NOTES: This was inspired during NYU's Joss Whedon Appreciation Club's 14-hour Firefly and Serenity marathon. I fully blame Melissa for accidentally giving me this idea. Also, this is AU only in that I kind of ignore the existence of the comics.

SETTING: On the ship as always, several years after the events of Serenity.

POV: River

RATING: T for violent thematic material of a spoilery nature

Bullet in the Brain Pan

I've known since the first time that I can't really help. Once a man like Jayne Cobb forms a mind to purpose, there's no stopping, only stalling, and not really even stalling where I'm concerned - he's the one stalling, not me. I'm just here to watch the fallout.

We are neither of us whole in the head, both of us more whole in the heart than anyone credits. We're here right now only because his apathy finally ran out.

He rambles his usual vague monologue about having done mighty regrettable things and then he quickly cannot speak. I know, and he knows I know and he still can't tell me. I thank him plainly for being sorry and he jokes about not being able to keep no secrets from me. He still can't say it, and that's a good 67 percent of the reason why he's crying.

I ask him what happens if it halfway fails. He looks me square in the eye - tell enough of the truth so they'll let him go. This is a large helping of purpose, isn't it?

I already know the answer when I ask him if he wants me to stay for when. I've stayed before, but only when there was a great heap less of purpose, when he heavily twirled the gun in his hand without it ever going where he deep-down wanted it to. I knew he was breaking when he let me stay the first time, bits of him flaking away and settling in little hidden places all around the ship. Ever since, I kept a mind out for his little subconscious cry in the dark and every time quietly went down to sit with him and his indecision that I used to know well myself.

The cry was different this time. He's ready this time. I'm here to let him be.

It's a damn shame.

At least he'll go out violent and dumb, true to form, looking like his trigger finger got over-cozy with his under-the-pillow pistol, no purpose, just the dumb and violent accident of an end to a violent and dumb life. He engineers it well. They'll believe so well. He writes a story for the crew and they'll write one for the folks, tell them he went out like a hero. The only ones who ever cared to love him don't need any version of any truth, and no one except Ma and Mattie ever did care to love him. Little Sissy didn't in particular care for him and very much vice versa. Pa didn't in particular care for anyone. We don't have to worry about either of them now; they violent-and-dumbed their way out of the picture a long time ago and good riddance, apparently. He got not much caring from anyone on the boat, even the ship's kids were always a little scared of him in all their admiring - Kaylee never gave him more than a glance, and anyway, she knows him too well for him to ever expect that she'd - I'm not sure I should've looked at all that. I never said anything, though. Let him think some of his secrets are still his.

He tells me to take care of myself. I hug him goodnight before I leave - he turned out a friend after all and he was awful sorry.

I don't go to sleep, but I don't listen. Everybody dies not completely alone. I stay awake with him. But these thoughts are his to keep.

Bump in the night.

They all go a-running and they find him fast asleep, and no one screams for Simon and I know already I don't have to tell any bit of truth. Zoƫ has me keep the children far off from the infirmary while Uncle Jayne's shattered brain gets pieced back in, gets cleaned up nice - they wash his face up prettier than he ever did and dress him in his finest though he has nothing formal to his name.

We pray when he goes in the ground. Most everyone cries and Mal is stony but damn sorry inside; Simon holds my hand and his doctor-guilt hurts my head.

I don't need to tell anyone for them to bury him with Vera. That's the part they know. That's their Jayne.

There's a lot more Jayne.

No more Jayne.