Viva New Vegas : 4. Dude, Where's My Firefly?
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Welcome to Planet Hollywood. If anyone is getting all the film references in this, then you really need to get out more...


4. Dude, Where’s My Firefly?

It’s a dark and stormy night. Not quite raining, but sultry, sky hanging dark and heavy, sullen as a teenager. The shutters of the school are bolted, and the only the startling crack of wood, as the knife-blade finally snaps the latch.

Jayne slings a leg over the sill and peers out. It’s a short drop to the little bit of garden outside. Then there’s a wall. Then there’s a whole lot of nothing.

It’s a long way down. The convent is built on the edge of a cliff. In fact, Jayne takes one look at the trackway, and dismisses the idea of borrowing the bus. Reckons the thing is held together with rust and prayer, anyhow, and it makes him cold to think he was bumping about in the back of that with that flaky little nun driving it. Nothin’ quicker than a straight line, anyhow.

Jayne has been giggled at by girls a deal of times in his life. Mebbe a year or so back, he would have grinned and flexed his muscles and leered. ‘Cept these girls are younger than Kaylee or River, and that’s all kinds of wrong. He ain’t ever bin one for chasin’ children. Sighs. Life was much simpler when he was just a big mean bastard with a big mean gun. Now, he’s got responsibilities. Got a wife, and got a crew as needs him. Knows his place, and it’s behind Mal, watching that the man don’t get them all screwed over, being noble and decent and all that gorram foolin‘.

Hopes like hell Mal ain’t taken off without him. That gives him cold chills. Left on this planet without his wife or his guns. There’s times he can’t figure which he’d miss more. In his mind, a picture of Serenity’s kitchen. And a little woman in a too-big apron looking up from a pan with her face flushed from the heat, giving him a smile that’s all his. Din’t have to give coin for it, don’t have to share it. Just is, is all.

She wouldn’t leave without him.

Sure as he knows anything. She wouldn’t leave without him. So just mebbe the others wouldn’t, neither. He’s just gotta trust that they think he’s worth something. And trust don’t come so easy, he knows.

He ain’t the best of men. Tries to treat her right. But if the Doc goes back and tells her that he was bein’, she knows that he don’t go foolin’. And the li’l bit will set her right. Mebbe. Picks up his pace.

But...Mal might not stay grounded just for one gunhand as hasn’t got the best of records. ‘Course, they’ve been through a deal, and Jayne was right there with them on Miranda, holding that line. Came back for them on Hecate, when that hun dan had them...but Mal wouldn’t go leaving the innocent in trouble, and they was only there ‘cos Jayne took the ship. Mal hadn’t wanted to go rescuing folks. He shoulda stayed in the casino with ‘em, not run like some rabbit. Turning his back on temptation, the Shepherd would say, but a man should be strong enough to turn his back without runnin’. Pace slows.

They ain’t gonna believe him. They’re gonna think he took off in pursuit of women and whisky same as he always used to. Ain’t a one gonna believe that some big, rough space trash was looking to take his wife someplace classy. Hell, that stuffed shirt hadn’t even wanted to let him in through the gorram door.

More bits coming back to him, long as he don’t look at them head on. Engines. Whoopin’ and hollerin’...

Mebbe Mal weren’t in a state to be going places. Anyone had clipped Mal, mind, and he reckons River woulda made the Maidenhead look like a dance recital. Grins unwillingly to himself. Anyone had clipped li’l crazy, Mal would have taken them to pieces bare-handed, always excepting the Doc hadn’t got there first. Thankful as all get that Larji weren’t there. Nor Kaylee. Anyone shootin’ at Zoe better make their first shot count or it was gonna be their last. Same for Mal. An’ the Doc might be soft, but he weren’t dumb.

Well, it ain’t much of a plan. Planning ain’t his job. He does what he’s told to do. But...some folks shot at his crew. Which means there’s some folks need killing. So, he’s gotta get back to where they parked.


One of Rik’s bad habits is expensive, hazardous and unchancy. (The other bad habit is the gambling.) Miss Kit drums her fingers on the desk, eyes narrowed. She could kill you, and make you like it.

“So who didn’t see anything this time?”

Nobody crosses the Wolf Pack. They do what they want, go where they please. And nobody ever sees them do anything, ‘cos nobody wants that kind of house guest turning up.

“Man’s from out of town.” Mac says.

“You don’t say.” An eyebrow rises, and Kit smiles, a rich and faintly predatory curve of the full lips. “Oh, Marlon is not gonna be pleased.”

Mac is worried.

“Word gets out that there’s a witness, he’s gonna be a dead man walking.”

“Then we just have to hope that G finds him first.” Kit says calmly. “Sure be a shame if Marlon and his boys crossed the law in the execution of their duty. Got in the line of fire or the like.”

There are times when Mac thinks fondly of his time in the Sheriff’s office, walking the streets.


Mal keeps his eyes shut for most of the drive up the track. Can’t call it a road. There’s places would make a goat turn dizzy. So he don’t know what River is giggling about until he opens his eyes.

The Convent School of St Faith started out as a school, sure enough. But it weren’t one run by nuns. There’s a familiarity to the elegant line of the walls that even severe lime wash can’t hide.

“How in hell did a bunch of nuns end up in a Training House?”

G smirks faintly.

“The...previous tenants relocated when the war began to look likely.”


G comes out a lot faster than he went in, and he’s alone. Answers Mal’s frown.

“...Seems they did have him, but he took it into his head to leave.” G looks down over it. Miles of rough terrain. Sheer mountainside cut by river gorges, impenetrable woodlands full of wild animals and wilder people, and barren desert that would boil you in the midday sun and freeze you to the ground at night. “We simply don’t have the manpower to scout after him.”

Pancho slaps the steering wheel in frustration. All this way, and their one hope has flown the coop.

“He’s alive and he’s armed. He’ll be heading home.” Mal speaks with a weary confidence.

“Captain, there’s forty miles of hell between here and town. If your man is stuck out in the badlands...well, there are all sorts of dangerous things out there.”

“Yeah.” Mal sighs. “And one of them is him.”

G looks at them. The man isn’t joking.


River wakes with her face pressed against a coat, warm leather beneath her cheek, the quiet rumble of his voice.

“...seen him take a bullet without slowing much. An’ he’ll eat anything can’t get away best two outta three. Night or two out in the woods won’t worry him.”

Pancho is driving, capable hands on the wheel, leaving G able to turn and talk quietly with Mal over the back of the seat.

“This Security Officer of yours, is he ex-Special Forces or something?”

“No. He’s just what he sounds like. Big, mean and ugly. An’ I’d have lost all my money twice over betting against him ever settling. ‘Specially with someone like our Gia.”

“They do sound like a...slightly mismatched couple.”

“I still can’t figure them.” Mal shakes his head. “Woman’s got a blind spot six foot four when it comes to that big idiot. And he dotes on her.”

“Love isn’t an equation.” A sleepy voice admonishes him. “Jayne doesn’t share. Likes the fact that she’s smarter than him.”

“Darlin’, there’s rocks smarter’n Jayne.”

“Hmph.” Sharp little elbows as she makes herself more comfortable. “Nothing to figure. Real people. Not painted puppets. Not our business.” Settles again. “Wake me up when we get home.”

“She’s a smart one.”

“She is.”

G doesn’t miss the defensive tightening of the man’s jaw, the way his arm instinctively curls.

“What does she do on the ship?”

“’Sides plague me? She’s my pilot.” Mal looks down at the dark head.


Dodge is still shaken at having a well-spoken woman threaten to slice his ear off. He would like nothing better than to pack up and leave this whole crew of oddballs to whatever they were doing. But G said to stay put until Rik had finished cataloguing the gun collection.

It was going to be a long night.

Brightens a little when the pretty girl in the overalls brings him a cup of coffee.

“Thank you, Miss...Kaylee.”

“T’ain’t nothin’.” She grins sympathetically. “I done my share of sitting whilst other folks was working. Can get mighty dull.” Looks up sideways at him. “I don’t reckon Gia woulda sliced you up.”

“She was just fooling?”

Kaylee hesitates. But her natural honesty wins out.

“No. Reckon Cap’n woulda stopped her. Leastways until he found out what you’d done with Jayne.”

“That’s...curiously unreassuring.” But getting background information never hurts. “Is she security, too?”

“Gia?” Kaylee laughs. “She’s just the cook.”


There were a lot of things Mal hated about being in command. One of them was breaking bad news to kinfolk. Watching the hope die in Ilargia’s eyes brings back the ghosts. He won’t be sleeping tonight.


“We got folk bunked all over the ship.” Zoe smiles faintly. “Doc’s got himself in a world of trouble.”


“Doped Gia to make her sleep.”

“And the trouble?”

“At some point, she’s gonna wake up.”

“Ah.” Mal shudders. “Well, we’ll deal with that when we have to...where’s he hiding?”

“Kaylee’s bunk.”

The unspoken part of the conversation. The crew quarters and bridge can be shut off from the passenger dorm.

“Where do I sleep?” River asks. Mal considers, then sighs.

“You can sleep in my bunk - I won’t be using it.”


River looks around critically. The Captain hasn’t been watering his plants again. Nips off a few dead leaves. Picks her way daintily through the debris, gathers up a towel and folds it, removes a shirt and two books from the bunk. He’s been reading poetry again - always a bad sign. Makes a face at the capture he has on his desk, and puts it face down. Jian huo.

Looks at the maps on the walls with wondering eyes. Pictures of other worlds, unknown territory. She finds the hollow in the mattress made over the years. Smells of him. Safety, strength. If she is his compass, then he is her map.


Mal looks at the little person sleeping in his bunk, and smiles.

“C’mon, mei-mei, time to rise and shine.”

Little snuffle answers him. He sits on the edge of the mattress, pokes a finger into the sleeping warmth.

“Luckily the weapon’s safety catch is engaged.” A grumpy voice reproaches him. “Wouldn’t poke Zoe or Jayne awake.”

“Wouldn’t poke Jayne with a long stick.” Mal hadn’t even considered that waking River might be dangerous. (~Could have ended up flat on my back with her on top of me.~) Gives him a...shiver. A dark eye peers over the blanket.

“Such a boob. Should do what Jayne does - wake with care. And tea.”

He actually considers it for a moment, before he remembers that he is the Captain and this is his bed. Finds a slim, pale ankle instead, and tickles the foot. There is a squeak and a scramble.

“Go on - you gotta protect your brother from the wrath of Cobb. That woman’s picked up some bad habits.”


She has her bad days, still. Captain hadn’t wanted her to risk the casino, worried that it would set off anything from a migraine to a massacre. So she and Kaylee had designed the ‘spambot’ (and it gave her a good deal of satisfaction to use their works against them, punching brisk holes in the logo for the wiring.)

But now she can feel a vague, empty pain. Not the sharp keening (stake through the heart forever) that can be Zoe, or the desolation (storm of ashes across a barren plain) that is the Captain. This has some of the ache that Simon feels when he thinks of the smallness of his world now. (He doesn’t like the Black, cannot feel the Great Dance.)

Knows this mind now. Walks the memory palace. Rooms of ice and mirrors, where despair is a cold thing, caged away and not allowed to roam, but it scratches at the walls, mutters its poison. Kept at bay by one small flame of belief. Can’t allow the light to die.


Ilargia wakes in their bunk, and misses Jayne. The times she’s cursed the heavy warmth of his arm, the snoring...she wants them back. The grunt and grumble of a large body refusing to relinquish the blankets, the lazy gleam of one blue eye bent on misbehaving. All of a sudden, this is a cold and alien place, and she can’t stay. Scrambles up the ladder, and goes to sit in the kitchen. Makes her own tea, and refuses to weep into the cup.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Not this long drawn-out waiting, as time goes by with nothing but greyness to it. If life was to be short, then let it be a glorious conflagration.

“Not a rocket. Lamplight in the window to guide him home.” River slides around the doorframe. “Alone and afraid. Shouldn’t be either.” She grins. “Take more than head-butting a bus to stop Jayne. Simon says the man has the most incredibly well developed cranial density.”

“Bloody idiot...” Looks away. But River catches the unspoken.

“Walks the line. Going to walk back to you.”

“He’ll come back.” Mal catches the end of the conversation. “The man is impossible to get rid of. And have you ever known him to miss a meal?”

“It’s not knowing, you see.” Heels of her palms to tired eyes. “I could cope with knowing.” Sharp glance up at Mal. “I’ll stay behind, if I have to.”

What it comes down to. Serenity is home, because Jayne is there.

“We ain’t going anywhere until we get him back.” Mal gives her a smile. “There’ll be other jobs. But we only got one Jayne.”

“Thank you.” Her honest relief and gratitude tell Mal more than she thinks.

“You got kinda used to fending for yourself, huh? Well, you get this straight. Ain’t just you an’ him looking out for each other. You’re crew, now. And we don’t leave crew.”

Folds around her then, a sense of belonging. And a slightly grimy pair of arms. Kaylee has a wealth of hugs to share with folks as need them.

Mal looks down at River, who is frowning.

“You knowin’ something you should be telling us, li’l one?”

“Lots of dangerous animals out in the wilds.” Turns worried eyes up to his. “Some of them are very rare.”

Mal can’t help it. He laughs.

“River, darlin’, anything dumb enough to jump out at Jayne deserves to be extinct.”


Wednesday, March 14, 2007 12:02 PM


Not to worry, any very rare animals will be cooked medium well or better by the time Jayne's done with them.

Lovin' it again!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 3:59 PM


I adored the section of Jayne pondering whether or not Mal would leave him behind. Despite everything they've been through, he still worries. The scene with Illargia in their bunk and finding it cold was also nice. Course, I was waiting for her to slap Simon for doping her (without permission?).

Your last words give me pause. Is Jayne going to be in trouble out in the badlands? There was mention of some wild things and people so...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 5:11 PM


Uh...did River just call Inara a whore in Mandarin? Cuz the set-up of having her see a picture of someone on Mal's desk and the choice of epithet? Guess even a sisterly relationship can go down the flusher if one thought the other an obstacle to a mutual target of affection;)

Still...can't wait to see what kind of feng le go se Jayne will get up to in the Badlands while trying to get back to Serenity;D


Thursday, March 15, 2007 12:28 AM


jian huo means 'cheap goods'. Personally I think she's ang gui huo, but River is being a snarky teen :)

Saturday, March 17, 2007 5:23 AM


Damn, damn, damn it's GOOD!


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