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. She is responsible for feeding the bunny. All credit (and blame for the crack) goes to her. Im just the messenger.
All parts found here: Wingtip Round Up Post
Jayne and Birdy were slow to get moving the next morning. Jayne was dragging his feet about going to breakfast. He had things to think over about how to handle the doctor and his feng le ideas about River. He sat on the bunk and brooded, cleaning guns that hadn’t seen proper care in a good two years.
Birdy busied herself peeling old girlie pictures off of the walls. She was humming a little with a determined smile pasted on her face.
“Don’t need these,” she told Jayne half sternly as a picture came loose from the wall. “All the girl bits you need are Birdy-shaped.”
He grunted in reply, eyes narrowed in concentration as he carefully disassembled Betty and Veronica. The build up wasn’t too bad, although all of them could use a good dusting. He ran his thumb lovingly over the trigger guard.
He had really missed his guns.
Birdy stripped another stripper off of the walls above him, balancing carefully on the bed railing. “Bye bye, Petunia,” she sang, letting the faded magazine picture flutter to the floor. “Perhaps you should put on some clothes. It can get cold out here in the black.”
She scolded a stubborn piece of tape. “Must come off, neat and clean and presentable. New pictures, new starts, on the wall and off.” She smiled in satisfaction as it came loose under her fingernail.
She jumped lightly off of the railing onto the floor and spun in a cheerful circle. The bunk was small, but after a little bit of time had been made tidy and cozy. A small quilt was folded at the edge of the bed and a budding plant was carefully placed on the tiny end table.
Jayne was still working on his guns and didn’t react when Birdy came to sit beside him. She leaned against his back and snaked one little hand around his stomach. It growled under her fingers. She giggled into his shoulder blade.
He shifted slightly at her touch but didn’t say anything.
She hummed into his ear, rising onto her knees to do so. “Jayne, your girl is hungry.”
He didn’t look up.
“Jayne,” she repeated, tapping him lightly on the knee.
Jayne ran the cleaning cloth over the barrel of the gun in his hand, squinting in thought.
Birdy cocked her head to the side curiously. She leaned over his shoulder so she could look at his face and studied him, forehead wrinkled slightly in concern. After a moment, she carefully reached out and put her hand over his on the cleaning cloth.
He stilled, blinking in confusion as her light touch brought him back to reality. With a sigh, he turned his hand over and squeezed her fingers.
“It is time for breakfast,” she said softly. “Would you like me to go get you something so you can stay and finish checking everyone’s wellbeing?”
He turned to look at her, eyes focusing on her face slowly. He licked his lips. “Breakfast?”
“Breakfast for Jayne,” she said calmly, still leaning on his shoulder. “Important meal leaves you healthy and strong.”
He blinked, smirked, and was back to normal. “I already am big and strong.”
“Yes,” she agreed solemnly. “And your wife would like you to stay that way.” She rapped her knuckles gently on his forehead, concern in her eyes. “Everything alright in there?”
Jayne grabbed her hand out of the air, dropping a kiss to her bandaged palm. “Yeah, just thinking.”
“I can go get you something,” she suggested hesitantly. “If there is thinking to do, it is easier to do it in private.”
He shook his head firmly and quickly reassembled the piece he had been cleaning, hanging it back in its place with the others.
“Don’t want you to have to deal with the doc on your own.”
Birdy couldn’t hide the small flash of relief that crossed her face.
Jayne frowned uneasily. “You worried about dealing with him?”
She shook her head slowly, eyes trained on the floor. “Not worried.”
She shrugged while turning and starting for the ladder. “Breakfast!” she said brightly. “I hope there are eggs!”
Jayne stopped her with a hand on her arm. “Ladybird, I need to know.” His mouth was set.
She studied Jayne’s chest, running one finger down the buttons on the front. “A little scared,” she admitted, circling one button slowly. “Don’t think he will believe me about who I am.”
He sighed, tugging on a strand of her hair. “I don’t think he will either.”
She looked up at him, eyes wide and frightened. “River is dead. You buried her.”
“I did. You was there too,” he said this quietly, twisting her short hair around his finger.
Birdy shook her head. “I don’t remember. I was still very confused about everything.”
“We both was, I think.”
“I don’t know how to be River.” Her eyes filled with sadness “Her brother,” she sighed, sinking into his chest. “Her brother, not mine.”
“We’ll tell him,” he promised her, large hands gentle on her back. “We’ll keep telling him until he remembers.”
“And you’ll stay with me?”
“Can’t get rid of me, Ladybird.” He pulled her into his chest for a hug. “We been through too much together for you to get rid of me that easy.”
The girl tossed on the bed, moaning in her sleep again.
The big man sitting vigil beside her rubbed his face in exhaustion. Every night since they got out, she dreamed. And when she was awake, she drifted through the rooms in the small berth they shared like a ghost, whispering to herself.
He hadn’t exactly been sleeping, either, trying to keep her from screaming the other passengers awake. They didn’t need to attract any attention now, a bare week from leaving that place.
He still wasn’t sure how it had happened but he remembered the blank look in her eyes when he pulled her out of the pile of bodies. She almost had tried to take him out, before some part of her brain that hadn’t been cut up to hell finally recognized him.
It had taken him two days to convince her to let go of his hand long enough for him to get her cleaned up. They couldn’t exactly get passage on a ship while she looked like a walking corpse herself.
But they had gotten out and they were headed as far as his meager pile of credits could get them. He owed her that, crazy and screaming notwithstanding.
The girl on the bed whimpered and he soothed her automatically, rough hands patting her head. Her long hair got tangled in his fingers and he grimaced.
She wasn’t doing well, and damned if he knew how to handle it.
END PART NINE