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HiredMan

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 11 months ago

Hired Man

 

Author: NA76

Fic Title: Hired Man

Fandom: Firefly

Pairing(s): Mal/Jayne

Warnings: minor references to vague non consensual sex

Spoilers: none

Summary: Mal comforts Jayne after he's been shot.

 

 

Nominated Category:

Best Hurt/Comfort Fic


 


 

Part One

 

Jayne Cobb has seen a lot of life in the twenty something years he’s been off his home world. He knows a lot more than people give him credit for too. Don’t need schoolin’ to be smart. Just need to have brains and he’s got them, an’ a whole load of feelin’s to go with ‘em. ‘Cept the hired man ain’t there for that. He’s there to shoot to kill and take his pay and go rut it away in a bar on whores and cheap rotgut. So that’s where he is right now. Rutting his pay away just like expected and keeping out of the gorram way.

 

This bar’s got more’n enough spit and sawdust to go round. Whores are on parade so much they may as well be all hung up in a shop window like finery for the fancy shindigs the rich folks go to. It’s one big regret Jayne has that he never got to see Kaylee all prettied up in her pink ‘n white ruffles with ribbon in her hair. He’s seen the dress all hung up in her cabin like it’s some big prize she’s won. Mebbe being seen out at the ball with the captain on her arm was the prize.

 

Jayne inhales another slug of whiskey before the taste can hit home and slams his glass down on the bar impatiently. Someone he cared about once told him he drank like he was out to forget a whole lot of things and that was when he was no more’n sixteen years old. They weren’t wrong.

 

Finishing another shot he blatantly ignores the come-ons from the girls who are looking to be hired; he ain’t in the mood tonight. This is the only kinda place Jayne is ever considered to be a catch. He’s well known in the cathouses on most of the rim. Might have a temper and let his fists fly or his weapons find the words for him every once in a while but never with the girls. With them he always pays up straight and he never outstays his welcome. He treats his hired women good.

 

Jayne’s pa has been a hired man all his life. Worked fifty years for a rich farmer. Right here on this moon as it happens. Probably no more’n an hour away from this very bar. The others on Serenity don’t know that. Don’t need to know that this goushi buru piece of rock is where generations of Cobbs have grown up, working themselves raw for gorram nothing. It’s one of the reasons Jayne left.

 

His ma’ll be real mad if she ever finds out he’s been back here on Nova Six without a visit home but what she don’t know won’t hurt her. Jayne’d like to see her again but he can’t face the others. No rutting way. He writes to her as best he can seeing he’s never been to a proper school. Poor people like him don’t get the chances the doc and his moonbrained sister got. Mind you least he’s bettering himself every day that passes whereas for the Tams the last few years must’ve felt like being dropped into the biggest pile of gou shi in the ‘verse. Not that he cares much, tries not to anyhow.

 

“Drink down,” shouts the bartender and Jayne feels a female arm slide over his shoulders. He’s so gorram tempted to get stuck here after shutdown and hide himself away in poontang but he can’t do that cuz it ain’t his way. He’s been paid to do a job and he’ll do it. Hired gun is all he is.

 

Stumbling backwards as he tries to remember how to stand upright, the stool flies out from under him splintering on the floor and a whip crack of laughter sends his hand straight to his hip the way it always does. ‘Nough people have laughed at him, ain’t room in this world for no more. He’s not quick as most times though, not with this many whiskeys burning their way through his guts. Gotta get a handle on this drinking or one day Kaylee’ll end up dead cuz he’s too drunk to protect her.

 

“Stay outta here, gan ni niang, until you can learn to keep your guns away from my girls.”

 

Unceremoniously thrown out into the street, Jayne slowly picks himself up and dusts himself down and turns back to look at the bartender’s heavies who sneer at him and stride back into the saloon. He weren’t meaning to hurt the whores, they must know that. They shouldn’t’ve laughed at him, got him riled up. Shouldn’t’ve done that.

 

Jayne tries to get his bearings but he’s all turned around. It’s hard to think with two bottles of whiskey inside your brain. Where the rutting hell did Wash set down? Can’t remember to save his life.

 

With no better plan coming to mind Jayne follows the track leading out towards this dead looking firwood forest. If he doesn’t find his way back to Serenity soon then it’ll be lock down and he’s already spent too many nights in the cells in this gou shi township and that ain’t nothing to be proud of seeing as he left here ‘fore he was sixteen.

 

It’s the clouds of glowfire smoke over to the west that pull him up short. The chemplant’s still pumping out poison like always, day and night, spreading its disease into the moon’s atmo. Jayne thought he had the rough end of the stick when Pa’s boss, Jensen didn’t want him for farmwork and picked his brother Mattie instead. Had to admit it was more like the middle of the stick when he got to work in the plant rather than slaving for next to nothing in the mines - leastways until the sickness started and he couldn’t keep nothing down. The day he was sent home from the chemplant was the day he found out what being a hired man meant on Nova Six. That was when he started acting up, learning ‘bout drinking and fist fighting and guns. Fourteen years old he was.

 

Jayne spins slowly around looking for some more points of reference, trying to get his gorram brain to function enough to find Serenity. First alarm siren is sounding and he’s got less than thirty minutes to get back to the ship, after then if he’s caught on the streets the martials’ll drag him into jail and beat on him until he’s angry enough to hit back.

 

Giving up on thinking Jayne lets his feet do the work and finds out that even they’re cleverer than his head. Ramp’s left open and Zoe and Wash are loading up the last of the dried rations with their hands rambling all over each other. That touchy feely gou shi makes Jayne wanna heave, worse’n when he was breathing in them dust clouds of poison. Happiness always does that to him. Like the way Kaylee shines when she looks at the doctor or the captain. Shiny little Kaylee.

 

He gets back to his cabin without need for useless talk, just a nod from the shepherd which suits him down to his boots. He ain’t in the mood for trading insults tonight. It’s too close to home for that. Unlocking the hatch and sliding down the ladder he sits down on the bunk too tired for the bother of undressing and the like. This little hole is the best piece of happy he’s ever had in his gou cao de life and that thought ain’t worth dwelling on for too long.

 

Kaylee says he ain’t got no stuff around to make it personal, none of the pretty pretties like she has cluttering up her walls. But he has Vera and Binky and the rest of his best friends -- the ones he can rely on. He has his letters and the rutting hats and ugly sweaters his ma sends him once in a while. Anyways he’s a hired gun and there ain’t no point in making out this is a permanent deal. He ain’t crew and he ain’t trusted and never will be, not since Ariel. Captain made that clear and made it clear enough too that if he puts another foot wrong he’ll be replaced and not in a gun for hire kind of a way and spacing ain’t the way he wants to go. Bullet to his chest in a fair fight is what Jayne has planned, not marooned out in the black or puking up his guts in a one roomed homestead on Nova Six. Death with dignity is all he’s asking for. Ain’t had much of that in life so he’ll give up his right arm to have it in when he dies. He has it writ down and put in the box with his letters and other personal e-ffects, is that what they call ‘em? But when the time comes he don’t expect anyone’ll have a care to go look.

 

Problem with living in a metal box becomes apparent when Jayne rolls over and tries to go sleep. Gorram married crew rutting like there’s no tomorrow. Course with the captain’s latest pi hua plan tomorrow might well be their last so he shouldn’t be sour for ‘em.

 

Stealing a shipment of pythax from under the noses of the feds ain’t gonna be as easy as Mal thinks. Jayne knows how much they value pythax on the Core and the doc should too ‘cept he’s always kep’ himself too clean to know the real use of that particular chem. Inara would know if she were still with the ship but she’s gone off and found herself a sugar daddy to keep her sweet once it was set that the captain wasn’t wanting nothing more’n a rut from her.

 

Pythax is there for making genseed grow strong and healthy on rocks that haven’t taken the terraforming that well. That’s the o-fficial use anyway. Most other folk who ain’t retarded know that it makes a man come like a rocket and sends him higher up in the atmo than any named planet in the verse. So they value it highly and Jayne’s tried to tell Mal all about that and he should know seeing as he was the one to work in a plant that made the gorram stuff but the captain don’t listen to his dumb as an ox hired gun who’s only useful for one or two things.

 

Yeah, tomorrow is looking to be a ta ma de wang ba dan of a day and that’s if Jayne can ever get some sleep to make it that far. Pulling his T-shirt off and burying his head in the folds of thin material he listens to Zoe cry out sounding as if she’s been hitting the pythax and wonders what the gorram hell Wash keeps in his pants. Wonders also how much more whiskey it’s gonna take to send him unconscious.

 

“Didn’t think my yanse lang was coming home tonight,” says a voice in his ear and Jayne jumps as an arm snakes around his belly.

 

It’s almost worth laughing at. Where else could he go? “Not gonna risk getting stranded on this piece of shit am I? Not when Vera’s likely to have her blaze o’ glory tomorrow.”

 

Fingers are working away at the zipper on Jayne’s pants and his cock falls out heavy and soft into Mal’s palm.

 

“Reckon you’d gone off to stick your ji ba somewhere hot and dirty and I’m betting you did, didn’t you, Jayne?”

 

Mal squeezes tight making Jayne wince even with the numbing qualities of all that whiskey.

 

First time this happened was over a year ago now. He’d been waiting for the tellin’ off for how he’d humped up the gorram plan by opening his mouth and letting fly then following it up with a burst of gunfire. All hell had broken loose that day. Wash had got a bullet in his arm and Zoe had come damn near to getting a new hole in her head and there was not one of ‘em arguing ‘bout who’s fault it was. But there was no tellin’ off that night.

 

“You do as I say or you’re off this ship,” was all that had been said to him then he was thrust up against the bulkhead, his pants were pulled down and the breath was hot like fire against his neck. He wanted to fight but for some gorram reason he didn’t. Fingers wet with something he didn’t want to think about shoved inside him, making him burn, making him mad. Making him hate himself for getting hard. And when Mal pushed him down onto the floor on all fours he still didn’t fight because he knew his place and one foot wrong would send him hurtling off that ladder and out into space.

 

So now Jayne lets it happen and it could never be called rape because he gets his pleasure from it. Though pleasure ain’t so much the right word. He gets to come. There’s no ties and he’s free to stay out the gorram way and go rut away his pay as long as he’s there when they need him to shoot to kill and shoot in most other ways too. As long as it’s not shoot his mouth off.

 

So why does he do it? Loyalty mebbe?

 

 

 


 

Part Two

 

That moonbrained little River Tam is the biggest pest that Jayne has ever known and that includes his twin cousins Sarah and Martha who followed him round the best part of Nova Six for the best part of his life. They’re both married now. One’s already a widow.

“All mixed up in his head. Wants to go see his momma. See where the flowers won’t grow,” River says in this all too knowing way of hers and Jayne glances round the table looking shifty at the crew who are eating their protein mash that’s trying it’s best to pretend to be grits.

 

“You best be keeping the girl quiet,” he growls in the doc’s direction, “We got things to sort out.”

 

“Scared of the little big men,” says River looking directly at him. Not smiling; just looking at him with those big eyes of hers that’re full of too much truth all wrapped up in lese.

 

Jayne shovels down his breakfast then wipes a hand across his mouth, “Belong in the bughouse, you do,” he says glaring at the girl.

 

“Bizui, Jayne. Remember what I said?” says Mal getting up from the table and leveling a stony glance his way. “I gotta send a wave to Senator Riga. Now play nice while I’m gone.”

 

Jayne suddenly feels a whole lot smaller than River especially when the girl turns on Mal and starts screaming.

 

“Wrong plan. Wrong person. Hurt. Like. Hurt. Numbers don’t add up.”

 

She’s flying out of her seat and racing at the captain with silverware in her raised arm but this time the metallic glint is thrown off a spoon.

 

“Reckon she needs to be kept out of the way from the deal today,” says Mal restraining the girl and disarming her with a smile. “Either Book or Simon can stay with her. Zoe, you decide.”

 

Mal’s eyes are all over the doctor sticking to him like honey and Jayne wonders whether he’s sleeping with him too. Mebbe he’s still trying to get into them fancy pants and once he does all this might stop. Jayne ain’t sure how he feels about that so he goes to get a second bowl of food cuz eating’s better than thinking any day.

 

It’s not often Zoe gets to give orders and she’s looking mighty proud of herself. “Simon,” she says “You and Kaylee look after River. Wash, Book and I’ll stay with the shuttle to check the R.V.P. is clear and, Jayne, you’ll take the captain’s back.”

 

It’s nothing funny. Nothing that ain’t been said a thousand times before. ‘Cept today the doc’s all full of venom and piss.

 

“I should guess it’s more often the other way around,” he says with one of them gan ni niang smirks.

 

He’s a stuck up bastard and, yesu, he’s got every right to hate Jayne but this is worse’n usual and Jayne’s wedged in between two gorram hard stony places and he ain’t liking it. He knows what he’d like to do but all the whiskey’s rotted away what’s left of his guts.

 

Mal laughs and heads off for the cockpit to send his signal arranging pick up of the goods and Jayne’s left with a sinking feeling in his belly that ain’t coming from the lousy food.

 

“On earth-that-was pirates called it matelotage. Marriage out of necessity because there weren’t women around,” preaches Simon.

 

Why does Kaylee just look at the pretty doctor all the time like there’s starlight coming from his rutting pigu, wonders Jayne. Kaylee’s his friend. His friend. Was a time he would have ripped the gan ni niang apart for saying what he did, but now? Well, now he knows his place.

 

“But since there are women on this boat guess we’d have to say you’re tong xing lian. Want to ha wo deh bang, Jayne. I’ll bet you’re a good cock sucker?”

 

Jayne sniffs and stares and looks down then he looks up and smiles. “For a well bred gen’leman who ain’t taken with swearing, you sure as hell know a lot of sly mandarin, Doc.” He’s pleased with himself and too gorram right. All that gou shi about him being the foul mouthed one. “Least I know what I am,” he says without a backward glance. It’s time to nurse his hangover and clean his guns and make sure his knives are polished up ready to be covered in red.

 

 

~****~

 

 

When the hatch door opens Jayne don’t bother looking up. Ain’t gonna be anyone but Book wanting to read him some bible text or Mal wanting a blow job just in case it’s the last time. No point in ‘em hiding their heads and ducking the truth. Theirs is a dangerous job and they all have their own ways of coming to terms with it.

 

But there’s no talk of God and there no lewd and crude and when the bunk depresses there’s only a slight change in weight so he looks sideways and sees River Tam sitting next to him.

 

“What you doing here, girl? Your brother needs to put a collar on you case you wander off and get lost someday.”

 

River’s smiling and Jayne curses himself for sounding kinda soft with the girl, soft as he gets anyhow.

 

“She misses you but it’ll hurt you to go back. It hurts you all the time. Cold and empty but she’s glad you got away. Damp lung and the poison sick are no future.”

 

Jayne’s been thinking River has been getting better for a long while now but when he looks at the others he knows they don’t hear what he hears. Maybe it’s cuz he’s the only one simple enough to understand a simpleton genius. Now there’s a combination.

 

He keeps his head down and runs a hand over his beard thoughtfully and while he’s doing that there’s more footsteps descending his ladder and the last time he can remember there being this many people in his quarters is when he was living at home and sleeping in the same room as his ma and pa and Mattie.

 

Gorram doctor. Now what the rutting hell does he want? Jayne gives Simon a sullen glance wondering why the hell he’s standing there shuffling instead of taking his sister away and slinging high class insults Jayne’s way.

 

“I’ve brought you some med for your headache,” Doc says with a strange look on his face. “You looked like you could use some.”

 

“Long as it won’t slow my speed down none,” says Jayne taking the little blue pills and staring at them like they’re poison. Doc would be pretty much of a diao to do away with the best fighter they got. But then again-

 

River laughs and spins around and laughs some more and Jayne looks at her out of the corner of his eye and can’t help smiling just a little.

 

“Diao,” says River and when Simon reddens up and gives her a telling off for cussing she and Jayne share this look that says they’re co-spiriters together. Fits nice knowing that he’s the only one who can see inside her shiny doll’s head.

 

Simon’s none too sure of himself and he glances from River to Jayne and back again. “Kaylee’s been trying to find you,” he says to his sister and she nods and gets up from the bed as if she’s about to make a quiet exit then she stops and stares at the two men.

 

“Pills don’t say sorry. Flowers say sorry best of all,” she says then darts up the ladder so quick it’s like she has wings.

 

Simon’s on the verge of following her when he stares over his shoulder and looks at Jayne the exact same way River did. You’d never not know that the Tams were brother and sister.

 

“She’s right,” says Simon, “You may be an untrained ape but that don’t, doesn’t mean I have any right to speak to you the way I did. I’m sorry.”

 

Jayne stares at his knives and his guns and the floor for a good long while. The added insult makes the apology that bit more believable.

 

“Too gorram right,” he growls, “And thanks.” The thanks part is no more’n a whisper but it’s there and the doc heard it. Jayne could tell by the way he missed a rung on the ladder. Jayne’s ma would be proud of him.

 

Swallowing the blue pills he lies back on his bunk grabbing some shuteye while he can. Finally the headache stops hurting so much and it’s kinda quiet and peaceful now everyone’s busy in the cargo bay, plotting and planning and plotting some more. Sometimes it’s good to be the hired gun. All Jayne has to do is show up and kill people. Ain’t nothing new.

 

“Thirty minutes ‘til it’s time,” says a voice waking him up from his almost sleep. Gorramit, Jayne’s off his game. He prides himself on stalking and tracking and keeping his ear to the ground but that ain’t happening at the moment. He’s too rutting relaxed here on Serenity, acting all dumb like it’s his home or something.

 

“Reckon it might be an idea if we took the edge off a little. Don’t want neither of us too twitchy,” says Mal sliding into the bunk and running his hands over Jayne’s muscles as if he’s weighing him up for strength and usefulness.

 

Jayne’s about to open his mouth and yammer on about reaction speeds and adrenalin when he thinks once, thinks twice and reckons that’s the closest the captain’s ever come to actually asking him.

 

They slide their pants down and Jayne’s on the way to pulling his right off when Mal stops him and rolls over on top.

 

“Don’t wanna fuck,” he says with his mouth buried in Jayne’s shoulder so Jayne sorta holds him as they rub against each other and share bedspace and breath. It feels mighty strange and it’s something Jayne’s never done before but it’s good and when he shoots his load and it triggers off Mal’s come he don’t feel quite as alone as normal. Maybe he’s not the only one.

 

 

 


 

Part Three

Plan all goes off without a hitch and the captain’s left with this expression of shock on his face that gives Jayne a good belly laugh.

“That’s only half of the deal that’s gone right, Mal,” says Wash with a grin as he taps in the co-ordinates for Agrippa Minor Four, a near uninhabitable piece of rock right on the edge of the outer rim. “There’s still time for us to get humped.”

 

“Ain’t nothing out there could go wrong,” says Mal with his trademark arrogant smirk.

 

“Cept Reavers,” thinks Jayne then realises he’s said it aloud.

 

“You and your gorram reavers,” says Mal looking at him kinda serious kinda joking “One day you ‘n me gonna sit and swap stories.”

 

“Make a change from swapping spit,” says Kaylee with a teasing smile and a laugh at the expressions of matching disgust on the two men’s faces. “Boys,” she says with a shake of the head.

 

“Supper’s up,” announces Book with a look that says it ain’t gonna be too appetizing and seeing as he’s had River helping him that’s no big surprise.

 

“What I can’t figure,” says Jayne as they all follow the shepherd to the galley and congregate round the table to eat, “is why the hell we’re delivering pythax to a gou shi hole in the wall at the pigu end of the ‘verse?”

 

“Well for one thing you ain’t paid to figure nothing,” answers Mal shoveling a forkful of protein stew into his mouth, “And for another I should think that was gorram obvious. We’re taking superfertiliser to a barren moon so they can grow crops.”

 

Jayne sighs and imagines his dinner being made out of pig or horse or some other fresh meat. Ain’t no point in him flapping his mouth off when the captain ain’t never gonna listen to him ‘bout what that chem’s really about.

 

It’s one of those weird as rut nights on Serenity that always happens before a deal goes down when nobody quite makes it away from the table. They play cards and drink just enough to get relaxed and as usual it unnerves Jayne. It’s all too much like being back on the homestead. Those evening’s when he and Mattie’d play jacks and marbles and listen to the whispered tales coming from ma and pa who’d be huddled up as close as they could get to the fire without ending up on the burning pine logs.

 

 

~*****~

 

 

They have to wait a good fourteen hours ‘til they arrive at Agrippa and Jayne reckons that the captain ending up in his bunk for the second time in a day has all to do with nerves and nothing much else.

 

“Any good whorehouses where we’re going?” asks Mal as he’s getting stripped down.

 

Jayne’s already naked cuz there’s no point in acting all prissy and pretending he ain’t in for a good plowing. Mal’s sure as hell not here for a heart to heart about the hun dan Reaverfolk.

 

“Never been there ‘fore,” says Jayne rolling over onto his belly, “Why? You after some ji bai?”

 

“Not thinking ‘bout me so much,” says Mal pulling Jayne back round to his back and trying to lift his legs.

 

“No rutting way,” growls Jayne. “Not being a girl for you even if you space me for it.”

 

There’s a look passes over Mal’s face and Jayne don’t quite get what it means.

 

“Just wanted to see who I was fucking for a change,” says the captain and that makes Jayne feel kinda bad inside but not bad enough to assume the position and end up with his feet in the air. He’s still a man, ain’t he? Even if it’s a hired one.

 

Best Jayne can come up with to ease the situation is a hand on Mal’s shoulder then he tips off the bunk onto the floor and ends up on all fours. It’s the man’s sly way to get off and one he can’t deny that he enjoys.

 

One hint of Jayne’s submission and Mal’s there lubed up and ready, cock sliding in on the slick passage of sweet smelling oil that must’ve been hijacked from Inara’s old shuttle. Feels good though and the scent is sorta relaxing and arousing at the same time. All it takes is one nudge against that gorram place inside and Jayne is as stiff as a fence post and good to go.

 

Mal’s hand grips and pulls him, slick and burning hot from the lube which smells kinda like those candies that were thrown at all the young’uns whenever there was a festival in the town square back home - the ones that took a lifetime to get sucked away to nothing. Jayne and his brother thought those gorram little balls of sugar were the best treat in the ‘verse.

 

It’s thinking gou shi like this that stops Jayne spilling straight away into Mal’s palm. When he’s in control he’s good to go for hours, can sure as hell get his coin’s worth from the pay-as-you-rut tarts. But like this, all pressed down, it’s- Well, it makes for a change. When you’re a big gan ni niang you don’t get much of an opportunity to be the ‘done’ one.

 

Mal’s thrusting into him hard now, that pretty looking ji ba forcing its way inside and stretching him ‘til it feels like he’s on fire. Jayne can hear these whispered words, nothing more than breaths same as always and he still can’t make out what they are. Wants to hear though. Sometimes when he’s lying awake at night and Mal’s gone back to his bunk he reckons he’d give away Vera for a chance to know what the captain really thinks of him. Ain’t looking for much. Just wants to be trusted is mostly it.

 

 

~*****~

 

 

Plan’s pretty gorram simple. Make contact with the buyer then they fly in under cover of the trackers setting Serenity down nice and safe all tucked up in a crater. Once the firefly’s bedded down then the four of ‘em who are handiest with guns shuttle to the rendezvous point and wait for payout.

 

“You’re sure there’s no seismic activity due, Wash?” asks Simon looking over the pilot’s shoulder and checking the readouts carefully. Jayne can understand his fear even if he don’t admit it. This rock is pretty unstable; Zoe pointed out at least three eruptions on the way in and that ain’t something any man wants to be stuck in the middle of. ‘Cept mebbe Mal Reynolds cuz he’s a crazy rutting bastard at times.

 

“Are you set, people?” asks Book checking his own ammo for de-fence purposes and looking way too comfortable with his weapons for any kind of preacher Jayne’s ever known. He’s tried to get a story out of the shepherd but Book ain’t having none of it. Same way Jayne won’t tell no one ‘bout his history. After all it’s a man’s right to be private.

 

Once the shuttle is loaded up with the crates of pythax and as many weapons as Jayne can fit on board Mal gives some last instructions to Book, Kaylee and Simon.

 

“We should be no more’n about three hours. If you don’t hear anything after six or so hours then start panicking.”

 

Jayne’s watching Kaylee all the time, the way he always does. That girl can just light a room up with her smile.

 

“Permission to panic noted, Sir,” she says with a laugh and a sloppy, wrong-handed salute. “I reckon communication’s likely to be a no go with the size of the magnetic waves that keep shooting around the atmo.”

 

“Won’t needs comms cuz nothing’s gonna go wrong, little Kaylee. Don’t everything always work out fine in the end?”

 

Mal’s doing his best to look reassuring. Truth is he don’t really need to look any way in particular cuz the way Jayne sees it this crew’d follow him straight into the gates of hell if that’s what he asked of them and that’s including the Tams. Jayne’s never met up with a tighter knit band of brothers in the whole verse. Maybe that’s why he craves the belonging part so much.

 

“The end usually works out, it’s the middle part where your plans tend to go wrong,” says Simon, “And the way I look at it we’re at the middle point right now.”

 

“Most probably true,” agrees Mal with a grin then slams the shuttle hatch closed.

 

Wash tests out the comms almost as soon as they lift off from Serenity and finds that they’re down already and that ain’t the best of news far as Jayne’s concerned. It’s not so different from any other of the deals that have gone down but this one makes Jayne feel as turned around as a bellyful of whiskey. There’s bound to be Reavers in them rocks. He hates gorram Reavers.

 

They land near as they can to the R.V.P. and Wash stays with the shuttle, keeping a wary eye on the clouds of stinking gases that are pouring out from the cracks in the surface making the place smell worse’n rotting eggs.

 

“Should feel at home here, Jayne,” says the pilot as he’s leaning up against the shuttle his voice all muffled by the sleeve over his face. “Place smells just like Canton. I’ll build you a statue while you’re gone.”

 

“Ain’t gonna be here long enough for that,” says Mal with a grin “An’, Wash, if you start sinking then rutting well run for it.”

 

The terrain is rocky as hell, more like mountain climbing and Jayne grudgingly pats Vera goodbye and leaves her behind in the boat. He needs weapons that’re smaller and easier to carry, don’t want to hump up this plan and get thrown off of that ladder.

 

“Well,” says Mal looking at him like he’s one of them performing monkeys, “Get tracking.”

 

“Ain’t no gorram sniffer dog,” grunts Jayne.

 

“Coulda fooled us,” says Zoe stacking the crates of pythax and waiting for Mal to lift the far end. “Anyway if we get to be pack horses you sure as hell have to join the zoo.”

 

It’s the dumb little things that sometimes make Jayne feel like he’s part of the crew. He growls something back at Zoe and then it’s time for work and he’s checking out the territory and worrying over the big number of ambush points he can pick out immediately.

 

“Ain’t likin’ this, Captain,” he says and Mal nods and shrugs.

 

“We’ll catch ‘em unawares,” he says with a wink, “Come at ‘em from the rear.”

 

There’s always time to be a smartass in Mal’s world and Jayne sorta likes that seeing how closed off the man was they first got acquainted. Gorramit, it ain’t the right moment fer him to be thinking dumb thoughts.

 

Mal points out a route up through the rocks and Zoë winces but don’t say nothing and that’s a whole big reason why Jayne thinks so highly of her.

 

“I’ll do the carrying,” he says. “You’re ‘most as good as me on point.”

 

Time’s being wasted carrying them crates the long way round but better to do that than wind up being gunned down by a sniper. Rocks are full of these little caves, Reaverholes Jayne calls ‘em, and he shivers and tries not to think of them creatures scurrying ‘round inside the mountains and living out their warped lives in these godforsaken places. Still wakes him up at night it does and not from the times he’s had to deal with ‘em cuz that’s real. If they’re there he can shoot ‘em. It’s what made ‘em that way that worries away inside his head. Whenever his pa had had a few whiskeys inside of him he used to tell Jayne and Mattie stories of where the Reaverfolk came from and Jayne still recalls that feeling of being so rutting scared he couldn’t close his eyes. Ma always gave the old feller a good tellin’ off after but he still went and did it again and Jayne and Mattie loved him for it. Them were the only times he remembers Pa being his own man.

 

Once they reach the top and are in a position to look down over the terrain, Jayne and Mal drop the crates with a sigh while Zoë goes off to scout out the R.V.P.. Mal rests on a rock and takes a drink out of his canteen and he’s trying to look like he’s all relaxed but Jayne knows better.

 

“Got the jitters too, huh?” he asks and Mal looks up at him and opens his mouth and just for one stupid gorram second Jayne thinks he’s gonna be treated like someone trustworthy like but then Zoe’s back and Zoe is Mal’s second in command and she earned that right a long time ago.

 

“It’s clear, Captain,” she says. “Four of them waiting at the location. No snipers in position.”

 

“Let’s go make us some credits then,” says Mal bouncing on his toes and back to being full of himself.

 

Jayne’s still jumpier than a whore with the clap.

 

 


 

Part Four

 

Mal’s as yee haw as they come. A ten minute swap of goods, a half hour walk back and here they are, sitting pretty with a sweet haul of coin in their pocket and ten percent of it is Jayne’s. That’s ‘nough to put a gorram big smile on his face and he spends the flight back to Serenity dreaming of the best way to waste his divs.

 

Most everyone must be doing the same it’s so rutting quiet. That is until Zoë jumps up from Wash’s knee and then there’s a whole load of gou shi hitting and Jayne just keeps outta the way for now. Ain’t nothing any of ‘em can do while the shuttle’s swerving and dodging and throwing them all around like they’re those little white seed heads that get picked up by the wind.

 

“Fed ship,” says Wash, his mouth set in this thin line that has Jayne thinking the worst. The little guy don’t look like that unless they’re in some rutting trouble that he can’t fly his way out of. Wash ain’t the biggest bravest ground fighter but he’s the best gorram pilot Jayne’s ever flown with.

 

Mal’s hanging on tight to the back of the pilot’s seat and leaning over looking out at what’s going on. “Why the hell are they trying to take a shuttle down? It don’t make no sense.”

 

“Rutting hell, they’re trying to pull us in,” yells Wash.

 

“Can you outmanoeuver ‘em?” says Mal in this quiet controlled way that has Jayne more’n worried. It’s the captain’s thinking voice. Means he sees more here than meets the eye.

 

“I’ll do my best,” replies Wash.

 

“Course he can,” says Zoë and one day Jayne would really like to know someone who has that much faith in him.

 

The only thing that’ll put Jayne’s mind at ease right now is a whole load of weapons so he checks ‘em and strokes ‘em and straps ‘em all over him. Then he sharpens his blades and stocks up on ammo and hangs onto his gorram big gan ni niang gun like she’s his baby.

 

Wash is flying by the seat of his pants now and he lets out a whoop of pride when it seems they’ve outrun the E class but then there’s the warning alarm of a missile attack and the mood’s changing quick. Wash yanks the shuttle ‘round and swings to get away but the little boat just don’t have enough juice to evade. The missile clips the tail and they’re thrown into this spin and there’s one whole mess of bodies and confusion as they tumble out of control heading right t’wards one of them craters. At the last second Wash pulls out and gets the nose up enough for them to crash between the rocks and chasms and it’s a rutting miracle that they’ve landed belly down on the surface.

 

There’s been a couple of fatalities but none Jayne can’t handle. Trigger mech on one of his laser sight shotguns got snapped and a Bowie knife’s all bent out of shape-

 

“Jayne, will you quit nursing your gorram weapons and help us with Wash,” yells Mal with a face like one of them cloud storms they have on Nevara. He’s more bent out of shape than the knife, that’s for sure.

 

Jayne helps carry the injured pilot out and lays him on the ground. “Bust his shoulder, I reckon,” he says looking at the way Wash is hanging onto his limp arm, his face all screwed up in agony.

 

“You reckon do you?” says Mal and Jayne’s thinking that maybe soon he oughta learn when to keep his trap shut.

 

Zoe returns with the med kit and zaps Wash with some painkiller then she pushes down hard on his chest and he’s focusing on her as Mal grips and pulls at his shoulder until the joint snaps back into position.

 

It ain’t nice hearing a man scream like a wounded animal. Jayne always feels a need to put ‘em out their misery.

 

“Shuttle’s grounded until Kaylee can get back and work some magic on it,” says Zoe, “so I guess we’re walking back to Serenity. Think you can make it?” she adds looking at her husband.

 

“Sure thing, baby,” says Wash with this doped up smile.

 

“Long as Mal ain’t gone and trapped a nerve,” grunts Jayne. “That hurts like a gorram bitch and’ll keep you off of your feet ‘til a doc can fix you up proper.”

 

“Good thing you can shoot straight, Jayne, cuz we ain’t keeping you here for your entertainment skills.” Mal’s looking at him like he’s back to being a worthless ta ma de and it ain’t fair. All he was doing was telling it how it is. That’s the problem with people, they wanna hear everything all candy coated and Jayne can’t see the gorram point in that.

 

“How far is it back to Serenity?” asks Zoe as she straps up Wash’s shoulder.

 

“Judging by whereabouts we were when the Feds caught up with us I should reckon it’ll take us a couple hours to walk it,” replies Mal in his steadying voice.

 

Jayne uses his brain and checks out the comms but they’re still stuck slap bang in the middle of a magnetic flare up and there’s nothing out there but hiss and crackle. He and Mal pack up some essentials into rucksacks and divvy up the money between three bags. Other valuable stuff, weapons and the like, are stowed away out of sight of scavengers.

 

“We gonna carry him?” asks Jayne and there’s this squawk from outside which makes him grin despite everything.

 

“No, you’re gorram not,” yells Wash, “I still got my legs, I just won’t be doing no lifting or shooting. Or upper body moving.” Jayne can hear soft kissing noises and all that sweetness is making him wanna puke again.

 

Once he and Mal are outside and the shuttle is secured the kissing stops and Wash is on his feet, swaying from side to side like he’s had too many drinks inside him but least he’s upright. Little pilot’s thinking on his feet too as he checks out the hand held navcom to gauge their position. Punching in the co-ords for Serenity he hands the device to Mal and leans on Zoe for support.

 

“Hate to say it but I’m thinking our ape boy may have had a point about trapped nerves and pain,” Wash says, his face white a sheet. No, more like grey as a dirty sheet.

 

This is one time Jayne woulda sure liked to have been wrong. He’s feeling that tell tale guerilla tingle running the length of his spine telling him things ain’t right.

 

“Like I figured it’s gonna take us least three hours to get back to Serenity and if we don’t get moving we’ll be walking most of the way in the dark,” says Mal studying the screen and then looking over at what the terrain is like.

 

Jayne follows his line of sight. It’s rocky but nowhere near as bad as the land was around the R.V.P.. “Shiny,” he says with a gruff laugh.

 

“Yeah, real shiny,” agrees Mal and they share this look and maybe they’re back to being- However they were before.

 

The walk is near impossible for Wash but give him his due he keeps going. Making his way up the rocks is bad even with Zoë and Mal helping him but downwards is worst, the jarring motion of the descent making him yell out in agony. Jayne’s on point, all senses alert and he wants to tell the pilot to shut the hell up case he attracts Reavers or scavengers or some such critter but he ain’t got the heart. If they get ambushed it’s down to him not doing his job properly not Wash being injured.

 

After a while the darkness sets in and it’s so gorram black on this gou shi pisshole and all Jayne can think of is them scare stories his pa used to tell him. He stumbles slightly making his way down and shingle rattles off the side of the rock face most probably alerting every type of predator in the area. Yeah, he’s off his game alright.

 

He’s still busy feeling sorry for himself when he looks over westwards and there’s this glow of light pushing up into the sky and that itch crawling up his spine just gets itchier. Making his way back up to this plateau of rock where the other three are taking a rest he looks at Mal.

 

“Lights’re coming off of Serenity. Book ‘n Kaylee know better ‘n that.”

 

There’s this long spell of silence and Jayne wishes like gorram hell that he’s wrong but they all know he isn’t. It’s dead quiet as they make their way down the rocks, feeling their way down the narrow crevices, making sure not to let fly with any more noise to send up an alert.

 

They manage the descent without no one falling and breaking anymore of their bones and Jayne reckons adrenalin’s a big reason for that. His stomach’s tied up in knots as he races out in front. Can’t stand thinking of anything happening to his girl with her happy smile and shiny everything. Kaylee’s never got a bad word to say about no one, not even him when he’s being all bull headed and ignorant. Then he gets to thinking ‘bout the others and he can’t stand thinking of nothing happening to no one on that gorram ship.

 

Jayne goes a little faster still keeping it stealthy ‘til he gets Serenity in his sights. He stops short when he hears this skin-crawling, scuttling noise and edges close as he dare, keeping himself under cover of the rocks. When he can bring himself to look he’s this rutting close to pissing his pants it’s untrue. Gorram gou shi buru, hun dan… For once he runs out of cuss words.

 

Ain’t no one should do that. Ain’t safe, ain’t right. Can’t be happening.

 

There’s Reavers here for rutting sure and there’s feds. Them special force hun dan, dressed head to toe in black covering themselves up, ‘shamed of what they’re gorram doing most like. Once he can think beyond the sick feeling and the cussing, Jayne takes a real good look. There’s maybe no more ‘n two dozen Reavers but they ain’t normal. No, these ones are all dressed up like soldiers, less bloodied up, less filthy, all monster though. Can’t mistake ‘em with their feral faces, still looking like the soulless sick nightmares they are.

 

Weirdest thing of all is they’re collared and not them kink ones with the leather and spikes neither. These’re all e-lectronic and flashy and when one of them critters steps out of line Jayne watches it go down clutching at its neck and howling like it’s been stuck. There’s this look on the Fed boy’s face as he plays with the little box in his hand and Jayne recognizes it from being a young ‘un. It’s like that soldier boy’s pulling the legs off spiders. The Reaver gets to its feet and falls back into position and the column scuttles forward in formation toward the open ramp of Serenity with the gorram handlers running along behind.

 

“Ta ma de,” Jayne breathes swallowing down the throw up that’s pushing its way up from his gullet when he hears the others coming up close behind him. “What do we do?” What the ruttin’ hell do we do?” he asks Mal who’s leaning over his shoulder and just staring.

 

The captain takes it all in, breathing slow and quiet and not saying a word and then Zoe’s standing next to him doing nothing same as Mal. They’re the ones supposed to be the thinkers so why ain’t they thinking it out and telling Jayne what to do?

 

Both teams of Reavers’re on the ship now hunting for Kaylee and River and the preacher and the Doc like cannibal tracker hounds.

 

“It’s a gorram rutting ambush,” says Mal mouth hard as a crevice of rock. “A gorram rutting ambush, and the question comes to mind is what the hell do you know about it, Jayne?”

 

What’s that word his ma used to use all the time? Flummoxed, that’s it. Jayne’s well and truly flummoxed and he ain’t got nothing to say because he hasn’t got a rutting clue what the crazy hun dan’s on about. It’s when he’s pushed forward, face flush against the rock, arm twisted up behind his back that he knows just how crazy Mal is.

 

“Don’t think I don’t know whose home planet we just left, Jayne,” seethes the captain. “I make it my business to know every gorram thing about you, you sly, untrustworthy piece of gou shi.”

 

A hand travels down to his ass and Jayne is sure that Mal’s gonna fuck him as punishment right here in front of Wash and Zoe just to show who’s the alpha round here.

 

“I reckon you made yourself a little deal while you were off ship in Nova Township. Found a way to make a whole lot more coin, didn’t you?”

 

Jayne’s pushed down onto the ground with the scraping, scratching, scuttling sounds ringing inside his head. All them words about lack of trust and the fear at getting thrown off Serenity send Jayne back to being helpless and fourteen years old all over again. Hired man.

 

“Except Jayne’s the one been telling you this ain’t sounding like too clever of a plan, Sir” says Zoe, her words coming out dry and tight through gritted teeth as she peers round the side of the rock, “And this is not the time for slinging accusations.”

 

“What the rutting hell is going on?” hisses Wash in too much pain to move anywhere.

 

Jayne stops being scared and starts being madder than he’s ever been before. Mal ain’t got the right to treat him like that. Yeah, he rutted up once or maybe three or four times but that was a gorram long time ago now. He pushes back, forcing the captain off of him and Mal steps away letting Jayne get to his feet but he don’t look him in the eye.

 

“Gorram Feds’re building themselves a New Model Army,” the captain says in this light conversational tone of voice that’s directed at Wash. “Seems like drafting reavers is the new big thing in the ‘verse.”

 

Jayne’s thinking but it don’t come easy with all the yowling echoing out of the cargo bay of Serenity. He’s thinking about Mal and he’s thinking about the rest of the crew, the weak ones, who’re stuck hidden in the smuggler bays on the boat. He’s thinking about blame and trust and respect and it don’t take him long to come to a decision. Leastways not when he sees the teams of Reavers scuttling off the gorram ship and a Fed officer holding River Tam up like she’s a prize as he drags her off toward the cruiser.

 

“River. River.”

 

Simon storms out of Serenity quick as lightning the way his sister can be and Jayne knows full well the doc don’t give a rut about Reavers or guards. That moonbrained idiot’s gonna get himself killed in this hellhole place - the kind of place a man like Tam probably never even knew existed three years ago - if someone don’t do something.

 

“Sic him.”

 

The subhuman command from one of them hun dan handlers chills Jayne’s blood to ice water and he knows now he ain’t got no thinking time left. Drawing his biggest guns and wishing that he had Vera to buddy up with, he does the only thing that comes to mind and, ignoring the yells from Zoe and Mal, he advances, guns blazing, picking out his targets and hoping to gorram hell that there’s some kinda human left inside these Reaverfolk.

 

It’s nigh on impossible to snipe the handlers ‘specially with Fed weapons snapping rounds off at him but Jayne does his best. The Reavers scream out this eerie as rut rebel yell when they see the handlers fall and as soon as they taste freedom they’re swarming over the guards, shredding them to burger meat and chomping down on the bodies.

 

The lieutenant lets go of River and she crumples to the ground in a heap of cloth like that little red dress of hers is all empty. The young Fed is wearing this look of shell shock on his face as he watches his men being ripped apart and turned into supper but then he catches Jayne’s eye and in that split second Jayne humps everything up.

 

“Get your gorram sister, Doc,” he shouts in this choked up, battle-weary voice, searching out the doctor in the middle of all that spray of blood and gunfire. Has Simon been hit? Jayne ain’t sure but what he does know is when he looks back at the enemy he’s staring down the barrel of a gun.

 

Everything skitters to a halt. Jayne can hear the firing coming from behind him and he hears the voices of Book and his shiny little Kaylee from somewhere over to his left but then there’s heat and cold and red and black and his legs are sliding out from under him for some rutting reason. Bullets are flying everywhere now like rain and Jayne smiles and looks sideways as he sees them gorram rutting Reavers being slaughtered in an end that’s better‘n they deserve. Only thing he’s sad about it is Vera ain’t here beside him for her blaze o’ glory.

 

All of a sudden it’s so rutting quiet.

 

 

~*****~

 

 

Waking up in the medical bay on Serenity ain’t making much sense to Jayne. Last thing he remembers he was watching a hailstorm of bullets mulch up the bodies of them circus Reavers into a pulp, now he’s here laying out in state on the gorram operation table, his mouth bubbling with blood.

 

“You’re a fool, Jayne Cobb,” says Mal’s voice and if Jayne focuses hard he can see him, see a blur anyways. “A gorram fool.”

 

Jayne thinks of the little box hidden under his sweaters and hats and he reckons now might be the right time to say something. Thought makes him laugh a little and the blood gurgles and gushes out like one of them fountains they have on the core planets.

 

“It would be best if you all leave Zoe and me to fix him up,” says the doc and Jayne feels cold and sick but his heart’s a little lighter knowing that least one of the Tams made it.

 

“Got stuff-” The blood’s spilling over again like one of his ma’s cooking pots on the range back at home. Two rooms and an outside wash-house is all they had. Two rooms was more’n enough to clean his ma used to say, always happy with her lot in life. Unlike her eldest boy.

 

“Quiet now,” says Mal, “Simon can’t do his doctoring with your mouth flapping all the time.” Jayne can see him clearer now and he’s wearing that trademark smirk like he always does and it makes Jayne feel better the way it’s supposed to.

 

“Got stuff to tell you,” he whispers but the words make him cough and splutter and he knows he ain’t got long to say what needs saying.

 

Mal’s hand is on his arm now squeezing tight and he ain’t trying to hush him up no more.

 

“There’s personal things in a tin. ‘Bout where my ma lives. Want you to tell her ‘n Mattie. And Pa. It’s all writ down.”

 

Blood pours out from his lips like one of them wet season flash floods and the pain silences him so much he’s left looking up at Mal with no words coming out. Just cold, so very cold.

 

“You stay with us now. Ain’t losing no one off my crew today. Not gonna let them reavers take you down, are you, Jayne? Jayne. You hear me, you hun dan. Not losing anyone off my crew. Not even a gorram-”

 

 

 


 

Part Five

Death ain’t as frightening as Jayne thought it was gonna be.

Gotta admit that he weren’t expecting to be sitting on a rickety five bar gate in the field near his old homestead, chewing on a piece of straw and looking across at his brother Mattie, who’s squinting at him in the glare. Don’t say the preacher were right all along. Jayne shivers despite the sun but when he puts his mind to thinking about it this ain’t so bad. Things could be worse, ‘cept for the people he’s gonna miss.

 

“What you doing here, Matthew Cobb? More to the point what ‘m I doing here?”

 

Mattie hands Jane one of them big fat ci-gars he loves and Jayne takes it, bites the end off and spits it out then leans forward, cupping the flame from the match with both hands.

 

“Must be them chemicals the brain releases when you’re in pain,” says Mattie with this slow smile that makes Jayne think of dusty strawberries and games of sink the can in the hot season when the creek weren’t dried up and there was water enough to swim in.

 

Jayne sucks on his cigar. He has no idea what his little brother’s talking about. Little un always was the clever one. All Jayne was ever good for was hitting hard but, give him his due, he’s made a living out of it.

 

“Endorphins they call ‘em. Make everything hurt less and go a little easier when you’re...”

 

“Dyin’?” asks Jayne and that’s a dumb question cuz he knows the answer well enough. He recalls seeing it right there in Mal’s eyes.

 

“Is there any stuff you’ve done? Things you regret. Cuz now might be the time for all that gou shi,” says Mattie with a grin like he knows how wrong it is for him to be playing a priest and taking Jayne’s confession.

 

Stuff he regrets? Sure, there’s a whole book load of that, as big as that leathery old family bible that sat unused on the shelf of the dresser. There’s plenty things he did wrong but when he thinks real hard most of the regret comes from the things he didn’t do.

 

Next time Jayne blinks, he’s in the gorram middle of the worst battle he ever served in during the war. Bull Run they called it after something that happened way back in earth-that-was history. Jayne don’t reckon there’s ever been so many dead and dying littering the ground. There was so much blood that day the mud turned brownish red and rain kep’ everything flowing downwards in dirty rivers. The smell was ‘nough to make the hardest hun dan puke.

 

Now for his sins he’s back, slap bang in the middle of hell with his buddy Li shot to gorram pieces next to him, laying half inside the crater that artillery shell made when it landed. Jayne still don’t know how he didn’t get more’n shrapnel wounds when his friend ended up with both legs blown off at the gorram hips.

 

“Help me,” moans Li looking up at him, pleading with them dark eyes of his, his face getting sallower and yellower by the second.

 

“Medic over here now,” yells Jayne, looking ‘round to see if anyone from the unit’s left alive.

 

“No. Help me die. Please, Cobb. Please. You gotta.”

 

‘Weren’t no need,’ was what Jayne had thought the day it happened. ‘Weren’t no way Li was ever gonna make it the state he was in.’

 

Next time he saw his buddy it was in a veteran’s hospital in Hangzhou Primus with no legs and no genitals and these tubes hanging from what was left of his body for the piss and shit to drain out of.

 

Placing the barrel of his gun against Li’s temple Jayne pulls the trigger. He’ll never forget the look of relief on his friend’s face. The splatter of brain meat and bone fragment mixes with the rest of the gore and turns into the same gorram sludge that covers the whole ‘verse. Or so it seems.

 

“Well, that’s one hella strange re-gret. You really are a humped in the head hun dan, Jayne,” says Mattie, puffing away on his cigar with this grin on his face that makes Jayne feel all’s right with the world. If only he weren’t dead.

 

Ma said you got married,” he says and Mattie nods. “But she never did say who ya got hitched to.”

 

“Manda Bressler.”

 

Jayne guffaws with laughter. “That little slip of a thing used to follow us ‘round gorram everywhere? There was no more to her than a drink of water.”

 

“Yep.” Mattie’s looking kind of proud. “She grew up real pretty though and filled out a lot. How about you, big brother? You ever find yourself a woman?”

 

How in the name of yesu has Jayne ended up back on Serenity holding open the hatch of Kaylee’s cabin? He’s watching her climb dainty like up the ladder all done up in her finery and being so careful not to step on that frothy bundle of dress. She stands in front of him kinda shy, straightening out her ruffles then looking up with a question in her eyes and on her painted little lips.

 

“Well, you big dumb idiot, how do I look?”

 

Precious is a word comes to mind but Jayne ain’t saying that.

 

“Well?” Kaylee stamps her little slippered foot and it makes Jayne smile. “Am I gonna show Mal up in front of all them society folk?”

 

“How am I s’posed to know that?” growls Jayne. “You look fine to me. You look prettier’n usual.”

 

Kaylee flashes him one of them light up the room smiles and them she grabs a hold of his shoulders and reaches up, planting a kiss near as she can get to his lips.

 

“Real pretty, mei mei,” he says as she takes his arm and he leads her down to the bay where the captain is waiting. A while later Jayne realizes that it ain’t Kaylee he’s watching as her and Mal walk off Serenity together.

 

Time’s all humped up when you’re dead. Jayne ain’t too certain he’s gonna like it if things keep happening this way.

 

“Yeah, I found myself someone,” he says to his brother, “Whole lotta someones in the end.”

 

Eight of ‘em. Eight people, full of heart and guts, that taught Jayne what it was to care about others. It’s been a long time since he’s done that. He weren’t expecting them kind of lessons when he signed on for ten percent and use of the galley.

 

“I never found out how many of ‘em were left alive. Don’t reckon you’d know, would you, Mattie?”

 

“’Fraid not. I’m just a chemical whizzing ‘round inside your brain, brother,” says Mattie and he sounds sad like he’s missed out on a lot.

 

“Chemicals whizzing,” says River taking Jayne by the hand and turning him ‘round ‘til he’s looking through the glass windows of an operating room. “That’s what they did to us, see? Two by two, hands of blue.”

 

Two pair of surgeons’ hands all covered up in blue latex are coring out chunks of brain with a drill, then pushing rods and tubes filled with liquid into the holes they leave. When Jayne looks closer he sees the face of a kid who can’t be no more’n twelve. The boy’s awake but his face is blank like he’s frozen in time.

 

“More of us here,” says River, showing him through into the recovery rooms and the hospital wards and then on down the elevator and into the bunkhouses full of teenage killing machines with their heads full of nothing but chemicals and commands.

 

Ain’t no one should do that. Ain’t safe, ain’t right. Can’t be happening. Just like them Reavertroops. Jayne’d bet all the coin he has that it’s the same people doing the gorram experimenting on both.

 

“I shouldn’t’ve done what I done on Ariel,” he says looking sideways at the girl way he always does since he tried to hand her over to the government. That was more from being scared than from wanting the re-ward.

 

“Maybe you were supposed to do that, Jayne Cobb. Maybe the only way we can beat them is to stop running and fight from the inside.”

 

Good thing about doing what Jayne does for a living is he’s always prepared. Searching through the pockets of his combat pants he finds what he’s looking for. Never know when you might be needing to obliterate your tracks. He lays the mini charges and sets the timers then he and River walk out of that building like they don’t even exist. Once he gets past them doors he’s striding through cornstalks and heading for the gate where Mattie’s still sat smoking. Can hear the sound of an explosion in the background like it’s a million light years away and it makes Jayne’s lips curl up in satisfaction.

 

“Was that a regret or a regret not?” asks his brother, handing him a glass of lemonade that’s gotta be made by his ma. The drink is tangy and sweet and he hasn’t tasted nothing so good in twenty years.

 

“Bit of both,” he answers thoughtfully. “That one were a bit of both.”

 

“You know you never told me about that somebody in your life.”

 

“Somebodies, I said. In the plural.” Jayne straddles the gate, looking up at the blue sky and the clouds that’re coming off the chemplant cooling towers way over in the distance. Rays of light make ‘em sparkle and once upon a time he used to think they were full of magic, enough to take him away from this place. In a way they were.

 

“Someone you said first,” answers Mattie, stressing the one and throwing in an evil grin at the end of the sentence.

 

Hell. Any more shocks like these and Jayne’s gonna wind up even deader’n he is right now. He’s naked in his bunk and Mal’s naked with him and they’re lying next to each other lips pressing together softer than usual. When they kiss it’s always hard and biting like they’re trying to chew each other’s faces off. This is different.

 

Mal takes his mouth away and Jayne’s darting forwards trying to make contact with them lips again, wanting to run his tongue against Mal’s in that slow slide that makes his toes curl and his cock jump up ready for action.

 

“Minute, Jayne, roll over on your side for me, will you?”

 

Jayne follows orders because he wants to not cuz he has to. Turning over he arches against Mal’s body and shifts one leg forward, reaching back for them lips. This is his humped up death, he can do what he likes.

 

“You’re a crazy rutting hun dan, Jayne Cobb,” says Mal in between kisses as his oily fingers trail down Jayne’s back and into the crack of his ass.

 

“Well, ain’t that strange cuz I say same gorram thing about you all the time.” It’s hard to talk with them fingers pushing in deep and stroking his sweet spot but Jayne does his best.

 

“What you did out there today. Well, you were gorram brave as well as being a moonbrained idiot.”

 

Mal’s cock, wet with lube and pre-come, nudges its way inside him and Jayne finds out all too late that fucking this way is real nice. Shame they ain’t never done it like this before.

 

“You saved lives and I’m proud of you. You done good. Real good.”

 

It’s hard for Jayne to hear them words when he’s full to bursting with cock and Mal’s thrusting slowly against him, their mouths connecting for more of them kisses he’s learning to like so much, but he listens and he reckons he’s heard what he needed. Lot of things’re left unsaid but Jayne’s earned respect and some pride and maybe he’s even paid off some of his dues.

 

No.

 

No. That ain’t fair. He don’t wanna be back in the field smoking another gorram ci-gar. They coulda left him there long enough to come. He can still feel the remains of the hard on softening off in his pants and he thinks of Mal and wants to be back in that bunk on Serenity tied up together in a tangled mess of sheets and limbs and words.

 

“What you thinking about?” asks Mattie.

 

That ain’t a question he can answer truthfully. Not when it’s his brother asking it and all his thoughts are concerning Mal Reynolds and his cock.

 

“Nothin’ you’d be wanting to hear,” says Jayne with a half-smile as he watches Mattie spice up the lemonade with a shot or two of cheap whiskey from a gun metal flask.

 

“Ain’t a thing wrong with being sly, Jayne,” says Mattie in this quiet way he has that’s just like Ma. He refills Jayne’s glass and leans over unsteadily to put the jug down on the ground.

 

“Never thought there was. I know what I am.”

 

Jayne does. He’s been that way since he could remember. Never got much of a chance to play around with it on Nova Six but there’s been plenty of times since. Always topped before Mal though.

 

“Didn’t feel right talking to you about it.”

 

“Thought we was close once,” replies his brother and Jayne can see the sadness more than ever and if there was any way he could erase it he would.

 

Gorram rutting hell. He’d rather be back at Bull Run than here. This here’s his worst nightmare. Worse than anything them Reavers can do.

 

Jayne’s been sick for a while now but today when he couldn’t do no work at all and spent the whole shift on his knees in the john puking up he got handed his cards under the door of the cubicle. No good luck party or going away present, just a letter telling him he’d been discharged from working for the Blue Sun Corporation.

 

As soon as he gets away from that factory he can begin to breathe again. His stomach stops churning and he reckons he might even be able to eat some of his ma’s cooking tonight for a change.

 

“Jayne, Jayne,” shriek the two shrill voices of his cousins as they jump out on him from the overhanging branches of the trees that line the dirt track running from Nova Township to the Chemplant.

 

“Does your ma know where you are?” asks Jayne, taking hold of two grubby little hands and sighing impatiently. Sometimes he has a need to drown the pair of tykes but then he’d most probably miss them if they weren’t around to bug him.

 

“No, she don’t,” say Sarah and Martha together in twinspeak as he and Mattie call it.

 

“Come on then I’ll return you.”

 

It ain’t far out of his way. His aunt and uncle live in a property that backs on to their own and if he cuts through the fields after dropping the kids off he’ll be home quick enough.

 

Taking the girls in and telling Aunt Rachel she might have to think about chaining the pair of them up, he accepts the offer of a mug of ice water before heading off.

 

Hot season’s hotter than hell this year and Jayne takes it slow, making his way through the trees and looking down into the river bed, hoping against hope there’s some water left in there. It’s too soon in the year for everything to dry up. If there ain’t nothing to harvest then all three of the men in the family‘ll be working down the mines this year digging out pythic ore.

 

There’s voices coming from up ahead and Jayne cusses under his breath wondering who in the hell it is. He feels for the screwed up wad of paper stuck in his pocket and can picture the look on Pa’s face when he has to break him the bad news. Chemplant pay is good, almost as good as working for Jensen. The mine is backbreaking and lung breaking labour and they pay slave wages. Gorramit, Jayne needs to get out of this piss hole soon. Won’t have much choice seeing as Pa’ll most probably kick him out when he finds out he’s not earning no more.

 

He slides stealthily through the trees like he’s poaching rabbits from Jensen and when he gets to the clearing up ahead all thoughts about the letter that’s burning a hole in his pocket are forgotten.

 

Mattie’s bent over, pants on the ground, hanging onto his ankles with his skinny little hands and the look of acceptance on his brother’s face breaks Jayne’s heart. He steps forward and his hand automatically goes to his hip. Problem is he ain’t a mercenary soldier yet. No, he’s just a fourteen year old boy but that ain't gonna stop stop him. He might not have a gun but he;s got fists, ain't he?

 

It’s when his eyes meet up with his pa’s that Jayne stalls in his tracks.

 

“Biao zi de erzi,” he mouths under his breath knowing his father’ll be able to lip read him but he ain't saying nothing but the truth. The man is a rutting son of a bitch. How can the sick hun dan stand by and watch as Jensen fucks his twelve year old son? How the rutting hell can anyone do that?

 

“Gun ququ, boy,” roars Jensen with his cock still stuck deep inside Mattie. “Fuck off before I take you and your whole family out and shoot you one by one.”

 

The jumped up gan ni niang has his pistol in his hand and he’s holding it against Mattie’s temple as he fucks him harder. Jayne can see the tears running down his brother’s face and he don’t know what else to do but back away and get the hell out of there fast as he can.

 

Wiping his eyes he heads off into town with the coin from his last pay sitting heavy in his pocket waiting to be squandered. Now he’s found out what it means to be a hired man round here he’s thinking he got the best end of the deal by far. Don’t mean he wouldn’t trade places with his brother though. He’d do that in a second. Leastways he hopes he would.

 

“You woulda taken my place. I know you would,” says grown up Mattie and Jayne’s so lost in the past he almost falls off of his perch on the gate. If it wasn’t for the wiry arm leaning in and keeping him in place he’d be on the ground by now. Shame he weren’t there to be a support for Mattie when he was needed.

 

“I should have stopped the hun dan there and then. I should’ve taken his pistol off of him and blasted his brains out.”

 

“It weren’t your fault, Jayne. None of it were your fault. Anyways you stopped it in the end.”

 

This time when Jayne goes back, he’s standing in a fancy drawing room and there’s something warm and wet dripping off the crystal droppers of the ceiling light and landing on the back of his neck. Fifteen years old he is and covered head to toe with thick pink slime where Jensen’s head exploded from the impact of the bullet. The sawn off shot gun feels loose and comfortable in Jayne’s hands. His first kill.

 

Murders ain’t exactly uncommon in the Nova Township and what they call law are too busy hauling drunks off the streets to waste time investigating the death of a local Alliance sympathiser. But still his pa can’t wait to send Jayne off world on the first boat that comes in. One he’s got the coin for anyways.

 

“Don’t come back ‘til you can learn yerself to be a decent man,” the old feller says as his final parting shot.

 

“Learn to take it up the ass like you have done your whole life, you mean?” answers Jayne and he thinks his parting shot has a hugher guage bullet than his pa’s. He ain’t gonna be no one’s hired man. Never.

 

The biggest regret he has is that he didn’t get to say goodbye to Mattie or his Ma.

 

 


 

Epilogue

 

Opening his eyes Jayne looks up at a white sterile ceiling and it makes him homesick for sunshine and lemonade and family, then turning his head slowly to one side he sees Zoe and remembers where home is now'days.

“Did everyone make it?” he asks and his voice is dry and painful like it hasn’t been used for a while.

 

“Yep,” she says coming closer and smiling down at him, “It looks like they did.”

 

She’s way too good natured for Zoe and it un-nerves him a whole lot.

 

“And, Jayne,” she adds, her smile sharpening up and making him feel at ease, “next time you come up with a plan you talk it over with me first. Cuz I have to tell you, your ideas are more bug crazy than Mal’s and that’s saying something.”

 

“Weren’t much time for yapping-” Jayne stops in mid flow and looks ‘round cuz the sick bay’s filling up with faces and it’s beginning to feel like that freak show he went to on Corpus Christi a year or so back.

 

“Reckoned I was dead there for a while,” he says conversationally, hoping someone might fill in some gaps.

 

“Chances are if you think you might be dead you’re probably not,” says Simon, running a scanner across his chest and reading over the results.

 

“Was back on my homeworld talking to family.” Jayne looks up wondering if that might be of interest.

 

Simon’s checking over his wounds and Jayne looks down feeling kind of proud cuz, hell, he got shot up pretty good.

 

“Probably to do with the mass release of natural painkillers from the brain,” says the doc as he changes the dressing.

 

“Endorphins,” mutters Jayne. “Make everything hurt less and go a little easier when you’re dying.”

 

Simon stops what he’s doing for a moment and goes quiet but then he finishes up with the bandaging and shoots a syringe full of med into Jayne’s bicep.

 

Everything slips away into this peaceful blurry place and Jayne ain’t sure if he’s alone but least he’s got some thinking time. Dying ain’t changed the world but maybe it’s made him want to move it along some.

 

 

~*****~

 

 

It takes a while for Jayne to recover but instead of being the usual bear with a sore head, he spends his time working stuff out. Even lets Book read him passages from the bible, just in case. In-surance ain’t never a bad thing.

 

“Mal,” he says as he’s resting up in his cabin, “I didn’t tell no one about the Tams when I was on Nova.”

 

“I reckon we all know that,” says the captain who’s helping Jayne clean his guns. “Besides, before we blew up the cruiser we found the commander hiding himself away and sniveling like a baby. He told us Feds had been tracking Serenity for a while and cooked up a plan with Senator Riga to lure us out to the outer rim where they could test out their new super troops and bring in Simon and River at the same time.”

 

“What happened to the commander?” asks Jayne.

 

“I killed him.”

 

The thing Jayne likes most about Mal Reynolds is that he don’t over-sentimentalize.

 

“There’s a tin in that drawer.” Jayne uses his knife as a pointer, “Can you get it for me?”

 

“Gorramit, Jayne. You ain’t dying and I’m not making no funeral arrangements for you,” says Mal but he gets up all the same and fetches the metal box from under the piles of knitwear.

 

It’s the letters that have got Jayne wondering. He knows Mattie had the damp lung and, well, he skimmed through the last few from his ma and he don’t recall seeing anything bad.

 

“See-” Rutting hell, he hates admitting stuff. Fishing out the folded pages he stares down at them. “See, I was thinking about my brother and that I might have missed something when I read Ma’s letters the first time.”

 

Mal takes them and opens them up without saying a word about Jayne’s reading skills.

 

“Mattie? Is that your brother’s name?” he asks and when Jayne nods Mal goes back to reading.

 

“All she says is he’s sick but he’s managing to keep working.” Mal waves a thin sheet of paper at Jayne. “Is this the latest? The one dated four months ago.”

 

“Yep,” answers Jayne staring fixedly at Vera like he’s never seen her before. They don’t get to Persephone for him to pick up his mail that often.

 

“She’d send a wave though. If anything was wrong.”

 

Jayne’s shrugs and keeps looking down. “Don’t reckon she’d know how.”

 

“Good thing we’re heading back to Nova Six then,” says Mal. “I got some unfinished business with Senator Riga that needs finishing off.”

 

Jayne don’t bother looking up, he don’t need to, just grunts softly with effort as he slides back the bolt on Vera’s housing to check it’s running smooth. Mal cocks his head to listen then nods and they give up on conversation, going back to that easy silence broken up some by the sound of weapons getting stripped down and slicked up.

 

 

 

THE END

 


Translations

 

Gou shi buru – lowest of the low, lowest piece of shit.

Gou shi – dog shit.

Gou cao de – dog fucking

Pi hua -- bullshit

Gan ni niang – motherfucker

Ta ma de – oh shit

Yanse lang -- male whore

Ji ba -- cock

Ta ma de wang ba dan – shit bastard

Lese -- garbage

Yesu – Jesus

Tong xing lian – homosexual

Pigu – arsehole

Ha wo deh bang – suck my cock.

Chun zi – moron

Diao – dick

Ji bai -- pussy

Hun dan – son of a bitch, bastard

Gun ququ -- fuck off

mei mei -- little sister (can be used for non family)

 

Gorram – goddamn

Rutting – fucking

Humping -- screwing

Sly -- gay

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