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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Crew, meet the Cobb clan.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1103 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Paquin was a fairly big, fairly populated planet orbiting the protostar Heinlein in the Red Sun system. After its terraforming process had finished about a hundred years ago, most people had settled on the southern hemisphere and as such most of the major cities had popped up there. New Inverness however was located on the opposite side, on the northern continent, which had less and a more scattered population, and was mostly known for its vast forests.
This was also the home of the infamous wild dog that most people in the 'verse associated the name Paquin with. It was rumored to have been supposed to be a dingo, a canine originating from the Australian continent back on Earth-That-Was, but something had gone horribly wrong during the recreation process and the result was an animal three times as big and ten times as malevolent. But like with any of their other mishaps, the Alliance had never actually confirmed it. Anyway, the dog thrived in the forests of Paquin, and even though it shied away from civilization and rarely left the woods, hundreds of domestic animals and several people were killed by it every year. The fact that it also bred like rabbits had made it impossible to exterminate – or at least the authorities had long since given up on the task.
The towns of these inhospitable northern parts of the planet were smaller and much less developed than the cities in the south, and the town of New Inverness was no exception. With a population of about 5 000 it had grown up around a wood processing factory, but had changed little in its fifty years of existence. The railroad connected it to the bigger towns at the coast, but few strangers ever came here and least of all space ships. And so when Serenity landed on a meadow just outside the town line, people immediately flocked around it.
Jayne had grown gradually more agitated during the week the trip had taken them, and now as he stood in the cargo bay waiting for the doors to open, there was a darkness in his eyes that even scared Mal a little.
It didn't stop Kaylee, though. "Are you excited to be back home?" she asked.
Mal cocked an eyebrow. Jayne looked anything but excited. And the mercenary did reply with a snort.
The mechanic kept trying. "Sure looks nice."
"It's a dump," Jayne snapped. "It was a dump when I left it, it was a dump when I last came by ten years ago and I bet it's a dump still."
"You haven't been home in ten years?" Kaylee exclaimed.
Jayne shrugged. "Never had the occasion."
"But they're your family!"
Jayne turned to glare at her, and Kaylee wisely kept quiet after that.
Zoë pushed the button and the bay doors opened, and Mal threw a sideways glance at his hired muscle as they and the rest of the crew stepped off the boat. Jayne looked like a moody cowboy in his green jacket and a broad brimmed hat, and showed no interest in the crowd that had gathered to greet them outside. People seemed to sense this and they scattered to give him a wide berth as he walked passed them, but Mal heard his name being muttered several times; "It's Jayne." – "It's Jayne Cobb." – "Jayne Cobb's come back." But the only time Jayne would look at them was when somebody stepped too close and had to be scowled back into place.
"So," Mal said as they came to a rest a few paces away from the ship. He looked from the people looking back at them but still keeping their distance, to the town itself. "Where does your family live?"
"My mama's place is a few miles south of here," Jayne replied and nodded in said direction. "Don't rightly know where my sister Jude's house's at, though. She married some guy and moved."
The way he said 'some guy' suggested that he was well aware of who this guy was, and that he did not approve.
Wash started giggling, and when Zoë turned to give him a warning look, he exclaimed: "But come on! The other sister's name is Jude. You've got to be kidding me!"
To Jayne's credit he chose to ignore the pilot. "That's the factory," he said instead, nodding – quite needlessly – towards the only large building in town. "That's where… well, everybody works. My pop worked there. And so did my brother while he still could."
"There's a brother too?" Wash asked joyfully. "What's his name? Jill?"
"No, it's Mattie," Jayne answered, the joke totally lost on him.
"Jayne?" somebody said.
Finally a voice that Jayne deemed it worth reacting to. He abruptly stopped and turned around, and Mal and the others followed his lead.
A woman was making her way through the crowd with long and determined steps, and Mal studied her with interest as she came towards them. She was tall, really tall, at least six feet, her dark brown hair was combed back and braided and she wore a flannel shirt tucked in her pants and a long leather coat.
Jayne straightened at the sight of her, showed off his full height (and he was still considerably taller), but his face gave away no emotions. "Jo," he flatly greeted.
She stopped in front of him and looked at him rather disbelievingly. "Now you show up?" she said, and everybody could hear there was a hint of bitterness in her voice.
"You asked me to," Jayne replied, clearly a little confounded.
"That's the point, Jayne," she said. "I shouldn't have to ask. To beg. And, honestly, I didn't think you'd actually come."
Mal half expected Jayne to give her one of his snappy, defensive comments, but somehow this woman possessed that amazing skill it took to keep him quiet.
"Where were you when Pop died?" she continued. "When you were really needed?"
Jayne finally found his voice. "I wasn't exactly in the neighborhood," he spat back.
Jo seemed to soften up a bit. "Sorry," she said and a tiny smile spread across her lips. "And I am glad to see you, you ape."
He smiled too and they finally embraced. Still with one arm around her, he patted her cheek. "You look good," he said. But then his smile died and he looked at her with concern on his face. "Is it really that bad?"
"That qingwa cao de liumang won't leave us alone," she said, seemingly not bothered by the fact that she and her brother were surrounded by strangers as she spoke. "And we ain't got the money. And we miss Pop, and then Mattie…"
"Mattie?" Jayne repeated, his concern even more evident now.
She looked sad. "He ain't bouncin' back from this one, Jayne."
A moment of awkward silence fell between them. Then Mal coughed a little and Jayne was awoken from his reverie. He gave the captain an annoyed scowl, but stepped aside to introduce the woman. "This is my sister."
"Hi," Kaylee said and waved at her.
Jo smiled and looked at Jayne. "Is this the crew?"
"That they are," Mal said and stepped forward. "And I'm captain Mal Reynolds."
"Pleased to meet you, I'm Jo," she said and clasped his hand. Her handshake was strong, so strong that it made Simon flinch and Wash yelp with pain when she shook their hands as well. She tried offering her hand to River too, but the girl was busy looking at her surroundings with that distant curiosity of hers and ignored it, so Jo just shrugged and turned back towards her brother.
"Let's get you home to Ma," she said. "She's gonna flip when she sees you." She looked at Mal. "You guys taggin' along?"
"No, they're…," Jayne began.
"We'd love to," Mal said.
"…not," Jayne finished and directed another angry scowl at him.
"Come on then," Jo said and led the way to an old-fashioned pickup truck parked by the road. "Hop on," she admonished, nodding towards the truck's bed.
Kaylee, Zoë and Wash immediately followed her instructions, but Simon hesitated. "Shouldn't somebody maybe stay with the ship?" he asked.
"It's locked," Mal said as he too mounted the vehicle. "No need."
"And my and Kaylee's personally fitted alarm system is on and operating," Wash added. "If anyone tries to steal it… boy, they're in for a surprise."
Kaylee giggled. Simon sighed and grabbed his sister, gently steering her towards the car. "Great," Mal heard him mumble as helped River up on it, "more Cobbs."
Jayne rode shotgun with his sister, and Mal had no way of knowing what the two of them talked about during the ride, or if they talked at all. It had to be weird, meeting someone for the first time in ten years, your own blood, someone you were supposed to be this close to, someone you knew and at the same time didn't know.
A sense of sadness suddenly engulfed him. It dawned on him that he'd never know that awkward feeling, as all of his own relatives were now dead. The Reynolds were all gone, and so was Shadow, and there was no going back. Ever.
He had to take a deep breath to steady himself. Funny, he'd thought he'd stopped feeling sentimental about this. He looked around and his eyes came to a rest on Zoë, and he remembered that her situation was very much like his. She had no family left either, except for Wash of course.
And the Tams… Their parents had disowned them, which he guessed was even worse. Well, at least they had each other.
He shifted his gaze to Kaylee and saw the broad grin on her face as she looked at the landscape, and felt how most of the sadness melted away at that sight.
Because what really defined a family and didn't he still have one?
"Oh, it's so cute!" Kaylee exclaimed as the pickup came to a rest in front of a little wooden house right at the forest edge. Mal silently agreed with her. It was a nice, two story house – not grand, but well-kept and welcoming. There was also a barn on the other side of the yard and a big oak tree dominated the little garden.
Jo jumped out of the car almost as soon as it stopped. "Ma!" she yelled. "Ma, come on out! Come see who's here!"
And out she came, the woman who sent Jayne letters and funny hats. And she looked nothing like Mal had expected her to.
The mental image he'd had of Jayne's mother had varied between an apple cheeked grey-haired granny and a huge woman with a beard (obviously because Jayne was huge and had a beard), but the woman who stepped out of the house matched neither of these descriptions. In fact, it was quite clear that Jayne and Jo's impressive physical height would have to come from their father's side of the family, because their mother was quite the opposite, of a rather slight build. She was also… well, kind of young – or younger than expected; Mal would guess she was probably not that many years older than himself. Her eyes grew wide as Jayne rounded the car and came to a halt in front of it, as if too ashamed to go any further.
"Jayne?" she gasped and ran towards him. And when she reached him, Jayne didn't hold back. He threw his arms around her and embraced her with a tenderness Mal would never have thought him able to show if he hadn't been there to see it himself.
"Hello, Ma," he said and his voice actually shook a little.
"Jayne, is it really you?" she asked and reached up to cup his face in her hands.
"Yeah, it's him alright," Jo grinned.
Mama Cobb was finally able to tear her eyes away from her son and shift her attention to Mal, who had climbed down from the truck with the rest of his crew, but kept a respectful distance to the whole reunion scene. "Who's this?" she asked.
"The captain and the crew," Jo replied.
"They're just droppin' me off," Jayne added.
"Mrs Cobb," Mal nodded his greeting.
She smiled and stepped a little closer. "So you're the captain," she said. "I've been hearing about you."
"Good things, I hope."
"Well, that too." She kept smiling. Mal liked that smile. It was warm and welcoming, just like the house, and one hundred per cent real. "I'm Radiant. Welcome, all of you. Please, come inside."
Behind her back Jayne frowned a little, but he didn't voice any complaints and they all started walking towards the house. Mal was suddenly aware of a young man standing on the porch and once he'd laid his eyes on him, it was difficult to look away just because of how sick he looked. He too was tall, but scrawny and kind of hunched over, and even from this distance Mal could see how pale he was. Jayne had seen him as well and even if he did try to hide the shock, it was still quite evident on his face.
"Hiya, Jayne," the man said with a tired half-smile caressing his bluish lips.
"Mattie," Jayne greeted back, sounding a little uncomfortable. "You've… you've grown."
"Of course I have, you moron. I was still a kid when you last saw me." He coughed, and then the cough turned into more coughing that nearly had him doubled over by the time it was over. Mal instinctively looked towards Simon and saw that the young man already had that doctor look in his eyes.
"I'll go fetch Jude," Jo said, and broke the uncomfortable silence that had followed the coughing fit. She headed back towards the pickup, just as a man emerged from the barn. He was middle aged – Mal would guess about sixty – and wore the traditional tartan kilt, and he came up to them, nodding to Jayne.
"Well, I thought I heard your name, boy," he said humorlessly, eyeing him up and down. "Didn't quite believe it, though. But here you are."
Jayne was clearly surprised to see him. "Uncle? What you doing here?"
"I'm the head of the family now," the man bitterly replied. "As it seems that's a job you don't want."
Jayne's eyes narrowed, but Radiant was quick to step in between the two men, dissolving the situation before it got out of hand. "Obadiah, please," she said to the older man. "Don't… He's here now." She turned back towards her son and smiled. "He's home now."
Sunday, January 1, 2012 11:01 AM
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