A River of Violence - Chapter One
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

When one hears the line "Two men walked into a bar..." it's usually the beginning of a bad joke but for Jayne, it's the sound of his past about to catch up with him. After years on the run, it's finally time for him to settle old scores and confront old enemies. But the only way for him to get out of this alive is to turn to the one person he can count on. A multi-chaptered fic set after Serenity, inspired by the graphic novel and movie, A History of Violence. Rayne. Rated R WARNING: Violence, lots of violence.



The next night found River’s Bend unusually busy. The place was buzzing with more activity than it had ever seen the entire five years it had been open. Word traveled fast as it usually did in small towns. When people heard that Jayne Cobb, upright peaceful businessman and faithful husband, never hurt a man in the five years they’d known him, had shot not just one but two men trying to rob his bar, well, everyone wanted a look. On any given day, most of the people who came to the bar were regulars and while a small portion of the bar’s customers had always been made up of strangers, there had never been this many at once before. Every table was filled and every chair was occupied. It gave Jayne a bit of an uncomfortableness that was only slightly dispelled by the thought of the handgun hidden under the counter and his old hunting knife tucked in his boot shaft. But if the unusual number of strangers was making Jayne uncomfortable, it was making River even jumpier.

When they’d bought the bar, they hadn’t planned for her to work there at all but then the lao tu tou Jayne originally hired to do the cooking had a heart attack and kicked the bucket two weeks after her arrival. He hadn’t been able to find anyone new right away so she agreed to fill in for a few days. Days turned into weeks and then months until Jayne gave up and let her take over. Not to mention if he didn’t, he probably would’ve had a riot on his hands, most of the regulars came because of River’s cooking, the barmaids adored her and well, she’d been bored rattling around in their little house on her lonesome all day.

She’d had a hard time keeping herself together when she first started working in the kitchen. She hadn’t been used to being around so many strangers after living onboard a spacecraft with the same crew day after day. But as she gradually became familiar with all the people who frequented the bar, the number of thoughts she encountered whose originators were unknown to her decreased to the point where she was no longer bothered by them. It had been some time since she had last felt this close to being overwhelmed. Thankfully, the number of orders coming in kept her sufficiently busy in the kitchen that she didn’t have time to think about all the unfamiliar thoughts pressing in on her.

Ralph walked in about dinner time, glancing from side to side as he made his way through the crowded bar to stand next to the kitchen window. River popped up to place three loaded platters on the sill. The barmaid working that evening swooped by a moment later to pick them up.

“Been like this all day, honey?” he asked her.

“Yes, Sheriff. It was most unexpected.” She rubbed her forehead with a dishrag. “So many new thoughts. No time to prepare.”

“You’re a strange one, River, sweet but strange.” Ralph chuckled. “Look, I was gonna come earlier an’ warn ya it might be like this but I got held up at the station. Lotsa paperwork when you kill a couple a fugitives.”

River’s eyes widened.

“Don’ worry your purty head ‘bout it, darlin’. It’s all stuff I gotta take care of. ” He smiled fondly at her and moved over to snatch up a newly vacated seat at the bar. “I need ta talk ta Jayne. I’ll just wait here ‘till closing time.”

It was late when the bar finally cleared out and the only one left was Ralph. The barmaids were sweeping the floor and River was cleaning up the kitchen, muttering about sanitary conditions. He watched Jayne wipe down the bar top with a loving hand. The long L-shaped counter was made of cherry wood especially imported from off world. The planks were stained dark, the long wavy grain shimmering in the light like a rushing river. The barmaids who worked closing liked to speculate on what those careful hands would feel like, smoothing across their skin. They would often look jealously at River who just smiled knowingly back at them.

“Kooky said ya wanted a word, Sheriff.”

Ralph looked up to see that Jayne had finished with the bar and was standing across from him with the used towel slung over his shoulder.

“That’s right. Reckoned ya might want ta know who all it was that ya shot yesterday.”

Jayne shook his head. “Naw, just takin’ care a what’s mine is all. Don’t matter none ta me.”

“Well, I’ll tell ya anyway.” Ralph pulled some papers out of his coat pocket. Jayne’s hands tightened reflexively around the edge of the counter when he saw the two flashing warrants but relaxed when the Sheriff laid them flat. The faces staring back at him were those of the men he had killed the day before. Skipping over their names, he skimmed over their crimes (multiple homicides on at least four border moons and two on Persephone) and glanced over the reward offered for their apprehension but had to look again to make sure his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him. His jaw fell open in shock. Wo de lao tian ye, ten thousand platinum?

“That’s for catchin’ em alive,” The Sheriff laughed at Jayne’s dumbfounded expression. “But yer still a rich man now, Cobb. Good thing the warrants said dead or alive or ya woulda been out the reward money.”

Jayne glanced back through the kitchen window, shifting uncomfortably. “Like I said Sheriff, don’t matter none ta me. And what am I suppose ta do with all that cash? I got no need for it.”

“Sure ya don’t.” Ralph flashed him a sly grin and slid a slip of paper over to Jayne who unfolded it to find two strings of numbers written on the inside. “It’s too late now, anyways. I already had the courts transfer the money cuz I knew ya’d say that. Better you have it cuz I know ya ain’t gonna lose yer head over it. Five thousand platinum, just sittin’ down at the bank waitin’ for ya. If yer sure ya don’t want it, could always give it ta yer favorite Sheriff’s office, yeah? ‘Course if ya ask me, I’d buy yer old lady somethin’ shiny.”


Jayne told River about the reward money on the mule ride home. She already knew of course but she liked it when he said things out loud anyway. When he asked her what they should do with it, she quirked a smile and said “Kaylee can always use a few extra converters.”

“Hell darlin’, we could buy her a whole new engine with five thousand platinum!”

“But then Kaylee wouldn’t have anything to do.”

“’Cept sex up yer brother” he snickered. She giggled and without taking her eyes off the terrain, smacked him on the arm. “Hey now darlin’, don’t go startin’ somethin’ ya can’t finish.”

He reached over and tickled her across her belly in retaliation, making her giggle and the mule swerve. “Stop that this instant, Jayne Cobb!”

Ignoring her, he continued tickling up her ribcage.

“I said stop it!” she giggled. Gasping with laughter, she caught hold of his wrist and twisted, pinning him on the dashboard with his face pressed against the windscreen.

“Kooky!” he whined, testing her grip. “Lemme up!”

“Not until we get back. Besides,” she patted his backside “like the view.”


A few days later, a man in a bespoke suit and sunglasses sauntered into River’s Bend. Jayne watched him walk right up to the bar and sit down in front of him.

“What can I get ya, mister?”

“I’ll have a scotch on the rocks, if you don’t mind. It’s a long time in the Black, getting here from Qingdao, ain’t that right Johnny?”

“Well now, I wouldn’t know about that, mister. I’ve been around the ‘verse a few times but I can’t say I ever been ta Qingdao.” Jayne examined the other man closely as he put the drink down in front of him. He was older now, obviously, hair liberally streaked with grey, deep lines etched into his skin that instead of sagging, seemed to have shrunk until it was stretched taunt across his bones, giving him a skeletal appearance. But despite the aging, he was still the last man Jayne had ever wanted to see again.

“Really now, Johnny?” drawled the man. “I’m surprised. Even a well-traveled man such as your self shouldn’t be forgetting his homeworld. And he certainly shouldn’t be forgetting me.”

Jayne shook his head. “Sorry, mister. I really don’t know who ya are.”

“Then maybe this’ll help you remember, Johnny.” The man reached up and removed his sunglasses, revealing a twisted and scarred eye socket in which rested a blinded white eyeball. “Do you remember how I got this eye, Johnny?”

Jayne shook his head, his lips pressed together in a thin line. “I ain’t never seen ya before. How’s the hell should I know what happened to yer eye? And my name ain’t Johnny. If it were, d’ya really think I’d go around callin’ myself Jayne?”

“Barbed wire, Johnny,” hissed the man as he leaned over the bar. “You threw it in my face. It gouged my eye out and ever since then, the only thing I can see with this eye is you, Johnny boy. So when you say you don’t know who I am, I know you’re lying.”

Jayne stared back at the man before using his most intimidating growl. “You need to leave now, mister. I don’t know who you think you are and I don’t care who you think I am, but you are no longer welcome in this bar.”

The other man smirked. “Sure, Johnny, I’ll leave, just as soon as I say hello to your woman here.”

Jayne looked over to see that River had slipped out of the kitchen again and was standing next to his elbow. Her eyes were unfocused as she gazed at the other man who couldn’t see the meat cleaver she had clenched in her hand below the bar top. She tilted her head to the side before speaking.

“You’re not like the Blue hands.” She said in a sweet, lilting voice that was at odds with the rest of her tense body language. “Your hands are bloody and you walk in pools of it. It touches you and you bathe in it. You came for more and you’ll get it. But the only blood you’ll taste will be your own.”

The man looked momentarily unnerved but regained his equilibrium with a blink of his good eye. He smiled nastily as he replaced his sunglasses and sauntered out of the bar. “It sound’s like the little lady’s a bit off her rocker there, Johnny. You might want to consider keeping a closer eye on her.”


The end of the month was the province fair, swallowing Billings whole every year. The fair was the biggest event on the rock. There were carnival rides and midway games, livestock and produce contests, barrel racing and a rodeo. People came from all over to attend. It was loud and noisy and Jayne hated it even though it was their most profitable two weeks, a little because he just didn’t like fairs on principle but mostly because it made River nervous. She hid in the kitchen, giving him wan smiles when she came to the window.

The last day of the fair dawned grey and cloudy, smelling like rain. Jayne gave in to the whining and closed up the bar early so the barmaids could have some fun before it started pouring. After the girls left, he went into the kitchen. River was sitting on the floor in the corner between the sink and the counter that ran under the window, arms clasped loosely around her knees. He sat down next to her and pulled her onto his lap.

“You doin’ okay, River?” he asked. “Cuz I ain’t hardly seen ya the last three weeks.”

“They’re coming.” She buried her face in his solid shoulder.

“Who ya talkin’ about?”

“Specters from the past. Thought we were safe but we’re not.”

“You know when they’re gonna get here?”

She shook her head. Jayne shifted her so that he could stand. She put her small hand in his large one and was pulled to her feet. “Look, there ain’t no sense in sittin’ on this here cold floor all night and worryin’ when you don’t know for sure. Why don’t we go down to the fair and get some of that cotton candy you like, huh?”

“Too many people. Too many thoughts. Going to rain.”

“We’ll be quick and go round the edges then. All the food stands are on the east side, maybe we’ll see someone we know and they can bring one back for ya.” Jayne pulled her hand behind him and under his shirt where the handle of a gun stuck out from where it was tucked into his waist band. “I got my LeMat with a full mag right here and my knife in my boot. Got a Colt stashed under the counter ya can grab on the way out. Ain’t nothin gonna happen that we ain’t ready for.”

“You look better in red. Blue is the cold and red is the hot. Hot melts the cold.” She flashed him a small smile, one that made his heart melt every time he saw it. “Like the hot.”

“’Course you do, darlin’.” He wiggled his eyebrows outrageously, making her giggle like he’d hoped it would. “So, whaddaya say? We goin’?”

“Yes, my Jayne. Let us go to the city of tiny lights and consume spun sugar,” she said as they moved out to the front room. “Unless you want a hot dog?”

Jayne flicked off the lights before pulling the front door shut and locking it. “Naw, them carnival dogs is fulla who knows what. Mark’s is the best but he don’t got a stall this year on account of his ma bein’ ill.”

They skirted around the edge of town, avoiding most of the churning mass of color and activity that made up the fair. The light was dim as they walked through the alleys but organ and other midway music could still be heard. River kicked up her heels and danced ahead of Jayne. After a bit of searching, they found the stalls selling food clustered near a small stand of trees on the edge of the field behind the spaceport.

“Can ya tell where the candy cart is?” he asked River.

“It is halfway down this row.” She replied. “Sheriff Ralph is at Pria’s curry stand, three stalls over. Deputy Herbert is there also. He just spilled his vindaloo.”

“See? Nothin’ ta worry about. Even the lawmen are here.” He pulled her up against his side and gave her a squeeze. “Ya gonna be okay by yerself for a tick? I’ll just nip down the way and be back with that candy ‘fore ya know it.”

She nodded and reluctantly let him slide out of her arms. He walked briskly, his passage made easier by the way the crowd parted around him. He glared at the vendor as he paid for the (gorramnit, didn’t it come in any other color?) pink cotton candy and in a moment of weakness, a hot dog for himself.

“Cobb, didn’t think I’d see ya here this early.” Jayne spun, nearly going for his gun but didn’t when he saw it was the Sheriff. Behind him trailed the unfortunate Herbert, who indeed had curry spilled down his front.

“Yeah, well, ya know how the women get if they can’t get out every once in a while.”

“I surely do. Where is the missus tonight? I ain’t seen her for a bit.”

“Crowds make her nervous so I told her I’d come an’ get ‘er some sweets. She’s waiting over yonder.” Jayne indicated the little grove of trees with a jerk of his chin. He was just about to invite the Sheriff to walk back with him when he was interrupted by the sound of gun shots cutting through the air. “Zhen ta ma de! That’s my Colt!”

He dropped the candy and his hot dog and was barreling through the stunned crowd before the Sheriff had even registered where the shots had come from. The two lawmen drew their guns and dashed after him.

When they caught up, Jayne had come to a stop a short distance from the end of the row of food stalls. Between him and the trees a hundred feet away, stood the gentle, peaceful if somewhat eccentric woman Ralph knew as Jayne’s wife. But this was a different woman from the one he saw cooking up a storm in the back of River’s Bend every day. That woman had been replaced by something else, a creature full of deadly grace. She was facing the trees just outside the circle of light thrown by the fair, balanced on the balls of her feet, eyes hidden in shadow by the fall of her long dark hair. In her hand, held as though it were an extension of her body, was a gleaming pistol whose barrel was as long as her forearm. There was an edge of darkness about her that made tendrils of fear run down the back of the Sheriff’s neck.

“Kooky?” Jayne had put his gun on the ground and was setting a wicked looking knife next to it. “River, you okay darlin’?”

Ralph stepped forward but was stopped by Jayne’s arm across his chest. “Drop your weapon.”


“I said, drop your weapon.”


“Just do it!” Something in the man’s voice made the Sheriff obey. He flicked the safety back on and tucked his pistol back in its holster. “You too, Herb.”

Jayne paid little attention to the grumbling Deputy and made his way carefully over to River while taking care to appear as non-threatening as possible. As he came closer, her eyes came up, the blank expression clearing as she registered his presence. He reached out slowly to touch her shoulders. “You in there, River?”

“Yes, Jayne. I’m here.”

With a relieved sigh, he pulled her into his embrace. “You wanna tell me what happened?”

She turned and rested her forehead against his chest for a moment before tucking the Colt into his waistband. “Three of them came. I saw them twice in the bar last week and once the week before. Tried to take me but I made them run away. Shot two. They’re in the trees.”

Jayne looked his shoulder at the Sheriff who was standing awkwardly a few feet away. He jerked his head towards the trees. “Might wanna call Stan, should be two bodies over in them trees somewhere.”

Ralph gave him a strange look but pulled out his comm unit and made the call. Herbert was back at the food stands trying to send the crowd away. Jayne thought he heard something about wild animals. The man didn’t sound very convincing and the small droplets of water that had begun falling from the sky did more to disperse the crowd than the Deputy. Shaking his head, he shifted River in his arms.

“Hey Ralph!”

The Sheriff’s head jerked up from where he was poking about in the grass.

“Ya need us here for anythin’? I wanna get River home ‘fore it starts pourin’. She’s shakin’ like a leaf.”

The other man thought for a second. “Naw, the two a ya can go. If I need ta talk ta either a ya, I know where ta find ya.”

The mule ride back was bumpier than usual since Jayne had to drive one handed. His other arm was wrapped around River’s slight form to keep her from shaking herself right off the seat.

It had been years since she’d had to use her skills like that, knew it shook her up every time but gorramn if Jayne didn’t still find her sexy as hell when she did it. Five years of dirtside living might have settled him down some but he still had a yearning for danger and the deep black of space. At first he had thought he could be content with just River and the bar but the Black had been a part of him for too long. Holding River like this was almost like holding a grenade again, just after he pulled the pin and right before he threw it. He knew it was wrong, she didn’t need him thinking like that at a time like this, so he made use of his God given amygdale and squashed that feeling as far down as he could.

When they reached the house it was raining steadily. Jayne scooped her up and carried her into their room. He set her gently on the bed and handed her a towel to dry off the rain. She grabbed his wrist when he moved away. “I’ll just be out on the couch, darlin’.”

“No. Stay.”

“I’m thinkin’ that’s not gonna be a good idea.”

River fixed him with a look that said she knew exactly what he was thinking and that was exactly what she wanted. Her grip tightened and suddenly he found himself sprawled over her on the bed. She lifted her hips and rolled the two of them over so that she straddled his waist. She leaned down next to his ear, pinning his wrists above his head. “Need you, Jayne. Need you to help me remember myself; you’re the oak tree to my lightning. Help me find the ground again.”

The feeling of holding live ordinance was back and the whisper of her breath against his neck was nearly more than he could bear. He tilted his head up and kissed her hard, suckling her lower lip. She moaned into his mouth, sending bolts of electricity shooting down his spine. Her hands left his wrists to run through his short hair, making his scalp prickle. He rumbled with pleasure, the sound vibrating deep in his chest, like the thunder rolling outside their window.

Translations: Lao tu tou – old bald guy Wo de lao tian ye – Oh my god Zhen ta ma de – Oh fuck!

Fun facts: Qingdao is the pin yin romanization of Tsingtao, which you may recognize as the name of a Chinese beer company. Qingdao literally translates to “stringed instrument isle”, a reference to the supposed shape of the coastline. The Tsingtao Brewery was originally founded by German colonists in 1903 to provide beer for westerners living in China. Today, the company’s products make up over fifty percent of China’s exports and are the number one branded product to be exported. Like most beers made in China, Tsingtao contains rice but supposedly still tastes like a typical German pilsner however, the author cannot attest to the veracity of that statement as she has not had an opportunity to conduct a proper comparison. The Tsingtao Beer Company

Due to its extensive root system and the hollow water-filled cells that run up and down its trunk, the tree most commonly struck by lightning is the oak tree.

Previous - Prologue | Next - Chapter Two


Sunday, February 22, 2009 3:53 PM


I'm finding this very intriguing so far! Great job!


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When one hears the line "Two men walked into a bar..." it's usually the beginning of a bad joke but for Jayne, it's the sound of his past about to catch up with him. After years on the run, it's finally time for him to settle old scores and confront old enemies. But the only way for him to get out of this alive is to turn to the one person he can count on. A multi-chaptered fic set after Serenity, inspired by the graphic novel and movie, A History of Violence. Rayne. Rated R WARNING: Violence, lots of violence.

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