|Jayne has been in prisons before, but not like this.
are dark and damp, with too many people and not enough space.
mean not enough food and killing rats to make up for it. Prisons
are wood, dirt and metal, and you can dig yourself out of them if you
to. Or bribe your way into the clean air.
This place ain't called a prison. It's a 'facility for rehabilitation'. Gorram Feds, making it all polyglass bubbles and fancy surveillance tech that means they don't need guards so much as 'rehab counsellors' or whatever they want to call themselves. Jayne isn't fooled by the counsellor title. He's seen what the little guns they all wear can do to a man. Not pretty, not fun.
The guards might have decent guns, but Jayne figures he could take them if he had to. Not that it matters so much: Jayne can't leave the prison, even if he could get by the guards and the tech.
He should have known the Alliance would pretty everything up, give a man the illusion of some kind of freedom while all the time watching real close and keeping all the cards . He heard Mal say something like that once, but talking about Alliance colonies and laws and patrols. Turns out it's true in other ways too. It's not a real surprise. Mal always knew the situation, got it figured out, even if he didn't share what he knew right away.
Rehabilitation Colony 12 is a moon where terraforming went wrong. Outside the prison it looks real pretty. He can see through the polyglass, the colours and rocks that look like maybe they're almost alive. Jayne figures Kaylee would oooh and aaah over it, but the atmo outside is enough to kill a man in seconds.
Jayne's seen it done a few times too. Prisoners the Alliance figures are too far gone, or the ones that get brought out when there's an example to be made - they get put out there while the rest of them are told to watch.
It's unlovely, watching them go down, gagging, shaking. Jayne can't hear through the walls of their dome prison, but it's real clear they're screaming as it happens.
Two days in, and he's told he has a meeting with a rehab officer.
"I see you have a bit of a record on some of the outer worlds, Mr. Cobb." There is a pause which Jayne is obviously expected to fill, but he sits there, arms crossed and silent.
"Robbery. Assault. Suspected murder, although it seems that the witnesses disappeared."
More silence. Jayne knows what he has and hasn't done, and it's his business.
"At this facility, we focus on rehabilitation."
Right. Jayne's already seen a man choke to death outside the walls. He's seen a fight and men screaming at the pain from the guards' guns.
"There are colonies that could use a strong man like you. Have you thought about that?"
Still staring, Jayne can almost hear Mal's voice, going on about the colonies and hunger and death and the way the Alliance lays claim to new lands on the backs of glorified drudges.
The man in front of him sighs, and waves for Jayne to stand. "Keep out of trouble and you might get out of here alive. Get into trouble, and we'll let you out the front door."
Ask anyone who knows him and they'll say that Jayne Cobb's never been one to stay in the boundaries or follow the rules well.
He doesn't take well to the prison regs, and Jayne doubts Mal or Zoe would be real surprised. He'd only been a few days in when he started pushing. Fighting. They call it 'inciting disobedience and resisting social rehabilitation'. Mal would call it being right ornery, and he'd probably laugh a little, depending on who Jayne had been hassling. He'd maybe suggest Jayne take some time for himself, get a little drunk and work off the aggression.
The Feds are more choosy. He gets warnings. He gets extra rehab sessions, group and one-on-one. He gets shot a couple times to break up a fight. The pain leaves him gasping for days, even if he only has a little bruise to show for it. And after he loses it in the gym and bashes a man's head near in, he gets thrown in solitary.
It's a little round cell, not big enough to lie down in. The walls are many-sided, none of them wide enough to lean against comfortably. It's all grey, there's nothing to look at, not even a door. Jayne got told to climb down into the cell, and the ladder had been pulled away before the ceiling sealed up.
There's a hole in the floor against one tiny wall. There's a little place at waist-height that slides open once a day and gives him water. He figures it must be filled with liquid nutrients, 'cause he never gets food, but when he gets out, he hasn't lost much weight.
The first time he counts the days as seven. He spends most of those days thinking about how at least he's not cramped in a sweatbox like old Stitch had been.
The next time he thinks it's twenty, but he's not sure.
The last time, it's long, too long, and Jayne is howling to be let out near the end. He's alone in the cell but Mal is talking to him, and Simon is laughing and calling him an ape, and Wash tells him about his stupid dinosaurs and the inevitability of sudden betrayal.
When the guards let him out, he heads to his cell - rooms they call them, there are no bars. But the doors lock up at night. He looks at himself in the mirror and the wreck that is his once carefully-groomed beard matches his wild eyes. When he smiles there's something about his face that makes him shiver. He wonders if there are drugs in the water, the kind of drugs that make sane men see people who aren't there.
He shaves, ignoring the way his hand shakes.
When he showers, he closes his eyes against imagined grey walls and a roundish room.
He knows he can't go back in there. Maybe next time it'll be outside for him anyway, he's heard rumour of three chances, then out. Jayne's not so ready to die.
So he tries to be on his best behaviour and it ain't so different from the time back when Mal watched him real close. Still, he doesn't take crap from the others, and it's enough that no one wants to bunk with him.
Most of the scum in here knew to avoid him now, and the new ones learn real quick. He talks to a few, but mostly they really are scum, and it makes him think on how much Mal and Serenity changed him. A few years back, he'd have been right in with the other men, the worst of the predators, laughing and doing whatever he wanted. Now, he's a loner mostly.
Not that he was ever real social.
It's been months since he and Simon got pinched. They'd been out, minding their own, when Simon got asked some questions that were too personal and dropped some tidbits when he should have kept his mouth right shut. He'd been too damn comfortable cocky by then. It hadn't taken long before they were humped.
Mal probably thinks Jayne arranged it and got screwed in the process. That ain't the way it fell out - bad luck, fancy tech, and big mouths is all - but Mal'll be thinking different. If he even thinks of Jayne anymore.
He remembers the last thing Simon said to him, real urgent-like. He plays the words out in his head too often, remembering the scene.
They're surrounded by Feds, and Jayne's guns somehow don't work. Simon is down on the ground, gasping in pain after being hit with some kind of fancybright light. Jayne goes down a minute later, wondering what the hell it is that makes that kind of pain without any blood.
He's waiting for Mal to come, to get them out of this one too, when Simon turns and whispers, "Don't tell them where she is. Tell them I was trying to hire you, that I never mentioned a sister. You'll get a lighter sentence."
Then they're being dragged in different directions, Jayne trying to keep his head up so he can see which direction he's being taken. He can hear them talking about taking him to a ship, but they don't say anything about Simon. A Fed comes into his line of vision, and points something at him, and the next thing Jayne remembers is waking up in cuffs, being told he's been convicted of consorting with a felon.
He can't remember the court, if there was one. Whatever tech they'd hit him with, it had knocked him out good.
He does remember the questions after, but he sticks to the story Simon told him, and they tell him he'll get ten years.
Then he got shipped out to this place, shiny polyglass bubbles and swirling coloured mists outside.
He's stopped counting the days since his last time in solitary. It's always the same shit anyway. Jayne has come to understand that he hates routine. Serenity was good for that, them always up for something new. It was real good to have his own bunk and see regular faces, but that was about as routine as Jayne could stand.
Here it's the same: territorial fights, preying on the weak. Games, working out, learning skills the Feds think'll be useful in 'civilisation'.
Jayne's real good at smoothing wood by hand, never mind that wood ain't common on most rim worlds. It's boring, but there's something to be said about taking hunks of wood and shaping them. Who knows what the Feds do with it? He figures the rich folk always want fancy wood for their fancy houses.
Out of spite, he works weak spots into the grain.
At first, before the time in solitary, he'd thought about taking one of the sharp tools out of the workshop and keeping it with him. But everyone's scanned real good when they leave, and the Feds have monitors everywhere.
It takes him a while, but he figures out the scans don't pick up wood. When no one's looking, he makes himself a sharp little weapon out of the hardest wood he can find. It's comforting to be armed again, even if it won't help him get out.
He's stopped counting the days, so he can't say exactly how long he's been in when it happens. It's been a while anyway.
There's always a gathering when new prisoners are brought in. Jayne usually goes, watches idly, but not for the reasons most of the other scum do. He just thinks there's the off-chance he might know someone. Mal, maybe. Hopefully not, but maybe.
So he's standing there, leaning against a wall and half-watching the new ones file in, half-watching the way they're being looked at. It's the same old thing, figuring out the ones who are prey, those who ain't. The new prisoners don't look real interesting either, the usual handful of weak and strong, stupid and broken.
Broken. There's one who looks...he can almost hear the glee of the other men around him, those who like to take the broken ones and twist them even worse. Broken, badly. And when he looks closer, he can see it's Simon.
It's hard to tell. The doctor's eyes are unfocussed, and his skin: Jayne had an old t-shirt, back on Serenity. The fabric was worn and soft and he wore it to sleep when the ship got low on fuel and the temp dropped down low. It had started out black, years back, but by the time he started to wear it to bed, it was faded grey and dull. Simon's skin is like that, and his hair is real short and almost colourless too.
The prison pants and shirt look like they're going to fall off him. He's nothing like the man Jayne knew. Even after too much time on Serenity, Simon had been shiny and clean, enough to make Jayne grit his teeth sometimes.
Before he's thinking about it, he's stepping forward, pushing past a couple of men who had cornered Simon. It only takes a flash of his teeth to get them to back away. He built himself a rep in here early on, and it comes in real handy.
Jayne closes his hand over Simon's arm, shaking slightly. "Doc?"
Nothing. Simon's eyes don't even flicker. Jayne remembers the screams coming behind them as they ran, that one time on Ariel, and he shudders a little. Screams like that, they tell a story of what a man's capable of. Jayne's done a spot of torture in his time, but nothing to leave someone like this. He can't even imagine what's been done to Simon.
"Let's go." He gently steers Simon to his cell. When they're inside, he sits Simon down on the spare bunk, and it's creepifying that the man just does what Jayne tells him. He can't ever remember a time Simon did anything Jayne said without putting up a fuss first. At least, not outside of a violent situation.
It ain't easy. Simon does what Jayne tells him, which is handy at first, then annoying. He has to tell Simon to shower, and he needs to escort him. He tells Simon to eat. Food's not bad, better than some of the crap Kaylee and the preacher sometimes tried to cook up. There's lots of it too, and Jayne eats as much as he needs routinely. It's a change from Serenity, when things got tight too many times.
He gets Simon to eat too, even if the man doesn't take near as much as he should.
Simon does as he's told, no questions. No words at all. Jayne's not entirely sure if Simon even really sees him.
The others mostly leave Simon alone, but there have been a few times when Jayne lost track of the other man, or thought he was one place when he was another. Simon sometimes takes himself off, wandering, no matter that Jayne tells him to stay put.
It means pulling Simon out of a couple of unpretty situations, but that's ok. The scuffles help keep up Jayne's rep. Soon they all learn that Simon really is off limits.
He gets cut in one fight, and after, he cleans himself up in the cell. The cut is deep, but going to the infirmary is a bad idea. The Feds let the minor scuffles be, but if someone shows up in the infirmary cut up, it means dealing with questions that Jayne's in no mind to answer. He's cleaning it as best he can, when he hears,
"You'll need to get that stitched, you know."
Automatically, he replies, "Nah. Had worse," before he realises what just happened. When he turns around, Simon is sitting where Jayne left him, his face blank. Jayne wonders if he imagined it.
Sometimes the Feds come and get Simon, saying it's time for another rehab session. The times are far between, less regular than the rest of them. Jayne's not sure, but he thinks they're mostly for show, because Simon seems outside of the rehab concept. They don't much bother with him, and Jayne's not sure what that means.
The first time he had a rehab session, two of them had walked into the cell and told Simon to get up.
Jayne had grinned hard at the wall when Simon hadn't moved.
Things had gone downhill from there. One Fed -- Andersen, his name was -- pulled Simon up by the arm, and seconds later was cursing as Simon's teeth dug hard into his arm. It had been right eerie, watching blood stream down around Simon's chin as the Fed tried to shake him off. Jayne had figured Simon would be put outside for sure.
Didn't happen though, and Jayne can't figure as to why. He didn't see Simon for a few days, not after more Feds dragged him out of the cell. When Simon came back, looking worse, the guards were careful not to touch him.
Turns out Simon doesn't like to be touched by anyone, especially those in uniform. He never puts up a fuss when Jayne touches him, pointing him in one direction or another, or just patting the doctor on the back when he's in a good mood. Little things. Simon lets it be, even if he doesn't seem to notice the touches.
It gets real annoying sometimes, and Jayne wonders how Simon ever dealt with River. At least Simon doesn't have fits, even if the silence and obedience is right disturbing.
Sometimes, when he's feeling irked or he gets sick of the way Simon follows him around, he wonders how far he could push Simon. The doctor does everything Jayne tells him, from sit, to eat, to sleep.
Would Simon do it if Jayne told him to get down on his knees? Or if Jayne went down to his bunk one night and told Simon to roll on his stomach and get his ass up in the air? Because there's something hot about Simon doing everything Jayne says. And the others already think Simon is Jayne's toy.
He thinks about it and how things might have been by now, if they were still on Serenity.
But Jayne doesn't tell Simon to do those things. He just doesn't. Even if he wants to.
Jayne always figured it would happen sooner or later: Simon and River getting nabbed, the rest of them humped. Once that damn bounty hunter got on Serenity, Jayne had known they'd all be screwed soon enough. He wishes Simon had been grabbed later though, and when Jayne hadn't been around.
Still, there's no use in thinking about it.
"Simon? What do you figure Mal did with your sister?" He doesn't expect an answer, but he asks anyway. He's gotten in the habit of saying his thoughts out loud, to hear a voice in their cell. Sometimes he wonders if it's a sign of his own crazy, and the thought always makes him grin a little wildly. Crazy grin.
Simon doesn't answer, so Jayne heads out for the gym, telling Simon to stay put. When he gets back, sweaty and tired, Simon is curled into a tight ball. His shirt is pulled tight enough against his back that Jayne can see the outline of bones.
He's got to tell Simon to eat more.
"Nothin' like a decent workout. Wonder if the preacher kept at it?"
He's pulling off his boots when Simon says, "She's dead." He's so surprised by the words that it takes Jayne a few minutes to remember his earlier question. Maybe River is dead. It don't seem like Mal's way, but maybe if she got real loud they would have had no other choice.
He sets his boots aside, and takes a long look at the wall above his bunk. If this was Serenity, his weapons would be on that wall, clean and in working order, and aching to be used. He frowns. "Yeah. Well, we all die."
He figures Simon's been in about a year when the question comes.
"Jayne? What are you doing?"
At the time, he's sitting and thinking about guns and Vera. He's trying not to get too angry at the thought of the crew selling her or tossing her out the airlock. He gets this way sometimes, not too often, but it's good to get real angry once in a while. In here, it's like his edge is getting blunt, and that ain't going to be of any use to him when he gets out.
Simon's voice is raspy with disuse, but it makes Jayne look up quickly. "Thinkin' about guns."
Simon's mouth twitches a little, and he's looking straight at Jayne. "With me. I mean with me."
There's a long pause, and Jayne figures that's the last of Simon's talking for another long spell. He's wrong.
"Well. Thank you."
Simon is crazy, Jayne knows that. It's a quiet kind of crazy, not like his sister. River got broken, and it just made her rowdy and irritating. Simon's broke, but on him it's dignified. Like Simon. He'd always acted decent in freaky, stupid situations.
"Thank you." Simon says it again, quieter.
Crazy men's words aren't worth much. Still, Jayne looks away and tries to shrug them off. "Yeah." When he looks back, Simon's eyes are unfocussed again, his hands folded carefully in his lap.
Simon looks better than he did when Jayne first saw him walk into the prison. He's filled out a little, and his skin isn't quite so grey. He almost looks like a person again. Jayne sighs. "I'd be nice if you took it into your head to start talkin' more regular." He has no idea if the words get heard or understood, but at least they fill the little room for a moment.
Later, when it's night and Jayne's trying to sleep, Simon starts talking again. At first, Jayne just lies in his bunk, listening to the the halting words.
"She died screaming, you know."
Not a surprise.
"I could hear her. They had me and it had been so long. They were asking questions and trying to get answers, they had all kinds of ways, and --" he trails off. Jayne grunts and gets down from his bunk. He sits on the floor, watching Simon carefully.
"Oh. It hurt."
There's something creepy about how Simon says it. Like it doesn't matter. Not like he's putting on a strong front, but as though it really is an afterthought. It gives Jayne a certain uncomfortableness.
"And I could tell she could feel it. And she was screaming. At first she was running around, screaming and hitting things, and then Mal grabbed her. Zoe restrained her. In our infirmary."
He can almost see it, Mal getting more and more frantic at the noise. Them all making the decision River should be tied down, so she doesn't hurt herself. Jayne would have just shot her, ended it for all of them.
"But she kept screaming. So did I. But something snapped inside of her. Too much damage already. Dead."
Jayne's not sure what to believe. River might be crazy and might know secret thoughts, but how could Simon have felt her? He figures it's just another sign that Simon's off his rocker.
"I think they knew it too. That's why they stopped, and sent me here instead."
Crazy, Jayne thinks. But he doesn't say it.
"They showed me what they did to her. Told me why. I never could have helped her anyway. Not really."
Simon's face goes blank. Jayne sits and watches until it gets boring, then climbs back to bed.
Sometimes, Jayne imagines what it might be like when they get out. He's got no interest in a colony, and Simon wouldn't do too well on one anyway. He thinks about looking for Serenity, plays out little ideas of what might happen.
On Persephone maybe. They run into Mal and Zoe. Mal gives him that look that says Jayne's a dead man. Zoe just stares at him. And they're both moving forward when Simon steps out from behind Jayne. It's enough time for Jayne to pull his gun, and he can see it happening exactly like that.
Mal, wanting him dead. Zoe, thinking the same thing.
Jayne standing there, gun pointed at Mal's head, thinking how he needs to explain.
And Simon, eyes a little more focussed, coming out.
Mal stopping, his expression changing. Reaching for Simon.
Jayne can imagine himself stepping back a little, taking Simon with him, grating out, "He don't like to be touched." Not by you, not by anyone but me. And Mal just freezing.
He grins at the thought of having one up on Mal for maybe the first time ever.
"So. Mr. Cobb. What do you plan to do with your life after you're released?"
Jayne doesn't know exactly, but he knows his release date is some time yet. There's no use in them asking these kinds of nonsense questions. He shrugs.
"You've earned some money, working in the wood-shop. I've been told that your work is in high demand. Apparently you have a way with smoothing out the grain that makes it both highly attractive and sturdy."
Jayne lets a small smile cross his face, and the Fed nods in satisfaction. In his file, something will show up, Jayne is sure. 'Jayne Cobb shows some pride in his work.' Stupid little man.
"There are trade worlds where you could work in lumber yards."
Right. Fringe worlds. In the core, they've got tech to do it all.
"You can choose a place to go, within reason."
Jayne already knows he'll chose Persephone. He tries not to think about how by the time he gets out, he'll be too old for most crews to want him.
There's another scenario he imagines. Mal and Serenity landing on the planet, and getting them all out. Kaylee's worked out some way to get around the bad air outside.
He knows it'll never happen. They had no way to track him, assuming they even wanted to. And Mal doesn't go on fool's missions.
He wonders if Zoe and Wash are still on Serenity, if they're still married. It don't take much intelligence to see that they've been troubled from early on, no matter how cute and lovey they are, no matter how Wash's eyes go soft when Zoe walks into the room.
And little Kaylee. He thinks about her in that godawful dress, and almost smiles.
Mal. He's probably cursed Jayne's name a thousand times by now. Jayne tries not to think about it. He just thinks -- Mal.
Slowly, Simon starts to get better on the inside. It ain't great, and Jayne figures Simon will never be the same. Not that he was ever much fun or real interesting. But now at least they can talk for a little.
Simon gets a scut-work job in the infirmary, nothing fancy, but the Feds seem pleased. Jayne just grunts and thinks that it means more time when he doesn't have to be watching Simon's back.
It's after a shift one night that Simon comes into their cell, his walk still a slow, halting pace like he ain't real sure where he is. At least he's stopped shuffling like some useless old man. Jayne's on his bunk, slouching against the wall. He's turning a bit of wood around in his hands, bored and waiting. "Hungry?" It's close to eating time.
Simon ignores him, and Jayne grunts in annoyance. It was better when he didn't think Simon heard him. He knows better now, and it grates at him when the doctor doesn't answer.
He waits a while longer, watching as Simon changes into a different shirt. He's about to give up and go to the mess by himself, when Simon starts talking.
"It isn't the air, you know."
Simon looks at him, patient and his eyes a little off-centre. "It isn't the air that kills the ones they send outside."
Jayne sits up a little straighter. "What then?"
"It's a drug. They have some in the infirmary. It produces the symptoms we've seen, and results in death. They must inject it just before sending them outside."
Simon shrugs. "It's another way to keep people from escaping. What's the point of trying to get out if there's no where to go?"
"You think there's air out there?"
"I think so. If it was really poisonous, they wouldn't need to inject something. If there were no atmosphere, there would be no mists. I think the soil is probably bad for cultivation, and that's why this isn't a colony planet."
It is the most Simon has said since Jayne brought him to his cell. "You thinkin' of somethin'?"
"Maybe. Not really."
He slumps down again. "Oh." What they need is little Kaylee. She'd figure something out, get them past the tech that keeps track of everyone, get them out the doors. Maybe she'd have some ideas on getting a ship too.
The thoughts do him no good. Simon can't know that it's true anyway. Crazy, Jayne reminds himself. He's just crazy. The food signal sounds and Jayne shrugs off his thoughts and asks again, "Hungry?"
Kaylee wouldn't think her doc was so interesting now. She'd probably take one look at him and walk away. Or maybe she'd get that look on her face, all sad and worried, the way Jayne saw her look after Serenity's engine blew that one time. Maybe she'd get all fussy about Simon, coddle him.
That ain't what Simon needs, Jayne knows it. No one would ever say Jayne was real smart, but it don't take lots of brains to see that Simon's muffled up enough as it is, and that he did it to himself, back during whatever the hell was done to him. Simon doesn't need swaddling, he needs to be told what to do until he finds his way back out of himself.
Since Simon started talking, Jayne's been pushing a little, waiting to see what it takes for Simon to say 'no'. It's a game, some fun he can have to pass the time, and it's a way to make up for all the time Jayne's had to spend looking after and watching out for Simon.
He figures Simon owes him a little fun.
He gets a little more demanding and starts telling Simon to come with him to the gym. That goes well enough, and Simon starts to spot him.
Then he insists Simon start exercising, so Simon does, moving in that slow way he now has. It seems like everything Jayne says Simon does, until there's only one thing left.
It's night when he tries it, and most of the lights are off, outside and inside the cell. Simon is stripping down to shorts, about to get into bed. Jayne can see the still-sharp corners of Simon's shoulder blades, and resolves again to make Simon eat more.
He slides down from his bunk as Simon turns towards him. He doesn't make it gentle, reaching out to drag Simon towards him and then settling them both up against the wall. His hand grabs Simon's ass, and it feels good to have someone to touch. This might be part of the game, but Jayne gets right into it, both hands clutching tight at Simon as he pushes the other man hard against the wall.
Simon takes it. He takes Jayne's bites and Jayne rubbing against him, and it feels great, even if Jayne can half-hear Mal telling him that this kind of thing doesn't happen on his ship.
They ain't on Serenity any more.
"Jayne. I'd rather not." Simon's voice is calm, even if his hands shake as they try to push Jayne away.
Jayne thinks about not stopping, thinks about how it's different now that Simon's talking sometimes. He thinks about how it's typical of Simon to wait until Jayne is really getting into it to say something one way or another. Maybe the uppity doc's not quite so gone after all.
Grinning wide, Jayne steps away and gets back on his bunk. He jerks off loud that night, because Simon should have to pay a little bit.
Simon walks into the cell, his pace a little faster than usual. He's grinning, wide and real, but his eyes are twisty and Jayne has to look away.
"They think I'm crazy."
He snorts. "You are crazy."
Simon laughs, and for a moment Jayne's back on Canton, hearing Simon laugh drunkenly with Kaylee. "Yes, but people gossip and tell the news around those they think aren't listening."
"We're getting a visitor, a preacher from Persephone who has been making the rounds of rehab centres for a while, offering his services." Grin. Laugh. Grin.
Simon's act is right creepy and Jayne couldn't give a crap about some preacher, especially if the thought makes Simon like this. "So?"
Simon rolls his eyes. "It's Book."
Right. "I'd ask if you'd been drinkin', but I know you don't need it to act this weird."
"Jayne, I'm right. And this is not a coincidence."
The crazy is getting worse, that's all Jayne can figure. No way have Mal and Serenity been cruising around, looking for them all this time.
Still, Jayne is pretty antsy the next few days, waiting for something he doesn't believe in. New prisoner arrivals are announced and for the first time in a while he goes to watch. It's a distraction at least, and time away from Simon, who never comes to see.
He leans against a wall, looking as casual as he can, and just stares as each new man walks in. It's nothing interesting, the same stuff as other days, but then Jayne stands a little straighter.
Mal swaggers into the common area, and Jayne notes how the other new prisoners stay clear away from him. He laughs before he can stop himself. Mal's in his face almost right away. "Well. Ain't this a happy little family reunion." His expression is bland as he looks around the room. "Any other old friends around here?"
Jayne crosses his arms, trying to keep himself calm and not blurt out something he regrets. "Yeah maybe ol' Clem over there. Said he knew you, back when. Other than that, just some crazy doctor you might once have known."
Mal frowns at the word 'crazy' then nods. "Oh goody. You gonna give me the tour?"
Simon's in a bad way, has been for a few days now. It's back to silences and blank stares, but Jayne's used to it. As he leads Mal to the cell, he tries to prepare the other man.
"The doc ain't right. In the head."
"Ain't talkin' much right now. Ups and downs. Might not even see you."
"Well that's just shiny. Ship's been real quiet since our last --" He stops, fast.
Jayne nods. "Simon already knows. Told me once she died screaming."
Mal's voice is real quiet when he answers, "That she did."
Left the ship in the same state they first saw her. Jayne shakes the thought away, and steps back to let Mal enter the cell first.
Jayne wants to laugh at the way Mal stands there, his hands fisted at his sides as he stares at Simon. Simon doesn't look up. Mal turns to glare at Jayne before he moves closer to Simon.
"Don't touch him."
Jayne can almost see Mal's thoughts. What did you do to him? and You are a dead man. He shrugs. "Last man who wasn't me to touch him ended up dripping blood. Weren't pretty."
Another glare, and then Mal is talking to Simon, his voice real low. Jayne figures maybe he knows about the surveillance. "Hey, Simon. Thought I'd stop in and say hi. I'm going to go have a little chat with Jayne here, but I'll be back soon."
Jayne steps back as Mal brushes past him and back out to the hall. They're not three feet from the door before Mal is crowding Jayne up against the wall. "What the hell did you do to him?"
"Nothin'. He came like this. Used to be worse. He talks sometimes, now. Sometimes remembers to eat without me having to tell him." It's more than he wants to say, and he clamps down on the rest of it. It's nice to have someone else around who remembers the old Simon, but Jayne knows it's likely a mistake to get too chummy with Mal right now.
"You expect me to believe you've got him in your room every night, and that's got no bearin' on why he's like that?"
It's never going to be enough with Mal, Jayne thinks. Nothing was ever enough. "If it weren't for me, he'd be meat by now."
Mal is still glaring, but he backs up a pace. "How long?"
"Ain't been counting the days." He almost ask how long they've been gone, but part of him doesn't want to know. Instead, he says, "Guards got eyes almost everywhere. You want to continue this, we'd best go to this place I know."
He's probably stupid to take Mal anywhere not monitored. There's no saying what the captain will do, but Jayne figures even if he is a little blunt around the edges, he can still take Mal.
Walking quickly, Jayne heads to a little blindspot, glares at the men already there, and settles himself against the wall. He tries not to laugh at the way Mal is barely keeping his mouth shut, waiting for the signal to talk again. "What're you doin' here?"
Mal smiles in the way that always made Jayne want to hit him, right hard. "Got to hearin' that my ship's doctor was holed up here. Thought I'd come and see if I could sweet talk him back into my crew."
Motherfucker. Jayne scowls.
"Don't take it personal-like Jayne. We kept an ear out for you too. Might surprise you to know that it's easier to find a high-born doctor in the prison colonies than it is to find a specific merc whose qualities include being ornery and built like an ox."
There's a sneer on Mal's face now, and his tone is right mean. "We want you back too. Even if it's just to kill you ourselves for gettin' Simon in this mess." Mal looks real hard when he says it, and Jayne gets another urge to hit the man.
"Think what you want. I ain't one of your crew no more, and I don't need to take your crap. You think I turned Simon in, fine, but you ain't right." He's about to say more but there's the signal that means food. Jayne pushes himself away from the wall. "You watch him for a while, then. I'm gonna go eat."
He walks away, thinking that it's nice for once to be free of thinking about Simon. He'll enjoy eating without having to remind Simon of the food in front of him. Let Mal worry about it now. Jayne's had enough.
The meal is bland and Jayne can barely choke it down. Still, he eats his fill, carefully keeping from looking around for Mal and Simon. After, he stands and heads to the gym. After working out long and hard for the second time in the day, he thinks about asking to go to the wood shop, but it's late and maybe he should just try to sleep. He'll tell Mal to get out of his cell and leave him be.
When he gets there, Mal is sitting on the floor, watching Simon look at nothing. Before he even thinks about it, Jayne asks, "He eat?" Meal times are set but optional and it looks like Mal and Simon never left the cell.
Mal looks up, frowning. "No."
Gorramit. He wants to yell at Mal that Simon still can't afford to miss meals. Instead, he glares hard and gets up on his bunk. "You got your own cell, right? Might want to make use of it."
Mal stays put, then says, real quiet and like he's not really talking to Jayne, "He's lost in his own head."
No shit. "Yeah and I'm in my bunk, and you're in my cell. Time for you to go." He's surprised when Mal actually gets up off the floor and walk out. Jayne sits up, kicks off his boots and pulls off his shirt. As he lies back down, he tells Simon to get some sleep. He grins to himself when he hears Simon settling down into the bunk.
He's almost asleep when he hears,
"Jayne?" Simon's voice is calm.
Figures the doctor always gets chatty when Jayne's about to start dreaming about women with big tits and generous mouths. "Yeah?"
Simon stands and leans in close. "This isn't a coincidence either."
"He's come to take us home." It's a whisper, right in his ear.
"You, Simon. You."
There's a small puff of air against his skin, and Jayne isn't sure if Simon's sighing or laughing or gasping. "You too."
Right. "Go to sleep." Serenity's not his home. Never would be.
In the morning, he brings Simon to the mess and sits him down. He doesn't have to remind Simon to eat the food in front of him and that's a good sign. He takes it as another good sign that Mal doesn't try to sit with them, instead watching carefully from a few tables away.
While he's eating, he tries to imagine what it might be like in here without Simon. Jayne has no idea what Mal's planning, but it'll either work or leave Mal and Simon dead. Either way, Jayne figures he ain't invited.
He mentally lists off the advantages of not having to watch Simon: more free time, better sleep, less fighting with the others, being able to eat in peace. Not having to wonder what will happen if Jayne gets out before Simon does. His own bunk.
There's an announcement near the end of the meal time that the rehab colony has a visitor, some preacher here to offer his services for a few days. Jayne looks up as Book walks in, escorted by a couple of Feds. He looks calm and smart, just like always. And if Jayne's not mistaken, the man winks in his direction.
The Feds keep talking, saying how the preacher asked for their files weeks ago, before he even got here. He's been planning how his time will be most useful and which of them he wants to see first. They're pleased that the Shepherd will begin with counselling sessions this morning, and they list of the names of prisoners who will meet with him today.
Jayne's not too surprised to be listed as one of them. Mal is too.
Looking over at Simon, Jayne sees the man is smiling a secret little smile at his plate of food. Jayne sighs, raps the table to get Simon's attention and says, "Eat it, don't stare at it." He glares at Simon until he starts eating again.
Later, Simon's in the infirmary, and Jayne's got some time to kill before he has to get in line to see the preacher. He wanders, eventually finding himself outside of Mal's cell.
His former captain is sitting in his cell, writing some things down, humming to himself and looking like he owns the place. Jayne just walks right in, sniffing suspiciously at the weird smell, looking around until he finds a little stick with smoke curling up from it. Incense or something. Jayne had smelled something like that once, the time on Inara's shuttle. He wonders when Mal started liking that kind of stuff.
He chooses his words carefully, then looking hard at Mal, he says, "Don't know what you got cooked up here, but some things you'd best know." Jayne starts to list them off: remind him to eat. Don't touch him. Don't leave him alone too long. He might not talk for days. He gets tired easily. Make him work out. He likes to be talked to, even if he doesn't answer.
It's a short list, but Jayne's had the time to figure this all out. There's no use in Simon getting worse again because the others don't understand.
When he stops talking, Mal looks up, his expression bland. "I'll keep that all in mind." It's a dismissal, and Jayne wishes he had a knife to throw. Instead, he nods his head and turns quickly on his heel. He's half-way out the door when Mal calls him back. "What?"
"This here's been an expensive job. Bribing people Inara and Book know, getting some special tech, getting me fake ident papers and then putting me in the right time and place to get caught. Making sure I got sent to this particular rehab colony. You know how it gets, people are always wanting something for their trouble."
Mal looks pissed, and it's possible that a whole lot of coin was dropped for this job. It surprises Jayne, but he tries not to show it.
"I had to dig into some of the coin you keep in your bunk. Managed not to have to sell any weapons though. Zoe took a look over them too: she says you've got some quality stuff in there that could have brought good prices." Mal's expression is still bland. "Figured you'd rather part with the coin than the guns."
Jayne doesn't know what to say, confused by the idea that Mal kept his stuff. He watches, frowning, as Mal digs into a pocket and pulls out something small, then tosses it to him.
"Present from Kaylee and Book. Kaylee says 'hey', by the way. Says if you turned Simon in you're gonna find some nasty surprises in your bunk, but if not, then she's missed your ways."
Jayne turns it around in his hand. A little cutter, nice and tidy and enough to cut through anything that gets in his way. "How?" They scan the prisoners real good before they get in the doors.
Mal smirks. "Oh, the lord has his messengers." He looks back down at his writing. "Might want to go talk to one right soon."
Another dismissal. Slipping the cutter into his own pants, Jayne leaves the room. As he heads for the little chapel that no one ever uses for holy business, he tries not to think about Simon getting out.
Surprisingly, Jayne has to wait a space to see the preacher. Them as is ahead of him are taking longer than the Feds figured. Jayne waits, more or less patiently, until it's his turn.
When he walks into the tiny room, he can't help but smile. Book's been keeping up the weight lifting. "Hey." The chapel is small and dingy, but Book has prettied it up, and there's a heavy smell in the room. It's just like the smell in Mal's cell, and he wonders if they all are burning that crap now.
Book smiles back at him. "I must say, I hadn't expected to be quite so popular and needed in here. I feel like I'm doing some good work. How are you, Jayne?"
He shrugs. What's to say? "What's goin' on?"
"Ah. The good captain has a plan. Personally, I think it's a long shot, but it would hardly do to let you two rot in here."
"I'll get out."
Book frowns. "Perhaps. Unfortunately, that isn't the case for Simon."
Jayne hasn't thought too much about Simon's release date or even if he has one, mostly on purpose. He's just assumed it will come. "So what then?"
"So we're hoping to get you out, courtesy of some old contacts that I have, along with some elegant manoeuvring by Inara, some technology Kaylee procured and put together, and a well-placed riot."
Riot. Right. "There ain't no riotin' in here. Them as try that just get put outside."
Smiling his calm smile, Book nods. "The dreaded outside. We've heard all about it from some former residents here. Turns out it isn't quite so dangerous as you've been told. And soon, everyone here will know it."
So Simon had been right about that too. "The rooms are all monitored, you know. Even this one."
Another smile, this one a little more sly. "Did you know, Jayne, that there is a chemical combination that is quite harmless to humans, but which has the unfortunate effect of corroding certain parts of standard Alliance surveillance tech? It's rather interesting, a solid substance that, when lit on fire, produces a fine smoke. I particularly like that a few drops of scent during production makes the smoke smell rather soothing."
Jayne wouldn't call this smell soothing. "When?"
"Four days. Wash is taking the spare shuttle and bringing it down about 5 kilometres away. He'll come down in the shadow of Inara's shuttle, when she pays what she hopes will be a lucrative visit to the Warden of this facility. The captain is already laying down the groundwork for a little riot, and you'll use that cutter Kaylee made for you to get through the polyglass and make a run for it." He frowns. "I'm sorry to say that I'll be leaving before all this happens."
Yeah, a riot ain't no place for a preacher. "Good."
He's still frowning, looking not so pleased. "I'd rather stay. But this tour of rehabilitation colonies has been arranged through my abbey. I'll have to return there to keep up the charade. The captain says Serenity will meet me on Persephone in a few months."
It's a crackbrained scheme, something he'd more likely figure Simon would come up with. What he can't figure is why Mal is even here. It makes no sense that he can see. Book and Inara would have been enough. He says as much.
"I'll admit that you're not alone in your thinking. However, the captain thought another body would be useful, and you know how he is. He took it quite personally when you and Simon were taken. What were his words?" He pauses a minute. "Something along the lines that he's the only one who decides when and where his people leave the crew, that he doesn't require the Alliance to make those kinds of decisions."
It sounds like Mal, controlling enough to get real pissy if the Feds interfere with his people. The scheme to get them out is stupid, Mal's put them all at risk, but something about it warms Jayne. He nods and then sits talking to the preacher for a space. He leaves when the smell of the room starts to give him a headache, but not before being given a little stick of the incense-scrambler.
"I got no use for this." He holds it loosely in his hand, trying not to breathe in the powder.
Book smiles. "I'm handing some out for meditation purposes. Some of it is just a little more -- shall we say subversive than the rest."
Jayne pockets it doubtfully. He'll not burn it, but still. Ain't everyday someone in this place gives him a present. "'Kay."
"Come back a little later, Jayne. This room will be free after my appointments."
"Sure thing, preacher." He leaves the room feeling a little bit lighter somehow.
At lunch, Jayne finds Mal stirring up the shit with some of the so-called leaders in this place. Jayne doesn't like the look of it, but when he goes near, Mal sends him a pointed look and says he's busy.
It doesn't do much for Jayne's rep, but he walks away to find Simon, gritting his teeth all the while.
The day is filled with dullness. Working with the wood, hovering outside the infirmary to see that Simon's still there, and then finally, he goes back to visit with the preacher. He finds Mal sitting there, looking right impatient.
"'Bout time you got yourself in here."
He's about to turn back around and leave when Mal starts talking again.
"When word got out that you and Simon were taken, we figured one of two things happened: you got stupid and thought about the reward again, and managed to get humped for your trouble; or it was bad luck." Mal looks Jayne up and down for a minute, then continues, "Now me being the generous sort, I figured you likely didn't make the same dumb mistake again. The Shepherd thought the same thing, though I can't say as much for Zoe and Wash."
Figures them two would be suspicious. Jayne doesn't believe Mal thinking the opposite, either.
"We found a couple of drunks who claimed you and Simon got dragged off separately. We've been keeping an ear out since. Only just got some word about a doctor sent away for treason. It took some asking around, but we figured you were in the same place. Lucky for us."
Jayne just stares, his mouth set tight.
"So. I got one thing to ask: did you turn in Simon?"
He doesn't move, and Mal grins at him.
"Thought not." Another smile. "For one thing, the money for just Simon was a lot less. I figured you'd try and go for the whole haul."
Jayne almost grins back.
"D'you know what they did to him?"
"Nah. He just showed up one day, not talking, barely walking. Didn't recognise him at first."
"You think he can make it to the shuttle?"
"Yeah. He'll do as I say. I'll carry 'im if I have to."
"Good. In the meantime, find a quiet spot where you can cut through when we're ready to a break for it."
Jayne nods and leaves the room. It's not until he's searching for a place to cut through the polyglass that he realises he just took Mal's orders with no questions. He curses to himself, but keeps looking for the right place.
And it falls out, just like Mal planned. It figures this is the one time one of Mal's plans will work exactly as it should.
After a few days, preacher leaves, and Jayne's pretty sure he's not the only one who misses talking to him. Mal keeps working on the other prisoners, and one night he nods and whispers everything will go on schedule.
The riot starts, and Jayne cuts up the piece of polyglass wall he chose. They scramble out through the wall and none of them gag on the air. Simon laughs, Mal mutters about crazy and they make a run for it. Wash is waiting almost exactly where he should be. They get out of atmo no problem, and as they're heading for where Serenity's hidden, Inara comms that she's on her way too. Turns out the Feds told her to get herself safe as soon as the rioting started.
Mal scowls when Inara later tells them that the Warden was quite a gentleman, and even deployed some guards to watch her shuttle until she could get it off the ground. It makes Jayne want to laugh that them two are still dancing around each other.
They've used up all their luck for a good long while. He tries not to think about how it seems too easy, and how the Feds might track them down. How Simon is maybe the kind of prisoner they don't let go so easy.
Instead, he listens to Mal make noises about the Feds getting complacent, and how that made their luck better, and Jayne smiles. It's been a good long while since he's heard one of Mal's rants. It's fun to hear, but Jayne also knows Mal is covering his own nervousness about it all going so smooth.
When they dock, Jayne climbs down to find Kaylee bouncing on her toes, and Zoe looking more tense than she has a right to. Kaylee looks him up and down, punches him on the arm, and tells him they must have been feeding him real good in prison. He mumbles something about it being better than the crap she serves up, but her eyes have already moved from him to Simon.
Simon, who looks around the walkway and says, "I like what you've done with the place," even though there are no changes that Jayne can see. Then he sits on the floor and refuses to get up.
Jayne wants to laugh at the exasperation on Mal's face, but instead he just shrugs and tells them all to leave Simon be for a while, that he's liable to get touchy if they push it.
Kaylee looks disappointed, Wash and Zoe frown, and Mal closes his eyes. Jayne tells them they should just be glad Simon's talking.
After a minute of silence, Kaylee says something about a cake and runs to get it. They could go to the mess to eat, but instead they sit on the floor, around but not too close to Simon. Kaylee chirps something about it being like a picnic, and they all eat. The crew talks to him while they pretend not to watch Simon stare at his piece of the cake.
The cake tastes like crap, but Jayne eats it anyway as he mumbles responses to the questions about the prison and Simon and what he did to pass the time.
Then everyone's quiet for a spell and it almost gets real depressing, but Kaylee starts telling a story about a job they'd had while Jayne and Simon were gone. The job sounds right idiotic, but Kaylee's telling of finding Mal and Zoe up to their ears in mud, naked but for their boots, gets Jayne laughing hard, and Mal too. Zoe cracks a smile, and Inara says something about a sexy mudbath custom on some fancy moon, and that perhaps if they like mud that much, next time they can go there to get in it. Wash looks kind of pissed at the idea, and that just makes Jayne laugh harder.
The story goes on for some time, and when it's over, Jayne feels almost good. His cake is gone, and automatically, he looks over to see if Simon finished his.
The cake is untouched, but Simon is looking around him, smiling oddly, eyes kind of crazy and kind of sad. When he meets Jayne's eyes, Jayne grins his own crazy smile back.
Pairing: Jayne/Simon, although just barely
Spoilers: up to Serenity
Disclaimers: These aren't my characters.
Summary: Simon, Jayne, prison. A bit of a possible future.
Notes: I wanted to write an AU where Simon, River and Jayne don't get away from the Feds in Ariel. This isn't quite that, but it is a prison story, set some time after Objects in Space.
Thanks so much for Stacey and Unovis who helped me deal with the stickier plotty points of this story (and for dealing with my crazed overuse of colons).