Its already gone through about 80 titles, and currently im calling it "Wingtip." It has also been called, "On the Wing," "Wingspan," and "Fly Away Home." DO YOU SENSE A THEME HERE?
SO, i have absolutely no objectivity on this fic. i love it. im wildly in adoration.
Bizarrely, im not the only one. i wouldnt even have started this monster if it werent for the lovely literarylemming. i told her about it and she started to flail, and wrote some of it for me, and can always be counted on to cheer everytime i tell her im working on it. she rocks like that.
please excuse any massive weirdness, as it hasnt been beta'd in the slightest.
Quick explanation before we get started, as this is slightly in the middle of the beginning. basically, take Arial. take Simon, River, and Jayne getting away.
actually, dont. Seperate Simon from River and Jayne, and assume those two disappear off the face of the 'verse.
Two years later, Serenity touches down on some random border moon.
And there stands Jayne Cobb.
She was crying and hugging on him, and he was standing there with his hands at his sides. "Hello," he finally said, sounding oddly formal. "How are you, Kaylee?"
"How am I?" She marveled, laughing through her tears. "How am I, he says, when I'm not the one been missing for two years?"
“Two years?” Jayne’s eyebrows rose a little. “Has it been that long?”
“It’s good to see you, Jayne,” Zoë interjected quietly. She waited on the stairs, Wash supporting her with one arm.
He nodded at her. “Zoë, Wash.” He gave Inara a cautious nod. Greetings done, he looked a little lost. He looked around Serenity as he stood, shifting his weight uncomfortably.
“Where’s your new muscle?” he finally asked. “You didn’t give him my guns, did you?”
Mal almost smiled from where he leaned up against the stair railing. “Don’t got no new muscle, Jayne.” He stepped forward to shake Jayne’s hand. “Simon’s been filling in while we been waiting for you to get back from vacation.”
Jayne’s eyebrows furrowed. “Simon can shoot?”
“Not so good as you,” Kaylee assured him. “Come on, we got a surprise!”
Jayne nodded. “Alright, but I can’t stay long. I gotta get home before it gets full on dark.”
“Where you living?” She asked brightly. “You got family?”
“Yeah,” he said finally, throwing her a penetrating look. “I got family.”
It was a good visit; for all that nobody knew quite how to act. They weren’t the same people Jayne had lived with two years ago, and it was pretty obvious from his unease that Jayne had changed a good bit as well.
They talked some, not about anything important, but Kaylee kept the conversation going whenever it flagged. Simon couldn’t help but notice that Jayne avoided all questions about what he was doing now. And no one asked about River.
Finally, Jayne looked up from his drink. “I gotta go, Mal,” he said, searching the Captain out with his eyes. “It’s getting dark.”
Mal walked him out, after Kaylee hugged him again and cried a little more. “Ain’t you coming home?” she had asked, her eyes full of tears. “We ain’t touched your bunk or nothing.”
Jayne had met Mal’s eyes and shaken his head.
“You should come back,” Mal said abruptly as they reached the catwalk. “We still got a place for you.”
Jayne stopped walking. “Dunno, Captain.” He half turned back to him. “Man can’t always go back to where he was.”
“Or what he was,” Mal agreed quietly. “We all changed some, Jayne. Way I figure it, a man does what he’s got to, dong ma?”
Jayne nodded, studying the ground.
“Think on it overnight,” Mal suggested. “We’ll be on planet for another couple of days. Just one thing though.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and studied Jayne. “I’m all for leaving the past in the past, but you and Simon would have to come to some sort of peace. And that would mean telling us a little of what happened to River.”
Jayne didn’t say anything, just looked down at his hands on the railing of the catwalk. “She died.”
“We got that part. I was meaning as to the how.” Mal’s voice was steady as he watched the still mercenary.
Jayne shook his head, a frown tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“It sure would be nice to have somebody to back me up that didn’t have to be told which part of a grenade to throw.”
A smile quirked at the edge of Jayne’s mouth. “I’ll think on it.”
“That’s all I’m asking.”
The next day was blindingly bright. Mal had arranged for a few more crates of supplies to be delivered in the morning, prior to their original liftoff, and the crew spent the majority of the early hours shifting cargo to make room for the new freight.
No one mentioned Jayne. Kaylee looked ready to cry, and she kept sneaking glances through Serenity's rear hatch, obviously hoping to catch a glimpse of the mercenary strolling towards them, dripping with his customary weaponry. As the sun moved higher in the sky, her eyes began to droop further and further.
Simon could empathize. He wanted Jayne back as much a she did, but for an entirely different reason.
He wanted to hear how River died.
It was morbid, but he didn't care. He wanted to know what happened. It had been the mercenary's job to look after the pair of them at that hospital on Ariel, and he'd failed. For years he'd been heaping the blame on his own shoulders, for lack of a better platform.
Now his worst fears were confirmed, but Jayne was back, with those broad shoulders that could shore up a barn, and Simon directed all his self-loathing at the mercenary with a kind of sadistic pleasure.
He was in the process of shoving a difficult crate into an awkward corner when a pair of large hands came into his field of vision, grabbing hold of the opposing corner and giving a mighty heave. "You gotta use your back, Doc," Jayne grunted as the crate shifted into place with a groan of distressed metal. "Can't just keep shaking yer ass like a peacock."
"JAYNE!" Kaylee exclaimed, pelting across the cargo bay to wrap him in a hug that rivaled the one from the night before. "You came!"
"Guess I did at that," Jayne said, patting her back uncomfortably.
"We sure are mighty glad to see you, Jayne," Mal said, utterly genuine as he shook the merc's hand. "This boat ain't been the same without you."
"Naw, guess it wouldn't be, huh?" he agreed. "When we taking off?"
"Tomorrow morning," Mal said, still grinning. "You anxious to get off this rock?"
Jayne nodded. "Just get us in the air, Mal. Ain't been there in donkey's years."
"What about your family?" Kaylee asked, smiling so bright she was rivaling the late morning sun. "Ain't you gotta say goodbye, or bring 'em with?"
Jayne ran a hand through his short hair. "They're done by," he said gruffly by way of explanation. And that appeared to be that.
Kaylee let her disappointment be subsumed into her excitement that Jayne was here, he was back, and let the matter drop. "I'll go fish around in the galley, make you your favorite for lunch! Just you wait!" And she scampered off towards the common room.
"You sure you don't gotta say goodbye to no one, Jayne?" Mal asked.
Jayne leveled him with a flat blue gaze. "Ain't never been one for goodbyes, Mal, you know that," he said. "Don't like 'em."
Mal grinned and clapped the taller man on the shoulder. "It's good to have you back, Jayne," he said. Then, "Someday you're gonna have to tell us where you been all this time."
"And what happened to River." Mal and Jayne both turned their eyes toward Simon. The doctor was standing right where Jayne had left him, carefully wiping his hands on a towel.
"Now Doc-" Mal began, but Simon cut him off.
"No, Captain," he said, voice steely as he glared at Jayne. "I want to know. Why won't he tell me what happened to her? Why won't he TAKE me to her? Tell me, Jayne? Why? Is it because you're ashamed that a man as big as yourself was too much of a damn coward to look after a little girl?"
Mal looked ready to step between them to deflect the blows that were bound to start falling. But surprisingly, Jayne didn't look ready to commit murder; yet.
"River's dead, Doc," he said, in a voice that sounded like lead. "Better get used to it, cuz ain't nothing gonna change that. Crazy girl's gone. Buried with her boots on. Dong ma?"
This time Mal did move between them, but more to protect Jayne from Simon than vice versa. "Jayne, how 'bout you go see what Kaylee's doing in the Common Room."
"Nah, Mal, I gotta go check on my stuff. It's all waitin' outside." The mercenary turned on his heel and wandered down the ramp, disappearing around the side of the ship.
Mal waited until he was out of sight before turning back to Simon. "You gotta stop, Doc," he said firmly.
"He's a monster," Simon spat. "Did you see him? He didn't even bat an eyelash!"
"He's been through a lot, Doc."
"My sister is dead, Captain!" Simon hissed, shoving Mal away and straightening his vest. Smacking his hand against his chest he continued, "My mei-mei. She's dead and gone and that hun dan acts as though she were nothing but a... a... fly on a windshield!"
"He’s been through a lot, Doc. Just like River."
"He is nothing like River," Simon snarled. "No one will ever be like River again." Spinning on his heel, he stormed out of the bay.
Mal sighed and rubbed his palms over his face. "Lao tian, I thought things were supposed to get easier from here on?" he sighed.
There was cargo to get loaded, but all he really wanted now was a sandwich. He meandered his way up the stairs towards the Common Room, trying not to think and failing miserably.
Outside, in the lee of Serenity's engine, Jayne said, "Ain't never liked goodbyes."
A small voice answered, "Never ever."
Am I evil? Probably. but im having a hell of a good time!