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Rating:  PG-13
Pairing:  Jayne/River, a tiny bit Mal/Inara
Disclaimer:  It all belongs to Joss.  I just let them out to play a little.
Beta: TamSibling  

Precious Commodity



Ch. 2 In the Black of Night

Jayne quickly gathered what he needed for River.  When he arrived at the communal bathing area he heard water running from the shower. “Girl, I got ya a blanket.  You keep that washin’ curtain closed up real tight. I’m gonna come in there and hang this here thing on the big old hook beside the sink.”  He opened the hatch just far enough for his arm to fit through, then thrust the old army blanket into the room.  “When you got all that blood washed offa you, wrap up tight in that thing so I can see to your wounds afore you put your clothes on.”


“All…all…alright,” River shivered as she ducked under the icy water one last time to rinse stinging soap off her body and out of her hair.


The big man went weak in the knee when he heard her response. “You okay in there?” he called out, when he was unable to stand waiting any longer.


“Cold,” she managed to say through chattering teeth and thankfully turned off the water. 


“Girl you look like a drowned rat.” Jayne shook his head when the door opened and River stepped through wearing Mal’s army blanket over her shoulders.  She held it closed in front of her, with her gun clutched tightly in her other hand. Even in the dim light of the flashlight her lips appeared blue.


“Let’s get you dried off an’ warmed up.” Jayne pulled her close and used one of his shirts to dry her hair.  “At least you don’t smell like Reavers no more.” He could feel the shivers that shook her body as she leaned against him.


River pressed her face against the large warm man and let him absorb her shudders as she absorbed his body heat.


“There, there, girl you gonna be alright.”  The mercenary reached for the gun between them.  He could tell by the weight and feel of the weapon in his hand that it contained a full clip of ammunition.  Instinctively his finger moved against the safety to be sure it was still engaged, as he slid it into the back of his belt,


“I’m so cold,” her words vibrated against his chest.  “You were correct about the shower.”


“Yeah, so were you.  You’re clean.  Hold still and I’ll wrap this shirt around your hair ta keep it from drippin’ water down your back.  There that’s better. Now sit yourself down.” He motioned toward the deck.  “I got that ointment of the Doc’s that ya left in the infirmary, for your cuts and bruises.”


River stood very still for a moment and carefully listened to the sounds of Serenity sleeping on the strange moon.  Once she was satisfied that the only noises she heard were of metal settling, she sat and let Jayne minister to the bites and scratches on her neck and arms.


“They get you anywhere else?”  He’d been as gentle as he knew how, but he hadn’t missed her intake of her breath when he’d carefully applied the Doc’s goo to the bite on her shoulder.  He didn’t know which had been harder, usin’ an impersonal touch when his fingers moved over her soft skin or seeing the damage the heishoudaang liumang had done to her.


“There was one other I discovered in the shower.”  She moved and her bare leg slipped between the folds of the blanket.  High on her inner thigh were deep scratches surrounded by fingerprint shaped bruises.


Jayne ground his teeth and stared at the shivering girl in the small pool of light from his flashlight. “That’s a nasty one,” he growled.


“Yes,” she whispered.


It took all his effort to keep his hand from shaking as he dabbed ointment over the gashes she’d just exposed. Suddenly he stopped as he realized the significance of her injury. “River, did they…” He tossed down the tube of medication it a fit of temper and gripped her chin with his hand.  He needed to see her eyes, he had to know….  Havin’ to say the words out loud made his stomach lurch. “Did they….”


“You are trying to ask if they raped me,” River whispered as her hand curled around his wrist where he was holding her chin. She could read anguish in his eyes and feel the distress he didn’t know he was broadcasting. “If they had been able to take control long enough for that, I would have been unable to get up again. They did not touch me in that way.” 


She didn’t realize her own eyes told a story of pain and barely missed horror, which had nothing to do with the Alliance.  The combination of her emotions and the ones she was picking up from him were too much for her. She couldn’t suppress a shudder that shook her body at the memory of her narrow escape.   “Please do not tell Simon that they almost…ah…pulled me to the ground when I was prevented from getting back through the blast doors. It was a narrow escape.”


Chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo,” Jayne pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her while he cussed out the animals that had hurt her.  He wanted to go back and kill them Reavers all over again, but he couldn’t.  Even if they were still alive, he didn’t have the skills and he knew it. Only the woman in his arms did.  At that moment he was thankful for the Alliance and the rigorous training they’d given her, though if they hadn’t held her prisoner at that Academy, she would have been safe at home.  It made him start cussing all over again.  Alliance torture, Reaver torture, he didn’t see a damn bit of difference. 


“I am all right, Jayne, really I am.” Her breath moved against his neck as she spoke and it made him tighten his grip on her.  Much to his surprise she held onto him just as fiercely.


“It’s hard to think about what coulda happened to you.” Unconsciously he rubbed his chin against her temple, breathing in the soft scent of her.  “You’re just a little girl. You should be safe somewheres, with someone watchin’ over you.”


“I’m not a little girl and haven’t been since the Alliance decided to play with my brain.”  She tilted her face against his neck and he could feel her lips moving against his skin as she spoke.  “But that is over now.  I am safe.  You promised to guard my door tonight, so I do have someone to look after me.”


“River,” he sighed her name and just held her. He wanted to say more, but was caught in a moment of indecision.  She had come so close to being violated that morning, it made him feel dirty that he found pleasure in the fact her body was pressed against his.  If he pushed her in a vulnerable moment he was no better than one of them Reavers.


“Please,” she whispered as if she knew exactly what he was thinking.  “I am very tired.”


Her quietly spoken words tipped the scales and for once in his life, Jayne Cobb listened to his brain instead of his balls. He pulled her hair free of the shirt it had been wrapped in, glad that the silky dark strands were almost dry.  “Well then, you go back in that shower room and get dressed.  Your room didn’t get damaged, just got your things tossed all around it.  I’ll take you back there so you can get some sleep.  Don’t ya worry.”  It took an effort to let her go.  She’d felt good in his arms and he’d wanted to keep her close, but it wasn’t proper.  The last thing she needed was to become aware of his desires. She’d been though enough for one day.


River nodded and escaped back into the shower room.  Moments later she came out wearing her thin red pleated dress and boots.


“Here put this on, it’ll keep ya warm.”  Jayne shuffled his feet as he handed her a warm wool button-down shirt.


“This is yours,” her mouth dropped open at his generosity.  Jayne didn’t share his things with anyone, ever.


“Yeah, but it don’t fit right.”  He shrugged it off as if it were an everyday occurrence, though they both knew it wasn’t.


“It does not appear to fit me either.”  River gazed down her front.  The shirt hung to her knees and the cuffs dangled inches beyond her fingertips.  “Though it is nice and warm, thank you very much, Jayne.”  She grinned at him as she tried to roll the sleeves.


“Tweren’t nothing.” His hand reached as if to help her, but he pulled it back.  He wanted to touch her too badly to let himself do so.


River nodded with satisfaction when she could finally see her hands again.  “May I have my gun back now, please?”  She tried to keep her voice light but she could hear the breathy desperation behind her words.  From the expression on Jayne’s face he heard it too.


He hesitated a moment before pulling it from where he’d tucked it in his belt and placing it in her outstretched hand.  “Let’s get going we both need some sleep.” He lighted the way for them through the ship until they entered the main galley and then she stopped refusing to go any further.  “We’re almost there. You can sleep in your own bed tonight.”


“No,” she couldn’t make herself move.  As much as she wanted to appear brave and unbroken, she couldn’t force herself any further.  “Please, I can’t…out of sight, out of mind.”  River pulled away from him and headed toward the storage area he’d found her in.  “Out of sight, out of mind.”


“You can’t sleep on that cold floor!”  Jayne was just about at the end of his rope.  The woman wasn’t making any sense, not that she ever did.  He couldn’t understand how she could be so strong one moment and a basket case the next.  In his world a person was either strong or weak.  There was no in-between.


“Please don’t make me.”  She gripped her gun as if it was a lifeline while her eyes darted between his face and the entrance to her hiding place.  “Please, Jayne.”


“Gorramnit, when could I ever make you do anything you didn’t want to do,” he ground out in frustration.


“It isn’t want, it is necessity,” she whispered.  “In my room I am River with the broken mind.”  She stepped into his personal space needing to make him understand there was a thought process behind her desperation.  “When I woke up locked in the storage area I was becoming whole again.  The words were jumbled, often missing, but my thoughts were clearing, beginning to make sense. They were separating into those that were mine and those that belonged to others.  During the hours I spent there it became clear. I remembered who I had become and what I had to do.  Please, it is where I feel safest until we are in the Black again.”


“It’s also where you cracked me on the head.”  He glared at her one last time for good measure.


“That too,” she nodded.


“All right, honey,” he sighed.  It finally made sense to him.  The storage area was a place where she’d overpowered a much larger opponent and been able to escape from.  That was something he understood to the depths of his soul because he knew that no matter how strong a person was, they were useless until they believed in their own power.


“Thank you,” she sighed as her eyes fluttered closed and she leaned against the bulkhead.


“You can’t fall asleep yet, you gotta help me drag them cushions from the couch over to insulate the deck. And just so you know, ya ain’t sleepin’ in there by yourself.  Mal would have my hide if I left you there alone.”  Then again he’d probably have his hide for sleepin’ in there with her too, but he’d promised he’d protect her from the Alliance and he couldn’t do that from his bunk.


In the end Jayne pulled the mattress from her bed to cushion the deck and she covered the bulkheads with pillows from the couch.  Between them they gathered blankets from all over the ship.


“It looks a might crowded, but you’re a tiny thing, so ya should fit.” Jayne observed as he followed her into their makeshift…space…he refused to let his mind use the word bunk, but it kept drifting that way no matter how pure he tried to keep his thoughts.  “I’ll sit here at the foot, guardin’ the door.” He grunted as he lowered himself to the bottom of the mattress.  “Boy I sure am stiff.”


“And you will be even stiffer in the morning if you spend the night sitting up in the cold,” she answered sleepily as she plopped down on the mattress and pulled off her boot, always keeping her gun within easy reach. “There is room enough for both of us.  We will both fit up here.”  She patted the space beside her. “And both stay warm.”


Jayne shook his head ‘cause he knew they’d both fit, but it would be tight with him next to her, tight and uncomfortable, as far as he was concerned.  The more distance he could put between her strong compact body and his yearning one, the better he’d feel.  But she was also makin’ sense.  It was damn cold on Serenity and they hadn’t gathered near enough blankets to keep the chill away.  Muttering obscenities under his breath he scooted up the bed.


“You gonna sleep with that gun?”  He glared at her as she shifted to lie down. For just a moment he wondered if she was picking up on his needs and was using the weapon to warn him off.  But as quickly as the thought surfaced, he dismissed it.  Naw, if she knew what I was wantin’ to do to that body a’ hers she’d knock me senseless like before.’  He wasn’t sure if he found that knowledge reassuring or not.


“You sleep with your guns, don’t you?” Her voice drifted up as he settled beside her.


“Ya, but that’s different.”  He grumbled and shimmied as far away from her as their cramped space would allow with Vera placed prominently between them.  “Now let’s get us some sleep.”  He felt around in the dark until he’d found all their blankets and tucked them snuggly around them.


“The only way it is different is that Vera is pressing into my back.” River glared over her shoulder at the offending weapon.  “My gun is not interfering with your sleep.”


“Dang it all, girl,” Jayne’s frustration was at the boiling point.  He was tryin’ to be nice, but dealing with the little crazy girl in a civilized manner was the last thing he wanted to do.  He’d just admitted to himself that he thought she had a body made for all manner of sin, and it was driving him over the edge.  He pulled himself up onto his elbow and watched her as he tried to regain his temper. 


She was on her side turned away from him with one hand curled under her chin and the large pistol she’d been carrying, held tightly in her other hand. It was resting on the mattress so close to her cheek she was almost lying on it.  Her closed eyes and relaxed posture didn’t fool Jayne for a moment.  He knew that if she heard a noise she thought was outta place, that girl would be on her feet shooting or threatening to shoot herself if it was the only way out.


“I’m sorry, girl,” he sighed as he patted her shoulder. “You should be sleepin’ with a teddy bear, not a gun, is all.”  When she didn’t respond he reached for Vera and placed the large weapon within easy reach above his head.  Then he turned on his side and wrapped his body around hers.


“Thank you, Jayne, I was still very cold,” she murmured as she shifted against him taking the body heat he was offering her.  “And teddy bears belonged to a different girl in a different life.  Do not mourn her, Simon has spent too much time doing so, don’t add to the waste.”


He bit his lip to suppress a gasp as her small round bottom pressed against his groin.  For a moment he wondered if she realized what she was doing to him and was playing him for a fool.  One quick look at her peaceful face told him the truth:  the Alliance had made her years older than her age by playing with her brain, but in matters of the body she was as innocent as she had been at fourteen.



An hour later when demons brought River out of her sleep, gasping in fear, Jayne was beside her.  He grabbed her gun hand worried that she would feel the danger was too great and begin shooting, either at him, or use the gun on herself.


“I’m all right,” she panted as she sat up still trying to get her bearings.  For a moment all she knew was that she felt safe despite the fear that shook her insides.  “I am sorry to have awakened you.”


“That’s what I’m here for, ta protect ya.” He sat beside her and felt helpless as her shoulders shook and she tried to hide her feelings from him.


“You can’t, not in my nightmares.  It is the one place where they can still reach me.”  She faced him in the dark hoping he wouldn’t see she was shivering uncontrollably.


“Come here, Baby,” he didn’t realize he’d used an endearment until it slipped from his lips, but it didn’t stop him from pulling her against his chest and letting her cry out her fears and despair.


“Thank you,” she buried her cold nose against his neck and dug her fingers into his shirt under her cheek. “You make me feel safe,” she whispered.


“Ahhh I ain’t doin’ nothin’ Simon wouldn’t do if he was here.”  It made him proud that he might be able to lessen her fear, but he was embarrassed that even as he held her he wanted her in ways that he knew he shouldn’t.  He hoped if he kept her brother’s name between them it would make him feel less like one of them Reavers who would have used her for their own dark desires. 


“No, Simon would want to give me his medicines to take away the dreams, to remove that part of me that I have become.  It frightens him.”  She sniffed delicately and rubbed her forehead against his whiskers.  “He wants his mei-mei back, the River I was before the Alliance, but once a mind is broken it can’t be unbroken.”


“River you ain’t broke!”  Jayne grasped her shoulders and pulled her far enough away from him so he could see her face completely and she could see his.  “I want ya to stop talkin’ about yourself like that.”


“You’re right, I’m not broken any longer.” She gave him a half smile as she touched his cheek.  “I am rebuilt, a new thing, part Simon’s dancer-girl and part Alliance killer-girl.  Not all his shots and medication will erase that new part of me.  Even if he could I’m not sure I’d want him to, I’ve been through too much…there has been too much…” she shivered and tears filled her eyes.


“Ahh girl,” Jayne whispered as he pulled her close again.  He didn’t understand much of what she said.  He’d have to think on it.  He did know that for the first time since he’d known her she was talking clearly and seemed to know her surroundings and the trouble they could be in.


He rocked her gently and watched as her eyes drifted closed.  Much to his surprise her hand loosened on the gun she’d hardly let go of since he’d found her.  When he reached over to take it out of her hand, her fingers tightened around the grip, for one second, and then she gave it over into his keeping.


“Jayne is not afraid of killer-girl,” she whispered as he pillowed her head on his chest and lay down holding her close.  “You will keep me safe.”


“Oh baby doll if you only knew how hard it’s gonna be,” he ran his hand through her hair and enjoyed her weight pressing against him.


It took Jayne most of the night, but by the time the gray foggy dawn broke over the sight of one of the worst Alliance losses since Serenity Valley, the mercenary had himself under perfect control.  River Tam needed him.  No one had every really needed him afore and it gave him a warm, odd feeling in the pit of his stomach. Sexin’ he could get from any whore in the ‘verse, but this new feelin,’ that became stronger with each beat of his heart, was caused by only one person: the little girl curled against his side. He didn’t understand it, and he wasn’t sure it was for the best, but for the time being he accepted it.


He’d have to deal with the way she was makin’ his body feel all alive and wantin’, on his own, t’weren’t like it was the first time he’d had to do that neither.  Once they was out in the Black again, and Simon and the Captain were back on their feet, he’d hand her back to them for safe keepin’.  He figured once he did that, all the needin’ and the longin’ he was feelin’ would disappear and she would go back to bein’ the pain in his butt she’d been since she’d popped outta that box. With his new resolve in mind, they were soon both fast asleep.



River Tam woke slowly.  Her slight movement brought Jayne instantly awake.  He could see her right hand moving, searching, and feeling for something that was missing.  “Here you go, girl,” his voice was husky as he placed her gun, butt first into the palm of her outstretched hand.  She was still curled tightly against his side, with her head on his shoulder and his arm around her.


“Thank you…I…ah…needed to know where it was.” Her brown eyes met his blue ones and she knew that if anyone would understand he would.


“I know what ya mean,” he nodded grimly as he patted Vera who had slept inches above their heads.



High above the desolate moon, the Alliance Operative was making plans.  He was through, that had been made clear to him when he’d talked to a representative of Parliament the night before.  But there were still some loose ends to tie up and he was just the man to do the tying.


Despite doctor’s orders he commandeered a shuttle for the surface.  His body armor would help stabilize his back injury, just as it had protected it from much worse damage during his fight with Captain Reynolds.  The dislocation of his shoulders had been easily fixed and his powerful mind was able to control lingering pain from any of his injuries.  He had business to conduct and nothing was going to stop him.




In the Alliance med-tent Malcolm Reynolds began to wake up.  He’d been dreaming about Inara.  The dream had been so intense her scent lingered as if she was beside him.  It caught him completely by surprise when he opened his eyes and found her head resting on his shoulder.  Black curls were strewn across his chest where he was holding her tightly against him.  “Well if that just don’t beat all,” he whispered as he gazed at her lovely face.


In sleep she looked as innocent as a child.  Her make-up was almost all gone and she still had dark smudges under her eyes from the day before.  Mal didn’t know how she’d come to be in his bed, but for just a moment he let himself simply feel the joy that her closeness brought.  He’d never conjured her warm weight and soft curves would feel so good pressed into his body and he’d done a goodly amount of conjourin’ on that subject.


He watched in fascination as her eyes fluttered open and he found himself looking directly into their brown depths.  “Shhh, don’t say it.” He placed his finger over her lips wanting to savor their time together and not have it end in angry words as they usually did.


“I was only going to inquire how you slept.” Inara was as determined as Mal to keep the peace between them. He was beaten and bruised.  His left eye was red and almost swollen shut, reminding her how close she’d come to losing him forever.


“Pretty well,” he smiled at her.  “And I got an idea that I’ve got you to thank for that.”


“You could have died, you know?” she whispered as fear clouded her mind.  She knew that if she were smart she would move, get away, do anything to put some distance between them but his nearness was too intoxicating.


“We all coulda.”  Mal ran his hand over her cheek.  The idea of her dyin’ hurt in the pit of his stomach.  He wanted to ask her many things.  Half-truths and doubts had kept them apart for too long.  Instead he lowered his head, needing to kiss her.  Needing to know she was really there with him and not a figment of his longings.


Suddenly heavy boots were heard tromping on the ground outside the tent, and the voice of the Operative carried through the thin canvas walls.  Mal and Inara stiffened and pulled away from each other.  In her hurry to move, Inara would have fallen out of bed if he hadn’t acted quickly and tightened his grip on her.


“We’re not through here.” Malcolm warned as she slipped from his hold, and moved off the cot.  “Though I agree, this is best left for another time.”


“Captain, it is good to see you awake.”  The Operative moved across the tent to stand at Mal’s bed.  “How are you feeling this morning?”


“Doin’ just fine,” he groaned as Inara helped him into a sitting position. Unlike the man he was facing, he hadn’t been wearing body armor the day before and had sustained internal injuries in their fight.  He was much weaker than he’d ever admit.


“Good, that is good to hear.” The tall black man nodded.  “I would like your permission to speak with River Tam today.”


“No!” Jayne Cobb called out from the entrance to the tent.  “She don’t want to have nothin’ to do with you.”  His loud angry delectation brought everyone in the tent awake and armed Alliance guards running with their guns drawn.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 11th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I am not sure if I had left a review of this chapter. Since I reread it I decided to leave another (or the first). I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between River and Jayne. He wants to take care of her and I find that very beautiful. Mal and Inara are always assuming a fight is coming when they are together! Nice to see them show their tender sides.
Mar. 11th, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks for letting me know that you're enjoying my story. I was a bit suprised to be writing Jayne/River, but I write what is speaking to me at the time. The next chapter is up and there will be at least one more after that.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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