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.
Prologue/Part One/Part Two/Part Three/Part Four/Part Five/Part Six
Italics are flashbacks
"They don't like me," she said sadly, as Jayne tugged her down onto the bunk and kneeled in front of her.
"They don't know you, is all." Jayne took her hands in his and examined the damage. "You gotta be more careful, Birdy girl. Your hands is all tore up."
She told the top of his head, "They want me to be her, and I can't." One dirty hand touched the side of his face. "You know who I am, don't you?" Her mouth trembled, wide eyes searching his face for reassurance.
"You're my Birdy." He looked up at her, worry creasing his forehead. "You're my wife, and nothing that hun dan doctor says is gonna make that different."
She gave him a tiny smile. "You won't let them take her from you."
"Promise." He kissed her wrist, whiskers brushing over her palm.
She gave a faint giggle and closed her hand. "Tickles."
He smiled at her as he got up and filled a bowl with warm water. "Haven't had to do this since you decided you needed to feel the earth when you was digging in your garden. You remember?"
She nodded. "The plants wanted to feel my hands."
"The plants tore up your hands so bad I had to do all your digging for a month." He frowned as he took her hands in his, and gently began to clean them.
They sat in silence for a moment as her hands soaked.
"Birdy," he asked, keeping his eyes on the bowl of water. "Do you remember River?"
"Buried by the river," she said quietly.
"Yeah, you know that. But I mean," he hesitated, tightening his fingers around hers. "Do you remember her? Before she died?"
Birdy shook her head slowly. "I can't."
"Can't?" Jayne could feel her hands shaking under his in the cooling water.
"Don't make me -- she lived in pain and fear, and I don't want to." Her face twisted as a tear slipped off her cheek. "River's dead," she insisted. "River by the river."
"Poetic," she echoed as he bandaged her hands. "Buried with her boots on."
“Buried with her boots on,” Jayne agreed. “Do you remember why?”
Birdy slowly lifted her eyes to his. Searching his face, she gave a small nod.
“Girl?” A low voice filtered through the drone of noise in the back of her head. Her eyes flickered open.
The world was dark, inhabited by shapes and monsters and nightmares. She whimpered.
“Girl, you’re dreaming.” The voice was gruff and weary, as if he had said that simple statement many times over. “Wake up, huh?”
Her eyes were open, so maybe she wasn’t still dreaming, but nothing felt real except for the blood under her fingernails. That felt too real; for all that she knew she had washed her hands.
Her hands looked insubstantial set against the wood grain of the bed frame she was laying on. They looked too small and fragile to belong to the girl she was.
“Girl?” That tired voice came again. It was a voice she should know.
She turned her head, the world shifting oddly. A man was sitting beside her, blue eyes blood shot and weary. She blinked at him, shadows shifting around him. “Is it morning?”
The man shook his head and rubbed his eyes. “It don’t matter none, really.”
“Oh.” She closed her eyes against the shadows and swallowed hard. “Where are we?”
“How?” Her voice cracked. She touched her forehead with a trembling hand. “I can’t remember.” She shivered. “I remember...blood.”
“There was that,” he acknowledged. “Yours and mine and a bunch of other people’s. But we got out.”
She turned her head away from him, a tear sliding down the side of her face. “Did we?” Despair pulled at her. “Maybe we died, we’re dead, but we don’t know it.”
“Well, I ain’t dead.” A large hand patted her arm clumsily. “Go back to sleep. And no more nightmares, they’re keeping me awake.”
END PART SEVEN