Spoilers: None. Pre-Series.
Word Count: 785
Feedback: Yes, please!
AN: Very strange things happen in my brain sometimes. This may be one of them. But not as strange as others.
"Ah, not ay," his Ma corrected patiently over the grumble of shelled peas hitting the copper bowl. "A-bundance." Even that mild a tone made her cough; long drawn out spasms that ended in a spit of bloody flecks in her handkerchief.
Jayne slammed the book closed and swept it off the table. "Aw, Ma, I don't know what the point of all this schoolin' is! I'm never gonna get it and whilst I'm wasting time with this, I could be off having a job and bringing some money in!"
His Ma didn't raise her voice, somewhere between didn't need to and didn't dare to, but her eyes turned steely. "The point, Jayne Evander Cobb, is that I don't want folks taking advantage of you the way they did your father, God rest his soul. Your education is your way off this dirt ball and onto somewhere where you can be a free man." She set the bowl aside and took his hand. Her fingers were cold, and felt delicate as a bird's; too delicate for the life she'd undertook.
Jayne knew she'd been a schoolmarm before she'd caught pregnant with Sawyer and started her long battle against the myriad of illnesses plaguing Silverhold. He knew too that before that she'd been the daughter of a rich man, spoilt and pretty. She could set him, and Sawyer and Matty and Gilly and Pa all to giggles with her stories about stuck-up hundans with more money than brains. But Jayne had heard Pa say more than once that she was too fine to end up a miner's wife--now a miner's widow.
Pa's pension didn't cover near enough of keeping herself and four brats--well, three, now that Sawyer had gone and sold himself. She'd cried, and she'd protested, but she hadn't told him not to, and Jayne knew why, though it had near kilt her to let him go. Not only had Sawyer been able to negotiate a respectable rate for himself--one that quashed the last of Pa's remaining debts--but it was one less mouth to feed, one less body to clothe.
"Life isn't like this in other places, Jayne," his Ma said, brittle fingers digging into his. "You know I love your father with all my heart and soul, but this planet killed him, and in the end, it's going to kill me too."
"Aw Ma, don't talk like that..."
"Hush. Now it's the truth, and we both know that. There's no use to pretend otherwise. And when my time comes, I'll be laid down right next to your father, which is where I want to be. But you, Jayne... That's not the life I want for my children." She leaned in, and in her faded eyes, he recognized the glint that could not be argued or persuaded. "Now your father and I couldn't give you children much, but I can damn well make sure you have the education to do for yourself, and not be taken in by the Union bosses, or common criminals like that Harland Skeeves, always slinking about. The world is not a kind place, my love, and unless you keep your wits about you, it will eat you up." She leaned back, let him go, and went back to shelling peas.
Jayne wanted to tell her: he wasn't near as clever as she seemed to think. He wasn't dumb, mind, but his best talent brain-wise was spotting the main chance of a situation. But he knew she wouldn't hear that. It would just make her mad, and sad for him to say so, another weight to bow those too thin shoulders.
Still, something had to be done; they couldn't keep going on like this, with Matty sick half the time, and Gilly too young to be of much use, even around the house. Tomorrow, he resolved, he would go down to the docks and see about some work; maybe something that would take him off-planet. That should make his Ma happy, least a little bit. But still, there was all of tonight to get through, and that look in her eyes.
Jayne sighed to himself, and went and fetched his schoolbook from where it'd landed. He brought it back to the table and opened it up again. "So, what's it mean?"
"What does what mean?" his Ma asked.
His ma smiled, something that could turn her as pretty and young as the girl in the holo on the mantlepiece. "It means plenty, Jayne. It means full to overflowing."
Jayne thought about it for a long moment. "Well, I guess that's a pretty good sounding word, then," he allowed.
His mother smiled. "Yes. Yes it is."