Summery: Ariel AU. Simon gets left behind.
This is, in fact, sort of a Rayne story. But not exactly. *innocent smile*
Massive thanks to michmak for the beta. She who keeps me from comma abuse.
Dedicated to literarylemming, without whom this would not exist.
The job actually went almost smooth for once, with Mal getting grazed in one arm. They got the money, with enough left to pick up some extra supplies, and even a single strawberry for Kaylee.
They walked back to Serenity in fairly good spirits. Simon was making plans to search the town, and Mal had that look in his eyes that said he was scheming.
They didn’t have to search far.
“Y’all looking for me?”
Jayne stood off the road a ways, watching them closely. A new scar twisted its way down his cheek onto his neck, making him look even fiercer than before. His hand twitched, like he was thinking of going for a weapon.
For a second, nobody moved. Jayne watched them. They watched Jayne. Had it been High Noon, someone would have reached for his gun.
Simon recovered first. He blinked, and when the man didn't fade like a mirage, his jaw hardened.
"Where is she?" he asked through gritted teeth.
Jayne's feet shifted, spreading a little further apart, as if he were trying to hold the world on his shoulders and needed more support. "Who?" he asked.
"MY SISTER!" Simon threw himself at the mercenary, forcing the taller man up against the side of the nearest building and pressed his arm across Jayne’s throat. Jayne had lost weight in the two years since he'd disappeared; Simon could feel the sharp ridges of the other man's collarbone even through the layers of his clothes. "Where is River?”
Jayne wasn't fighting back. Simon knew he should be concerned about that. The part of him that hadn't turned to gunmetal still remembered what it meant to be a doctor; he knew he should care.
But he didn't.
"I swear, if you don't start talking, Jayne, I will not be held accountable for my actions," he seethed. A piece of him -- that same pitiful part that still felt sympathy -- knew it was foolish, going after Jayne like this. The man hadn't done anything wrong. He'd been a victim, the same as River.
Only he wasn't, was he? He was a grown man, outweighed her by a few hundred pounds. He could have killed those guards, gotten them both out -- gotten River home.
Jayne was staring at him. Simon had forgotten how blue the mercenary's eyes were. Now he was remembering how icy cold they could be.
"What?" Simon snapped over his shoulder, his eyes never left Jayne's.
"He ain't gonna be able to tell you nothin', your arm crushin' his windpipe like that," Mal pointed out.
Simon flexed his fingers, hearing the knuckles pop with tension. Slowly, begrudgingly, he loosened his hold. Jayne sucked in a deep breath through his nostrils, his broad chest expanding and relaxing. "Now talk," the doctor said.
Jayne straightened up, pulling himself to his full height.
Simon refused to be cowed, even though the other man was almost a head taller than the doctor.
Jayne took his time, brushing off his clothes and picking his hat up from the ground from where it had fallen.
"Jayne," Mal said calmly, but with an undercurrent of steel. "I think the Doc asked you a question."
Jayne looked up, startled. It was like he had completely forgotten they were there.
"Where is my sister?" Simon seethed. "Where is River?"
Jayne blinked. He studied the man in front of him, looking a little confused. "River?" he said. "River's dead."
The words that came out of Jayne's mouth didn’t make sense to Simon.
"What?" He asked. "What do you mean?" He half laughed as he turned to Mal. "Where is she, do you think?"
Mal hadn’t taken his eyes off of Jayne. "Doc, did you hear the man?"
"Yes, but he's wrong," Simon insisted desperately. Jayne was wrong. He had to be wrong. "River isn't dead."
Jayne nodded. "River's dead. Buried by the river."
"Stop saying that," Simon ordered fiercely, hands clenching into fists. "She is alive, and you're hiding her!"
Mal shoved him backwards, "Knock it off, Doc." He studied Jayne for a moment. “You got plans for the night?”
Jayne shook his head mutely, eyeing Simon with suspicion.
"Kaylee would sure love to see you." Mal added, "She's missed you something fierce."
Jayne refocused on the Captain. He tilted his head to the side and mulled for a minute. "I gotta make it home for dinner."
Mal nodded. "No problem. You can make it home for dinner. Just come for a little visit and see everyone."
"Kaylee?" Jayne asked. "And the Shepherd?"
"Kaylee, Inara, Zoë and Wash," Mal said shortly. "The preacher don't ride with us these days."
Jayne repeated, "Gotta get home for dinner. But I can come for a visit."
"Why don't you come on then, Jayne," Mal said, gesturing Simon back. “You come on, and you can tell us a little of what happened.”
Jayne stared at the Captain for a second, and then looked over his shoulder towards the town. When he looked back again he said, "You at the docking yards?"
"Yes," Simon managed. If he pushed too hard, he would never find out what happened to River. His little sister. His hands were sweating. "Berth five."
Jayne nodded tersely. "Gotta get home for dinner, but I'll be 'round later," he said. He looked startlingly unsure for a moment when he said, "You ain't gonna take off or nothin', is you?"
Simon and Mal exchanged looks. "No," Mal said carefully. "We'll wait on you, Jayne."
"Where do you go for dinner, Jayne?" Simon asked suddenly.
The mercenary froze. Slowly he turned those clear blue eyes in the doctor's direction again. "Why you wanna know that for?" he asked, voice dark and suspicious.
Simon swallowed hard, at the menacing look the mercenary was directing at him. "Maybe we could come with you," he suggested cautiously. "Maybe you could show..." He paused and closed his eyes, swallowing before continuing. "Maybe you could show me where... River's... buried, if it’s on world." His hands shook. Saying it, admitting it -- that River was dead -- was like choking up razor blades.
Jayne frowned, his face suddenly gone dark as thunderheads. "No," he said firmly. "Ain't a good idea. You all just gotta head back to the ship. I'll find you. Don't follow me." He turned on his heel and began to march away.
"Jayne!" Simon called after him, suddenly desperate. His anger had melted away, leaving nothing but a hole in the pit of his stomach that was swallowing him bit by bit. "Please? I just want to say goodbye."
Jayne stopped but didn't look back. A moment later, he started walking again, disappearing around a corner and down a nearby alley.
"Jayne!" Simon called again, moving to give chase. A firm hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Let him go, doc," Mal said softly. Simon looked wild-eyed over his shoulder at the captain, and saw his own confusion mirrored on the other man's face. "Ain't never paid to rile Jayne when he's done told you not to rile him. You just let him come to you. Then you get him to bring you to her."
Simon felt the world shift under his feet as Mal quietly steered him back towards Serenity. The day had begun as just another payday.
The credits in his pocket seemed like just so much lint now.
Now that he knew River was dead.
END PART TWO
Trust me, here, people. i know where im going.