"Ah, hell," Jayne yells, just before the butt of the rifle comes down on his forehead, "I didn't fight in the last gorram war, and I ain't fightin' in this one neither!"
Simon watches as Jayne goes down, hitting the ground hard. He didn't have a clear shot before, the crowd being too wild. He has a clear shot now, though. Crouching down behind the upturned table, he aims carefully, pulls the trigger, and watches as the Conscription Officer's head explodes.
The gun hardly recoils at all. It's as good as Jayne said it would be. Simon sights his next target, and pulls the trigger again.
The war starts quietly. After the broadcast about Miranda, there are rumblings. Mal pretends to ignore them, but Simon isn't stupid. He watches Zoe and Mal, heads bent close, pouring over the latest Cortex reports, the latest communiqués from old Independent contacts.
It starts with a small upheavals on a handful of boarder moons. A few riots, a few overly-zealous responses by Alliance troops, a few shocked news reports.
Mal and Zoe's pretenses – the assurances that they're just trying to do jobs, get the crew by – get less convincing.
"There's gonna be trouble," Jayne mutters one day as he passes Simon in the hallway. Simon is standing at the door to the kitchen, watching Zoe explain something to Mal.
"I know," Simon says, just as quietly.
When a riot starts on Boros, they all watch the Cortex constantly, looking for updates. Simon watches with apprehension, River with fascination, Kaylee with sadness. But Mal and Zoe, they watch with an intensity that makes Simon want to look away.
The riot on Boros turns to a full scale civil war. News reports grow increasingly bloody. River stops watching, stops talking.
Mal stops looking for work.
When the pattern starts on Persephone, he calls a meeting.
"Independents are gaining ground. Me and Zoe –"
He doesn't have to say the rest of it. They all know. Mal never let go of the fire, the anger; the anger is all that Zoe has left.
"We're taking the ship. You can stay with us, join up too, or we'll drop you somewhere safe."
Jayne frowns and pushes himself away from the table. "I ain't joinin' up. Can't make money as a volunteer in a war." He walks out before anyone responds.
Kaylee opts to go home. Simon talks it over with River – Osiris might be safer, at least for a time. Neither of them want to go back, though. In the end, Simon makes his apologies to Mal. "We won't be staying."
"If it means anything, I think you might win this time," Simon says, awkwardly. "So does River."
"Yeah," Mal says. "You might be right."
Mal drops Simon, River, and Jayne outside of a small colony on one of Lilac's moons. The plan is for Simon and River to set up in town – doctors are always welcome, and now that River's more stable, settling down seems like it's almost a real option.
Jayne will look for work on another ship, with another crew.
Of course, that's not the way that it works out.
Simon steps out from the shelter of Serenity, already sweating in the heat of the afternoon. River stays by his side as Jayne follows them. He's laden down by gear.
Mal and Zoe come to say goodbye.
"Should be safe," Mal says. "It's quiet. Don't have anything the Alliance might want. Folk are decent. You can make a life here."
"Thank you," Simon replies, because he isn't quite sure what else to say. "River and I, we appreciate what you've done."
"We do," River adds, before she turns to Simon, her hands coming to cup either side of his face. "I can't stay with you. Not now."
He feels like he's been hit over the head. At the same time, he isn't surprised. "River –"
"No. They can use me. I can help."
Anger blooms in Simon's chest, and pushes River out of the way, turns to Mal, "Son of a bitch! What have you been telling her? She's not part of your crusade, you don't have the –"
River pulls him back, "No. This is my decision."
"Then I'm coming –"
"No," she says again. "I need you safe. You're safe here."
And that's it. He doesn't get the chance to argue – that he might not be trained the way River is, but that he can look after himself, that the choice is his to make. River steps back inside the ship, and Jayne pulls him out of the way. Simon stands in the sun, and watches Serenity shrink as she climbs higher and higher. He stares upwards until there's nothing to see, until it's just blue sky and wisps of clouds.
Finally, Jayne asks, "You gonna stay right there or what?"
Simon doesn't answer. He doesn't have the words.
"Come on," Jayne says, and grabs his arm, pulling him in the direction of town.
In the end, Jayne never gets off the moon. Fewer and fewer ships come by the settlement, and those that do are Independent, looking for more volunteers, more crew.
Jayne finds work as a farm-hand; Simon has a steady stream of patients, most of them with minor injuries or basic infections. The days are repetitive, the income regular. The sun is hot, the days grow longer as summer approaches.
Simon lives in limbo. He's in between. In stasis. He's waiting for something he's not sure will ever come.
He feels almost nothing.
He isn't expecting it, when it happens. It surprises him. The feeling is almost welcome.
Jayne gets to the point. One evening, after a long, hot, day for both of them, Jayne just pulls Simon into the bathroom, strips him down, and pushes him under the shower.
The water is hot – it's always hot, the sun heats it in the pipes – and Simon lets it wash off the grime of the day. He lets Jayne push him up against the wall, he lets his hands slide across Jayne's biceps, down his chest.
"Took you long enough," he says, against Jayne's hip, against his thigh.
He's wanted this for a long time, before they left Serenity. He just always thought he'd have to ask for it. It never occurred to him that he'd been asking for weeks now, just without words.
When a ship lands for the first time in two months, Simon knows it means trouble. He can guess what it is. The Cortex gave a hint of what was coming.
The war is going badly for the Alliance. Very badly.
People are flocking to the Independent army, and even some of the Alliance troops are deserting, switching sides.
The Parliament is desperate – and conscription has started. Conscription is the sanitized word. They've seen the captures on the Cortex – farmers and miners being forcibly rounded up. Rumour is that they're being used as cannon fodder at the bloodiest battles. That they're being put on the front lines, as a way to make the Independents alter their tactics to avoid killing innocents. Psychological warfare.
"Gorram under-handed tactics," Jayne had said, one night.
"Did you expect anything less?" Simon wouldn't put anything past them, not now.
Simon's been expecting the conscription ships to come.
Even from his office, he can hear it when the trouble starts. He knows what to do, and he does it without thinking. They've prepared for this. Simon won't be fodder, won't be told what to do. He won't be another casualty for the Parliament.
He arms himself, he walks out of the office, and he heads towards the noises.
This is his choice.
Expanded scene: Half-life
Prompt: anything from ee cummings (I chose: 'I sing of Olaf glad and big')
Spoilers: For Serenity. This one is kind of dark.