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 dedicated 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.
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. 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 Simon had been heaping the blame on his own shoulders, for lack of a better platform.
Now that his worst fears were confirmed he wanted Jayne back. Those broad shoulders of his could shore up a barn, so 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, a smile twitching at his mouth. "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 home -- and let the matter drop. "I'll go fish around in the galley, make you your favorite for lunch! Just you wait!" She pelted off towards the common room happily.
"You sure you don't gotta say goodbye to no one, Jayne?" Mal asked in concern.
Jayne leveled him with a flat blue gaze. "Ain't never been one for goodbyes, Mal, you know that," he said with finality. "Don't like 'em."
Mal grinned and clapped the taller man on the shoulder. "It's good to have you back, Jayne," he said. "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, ‘cause ain't nothing gonna change it. 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 strode 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?"
There was cargo to get loaded, but all he really wanted 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 softly, "Ain't never liked goodbyes."
A small voice answered, "Never ever."
END PART FOUR