amount of resistence being put up by Jayne and Hex, and the injuries they were sustaining, the scavengers began to drag their men back through the sleeve and into their ship. The day hadn't quite yet come in the 'verse when a captain would throw away the lives of his crew on a desperate job.
"Jayne?" called out Hex from behind cover of two crates.
"I'm still breathin', Hex," returned Jayne, rising up from his position on the ground. "Ruttin' pigs took my gorram knife! That--that was my good knife, Hex!"
"Believe me, Jayne," chuckled Hex as he stuck his revolver into his jacket, "I'm a cook, I know what it's like to have a favorite knife."
"Thank you, Mr. Cobb!" said Captain Jones enthusiastically as Jayne and Hex disembarked from the Brutus. "Oh, and you, Mr. Hex! Really, I mean, I wish there's more I could've done instead of compin' your fare and all."
"Couldn't ask for more, Captain," said Hex graciously before Jayne could open his mouth any wider. Hex shoved a still hungover Jayne out the cargo hold of Brutus for a hasty exit. It'd been a long two days for Hex in trying to keep Jayne out of much trouble. For the whole trip Jayne had done nothing but drink and talk. And, well, sing...Hex couldn't forget the singing...no matter how hard he tried. "Really, it was just luck."
"I know I seem young, Mr. Hex, but I been sailin' for quite a spell," said Jones with a happily nervous smile. "Weren't no luck. That was some ballsy skills you fellas showed off. We could use you. Don't got hired muscle as you know. Gonna see a lot more people with the war goin' on. Lotta folk lookin' to relocate once things get shaky."
"Thanks, but we got jobs," replied Hex, adjusting the duffle bag slung over his shoulder.
"I ain't workin' today, Mal," slurred a bleary eyed Jayne, squinting at the brightness of Three Hills in the daylight. "Let the gorram moon-brain do it!"
"Good ones," added Hex as an afterthought.
Hex bade Captain Jones goodbye before dragging Jayne down the lane. Three Hills was a very industrial planet, churning out many of the machine goods for the Rim. That meant anyone who could work did work. Men typically worked the factories, manning the lines or welding the machinery. Women worked the factories too, but they usually dealt with any upholstery. The day was hot, and Hex really didn't relish the idea of dragging Jayne's body down the main street--especially when he didn't know where Jayne lived. Not for the first time Hex was beginning to regret tagging along with Jayne.
"Son, you're a young man," counseled Hex, nudging a drooling Jayne off his shoulder. "You stop partying for three days straight and you might live to be an old one."
"Where's the fun in that?" retorted Jayne as he tried to regain his footing. The mercenary unzipped the beige windbreaker he wore and adjusted the shoulder bag he carried.
"There's fun to be had when you're old!" cried out Hex in mock offense.
"Name somethin'!" goaded Jayne, who'd tried to nudge Hex in return, but his depth perception was addled by alcohol and barely avoided crashing to the ground.
"You tell me when your home is," answered an exasperated Hex instead. In truth Hex had little idea what old people did for fun. He wasn't as old as his albino appearance made him to be. Jayne was only an odd amount of years younger than him.
"Ain't gonna do anythin' with my Ma, are you?" frowned Jayne in confused and suspicious ire.
"No!" exclaimed a shocked Hex; his corresponding misstep made him stumble awkwardly for a second.
"Well...good," said Jayne, blinking his eyes owlishly into the sun as if that might clear his confusion. After a few paces in silence, Jayne turned to address Hex, "What's wrong with my Mom?"
"Nothing!" said a nonplussed and embarrassed Hex. "I haven't even met the woman!"
"Oh. Well--well good! Cause there ain't nothin' wrong with her! She's a fine woman!"
"I'm sure she is," sighed Hex, wondering yet again why he chose to accompany the mercenary in the first place. "So why don't you point us home so I can meet her?"
"Right. Home," nodded Jayne. Hex frowned at the far away grin that then split Jayne's face. In a very loud, and quite off-key voice, Jayne began to sing, "HOME, HOME ON THREE HILLS!"
Hex stopped for a moment and let Jayne bellow down the lane. With a deep sigh he turned his eye heavenward and prayed, "Lord, give me the strength..."
The Cobb household wasn't much of a household at all. It actually looked to be a two-story apartment building of some kind with other similiary designed buildings pressed against it in a long row. Each building seemed to be made out of some brown brick material and only had one entrance point. The apartments weren't very far from the local pub, which wasn't very far from the factories. If Hex had to guess, this was what would pass as the residential district on Three Hills.
"C'mon," motioned a slightly more sober Jayne. "This is it. J-Bloc. Mom ain't home yet. Factories don't close 'til 'round seven, but this should still be good."
Hex watched Jayne slip out a clear, plastic ident-card from his pocket and pop it into the reader situated beside the door. Jayne pressed his thumb against the appropriate pad and waited for for the lock to disengage. There was a pleasant tone as a green light came on, followed shortly by the sound of a lock coming undone. Jayne threw a smile over his shoulder at Hex and opened the door before retrieving his card.
"Guess you're always welcomed back home," remarked Hex as he slipped into the apartment behind Jayne.
The layout of the interior was simply a wide hallway with four doors set two on each side. A staircase lead up to the second floor, where Hex wagered there was another hall with four doors. Simplistic, but Hex'd seen worse in his travels. He followed Jayne up to the second floor and waited patiently as the mercenary fumbled with the door marked C-II.
"Locked?" inquired Hex mildly.
"Nah, just stuck," grumbled Jayne. "Been like that since..." A dark shadow fell over Jayne's features. He shook it aside and resumed playing with the brass doorknob. "Ma oughta see to it."
Jayne finally got the handle to turn--by pushing it in and pulling it up before turning--and stepped into the room. Things hadn't changed from how he remembered it. Like all the apartments on Three Hills it was basically a studio apartment. Everything was crammed into one little room, maybe about half the size of Serenity's cargo hold. There was one bedroom, however, but Jayne knew Mattie took up that room on account of his illness. Hex peered in behind Jayne, and the first thing that occurred to him was the sheer amount of hand-knitted things that were strewn about the room--blankets, cozies, covers, and so forth. Of course, having seen Jayne's cap and sweater, it wasn't much of a surprise. But still...the sheer volume of it...
Upon further examination, Hex discovered Mrs. Cobb's spools of yarn and some unfinished works set beside an upturned milk carton, which Hex assumed she used as a stool. In fact, cartons and crates seemed to be standard furniture around apartment. The dinner table was a foldout to be set on the kitchen area's floor and there wasn't much else in the way of furniture.
"Hope you can sleep sittin' up," remarked Jayne with a challenging smirk. "Ma gets the comforter."
"I've been in worse, Jayne, and I've dealt," returned Hex evenly, setting down his duffle bag.
"Who's there?" came a sharp voice from the bedroom. Jayne stumbled over the nearest crate in surprise and fell onto the said comforter. Emerging from the bedroom was a short woman about half the size of Jayne. She stood in the doorframe with her arms akimbo, staring down at Jayne and Hex with something fierce in her clear eyes.
"Ma!" exclaimed a surprised Jayne. "Ain't'cha s'posed to be workin'?"
"Jayne?" said Mrs. Cobb in alarm. "Oh, my dear boy, what're you tryinna do? Choke me with my own heart? And get off the floor! I just had that cleaned."
Hex pursed his lips in an effort to restrain his laughter. Mrs. Cobb was a homely body with her graying hair in a messy sort of bun. In honesty, she looked younger than Hex would've thought given Jayne's age, leading to some unconscious mathematics working around in his head. Her piercing eyes fell on Hex, and while she'd adopted the more docile, mother hen posture in Jayne's presence, Hex knew she could probably floor him if he posed any sort of threat.
"And who might you be, Mister...?" inquired Mrs. Cobb sweetly; her eyes never wavering from Hex's scarred visage.
"Hex," replied Hex with the easiest smile he could manage without scaring her. "Jonah Hex. I work with Jayne on a ship. We had some downtime come to us, and Jayne wanted to swing by for a visit. I told him I'd be happy to accompany him."
"Ship, eh?" said Mrs. Cobb with a pleasant, but suspicious lilt in her voice. "What d'you do on the ship, Mr. Hex?"
"I'm the cook," replied Hex. "And it's just Hex, Mrs. Cobb."
"And Jayne?" wondered Mrs. Cobb, glancing over towards Jayne who'd frozen in the process of unpacking.
Hex didn't know why, but he felt it was important that he didn't answer "mercenary." Just as he opened his mouth to come up with something, Jayne interjected quickly. "I'm--ah--his assistant! Yeah, I work with him in the kitchen on that ship I told you about in my letters. Do the cleanin' and...y'know..."
Mrs. Cobb's eyes fell back to Hex and with the slightest arch of her brow he knew she was looking for confirmation.
"He's my assistant," nodded Hex in a neutral tone.
"I'm gonna go look in on Mattie," said Jayne moments before he ducked into the bedroom and shut the door.
There was an uncomfortable pause as Hex and Mrs. Cobb remained rooted in their spots on the floor. Hex got the feeling she wasn't quite convinced that Jayne was an assistant cook, but she didn't seem anxious to push the issue.
"Well, welcome to Angelville, Hex," said Mrs. Cobb pleasantly. "I hope you'll enjoy your stay."
"Can't see why I wouldn't, ma'am," replied Hex politely.
The ship kicked its way across the black like it was on its last legs. Had it been back on Earth-that-was in the twentieth century, it might've been analogous to a rusted, dusty Winnebago with a bad exhaust. There were certainly better ships docked at Mr. Niska's prominent garage, but Jody had little care for the flash. The Bronco was a sturdy, white ship, and Jody had steered her through many storms. He felt it was only fair that on his vacation he use his own ship. For any job of Mr. Niska's, he'd use one of those fancy, sly looking things for the sake of Mr. Niska's reputation. Other people had to see the status of Mr. Niska, after all.
Jody had his boots propped up on the control panel as he reclined in the pilot's chair. For the most part, the Bronco could fly on her own, which was just how Jody liked it. Not that he couldn't fly her or fix her--he was a real jack-of-all-trades--but he preferred having things simple. The black was a tough place, and Jody'd survived by his own wits and fists, but that didn't mean he was opposed to having a nice, languorous journey now and then.
A dirty magazine lay folded on Jody's lap, and he rolled around a thick, almost liquidlike cloud of smoke in his mouth. He smiled through bleary, bloodshot eyes and killed the hand-rolled stump upon the dash. The brightly lit, hi-res pictures before him seemed to be moving in a rippling way. Unfortunately for him, there wasn't any relaxation of that type aboard the Bronco; no matter how much he would've preferred it at the moment. No, even on his vacation Jody had business to attend to. Old debts to be collected on.
Three Hills, mused Jody as he diverted his attention briefly towards the auto-pilot display. It wasn't a moon he had much familiarity with, having only stopped there once before. He wondered if they had good...entertainment...
Hex curled his scarred lip into a triumphant smirk as he flipped his cards over one at a time. A chorus of groans broke out at the set of peaches he had laid out on the table. He wasted little time in sweeping up the collection of assorted cash and coins to his side of the table. Three Hills really didn't have much in terms of entertainment so Hex had to make due with what was available. Captain Reynolds had updated them on the situation of Serenity's shuttle, but Jayne seemed in little rush to head back.
"Didn't know you were so slick with cards, Hex," remarked Jayne with a tankard in his hand, standing over Hex's shoulder as the dealer gathered up the cards for a new shuffle.
"Well we ain't ever played, did we?" said a smirking Hex as he stepped away from the table with his winnings.
"And we ain't gonna," added Jayne, smirking in return while he pointed at Hex with the tankard. "Losin' my money ain't my idea of a good time. 'Sides, ever since you came on board we ain't ever had a need to play for chores no more."
"You could always play for fun," pointed out Hex. He had moved towards the counter and laid down some bills for the barkeep. As an afterthought, he laid down a small stack--enough for everyone in overcrowded tavern. At the barkeep's curious glance, Hex simply winked with his good eye and began to walk out of the bar.
"Ain't no fun if there ain't nothin' to win, Hex," answered Jayne in a sagely voice. Hex could only smile slightly.
Sunday. Three Hills was much more lively on its free day; lights were on and people were chatting amicably in the streets; drinks were notably half-off during happy hours. It was the only time folks could unwind after a hard week of work, and many were anxious to do so. After breathing in the crisp, cool air of Angelville, Hex turned up the street to head back; Mrs. Cobb had insisted she teach Hex some of her recipes so Jayne could have some home cooking on their journeys.
"Coming?" Hex asked when he noticed Jayne wasn't following along side.
"Hell, Hex, it ain't even eleven yet!" was Jayne's reply from his spot on the tavern stairs. "I'm gonna stick around. Maybe see if I can't wrassle up some girls for the night. You're just gettin' old, Hex."
"Ha," said Hex humorlessly as he started walking away. Over his shoulder he called out, "I'll see you back home."
"Don't bother waitin' up!" Hex heard Jayne shout.
Hex shook his head at Jayne. He couldn't understand the man at times. It was obvious there was a heart and a brain beneath the tough muscle he exhibited, but it seemed like Jayne just didn't know how to use them. His visit home was obvious enough of that quality. Jayne checked in on Mattie often enough, and said kind words to Mrs. Cobb, but beyond that he spent most of his time--and money--at the tavern. In spite of his obvious restlessness, Jayne refused to leave when Hex had posed the option.
Mattie was another seemingly misshapen piece of the puzzle. Hex had only seen the young man three times in the past few weeks, but he couldn't help note a considerable lack of resemblance to Jayne. Oh, Mattie was a strong lad to be certain, but he lacked Jayne's natural size and presence. His bout with the damplung contributed to it, but Hex had an eye for these things. Moreover, Mattie's features were more angular and his hair and eyes were lighter. He had many features in common with Mrs. Cobb to be sure, but Jayne...
Hex sighed as he approached J-Bloc and belatedly realized his ident-card wouldn't open up the door. He sighed again and wondered if he should just wait on the steps or walk back to get Jayne to let him in.
"I can let you in, Mr. Hex," said a weak, raspy voice. Hex squinted his eye at the steps and caught the silhouette of someone seated on the concrete. Upon a closer examination he found it to be Mattie wrapped up in a hand-knitted blanket; his pale face contrasting with the bright colors of it. "Won't take but a minute."
"Your momma know you're out here, boy?" inquired Hex; his brow knitted in concern.
"Sure, Mr. Hex," smiled Mattie politely--yet another salient difference between Mattie and Jayne. "Doc says it'll do good for me to get some fresh air now and then. S'long as it ain't from the inside of the factory, or I ain't doin' anythin' strenuous-like. I spend most Sundays out like this. I miss workin' with everybody, but hearin' 'em from the tavern kinda takes me back; makes me feel I'm a part of 'em again."
Hex nodded in understanding and sat down beside Mattie in the stillness. "How much longer you gotta bear it?"
"Doc says few more weeks," shrugged Mattie in resignation. "Nothin' to do 'bout it, nothin' to take. Just gotta bear it 'til it's done."
"Well, you're a strong man to bear it, son," said Hex admirably. "Jayne would be cursing a storm at his foul luck and probably make things worse."
"Jayne's stronger," said Mattie with a slight shake of his head. "Jayne's the strongest man I ever knew--stronger'n even our Dad."
"Been a while since you lost your dad?" asked Hex carefully. The subject of Mr. Cobb seemed to be taboo around the household. Mrs. Cobb shut down at the mention of him and Jayne simply shrugged in ignorance. This would be the first time Hex might get some information about the man.
"Long time," nodded Mattie. "Had to be 'bout ten, maybe? Jayne was gone by then."
"He was?" frowned Hex, leaning back into the shadows so that Mattie couldn't see any of his reactions.
"Yeah, Jayne had gone off couple years earlier," elaborated Mattie; his eyes unfocused in reverie. "Couldn't hold down a job at the factory no matter how much word Dad put in for 'em. Jayne just didn't take well to machine work--not that he couldn't be taught, or that he couldn't do it--he just...didn't wanna. It was all too borin' for him, so he spent most of his time down at the tavern."
"Things haven't changed much," remarked Hex dryly.
"No, they haven't," chuckled Mattie in agreement with some difficulty. "But Jayne hasn't gotten in trouble with the lawmen like he had before. Back then Dad had to bail him out and Ma chewed him out somethin' fierce."
"So why'd Jayne leave?"
"Not much else to do on Three Hills if you can't work the factory," said Mattie with a shrug. "Dad and Ma weren't gonna support him like a man-child, so Jayne decided to pack up and leave. Kept in touch though; Jayne didn't hold a grudge 'gainst 'em. Dad died a few years later in a factory accident. Ma was devestated and had to start workin' twice as hard to keep the place goin'. I started pitchin' in as soon as I could."
"And Jayne started pitching in when he could?"
"Nah," replied Mattie. "Not 'til I got sick. Actually, 'fore that I kinda got the idea he could barely support himself, but I guess he got a good job on that ship with you."
"There are moments," smirked Hex in the darkness. "C'mon, son, let's get you upstairs. Your momma's promised me a cooking lesson. I'm sure that'll be something you wanna breathe in."
MacAvoy was the man in charge of Big Mac's, the largest factory of all Three Hills and located in Angelville. In terms of power, he could even be considered mayor, governor, or magistrate of the town and was often the representative for Three Hills as a whole. Trade and a steady flow of cash depended on the dealings he made with other planets and companies, but to date no manager had ever been stupid enough to make poor deals. It was one thing to be Higgins in control of Mudders, which they heard a lot about during annual factory conferences, but it was something else to have steel workers and welders as your employers. Those men could do some serious harm if MacAvoy ever ruined their job security.
Fortunately, MacAvoy had done everything by the book...or, at least, that's what he had convinced himself of.
A muffled commotion outside his office gently broke MacAvoy out of his narcissistic reverie, but the body that flew through his double-doors nearly sent him into cardiac arrest.
"What is the meaning of this?" demanded MacAvoy; his pot-shaped face turning an ugly shade of puce.
"Sit down, fat boy," came an imperious, but disinterested voice.
"What?" choked a thoroughly enraged MacAvoy. "Do you have any idea who I am?"
"Sure do," drawled the deep voice that was tugging at wispy strands of MacAvoy's memory. "You're the no-good ji jiao-gou who owes me big time. I've come to collect, Macky."
"Mack..." stuttered an indignant MacAvoy, looking over the man at the door in a mixture of horror, confusion, and anger. He was tall, broad-shouldered and very imposing. His graying hair was tied back into a ponytail to showcase his receeding widow's peak. He wore a tan vest with torn sleeves, which accented his very muscular, bare arms, and tight blue jeans with a gun tucked into the waistband.
But it was the face--the man's face--that chilled MacAvoy. The long, strong jaw; the cold, sadistic grin; the sharp, evil intelligence glimmering behind his blue eyes.
"Jody..." the voice came as a horrified whisper.
"'Magine that," smirked Jody as he calmly drew his semi-auto pistol out from his waistband. "Piggy's got a brain."
"What're you doin' here, Jody?" demanded MacAvoy shakily.
"I take it back," said Jody to himself. "Piggy don't got a brain after all. 'Cause how on Earth could piggy forget the job I did for him a couple years back?"
"Job?" swallowed MacAvoy.
"You remember, don't'cha?" smirked Jody, tapping the slide of his pistol against his chin thoughtfully. "Had yourself a bit of a competition with some nobody, but only he weren't no nobody, was he? Didn't think you couldn't beat the man, so you had me kill the man. And look at that! Couple years later you done own this moon."
"B-but I paid you!" stammered MacAvoy. "I done paid you for killin' Cobb!"
"Y'paid half, dumbass!" retorted Jody sharply, slamming his free hand onto MacAvoy's desk with a very sharp crack. "Y'paid half cause that's all you could afford! Remember? Now, I let it slide cause killin' folk ain't nothin' to me--hell, I'd do it for free if I weren't paid--but I reckon you've had plenty of time in this cushy job of yours to get the scratch. Although since you seem to be doin' so well for yourselves, how's about I tack on a five percent interest?"
"Monthly. Oh, and retroactive," smirked Jody, though his eyes were dead serious. "Y'got 'til tomorrow to get it down to that piss hole you call a bar, or you'll be chattin' it up with Mr. Cobb in person, dong-ma?"
Impulse wanted to shout at Jody's retreating back that it wouldn't be possible to acquire that much cash in a day! A week, yes, but not a day. His rational mind, however, wisely kept his tongue rooted in his mouth. Jody was not a man to be trifled with, nor bartered with, nor negotiated with. There weren't a soul in that man's body to appeal to when you begged.
MacAvoy sunk back into his chair, finally taking in the dead bodies of his guards that littered his office and hall. Each one were brutally dispatched in the most effecient fashion, and he knew he was going to join them unless he came up with some brilliant plan. Considering the mess he'd just made in his pants, he didn't think it was very likely.
Jayne walked back towards the tavern with his jacket draped over his shoulder. Mandy was back somewhere in D-Bloc just waking up to find an empty bed awaiting her. Time was that wouldn't have bothered Jayne much. Hell, who was he kidding? It wouldn't have bothered him at all. It was just his daily life. Things were different now. Thinking about anything he did with Mandy last night only brought images of Whisper to the forefront of his mind; her short hair; her slim body; her fiery spark. Ain't never was another girl who crawled under his skin like she did.
Oh, he tried not to think about her. Tried every gorram day for all the good it got him. There was just no escaping it, but worse, there was no explaning it either. He didn't know why he felt the way he did about the smart, sexy, fiesty bounty hunter; he just did. Of course, it was the not knowing that made him the most confused and afraid. At least on Serenity he knew where things stood with Mal. Mal had been nothing but upfront and honest with Jayne, starting from their very first meeting. Whisper... Whisper was too much of a risk, and Jayne had too much of a good thing going on with Serenity to risk it all on a skirt.
A noise from up the street roused Jayne back into action. Bodies were being flung through the holographic window of the tavern and landing painfully in the streets.
"Hey, a tussle," he said to no one in particular; his eyes brightened at the prospect of a good fight to clear his head. He hadn't started one so as not to cause any undo trouble for his Ma, but it was something else if he joined a tussle already in progress, wasn't it? Anxious to get the party rolling, Jayne jogged quickly towards the tavern.
Jody had expected MacAvoy to pull a stunt like this. Part of that was the reason Jody had chosen to tie up this loose end, though make no mistake, he really wanted the money. There wasn't anything like a good tussle in Jody's opinion--especially if the people he fought honestly hated his guts. The people at the tavern knew full well that Jody was responsible for the Cobb murder all those years ago. Jody walked into the tavern back then, Mr. Cobb died, and the next day Jody was gone. Didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. So when MacAvoy ordered some men to clumsily assassinate Jody at the bar, everyone else just jumped at a chance to get a piece of the action.
It had started a little after one in the morning when five of MacAvoy's men burst in. Jody had been sitting at the bar, ignoring the dirty looks from everyone who remembered him while he pounded away shots. All it took was one hand on his shoulder to get the whole ball rolling, and Jody hadn't stopped yet. He didn't care how many men poured in from the streets; Jody met any and all challengers. After all, there'd been a period of his life when he'd made side money as a prize fighter--and not all of his opponents had been human. Come the end of his career, the promoters had to drag in beasts like a gorilla to try and even the odds. None of that mattered to Jody.
"Here, have a stake!" drawled Jody as he used the largest bar patron for a shield against attackers. He smashed the nearest chair into splinters with a sharp kick of his heel, picked up the largest piece and smashed it into the man's heart. With a hearty laugh he hoisted the sputtering corpse in a bodyslam and tossed it into the oncoming charge of workers.
"Damn, who taught you boys how to fight?" chuckled Jody derisively as he stood triumphantly over everyone in the bar. The place was a mess with broken furniture and bodies everywhere, but Jody himself had barely a scratch upon his body. "I felt a stiffer wind throw a harder punch than you jackasses."
A thunderous punch fell across Jody's left cheek, sending him sprawling to the ground. Angrily, he turned his attention to the one who'd thrown it, only to find himself staring at a complete stranger. The man had really short, brown hair that reminded Jody of his own color back when he was young; his physique was nearly a mirror image of Jody's right to the jaw, but the man's eyes and nose were different. It was pretty unnerving to Jody, and he didn't take kindly to anyone damaging his calm.
"How was that one?" asked the man dressed in a Fighting Elves shirt smugly.
"Better enjoy it, boy," retorted Jody, wiping his lip with the back of his hand, "'cause it's the only one you'll be havin'."
"Jayne didn't come back?" asked Hex groggily. The tickling smell of frying bacon roused him from his slumber. With a painful groan he dragged himself off the wall he'd been using as a headboard; his ass was still asleep thanks to the crate that served as his chair. The crate beside him had a blanket and pillow stacked neatly upon it, which was Hex's immediate tip off that Jayne hadn't returned.
"Nope," said Mrs. Cobb in a voice that clearly carried across her disapproval. Hex repressed the urge to chuckle as he reached into his bag for the first shirt he could find. "My dear boy hasn't come home for two nights."
"Your 'dear boy' can take care of himself," said Hex as evenly as he could manage while he dressed. "He's been doing it for some time, ma'am."
"Yes, I s'pose he has," remarked Mrs. Cobb, scratching furiously at the old-fashioned, cast iron pan.
Hex stared down at his bullet scarred body while he buttoned up his shirt; the adventurous life of a cook. There was something odd about the Cobb family; he'd noticed it in speaking with Mrs. Cobb and Mattie. Hex couldn't help but feel like he'd completed the frame of a puzzle, but was missing the main picture. Unfortunately for him, he was also missing the box for reference.
There was clearly love in the Cobb family, but there was also a sense of isolation and alienation between them. Hex just couldn't pinpoint the cause for it.
"Fight! Fight! There's a huge thrown down happenin' at the tavern!" came a breathless voice through the window, breaking Hex's internal meditations.
Both Hex and Mrs. Cobb made their way to the only window and stared out; there were some welders out in the street acting like troubadours.
"Who?" cried someone from their bloc.
"Jayne and some stranger," answered the man, who'd paused for a breather in front of J-Bloc. "The stranger tore apart the tavern all by himself! I think Jayne's gone in over his head."
"Best get the lawman," shouted someone else.
"And the doc while you're at it!" said someone else.
"Jayne," said Mrs. Cobb worriedly. Hex merely growled on his way back to his bag and picked up his shotgun. Though his back was to Mrs. Cobb, he was quite sure her eyes fell squarely upon his weapon.
"Powerful gun you got there for self-defense, cook," noted Mrs. Cobb in an icy voice.
"Wasn't just a cook in my life," said Hex at the door; his curtain of hair hiding his smirk. "Also spent some time as a bartender. One thing I learned--and it's something your man at the tavern should've learned--is that the best way to break up a tussle is to speak soft and carry a big gun."
Jayne flew through the swing doors of the tavern and rolled down its short stairs. His side was bothering him; Jody had landed a very decent kick against his ribs early on. Regardless of the pain, Jayne struggled to get back to his feet. Jody came waltzing through the doors a moment later with blood streaming from a split lip. Despite the rapidly forming bruises on his face he wore an honest, happy grin that only served to infuriate Jayne.
"Ain't bad for a geezer," said Jayne and hastily threw a one-two combo right for Jody's jaw. Jody took them both square on the chin and kept on grinning, which basically summed up the fight to that point. Jayne gritted his teeth and reached back for haymaker, concentrating all his anger into one Earth-shattering blow. "You are seriously startin' to damage my calm!"
That phrase forced a frown on Jody's face moments before it was flattened with Jayne's fist. Jody flew back against the tavern porch to the intense satisfaction of Jayne. It did a lot to bolster Jayne's confidence that the man could be hurt.
"And here I was worrin' you were some kinda superman," smirked Jayne, reaching down to drag Jody up by his vest. "Takin' punches like they didn't mean diddly! Y'ain't all that tough. It's just an act, ain't it?"
Jody's reply was to bring up his hands around Jayne's wrists. Jayne winced at the constricting grip of Jody and watched as the man pried his hands from the vest with brute force. Jody followed it up with a sharp headbutt to Jayne's nose, breaking it cleanly and sending the mercenary staggering back. Shaking it off, Jayne made for a quick tackle, but Jody ducked under Jayne's arms and wrapped his own formidable pair around Jayne's waist in a reverse bearhug. Popping his hips, and using the stairs for added height, Jody threw Jayne with a release German suplex onto the dusty lane.
"That feel like an act to you, boy?" asked Jody rhetorically as he got to his feet and dusted himself off.
Jayne got to his feet as well, although he was very aware of the pain throbbing at the base of his neck. It felt like his spine was grinding together and that his head might fall off with the slightest movement; his head burned so hot he thought his flesh might melt off, and his vision blurred and twised the world around him in a whirlpool of vertigo. And, in spite of that, Jody was still marching methodically towards him.
Bravely shaking the cobwebs the best he could, Jayne tried to match Jody stride-for-stride. Jayne threw another combination at Jody's face, and again Jody took them with a smile. Jody fired off two sharp uppercuts into Jayne's ribs, which he stubbornly took though they very nearly brought him down to his knees again. They traded punches, elbows, kicks and knees with each other at close range. Neither man bothered at all with blocking or dodging the attacks; they stood like immovable objects in the face of the unstoppable force.
Every thunderous blow seemed to be working against Jayne, however. In all his years as a mercenary, Jayne had never met a man who could take everything he had to give. Seeing Jody take every punch and kick chipped away at Jayne's once formidable confidence. Soon his fighting became sloppy from his anger fueled by self-doubt. Jody's hits became that much more powerful when defeat seemed inevitable, and at last, Jayne was brought to his knees in defeat.
"I kinda like you, boy," complimented a smirking Jody as he stared down Jayne. "You kinda remind me of a young me, so you better stay down if you know what's good for you."
"I got what's good for you," growled Jayne through a bloodied mouth, clenching his right fist in preparation for another haymaker. "This manly hand of mine's got an appointment with your teeth!"
Jody chuckled in amusement as Jayne threw the most sloppy, uncoordinated punch yet. He deflected the punch and effortlessly twisted Jayne's arm behind his back. Jody then reached around with his free arm to get Jayne in a chokehold--just enough to restrain him, but not enough pressure to render him unconscious. Jayne tried to elbow out of it, but he couldn't get enough leverage. He tried kicking up at Jody's unmentionables, but Jody's legs continued to block him.
"You screw with the tiger, son, you get bit," warned Jody into Jayne's ear. He applied more pressure to Jayne's trapped arm, forcing the mercenary to cry out in pain. "Now, you cry 'uncle' and I might let you walk out of here. You don't...well..." Jody applied even more pressure and Jayne had to practically bite his tongue to prevent himself from crying out.
"Go and diddle with yourself!" Jayne managed to spit out defiantly. Jody chuckled before yanking upwards with a sharp motion. Jayne let out a scream that might've turned his lungs inside out as Jody brutally fractured his arm. The big mercenary, already suffering a disorienting concussion, collapsed limply against Jody's chokehold; his body unable to take anymore punishment.
Jody wondered if he should just snap the man's neck and be done with it, or perhaps let Jayne live for another day. It wouldn't take much more than a second to do it, and it didn't seem like the lawmen were in much of a rush to break up the commotion. Although Jody knew he shouldn't push his luck with it being a Monday and all.
The sound of a shotgun being pumped and the feel of a cold barrel pressed against Jody's temple made him freeze in his deliberations.
"Let the boy go, Jody," came a familiar, gravelly growl to Jody's ears. It was slightly harsher than he remembered it, but then it'd been decades since he'd last heard the man.
Jody did as the voice asked; he raised his hands slowly and let Jayne fall hard to the ground with a thump. Considering the man still had a shotgun pointed at his head, Jody thought it best not to smile. What he did instead, however, was swat the shotgun towards Jayne's prone body to prevent the man from shooting reflexively. He then grabbed the shotgun with both hands and jammed the butt into the man's chest. Jody, with a firm grip on the shotgun, gave a sharp tug to bring the man close, before following up with a stiff clothesline that sent the man crashing into the ground.
Now Jody felt free to laugh.
"Jonah Hex, what's it been? Twenty years? Ain't ever changed, have you? Still wearin' 'em gorram spurs like a cowboy and brandishin' that shotgun like you's a big, ballsy fella," chuckled Jody as he took his time ambling around the circle made by the assembled crowd. None of them were a threat to him.
Using his shotgun like a cane, Hex forced himself up to his feet. He remained silent as his eye bore into the back of Jody's skull. Every fiber of his arm wanted to bring that shotgun to bear and squeeze the trigger, but Hex knew Jody. The man seemed to have a sixth sense towards danger--particularly when it involved his own neck--and would dive for cover the moment Hex tried it. With the power of his shotgun, Hex was more likely to take out at least three innocent people instead of Jody.
"Gotta admit," continued Jody, turning slightly to stare at Hex out of the corner of his eyes, "I'm amazed to find you still breathin'. And here I thought I bled you dry. Guess those purple-bellies are what saved you?"
"Yup," drawled Hex tersely; his knuckles growing white as they stretched around the grip of his shotgun. "See the Feds're a curious bunch--well, when they're ordered to be--and they were particularly curious as to why the Argo was missing a shipment full of gold ore from Wu-Yo meant for the Alliance reserves. They were then curious as to why the Argo's crew was all dead with one man left barely alive, missing an eye, shot in the chest, and with third-degree burns on the back of his neck."
"Ah, the beginnings of my signature," grinned Jody nostalgically. "Still got that eye of yours too. Keep it in my bunk wherever I am. Doubt I'll find another one more pretty'n that."
"I'm so honored," sneered Hex sarcastically, glancing down to see if Jayne was still unconscious--which he was. "Three weeks in an Interpol interrogation cell 'til they could figure out what happened to nearly 750,000 credits worth of gold ore, and my eye is a fond souvenir for the psychopath who put me there. Funny how they couldn't believe just one man had done all that damage--especially as that one man weren't listed in any known records. When they couldn't prove I'd taken it, and after your mention in Captain Vitto's logs, they had no choice but to let me go. I'm half surprised you didn't double-cross whoever you worked for and take that gold for yourself."
"What was I gonna do with raw gold?" laughed Jody. "'Sides, I got paid a tidy sum for my part in that heist, and I don't bite the hand that feeds me steak 'stead of protein packs."
The sound of a hovercar coming up from the distance put a lid on their conversation. It had to be the lawmen--basically rent-a-cops this far from the Core. Jody turned to make an easy getaway, but Hex raised his shotgun again to stop him.
"You've had this coming, Jody," said Hex gravely. "More'n any other man I can think of, you've earned this bullet."
"Might be," nodded Jody warily. "But that don't mean you're the man to give it. Now, I ain't got time to stand 'round while you try to twist up the courage to pull that trigger, knowin' y'got a better shot of hittin' everyone but me. I got a man to see 'bout money. See you 'round, Hex."
"I surely hope not," sighed Hex, watching the man slip through the crowd and out of his sight. He glanced down at his shotgun and then to the pocket on his jacket. He should've used the pistol, but then Jody would only ratchet himself up to meet the new threat, and Hex would likely find himself dead next to Jayne.
Hex wasn't a soldier, wasn't a mercenary, wasn't anything but a cook and a bartender. The same 'verse that had made Jody stronger and meaner than anything else had taught Hex only one thing; know when to walk away. Hex looked down at Jayne's broken arm; the bone protuding violently through the skin. Reflexively, he rubbed his own arm in remembrance.
"Uncle," whispered Hex into the wind as the lawmen rode up with the doc.
"Doc says he's got a concussion, a fractured arm and some fractured ribs," Hex told Mrs. Cobb as they hovered over his bedside in the rustic shack that passed for a doctor's office. Jayne had been unconscious for a few days since the tavern tussle, though the doctor assured them there was little cause for alarm. "They've mended him fine, but I reckon we could do better on Serenity. Put in a call; Captain says they'll be on their way once they swing pass Ambrosia for something."
"My poor, sweet boy," sighed Mrs. Cobb from her seat at Jayne's bedside. There was a pale look on her face as she gently stroked Jayne's hair.
"I heard the story," said Hex softly, sitting down beside Mrs. Cobb. "Mattie gave me your version of things, but the town sung a different tune. Gossip moves pretty quick in a place like this, and with MacAvoy's death, lips've been loosened a little more'n unusal. Seems MacAvoy ordered Jody to kill Ken Cobb and I guess Jody finally came to collect."
"Probably," nodded Mrs. Cobb in a very tired voice. "Won't be long 'fore my boy hears 'bout it. Hell, it'll just take one damn second for him to walk inna that tavern, or strut down the street, and everyone'll be shoutin' it at him! Mattie won't know. Not 'til he gets better anyhow. Even so, it might all blow over by then..."
"Why didn't you want 'em to know?" asked Hex. "Think they deserve to know their father was murdered, and it ain't fair to keep a lie when everyone already knows the truth."
"No one knows the truth," snorted Mrs. Cobb derisively as she rose to her feet. "There weren't no harm in Mattie knowin' his Daddy'd been killed, 'cept I know he'd tell Jayne straight off and...well...it was always Jayne I worried 'bout most. Funny how not knowin' still got Jayne laid-up like this by the monster I didn't want him squarin' off with to start..."
"Hilarious," said Hex in a deadpan. "So if no one knows the truth, what is the truth, Mrs. Cobb?"
Hex saw Mrs. Cobb frown like she was tasting the flavor every word on the tip of her tongue before speaking. "Jody killed Mattie's Daddy. That's the truth, Mr. Hex."
Having said that, Mrs. Cobb then walked out of the doctor's room, leaving Hex to chew that over in his mind.
Jayne sat in the newly rebuilt tavern, nursing the bottle of wood alcohol sitting in front of him. Everyone had given him a wide berth when he entered, and it didn't take long for Jayne to get an answer out of someone with a hard stare. The man--Jody--had killed their Dad, and Jayne had just let him walk all over him. He was angry to be sure--angry at himself. Not since he was a little brat did he get beat so badly. No one had humiliated him before in a brawl. Well, there was the moon-brain, but she was special. She was a weapon, and a psychic, and he'd underestimated her. If they ever had a tussle again he'd be smarter about it, and she wouldn't put him down quite so easily.
...Then again, there was that time in food storage when she'd knocked him out again...
Jayne shook his head to clear the scowl from his face. The gorram moon-brain could pick his thoughts. How was he supposed to guard against that? He couldn't defend against an attack he couldn't see, especially when it wasn't an attack in the first place. Jody wasn't at all like River anyway. River couldn't take a beating like that Jody. No way.
"Got word from Kyo," said Hex as he slipped into the seat across from Jayne. "Serenity's due at the docks in three hours time. If you got anything you wanna get..."
"No," said Jayne shortly, briefly looking up from his bottle. "No, I got everythin' packed."
"No goodbye to your mom? To Mattie?" frowned Hex, gently pulling the bottle away from Jayne. Jayne snatched the bottle back angrily and resumed nursing it like a child sucking a teat. Hex sighed and leaned forward before saying, "Jayne, don't leave your mother without saying...something. Don't leave it like this."
"Hex, I ain't in the mood," warned Jayne. He rose and gathered together his bags and jacket with grand, angry sweeping motions. Hex muttered a few choice curses under his breath before doing the same and followed Jayne out the tavern.
"Jayne!" shouted Hex after the big mercenary, but the words only bounced off of Jayne's hardened skin. Hex continued calling out Jayne's name for a few city blocks until the man in question dipped out of sight into an alley.
As Hex approached the alley, Jayne's good arm darted out and latched onto Hex's jacket. Hex found himself almost swept off his feet with the force of Jayne's yank, only to find himself pressed against the solid wall of the alley and staring into the wild eyes of larger man. "I've lived here for years, Hex. I know how fast people can talk when they're boozed up and lazy. You can't tell me my Mom didn't know the truth!"
"You're right," conceded Hex, raising his hands up as a sign. "Your mother knew--hell, even I heard it after a day--but Mattie never knew a gorram thing!"
Hex saw Jayne's jaw clench as he processed that new information. Showing signs of rational thought, Jayne let go of Hex--albeit in a none too gentle manner--and took a few steps back.
"Look, maybe Mattie didn't know and maybe my Mom did, or maybe it was the other way 'round, the point's that I expect to be lied to from a lotta people, Hex; my family shouldn't be one of 'em. Mattie, well he looks up to me--always has. Ma? Ma's always been there for me when most others would've tossed me away."
"Everybody lies, Jayne," sighed Hex as he smoothed out his jacket and shirt. "Everybody lies. It's how we get through our days--our lives. When the 'verse squeezes so hard all we see's the black instead of those stars, we lie and tell ourselves they're still there...somewhere and we've just gotta find them."
"You don't lie 'bout the man that killed your Dad," countered Jayne coldly before he marched out of the alley. Hex arched his brow and trudged after the stubborn idiot.
They continued on in silence until they arrived at the busy docks of Three Hills. Ships were flying in overhead, fueling, landing and taking off. Aside from the workers loading up the machine goods of the factories, Hex noted that there were very little commercial passengers seeking transport. It wasn't so different from Lu-se Cheng on Whittier. Worlds on the far Rim were not worlds that attracted very many travelers.
"You're lying to yourself, aren't you?" asked Hex, settling beside Jayne onto the very rigid bench. The slight curl of Jayne's lip said everything that needed to be said about that. "You think it was just a fluke; you think you were unprepared; you think if you knew he was the man who killed...Ken Cobb, then you would've succeeded? You're wrong, Jayne. You would've only ended up dead 'stead of injured. Don't kid yourself, Jayne. Jody's the type of man that's left a thousand like you in his wake, and he's survived them all...obviously. Let it go."
"Ain't in the mood," repeated Jayne, enunciating every syllable with such a tightness in his jaw that Hex worried he might shatter some molars. With yet another sigh, Hex settled onto the bench beside Jayne and waited for Serenity to fly in. Hex didn't think he was more happy to see that rundown Firefly--though he'd never use those words to Kaylee--than that moment. He was definetely beginning to feel this trip was a bad decision on his part. Surely things couldn't have gone nearly half as bad on Lu-se Cheng.
"Hey there, fellas!" greeted Kaylee Tam cheerfully once the ramp had lowered.
"Kaylee, aren't you a sight for my sore eye," grinned Hex in true relief as he marched up the ramp before Jayne. She ran up to hug the cook and squeezed him tightly. The energetic and perpetually cheerful mechanic then moved towards Jayne, but stopped short and gasped at his condition.
"Welcome back, Hex," called out Zoe Washburne on her way down the stairs. Spotting the mercenary hobbling along beside him, Zoe nodded to him as if injuries were as common place as a birthmark. "Jayne."
"Wha--what happened?" asked Kaylee worriedly, looking from Jayne to Hex to Zoe then back again. "Jayne?"
"Let him go," warned Hex in his gravelly growl. "Boy needs to brood."
Jayne let out a particularly animalistic growl of his own as he marched towards the stairs, practically bowling Simon over in the process.
"Him too?" frowned Zoe at Hex's side; they were both staring at Jayne and the Tams.
"'Too?'" repeated a bemused Hex, turning to look at Zoe. "Just what's gone on while we've been here?"
The Doc had done his job and fixed him up. Jayne was going to heal in a week instead of the three projected. The miracle of a well-stocked ship's infirmary and a genius doctor, not that Jayne would ever say anything like that to his face. Now he was just sitting in the darkness of his bunk, staring at the pictures of foldouts that lined the wall.
"Jayne?" came Kaylee's voice through the hatch above with a simultaneous knock. "Jayne? Ain't you gonna come out? We got food. You still like food...right?"
"Honey, it wouldn't be Jayne if he didn't like food," was Zoe's faint interjection. "Or girls. Or guns. Or some strange combination of the three..."
"Jayne?" asked Kaylee again.
"Leave him," Jayne heard Mal's commanding voice clearly. "Man knows when meals are taken. Man knows where the kitchen is."
"A good meal is what he needs, Captain," said Simon and the last thing Jayne wanted was for the Doc to tell him what he needed. "He's received some serious injuries."
"Maybe he's just restin'," suggested Kaylee. Jayne could hear the squeak of her boots and he imagined her being crouched just outside, twisting back towards the mess hall.
There was a pause before Hex's growl came through. "Maybe. Boy's been through a lot. Captain's right; let him be."
It wasn't until he heard the boot falls of Kaylee retreat into the mess that Jayne finally relaxed. He stopped tapping on his desk with his uninjured hand and spun around to face the screen just above his desk. Jayne stared at his reflection in the black, flat panel of the screen; his right eye was still swollen and there was a bandage over his right cheek. He was honestly surprised he wasn't missing some teeth, but then he'd always had a hard head.
Coming to a decision, Jayne reached out with his hand to flip on power to the screen. After accessing the communications network on the Cortex, he began searching for a specific ship and a specific person. He was relieved to discover that it was still within range of a wave.
"Yes?" came a groggy, husky voice on the other end. Jayne smiled--or tried to smile--at the short-haired lovely scowling back at him. "Jayne? Ni zhao jiao-gou shi nao! What d'you think you're doin' callin' me? I'm on Silverhold time, y'know? And what in the name of Buddha's smile happened to your face? What? Plastic surgeon gave up tryin' to make you prettier?"
"Ha. Ha," said Jayne sarcastically, glaring at Whisper's disheveled, short hair. Interesting enough, Jayne couldn't help but notice the beginnings of a white, lacy sleeping gown peeking around her neck. He would've never thought Whisper would wear such a conservative thing to bed. Somehow it did more than all those naked ladies he used for wallpaper. "Listen, I wanna talk to you 'bout somethin'. You busy?"
"Only with tryin' to sleep when I've got me the rudest, foulest thing rousin' me at odd hours," sighed Whisper in what passed for affection between them. In a more serious tone she elaborated, "We've got a few criminals to apprehend out here in Silverhold. With the war goin' on there's been a lot more fugitive bulletins on the Cortex. Surprise, surprise. Anyway, what d'you want?"
"Man named Jody," answered Jayne in an overly flippant tone. "What can you tell me 'bout him?"
Whisper's eyes practically bulged through her screen and into Jayne's at that name. "Jayne, that's not someone you want to be messin' with."
"Ain't 'bout want no more," returned Jayne gravely. "Man messed with me--messed with mine. Got me some platnium set aside. Some cash too. Even think I've got some credits somewhere. You catch wind of Jody anywhere, you let me know?"
"Jayne, first off, you don't have to pay where I'm concerned," said Whisper sympathetically. "Secondly, you're out of your gourd if you want to take on Jody." At Jayne's stubborn silence--he was really getting tired about having people telling him what he could do--Whisper sighed and gave in. "All right, I'll keep my ears open for anythin'. Jayne..."
"Thanks," interrupted Jayne gruffly before Whisper could say anything sensitive. He didn't want pity or anything, and Whisper seemed to sense that in the way she rolled her eyes.
"I was sayin', Jayne," began Whisper again, though a little more irritably at having been cut off, "this couldn't have waited until a decent hour?"
"Quit your yapin'," snorted Jayne as he made to flick off the screen. "Get some beauty rest. You need all you can spare."
At the very moment Whisper's mouth dropped in indignation and her eyes flared with righteous rage, Jayne flicked off the screen. After sitting a spell in the dark, Jayne got up out of his chair and made for the ladder. His stubborn stomach had proven to be greater than his stubborn mind. Anyway, he couldn't plan if his brain had no fuel.
When Jayne emerged from his bunk he spotted River Tam standing across from his hatch, rocking back and forth on her heels patiently. She smiled upon seeing Jayne, which made him feel all sorts of weirded out.
"What d'you want?" demanded Jayne gruffly in no mood to play her little games with his injuries and raging stomach. "Kyo's bunk's over there in case you got lost."
"I'm exactly where I'm needed," replied River serenely, playing with her airy, sundress as she twisted her hips in a curtsy.
"Well, I ain't got any need for you," snapped Jayne, shutting his hatch shut. Quick as a flash, Jayne found himself sniffing River's bare foot. Then, she gently lowered her leg with unbelievable grace and control. Jayne found himself swallowing uncomfortably under River's stare. It was like someone had flipped a switch in the moon-brain's mind. The personality shift was alarming.
"Help," repeated River, reverting to her more childlike persona as she opened Kyo's hatch. Halfway down the ladder she added, "Once you're healed."
Jayne snorted derisively at the shut hatch, wondering just what in the nine hells the girl was playing at. What help? Why on Earth would Jayne help her? She's got Kyo anyway. Jayne didn't have anyone but himself.
"Wrong 'bout that," said Kyo Nagiama, Serenity's pilot, as he made his way from the mess hall to the bridge. At Jayne's irritated look, Kyo smirked apologetically. "Couldn't help it. You're broadcastin' pretty loud, big guy. But, yeah, you're wrong. Take it from me, Jayne, family's who you want it to be."
"I ain't ever gonna call Simon 'brother,'" remarked Jayne to Kyo's retreating back.
Jody strolled through the tight halls of Adelai Niska's newest skyplex. It was much closer to the Core than before on account of the previous invasion that'd took place. With Jody on the job, however, Niska didn't have to worry so much. No one would be able to break in this time. Anyone stupid enough to try would find themselves in a world of hurt at Jody's expert hands. He was hoping someone would be dumb enough. Though the brawl in Angelville had excited the blood some, there wasn't anything like a full-fledged firefight to get the heart thumping.
Coming down the hall towards him was Blues, perhaps one of the few people Jody could respect. He was dressed in his fine suit like always, complete with a fancy fedora slanted upon his head. Upon spying Jody, Blues smiled coldly, revealing his small teeth that dotted his gaunt face. He tugged on his white gloves before dipping his hand into his jacket to remove two cigarettes and a lighter.
"Jody," greeted Blues in his high, whiny voice. "Mr. Niska told me he'd sent you on vacation. Funny, I thought your job was enjoyable enough to you."
"It is," nodded Jody, accepting the offered cigarette from Blues and sticking it between his lips. "Don't mean I get to do everythin' I enjoy though, although with Mr. Niska I get to do more'n I used to."
"I bet," smirked Blues as he lit Jody's cigarette, peering interestedly at the bruises that dotted Jody's face. "How was Angelville, Three Hills?"
Jody let go a lung full of smoke into Blues's face. After eyeing the thinner, slightly shorter man a moment, Jody asked, "Now, how'd you know that's where I went?"
"Jody, Jody, Jody," chuckled Blues condescendingly. "There isn't much the syndicate doesn't know about. I figured you'd head off to Angelville when Mr. Niska told me he'd given you a vacation. It's the only place you've got unfinished business, right?"
"I s'pose," temporized Jody, thinking about all the unfinished business he had spread through the 'verse.
"So, what'd you do about her?" wondered Blues as he lit his own cigarette.
"'Her?'" repeated a completely nonplussed Jody.
"Yeah, her," said Blues with an arched brow. "You did go to Three Hills to see Lilah, didn't you?"
"Lilah?" rasped Jody; his cigarette practically falling from his parted lips. "Lilah's been on Three Hills?"
"She lives there," stated Blues, smirking at Jody's ignorance. "I thought you knew. I thought your whole point in going was to find out what happened to that son of yours."
"No," replied Jody tightly. "No, that weren't it. It would've been if I'd known."
"Maybe next vacation, huh?" shrugged Blues before he moved past Jody's stunned still form. As Blues faded into the darkness around the bend, Jody heard him call out, "What was your boy's name anyhow?"
"Jayne," whispered Jody as he stared out through one of the windows. "Named my boy Jayne."
Author's Notes, Justifications, and...well...Excuses:
So, no matter what I did with this episode, it still came out short. Mostly because I had to keep pulling things back. I couldn't pile everything on Jayne in this one episode. I need to save things for round two between Jody and Jayne. Plus I'm trying to avoid the Vader/Luke scenario. Really, really trying.
Mostly, I'll admit that this story--and my backstory for Jayne in general--comes heavily off of Johnny Cash's song A Boy Named Sue. Jody, as I've said in previous notes, comes from Garth Ennis's Preacher graphic novels. Jody reminds me very much of Jayne...if Jayne was lacking a heart. The description of Jody from the graphic novel Preacher: Until The End Of The World: "Way I figure it, he maybe got fucked bad when he was little. Like in the womb. 'Cause Jody is not the leading expert on fucking people over before they can fuck him. He's strong as shit, born mean, got a real intelligence gleamin' in them eyes--"
The whole thing about Jayne's past never sat well with me. I mean...the reading of the letter in "The Message" makes Mattie out to be really young in comparison to Jayne--especially since he's called "Mattie." I know Mrs. Cobb calls Jayne "dear boy," so really Mattie could actually go by Matt to everyone else and be closer to Jayne's age but... And Jayne's occupation... I can't imagine that Jayne would actually tell his mother "I'm a mercenary." It's just not the thing you'd say...no matter how bad the Rim might be. Like saying "I'm a thug!" You just wouldn't. You'd lie. Which is why I had Jody be Jayne's father. Give an added wrinkle to things. Mrs. Cobb wants to believe Jayne, but at the same time she doesn't want him to turn out like Jody.
Which brings me to another reason why this episode was short: I didn't want to do a flashback. For one thing, it wouldn't be a complete flashback. It would have to be in pieces to tell how Jody and Lilah met, how they lived, and how it came that Lilah left, which would be a whole different episode entirely.
Jody's ship Bronco is partly a reference to Spaceballs, but considering I gave Jody a white ship named after a horse, it's more a Biblical reference to Death. The stake joke is, of course, in reference to Joss Whedon's other shows. What were they again? Oh, right! Buffy and Angel or something, haha.
The durability of Jody parallels the durability of Jayne. We see it in "Train Job" where he's drugged, but still able to shoot. We see it in "War Stories" when he's shot. But mostly we see it in Serenity when River's squeezing his balls for a pretty damn long time.
Brutus and her captain make another appearance from "Serenity." I named him Captain Jones because, well, he kinda reminds me of Indiana Jones with the hat and the jacket... Then there's the crew from "Out of Gas." I've been meaning to get them into an episode and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I suppose I could've made this episode longer by drawing out the first act, but really I wanted to start off the episode with a bang...since I'd be giving Jayne the whooping of a lifetime.
In any event... I was glad to get the crew back together in the end. Trying to make this a solo story about Jayne was pretty damn hard. I'll be happy to continue the adventures of the crew as a whole in the next episode. I'm probably the most disappointed in this episode... Hopefully things will get better next time. It's pretty damn hard writing an entire season all by my lonesome... I don't know how J. Michael Stracyznski did it for two seasons of Bablyon 5.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 2:10 AM
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 7:16 AM
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 8:57 AM
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 1:41 PM
Sunday, June 04, 2006 10:14 AM
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 1:06 AM
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