Period of Adjustment
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I tried a little Rayne, and I tried to write it with the Romantic Comedy format in mind. Hope you like chapter one.


Period of Adjustment Chapter One Jayne entered the galley with food on his mind. He stopped short, though, at the sight of River sitting at the table, absorbed in a book. She wasn’t tearing out the pages. She wasn’t “editing” the volume with tiny, crab-like scribbles which covered every blank space. She simply sat, reading. Occasionally she turned a page. “I’m not going to levitate, if that’s what you’re watching for,” she said without looking up. Jayne started. “I was just figurin’ what to eat, is all.” “Usually you ingest it first and name it afterwards,” she said, still looking at the page. “Real funny.” Truth told, being insulted made him feel a little more familiar with the situation. Ever since that sorry chain of events they all called Miranda, the whole ship had been set on its head. Nothing felt right. Jayne sighed, shook it off as usual, and turned his attention to the pantry. “I can still kill you with my brain,” said River. Jayne looked at her; she was smiling into her book. The light dawned. “I knew you couldn’t do that!” he said. “That’s just more crazy talk, aint it?” Now River looked up. “I am not crazy, Jayne. That word was always insufficient. And anyway stop saying it. It’s insulting.” “Like callin’ me a rootin’ pig?” River paused. “Point taken. Now let me read. I take the helm in half an hour.” Now that was part of the newness that Jayne wasn’t sure he liked, River being in charge of flying the whole ship. Sure, she was supposed to be okay now. But still. This was the girl who’d hardly said one gorram word Jayne could understand in the whole time he knew her. And this same shaky-mouthed child had leveled an entire bar in less than five minutes. So now she was flying their home around, which, incidentally, was the only thing between them all and a little thing called the Black? He wasn’t thinking he’d like to let his guard down just yet. River sighed and closed the book. “Can’t concentrate now,” she said. “Well, sorry I’m sure. Last time you had a book in your hands, you threw it—“ “Jayne! I said please stop it.” “Hell,” he said. The intercom blared. “River, honey, could you come to the engine room a minute?” River jumped up, stuffed the book in her locker, and left without a word. Jayne waited long enough to figure she wasn’t coming back, then pulled it back out. “Wuthering Heights? What the hell’s that mean?” “It’s the name of a house. On Earth-That-Was. And put my sister’s book back.” Jayne tossed the book into the locker, suddenly intent on adjusting his t-shirt. Simon, River’s brother, scowled from the doorway. “Why you gotta sneak around and scare people like that?!” “Good to know I can frighten you.” Jayne snorted. “Fat chance.” “You know she’s healed, Jayne. Somehow, she’s okay. So you can stop spying on her.” “Yeah, well, excuse me if I aint ready to sing hosanna about it. It’s been a long eleven months since you got here.” “Twelve, now, actually. But I’ve tested her every way I’ve got at my disposal. She’s alright. She’s herself again.” “And what’s ‘herself,’ exactly?” “Like I said twelve months ago. A genius. And funny. She’s got quite a sense of humor.” “Shiny. Just make sure she don’t destroy any more drinking establishments. I liked the Maidenhead. Which we can’t go back to no more.” “I wouldn’t be so sure. Everybody in the system knows we sent that wave. The captain says we’re heroes in places.” “And hideous bad guys in others.” “Well put. But let’s not worry ahead of schedule.” Jayne snorted again. “Worryin’ ahead of schedule has saved my heinie so many times—anyway, we was discussin’ your sister.” Simon rolled his eyes. “She. Is. Alright. Alright?” “We’ll see,” said the big man, as he tore a piece of dried meat with his teeth. *** “Jayne’s a nuisance, Kaylee. He keeps saying I’m still—unbalanced.” “Eee budnent sing,” came the reply from deep within Serenity’s bulkhead. An overalled pair of legs squirmed deeper into the cramped space. “I’m aware he doesn’t think. But nonetheless, he manages to talk.” “Just ignore it,” said Kaylee, emerging from the wall. “He’ll get tired of the subject and move onto something else he can pick at soon enough.” She wiped her face with a bandana, spreading grease around. “Yes. I shouldn’t grant his ravings any legitimacy by responding.” “You still look worried.” River stood up. “This is unproductive. Anyway, I have to fly now.” “That’ll take yer mind off it.” “Yes. See you in five hours, 51 minutes.” But to Kaylee’s mind something else was bothering the girl. River’d never had any problem putting Jayne in his place before, not even at her worst. So what was this, then? *** “You here, little one?” asked the captain. River jumped a little. “Sorry. Just thinking.” “Well, think later. Fly now.” “Not a problem, Captain Mal.” Mal smiled. “Hope not. Settle in. You need to use the necessary? Eat anything?” “Please. I’m prepared. But could I read? When it gets quiet?” “Sure. Wash used to play dinosaurs.” They both fell silent, remembering. “But you prob’ly know that.” “Yes,” River said. “I’ll get my novel now.” “Hurry then.” She half-ran from the bridge, on down to the galley. At her locker she paused. “Why is my book open?” First Mate Zoe Washburn, quietly eating a solitary meal, looked up. “Don’t know, River. When were you last reading it?” But River snatched the book and ran out, cursing in Chinese. She made a bee-line for the crew’s bunks. “Jayne! Open this door!” It was difficult to get enough leverage to make a satisfying pounding noise on the slanted metal doorway, but she did her best. “What the hell you after, fēngkuáng?” “I have told you already, do not call me insane!” “You still aint answerin’ my question.” “Keep your overly large pigu out of my things!” Jayne lowered his gaze. “Dunno what yer talkin’ about.” “I know how I left this! It was closed and leaning against the side of my locker, exactly four inches from the door, right side up! And when I went to get it, it was open, against the back wall, and upside down!” “Are you truly telling me you keep track of somethin’ like that?” “Do you not live on this ship? And have you never met me?!” “What?” “Keep your grabbing hands to yourself!” “Fine! But you can’t blame me for bein’ worried.” “If I become peculiar again, you’ll be the first to know!” In spite of himself, Jayne grinned. “Okay, then.” “This isn’t funny, sticky fingered maniac.” “Okay, okay! Now if it’s alright with you, I wanna rest up for Persephone.” River stood in place, glaring. “That means go away.” “Tā mā de húndàn!” “Same to you, girlie.” Back on the bridge, River wondered why she felt so alive, when she was as angry as a mythical Fury. *** Inara repaired her blouse expertly. She’d been trained by Academy seamstresses to keep her wardrobe in good repair should she ever be without an apprentice. Her teachers had specialized in slinky fabrics, and sheer ones. The edges of the transparent silk between her fingers came together perfectly, seams invisible. Kaylee finished her sandwich. “All I’m saying, ‘Nara, is she’s not just ruffled about his stupid mouth. Never bothered her before.” Inara didn’t look up. “You suspect the same thing I do.” “I do?” “Kaylee.” Kaylee sighed. “Guess I do. But what a mess that’d splatter!” “Yes. But think about it. There’s no one else for either one of them.” “Simon’ll spew radioactive.” “He can’t live her life for her.” “He still worries. He can’t stop fretting, matter of fact.” “That’s natural.” “You think this is a good idea? ‘Cause I don’t!” Inara stopped stitching and sat quietly. “How would I know? But it’s life, Kaylee. People don’t want to be alone. What else can she do?” Kaylee’s focus shifted. “Uh, yeah, Inara, people don’t want to be alone, don’t they? Like certain grown people who’ve flittered around each other like scared baby chickens for a whole long time? Hmmm?” “Shut up.” But the companion smiled a little anyway. *** River read the old classic, occasionally checking instrument readings and the view. Nothing remarkable presented itself. Her mind kept returning to Jayne hanging off his ladder, arm flexed, looking at her. Kept returning, and kept veering away just as fast. Unable to sit any longer, she paced the small space. “Ahem,” came from behind her. But River had known it was Jayne before he’d made a sound. “What?” “I fergot my wrench. Kaylee used it in here.” “Well, get it then.” River sat and looked pointedly at her book. Jayne had to crouch beside her to get to the storage compartment under the instrument panel. She shifted as far the other way as she could. And noticed his back. She threw the book down and jumped up. “Hurry up, Cobb! What’s taking so long?” But Jayne, usually ready with an insult, had no retort. He stood slowly and looked at her. He appeared to be a little scared. “It aint here. Guess she’s got it in the engine room. Uh. G’bye.” He turned on his heel like a wooden soldier, and nearly collided with the bulkhead on his way out. River stared. Then she slumped in her seat, muttering to herself. “No. Oh, Quan Yin, qĭng, no no no, please no, not in this lifetime, have a heart!” But River Tam knew that Quan Yin, goddess of compassion, was not interested in hindering the path of love, true or otherwise. *** “Inara?” Mal waited outside Inara’s shuttle. She pulled back the curtain, looking surprised. “You didn’t just walk in. Are you feeling alright?” Mal smiled nervously. “Can I come in?” “Jīngrén! Since you put it that way.” Mal entered the familiar area like a visitor from another moon. He sat on the couch while Inara sat in a chair. They faced each other, wordless, for nearly a minute. Finally, Inara said “Well?” He cleared his throat. “You doing alright?” “Er, yes?” “That’s good.” “Mal, I feel certain you’re not here to see if I’m okay or not.” “No.” “Mal?” Mal took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and spoke: “After Miranda, you said you didn’t know.” Inara took another deep breath. “I remember.” “I just can’t stop thinking we need to speak about that.” “It’s only been four months. What’s your hurry?” “You don’t gotta be snitty about it.” “No! Sorry, Mal. I don’t want to be—snitty. I want to talk too.” Mal felt a relief like the time he knew that him and Zoe had gotten clean away from Serenity Valley after it all went to hell. “Please, sit.” Inara moved to her tea set. “Tea? Why you making tea? I’m not—” “Mal. This is an important moment. It needs formal recognition.” And I need to gather myself, she thought. “Uh, okay. Sorry.” The companion assembled the tea tray automatically, so competent was she at the task. But today’s set up had subtle differences. Usually Inara placed the cups on either side of the teapot—respectful strangers wishing to interact. Today they were situated side by side, signifying intimacy. “Well, Mal. Here we are.” She placed the tray on the table and poured. “Well, Inara. We are. And we’re in a certain kind of predicament here.” She started to say ‘how do you mean,’ but didn’t have the heart. “Yes, we are.” “You make good coin. You doing business is good for Serenity. But.” “But.” “I will not tell you what to do. But I could not live with it, ‘Nara. What do we do now?” Inara’s heart was so full. But just as she opened her mouth to answer there came a tiny scratching on her door. “Gorram it!” was what came out. Mal ducked his head, grinning. “Who is it?” she said with a minimum of grace. “River,” came the reply, in a voice that sounded about six years old. “Oh boy,” said Mal. “She sounds upset,” said Inara. “Come in, honey.” Mal nodded wearily. Was anything ever going to be easy? River crept inside. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I know you two—I know! But I may go crazy again!” “Really?” Mal asked, alarmed. Inara patted his hand. “She’s just being a little bit dramatic, Mal.” “Oh.” “This is your cue to go and captain something. We’ll finish later.” “Fine! Nányi rĕnshò!” He exited, long suffering. “Inara,” River said, “I already know what you and Kaylee talked about. I just didn’t want to know it!” “Oh, sweetie.” “I have been praying, and I am not even religious.” “River. Calm. Nothing is etched in stone.” “How can I hate someone so much and-and…you know.” “Well, sex doesn’t always make sense.” “Don’t say that word!” Inara sighed and took River’s hand. “Honey, you don’t hate Jayne.” River whimpered. “And I know a lot about that word. What I don’t seem to understand so well at the moment is love.” “Oh, but it is absolutely obvious to me that you love M—” “We’re talking about you, River!” River put her head in her hands. “You know what? I can’t read anything when—when he—it’s like I’m blind!” “You mean, uh, your psychic abilities?” “Yes! I go opaque!” “Hmmm. Exactly when?” “When he’s right next to me and I can—smell him.” Inara wasn’t sure she heard that last bit correctly. “Excuse me?” “Inara? I like it. I do. For years I’ve had to listen in on things I had no business hearing. I can’t stand Jayne sometimes, but I love that quiet!” “That’s—extraordinary.” “I have absolutely no idea what is correct here!” Inara sighed. “Me neither.” *** Jayne dribbled a home-made ball around the cargo bay. He missed Book. Good athlete, for a man of God. He half-heartedly threw the ball through a hanging tire rim. Wash had brought it back during a stop over on Bordelon. Wash. Shit. “Jayne.” He turned and peered at the catwalk above. Perfect. “Hey Zoe.” “Wash got that rim in a junk yard. It irked me, him draggin’ garbage home, but he had a plan. Why you lookin’ so surprised?” “I was just thinkin’ about that. But I guess it’s past and gone. No offense.” “None taken.” “Zoe, why’s some people gotta be so fearsome—wúliáo?” Jayne had no idea why he’d opened his mouth like that. Yep, the whole gorram world was knocked on its head. “Jayne. If I didn’t know you, I’d swear you were thinkin’ deep thoughts.” “What? About tire rims?” Zoe walked down the stairs leading to the bay floor. “About ‘some people.’” Jayne’s inner alarm, already clanging, jumped a decibel. By now Zoe was on the flat and coming his way. “It changes you, Jayne.” Jayne backed up. He respected Zoe, he even liked her, and he damn sure felt bad for her, but whatever she was talking about now he was fair certain he didn’t want to hear it. “What you mean?” he asked warily. He thought she might actually mean death. “Love, Jayne.” Now that she was real close, Jayne saw she’d been crying. Aw, crap. “Zoe. No disrespect. But what’re you sayin’?” “This is a small ship. Talk spreads quick. Even when there’s no talk, it spreads quick. I’ve seen you two together.” “Zoe.” “What I’m saying is, it damn well better be love.” “Zoe.” “And I’m pretty sure that if it aint—if you hurt her in any way—Simon will kill you, and I will help him do it.” Without another word, First Mate Zoe Washburn, veteran, retired career army, and toughened widow, turned on her heel and left. Jayne, mouth open, was busy trying not to fall through the floor. *** “Can we talk now? Or is some other moaning stray gonna take up your time?” is what Mal wanted to say, but due to his captainly restraint, did not. “Is she okay?” is what he did venture. “Yes. Come in.” Sitting on Inara’s couch, Mal realized he’d said his piece. All he was doing now was waiting for an answer. “Mal. I need to tell you something.” “That’s why we’re here.” “I haven’t lined up any clients for Persephone.” She let that sink in. “Did you hear me?” Mal had apparently lost his power of speech. “Mal?” “Why?” he was able to say. “I just—couldn’t. I can’t anymore. I’m done, I think.” “Inara. I—“ “What?” “I been wanting to hear that for all my life.” Inara blinked back tears. “Me too.” “”Nara, I’m—I’ve been—“ Inara got up and moved to the couch. “—angry for so long…” “Tell me something I don’t know,” she said, and she kissed him. Well. This was it. Xīn kāmù. The opening of the heart.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011 6:56 PM


Well...gotta say you've done a lovely little first lap of the Rayne track, TrainBandit. A bit rushed, IMO, since we seem to go from 0 to angsty confusion when it comes to River's feelings, but I guess for an 18 year old getting back in the saddle of "normal" social development? That's gonna be par for the course.

Plus, I have to say I like the Mal/Inara scenes in her shuttle, and Mal throttling down all of his impulses to act all dickish. Felt real for the kind of place the crew's at right now :D

Thursday, August 25, 2011 10:50 AM


Thanks BlueEyedBrigadier, I had fun with it.

Yes, I was shooting for conveying how someone who'd been suppressed when it came to normal development might react when she was faced with her new feelings and finally free to act on them. And like I said, the Romantic Comedy format has them fight, slowly realize their own feelings, then surrender. We'll see how I do...

I was worried that the Minara thing would be too fast, but I do have plans for it NOT to be so easy, never fear!


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Period of Adjustment
I tried a little Rayne, and I tried to write it with the Romantic Comedy format in mind. Hope you like chapter one.

Clean Living
On board Serenity, post-Miranda, as seen from a passenger's point of view.

A Poem for River
This poem is another description of River's experience