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 through part 16. Worship to magelette, who picked up at part 17.
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
"I done told you, already, Birdy." Jayne was leaning over her bed, blanket in one callused hand. "They ain't stories. They're real."
"Tell me about them, Jayne. About the Captain and the Preacher, or little Kaylee. And tell me about River's brother." Birdy tucked one small hand under her cheek, looking trustingly up at the large man tucking her into bed. "Please, Jayne. Tell me about your home."
Jayne sank down to sit beside her, absently scratching at the still healing cut on his face. "They," he said haltingly. "They was good enough people, I guess. Captain paid a fair wage, and Kaylee kept the ship running, and the doc, well." Jayne's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "I don't remember ever telling you about the doc, Ladybird."
Birdy flushed, dropping her eyes to trace her fingers along the lace of the sheet. "River told me about him."
Jayne caught his breath. "Does River talk to you much?" His voice didn't quite shake, but he sat very still, hands white on his knees.
"Sometimes," she whispered. "Sometimes when I go to visit her, or when I'm sitting in the sun, she'll tell me things." She smiled as she picked at the edge of her pillow. "She told me a story about when she was Serenity, and danced in the Black." She lifted large, dark eyes to his face. "She loves to dance, but she says she can't teach me."
"Why not?" he managed. His throat was tight.
"She says that the dancing died with her." Birdy's voice was sad and small. "She says I have to find something that I love, instead."
Jayne's voice was husky. "What will you love, then?"
Birdy rolled onto her side, away from Jayne. Her voice was troubled. "I don't know, Jayne."
He squeezed her shoulder with one callused hand. "You got time, Birdy," he said as gently as he could.
Jayne and Mal came back swearing and bloody, but grinning.
"The hell happened to you, sir?" Zoe asked, taking in the whole picture.
Jayne was dirty from head to toe, and he was trying to beat the shape back into his hat, which looked like someone had sat on it. His lip was busted, but it didn't seem to bother him at all. He grinned upwards and waved cheerily to Zoe, who was waiting for the captain at the top of the stairs. He walked off towards the corner of the cargo hold where Birdy hovered, his battered hat jammed down onto his head.
Mal had dirt in his hair and the evidence of a bloody nose as he swaggered up to the cockpit. He was limping slightly, but he whistled as he got settled down into the co-pilot's seat.
Wash openly laughed at the captain's appearance. "And here I was thinking everything went fine. I never got a call to come and get you, and it doesn't look like anyone is chasing us..unless they are very small. Are you being chased by very angry pixies, Mal?"
"No pixies. Just a mite of violence, that's all," he said cheerfully. "We got the goods, and Jayne used his intimidating manner and got us another job on top of that."
"Does that explain the violence?"
Mal waved away the question. "Violence was just for fun, didn't have nothing to do with the job."
"You and Jayne got into a fight. With each other." Zoe nodded. "Of course."
Wash snickered. "Did Jayne wipe the floor with you again?"
"The floor was not wiped," Mal answered haughtily. "Might have been bounced off the ground a time or two, but 'twas all in fun."
"I see," Zoe said with an amused look. "So, I take it that Jayne did well?"
"Jayne did very well!" Mal said happily. "He even kept me from getting shot!" He spun the chair in a circle. "You know," he mused, "Think we might have to keep him and his lady, whatever the hell her name is today. I don't even mind getting covered in dirt!"
Wash and Zoe exchanged an amused look. "You're very weird, sir."
He grinned unrepentantly. "You know it."
Zoe kissed the top of Wash's head and headed down the stairs, chuckling to herself.
Mal sat in silence for a moment after she left. He kicked his heels up on top of the consol and laced his fingers behind his head. "I gotta admit it, Wash," he said with a sigh. "Things will go a mite smoother for us with a good gun hand on board again."
The pilot's shoulders sagged. "She'd be with you if she could, Mal, you know that."
"And you know I sit much easier knowing my wife isn't out there being shot at." Wash leaned back in his chair. "And you know she hates not being there at your back."
"Not having her at my back has cost us," Mal said soberly. "With Jayne here and armed, we might actually have a chance of eating for two months in a row. I never thought I'd say it, but I never realized how much I missed the big lug until he wholloped me in the face and called me a dirtsucker. I tell you, Wash -- there were almost tears."
"There were tears of bravery."
"You try getting hit in the face by a man the size of a tree and see how brave you are."
END PART 18
Im working as fast as I can, but I have a VERY young kiddo, and we're traveling alotalot, so its difficult to get a good stretch of time to write something as intense as this. thanks for all the patience and good wishes! :)