Jayne chewed at a hangnail and hugged his knee, rocking back and forth a bit as he crouched down and watched through the infirmary window from the upper catwalk. He was talking directly to God this time.
"Please let her live, God," he chanted over and over in his head. "C'ain't promise I won't do nothin' else bad, 'cuz that would just be a lie and you know it. And if you won't do it fer me, do it fer all these other good people who love her mebbe just as much as I do in their own way."
When Mal told him and Zoë and Wash later in the cockpit how he had pulled the doctor's leg about Kaylee being dead and that instead she really was going to be all right, that the doc, Simon, had saved her, Jayne wiped tears of laughter from his eyes that were also tears of relief and gratitude.
By that time, the doc's loopy sister had been unboxed, giving them all something new to think about, and Reavers had snuck up on them but passed them by, so when they landed at Whitefall and negotiated a fair price with Patience, the leader of that moon, for the federal nutrition bars – well, if a person's idea of negotiating consisted of trading bullets along with goods and money – everybody was pretty much ready for all the excitement to end. But wishing doesn't make it so, and the next thing he knew, Jayne was riding a horse hell bent for leather along with Mal and Zoë back from the meet to the ship with Wash's voice still ringing in his ears, "The Reavers, they followed us!"
It didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary for the past couple of days that they should find Dobson loose and holding River with a gun to her head in the cargo bay shouting demands, nor that Mal should dispatch the fed with one quick bullet to the brain pan. Jayne wished he could have done it himself, but as long as it was done, that was okay too, and he and Mal tossed the lawman's corpse off Serenity as she rose to try and escape the Reavers.
Jayne jumped to it when he got the order to take Kaylee to the engine room, and he tenderly picked her up from the medbed in the infirmary, using the close contact as an excuse to press his cheek to hers when she reached up to put her arms around his neck, and, as gently as he could while still moving quickly, he carried her to the next level and into the engine room, propping her up in the corner.
He wasn't too good at helping with the technical part of the complicated maneuver that Kaylee and Wash executed, but the preacher seemed to know more about engines than Jayne figured preachers usually did, and they not only evaded the Reavers but they blasted their ship out of the sky. Jayne's loud whoops of triumph that rang over the ship's intercom system once again released tension not only about the close call but all his recent fretting over Kaylee, and she smiled up at her ship and at him as he danced around the engine room like some kind of jolly clown.
From then on, life went back to a type of normal. Other than somehow having taken on three new crew members in the form of the stuck-up doctor, his creepy sister, and a very secretive holy man, they were all back to the way it was before, moving around from planet to moon and back again, taking jobs as they came and looking out for one another. Jayne had even invited Shepherd Book to work out with him, originally with the intention of finding out whether Kaylee had said anything about Jayne when she was sick but eventually because he was good company and could hold his own pretty well in the workouts for an old man. But Jayne found his plan wasn't moving along as fast as it needed to now that Kaylee had turned her attention in Simon's direction.
So when that core-bred pantywaist had come up with an idea for the richest haul any of them was ever likely to see in this lifetime and Jayne had come up with his secret side plan to sell the doctor and his sister out to the feds, it had seemed to Jayne like the only way to go. He would get his cut from the stolen medicine. He would get an obscene amount of money from the feds that he could always say he'd had before he joined the crew. And, most importantly, the doctor would be out of the way and he could get Kaylee back and set the both of them up on some quiet planet where a man didn't have to look to anybody else to provide for and protect his family.
Jayne's plan was perfect. Except it all went south when the ruttin' fed double-crossed him.
So here he was, sitting on the floor of the pressure hatch in the cargo bay, one lump on the right side of his forehead where he had hit it getting Simon and River and himself free of the feds and another one on his left temple where Mal had knocked him out with a wrench. And when Mal had threatened to space him, Jayne almost felt like telling him to go ahead and get on with it, but he still clung to the hope, however small, that something would happen to bring Kaylee to him, and so he discovered that he really didn't want to die just yet.
Jayne knew Mal would keep his word and not tell the rest of them what had really happened on Ariel. Mal was like that. It shamed Jayne to think about it, sitting there with his back up against the wrong side of the pressure doors, but there it was. He decided a few things in the next couple of hours until Mal came and let him into the ship again. He decided to stick with the basics of his plan – save his money and wait for the right time to court Kaylee again – but this time he was going to do things a bit differently. He was going to try to work together with the rest of the crew instead of against them and remember, as Mal had said, that people like them, people who depended on one another, didn't do things the way Jayne had done them in the past.
Feeling as peaceful and proud of himself as he ever had since he was a young man, Jayne rejoined the rest of them for supper, laughing and sharing their joy over the close escape and stupendously profitable haul from Ariel, and he even blushed a bit and looked down at his plate when Kaylee insisted on having Simon re-tell how he had courageously knocked down and killed the fed guard with his hands cuffed behind his back.
So now there was Wash and the preacher lying in the ground. Jayne was going to really miss them both, especially the preacher, who had become a real friend to him. And there was Kaylee and Simon, finally together as what looked like a real couple after dancing one around the other for months and months. And here was Jayne, alone but not alone, because, after all they had been through together, he thought he finally understood what Zoë had been saying to him on that day so long ago when she spoke about the small crew being family. And though he finally had the money to leave and set up his own enterprise, maybe even find himself a willing woman to wed and get those young ones after all, he found he didn't want to leave, that Kaylee was still the one he wanted, only not at the expense of her happiness with Simon.
After all was said and done, because of that family thing, he discovered there wasn't any other particular place in the 'verse he wanted to be except where Serenity was and with Mal, Inara, Zoë, Simon, Kaylee, and River, who had gotten sane again after the broadcast went out about how the Reavers had accidentally been created by the Alliance.
Hmmm, Jayne thought to himself suddenly, River...