Unneeded – Chapter Four

Author owns no rights what-so-ever to Firefly, nor the universe in which it lives. He writes solely for his own amusement. It's okay not to sue him.

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It was three weeks after Aramis that Valkyrie crossed paths with Serenity. Both ships were on Beaumonde, Valkyrie waiting on a cargo to be delivered, Serenity looking for work that passed Mal's muster.

Jayne had the afternoon off, and had decided to head into the city. He had need of a few things, and he now had coin aplenty. He had sent three fourth's of what he'd made on Aramis to his family, but that still left enough aplenty for cigars, ammo, and pieces he needed for his newly acquired girls.

He had just left the cigar shop when he heard Kaylee's yell.

"Jayne! Hey, Jayne!" He looked up, smiling when he saw her. Inara and River weren't far behind. He walked toward them, genuinely glad to see them.

"Hey, Kaylee," he smiled, then hugged her as she flung her arms around him.

"Jayne!" she smiled. "It's good to see ya!"

"Good to see you too, girl," he replied. "River, 'Nara," he nodded, as the two caught up.

"Good to see Man called Jayne," River smiled, and surprised him by also giving him a brief hug. Inara was more restrained, and a bit cooler.

"Jayne," she nodded. "I'm glad to see you well."

"Good to see ya'll," Jayne replied. He didn't think anything of Inara's attitude. She'd never liked him, so it wasn't a surprise exactly. "How's everbody gettin' along?" he asked.

"Cap'n got shot," Kaylee told him, losing some of her cheer.

"How?" Jayne asked. Mal hadn't taken a job that had even a hint of danger since Zoe had announced she was pregnant.

"Wrong place, wrong time," River shrugged. Jayne could tell there was more to it than that.

"He okay?" Jayne asked. True, him and Mal hadn't parted on the best of terms, but he wasn't a bad man.

"He's good," Kaylee nodded. "Still a might hard to use his arm, but it's gettin' better."

"I'm sorry to hear it," Jayne told them. "How's things?" he asked.

"Well. . . ." Kaylee started.

"We're fine, Jayne," Inara cut her off. "You needn't be concerned." Jayne frowned.

"I may not be on the ship no more, Inara, but that don't mean I don't wanna know how all ya'll are doin'."

"You left us, Jayne," Inara replied, her tone still cool, and growing cooler if Jayne was any judge. "But we're doing well. Come, ladies, we need to be about our errands." Inara urged each of the others forward.

"Can I buy ya'll lunch at least?" Jayne asked. Kaylee and River looked hopeful, but Inara shook her head.

"We have too much to do, Jayne. Take care of yourself. Of course, that's what you do, I suppose."

"'Nara that ain't nice!" Kaylee said, her face frowning. River said nothing, but flashed a look at Jayne.

"Well, that's okay," Jayne shrugged. "I'm headed along to Beezer's to get me something. Just thought I'd treat ya. It's good to see you. Tell the others I said 'hi'." He caught a nod from River, and started walking away.

"Jayne you take care!" Kaylee called to him.

"You too, grease monkey," he smiled back at her, but didn't stop. He headed to the café he'd mentioned, and had just started to look at the menu when River sat down across from him.

"Man called Jayne shouldn't feel hard toward Inara," she said at once.

"I don't," Jayne shrugged. "No harder'n usual, anyway," he grinned. "What's in her craw, anyway?" River quickly explained what had happened on the job where Mal had been injured.

"She correctly believes that had Man called Jayne been there, her Captain would not have been shot." Jayne looked at her for a minute.

"Wait a minute," Jayne shook his head. "She blames me for Mal gettin' shot? Since when does Mal even need a reason to get shot? And what the hell? They just decided to take you and Zoe and that was it?"

"That was it," River nodded. "'mite short on women folk'," she mimicked the leader perfectly. "We haven't taken a job, since."

Jayne didn't say anything for a minute.

"Look River," he began, but she raised a hand.

"Do not misunderstand," she told him. "No one else blames you as Inara does. They do believe that had you still been present, violence would not have occurred, or at the least, your presence would have prevented injury. But those are facts, not ill will."

"How are you guys makin' it? I mean really?" Jayne asked, conscious of the coin against his leg.

"Things are. . .difficult," River admitted reluctantly. "We have not worked since, though we did get paid for that job. With the Captain still down, it is inadvisable to take on any but the simplest jobs."

"Ya eatin' okay?" he asked. River looked away for a moment, before looking back at him.

"We are eating," she said by way of answer. Jayne sighed. He reached into his pocket. Removing his money, he kept a tithe of it for himself, handing the rest over to River.

"Take it," he ordered when she began shaking her head. "Don't tell'em where ya got it. Tell'em ya stole it," he added, grinning. "Anyway, take it, and stock ya'll up. Dong ma? I ain't aimin' ta have ya starvin'. Hell, you's to skinny to start with," he grumbled. At her look, he threw up his hands. "Just cause I ain't still around, don't mean I ain't carin' what happens to ya." River looked at him for a moment.

"Jayne has softened," she smiled, accepting the money, probably after reading him, he knew.

"No, I ain't!"

"Has too," she snickered, then softened. "Thank you, Jayne."

"Ain't nothin'," Jayne waved her off. He rattled off his new ship's cortex address, knowing she'd remember it. Probably forever.

"You get in a bad way again, call me girlie," he said gruffly. "Ain't no one but me and you gotta know it." She frowned.

"How can you afford this, Jayne?" she asked.

"Got a good job after I left Serenity," he shrugged. "Good ship, good crew, good pay. Sometimes hafta work for it, but I always had to on Serenity too. And at least this time I got a Captain don't look at me like I'm somethin' needs rubbin' off his boot."

"Grudges must be family trait," she murmured.

"Hey, that ain't. . .I ain't. . .look," he sighed. "I told you what my deal is, River. I can't walk away from this job. It's too much coin, and too good a berth. It's that simple. But I'll help much as I can, 'til ya'll figure somethin' out. Okay?"

"Thinks to make up for Ariel," she said.

"I done more'n made up for that," he almost snarled, but caught himself in time. "And you done cut me 'fore I did it. I know, now, ya wasn't right in the head. At the time, all I seen was a crazy fugie with a knife, who's brother near on let Kaylee bleed ta death. And she wouldn't even o' been shot, not for him."

"And me," River said, her voice small.

"Can't see where that's none o' yer fault," Jayne shook his head. "Hell, you was in a box, froze, when ya came on board. Didn't even know where ya was. No, that's all on him." He took a breath, trying to regain his calm.

"Anyways," he continued. "Like I said, I'm doin' okay. Fact, we just here ta pick up another load, and we're off again. We stay fair busy, so far. And I make a good cut. So I can he'p a bit, here'n there."

"Captain Daddy will not like it," she raised an eyebrow.

"Why I done tol' ya, keep it 'tween us. You ain't always quick on the uptake fer a genius, ya know?" She grinned.

"Duly noted." She stood, and suddenly hugged him fiercely. "You are a good man, Jayne Cobb."

"Don't go tellin' that," he grinned at her. "Now, git yer pretty backside outta here, and back to Inara, 'fore she has some kinda fit or somethin'. Oh, and you can tell'er fer me that she can. . . ."

"I refuse to say such a thing," River sniffed disdainfully. But she was grinning when she said it.

"Tell'er myself, then, next I see'er. Now you git, 'fore they come a'lookin' fer ya."

"Goodbye, Man called Jayne," River waved, and then she was gone.

Jayne just shook his head at the waitress when she came back.

"Looks like not so much," he shrugged, slipping her a tip for her time. "Sorry."

"Hey, I get off soon, I'll have dinner with ya," she winked.

"Reckon I better git," Jayne couldn't believe he said that. "But thanks."

He gathered up the rest of what he needed, which took most of the coin he had left. Still, he had cigars, his parts, the ammo he needed, and a bottle of good whiskey.

He was set.

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"Where'd all this come from?" Mal looked at River as she placed supper on the table. She smiled.

"Universe provides," she replied cryptically. Mal's eyebrows rose at that.

"'Tross, where'd ya get all this?" he repeated.

"She happened to find some coin," she shrugged. "Many rich people are careless with their money." Simon sputtered at that.

"River! You stole?"

"In case he has not noticed, that's often what we do. Steal. I see no difference in taking money from the rich, than in robbing a bank. You do recall that we've done that on occasion?" Her eyebrows rose in interrogation. Simon couldn't think of a good way to answer that, so he shut up. For once.

"'Tross, I appreciate what you did, for all of us," Mal began, "but from now on. . . ."

"Please," she sighed. "I have contributed to the family. Could you not simply say thank you, and enjoy the meal? Is it really so hard to do?" Mal's face reddened at that, but he nodded.

"Thank you," he said softly.

"He is kindly welcome," River curtsied, smiling again.

"But. . . ." Mal began again.

"No buts," River held up her hand. "She will continue to do what she can to assist the family unit. Objections will not be tolerated. Not even from the patriarch. We all must do our part. I have done mine, today, and will do again, when the opportunity arises." Zoe snorted into her cup, trying to keep from laughing. Mal shot her a glare, which she ignored.

"Thanks, River," Zoe said. "And good for you, too."

"Thank you," River nodded, sitting down to eat. "Now, let us eat!"

Inara looked at River suspiciously for a moment, but River ignored her, eating her meal. It was good, and their meals of late had been. . .not as good.

And, Inara needed to get off of her high horse, River decided. The Man called Jayne had left for good reasons. That those reasons were not beneficial for Serenity and the remainder of the crew, was not his fault.

"We seen Jayne today!" Kaylee announced suddenly, breaking River's train of thought.

"That right?" Mal asked. "How's he farin'?"

"He looked quite well," Inara said, sending Kaylee a frosty look. Kaylee frowned.

"He was doin' good," Kaylee nodded. "Asked about everybody, said tell ya hi."

"Also indicated concern that you were injured," River interjected. "Asked if you were well, and how you had come to be wounded."

Mal just nodded. He didn't want to talk about Jayne. He knew he had pushed the big man too hard, forcing a decision that Jayne hadn't really wanted to make.

He also knew that without Jayne, what had happened with Perkins would be more likely in the future. He managed to stifle a sigh.

"I think that's enough about Jayne," Inara ordered. Mal looked at her oddly, but she ignored it, resuming her meal. Kaylee frowned again, and seemed about to say something, but River nudged her, and shook her head. Kaylee almost went ahead, but decided to go with River.

The rest of their meal was quiet.

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"What's wrong with you?" Taggart asked. Valkyrie was in the black, her cargo on board. Jayne looked up from where he was working on the rifle he'd taken from Aramis.

"You look like somebody kicked yer puppy or somethin', Jayne," Mike said, sitting down beside him. "What's the problem?"

Jayne took a minute to reflect once more on the differences between Mike Taggart and Malcolm Reynolds. Mal would have probably said something ugly, and ordered Jayne to mope somewhere else.

"Saw some of my old shipmates on Beaumonde," Jayne shrugged. "Seems Mal went an' got hisself shot. Again," he added, shaking his head.

"Feelin' homesick?" Mike asked warily. He really didn't want to lose Jayne if he could help it.

"This is home," Jayne told him bluntly, and Mike smiled.

"I'm right glad ta hear that. Your old crew on hard times?"

"Might say that," Jayne nodded. "Mate's pregnant, so Mal ain't wantin' to take no high risk jobs. Got hisself shot on a 'safe' job."

"Ain't no such thing in the black," Taggart shook his head. "Found that out the hard way, over the years. He okay?"

"Reckon," Jayne shrugged. He didn't want to tell Mike too much about Serenity's business. It wasn't that he didn't trust Mike, cause he did. It just didn't seem right.

"Well, if you had wanted ta go back, I'da made a way ta git ya there," Taggart stood. "I admit, though, I'm relieved you ain't thinkin' on leavin'. We need ya."

"I ain't thinkin' on leavin' here at all," Jayne assured him. "I been treated lot better here than I ever was there. But a few of'em are good folks. Well, okay, all of'em are, in their own way. But no, they got to make their way, just like we all gotta. And I'm right happy right here where I am," he finished with a grin.

"Good," Mike nodded. "We gotta 'bout five days o' travel to get to the delivery. Have a drink, take a load off, and think about how ya gonna spend your share."

"I'll just do that," Jayne laughed, and went back to his new rifle. Yep, this was a good job.

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River walked down the hall to the engine room after supper was done. She knew Kaylee was there, nearly sulking over Inara's attitude. Kaylee and Inara had been friends for a long time. But that would buy Inara only so much good will, and she was spending it poorly. And quickly.

"You are angry with Inara," she said, causing Kaylee to jump, losing her grip on the spanner in her hand.

"River, dang it!" Kaylee stomped her foot. "How many times I gotta ask ya not to sneak up on me thatta way!"

"She apologizes," River shrugged. "And you are angry with Inara," she repeated. Kaylee sighed, so heavily that it seemed some of the life went out of her.

"I. . .I ain't really mad at 'er," she said at last. "Least not yet. But she ain't got no call to be so ugly toward Jayne. She always treated him like dirt on her shoe, anyway, but he never seemed to mind. I always thought he egged her on to be honest," she giggled. "Seemed ta like makin'er mad."

"But this here, today," Kaylee waved, her moment of cheer gone again, "that ain't right. And where does she get off, tellin' us we done said enough about Jayne? Or anything else, comes to that? She may be sharin' the Cap'n's bed an' all, but she ain't the Cap'n."

"She is rather angry," River grinned as Kaylee wound down. Kaylee looked at her as if she was crazy for a minute, then laughed.

"Okay, maybe I am," she admitted. "A little," she had to add.

"I understand," River nodded. "Inara's reasons for her attitude toward Man called Jayne are perfectly acceptable to her, however. She blames Jayne's 'abandonment' of us for Captain Daddy's being shot."

"And that ain't right, neither!" Kaylee was starting again, but River held up her hand, forestalling another squall.

"I agree. I merely state her reasons. She believes she is justified in what she feels. And says."

"Do you?" Kaylee challenged.

"I do not," River shook her head. "Jayne had sufficient reasons to leave when he did. It is not his fault that Serenity was not working. And," she added, "Captain Daddy pushed Jayne too hard on the day he left. Jayne was struggling with the decision of whether to stay or go. Struggling very hard, in fact. Captain Daddy made that decision for him. Took it from him is more accurate, in fact, demanding an answer that Jayne did not have at the time the demand was made."

"What?" Kaylee looked heartbroken.

"Captain Daddy has regretted this action since the moment it was made," River assured her. "Was not his intent to drive ape man away. He was surly, and angry, and lashed out at Jayne rather than at any of us. Jayne was not the cause of his ire, but Captain Daddy struck out at him anyway, since the cause of his ire is beyond reproach."

"Huh?" Kaylee had gotten lost along the path River had left. "Beyond whatsit?"

"Jayne wasn't what made him angry," River tried again, working hard not to sigh. "But Jayne was available, and the reason for his anger was not. Thus, he struck out, verbally, at Jayne."

"And that's what made Jayne leave?"

"It. . .helped," River shrugged. "He was struggling with the decision to stay or go. He had not made the decision as yet, only set parameters of what it would take for him to move one way or the other. Unfortunately, the Captain's pushing led Jayne to make his decision on the spot. Since he could not be assured of success if he stayed, he made the decision to go."

"I knew there was more to it than that," Kaylee felt anger welling up inside again. "I knew Jayne wouldn't have left without at least sayin' goodbye. Me an' him been friends for too long."

"Agreed," River nodded. "At any rate, this is not. . .it has no bearing on how Inara perceives things. She still believes that had Jayne not 'abandoned' us, then all would be well."

"Weren't well afore he left," Kaylee didn't quite huff. "We was livin' hand to mouth long 'fore he walked down that ramp."

"This is quite true," River nodded. "As I said, her justification is reasonable to her. Not so much to us."

"Well, she better not keep downin' Jayne like that, on account o' I don't like it!" Kaylee declared, hands on her hips. River fought to keep the smile from her face.

"It would be better if we allowed her to work this out for herself," River cautioned. "If we try to point out the flaw in her thinking, it will be more likely to harden her resolve. She must see the error for herself."

"She better see it soon, then," Kaylee muttered. "I'm tired o' all this. . .this. . .this," Kaylee stammered, unable to find the right word for her outrage.

"As I said, allow her to come to that conclusion on her own," River rose, dusting off her clothes. "Let her see the error in her own way. Her own time. Anything we say, now, will simply make it worse."

"All right," Kaylee agreed. "I'll do it your way, River. But I ain't got to like it."

"I would have been amazed if you had," River smiled.