Ghosts and Memories Past

By Brandywine00

Firefly fan fiction

One of the crew harbors a deep secret… so deep… he doesn't even know himself….

Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, just let 'em play twister in my cranium. All hail Mr. Whedon!

SPECIAL THANKS:Mercsgoodgirl and jellie_rayneluv for their encouragement on this piece. You guys are the shiniest!

******

Awakening

He wakes to utter darkness.

Every fiber of his being stills in the black, adjusting to the sounds and scents surrounding him.

Instantly alert, he runs a mental checklist. Smallish bed. Semi-soft sheets. Flannel. Thin flannel. Not too soft, not to rough. Unscent of basic detergent.

Hint of gun oil. Metal. Leather.

Cigar smoke. Few hours old. Cheap.

Whisky. Still a bit fuzzy on his tongue. Rotgut quality. If that good.

The sound of his own breathing, deep, full, resonating in his chest.

An odd hum from somewhere. Distant. Constant. Oddly reassuring. He can't place just why. Like a heartbeat, but mechanical.

A faint buzz began near his head. Dim red light. Numbers. 0530.

'Zero. Five. Three. Zero.' His mouth silently forms around the words, ciphering, deciphering. Eyes scan around the area as they adjusted to the faint light.

Women. Pictures of women. Voluptuous. Long and lean. Half-dressed. Not dressed. Beautiful in various ways. His body responds on its own to their curves and creamy valleys.

Wall behind them, covered by a patterned sheet, faint shapes bulging from behind the worn cotton. His girls, he thinks automatically, pulling the sheet aside just a bit. Curves and gleaming hard lines, just as beautiful to his mind as the blondes and brunettes in the pictures. They have names, his hard girls. Adored and terrifying, he names them. Cherishes them. Somehow knows that he talks to them when alone.

Alone.

Ears strain for any sounds. Is he alone?

Faint rustling, muffled through a wall. Alarm buzzing elsewhere. Grumbling voice. Female. Hard and soft in one. Familiar. Not sure why yet.

Footsteps up above, off to the side. Boots on metal. Heavy. Determined. Not harmless, but not threatening for some reason. Not sneaking. Pausing near the ladder he can now make out from the red numbers' glow. Zero. Five. Three. Two. He wraps his mouth around each of their names slowly.

A pounding on metal above, near the ladder. A hatch?

"Wakey-wakey, Sunshine!" Male voice. Cheerful-ish. Hint of hardness underneath. "Jayne, you awake down there?"

Jayne. He looks around the barely lit room. Small lamp near the bed. Long fingers turn it on.

Nobody else here. Jayne?

"Jayne, you better notta got so skunked last night y'ain't gonna be of no use ta me today," the voice warns, the weight of authority riding underneath it. Always answer to authority. Dress-right dress, soldier.

Jayne. Eyes scan the room. Austere. Efficient. Familiar. No signs of others. His.

Jayne. A woman's name? But no woman here. The room is all male.

"I'm up," he calls out, hoping it's the right response. His voice booms, yet feels rusty, gruff, edgy. Accent takes him by surprise, but still, he recognizes it as his own.

"Better be," Authority-voice fades as bootsteps resume on metal. "Gonna need my merc in top form to deal with Patience again."

Fuzzy memory swims up to the now. Not sure of the patterns displayed. "Didn't she shoot ya, once?" he whispers to no one.

x0x

Dressed in an orange tee shirt, bordering on too small, the large man pulled on a pair of worn tan cargo pants. Sitting on the edge of the small bunk, he laced up black boots, military style, and concealed a pair of matching knives down into them. Green jacket over the shirt, his small girls tucked neatly underneath.

He glanced back at the handwritten message in the notebook beside him on the bed. Scrubbing his hands down the planes of his face, he scanned the notes again. He had to make sure he didn't leave anything out.

Strapping on wrist guards, he recited the scrawled notes again.

"Your name is Jayne Cobb. Don't ask. You're a bad-ass mercenary, so not too many folk give you shit about the name. If you're reading this, you're probably in your own bunk on the transport ship Serenity. Look behind the curtain at the bed. These are your weapons. Here are their names…."

He strapped a leather holster to his leg, sliding a large, gleaming, breathtaking piece of armament in the waiting slot. She felt right. She was his girl, his.

"Got six other people on this boat. Used to be eight. Long story, see below. These are your crewmates. Friends. They are NOT targets…"

At his back, he slipped a long, razor sharp Bowie knife into its belt sheath.

"Your job is to protect them. Do not kill them. Not even when they need it. Not even when you really, really want to. Especially the doctor, who you will want to kill. A lot. Often. Don't. This will make Kaylee cry. You'll know why you don't want to do that as soon as you see her. Plus, he patches you up when a job goes south. Which is a lot. Often. And it'll piss Mal off. Mal is the captain. Good man. Act like he's a pain in your ass. Otherwise he'll think you're up to something. Challenge him a bit - makes him feel all is right in the 'verse. Stand up to him, so he'll know you ain't lost your nerve. You'll get a feel for when to back off, let him know he's the boss. He likes to threaten you with the airlock. Don't shoot him…"

x0x

The Authority-Voice –Mal, he corrected - was waiting on the bridge of the ship when Jayne sauntered in, cup of coffee in one hand. Jayne leaned against the doorway, feeling the rush of memories start to form in his mind. Things were beginning to feel familiar again. The notebook said they would.

He still wasn't sure why he'd started making notes to himself. According to the hand-scrawled pages, he didn't really know, other than something had caused his mind to wipe away memories at night. Even recent ones, though the journal entries said this was starting to ease up. Things were sticking longer, coming back quicker. Still, had to remember to put the book where he could find it in the morning first thing, remind himself of what was what.

"Glad you could join us," the female hard-soft familiar voice said, coming from a tall, beautiful, dark-skinned goddess with riotous black curls. She wore military efficiency around her like a warrior queen's robe, drawing from a source behind those slightly tilted sable eyes. Eyes that didn't trust him, not entirely. Disappointment in that revelation stabbed his gut. He would die for her, he realized, stunned by the force of the knowledge. Zoë, he told himself, not relying entirely on the notes.

He had to keep up the role, had to be what they expected of him, or things would get really hairy. Hadn't been a problem Before. He was what he was, or had been anyway. The messages to himself hadn't begun until After.

When did he start thinking of it as Before and After? The notebook wasn't completely forthcoming.

There had been a battle. Horrifying and gruesome. Death of his friend, the Preacher Who Wasn't Always A Holy Man. Death of the Laughing Man who tamed the Warrior Queen. Memories from the Terrified Crazy Girl, but somehow not her own memories.

Bodies of folk who'd just laid down and died for no good reason, now dried up on some forgotten planet. Except for the ones who'd gone past insane from the same drug their government had put in the atmo. Government trying to control folks. Something twisted inside him at that, but he couldn't figure why that particular thought above all the others made him feel unclean and betrayed at once.

More so than the flush of desire he felt when he beheld Terrified Crazy Girl, now turned Monster-Slayer, standing victorious and beautifully devastating with twin blades dripping monster blood; their twisted corpses heaped in homage, a shrine to her lethal grace. He'd die for her, too, without a second thought. Somehow, that truth didn't mesh with what the notebook said he should project.

Realizing Zoë was waiting for some kind of acknowledgement, Jayne gave her a smirk, hid his reaction in the bad coffee. "What, miss all the fun? Might get ta shoot somebody! Reckon it's our turn, 'ey Zoë?"

She smiled wryly back at him, shutters still hiding the thoughts behind her eyes, but not before a flash of anguish slipped past. Her true laughter had died with Him, her Laughing Man. She was playing the part, just like himself. Only she knew what she was, how she was supposed to be. The man they called Jayne felt a brief stab of envy toward her.

x0x

*****

Author's Note: Going out on a limb here, trying something new, but hope to make it worth the dear reader's while. This story's been rolling around in my head for a bit, wanting to get out. Tell me what you think, good or bad. Thanks!