Chapter 4- Mal's turn.
Disclaimer- I play with them and put them back dirty.
Summary- After Miranda people are so involved with themselves that they missed out on the drama. Or did they.
Well, it’s more'n a mite disturbing and after some of the things I've seen, that says it all. Of course I wasn’t exactly paying attention; got some stuff of my own to be thinking on.
And yes I was slightly distracted at having a living breathing Companion all to myself. I’m telling ya if I’d have known what it would be like to be with ‘Nara… well, honestly I’d probably have made all of the same mistakes, only faster.
That woman has always gotten me mixed up and turned around so I can’t see straight and being with her ain’t no different, ‘cept the make-up is a little more to my liking.
But just because ‘Nara and me got something going on, don’t mean I ain’t been paying attention to my crew. Depleted though it may be. Only a fool don’t know that his family’s his crew and, excepting some rather rude folks, ain’t nobody ever called me a fool. I know what I got and I’m grateful every day for it. Our little family here on Serenity was all that kept me going some days and I’d be more’n a little ungrateful if I went and turned my back on them when they needed me.
I’ve been with Zoë since I can remember and would never have gotten through the war if it weren’t for her.
I’ve seen her covered in blood and holding a dead child. I’ve seen her steal a can of beans off a dead soldier and rip the arm off an enemy corpse to use as firewood-- that was an interesting meal.
I thought I’d been with her through everything. But when that damned harpoon killed the only thing that made her smile, I saw more of Zoë than I ever wished.
I saw her faith and hope shattered like mine back on Serenity Valley. I saw her heart at her feet and her eyes more hollow than Badger’s head. For the first time in my life I saw Zoë Washburn bleed and it damn near killed me.
Impotent is not a word men bandy about much on account of it being a little less than manly but that’s how I feel every time I look into those eyes. Eyes of the dead. And I hate Wash for taking that light as much as I ever hated him for making it in the first place.
True enough I sorta I hated him because he took the one thing I felt was constant in my life and he made her his. Not that I ever had those kinda feelings for Zoë. She’s a damn fine woman but I think on her as more of a sister. But it rankled some that she was with him.
Course now I’d give everything to have him back for her. Wash has got to be laughing himself sick over that. Sadistic hundan.
For a while I wasn’t even sure how to help her, didn’t know what to do about the fragileness that she became until one day I just up and asked what I could do.
“Stop acting like I’m gonna fall apart, Sir,” she said, “I’m stronger than even I know. Quit treading careful. You being tactful is more than a mite creepifying.”
So now we stay up talking most of the night since neither of us is over-fond of sleep. Inara understands, even pushes me to make sure Zoë is okay, even if it means I leave our bed early to spend hours with another woman.
Inara deals with that better’n I ever could.
So I talked with Zoë, laughing about Wash and the stories we had about him. Reminiscing about the war and family and trying to say what needs saying without the words ever coming out.
We were talking about the upcoming job on Io’s moon when she says something that just plain shows folks can go crazy out in the black.
She clears her throat and looks down at her coffee, “Mayhap you should put Jayne and River on that, sir.”
I laugh. “Sure thing, Zo, if’n I only want one of ‘em to come back. Although--” I pretend to consider it. Pretend cuz no matter who it is, every single person on Serenity is family now and I’d move heaven and hell to keep ‘em that way.
Zoë just shakes her head, knowing my mind on this. “Just saying they make a good team is all.”
I stare at her like she’s just said Reaver meat is tasty. “Jayne and River? If I sent ‘em on a mission I’d be more worried about getting me a new merc… or a new pilot if River is having an off day and Jayne kills her in her sleep… when she’s drugged.”
“Could be that you ain’t been paying attention.”
Something in her voice sends alarm bells ringing.
“Something I should be knowing here, Zo?”
Zoë shrugs. “Never been one to tattle. Could be that if someone were to actually watch the two and pay attention. They might see something.”
We sit and drink coffee for a while longer before I bid her goodnight and crawl back in with Inara. But my mind won’t rest.
Jayne and River? Honestly.
Zoë ain’t ever been one to make things up or gossip-monger so if she says there might be something I’m missing then that means I’m needing a Captain Dummy talk again. As far as I’ve been noticing the two of them ignore each other which, when I think of the alternative, is fine to my way of mind.
But then when was the last time I actually watched Jayne. Or River? Simon and Kaylee are pretty easy to gauge seeing as how they can’t actually move more’n two feet from each other without spontaneous combustion of a “God-my-eyes, Kaylee-don’t-do-that-in-here-people-eat-o
I'm always watching Inara, and she likes that, but I guess if Jayne ain't got a gun on him and River ain't rubbing soup in someone's hair or trying to fly us upside down because she wonders if the stars are prettier that way up, then I don't tend to watch 'em.
Well, thanks to Zo, that changed and I spent the next few days watching my merc and my pilot. Surreptitious like, ain't no call ta be alerting 'em.
At first I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. OK, except for River's being grabbed from behind and managing to still kick her attacker in the back of the head. How in the name of Holy Joss did she do that? Her feet were still mostly on the ground. Albatross is powerful bendy.
Huh, oh and Jayne shooting three of 'em without looking weren't exactly normal for ordinary folk. I guess I done hired me some truly unique creatures.
Almost makes a body proud of his psychotic assassins.
Anyhow I was all ready to chalk it up to the liquor talking when it happened.
We were on a job which ... OK so my plans do tend to edge a mite towards the unpredictable but I swear I thought this one was foolproof. But I guess we done underestimated the types of fools we were dealing with.
Seems the buyer had gone to a bar, exceeded his limits and shot his mouth off about his potential haul. Beer and smarts don't tend to mix and some less than savoury folks had overheard and decided that he was too stupid to benefit from our charity.
He was but that don't mean it was fair to shoot him that many times.
I hate wasting ammo.
Still, we were willing to deal with them if they were prepared to pay a good price and stand by their principles. They didn't and they wouldn't.
So a good old fashioned gunfight ensued.
Zo and me were pinned down behind a hatch with four of the duh biao-tze shooting at us. Jayne and River who'd been our back up in the hills (see, I had us a plan!) were having a little trouble with one of the locals called Tureen. Seems he was known as one of the fastest Gao yang jong duh gu yang on the planet. He wasn't no where near as fast as our little albatross but he was about five times heavier'n her.
Things got fast and furious and I told Zoe to grab the loot an high tail back to Serenity while I checked on Jayne and River. Shot the last of the raiders my own self and hustled around to the hills in a very heroic Captainy way.
It all happened kinda quick. I gather Jayne had bought two guns, one grenade and several knives on account of us not expecting trouble. The knives were buried in two bodies, several others showing sever signs of River damage. Jayne was fighting one on three with the last of 'em and I expected it to be somewhat over. Then outta nowhere this tall beefy lightning bolt streaks out and grabs River just as she's putting the finishing kick to one of his less conscious compadres. He grabs her so quick even I couldn't blink and hauls her over his shoulder, racing off for the hills.
Now the girl is a Reader true enough, but I'd wager she didn't see it coming if the expression on her face was anything to go by.
She hollers loud enough to wake the ghosts and Jayne's head flips around fit to give a man whiplash. He sees her being carted off, hands trapped to her sides so she can't escape her own self and with one fell punch he knocks two of his attackers dead.
Gotta own to being proud of that. One punch, two down. That's my merc.
The third almost melts from fear but Jayne just plain ignores him as his feet are racing after River before his fist finishes it's swing.
Anyhow I'm pounding along in the distance but I can see the exact moment when Jayne realises that this guy is too fast and that Jayne won't catch him, weighed down as he is.
Jayne then throws away any excess weight. Backpack gone. Grenade gone (thankfully not in my direction).
Vera, dropped to the floor.
I'll say again. Jayne... that is Jayne Cobb takes off his precious Vera and throws her to the ground.
It gives him that extra burst of speed he needs and he launches himself at Tureen-- which come to think on it is some kinda soup bowl. Yes I know crockery, try not to faint.
Tureen drops like a croûton and it ain't two seconds before Jayne is on his back, flipping him over and burying his fist in his face.
River is laying on the floor watching as Jayne turns Tureen into soup and coats the ground in red. With a final kick at the now dead dumb ass, Jayne stands up and looks down at River.
River shakes her head. “Twisted hip from manhandling, bruised pelvis from fall. Might require assistance to walk back to Serenity.”
Two steps and Jayne hauls River up in his arms and starts walking back my way. He don't even stop as he passes me and just says:
“Hey Mal, Crazy's done hurt, can you bring my guns?”
Jayne asked me to pick up Vera. Not take River off his hands, not hold her while he gathers his piece. Pick up Vera like she's just some gun. She is just some gun; but not to Jayne.
Guess that's when Zoe's words came back to hit me. True enough I was mighty surprised.
Surprised enough not to get good and mad. Surprised enough not to threaten Jayne with spacing or shootin' or anything.
My brain is kinda going-- “Huh”.
So I watch as Jayne carries River back to the boat, not caring on how he looks like a pack mule. I watch as he settles her on the med bay table and waits for Simon to come check over his mei mei.
As soon as Simon's gone inside the infirmary to talk to his sister, I follow Jayne outside to the viewing windows.
I hand Jayne his gun and he takes it without even looking.
“So Jayne,” I'm thinking on trying something subtle here but as I watch him watch her all I can say is: “Is there something you'll be wanting ta tell me, Jayne?”
There's a long moment where Jayne just don't say anything, just stands there as the Doc fusses some over our witch.
The Doc gets out a clipboard and River laughs at him, pushing him away and generally acting like a bratty sister.
Jayne smiles gentle, which is scary enough.
“Jayne?” I prod.
Then he says what I already knew.
“Gorramit Mal. I'm crazy over River Tam.”