BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

SMITHANDWESSON

Swinging (part 4, finale/epilogue)
Sunday, December 11, 2005

Big finish of the collaborative with Cub. Each of us wrote about half of this final part. Link to part one inside.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1749    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Click here to go back to part 1

Part 4:

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Excited voices bored buzzsawlike into Kaylee’s brain, making her teeth hurt. She wanted to shush them all, but they wouldn’t have listened even if she had the moxie to do so.

The crowd had crammed inside what passed for a courthouse in these parts, although it didn’t look much different from The Painted Lady saloon with its silent decay of creaking boards and dust. There was even the musky scent of alcohol filtered through the pores of a crowd that had been drinking all night. The funk was strangely comforting, and she relaxed a bit in the uncomfortable wooden chair despite the nagging headache that had welcomed her to consciousness on the floor outside of Jayne’s cell.

Earlier that morning, Kaylee had been roused by a nudge and some fecal-smelling breath in her face. "Girl, it’s time for the trial," a tall, wide man with a chesty voice warned her, and she had scampered out of the way so that he and his slightly smaller counterpart could take Jayne.

Even in her dazed state, Kaylee could tell Jayne didn’t need waking. There was a mixture of fear and exhaustion etched in his stony features as he was whisked past, hands bound, her pink blanket wrapped around his waist. For a few minutes, she stared at the spot behind the cell where Jayne once existed and then wandered into this meeting hall. With all the people gathering, it wasn’t too hard to find.

Kaylee looked to the front of the room and found Simon. Dressed as he was, with the black moustache that was wider than his face and was curled into a ringlet at the end, the wig, the shepherd’s blue frock, and a pained expression that reminded her of constipation, it was hard for Kaylee not to laugh. He looked like a cross between a preacher and a villain from an old movie.

Simon sat at a table next to Book, who wore a similar moustache on top of his real one. River was waiting in the first row, posing as a spectator in a dress that could have housed three Rivers. Kaylee scanned the rest of the crowd and found Wash in the left side of the hall, laughing loudly along with a group of more loud men. Kaylee was amazed to see Wash so chummy with this group of strangers. He must have formed some kind of bond over a night of booze, corny jokes, and sad stories.

It was the faces she didn’t see that worried Kaylee – those of the captain and Zoe. After she scanned the crowd good a couple of times with no luck, Kaylee stopped, not wanting to be caught staring at the wrong person. She didn’t want to give anyone a reason for a donnybrook.

Surely they wouldn’t let this mob have their way with Jayne? she frowned. But she remembered that the captain always, without fail, came to the aid of his crew, even when there seemed no hope to be had. And she tried to stop worrying.

With the sudden sound of gong, the two lawmen Kaylee saw earlier escorted Jayne up the aisle of the meeting hall, a hum of whispering voices following in their wake. He had the same grim look she remembered from the jail, her blanket still around his waist.

Jayne was led to a chair at the front of the room and he sat down slowly, his hands between his legs in an effort to keep the blanket, which seemed so small now, over his man parts, but his upper thighs were still open for public viewing. He’d be an awful woman if he can’t even sit down in a chair better than that, she thought. An odd mental image surfaced and brought a quick smile to Kaylee’s face.

"Dear people," a whiskery old man that Kaylee assumed was the chief addressed the crowd from near where Wash was sitting. "We are here today to hear a desperate plea on behalf of the man you see before you, Jayne Cobb, who yesterday in an act of cruelest malice, shot and killed in cold blood and ended the life of Billy Evisse, a fine man, a saint among us, whose life was ended before it truly begun."

The man’s face was getting more and more flushed as he went on, and Kaylee could see the man’s spittle flying onto the crowd as he spoke in a nasally voice.

"Billy leaves behind a grieving widow who worshipped the ground he walked on, who is now forced to walk the lonely path of life alone, with no mate to keep her warm in the cold, cold night. She will nevermore see the smiling face of the man she cherished above all others. And now, you two shepherds, tell us why we should spare the life of this man who has brought violence and untimely death to our fair town?" The man was nearly screaming as he ended this speech, and the crowd erupted in applause and cheers when he stopped.

What godawful racket, Kaylee thought as she gnashed her teeth.

Book stood at the table, looking as solemn as he could with the double moustaches, and waited for five minutes for the fervor to die down before he began the defense of Jayne. "Dear citizens, we hope you will not allow this man, Jayne Cobb, to be slain for saving a life. In your chronicles, it states this very plainly: A man’s life is not forfeit if he preserves the life of the man who hired him. Billy Evisse was seeking the life of the ship’s captain, and Jayne Cobb killed the man who threatened his boss. Our eyewitness, born here in Braggadocio and well known for his honesty, saw Evisse threaten the ship’s captain with a gun. Evisse had the gun prepared to fire when Jayne Cobb responded with deadly force."

Book paused, and the crowd’s mutterings doubled. After a few seconds of this, the chief whistled loudly, and the sound rattled around in Kaylee’s brain for a few seconds. The onlookers quieted, though.

"Well," the chief remarked, "it looks as if it’s a open-and-shut case. Folks, what do you think?"

An old lady, looking refined in her Sunday bonnet, stood up, and her voice rang loud and clear through the meeting hall.

"Hang ‘em anyway!" she shrieked, and a roar of voices echoed their agreement. Kaylee didn’t know what hurt more, the pounding of all these hateful shouts in her brain or Jayne looking like someone hit him in the gut as he listened to the howl of the jackals calling for his hide.

"Send ‘em to the gallows!" the chief hollered and pointed at Jayne, and the din rose even more. Kaylee saw that Simon was yelling and gesturing, but no one paid him any mind as Jayne was dragged from the room.

Then Kaylee’s eyes caught an even-more shocking sight – Wash, who, along with the group of men around him, was whooping, dancing and singing a hanging song: "Hang ‘em high, lay ‘em low. Let the devil have his soul. Let the eyes pop out o’ his head. Hang ‘em ‘til he’s dead dead dead!"

Kaylee, who was gazing agog at this barbaric dance of death, didn’t register the quiet approach of River until she was right next to her, and her sudden appearance jolted Kaylee.

"Shh. Don’t fret. It’s undercover time. Listen," River whispered in Kaylee’s ear, and the look of wide-eyed shock turned into a conspiratorial grin.

---

A lump lay under a silk sheet in the ornate bed, twisting and groaning in some unseen struggle, unaware of the man who had entered the room and who was now watching with disgust.

A large hand grabbed the sheet and threw it away, revealing a sweat-soaked Mallory Stanton, whose thrashing form had left his drenched clothes twisted at odd angles around his body. The hand seized his expensive shirt by the collar and jerked him to a sitting position. An instant later, a fist smashed into his face, sending his head bobbing on a loose neck.

It was only then that Malcolm Reynolds realized the man was alone in the bed. That the wet face was smiling strangely as it lolled about with a lip split by Mal’s punch. That his eyes were rolling back into his head. And that an outraged Inara had appeared in the doorway behind him.

"What are you doing?" Inara demanded with a familiar look of disbelief.

Mal quickly dropped Inara’s client, who collapsed to the floor with a thunk.

"I was... I mean, he-" Mal stammered. He stopped and pointed at Inara in frustration. "But you needed rescuin’!"

"Of course I did," Inara smiled sarcastically. "Please save me from the rich, handsome stranger."

"He was tryin’ to... How did you-" The captain seemed unable to finish a thought, his gaze dancing from Inara to the sleeping figure at his feet. "He’s... bad," he stammered awkwardly.

"Oh?" Inara raised her eyebrows. "And how’s your latest crime going?"

Mal fumbled for a response but found none, so the companion continued with a sigh. "It’s a simple thing to turn the tables on your opponent once you know his weakness. This one happens to be very fond of his wine. I’ve also found him quite forthcoming and a lot more... agreeable when under the influence of his own serum," Inara smiled. "Of course, I don’t believe he’ll remember much about the past few days once we’re done."

She watched as Mal staggered slightly, his omnipresent façade collapsing into relief.

The next few moments seemed to happen in slow motion and yet end in a heartbeat. She was suddenly in his arms, his lips on her hair. "I thought..." he breathed, his whisper thick with emotion. Inara’s eyes closed as his hands clenched desperately at her back. Her mouth brushed his suspenders and she felt her knees buckle, but he held her upright.

The neverending dance of feint-thrust-parry was over at last, and her suffocating mask had fallen away. She blissfully embraced defeat.

With a sudden, decisive shove, he pushed her to arms length and turned away, gathering himself.

Inara was an open wound now without him, cut in half. She had to be back in his arms. "Mal," she started softly, reaching toward his back.

"Had some help gettin’ in," he croaked over his shoulder. "I’ll wait outside, make sure things’re squared away. A lotta squarin’ t’do." He paused and chuckled, shaking his head. "Shoulda figured you wouldn’t let a man get the better of you, bein’ a... professional and all."

"Never," she exhaled from an aching chest as he disappeared through the doorway. And she again raised her guard over the fresh wounds.

---

So it’s come to this. All these strange folk glaring at me, pitchforks at the ready, waitin’ for me to swing, Jayne thought as he shivered on the gallows, the pink blanket hiding his loins, his lips in a hard, stern line. His blue eyes blazed as emotions boiled inside him, and it was hard for him to keep them from gushing out. Ain’t dignified to weep, even at your own untimely demise, Jayne kept reminding himself.

Despair had a hold, but anger was tearing at Jayne’s insides as well, and it made him grimace as he wondered where in the blue blazes was his glorious rescue. He only saved the guy’s life; it would be the right and proper thing for Mal to pay him back. That’s what folks are supposed to do. But here he stood at the gallows, and here Mal wasn’t. Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng. Last time I watch his ruttin’ back, Jayne thought.

"Sir, it is customary in these parts for the condemned man to have some last words," the chief man hollered from the crowd, and who was next to him but that damn weasel Wash. What the hell’s he doing aiding and abetting the enemy like that? Jayne wondered, and all his hopes for rescue were dashed at seeing Wash so gleeful in that bunch. Always so high and mighty with his technical knowledge and such. He can go gun-hoe-tze-bee-dio-se with the rest of’em, Jayne sneered.

"Well, I ain’t never been one for the speechifying or all the technical stuff some folks seem to love so much." Jayne’s eyes bore holes in Wash’s hide for a bit before he proceeded with his last words. "But one thing I learned in life, you gotta have family. Whether your family’s just your friends, some strangers you took a likin’ to or your blood-kin, you gotta beholden yourself to those bonds and not just throw ‘em out like... yesterday’s cheese whenever things get too, uh, smelly." A few people nodded. Someone coughed.

"Some’d just as soon throw you to the wolves as look at you. Maybe..." Jayne looked to his feet for a moment before raising his eyes again. "Maybe the money’s too good and they get stupid. Or maybe they’re just idgits who think they’re so much better than you just ‘cause they know how to flip a few switches." Jayne shouted this last part, glaring at Wash, who was too busy telling the chief a funny story to pay his words any mind.

"And you know, I got my regrets. And I... regret those things." He continued in a rush before his thoughts could get in the way. "Like takin’ people for granted. I wish I’d got the gumption to say the things I had in mind, to find that right girl and settle down, sire a few young’uns." Jayne paused to scan the faces but didn’t see Kaylee’s cherubic cheeks among them. Wouldn’t be right for her to be seein’ this no way, he thought.

"But all that time’s gone now." His eyes found his feet again. "My mother, when I was a whelp, she used to let me suckle at her breast, and I used to bite her sometimes and draw blood. But she let me eat my fill just the same, despite how it hurt. But now I’m hurtin’ her worse than I ever could back then, hurtin’ her right to the bone," Jayne’s voice cracked at this thought. "I done gone and shamed her by getting myself hung."

He paused for a moment to try to stem the tide of tears that threatened to overrun, then raised his chin to the crowd. "I want ya to know I don’t blame any of ya for all this. Hell, if I were you, I’da hung me too. But I blame other people, other people what stood by, put the job before anything else and let a man swing. A man who thought of’em as family."

Jayne stopped and peered at the quiet crowd through his bleary eyes, noticing that some of the women were blubbering. Damn, didn’t know I was so good at speechifying, he mused. Maybe those words would move the crowd to let him live.

"Okay, hangman, prepare the noose," the chief cried, and Wash, standing at the chief’s shoulder, hooted with appreciation, shattering the solemn mood Jayne’s words had created. Nope, guess not, Jayne exhaled as the short, slight frame of the hangman approached, dressed in a black shroud that was much too long, his head covered with a black hood.

Despite his pending demise, Jayne noticed that even Simon, standing in the front row, looked spooked, his lips forming a little circle, his eyes glazed over. Kinda touchin’ that the ol’ doc would get bent outta shape like that. But then he noticed another detail that explained it all. Simon’s pained demeanor might be on account of him being in an intimate situation and not knowing what to do with girls, Jayne realized as he saw a woman dressed in a standard mourner’s black gown tucking herself into Simon’s side. Her lips closed in on Simon’s ear, like she was trying to fill it with sweet nothings. Or her tongue. Doc gets the girl and I get the noose, Jayne frowned.

"Don’t worry. It’ll all be over soon," the hangman whispered to Jayne, looping the noose around his neck, and the familiarity of the feminine voice coming from such a frightful visage puzzled him. The confusion jumbled his lips and widened his eyes, and he still looked quite out of sorts as the drumroll started slowly, built speed and loudness and then stopped. The hangman pulled the lever, and Jayne fell through the trapdoor.

He landed with a thud on the sandy ground, surprised to see Kaylee standing over him, her knife eating at the ropes binding his hands before he had time to say a word. Then suddenly, as his wrists became free, he realized what had just happened and he started trembling. His glorious rescue had come in the lovely form of Kaylee, and before he could think, he plucked her up from the ground, wrapped his arms around her and placed his eager lips over hers for a quick, hard kiss. He held onto her for a while, eyes closed, lost in her warmth as he waited for his shaking to stop.

"Um, Jayne..." choked the girl whose limp body he had in a death grip. "...As nice as this all is, we got a angry mob wonderin’ why you ain’t a hanging-up corpse," Kaylee hissed, and it was only then that he heeded the shouts and screams from the crowd.

Jayne let Kaylee go and peeked outside to see the ruckus. What he saw drew a full-toothed grin out of him, for there was Zoe, her gun placed on the chief’s temple, with Wash at her side, looking proud as a peacock for having pulled off his part of the plan – buddying up to the town’s leader and keeping him close at hand for just this moment. Zoe moved herself and her captive to the front of the crowd.

"I think you need to rethink your death sentence, old man," Zoe shouted, Wash cheering alongside her. The chief was dumbstruck, face flushed at being so close to a woman under such awkward circumstances, but he managed to sputter, "Actually, you’re right. It was a clear-cut case of him defending his boss. You all can have your man."

"One other thing. Have your people drop their weapons. A lynching could be the end of you." Zoe glared at the man, and he knew by the way she wielded him and the way she was able to get the jump on him so quickly that she was a professional with whom he should not quarrel.

He quickly agreed. "You all, leave your pitchforks in a pile. Now ain’t the time for all that. Jayne Cobb’s a free man." The crowd grudgingly complied, filling the air with the sounds of clanging metal and muttering.

The hangman approached Jayne and Kaylee under the scaffold, and Jayne tensed up in anticipation of a brawl until Kaylee touched his shoulder and muttered, "Ease down there. We’re among friends. How d’ya think you were able to get outta swingin’?"

"So, you talked the hangman into jinxing the works?" Jayne smirked at Kaylee.

"No, silly. You get all stuck on appearances," River remarked in her gentle voice. "That’s why you point. That’s how the other hangman came undone. And that’s how I was able to undo things."

Jayne’s eyebrows did a shuffle on his forehead as he tried to puzzle out River’s words.

"No time for thinking," River said as the mule slid to a halt nearby with Book behind the wheel. "Preacher’s delivering us from evil."

---

Wash’s back hit his bed and bounced.

He smiled up at his wife, who had provided the push. "You make a good point," he conceded. "But I still have to disarm all the-"

"Oh, you’re not going anywhere," she said, moving forward with a predatory glare. "Ain’t nothing out there that can’t wait. We already broke atmo."

"Well... I didn’t actually see-"

She straddled him and put a finger to his lips. "Don’t worry, little man. I am gonna make you see stars."

Her finger moved, and Wash grinned.

"Hooray."

---

The cargo bay slid open, its emptiness giving way to the echo of loud voices.

"-who’s the one that got herself kidnapped in the first place?" Mal was saying as he marched onto his ship with an agitated Inara close behind.

"I’m not helpless, no matter how desperately you want to believe otherwise," she shot back. "How would you feel if I came barging in on you every time a deal went wrong? I mean, aside from that quickly becoming a full-time job..."

"The very first time one of’em seeks companion-ing outta me, you have my full permission t’intervene."

"It all comes back to that, doesn’t it?"

He stopped near the stairs and turned. "If by ‘that,’ you mean-"

She brushed passed and her foot touched the first step of the stairs, breaking a thin string. With a whir of rope, the two were engulfed by a cargo net and scooped off their feet. Mal’s face was pressed awkwardly into her side as the tangled pair shot into the air. After a few seconds they came to a stop, dangling high over the bay.

Inara fought to spit out the rope as the thick grid pressed against her face. "Shenanigans?" she managed.

"Didn’t mention that, did I?" Mal slurred around Inara’s skin.

They struggled fruitlessly for a brief time before falling still. Long moments passed in silence.

"Mal?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks. For rushing to my rescue."

"Don’t mention it."

The rope suspending them off the ground creaked as they swung in their twine prison. The cargo bay was quiet again.

"Mal?"

"Yeah?"

"Can you… move your hand?"

The captain gave a strained grunt, and there was a jolt of sensation through an area that Inara had been trying to ignore. She swallowed a sound of pleasure before it escaped her throat.

"No," he said, his body going limp again.

"I see."

They whiled away the minutes, avoiding each other’s eyes and both working hard to appear uncomfortable. Eventually Mal spotted Jayne standing in the cargo bay below them with a drink.

"Jayne!" Mal called.

"Cap’n," Jayne replied casually.

"Could use a hand," the captain said. "You see us hangin’ here."

"Yep," he said.

Another few seconds passed in silence. "Could ya get us down?"

"Yes. Yes, I could," Jayne said, sitting down on a step and sipping his drink with a smile. "Had a talk with Zoe. Thought this might be a good time to discuss my cut."

---

"Cap’n an’ Inara can’t make it down for chow," Jayne said, brushing his way around the table. "Said I could have their share."

"It’s good they’re back at least," Kaylee smiled. "Serenity don’t feel right when some of us ain’t here."

Simon, who was sitting next to her, smiled at this. Jayne didn’t look up from shoveling down food.

"I agree, young lady," Book said. "Even the food tastes better." He nodded pointedly toward the far end of the table. "And how is dinner, River?"

"Hasn’t started yet," she replied, staring intently at the man next to her from the failed raiding party.

"What?" the man demanded, catching her look. "I done told ya everything I know, I swear. Don’t nobody else know who ya are."

"It’s okay, son," the preacher smiled, his finger absentmindedly tracing the vial of serum in his pocket. "Just enjoy your meal."

Kaylee picked halfheartedly at her plate, speaking quietly. "Ever feel kinda out o’ sorts but don’t know why? Like ya got every reason t’be happy, but you’re... not?"

Jayne kept eating. Book and River kept watching the prisoner.

"Actually, yes, I do feel that way," Simon said. "Except I think I know why, and I’m pretty sure it has something to do with that wig." His hands scratched furiously at his hair.

"Oh, poor thing," Kaylee said, reaching across the table to extract a few remnants of sandy hair.

"The glass is half empty," River blurted out, still staring at the prisoner, who was now smiling back strangely.

"I don’t think the mustache was half bad, y’know?" Kaylee grinned, still picking away wig hairs.

"You did once profess a fondness for such a thing," the preacher said, smiling warmly at Simon. "Could it be that being a traditional criminal mastermind is not all you hoped it would be?"

"I just think they need to update the look," Simon winced, still scratching. "Something with a little less hair."

"Widow wasn’t complainin’," Jayne chimed in without looking up from his plate. "My guess is," he continued, swallowing a bite and pointing with his chopsticks, "that itch she left him with ain’t from the wig. It’s from his-"

"Jayne!" Kaylee snapped, her face flushed with anger and embarrassment.

"Oh, like you didn’t see it," he said, returning to his meal. "Don’t know why you’d get all cozy and play like ya didn’t. Unless maybe you’re itchin’ too."

Kaylee’s fork hit her plate, and she rose resolutely. Jayne looked genuinely shocked when she grabbed Simon by the arm and led him out of the room, muttering something about him learning to eat with his mouth closed.

"Wha’d I say?" Jayne asked Book and River, both of whom were looking at the prisoner.

The prisoner was smiling widely at the whole scene, his eyes occasionally rolling up. "Mind if I lay down?" the man asked.

"No, go right ahead," the preacher replied.

"Thanks." His face fell forward into his food.

Clunk.

"Dinner’s done," River announced.

---

Mallory Stanton had been left with the odd feeling that something was amiss, that he had forgotten something very important. Such a feeling ate at him more than it would another man. For a reason he could not explain, he found himself tying that frustration to the companion he had recently hired. He suspected that he had somehow been tricked, and he had made a resolution to be more careful with his trust.

The two men who were in his parlor now, though, they were trustworthy. Like-minded. He would feel perfectly comfortable telling them every secret he had ever known, though he couldn’t say exactly why.

"We don’t care about that," one was saying. "We just want to know about this girl." He pointed a blue glove at a picture.

A glint of a memory taunted Mallory and then danced away. There was a high-pitched noise coming from something one of the men was holding.

"I don’t know," Mallory shook his head. "I don’t know anything."

The tall one with the unblinking eyes stared right through him. "No. You don’t."

Mallory felt something warm and wet trickling from his nose.

+++

END

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COMMENTS

Sunday, December 11, 2005 9:14 AM

CUB


Smithandwesson wrote the trial and the hanging/rescue, and I wrote the other scenes.

I thought her Jayne speech was wonderful.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 11:28 AM

SHINYGEEKET


Shenanigans, Lol. Loved this! I agree with Cub, Jayne's speech brought tears to my eyes.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 12:09 PM

JACQUI


This was great, both of you.

Hee, I loved Mal and Inara caught up in the net. I think that was my favourite part.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 12:46 PM

RINNYPJ


"Preacher’s delivering us from evil."

I LOVED that line! And Mal and Inara caught in the net! And Jayne's speach was beautiful and so very true to him as a character.

And the Jayne and Kaylee kiss!!! That neither of them is talking about, but still happened... *SIGH* I love.

This really felt like an episode, and I am so very impressed!

Sunday, December 11, 2005 7:43 PM

ITSAWASH


Cub and S&W: This whole ruttin' whirlwind of fun, frolic and fabulousness leaves me with a mind whirling with the lovely words used here and in all the other parts of your fic. Excellent descriptive talent, both of you, lovely suspenseful writing is shot all thru, and it's just....masterful.

Fave line in this part: "Inara was an open wound now without him, cut in half. She had to be back in his arms." Tough to choose though. It's all so swai.

Monday, December 12, 2005 1:49 AM

BOOKADDICT


Excellent story does finale/epilogue imply more to come? I sure hope so. I really enjoyed Jayne's speech and Simon's outfit.

Friday, December 16, 2005 12:53 PM

BELLONA


"Dinner's done"
hee!!!

b


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