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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Jayne and Kaylee set out to establish a new life together when Mal joins the Rebellion that follows the Miranda announcement. The big man must reconsider his solemn vow to Kaylee to hang up his guns when Alliance raiders hit the rim world of Ezra.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1204 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Title: Taking Up Arms – Part 3 of 3
Rating: PG-15 for Adult language, violence
Characters/Pairing: Crew, ofc, omc. Jayne/Kaylee, minor references to Mal/Simon.
Timeline: One year post BDM; seven years later.
Disclaimer: All belong to Joss. I got nada.
Word Count, Part Three: 3,335
A/N; During the American Civil War, a group of soldiers-turned-outlaws called Quantrell’s Raiders terrorized the Kansas-Missouri area. This story was inspired in part by their impact on the settlers of that region. Originally written for the Summer_of_Jaylee community at LiveJournal with the prompts ‘sun’ and ‘water’. If you read and enjoy this story, please take just a minute to let me know. Hover for translation.
Taking Up Arms
Jayne was carefully making his way up a dry gulch toward the rocky overhang where he anticipated being able to get a glimpse of the situation below. He wasn’t sure what he might see, but every hunch he had was telling him the bastards who took his girls would be holdin’ 'em there. The narrow trail petered out, leaving him with a flat face of rock to traverse. His keen eyes scanned the rock face for any grooves or handholds. Satisfied he had a route he could work with, he slipped his rifle strap over his head and shoulder and balanced the weapon against his back. He hated heights, always had, but this was the only way he knew to reach where he needed to go. As he turned to begin the tenuous journey across, he thought he heard soft movement behind him. Was it a lizard scuttling on the rock or someone following him?
Slinging the rifle into firing position, he spun quickly, only to have the barrel halted in its arc by an iron-hard grasp. If the late Shepherd Book himself had appeared on the trail before him, Jayne could have been no less surprised. Before him stood River Tam. His jaw dropped open and his expression was one of utter bewilderment.
“River?” The word emerged from him in a stunned whisper and he raised his weapon to rest against his shoulder. “What in the gorram hell are you doin’ out here?”
She stepped closer and spoke very softly. “Mal and Zoe and I are tracking the men who abducted Kaylee and Maddie. We need to work together. Come with me and we’ll tell you what we know.”
The big man just shook his head in astonishment. The girl had filled out some, lean and muscular, her long dark hair neatly braided in a single plait, but otherwise was much as when he’d last seen her seven years before.
“Come now. We don’t have much time.” She turned and he followed.
“I’m tellin’ you, this ain't somethin’ I can fix.” Kaylee pointed at the torn metal and burnt wiring as Briggs and Foxy looked on skeptically.
Briggs hunkered down and scowled at where Kaylee was pointing. “You’re just stalling," he growled. “Fix the goddamn array.”
“I ain't makin’ this up, mister. Your ship’s shields musta been faulty, ‘cause this array took a micrometeorite at some point. Tore right through some of the circuitry and punched a hole in your dish.”
“There’s gotta be some way you can run a bypass, rig up some kind of alternate circuit.”
Kaylee shook her head. Why did folks always figure mechanics were also magicians? “Nope. I know you said you’re in a big-ass hurry, although I got no clue as to why, but I can’t help you. You’re gonna need a new dish and it’d be best to put in a whole new transmitter module at the same time. You can get what all you need from the shipyard at Bodeena. They’ll send a repair crew and all the parts you need out by shuttle overnight.”
The raider captain glowered at her. “And how in the hell am I supposed to be able to call ‘em?”
“I think I can at jury-rig a local radio for you,” she offered uncertainly, looking down at Maddie’s grubby little face far below. “I'll rig the radio and you can put in your call and then just let me take one of the horses so’s I can get my little girl home.” She wanted to reassure them that she was no threat. “Look, we ain't even got a Cortex link at the house. You’ll be long gone before we’d have any way to put in a call about you.”
Briggs and Foxy stood and moved a short distance away. “Maybe she’s right, Cap'n,” Foxy offered. “Sure isn’t a repair I’d have any idea of how to tackle. I know you’re worried about those Indies tracking us, but with our array down, they shouldn’t have any way to locate us. Besides, her kid’s scared to death and we got no cause to hurt these two.”
Briggs studied his crewman. Foxy was only a mediocre mechanic and not an especially good fit with the rest of the gang. Soft, he was. Briggs didn’t care for soft. He considered what Foxy had said and sucked through his teeth. “Alright then," he barked at Kaylee. “Get a radio rigged and be fast about it.”
He’d deal with the woman and child once the call to Bodeena had been made. Maybe even deal with Foxy, too.
“Told ya she’d find him,” Mal elbowed Zoe as River and Jayne came around a bend in the trail.
Zoe nodded. “That you did, sir.”
River stepped aside and Jayne stuck out a beefy paw and shook Mal’s hand. “Damn, it’s good to see ya, Mal. You too, Zoe.”
Mal studied his ex-gunhand. Jayne’s dark, unruly hair and goatee were graying and the blacksmithing and farrier’s work had added even more muscle to the big man. “I guess River’s filled you in.”
Jayne glanced at the young woman. “Just that you know these gorram gan ni niang have Kaylee and Maddie and you’re after 'em, too.”
Mal nodded. “After the Rebellion, some ex-Alliance men banded up in raiding parties. Hit ships or settlements, raping and killing the folk and then takin’ whatever they want. We’ve been commissioned to help bring ‘em in, see that they get a proper trial for what all they’ve done. This guy we’re dealin’ with now – Briggs is his name – is one of the worst. Their ship’s down in that canyon up ahead. Some kind of mechanical problem.”
Mal’s words confirmed Jayne’s greatest fears. “They killed a local man back toward Doughton an’ took his horse. Musta heard about Kaylee and grabbed her and my daughter while I was on my way back from town. Took one a my horses, too.” He stared down at the ground. “I been trackin’ 'em. Figured to get a better look at the situation and then get my girls back.” When he looked back up at Mal, his eyes were black with fury. “We find them sumbitches, Mal – I swear I’ll kill every goddamn one of 'em.”
Jayne turned on River, desperate to know whether his family was safe. “Girl, you got anything on Kaylee and Maddie? Can you tell… if they’re all right?”
“They are. The child is frightened. Kaylee, too, but both are unharmed at this time.”
Zoe laid a hand on Jayne’s shoulder. “We understand how you feel, Jayne. Are you familiar with the area?”
“Hell yeah. I come huntin’ up here whenever I can.”
“Then take a look at this and help us figure out our best access.” Zoe knelt and unrolled the topo map. The other three crouched close, studying the concentric lines that indicated shifts in elevation.
Jayne pointed out the rocky overhang he’d been headed for. “This here’s the best place to look down on ‘em. Plenty of cover for a sure shot.” He glanced pointedly across at River, who smiled softly. Trailing a callused finger along, he pointed to a steep rill. “It’s rough goin', but that’ll get you down to the canyon bottom. They won’t see you until you’re close enough to ring the doorbell.”
Kaylee rubbed her tired eyes and wiped the sweat from her face with the back of her wrist. The lowering sun glared off the back wall of the canyon, turning the metal hull of the Norton into a skillet. It was hard enough trying to focus under those conditions, much less without all the right tools and supplies. Didn’t help that Hal Briggs was standing over her with a loaded gun.
She glanced sidelong and was grateful to see that the man charged with watching Maddie – had Briggs called him Lonnie? – had shifted position to keep them both in the shade. Maddie was seated, busily drawing pictures in the dirt with a stick she’d found. Her guard stood near, alert but more relaxed.
As Kaylee’s nimble fingers pulled wires and cannibalized circuit boards, her mind was occupied with thoughts of Jayne. Upon arriving home, he’d wonder where in the world they were. He’d hear Book barking and with any luck, was already tracking them. The thought of her husband brought with it the sense of warmth and safety she always felt around him.
But what if it was just him against Briggs and all his crew? She’d gathered there were four – bad odds at best. She considered Jayne’s oath never again to shoot a man and for once hoped it was a promise he’d break if necessary.
She soldered a couple of final connections and looked up at Briggs. “Have somebody give it a try. Won’t get much range but you should be able to call out to Bodeena and make arrangements with the shipyard for service.”
After scrambling the last dozen feet up and over the huge boulders at the canyon’s edge, Jayne and River flattened themselves so as not to give away their presence. Using the scopes on their rifles, they scanned the scene below. The battered Norton took up much of the canyon floor; nearby stood two individuals.
Jayne’s eye was drawn immediately to his daughter’s small form, shifting from foot to foot, her wrist clasped firmly by a lanky guard. Although the wind blew away any sound, Jayne could tell from Maddie’s body language that she was hot and tired and probably needed to pee.
But where was his wife? “You see Kaylee anywheres?” he whispered to River.
“She’s in the ship. Made a radio.” River felt the anger and anxiety pouring off her former shipmate in waves. “Don’t worry, Jayne. Kaylee’s strong and clever.”
“I know that. Don’t mean somethin’ bad won’t happen. You gettin’ anything from Mal and Zo?” Jayne asked apprehensively. What if they went charging in and his wife or child was hurt or killed?
“Almost down to the canyon floor now. Be patient.” River looked at him compassionately. “The Captain will radio once they’re in position.”
“OK…” Jayne said, glancing back down at Maddie. “We’ll wait.” It was clear he didn’t want to. He studied the lithe young woman next to him. “You’re all growed up.” He sounded almost surprised.
“Yes. I am an adult. And you are a father. We have both changed.”
Jayne nodded. “That’s true enough. Your brother still with Mal’s crew?”
River smiled brightly. “Partners now. It’s good for both of them and makes me happy.”
Jayne’s eyes widened. “Simon an’ Mal are… together?” River nodded. “Well I’ll be damned. Now that’s an interesting turn of events.”
The conversation was cut short by the soft crackle of the radio on River’s hip.
She held it close to her ear and nodded, then replied, “Got it. Out.”
“The Captain says that they’re as close to the entry to the ship as they can get without being seen and he can get a clear shot at the one holding Maddie if necessary.”
Foxy removed his earbug and looked up at Briggs. “The repair skiff from the Bodeena ship yard’ll be here before noon tomorrow, Cap'n. I filled ‘em in on what she said we’d need,” he pointed at Kaylee, “and they figure they’ll have us off-world by nightfall tomorrow.”
It was apparent from the raider captain’s expression that he wasn’t happy with this solution, but he nodded.
Kaylee appealed once more to Briggs. “You ain't got no reason to hold me and my daughter now, mister. Please let us go so we can get home before dark.”
Briggs considered the situation. He’d concluded that he’d have to put up with Foxy until he could line up a tougher, more skilled mechanic. The woman had done all she could and was no longer any use to him. In fact, now she and her kid were in the way but that was simple enough to resolve.
“Lay in a course for Whitefall,” he told Foxy. “I want us off this hell hole as soon as the repairs are done.”
“Will do, Cap'n.”
Briggs grabbed Kaylee’s upper arm and yanked her toward the hatch before nudging her down the stairs ahead of him. She wasn’t bad looking, to his way of thinking. Maybe they’d enjoy her for awhile. He and Lonnie would take her and her brat away from the ship, maybe down one of the side canyons. That way they could do what they pleased and not have to clean up afterwards. Wouldn’t do for the repair crew to see the bodies.
River tilted her head, her eyes again distant as she psychically scanned the situation below. Refocusing, she spoke softly into her radio. Jayne studied her with hawk-like intensity as she made her report.
“Captain – we have one crewman on the bridge and another in the ship’s galley. Briggs has Kaylee and they’re on their way to the main hatch. And Captain…” she glanced at Jayne again, “he has a gun on her.”
“Dammit!” Jayne muttered, glancing from his daughter to the ship and back. God in heaven, both Kaylee and Maddie at risk and him unsure who to shoot first.
Sensing his dilemma, River gently touched his shoulder. “The Captain says he will take out the man holding Maddie. He’ll be very careful, Jayne. It’s a clear shot.”
“He damn well better be careful,” the big man growled. He had no choice but to trust Mal so he turned back to the scope on his rifle, training the thirty-ought-six on the entry to the Norton and waiting for a clear shot at Kaylee’s captor. When Briggs emerged from the shadowy belly of his ship, he had Kaylee directly in front of him, her head mere inches from his own.
“He’s too fuckin’ close.” Jayne snarled. “I can’t get a clear shot. What if I…”
Beside him, River centered her crosshairs on the raider captain’s head, then whispered into the open radio, “Now!”
A single ‘pop’ echoed cross the dusty canyon and Lonnie dropped to the ground like a stone. Maddie stood stunned and openmouthed, gaping at the body that suddenly lay next to her in the dust. Briggs immediately glanced toward the movement and before Jayne could even take advantage of his shift in position, River nailed the raider captain with a deadly round that carried him backwards and away from Kaylee.
The mechanic dashed down the Norton’s ramp to throw her arms around her terrified daughter. In the wake of the previous events, it didn’t even seem surprising when Mal and Zoe emerged from the sheltering rocks. Zoe put an arm around Kaylee and told her, “Get moving back down the canyon, in case somebody comes to check out all the fuss. Cap'n an’ I need to finish this up. And Kaylee, Jayne was up on the cliff, coverin’ you.”
Kaylee looked up, scanning the canyon walls for her husband, but by then Jayne and River had begun the long climb down. “Thanks, Zoe. I mean it. We’ll see you once this is over, won’t we?” Kaylee glanced down at Maddie’s tawny head and hugged her daughter more tightly. “It’s been too long.”
“That it has. Now get a move on, before Jayne blows a gasket frettin’ over you.”
The house was filled with the chatter of female voices, young and older. “Too many hens in there,” Jayne laughed and ushered Mal out onto the back porch.
Mal looked out across the meadow behind Jayne and Kaylee’s house to where the shuttle sat. It was satisfying to know that his old friends had made such a good life for themselves. “You’ve got a mighty fine place here, Jayne. I know a lot of hard work’s gone into it and it’s good to see you and Kaylee doing well. And Maddie? Well, she’s a heartbreaker already…”
Jayne turned and interrupted Mal with a hand to his shoulder. His eyes were full of gratitude. “Look, Cap'n, I just wanna say thanks for savin’ my girls. No way I could have made those shots and frankly, I don’t know what I’da done if you and Zo and River hadn’t shown up. Don’t rightly want to think about it, if you wanna know the truth.” He bowed his head and stood quietly for a moment. “About us decidin’ to leave…”
Mal shook his head. “Don’t even start, now. You done what you needed to. We missed you both but everyone understood. We were lucky to come through the Rebellion safely, and you folk here on Ezra were lucky the fightin’ never made it to this quadrant.” He looked out across the billowing grass, a contented smile creeping across his face. “This is good, Jayne. This is what we went though all that hell for.”
Behind them the screen door slammed and a pint-sized ball of energy grabbed Jayne around the hips as Book jumped and yipped with excitement. “Papa! Papa! Can we give Uncle Mal his present now?” Maddie was barely able to contain her excitement.
Her father swept her up into his arms and locked eyes with Mal over her shoulder. “I think this is the perfect time, sugar. You go tell Mama it’s time to cut that damn cake she’s been hoardin’.” He spun his daughter around and steered her toward the door.
“It’s a lemon pound cake,” he explained to Mal, “an’ Kaylee makes the best I ever ate.”
The men wound back through the house to the kitchen, where River, Zoe and Kaylee were gathered around a big round oak table draped with a blue and white checkered tablecloth. In the center sat the promised cake. Jayne snagged his wife with a big arm around her waist and smooched her cheek. “You start servin’ the cake while I go get you-know-who.” He winked at Kaylee and her grin widened as he disappeared toward their bedroom.
She sliced out a fat wedge of cake and placed it onto a plate, then passed it and a fork to Mal. “Thank ya for comin’ to our rescue up there, Cap'n. Really. Not just because you got us away safe but also because it meant he didn’t have to shoot nobody.” Seeing Mal’s puzzled look, she went on to explain.” See, when I had Maddie, Jayne made a vow that he’d never shoot another man. Felt he’d killed way too many of ‘em and he wanted to start again fresh. I know he’d a done it if he had to, but I’m grateful he didn’t.”
Across the table, Mal glanced at Zoe. They both understood.
River giggled. “Captain’s gonna get a girlfriend,” she teased in a singsong voice.
Mal’s eyebrows arched. “Best not be sayin’ that when your brother’s about. I suspect he’d not take kindly to that suggestion.”
Jayne entered the kitchen with a long, bulky bundle in his arms. Whatever he was carrying had been wrapped up in an old quilt. The big man looked apologetically at the bundle. “Didn’t have no better way to wrap her, Cap'n, so I’m sorry for that. I ain't got no cause to use her anymore and figured you might find her handy. I know you’ll take real good care of her, and… and I wanted her to go to someone as would appreciate her like I did.”
He placed the bundle on the table in front of Mal and slipped his arms around Kaylee and Maddie. “Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate what you done for us.”
Mal set his cake down on the table. The oddly shaped bundle was surprisingly heavy and in an effort not to drop it, Mal let the quilt slip free. “I’ll be a gorram fool!” he laughed. “You’re giving me Vera?” Mal looked incredulously at his old merc. “She’s your best gun, Jayne.”
The big man looked down at his daughter before meeting Mal’s eyes. “Was my best gun.”
Monday, August 18, 2008 10:23 PM
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 2:11 AM
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 5:39 AM
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:19 AM
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