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=> years (the i know who i want to take me home remix)
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Mal figures maybe it ain't his place to speculate. A man's family is his own business, and the moonshine they're drinkin's like as not to make Jayne tetchy, eager to fight. But Mal also knows it took his own mama dyin' for him to realize what she meant to him, and there ain't a lick of sense in Jayne havin' to live that lesson, too.

"Comin' up on Paquin... ain't that where your folks're?"

"Ma an' th'girls live out there, yeah."

"Wouldn't be too far outta the way if you wanted to visit." Mal takes another swig of the brew, waits for the outburst that follows. Instead, he's met with silence. "...Jayne?"

"Vera's named for a girl."

Jayne spits it out, soundin' angry 'bout what oughta be a simple fact. Even so, Mal ain't sure where that came from or what it's got to do with anything, but he don't feel the need to dignify that with a response other than the look he finds he gives Jayne far too often, the one sayin' "your mama must'a' dropped you on your head more'n you know."

"No, I mean a real girl. Girl I knew. First girl I ever had, y'know? A real firecracker."

Well, hell. Mal knows Jayne ain't exactly sly. Mal ain't exactly sly himself, neither. Don't mean he needs it thrown in his face. Especially not when he's got no clue as to where this discussion, as it were, may be leadin'. Even so, the question slips out 'fore he can stop it. "You love 'er?"

"Near as I can reckon. An', y'know, Ma'd be nice enough when Vera came around, but when she was gone Ma'd sniff around the house, whinin' 'bout how now I was gonna get a wife and leave her, my poor dear mother, and she'd be alone in supportin' and takin' care of Piper 'n' Suzie. But Vera's daddy was a pilot, and the God-and-Alliance-forsaken rock weren't greatest of bases. Weren't much other work, neither, so they up and moved central. And it wasn't more'n a month after Vera and her family left that Ma started complainin' 'bout how he's spendin' too much time with those boys, shouldn't he be thinkin' 'bout findin' a nice girl and settlin' down?" Jayne takes a swig. "Just like a woman, never knowing what she wants. And, y'know, the girls think what she thinks. Not like I don't love 'em. Just works better with plenty o'light-years 'tween me an' them."

"You sure 'bout that?"

And there's the look Mal's been sure he was gonna get. Jayne's glarin' at him, mouth a tight line.

"All I'm sayin' is-- I didn't visit my folks near 'nough when I could, and now there ain't a ship in the 'verse can take me where they are."

Jayne takes a swig of brew, slumps. Sighs. "Yeah." His voice is gruff. "Yeah, all right. I'll send 'em a wave."

And that's that.

Mal's got his worries, 'course. Crew this big, there's got to be. Mal knows Jayne don't like the good doctor much. It's understandable. An' then there's Mal's own conflicts with the Shepherd 'bout God an' suchlike, and River's refusal to keep her crazy to a minimum-- and with Inara's, er, vocation, they're lucky that even on a rock like Paquin some folks've got coin, so she won't be 'round-- things have the potential to be interesting, to say the least.

But then, they always do. Mal lives for trouble. And what Jayne don't understand is that not ever tryin' is the biggest trouble of all.

--

Two days later, Mal stands next to Jayne behind the pilot's chair as Wash brings her down. Jayne's vibrating, harder 'n' harder as they get closer 'n' closer to the ground, Serenity creating wind that kicks up dust and the flowered skirts fo the stout, ruddy-cheeked woman who's come out in front of the house.

"That your ma, Jayne?" Wash asks, cheerfully oblivious to the tension Jayne radiates. Mal rests his hand on the small of Jayne's back.

By the time they get down to the bay, Jayne's ma's at the end of the ramp. When she spots Jayne, she cries out, rushing up the ramp to give him a fierce hug that sets an ache in Mal's chest. The look on Jayne's face don't help; he's peaceful in a way Mal ain't never seen and it sets him to wonderin' why Jayne was so skittish 'bout settin' down here in the first place.

They break apart and Jayne guides his ma down the ramp. The rest of the crew eases down behind them, inquisitive. "Ma, these're Serenity's first mate and pilot, Zoe and Hoban Washburne--"

"Call me Wash," Wash interrupts. "Please. I'm begging you." Zoe thwacks him on he back of the head.

"This is Shepherd Derrial Book, Doctor Simon Tam and his sister River, our mechanic, Kaylee Frye, an' our captain, Malcolm Reynolds. Guys, this is my ma, Mrs. Elinor Cobb."

"It's a real pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Cobb." Mal steps forward to shake her hand.

"Oh, please, call me Ella." She pauses, eyes twinkling. "I'm begging you."

--

"So what is it that y'all do, Captain Reynolds?"

Mal reads the innocence in Ella's question, but he also feels the way Jayne, sittin' next to him at the long wooden table, seizes up tight like a Reaver ship just showed up on Serenity's radar. Mal just smiles, easy. "Please, Ella, call me Mal."

"Well then, Mal, what is it that y'all do?"

"We do some odd jobs, transport mostly. Jayne here's great for helpin' me carry the heavy things, and Serenity's a great ship for transport. The whole Firefly class is, really. Lots of extra room. I can take you on a tour later, if you'd like."

"Can I come?" Piper, fifteen, with her momma's curls and the same brown eyes as Jayne, pipes up.

Ella turns to her-- ready to scold for impoliteness, no doubt-- but Mal's already smiling. "Won't be a problem, so long as your mama don't mind. Maybe in return, you could give us a tour of the farm? Been a long time since I spent any considerable time dirtside, and I could say the same for the rest of the crew. We'd love a little remembrance of what life is like." Ella beams. Mal feels Jayne, still by his side, relax incrementally throughout the night, as the conversation moves to farming, life dirtside, the family things Mal knows they'd both forgotten.

--

With her head tilted back in awe, starin' up at Serenity's interior, Piper's brown curls fall near the whole way down her back. She spins around once, slow, as her ma and younger sister cautiously make their way to the stairs, where Jayne's already up on the landing. She catches Mal's eye as he passes and says, "I'm gonna kill my brother. This ship is incredible, and he's never said more'n a word."

Mal can't stop his grin. "You do that... but wait 'til you see the engine room. She's a beauty." Piper smiles back. "Actually," Mal says. "It'll prob'ly take us a little while to get up through there, but you can head on back if you want."

Piper's eyes widen. "Thank you, Mal!"

Mal just nods. As Piper passes Jayne, near running, she thwaps his head. "I'll get you!" he hollers, then looks guiltily at his ma 'n' Suzie. Suzie's giggling at the trouble she thinks Jayne's sure to get in, but Ella just smiles.

--

"Jayne?" Mal calls, wipin' the sweat from his brow as he walks back into the house.

"Oh, Mal," Ella says, meetin' him in the front room. "Thank you so much for choppin' that wood. It's just me 'n' the girls here, now that Matty's left too, and now we're set for winter. I really can't thank you enough."

"It was my pleasure, really."

"Wish I could say the same for that boy of mine. He went up to the creek with the girls 'n' the rest of your crew. You just go out the front door, turn right, walk straight until you hit the oak tree, and it's down the hill to your left. Jayne spent quite a bit of his childhood down there, an' now his sisters are doin' the same. I told 'em I'd send you up when you got done."

"Thank you kindly, ma'am."

"Ella," she reprimands gently.

"Thank you, Ella."

That's the nice thing about a rock like this, Mal thinks as he hikes across the prairie. Lotsa open spaces. Can feel just as free as the black, in its own way.

The happy noises reach his ears as he approaches the hill, girls' voices chanting over the babbling of the creek. And Mal knows that stayin' only a night an' a day was part of what got Jayne to agree to the visit in the first place, but he's a fay-fay duh pee-yen if the sight that greets him as he clears the ridge don't make him wish they could stay longer. Suzie looks to be singin' as she heaps garlands of flowers over Jayne, Book, Simon, Zoe 'n' Wash, who're all sittin' by the creek. River, Kaylee, and Piper're-- ain't no other word for it but frolickin', half-running, half-dancing through the meadow.

"Lookin' mighty pretty, Jayne!" he calls as he nears. Jayne scowls back, but it's half-hearted. He's havin' too much fun.

"Hey, Cap'n!" Kaylee calls. He waves back, and she goes back to her games.

Mal sits with the others, listenin' to Wash talk about... somethin'. Star this planet calls sun is big an' warm, shinin' down on him. The field smells sweet and earthy, nothin' like the metal tang of his ship and sometimes forgotten out in the black. But he's got it here now, and the warmth of Jayne and the rest of the crew all 'round him besides.

--

Cryin' women ain't really Mal's forte, an' they definitely ain't Jayne's, so Mal figures it's enough that he ain't runnin' and hidin' since there's a horde of 'em once they start their goodbyes. Kaylee's sobbin' openly but grinning, too, and Mal hears her thankin' Ella "for those great stories about Jayne as a young'un." Piper 'n' Suzie are cryin' too, clingin' to whoever's nearest. Ella, for her part, don't make no production of it, tears rollin' down her face in sheets as she hugs everyone, even a quiet and skittish-lookin' River, 'fore movin' on to him an' Jayne.

She hugs Jayne first, swayin' with him side-to-side. Mal catches snatches of her mutterin'. "My boy, my baby boy... mind your manners, now... make sure you've got clean socks..." a litany of motherly orders that sound like it's Jayne's first time leavin' home for the black rather'n the end of his first visit in nearly three years. Even Jayne's voice goes gruff as he replies.

She lets Jayne go and pulls Mal into a bear hug of equal fierceness. He's seen enough of Ella that the strength of it don't surprise him, but he does miss his own ma. She pulls his ear down to her mouth and says, "You take care of my baby, y'hear?"

"As much as he'll let himself be taken care of, ma'am."

Ella nods once, decisively. "Well then, y'all'd best get goin'. But don't be strangers."

"Oh, we won't."

Ella herds Piper an' Suzie down the ramp, and they stand wavin' and bein' waved at, callin' goodbyes and bein' called to, 'til the hatch raises. And then Serenity's off into the black where she belongs.
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