BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JACQUI

Pieces: Ch 76- 85.
Friday, January 13, 2006

Sometimes pieces fit, sometimes they don't and sometimes they can't be put back together. Seventh installment for the Joss_100. Jayne and Kaylee.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2432    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The seventh installment. One more to go: Woooo!!

The whole table of prompts I have to follow can be found here. And the previous installments can be found: one, two, three, four, five and six.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Joss'.

Feedback: Oh, you know I want it, baybee. Comment (*please*) or send an email: wily_one24@yahoo.com.au

Do me a favour?: To get the full impact of this installment... try this: between each little chapter prompt, pause. Take a moment and think about the people over at Joss100 that had to wait a day or so until the next one was posted.

*That*, my friends, is a cliff hanger. You don't know how lucky you're getting it, having it posted all at once like this.

I won't warn you to look at the banner again, I've done it before, but... this bit gets emotionally dark in places and may not be for the faint hearted.

***

***

Prompt 076: Terror. Words: 765.

HANDS.

"Jayne!"

She felt the dust scratch on her legs as she was dragged back, hands twisting her shoulders and arms back until she cried out with it. Somebody else, a man whose voice made her shiver said something to Jayne she couldn't hear, but she'd seen the gun.

The hood came over her head before she could scream again, a black cloth that tasted foul in her mouth, like old sweat and grime. It tightened painfully around her neck and she was dragged up to a standing position.

One of them had let her arm go to hold it and her hand scrambled at the bag, but it was already tightening so hard she could barely gasp. Without thinking about it, she ran her hand up the arm that was holding the bag and dug her nails into the soft flesh of the underarm.

A loud curse followed and she felt cool air rush in as she was let go. Immediately she stepped back, trying to get away as she tore the bag from her head and tossed it into the dust. She blinked in the half light of the moon.

A foot found the back of her knee and she fell to the ground again, gasping. She managed to see someone move next to her, but didn't have time to react before his hand was twisting in her hair, making her wince.

"Get up."

Kaylee was dragged up again, her feet skidding for purchase in the dust. Her eyes rolled to the left and she saw the other man nudging at Jayne with his gun. A vivid gush of red oozed down the side of his face. The man who held her brought his face close to hers and his breath smelled like cabbage.

"You're a feisty one, ain't ye?"

She spat at him. His eyes flashed and his whole grip on her shifted as he reared his free hand back. Her eyes closed and she waited for a blow. It didn't come and she heard the distinct sound of a gun being cocked.

Her eyes opened slowly and she saw the man standing over Jayne as he pointed his gun at the man holding her.

"Don't mark her face." The words chilled her. "How many times do I have to tell you?"

"Please?" She spoke to the man with the gun, figuring he was the leader. "Please, let us go?"

"Let you go?" His eye brow arched and the two men holding her laughed. "How about no?"

"Please, he's hurt..." She couldn't help but strain her neck against their hold, feeling her hair pull as she tried to see Jayne again, still kneeling, still dazed and bloody and face slack, his eyes angry. "At least let me make sure he's okay."

"You're asking me for favors?" He sounded amused and Kaylee hated him. "Oh, don't worry, your friend here will be fine."

Jayne gave a grunt as the man kicked him, almost as an afterthought to his speech.

"He's a little drugged up right now, so we can take him to the transport ship. But he'll be just fine, I'm sure they'll get at least four or five good years of hard, manual labor out of him before he breaks."

She shivered when he turned to face her full on, his eyes sliding up and down her body.

"You, however, you don't look like you're built for physical work at all."

The cabbage man sneered as he let his hand wander.

"I reckon I can find something real physical for her to do."

There were too many hands, holding her tight, holding her still as she tried to squirm away from them. She could feel fingers squeezing the skin on her arm until it was impossible for there not to be bruises.

"Stop it?" Kaylee felt a tear sneak out from her eye and slide, hot and vengeful, down her cheek. "Please?"

"You heard her boys." The man with the gun stepped closer. "She asked you to stop it."

And they did. She looked at him, trying to figure out his new game.

"I'm interested." He leaned down close to her face. "I'd really like to see how far you'd go to save this man of yours."

"No." She shook her head. "No."

"Let her go."

The voice came from behind them.

Kaylee felt hope surge in her body as she began twisting around to look. Another hand caught the crook of her elbow and she found herself slammed up against the leader, his gun pointing straight up her chin.

"Simon." She whispered.

***

Prompt 077: Betrayal. Words: 750.

CUCKOLDED.

Jayne forced his eyes to stay open, forced himself to stay alert enough to see what was happening. Kaylee was trying not to whimper, held against the man who'd knocked him down.

The two of them stood right next to him and if he was quiet about it, went slow about it and didn't make a fuss, he could reach out and let his fingers wrap around her calf.

The muscles bunched up under his hand and then relaxed. He heard her take a deep breath, sucking the air in through her teeth, and hoped she knew he was still there, still with her. All of them were looking forward.

"I said, let her go."

Simon was standing there with some man Jayne hadn't seen before, but there weren't no mistaking the uniform he was wearing. The expression on his face didn't exactly fill Jayne with relief.

"Sheriff." Gun man greeted him genially. "How's things tonight?"

"Been better, Eli." A slow, lazy jerk to the side, indicating Simon. "This man reckons you've got something of his."

Everything was happening in slow motion and he couldn't figure if it was the rest of them or the drugs sliding through his blood and making him dizzy.

"Something of his?" The man named Eli laughed and Jayne heard Kaylee gasp. "You mean this? She's yours is she?"

"Yes." Simon bit out and Jayne had to wonder why the hell he didn't bring his own gun. "She's my... intended."

Jayne gritted his teeth.

"Sorry to hear it, Son." Eli laughed again. "'Cause I think you're being cuckolded here. The way these two were goin' about."

"That true?" The sheriff swept his eyes from Simon, over to Jayne and ended at Kaylee and Eli. "'Cause we had an agreement an' if she's as good as married, you gotta let her go."

"Yeah." Spoke up one of the men who Jayne had marked for pain after they'd manhandled Kaylee. "But if she's just playin' around with this one here, then she's fair game. Your rules. They won't be missed."

"No." Simon was quick to answer and Jayne was just about ready to hit him, just as soon as he could stand up and beat these other guys down first. "He's nobody. Just the bodyguard."

"Bodyguard?" Jayne felt Eli's foot press down firmly on his ankle and had to bite back a groan. "Either way, you've been screwed. He wasn't protecting anything."

Kaylee's leg twitched and he felt her clench against his hand, he gave it a gentle squeeze back.

"Awful close for a bodyguard." Said one of the other men.

"She toys with him." For someone who got nervous ordering whisky at a bar, Simon was comin' up with these answers mighty quick. "Like a pet. He's nothing more than a dog that follows her around."

He felt Kaylee stiffen next to him.

"That right?" Eli sneered and Jayne heard Kaylee gasp again. "What is it? You with that boy over there? Or you gonna stay with us?"

"He's..." There was a strain in her voice Jayne didn't even want to think about. "He's telling the truth."

Eli sighed dramatically.

"That's a bit disappointing." And she was suddenly shifted out of his reach, Jayne watched her being pushed forward, stumbling as she scrambled towards Simon. "Well then, prove it."

"What?" Simon gasped out the very question Jayne was thinking.

"I said prove it." Jayne was gonna smash this man's face in. "The two of you being so intended and all."

She'd turned to look back at him and Jayne met her eyes. He almost wished he hadn't. He could see the fear in them and tried to smile, tried to give her some other reassurance that he'd be alright. By the way her eyes widened, he didn't think the message had gotten through.

"Give him a kiss, sweetheart." Eli explained. "And make it worth our while. You can pretend your life depends on it. If that helps any."

He couldn't watch, Jayne knew he shouldn't watch, not when she'd started crying again, not when he could see the way her shoulders trembled as she turned away from him.

Not when she stepped towards Simon and certainly not when she pressed herself into his arms and kissed him like she'd done it a million times before, as if she'd never stopped doing it.

But Jayne couldn't look away and he bit down on his tongue until he tasted blood as the catcalls started to sound around him.

***

Prompt 078: Loyalty. Words: 608.

DIBS.

If they got out of this alive, Kaylee was going to kill Simon, she was going to take a wrench and beat him until he no longer resembled anything remotely human. Bile rose in her throat as she turned to look back at the three men standing over Jayne.

"There." She spat. "Now let us go."

"Us?" Eli grinned, hamming it up for his more than captive audience. "My dear maiden, there is no 'us' here. There's a you, you're free to go. But the lap dog? He stays here."

To prove his point, he twisted his hand into Jayne's hair and drew his head back, hard and fast, so that Jayne was gasping upwards, a sound wrenched from his throat.

"Jayne!"

She couldn't stop herself starting forward, from moving towards them and Simon's hand came around her waist quick and hard, holding her back. Kaylee breathed in and forced herself to relax, to stand still.

Her eyes drifted from Jayne, from his clouded eyes that rolled back and forth, to the rocks behind them. To the sight that had greeted her before. She'd turned back to tell them all to go to hell, that she wasn't going to play their games.

Three men, only one of which was armed, they stood a chance against. Her, Simon and even a half incapacitated Jayne, they could take them. She hadn't needed Jayne's gentle squeezing of her calves to understand that.

But she doubted they stood much of a chance against the dozen or so more armed men lounging over the boulders. Watching them. She'd had to make her performance good and she had to make it believable. Even if she hated herself for it.

Even if it made Jayne glare like a wounded beast.

"What's it going to be, then?" Eli smirked. "Are you going, or are you staying with us? The more the merrier, we hear, and you look like know how to have a good time."

"We're not leaving without him."

She glared at him, because it was easier to face him and his threats than to look at Jayne. His eyes bored into her, hazed, but still wild and full of a vicious anger. Easier than noticing Simon's hand holding her back from doing something stupid.

"I call dibs, boys, she's mine first." Before this night was through, Kaylee promised that she was going to see Eli bleed. His eyes glittered as he looked her over. "Have to admit, sweetheart, you're..."

A single, sharp shotgun blast sounded from the distance and Kaylee's eyes widened as she saw the hole spread through Eli's chest. His face blanked out in confusion and he slowly fell forward.

Silence.

A second shot sounded and the Sheriff next to Simon fell.

Chaos erupted as the men hidden over the boulders began to gather their weapons and search the distance. The two unarmed men by Jayne began to scramble at Eli's body for his gun.

"Well, well, well." Oh, Kaylee had never felt so happy to hear that voice in her life. "Seems we got a delivery of parts and now we're here to collect our mechanic."

She turned to see Mal striding towards them, Zoe at his side and Inara and River behind them.

"Well, Zoe?" As far as Kaylee was concerned, Mal could sound as smug as he liked.

"Yes, Sir." Came the answer. "Big. Damn. Her..."

An explosion went off above the rocks and the men that could, began to scatter.

"Grenades?" Mal spluttered "River? You brought grenades?"

"Probabilities were high." Came the answer, unconcerned. "It seemed warranted."

Kaylee threw Simon's hand from around her and ran to Jayne.

***

Prompt 079: Enemy. Words: 891.

HIS OWN WORST...

Kaylee was fine, she was going to be okay. Jayne made sure of that fact before he gave over to it and let himself topple forward onto the ground. The grit hit his face hard and he felt it mingle with the blood, scratching his already raw temple, but he didn't really care.

There was something wrong with time, it was going too fast or it was going too slow, one or the other, he couldn't tell. Either way, it wasn't going the way it should.

He felt soft hands that couldn't be anyone else other than Kaylee. Heard her voice calling for Mal and Simon. A cough bubbled up into his throat as he was forced up, propped up with one arm around Mal and the other around Zoe.

"Keep him walking." Jayne was gonna scratch his ears 'til they bled if it meant he didn't have to hear that voice again. "Whatever drug it was will wear off more quickly that way."

It woulda been funny, Jayne thought in the haze, if it was any other time. Him leaning against Mal an' Zo, them all but dragging him forward and his feet stumbling at every other step. Like he was drunk.

God, he wished he was drunk.

"S'there whisky?"

"Not right now." That hadda be Mal, man was always pissin' on someone's parade. "C'mon, Jayne, we'll be at the ship soon."

"Oh, god." Kaylee again. "Look at his ankle."

"It's not broken. I checked before. What about you? You're bleeding, too."

Yeah, Simon, Jayne thought, better not lose the chance to check her over real good. Oh, but that was a bad thought, better not think that. So he looked down.

"S'I got a ankle?"

"Yes, Jayne, you've got two of them." Zoe sure sounded pretty when her voice was warm like that. "It's your lucky day. Keep walking."

"I'm fine, Simon, just..."

The strain in her voice broke Jayne out of his stupor and he stopped still, fighting the urge to drop down and give into another wash of dizziness.

"Leave her alone, Doc."

"Come on." Mal urged him forward. "Look, there's Serenity now."

Everyone was quiet after that and he felt his senses slowly returning to normal with each step they took.

"Jayne?" Kaylee came to stand in front of them just as they hit the ramp. "What...?"

"Mal?" He looked at the Captain. "You really got those engine parts?"

"Yeah." The answer came softly.

"Then you got a job to do, Kaylee." It was the first thing he'd said to her and he hadn't even met her eyes. "Best go do it and get us off this rock."

He didn't need to look her in the face to see the shock that would be there, knew that she'd be covered in hurt and that her eyes would be the worst of it. That they'd be looking at him all wounded and teary.

Jayne didn't trust himself to say anything else just then. He pushed himself forward, kept heading towards the med bay, not even bothering to try and fight Mal when he ordered Simon to check him out.

*

He lay on the gurney with his eyes closed tight. There was the soft, regular pull of weaves through the side of his head and he relished the pain, had refused any more pain meds just so he could feel every piece of dirt that was pulled from it.

Jayne tried to picture Kaylee in his head. Kaylee laughing at one of his dirty jokes, her eyes sparking up so fast, the way her neck flushed with it. Tried to remember the way she looked when she was sleeping, all curled up into him, face blank and peaceful.

Tried to think about her a dozen different ways other than the ones which forced themselves into his head. Kaylee sitting there with Simon. Kaylee agreeing that he weren't nothing more than a dog. Kaylee kissing Simon. Over and over again.

His eyes flew open and he grabbed Simon's wrist.

"You value that pretty face of yours, Doc." He felt the acid seep into his mouth and wanted to spit. "Then you best not find yourself alone with me again. You hear me?"

"I didn't..." Simon's hand shook in his. "I never meant it to go that far."

"You don't play with those kindsa people." He let go. "And now, you don't play with me."

He closed his eyes again and let the doctor finish stitching his head, the images flooding his brain again and making him clench his jaw until it ached.

And the worst part about it was that it wasn't anyone's fault. Not really. Simon had done what he thought he needed to get them out of it. Kaylee had done the only thing she could. He knew how bad it could have been for all of them. He knew it, knew exactly what they would've done to her. And he woulda yelled long and hard if she'd gone and done something stupid back there.

But she hadn't. She'd played along and he'd watched and now he couldn't forget. He tried to picture something else, anything else, but he just couldn't do it. Every time he saw her face, he saw Simon's and it made his gut twist, made him swallow so hard he couldn't breathe.

***

Prompt 080: Lover. Words: 528.

HOLLOW.

It was late when she found herself pushing open the hatch to her bunk. So late it was almost morning. The familiar sound of Serenity's engines lulled her even further to near sleep.

Kaylee left River and Mal to fly them out and away, her job was done.

She wasn't expecting Jayne to be waiting for her, wasn't expecting him to be in her bunk half asleep. A feeling of relief washed over her, solid and smooth, and a knot that had been building in her stomach began to untie itself.

Her dress fell to the floor and she eased herself under the blankets, nestling into the warmth of them. Even her eyes ached, she was that tired and tense and worn out.

"You alright?" She whispered as she reached out to touch his shoulder.

A spark flew between them as her finger made contact with his skin and she felt his hand close in on her wrist, holding it still as he rolled over to face her, to lean over her.

"Jayne?"

"Shh."

He dropped her hand off to the side. It landed next to her head and she let her eyes stretch sideways to look at it, confused. His own hand came down to land on her shoulder, sliding down the flesh of her breasts as his leg slid between hers.

"Okay." She answered him softly. "Okay."

It was different. That was the only word she could think to describe it. Different. Didn't want to give it any other name as he loomed over her, pushing between her legs and closing his eyes so he didn't have to look at her face.

Kaylee tried to make it alright, tried to make it better as she reached up and ran her hand down his cheek. Better, as she leaned up and tried to kiss his mouth, his neck, anywhere she could reach. But he kept twisting away from her.

Eventually, she fell still, falling back against the pillow as she stared up to the ceiling, her hands fisting against the sheet. She wondered if he even noticed.

He slowed down, then he stopped, unfinished. His arms shook as they held him up, hovering above her. Her eyes were closed by then and she felt his breath on her face, felt his forehead touch hers lightly.

"I'm sorry." His voice was hoarse and it scratched at her. "I can't."

Jayne rolled away from her, curled himself into the wall, and Kaylee felt a gust of air force its way into her lungs. She opened her eyes and stared, hollow, up at nothing.

His body had always been warm, had always radiated heat and that hadn't changed. She could feel it seeping from his back across the sheet, felt the urge to lay her hand across his skin, to mold herself to him.

But there was a wall between them now, big and solid and strong and she didn't know how to break it down. Her throat ached with the need to reach him. His heat, lying so close and yet so untouchable, made her cold inside.

Kaylee swallowed the large, choking sobs and silently cried herself to sleep.

***

Prompt 081: Book. Words: 524.

PENANCE.

"What are you doing?"

It shouldn't have surprised him that she sought him out. Jayne kept his eyes focused on the pages in front of him, kept scanning them over and over again. The words had lost any shape and meaning long ago.

"Looking."

Her hand came out and settled softly over his, pushing down until he had to stop running his fingers along the page. He couldn't breathe. Gently, so gently he wasn't even sure he was doing it, he pulled his thumb from out of her grasp and grazed the skin of her hand.

"It's not in there."

She said it softly and he closed his eyes. Blocked out everything but the feel of her skin, soft and supple under his as he drew circles. His mouth opened and he sucked the air in through his lips. He could drown in just the ripples she was causing.

"Yeah, it is." And he closed the rest of his fingers around the book and pulled it closer to him, away from her. "It's gotta be."

He wasn't watching her, but he was intensely aware of her sitting down at the edge of the weight bench as he sat at the head. He could trace all the minute movements she made. Just from memory alone.

"Is that...?"

Jayne let his fingers feel the worn cover as he closed the book, pressed the pages together and let it sit there on the bench between them. Maybe if he held them tight enough, he could squeeze the meaning out, make it ooze out the sides like butter from a biscuit.

"He gave it to me." A shrug. "'Fore he left."

"Jayne..." For a second, it sounded like he could find the answers in her voice.

"He said if I needed something, it'd be in here. I just had to wanna find it hard enough." He risked a quick glance up and the power in her eyes made him look down again. "But there's nothin' here for real life, it's all loaves and lambs and people begetting each other."

Stupid gorram book, with its stupid gorram messages about things nobody knew anymore. He hadn't seen anything in there about women with gashes on their legs, bruises the shapes of fingers on their arms and bruises bigger than that on the inside.

"I miss you, Jayne." Her voice caught, hitching. "I miss..."

"Don't know why." He broke in, biting his lip. "I ain't no good for you."

"Yes." It was a gasp, a mantra that she'd been holding in, he could tell. "Yes, you are."

Jayne closed his eyes and forced himself to remember lying next to her, feeling the way her whole body jerked with tears. Lying there, knowing it was his fault. At least he had a memory without Simon.

"Gorram it, woman." He stood up, tossing Book's bible to the side. "Can't a man get some peace around here?"

His bunk was empty when he climbed down into it. Stripped down and bare. He added the way she'd flinched when he'd moved suddenly to his growing arsenal of reasons why it had to be that way.

***

Prompt 082: Nature. Words: 527.

VAULT.

There was an empty chair across from her at dinner and Kaylee pushed her food around her plate. She wasn't hungry, she hadn't been hungry for days now. Not that she'd noticed anyone having a particularly large feast since they'd flown away from Three Hills.

They'd sent an alert to the cortex and, as far as they'd heard, some traffic had stopped going there, the pastor had called for outside help and things would be better there than they had in a while.

A lot of disruption and the ripples of it would haunt the people involved for a long time. That sounded vaguely familiar.

"It'll just take time." She said, to no one in particular, to everyone. "He'll start back with us, soon."

She didn't need to look up to see the way everyone glanced at each other around her head. They'd been doing it for days, like she was a time bomb set to go off and they'd all lost the timer that told them when.

"I just..." Maybe if she kept pressing the button, somebody would answer, would tell her something that would make her feel better. "... need to give him more time. He's like that. Just needs time."

"Mei mei." The way Inara said it made Kaylee look up.

Not one of them looked like they were gonna say anything hopeful.

"What?"

Not one of them met her eye.

"He didn't tell you?"

Zoe was scary when she talked like that, all soft and full of worry. 'Cause when Zoe got soft, it meant people better take note.

"What?" She asked again, searching all of them until she came to rest on Mal. "Tell me what?"

"He's leaving." And Mal didn't look happy to be giving that news. "When we touch down tomorrow, he's off the boat. He's already made a contact for a different ship."

"No." But it rang horribly true. "No, he can't."

She saw it, saw it in the way Mal and Inara looked at each other, like they'd had this discussion before, in the way that Zoe's eyes got all crinkled when she looked at her, in the way Simon wouldn't look up and his face blanched out white.

Kaylee felt it building, a slowly rising panic. It had been hard over the last few days, but she'd kept telling herself it would get better. Things always got better. Be patient, repeated it over and over again when Jayne wouldn't stay in the same room with her, when he wouldn't talk to her, be patient.

Her eyes flew to River.

"But you said." It was almost like desperation. "You said about the flowers and the bees and be patient. You said! And I'm doing that!"

"Kaylee..." Inara's hand covered hers on the table.

"It's not applicable." River said carefully. "Jayne's not a flower. That's not his way."

"What am I supposed to do?" Kaylee didn't even care anymore how pathetic she sounded. "Help me."

"He's a vault." And River watched her with steady, calm eyes. "You have to break him now. Once the door is sealed, it won't ever open. Not to anyone. And it's nearly closed already."

***

Prompt 083: Eternal. Words: 1240.

SOME THINGS REMAIN THE SAME.

He didn't even know what he was doing.

Jayne knew this ship in and out, he'd been in all her corners and knew some of the good hidey holes, could list all the little foibles, like the third stair that ran down from the bridge to the cargo bay. It wobbled and, no matter how many times Kaylee fixed it and tightened the bolts, it always went back to wobbling. Everyone just stepped over it.

The point was, he knew it.

He'd even been here before. Not many times, in fact he could probably count 'em on one hand, but he still knew the shape of it, the smell of it. Maybe he was trying to get it all in his head so he wouldn't forget.

He knocked, slow and careful.

"Jayne!" Inara covered her surprise quickly as she stepped back from the door. "Please, come in."

"I... uh..." It was always different in her shuttle, like walking into a different world. "I wanted to ask you a favor."

Her eyes searched his for a second, as if waiting for something.

"Yes." She said, finally. "Of course, Jayne. What is it?"

"Well, see." Best get it over with quickly. "I asked River an' she kept telling me to go see Kaylee and then she wouldn't talk to me at all, an' I figure there's no point asking Zoe, 'cause she won't... I could pay you, if you want. I mean, I don't have much money now, but I could forward credits back once I get settled somewhere else."

She blinked.

"Jayne? What are you...?"

It clicked.

"Oh, no, not that!" It even made him smile a little. "Don't get me wrong, Inara, you're a real fine lookin' woman and all, an' maybe one time I woulda... but I don't mean that. Sorry."

Her face remained calm and smooth, but he could see the amusement in the back of her eyes. It made him wonder if everyone saw it, if her clients could see things like that, or even if they cared to.

"Well, I'm sure I'll manage." She smiled again and gestured to the sofa. "Why don't we sit down and you can tell me, in more detail, what you're talking about."

He sunk into the sofa and, if it had been any other time, would have relaxed into it, but he was too worked up, too distracted.

"I don't have much, never cared to. Things weigh you down out here." It would be so much easier if he was already gone. "So, I was wondering if I could have somethin' of yours, somethin' girly."

"You want...?" She still didn't look like she understood. "Why?"

"I got nothin' a girl would want." He paused. "I got nothin' Kaylee would want."

She closed her eyes and breathed in before looking back at him.

"You want to leave her a present?" He nodded, relieved that she'd finally caught up. "Jayne, have you considered that she doesn't want anything from you, besides yourself?"

He shook his head. Not to say that he hadn't thought about that very thing, but because it wouldn't work. He was sure Inara understood that.

"I'd gladly give you this entire shuttle for free, Jayne, if I thought it would help."

"Yeah." He went to stand up. "I thought you'd say as much, but I had to ask. Thanks anyway."

"Sit." Her eyes flashed and she pointed back down. He had no choice but to do it. Once he was settled she smiled again. She was starting to give him the chills. "I take it you haven't talked to Kaylee about all this?"

"Well, no." He admitted. "I couldn't do that, she'd just try to talk me out of it."

"And?" She urged him on. "Doesn't that tell you something?"

"Yeah, it tells me she doesn't know what's good for her."

Her eyebrows arched.

"And you do?"

"It ain't me, Inara." He had to make someone see. "I can't do nothin' right, never have an' I thought maybe I could do this, that I could one good thing. But I can't. I don't wanna hurt her anymore, I don't. I'm a selfish man an' if I stay here I won't be able to say no to her an' she'll come back and I'll just hurt her again."

Her eyes didn't waiver.

"You're hurting her now." He flinched when her hand reached out to lay upon his. "Jayne, she had to find out about your leaving from us. Don't you think that was unnecessarily cruel?"

He let his head hang down and stared at the floor, it was easier than facing the understanding in front of him.

"How'd she take it?"

"Not well, I'm afraid. She hasn't said anything to me, I don't think she's said anything to anyone, really, but I get the feeling she blames herself."

He was afraid of that.

"It ain't her fault." For this he could look up. "You gotta tell her that, Inara."

This here, this is exactly why anyone else would've been better. Mal woulda yelled at him, or told him how much of a cock he was being. Zoe would probably have just slapped him and told him to grow a pair. River would've just rolled her eyes and told him to go talk to Kaylee.

He could take yelling, he could take all the insults and challenges to his manhood, he could take it all and give it back in spades. But Inara? Inara was makin' him think.

"That's not my responsibility and you know it." Yeah, he was afraid of that, too. "It seems to me that she doesn't blame you and you don't blame her. So the fact that you're both off blaming yourselves is nothing more than a useless waste of time."

Okay, maybe Inara could get mean.

"But..."

"Talk to Kaylee." She patted his hand and then stood up. "And that's not a suggestion. You owe her that much."

She was right, Jayne knew it, had been trying to talk himself out of it for days. Maybe he'd been trying to talk himself into it, he wasn't sure. He didn't know whether he'd get the courage to do it, or if he'd chicken out. Or even if anything good would come out of it if he did.

But whatever else, there was something he'd wanted to do to Inara for a very long time.

"Yeah." He stood up and began edging towards the door with her. "Thanks for talkin' to me, I know you're her friend and all."

"I consider you a friend, too, Jayne." She smiled again. "I hope you remember that."

"Well, then." He leaned in a little closer. "Friend to friend? I think you should take your advice more often, it's good advice."

"My advice?" There was that look of confusion again. "In what?"

"Talk to Mal." He was expecting the way she widened her eyes a little. "If anyone needs to talk, it's you two. Maybe you'll get to kiss him again."

"What?" And there was the shock. "I've never kissed Malcolm Reynolds!"

He waited with a cocky expression on his face and her cheeks flushed a real pretty red.

"He was unconscious, near death and he doesn't know. That doesn't count." She gathered her robe tighter around her shoulders and frowned at him. "How did you know?"

"I didn't." He grinned. "'til you just told me."

And there was the anger.

"Out!"

***

Prompt 084: Serenity. Words: 1201.

TRACES.

Kaylee stood in front of her door, biting her lip as she looked at the name plate. River had done a good job, better than she could have asked for. If anyone had asked her to put a piece of Jayne in something, she would have drawn a gun or something big. But River hadn't, she'd given one of the flowers an eye for its blue center.

And it was watching her now, glaring at her, sharp and accusing and disappointed.

Jayne was gone, she'd messed up and she'd lost him. Serenity had been docked, silent and still, for over an hour. She'd lost all her nerve and hidden in the engine room, because she knew he couldn't leave without saying goodbye. Jayne wasn't perfect, far from it, but he wouldn't ever leave her hanging, just disappear into the wind without a word. Nobody was that cold.

Yet he was gone.

She'd grown restless, edgy with the wait, skin prickling and brain ticking over every second until she was ready to crawl the walls with it. Serenity was a small ship, too small for a grown man not to be found when somebody was looking for him.

And she'd looked everywhere, finding nothing but blank rooms behind every door and then the hollowed out shell of his bunk. Empty. There was no trace of him there, not even a trace of herself, nothing but the faintest, barely there smell of him lingering in the air. A few days of space travel and the recycled air would take care of that sure enough.

He was gone and there wasn't anything to do but slip down into her bunk and cry.

"Took your gorram time."

She couldn't breathe, the air was sucked out of her bunk. At least, that's what it felt like. He was sitting there, just lounging back on the bed and looking so comfortable, like he really did belong there, that it all began to ache again.

Kaylee couldn't breathe, but she could speak.

"You can't leave."

She'd thought it would be hard, that there'd be long, awkward silences, gaps and stutters in their words that would be covered by embarrassed glances. Or, worse, hot, angry stares and words so vicious they drew blood.

But this? This was the easiest thing she'd done as she looked at him.

"You ain't allowed to leave, Jayne Cobb. Do you hear me?"

"Kaylee..." He sat up straight, watching her with bright, bright eyes.

"I don't care if you don't want me no more, I'll stay away from you. I'll do whatever it takes, but you can't leave this ship. It won't be the same if you go."

"You'd get over me soon enough." He stood up. "All of you, you'd move on."

She stepped forward, shaking her head.

"You wanna know what it'd be like if you left?" Kaylee hadn't even known she'd thought about it so much, but apparently she had. "We're gettin' small, too small an' Mal'd have to hire someone else. An' he'd have to be big an' mean, just so's we can keep doing all the jobs. An' he'd smile at Mal and Zoe and Simon, but me an' Inara an' River, we'd have to spend our time locking our doors and stayin' out of his way an' making sure we're never left alone."

He turned his head, just a little, cocked it to the side to watch her.

"And Inara would leave again. She'd have to, she couldn't afford that kinda stuff in her line of work. An' then Simon would take River and they'd be gone, too, because they couldn't stay, not with new people who'd sell 'em off. An' I'd be left too scared to leave my bunk, just wondering when he'd be coming for me."

"Mal'd space any guy before he let happen." Jayne frowned. "You know he would."

"It'd only have to happen once." She insisted, still happily full of steam. "And what about you? You ready to go back to that? Havin' to share a bunk with someone who'd slit your throat as soon as move aside to let you pass, never able to leave anything around in case it gets stolen? Getting only a half of what you deserve from a job, scraping by on whatever food they think about letting you eat, 'cause they'd rather hoard their takings than buy bigger rations? Never bein' able to sleep, 'cause you gotta keep an eye out for any body who's got worse thoughts than you? Or..."

"Kaylee." He reached out. "Stop it."

"See? You can't leave." Big, big eyes that blinked up at him. "You're just not allowed to."

She hated this, she hated not being able to know what he was thinking. He was so easy to read sometimes, 'cause Jayne may have been many things, but complicated was never one of them. Right then he was a big, stone wall of nothing and she felt like beating her fists against his chest until he crumbled.

"Like I said." She insisted. "I'll stay out of your way, you won't ever see me. You just... you just can't go. You leave and the whole ship falls apart."

He was such a big man, he took up all the space there was and yet, somehow, he always managed to fold into himself, to squeeze himself down so that he could look into her eyes, face to face.

"Is that it?" He frowned. "S'at all you want me here for?"

And she hit him.

Couldn't quite stop herself from rearing her hand back and punching the vulnerable curve of his neck, where it sloped down into his shoulder. It gave her a slight sense of satisfaction to see him flinch back from her.

"Chu ni duh!" She spat it out. "Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng!"

"Kaylee!"

"You get the hell out!" She pushed him towards the door, scrambled her hands over and around his shoulders to his back and shoved him at the ladder. "I can't believe you, Jayne!"

"What?" He tried to grab her hands, tried to stop her frantic attack. "What I do?"

"I've been the one tryin' to talk to you!" Her voice raised to a shout. "Me! I've been the one tryin' to make it all good 'tween us and you've done nothing but stay outta my way."

Another whack across his arm.

"You wouldn't talk to me!" Whack. "And now you're gonna play the dumb one? You're gonna try and act... like you don't...?"

He managed to grab her right wrist, so she began hitting him with her left hand.

"How dare you?" Her foot jumped forward on its own and kicked him in the shin. "I've a good mind to..."

"Ow." He struggled to grab her left hand. "Quit it!"

"Make me! You tah ma..."

Just like that he kissed her, hot mouth over hers and arms coming around to grab her shoulders and surround her and oh, how she'd missed that. She frowned as she pulled her face back, put on her fiercest glare.

"You ain't forgiven."

"'Course not." He agreed.

"You made me feel like crap the last few days, jackass."

"You got a filthy mouth, babygirl." ***

Prompt 085: Gold. Words: 809.

ALCHEMY.

Jayne sat at the table and turned the little piece of metal over and over in his fingers, twisting it from side to side so he could look at it from all angles. He didn't know what had happened and he'd had plenty of time to think about it.

He'd gone down into her bunk so he could talk to her, to tell her what he was feeling and let her decide what she wanted and then, before he knew it, she was yellin' and he'd said something stupid.

'Course, he'd heard what he was saying when he said it and he figured if he'd been standing off to the side and had to listen to it, he'd've grabbed a big, heavy stick and beaten himself too, probably until he bled.

Then he'd kissed her and she'd melted in his arms and none of the words had gotten out and a little piece of him kinda liked it that way. He hated the talking part. Hated it with a passion. 'Course, another piece of him just called him a coward. It was easy to ram that piece back in whatever dark recess it came from, no matter how right it was.

It wasn’t like he felt guilty or nothin’, distracting Kaylee like that. That was what she wanted, was what she’d been trying to say all along. It was. No reason to feel bad at all. Not a one.

The little piece of sparkly in his hand began to look more and more like the tin it was.

“Pretty presents for pretty girls.”

“Yeah.” Jayne didn’t even have the energy to bite back at River. “Maybe.”

When he’d set out to go get his stuff back from that ship, Mal had been waiting for him. Laughed as he said he’d known Jayne would never’ve left and so’s his stuff wasn’t ever loaded onto the other ship. Gorram, but it was hard to argue with a man when he was right.

Gave him some time to walk around the small town and think. Not avoid. He’d been doing that enough and he’d told himself he wasn’t gonna do that again. No, it wasn’t avoiding. It was looking. He was looking for something to make up for what he’d done.

At the time, standing at the stall with all the shiny trinkets, he’d been blinded by reflection of the sun on ‘em, fell to the practiced spiel of the barker. ‘Course, he’d been lookin’ at the real pretty pieces, the ones behind the glass.

But he didn’t have enough coin for one of those, not nearly enough. His fingers had pressed the coin through the fabric of his pockets, mentally counting up the totals, his eyes sliding from the locked cabinets to the display cushions and, finally, to the little boxes in front.

There weren’t nothin’ wrong with this one. ‘Ceptin’ it wasn’t one of the ones he’d wanted.

“She’ll want it.” River told him. “It will be precious to her, because it’s from you.”

“Might be good.” He tried to smile. “But I’m not sure if I’m enough to make gold outta tin.”

“You want the Philosopher’s Stone.”

“The what?” Well, maybe Jayne could find some energy to bite back at her if she started going all loopy again. “I look like a philosopher to you?”

“Not a thing.” She gave him one of those looks, the one that meant he was being slow. “An ideal. Alchemists on Earth that Was, they believed the Philosopher’s Stone would help them make gold out of lesser materials.”

“Guess I do need that, then.” He sighed. “You know what it is, do ya? Know how to do it?”

“Kaylee does.” She reached out and her hand danced on his wrist. “Like Midas, she touches everything and it turns precious.”

Jayne couldn’t help but be disappointed.

“Don’t think it’ll work this time.”

“Kaylee doesn’t need gold.” River frowned, her voice getting edgy. “She is gold.”

“Ain’t no one shinier.” He agreed.

“Gold is more than shiny rock.” She tapped his arm to make him look up at her. “It’s valuable, dear in more ways than one. It’s strong, incorruptible, but made corruptors of many. And it bends, molds, folds into patterns that it’s forced into. Malleable, but never breakable.”

He wasn’t sure he understood and she sighed at him.

“It’s stronger than it looks. You can bend it, but it won’t break.”

And now he didn’t want to understand.

His fingers squeezed the little trinket tightly, so much that it left dints in the pads, crevasses in the whorls of his fingerprints.

“I don’t think…”

“Kaylee will want it.” River insisted. “She will like it.”

“Yeah, but she deserves better and I’ll get it for her.” He stood up and let the ring clatter to the table. “You might as well have this one.”

***

85 down, 15 to go...

COMMENTS

Friday, January 13, 2006 4:52 AM

HUMBUG


Thanks, Jacqui!

You made me cry, you made me shiver.....

Real emotional, and a great story.

I'm just glad you didn't let Jayne leave..

Now, are you going to make things right between these two again..... ?

And River's right..... Kaylee would love that ring............

or are you going to have Jayne give her a gold one.....?

Friday, January 13, 2006 5:28 AM

LVS2READ


I stumbled across #77 yesterday at LJ, but decided to wait to read it until you posted a group of them here. I didn't want to wait those several days between each one! *g*

This was, as usual, awesome. Teary-eyed for the Jaylee angst, but I knew the pieces that "can't be put back together" just had to be S/K! Thank you for not proving me wrong. *hugs*

I loved the bit when Jayne told Inara to take her own advice! And him guessing about her having kissed Mal. LOL

Looking forward to the next set!

"I love my captain."

Monday, January 16, 2006 12:18 PM

MORGANZOLLA


God, this is my favourite fic!

Please tell me you'll keep writing Jaylee after this.

The little ditties make for a more interesting read.


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