“The Alliance is still stating that the broadcast sent out last week regarding a dead planet called Miranda is a doctored, false video transmission that was sent out by recluse and cyber terrorist known as Mr. Universe…” the clatter of the news being broadcast on every street corner filled Ellie’s ears and it made her queasy. She knew something that she wasn’t supposed to and didn’t know how to handle the situation she felt was coming at her. She felt dizzy and the world began to spin wildly. As she bolted for the first trash can she could see, she collided with someone and couldn’t hold back. They both came crashing to the ground and, in no time, were covered in Ellie’s up-chucked dinner.
“Oh! Watch it!” came a gruff voice. “Oh, man,” he grumbled. Despite his tone, he knelt and grabbed Ellie by the arm. “Are you okay?” he asked, pulling her from the ground.
Ellie nodded, keeping her head down. Attracting attention was something she did not want to do right now. She needed a safe place to hide out and wanted gather her thoughts, come up with a plan.
“Gorram, girl! I mean really! If you are goin’ ta get wasted so bad you puke, do it somewhere other than the sidewalk, aw-right?” He watched as she seemed to hide her face, but he did think something was familiar about her. “Here,” he said trying to wipe her clean with his elbow.
“No,” Ellie stated trying to pull away.
“Hey! I know you,” the tall man exclaimed.
Great, she thought. I’m toast.
She looked up at the man and struggled to recall his vaguely familiar face.
“It’s me! Jayne!”
Ellie slowly looked up at the tall figure before her.
“Oh, girl! C’mon, now. You gotta remember me,” Jayne pleaded.
“Yes, Jayne. I remember you. How in the ‘verse could anyone forget you.” Unsure if he was given a compliment or not Jayne helped Ellie wipe herself as clean as possible. “Please, Jayne, don’t call me that. I prefer Ellie, or anything different at all actually.”
“You in trouble?” Jayne asked quietly, looking around for ‘trouble’ such as the Alliance or a rouge gang.
“I don’t know, but I think I’m fixin’ to be. It’s this whole Miranda thing.”
Ellie didn’t know Jayne’s roll in it, but since rumors were being perpetuated by the Alliance that it was a terror attempt at fearmongering, he wasn’t going to say anything about his part in it on the streets, especially not here on Hades, a moon in the White Sun system – The Core – the home of the Alliance.
“Jayne,” she said trying to stay quiet. “I need your help. I never thought I’d see you and here you are when I need to be underground.”
Jayne looked at her for a moment, remembering those green eyes. Ellie reciprocated the stare. She had forgotten how piercing his blue eyes could be. He saw the mess she was now and, though she was not a child anymore, she wasn’t much different than he remembered when he first met her. A scrawny brat with a few mental issues. He remembered how once in the woods, she would become more sane. She was at home in nature and here she was now, unable to keep her food down in a city on a Core planet.
“I can’t make promises, but I might can get you home again.” She nodded and the two hurried down to the docks. Ellie was stinking up their path, leaving a trail that no one would care to follow for the stink of vomit. In fact, people were getting out of their way. People were hollering at them that drunks didn’t belong and they needed to leave. Jayne would mutter under his breath that they were trying to leave. Ellie just kept her face down and pretended that she was drunk. She figured it was a better excuse for her being covered in vomit than the truth.
They turned toward the docking bay of a ship and approached. There was an equally imposing figure at the entrance to the dock wearing a long brown coat and two women on either side of him – one of them a short redhead with a friendly face and the other a pregnant woman that was staring her and Jayne down.
“Um, Jayne. I do hope you are not bringing a drunken whore on my ship,” the man in the jacket protested.
“Cap’n,” Jayne started, motioning for Ellie to stay put. “Cap’n, she ain’t drunk. She says she’s in trouble. I wanna help.” The trio Jayne was talking to stood, flabbergasted.
“Wait, what?” the pregnant woman asked. “You want to… help someone?”
“Oh wow!” the redhead giggled. “Now, see? There is a little good in everyone I think.”
“Everyone but the Alliance,” the man in the jacket retorted. “Jayne, we are just barely getting clear of the Miranda mess and you want more trouble on my boat?”
“She ain’t trouble, Mal. C’mon, man. She’s an old friend from back home. She just wants to go home.”
“I think I might actually tear up o’r this one, ladies,” the captain ribbed.
Getting tired of the scene, and nervous that it would draw unwanted attention since they dared utter the word “Miranda”. Ellie approached them.
“Captain,” she said looking Mal dead in his eyes. “I don’t mean any trouble for anyone, as my presence might risk that. I’ll be on my way.” She turned to Jayne and nodded, “Thank you, Jayne, for trying.”
“No!” Jayne grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back. “This ain’t right, Mal. I did stick with you and your suicide mission because I trust you. I had hoped I’d earned trust back. Why is your cause more worthy than mine, huh?”
“Cap’n,” the redhead stated, now with a tender look in her eyes. “Cap’n, she needs help. We’re headin’ to the Red Sun system. Harvest ain’t too far out of the way.” The captain was clearly unnerved and rolled his eyes.
“You got money to pay, stranger?” the pregnant woman asked. Then she glanced at Jayne smugly asking, “Or are you going to pay her passage from your cut, Jayne.”
“Sure,” he replied. The others went big-eyed and slack-jawed.
“No,” Ellie shook her head. “I don’t want to take from anyone. I have a little money on me but I can cook, clean, help with mechanic issues. If there are stops along the way I can earn my keep in whatever it is you do.”
A tall shadow befell the group from inside the ship’s cargo bay. A thin figure was silhouetted in the light. “She’s coming with us,” replied this young but monotone voice.
“Wait one minute, little albatross! This here is still my ship. We are just recovering from…” he began to stammer, “…from… well, you know! And now more trouble.”
The young figure inside the ship replied cooly with, “Trouble isn’t over yet, Captain. She will be needed. She is one of two clues to finish off this business with Miranda. A peaceful river has died and peace with it. We will need her in the end.”
Ellie was chilled to the bone with these icy words. What did she mean by “one of two clues” and finishing business with Miranda? What did these people know? What was it she being cryptic about a river and peace dying?
“I don’t want her having anything to do with that ugliness,” Jayne declared. “I just want her home is all.”
The girl giggled. “Jayne, you, on rare occasion, betray your primal façade and show the real you.” She looked back at the captain. “Captain, we must leave. Now.” She pointed to the entrance to the docks and they saw Alliance cops charging through security.
The captain sighed and motioned for everyone to come aboard.
“Okay, River. Get us off the ground.” He turned to Jayne and commanded, “Get her cleaned up. Since she has offered herself as a maid and cook, I want her to work now. I’m hungry.”
The pregnant woman smirked and shook her head, walking towards the cockpit with the captain and the girl they called River.
The redhead approached, with a huge smile on her face. “Hi,” she said with a bit of a curtsy. “I’m Kaylee. I’m sure I have some clean clothes that will fit you. Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Ellie replied. “I just got a little sick.”
“There’s a doctor on board if you need to see him.”
“Kaylee,” Jayne started. “I can help her just fine. She don’t need no fancy Core doc to get her feelin’ right.”
Kaylee rolled her eyes. “Why you gotta do that all the time, Jayne! You knock Simon down every chance you get!”
“It ain’t that,” Ellie replied. “I just don’t like doctors. Them and scientists kind of ruined me and… well… my whole family. I just don’t trust them. It’s nothin’ personal. Thank you for the clothes. It’ll be much appreciated.” The three walked to the bunks were Kaylee descended in her bunk to retrieve some clothes and Jayne showed her where to clean up.
Within an hour, the ship was already deep in space and Ellie was cleaned up and cooking dinner with the fresh food just brought on board at Hades. Just leaving the Core system made her feel immensely better. She was starting to get hungry again and that was a good sign. Before long, the crew was seated around the table and Ellie was serving them a delicious meal. Ellie saw the captain, Kaylee, River, Jayne, the pregnant woman, a well dressed man and a rather stunning woman all around the table. There was an empty seat next to the pregnant woman but she didn’t feel right just sitting without being invited.
“Wow!” the captain exclaimed. “I think you just earned your passage based on this one meal alone!”
Jayne beamed at her and nodded.
“Thank you,” she said quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Mal said in between bites. “I’m Malcolm Reynolds and this is my ship, Serenity. I know you have met Kaylee…”
Kaylee waved, “Hi!”
“…this is Zoe, she’s my first mate.” Zoe nodded.
“You obviously by some unfortunate turn of events already know Jayne…”
“Hey!” Jayne protested.
“This is River, my co-captain. I know she looks young but, well, she’s just… River.”
River sheepishly smiled at the captain’s lack of vocabulary and went back to eating.
Mal then turned to the beauty seated next to him, “This is Inara,” he said as he took her hand and lightly kissed it.
“This here,” smacking the well dressed man on the shoulder, “this here is our on board doctor, Simon. He’s also River’s brother.”
“Hi,” Simon nodded. “This is amazing. Where did you learn to cook? It reminds me of a place on Osiris.”
Ellie nodded. “Figures. My parents were from there.” She stood and began her own introduction. “I’m Ellie. Jayne knows me by my full first name ‘Elena’ though I really would rather not use it right now.”
“You gonna eat with us?” Jayne asked. Ellie just shook her head. As a servent, one does not eat with her employers. A vague and random memory from her previous life, when things were new and shiny.
“She isn’t her yet,” River said, sipping on the soup.
“What do you mean, River?” Simon asked.
“I think I know,” Zoe replied. She got up and ushered Ellie to the seat next to her. “You are not a servant. Please, sit down and eat with us.” Everyone in the room grew silent, sad even. Ellie sensed that it wasn’t her seat, really. That it belonged to someone else.
“He’s not physically here with us anymore,” River stated, with a twinge of emotion in her voice.
“She’s right,” Zoe said, smiling softly, but with her eyes watering. “And I know my husband would never want a person to be not invited to join us just because of our memory of him.”
Ellie was suddenly consumed by the tension in the air. It was hard to sort through the emotions darting around the now quiet room. There was anger, fear, frustration and an overwhelming sense of sadness and depression. But there was a lingering light of hope as well. These were good folk.
“Thank you,” Ellie said.
“What’s going on?” Zoe asked as they sat and the others piled food on a plate to hand to Ellie. “Jayne said you were some sort of trouble?”
“Yes, but I think plausible deniability would be safer for y’all.”
“Aw, Elena…” Jayne started until he saw the look in her eyes. “Sorry –Ellie – I just think that it can’t possibly be any worse than what we just went through.”
“I heard you mention Miranda. What have y’all got to do with Miranda?”
“She’s synonymous with Miranda – one in the same, her and the dark one,” River began in her apparently usual cryptic language. Then River looked directly at her, her big brown eyes seeming to burn a hole straight into her very soul. “You are you, but not yet. You are also a thing of Miranda.” River’s eyes teared up. “You fought the lying down.”
“Okay,” Ellie stated hands up in the air. “Enough, really. River, right? That’s enough. I’m done.” Ellie stood to leave, everyone staring at awe as River clearly was on to something.
“No,” River stood and protested. She shook her head. “You can tell us. I can’t see it clearly. What happened to you?”
Jayne was also on his feet. “I’m sorry, hun,” she said to Ellie. “River is psychic. She freaks me out, too.” Everyone sat back down. “You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to.”
“I beg to differ,” Mal finally said.
“Mal,” Inara interrupted. “Don’t push.”
“It’s okay,” Ellie conceded shaking her head.
Simon who was eyeing Ellie and River back and forth, trying to figure out River’s talk, finally asked, “Ellie, were you on Miranda?”
She nodded. “Yes. How do any of you know about it?”
“We were there,” Zoe said.
She shook her head. “No, you couldn’t have been. People died there. It’s dangerous!”
“Ain’t so dangerous now. Just sad,” Kaylee added. “Well the Reavers are what’s dangerous, but they ain’t on Miranda.”
“Reavers,” Ellie whispered with a sigh. “I’m sorry, I can’t do this right now.” Ellie shot up, took her dishes and plopped them in the sink. “I promise to complete my kitchen duties and clean up after y’all are done. I need to be alone.”
She left and disappeared among the crates in the cargo bay.
All eyes turned to Jayne.
“What do you know about this woman, Jayne?” Mal asked.
He shook his head, clearly confused about what just went down. “She was a girl, I think about twelve when I met her. I had come home for a while after a particularly successful job, just before the war. Mom needed the money because she was taking in more foster kids from the Core. That’s what Mom does, her and the woman that lives next to us. My dad and our neighbor worked welding jobs and kept up the farms while the wives help raise unwanted kids from the Core.”
This little bit of insight into Jayne’s past was more than anyone, even River, knew about him. This would explain why he sends a fairly large chuck of his share of jobs back home.
Jayne continued, “One day this scrawny rat of a girl is dropped at the neighbor’s house. She was a little nutty – not too far off from River’s condition when her and the Doc first boarded.” He shook his head. “She was heavily medicated. She popped more pills than an opiate addict. It was real sad to see her. She apparently had a hard time staying awake so she was on uppers but they would make her real bad crazy… what they’d call it…”
“Manic,” Simon interrupted.
“Yeah, that’s it. She was miserable. So one day, I’m out in the woods huntin’ rabbit for dinner and there she was. Just standin’ there, starin’ at me, like, as if she was pleadin’ for help. So I took her on the hunt with me. Every day after that, we’d go out and forage and hunt. I taught her how to move around without spookin’ the animals. We found plants that helped her so she could come off those stupid medications. For a whole year, Elena – er, Ellie and I spent every day together. She wanted to know it all.”
“So what happened after a year?” Inara asked.
Jayne shrugged. “The war had started and it hit home hard. Harvest was a real disaster money-wise. So, I left to find more jobs. Someone had to help support all them younguns.”
No one said anything for the rest of dinner. Was it because they were taking in Jayne’s side of Ellie’s story, or because Jayne was actually not just a hired gun, a mercenary? He was human. This was one of those rare moments when he showed his hand and bared his soul. It was these rare moments when Jayne unknowingly endeared himself to his crewmates and captain. This is one of the reasons that they kept Jayne on, not just as crew, but as family.
The crew slowly ate their dinner, but each one washed their own plates quietly, instead of leaving them for Ellie to do. Kaylee and Inara put away what was left and cleaned the cookware. No one was compelled to treat Ellie as a servant and they could tell that there was far more to Ellie than what Jayne knew. Heck, even River couldn’t pinpoint it. And that was frightening for them.
As everyone quietly went about their business, Zoe made her way to the cargo bay to check on the cargo, and on Ellie.
“I’m sorry for the trouble,” came Ellie’s voice from behind some crates. “I’ll go clean up the kitchen now.”
“Honey, you got nothin’ to be sorry for,” Zoe replied, holding her hand out to Ellie. Ellie took her hand and climbed down. “And the dishes are done, and the food is put away. We figured you needed some time.”
“Thank you.” Ellie thought for a moment. “I get the feeling that I was sitting in a spot at the table that ain’t been sat in for some time,” Ellie said.
Zoe nodded, “Yes, my husband. Hoban Washburne. We all called him Wash, but he was my man.” There were tears in Zoe’s eyes and she lovingly rubbed the baby bump. “I miss him so much.”
Ellie put her hand on Zoe’s shoulder. “I can understand the pain you feel. Not that it makes it better.”
Zoe nodded, “It helps. Why don’t we go to my room and have a chat.”
Once they were in Zoe’s bunk, sitting on the bed like tweens at a sleepover, Zoe told Ellie, in as short as way possible, about River and Simon and the mission to Miranda. She told of her husband’s miraculous piloting through Reaver infested sky and through the Alliance line waiting for them on the way to Mr. Universe’s facilities. She explained, with tears in her eyes how Wash died but then quickly talked about the battle with the Reaver’s and how Mal got the message transmitted. After a while, she just started to talk about Wash.
“I was a war hardened person. I was not man or woman – I was a soldier. Even though the war was over, I was still turned on like a windup toy that would never wind down. And when the Cap’n first hired him, he grated on my last nerve.” She giggled more to her own memories than to what she was saying.
“What happened? How did the two of you hook up?” Ellie asked, now relaxed.
Zoe smiled big. “I’m not entirely sure of that myself. He just kept trying to make me smile. When one method wouldn’t work, he would change tactics and try again. And one day it happened. He made me laugh. Something I wasn’t prone to do.” She reached over to her dresser and picked up a photo frame that had various images of him slowly flashing on it. She caressed it for a moment then handed it to Ellie.
“Wow,” she stated flatly. “You aren’t kidding. I never would have pictured him like this.” As the images flashed by, there were a few that showed him and Zoe together. Ellie teared up a bit and said, “But pictured together, it’s a perfect fit.”
Zoe began to cry a bit. “We really were!” Ellie scooted next to Zoe and embraced her. They leaned against the wall and watched the pictures flash together.
Zoe put the frame back up and looked at Ellie. “He was my hero. Sure he saved us with his talents drivin’ the boat through some fearful times, but, for me, he saved me from something more damaging to one’s soul. After the war, that hardened part of me didn’t want to feel anything again. Truth be told, I had wished that I had died stuck in that fox hole on Hera in the Battle for Serenity Valley. I woke up each day, did the tasks set before me, and went to sleep only to do it over again. There was no meaning in my life anymore. Wash rescued me from that. He showed me how to love again… how to live again. He was my knight in shining armor, as corny as that sounds.”
Ellie smiled through tears. “That’s kind of like what Jayne is to me. He saved me, too. In more ways than one.”
Zoe laughed. “I’m sorry,” she said, wiping tears from her face. “I don’t mean to laugh but this side of Jayne we’ve witnessed is not the Jayne we know.”
“What’s the Jayne you know?” Ellie asked curiously.
“He’s a mercenary. He’s someone I don’t like to have to trust too much because I think he’ll sell us out if the price is right.”
Ellie furrowed her brow and shook her head. “Noooo… No, that’s not Jayne.”
“It is, most of the time. But sometimes he shows something that seems more human. The Cap’n likes him and even trusts him, so I don’t question it.”
Ellie was disappointed in this view of him. Was it something he had hid from her all those years ago?
“Well,” Ellie said. “Jayne saved me from a very bad downward spiral. I really do think I would have died that first year if it weren’t for him taking the time to spend with me. My foster parents were kind people but they had other kids to tend to, all with their own unique problems. I was too much for them. I had decided that I would just disappear. Run into the woods and finally do what my body was struggling to do – to lay down and die.”
Zoe looked intently at Ellie. “You were on Miranda, weren’t you? You were there when it was terraformed and colonized.”
Ellie nodded and sighed. “I guess since I know you are the supposed ‘terrorists’ that got that message about Miranda from Dr. Caron out, it’s time I told everyone what my story is.” Zoe nodded and they headed to get Mal from the cockpit.
“Cap’n,” Zoe said. “Ellie wants to talk to everyone.”
Mal was distressed but Zoe hadn’t caught that fact until now. “It’s gonna have to wait, Zoe. I need you and Jayne in the cargo bay.”
“The Alliance wants to board us to confront Inara. She’s leaving the guild so they feel the need to strip her of her license right this moment.”
Zoe sighed and nodded. “I’ll get Jayne. Where’s Inara?”
“In her room, getting her things to turn over to them.”
“Can I help?” Ellie asked.
Mal looked over his shoulder at her. “No, if you’re in trouble with the Alliance, I don’t want you being seen at all. In fact… Hey, Zoe?”
“Yes, Cap’n,” she came back up the stairs. “Take Ellie to Jayne. Have him look out for her, keep her safe until this passes.”
“Aye, Cap’n.” Zoe walked down the stairs to Jayne’s bunk and shouted for him. He appeared, they exchanged a few words and Jayne went to the cockpit to get Ellie.
“C’mon, darlin’. Don’t need to be seen right about now, I reckon.” Jayne and Ellie went to Jayne’s bunk to wait out the drama.
Within minutes, Serenity was host to a crew from an Alliance ship. Needless to say, Mal and the crew were nervous about having them on board. So far, it didn’t appear that the Alliance was going to pursue them but that could change at any given moment. Since Mr. Universe had been labeled a terrorist (after his death and the transmission got out about Miranda) they could very well decide to classify Mal and the entire Serenity crew as terrorists as well. So far, that hadn’t happened and he looked to try and keep it that way. He and Inara, along with Zoe and Kaylee, were in the cargo bay. She handed over all of her papers and records as a registered companion.
It was surprisingly uneventful and Mal breathed a quiet breath of relief.
“Oh, Captain,” the officer said as his men were walking back to their ship.
“Yes, sir,” Mal replied approaching him.
“We have a bulletin for a fugitive. A possible connection with the terrorist known as Mr. Universe.”
Kaylee grabbed Inara’s hand and Zoe walked up next to Mal, with her cool, steady demeanor helping to distract from the sudden tension in the air.
He handed Mal a B.O.L.O. “This is her. Her name is Elena Mae. She’s from Harvest in the Red Sun system but she’s been seen inside the Core since that stunt with the Miranda hoax. She considered dangerous. She has mental illnesses and has been off meds for some time. We are recommending people only report seeing her and not try to subdue her themselves. There is no bounty because we believe she is too dangerous for anyone other than the Alliance to apprehend.” Mal and Zoe took the announcement and looked at it. Sure enough, it was Ellie.
Mal nodded and said, “We will definitely keep an eye out, officer.” With that the officer nodded and left. Once the Alliance ship was out of range, Mal got Jayne and Ellie with the rest of the crew together. “We gotta know what’s going on,” he had told Zoe.
“What’s going on is they are grasping. The big boys in charge know good and well we were the ones involved with the Miranda transmission. They know something. There is more and this girl is the new secret they are after.” Zoe implied.
“What in the world is with these kids being part of sum’ gorram conspiracy and how in the hell are they finding their way to my boat?” Mal rattled off, not really looking for or expecting an answer.
Jayne and Ellie climbed down into his bunk. It was chilly. The whole ship was. Space was quite cold but anything was better than being in an Alliance city on a Core planet. There really wasn’t any room for them to sit but on his bed, as his dresser and a reload bench took up so much of the available space.
“Gosh,” Ellie mused. “These are small. Is Zoe really going to have that baby here?”
Jayne nodded, “Yeah. Why not?”
“I don’t know,” Ellie shrugged. “Seems odd. Wouldn’t she want to have the baby somewhere with space and room and, well, not so cold?”
“You’d have ta ask her, Elena…”
“Please, Jayne. I’m begging you. Don’t call me that anymore.”
“Why? I mean Ellie is a cute nickname but I’ve always known you as Elena and..” he stammered a bit, “…and it’s pretty. Like you’ve always been.”
Ellie blushed a bit and replied, “Yeah, well. Thanks. But that innocence is long gone. Elena is a dangerous name to be carrying on your tongue, Jayne Cobb. I’ve grown up and I’m a danger to a lot of folks. I fear you and your crew as well.”
Jayne smiled at her. His hard features softened and he blushed a bit as well. “I have noticed that you growed up. And you are still as pretty as ever. And trust me, we are always in some sort of danger one way or another.”
“So I’ve been told.” Ellie was still blushing and Jayne was still smiling. “Zoe’s a great gal. I’m sorry about Wash.” The smiles on both their faces dissipated.
“Yeah, I am too,” Jayne said. “He and I would always rib each other and it seemed that we didn’t like each other, but I did like him. He was smart and funny, a good man to Zoe and always took care of Mal and the rest of us. I’m glad Zoe was pregnant before he passed. She was talkin’ baby talk after we helped a group of gals that were protectin’ one of their own who was giving birth to a boy that the sperm donor wanted to take for his own.”
Ellie reached over and grabbed Jayne’s hand. This was the Jayne she knew and remembered.
“At any rate, to answer your question,” Jayne started back up, “Zoe was born and raised on a ship herself, so I’m not thinkin’ it’s such a big deal to her to give birth on Serenity.”
“Oh,” Ellie giggled. “Okay, that’s – well, different.”
They were both smiling again and Jayne slipped his fingers through hers. He was taking in different cues from the environment around him – they way she smelled (he vaguely remembered it but it had changed, obviously since she was now a woman), the way she talked and moved, and now the way her skin felt. He could tell her mood by her manner, by her body language. She was uncomfortable and afraid. He could tell she’d been alone for some time, doing only God knows what, because she was so withdrawn. She would briefly look up at him and make eye contact but then would look down and away. He could only catch a glimpse of those green eyes of hers, which now seemed ancient and mysterious. He wanted to protect her instantly. Part of him remembered that little girl that struggled so hard to be normal, to be ‘sane’ and he had helped her then, and he wanted to help her now.
Naturally, having been taught by Jayne all those years ago, she was doing the same. She could smell his sweat and his breath all at once. She could smell the gun oil on the guns he must’ve had mounted on the wall by the bed, even though there was a blanket hanging, hiding them. She could smell gun powder and a stone for sharpening knives. She drifted from one scent to another as she simultaneously watched how he moved, how his mouth formed words as he spoke. She watched how his muscles moved in his neck and arms as he shifted positions on the bed. She was occasionally looking up at him to see his eyes but found herself suddenly shy every time they made eye contact. He had eyes as blue as the deepest blue sky and he could burn you down with them if he wanted to. Right now, she couldn’t stand the idea that he might be able to find her secrets out – why, what would he think of her then? All these years have passed and she found herself wanting him to remember her the way she was when she was on Harvest, but also wanted him to see her as a woman too. A science experiment gone wrong can’t be seen as a woman, now can she? What kind of life would that be for him?
“Elena, Ellie… whatever,” Jayne started.
He reached to her with his free hand and slid a finger under her chin, pulling her face into his gaze. As soon as they made eye contact, she tried to look away again but he slid his hand to her cheek, not allowing her to turn away.
“Please don’t turn away from me again.”
Ellie reluctantly made eye contact with him again, but didn’t look away. It made her extremely nervous and she shuddered. Jayne ran his hand from her cheek to her hair and down her neck to her shoulder, with his other hand, still grasping hers. She was trying to not start crying.
“What happened to you?” Jayne asked.
Ellie shook her head and confessed, “I want to tell you but then I don’t want to. I’m afraid of what you will think.”
“Nonsense! Please all the sin I’ve committed in this ‘verse there is nothing that you can say that would scare me.”
Ellie nodded and started to cry. Jayne let go of her hand only to wrap his arms around her and pull her close to him. She buried her face in his chest, with his scent comforting her. He was strong and, at this point, was still willing to protect her. She could feel every strand and sinew of muscle and tendon tighten and move as he held her tight. She could feel and hear his heart beating, just a pace faster than normal. She heard air entering and leaving him as his chest rose and fell with each breath. She could feel something greater than just a person embracing her. Something more ancient, something more… well just more, like his very soul. Once again, he put a finger under her chin and brought her face up to his. She shuddered again but this time with a pulse of ecstasy as she felt his warm breath on her face. He leaned in closer to her face and just as their lips started to meet, there was a pounding on the door that startled them both.
“Get up here!” Mal demanded.
Ellie looked down and backed away from Jayne, wiping the tears from her cheeks. Jayne looked in the direction of his door and rolled his eyes.
“What timing,” he grumbled. “Yeah, on our way up, Mal!” He turned to Ellie who was trying to compose herself. “You’re safe with me, okay? Nothing you say, will turn me away from you.” She nodded to him and they headed up.
Everyone was gathering around the table again and Mal handed Ellie the bulletin. “Zoe here tells me she’s already told you our role in the Miranda transmission so I know that you know the truth about us. Now we need to know the truth about you. Are you as dangerous as they say you are? Because if so, we’ve dealt with one loose cannon kid before, I think we can handle another.”
A bit shocked at Mal’s sudden turn in demeanor from appearing to be upset to joking she watched as he winked at River and her and Simon laughed out loud.
“Seriously, though,” Mal said with a more serious, but not angry tone. “We gotta know what we are up against. What’s your story, Ellie?
Zoe had sat in Jayne’s usual seat, allowing for Jayne and Ellie to sit where she and Wash always had. Something about her telling Ellie that Wash was her hero and then Ellie saying the same about Jayne, however disturbing that was, still inspired her to remember to love, not just Wash and their baby, but her crew, her family, as well. This included Jayne and now Ellie as well. Everyone sat down to hear her story.
“Doctor,” Ellie started. “Earlier you asked about my cooking and said it reminded you of Osiris.” He nodded as she continued, “Well, I mentioned that my parents were from Osiris. I am from Osiris. I have a younger sister as well. We moved…” she struggled for the words that the intently listening crew knew was coming next. “We moved to Miranda.” She began to get choked up again and Jayne started rubbing her back. Inara reached over to her and grabbed her hand, squeezing to let her know it was okay. She took a couple of deep breaths and proceeded.
“We moved to Miranda and at first, things were grand. It was a fantastic new place to be. Cities were built in no time flat, there was no shortage of settlers to this new beacon of civilization. My dad worked for Blue Sun of course, in one of their labs. He was George Mae and my mom, Gayle, kept my sister and me at home. Fiona is my little sister. I just found out that she is actually living on Londonium now. I was hitchhiking from planet to planet trying to get out of the Core when I bumped into Jayne.”
“What happened to your family?” Kaylee asked.
“Well, one day, Dad didn’t come home from work. Mom suddenly didn’t seem to care.”
“They laid down,” River interrupted.
“Yes, pretty much. I assume Dad never left his desk at work, because I haven’t seen him since the last day he left our home for work. Mom, pretty much laid down that same day, on the couch. For the next two days, she would get up to feed us but it was harder and harder for me to get her to do anything. After a week, food was running out and mom was pretty much not caring.”
Ellie was now uncomfortable and let go of Inara’s hand and left Jayne’s side and started to pace back and forth. “I was tired, too, but for some reason, I was able to carry on. I didn’t know what had happened truly to them until I saw that first transmission y’all sent about Miranda.” She started to cry but kept her composure. “All these years, I knew something wasn’t right but I thought…” she stopped to let out a cry. Then she rubbed her eyes and continued. “I thought they didn’t care about us anymore.” She took another moment to regain herself and sat back down, Jayne instantly grabbing her hand, his way of letting her know he was still there for her.
“Anyway,” she sighed. “One day Mom wouldn’t get up so I decided it was time to get food. There was a problem though. While my mom laid on the couch, dying slowly and not caring, my little sister, who was now ten years old, had become wicked aggressive.” The tension in the room changed. Everyone was suddenly sitting up straight and staring straight at her. “Fiona was trying hard to be a good girl, but she was incredibly violent and equally as strong. She was scratching herself until she bled and would bite chunks of skin off of me until I put a… a cage door of sorts, on her room. The day I was leaving, Fiona didn’t want to be left behind. She promised to not hurt me again, so I removed the make-shift cage door, dressed her up in her birthday dress she never got the chance to wear, did her hair and we left home.”
Ellie shifted herself in the seat, but Jayne never let go of her hand. “We saw what Miranda had become. It was empty and while out, we found a Research and Rescue ship in the Hippodrome. But there was no one there. No one alive. No one – intact. Fiona started to go wildly at the sight of the massacre so we got on the ship, I strapped her down, radioed for help and the Alliance remotely piloted, or something, so that we’d be safe. I was exhausted and laid down to sleep.” She looked at River, “I had laid down, in the end.”
No one talked or moved. Everyone hanging on Ellie’s every word. Inara and Kaylee and Zoe, as women tend to do sometimes, were tearful. Mal and Simon actually looked angry, but not at Ellie. At Blue Sun, at the Alliance, for it seemed their offenses against humanity knew no end. And River, well, River had these big open brown eyes. She didn’t know River’s story but she could feel the empathy and compassion from across the table. It was clear to Ellie that River had been a victim of the Alliance as well. And Jayne, Jayne just kept holding her hand, watching, waiting for the next part of the story.
“At some point before the boat had docked, apparently Fiona had broken loose of the straps and attacked me. She let go of Jayne’s hand and took off the sweater she had put on that she had gotten from Kaylee, and revealed a tangled mess of scars on her arms. Half the crew gasped, but Jayne didn’t. He had seen the scars long ago, though she never told him how she got them. “My little sister was trying to eat me alive. When they found us, I should have been dead. The PAX messed with my metabolism and it actually saved me from the blood loss. I was medicated to the point of not falling asleep all the time and once I started eating, I was sent to Harvest where I grew up from there.”
“What about your sister?” Simon asked.
“I didn’t know. They never told me, in fact, it was like they didn’t want to know I existed. When I saw the Miranda transmission, all those memories flooded back and I had to know. I managed to get to Londonium and found the doctor that treated me, Dr. On Jiang.”
“Yes,” Simon said. “I remember him, vaguely. Well know, very intelligent, very gentle.”
Ellie nodded, “Yes, and he had apparently cured my sister.”
“Cured?!?” the crew asked simultaneously.
“It would seem so. She’s apparently been living with Dr. Jiang all this time. She is planning a huge birthday bash for her upcoming 23rd birthday.”
“Did you talk to her?” Inara asked.
“No,” Ellie said flatly, shaking her head. “I don’t want to risk putting her off. If she’s on a medication regimen like I was, I don’t want to do anything that might mess her up.”
“So,” Mal finally said after a moment of silence. “I wonder what the Alliance wants with you.”
She shrugged. “I’m not sure. Maybe they figure that Fiona and I are the only two survivors of Miranda. If Fiona is being kept a close eye on, then they can control her, I guess. Me on the other hand, well,” she shrugged again. “Here I am.”