Okay, this was a stupid idea, Mal thought to himself as he stood there with his hands up in the air.
Before him stood Patience, with two of her men holding guns on Mal, Zoë and Jayne. The old woman was smiling as her hands played with a blue glass bottle that she was carrying as she walked closer to where Malcolm Reynolds stood.
“Mal, my boy, you just ain’t too bright. Coming back here after what you did last time.”
“You mean leaving you the cargo as I took the cashy money you owed us?” Mal asked. Okay so I can’t help it, I am a smartass, Mal thought.
“I am talk’n bout how you shot my horse!” Patience said. “That there horse was my favorite animal.”
“Well I do rightly apologize, but if you’ll recall you were using ‘em fer cover.” Mal said.
“I have been planning this fer months Malcolm Reynolds. Took a lot of money to get this here stuff, but I figure it’ll be worth it.” Patience said. With that she hefted the bottle she held in her hands and threw it directly at Mal.
Mal didn’t know what was in the bottle but he weren’t going to find out. Instead he threw himself sideways drawing his gun as he fell and firing. Zoë moved at that moment as well taking out the other man with a blow from the butt of her Mare’s Leg.
A hoarse scream behind him made him remember that Jayne had been just behind him when the bottle had been thrown. Patience was laughing and Mal glared at her before turning his attention behind him to Jayne.
What he saw surprised the hell out of him.
Jayne wasn’t standing behind him, or at least it weren’t the Jayne he knew. Standing over a pile of Jayne’s clothes and his precious Vera was a huge black horse with big dinner plate sized hooves and a long dark mane that fell over its eyes.
Zoë was covering Patience but she too had seen what that blue bottle had done to Jayne. Knowing that the bottle had been meant for Mal, she cocked her gun prepared to kill the old woman on Mal’s word.
“What the hell was in that?” Mal stood and marched over to where Patience was laughing.
“Ain’t bout to tell you Malcolm Reynold’s.” Patience said than spat into the dirt as Mal’s booted toe.
Mal’s eyes glared at the woman then he turned to Zoë, “Tie her up good.” He said then pointed to the lone scraggly tree that was doing its damndest to provide some shade to the parched ground.
Zoë nodded and grabbed the old woman to do her job. Mal was about to call Serenity when he noticed that Jayne’ equine head was nearly touching the ground and that the horse muscles were shaking.
“(Chinese curse)!” Mal shouted as he realized Jayne was going into equine shock. He ran over and grabbed Jayne’s equine head and tried to use his weight to keep Jayne from laying on the ground. “Jayne you stand up, if you can understand me, you need ta not lay down. Get up ya hundan, don’t you lay down on me! Zoë call Wash tell him to get his peegoo over here.”
Zoë did as he ordered telling her husband to get Serenity there fast.
Jayne was obviously trying to obey Mal, but his muscles quivered and he was near to just falling to his knees and laying down on his side. Mal reached down and took Jayne’ shirt that he had been wearing and used it to begin rubbing down Jayne’s legs and back. When Zoë was done tying the old woman up, she raced over to help using Jayne’s cargo pants to help rub.
Serenity landed not more than a few feet from where they were waiting. The ramp lowered and the doctor and Kaylee raced down the ramp heading toward them.
“What’s going on?” Simon asked unsure as to why they were rubbing down a horse using Jayne’s clothes. Inwardly he was praying that a naked Jayne did not suddenly make an appearance, he was pretty sure it would scar him for life.
“Patience had some kinda potion or something. She meant to get me with it, but it got Jayne here.” Mal said as he continued rubbing.
“Are you trying to tell me that this horse is Jayne?” Simon said. He was thinking about the time Mal told him Kaylee had died and wondering why the captain would pull another trick at this time.
“That’s exactly what he is saying.” Zoë said. Simon glanced at her and seeing the conviction in her eyes he knew that they were lying to him or trying to trick him.
“But, that’s impossible.” Simon said.
“Well ‘parently not.” Mal said. “Now are you going to set there jawing or are you going to help. He’s going into shock, probably from the change itself. Go get some towels and blankets.”
Simon nodded and ran back inside Serenity.
“Kaylee get some rope and bring it out here, then go make a stall if you can inside the cargo bay.” Mal ordered. Kaylee nodded and raced back inside.
The rubbing seemed to be working, Jayne wasn’t trying to lay down but his head was still bowed, nose nearly touching the dirt and his equine legs quivered.
“Is he in pain you think?” Zoë asked as she rubbed.
“I don’t know.” Mal answered quietly. That bottle had been meant for him, that Jayne had gotten it instead bothered Mal fiercely.
Simon returned first with the blankets followed closely by his sister, River, who was also loaded down with towels. The four of them used the towels to rub the merc turned horse down. Mal unfolded one of the blankets and laid it over the broad back. Kaylee came up and handed Mal some rope and then went back inside to move some cargo around with Wash and Book’s help.
Mal expertly twisted and tied the rope into a makeshift halter, which he carefully put around Jayne’s nose. Jayne flicked an ear at that, but docilely accepted the halter.
Mal lead Jayne up the ramp and into the cargo bay while Simon and River gathered up the towels, blankets, clothes and weapons and took them onboard. Zoë, knowing Mal would want to question her more, untied Patience from the tree and led her onto the ship. The old woman shouted at Zoë to let her go, but Zoë just pushed the old woman up the ramp and onto the ship.
Inside the ship, Kaylee, Wash and Book had done a good job of moving cargo crates around creating a makeshift stall under the catwalks. Mal lead Jayne to the stall. Jayne sighed heavily and rested his head on top of one of the cargo crates. The shakes had disappeared and Jayne no longer looked as if he were going to collapse. Once he was sure Jayne was alright for the moment, Mal turned his attention back to Patience.
“Where did you get that stuff?” Mal asked.
Patience only laughed and spat again.
“She got it from a witch. An old woman who lives on Beaumonde. Dark woman, old dark eyes, surrounded by cats.” River said.
Patience eyes widened as she looked at River with fear.
Mal grinned and looked River. “There an antidote?”
“She doesn’t have one, didn’t bother to buy it. Wanted you to replace the horse you shot. Laughed bout how she would use the spurs and the double bit, she figured you would be a mustang, wild and ready to fight.”
Mal shuddered at the thought of that old woman riding him while he fought a bit. He glanced over at Jayne who appeared to have fallen asleep. Jayne weren’t no mustang. It figures a big man like Jayne would turn into a draft horse of some kind.
“Friesian.” River said.
Mal looked back at River, “Does the witch have an antidote?”
“She doesn’t know. Doesn’t matter. Had the witch killed, couldn’t take the chance. Didn’t want to loose her new horse.” River continued.
“Wash set a course for Beaumonde. Can you find this witch’s house?” Mal asked River as Wash headed to the bridge.
“Yes.” River answered.
“Maybe the witch had a spellbook or something.” Mal said as he rubbed his face with his hand.
As Serenity began to climb into the sky, Mal looked over at Jayne. He immediately walked over to comn. “Wash how long would it take us to get to Beaumonde?”
“A few days at hard burn, longer if we don’t.” Wash answered.
“Its what I thought. There’s a settlement other side of Whitefall, land us there, we need to get some supplies before we head to Beaumonde.”
“Aye aye sir.” Wash joked.
The settlement was far enough away from where Patience ruled from her wooden throne that they didn’t have any trouble. Mal gave Zoë a list of what was needed. The first mate and Kaylee went into the settlement to get the required goods while Mal talked to Simon.
“I don’t know much about equines, but I can look up what I need on the cortex. I can take a blood sample and see if there is something there. I don’t know what else I can do.”
“Luckily, I do know horses. Raised round them, learned a lot from our hostler. Between the two of us, we can keep Jayne healthy till we find a cure.” Mal said.
“And if we don’t find a cure, what then?” Simon asked.
“Best cross that bridge when we come to it.” Mal said.
Kaylee and Zoë returned on the mule with the supplies. Mal met them in the cargo bay and helped to unload as did Book. The straw they bought was used to line the makeshift stall so that Jayne wasn’t standing on grating. Two feed buckets were set on top of the cargo crates that made up the stall. Bags of feed were set down in the cargo bay while Kaylee filled one of the buckets with water. Jayne had awakened when Zoë and Kaylee returned and drank greedily from the bucket.
Once everyone was onboard, the ramp was raised and the cargo bay doors closed. Wash broke atmo with his normal ease and set the course for Beaumonde.
Down in the cargo bay, Kaylee used the blowtorch to attach iron bars to the posts holding the catwalks up using them to replace the cargo containers to make the stall. Book and Mal helped her to make the stall and move the cargo crates back to their original positions. Jayne watched all of it from one corner of the cargo bay where Mal had taken him and poured a measured amount of grain and feed into the other bucket for Jayne to eat.
When they were done building the stall, Mal took Jayne back inside it leaving the buckets on the floor near Jayne’s hooves. The makeshift rope halter had been replaced with a real leather one, and a rope with a snap hook was attached to the ring at the bottom of the halter and the other end Mal tied loosely to one of the support poles that made up the new stall.
The rope gave Jayne enough head that he could drink or eat from the buckets, so he wasn’t too bothered by it. Jayne knew he should be bothered by the halter, the rope, and the stall but he knew he was a horse now and he couldn’t go down into his bunk and sleep on his bed. He also couldn’t get up any of the catwalks nor did he think he could fit through any of the doors. Jayne decided he would just have to be patient and hope they found a cure at Beaumonde.
Jayne looked over at the other person tied in the cargo bay. Patience was tied and gagged because she had continued yelling at Mal. If Mal and Zoë hadn’t taken down those men, Patience might have been able to take Jayne in the shocked state he had been in. The idea of that old woman on his back made his shudder.
The sound of boots on the cats had Jayne turning his head so he could see River coming down the steps into the cargo bay.
And what do you want, Jayne thought to himself.
“I want nothing, just here to keep you company.” River said to Jayne. Jayne was startled for a moment, then remembered that River was a reader. Apparently she could read a horse’s thoughts as well, Jayne thought.
“Not a horse. Not a girl either, even with a girl’s name.” River said smiling. Jayne stomped a big hoof indignantly.
“Captain Daddy doesn’t know how to react.” River continued. “Your Jayne, but you look like a horse. He knows horses, knows how to read them to train them to ride them. Has to stop himself from doing more than he should.”
Jayne looked at her, Doing what he thought at her.
“Petting, stroking your neck, nose, patting your back and leaning his weight into you. Its what he knows.”
Jayne shook his head his mane flying all around him. He didn’t think he would like it if Mal did those things, but then a part of him thought he would like it. That’s just the horse thinking those things, Jayne thought trying to rationlize it.
River only smiled secretly at him.
A few hours later they were in space heading toward Beaumonde when suddenly the ship shook violently tossing people to the floor. In the cargo hold Jayne was thrown against the sides of the makeshift stall.
Kaylee went immediatly into the engine room, while Wash went straight to the bridge. Within minutes they were yelling in techno speak across the comn while Mal stood impatiently behind Wash's chair for an explanation.
"Converter blew, knocked out some power couplings. We have to land." Wash told them after his and Kaylee' s conversation was done.
"Can she fix it?" Mal asked.
"Only if we surive the landing." Wash answered as he began throwing switches and calculating speed, distance and fuel comsumption. "Closest place is Harvest."
"Ifn we do survive, be sure and inform me." Mal said as he left the bridge in Wash's capable hands and headed down into the cargo bay.
He checked on Jayne, told the big merc what was happening. Jayne only nodded his large equine head, glad that he was not going to be ignored.
The landing that should have been rough was smoother than expected. Once the firefly was settled on the ground, Mal opened up the cargo bay doors and lowered the ramp. Zoe was beside him as he walked down the ramp to check out their surroundings.
Wash had landed them in a huge grassy valley. The sun was down on that side of the planet, but the exterior lights from the firefly illuminated the surrounding area. Satisfied that they were safe for the moment, Mal with Zoe at his heels walked back up the ramp and into the ship.
In the cargo bay, Simon and his sister along with Shepard Book awaited thier return. River was sitting on the bars that made up Jayne's stall.
"Looks as if we'll be here several hours while Kaylee and Wash work on the power couplings. Its dark outside but ifn you want to walk around feel free. Just stay inside the light of the ship." Mal said as he walked over to the stall and untied the rope that was attached to Jayne's halter.
As he was untying the knot, he noticed River sitting on the bars and smiled at her tilting his head in Jayne's direction. River didn't need to read his mind as his thoughts were all over his face. She smiled and moved from the bar to Jayne's back in one smooth motion.
Jayne flinched as he felt the slight girl settle upon his back, but decided that since she was almost a featherweight on his back he wouldn't protest. Instead he followed Mal as he led Jayne out of the stall and through the cargo bay.
"Mei mei, I don't think you should be up there, you might fall." Simon said hurrying to Jayne's side to help his sister off.
Jayne rolled his eyes.
"She's just fine, Doc. Don't get yer feathers all ruffled, its not as if Jayne is going to throw her." The look Mal gave Jayne said he had better not.
Jayne just looked at Mal with the most innocent expression, something he would never have been able to pull in his true form.
The walked down the ramp onto the grassy earth. Jayne lowered his head and cropped the grass, horse instincts and a horse's sense of smell telling him the grass was good to eat. Mal removed the rope from Jayne's halter letting Jayne wander about with River laying over his back petting his shoulder.
Mal went back inside to help the Shepard and Zoe move some crates outside to be used as seats. Simon had been watching River and Jayne his hands practically wringing, until Mal pushed him into helping.
They settled a few crates outside and Mal and Zoe dug a circular area to built a small fire. The Shepard went and got some of the foodstuff that Kaylee had bought on Whitefall along with a pan. He fried some protein in the pan on the fire outside and added some vegies and rice.
Mal hollered at Wash and Kaylee to come take a break when the food was ready. The crew sat around the fire on crates or on the soft grassy ground eating their dinner while not more than a yard away Jayne was cropping grass. River had dismounted and joined them at the fire when the food was ready.
In the east false dawn was beggining as the sun's light peaked over the horizon. In the west on a hill overlooking the valley, four men lay on their bellies using nightscoped binoculars to peer down at the group from the firefly. Down on the other side of the hill, four saddled horses were tied to a low bush while behind them a herd of horses grazed quietly.
They had seen the firefly land and had watched as the people aboard had come out of it leading a large black horse.
"That stallion will be worth alotta money, Hank." One of the men said.
"Ain't never seen a horse like that." another one said.
"Some kinda draft horse, I'm thinking. Big strong critter like that would bring good blood to my herd." Hank, the leader said.
"How we going to get him?" the first one asked.
"I got me an idea, Bill."
The sun had begun to peak over the horizon, and most of the crew of Serenity were sitting outside. Kaylee and Wash were inside working on the power couplings and the converter. No one bothered to go in to help because they knew that Kaylee would just chase them out again. She didn't trust anyone else but Wash to help here with repairs. especially repairs as delicate as the power couplings were.
Shepard Book was smoking a cigar, and had handed Mal and Zoe one as well. He apologized to Jayne and told the big merc that as soon as Jayne was human again, Book would buy him a fine Cuban cigar on Beaumonde. Simon politely refused the cigar that was offerred to him and told River that she couldn't have one. River pouted for a moment until Mal told her she could go sit on Jayne's back again.
As River was walking toward where Jayne was grazing, she stopped as she felt the wild panic that filled her mind. She turned and looked toward the west and screamed.
Over the hill a large herd of horses were stampeding straight for the ship.
"Get inside!" Mal shouted as he ran toward River. He pushed her into her brother's arm. Simon immediatly half carried and half dragged his sister toward the ship. Behind them Mal ran over to where Jayne was now standing with his head up and his ears layed back at the sight of the horse herd heading straight for them.
Mal grabbed a handful of Jayne's long black mane and leaped up onto Jayne's back. The moment Mal was settled on his back, Jayne leaped into a gallop heading straight for the herd.
With Mal's legs guiding him, Jayne managed to circle around the herd to run with the lead horses. Once there Jayne used his teeth and his back hooves to force the frightened mares into turning away from the ship. Their fear of the big stallion made the mare's turn at almost the last second, running around the ship and heading toward the rising sun. Jayne kept running alongside the lead mares. Mal was guiding him into slowing the herd in hopes of making them stop and settle themselves.
The mares were panicked however, and continued running full out so that they ran over the eastern hill and down the otherside, Jayne keeping up with them easily.
Once on the other side of the hill, the mares began to slow, but before they could stop they heard gunshots which sent them into a panic. Mal twisted around on Jayne's back and saw the four men on horseback heading toward them from the north. Mal drew his gun and slid himself down over Jayne's side putting Jayne's body between him and the riders who Mal knew were after Jayne.
Mal's thoughts were confirmed when the men stopped shooting at him for fear of hitting their prize.
Jayne was amazed that Mal was able to lay low on Jayne's side like he was while he raced along at full speed beside the horse herd. Mal was firing from that position at the men who were heading toward them.
The riders split and raced their horses around the herd firing every so often to keep the mares startled and running. Mal was intent on firing at those men that he didn't notice the other four that came out from the south until it was nearly too late. As it was, Mal took a hit to the shoulder and fell from Jayne's back.
The moment Jayne felt Mal fall, he stopped and twisted around on his hind hooves so that he could move quickly to stand over his fallen captain to protect him from the hooves of the panicking herd.
A few of the mares rammed his body before they were able to run around Jayne, but Mal was not injured anymore than he already was. Jayne stood over Mal until the last of the horse herd had passed them and saw the men turning their horses to come back for Jayne.
Jayne lowered his head and snuffled at Mal, finding the captain unconscious. Knowing that they might finish Mal off, Jayne stepped away from the captain and ran toward the oncoming riders.
He didn't swerve until the last second, catching one of the horses with his shoulder knocking the animal down with Jayne's greater weight and size. The rider barely managed to jump free from the horse to keep from being trapped beneath it. Two lassoes whistled through the air and settled over Jayne's neck.
Jayne reared and lashed out with his hooves. The horses of the riders who had lassoed him moved back stretching the ropes taught and avoiding Jayne's huge hooves. The two riders moved their horses so that they were on either side of Jayne, at the length of the ropes. Jayne's struggled only made them tighter around his throat. Another lasso whipped around his back leg and was pulled taught. Jayne neighed in anger at his leg being pulled back keeping him from rearing and moving. Another rider came forward and managed to snap a rope to Jayne's halter while avoiding Jayne's teeth. Once the rope connected to the halter was tied securely to the saddle of the horse the man rode, the rope holding his leg was released. The men used the combined weight and strength of their own mounts to force Jayne to follow them. Fortunatly they had been so busy dealing with Jayne that they didn't bother to go back and finish off the original owner.
Zoe took the mule to go find Mal and Jayne when neither of them returned. Everyone had heard the gunshots and feared the worst. Shepard Book went with her while the others stayed at the ship, locking it up tight.
While not the tracker that Jayne was, Zoe was easily able to follow the tracks of the horse herd. A blind child could follow the trail of turned up earth and flattened grass. They found Mal lying unconscious admist the turned earth. Zoe scared that Mal had been trampled was the first to reach his side. She only found the bullet hole in his shoulder and the lump on his head. He began to slowly awaken as she and the Shepard carried Mal to the mule and placed him on the backseat. Book looked around while Zoe bandaged Mal's shoulder. He easily found Jayne's hoofprints amongst the other hoofprints that churned up the ground. He followed it away from where they found the captain and stopped to stare toward the direction that Jayne was heading.
He went back to the mule and got inside. "Do you think he was caught up in the stampede?" Book asked Zoe as they made thier way back to Serenity.
"Possible." Zoe said. "Whoever shot at Mal may have been the ones to startle the herd to begin with. So either Jayne is still running with the herd or the men who shot Mal have him."
They reached the firefly and was greeted with the opening of the bay doors and the lowering of the ramp. Simon immediatly went to his new patient while the others asked Zoe what had happened.
She related everything they had found while she and Book carried Mal into the infirmary.
Mal woke up completely under Simon's ministration. He was able to tell Zoe what had happened before he was shot.
"Is Jayne going to be alright? They won't hurt him will they?" Kaylee asked.
"No they won't hurt him, xaoi mei mei. He's what they wanted all along. Horse like Jayne is worth alot of money." Mal answered. "But they ain't going to keep him, I will make sure of that."
The ranch that Jayne was taken too looked like every other ranch Jayne had ever seen. The other men had rounded up the mares and had led them into a large corral that stood behind the stable. Near the stables was the bunk house, and not far from it was the main house. Jayne was placed in a corral by himself, the rope attached to his halter was tied to a stump in the middle of the corral. Jayne pulled on the rope with all his strength, but the cord was strong and heavywieght, made to withstand the biggest horses' strength.
Once the mares had been seen to, and the horses the men had rode were unsaddled and taken care of, the hands on the ranch went to surround the corral Jayne was held in to watch as their boss dealt with the big black stallion.
The boss entered the corral with his bull whip that he used only to get an animal's attention and keep it. He snapped the whip close to Jayne's head but the leather never touch his hide. Jayne reared and kicked, lashing out with his hooves, not the least afraid of the whip the man wielded. The man was never able to get any closer to Jayne. He stopped and nodded to two of his men who entered the corral on horseback with lassos in their hands.
Jayne was unable to avoid the lassoes which snagged first one of his back legs and then a front leg. Unable to kick or rear, Jayne still lashed out with his teeth when the boss tried to get closer. The boss tied the rope attached to Jayne's halter closer to the post snubbing Jayne's head to the wood, making it impossible to move his head. While Jayne was held in that position, the boss nodded to some of his other men who came forward with some horseshoeing equipment.
They started first with his rear hoof that was held in the lasso, then the front hoof that was held. They switched the the lassos to the other hooves and shoed them. Fortunatly, there was no pain from having the horsehoes nailed to his hooves.
Once they were done placing the horseshoes on Jayne's hooves and cleaning and trimming them, another man came forward with a hot branding iron and marked Jayne's rump with it.
Jayne squealed in pain, laying his ears back, his eyes rolling in his head showing only whites. He tried to lash out with a hoof only to brought up short by the hobbles. Only once he was settled down were the hobbles and the rope removed. Once Jayne was free he kicked and bucked, angry at having been shoed and branded. The men left him along after that, forking some hay into the corral and filling up the water tank before leaving.
Jayne didn't settle down for a good hour. The brand still burned and Jayne tried rolling in the mud to relieve some of the heat. An hour or so later, Jayne stood in the corral his head hanging to his hooves while he slept waiting for dark so that he could escape from the corral and head back to the ship if it was still there.
Mal, Zoe and Book took the mule to follow the tracks that eventually led to the ranch where Jayne was being kept. From their hidden position on a hill and using binocs, they were able to spot Jayne in a corral. They hid the mule and waited with it till nightfall while Mal went over the plan with Book and Zoe.
By the time the sun went down, Zoe and Book were in their assigned positions on the hilltops surrounding the ranch. Both had two of Jayne's best sniper rifles with them and followed Mal's progress down to the ranch with their scopes.
Zoe had Jayne's best sniper rifle with a very expensive silencer on the muzzle and had spotted and silently picked off a few sentries to give Mal a clear path to the corral.
Jayne was a bit surprised and rather relieved to see Mal making his way to the corral Jayne was trapped in. Jayne didn't acknowledge Mal's presence in case anyone was watching them. Instead he idly walked over to the gate and pretended to rub his neck against the wooden slats effectively hiding Mal from view.
Mal was able to open the corral slowly, but shook his head when Jayne looked to walk out of the corral.
"Hold on a sec, Jayne. Book's going to create a diversion." Mal whispered to Jayne.
Jayne nodded his dark head and waited.
Once Book saw through the powerful scope that Mal was with Jayne, he slung the sniper rifle over his back and took out one of Jayne's other guns, Big Bertha. Bertha was a large powerful gun that also had a grenade launcher attached to the bottom of it. Book aimed Bertha's greneade launcher at the stable and fired.
A part of the roof on the stable exploded, and the rest of the stable caught fire. The explosion woke up the ranch and people went directly to the stable hoping to save the horses that were inside and keep the fire from spreading to the rest of the ranch.
Book slung Big Bertha onto his back and removed the sniper rifle and peered through its scope prepared to take out kneecaps that belonged to anyone who might hamper Mal and his rescue of Jayne.
Mal had been crouched down beneath Jayne's belly waiting for the diversion. Jayne instantly recognized Bertha's handiwork when the roof of the stable exploded. People running out of the bunkhouse and the ranch house were heading toward the stable, not really paying any attention to their new acquisition. As soon as it was clear, Jayne felt Mal leap onto his back and crouch low over his neck. Jayne did not hesitate, but immedialty began running in the direction Mal indicated. They were almost up the hill when someone spotted them. There were a few shots, but no one was able to follow because the riding horses were in the stable and the only horses not in the stable had been Jayne and the herd of mares who were panicking from the sound of Bertha's grenade launcher.
Jayne took Mal over the hill and to where Zoe and Book were now at the mule, firing it up. Mal didn't even bother to go from Jayne's back to the mule, not that Jayne gave him a chance. Instead, Book guided the mule toward Serenity at top speed while Zoe had Big Bertha and was sitting in the back with the muzzle of the gun pointed behind them ready to take out anyone who was following. Jayne ran beside the mule with Mal riding his bare back clutching Jayne's long black mane.
They were not followed and eventually made it to Serenity safely. Wash had her fired up and as soon as everyone was onboard and the doors sealed, the pilot took off from the planet's surface. While the others had been saving Jayne, Kaylee with Wash's help had been able to repair the power couplings, so they were able to leave.
Once out of atmo and into the black, Wash set course for Beaumonde.
Simon smeered a burn cream on the brand on Jayne' rump. Mal had checked Jayne over for any sprains or torn muscles or ligaments. Finding no swollen or overheated spots, he had directed Simon to take care of the brand. Mal didn't bother to replace the rope to the halter instead trusting Jayne not to try and fit through any doors.
"The brand will heal better now, but it will still scar." Simon said as he finished doctoring the area.
Mal growled under his breath at that. Simon looked at him puzzled.
"Did you happen to notice this doc?" Mal said pointing to a place on Jayne's equine face. Simon looked closely and noticed a check marked shaped scar barely visible beneath the dark hair.
Recognizing the scar, Simon then went and looked at Jayne's belly, and several other places finding the scars that he as Jayne's doctor knew very well. They were all well hidden beneath the dark equine hair, but they were there. "I never noticed." Simon whispered.
"This means what I think it means don't it?" Mal said not really asking.
"If we manage to change him back, the brand still be there." Simon answered.
Jayne huffed at that.
They made it to Beaumonde without any additional trouble. Once they landed and were docked, Mal, River and Zoe left the ship to find the witch's burned house with River leading the way having gleaned the information from Patience who was still tied up in one of the passenger dorms.
It was a long walk from the dock but eventually they found the ruined and burnt rubble. They wasted no time, but began to dig through the rubble hoping to find something to help Jayne.
The sound of a gun being cocked turned their attention away from the house to an older dark woman with wild eyes and a soot stained dress who was holding an old model pistol in her hand.
"What be you doing in my house," the woman said with a deep Haitian accent.
"Your the witch?" Mal said and raised his hands higher when the woman angrily pointed the gun in his direction.
"I be no witch, it be evil to speak of such." the woman said.
"You are a mamba." River said mimicking the woman's accent perfectly. "But you be tricked by an evil woman, she lied to you and sent men to kill you."
The woman narrowed her eyes at River, "The loa be drawn to you girl. I see the truth in your spirit, speak then."
"Patience came to you, wanted to get revenge on one she said wronged her, but she was in the wrong, stealing what was rightfully ours. Her revenge backfired, and one whom it was not intended was changed." River continued.
"You be seeking the antidote. Aye, I began to believe that the old woman lied to me when the men came to burn my home and to kill me. And there my home lies in ruins, but I be alive and the loa want their own revenge."
"Well we just so happened to bring the old buzzard along, would be willing to trade her to ya for that antidote." Mal said.
The woman turned her eyes to Mal. "Then we shall be having us a deal, Captain. I have the antidote for your friend, and I have my revenge as well."
"Shiny, let's see about making Jayne human again, shall we."
The old woman followed them to the docks and onto Serenity. She saw Jayne standing in the makeshift stall and withdrew from the folds of her dress a red bottle and handed it to Mal. "You need only pour this upon his body and all will be as it should."
Mal took the bottle. "River thinking you should show this woman to the passenger dorms so that she can make her acquaintance once again with Patience."
River grinned, "Aye aye, captain."
River led the old woman out of the cargo bay and into the passenger area.
Mal uncorked the bottle and walked over to Jayne.
"Are you sure this is the antidote?" Zoe asked.
"I think River would have said something if it wasn't." Mal said as he poured the liquid onto Jayne's back.
It took only seconds and what had once been a big beautiful Fresian stallion was now a very naked and human Jayne Cobb.
"Woohoo, hands!" Jayne yelled looking down at his large calloused hands.
"Aaaaah!" Simon yelled upon entering the cargo bay throwing one hand over his eyes. "I've gone blind and mad!"
The others laughed. Kaylee ran to Jayne's bunk and returned with some clothes for the mercenary.
Jayne took the clothes from Kaylee with thanks and hurridly dressed.
"Its safe now Simon." Kaylee said and Simon reluctantly removed his hands from his eyes.
"Don't know what your so bothered bout doc, aint' like you've never seen it afore." Jayne said.
"Yes, well that had been in the compacity of your doctor not an innocent bystander." Simon said.
Before anyone could say anything, Kaylee screamed. Everyone turned to look in time to see a large rat scurry past Kaylee's feet and head down the ramp.
River and the old witch came into the cargo bay. "I be thinking she looked a might better now." The old woman said.
"It fits her." River nodded in agreement.
"I take it that was Patience." Mal said.
"Yes, revenge is very sweet indeed." the old woman said. "Now captain, I leave you." And with that the woman left the ship walking proudly despite her soot stained dress.
"Gotta say, Patience has never looked better." Mal said.