Exaggeration and Blank Verse

Homestead:
"Disc Two"

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Bonus DVD features

Deleted Scene One * Deleted Scene Two * Author Commentary

Deleted Scene #1
This scene was supposed to go at the end, between the final dinner-table scene and Serenity leaving the planet. Then I decided to make the dinner-table scene the ending, so I had to cut it. It never got developed beyond sketching out the dialogue. Mal and Kait are the speakers.
"Captain Reynolds, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure. What's on your mind?"
"Well...you know, it's about time I settled myself down, find a wife, start a family. Somebody to take the ranch when I'm gone."
"Nice idea. What's it got to do with me?"
"I was wondering if maybe you'd give me one of your girls."
"Sorry. I went away for a minute there. WHAT did you just ask me?"
"Can I marry Kaylee?"
"You've got to be kidding me with this."
"What? She and Charlie get along all right, she loves the animals and she does great with the machines. I'd treat her good, Mal, you've seen that I'm a decent man."
"Kait, Kaylee ain't mine to give away!"
"Ain't you her daddy?"
"I am NOT old enough to be Kaylee's father!"
"Oh...not her cousin or her brother or anything either?"
"No."
"But ain't you responsible for her? You all act like you are."
"She's part of my crew, Kait."
"Oh."
"Yeah. And she ain't mine to give away. You'd have to ask her, and if I were you, I'd be standing about ten feet off when you ask it."
"Well...what about the other one?"
"What other one?"
"The skinny one, the girl Charlie's taken under her wing."
"RIVER?"
"Yeah."
"River's not old enough to be getting married!"
"Maybe not in the Core, but out here, girls younger than that get married all the time."
"She ain't right in the head, Kait."
"Well, she'd have Charlie around to help her with the house...and she seems to be learning housework well enough...and it don't take all of a mind to do the other stuff I need from a wife, now does it, Captain?"
"Okay, stop right there. I ain't in charge of River, either, Kait. Simon's the one you'd have to talk to."
"The doc? Don't he take his orders from you?"
"Not when it comes to his sister. Kait, stop! Don't actually ask him."
"Why not?"
"Look, Kait, you don't want to marry River. Trust me."
"Something wrong with her?"
"If I get into that subject, we'll be here all day. Just listen now, I'm going to give some advice for free. You listening?"
"Yeah."
"Find yourself a nice girl from around here. Plenty of girls in town, I've seen 'em. Nice girls, pretty girls, girls who understand what you need from a woman and won't ask more than you can give as a man."
"So you don't think the doc would agree? I'd give him the price of ten head of cattle."
"If you're going to compare his sister to cows, you'd better make sure he doesn't have a scalpel in his hand when you do it."

Deleted Scene #2
I never did figure out exactly where this scene should go- somewhere in the middle, probably- and eventually cut it out because of that and also because it added yet another speechy digression. Really regretted cutting it out, though.

"I just don't get it," Wash said, shaking his head. "I can't figure it out. I mean, if he hates it here so much- and it's pretty clear that he does- why doesn't he just take off? It's not like Jayne's ever been overburdened with loyalty."

"It's different when it's your family," Simon said quietly amidst the murmurs of agreement, and all eyes went to him. He blushed slightly, and shrugged. "It is. I mean, nobody made me leave Osiris and go looking for River. Everybody told me not to, that I was a fool, that I was giving up everything. But...she needed me. My sister needed me. I couldn't not be there for her." He shrugged again, staring down at his lap. Kaylee reached over and squeezed his hand.

"Well, yeah," Wash said after a moment, "but doing things for other people isn't exactly alien to you, Simon. You're not all pissed-off and angry about it."

Simon laughed, a soft and humorless sound. "Oh, I get angry, Wash. Believe me." He leaned forward slightly, brow furrowing as he searched for the words. "I mean...you love your family, and of course you'll be there for them. But at the same time it isn't fair, that you have to give up your own life, give up everything, for them. And you hate them a little, for making you do that, but not half as much as you hate yourself for feeling that way. It's great to be needed, but why can't they just take care of themselves..." He took his hand away from Kaylee and pressed it to his temple, eyes fixed on the floor. "And it's all these extremes of emotions, clashing in your head...love and hate and terror and sadness...you just get so sad sometimes...and it hurts. It hurts like hell. But you take it, you take the hurt...so your family doesn't have to."

It was quiet for a long moment. Kaylee helplessly rested her rejected hand on Simon's shoulder, and Book bowed his head in a quiet prayer. Just before they all reached the breaking point, Simon gave a watery chuckle and looked up again. "Don't tell Jayne I said any of that, okay? Now's not really the best time for him to learn we have something in common, I think...he'd probably want to drag me down to that bar in town and bond over drinks, and I'm just not sure my stomach's up to it."

Author Commentary
When I wrote the first scene of this story...it wasn't this story. It was just going to be an angsty little killing-Jayne's-mom vignette type deal. I got blocked, let the file sit on my hard drive, moved on to other fics and other things. Time passed.

I went home for Christmas break. For me, a large part of going home is returning to being barn-labor, for my family and some family friends. While cleaning stalls at the friends' house one afternoon, a scene stated playing out in my head. (This happens a lot when I clean stalls; it's why I don't mind the chore. My brain's free to wander and put stuff together and just play, AND I get exercise. Good deal all around.) The scene was a long, extended dialogue between two kids (both armed with guns) and Mal Reynolds. If you've read "Homestead" already, you've seen the eighth-generation version of it. The catch? The original version was a futurefic, about fifteen years down the line- and those kids were Jayne and Kaylee's children.

Now, we all know that in reality, Jayne would eat his young (though I think Kaylee would make a good mom), so I played with that idea all through stall-cleaning and then let it go as a story that would never be written. I found that I couldn't quite get the background out of my head, though: Mal, going to a planet looking for someone from his crew, and running into those kids. So I walked it out- who else could the kids be? Why else could Mal be going to a planet?

Two or three afternoons at the barn later, things started clicking. Credit must also be given to all the Bonanza and Big Valley reruns I watched with my mom as a kid. The greatest cliche elements of the American West lined up with my beloved Firefly characters. And then things started to roll.

So that's the "origins" story for "Homestead." The creation myth, as it were. It was never, ever supposed to be this long; I tend to write short, angsty, vignette-type stories. But I had Stuff I wanted to fit in there: themes and allusions and ideas. I got a little ambitious. It won't happen again, I promise.

What was the Stuff I was shooting for, so you can judge if I hit the target or not? Well, theme-wise: Loyalty. Family- by blood and by choice. Friendship and love, how much they can hurt and how much they can carry you through. Altruism. Oh, yeah, and Blue Sun being a crappy evil thing.

I dropped some threads in the course of the story, naturally; they might be more glaring to me than they are to you, or they might bug you more than me, I don't know. But I think I bungled up my presentation of Jesse and Daniel- they started out seeming very important, and then kind of faded out as I tried to make the plot work. (I'm still not entirely sure how much sense my plot made, in the end.) I dropped the ball with the whole Blue-Sun-gives-the-whole-planet-cancer thing, too. I put that scene in because I felt bad about not giving Simon anything to do (although apparently I didn't feel the same guilt about poor Book), and never followed up on it because, honestly, I forgot.

Regrets, I have a few...didn't do enough with River. I kind of turned her into a crazy Suzy Homemaker-with-cats. And I'm still not entirely comfortable with having her accompany Inara into Blue Sun's offices. I did my best to make it work, because I had to have it (no other character could fill that role), but I'll never be entirely sure I made the right choice.

I also feel bad about bailing on Book and Zoe. Wash and Kaylee at least had a little fun (though I might've made Kaylee a bit too much of an airhead), but poor Book and Zoe got the shaft. It's hard to keep nine characters busy!

Randomly, the scene that I agonized over the longest? Jayne and Mal fixing the fences in the back pasture. And not because of the dialogue; the dialogue came pretty easily. No, it was because I was trying to get the description of fixing a fence accurate. While at home, one of our horses ran through the fence and we had to fix it in the middle of the night. I filed away the ratchet tensioners, ratchet tensioner wrench, and giant coils of wire for use somewhere in the story, and then I obsessed over getting it right. Not that anyone would know or care. I actually called home in the middle of the night from school, while writing that scene, to check with my dad and find out if the wrench had a special name. Nope, just a ratchet tensioner wrench. Thanks, Dad. Go back to sleep. Now, do I even use that term, which won't make sense to the vast majority of my readers...?

Written across the top of my outline for the story: "Remember, he's a JERK." "He" being, of course, Jayne. I was trying to keep a grip on my own tendancy to woobify the boy. (Hey, he's my favorite character, I can't help it.) Did I keep him in-character, in the end? Can't say. I have no objectivity when it comes to this story.

I committed the greatest sin known to fanfic: I fell in love with my original character. Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. I'm head over heels for that girl. If you need a visual for her- she's Fred from Angel (Amy Acker). What, Amy Acker and Adam Baldwin look nothing alike? Well, neither do Sean Maher and Summer Glau, and nobody's complaining about Simon and River.

I have to give insane props to my beta, who very patiently held my hand through uncounted panics and roadblocks during the writing process, and helped clean up the text hugely (as well as helping me face down my personal demon: dialogue attribution!). My favorite observation of hers was when Wash is putting on his show for the Blue Sun rep: "Wash is playing RPG’s over the cortex all the damn time, you just know he is! And he’s writing mary stu fanfic about what ever show he grew up watching." There is no doubt in my mind that this is true.

But really, this story was supposed to be about family. Family-by-blood: how much it hurts to love your family sometimes; the intensity of that love; how no matter what they've done, you'll stick up for them. Some of Charlie's speeches to the crew are a little personal for me; I've been the sister defending my brother to people who think he's only one thing. Family-by-choice: the groups we build for ourselves after we leave home; the way those bonds have to bend and give, but when they're real, they don't break; what it means to be a friend.

Did I manage that? I don't know. I just know that I love my little story, and I'm glad I stuck it out and told the whole thing, even though I wanted to give up on the mess many, many times. I'm sincerely flattered if you took the time to read it, and I hope you enjoyed it at least a little bit. All of us Browncoats, we're kind of a family too- a cyber-family all around the world, brought together by these nine chuckleheads on a Firefly. That's a family I'm proud to have chosen.

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