Description; Short one-off inspired by Carlos Jacott's wedding ring in Firefly:'Serenity'

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and Mutan Enterprises own all. I make no profit, (although I think that's because Jayne is stealing it when my back is turned.) Not my 'verse, I'm just flying in it.

Missing, Presumed Dead

"Buzzards the only ones gonna find him now."

Jayne Cobb

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She stared at the card in her hand. "Missing, presumed dead."

With a single touch, the words shifted and changed. "Mrs. Dobson, our sincere condolences. While on routine assignment, your husband, Lawrence Dobson, has gone missing. He is presumed dead and searches have been discontinued."

What followed were details, mostly legal, about how to draw his pay in his absence and what her benefits were. As long as he was missing and not declared dead, there would be no pension, no insurance. There were no explanations, no word of how he disappeared, or what his mission had been. She closed her hand over her stomach, trying to push past the numbness that edged it's way outward, consuming her.

"Oh, Lawrence." She sunk unto a chair. Her father had been right when he warned her about falling in love with a lawman. But she hadn't cared. Nothing could have stopped her from loving him, from being with him. And when he'd asked her to marry him, how could she tell him no?

It seemed only yesterday that they'd stood on the edge of that bioluminescent lake on Ariel, the only honeymoon his law enforcement pay and her own meager seamstress salary had afforded them.

"I love you, bao bei. Ever and always." He'd said so gently, cradling her to him and she had never felt so full, so alive. They'd made so many plans, how he would put in for promotions and be a commander in a few years time. Then he would be able to stay home, and they could start a family. He had promised she could submit her designs to the Blue Sun Corporation's fashion guild and start her own design business. They would have the entire future at their feet.

Missing, presumed dead.

"I'll find you, Lawr. I will." She vowed, closing the card and laying it on the table. Her face hardened with determination. She was the daughter of three generations of lawmen, and the wife of one. Nothing would keep her from finding him.

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Sunrise followed Serenity into the Eavesdown docks on Persephone. Wash smiled as he settled her down as light as a feather.

Mal nodded at Zoe. "Two hours. No more. Wash, you and Kaylee stock us up. Jayne and Zoe are with me. We drop the cargo, get the next job and we're back in the air."

Zoe squeezed Wash's hand and followed Mal down the cargo ramp. Jayne met up behind them, his eyes scanning the surroundings for hazards. Wash drove the mule down the ramp and Kaylee sprinted after him, jumping on the back as she waved a hand to Simon, who closed the cargo door behind them.

As they passed, a tall black man, well armed, leaned over a dark haired woman, pointing to the parked Firefly with his rifle butt. "That is the ship. Badger says the captain's name is Reynolds. This is as far we go. Got a reputation to keep."

She nodded, squaring her shoulders. "Thank you."

He shrugged. "Badger says just remember the favor." Then he turned to go, leaving her alone in the busy port.

She studied it. A mid-bulk transport, an older machine that blended into the shadier parts of Persephone's dockside. So it was here that he had been seen last. Crossing her arms, she leaned against the side of a venders stall, the stink of burnt meat in her nostrils. She tried to imagine him, her Lawrence, his familiar brown bag over his shoulder, stepping up that ramp, handing his fare to the bright eyed girl on the back of the mule that was driving away.

No matter of wheedling and pleading with her sources inside the Alliance law enforcement had revealed what his mission had been here, three planets away from their home. Her father had told her to let it go, that she knew the risk when she married Lawrence. He seemed to think that she was putting herself in danger. He thought that Lawrence had been hunting fugitives, dangerous ones. He said she was in over her head. And perhaps she was. It no longer mattered. She couldn't go on without him, not without knowing where he was, that he was all right.

Her heart ached. All she wanted was Lawrence home, and safe. The grey of his eyes haunted her, and she closed her eyes, imagining him standing before her, his hands in hers, as he had the day he'd left. "Be home soon, bao bei."

Blinking, she felt under her cloak, touching the pistol she carried hidden there, listening to the name her mind whispered to her. Captain Reynolds.

The pair with the mule returned and the cargo doors opened. As they unloaded, she slipped closer, backing away again when she saw the trio approaching. Taking a deep breath, she dashed forward as they reached the lip of the cargo deck.

"Captain Reynolds?"

The man stopped and looked back at her, eyes narrowed. Behind him, the big man's hand lingered over his gun as she stepped closer. She threw back the hood of her grey cloak, revealing her simple trousers and blouse, her shoulder length mousy brown hair.

"Who's askin'?" The Captain stepped back off the ramp, a subtle gesture of his hand signalling the bigger man to stay close.

His face was handsome, but there was something hard about it, something hidden and defensive. She shifted on her feet. "I'm looking for someone who may have taken passage on your ship."

The eyes narrowed further, and the hand brushed back the edge of the long brown coat, exposing his gun. "Don't take passengers."

Her heart pounded faster. Could Badger have lied to her? Told his man to send her sniffing the wrong trail? The big man glanced up the cargo bay and there was a movement in the darkness. Someone backing out of her line of sight. They were hiding something, but what? If it were Lawrence, why would he not show himself?

She stepped forward again, until she was almost toe to toe with the captain. Her wide, honest face looked up into his, as her fingers traced her own weapon beneath her cloak. "You did. A man by the name of Lawrence Dobson took passage with you some time back."

"Maybe he did. Maybe not. Don't generally keep records of paying fares." Malcolm Reynolds glared down at her, his lips set. Over his shoulder, the bigger mans eyes widened in recognition and then narrowed again.

"Sorry, miss, can't help you." The captain turned away and yelled up the ramp. "Get that stuff stowed. I want us in the air in ten minutes!"

"Captain!" She dove forward, ignoring the big man's hand as it shot out to grab her upper arm.

"Hey, now. Captain said we can't help ya. Ye'd best be on your way, missy."

Turning her head, she glared up into his face as it looked down at her, a shadow of defensive guilt written beneath the glowering stare. She struggled in his hand for a second and was relieved to hear the captains voice. "Let her go, Jayne."

The big man stepped back and she found herself facing the captain again. "Look, miss. I already told you what I know."

Tears welled in her eyes. She had come too far to leave without answers. She hated the tinge of panic in her voice as she spoke, her words raising in tempo and volume as they fell out of her mouth. "He was my husband! He's missing and I must find him! Please, if my Lawr was on this boat, you must tell me! I have to know!"

She dashed the tears from her cheeks, glaring at the man who held the secret of her husbands fate. "Where did he go? They tell me...they say he's 'missing' and that I should give up! I can't... I won't..."

"Maybe you should." The captain's voice was hard.

She felt as though she'd been slapped, and she fell back a step. He advanced on her, one hand raised. "This is an ugly place, miss. People go missing. They get kidnapped by slavers. They get robbed and killed. Sometimes, they just lose themselves in the black and forget about their old lives. Your husband is gone. Maybe you should just let him go."

"I want him back." Her voice was a whisper that carried into the sunlit morning around them. He turned to go and she grabbed his sleeve between her thumb and forefinger, "If it was your wife who was missing, would you just give up? Would you walk away?"

The man froze, looking down at her slowly. He glanced over at the big man, who was looking down at the ground. He raised his head and met the Captain's gaze, then gave a shrug and headed back inside.

"Part of living is knowing when to walk away." Captain Reynolds jerked his sleeve from her hand and strode back into his cargo bay.

She felt herself crumple as the cargo doors closed. There was a roar and a whoosh as the ship raised slowly, leaving her behind on Persephone with no more answers than she had come with.

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"Who was that woman?" Simon Tam asked Mal as he passed him in the cargo bay. From the moment Jayne had gestured him back from the door, he had felt the fear that he was about to be discovered.

Mal just shook his head as he climbed the stairs, not looking back.

"That was Dobson's woman." Jayne's voice carried over the cargo bay. "She come lookin' for her husband."

Simon's guilt was written on his face but Jayne shrugged as he strapped down the last crate. "Thats the way it is, Doc. Can't fix it."

The fugitive nodded slowly, his voice sad. "I never meant for anyone to get hurt."

"And what would ya done?" Jayne snapped, standing up and brushing off his hands. "That bastard was huntin' you. Woulda sent your sis back to that place where she got all messed up. Woulda sent you to prison. He shot Kaylee." Jayne's eyes narrowed, his head tilting slightly to emphasize his point. "She almost died. Or are you forgettin' that?"

"No." Simon answered. "No, I know. It's just..."

"Everyone leaves someone who cares behind. Well, 'cept me. And maybe Mal. Don't see too many bawlin' over us." Jayne said with a wicked grin, but he turned serious again. "If she married a lawman, she had aughta know'd what she was getting into."

"Kill or be killed." Simon said softly and continued when Jayne nodded in agreement, "I just wonder if maybe we couldn't maim a little instead sometimes."

Jayne just huffed and turned away. Doc had some mighty funny ideas sometimes.

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On the ground, she curled her arms around her knees, feeling the flow and ebb of the crowd around her. Just more dead ends. And she would never know the truth. Maybe the captain was right, that Lawr had just gone, left her, walked away from his life. Seeds of doubt planted themselves. A planned business trip, saying "Be home soon." and just walking away. Was it possible that after so few short years, he had found their dreams impossible to live up to? That he had actually left her?

Behind her tears she tried to imagine him settling on some small moon, making a new life for himself as a small time sherrif. A brave new life on a brave new world. She raised her head from the dust. Even if she knew in her soul that it wasn't true, perhaps she could find comfort in it.

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Somewhere in the desert badlands of a moon called Whitefall, Patience, her dusty hat hiding her grizzled sun-wrinkled eyes, grimaced at the decayed remains her men brought to her.

"No ID. No jewelry 'cept the ring." The palm of the gloved hand held out a thick gold wedding band to Patience, who took it and held it up to the light.

Patience frowned and handed it back. "Reavers probably did him. Give 'im a decent burial. See that stays with 'im."

She settled back in the saddle and turned back towards town. "Ain't likely anybody's gonna miss him now."

- The End -