As most of my readers know I've had clinical depression on and off for as long as I can remember. Anyway my latest Doctor (a rather cute if collegiate type) asked me if anything precipitated it. No, never has. But it got me thinking of my very first memory of being swamped with the Big D.
I was 7 and I'd wanted desperately to go to the shops on my own (10 minutes walk away) to the ratherly creepily named Carver's Corner. (srsly, who named it?) I was told No in no unceratin terms and i begged and whined and pleaded until I was told why.
A day earlier a little girl, about my age had been abducted from there and found in the park several hours later molested and dead.
I went to bed horrified that it had happened so close to my own home and I dreamed of death for a good few hours before making my way downstairs in the middle of the night.
I have this perfectly vivid memory of edging into the front room where my parents were talking and crawling onto my dad's lap and crying, breaking my heart that I wanted to hide, go away and just leave. My dad (rather unhelpfully) told me that there was nowhere I could go to hide because the world was full of evil things. Then I sobbed that I wanted to die because I didn't want to live in a world where things like that happened.
I don't remember what happened after but that gut wrenching desperation of wanting to be gone, of not wanting to exist has always stayed with me. Anyway, I was thinking about it and this fic manifested itself. If it's not very good it's because it's hard to verbalise. Hate it, whatever. it's really for me anyway.
Title- To Live for
Genre- Firefly, post BDM. Possibly pre-Rayne
Rating- YT, Angst
Disclaimer- I own the memory, not the rights.
Summary- After Miranda Jayne searches for River and has to give her something to live for.
It was dark. That was the first thing that Jayne noticed as he walked down the broken and bruised corridors of Serenity.
He’d been on the ship for years and he could recall times when they had switched to silent running, times when they had minimal funds for lighting, times in the dead of night when nobody but the dead seemed to be walking, but it had never been like this.
Every light, every switch that used to flicker and every place where there used to be life was gone. The whole ship was fading into black.
It gave Jayne a lump in his throat to realise that the place that had come to be home to him would soon be no more. He’d be forced to move on, as would the rest of the crew.
That was if any of the crew survived.
Kaylee’s whole body was infected with the poison that the Reavers had shot into her and, although the Alliance boasted some damned good medics, she hadn’t looked so good. Simon, despite his own gut shot, had demanded that he be allowed to stay by her side, so maybe there was a chance she would live. The Doctor was pretty determined when it came to people he loved.
Inara would live, the companion only had a scratch on her, but she’d be forever changed. Her whole world had been turned upside down and the reality of what her beloved government was capable of had been a bitter pill to swallow.
Jayne had left her sitting by Mal’s bed trying to almost will him back to consciousness. He could tell her that the only way Mal was coming back was if he wanted to. Jayne had seen Mal’s injuries and the only thing that was keeping Mal alive was his own sheer cussedness. He’d survive just to spite them all.
And then there was Zoë.
He’d always figured ‘broken-hearted’ was one of those fancy metaphor things that the Doc went on about. Until he saw Zoë’s face. She was injured, body and flesh held together by glue and guts but her eyes were dead. Her spirit had been leeched out of her and those Reavers had, with one harpoon, done what the Alliance had never managed to do and had broken Zoë Washburn.
Anyone with eyes could see that the pieces of her soul were shattered and lying at her feet and she was just staring at them, wondering what happened to her heart.
Even the Alliance were giving her a wide birth.
Then there was Jayne himself. Shot to hell and back but damned if he’d lie there while one of the crew, one of his crew was missing.
The girl. The weapon.
The only one still standing, watching over them whilst the Operative gave the order to stand down. The only one who refused to lay down arms until they all lay in the infirmary. The one who made it safe, watching while they slept and hiding in the shadows, dripping blood into corners and scaring the ghosts.
As day dawned the girl vanished and Jayne had pushed himself to his feet and gone in search.
Droplets of red led him back to Serenity and he walked through the ship with light steps but a heavy heart as the damage became evident.
Serenity was wrecked. The cargo area was shot to pieces, great holes bored right through the outer hull and that was just the start. Wires showed through cracks and oil smeared the walls like blood. Everything they owned was strewn around, fallen and forgotten, ransacked and ruined.
He trailed fingers over the shrapnel and winced as the jagged edges pierced his skin. They’d done a number on their ship no doubt and that was before the Alliance even touched it. Mal’s decision that they desecrate their home had been sickening, but even now Jayne couldn’t bring himself to regret it.
It had been necessary to do the right thing.
As he made his way up through the mess he heard little snuffling coming from the cockpit and his stomach dropped even further.
That was one place he hadn’t wanted to go. He’d heard the Operative tell his soldiers to take care of the body there.
Wash had died in his seat and for that reason alone Jayne wanted to stay as far away from it as humanly possible. In this place where ghosts spoke to little girls he would have thought that this was the last place she would be too.
But there she was, curled up in the co-pilots chair, staring at the large hole in the shattered windshield.
Jayne glanced away, inadvertently taking in every single detail of the destroyed cockpit.</br>
Splinters of wood were scattered over the floor, control elements hung off their perches, switches ripped off and panels torn aside. Metal seemed to lie twisted in heaps and the pilot’s chair was gone. Possibly taken along with the pilot for…
Jayne looked down and saw dinosaurs splattered with blood laying in the debris.
“Ta me de,” he breathed and it seemed to shock River who jumped and spun to face him.
As good at hiding as the girl was, she’d managed to avoid any medical attention and her face was still smeared with blood and tears, streaks of red sliding down her face along with the pain.
“Girl,” Jayne cleared his throat, unnerved by her appearance. He still had the picture in his mind of those blast doors opening and her standing there like some Goddess of destruction. “You okay?”
As soon as the words came out of his mouth he inwardly groaned. Of all the dumbass questions. Of course she wasn’t okay. Probably would never be okay again.
River just shook her head slightly and rubbed at her nose with a tiny fist.
Without thinking Jayne pulled off his shirt and knelt down, wincing as his ribs protested. He held the tattered garment up and River swallowed as she took it gingerly.
“I meant Serenity,” she whispered even as tucked the shirt over her thin little shoulders. “We hurt her and she doesn’t understand. She’s hurt and we’re not here to make it better so she wonders what she’s done. No Kaylee to sing to her, no Wash to play with her. We turned off the lights and left her to bleed alone.”
“We was busy doing some bleeding of our own,” Jayne reminded her leaning against the arm of the chair.
River’s eyes widened. “Simon!”
“Sleeping all peaceful like,” Jayne offered. “Shot up some but recovering. He’s taking care of Kaylee now. I figured I’d come check on you. Make sure you ain’t off…” he shrugged, wondering what she could possibly be doing that would be worse than what she’d done, what she’d seen.
“Came here.” River bit her lip and looked back to the smashed glass. “Needed to see, to know.”
Jayne refused to look. “Whyfore you wanna see that? Guessing since you’re a Reader an all you saw it already. You don’t gotta come back here at see it again. Gorram it, I don’t even wanna see it.”
River opened her mouth and closed it again before closing her eyes. “I needed to understand, I’ve always needed to understand, to know. But now I don’t.” Tears sprang up in her eyes. “I don’t understand any of it. It doesn’t fit, there are no logistics. Cracked puzzle with missing edges and the picture is never complete. The sky falls because the corners aren’t found. Four pieces with two sides lost in the muddle. It doesn’t make sense.”
Jayne watched as River’s shoulders began to shake and fat drops slid down her face. She clutched at his shirt with frantic fingers.
“Why does the light stop shining for him? There was no darkness in him. They were just pebbles, not big not small but their ripple will be felt and she doesn’t know why. She doesn’t know any of it. It was worse and they screamed but no help came. Why was no one listening?”
Jayne reached up and stroked his hand along her hair as he pondered her words. “Got no answers for you, girl. No idea why Wash died and hundans like the Operative got to live. No idea why the folks at Haven or Miranda ain’t here no more. It don’t make sense that all them good people are gone.”
It didn’t make sense. There was no reason why Serenity was in pieces and Zoë was two breaths away from keeling over herself. No reason why a little girl had her brain messed with and the government made monsters.
It was all just too crazy.
River looked up at him with wet, doe eyes. “I don’t want to live in a world where things like this happen. I want to leave but there is nowhere to go. I want to go home but there isn’t one.”
“This is home,” Jayne said slowly, “Serenity is home.”
“She’s broken,” River wept, “It’s all broken. It’s all like this everywhere. I hate it.” River collapsed in on herself sobbing. “I hate it, I hate it. I HATE IT! God make me a stone, or take my life. Stop my breath, I don’t want to live in this world.”
“No!” with a swiftness that surprised them both Jayne picked her up and swung himself into the chair, River on his knee, curled up in his arms. He held her tightly and rocked her as she cried.
Seeing the feng-le thing cry was topping his list of disturbing things and thinking on the last two days, that was saying something.
She wanted to die.
She’d been tormented and tortured, broken and beaten, abused and misused and she’d finally come to the end. Lost and shattered in the ruins of her home.
Somehow all that they had been through brought it home to Jayne that he’d had a family here all along; he’d been living and breathing and fighting for a home and family that he thought he neither wanted nor needed and he was wrong. So very wrong.
The Shepherd was the father figure he’d always wanted, Mal the older brother, Simon the annoying younger brother, Kaylee a sister, Zoë and Inara and Wash and River all extensions of family.
He hadn’t realised and now the Shepherd and Wash were dead; mayhaps Kaylee and Mal too and it was enough.
He’d always wondered what he’d be willing to die for and now he knew.
And here was sweet little River, feng-le genius and Reader, saviour pilot and woman child. She wanted to die and it shook him.
Jayne, never one for words, tried to find some way of making her understand.
“No more dying. World can be powerful mean. Don’t make sense at the best of times and this ain’t even close at that. But we’ve done all the dying we was meant to. It’s spitting in the face of the Shepherd and Wash to give in now.”
“Can’t!” she wept.
“Can!” Jayne squeezed her. “You telling me that the Doc’s mei mei is gonna give up after all we went through to keep ya alive? Some gratitude that ain’t. Plus Doc’d be mad at ya and Kaylee’d cry. Don’t like seeing her cry. Make’s her all red and ugly.”
River gave a choke that could have been laughter and the vice around his chest eased some.
“There been times when I wanted to eat the end of a gun, but the way I figure it; life’s hard. Giving up is easy and only cowards take the easy way out. Listen girl,” he shifted her so he could look in his face. “Got yourself a bad deal. World sucks. And you know that more’n most. But that pansy assed brother of yours would die for you. Kaylee and ‘Nara think you’re shiny. Wash plain adored ya. Mal tore up his ship aplenty to get those secrets outta your head. Even I am done trying to get rid of you. World’s bad but you got a family of folks here to live for. If’n you don’t wanna live for you then do it for those who can’t stand to see no more death. Dong ma? When the world gets too hard to face find someone else to live for.”
River stared at him, her mind slowly going over his words. “Did you?”
Jayne nodded. “Lived for my ma when the going got tough enough. ‘Side’s she’d probably go to hell and drag my ass back if I took my own life.”
He wiped away tears with a tenderness that no one ever thought he possessed. He had something to live for now. He was going to live for his family. Not ma and Matty and Billy and Auntie Vera, but Mal, Inara…River.
He was gonna protect her and that meant making sure she was safe.
River blinked. “Simon lived for me. I took care of him this time.”
“That you did.“ Jayne pointed at her. “That there is a good reason. The Doc needs yer help, leastways to stop being a boob around Kaylee. Then there’s Serenity. We both gotta live to fix up the ship.”
He nodded. “We don’t give up on stuff just cuz its broken.” He gave her a knowing nod. “We take baby steps to fix it til its better. Serenity is our ship, our home and we’re gonna make her better so we can fly our own asses outta here. While the Doc is asleep and got Kaylee to watch over him, we are gonna fix up Serenity,” he looked around, “or at least start.”
“We’re gonna live for Serenity,” River stated and nodded. “I can do that.”
Jayne hauled her up and set her on her feet. “First thing we do is clean you up some, cuz that Reaver blood is a mite unnerving. Then we gonna start in the cockpit and clean up this mess. Today we live to fix up the ship, tomorrow, well, we’ll find someone else to live for.”
River nodded, puling herself together. “Thank you, Jayne.”
He smiled and trailed one hand down her crusted hair and as he watched the little girl find that core of steel inside herself, he knew what he’d be living for.