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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
second of a 2-parter that, if you so desire, can be interpreted as following Tingles/Shivers. Rayne.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1602 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Rating: PG13, to be safe
Disclaimer: the usual, all Joss's
Author's Note: occurs post-BDM, but Wash is here. Also this was getting long, so there's a bit more that I will post later. Can a two-parter have an epilogue? Eh, either way, this one will. Comments are much appreciated!
Sleep Study (part 2 of 2)
The next morning, Simon beat River and Jayne to the table. He was seated before he noticed that no one else was serving them self. All attention was on the empty doorway. He glanced around and registered who was missing, and realized they were waiting for River and/or Jayne.
When those two appeared, though, there didn’t seem anything significant about their arrival, aside from the fact that they were together. Hmm . . . Simon’s eyes began to narrow as he followed his sister’s walk across the room. Jayne was following, focused completely on the breakfast that was laid out. They weren’t interacting at all, but there was something . . . they looked like they were together. Not in a just-met-in-the-corridor manner, but in a walked-here-with-each-other way. It wasn’t something Simon had observed them to do before. Speculations percolating through his mind, he watched them serve themselves, all with a quiet companionship that was notable only for its newness.
“So,” Mal’s voice, so devoid of expression that Simon glanced over check the look on his face, “we’re a mite calm this morning.” Just that, nothing in it to stimulate the glare Jayne sent his way. Had there been a slight emphasis on the word ‘this’? Simon heard Wash choke back a snort, and when he looked that way Zoë was giving her husband one of those private ‘hush-up’ looks.
“I for one am glad to see you two getting along better,” Simon asserted, giving his sister a proud-big-brother nod.
Wash snorted again, and Simon heard “what they’re getting is”- before Zoë muttered a warning, “husband.” What was that about?
Kaylee hastened to lend Simon her support.
“Especially if you two are going to be tussling like you did yesterday. It’s nice when it’s all about fun, but if anybody’s angry that can get dangerous …” her voice trailed off as she saw Simon’s burgeoning trepidation.
“What tussling, honey?” He asked.
Kaylee laughed. “Oh, yesterday these two came in here all”-
“Next week we are on Beaumonde,” River inserted loudly. Her eyebrows made a demand of Mal that Simon couldn’t interpret.
“That we are,” Mal agreed affably. He even smiled down the table at her, but to Simon it seemed a rather pointed smile. Really, what was going on?
“Jayne needs medical attention. He snores.” River took a calm bite of protein egg.
Simon laughed, overriding an exclaimed curse from Jayne. “Now, how would you know that, mei-mei? Did he fall asleep in the cargo bay or something?” It took him a moment to register the suspended and alert postures around him. Across the table, Jayne had jerked, spilling the glass of water in his hand, while yelping “Quiet, girl!” Mal had turned wholly towards River and was making shushing noises. Wash and Zoë were staring with an expectancy that Simon didn’t understand; Inara and Kaylee, he took comfort in seeing, looked as confused as he did.
River ignored them all, staring straight across the table and into her brother’s once-again leery eyes.
“He snored in his bunk last night while I was trying to sleep with him.”
Jayne’s hand clamped over her mouth, a moment too late. Simon’s entire body flash-froze. Kaylee ‘eep’ed beside him, and put a hand to her lips; if he’d been able to move, he’d have seen that her astonished eyes took up half her face.
“River,” Inara whispered, and that was all anyone seemed able to say. Including Simon.
“RIVER!” His version was a lot louder than Inara’s. Then he managed, “that’s – not funny?” The sentence ended in a pleading question, begging her to laugh and say this was one of her little jokes on him, like the berries that weren’t poisonous.
River, having shaken off Jayne’s hand, was pitiless. She took a swallow of water before answering, letting her brother stew in agonizing uncertainty. Then she seemed to decide that he wasn’t stupefied enough.
“The night before that, he snored so loud I couldn’t sleep. And I was worn out from the strenuous exertions in which we had indulged.”
Kaylee’s breath whooshed out.
“There goes all the peace and quiet on my boat,” Mal sighed.
Simon found himself able to move, a bit; his head hunched into his shoulders, while Wash began to chortle and Inara shook her head. Zoë’s and Mal’s gazes met over the other’s heads.
“Put some food on your plate, doc, and eat while you try to think,” Mal said, reaching to follow his own advice. “Everybody eat. Food’s getting’ cold.”
But Jayne had wrapped a fist around River’s arm and hauled her to her feet, just as Simon was turning his stricken gaze toward the other man in desperate hope that he would deny River’s claims.
“Need to have a talk,” Jayne bit out, and River rolled her eyes but went with him out the door, leaving protein congealing on her plate and crew to stare at each other. Simon couldn’t get up, couldn’t even watch them, but he heard Jayne begin with, “you tryin’ to git me killed?” before the two were too far away for effective eavesdropping.
Simon blinked down at his empty plate a moment, starting violently when Kaylee scooped faux bacon unto it. Then he turned to her with a pitiful air, as feeling starting to seep back into his body.
“You didn’t just hear River say she and Jayne are – are”– he couldn’t say it.
Kaylee nodded sprightly. “Yep. Sure is a surprise, ain’t it?”
“A surprise? A SURPRISE?” Simon knew he was gasping like a landed fish, but couldn’t stop himself. “This is not a surprise. This is a horror. Of catastrophic proportions. He’s the man-ape. And she’s”-
“A full-grown person, able to make her own decisions.” Mal cut in. Simon shook his head and hoped he looked as betrayed by that as he felt.
“Don’t tell me you approve of this. This, this – it’s unspeakable! It’s a crime against … I don’t know …” Kaylee must have sensed how lost he felt, because she draped her arm about his shoulders and gave a gentle squeeze.
“Actually, it’s not a crime, ever since River’s eighteenth birthday. On some worlds, not since her sixteenth. Or fourteenth even,” Wash offered.
“Not helpful, dear,” Zoë told him.
“What? It’s true. And it’s not as if we’re so worried about what’s legal, on this boat, anyway.”
“It’s not MORAL!” Simon roared, jerking to his feet, Kaylee’s arm falling to her side. Simon advanced to Wash’s seat to loom threateningly over the smaller, seated man. “How can you sit there and glibly brush off the violation of my little sister, my mei-mei? You smarmy little”-
“You don’t want to be finishing that sentence,” Zoë warned, rising to her feet from Wash’s other side to face off against Simon. Simon’s fist clenched and his shoulder muscles rippled visibly. Zoë met his gaze flatly. Trapped between his warrior-wife and the suddenly amok doctor, Wash raised a finger.
“’scuse me lamby-toes, Mr. Hyde, but how about I just retract my own statement and we avoid violence?”
“Won’t be violence of any kind happenin’,” Mal asserted, pushing his plate away with a regretful sigh and standing. It was quite apparent he wasn’t going to get any breakfast this morning. “Simon, go cool off somewhere. Somewhere not also occupied by my officer, my mercenary, my pilot, or my psychic. Pretty much be alone or with Kaylee. Wash, go check our heading. Kaylee, calm down your … whatever he is, if he’s so inclined. Inara”—he’d been on a roll handing out orders, but stumbled as the Companion’s lifted brows reminded him he didn’t have a job he could busy her with. She wasn’t the problem, anyway.
Simon turned his glare on the captain, appeared to debate punching him, then moved to the exit with an inaudible mutter. Kaylee took hesitant steps after him; Mal could only hope she’d have sense enough to steer him away from anywhere Jayne and River might have gotten to.
Outside, Kaylee laid her hand on Simon’s shoulder and peered anxiously up at him. He ran a hand down his face, met her gaze, and made a conscious effort to relax his muscles. She looked a little frightened, he realized ashamedly. One of the last things he ever wanted to do was scare his bao-bei.
“Are you all right?” She asked him.
“No, I’m not.” He managed a small sickly grimace that a blind person might, if bribed well enough, have taken for a smile. “Can’t you tell?”
She nodded. “Got that right. Simon, you threatened Wash. Wash! Of all the people” -
A rueful wince rode Simon’s cheeks. “Yeah, I did.” He shook his head. “Guess I should go apologize, huh?” But his face when he turned it back to the galley wasn’t in the least peaceable. His lids narrowed again and his shoulders tightened back up.
“Not right now,” Kaylee advised, using her hand to steer him the other way. “You really do gotta cool off first. No sense chargin’ around like Jayne would. You use your head.” Simon wasn’t sure if that last sentence was a description or a command. He winced again, at the comparison to the hulking merc who was, was –
“Stop!” That was definitely a command. “Just stop that, Simon, I don’t think he’s gonna hurt her. Haven’t you seen the way they’ve been lately, all playful-like? I don’t know why we’re surprised, come to think of it. They’ve been flirtin’ like cra - like everything, right under our noses, too.”
Simon just barely restrained the glare he felt at the grin on his lover’s face. Then he checked himself. “You’re right,” he said slowly. Then, more firmly; “you’re absolutely right.” He nodded resolutely and began to stride off. Kaylee hurried to catch up.
“I’m right? Of course I’m right. What am I right about?”
“It’s not Wash who deserves a beating.”
It was a moment before River realized Jayne had brought her to her dorm room. She knew he wasn’t happy with her, but she went along willingly, and slid the door shut behind them. With Jayne in the small space, she felt rather swamped, which was odd; his bunk was smaller, and she’d never felt this way in there with him. Maybe it was just his masculinity in her feminine space. Not that she had anything overtly female, or even very personal, to leave around . . .
Jayne was speaking. She blinked and focused in half-way through a sentence. But before he could finish whatever it was there were voices outside her door, Simon’s and Kaylee’s.
“—just sayin’ Simon, not that you’re not all manly and such, ‘cus ya are, but – but Jayne would pound you. You don’t have a chance.”
“Thanks,” Simon told Kaylee, wryness incarnate, “I appreciate your confidence. Anyway that’s not the point.”
“What is the point?”
“It’s about principle. He can’t be touching her, or thinking about her! Not my sister!”
“How exactly is you gettin’ beat to a pulp gonna stop that from happenin’?”
Jayne smirked down at River, who’d moved in close to him. She frowned at him; he pushed an arm across her shoulders and massaged her arm.
Kaylee had Simon stymied, for a moment. Then he charged on.
“At least River will see how much I disapprove, and put a stop this foolishness. This atrocity!”
“Mmm, so you do admit that she likes him. That she’s with him by her own free choosin’. And that Jayne’d stop if she wanted to. So what are you arguin’ should be happenin’ here?” Kaylee’s voice was pert. River covered her mouth to silence her own giggle. Jayne and River stood and unabashedly eavesdropped as Kaylee argued Simon to a standstill. There was silence out in the hall, then an ages-old sound; a longsuffering female sigh.
“Come on, Simon, let’s sit down and talk ‘bout this. Logically.”
Amazingly enough, he went. Jayne let out the laugh he’d been holdin’ in – not that he was hidin’ from the doc, just didn’t want to discomfit River. Despite the fact that this was the most trouble he’d ever had over any girl, much less one he wasn’t even sexin’. Not that he planned to fill the doc in on that little detail.
“Li’l Kaylee sure has learned how to manage yer brother,” he told the girl pressed into his side. River leaned back to bless him with one of those smiles that were so beautiful, they made his insides hurt.
“Yes. I am taking notes.”
The following day was one filled with terse silences and infrequent bouts of Wash’s gentle sarcasm. Simon made it through most of the day without breaking down, and Kaylee was proud. She told him he was growing.
“Growing, huh?” he asked her. “You thought I was repressed before? Not acting on my current urges is going to drive me right over into serial killer territory.”
Kaylee smiled softly and stroked his hair; she might have taken more severe action if she’d forseen the moment Simon came upon Jayne on the bridge. With River in his lap. With all her limbs wrapped around him.
Simon’s howl echoed far enough through Serenity to bring everyone running. Mal got there first, and a pile-up of bodies ensued behind him in the doorway; after being poked and shoved enough, he moved aside to clear the view.
Contrary to Kaylee’s earlier words to Simon, no one was beaten to a pulp, and in fact it was Jayne climbing up from the floor, rubbing his jaw. But the evident culprit, Simon, was robbed of his manly glory by way of being bent backwards over one of the piloting consoles, held there by River’s hand and forearm against his neck and her knee in his groin. She was applying pressure. Kaylee flew to Simon’s side to plead with River to let go.
River only leaned in further, eliciting a strangled groan from her brother. Jayne walked up behind her to peer with approval at her technique.
“Never again,” River said slowly and quiet. “You will not do that, about this, again.”
“River,” Simon managed to squeak, and her arm muscles jerked in a way that had him nodding frantically. She released him and he slid down the console a bit before Kaylee got an arm around him and helped him to the nearest pilot’s chair.
“River,” began Mal, eying both Simon and Jayne as River stood between them, “that may have been, ah, excessive.”
“No.” She said it with absolute certainty. “It must be understood that I make my own choices. Those who feel that I am making incorrect ones will address me, rationally, with their concerns. If you are going to hit Jayne, Simon, do it over something else.”
Simon’s expression declared he’d find that something else if it took his last living breath from him.
“What I want to know,” Wash said, pushing in near enough to Jayne to peer at his jaw, “is how Simon got around both our government-trained assassin and our down-and-dirty mercenary’s defenses to land a punch that good.” Zoë looked over, and her brows rose. “Jayne, do you think anything’s broken?”
“Naw,” he replied, though it clearly hurt to speak, “bruised pretty good, though.” That was an understatement; his upper jaw and cheekbone were swollen to half again their normal size; the skin was split and purpling was beginning to appear.
“We were too distracted to notice Simon’s intrusion,” River said, regret in her voice. Surprisingly enough, Wash didn’t choose to make the obvious acerbic remark.
Simon straightened from his seat with a sigh.
“Come on, then,” he said quietly, “let’s go make certain I didn’t break any bones. And clean up that blood.”
Jayne clearly wanted to protest, but River laid her hand on his arm and he went. Mal noticed, Kaylee noticed, everyone noticed. This easy acquiescence from their normally-intractable crewmate gave more than one of them food for thought as they trundled back to their respective duties. Mal sent Zoë to the infirmary just to make sure no more blood was spilled while Simon patched up the damage he’d done.
The end of the following week found Serenity on Beaumonde and Jayne, reluctantly, exiting the ship with River. Not that he didn’t want to be with her, but he didn’t want to be doin’ this.
It was ridiculous. She’d continued to insist he needed medical attention and he’d given in, gracelessly, finally, just to stop her nagging him. And because, a few times, her serious concern crept through when she was talkin’ about his health. She’d eye him when he was extra-grumpy mornings, like it was a dire symptom. She didn’t believe him when he told her he just wasn’t a morning person, or that if she’d let him do more than just hold her at night it’d go a long way toward repairin’ this particular mood. She was more annoying than he usually felt like puttin’ up with, but he also didn’t want her to decide he wasn’t worth the bother. So he figured, once medical people took his side – that he didn’t snore – she’d a) have to shut up about it and b) quit worryin’.
It was early afternoon, planet-time, but ship-time they’d already put in a whole day’s work. The clinic River was dragging him to was near the port and never closed, to accommodate the differing sleep cycles of ships’ crew and passengers. Jayne’s appointment was scheduled for an hour from now. He carried a small bag with a change of clothes, as did River.
She’d continued to sleep in his bunk over the past ten days, despite Simon’s protests. As angry as the doctor had been over the crew interfering with his sibling relationship, he’d slowly bent to Kaylee’s tender insistence that he simply didn’t have the right to decide these things for River. He settled for making his displeasure known, vocally and loudly, at every possible turn. River and Jayne had tacitly agreed to let it ride, for now.
Their interactions over the past week had grown increasingly awkward, though, as Jayne contemplated what being with River meant. It meant long-term, ‘cus weren’t no way he could sex a crewmate and then leave off, without the balance of the ship being upset somethin’ fierce. He didn’t want that to happen, he liked things pretty well as they were. It took awhile of thinkin’, but he came to see that he also didn’t want to switch crews or ships. And he thought he was comin’ to want River enough to put up with her brother’s whinin’.
He didn’t know how to behave in this situation. And he had a feelin’, from River’s increasing hesitance, that neither did she.
The clinic was all sterile whites and clean cool blues, a bit too much like the Ariel hospital for Jayne’s comfort. He sneaked sideways looks at River until he decided she wasn’t bothered by the atmosphere at all, and that somehow irked him. They were greeted and led to a small windowless room by a young nurse with a bedside manner so like Simon Tam’s that Jayne’d like t’ ‘ve gagged.
Jayne changed clothes as directed, filled out the forms that were thrust at him, and laid down in what he had to admit was a more comfortable bed than what he had on Serenity. The snottily soothing nurse began to explain the procedure to him while River slipped into a nearby bathroom to change, herself. There was a reclining chair provided for her in one corner.
Clad in her long nightgown, River returned as a technician was unwrapping electrodes to apply to various areas of Jayne’s skull. She watched with a curious third-person detachment; she’d seen similar actions so many times, but never when the ensuing procedures were to be done on someone else, not her. She was shaken out of her dislocation by Jayne’s growl.
“Nobody said anythin’ ‘bout stickin’ my head all over with those things!”
The tech paused in polite confusion.
“This is how we monitor brain wave patterns, Mr. Cobb. It will indicate your level of consciousness, among other things.” She pulled the backing off one and reached to apply the sticky side to his temple.
Jayne caught her wrist before she reached her target and glared.
“I know you’ve got other ways, machines that read the patterns right out of the air. Use one of those.”
The tech sighed as she lowered her arms.
“There is such equipment, sir, but it’s much more expensive to use. Truly, you will experience no discomfort.”
“Yeah?” Jayne sneered. “Ever have one a those sticky things pulled offa yer chest hair? Hurts like ge zhen de hundan*. I ‘spect head hair ain’t gonna feel much better.”
“Mm, actually, Mr. Cobb, we will be applying electrodes to your chest, too. To monitor your heart.” She hastened to hold up a razor, while smiling reassuringly. “Don’t worry; the nurse will shave you first.”
“Shave my chest?” Jayne’s voice pitch went so high it cracked. “You’re more feng le than my xin gan*, here.”
River, who’d been laughing quietly to herself, perked up at the endearment. She knew he didn’t even realize he’d said it, as he continued to glare.
The tech leaned out the door to call the nurse, and left when he answered, apparently not feeling it in her job description to deal with noncompliant patients. The nurse entered with that smooth calm-the-patient manner that so irritated Jayne. He paused at the sink to wash his hands, and River questioned Jayne in a low voice.
“Why don’t you wish to have the electrodes applied, Jayne? I know it is not the pain that you fear.”
“It’s partly those cords,” he said, gesturing to the thin filaments running from the electrodes to the bed’s monitors. They gathered neatly together and disappeared into the machine, and River could not understand what was so offensive about them.
“They make me feel – tied up. Don’t like cords on me. Don’t like my movement constricted. Prob’ly won’t be able to sleep.” He ended on a petulant note. River quashed the sympathy in her chest and rolled her eyes.
“If one of us has a reason to dislike medical equipment it is me, Jayne. And if you thought I needed to have a medical procedure done, I would do it.”
“Really.” Abruptly, there was pure deviltry in Jayne’s voice. Visions of breast augmentation and luridly crude tattoos were suddenly dancing before River’s mind’s eye.
“I meant, anything medically necessary. For health reasons. That I needed. Medically.” She backpedaled so hurriedly that her words came out in disjointed phrases. Jayne laughed and relaxed back on the bed. But, to her satisfaction, he nodded to the nurse.
“Go ahead and put them ‘lectrodes on. But no shavin’! Think I wanna have my whole chest itchin’ when it grows back in?”
Over his own better judgment, the nurse applied the electrodes, since Jayne’s chest hair wasn’t so thick that it would seriously impede the electrical signals that needed to be passed. River caught enough emotion off him that said he felt this patient deserved the impending pain that would be dealt when they were pulled off. Finally, with everything set up, the nurse clicked off the lights, River retired to her chair with a blanket, and Jayne rolled over unto his front to try to sleep. Sleep, the reason he was here.
River listened to his soft breathing and knew he hadn’t drifted off yet. Ten minutes went by. Jayne flipped unto his back. Another half-hour, and he turned to the other side. A loud sigh issued forth. River stifled a giggle. An hour in, Jayne was fussing with his blankets and experimenting with raising and lowering the head of the bed. The nurse made an appearance to advise Jayne to just relax, and would he like to read or watch the cortex? Jayne’s ‘no’ was snarled. The nurse left with an “I’m being very longsuffering” set to his shoulders and Jayne continued to struggle. River closed her eyes and tried to tune him out.
It had been nearly three hours of tossing and turning when Jayne found a new button and let out a startled cry as the foot of the bed elevated and the head lowered. There was no headboard in place, and Jayne slid off.
River jumped to her feet to see if he was hurt as the lights flicked on. The nurse, a truly aggrieved expression on his face, stood with hands on hips to observe his patient, sprawled on the floor. Jayne was unhurt, but he’d mangled his lines and pulled loose his electrodes. He shook off River’s hands and stood on his own, his sheet pulled around him like some comic Greek ancient, and climbed back into the bed. She heard him hissing “when we get back to the boat you’d better be good and appreciative of this.” River glared at him while the nurse applied new electrodes with jerky, annoyed movements.
“How did you even find the Trendelenberg button, Mr. Cobb? It’s on the underside of the foot of the bed. You would have to have been hanging off the end -- It’s not anywhere a patient’s hands should be.”
Jayne shrugged and muttered something incoherent. River could have sworn his cheeks had a red tinge. The nurse finished reattaching lines and added his glare to River’s when he ordered that all the bed’s buttons be left untouched. Jayne glared back. The nurse flung his arms out and left.
“Jayne,” River said quietly once he was gone, “what is wrong? You don’t commonly have this much difficulty achieving sleep.”
Jayne shook his head, and she trailed back to her chair. All was quiet for a few moments, then his voice sounded low in the dark room.
River didn’t know what he meant; she sat up to look towards his bed and listen.
“I’ve had you beside me, sleepin’, fer the last twelve nights. Guess I got . . . used to you bein’ there. Now I’m not used to havin’ you gone.” She dimly saw his shoulders rise in a shrug. “Can’t sleep, ‘cus somethin’s missin.” He cleared his throat awkwardly.
She sat in the dark stillness, feeling a smile creep over her lips. Then she stood and padded over to him.
“You miss me?” she questioned softly, standing at his bedside.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m sayin’.”
This was of import, River thought. She wasn’t sure exactly how, but it seemed a crucial thing, that Jayne missed her presence enough that he couldn’t sleep. She slowly pulled down the blanket and sheet, and when there was no protest either from Jayne or from those who were monitoring patterns from outside the room, she slid herself in beside him. The bed wasn’t large but it was wider than the one they’d been sharing on the ship. He rolled unto his side and she tucked in against him. He cuddled – it was cuddling, though he’d never admit it – cuddled her into him. Fifteen minutes later he was asleep. But only after he'd gruffly whispered;
"Don't know that I ever wanna sleep without you again."
* ge zhen de hundun; a real bastard
Xin gan; sweetheart
Thursday, September 07, 2006 8:09 AM
Friday, September 08, 2006 5:26 AM
Saturday, September 09, 2006 5:38 AM
Sunday, September 10, 2006 9:49 AM
Sunday, October 29, 2006 9:32 PM
Thursday, March 08, 2007 4:16 AM
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