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.
Round Up Post
Sorry for the delay. Brain got stuck, beta got sick, etc.
Birdy huddled deeper into the covers on Jayne’s bed. Her eyes were fixed on the door to the bunk.
It didn’t open.
She bit her lip worriedly. Jayne should have been back by now.
She buried her face in the pillow in confusion. She couldn’t hear any fighting, but she couldn’t hear anything else either.
She eyed the door hopefully, but it remained stubbornly closed.
Curling tighter around herself, she watched the door anxiously. “Please come back, Jayne.”
Mal’s shoulders were stiff with tension.
Jayne had been sitting at the table for almost thirty minutes. He was totally focused on the pattern he was copying and recopying with his thumbnail. He wasn’t responding to the captain at all. He didn’t even so much as flinch.
Mal had tried everything short of touching him. He had tried yelling, calling, sitting food in front of him - everything.
What he really wanted to do was just shake Jayne really hard, but he was resisting the urge. For one thing, the man was armed. For another, Jayne was still twice Mal’s strength, and never had reacted well when startled.
Mal rubbed at his eyes tiredly. On some level, he knew the other man had changed. The lost weight, the hyper awareness, the wary looks, those Mal had noticed. But this was just …strange.
He shied away from thinking about what could have happened to the mercenary after he had been captured by the same people who cut River’s brain all to hell.
Mal paced across the room, watching Jayne obsessively tracing that odd little pattern with his thumbnail. If Jayne didn’t snap out of it soon, he was going to have to call the Doc to see to him, and that wasn’t something he really wanted to do. There was too much bad blood between the two men. Doc might “accidentally” poison Jayne, just out of spite.
Mal glanced over at Jayne again, and saw nothing but the same thing he had seen the last seven times. The big merc still hunched over the table, eyes glazed over as they followed the line his thumb was drawing.
It was creepy.
A small noise caught his attention and he whirled, hand to his gun.
It was the girl. River. Birdy. Whoever.
She stared at him, eyes wide, looking uneasy and unhappy, but her gaze kept sliding sideways to the man at the table. Her hands were clenched at her sides.
“Jayne,” she half whimpered.
Mal turned to look, but Jayne didn’t even respond to her voice.
The girl took a hesitant step into the room, eyes flicking back to the Captain unsurely.
“What’s wrong with him?” Mal asked her.
She flinched, skirting around him carefully to kneel beside Jayne.
“Sure you should be touching him?” Mal’s hand twitched towards his gun again.
The girl ignored him. She wasn’t the least bit afraid of Jayne – but she was scared of Mal.
“Jayne?” One little hand reached to touch the big man’s knee. “Jayne, it is time to come home.”
Mal kept a wary eye on the mercenary, as well as a hand on his gun, but it didn’t matter. Jayne still didn’t move.
The girl glanced at Mal again, a quick flick of her eyes his way. He wasn’t sure what she was doing, but he wasn’t about to leave her alone with Jayne in this state.
Her hands slid up to cup the mercenary’s face. “Jayne,” she said gently. “Jayne, come home.” She smiled up into his blank face, her expression open and loving. “I will bake you cookies and cakes to welcome you back, and you can tell me all the places you have been.” She rubbed his face with her thumbs, smoothing out the lines of concentration as she spoke.
Her voice was soft, and Mal had to strain to hear what she was saying to the man.
“Birdy?” Jayne sounded like a man waking up from a bad dream – lost and confused.
The girl, whoever she was at the moment, took Jayne’s hands in hers and rubbed them. “Shh,” she soothed. “You’re home now.”
Jayne’s hands were shaking in hers, and she rose to her feet and slipped her arms around him. He rested against her, face tucked into her stomach as she stroked his hair.
Mal took a quiet step back towards the door. The whole situation was deeply unsettling.
“He gets lost sometimes.” The girl glanced briefly up at Mal - most of her attention focused on the shaking mercenary in her arms. “I have to help him remember how to get home to me.”
“What about you?” The captain asked. “Don’t you think that you’re a little lost too, River?”
A ghost of a smile played over her lips. “River got lost a long time ago,” she said simply.
END PART FOURTEEN