Title: Contemplations of a Retired Merc

Author: raynesupreme

Format: One-shot, 708 words

Disclaimer: Even if I die, I won't inherit rights to this.

Summary: Jayne thinks back on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Were a bit funny how everyone counts time different. Seemed like most folk had an event in their life that marked a "before" and an "after." Thinkin' back ta' his time on Serenity, Jayne thought that although they'd been through hell and back together, spent more time together than what was natural, they all had different events that made 'em who they were.

For Mal, it was the Battle of Serenity Valley. Man didn't talk on it much but Jayne figured there was the Mal of before, a believin' man, a military man, and the Mal of after. A pig-headed man that still believed in independence but didn't trust another soul, except for maybe Zoe.

For Zoe, there was the warrior woman before Wash's death and the hollow shell of a widow after. Jayne didn't like to think too much on the hollow Zoe. Gave him pains in his chest ta' think on how it might feel losin' someone ya' promised to love and protect 'til the end of time.

It was tough figurin' on Inara. She was a tight-lipped about her life. Private to a fault, Jayne supposed. Couldn't be sure, but it seemed like maybe her before-after point was the day she left Serenity for good. Don't know what happened to her after but can't see how that much time being in love with a man who couldn't love ya' back didn't leave its mark. Mal weren't ever the same, that's fer sure.

Kaylee. Well, that was easy. Everything fer her revolved 'round the day the Doc stepped on board. Damn, if the girl didn't fall in love at first sight. Not that Jayne believed in such go se. Oh, sure, they took the long-way 'round gettin' to the sexin' and all but over all them years, they were as happy as two peas in a pod.

Simon's life seemed ta' split around the time he realized his sis wasn't all happy and safe at that gorram academy. Sure, breakin' the moonbrained girl out was a big moment but it ain't what changed him. The Doc had lost his childhood, lost them rosy-ass glasses he grew up wearin' when he broke the code of the girl's letter, tellin' him they were hurtin' on her.

And, the girl, well, Jayne couldn't exact figure what was the defining moment fer her but he suspected it mighta' been about the time she was heavin' up her lunch on that crashed shuttle on Miranda. The girl had come around after that. Not so crazy-talkin'. Became a right helpful part of the crew in fact. The girl had grown to a woman after that.

Jayne pulled heavily on his cigar, staring out over his Ma's ranch. Funny thing, him still callin' it Ma's ranch. He'd been tending this land and takin' care of the stock for near twenty years now. His life were sure different from those times back on Serenity. Not better. Not worse. Just different. Life of a merc were fun and all, but he found he took to ranchin' right fine too.

The night was settlin' in now, the cool breeze remindin' him of all the aches and pains he had, but mostly his leg. Were to be expected, he reckoned, figurin' he'd been shot in that leg more times than he could count.

The creak of the screen door behind him jarred him from his thinkin' or contemplatin' as the girl might have said.

"It's time to come inside," the warm voice purred against his neck. "Dinner is ready."

"Sure thing," he answered, snubbing out his cigar. "Be right there."

As he watched the sun fall over the last bit behind the horizon, Jayne smiled at what was his turning point. It set out who he was then to who he was today. Despite his getting on in age, he could remember it like it was yesterday. Weren't too hard in that it happened in less than ten seconds. All it took was for him to ask "Will ya' go with me?" and for her to answer "Anywhere."

With the memory of that definin' moment floatin' 'round his brain, Jayne turned to go see what his crazy, moonbrained psychic killer wife had cooked up for him tonight.