BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

INSTANTKARMAGIRL

The Girl and Jayne Cobb Part 4
Sunday, August 17, 2008

The conclusion. Now that they're in a pickle, how will River and Jayne survive?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1707    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: The Girl and Jayne Cobb Author: Instant Karma Girl Date: Started July 2008 – Ended August 2008 Words: 45,734 (Entire Story – all parts) Disclaimer: Joss is Boss and I would do nothing to detract from him. He and others own the ‘Verse…I just wish they played in it again. Author’s Note: I haven’t provided translations for the Chinese because they didn’t on the show and if you use your imagination (and a translator), you can get the gist. This is my first Firefly fic. I hope you like it! Thank you Michelle!!

It took another two hours to get her to sit down and when she did, she seemed to be shivering. I pulled her to me, so that she was sitting with her back to me, in between my legs, my arms wrapped around her. Neither of us slept and she jumped at every noise we heard. At first light, we rode Swift Breeze into the desert, against my better judgment.

The noon sun was glarin’ down on us when I made us stop, sheltering us under an overhang for its shade. Except for River’s crazy jabberin’, I thought everything was fine. We’d just stay here until the sun set a little, then keep going, which made more sense than to bake in the super intense sun. But things weren’t fine because everything went black and for a while, the only thing that registered in my mind was the intense pain rolling like waves from my head.

I had no idea how long I was out, but when I was able to open my eyes again, I found the area of the overhang to be in a frightful state and the dark of night had fallen. The filly was still in the same spot but that was because we hitched her to a large rock. But the horse’s whole demeanor was off, she was drooling, her hooves beating against the sand and rock. There was blood all over the place and fear clenched my heart.

Finally my eyes fell on River. I breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn’t dead. She was sitting on her knees, her arms outstretched, her hands palm to palm and on the cheek of a very athletic lookin’ blonde. Both of ‘em looked to be bleeding. I guessed that they fought before they…sat down to read each other’s minds. Damn, this pi hua was beyond my small brain to figure out.

But I didn’t move. I knew enough about survival not to give away an advantage. Very, very quietly, I checked for Vera. The gun was still strapped to me, ready to be used. I watched as the two women were silent and very carefully, I rolled onto my side, flicking the safety off. It was another five or ten minutes before anything happened, and when it did, it started with River taking a deep breath and then it was an explosion of movement.

Suddenly, they were both on their feet, kickin’ and swingin’ their fists at each other. River managed to dodge quite a few of the other’s attack and was able to land a few of her own, but took some damage too. The blonde had a few weapons on her hips and I wondered how long it would take for her to start using them.

Even as I thought it, I saw her hands move to the guns, but so did River. Quickly, River grabbed one for herself. That seemed to neutralize the threat, but the combat continued. Hit her in the throat, I tried to tell River in my mind.

That backfired because River turned to me momentarily, allowing the woman clad all in black to throw a combination of punches and kicks, knocking River back. When the blonde pointed her gun at River, I quickly aimed and shot her. Vera’s my very favorite weapon for a reason. All that was left of the blonde was some of her hair and a lot of guts.

River was covered in the blood of the woman who was going to kill her. I moved to sit up and watched as River jumped up onto her feet. Oh, shit. That look in her eyes wasn’t good. She came stalking towards me and I backed up, finding a way to stand up in the midst of it all.

I tried to block her blow, but she was incredibly quick. “Damn. Girl. I…just…saved… Eta kooram nah smech” The wind was knocked out of me as she hit me with a straight jab to my sternum, then caught my chest with her knee. The safe word I had memorized had failed. I was on the ground, looking up at her and was able to choke out, “River.”

I was incredibly thankful when the look faded from her eyes and her body relaxed before her boot had slammed down on my cheek. She crumbled down next to me. It took a moment for me to recover, but when I did, I sat up, leaning over her. “Hero of Canton,” she whispered. “Hero of River.”

“Who the hell was that?”

“Foxtrot 26. Assassin. From the same program.”

“Came to kill you.” She nodded, then winced, her hand moving to cover her ribs. “You’re hurt.” River nodded again. Pulling her hand away, I saw that her shirt was soaked through. “Musta trained that one good.”

“You’re a healer, Jayne, you just have to remember.”

I snorted. “I can’t heal that,” I said as I lifted the shirt and saw the knife wound. “I ain’t no doctor, River.”

“But your grandmother was a healer. Close your eyes and remember anything she might have taught you.”

I sighed, feeling like it was impossible, but I closed my eyes anyway. I felt River take my hands and place it on her cheek, the other to her palm. I was brought back to when I was a little boy, maybe five or six. I was kneeling in garden next to my grandmother.

River’s hands were taken away and I was brought back to the present, but armed with the knowledge my grandmother once shared. “I can’t leave you.”

River swallowed. “There’s more coming. F26 was just the first.”

“Then I’m definitely not leaving you.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“We rode half a day in the desert. You want me to leave you for that long to look in the woods for something that may or may not be growing there?” I looked at her wound again. “’Sides, it ain’t that bad.”

“Stop lying, Jayne,” she said, trying to keep her voice light. “What we need isn’t in the woods. It grows in the desert.”

Scooping her up in my arms, I stood up. “Fine, but I ain’t leavin’ ya here.” I put her on the filly, who had settled down after the gun firing. Grabbing the rest of our things and loading it up, I set off on foot, leading River and the horse behind me.

It took hours to find the plant I remember my grandmother using. I plucked it out of the sand, not paying any mind to the way its sharp edges cut my hands. I didn’t make River get off the horse. She just lifted her shirt and as I peeled the plant, packing the inner pulp into her wound. “Think we need to sew it up?” I shook my head before she answered. “Doesn’t matter. Not like I got thread in my pack.”

“I’ll be fine, but we need to go now. Another fox is on its way. Now that it sniffed out our location, it will be only a matter of…” Her head cocked to the side and her hand shot out, grabbing my shoulder and damn near pulling me up onto the horse. I hopped up the rest of the way, behind her. No sooner than I slid my arms around her, grabbin’ the reins, did she kick the horse and we took off.

That horse moved quicker than I’d thought possible. I turned and saw a mule racing after us. It was high tech, Alliance la ji che, so I knew it could catch up to us quickly. And ai ya, there were two of ‘em in it. “You need to take these,” I said to her, passing her the reins. My hands found my two pistols. I wasn’t as good of a shot as Mal, but I was good enough, according to River, I was better.

The sun was rising and River was whispering to the horse, urging it to move faster. But no matter how fast that horse ran, that hover mule would over take us any moment. I waited until they were close before I fired, but they fired back and I felt a familiar searing pain in my shoulder and my leg. “Gorramit!” The pain forced me to focus my aim even better. With one shot, I got one of them in the throat. Her body went limp and I watched as the other one shoved the body off the mule. It sped up.

Another shot hit me in the other shoulder. I’d been riddled with bullets before, but I’d always had someone to take ‘em outta me. I heard River’s cry of pain and looked at her for a moment. She was shot in the side. I started wondering how we would survive this. “Don’t worry, Daddy will be here soon,” River said to me. I was losing blood, so I felt light-headed and didn’t think much on her reassurance.

A scream flew from my mouth as a bullet pierced somewhere on my torso. My arms dropped. “Here,” River said, pulling my pistols from my hands. She turned around so that she was straddling me, her head ducking around my body. Instinctively I took the reins. I heard her firing at the mule and the assassin. “Almost there, Jayne Cobb,” she said.

Looking forward all I saw was more desert. If the assassin didn’t get us the dry heat of the desert would. Not to mention the blood flowin’ outta me. There was still a trickle of blood flowing from the head wound I got from the first woman. I felt like passin’ out and when the sky darkened a bit, I thought I had. But instead of seein’ black, I saw Serenity, flying in front of us, its cargo bay doors open, the captain, Zoe, and the doctor all standing close to the edge, hanging on to anything they could.

I felt my legs kick the horse under me, forcing her to move faster. The Firefly slowed just for a moment and soared upwards as soon as the filly had brought us on board. I jumped off the horse, knocking my weapons crate off in the process. I grabbed a handgun and moved quickly to the edge of the ship. I shot off three rounds. I didn’t know how I managed to raise the gun, much less hit the woman in the mule, but I did.

Turning around, I saw Zoe hit the button and closed the hatch. I let my gun fall from my hand and I hobbled over to the horse. Carefully, I pulled River down. She’d lost a lot of blood too from the knife wound and the new gunshot to her side.

I moved to the doctor, his sister in my arms. He just looked at me for a moment. Hatred and anger just rolled off of him. “Just help her, Simon, be pissed at me later,” I growled. The anger seemed to melt and his eyes seem to lighten just a little. I’d never really called him by his name before, musta meant somethin’ to him. I passed River to him and once she was safe in his arms, I turned just slightly, meaning to move away, but I collapsed instead.

When I woke up, I was in the infirmary. Once again, I woke up quietly so that no one knew I was awake. I musta been out much longer than River because she was sitting up, like she was fine, arguing with her brother. “How doesn’t it make sense? The medic and the mechanic, always fixing everything. The companion and the captain, always guiding and taking care of everyone. Why doesn’t the assassin and the mercenary make sense to you? It’s who we are.”

“But you’re so much more than that. You…you’re a genius,” Simon countered.

“Right,” River said sarcastically. “Because Kaylee’s completely on the same intellectual level as you.”

“River.” Simon’s voice seemed to hold a warning. I opened my eyes just a little wider. “Don’t…”

“Simon, Jayne’s not stupid. He’s not an idiot. He didn’t force me to follow him. He protected me, just like you would’ve protected me.” I watched as she moved closer to him, taking his hand and placing it on her cheek and putting her hand on his. Her other hand pressed against his and I knew she was taking him through some of her memories. It was interesting to watch because the look on his face changed from anger to concern and then went blank.

They stayed like that for the better part of an hour. Meanwhile, Mal entered the infirmary and saw that I was awake. I was patched up for the most part, an IV in my arm. The captain glared at me for a moment before moving into my space. “You should’ve *never *taken her off of this ship! You know they need to keep movin’ in order to keep the Feds at bay. We found you because Fan intercepted chatter from the Alliance. That’s how we knew where you were.”

Very carefully, I sat up, wincing at the searing pain that seemed to be wracking my whole body. “I never took her offa this ship! In case you didn’t notice, River makes up her own mind.”

He glanced at River, looked at me, then quickly shot his eyes back to River and Simon. “What are they doing?”

Happy that he was distracted from lashin’ me, I answered, “She’s showin’ him her memories.”

Mal’s brow furrowed. “She can do that?” I nodded and he just shook his head. With his focus back on me, he eyed my wounds. “Got shot up pretty bad back there.”

I sighed. “I know.”

“A lot of pain for a girl you wanted off the ship not so very long ago.”

Trying to shrug, but failing since it hurt so damn bad, I said, “Things can change, Mal.”

Very slowly, he nodded his head. I could tell that his mind was near over run with thoughts on the subject. “That they can.” He turned away from me, towards River and the doctor, leaning back on the table. “That was irresponsible of you to leave the way you did and not return her to the ship.”

“Mal, she’s a super hero, okay? You remember how easy it was for her to take me out at the Maiden’s Head, right? You oughta save the irresponsible speech for her. And as for me, I walked out the way I did for a purpose. I ain’t subject to your will, even if I’m crew on this ship. I’ll follow your lead and when it comes to plans and whatnot, I’ll allow you to lead, hell, I’d even get myself killed followin’ your lead, but I’m not beholden to you and I’ll live my life as I see fit.” Staring at River, remembering our night at the cabin, I said, “I love that girl and if you want River on this ship, you’ll have to have me on this ship, ‘cause as far as I can tell she loves me too, not quite sure why she does though.”

Turning to Mal, I saw him staring at me with a look of disbelief. “I’m not a bad guy, Mal. That’s what I was trying to tell you before. You ain’t never seen me mistreat a woman, have you?”

“No, I reckon I haven’t.”

“And you won’t never see me mistreat that girl.”

Before anything else could be said, River and Simon parted, drawing our attention to them. River looked a little frazzled as she pressed the heels of her hands to her temples. Simon looked at me and I saw none of the anger or condescension of before. “You shouldn’t be sitting up, Jayne.” He moved towards me and put his hands on my shoulders, forcing me back down.

“I’m fine.”

He chuckled. “No, Jayne, you’re not fine. You’ve got a lot of painkillers in you at the moment. I’m sure you feel fine, but the reality is that you nearly died again.”

My eyes moved to River. “She okay?” I asked quietly.

Simon nodded. “She’s good. She heals fast. You did a good job patching that knife wound. Stopped an infection before it started.”

“How long I been out?”

“About a week.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t let me die.”

Peeling back the bandage on my shoulder, he got very close to me, examining the wound. “I told you before that when you’re on my table, you’re safe.” He turned to River and Mal. “Could you wait outside?” It wasn’t until the door closed behind them, that Simon spoke again. “She showed me what happened.”

Well, hell, that could be anything. Did she show him that night in the cabin? “What’d she show you?”

“You protecting her. You nearly killing someone for touching her. You shooting the assassin before she could shoot River. You shielded her with your body while they shot at her. You didn’t have to do that. You could’ve let her go on her own and the others wouldn’t have even bothered with you.” He felt around the wound, making me wince, even through the medicine. His eyes moved from my shoulder to catch my eyes. “She’s too good for you, you know?”

I smiled a little. “Hell, Doc, I know that.”

“She’s had several episodes since being back on the ship.”

“Episodes?”

Simon nodded, stepping back just a little to lean against the counter. “Like before. She’s talking with a flow of words that don’t seem to make sense. She’s talking about foxes and repetition of sounds.”

“Well, that’s easy enough to interpret.” Simon shot me a look. “It’s her generation.” I shifted up, trying to sit up rather than lie down, but it didn’t work. “At the Academy. She was one of the Echo generation and those people who were chasin’ us? They’re Foxtrot.”

“How do you know this? Did River tell you?”

I shook my head. “She showed me, the same way she showed you just a minute ago.”

“What did she show you?”

“A lot,” I sighed. “A lot of what they did to her. I saw some medical charts.”

“Medical charts?” Obviously, he was interested.

“And some of her training. She told me that those assassins were the Foxtrot generation. Makes you wonder how many other generations there are.”

“On the charts, did it list medications?” I nodded. “What were they?”

“I don’t know; it’s not like I had a chance to study it all. I know one was Pax-G-30.”

“Wait, Paxilon Hdrochlorate? That’s what they tested on Miranda.” Simon stopped, putting his finger to chin. “But they used Pax-G-23, which means that there could be other planets like Miranda. The Alliance probably tested each new formula until they got to one people like River could stand.”

“There was a whole list of chemicals she was on, but I can’t remember ‘em all. They were doing a lot of behavior modification or something, implanting muscle memory devices and the like.”

“And River was conscious for all of this?” I shook my head. “So she took you there in her head and you were able to see the things that she couldn’t.” Moving back over to me, he looked down at me. “Do you realize that you’re the key to understanding what’s happened to River?”

He moved back again, this time grabbing the injection gun. He seemed deep in thought as he pulled the trigger, forcing God knew what into me. Musta been more painkillers or a sleep agent, because I became very tired, very fast. “Just so you know, there Doc, I won’t tell you stuff she doesn’t want you to know.”

“What if she doesn’t understand that by keeping things from me, I won’t be able to help her.”

I sighed, my eyes slipping closed. “She don’t need savin’, Simon. All she needs is to figure out how to live with what’s happened.” I slipped into a dreamless sleep.

The next time I woke up, I was alone in the infirmary. I felt groggy and pretty much all of me hurt. Slowly, I sat up, gritting my teeth against the pain. I swung my legs over the edge of the table and rested just for a moment. A wave of nausea swept over me and I grabbed a pan, getting sick into it. Not much came up, prolly hadn’t eaten real food for quite some time. After setting down the pan, my hand moved up to scratch my cheek. There was a good amount of beard there, letting me know I’d been out a while.

Fighting against the nausea and pain, I slid off the table, nearly falling for my efforts. I knew I was prolly supposed to stay put, but I’ve never been good at sittin’ still. Luckily by the door, there was the stick I’d used before as a crutch, so I grabbed it and left the infirmary. It was a mite difficult hoppin’ up the stairs on one leg, but I managed it. I expected to find everyone eatin’ but no one was in the galley. In fact, I couldn’t find anyone in the galley, the bridge, or the cargo bay. I had to hobble back to the passenger dorms to find anyone.

But I found the person I was looking for. “River,” I said, sliding open her door.

A slow smile spread over her face. “Jayne Cobb, the Hero of River!” Her voice was very soft and her speech was slowed and slurred.

Moving into her room, I carefully positioned myself next to her on the bed, then felt my whole body tighten when I saw her wrists bound together. “What’re those?”

She shook her head, small tears seeping from her eyes. “I tried to get the implants out of my skin. I tried to take them out of Simon too, but they said it wasn’t real, that it was my head again and so I had to be careful.” She leaned closer to me, whispering now, “But what that means is controlled. Trying to dam the River before she breaks out and damages the quiet town.”

They had her wrists bound with Simon’s cloth medical restraints; the same restraints that I’d been in before. Gently, I loosened them and slipped her hands out, massagin’ the reddened skin of her wrists. “They left you here by yourself, tied up?” I tried to keep my voice calm for her but inside I was ready to scream.

She shook her head. “Had a job. Had to go. Left Simon and Kaylee behind. Inara had a client. Something went wrong. Simon and Kaylee left. Fan was supposed to stay, but he’s gone too. He left.”

“Well, I’m here now.”

“Wounded though.”

I smiled, extending my aching leg out on the bed, and drawing her back against me. “Not much.”

“Simon will be upset that you’re out of bed.”

“No, I’m in bed, just not the one he left me in.” She laughed a little and grabbed my arms, wrapping them around her. She seemed to relax a little, her breathing smoothing out. “They shouldn’t have left you.”

“It’s okay. I knew you’d be up.”

Rubbing my cheek against her hair and inhaling her scent, I asked, “So what’s going on with you, girl? Your brother says you’re having ‘episodes.’”

“How dramatic,” she said and I could tell she was rollin’ her eyes, even if I couldn’t see them. “I’m not fixed, Jayne.”

“You ain’t broken, though either. Just need to adjust.”

“They’re working on the November generation now. Young ones. Younger than I was. They think it’s better to take them when they’re impressionable, when they’ll still be able to forget their other life.”

“How do you know that?”

“Foxtrot 26 showed me. She showed me things that I’ve seen before. Showed me things that were meant to make me change again. Things that made me try to hurt you again.”

I sighed, tightening my hold on her. “But you stopped it.”

“Maybe a bullet to the head would solve it all.”

“Ai ya! Don’t you say…”

“Everyone can go on with their lives and never have to be in danger from the wild River that reverberates with every move. Everyone would be better off.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“You’re hurt because of me.”

“No, I’m hurt because of the Alliance.”

She shook her head. We sat silent for another hour. Even though I was feeling content just being with her, the underlying anger of her being bound and left alone hadn’t gone away. It was that anger that drove me to leave her room when I heard the noises of the others’ return to the ship. Grabbing my walking stick, I hobbled quickly up and down stairs to get to the cargo bay. Vaguely I was aware of River following quietly behind me.

I heard someone talking to me and then to River, but I ignored everything except getting to the person I felt was responsible for leaving River alone. Towering over Simon, I asked him, “What the hell were you doing?”

“W-what?”

“You left her alone.”

Mal stepped over, trying to save the boy. “He came because we needed him.”

“Kaylee too?”

“Kaylee too.”

I blew out an angry breath. “And Fan. You call him to leave the ship too?”

Mal turned to the pilot and then back to me. “Well, no. He came of his own accord. Not much sense in it, actually.”

Without anything further, I moved over to Fan, forcing the searing pain out of my mind and not caring what kind of damage I did to my body. I picked him up by the front of his shirt and held him up. “What the hell were you thinkin’ leaving her bound like that all by herself?”

He didn’t say anything, he just tried to struggle out of my hold. The captain was yellin’ at me, but I wasn’t listening. Inside my head I heard River say, He called the Alliance. They’re on their way. He was hoping they’d get here before the others returned. He tried to distract them.

That was it, with all of my might, I slammed him down on the ground, and climbed on top of him, using my fists and elbows to bloody him up any way possible. I didn’t really know what I did, but I know I wanted to kill him. I wanted his blood to soak my clothing and I wanted his life to be ended. I heard yelling in the background, but none of it mattered. Fan did his best to defend himself, but even wounded, I was too much for him.

His breathing slowed, almost stopping when I was pulled off of him. I damn near started beatin’ Zoe and Mal, but River’s voice cut through all the anger. It’s done, Jayne Cobb. It’s done. You have to focus.

“What in hell’s going on, Jayne?”

I turned to the Captain, my fists still clenched. “Gorram chou zhu called the Feds, Mal!” His face changed quickly and he turned to River. She nodded to him.

Mal looked at over to the others. “Zoe?”

“It’s done.” Zoe moved to Fan’s near lifeless body and began to haul him towards the cargo doors as Mal ran up the steps, skipping a few along the way.

After I heard the captain’s voice over the com tellin’ us we’d be outta atmo in five minutes, I slumped down against the wall, the pain coming in stronger waves than before. I’m sure I did some damage, not only to Fan but to myself as well. But it was worth it. River and Kaylee moved next to me.

Simon came back from helping Zoe dump Fan and started to check me out. “I’m fine, Doc.”

He gave me a sarcastic look. “You’re not fine.”

Pushing up on my feet and using the leverage, I started to slide up the wall. The pain was near unbearable. “Simon,” River started, “he hurts. He’s all in red and it’s not just the other’s.” Her hand moved to touch my bloody chest. I reached out and grabbed her hand, bringing it to my mouth and giving it a little kiss.

The world was getting a mite dim and quite warm and all I can remember after that was hearing Kaylee’s little yelp as the floor came up and hit me in the face.

I woke up again in the infirmary, the doctor checkin’ my vitals on the wall by my head. “How long was I out?” I croaked out.

“Not that long this time. You lost more blood, but just like last time, Inara shares your blood type.”

“Oh.” Guess I should thank her then. I tried to sit up, but all that produced was a large groan.

“Yeah, you’ll need to stay put for a little while. We’ll move you to your bunk in a few days so you’ll be more comfortable but…”

“Any Feds to deal with?” He shook his head. “How’s our girl?” Simon took a deep breath. I’m sure it’s still a little difficult to get use to his sister being my girl now.

“Good. I mean, she’s been in here every five minutes checking on you, and pacing outside and pulling at her hair, but other than that, she’s good.”

“You shouldn’t have left her.”

His face fell. “No real choice.”

“That ‘Academy’ did horrible things to her while she was bound. Prolly should think of another way next time.”

“She won’t let me give her sedatives, Jayne. I had no other choice but to bind her hands. God knows that I didn’t want to.” Simon moved to look at my wounds. “Just so you know, Fan turned out to be a Fed.”

“Ren zhen?”

Simon nodded. “Zoe and Kaylee found his idents in his bunk. He must have been waiting to turn us in at the right moment.” He shrugged. “Thinking back on it, he did spend a lot of time looking for transmissions while you two were gone. I thought he was just eager to do what the captain asked him, but now I know that he was…”

“Looking to make a name for himself and little bit of money.”

“You know you probably killed him,” Simon pointed out.

I snorted. Not the first Fed I killed with my bare hands. “It’s what I do. And besides, he deserved it. You’da killed him too if you’da known what he did.”

“I didn’t kill you when I found out what you did back on Ariel.”

He had a point. “But you ain’t me either. You were trained to heal people. I’ve spent my life being a hired gun. Whole different perspective there, Doc.”

“River seems to think you’re a healer too.” He sighed. “There’s nothing I can do about you and my sister, Jayne,” Simon said, his voice low and serious. He leaned in close to me. “But I want you to know that even though I’m not as big as you or as experienced in the ways of violence, if I ever even think that you’re a threat to her again, I’ll kill you and I’ll kill you in a way that you’d never expect.”

I couldn’t help but smirk. “I hear ya.” Raising my head, I said, “And if you ever tie her up and leave her with an untrustworthy, good-for-nothing Fed in disguise again, I’ll beat you worse than I beat Fan.”

The doctor held true to his word. I was in the infirmary for about three days before he allowed me to hobble back to my bunk. It hadn’t been said, but I could tell that I’d been accepted back onto Serenity’s crew. Someone put my things back in my old quarters, I imagined that it was Kaylee. In all the days in the infirmary, River hadn’t been in to see me. Every now and then I’d think I saw her peekin’ in at me, but other than that, nothing.

It wasn’t until the night after I moved back into my bunk that I saw her again. Still feelin’ shiny from those smoothers the doc gave me, I smiled lazily when she entered, using the hatch instead of the air vents. “Hey, girl,” I said, my words drawn out like I was drunk on rice wine.

“You killed Fan.”

“He was a Fed and turnin’ you in.” Why were we talkin’ about this? Why was it even a subject that we were discussing? “Why ain’t you come to see me sooner?”

“Foxtrot.”

I waited for a moment, but when she didn’t expand on the issue, I prompted, “Foxtrot, what?”

“Triggers. I could have killed you.”

“You didn’t though.” I noticed how she stayed at a distance from me. “Come here, girl.” She shot me a look. “River,” I said softly. “Come here.” Slowly, she inched her way over to the bed and gasped when I reached out and grabbed her hand. “You didn’t kill me and you’re a lot stronger than them triggers.”

“Your judgment’s cloudy. I can make myself fight with accuracy without the triggers but there are things imbedded in me that I cannot even comprehend. Foxtrot showed me that.” Finally she allowed me to pull her down to sit next to me on the bed. “There are many more, you know? More Foxes to November.”

It took my slow mind a moment to figure it out, but when I did, I asked, “They have all the way to November generation?” She nodded. “What are they doin’ with all of them?”

“Meddling,” was all she said. Gently, she laid down, cradling her head on my good shoulder. “She’s having the dreams again and her head is so full it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.” Gorram it, I hated it when she spoke about herself like that. “She isn’t right, you know?”

“Don’t start that pi hua, River. You’re not crazy, no matter how nuts you act.”

“Simon wants to start the medicines again. Wants to push needles into her. Wants to dig around in her brain until he figures it all out. Break it down into the smallest unit possible, piece it back together like a chun ou yin zi to see if it works right again. Daddy keeps saying that he can do anything he wants and what does she get? Punished like the dog and Kaylee doesn’t treat her the same, dancing around the girl like she’s poison. There’s no pattern in this fate, it’s random, it’s all random and her brain feels like…”

That was enough of all of that. “Shhhh! You need to calm down there little River. You’re safe on Serenity now. Your brother’s just tryin’ to take care of you the best he knows how.” I felt her tears soak my shirt.

“When will the sky be light again? Light like when she was awake?”

Not understanding, I stayed silent, just trying to comfort her as best I could without being able to wrap my arms around her. After a while, I fell asleep. I woke up to Kaylee sayin’ my name. I looked around but it was just Kaylee and me in my bunk. “Where’s River?” I asked groggily.

“In her room, I suppose?” Kaylee slid her hand under my back and lifted up, helping me to sit. “Simon says you’re supposed to get up and walk now.” I groaned and Kaylee just laughed. “Don’t want a repeat of what happened before, do we?”

I took in a deep breath. “That means I gotta climb up that ladder, don’t it?” She nodded and then all of the sudden pulled me up. I was able to contain my yelp of pain, but just barely. “Sorry. But it might interest you that it’s chow time.”

It took all the energy I had to make it up that gorram ladder, but I did it, with little Kaylee cheerin’ me on from below. By the time I made it to the galley, I felt dizzy and weak. All I wanted to do was flop down in one of the soft chairs of the common area, but Dr. By-the-Book decided that I needed some actual food in my stomach. My stomach agreed and I sluggishly ate the protein set before me.

To start, there was some light conversation goin’ on around me. My eyes were glued to the plate because I lacked the energy to do much else. But when I heard mention of River, I looked up, for the first time noticing that she wasn’t at the table. “Where is she? She flyin’?”

Mal shook his head. “No. We got auto-pilot on.”

“Little one’s taken to hiding herself away where no one can find her,” Zoe explained. “She usually turns up right after we all get worried.”

Carefully, I stood up, grabbed the stick, then began to walk away from the table. Kaylee stood up to help me move, but I held out my hand to stop her. I felt everyone’s eyes on me as I left. I musta looked something pitiful, limpin’ out, grunting with every step.

It took awhile, but I finally made it to the cargo hold, behind the control panel. When I entered River’s secret room, I found her there, huddled in a corner, arms wrapped around her legs, rocking a little bit. “What you doin’ in here, River?”

“Quiet,” she whispered.

“Sorry,” I said, keeping my voice down as I tried to gracefully enter the small compartment. I thought I pulled a few stitches. So much for grace.

“Not you. Here. Here it’s quiet and it’s only my mind.” She raised her eyes, stopped rocking and watched me struggle closer to her. “I’m fearful, Jayne Cobb.”

“Of what? You’re back on Serenity now.”

“You nearly died for me. Like Book and Wash. They can come for me at any minute. They will kill anyone in their way. I’m afraid of going back and afraid of never being normal again.” She buried her head in her arms and began to rock again. “And if I’m never normal again, I would probably be better off going back, but I don’t want to.”

“My Ma used to say that when fear grips at you so tightly that you can’t breathe from your lungs, that you should try breathin’ from your heart. That brain of yours is on overtime. Let it be quiet and tell me what your heart knows.”

River just looked at me for a moment. “My heart says I’m safe. I’m safe with Jayne Cobb.” I smiled, then reached out to touch her. She stilled the moment my finger tips grazed her hand. Looking up, she nibbled on her lower lip. “You’re a good shot, Jayne. If they come for me, if they take me, you’ll shoot me square in the head.”

The thought made me want to vomit and I could feel my face contort at the words. “Jesus, River, I…”

“You’ll do it. You’ll do it because it’s the right thing to do and because you love me.”

“They ain’t gonna get you. And if it comes to me having to kill you, then the whole ‘Verse just went all crazy like ‘cause you’ll have killed all of ‘em. You killed all them Reavers, you can kill a couple Feds.”

My painkillers were wearin’ off and I was starting to feel every ache inside my big ole bruised and battered body. As much as I wanted to comfort her more, I couldn’t. My head began to spin as my eyes slipped close. “Girl.” I took a breath. “My River girl? Do me a favor and find that genius doctor brother of yours. I think I’m gonna…” And once again, my whole world went black.

I knew I was out, that there was something wrong with my body and even though I should’ve been sleeping, I could hear voices.

He’ll need a new shoulder…have to head to Asclepios for the part.

He’s red, all in red.

…A friend on…owes me.

The voices outside of me faded, but inside it was loud. Dreams assaulted me left and right, although most of them were less of dreams and more of remembrances. I couldn’t say how many of those I had until I started speakin’ with my sister. She looked to be about twenty, an age she never got to, but I knew it was her. “What are you doin’ here, Jayne?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know. Where am I?”

“You’re not supposed to be here yet. Are you wandering?”

I laughed just a little. “Been wanderin’ most my life, Sarah.” She smiled and I remembered how beautiful she was. I never had pictures of her, so there were times I couldn’t remember what she looked like. But in this instant of seeing her, I remembered every single facial expression she’d ever had.

“You don’t have to wander. You have family to take care of.”

The smile faded from my face. “I do what I can. Ma…”

She smiled at me, her arm extending out to me, her hand grasping mine. “Not them. Ma and Matt aren’t far behind. There’s no real need for to fuss over them much.”

It took me a moment to really understand what she was saying. “So this is…”

Sarah didn’t let me finish my question; she just nodded and smiled. “And you’re early.”

“Got all shot up.”

“It’s time,” she said. “Time to go, Jayne.” Her hand slipped outta mine, even though I tried to hold onto it as hard as I could. “Go, Jayne.”

She faded from my view. My eyes fluttered open. There was light beyond the darkness. I heard someone talking, no…someone was chanting. Carefully, I sat up and found myself in a tent of some kind, fire burning in the middle, a large pot of water on the fire. Steam blurred my vision. When my eyes found an old man, the one who was chanting, I asked, “What the hell is this?”

The chanting stopped. “You have been dancing with ghosts, Tall Elm.” His voice was thick and accented, his words slow and deliberate.

“Where’s the captain? Where’s Serenity and Riv…”

“They are not here,” he said. He musta seen the look on my face because he went on to explain. “They have not abandoned you. The cargo they carry is too precious to stay still.” The cargo? Did they do a job while I was out? “The small package with great power.”

Suddenly I knew what he was talking about. River. Can’t just keep still when the Feds were out to find her. “When will they be back?”

“They will come back when we are finished here.”

I tried to stand up. My body hurt and I hit my head on the top of this enclosure. I sat back down. “What exactly are we doing here that needs finishin’?”

“You are healing. You are a fine warrior, but you need to heal or the council will expect you sooner than anticipated.”

His words reminded me of the dream of my sister. She said it wasn’t time. Was this guy talking about the same thing she was? “I’m feelin’ pretty shiny.”

The man started laughing. “You have come a great distance, Tall Elm, but you have much to go.”

My stomach growled. “Got any chow in this sweat box?” He helped me up and together we made our way out of the sweat lodge into the bright sunshine of mid-day. The man introduced himself as Tom Wildfeather. As I ate, he busied himself with rotating my shoulder. I grunted every now and then when the pain got too much, but for the most part, I concentrated on the food.

Tom was an unusually nice man who said he’d owed Mal a favor, which is why he’d taken to healin’ me. I spent the better part of two weeks in the steam lodge and out moving my body in all of the normal ways. I didn’t know exactly how long I’d been out of commission, but it had to have been a while. My muscles weren’t working the same ways as before.

I started with simple walking and worked myself into sprints. My shoulder, while painful, moved in all the ways it needed to, but my upper body muscles didn’t seem to be able to support it in the same ways. Tom said it’d be a while until I could do any pull ups or bench presses with it.

I did, however, practice throwing knives and axes with it. My aim was still good. Tom was a man of few words but when he did speak, they were all deep and meaningful things. He reminded me of Shepherd Book in that way.

I tried to keep my mind off of River. I knew she was fine, floating around that boat. Hell, prolly drivin’ it since Fan was…no more. No matter how hard I tried, it was driving me crazy not to see her. I’d gotten so used to her being with me; it was odd without her. Just about the time I was getting really antsy, Serenity set down.

I stood back for a moment and let the cargo doors open before walking slowly up to the ship that’d been my home for many years now. Tom followed me, walking straight to the captain and clasping hands with him. I eyed the crew, all standing in the bay, waiting to jump off the ship, noticing that River was not among them. “Jayne,” Mal said, turning to me and extending his hand.

I grabbed it by the forearm and gave him as strong of a shake as possible. “Captain.”

“You’re looking fit.” His eyes roamed down to my feet. “Well, at least better than when we dropped you here.” He turned back to Tom. “Thank you for your work.”

“River. Where’s River?” The captain turned back to me, but did not respond. I moved over to Simon and Kaylee. “She okay?”

Kaylee smiled, but it wasn’t a real smile. Simon nodded at my shoulder. “Looks good. How does it feel?”

“Like a gorram shoulder. Is River okay?”

“She’s in her room,” he said. “She’s…” his voice faded from my mine as I walked through the ship towards the passenger dorms.

Sliding open her door, I found her on her bed, knees tucked under her chin. When she looked up, I could tell that she’d been away. She’d been somewhere else in her mind when I walked in, but as soon as her eyes locked with mine, she came back. Quickly, I found my arms full of River, her breath on my neck sending shivers down my spine. “You were all in red. Red forever, not happy yellow, but red, red enough to spin out of this…”

“Shhhh, girl. You’re making my head hurt already,” I said, keeping my voice light. I pulled her back away from me for a moment. “What’s up with you?”

“Thought you were gone. Couldn’t hear you anymore. Ghosts dancing around in the sky talking about Jayne like he was one of them.”

I smiled at her rush of words. “Takes more than a few ghosts to get rid o’ me, girl, you should know that.”

“Couldn’t hear you,” she repeated.

I shrugged. “I wasn’t on the ship, so I…” She flung herself at me again, her fingers diggin’ into my shoulders. Gritting my teeth, I tried not to express the pain she was causin’ me. “River,” I almost whispered to her. I hadn’t known that my voice could be so soft.

She moved back, her eyes wet. My hands moved up to her face, one dryin’ her eyes and the other cupping her chin. “You were almost gone.”

“I’m back now,” I said, my eyes searchin’ hers. How could this girl do this to me? Make me care about something other than money and myself. I let my arms slip around her waist and brought her close to me. I kissed the line of her jaw. Her breathing sped up and suddenly I was kissin’ her full on the mouth. My mind instantly went back to the night we shared in that old cabin and I was sure that she was thinkin’ of that too. Her fingers kneaded the flesh of my back and on instinct, my hands were pullin’ up the hem of her dress. Close the door, she said inside my head.

I pulled away just slightly, my eyes searchin’ hers. “You ain’t worried about your brother comin’ in?”

“Not worried about anything other than how many pieces of fabric are standing in the way of my skin touching yours.”

“Damn,” I said under my breath as I moved to shut the door quickly. Although my body wasn’t completely healed, I forgot about the pain as I took River into my arms again, electrified by the feel of her.

It was about an hour later when we emerged from the ship, her small hand in mine. I could feel their eyes on us, but I didn’t care. She was mine and they would have to accept that and if they couldn’t I would save enough to buy our own ship. Glancing at Simon, I could tell he was still having a hard time with the concept of a man like me touchin’ on his pristine sister, the girl he’d put on a marble pedestal and vowed to protect. I’d prolly feel the same too. Mal looked a touch uneasy too, but they’d have to get used to it or we’d leave again.

We ate supper with Tom and his family around a fire that night and broke atmo just before dawn the next day. I had given Tom my sincerest thanks for healing me. The ways of his people were close to the ways of my grandmother and the healers back home. River took her place up on the bridge, setting the course for whichever planet or moon held the next job and I paid a visit to the doctor. It wasn’t voluntary. He wanted to see how I had healed.

“How’s the shoulder?” he asked when I sat down on the table.

“Better. What’d you do to it?”

He picked up my arm and started rotating it and pushing against my shoulder. “Replaced it. The part cost an arm and a leg but it’s top of the line.” Narrowing his eyes, he added, “Just don’t get shot again and it’ll last the rest of your life.”

“Well, can’t promise anything, given my profession.” As he continued to move my body into strange positions, I decided he needed to share some information with me. “So why did you and Kaylee act all strange like when I asked about your sister? What’s been going on?”

Simon backed away, leaning against the counter like he usually did. “She’s just been slipping.”

I knitted my brow. “Slippin’?”

“Her recovery,” he started, nodding slowly, his eyes sliding away from mine. “She’d been doing so good after Miranda, but now, she seems to be reverting to the state she was in when I first took her away from the Academy.”

“Well that other one prolly triggered her in some way. And even if not, it’s gotta trip that girl’s brain to think of all the other kids they did the same thing to. I’m sure it’s painful for her to think about the other kids who are being tormented as we speak.”

He put his fingers to his lips. “I just don’t know what to do for her. She won’t let me give her anything and there are times when she’s just erratic. Kaylee’s been a little frightened of her and honestly, I have as well. In fact, I don’t think there’s a person on this ship that’s not afraid of her.”

“Well, I ain’t.”

Simon’s eyes locked onto mine. “She could kill you. She could kill you like she killed all those Reavers.”

I hopped down from the table, pullin’ on my shirt as I went. “I know she could. But she won’t. She coulda killed me back on Hathor, but she didn’t. She stopped herself.” I stretched my upper body, happy that it was almost back to normal. “River ain’t a killer ‘cause she wants to be. She’s a killer ‘cause they made her one. She won’t hurt anyone on purpose.”

“Last year it was me saying that and you telling me that it wasn’t a comfort.”

“Funny how things change,” I said, dryly. “Look, Doc, your sister ain’t ever gonna be the little girl that played soldiers with you and corrected your spellin’. She’s something different now. She can tell you’re afraid of her and that ain’t helpin’ at all.” I took a deep breath as I touched a few of his medical tools. “And Kaylee ain’t helpin’ none either.”

Simon stood up straight. “Now don’t…”

I held my hands up to stop him. “I ain’t saying nothin’ bad about Kaylee. Never would, but she’s River’s only friend. Everyone else is something else to her and she needs just a girl friend that understands her.”

“But Kaylee doesn’t understand her. I barely understand her.”

I sighed. This conversation was bordering on annoying now. “Try harder,” was all I said before walking out of the infirmary. I made my way up to the bridge and found River in Wash’s chair, her legs folded underneath her. She was starin’ out into the black. “You have to stay up here all day?”

“I like the darkness of space, it’s like moving though nothing.” I moved next to her, placing my hand on her neck and she leaned back so that her head rested in my palm. “Clean bill of health?”

“Got me a new shoulder.”

She looked up and smiled. “I know.”

“Can you put this thing on auto?” I asked, motioning to Serenity.

“I enjoy being here. Wash comes in from time to time, checking on things.”

I ignored that in favor of saying, “We didn’t get much sleep, thought we could go…”

“She isn’t normal. Everyone’s frightened. In fact, I don’t think there’s a person on this ship that’s not afraid of her,” she said, echoing her brother’s words.

“Well, I ain’t. Come on.” I pulled her until she was standing, scooping her up into my arms. I didn’t set her down until I was in front of my bunk. Pushing the hatch open, I watched her descend before me, and then I followed. My bed was small, but big enough for me to sleep on my back with her laying on top, covering me.

Zoe woke us up for dinner. It was nice being back amongst them, even though I didn’t trust ‘em much. But that was only fair; they didn’t trust me either. The only thing better would’ve been Book and Wash sittin’ there with us. They are, River’s voice echoed in my head, sending shivers and chills down my spine.

After dinner, we sat in the common area, me in the seat and River on the floor. I brushed her hair. It was so simple of an act, but she seemed to really enjoy it, as did I. Whenever anyone went by, they seemed to look confused at the sight, but then went about their business.

The next few days went by without much incident. We wouldn’t be settin’ down for a while accordin’ to the captain. River seemed better than what they’d told me she was. Until one day I was liftin’ weights, trying to regain the muscle that I’d lost, I heard a loud crash coming from the passenger dorms. I quickly set the weight on the bar and moved towards the noise. It wasn’t coming from the dorms, it actually came from the infirmary.

River stood there throwing pans and blunt objects at her brother. I had to keep myself from laughing at the doctor, trying to wait out the storm with a hypo in his hands. “No sleeping!” River yelled as Simon moved closer to her. She struck out, trying to knock the needle from his hands.

“I’m not going to put you out, mei mei. I just…” His words were stopped by the metal tray hitting him in the face.

“What’re ya tryin’ to give her?” I asked once he’d recovered and backed away. “Just something to calm her. She’s been going on all day about Mike and Oscar in November. I don’t even…”

“It’s military alphabet. It’s generations of assassins at the Academy. She said the one from the Foxtrot gen showed her that they were on November, so…” I looked over to her, she had crawled up on the counter, her knees to her chest, shaking all over.

I grabbed the hypo and moved to her. She started shaking her head, her eyes full of betrayal. “I ain’t gonna hurt ya, River. It’s not going to make you sleep, I swear on my Ma, dong ma? It’s just going to calm you down a little.”

“Like the PAX?”

I nodded. “Like the PAX. Only without the gorram assholes wantin’ to hurt you.”

“Make me quiet? Quiet in my head?”

“Yeah. It’ll make you relax a little. Make it easier for you to find the quiet.”

“And then we’ll dance,” she said, smiling widely.

I carefully stuck her with the medicine. “You can dance, girl. Not me, remember?”

The smile faded and a tear slipped from her eye. “I’m not an animal. I don’t need to be put to sleep.”

“Just relax and clear that overworked noggin of yours, okay?” She took a breath and nodded. “Let’s go get some tea,” I suggested, picking her up in my arms when she nodded.

“And dance.”

I just chuckled.

There were many more days like that and many days opposite of that. I figured we’d have to do a few more missions before River calmed down again. Maybe even have to lead some kind of rebellion at that Alliance school. But for the most part things were good for me with River. I seemed to be the only one she really responded to when she got like that.

But as I watched her dancing the cargo hold, weeks after we set out from Tom’s moon, her blue skirt swirling around her, I shook my head. It was amazing to think about how quickly things change in the unchangeable black of space. Unlike before, this time I could hear the symphony she was dancin’ to because it was playing in my head too.

Every now and then I would catch her lookin’ up at me, a wide smile on her face. She was tellin’ me to join her and I would tell her that I didn’t dance.

But just like the night before and the night before that, after a while I would go down and dance with her.

But only when there was no one else around, when it was dark and late at night and when she could just be my girl and I could just be Jayne Cobb.

River, not the girl, she reminded me as I slowly descended down to her. She was light in my arms and no matter how dark the sky got, I could always see when she was around.

~**~ Fin. (Thanks for the support on my first Firefly Fanfic, everyone!)

COMMENTS

Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:44 PM

JANE0904


I think you've hit on an intruiging storyline here, with River able to show Jayne parts of her - and his - memory. And the idea of Foxtrot to November ... will you take this further? I hope so.

As for this last part, I'm glad that everyone understands, finally. And I love the last line.


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