This is Kaylee's job- take an extra plate of dinner and a glass of water, and the pills Simon says won't help but won't hurt,
and walk down through Serenity's halls to the bunks. She listens to the ship humming under her feet and around her, and she
closes her eyes and breathes in the strength of the steel, and then she opens the door and climbs down.
He sits in the same place, ever and always- eyes straight ahead, head gently cocked like he's trying to hear something. Listening
through the hum of the ship to something else. "Jayne," she says softly, and his eyes wander to her. He doesn't smile, he
doesn't blink, he doesn't move. He just looks at her.
She sets the plate and glass on the little table Mal brought down. It takes up most of the empty space in the little room,
but Jayne doesn't bother it. He doesn't bother anything, that Kaylee can see; he doesn't seem to move, except when Mal coaxes
him up the ladder and walks him around the ship in the afternoons, to keep his muscles from wasting away.
She sits beside him on the bed, urges him to eat, wipes his face every so often. His eyes don't focus on her, or the food,
or anything. They gaze off, trying to see something; looking through walls of the ship to something else.
She talks to him, softly, silly stories she makes up as she goes along that start out as what's happened on Serenity that
day but end up somewhere else. She isn't sure he really hears her. His face is softened, his eyes are dreamy. That's what
River says, every time she comes and sees him- "He's sleeping, but he's forgotten how to wake up."
She was thin, like River is thin, and has the same long wild hair, only pale pale blonde instead of tangled dark. She
moved with River's same mad grace, dancing across the cargo bay instead of running, and then it was like she flew. And Jayne
was where he always was, at the top of the stairs with his gun in his hand, only he didn't even have time to get his gun up
because she was so fast and so wild- a bird without wings- and she caught his face in her hands, just for a moment an instant
a heartbeat- and she looked into his eyes- and when she danced off again he fell- and he slept- and maybe River's right and
he never woke up.
Simon has fancy words, of course- catatonia and tissue death and things like that, things that don't mean much
to Kaylee. She likes River's way- he's sleeping, but he's forgotten how to wake up. That leaves room for him to remember.
She moved like lightning like storm clouds like death, and Simon screamed when River pulled herself free from his arms,
but River was moving the same way, and it was two storm fronts meeting on the catwalk. It was too fast, and no one could
see- but when it was over, River was standing and the other was lying on the floor- and her neck was twisted to the side in
a terrible way- and Simon was pale with horror and shock- and Mal and Zoe were moving to the body- and Kaylee and River were
moving to Jayne- and River said-
"Remember," Kaylee whispers, taking his hand. He's finished eating and his eyes are wandering again. They move to her face
when she speaks, and she smiles at him as she brushes away the tears that she barely notices anymore. His forehead furrows
slightly- just slightly- and a shadow passes over his eyes, but then it's gone again, he's gone, he's far away. Where she
took him, where River can't or won't go and bring him back.
She never would have thought that she'd miss Jayne, but she does, even though in body he's sitting beside her. This is not
Jayne; this is a shell, hollow under the skin, no restless aggression and energy animating from within. "I miss you," she
tells him, and he blinks, slowly, placid as a cow getting the same news. It makes her want to scream and punch the walls
and break things, and it never changes. It never hurts any less.
She feels her hand tightening around his fingers and forces herself to let go; he won't even react to pain, and she knows
that if he sits there and stares at her face while she breaks the bones in his hand, she'll be sick. He's burned himself
in the engine room, when Mal doesn't watch him closely enough, and cut himself on sharp edges in the corridors. He doesn't
even blink, just stands there and stares until someone notices and hauls him off to Simon.
Simon, who can't stand the sight of him, since this it seems that this is nothing River couldn't do, if she'd stayed at the
school long enough to learn how. Or maybe she does know, but she just hasn't had an opportunity to use it yet. Maybe that
scares Simon the most. It sure as hell scares Kaylee.
She starts talking again, just for something to do. Nonsense talk, the way people talk to babies and the mad. Jayne-that-was
would shake her silly for talking like that. Maybe that's why she does it, what she's hoping for- that suddenly, his lip
will curl in disgust and he'll glare at her, something, give a reaction...
It isn't true that he never reacts; in fact, Mal uses his reactions the way old men use divining rods, back on Kaylee's
home world, or the way the women watch the birds during storm season. Semi-mystical signs.
Kaylee thinks it's a terrible thing, the way Mal comes down and watches Jayne before they dock at a station or land planetside.
The ship will draw close- closer- close enough- and at some places, Jayne will start to shake. His face crumples, his eyes
close, and he whimpers, terrified little sounds like a little animal that can't find a dark place to hide. They pass those
places by in a hurry. Mal thinks it means that one of the hunters is there, the men who keep the girls who are worse than
River. Dangerous men, dangerous to all of them on Serenity- not only because they have River, but because they have someone
one of their girls put to sleep. They can't just let the proof of what they're doing wander around in space. They must want
to clean up after themselves.
But he isn't crying now, he isn't shaking, he's just staring. Looking off at something she can't see. She pats his arm gently,
and he looks at her. They're in deep space. Whatever voices he hears when the enemy is near, they're silent now. His waking
dreams are peaceful.
"Wake up, baobei," she whispers. "Won't you wake up for me?"
He's looked away again. She leans over and kisses him on the cheek.
Her tears dry on his skin after she gathers the dishes and goes away.