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.
All parts Here
Italics are flashbacks.
Birdy slipped down into Jayne’s bunk and huddled on his bed, hugging his pillow to her chest. Taking a deep breath, she wiped her eyes with one small hand.
“I’m Birdy,” she reminded herself, wedging herself into the corner of the bed, clutching the pillow tightly to her stomach. “River’s dead, and I’m Birdy.”
She closed her eyes, chanting this short litany over and over.
“You ‘wake yet, Birdy?”
She hesitated in the kitchen doorway, wide eyes blinking in the bright sunlight
“I was dreaming,” she said, rubbing her forehead in confusion. She looked around the room hopefully. “Jayne, where’s River?”
“River’s dead, Birdy.” The big man turned away from her to look out the window. “Don’t ya ‘member?”
The girl shook her head. “No.” Her eyes slide past him. “Jayne, where’s River?”
“She’s buried by the river.” Jayne gestured out the window, his back to the girl at the table. “She’s safe.”
Birdy twisted a strand of her long hair around her finger. “River by the river,” she mused. “Poetic.”
Simon stood his ground – mouth set in an angry line as the mercenary approached.
“I don’t want you talking to her no more,” Jayne growled. “She ain’t your dead sister, and she don’t need you messing with her head to make her think she is!”
Simon’s eyes flashed dangerously. “We both know you’re lying, Jayne.” He leaned forward and spoke slowly, so that Jayne wouldn’t miss a word. “I will kill you for hurting her.”
The big man smirked. “You don’t even know the girl you claim to be all worried about.”
“She’s my sister,” Simon spat. “Of course I know her!”
“Did River like plants? Did she wake up early in the morning to see the dew on her roses?” Jayne ran frustrated hands through his hair. “Did she like just sitting and listening?”
“I know River,” Simon insisted over him.
“No, you don’t!” Jayne’s anger drained away suddenly. “Look, Doc. River died. I was there. I saw her die. Then I dug her a grave and buried her.” He slumped onto a chair and looked down at his hands on his thighs, face tight with something that might be pain. “I couldn’t do nothing to help her but that. I couldn’t do a gorram thing.”
Simon blinked, shaken by this information. He swallowed hard, suddenly unsure. “I don’t understand.” He licked his lips. “That girl..downstairs…”
Jayne interrupted. “Is my wife, Birdy.” He looked up at the doctor. “I’m sorry ‘bout your sister, Doc, I swear. But leave my wife alone.” The big man ran a tired hand through his hair and turned away from the doctor to face the table. “Just leave us both alone.”
Simon was rattled. The way Jayne spoke about River dying was almost like she really was…No. No, the girl with Jayne was River.
It had to be.
Confused, the young man pushed past the captain standing in the doorway and headed for River’s old room.
He needed to straighten her bed again.
“You wanna talk about it?” Mal offered in the silence after the doc left.
Jayne was slumped at the table, staring at nothing. He shook his head. “Ain’t nothing to talk about.”
“You said you were there when she died,” Mal said thoughtfully, sliding into a chair across from the mercenary.
Jayne flinched - a movement so slight, Mal wouldn’t have seen it if he hadn’t been looking for it. “Yeah.”
“What happened, Jayne?” Mal’s voice was quiet. “You ain’t even said what happened after you got took.”
Jayne shook his head, eyes still on the tabletop. “Ain’t nothing to tell,” he said automatically. His shoulders had tensed again, and he was holding on tight to the edge of the chair he was sitting in.
“Did something happen?” Mal persisted. He had let Jayne get by without answering anything so far, but he was going to need some answers to justify why he was letting the two of them stay on board.
Jayne shrugged jerkily. “I dunno.”
“You don’t know if something happened when you got took?”
Jayne shrugged again, tightly, shoulders bunching up tensely. “Can’t remember much. Don’t want to.” He looked up suddenly. “Don’t ask Birdy.”
Mal nodded. “Jayne,” he started slowly. “When did you meet Birdy?”
Jayne shrugged, his attention back on the table. “After River died.”
Mal studied the man in front of him, but no more answers were forthcoming. The big man held himself tensely on his chair, eyes firmly on the table. He was drawing a small pattern in the wood with his thumbnail, and seemed entirely focused on that small task.
The mercenary didn’t even twitch.
END PART 13