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Disclaimer: They belong to Joss and themselves
Rating: R version at this post

NC-17 rated version found here

Beta: TamSibling

Previous Chapters
Ch. 1 - Echoes, Ch. 2 - Into The Black Of Night, Ch. 3 - Falling Without Gravity, Ch. 4 part I - Flying Without Wings, Ch. 4 part II - Flying Without Wings, Ch. 5 - Pivot Points Of Fate

Pairings: Jayne/River; Mal/Inara; and a tiny bit of Simon/Kaylee

Precious Commodity

By

Lattelad6

Ch 6 - Waiting time - R-Rated Version




Chan Juin – moon; lovely, (in ancient writings was used to describe a woman)
Bo song – beam, transmit
Zhan shi – fighter, warrior
Lang – wolf
Zhen – precious thing
Bao qui – valuable, priceless treasure, precious
……………………………………………………………..
River’s hands began to shake as she sluiced icy water on her face in the dark shower room. She concentrated on the sting of the freezing liquid as it hit her cheeks instead of the pinpricks of fear that were hovering at the corners of her mind.

All night long she’d been warm and safe in Jayne’s arms. He’d taught her the joys that a woman could feel when touching and being touched; now it was morning. Serenity was still too damaged to fly and most of her crew was in an Alliance medical tent. The small ship was surrounded by a battalion of government troops and out there on the other side of the moon’s atmo, between them and the freedom of the Black, was the Operative, waiting like spider with a juicy morsel caught in his web.

“Can’t think about it, can’t think about it,” River chanted quietly as she dried her face and searched for something to take her mind off the impending fear. The edge of her towel brushed against her right breast. She was tender enough that even fully clothed, the slight touch caused her to catch her breath. She ached pleasantly in places that she’d always taken for granted before. When the Blue Hands had stimulated her to feel deep arousal, they had used only brain probes, touch had never been allowed. To find release she’d had to sublimate her desires by fighting. It had been the only relief she’d been permitted. On days when she’d refused to follow their orders, she’d been left strapped to their chair, her body shaking with need as they sent visions of scary monsters into her mind.

The night before, Jayne had changed everything. He’d touched her, kissed her, and teased her until she’d exploded with feelings, but he hadn’t left her dangling. Together they had found what was on the other side of needing.

Just thinking about it made River tingle with joy. She tried to see her reflection in the mirror but no light penetrated into the depths of the ship. All she could make out was a dim outline of a girl. She squinted and leaned closer until her nose was almost touching the glass in front of her. She felt so different, she was sure the changes would show, but was frustrated in her efforts to see anything.

“River,” Jayne called out and knocked once before opening the door. “I got ya some light.” The battery of the flashlight they’d been using had burned out the night before.

“Ingenious,” she smiled tenderly at the big man as he held out an empty blue whiskey bottle that he was using as a holder for one of Kaylee’s large birthday cake candles.

“Yeah, that’s me a real genius.” He placed the bottle on the small shelf over the sink before he wrapped his arms around her from behind. Just the feel of her against him made him lean down and kiss her on the top of the head. He’d promised he’d keep his hands to himself this morning, but for some reason his skin craved to touch hers.

“You are my genius. You fixed me.” She leaned against his bulk and liked their reflection in the smoky light from the candle.

“That’s what you call it, fixin’ ya?” He bent and rested his chin on her head, so his eyes meet hers, even if he didn’t like the image he saw looking back at him. There he could see the difference in their ages; there he could see her elfin daintiness pressed against his hulking mass. “Never heard it called that afore,” he muttered.

“You made up your mind last night, are you changing it?” She knew he desired her, but what they’d found the night before had gone beyond that, though only she was willing to put a name to it.

“I…” he hesitated. “It’s selfish ‘a me, but I want ya. I ain’t lettin’ ya go. You belong to me!” his tone left no room for compromise. To prove his point he slowly unbuttoned her blouse and slid his left hand between the edges of the material, until he held her bare right breast in his palm. Not once did he take his eyes off the reflection of hers.

“It feels so good when you touch me.” She threw her head against his shoulder, needing him badly. He would drive away her fears.

“Put your arms around my neck, River,” he commanded still leaning forward so she could reach him easily, as his right hand felt for the fasteners of her skirt. With nimble practiced fingers he made quick work of the button and zipper then pushed the full soft material to the deck.

“But I want to touch you.” She would have turned around and press the front of her body against his, while her hands explored him, too.

“I know ya do, but first I get ta do this.” He kissed her ear as he felt her lock her hands behind his neck. “Hold on tight, Chan Juin Bo Song, (Moon Beam)” he whispered the words that meant River to him, since she brought unexpected light to his soul. His hand slid down her right thigh and pulled it over his arm. He slowly rose to his full height, dragging her off the deck. All that supported her was her hold on him, his breast-filled hand pressed against her chest, and her right thigh dangling over his right arm.

River gasped as seeking fingers moved against her white cotton panties and tore them away. She was lost as sensations made her quiver.

“Easy there,” he whispered gruffly in her ear. “I didn’t mean to scare ya none. I just wanted ya to feel me touchin’ ya and know it’s real. Maybe it’ll help if ya can see what I’m doin’.” He turned them until he was facing the large piece of reflective metal that Kaylee had hung on the back of the shower room door to act as a full length mirror.

“I’d know your touch anywhere.” She was mesmerized by what she felt and saw. The female in Jayne’s arms wasn’t a young girl, but a woman. Her eyes burned dark with passion. Her usually pale skin was rosy with need.

“That’s mighty good, ‘cause I plan on doin’ ‘a heap ‘a touchin’ and I want ya to watch all ‘a it.” He pulled her closer and lets his hands dance over her body.

“You are my Lang Zhan Sh,(Warrior Wolf),” she murmured throatily as she watched their reflections in the wavy metal mirror in the shower room lit only by a large candle.

Jayne growled and nipped at her neck living up to what she’d called him. “Let’s see if the Moon Beam can be made to howl at the wolf.” Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the large old towel hook soldered into the wall even with her elevated knee. With a feral grin he hooked her leg over it to free up his hand.

What had started out as an attempt to drive the fear from River’s eyes and make her feel something other than the panic he’d read on her face, suddenly grabbed a hold ‘a Jayne’s senses and took him to a place he’d never been. His eyes were smolderin’ blue lights as he watched his hands move over her body. He was excited, and edgy, driven by the need to feel everything. He watched her body shiver and shake to his touch. “That’s it Chan Juin,” he moaned. “Watch me. You like that?” he ground out as he licked the shell of her ear, while his gaze demanded that she answer.

She cried out and bucked against him, helpless to do anything but hang on tightly and watch as his fingers worked magic with her body. The Blue Hands had made her howl, but never like this, never in pure unadulterated pleasure. For them she’d moaned in fear and pain, knowing that there would be nothing at the end of their games but deep longing and if she was very lucky, death.

“Yes,” she gasped and shook her head when he hesitated before touching her further. “Yes.”

She was the loveliest thing he’d ever seen, in the half-dark room, wearin’ only combat boots and a blouse that fell from her shoulders. She embodied innocence and all of his deepest darkest fantasies of desire.

“I…you feel…make me feel…” She’d lost the ability to think and this time it had nothing to do with crazy, unless it was the type of crazy that a man could make a woman feel.

He kissed her and loved her much as he’d done the night before. But this time he whispered all the wonderful things he was going to do to her. His words excited her as much as his touch.

Together they were caught in a frenzy. Together every muscle in their bodies was pulled tight until they vibrated with joy and together they cried out as they exploded.

Shivering and shuddering they slipped to the deck with their arms wrapped tightly around one another. Their bodies were damp with sweat and they could hardly catch their breath. Tears ran down River’s face as she was filled with joy that she’d never known before. She was where she wanted to be. No matter what had come before or what was to come in the future, she would hold on tightly to Jayne.

Jayne pulled her closer. His body was shakin’ and he couldn’t remember ever experiencin’ anything like what had just happened. He’d thought the night before had been an intense dream or a one time thing, but now he knew he was wrong. Somethin’ about the way his body moved with hers brought him more pleasure than he’d ever known. Though he’d been dead right earlier, she was his. She did belong to him but he was gettin’ an odd feelin’ that he was hers as well and the belongin’ went both ways.

Chan Juin Bo Song,” Jayne whispered raking his finger through the hair at her temple, suddenly aware of what he’d done to her. He was filled with guilt at how he’d treated her. He lifted her face until their eyes met. “I’m sorry I…I…ah shouldn’t ‘a been so rough with ya, and ain’t no excuse for the words I used.”

“No, not rough,” she gripped his palms and sniffed the fingers that had touched her intimately. “You treated me as Jayne would treat his woman. A wolf isn’t always tender, but he knows when to be, like last night.”

“River, that ain’t an excuse. You been through too much to be used like I just did, not once, but twice!”

“You think I’m some delicate flower. You called me your moon beam, but moon beams are strong enough to make a wolf howl and you did howl.” She kissed him gently remembering his deep-throated cry as he’d come. “They chill the land and bring on the night frost of death. Their soft gentle looks are deceptive.” To prove her point she gripped his right hand and began sucking on his fingers.

“Don’t…don’t do that…” he demanded roughly unable to keep from watching the way she sucked and licked his fingers. It was enough to drive a man crazy to see her delicate mouth imitating a much cruder act. It was one of the hottest things he’d ever seen, but seemed plain wrong when she did it.

“It is right. Anything we do together is right.” She had read his thoughts and needed him to know the truth about them. “I want the wolf, the mercenary; the man who fights beside me, the one who fights against me, the tender man and the rough one. They are all you. If you try to be only part of the whole it will destroy you and I will not be party to that. Better to leave you now than to do that.” She put his hand down and sat very straight in his lap. Tears were running down her face, but she refused to give in on this issue.

“I don’t want ta be like them that used ya.” He pulled her into his arms. “I couldn’t stand it if I ever treated ya like they did.”

“You couldn’t.” River smiled and cupped his cheeks in her palms. “They used charming smiles and strapped me into their chair against my will. Their words could have been used in the most conservative of drawing rooms, but they raped my mind with mental probes. They never touched me, but they left my body shaking, hungry with desire that I was never allowed to satisfy.”

Chan Juin,” he gasped wondering if she realized how cold and mechanical her voice sounded when she talked of the Blue Hands. “I just don’t wanna hurt ya.”

“You didn’t. You knew exactly what you were doing. I was afraid and you made me feel something much stronger than fear.” She shivered at the memory of hanging against him as he’d made her realize what she was capable of. “You deliberately placed me in a vulnerable position, where you had control of my body. At first I thought it was a test to see if I trusted you, but it wasn’t. You were giving me the gift of your trust. You were showing me that you would take care of me, no matter what.”

“You read that in my mind?” It was what he’d done, but he wasn’t sure how he felt about her searchin’ in his thoughts.

“No, when my desire for you is strong I can’t read you, but I could feel it.”

“Let me hold ya for a while before I gotta head out soon.” He ran his hands through her hair and wrapped her in her discarded clothes to keep her warm. The musky scent of sex mixed with candle smoke filled the small room as they held onto one another for a few more minutes, putting off the inevitable start of another long day.
……………………………………………………….
This morning it was Inara who woke to the pleasure of seeing Mal sleeping beside her. It was something that had only happened in her dreams. She stretched and every muscle in her body cried out in pain. Her physical labor the day before and falling asleep sitting on the floor with him the pervious night had taken its toll.

It was when she slid out of bed to check on the others that she noticed the large blood stain on the side of her dress.

“Mal,” she gasped as she pulled back his covers. His wound had begun bleeding sometime during the night. “Help, we need help in here!” She realized he wasn’t sleeping but was unconscious. His skin was pale and clammy.

“Inara,” Simon called from across the tent as Kaylee was helping him to a sitting position. “Check his heart rate. Place two fingers to the side of his neck…yes that’s it.”

“What’s going on in here?” The deep rough voice of the Med-tech interrupted them.

“He’s bleeding!” Inara gasped. “It must have started during the night.” The blood soaked the waistband of his pants and spread over his shirt. The wrapped bandage underneath was completely saturated.

“Shit!” the Tech was across the room and pushed the Companion aside. He pulled a communicator from his belt and began calling for a Med-Evac. Soon the room was filled with Alliance troops. “We gotta get him outta here.” The man began to sweat. The Operative had given orders that these people where to live. The Medic hadn’t like it, but he’d given the medical care they’d needed. Now it looked as if it had been for nothing. He knew if the rogue captain died it would be on his head. “We gotta get him to the Mandrake. They’ve got fully staffed operating rooms and are close. They’re in orbit of this moon.”

“Simon I want you with them and take Kaylee, too. You know the questions to ask.” It was the best Inara could do. As much as she wanted Simon to be the one taking care of Mal, she knew the doc could hardly stand on his own. “I’ll stay here and see to ah…Serenity. You don’t have to worry about a thing.”

“All right,” The young doctor nodded in defeat, knowing there was nothing he could do for his sister in the shape he was in. “I guess she really has become the ship, this time,” he muttered, though only Kaylee understood the reference.

“Honey, you’re scaring Inara, when you talk like that, she was locked in her shuttle when you had that conversation with Jubal Early.” Kaylee was still fighting dizziness, but she’d do her best to get Simon to the Med-Evac.

“Don’t let ‘em take the Captain.” Zoë looked around. “Please Inara, they can’t take him. He isn’t safe with them.”

“Zoë,” the Companion knelt beside the wounded woman’s cot. “They’re his only chance. He sat up holding me last night while I cried, that’s why he’s bleeding now. This is my fault.”

“No it isn’t, girl,” the First Mate tried to smile, but it was hard with the pain that was in her heart. “Wounds bleed, it’s their nature.”

“Go with him please. Simon and Kaylee are going, but you’re the one he trusts most in the ‘verse,” Inara begged as she watched them prepare Mal for transport. Her eyes filled with tears as fear clawed at her. “I have to stay and see to…well see to Serenity, but I don’t want him waking up alone on an Alliance ship.”

“’Nara you took care of my man yesterday, I’ll take care of yours now,” Zoë whispered as she fought her own emotions.

“He’s not mine. He was always too stubborn to let me in.”

“There, there girl, the Captain may be pig-headed, but it’s what’ll keep him alive now.” The wounded woman gripped Inara’s hand. “’Sides from what I remember the stubborn was on both sides.”

“You may be correct about that.” The dark haired beauty nibbled on her lip in worry. “How did you know, about what I did yesterday?”

“You two have never been ones to argue quietly. I heard what you did. For that I’m grateful. I also heard what he said. He had no call to treat you like that.”

“I’m sorry that I had to use Alliance soldiers, but there was no other way.” Inara sniffed back tears. “I couldn’t do it alone.”

“That boy who came in here during the night was a real nice kid. He was one of the ones who helped you. Wash would have liked him.” Zoë remembered hearing that conversation too. “What he believes in, may twist my gut, but not the man behind those beliefs.”

“Miss Serra, do you need help?” Private James Manyon stepped forward and joined the two women.

“See what I mean?” Zoë looked between the young Alliance soldier who had five sisters, and Inara. “It isn’t the men on the line that ya end up hating, it’s the ones giving the orders and sitting back in the safety of their ships while everyone else does the dying. Those you hate real bad!”

“I’ll have to take your word on that.” The Companion was still trying to come to terms with what she’d learned on Miranda. At this point she didn’t trust anyone in a government uniform, even the men who had helped her remove Wash’s body the day before.

“Private Manyon, this is Zoë Washburne. It was her husband…” She saw them expertly transfer Mal to a stretcher and the breath rushed out of her lungs.

“We’ll take good care of him, ma’am.” He gripped the kneeling woman’s shoulder before he turned to the one on the cot. “Mrs. Washburne, may I be of assistance?” His deep blue eyes met her sad brown ones. “I’d like you to know you have my deepest condolences on your loss.”

“Mrs. Washburne,” Zoë muttered and bit her lip refusing to let the tears come. No one ever called her that and it felt good to be wrapped in Wash’s name. It gave her a small measure of comfort. “Just give me a hand up, son. I can walk on my own if I’ve got someone there to steady me.” She didn’t try to smile, nor could she thank him for his condolences. She hurt too much, both inside and out. Her best friend needed her and for the moment it helped take her mind off of her own troubles. He needed her to make things as easy on Inara as she could and be there for him when he woke up.

“Miss Serra, my commander wanted me to give you this communicator. You will be notified as soon as the surgery is over. I know you are worried about Captain Reynolds. If you should run into any problems, please feel free to use it.” The young man didn’t understand what was important enough about this group of rebels to have drawn the personal attention of an Operative of the Parliament, though he’d grown to respect them in the hours he’d worked with the Companion. He’d heard rumors, but they were just too outlandish to believe. Whatever was going on, he had total faith that his government would set it to rights and protect them.

Five minutes later the Med-Evac ship took off carrying the unconscious Captain, Zoë at his side, Private Manyon helping to keep her steady, and Simon holding tightly to Kaylee. Inara watched until the ship broke through the ion clouds and disappeared, not even leaving a trail to mark its passage. Tears of worry and fear streaked her face, but she straightened her spine and wiped her cheeks dry. She had things to accomplish and she needed to be at her most Companiony. A grim smile tightened the edges of her mouth at the unconscious use of a word that had come straight from Mal’s vocabulary.
……………………………………………………….
River and Jayne had their fingers laced together as they descended the steps in the cargo bay. Jayne had Vera slung over one shoulder and held the blue whiskey bottle they were using as a candleholder high above their heads to light their way. As they neared the bottom step, he heard an almost inaudible ping and knew River had clicked off the safety on her pistol. The unconscious gesture on her part made him hurt deep in his gut. It brought home just how frightened she was.

Chan Juin, I wouldn’t leave ya here alone if I didn’t have ta.”

“I will be fine.” Though she said the words with as much confidence as she could, they both heard the way her voice quivered and that her breath control wasn’t what it usually was. “You must see to the others and discover their plans for today. Give Simon my love. He must think I don’t care…if it were me in there…nothing…nothing…would stop him…”

“Hush now. That ain’t so. The doc wants ya safe. He wants ya ta stay hid, so that’s what we’re doin’.” Jayne put the whiskey bottle down on an upended crate and turned her around to face him. “’Sides that first night, just after the battle, you was there keepin’ watch on us all, when we was too sick to think straight, you were there for us.”

“Jayne,” she was hesitant, almost shy as she whispered his name. “I know we talked about it early this morning, but please don’t tell the others, our family, my brother, what was done to me at the Academy. I couldn’t stand for them to know I…”

“Ya told me.” He caressed her cheek as he tipped her head so she was looking him in the eyes. It bothered him some that the others would have to know, but he figured it was best for her if it was in the open.

“I had to. You had to know about the dirty footprints they had left on my mind, before we became physically intimate.” Tears filled her eyes and her lip quivered. “You had to know that I wasn’t what I appeared to be.”

“It ain’t your fault what they done to you.” He held her close and fought terrible anger that clutched at his throat. Not only had those men driven her almost mad in the cruelest way, but they had made her think it was her fault. “You’re the one always talkin’ ‘bout logic. What you’re saying just ain’t logical. A mind is only thinkin’, but what a body does that makes it real. You got any idea how…ah…ah…precious a thing you gave me last night?”

“Precious…” River looked at him with doubt.

“Yeah, ya know, zhen, boa qui.” Jayne had trouble saying what he was feeling in English and found it easier if he slipped into Chinese even if they were words he’d never used about a woman afore.

“You’re talking about me like you do Vera.” She smiled slightly and ran her hand over the smooth cool metal of the gun he had slung over his shoulder.

“You’re more important ta me than Vera,” the words slipped out surprising both people. “Well ya are,” he growled and frowned at his admission. “In all my years I ain’t never…I ain’t never been with a woman for her first time. If ya hadn’t been so important ta me, it wouldn’t ‘a happened.” His thoughts and reasoning were muddled but he knew River needed to hear the words, even if this was as good as he could do.

“I love you,” she whispered and kissed him gently on the cheek.

“I…I…” he shook his head unable to say what he knew he should.

“Hush it is all right.” She covered his lips with two of her fingers. “The wolf fights for his freedom. His heart has been free for a long time, but now it is not and it isn’t easy for him because he knows that his kind mates for life.”

Jayne put his arms around River, and kissed the top of her head. She felt so gorramn good in his arms, he didn’t ever want ta let her go, but he had to, or they’d never get anything done. “You feel safe enough to walk me to the door?”

“Wait, look at that.” She pointed to the corner of the bay where three body bags were lined up neatly in a row. “There are three of them, how strange?” Jayne followed her over and knelt beside her on the deck.

“One ‘a them is the old kind, they don’t hardly use them anymore. The body rots afore ya can get anywhere with it.”

“Wash,” River sighed and gently touched the outside of the thermal controlled modern bag. “This one is Mr. Universe’s.” She pointed to the bag that looked exactly like the first. “But this one, the odd one, it belongs to Lenore.”

“Lenore, who the hell is Lenore?” The Mercenary frowned.

“Mrs. Universe.”

“But she was a Love-Bot.” He argued. “They don’t die. From what Mal told us, the Feds didn’t deactivate her, ‘cause she was able to give him a message, ‘bout the back-up system for gettin’ the word out.”

“It defies logic, but she is dead.” River had unzipped the one bag and the beautiful blonde robot looked as if she were sleeping. “‘The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes; The life still there, upon her hair – the death upon her eyes.’ It is from Lenore a poem by Edgar Allen Poe from Earth-That-Was. I wonder if that is how Mr. Universe chose her name.” A small smile crossed the girl’s lips as she gently re-zipped the bag.

Chan Juin sometimes your way ‘a thinkin’ makes me a mite twitchy.” He ruffled her hair. “Maybe she was just defective; ya ever think ‘a that?”

“Mr. Universe built her himself. He would never deal with defective computer parts. He built himself a woman who he could love and who loved him. When he died, she ceased to be.”

“Now you’re talkin’ like a girl,” he smirked.

“I am a girl.” She giggled and poked him in the side. “Besides I can think of stranger couples.”

“Oh ya can, can ya?”

“Yes, what about an ex-soldier and a laughing pilot? Then there is the doctor from the Core and the mechanic from the Rim. Let’s not forget the beautiful Companion who supported Unification and a Browncoat Rim Captain whose business dealings are often a bit south of lawful.”

“Those the only ones ya can think of?” He loved seeing the teasing sparkle in her dark eyes. It had been missing since before the Lilac bank heist.

“There may be one more, but the man involved is a bit slow and has yet to make up his mind.”

“Maybe he’s just worried that the woman will wake up one day and discover what a mistake she’s made. She’s so much younger and smarter than he is. ‘Sides they happened awful fast and she was scared somethin’ fierce and needed someone. He happened ta be there so she got all these odd ideas that it was more than that.”

“No, it’s not like that. I don’t need just anyone. I need you! You are the only one who makes me feel whole and alive, the only one who can block out the others and let me be me.” She took a moment to think. “It may appear that we happened fast, but I know I was always aware of you. I would catch you watching me with a look in your eyes that I couldn’t read, but it made me feel things that I only understand after last night.

“What about the rest of it, River?” He wanted to touch her but was afraid that if he did he’d never let her go.

“The rest makes no difference. Age is insignificant out in the Black, besides I have nothing in common with a boy. I would be bored and he would be frightened. The other is even less relevant. When Simon said I was a genius he meant it. No matter who I am with, I will always be smarter. Though I suppose if I’d stayed with the Blue Hands they would have eventually bred me with someone of almost my equal and I would have given birth to a new….”

“No! Stop!” Jayne snarled. “Ain’t anyone ever gonna be inside ‘a you but me! You’re mine!” His words echoed off the cargo bay walls.

“The wolf growls in defense of what is his.”

“You’re damn straight he does!” He cupped her face and kissed her hard.
…………………………………………………..
Inara had loaded a large basket with rations and supplies that River, Jayne and she would need for the day. She had Mal’s holstered gun over her arm with his coat covering it, when a troop ship landed beside the Medical tent that was being dissembled.

“Ma’am, I’m Major Ngu and I’m looking for Captain Reynolds.” A tall graying officer in the uniform of the Alliance Engineering Corps approached her.

“Inara Serra,” her name slid from her lips in smooth unhurried tones, as she lowered the basket to the ground. “You’ve just missed him. I believe it was necessary to evacuate him early due to an unforeseen medical problem.” She frowned at the blood stain on the side of her dress. Making it look like she was more worried about the material than the man.

“Did he take all of his crew with him?” Channing Ngu was fascinated by the lovely Companion. He’d read the report that the Operative had given him the night before. It was hard to believe that the smooth cultured woman in front of him was party to any of the destruction he’d witnessed on the video feeds. It was even harder to believe that she could be involved with a Browncoat Rim pirate.

“Most of them did.” As she spoke she was aware of his men unloading their equipment and the medical personal loading theirs onto another ship. It was obvious that the guard was changing. “I take it you’re here to see that Serenity gets safely loaded onto an Alliance ship in orbit?”

“Yes, I, we are.” He turned on his charm. “Unless we discover she is too badly damaged for transport off the moon.”

“Then you and your men have a full day’s work ahead of you. Captain Reynolds’s boat is wedged in a hanger at the end of this landing deck. There is a crashed Reaver ship blocking it. I believe it will be necessary to clear a path before you will be able to tow it into a position for transport.”

“It is my understanding that there is a touchy situation regarding a suspected Alliance escapee who refuses to leave the damaged ship.” Ngu had been fully briefed on the crash site and understood what needed to be done to get the Firefly into space. If he could get some cooperation from the Companion it was possible that the charade they were all about to take part in could be avoided. His men weren’t simply construction and engineering. They were part of an elite task force that was usually deployed into dangerous areas to build fortifications and open roads for soldiers that were following close behind them. Every one of them had ranger training. This was exactly the break his career needed. Channing had made the mistake of romancing the wrong woman a few years earlier and now he was growing old in grade. If he didn’t get promoted soon, he never would.

“It was my understanding that the Operative had given orders that she was to be left alone.” Inara smiled coolly. “Make no mistake about it, Major Ngu, if you or your men try anything that makes her nervous, you will be having to face your superiors with her dead body.”

“Surely one young girl is no match for…”

“You really have no idea what you’re dealing with do you?” She’d expected that the men in the lower ranks were unaware of what had really transpired in the last few days, but it gave her a cold sense of dread that high ranking officers would be easily fooled.

“I’ve heard some preposterous tales.” Ngu stuttered to a halt as Inara just looked at him with cool brown eyes.

“Around noon the wind changes, all you have to do is follow the stench and you’ll find the bodies of dead Reavers. Then you’ll understand that they are not preposterous tales.” The sights and sounds of that battle would often sneak up on her when she least expected and she’d find herself reliving it all over again.

“If I had some help from the inside…” his voice was honey smooth and very sure of himself as he ran a finger up and down Inara’s arm. She was a beautiful woman despite her disheveled appearance and Channing Ngu had always been a connoisseur of beautiful things.

“Major you assume too much, too soon.” She glared at where he was casually touching her.

“Then those other tales are true as well?” He gripped both her upper arms tightly and shook her. He couldn’t believe that a woman of her stature, who had found herself on the wrong side of a battle with the government, would turn down his attentions. “The ones that say that the pirate captain was able to turn a Companion of the Alliance into a Rim whore?”

“I would advise you to take your hands off of me. The Guild takes a dim view of its members being treated like this.” Fear curled in Inara’s stomach as she tried to make sense out of what was happening. She was usually good at reading people. Her mind had been preoccupied with worry for Mal and the need to act in his stead. She hadn’t been paying enough attention to the man she was dealing with.

“I want the girl who is hiding on that broken ship!” He tightened his grip and glared. It only made the Companion smile coolly.

“I grew up on Sihnon. I spent my formative years at the training house there and I am a respected member of the Guild. You can not intimidate me. Loyalty is one of the first rules of my profession and that loyalty is mine to give to whom I choose. I choose to honor the girl and the agreement the Operative made with her.” She felt the reassuring touch of the scratchy-soft material of Mal’s coat against her arm and the weight of his gun hidden under it. Carefully she pulled the large pistol from his holster boot and dug the barrel into Channing Ngu’s abdomen. “Now it’s your turn to choose.”

“You’re taking quite a chance, Miss Serra.” He ground out, but let her go and pulled back.

“Put a communicator into my basket.” She ignored his last comment and watched, still pointing the large pistol at him as he tossed a small black device in with her other supplies. “Now if one of your men would be good enough to carry that for me. Call us when you’ve cleared away enough debris to inspect the outside of the ship.”

Inara leaned against Serenity and tried to keep from shaking. The young man who had helped her with the basket had left and she needed to get herself under control. For some reason she couldn’t get her fingers to loosen their grip on Mal’s gun. With her other hand she searched in the pocket of his coat for his emergency keys. They would unlock the doors if the power was down and the touch pads useless, as was the situation now.

She worked the key in the lock and then pumped the manual hydraulic opener. Inara blinked as she stepped into the much darker cargo bay, pushing her basket ahead of her. Her eyes must have been playing tricks on her, because she was sure that Jayne Cobb had been embracing River Tam as they knelt beside the bodies of Wash, Mr. Universe and Lenore the Love-bot. Moments later, when her eyes adjusted to the change in lighting, she realized they were sitting together beside the body bags, but there was at least a foot between them.

“Inara you all right?” the big merc surged to his feet. “I was just headed out when we saw those.” He pointed behind him to where River sat on the deck.

“I…ah…yes…I’m fine, but there has been a change in plans.” She began to visibly shake and Jayne quickly picked her up and sat her on a crate before she fell.

“What the gorramn hell happened?” He’d never seen the Companion this upset. It gave him a bad feeling that she had the Captain’s coat and was hugging it to her as if her life depended on it.

“Mal’s wound opened sometime during the night and he began to bleed. They’ve evacuated him to a hospital ship. I was able to convince the others to go with him.”

“He gonna be all right?” Jayne glared darkly. Things were changin’ and he should ‘a been out there seein’ that everyone was safe, instead of makin’ love ta River. He shook his head ‘cause that was the second time he’d thought of sexin’ her as ‘makin’ love’. She made everything different and new. It was scary and excitin’ at the same time.

“He has to be.” Inara gasped then bit her lip to recover her composure. “They say he will be, but they need to operate to find and repair whatever is bleeding inside of him. I’ve got a communicator in my pocket that is a direct link to the Operative. I’ve been told he will let me know when the surgery is over. There is another in the basket that the soldiers who are going to help move Serenity will use when they need to contact us.”

“The dark man’s minion walks in freedom. He made no promises, so he believes he isn’t bound by them.” River’s eyes glassed over as she gripped her pistol. “I am out of his sight, but not out of his mind.” Her hand shook and it was only Jayne’s presence that kept her from raising the pistol to her head and leaving it there until the frightening specter that wandered the moon had left.

“What the hell…”

“She’s right.” Inara slumped in defeat. “Major Ngu is here with his men. They will remove the debris that has us trapped and inspect Serenity to be sure she can be towed through atmo without her hull breaking. But he’s looking for River. He wants to try and take her. I am unclear if he is acting under orders or on his own.”

“He ain’t gettin’ her!” The Mercenary moved beside the girl and wrapped his arms around her. “Easy there Chan Juin, I ain’t gonna let anything happen ta ya. I already told ya that.”

Inara blinked unsure if her eyes were playing tricks on her or not. The idea that something was going on between those two was more than she could deal with at the moment. “I can’t…” The sound of tearing metal made all three occupants of the cargo bay jump. They turned as one with three raised guns, two toward the doors. The first was a large silver automatic named Vera, held by an expert marksman. The second was an elegantly lined Hero-style side arm with a long barrel and a wooden grip. It looked strangely at home in the soft gentle hand of the Companion who took comfort from its presence. The last gun was a black pistol that appeared much too big for the hand of the small woman who was holding it pressed against her temple.

“Gorramnit River, don’t you dare!” Jayne shouted. “I told ya I’d protect ya and I meant it.”

“No more deaths,” her voice hitched as tears filled her eyes. “I won’t be taken.”

“I know, Chan Juin, I won’t let ‘em. They ain’t gonna hurt ya ever again.”

“They’re not coming in.” Inara’s eyes were pinned to the doors and the sounds beyond, but she’d heard every thing that had been said by River and Jayne. She wanted to turn and look at them but she couldn’t make herself do it. She was frozen in place with her arm out, Mal’s gun held in her outstretched hand. Its weight was making her shake all the way to her shoulder. “They’re working on the wreckage from the Reaver ship.”

“I’m puttin’ an end to this here and now. Where’s the communicator?” Jayne had moved in front of Inara and gently lowered her arm. “’Nara, you with us here? I need the communicator so we can talk ta the Operative. If he ain’t gonna keep his end ‘a the bargain, we need ta know ‘bout it.”

“Here,” she whispered as she dug in her pocket for the item.

“That Mal’s?” the Mercenary asked when he got his first look at the six inch stain of dried blood covering her right side and part of her breast. She’d been carrying the Captain’s long brown coat held tightly against her. It had hidden much of the stain in the darkened cargo bay.

“Yes,” she nodded and handed over the communication device.

“No wonder you was worried.” He frowned.

“The minion hurt you.” River stepped forward and gently touched the Companion on the arm. “He dug his fingers into you and shook you. He would have done worse if you hadn’t been carrying the Captain’s gun.” She pushed up one of the older woman’s sleeves until she’d exposed dark finger shaped black and blue marks forming on Inara’s usually flawless skin.

“Please I’m all right. He wouldn’t have…I…” She felt surrounded and didn’t want to talk about what had almost happened. She’d managed to convince herself that she’d been in complete control but the doubtful look on the girl’s face was eating away at her convictions.

“’Nara don’t make me have ta ask River.” Jayne shook his head at how stubborn she was.

“It was Major Ngu. His men had nothing to do with it.” Her usual serene expression had returned to Inara’s face. It appeared practiced and a bit forced, but it was there. “I wasn’t ever in any real danger. I am a Companion. The Guild deals harshly with those who do not respect its members. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put these away.” After taking a flashlight from her basket, she turned with her usual graceful movements and headed for the stairs. “There is one other thing.” She looked back over her shoulder and smiled at the tall mercenary. “Don’t ever call me ‘Nara again. It’s not…only he…just never do it again.” For a small moment her newly returned composure almost cracked, but she held it together until she made it to Mal’s bunk. Once safely down the ladder and surrounded by his things, she fell to pieces, curled on his cot.
……………………………………….
It took Jayne ten minutes before he was connected with the Operative. River was sitting at his side, but out of the man’s line of sight.

“We got ourselves a problem down here.” The Big Man didn’t wait for pleasantries to be exchanged.

“I am fully aware that Captain Reynolds’s wound had opened in the night, but I have no news for you as yet. He is still in surgery.”

“T’weren’t talkin’ ‘bout the Captain. We got a Major down here that’s causing a passel a trouble. He’s stickin’ his nose in were it don’t belong and threatenin’ Inara. Now I figure she’s gonna sic that Guild ‘a hers on him and that’ll take care ‘a him good. But I still need ta know just how serious you are ‘bout that deal ya struck with Mal. ‘Cause I’m gettin’ sick and tired of tryin’ ta talk River Tam outta puttin’ ‘a bullet in her brain.”

“She mustn’t!” It was all he could do to keep from grinding his teeth. Channing Ngu was a fool and he’d been unwise to trust him. It was obvious the man had bungled the job. All he’d wanted him to do was look around, see if he could see the girl. “I will be sure he is taken care of. Are both women all right?”

“Inara’s got black and blue marks from bein’ manhandled and River won’t put her pistol down long enough to eat. You tell me if ya think they’re all right, ‘cause I sure don’t.”

“It will be attended to immediately. Give my apologies to Miss Serra and tell her that I’ll have the last of the medical personal contact her before they leave the moon and she can travel with them rather than the Engineering Unit.” The Operative cut the link. Everywhere his plans were falling apart and he was running out of time. He had one small chance of righting things. He had to convince River Tam to return with him.

He dug in his pocket for the chip that contained her personal subliminal program. He’d sent a diluted version of it over the Cortex until she’d seen it at the Maidenhead. What he had in his hand was her original training version. It was intense, to the point and would grind into the girl’s mind until he owned her. All he had to do was get her alone in room with him so he could send the signal and she would be under his control.

“Yes it will work,” he muttered as he punched in Channing Ngu’s personal communicator code. All he needed to do was keep to the bargain he’d made with Reynolds and get them back to Persephone. Then the girl would be his.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
icebreather
Nov. 26th, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)
I just now read the whole story up to this point, and I'm really enjoying it. Jayne is so great when he's protective like this. And you involve the rest of the crew so wonderfully; there's a full-bodied world for Jayne and River to interact in and with, which makes it so much more realistic. Awaiting the next chapter ...
lattelady6
Nov. 26th, 2006 03:44 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're enjoying my story. I'm not sure what happened last March that made me suddenly freeze and not be able to write River and Jayne, but something happened. Then I was able to write Voices and Visions and promised myself that I'd get this one finished.
icebreather
Nov. 29th, 2006 05:48 am (UTC)
Glad you did!
( 3 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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