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.
Lovingly edicated to literarylemming, without whom this would not exist. She is responsible for feeding the bunny. All credit (and blame for the crack) goes to her. Im just the messenger.
He didn't even feel Serenity's ramp under his boots as Mal led him onboard and quietly told Wash to pay up the docking fee for another forty eight hours. They had company coming.
It was a strange night, to say the least. Some of the spark returned to Kaylee’s eyes when she heard Jayne was alive and was coming back to Serenity. She and Wash spent a happy hour decorating the mess hall with a welcome home banner.
Simon couldn’t figure out a way to tell her that River was…gone.
By the look in his eyes, neither could Mal.
He could tell that the others had picked up that something was wrong. But Simon avoided everyone’s eyes, and helped Inara make the tea.
Everyone froze for a moment when they heard boots tramping up the ramp. Kaylee threw herself down the stairs to greet Jayne.
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, tugging on his arm. “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?”
He hesitated for an eyeblink. “Yeah,” he finally replied, 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 the two men reached the catwalk. “We still got a place for you.”
Jayne stopped walking in the middle of the stairs. “Dunno, Captain.” He half turned back to him, a strange look in his eyes. “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, tension easing from his shoulders.
“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 stair rail. “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 edges of the scar marring his face and neck.
“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.”
END PART THREE
Or, in which i reveal..absolutely nothing except some very vague hints. oops? *angelic eyeblink*