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Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Rayne, M/I, S/K, Z/memories of Wash
Disclaimer: They belong to Joss. I just let them play for a bit.
Thanks: to angel932 and ceslas, they rescued me in my hour of need.
Previous Chapters: Ch. 1 - Through The Keyhole Of Time; Ch. 2 - Tentative Beginnings; Ch. 3 - Ghosts; Ch. 4 - Voices Of The Living

Voices and Visions

By

lattelady6

Ch 4 Voices Of The Living


It was mid-afternoon. Kaylee and River had gone with Inara to finish the supply run. Mal, as Serenity’s owner, was required to go to the Office of Shipping and Permits at Persephone’s local Alliance Headquarters. It was necessary to have all the repair documents registered before he could make an appointment for a physical inspection of the ship. At the last moment, Zoë had decided it was wise to accompany the Captain. It wasn’t anywhere near Unification Day, but the thought of him surrounded by Purple Bellies, gave her the jitters. One hostile word and they might be caught up in red tape until the end of time.

Jayne was sittin’ on a crate, slouched against the outer hull of the boat, watchin’ the activity in the ship yards. A cool breeze was blowin’ and the sun felt good against his body. It ached a mite from sparring with River Tam the night before. He smiled and took a puff of his cigar followed by a sip of Sake from the bottle in his hand. The girl was a tiny thing, but she could sure toss a man around when she had a mind to. Rememberin’ what had led up to it made him reach for his bottle again and take a bigger drink. He was thinkin’ on Crazy-Girl, and not the way he used ta. It made him a might twitchy tryin’ to figure out what it meant.

The Merc felt a shadow ‘cross his shoulders, but knew who it was by the sound of his footsteps. He didn’t bother to look toward the open cargo bay door, just kept staring straight ahead. “Doc, pull up a crate and sit a spell.” Jayne took another pull on his cigar and blew a smoke ring like the Shepherd had taught him. “I been ‘spectin’ ya.”

“You have?” Simon wasn’t sure what to make of the man anymore. They had actually begun talking to one another like human beings while working on physical therapy programs for himself and the Captain.

“Yup,” he nodded and kept puffin’ on his stogie. Once the younger man had set hisself down, the Mercenary offered him the large blue bottle he’d been drinkin’ from. “Want some? Don’t have no glasses, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’d shared a bottle.”

“Am I going to need this?” The Doc held tight to the dark blue container trying not to remember when Jayne had shoved one exactly like it across the table and he’d grabbed it up and taken a swig. It had been the moment the crew had thrown in with Mal in an effort to publicize the information found on Miranda.

“Not like before, but you might want ta keep it handy jist incase.” The big man advised. He knew he had to talk to Simon ‘bout what had happened the night before, ‘cause there weren’t no way in hell the girl was gonna do it.

“Then I gather that this is more than just about the real reason River’s hands got so banged up?” He looked at the bottle and took a tiny sip. He was attempting to forge a better working relationship with the Jayne. In the past he would have accused him of not doing his job, but this time he gave him the benefit of the doubt. “Was she in the ducts alone again?”

“Naw, Girlie’s too smart for that. She knows I’d kick her bony ass from here to Whitehall and back again. Then hand her over to you and Mal to take your shots at her.” He shrugged his big shoulders, unsure where the sudden protective urge had come from.

“Then what…”

“It was like she told ya and the Captain at breakfast. She weren’t wearing her work gloves and didn’t bother to signal me to pull her up.” He frowned as he remembered how panicked she’d been as she’d practically flown outta that damn hole.

“I’ll do what I can about getting her to wear her gloves, but I’m not sure what you think I can accomplish that you and Mal have been unable to. But I’ll do my best.” River had been so anxious to get repairs done on Serenity, that once the power was repaired to the ship, it had taken the combined efforts of all three men to convince her to stay out of the ducts unless Jayne was available to be on the other end of the rope. Her brother didn’t hold out much hope on this issue, especially since the work was almost finished.

Jayne shook his head, pulled his cigar outta his mouth and rearranged the crate he was sittin’ on until he was facing the doctor. “T’ain’t ‘bout the gloves, but it would be mighty nice if’n she weren’t so damn stubborn.” He thought for a moment before he continued. “This might be a real good time to take a big drink from that there bottle.”

“What…what am I missing here?” The younger man smiled unsure if this wasn’t all some elaborate attempt to get him drunk. He and Kaylee had taken some heavy razzing, that morning, for finally consummating their relationship. If he hadn’t seen his sister go off in the mule half an hour earlier, he’d expect her to pop out from beside Jayne giggling at her bother’s naiveté. She and the Merc had been as thick as thieves recently. He frowned at the expression and looked carefully around the large man just to be sure there wasn’t a small dark haired girl hiding there.

The Mercenary pulled a match from his pocket and relit his cigar, while never taking his eyes off Simon. “I need ta talk with ya, but as River’s doctor, not her brother.” He squinted at him through a haze of smoke. “Can ya do it?”

Words formed in the Doc’s head, but froze when he realized that Jayne had called his sister by her given name. As if on autopilot he raised the Sake to his lips and let its heat pour down his throat. “Okay,” he gasped his vocal cords on fire. “Better tell me.”

“T’weren’t that Girlie climbed that there rope that’s the problem. It’s where we was at the time.” Jayne nibbled on the side of his lip, tryin’ to be as delicate as his bull-in-a-china-shop personality allowed. T’weren’t somethin’ he was good at. But he knew that if’n he didn’t handle this correctly, that rules or no rules, the next time he and Crazy-Girl sparred, he would be in a mite bit a trouble. “You’re little sis was mighty set on fixin’ that circuit board so’s we’d have hot water…”

Simon just nodded. He understood her emotional need for hot showers. “She gets cold easily and I gather that’s one of the few forms of physical torture they used at the Academy…a…at…the Academy…” His thought process came to a screeching halt as odd pieces of knowledge began to form into an unsavory picture. The duct opening that had been missing in Kaylee’s bunk. Her comment that she’d taken it off because River was going to stop by first thing in the morning to pull a board. But most of all he remembered hearing noises on Serenity’s outer hull as his naked body had covered the little Mechanic’s. “…Wait….wait!” He grabbed the bottle and took a huge gulp. “Oh—oh—oh—my--GOD!” the Doc flushed and took another deep drink.

“Take it easy there.” Jayne pulled the bottle outta his hand and gulped Sake until he had to come up for air. His mind was stuck on the tidbit the younger man had let slip about them gorramn Blue Hands and what they’d done ta the little girl.

“Ick…” he gasped and tried to scrub away the image of his sister seeing any of what had transpired in Kaylee’s bunk the night before. “Is she all right?” he whispered.

“She reacted pretty much the way you did, only a bit more vocal and physical. She hit me one good on the shoulder for bein’ a wise ass.”

“I don’t…I mean…Oh damn.” Simon slammed his fist against the crate he was sitting on.

“Now there’s no call for both ‘a ya to mess-up your hands over this. ‘Sides you need those fingers ‘a yours nimble, and in one piece, for pullin’ bullets outta Mal when all those pretty plans ‘a his go to hell in a hand basket.”

“What else aren’t you telling me?” The Doc hated that he needed to ask. Before Miranda nothing about River slipped his attention. But since he’d recuperated from his gun shot wound he’d been spending more and more time with Kaylee.

“’Fore we went to access the duct, your sis had a…a…a, I guess ya’d call it, a girl-talk with Zoë.” The men looked at each other and frowned. “Yeah I know, girl-talk and Zoë don’t seem ta go together, but River’s face was all puffy from cryin’ and she was sayin’ stuff ‘bout ‘happy ghosts’ and ‘new beginnings’. All that girlie go se. But I think it made her a mite wobbly on her mental pins. I ain’t pretendin’ I got any understandin’ ‘bout what goes on in her head. I’m just sorry I didn’t stop her from goin’ outside. I saw the condition she was in. Her hands was shakin’ and her eyes was red.” Jayne tossed his cigar aside and took another drink of Sake in frustration. “I’m supposed ta be the adult in this work detail, I should ‘a taken better care ‘a her.”

“I appreciate your concern,” Simon sighed feeling as if he’d been tossed about by a strong wind. “But she’s an adult too. Her eighteenth birthday was ten days ago. And…”

“Why the gorramn hell don’t nobody but you know ‘bout that?” The big man frowned and got up to move around. Times like this he needed space. “Don’t turn eighteen everyday, Girlie should ‘a had a party or a cake or somethin’.”

“She didn’t want me to say anything. Swore Kaylee to secrecy, too. She told us there was no celebrating until we were back in the Black and away from all the sorrow. Besides it’s more than that.” The young man looked up hating what he knew to be true about his sister, but relieved that there was someone he could share it with. “It’s not just that she’s another year older. When she first came out of that box, and during the months when her mind would flip in and out of sanity, I could still see her as a young girl. Since Miranda,” he sighed and shook his head. “Since Miranda I can see the damage they did to her went deeper than I ever imagined. They stole her youth and made her old. You can see it in her eyes at times. Like in Mal’s and Zoë’s when memories of Serenity Valley begin to closes in on them. It’s in yours too, when you get pushed too far.”

“Doc you did the best ya could.” Jayne hadn’t been able to wrap his mind ‘round all that the other man had done for River. It had seemed like some gorramn made-up story. He’d figured Core-folk didn’t go around doin’ stuff like that ‘less there was some Rim-folk to be taken advantage of. Then Ariel had happened and he’d seen way more than he’d ever wanted to. “You was the one who got her out.”

“I was too late to prevent my sister from being damaged like that.” Simon ground his teeth and looked as mean as Jayne had ever seen him. “But I will fight with every breath in my body to be sure nothing happens to Kaylee to make her lose her sunshine.”

“You really love our little Mechanic don’t ya?”

“I have from the moment I saw her.” He smiled and his shoulders relaxed. “It just took almost dying for me to figure out how to tell her. I’m lucky she has such a forgiving heart.”

Jayne hated to ask the question that was gnawin’ at his gut, but he knew the Doc needed to know what was goin’ on in his sister’s head. “As her doctor, how is River…a…I guess the word I’m searchin’ for would be mentally. She stable or not?”

“Why do you ask, has something more happened?”

“Last night when she lost control like she did, she was ‘fraid that she was goin’ crazy again,” the Merc whispered the last words, remembering how’d he shouted at her that I it weren’t so.

“Oh my God, now I see why you’ve told me all this.” Simon took another large drink of Sake and shivered as it burned its way down his throat. “As I’ve said before, she’s a genius, so sometimes people don’t understand her. She’s also become a reader and that has to have some effect on her.” He shrugged and smiled at memories from growing up. “She’s always had her ‘unusual’ moments, even before the Academy, and I believe she will continue to have them.” His face lit up with love for his sister. “I used to call them her flashes of brilliance. Our parents…a…weren’t so generous.”

“Don’t get me started on them folks a yours.” The Mercenary shook his head and paced wishin’ he hadn’t tossed his cigar away. He needed somethin’ to do with his hands, ‘cause he was riddled with the desire to wring the necks of them older Tams. “But you ain’t really answered my question.”

“I can’t promise she’ll never have an occasional flashback, but I’ll tell you what I told the Captain when he asked me if she was stable enough for the responsibility of a pilot. River is as sane as any of us are, after all we’ve just experienced, and that is speaking as the doctor for the entire crew. Not just as her brother.”

“I told her that last night, didn’t use them fancy words, but told her she weren’t crazy no more and I didn’t want ta hear her callin’ herself that!” He frowned at the memory.

“Thank you.” Simon wasn’t sure what had happened to the mean, crude, mercenary he was used to, but he was glad this man had been there for River the night before. “And you’re probably correct in thinking that it was a combination of things that set her off. Talking with Zoë, feeling the…a…well…a…what she felt…you know, and she’s been having nightmares so she’s a bit sleep deprived.”

“If’n she’s havin’ nightmares how come we don’t hear her screamin’ no more?” Jayne glared. Not that he missed the noise, but the girl was his work partner and gorramit all, he shoulda known about it if’n she was havin’ problems.

“She’s been sleeping in Inara’s shuttle, but you can’t tell anyone.”

“She’s sleepin with Inara?” Jayne blinked at the image that formed in his mind. “That’s just plain disgustin’.” He didn’t question why the idea of ‘Nara and that blonde diplomat had been hot, while this one was creepafyin’.”

“Not with Inara, just in the shuttle. It sits empty at night, which is another reason why this must stay between the two of us.”

“Well I know she ain’t in the Captain’s bunk, she couldn’t make it down the ladder with them broken ribs.” The big man grinned and added. “’Sides, Mal’s his usual ornery self, so he ain’t gettin’ any. Where the hell is she sleepin then?”

“I refuse to have this discussion. What I know falls under the Medical Privacy Act.” Simon glared and ran a hand through his hair. He wasn’t good at subterfuge and was dreading the day when Mal found out what was going on. It had made sense at first. The Captain had still been in the hospital when the bunk switching began. Then it just seemed easier not to say anything.

“Can ya tell me how the hell River ended up in the shuttle in the first place?”

“Inara and my sister had already arranged it by the time I was well enough to know what was going on. Mei-mei wants to live as normal a life as she can and I agree with her. I won’t drug her at night, not after seeing what her nightmares consist of. Sleeping meds don’t make the dreams go away. They make it harder to escape them. At least this way she’s able to wake herself up. The shuttle is sound proofed, so if she cries out, no one hears her. That’s something that’s very important to her.” The Doc hung his head and looked a bit defeated. “But I know when she’s having a bad night, because I can hear her pounding away on that punching bag you hung for her. You have no idea how hard it is to keep from going to her and trying to offer comfort. The one time I did, she hated it, so I’ve stayed away.”

Jayne nodded, because he did know the effort it took to keep from comforting River. There had been so many times the night before when all he’d wanted to do was wrap her in his arms and keep her safe from the ‘verse, but he hadn’t.

“She used that bag last night, when she thought she was comin’ apart.” The Mercenary smiled gently at the memory. “But she weren’t herself and the damn punchin’ bag knocked her on her be-hind. We ended up sparrin’.” He laughed, his blue eyes sparklin’.

“Did either of you get hurt?” The Doc looked Jayne over with a professional eye. He’d already checked his sister when he’d discovered her injured hands. At least he’d check her over as well as he could from a distance. He knew the signs to look for and had seen none.

“Naw, didn’t put no muscle into it and she didn’t neither. We tossed each other about some, but we was careful.” He sat down and took a drink from the bottle they’d been sharing. “That’s another reason I told ya all ‘a this. I’m gonna talk to Mal about her and me sparrin’ on a regular basis and I want ya to support me. It really helped her last night.”

“It sounds like a good outlet for her energies.” Simon smiled and nodded his agreement. “I’ll do what I can to help.”
………………………………………..
Mal wasn’t pleased with the idea of Jayne and River sparring. He conjured the deadly duo were too temperamental and had too much of a difficult history to be given free reign to go at one another’s throats. If Simon hadn’t pushed for it as well, the Captain wouldn’t have agreed. In typical fashion he insisted on rules for the sessions. They weren’t much different than the ones the two had already set for themselves, except he’d told them they had to use mats. It’d taken them two days of scavenging, but they’d finally gotten what they needed.
………………………………………………..

“Kaylee and that brother ‘a yours is up there watchin’.” Jayne grabbed River by the shoulders, but she slipped outta his grasp.

“So are the Captain, Inara and Zoë.” She smiled devilishly at the big man and ducked under him arm, continuing to his right.

He turned quickly on his heel and winked at the small girl, while noddin’ at their audience. “Let’s give ‘em the show they’s expectin’. You wearin’ it?”

“Of course.” With her back turned to the gathered crowd, she lifted the hem of her short skirt, exposing one creamy thigh with a small gun slipped into a garter. “Warn me if you’re going to bounce me around, so I can keep it from coming loose.”

“Ahh…ahhh…” Jayne was frozen in place as the girl lifted her skirt. “Ya sure they don’t…a…have…no weapons?” It had been a battle to get the words out. He’d always been mighty fond of garters on a woman, but he didn’t think he’d ever seen anything hotter than Girlie’s long slim muscular leg with a gun strapped to it, by that bit a black lace.

“The ship is secured for the night, so the Captain and Zoë have left their personal armaments in their bunks. Everything else is in the munitions locker.” She rolled her eyes that he’d even need to ask. “I have no wish to die.”

“Well…then…s’okay…” He was having trouble keeping his mind off how she’d looked with that weapon tucked neatly into the garter. “Gorramit,” he muttered when he had better control his of speech. “Ya ain’t supposed to be showin’ me things like that.”

“Well where did you think I’d be hiding it?” She scrunched up her face and fought the laugh that was bubbling up from deep within.

Jayne raised his chin slightly and charged straight for her. She barely twitched her brow in response to his signal, but could tell he’d seen it as she met him head-on. “Let the games begin,” she whispered, and she used his forward momentum to send him sprawling on the deck.

“Ahhh,” he gasped, as he pretended to land hard despite the mat. Then he fought to glare instead of laugh at the antics they was pullin’ off. It would ‘a been easier to sound angry if’n he hadn’t felt a giggle vibrate through her body at their moment of contract. “Ya tryin’ ta kill me, Girlie?” he yelled.

She moved quickly around him and stood on one leg tapping his shoulder lightly with the pointed toes of her arched unclad foot. “Whine, whine, whine,” she chanted.

“Wine…? I’m a whiskey man myself.” He looked her over carefully. Instead of wearin’ the outfit she’d used when workin’ in the ducts, she had on a short skirted dress. T’weren’t one ‘a the baggy ones she used ta wear. It allowed her to move like she did in her shorts and tiny top, but covered her weapon. She looked like the fighter he knew her ta be. It showed off muscles that were slim and hard, highlighted, by the lights shinin’ off a slight sheen of sweat. Catching her eyes to give her a warning, he grabbed the foot that was proddin’ his bicep and pulled outward, sendin’ her tumblin’ beside him.

“You cheated!” River frowned as she rolled to her feet almost as soon as her body touched the mat. She’d been careful to keep one hand covering her weapon so it didn’t go flying. “We must both be standing for contact to be made.” It wasn’t part of their agreed upon strategy and they both knew it, but she added it for affect.

“Now who’s doin’ the whinin’?” Jayne was back up and circlin’ her. It took all his effort not to laugh. He should ‘a knowed she’d be good at playactin’.

She kicked high toward his shoulder, but he intercepted her foot with the palm of his hand. As skin touched skin, she jumped to switch standing legs and brought her other foot up, but he blocked that as well. The big man laughed with glee. The next thing he knew she had placed a light upper cut to his stomach followed by the touch of her fist to his chin. “If I had put any strength behind those you’d be out cold,” she teased loudly.

“I don’t think so, Little Girl.” Jayne had the obvious advantage of reach. Before she could pull back, he wrapped both arms around her. He buried his face against her left cheek and whispered, “Ya ready?” When he felt her slight nod he shouted out, “I got’s ya now.” On cue she turned quickly until her back was to his body, keeping him from trapping her arms between them.

“I do not believe you do,” she called out smugly. River grabbed his arms, which spanned her chest, and bent, driving her butt lightly into his stomach.

Jayne gave a loud grunt for show and let his body be carried over the top of hers. When he hit the mat, he slapped it hard with his hands so the sound echoed through the bay, making the by-standers wince. Then he continued into a roll so as not to get hurt. When his momentum had carried him as far as it could, he lay moaning in pain.

“Hey, Little Albatross, what’re ya doin’ to my Mercenary?” Mal called out as he stood at the top of the stairs. “Remember, the plan was for no one to end up dead from this little game you two seem ta like ta play.”

She turned big brown eyes up at the Captain and looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. “But, Sir, we know how well your plans work out.” Quick as lightening she lifted herself onto her toes and turned pulling her weapon from its hiding place as her skirt flared around her body. With only a split second to aim, she shot Jayne in the face with water.

Background noise erupted as the people on the catwalk panicked, but she didn’t pay any attention to it. She was having too much fun emptying her water pistol at the fuming Merc.

“You stop that, Girlie, right now.” He growled and jumped to his feet to grab the gun from her hand. “You was supposed to go for the chest.”

“I go for the kill shot, always aim for the head!” Her words tumbled out as naturally as if she were telling Jayne her preference in dance steps.

Only Kaylee saw Simon stumble slightly and grip the railing until his knuckles turned white. His sister’s words sent a tremor through his body. “Oh God,” he whispered. Shaken he pulled the mechanic tightly against his side and buried his face in her hair. “I’ve known since Miranda, but it still catches me off guard.”

“Kills shot, I’ll kill shot you.” Water dripped down his cheeks and goatee, but Jayne didn’t care. He’d finally managed to wrestle the water gun from River’s hand and was tryin’ to keep his arm wrapped around the squirmin’ girl so he could pelt her as she’d done him. He was laughin’ so hard she managed to twist around and bury her face against his chest. He had to settle for drenchin’ her hair instead.

Except for the joyous laughter coming from the two people who had initiated the prank, there was stunned silence in the cargo bay, until Inara began to snicker as she fought to hold her side. The last thing her painful ribs needed was to laugh. But she couldn’t keep the giggle that was bubbling up inside of her contained, especially when it spread to Kaylee.

Mal was thankful to hear laughter coming from most ‘a his crew. It was the first he’d heard in almost two months. Best of all a tiny smile tugged at the corners of Zoë’s mouth. But his body still tingled with adrenaline and there was anger not far behind. “Little Witch, you and my Muscle playin’ with us?”

“It is a distinct possibility,” she grinned at her Captain. “Here, catch.” She pulled the now empty toy from Jayne’s hand and tossed it to the man on the steps.

“You was mighty lucky, Little One, if one a us hadda been wearin’ a weapon. You coulda got yourself shot.” He turned his dark expression on his Mercenary. “And Jayne, you should ‘a known better.”

“It was safe.” River stepped between the two frowning men. “You were not armed. If you had been, the pistol wouldn’t have been used.”

“Mal, there’s no call ta be taken this out on Girlie here.” The Merc gripped her shoulders and pushed her behind him. He stood tall with his feet apart, one fist clench at his hip. The other tryin’ to keep a hold on River so his body stayed between hers and the emotions that was streamin’ from the angry man. “We was just given ya what ya was expectin’ to see: her beatin the tar outta me.” He snarled. “Ya didn’t trust us ta do it right, even with the Doc tellin’ ya we’d be safe!” He turned suddenly and yelled at River who had been pulling at the back of his shirt tryin’ to move him aside. “Gorramnit, stop that!”

“Do not talk to the Captain that way, it is disrespectful.” She glared back. “And I can fight my own battles, thank you very much.”

“I’ll disrespect whoever I ruttin’ want ta! We was havin fun, and they don’t have no call to cause trouble. He took ya on the Lilac job so’s you could suss out danger and he’s doubtin’ ya now. It don’t make no sense.” He thundered.

“Jayne’s right,” Mal had to yell to be heard over the indignant voice of his Mercenary. “I didn’t have no call to get so upset. But, Little One, seein’ you with a gun, made me a mite twitchy. New rule for you, and I’m might sorry ‘bout this, cause it don’t seem fair, but if you’re gonna be handlin’ weapons, even toy ones.” He hefted the small plastic one in his hand. “We all gotta know about it.”

“I understand.” She nodded. “Knowledge can be gained quickly, but emotional beliefs take longer to change.”

“I’m not sure what you said, but since you’re the genius, I’m sure it’s right.” Mal smiled at her kindly and shook his head. “But, I do like the Little Witch’s idea about more respect for the Captain.” He laughed and the tension was suddenly gone from the room.

“Doc, this here was one ‘a your little sis’s flashes of brilliance, like ya was tellin’ me about t’other day.” Jayne teased.

“Something tells me she didn’t think of this all on her own.” Simon tried to grin but he was still shaken.

“Ya ready, River.” Jayne pulled gently on her damp braid to get her attention.

Her chin rose defiantly. “I believe I’ve told you before, anytime, anywhere Big Man.”

“Someday that mouth ‘a yours is gonna git ya into trouble.” He raised an eyebrow and brushed the fingers of his right hand lightly against her lips. “No you don’t Girlie, not another word.” He nodded and they stepped back and began in earnest.

The huge Mercenary and the Small Alliance trained killer fought for real this time. The only thing that was missing was that neither put any power behind any of their punches or kicks, though they took a twisted glee in sending the other thumping to the mat. Hands and feet flew as their bodies moved and dodged. It was fast and furious and beautiful to watch, nothing like their earlier, clumsy performance.

“Now that’s more like it,” Inara whispered. “Almost like a dance.”

“I thought Little Albatross was gonna do Jayne in for sure, this time.” Mal stood as close to the beautiful woman at his side as he dared. She smelled sweet and soft and he’d been dreamin’ about her for months. “One day those two are gonna be the death ‘a me.”

“If that sword couldn’t kill you, I doubt they will.” ‘Nara’s voice broke and her eyes fluttered closed as she fought the vision of Mal as he’d bled red, red blood all over her hands and she hadn’t been able to stop it, no matter how hard she’d tried.

“Part of me can’t help wondering if that’s what she looked like when she was fighting those Reavers.” Simon was mesmerized by his sister’s movements. “And you’re correct, it’s like she’s dancing. They turned a ballerina into a killing machine.” He wondered if he’d ever stop uncovering layers of atrocities that had been done to his sister.

“Best I can recollect, she moved like that in the Maidenhead. But there’s somethin’ different.” Mal frowned tryin’ to picture the girl as she’d been.

“I bet she wasn’t smilin’ like she’s doin’ now.” Kaylee grinned. “Look at the both ‘a them, they’s enjoyin’ themselves. Don’t ever recall anyone fightin’ with Jayne for the fun a it, least ways not anyone but River.”

“If that don’t beat all.” The Captain bent his head slightly to the left to get a better look at the faces of the two people in the cargo bay and a bit closer to ‘Nara. “A body gits their entertainment where they can, I suppose, but this?” He shrugged as he heard deep laughter and soft giggles echoing from below.

“They sure is beautiful the way they move and all, especially your sister, but I gots some stuff to do in the Engine Room, wanna help me, Simon?” Kaylee grinned and her eyes sparkled.

“Always willing to be of service to a lady.” He followed closely behind her.

“Ahh…Need any help with dinner?” Mal asked Inara. He tried to put his hand at the small of her back, to walk along ‘side a her, but she skittered away before he could touch her.

“That would be nice. I’d like that.” She smiled invitingly over her shoulder, sorry that she had to pull away, but if he’d touched her, he might discover the thick binding around her ribs. Her full dress kept it hidden and she wanted to keep it that way.

Only Zoë stood and watched Jayne and River for a few more minutes. She still had a small smile on her face and her eyes were bright with memories. Wash would have loved to see this and he would have been the only other person on the boat who understood what was really beginning down in that bay. The big question was who was going to figure it out next, River, Jayne, Mal or Simon.

“Well no matter who it is, I wish you the best of luck,” she whispered as she turned and headed toward the bridge.
……………………………………………………………………..
Jayne set at the table in the galley with his girls spread out before em. River was curled up in the large arm chair across from him drawing in her sketchbook. They’d spent the last three evenings like that. Since they’d finished the rewiring, they didn’t see much of each other from breakfast until they sparred before dinner.

“They been keepin’ ya plenty busy.” He looked up from carefully takin’ Betty apart.

“There have been flight manuals to read, application of what has been learned.” She scrunched up her face and almost laughed. “As applied as it can be, to a ship still in the repair yard, instead of the Black. And Simon had wanted some tests run to compare outcomes. They are completed, now.”

“The inspector is comin’ in the mornin’ and if’n we’re lucky, we’ll be in the Black this time tomorrow. We been dirt bound too long, it’s makin’ us all a mite twitchy.”

They sat in silence each occupied with their tasks, and each comfortable with the presence of the other. Jayne kept on working when he heard her carefully pull a page outta her sketchbook; though he hoped she wasn’t gonna leave yet. She got up quietly and joined him at the table, sittin’ with a fluid grace, that he’d come to admire. When he looked up he was surprised that his first thought was that she as pretty as a flower in her deep blue dress and Chinese quilted jacket. Now days she always kept her hair brushed and it lay softly around her shoulders and down her back.

“This is for you.” She handed him what she’d drawn. It was the picture she’d been working on the last three nights. It was of him as he sat and cared for his gun collection. “It is to say thank-you for talking to Simon for me.”

“T’weren’t nothin’,” he frowned and tried to sound gruff. “Just so ya know, I didn’t say nothin’ ‘bout your vision. Didn’t think you’d want anyone ta know.” He watched her closely and was rewarded when she smiled in agreement. “You’re brother didn’t embarrass ya none, did he?”

“No, Simon can be very much the diplomat when he is in the infirmary.”

“Yeah, right,” he scoffed then studied the drawin’ he held carefully in his large hands. “But I can’t take this. All I did was talk with him over a bottle of Sake. You put lots a work into doin’ this.”

“Don’t you like it?” She tilted her head to the right and watched him carefully trying to read his face. She was able to keep his thoughts out, but feelings were much harder and she fought to keep from picking up any of those. “Should I have drawn you with a frown instead? When you work on your guns, your eyes always smile no matter what your facial muscles do, so I drew you with one. I think it is how your girls see you.”

“This here drawin’, it looks…it looks real professional like.” He hoped she wasn’t reading his thoughts, ‘cause he didn’t think he looked manly without his trademark scowl, but he’d never tell her that. People didn’t go around givin’ Jayne Cobb gifts. It meant a lot that the girl had bothered to do it and it was mighty fine, mighty fine indeed. He ran a large finger over her careful reproduction of his guns. “They look like I could pick em up and use em.” He compared them to the real thing and nodded in wonder. “It’s a right fine drawin’ and I’m honored you want me ta have it.”

“I drew it especially for you. What you did for me was important and I wanted to give you a gift. Since I have no credits, and I didn’t think a hair ribbon would be to your liking, I did this instead.”

“Good choice,” he muttered. “But like I said, all I did was set a spell with Simon.”

“But you knew that because of…well…because I’d seen him kiss Kaylee, in her bunk, and had been hit with all their emotions, I couldn’t go to him, so you did it for me.” One of her small hands covered the back of his large one. “It was a huge thing for you to do, because Simon redid all my tests so I could see the changes. I could chart, graph and quantify the difference since Miranda. I have objective proof that I am no longer crazy.”

“But we been tellin’ ya’ that all along.”

“I know,” she gripped his hand tighter and tears began to fill her eyes. “But I needed more than words, from people who wish it to be true, as much as I do.”

“Aaahh River, ya gonna start cryin’ again?” He brushed the thumb of his free hand over her damp cheeks.

“I can’t help it. I’m sorry.” She stood-up to leave, but he threaded his fingers between hers and held on tight.

“Git back here.” He gave her arm a tug. “I guess If’n anyone’s got a right ta cry, it’s you.” He looked around a bit uncertain, then stood and moved to the chair she’d been sittin’ in earlier. Without needing to be told, River slipped to the decked between his spread thighs and leaned against a sturdy leg. “Girl, why didn’t ya tell us the real reason hot water t’was so important to ya? If’n ya couldn’t a told Mal or even Zoë, I’d a listened and we’d a got it done right quick.”

“Simon shouldn’t have said anything to you.” She wanting to bolt, but he had a secure hold on her. “Yes, they did terrible things to me, but I’m no longer the weak, broken child who crawled out of the cold sleep box. I need to be treated as I am now!” She was embarrassed and was having trouble keeping from crying. “You’ve never felt sorry for me and I can’t stand it if you start now.”

“Awh, River,” Jayne leaned forward and held one ‘a her cheeks in each large, callused palm. She was so fine-boned he was able ta lace his fingers together at the back a her head. “Look at me Girlie. I don’t give a damn about them tears. You’re a female and cryin’ is somethin’ they do. So you go ahead and cry when ya need ta. I won’t tell no one, nor think less ‘a ya for it. Like I said it’s just one a them girl-things.” All the time he’d been talkin’ he’d been lookin’ deep into her eyes. Her brother had been right. She might be only eighteen, but right now the dark brown pools filled with tears that looked back at him, were ancient.

“All right,” she whispered, but her lip quivered and chills shivered through her body. Almost of their own volition her hands moved along Jayne’s and she rose to her knees so she could wrap her arms around his waist and bury her face against his chest.

“Come here, Girlie,” he muttered as he pulled her closer. It was an act of kindness that was completely out of character for him, but he couldn’t stop himself. He knew she needed to be held and he was the only one around. He also figured she needed to be touched, but unless he was reaching down some trim’s neckline or up her skirt, he was clueless. Then he felt delicate hands movin’ his shirt in little circles along his spine and he copied what she was doin’. Her long hair felt silky and soft to the touch as it fell over his hands and he wanted to feel more of it, so he spread his fingers and ran them through endless brown strands, as he held her close.

Jayne didn’t know how long they sat like that, but he could feel his shirt, damp from her tears, against his skin. It gave him an odd feeling of contentment and made him hornier than a stallion that’d caught the scent of a mare. He hoped she couldn’t feel the rock hard bulge that was pressin’ against his pants. It didn’t make no sense to be contented and turned on at the same time. It was somethin’ he didn’t want to think on.

“Thank you,” River’s voice broke as she looked up and found his face inches from hers. His eyes were so blue she thought she could dive into them and lose herself forever, but it wasn’t something she was going to do. She’d only just found herself, again. If the future she’d see for them was to come true, Jayne didn’t need a little girl at his side but a strong woman.

When she pulled back and sat on the deck, she didn’t want to break off all contact with him, so she leaned against one of his legs with her side pressed into the chair between his opened thighs. “You’re nice and warm.”

“So I been told,” he mumbled. More ‘en one whore had said it, but t’weren’t anything Girlie, needed ta be hearin’. “And you’re still cold, ain’t ya?” He’d seen her shiver when she no longer had his arms around her. Jayne grabbed the ratty old throw from the back a the chair and wrapped her in it. “Ya gotta promise me that you’ll tell us when you need something. Like now, you need to be kept warm. We’re work partners and sparrin’ partners, we take care ‘a each other.” He wasn’t sure he liked the idea, ‘specially with the randy way he was feelin’, but a little voice in his head was sayin’ it was true, ‘sides she needed ta hear it.

“Like Zoë and Mal?” She looked up at him absorbing his body heat even through the throw.

“Yeah, like Zoë and Mal.” There was somethin’ ‘bout that comparison he didn’t like, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He’d think on it a bit and maybe come up with the answer.

“I bet we could take them in a fight.” She grinned impishly at him.

“I bet we could.” He smiled and laughed. “River, you sure know how ta take a man’s mind off what he’s thinkin’ on. Cause I got more to say that you need to hear.”

“Will it make me cry?” She looked worried and bit her lip.

“For a genius, you sure got a short memory. I already told ya, that I don’t care ‘bout that.” He glared at her and wished he didn’t have such a hard-on, made it tough to think. “We need ta talk ‘bout your brother.”

“Simon?” her brows rose in surprise.

“You got any other brothers, your hidin’ from me?” When she shook her head no, he went on. “He carries around a heap ‘a guilt for not gettin’ ya outta that ruttin’ Academy sooner. Ya can hear it in his voice sometimes. I figure he’s gotta talk ta someone ‘bout what he knows or it’ll break him. It weren’t like he went into detail. He sorta let it slip ‘bout you never bein’ warm enough. So ya need to cut em some slack. Why he’d choose a hundan like me I can’t figure. ‘Septin’ maybe it was cause there was no one else and given enough Sake, a man’ll say ‘bout anythin’.”

“They would keep me cold if I misbehaved, or sometimes just because they could.” She shivered and pressed deeper into his leg, unwilling to give him more information.

“River, you’re safe and all ‘a us will do what ever we can to keep you that way.” Jayne ran large hands up and down her arms and fought an almost overpowering urge to bash some Alliance heads against the wall.

“Simon told you because you cared enough to tell him what happened.” Her chin wobbled and she luxuriated in the feel of Jayne’s touch. “He trusted you to keep me safe when I was hanging from the end of a rope twenty feet above the deck.”

“Well I don’t know ‘bout that. Could ‘a just been the Sake that made him talk ta me.”

“Thank you for being there for my brother.”

“One more thing.” He looked real serious and kept his hands on her shoulders. “Here’s some advice from one partner to another. That little temper tantrum a the Captain’s this evening in the cargo bay, t’weren’t nothin’ compared to how he’s gonna blow when he finds out ‘bout where everybody’s been sleepin’ since he was laid up. You need to tell him right quick.”

“I can’t. It’s not just my secret to keep. If he forces ‘Nara to leave again, it will break her.”

“What’re ya talkin ‘bout, she wanted to leave before.” Jayne frowned at her.

“He broke her heart. To have stayed would have destroyed her. Now he’s brought her back and she can’t leave, but he hasn’t asked her to stay.” Tears filled River’s eyes as she looked into the past. All the old feelings she’d felt and the thoughts she hadn’t been able to keep out slipped against her skin. She pressed closer to Jayne to feel his strength and calm. He had become her rock, the one who held her safely as she hung over a great abyss and kept her from falling.

“Ahhh River-Girl, you’re exhausted. Ya need ta go ta bed.” He gave her a quick hug and what he hoped was a brotherly kiss on the head. Whatever was goin’ on ‘tween Mal and Inara was much more that it appeared to be and he planned on steerin’ clear of it. But he trusted the Girl. If she said that the Captain had somehow broken ‘Nara’s heart than he believed it. It just didn’t seem possible; not considerin’ the older woman was a companion. Their hearts didn’t break.

“Do you like your drawing?” River stood and kept the throw wrapped tightly around her.

“I sure do.” He smiled, but didn’t get up. Sittin’ he had a chance of hidin’ the hardness in his pants, if he stood, she’d know how she’d made him feel. “Thank ya very much for doin’ it for me.”

“Your welcome,” she smiled and headed out of the galley. Jayne leaned his face in his hands and tried to figure what in the ruttin’ hell was the matter with him. He weren’t the type to comfort little girl-women. There was trouble comin’ and it had his name writ all over it. He just had to figure out what to do.

Neither River nor Jayne had seen Malcolm Reynolds standing frozen in the shadows on the other side of the door. No one saw him walk quietly back to the bridge, feelin’ like he’d had a sword plunged in him again. But this time it wasn’t in his side. Though he didn’t think that it possible to be hurtin’ where he was now, ‘cause that particular organ had been turned to stone in Serenity Valley.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
icebreather
Sep. 4th, 2006 05:27 am (UTC)
Just read this (don't know how i missed it the first time). It's as wonderful as the others. the water pistol fight was great, and the emotions continue to ring true. If I weren't already in love with Jayne this chapter would have tipped me head over heels.
lattelady6
Sep. 4th, 2006 06:07 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it. I really enjoyed the water gun fight as well, but that was a set up for the War Games there will be playing in the cargo hold, hopefuly in the chapter I'm working on now. Plus after the conversation between Simon and Jayne I needed someting a bit lighter.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 4th, 2006 06:29 am (UTC)
love this!
this is my favorite immediate-post-Serenity story! please keep sharing!
lattelady6
Sep. 4th, 2006 06:51 am (UTC)
Re: love this!
Thank you very much. I didn't know any one was following it from my LJ. I've had the next chapter completed for a day or so. I'll get it posted.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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