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.
They'd barely cracked atmo the next day before Jayne disappeared into his bunk. Kaylee tried to get him to stay and visit, but he just shrugged and clambered down into his bunk like he'd been sleeping there every night of his life.
There was a strange aura on the ship now that the mercenary had returned. They'd been living with ghosts for the past two years, and now one of them was back in flesh and blood. Of course, that one didn’t seem too interested in having anything to do with anybody.
Knowing that Jayne was down in his bunk instead of enjoying this newfound reunion made the corridors seem emptier, somehow.
Simon kept glaring at the hatch to the man's bunk. More than once, Mal found himself having to steer the young doctor away from the crew quarters physically.
One of the two was going to end up in a world of hurt if they didn't sort this thing out and fast. Time used to be he'd have put his money on Jayne eight days out of the week, but seeing the cold fury in the doctor's eyes had Mal rethinking his philosophy.
Kaylee was trying to be cheerful. She'd drafted Wash and Zoë into helping her decorate the common room with paper streamers and the banner she had put up before Jayne came to visit the first time. She'd baked a cake in preparation for his return, and now it sat under cover on the galley counter, waiting to be eaten. Before his disappearance, nothing in the 'verse would have kept Jayne Cobb away from fresh-baked chocolate cake; he could smell it cooking ten miles away.
If anything, that just made the situation stranger. An insatiable hunger for everything from food to sex to guns to liquor was one of the core tenets of who Jayne Cobb was. Now he didn't seem to care too much, and that was disturbing on too many levels to count.
It was time for some of this to stop. Mal knocked firmly on the door to Jayne’s bunk.
“Yeah?” A gruff voice answered.
“Jayne, come on out.” Mal turned his back and started to walk to the mess. “Its dinner time and I think we need to talk some.”
The hatch opened behind him, and Jayne climbed out, carefully shutting and locking the door behind him. “What about?” he asked warily.
“Your job, for one.” Mal leaned against a bulk head with his arms crossed. “And Simon, for another.”
The big man shrugged. “I do what you say, Cap’n. I know my job.”
“And the doc?”
“I ain’t got nothing to say to him.” Jayne’s face closed. “I’ll get dinner later.” He turned to go back into his bunk.
“No.” Mal ordered. “You’ll get dinner now, with the rest of the crew. And you’ll smile, and pretend you’re happy to be here, and you’ll let Kaylee spoil you a little, so she’ll stop looking like she’s about to cry.”
Jayne glanced back at his door, chewing on his lip. “Alright, I guess.” He double checked the lock, before following Mal slowly down the hall.
He hesitated at the doorway, but Mal nodded at Kaylee, leaning over the untouched cake looking sad. Jayne stepped in slow, but stopped at the table. He looked a little confused.
Kaylee had brightened when he walked in, and bounced over to him. “You can sit wherever you want,” she assured him. “We don’t eat together much anymore, so we fight for chairs when we do.” She beamed up at him as she manhandled him into a chair at the end of the table.
"How's the bunk feel?" she asked, bounding over to the cake and cutting him off a big wedge. "I aired out the bedding and took a dust rag to all your bits and pieces."
She stopped as she put the cake down in front of him, eyes widening. "'Cept not your girls, Jayne, cuz I know you wouldn't want no one else touchin' 'em. We kept 'em covered, and swished a duster over them now and then, but nothin' more than that." Her brow furrowed as she bit her lip. "We probably done ruined 'em, ain't we? Shoulda taken better care o' them for you."
Jayne looked from the cake to the unhappy mechanic to the cake again.
Jayne Cobb rarely smiled, and when he did, it was usually because someone else had just done something incredibly stupid, dangerous, or both. But this was a genuine, ear to ear, shiny white smile that set his eyes alight. "Ain't nothin', little Kaylee," he said as he picked up his fork. "They'll clean up just fine."
Kaylee frowned. "You... sure you're feelin' all right, Jayne?" she asked tentatively.
"Cuz I just said ain't no one oiled up your guns since... well, since you left."
"And you ain't mad 'bout that."
Jayne shrugged and dug his fork into the cake. "You didn't know I's comin' back. Can't blame you." He shoveled the bite into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.
"Relax, little Kaylee," Mal said, coming up behind his engineer and rubbing her back. "Man's got his priorities straight. Don't go questionin' 'em or he's liable to forget." He kissed her on the forehead. "Now do any of the rest of us get some of that cake, or that just goin' to Mr. Cobb here?"
Kaylee beamed and hugged him. "I love my captain," she grinned, before darting back to the galley counter to cut Mal a slice of the cake.
Mal flopped down near Jayne's elbow with a heavy sigh and watched the mercenary wolf down his cake. It was as if the man hadn't eaten in years. Judging by the pounds he'd shed since Ariel, Mal was willing to believe that was the case.
Kaylee was happily getting cake for everyone as they drifted in one by one and settled at the table.
“Oh, we get dessert first?” Wash eagerly held his hands out for a plate. “And here I was thinking we would start with dinner!”
The crew was pretty cheerful and dinner was looking to be a pretty peaceful affair with the mercenary back.
Kaylee, Zoë and Inara were chattering about some new style in dresses, while Wash and Mal discussed the destination for their next job. It was going to be a mite safer with Jayne at their backs again, that was for certain.
Jayne didn’t even look up to notice. He seemed real intent on getting every last bit of icing off of his plate.
Simon shot Jayne a cold look, but settled himself at the other end of the table with a smile for Kaylee as she dropped a kiss on his nose.
Finally, when everyone was starting to relax, Jayne looked up from his plate. “Got something to say,” he said abruptly.
The table froze. The forced sense of normalcy ending as soon as Jayne opened his mouth.
Mal looked sharply at Jayne.
Jayne was looking uncomfortable and kind of anxious -- something else that he didn’t used to do. He was holding the edge of the table in both hands, like he needed an anchor.
The big man hesitated. “It’s ‘bout why I came.”
The rest of the crew exchanged uneasy glances. “Why’s that, Jayne?” Mal finally asked.
“Some people was sniffing ‘round,” he explained. “I didn’t want them getting no ideas this time.”
“Ideas about what?” Zoë asked.
“It happened last time,” Jayne shook his head. “And it upset her so, because there was blood on River’s grave.”
Mal was getting steadily more disturbed by this disjointed conversation. “Think you better go back to the beginning, Jayne, ‘cause I’m all kinds of confused.”
Jayne blinked, looking puzzled. “It’s easy enough, Cap’n. I didn’t want to mess up her garden this time.”
Simon twitched when Jayne mentioned River’s grave, and tightened his hold on Kaylee’s hand.
Mal had a very strange feeling in his gut, and it wasn’t getting any better.
Jayne seemed a little frustrated that they were all staring at him, not understanding. He pushed his chair back with a grunt and headed towards his bunk.
The others exchanged confused looks. Zoë started to lean forward to say something to Mal, but Jayne’s boots beat a solid thud against the decking as he returned. He stopped in the doorway and looked back down the hallway.
“Well, see,” he tried again. “Like I said, those guys were sniffing around, and I thought they might think she was her.”
“Jayne,” Mal said, a little too calmly. “Who is she and her?”
“I’m getting there, Mal.” Jayne looked down the hallway again. “See,” he started again.
“River?” Simon asked. “Is the her you are talking about River?”
Jayne shifted his weight uneasily. “Yeah. Her.”
“Tell me what happened,” Simon demanded, knuckles white around his mug. “What happened to my sister?”
Jayne blinked. “I told you, Doc. River’s dead.”
“Buried by the river.” A soft voice floated from behind the mercenary. A young woman with short dark hair peeked out from behind Jayne. “River by the river. Poetic.”
She stepped around him, her arms wrapped around a plant with a small bud on the top. “I bring you housewarming gifts,” she said shyly, offering the plant to the shocked crew.
“I want you to meet my wife,” Jayne said, putting one hand on her shoulder. “I want you to meet my Birdy.”
For a moment, no one moved.
Simon started violently, knocking his mug to the floor in a crash.
END PART FIVE
*giggles hysterically* MAN, i cannot tell you of my own obsessive love for this story. i REALLY REALLY cant.