(6/6) Chapter Six: Infrared
It happened slowly, the waking. No one even noticed at first. It felt to Jayne as if he'd been climbing out of a black and purple void. The ceiling of the infirmary came into focus eventually. He was alone.
Had he been in his mind right away, he would've cursed the fact it was Simon and River who discovered him as being part of the conscious world again.
The doctor didn't say anything. River might have. Jayne wasn't in the mood to give a good gorramn just yet. Simon went about his business of checking his stats. It seemed to take him awhile. He seemed to be taking his time notifying the others.
He tried to move and groaned. His leg seemed to have a hole in it.
He couldn't remember it getting that way. But he started to remember other things. Ruttin' hilarious how clear his mind seemed all of a sudden.
He promptly turned to a waiting bedpan and threw up.
"The big one's awake."
River wafted through the kitchen and disappeared again before anyone had a chance to react. All those within earshot stopped their current activities and headed down to the infirmary. Inara stopped when she realized that Mal wasn't following.
She waited patiently. "Are you coming?" she asked softly.
He stood in the deserted dining area his mind elsewhere. He seemed to be warring with himself over something. She watched him knowingly. Over the past week, Mal had confided in her a bit regarding his ideas toward Jayne and the Scrap Belt. But whether he'd actually confront Jayne with any of it seemed to be a moot point.
He snapped out of it. "Yeah." He met her gaze for a minute before smiling dully. "This will be interesting."
When they reached the infirmary, Jayne was on his way to sitting up. As he eyed Mal steadily, Inara looked around and realized that everyone was here, with the exception of Wash. And Kaylee. She sighed, and felt Mal push past her.
"Hey. How's the knee?" Was all the Captain would manage at Jayne for the moment. Yet he smiled.
It threw Jayne for a moment, who was still shaking off grogginess. Finally, he smirked and huffed half-heartedly.
"Won't be thankin' ya anytime soon, Cap."
Mal watched Jayne for a long beat. There seemed to be nothing left of the strange rage that he faced off with in the cargo hold. His eyes were tired, but clear. And worried?
Mal had been staring so long; it was making Jayne nervous.
Book stepped in and broke the awkwardness. "How's your head, son? We've got some good theories on what it was that you'd been drugged with. As far as who -,"
"How about you? You got any ideas? " Mal interrupted keeping his voice light, staring at Jayne over crossed arms, and Jayne looked back and forth between the two of them.
"Uh, not hardly, Cap." The reply came with the usual confused Jayne expression.
Mal wasn't completely buying it. But he'd let it slide. "Just how much do you remember. You've been a bit off kilter for a while -,"
"That's just him," River chimed in briefly and Zoe smiled, but Mal went on –
" - and we've been off-planet for even longer."
Jayne was silent a long time and he took his time looking at all the faces in the tiny little medical bay. Inara saw him register that Kaylee was missing from the welcome back party.
Jayne nodded at Mal. "Outpost 10. Someone jumped me. It gets a might fuzzy 'round the edges after that. But I 'member us air-borne. And Kaylee fixing the temp stabilizers and it being rutting hot for awhile." He trailed off, glancing around again, nonchalantly. "Where is Kaylee?"
Mal had to hold from interrogating him about the Slaughtered Lamb. Instead, he said, "She's looking after Serenity. She's got some patching up to do."
Jayne was still for a moment – Inara caught it – and he gently shrugged it off. But he jumped two seconds later as Book laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Well, it's good to have you back, son, regardless. You had us worried."
"Uh. Yeah. Like I said. Don't remember much."
"It'll come back to you,"
Simon retorted innocently over his shoulder as he studied one of the screen
behind the examining table.
Kaylee sat on the grate steps leading down the infirmary, listening quietly.
For past week, she could only get as far the common room outside the infirmary to watch Jayne through the glass. She'd never been inside.
Simon had wanted to examine her bruises after they had crashed into the Scrap Belt, and she would have none of that. She suspected he knew more about where they really came from, as it was.
But it was, of course, more
Or she'd thought it was more than that. Was it possible he didn't remember any of it?
A slow coldness began to creep over her. The conversations in the infirmary continued a bit longer. But she'd heard enough. She stood as silently as possible and made her way back deep into Serenity.
She'd been taking care of Serenity after the incident in the belt, patching and searching for how someone – whoever that person or thing was- could've gotten so close to Serenity as to render her defenseless.
The irony and analogy was not lost on her.
She was assured of one thing. The thing that had taken her in the darkness that last night they were together hadn't really been Jayne. At least not his fault.
A drug. So simple. Yet so difficult to believe. She'd heard Book and Simon theorizing on what it was. But that did not interest her. Beyond explaining some very erratic behavior (even for Jayne), it still did nothing to lessen the standard pain.
She had theories of her own about what had happened Holy City Zoo and Outpost 10. She had been the only one around him planet-side, after all. It's where all the trouble started – where everything started. When he met up with her in the red light district on Yaowarat Road, she knew someone was following him. Even then he'd acted so strange. Uncomfortable.
The Captain must've known it too. She remembered, despite her drunken state, Jayne trying to convince Mal that something wasn't right. And then he was gone.
She heard him say it.
He remembered Outpost 10, but little else.
After repeating it to herself for a third time, she wondered: was she trying to convince herself? It would be an easy end to all of it. If he hadn't been thinking that first time he brought her into his bed… If that hadn't been intentional…
She was torn. She didn't want all of that to be for nothing, but …
She didn't want his pity. Maybe this was for the best. Let him forget. Answers would be lost.
But thought it was impossible any of them would ever get all the answers they were looking for. There might never be any resolution. Best to let it go.
But as she picked up a wrench
and went back to work, she realized Jayne wouldn't let it rest so easy.
"Mal doesn't think that Walden crew drugged Jayne."
Book sipped his mug of scalding liquid and peered at the good doctor. They now had the infirmary to themselves. It barely took a day of poking and prodding and Simon couldn't keep Jayne in there even if he wanted to.
Simon shrugged. "It's possible."
The two of them had been batting ideas back and forth nonchalantly as if they were predicting the weather. But both knew it ran much deeper than that. Mal wanted it all dropped for now. If anyone had any heavy-handed opinions, they could keep them to themselves.
So they were.
"Ever since my sister and I came on board, I'm afraid the Captain has had to keep an extra pair of eyes in the back of his head. It's made him … overly wary."
Book smiled. "I think he's always had that habit."
"Maybe. But having the Alliance out there doesn't help matters. It's making him see things in the shadows that may or may not be there. That salvage ship wanted revenge. It could be as simple as that."
Book made a noncommittal grunt. "Hmm. Could be…."
"Kaylee said she'd seen that ship in port with Serenity on Outpost 10. She recognized it. That's too much evidence for me."
Book's smile was getting obnoxious. "And the drug…"
Again, Simon shrugged. "Nothing unusual about it being on the street. Especially in a place like Holy City Zoo. The only use criminals would mainly get out of it is how it disarms the victim, mentally and physically."
Book walking over the microscope on the desk where the specimen from Jayne's body rested in a dish of liquid.
"Dicrimzinyne." Book muttered its name under his breath as he stared down at the lifeless little enzyme. "You know. I seem to recall that it's had other uses. Alliance, perhaps?" Book turned to Simon innocently.
"I wouldn't be surprised." Simon came to stand next to him, his thoughts briefly drifting toward River. "Experimental, if at all."
The two glanced at each other briefly, letting the words dissipate in the air between them.
Jayne managed to adjust the fresh wrappings on his knee without wincing. But he had other things on his mind besides getting even with Mal.
Hell. He probably had no right to think about getting even at all. He most likely owed the crew the skin off his back.
He eased off his bunk and grabbed for his shirt hanging by the sink. He paused briefly and stared back down at the rumpled bed sheets. He didn't know what he expected to see or what it would conjure. There was only his own indentation there on the pillow.
He hadn't had the balls yet
to go and find Kaylee. Was she avoiding him?
All the others seemed to forcibly except the fact that he was a little fuzzy on the details of recent events and had left it at that. But that wasn't exactly the truth.
He could remember more than he'd let on. But only slightly. When he tried to remember too much, his head still hurt with the effort and that red curtain came flowing back. After effects of the drug lingering, he assumed.
Outpost 10 was crystal clear. Someone was following him into the red light district as he tracked Kaylee. He had tried to tell Mal later that night. But the ruttin' fool wouldn't listen to him. Of course, he'd left out a pretty important piece of information. He was fairly gorramn sure that the pimp who attacked Kaylee was with the others that were trailing him. Hell, if he had left that part in, Mal would've certainly listened then.
After that, it started to get hazy. Except for Kaylee in his bed. That seemed to be real. There were dark feelings rumbling around inside him to prove it. But even those were vague.
Then a question popped up in his head that he didn't want answered: how much had he hurt her? That was something that he didn't want to remember.
He pulled the T-shirt over his head and climbed up the ladder, steeling himself for the inevitable. He had to find her and set it straight. If she hated him, he could take that. That would be just fine.
He wasn't liking himself very
much right now either.
Once you get yourself emerged in Serenity's inards, it's not easy to be found. Lots of hiding places.
You could loose yourself if you wanted to. But Kaylee had an excuse. She'd found the patch where the ship was breached from the outside and was diligent in making sure it wouldn't happen again.
She wasn't surprised that Jayne came looking. Only that he found her so quickly.
Okay. So she wasn't the only one being diligent.
She heard him at her back.
Not too close. She could have turned, and had no problem finding him. She'd
hung a few high-powered work lanterns about on Serenity's pipes for her
to work by. But she had no intention of seeing him. If he was seeking
her out, he probably remembered more than she wanted him to. So she kept
working. And when his voice cut through the hiss of the small blowtorch
in her gloved hand, it was all she could do to keep going.
"You weren't there when I woke up." It was a statement, not a question. It sounded lame, even to him. But he let it go.
She had her back to him, crouched over a small blaze of fire and smoke at her fingertips, working away. This far into Serenity, the heat was pronounced and definitely not benefiting from the newly repaired temp stabilizers. She wore a long sleeved shirt and her coveralls rested at her hips. She was nuts.
It was then when he saw it; the bandage that poked itself from her neck line. She was hiding something.
He took a step toward her, but her voice stopped him.
She even turned the torch down low so he could hear her.
" I've had work to do. Sorry. But I hope your feeling better."
The torch once again blazed to life. Dismissed.
Not if he had his way, he wasn't.
Despite the fact that she sounded genuine, her body language was giving her away.
"I'm sorry." He knew his voice was loud enough to carry. But she ignored him. He took a step forward.
"Stop." She killed the torch. "Don't."
"Apologize. There's no need."
He advanced on her, cautiously, before she could resume what she was doing.
Startled, she stood and faced him, causing one of the lanterns to swing lazily. The brightness hit him full on and he knew she could see every emotion on his face. He hid nothing from her.
"Stop!" Her plea was weak, but he finally did as she asked. A cloud of red threatened to engulf him again, but maybe it was just the effect of staring into the blaring light. Either way, his vision cleared as he focused on her.
He backed off.
"Do you even know what you apologizing for?"
She seemed so resigned. Like she didn't care if he answered. Or like she didn't want to hear the answer.
He stared at her for a long heartbeat. If he hadn't felt so resigned himself, he'd have felt a little pissed at being pressured. It was all he could do just to face her.
But he had to do this no matter what she thought of him in the end. If he held steadfast to the arrangements he'd made with Mal before coming in search of her, he would be sticking around much longer anyway.
Did he know what he was apologizing for?
"No." His voice broke the silence and he didn't like the way it sounded. "No, I don't."
He watched carelessly as she turned away and began working again. It was a few hammers and clanks later that she spoke again, her voice strained.
"Nothing? There's nothing you remember?"
That could've been a note of hope in her voice just then. She was upset. But her body said that everything hinged on his one question.
He agreed. But that didn't mean he could find it in his worthless hide to tell her the truth.
He knew now that he couldn't. Oh well. Once a bastard…
The torch blazed to life again effectively ending the conversation.
Jayne backed away until he was at the hatch opening. He crawled through and leaned against the cold metal on the other side and listened to the distant sounds of her hands on the ship for a very long time.
Sometime later, he felt Serenity pull out of hard burn. They were close to planet-side. Just as he'd asked. Mal had been a little too happy to oblige, in his opinion.
He pulled away from the metal wall, and stood looking at the hatch a moment longer, knowing full well that they wouldn't be resuming the conversation anytime soon, and she probably wouldn't want to hear him anyway.
"No Kaylee." He spoke to no one but the ship. "I remember everything."
He couldn't remember the name of the bar he was in. Just that it was somewhere near The Slaughtered Lamb. It probably wasn't the best place for him to be. But the only place he thought he'd find any answers.
Jayne stared at the bottle of whiskey before him and wondered how long he'd been sitting there. He was now two thirds of his way through the bottle.
He watched the crowd before him milling about in the dusty air and let his mind drift to a particular piece of fantasy that had been haunting him as of late:
The crowd thins just ahead of his table and a figure is standing there. She's sought him out. Not to save him from anyone inparticular. Okay. Maybe himself. She's walking to him across this dirty bar. It's Kaylee. She looks changed somehow. Grown up. She'd wearing a dusty white tank top. No bra. A holster and jeans.
She looks fantastic.
She approaches him, her eyes soft. She comes to stand between his legs and runs a stray hand behind his ear and into his hair. Her eyes seem to say, "Everything's okay now. And I need you." And she slinks down into his lap, her full lips brushing over his –
He was suddenly jolted out of his stupor-filled fantasy as a brawl broke out behind him. He growled. He was ready to ditch this place.
Jayne stood unevenly, still nearly a head taller then anyone else in the room even slouched and drunk. And that's when he saw her.
Coming soon …
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