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Ghosts Of Christmases Past

Disclaimer: They all belong to Joss, I just like to play with them
Rating: Pg-13
Pairing: Mainly Jayne/River, but there is some Kaylee/Simon and Mal/Inara ofcourse.
Timeframe: The Christmas after the movie
Notes: Takes place in my ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ universe, but stands completely alone.

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Ghosts Of Christmases Past



Inara had promised to spend the Christian winter holiday, with Shepherd Book at Haven. Though both the man and the colony had been destroyed by the Alliance on a rampage three months earlier, it was a promise she intended to keep. Oddly enough, Zoe had been as intent on the plan as she had, so convincing Mal had been easy.

On December 23rd, Serenity put down on the far side of the now deserted mining colony. It hadn't taken any psychic ability on River’s part to understand that no one wanted the ship to land in her usual spot, so the young pilot picked out level ground at the base of the hill where the monuments to Shepherd Book, Mr. Universe and most importantly Hoban Washburne, were located.

“Thank you,” Zoe whispered as she laid a gentle hand on River’s shoulder. As much as the ex-soldier had yearned to spend some time at her husband’s last resting place, she’d dreaded seeing the ruined village again.

River just smiled. Even though she was only 18 years old, she knew all about ghosts of the past and how they could haunt you, especially on holidays. ‘At least all of Zoe’s ghosts are friendly ones,’ the thought shivered through her mind before she could cut it off.

Ten minutes later the crew met in the cargo bay where Inara was parceling out tasks for the upcoming festivities.

“I understand that there are flocks of large birds that live around the small pond in the woods behind us. Since you’re the best shot, Jayne, would you see to that?”

“Sure,” the big merc mumbled as he held Vera to his chest. The thought of making use of his marksmanship skills made his eyes twinkle.

“Use somethin' a mite smaller than that thing, we want to eat it, not pick-up its feathers.” Captain Malcolm Reynolds nodded toward the huge gun gripped in the other man’s hands.

“Shucks, Mal, I know'd that,” he frowned at the captain. “I was just goin’ to mosey out a bit and check our parameter ‘fore we let the womenfolk off the ship.”

Both Zoe and River snorted at being piled into the category of ‘womenfolk’, therefore helpless, but a huge grin lit Kaylee’s face as she hugged Simon to her side. Inara trembled, but hid it well by making a show of pulling the blanket she was using as a wrap tightly around her shoulders.

“It is…..unnecessary…” River’s eyes clouded over for a moment as she felt their surroundings. “Yes, definitely unnecessary.”

Mei-mei, I think it would be a good idea if we let Jayne look around first.” Simon cut in. He hated to see that blank look on his sister’s face, not only because it reminded him of all that had been done to her, but because it marked her as forever changed.

“Little Albatross, if you got somethin' to say lets hear it.” Mal cut between the brother and sister.

“There isn’t another living soul on this moon,” she was careful how she worded her answer. River would never lie to Captain-daddy, but she was smart enough to know that if she tried to explain to anyone about the other presences she felt, she might find herself drugged or locked in the storage compartment again.

“But…” Simon wanted to argue, but stopped as he realized that as much as he hated his sister’s psychic abilities, he trusted them.

“Then I guess it’s settled, though if anyone sees anything out of the ordinary, warn the others and hightail it for home.” Mal nodded to Inara to continue.

“Kaylee had mentioned she wanted to get a Christmas tree. Simon, would you help her?”

“I think that I can handle that.” The doctor grinned down at the mechanic. Just looking at her made his heart beat faster. It had taken a near death experience for him to finally admit how he felt about her, now he could hardly think about anyone else.

“River can go along to watch your…”

“Ah, Inara,” Jayne cut in. “I was plannin’ on takin’ Crazy with me. Thought I’d teach her some trackin’. She’s livin’ in the black now-a-days, never know when it might come in handy.”

“I’ll keep an eye on Kaylee and Simon,” Zoe smirked. “Sides you wanted some of them red nut-berries that grow on the trees, I can collect 'em and keep an eye out for trouble.”

“We should git goin', girl.” Jayne winked at River as he turned to head back up to his bunk for a different firearm. He didn’t need to add, ‘afore they change their minds.’ The look on her face carried the same thought.

“I will only be a moment. It is necessary for me to obtain my foot wear.” She grinned at him as she followed him up the stairs. As much as she approved of Simon’s new relationship, it could be uncomfortable at times. She was still very sensitive to people’s feelings and it was getting to be a strain to keep filtering out her brother’s very strong sexual attraction for the woman he loved.

“Gorramnit girl, you need more’en boots. Better bundle up good, it’s gonna be cold out there.” Jayne’s gruff voice echoed down the passageway.

“You got a job for me?” Mal and Inara were left alone in the cargo bay as the others went about their tasks.

“I wasn’t sure you wanted to help.” She gripped the handle of the basket she was holding and couldn’t meet his eyes. “I…ah…”

“Shepherd Book was my friend too, and we was gonna be here for the holiday if things had gone differently.” He watched her carefully. Ever since Miranda she was acting strangely.

“I...ah didn’t assign you anything to do…” she whispered.

“Where were you headed?” It was obvious she was goin’ out ‘cause she had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders and had borrowed a pair of Kaylee’s gloves. Inara was still living out of the small trunk she’d left on Serenity months earlier. Everytime Mal offered to pick up her things; she would shake her head and refuse. The last time he’d offered a look of fear and sadness had flashed across her face before she was able to control it. After that he’d promised himself he’d never ask again.

“I was…there was a garden behind the mining camp…if it gets much colder, anything growing there will rot, it’d be a shame to let that happen.” She smiled tightly and hoped that the captain wouldn’t see it as stealing from the dead.

Mal closed his eyes for a moment and remembered the first group meal that Shepherd Book had attending after boarding Serenity. Book had donated a bag full of fresh vegetables and fruit to their dinner. “I conjour that’s right smart thinin'. I’ll come along with you and help. Somehow I can’t imagine you diggin in the dirt.”

'Nara’d been doin lots of things he’d never imagined her doin’, like cookin, and sleepin in Kaylee’s empty hammock in the engine room instead of her shuttle. Though it was the thing she wasn’t doin' that made his heart stop and gave him hope. She wasn’t takin' clients anymore. Mal knew he needed to talk to her, but they never seemed to be alone anymore and when they were, the words always stuck in his throat. Maybe this was his chance.

River had set the security code on Serenity and the crew scattered to make use of the few hours of daylight left on the winter afternoon.

“Here you go girl,” Jayne handed her one of the two guns he was carrin’.

“No touching guns,” she reminded him with a grin as he glared at her response.

“I ain’t gonna tell Mal, so if you don’t,” he shrugged. “Sides we need ‘em both and I ain’t carryin’ em both. So make yourself useful and tote the damn scatter gun, we’ll only need it for ducks or small water foul. I’m a’hopin’ we kin find somethin bigger.”

They trudged on until they came to a small pond. Heavy gray clouds hung low in the sky turning the water silver in the thin light of late afternoon. River followed Jayne to a well hidden spot at the water’s edge. They crouched down and waited.

Jayne looked over his shoulder at the intent expression on the girl’s face. He’d seen it before, when she was tryin to convince them of Miranda’s existence and again after she’d fought a whole passel of Reavers and won. Something deep in his gut stirred and tried to wake up. The feelin’ had been there for a while now, but he’d always repressed it and dismissed the girl who caused it, but leaning against each other in a bird-blind on a cold winter afternoon, it threatened to roar out of control.

“Thank you Jayne,” River’s warm breath skirted his neck and cheek as she leaned into him to whisper in his ear. “As happy as I am for Simon and Kaylee….well.” She shrugged and smiled.

“I know what you mean, it’s enough to make a body sick all that kissin’ and huggin’.” He turned toward her and found her lips inches from his. He couldn't take his eyes off of them.

“I’ve gained a great deal of control, but when I am alone, it is still hard to filter out strong emotions.” Without only the slightest turn of her head she saw the birds she'd felt coming their way. She raised the scatter gun and shot into the air. Two ducks fell to the ground at the edge of the pond. Her grin of pride that she had known the game was within reach before Jayne did, slowly left her face as the big merc pulled away from her in shock.

Made, hao le,” he gasped. He’d heard Kaylee’s story of River taking out three gunmen without lookin’, he’d seen her demolish The Maidenhead and him too. For just a moment he couldn’t stop thinkin’ about her standin’ on a pile of dead Reavers holdin a bloody bladed weapon in each hand. “How’d ya do that, girl? Ya didn't hardly look.”

“I…ah…please don’t you be afraid of me, too.” She’d been showing off and she knew it, but Jayne had never been afraid of her. Since Miranda he’d looked at her differently, with respect and something more. “I thought you’d understand,” her bottom lip began to quiver.

“I do understand, just don’t cry, girl,” he awkwardly put his arm around her and let her lean against him until she was under control. As much as he enjoyed the feel of her body against his, he pushed aside his baser urges and settled for giving her what little comfort he could. 'Cause the hell of it was, that he did understand how she felt. A little voice in his head wondered when he’d started thinkin’ of her as a desirable woman and not just a moonbrained girl.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she pulled back and wiped a lone tear off her cheek. “No crying for killers.” She set her jaw and straightened her spine into her usual excellent posture.

“River,” Jayne’s words caught in his throat. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her look braver or more alone. Before he realized what he was doing, he reach out and pushed a wayward lock of long brown hair behind her ear. “You ain’t a killer all the time. You cry if ya gotta, or you’ll turn out to be a mean old person like me.”

“You’re not….” Suddenly she was picking up strong feelings and emotions from the man beside her. They made her tingle and her breath catch.

“Yes I is,” he nodded. He hadn’t missed the way her eyes had dilated or the look of passion that had crossed her face. “Now I don’t want to hear no more ‘bout it. We gotta kill us some more birds for dinner.”

His voice was a deep rumble that caressed her skin and set her senses on fire. But he’d turned away, blocking her out. The rebuke stung until she saw the slight twitch in his cheek. She’d only seen it a few times before when he’d been holding himself in-check instead of letting his emotions rage out of control.

Christmas dinner was a wonderful success. Everyone ate more than they had in a long time. River and Jayne had provided two ducks as well as a large bird that tasted as if it was a cross between a turkey and a goose. Book’s garden had yielded potatoes, squash and a number of other root-vegetables. Mal and Inara had dug them, one last gift from the Shepherd. For desert Nara had made a pie out of the nut-berries that Zoe had collected.

The tree that Kaylee, Simon and Zoe had brought in sat in the corner of the lounge. Furniture had been moved to make room for it, and everyone had helped decorate it. Kaylee had donated strings of lights from around the entrance to her bunk. Bits and pieces from all over the ship were hung to make an odd assortment of decorations. Sitting a third of the way from the top of the tree, in the very front was a green dinosaur. No one had seen Zoe hang it there, but they all saw the soft smile on her lips everytime she looked at it.

Very few presents were exchanged. Everyone considered the dinner to be enough of a gift, one that was given to all of them, from each of them. Simon did placed two packages under the tree, one was for Kaylee and the other for River. He’d given his girlfriend a necklace he’d found in the marketplace on Baumound. It was a sliver chain with a tiny heart charm hanging from it.

“Oh, Simon,” Kaylee gasped as her eyes filled with tears. “No one ever gave me store-bought jewelry before, not even my daddy.”

“You’ve already got my heart,” he nuzzled her ear and whispered. “I just wanted you to know it.” He was rewarded with a kiss that made his head spin.

Everyone but Jayne was watching the mechanic’s reaction to her gift, so they missed the surprised expression that crossed River’s face when she got a look at what Simon had given her. She stared at a snow globe that contained a lovely ballet dancer. Her hands shook slightly and she closed her eyes to hide her dismay. When she opened them she forced the muscles of her face into a smile.

Mei-mei,” Simon grinned from across the room, his arms firmly around Kaylee. “It’s a music box.” He indicated for her to turn the globe upside down. “It plays ‘The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy’. You always loved to dance that part.”

“Yes,” she moved to her brother’s side and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, it is lovely.” Conversation swirled around the table, and only one person noticed that River was strangely silent. Her large brown eyes would flick between the lovely little ballerina suspended in the globe, to her hands and back again.

Late that night, when most everyone was asleep, Jayne crept through the ship. He couldn’t get River’s face out of his mind. He was pretty certain she wasn’t sleepin’ and he knew just where to find her. It had been a close call the day they’d gone huntin’ he didn’t plan to put himself in that kind of danger again. His plan had been to look over the side of the catwalk and be sure she was okay, they sneak away, but that was blasted into a million pieces when he heard the tinny sound of music filling the huge bay.

River’s music box was no where to be seen, but he could hear it along with the sound of deep breathing and moving feet. Jayne froze at the top of the stairs. River was dancing, but it was like no dance he’d ever seen before. Her graceful body moved and bent. She was up on her toes, in bare feet, as she jumped and leapt across the grated floor. Her arms moved in graceful arcs and her head turned by degrees as she made her body spin with one leg stretched at an impossible angle. She took three long steps across the floor than threw her body upward as if she was about to take flight. When she landed it was on the toes of her right foot, her body arched, head high, left arm stretched upward and out and her right curved above her head.

River held her pose as she counted the beats. If she had had a partner, this was when the Nutcracker Prince would have picked her up and raised her high above his head. But she was alone, so she waited. Suddenly her right foot began to tremble, she was out of practice and her ankle muscles weren’t as strong as they had been once. With a groan she fell awkwardly to the deck.

“River,” Jayne clattered down the steps and across the bay until he knelt at her side.

“I’m all right, I’m all right,” she panted as she tried to push herself up into a sitting position, only her trembling muscles wouldn’t hold her and she landed on her face again. “Lashi!” she cried out in frustration.

“Come’ere, River girl,” Jayne picked her up half expecting her to try to hand him his balls on a platter as she’d done once before. Much to his surprise she put her arms around his neck and curled against him.

Once he got them settled on a crate in the dark under the catwalk, he realized she must have been dancing for quite a while. Her hair and dress were damp with perspiration. The last notes of the music box ran down and it was suddenly quiet. He shook his head as he ran his hands over her bare feet, they were nicked and scratched from the grating on the bay floor and her toes were already darkening from repeatedly landing on the uneven metal.

“You tryin’ to kill yourself, girl?” He muttered as she shivered in his arms.

“No, I…I…” she gripped his shoulders and pulled far enough away from him so she could look him in the eyes. “I was trying to figure out who I am.”

“That’s easy, you’re River Tam.” Jayne ruffled her hair. He knew there was much more to it then that, but he wasn’t the one she should be talkin’ to.

“But who is she?” River bit her lower lip to keep from crying. “Is she the genius girl who can do anything, who dances and makes up stories about the Independents attacking the Alliance on dinosaur back? Or is she this creation that I have become, the girl who is hardly human, who kills without looking or thinking?”

“I’m not smart enough to answer that question, River girl.” He shook his head sadly and wished he could tell her what he felt. “Maybe Inara…”

“No, Nara is stuck in the middle of her own confusion.” River looked into Jayne’s blue eyes and sighed. “Besides, you have to know, because you’re the only one who sees me as I really am and have never been afraid of me.” She added the last words under her breath, but he heard them anyway and it was like someone had punched him in the gut.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, girl,” his voice had turned rough as he stroked her cheek with one large hand.

“I am sure.” River leaned against the callused palm that held her face. “When I was a danger to the others you knew, and tried to warn them. When I was a danger to myself, in the Maidenhead, you fought beside me, and when I stood alone among dead Reavers you silently cheered me.”

“You make me sound like some big damn hero…” His words ground to a halt as he saw her eyes fill with tears.

“Not a hero, but a man who isn’t afraid of what he sees.” She blinked quickly to keep the tears from falling. “All the others…all the others…Zoe is still lost in her grief and can see nothing else. Nara is fighting fear and confusion, but until she lets herself accept that she loves, will find no peace. The Captain is slowly being drawn away from Serenity Valley because his woman is once again on his ship, but he sees only her. Kaylee and Simon are lost in each other. And Simon still sees me as I was, wishes I was unbroken, his mei-mei from the past, but I can’t be that girl, that dancer girl. I would be if I could. He’s given up so much for me.”

Jayne put her down on the crates and got up and brought her music box back to where she sat. He looked at it carefully, even shaking it so that the snow danced around the little ballerina. “You think that’s why he gave you this? ‘Cause he wanted the old you back?” He knelt in front of her and pulled her cold feet onto his lap and warmed them with one of his large rough hands. “If you think that, you gotta be the dumbest genius I’ve ever met.”

“You think my reasoning is faulty?” She blinked and leaned her hands on his shoulders.

“I sure do!” Jayne put the music box down and gave into temptation. He ran his hands over her arms as he pulled her toward him. “I think he was tryin’ ta remind ya of some of the good you had before. Ta tell ya, ya could live both lives if ya had a mind to. I’ve seen ya fight and tonight I saw ya dance. I don’t rightly know where the fightin comes from, but the dancin’ comes from your heart.” His hand moved until it was inches away from her left breast and froze in midair.

“Jayne,” River whispered as she covered his raised hand with hers and pressed it over her heart. She was assaulted by waves of passion that washed over her and shook her to the core. She knew some were hers, and some were his, but she couldn’t tell where one began and the other left off. Her lisps hovered above his and she was about to lean closer and kiss him when he suddenly picked her up. Dropped her present from Simon in her lap and headed for the stairs. “Where…where…”

“We’re goin’ somewhere less private!” He ground his teeth at how close he’d come to kissing her. When they reached the common area he dropped her onto the couch. He looked down at her and she appeared small as she huddled into the corner her arms wrapped around her drawn-up legs. “River it ain’t that I don’t want ya.” He tried to explain.

“I know, I could feel your want, I’m sorry, I wasn’t prying, but it was so strong.”

“Tamade!” Jayne ran his hand through his hair.

“That would take care of the problem, because I want you as well.” River gave him one of her quirky smiles and shrugged.

“Don’t say that! Hasn’t your brother taught you anything? I’m the kind of man who is only interested in a quick bit of trim.”

“If that were so, you would not be sitting three feet away from me and neither of us would be feeling this frustration.”

“Cao ni zuxian shi ba dai,” Jayne exploded. “Git outta here, go to your bunk now!”

“I can’t,” she whispered in desperation. “Kaylee and Simon are in his room tonight and when I go to her room, I can feel…feel…they sometimes sleep there.”

“Ahhh, Little Dancer-Girl, it’s real bad for you, ain’t it?” Jayne turned toward her and reached to play with the ends of her hair. For the first time he was beginning to understand what it must have been like for her caught on a small ship with strong feelings bouncing off the bulkheads. “Has it always been this bad?”

“At first when it was just Wash and Zoe, it was different. I was different. I was lost in my craziness and they were my life raft. I could feel how much they loved each other even when they were angry with one another. It was a soft safe place when the others were filled with sorrow, pain, and raw desire that almost shook the ship.”

“I’m sorry if I added to the confusion ya were feeling.” He was filled with guilt when he remembered all the time he’d spent in his bunk taking care of his own desires.

“It wasn’t you.” She shivered and he pulled her against him to keep her warm. “It wasn’t any of them. It was me. Before Miranda I couldn’t tell if the feelings were mine or belonged to someone else. It’s still like that if a sudden burst of desire catches me when I’m sleeping.”

“River girl, what am I gonna to do with you?” He smiled at her upturned face. She was in his arms and he didn’t want to let her go.

“Would you start by being my friend, Jayne Cobb.” There was so much more she wanted from him, but knew neither of them was ready for it yet. “I’ve never had a male friend before.” She looked at him in earnest, needing his closeness, and asking for so little.

“And I’ve never had a female friend.” He smiled at her innocence. She warmed his heart and made him feel wanted.

“Would it be all right for friends to sleep holding each other in a public place, on Christmas night? Just to keep each other warm, that is.” She smiled under her lashes and snuggled closer to him.

“I don’t see why not, though Cap’t Tightpants may have other ideas.” Jayne slid them down on the couch so they were almost lying down, but not quite.

“They we’ll have to be sure to get up before he does.” River mumbled as she let Jayne’s presence wash over her. “This is nice,” she whispered as she was falling asleep. “Now I know the only desire that will wake me is my own.”

“Oh baby-doll,” Jayne muttered. “Don’t be too sure of that.”

The end of the story, but the beginning of a deep, forever kind of love


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 18th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, you write so well and this story just warmed my heart. Thank you!
Dec. 19th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it. It was a repost from last year, though since it was my first attempt at Rayne, I went in and made some changes, mainly to voice.

Dec. 20th, 2006 09:15 am (UTC)
Just awwwww! This is all kinds of sweet, and you write their reactions to each other so well. What a nice little piece of Christmas Rayne.
Dec. 20th, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much. I'm glad you liked it. It was my first Rayne last year and I'm not sure I posted it on the main board, so I did this year, as well as move it here.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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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

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