Type of Fic: Firefly
Title: None, yet
Pairings/Characters: genfic; Jayne, Kaylee, Zoe, Simon, Mal, Book
Summary: A stray dog follows Jayne back to Serenity, but before they get there, a group of thugs tries to mug Jayne. The dog defends him and gets shot.
Warnings: (slash, violence, graphic sex, etc.) Violence. The dog dies.
Word count: Nearly 2800
Author's Notes: I think the ending to this is kind of weak; it goes out with a whimper instead of a bang. Any suggestions will be gratefully considered.
The scruffy gray dog looked up at Jayne through tangled bangs and wagged its tattered tail, cocking its head, which came up to about his knee. One ear stood up and flopped over at the tip, and the other was laid flat against its head. It bared its teeth in a grin, and, in the lamplight of the twilight street, Jayne saw that one of its upper canines was missing.
"Just 'cause I tossed you a tidbit from my table don't mean I want you followin' me back to the gorram ship. Now, git!" He stomped his foot at it, but it just sat down and tilted its head the other way. Swearing in Chinese, he spun on his heel and marched away through the marketplace.
Glancing down a few moments later, he saw the dog prancing after him, tail still a-waggin'. Maybe if he ignored it, it would go away. An alleyway offered him a shortcut back to Serenity, and he ducked into it, the dog at his heels...and suddenly it wasn't anymore. It stopped, backed up a pace, and growled as he went on. "What's your prob--oh, go se."
Three men stepped out of the shadows, two in front of him and one behind, between Jayne and the dog. "Give us your cash," the one on his right said.
He'd cheated hard at Mah Jongg to win that money, and weren't no way these he chusheng zajiao de zanghuo were gonna take it from him without a fight. Hell, there was only three of 'em, and the morons didn't even have any weapons out.
As they closed in on him, he whipped his elbow into the face of the man on his left, with a follow-through that connected hard into the ribcage of the fellow behind him, even as the little gray mutt surprised him by sinking its teeth into the guy's calf. Jayne hammered his fist into the man's chin, putting him down and out, then spun, reaching for his knife, to confront the one who'd been on his right--
To find a pistol in his face.
This day just kept gettin' better and better. "Your money," the man growled.
Jayne moved his hand away from his knife. His gaze flicked down to the dog, which his adversary seemed to have forgotten. He didn't forget for long. Jayne jerked away from the gun as the dog dove for the man's left thigh, growling, and its fangs nailed him hard, just above the knee. Jayne had time for a quick prayer of thanks that he'd seen it coming and moved; the gun went off, and the shot would have taken the top of his head off. As it was, he felt the bullet part his hair.
The dog snarled, worrying at the leg, shaking its head back and forth. The man brought the gun down, and it boomed again, sending a bullet through the pup's body and spanging off the concrete of the alley. The dog released its grip and fell to the ground with a yelp, just as Jayne buried his knife to the hilt in the man's chest. The gun went off a third time.
With a surprised and bloody cough, the guy fell to the ground, eyes wide in a stare that became fixed after a moment. The other two men took one look at the enraged mercenary and abandoned their friend. Jayne sheathed his knife and squatted down next to the whimpering dog, which, he now noticed, was female.
She'd defended him.
He weren't gonna turn his back on that. He scooped her up, cradling her on her back. Her head darted towards his hand, and he had a microsecond to wonder if she was going to bite him, but her tongue came out and licked him on the thumb. And her damn tail wagged between her back legs.
The shots would probably attract unwanted attention from the law. Jayne strode through the alley without looking back, arriving at Serenity a few minutes later. He hollered for Simon and headed for the infirmary with single-minded determination. Kaylee'd been in the cargo hold, and she scurried behind him, peppering questions that he didn't pay no attention to.
He needed to get to the Doc.
Simon was puttering around organizing his medical supplies, but he came to shocked attention when Jayne burst into his infirmary, covered in blood and carrying what appeared to be a dust mop with legs, but which proved to be a dog. "Don't--" he started. He was too late; Jayne set the dog down on the table.
"There's a dog. In my infirmary. And it's...really, really filthy." Something in Jayne's expression made him soften his tone. "I'm not a vet, Jayne. I wouldn't even know where to start."
Jayne crossed his arms. "You can start with the gorram bullet hole in her side."
"Jayne!" Kaylee cried. "You shot her?"
He gave her a wounded look. "Why would I shoot a dog that hadn't done nothin' to me...and then bring it here for Simon to fix?"
"I don't pretend to know how your brain works." Her gaze slid away from his face and stopped on his calf, and she gasped. "You're bleedin' yourownself!"
"Am I?" Yes, he was. He shrugged. "Last shot musta nicked me. Simon. The pup."
The dog, which was one of the ugliest creatures Simon had ever seen, was panting rapidly, with little whines on the exhale. Simon put his face in his hand briefly, sighed, and decided that the sooner her treated the dog, the sooner the problem would go away. He gloved up and began examining her. She flinched when he touched her, and he snapped, "Jayne, hold her head. I'd rather not get bitten, if it's all the same to you."
Once her head was secure, Simon lifted her lip and pressed her gum, checking her color. Not good; she was shocky. "Kaylee, scissors, please, and plug in my surgical razor." She scrambled to grab those, and he shaved a patch off the dog's foreleg and started an IV. "Kaylee, I need my handheld medical lexicon from my bunk."
"Right on top of the left hand drawer under the bed."
Kaylee darted out of the room, and Simon gave Jayne a look. "I've never done surgery on a dog. I can't promise anything."
"Jus' do your best," Jayne answered gruffly as Kaylee came back, clutching the lexicon.
Fortunately, it was not only comprehensive, but carried its own connection to the Cortex. He easily found out what a dog's vital signs were supposed to be, and adjusted the monitors he hooked up to her accordingly. The anatomy, he noted, wasn't that much different from a human's, albeit on a much smaller scale. He gave her a tiny dose of general anesthetic through the I.V.; after it took effect, he slid a baby-sized endotracheal tube down her throat, listening at the opening to make sure it wound up in her lungs instead of her stomach, then hooked up the gas anesthesia.
The bullet had entered the dog's left side, just above where the ribs ended, and exited at her right hip, ripping diagonally through her body. Masked and gloved, he prepped her for surgery by shaving off most of her hair, then scrubbing the skin with alternate wipes of alcohol and betadine. Her vitals, to his untutored eye, looked awful. He gripped his scalpel, took a deep breath, and started an incision.
Kaylee inhaled sharply next to him. A glance showed him that she'd turned an interesting shade of green. "Kaylee, if you're going to faint, do it out in the hall." She nodded in quick jerks and fled. Simon turned to Jayne. "You going to be okay?"
"Seen plenty of blood in my time. You just tell me what you need."
"Scrub up, then you can help." He eyed his patient. "She's none too clean, but there's no reason we shouldn't be."
He continued the incision, and what he found was fairly horrifying. The bullet had shattered two ribs, driving shards of bone into her lung and perforating her diaphragm. Mushroomed from the impact with her ribs, it had then continued through the top of her liver, bisecting her stomach and plowing through her intestines, before exiting her other side and leaving a furrow across the top of her hipbone.
It was like doing surgery on a very tiny child--he'd never seen this much damage on so small a body. Jayne looked over his shoulder. "That ain't good."
"That is far from good. That's about as not-good as it gets--I'm amazed she's still breathing. First things first. Hand me the tweezers so I can get the splinters of bone out of her lung."
"Simon's doing what?" Zoe said, her eyebrows crawling up her forehead.
"Surgery on a stray dog Jayne brung in," Kaylee answered.
"Jayne. Our Jayne? Brought a dog in?" Zoe tried to wrap her head around the concept and failed. "Why?"
"He didn't say. She's been shot, though, and I get the feelin' he feels responsible, somehow." Kaylee shrugged. "He did say that he wasn't the one what shot her."
"Cap'n know about this?" Mal wouldn't be happy about Simon and Jayne wasting resources on a dog. Might be best if she headed down to the med bay and nipped this in the bud before it got too serious.
"I ain't said nothin' to him, and, far as I know, he ain't been down there to see."
"Good. You see him, stall him. I'll try and stop those chuckleheads before he finds out."
Kaylee's face fell. "She's hurt really bad..."
"Kaylee, honey..." Zoe tried to be compassionate. "We're on the raggedy edge as it is. We can't go usin' medicine that's damn hard to come by on some dog. Dong ma?"
"Yeah." She looked like she was about to cry. "Don't mean I like it, though."
"I don't like it either."
But it had to be done, Zoe told herself firmly as she headed toward the infirmary. Jayne might be able to bully Simon into doing what he wanted, but she was made of sterner stuff. She walked into the room in time to hear machines beeping alarms and Jayne swearing. Simon was the picture of cold efficiency as he injected something into an I.V. in the dog's leg and readied one paddle of a cardiac infuser. "Squeeze that," he told Jayne, indicating a breathing bag attached to a tube in the dog's mouth. "Slowly. In, out, in out."
He shocked the dog, but the alarms kept on. Once more, no change. Zoe was enthralled by the medical drama playing itself out in front of her, and she kept quiet. He tried a third time, and a fourth.
"Come on, come on," Simon muttered. He shocked the pup again, with the same lack of result, and began to try a sixth time.
Jayne's hand on his arm stopped him. "You done your best, Doc. She's gone."
Simon's shoulders slumped, and his head dropped. "I'm sorry."
"She was bad off. You tried." Jayne started taking the various tubes and things off the dog. He wrapped it in the sheet it was laid out on and scooped it up. "I 'preciate it." Pushing past Zoe with a nod in her direction, he left the room.
"What was that all about?" Zoe asked Simon.
Simon shook his head as he began disinfecting and putting supplies away. "I still don't know."
An hour or so later, Shepherd Book found Jayne squatting on his heels out in the moonlit desert, in front of a pile of stones marked by a makeshift cross fashioned by two sticks tied together with a bootlace. "Jayne."
"Yeah. A good 'un." Jayne rose to his feet, and Book could now see where the bootlace had come from.
They walked back in the direction of the ship. Book noticed that Jayne was limping, but decided to keep his own counsel on that subject. "That's as good an epitaph as any, I suppose."
"You'da said it prettier." Jayne gave him a sideways glance. "Mal pissed at me?"
Book snorted out a little laugh. "He'll get over it." He gave Jayne a sideways look of his own. "I'm not as sanguine about you, however. That little incident on Higgin's Moon wasn't too long ago. This dog take a bullet meant for you too?"
"Naw, it weren't like that." Jayne told him about tossing the dog a table scrap, how she followed him, and the fight in the alley. "Makes me wonder about the luck of those around me, for sure."
"A dog's loyalty is a fairly easy commodity to buy. You were probably the first person in a long time to show her a kindness."
"And it got her killed." Jayne kicked a rock. "Hell if I see the sense in that."
"Don't know where it's writ where life--or death, for that matter--has to make a lick of sense, to us. Sometimes we just have to have faith that it does in the great scheme of things." Book reached down and plucked an Indian Paintbrush from the ground. "It doesn't make sense that a flower blooms in the desert where no one can appreciate its beauty, but here one is. God has a plan for all things, Jayne."
"Even you, son." A fat moth flew out of the flower, hovered around for a few seconds, and fluttered away.
"Even with all the dumbass crap folk pull?"
"I don't believe in coincidence," Book said. "All things work together for good to those who love God. We might not be able to see it when it happens, but it's there."
"I suppose. Don't seem right that a innocent dog's gotta pay for it, though."
Book pondered. "There's a belief that animals cross over a Rainbow Bridge and await their masters on the other side. They offer us love, loyalty, and comfort, and I personally don't think that Heaven would be as heavenly without them."
"Don't reckon I'll see her where I'm goin', then." Jayne sent another rock skittering off into the night.
"Oh, you never know." Book clapped him on the shoulder as they walked up the cargo ramp into Serenity.
Mal stood by the door control. Book wondered if he was going to mention anything about the dog, but all he did was look at Jayne's leg and say, "Get that seen to by the doc. Got a job and need you as near a hundred percent as is possible."
After Jayne had gone, Mal asked Book, "You get anything out of him? I don't need my mercenary goin' all peculiar on me."
"He'll be all right," Book answered. "He's just had his sense of fairness violated a bit, and it knocked him back some."
Mal cocked an eyebrow. "The man whose philosophy is 'he who dies with the biggest gun wins' has a sense of fairness? We talkin' about the same Jayne?"
"We surely are. And twitting him about the dog will not help his state of mind," Book warned. "I gave him some things to think on--" Book raised his hand to forestall a question. "--and he's not going to be taking a vow of pacifism or join with the Brethren, so rest easy on that account."
"That would be a mite disastrous." Mal hit the button to shut the door, and they headed toward the kitchen.
"Shepherd Cobb. Can you imagine it?"
"Don't think he'd have any trouble getting folks' attention for his sermons with Vera at his side..."
Jayne sat in the crew lounge, cleaning and sharpening the knife he'd used in the alleyway. The smooth motion of the whetstone against the blade was comforting, as was the soft, familiar, metallic noise.
Everyone else had gone to bed, and he supposed he ought to as well. They had a caper to pull the next day, and his leg could use a rest, although Simon's painkillers had worked a treat. He stood up and headed for his bunk, wishing--
Weren't no sense in that neither, he told himself as he climbed down his ladder. What the hell was he gonna do with a dog, assuming Mal would even have let the thing stay on the boat? If what the Shepherd believed was true, she was in a better place anyhow.
Waiting for him. That was a laugh. He shucked off his clothes and pulled his blanket over himself. He thought about the pup's funny little face grinning at him, and the Bible verse Book had quoted. "All things work together for good."
Jayne reckoned that was probably true, as he drifted off to sleep.