Title: The Widening Gyre

Author: Sonya

Email: sonyajeb@swbell.net

Summary: Loyalty. Betrayal. Ariel.

Timeline: All of these are AU. This means they didn't happen. Think of it as an experiment in "what if" that branches off from a particular moment in Ariel (I'm sure those who've seen it can guess which one, lol!) and then goes in 5 completely different directions.

Spoilers: Ariel. MajorMajor spoilers for Ariel. If you don't know about the *BIG* event in Ariel, then please stop now. It's for your own good. I promise.

Rating: PG13

Characters: Mal, Jayne, River, Wash, Simon

Pairing: Simon/Jayne at one point (though it's only spoken of from someone else's POV, never "shown" at all). Wash/Zoe is there, too.

Disclaimer: Me no Joss. Me poor college student. *grunts* You no sue.

Author's Note: Five things that never happened. Basingstoke started it in the Smallville fandom, Kita continued it in the BtVS/Angel fandom with a Spike version, Jane St. Clair brought Firefly into the mix.... and the list just goes on and on. Here's my take. Title inspired by "The Second Coming" by Yeats. Idea came from the "loyalty" challenge at ff_friday, though I finished these too late to enter them. And this hasn't gone through a beta, so be sure to blame all mistakes on me.

Translations: gai si (damn)




I see 'em everywhere I look, even when they aren't there. Now don't that sound crazy? Next thing you know, I'll be babblin' about blue hands like the girl. And just thinkin' on that possibility's downright unsettlin', let me tell you.

It's been almost two months since it started - half a year on top of that since what happened on Ariel - and I still can't get myself accustomed to the sight of them together. Everyone else's adjusted to the oddness of it. Even little Kaylee, who had more reason than most to be upset, has started talkin' about how "cute" it is. Says that maybe Simon'll give Jayne a little bit of class and respectability. Don't quite have the heart to tell her how likely that is, though I have made a few pointed remarks about it bein' mighty cold in hell. She just ignores me and goes off to tinker with the engine or play jacks with River.

There's a part of me that wants to march straight up to Simon and tell him exactly why he shouldn't be givin' Jayne Cobb the time of day. Problem is, I'm fairly sure I know exactly which part of me it is, and it ain't the brain that a man should be makin' any kind of *real* decisions with.

If she knew what I was thinkin', Zoe would look me straight in the eye and tell me to get over it. She might put a "sir" at the end of that remark, but the message would be the same. And the trouble is, she'd be right. Because my reasons for tellin' Simon the truth don't have a thing to do with the "right thing" and bein' noble. No, but they do have quite a lot to do with the fact that I waited until it was too late - out of duty and responsibility as a captain and a bunch of other gai si reasons that don't mean a gorram thing during the dead of night when I'm alone in my bunk with only my hand for company - while Jayne didn't see no problem with rushin' in and stakin' a claim.

He ain't gonna turn on us again. I know that with about as much certainty as a person can know anything out here in the black. Tellin' Simon now would just be about me and what I want. It wouldn't have a thing to do with keeping the doc and his sister safe.

But that's not what stops me from sayin' something.

No, what stops me is the look in Simon's eyes lately. It's a look I ain't never seen from him, 'cept when River's havin' a really good day. He looks happy. An' I might be a mean old man, but I just don't have it in me to steal that look away from him just so I can make him mine.


Last Rites


My pa always told me that if a fella double crossed one too many men, eventually he'd get double-crossed back. The girl's mutterin' about Christmas bein' stolen away and her brother's actually tryin' ta *thank* me but all I can think of is that gorram it, my pa was right. Just like he's always been right.

I shoulda known.

Thinkin' on that reward money just got my head all kinds of screwed up, that's all. How's a man supposed to ignore that much money, huh? It just ain't right to ignore somethin' like that.

Though Mal'd probably say look where it got me. Snatched. And stuck here like a ruttin' idiot while the Feds discuss my fate.

There's the sound of footsteps down the hall and almost everyone in the room tenses up some. Would'a been hi-larious 'cept for the fact that I'm in cuffs.

River picks that very moment to start shriekin' up a storm and I wince. Gorram it, not only do I gotta get snatched but I gotta listen to her wailin' like a fuckin' banshee?

Two men step into the room then, closing the door to the hallway behind them with a soft click. They're wearing prissy suits and they got some freaky lookin' blue gloves on their hands. One 'a them's holding a folder stuffed full of papers and the like.

They step up to talk to the Feds, River still shriekin' all the while no matter what Simon says ta try an' shut her up, and then they look straight at me. An' the look they give me is enough to make a man's skin crawl.

It was that moment that I knew I was done for. Up until then, I sorta thought in the back of my mind that maybe I could figure a way outta this. Hell, I'd even try and get them kids out with me. Not like Mal'd let me back on board without 'em. But when those suits looked at me, all cold and calculatin', somethin' in me knew that this was the one I wasn't gonna walk away from.

There's a few whispered words and then they're tellin' me to get up, one of the Feds steppin' up behind me and placing his gun to my back to make sure I don't cause no trouble. I didn't fight none, I was feelin' sorta numb at this point. As they led me out the door, I heard the doc start demandin' to know where they was takin' me and part of me was glad that he didn't know what I'd done. At least there might be one person who was a little bit sad to see me go.

The door clicked shut behind me, solid like, and the sounds of River's screamin' get cut off so suddenly that it almost gives me a start. Then one of them blue handed fellas lifts up this weird ass lookin' silver wand and the last thing I find myself thinkin' of before the pain hits is that I hope that maybe Mal and the others will be able to find Simon and his crazy sister. Then there might be somebody left to remember Jayne Cobb with just a little bit of fondness. And that wouldn't really be so bad, now, would it?


Reverse Hindsight


The sky was bleak and it cried hot tears on the day he left. I didn't cry, though. I couldn't. I knew too much, knew the truth, knew what he did.

I also knew that he needed us. Like people need air to breathe, like the moon needs the sun to glow. He belonged here. He wouldn't fit anywhere else. Not anymore.

I wanted to stop him. To follow him, like the water follows the moon. I wanted to make them all understand.

I tried to tell Simon, but he wouldn't listen.

"Need air. Can't breathe without it. *Need* it. Hole in the boat, missing pieces, all the air gets sucked out. Eyes turn to jelly and the stars don't shine anymore."

Simon didn't understand. Never understands. Simple Simon, only thinks in the here and now, doesn't think in the soon to be.

But he'll understand. One day. And then it'll be too late.

Smoking gun. He looks better in red. But this blood isn't red. It's turned blue. Everything's turned blue.

I didn't cry now because I knew that the real tears would come later.


The Last to Know


On the day I learned that Jayne had sold out Simon and River on Ariel, Zoe sat in front of me, hands crossed over her chest, and looked for all the world like a stoic soldier facing the firing squad. She had her walls up, her masks in place. And that just made it harder to take.

He'd betrayed us. Not just the Tams, but all of us. At least that's how I saw it.

Mal'd known about it since the day it happened. Zoe probably had as well. After all, whatever Mal knew, Zoe eventually knew, too. Sooner rather than later most times.

And me? When did I know? Over two months after the fact, that's when. I was the last to know, as usual. Even Simon and River found out before me and had their own sort of reckoning with the merc. Though, truth be told, River probably knew before it even happened. She's odd that way.

And the worst of it was, if I hadn't figured it out on my own, I know that Zoe never would've told me. From the others, I could expect that. Mal never tells me anything 'cept when to land and when to take off, so being kept in the dark by him was nothing new. And it's not like the Tams and I are best friends or anything. Heck, they probably thought I already knew anyhow, what with being married to Zoe. And that's the part that eats me up inside. Because Zoe *didn't* tell me, just like she doesn't tell me lots of things.

I was in the middle of a pretty damn loud shouting match with her over this very fact when Jayne had the misfortune of stepping into the galley and landing smack dab in the middle of it. He looked pretty damn surprised when I threw a plate of protein bars at his head, followed by all manner of curses. If I hadn't been so mad that I was seeing red, I might've felt a pang of regret over the way his face crumpled like someone had just kicked his puppy.

But I didn't.

Things between us have never been quite the same since then. Zoe and I managed to patch things up, like we always do, but I don't think Jayne's ever forgotten that day. Which is good, because I sure as hell haven't forgotten it either.


Hippocratic Oath


I was up late, finishing up some filing in the infirmary on the new information I'd managed to get on River's condition, not to mention the extra medical supplies that needed to be stored. Mal had decided that we weren't going to sell them all off, seeing as it would be nice to have a fully stocked infirmary the next time somebody got shot in a job gone wrong. I wasn't about to protest.

There was a soft scuffling noise and I looked up in time to see Jayne stagger into the infirmary, a rather large lump forming on his forehead. A lump that I was sure hadn't been there a few hours ago. Come to think of it, I hadn't see the mercenary around at all for the past few hours. It really wasn't like him to be so quiet.

"Here, sit down, let me see to that," I told him, indicating that he should take a seat on the examining table. I grabbed some clean gauze and disinfectant, noting with clinical detachment that he had blood on his forehead as well.

"I hadn't realized the Alliance officers had hit you so hard," I murmured, stalling for time as my brain tried to puzzle out an influx of confusing data. He hadn't been hurt this badly before, I was sure of it. However, by the way he just sort of grunted and shrugged off my concern without bothering to contradict my statement, it was obvious that *he* wanted me to believe it was just injuries from our capture that I hadn't noticed before.

I had his head cleaned and bandaged up fairly quickly and then began cleaning up my supplies, my brain still playing catch up. He was halfway out the door, a muttered thanks thrown over his shoulder, before I put two and two together and got four. I may be slow sometimes, especially when compared to my sister, but I always figured things out eventually.

"It's fine," I replied absently, not really paying attention to what I was saying to him. All my thoughts were centered solely on the open drawer in front of me. In it lay a row of vials of different colors and sizes, each with its own label on it. I fingered them softly, almost reverently.

A doctor is trained to heal, but in order to know how to heal, one must invariably learn how to harm as well.

I pulled three separate vials out and set them on the counter, next to each other in a row. They looked so innocent, just medicine. Something made to cure. But mixed in the proper proportions, they became something else. Something deadly.

It didn't take long to prepare. Soon I had a single syringe ready, its contents somehow menacing in their seeming innocuousness. I carefully placed the syringe in the drawer next to the vials, ready for me, when I needed it.

Jayne Cobb wouldn't get the chance to turn my sister into the Alliance a second time. I would make sure of that.

A doctor is sworn to heal, and never to harm, that's true. But in this one case, I figured an exception could be made.