"You're going to miss your ship," Caroline whispers in his ear before he rolls away.
He just laughs, brushes dried grass out of her hair. "Worth it," he says, and squeezes her through her skirt.
"Jayne!" She smacks his shoulder as he helps her off the ground. "What about your ma? She's right in the kitchen."
He grins at her. "You weren't so worried about the walls five minutes ago."
Caroline rolls her eyes, dusts leaves from her skirt. "Come on." She loops her arm around his. "Back to your goodbye party."
He grumbles as they walk around the house, but when he swings open the front door, the entire family cheers.
His littlest brother raises a mug, splashing ale over the floor, and Jayne grabs it. "Thanks, Matty." He drinks it over Matty's exclamation, swigging deeply before returning the mug.
"You're a real man now, Jayne," his father says, clapping him on the back, and carefully not looking at Caroline's blush. "Going off into the 'verse, supporting your family."
Jayne shrugs, uncomfortable. "It ain't nothing."
"Devil it ain't." His father clasps his shoulders, looks him in the eyes. "I'm proud of you, son."
"Course you are!" His mother sweeps out of the kitchen, pushes her husband aside so she can wrap Jayne in a tight hug. "We all are."
"Yeah, well." Jayne disentangles himself from his family's embrace, grabs his pack from by the door. "I'd best be getting to the docks, 'fore the ship leaves."
"You sure you don't want us to walk you there?" his father asks.
Jayne shakes his head. "No cause to trouble yourselves." He clears his throat. "I'll just..."
Matty punches him in the arm, tears in his eyes, and Jayne thwacks him on his forehead, then smiles.
He shakes hands with his other brothers, his cousins. He shakes his father's hand, swallows the lump in his throat when his father presses a few more credits into his palm.
He kisses his mother on the cheek, tells her not to cry, and then he kisses Caroline, a quick smack on the lips.
Then he walks out the door and shuts it behind him, breathes in the air as the universe opens up before him.
He makes it to the docks in time, but only just. One of the crew has him stow his pack in a corner of the communal bunk, then sets him to work, scrubbing out the latrines.
Jayne is sixteen years old.
He keeps in touch, sending messages and credits back home as often as possible. As much as he'd like, though, he's only able to visit every few years. To be honest, it's a mite easier not to talk about the jobs he's pulled if he ain't looking his mother in the eye.
He's not ashamed, not at all, because what he does needs doing, most of the time. If it weren't him, it'd be someone else. He just doesn't like seeing her nose wrinkle up the way it does.
There's usually things enough to chat about, though, and one time he comes home to visit, and his Great-Uncle Chet is having a funeral the next day. Accident at the factory; not common, but not surprising, either.
He has to borrow a coat from his father, and they're both surprised when it doesn't fit around his shoulders, quite.
At the service, he shuffles his feet under the pew. It's been a while since he's been in a church, and as a rule, he never sticks around for funerals.
But Chet taught him how to spit, and took him shooting every once in a while. Jayne's willing to pay his respects where they're due.
At the wake, Caroline sidles up to him, slips her hand into his.
"I've got a place of my own now," she murmurs to him.
He starts to leer, out of habit, but she smiles at him, surprises him.
He'd forgotten women could smile like that.
So he squeezes her hand. "That a fact?"
She nods, and tugs him away.
After the fighting, and the bargaining, Captain Reynolds leads him through the cargo hold and through the corridors of Serenity.
They halt in front of a ladder, and the captain kicks open the hatch. "Here's where you'll bunk."
Jayne squints. "Down there?"
"Standard for crew." He shrugs. "It ain't big, but it ain't crowded, either. And it's all your own."
"Well." Jayne kicks the hatch open further, tosses his pack down. "I suppose that'll do."
"Zoe's gone to dig up the cargo." The captain looks about. "Might take a while. Feel free to sit a spell, get yourself settled."
"Think I will." Jayne swings onto the ladder. "And hey!"
Captain Reynolds, already halfway down the corridor, stops.
"It's ten percent starting with this take." Jayne pauses. "Right?"
The captain stares him down for a second, then walks away.
He considers chasing him down, but it's a new ship. Might as well not make trouble today. Time enough for that later.
He slides down the ladder, looks around his quarters.
"Not bad," he says to himself. "Better than the last."
There isn't a blanket or sheets on the bunk, but he lies down on the mattress, folding his arms behind his head.
He stares up at the ceiling, and tries to figure out what to tell his mother.