Beyond the Black
By Lady Cleo
All disclaimers apply.
Death: the act of dying, extinction, destruction… to die is not what it seems. Jayne/River
Just a short midnight story… Thanks to Twitchy Louie for being my beta.
Six feet under sod… Each pitch of soil covered her up, spiriting her farther and farther way from the world as they knew it. Each speck of dirt worked to bury her beyond the troublesome and meddlesome world, a world that had haunted her all these years. Each shovel full buried her deeper and deeper without escape.
Jayne stood impassively next to the grave, watching as Mal's shovel patted down the fresh sod. He vaguely caught the sound of Kaylee's heartbroken sob, Inara's soothing comments broken by her own small tears. Zoe stood like a statue, her mask of indifference hiding the pain she felt; her hand clasped firmly with Wash's as he gazed down at the small grave.
Jayne pulled his gaze away from the couple and looked up at the bright blue sky overhead. He felt it would be more fitting to have a black sky, raining pouring down, it would match their moods, their grief. Disgusted with the blue, with the sounds of sobs he turned away from it, gaze instead falling to the bountiful land around them, the blooming flowers insolently ignoring the grieving group.
Book opened his bible as the Captain stepped back. Soft words filled the small grove and echoed through the birch trees. Jayne reached up and pulled his hat off in respect to the fallen. But his face remained an impervious mask to whatever he felt for the burying of the crazy girl.
Mal wiped an arm across his forehead and moved over to place a comforting hand on Kaylee's shoulder. Inara looked up from holding the small mechanic and met the Captain's gaze. Jayne shifted from one foot to the other and moved his eyes away, bored with the sight of grief. But when the movement caught the captain's eye he carefully schooled his expression down, hiding it from the sight. Showing the respect the dead deserved Jayne gazed down on the broken dirt. But his stomach revolted at the sight. The thought of her in the box built by his hands, surrounded by dirt… it made him sick and he turned his eyes away quickly.
The blue eyes finally settled uncomfortably on Simon. And a quick shot of guilt raced up through his head, but he pushed it down. It had been her choice to go; she had chosen to take the trip into the eternal black sleep. Simon had done everything to pull her back, but her little mind refused to give into his pull.
Now in this moment the mercenary couldn't help but feel a little respect surfacing for both crazy girl and her fancible gorram brother. The girl for taking fate into her hands, the boy for not crawling in the dirt and sobbing blindly. It took guts to stand up to pain, especially emotional pain, and that was something Jayne understood. Jayne had seen men grieve for death after such a great loss, and though Simon's pain was immense and all consuming he did not have the look of a doomed man in his eyes. For that Jayne respected him even more, it took guts to continue on.
Still he had little doubt that the doc had already done more then his fair share of sobbing in the arms of Kaylee, it had taken a week to find the little planet after all. It would take months, possibly a year for the boy to fully recover, and Jayne had little doubt that his sister's shadow would always haunt Simon.
Jayne had never been good at mourning. He felt the fear and the respect for the dead, sometimes even the sorrow. But Death was like the final goodbye and Jayne had never been good at goodbyes; especially not when the goodbye was to her. His eyes shifted back to the ground and he imagined her in the box again. Dirt compacted around her. The air thin and suffocating around her, the interior dark and cold without escape… no place for a crazy girl. It would remind her of the needles and the dark horrors that probably still haunted her at night. His stomach lurched and Jayne looked away.
The Shepherd finished his piece and the small band broke up, some lingering to give a last quite farewell, others moving silently back down the long trek towards the distant ship. Simon and Kaylee remained, taking each others hand and staring down at the small grave and marker.
Jayne watched them for a second. He took note of the abandoned shovel and thought to retrieve it for a second, then decided that nobody would want it onboard and started after the retreating backs of Mal and Inara. He mashed the hat back on his head and rested his hands on his belt.
Jayne didn't say goodbye to the crazy girl.
Least two years he'd spent working on this ship. It had been a great two years workin' for Mal, havin' his own bunk, kitchen privileges and more than decent pay. There'd only been one thing lacking, one thing that oddly enough the crazy girl could have given. But with Mal and Simon that would've never been an option.
Jayne packed Vera carefully in his duffel, surrounding her with the few items and possessions he had. He took only the essentials, only the things he didn't want to live without, mainly his clothes and guns. He left the rain stick and other souvenirs of his time with Serenity. He would have enough reminders of them in his head.
He glanced around the bunk one last time. It had been fun, he supposed. Never had such a crew, such a family… But he didn't question for a second why he was leaving, better deal had come along, much better deal. Walking over to the ladder he tossed up the duffel and climbed up easily enough. Grabbing hold of the black bag he started forward and paused.
Half the crew was gathered in the dinning room, quietly talking. Book, Wash and Zoe surrounded the table, and Jayne didn't have to guess where the other four were. He watched them for a second. But Jayne wasn't one for tearful goodbyes, wasn't one for goodbyes at all. He moved quietly, stepping lightly so as not to draw their attention. But they were wrapped up in quiet reminiscing, didn't heed his coming or going.
Jayne moved on, down the stairs of the cargo bay, noting Inara's open door and the quiet sound of voices coming from within. His boots descended the cargo bay stairs none to quietly, but he knew no one would be there to say goodbye; no one would try and stop him. They were too busy mourning her loss. He hit the bottom floor and he started for the ramp, but paused before the open doors.
He caught the sound of footsteps on grating and turned around. Swinging the bag over his shoulder Jayne glanced around the confines of Serenity's cargo bay one last time. Caught the sight of Mal standing high above on the catwalk watching Jayne with an almost impassive, emotionless stance… it was his way of saying goodbye.
Jayne wondered what the captain would tell the others. How Mal would explain why her death had driven him from the home he'd fought for so often. Wondered for a second if Mal knew what had happened and would come charging after him in a second. The Captain had an uncanny ability to know things he shouldn't, but in this case he couldn't know.
Jayne turned away from the sight and started down the ramp quietly. The fresh whip of the wind tugged at the brim of his hat for a second and he took a deep gulping breath. He gave the ship a silent goodbye and moved off into the world.
Jayne walked silently up the slightly inclined hill and turned back around, the sun was setting rapidly and he could just barely spot the bulk of Serenity through the trees. Rain clouds gathered in the distance and lightening flashed, but the mercenary ignored them.
He took the unworn path back into the grove and set his bag down beside one of the lush green trees and a sprouting bed of flowers. Moving over he dropped down to the ground in front of the grave and stared at the marker. Her name was stretched across the wood plank, carved beautiful and carefully by the endlessly talented Book with small touches from each of the crew.
A flower from Kaylee, a bird from Wash, a tree from Zoe, a heart from Simon, a cross from Book, a butterfly from Inara and a star from Mal. It made quiet a little pictograph, all arranged so that each was placed relatively. The star above her name the cross below, the small bird hovered near the tree at the base of the plank beside the sprouting flower and the heart lay dead center. There was something from each of them, but nothing from him.
Kaylee had been the only one to comment quietly on his lack of adding to the plank. His answer had been that he'd built her box; that was his touch. And he had, he'd worked on every infinite little detail with such care, wouldn't let anybody else assist. Nobody was allowed to touch the box he'd made for her.
Jayne glanced down at his watch and frowned for a second. The sun took its sweet time and the rain clouds moved closer. He waited for the dark to settle, the bright distant lights of Serenity no longer a comfort.
When the stars finally blinked into the black night sky, obscured by the looming clouds, Jayne stood and moved over to the deserted shovel. Picking it up by the wood handle he pushed the rounded metal end into the soft dirt… and started digging.
The first drop of rain hit the ground.
Jayne was more than waist deep in the grave, soaked to the bone and covered head to toe in mud. He worked hard and quickly to clear the dirt as rain poured down into the grave. The walls around him leaked with mud, making it a thousand times more difficult to expose the box.
He caught the hum of Serenity's engine overhead through the drum of rain and paused for a second to watch the ship head off into the sky with a blur of green light. He imagined for a second what would've happened if one of the crew had come along for a final goodbye. But he didn't dwell long on the thought or the retreating green ship and went back to work.
At the click of metal hitting wood he worked faster. Quickly clearing the box of dirt he tossed the shovel away and bent down, unlocking the box. Jayne pulled the lid back as the distant glow of lightening illuminated her white skin. He watched her pale figure for a second. Her lips were still drawn in a thin line, the long waves of dark hair neatly braided away from her face. She was wearing her red dress, and gazing down at her he was reminded of an old fairy tale he'd heard his mother tell his sisters.
Climbing into her box he leaned down, his muddy fingers trailing a soft line down her pale chin before slipping around her shoulders to pull her small body up, closer to him. Leaning down he gently pressed his cold lips to her warm ones.
River's eyes fluttered open and her gaze met his. A small sleepy smile cracked across her cheeks and her hands reached up to gently caress his cheek. "Success?"
"Damn right it was." Jayne answered, "Your plan worked like a ruttin' charm. If'n Mal suspected anything he sure the hell didn't act on it. Ship took off." He waggled and eyebrow down at her. "Hows' bout we get ya outta here? Gives me a damn uncomfortable-ness gazing down at ya in that box, it's eerie as all ruttin' hell."
River nodded her head gently and Jayne stood up in the box, reaching down he grabbed a hold of her hands, pulling the smaller girl to her unsteady feet. Hands wrapping around her waist he hefted her out of the grave, but didn't follow after her. Instead he turned around and pulled out the bottom board to reveal a small breathing device, bag of clothing for her and the supply of stabilizing drugs that would keep her steady until they found her more.
Grabbing hold of the items he carefully transferred them up to where she sat on the edge of the grave. The rain drizzled slowly to a stop and the moon poked out of a corner of the clouds. Replacing the board Jayne locked the empty box and jumped out of the grave.
"Simon?" River questioned quietly as Jayne picked the shovel backup and started filling in the hole in the ground.
"Took it real well, if'n ya ask me. He'll be fine in a couple of months." He paused for a second, waggling the eyebrow down at her again as he grinned, "Ya missed a real pretty funeral though, I think ya would've liked it lots." He started to once again fill in the grave. "Course I still ain't exactly sure why we had to go through all that damn trouble. Wouldn't it of just been easier to tell 'em and not take no for an answer."
"Dangerous to your health," she whispered in response.
"Yeah, but ya could've probably out smarted 'em, bein' a gorram genius and all." He pointed out, tossing another puddle of mud down onto the rapidly disappearing box. "Fakin' your death was fun and all, but kind of extreme baby, ain't like the feds gonna find out about it, they're still gonna be hauntin' our shadows."
"New leaf…" River whispered with a small smile. "Will miss them all, but with the advance of years and time there will be a place to meet again. Not a forever parting."
"Don't be gettin' me wrong, baby, ain't complaining bout getting ta keep ya all to myself and all. Just sayin' they's gonna be mighty pissed if'n we run into 'em ever again." River didn't answer but simply started to hum a small haunting melody as he worked.
The grave practically filled itself and Jayne finished it off with a pat of the shovel. Tossing the mud stained shovel to the ground he wiped his hands on his pants. Walking over to River he pulled her up to her feet and then walked over to grab the duffel where he dropped. "Hows' bout we head into town now and get started on this new leaf thingy." He suggested swinging the duffel over his shoulder.
River grinned and nodded, walking over to his side she slipped her hand into his. Jayne rolled his eyes, but didn't pull away as they started off for the distant town. "First step," she started to say, "Matrimonial delight."
"Now I ain't never agreed ta nothin' like that!"