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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
J/R; M/I; S/K; and Z/memories of Wash - River pulls back as she sees a different future in the shadows. Mal and Inara move another step closer. - chapters linked
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1363 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer: They belong to Joss
Pairings: Rayne/River; Mal/Inara; Simon/Kaylee; Zoë/memories of Wash
Beta: Magic Beta Lady Ceslas, Simon in this chapter is dedicated to you Ms Magic Beta Lady
Back To Chapter - 10 - Night Vigils
Voices And Visions
Ch 11 - Dark And Fearsome Places
Jayne slumped against the shuttle hatch. His head was spinning and the ache in his pants was so pronounced he didn’t think he could walk. He wasn’t a man who did much heavy thinkin’, but that’s all he could do after spendin’ a night with his arms ‘round River Tam and havin' her body tucked against his. She’d told him he’d have the strength ta make it through the night without sexin’ her and somehow he’d been able to. If’n ya didn’t count them kisses and the way his hands had explored her firm young breasts? He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. Just the memory of how ruttin’ good she’d felt against his skin, caused wave after wave of desire to wash over him.
Standin’ there in the harsh reality of early mornin’ he knew for certain sure that it hadn’t been strength that held him back, but fear. Fear ‘a loosin’ the trust that had filled her brown eyes when she’d looked at him. Fear ‘a bein’ no different than Simon’s worst nightmares ‘bout them chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo Blue Hands. It had scared him plenty and he wasn’t a man who was scared ‘a nothin’, ‘ceptin maybe Reavers.
“Gorramnit,” he choked as he took in quick deep breaths. If he thought too long on what the Doc had said the night afore, he was gonna puke. The younger man’s words were prickin’ and dancin’ through his mind. Some he didn’t want to think on, and others didn’t make no sense.
He looked down at his large hands. They felt like they were tremblin’, but they weren’t, least ways not on the out side, though he wouldn’t cover any bets ‘bout the inside. What the ruttin’ hell was happenin’ to him?
“Tamade,” he muttered and pushed his body away from the cool metal of the hatch. It was early and he didn’t hear no one else up. As he passed through the mess, he put the coffee on and then continued on to his bunk. He was keyin’ in his punch code when he noticed something odd on the bridge.
He climbed the stairs quietly and discovered Zoë sleepin’ in Wash’s old chair. Jayne cautiously reached for the Mare’s Leg that was restin’ on the console inches away, before lightly covering her shoulder with his hand. The woman was too quick with that gun ‘a hers for him to take any chances.
“Zoë,” his whisper was gruff and he shook his head in complete understandin’ as he watched her reach for the spot her weapon had been sittin’ before he’d moved it. She wasn’t awake ‘nuff to realize she was safe, though considerin’ Wash had died sittin’ in that chair, maybe there weren’t no spot on the boat that was really safe. “It’s just me, Jayne.”
“Ahhh,” she gasped and straightened. All of her muscles cried out from the position they’d been locked in as she’d slept curled tightly upon herself. She was a tall woman and didn’t usually abuse her body that way. “I must have fallen asleep,” she mumbled a bit embarrassed that she hadn’t heard the Merc coming.
“Yeah.” Jayne tried not to look at her. He’d had enough experience ‘round cryin’ women lately to recognize puffy eyes and tear tracks. It felt like he was spyin’ on a private moment and it was a bit creepafyin’. “You, plannin’ on startin’ a mutiny?” He gazed past her right ear as he handed back her weapon.
“No I was just…” She looked around and was very glad it hadn’t been Mal who had discovered her either last night or this morning. Her oldest friend had enough to deal with. He didn’t need to know about her problems. “I’m not sure what I was doing.” She stood and took a good look at the man beside her. “But I gotta ask you, what are you doing?” Her eyes glinted dangerously. “You’re carrying your boots, it looks like you slept in your clothes…and…” She zeroed in on a single strand of long dark hair. It ran from one of Jayne’s large orange clad shoulders, across his chest and curled against the white ‘number 28 decal’ in the middle of his shirt. She reached out and plucked it off the dumbfounded man for closer inspection. There was only one person on the ship it could have belonged to. “And this…”
“It ain’t what ya think.” He held his hands, palms-up, defensively but couldn’t take his eyes off the damning evidence of where he’d spent the night. “Well it is, but it ain’t. I didn’t…I’d never…”
“Never?” her brow rose along with her voice and her gun. “Then how? And don’t try and tell me it’s from when you had her buried under your coat, ‘cause I know you cleaned up since then.”
“What kinda hundan you take me for anyway?” He glared, and then thought better of his question. “Best not answer that, but no, it ain’t like you’re thinkin’. Even way back when I would ‘a turned her in to the Alliance, I wouldn’t ‘a taken advantage ‘a her that way. Lashi, Zoë, put down that shooter ‘a yours.” He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “I’d never hurt River,” his whisper was filled with conflicting emotions.
“No, I don’t suppose you would.” One look into the big man’s sad troubled blue eyes and the First-Mate knew she’d been right all along. Raising her weapon had been pure reflex and in this case unneeded. “I was wondering when the two of you would tumble to that fact.” She lowered her gun and gently placed the long brown strand back where she’d gotten it.
“What fact? What the ruttin’ hell ya talkin’ ‘bout?”
“Jayne,” Zoë stepped forward and placed her hand on his arm. “I know exactly what you’re going through!” The First-Mate knew she was showing more of herself than anyone but Wash had seen in years, but it came roaring out of her and she couldn’t stop it. “It’s scary to all of the sudden feel things you’ve never felt before. Your first instinct is to run!”
“It ain’t like that.” The Merc shook his head frantically trying to deny the words and feelings that he’d been sure of with River at his side. “Gorramnit, it can’t be!”
“You don’t think I know exactly what it’s like to care ‘bout someone who you think you have no business caring about? Someone who wakes you up from feeling dead and teaches you to live again? Someone who you feel is wrong in every possible way…so wrong…that it…it…gets him killed.”
“Wash weren’t wrong for ya. He had feelin’s for you like I never seen.” He hated to admit to anyone how much he thought ‘a the dead pilot. “’Sides you had nothin’ to do with his dyin’, and I ain’t gonna let ya say ‘t’otherwise.” He frowned.
“Thank you, but that isn’t something that is open for discussion,” she bit off each word sharp and clear. “We were talking about you and River.”
“No we ain’t…gorramnit!” Jayne roared. “This ain’t the same thing! And if it is there ain’t no way I’d…I’d…”
“Be able to watch her die?” Zoe looked him straight in the eyes. “One second he was alive and the next he was gone. Just like that, one second. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve tried to reach out and pull that second back and make it all different?” She trembled feeling Wash’s presence as if he were standing beside her. Suddenly that second, which had changed her life forever, didn’t matter. She finally understood what her mind had been telling her the night before. He would always be with her and trying to pretend otherwise would only hurt her.
“Wode tian, I can’t…! This ain’t happenin’. Girlie and I are friends like you and Mal.” It was the first safe thought he’d had since wakin’ up that mornin’. ‘Yeah, just keep thinkin’ on her like the Captain does Zoë. T’ain’t no sexin’ in their relationship and t’weren’t never gonna be.’
“If I can stand it, then so can you.” Her mouth was set in a grim line and her eyes were looking far off into the Black remembering a man with laughing eyes and loud shirts who rattled her calm from the moment she’d met him. “You should understand that no matter how much time you have with a person, it will never be enough. I don’t care if it’s two minutes or a lifetime. You find that one person who…who…fills up your soul and time just doesn’t matter, anymore than age or experience.” She could almost hear Wash saying those words in her ear. “So you figure out, if that’s what’s going on here, you won’t have anything to worry about. If it’s just hormones and too long being lonely, you better watch out.”
“But how da you know the difference?” he muttered before he even realized the question had formed in his mind.
“If you’re bothering to ask yourself that question, you’re well on your way to figuring it out.” She brushed past him her gun in hand and her blanket tossed over her shoulder. She’d shown as much of her personal side as she was going to.
“Zoë, it ain’t like that.” He called after her. “I’m not ruttin’ like that!”
Inara tried to turn over in her sleep. She always slept on her right side and lying on her back felt odd. She was relieved when only a tiny stab of pain shot through her ribs as she turned over. It was then she became aware that a large warm hand was holding hers. Hand-holding was one of the small personal gestures she’d always avoided.
She opened her eyes and everything made sense. She was still asleep and dreaming. Mal’s face was inches from hers. He looked relaxed as he rested. Too often in the last months everytime this man filled her sleeping hours, he was covered in blood and his death was only seconds away. She tried to reach for him, but her left arm was bound to her side.
She wanted him awake and touching her. It was what came next. This dream was a familiar old friend, though the setting usually wasn’t Serenity’s infirmary. Her sleeping imagination had had them making love in almost every other place on the boat, a number of planets and often, this last summer, in a secluded valley in the distant mountains seen from her room at the Training House.
Since he was holding her hand and the other seemed to be stuck to her side somehow, Inara decided she needed to take action, if this dream was going to progress as it usually did. She moved her head slightly to kiss him. Their lips met and she didn’t think it had ever felt so real. Suddenly the hand holding hers had tightened and his eyes had flown open. They were filled with pleasure and surprise.
“Hey, you,” she murmured and moved a bit closer.
“That was a mighty nice way to wake-up, but you sure you know what you’re doing, darlin’?” Mal caressed her cheek. His fingers buried deep in her dark curly hair. They felt good against his skin and he could smell the sweet scent of jasmine that always clung to her.
“This is the only way I dream about you, unless…unless…you’re bleeding to death. Your blood is on my hands, so much blood.” She looked at him, her mind hazy and filled with guilt. “Promise me you’re not dying,” she whispered as her eyes filled with tears.
“I ain’t dyin’, but you ain’t dreamin’, darlin’.” His lips were inches away from hers and he gently dried her eyes. “You’ve had a mighty rough few months and Simon knocked ya out good last night. You ain’t thinkin’ quite straight.”
“Then why don’t I see angel lights like Jayne did?” she gripped the front of his shirt to pull him closer. “I just see you and all the blood spilled by the Alliance I believed in,” her words shook with anger, bitter from betrayal.
“’Nara…aw ‘Nara.” He scooped her off the bed and pulled onto his lap. One arm wrapped tightly around her while the other supported her head against his shoulder. He had complete understanding of what she was feeling and as much as he hated the Alliance and all it stood for, he would have protected her from the soul wrenching experience if he could.
“It’s not all right,” she gasped. “I believed in them. I made excuses for their faults…even when I knew…I knew how they could be but wouldn’t let myself see it. All I did was close my eyes and escape, thinking out here on the Rim they couldn’t touch me.”
Simon sprang up in bed. The sharp ringing on his portable read-out alarm sent his system into overload. He remembered carrying one of those things as an intern, on nights when he'd had call and he hadn't like it one bit.
“What’s that?” Kaylee gasped. She didn’t think she’d ever seen the man move so fast. He pulled on one leg of his sleep pants as he hit the floor and the other in the step it took to reach her ladder.
“Inara, it’s Inara's heart rate,” as he spoke another alarm went off. “Made her respirations are dropping and becoming irregular!”
“Huh?” Kaylee grabbed her nightgown and pulled it over her head following only steps behind him.
“She’s…. Her heart is beating too fast and she’s gasping for breath…but she…she shouldn’t…there’s no reason…besides the Captain’s with her….THE CAPTAIN’S WITH HER!” He ground his teeth and cursed all way to the infirmary, as he remembered that Mal was sitting with Inara. He was almost positive of what he was going to find, but until he knew for sure that there was no emergency, he ran. His right hand was already clenched in a fist. It wouldn’t be the first time he hit the older man and he doubted it would be the last. But if the Doctor discovered Inara being kissed breathless while on long distance alarm, the chunren who ran the ship was going to get punched in the jaw.
“Next time I’m not muting the alarms in the infirmary,” Simon muttered as he skidded to a halt at the window overlooking his patient and glared at the man holding the woman in his arms. It only took a moment to see that emotions had set off the long distance monitoring device and nothing more. He could tell from the tiny bit he could see of her face that she was crying.
Mal looked up and gave Simon a flinty-eyed stare and shook his head. It was obvious to the younger man that something important was going on in there, but Inara was all right physically. The Captain was off the hook for the moment, but if it turned out he’d caused her to fall apart, the Doc was going have something to say to him about it.
“Simon…” Kaylee came rushing through the hatch and crashed into a naked back blocking her way. “Is Inara all right?”
“It would appear so.” He hit the mute switch on his portable read-out and quickly clicked through his patients previous vital signs. They all were within normal limits. He held up his left hand with his fingers extended. It was his way of telling Mal that he had five minutes to conclude what ever he was doing, and then the Doctor would be back.
“But…but…” The Mechanic kept trying to scoot around the man who was blocking her view.
“Come on, let’s get dressed.” He gripped Kaylee’s shoulders and turned her toward the hatch, still preventing her from seeing what was going on in the infirmary. He doubted the Companion would appreciate anyone knowing she’d lost control and broken down, though he’d been expecting it. She’d held on too tightly for too many weeks as the others were healing.
“They was kissin’ wasn’t they?” The cheery woman he loved looked over her shoulder as Simon pushed her into the cargo bay.
“No, I believe Inara had a nightmare.” He grabbed Kaylee’s hand and they climbed the steps.
“Darn,” she frowned. “I was hopin’ they was.”
The entire time Simon had stood at the window, Mal had held tightly to ‘Nara. He’d done his best to keep her tear streaked face hidden, but doubted he’d fooled the Doc.
“I’m all right,” she sniffed and rubber her wet cheeks against his shirt.
“No ya ain’t honey. I been down that road and it’s a dark and fearsome place, when your beliefs get shattered” He rubbed his chin against her temple as he remember the exact moment everything good had broken to bits inside of his own self.
‘Nara looked up at him and could see the pain in his eyes. She cupped his cheek and gently ran the pad of her thumb over his lips. “For a long time I believed in only two things, myself and the Alliance. Much to my surprise, I discovered about a year ago, there was a third. Two months ago, when everything else was falling down around me, you were still there.”
“No,” he shook his head, fear evident on his face. “No, I ain’t a man ta lead. We been over this once before. Sides when people do follow me, they die.”
“Mal, you’re wrong.” Inara hated that she was crying again so she blamed the anesthesia from the day before and let the tears flow down her cheeks as the truth came spilling out. “You are a man to lead. It’s what you were born to do, but the goushi buru Alliance has made the weight of it so heavy you doubt yourself. Believe; just believe, because I do.” She put her arm around him and pulled him close unable to stop crying.
“Oh, darlin’ I sure hope those drugs the Doc gave you keep ya from remembering this conversation, otherwise, I conjure you’re gonna be might angry at me and not so pleased with your own self.”
“I know what I’m saying and I should have told you a long time ago,” her words were rough with tears.
“Well in that case ya mind tellin’ me why ya moved outta the shuttle and what it means?” What Mal really wanted to ask her why she’d left Serenity six months ago, but he couldn’t make the words form. He stood with her in his arms and placed her carefully on the exam bed. Simon was due back soon, but for the moment it was only two of them.
“I’m not quite ready for that yet.” She took a deep ragged breath glad to be back on firmer ground with him, though she knew that soon they’d have to wade through some things that she’d rather leave unsaid, but she’d promised herself that this time he’d know the truth, all of it.
Jayne sat in his bunk trying to make some sense out of the last day. All of his life he’d been running from involvement, now it seemed to be explodin’ around him. He knew before Miranda that Serenity had become a second home to him and the people on it were closer than his blood family. But these feelin’s he had for River were beyond his understandin’.
Both Zoë and Simon were right. Him wantin’ a woman and not takin’ her when he could ‘a, was plane wrong, even if she was crew. When he’d first joined up, he’d thought Kaylee was mighty fine. He’d flirted with her every chance he got. She’d look back at him with them big eyes ‘a hers and laugh at him just like his little sis used ta. T’weren’t long afore that’s the way he started thinkin’ on her.
River was somethin’ different. He knew she was a woman since she’d popped outta that box, a ruttin’ fine one, even if she was a bit on the crazy side. He didn’t know when she’d begun makin’ him feel all hot and bothered. He could remember late nights when he had been workin’-out, he’d catch a scent ‘a that girly hair soap and had known she’d been watchin’. It used ta make him feel all sorts a manly and powerful.
As Jayne pulled on a clean t-shirt, he froze thinkin’ on how River had looked fightin’ in the Maidenhead. She’d moved all dainty like a butterfly, but she’d packed a powerful punch as she mowed men down left and right. He remembered thinkin’ he’d never seen anything as sexy in his life. When he’d wrapped his arms around her from behind, he’d been shakin’, wantin’ to pull her to the floor and pound into her slim body.
He’d spent most ‘a the next two days drinkin’. The booze and desire were the only excuse he could come up with for tryin’ to break Girlie outta that storage closet where Mal had locked her up. It didn’t make no sense. Nothin’ ‘bout the way she made him feel and act made sense. He pulled open his dresser drawer and ran his fingers over her ivory hair clip. He supposed he should give it back, but he didn’t wanna. Next to it, he had a small piece of paper where he’d carefully wrapped the hair that had been on his shirt. “Tamade, she’s turnin' me into a ruttin’ pansy,” he muttered.
“Jayne, Kaylee has breakfast ready.” Mal pounded on his hatch on his way to the bridge to let River know.
Seven sleepy people gathered around the table. It had been a long night for everyone, but only Simon knew it. It was likely that no one except his patient had gotten more than a few hours of rest.
Mal watched ‘Nara carefully to be sure there was nothing that she needed as they ate. He knew she’d been cryin’ but he doubted the others could tell. He figured she used one ‘a her companion tricks ‘cause her eyes weren’t nearly as puffy or red as when he’d left her in Simon’s care.
Zoë blinked tiredly and her eyes were swollen like she hadn’t slept well. She looked slightly green under her dark complexion, but she seemed relaxed for the first time in months.
It had taken River a bit longer to come to the table. She’d been in the middle of checking the Cortex for any new warrants, but it appeared as if the Operative had been correct. For the time being anyway, the Tam siblings were safe. She was surprised to find someone had dished-up a bowl of protein mash and poured a cup of coffee for her.
Jayne looked up and met her eyes as she entered the room. He’d been nervous about seeing her again after what had transpired between them, but just looking at her erased all his doubts. When she smiled at him it made him want to hug her, though he didn’t.
“Thank you,” she murmured, sure who had been the thoughtful person who had her breakfast ready and waiting for her. He just nodded in response and kept on eating, suddenly hungry for the first time that morning.
“Mal, I’d like ta outfit Girlie with a handgun or two.” The Merc looked between the Captain and River. “That big old automatic she had with her is mighty dangerous when used on a target less than twenty-five feet away. I don’t want her ta have ta rely on just her stiletto if she gets into a close range fight.”
“Sounds like a good idea. What did you have in mind?” The Captain nodded as he ate.
“I got a couple ‘a pistols that’re kinda small for me. The trigger guards are‘a mite snug but Girlie could handle ‘em right nice. I could rig that shoulder holster I made for her so she could pack one on each side. It’d be outta her way and still leave her free to do her fancy fightin’.”
“You’d give River some of your guns?” Mal had to fight to keep from looking over at Simon. It appeared as if the younger man might have been correct the night before.
“Well not give, exactly…I’d have ta do some work on the grips. Her hands are too small for ‘em the way they are, but she could borrow ‘em.” Anyone who knew anythin’ ‘bout hand guns knew it would be easier to enlarge the trigger guards than to refit the grips, but no one was sayin’ a thing.
“What do you think ‘bout that, Little Albatross?” The Captain glanced at his pilot.
“I would appreciate it.” She smiled sweetly at the large man beside her.
Jayne spent the day doin’ heavy labor. He started by cleanin’ out the mule. While he worked, he tried not to think, but his mind whirred with thoughts of River. He knew it ‘t’weren’t right for a grown man to think on a female so much, but he couldn’t get her outta his head.
The red-clay mud from that ruttin’ moon had dried crusty and was hard to get out. He figured that if the terrible rains hadn’t washed the stuff off of a good part of the machine, he’d never been able to do it. In desperation he’d dug up a batch ‘a Kaylee’s homebrew that had fermented a bit too long. That worked pretty well. As much as he was tempted to sip it as he cleaned, he knew the answer to his problem didn’t lie in alcohol. He’d done that once and gotten a clunk on the head for bein’ all stupid like.
After sprucin’ up the mule, rearrangin’ every box and crate in the cargo bay and liftin’ weights, the big man finally sat down and began workin’ on the pistol grips he’d promised Girlie he’d resize for her. A strange peace settled over him as he worked. His thoughts calmed and his insides stopped heavin’. He didn’t understand it anymore than he understood anything else that was goin’ on inside ‘a him recently.
River spent a long day on the bridge. Her mind kept picking up distress from Jayne’s. She’d been foolish to ask him to sleep beside her the night before. She knew he wasn’t ready for it, but the thought of the comfort it would bring her had made her desperate. Having had his thoughts surround her as she’d slept made it almost impossible for her to keep him out now, as she did the others.
“Little Albatross, ya need a break?” Mal watched River carefully. Her hands had been shakin’ as they gripped the wheel and she had been concentrating on the Black so intently she hadn’t heard him join her on the bridge. “’Sides ya got ‘bout an hour ‘till dinner, and Jayne’s in the cargo bay, don’t you two usually spar ‘bout this time ‘a day?”
“Thank you Captain, our course is logged in and there has been nothing out of the ordinary on my watch.” She blinked her tired eyes and gazed one more time into the depths of space.
“You’re lookin’ a mite wore out.” He patted her shoulder gently. His concern was easily read. “Ya can pass on the sparring if ya want. Nothin’ in my rule book says ya gotta do it every night.”
“I shall take your suggestion under advisement.” River gave him a tight smile and headed toward the corridor.
A few minutes later she found Jayne at the bench he’d set up in the bay for working on weapons that required soldering or heating metal. He was still dressed from his work-out and was concentrating on his task, though she knew he was aware of her presence.
“How ya been, Girlie,” his voice was rough as if it hadn’t been used in a long time.
“It has been a difficult day.” A small part of her wanted to fight him in anger at the confusion he was having, but she knew it was her own fault.
“Come’er, Babe.” He put down the pistol he’d been working on and pushed his makeshift table aside so he could pull her into his arms. Unconsciously his thighs spread as his large hands wrapped around her. He wanted to feel her pressed against every inch of his body.
She stepped against him needing to feel his touch. Needing the reassurance she’d lacked all day. Both arms wound around his neck and she pressed her face against his. “All day I could feel your worry, your fear. Why didn’t you come to me so we could talk? It is my fault you feel this unrest.”
“I…” Jayne was caught by surprise and hurt. “You been reading my thoughts, Girlie?” his voice was like ground glass. He felt betrayed and gripped her shoulders to push her far enough away so he could look into her face.
“I couldn’t escape them. They nibbled at my mind all day. They chased me through the ship.” She put her hands over her ears as if that would keep out the feelings she’d been picking up. “All day there was no place I could hide from them. My fault, I pushed you. Not ready…not ready. You were my sanctuary, but now there is none…none…I ruined it. I destroyed the ending.”
“No, no, t’ain’t your fault I…I’m a cantankerous old mercenary, ain’t nothing ya can do ‘bout that.” He held her tightly to him because when she was like that he knew exactly who and what he was, though he didn’t have the words to express it. “I should ‘a come ta ya, but I ain’t used to talkin’ ‘bout my troubles.”
“We ruined us, Jayne. I ruined us I’m so sorry.” Her whisper was broken with sobs as she tried to pull away. She’d pushed him too fast for her own needs now it was broken and she didn’t’ see how to put the pieces back together.
“No we didn’t, Babe. We just got to figure out who us really is.” Something shook loose in his chest as he fought to keep her in his arms. “I gotta hold ya, don’t push me away.”
“Do you love me?” River was sure she knew the answer, because she’d felt his agitation all day. But she couldn’t block him like the others, nor could she completely separate him from herself. She needed his opinion.
“I…ah…I…ah…I ain’t never felt that way ‘bout no female but my ma or my sis.” He gulped, ‘cause he couldn’t say the word out loud even when talkin’ ‘bout blood kin.
“I think I knew and not because I’m a reader, but I had to ask.” She tried to smile, but it was hard. “Do you desire me?” This time she looked him in the eyes and gently ran a hand over his cheek. Touching him like that gave her the answer before he could speak. The power crackled between them until she was amazed she didn’t see small lightening bolts flying from skin to skin.
“You know I do,” his words were rough with emotions. “I wish I could say…but…I…won’t lie ta ya.”
“I know,” her eyes fluttered closed as she leaned against him. An easy, temporary, way out was seconds away if they let it and it was very tempting. “I…you make my insides shiver with needs that I never knew existed. I want you to touch me and fill…”
“Gorramnit, don’t tell me things like that!” he growled.
“Did you doubt it?” Her body shook against his and she tried to smile at his harsh expression.
“’No! But words make it real…ya don’t say the words…then I can think it’s only me thinkin’ dirty thoughts.” He gritted his teeth as his control slipped another notch. “We gotta get back to bein’ Mal and Zoë.”
“But we’re not Mal and Zoë.” She shook her head as the truth hit her. “We never were and we never will be. There has always been this power between us, even when my mind was overrun with millions of voices, I could feel yours. You’d insult me. I would tease you. I pushed and you pushed back. I felt the fear and anger in you. In my confusion I took a knife to you, but couldn’t…couldn’t…” Her hand rested over his chest where she knew a scar to be and she wept at what she had almost done to him.
With his arms holding her tightly and her palm pressed over the place where his scare was, fog filled her mind and made her dizzy. She was swirled away from the present and taken to a place she had no wish to be. She saw herself as she knelt weeping beside a new gravesite on Haven. Her arms were wrapped protectively around the small swelling in her abdomen. The life that grew in her was the only reason she hadn’t done as she’d always assumed she would and followed Jayne when his body ceased to exist. In their two years together she had loved him with an intensity she hadn’t realized was possible, though he had never believed he loved her. As he’d told her that day long ago in the cargo bay, words made it real and he’d never been able to say the words.
The Captain was in the background with his arms around a very pregnant Inara, who was crying openly. Simon held Kaylee as tears ran down her face. It was Zoë who reached down and pulled an almost hysterical girl off her lover’s grave, because only Zoë knew how it hurt to lose a part of herself and never get it back.
The Captain was in the background with his arms around a very pregnant Inara, who was crying openly. Simon held Kaylee as tears ran down her face. It was Zoë who reached down and pulled an almost hysterical girl off her lover’s grave, because only Zoë knew how it hurt to lose a part of herself and never get it back.
“Nooooo!” River shrieked. “No, I won’t let it happen.” She’d caught him by surprise, when she shoved against him with force and an elegant twist of her body, which set her free, as she rolled to the deck. “I will not be the cause of your early death!”
“But what about that vision ya had. You said…you said…” he squinted hard trying to remember her exact words.
“I’ve ruined it! It is gone. It has all changed!” For the first time since Miranda, River Tam lost complete control. Her shrieks filled the ship. For the first time since Miranda, Simon was forced to give his sister a smoother. For the first time since Miranda the crew gathered after dinner and had a meeting about the River’s mental health.
Jayne sat in the corner of the mess hunched in the large chair where he’d first held her. He’d been sure they’d all blame him, but they didn’t. When Inara moved to reach for the bottle she kept stashed behind the tea, Mal glared at her and did her reaching. He helped her carefully portioned out a drink for everyone. When she came to the Mercenary, she filled his to the brim.
“Jayne, you got any idea what set her off like that?” Mal looked at his hired muscle and didn’t like what he saw. He was afraid if Little Albatross wasn’t gonna be all right, neither would the Merc.
“We was talkin’.” He shook his head in confusion and gulped his drink in two swallows. “Ya know, t’ain’t fair that everyone on this whole ruttin’ boat thinks they got a right to know every gorramn thing ‘bout River, but she guards our secrets ‘till they eat ‘er up inside!” He slammed his cup on the table and glared at each person.
“You been keepin’ some ‘a her secrets?” The Captain’s voice was deadly as he stared at his hired man.
“My secret, really.” Jayne looked into the past and could see how it had been eight months earlier. “Ya know how she just knows things.” He shrugged, not expecting anyone to answer. “It was that day we was carrying the coffin with your friend from the war.”
“Tracey…” Mal shuddered and reached for the bottle to pour some more whiskey into his cup. “Not likely to forget that day anytime soon,’ he whispered as Inara ran her hand gently up his back in support.
“Well I was workin’ out in the bay. Shepherd Book was with me. I asked him if he was gonna read over me when I got took down.” The big gruff man shuddered at the memory. “River was there. She was lyin’ on the coffin. I think she’d finally been able to track down one a’ them unknown voices she couldn’t drown out, but that don’t really got anything to do with what happened.” He ran his thumb and forefinger through his goatee on either side of his mouth. “After the preacher left, she told me I didn’t need to worry, that I’d outlive Shepherd Book by decades. I thought it was a pile a go se, ‘specially when she said I’d die in bed after having children and grandchildren.”
“You thought that was something to keep to your own self?” The Captain sputtered as he pictured the death and destruction that had rained down on Haven.
“The only difference it would ‘a made was that Girlie would ‘a gotten an extra load ‘a them drugs shot into her system.” He stood and grabbed the bottle pouring himself another stiff drink.
“He’s right you know. None of us would have taken it seriously.” Zoë looked at Simon daring him to contradict her, but he only nodded. “But I don’t understand what that has to do with today.”
“We was gonna talk instead ‘a spar. River and I are partners, but not like Mal and Zoë.” He shrugged and looked deep into the whiskey in his cup so he missed the knowing smiles on everyone else’s’ face. “We was tryin’ to do like the Doc suggested last night.” He looked to Simon for reassurance and was glad when the younger man nodded at him. “We was tryin’ to figure out just what we are. She went all quiet like, then all of the sudden she pulled outta my arms and started screamin’ sayin’ she wouldn’t be the cause of my early death. All’s I can figure is she had a vision again and things was different than the last time.”
“That kinda changes the landscape a mite.” Mal sighed. It sounded to him as if they were back to where they started with River.
“Not for anybody but me,” Jayne snorted. “Don’t see how this concerns any ‘a you now that she’s quieted down ‘nuff so ya can sleep.”
“How can you be so sure that she isn’t the one who brings about this early death ‘a yours.” The Captain folded his arms.
“I figure if’n she was gonna kill me she’d done it by now. She’s had three mighty good chances. She banged me up some, but that’s ‘bout all.”
“What’s your take on this, Doc?” Mal was mighty confused. He liked the girl. She was a good pilot and gave him a huge edge when on jobs. He’d hate for things to go back like they’d been.
“I think we need to see how River is in the morning. But I agree with Jayne, I don’t think she’d ever hurt him. I don’t think she’d hurt any of us, even under Alliance mind control. I’ve studied those tapes from the Maidenhead. If she had wanted either of you dead,” he looked from Jayne to Mal. “You would be dead.”
“Did she see anybody else’s death,” Zoë had sworn she’d wait until Jayne was alone to ask him, but the words just came out.
“Naw, we talked ‘bout it a few weeks back. She was cryin’ ‘cause she couldn’t understand why she hadn’t recognized Haven. She feels some powerful guilt ‘bout that. She’d seen that gun where Book died, when we visited a time or two before, but hadn’t recognized it from seein’ his death. It made her wonder if she was goin’ crazy again. That’s what scares her most in the ‘verse, even more than them ruttin’ Blue Hands. She’s afraid of bein’ crazy.”
Zoë looked at the big rough man who up until recently hadn’t had a thought in his head for anyone but himself. A half smile curved her lips and her eyes looked old and wise as if they knew the secrets of the ‘verse. “I think maybe that fear of hers has just taken second place to a whole new one.” She nodded, emptied her cup and left the room. River had told her more than once, since Wash’s death, that she admired the First-Mate because she was stronger than the girl believed herself to be. The tall dark woman knew it took strength to go on without her husband, but if she’d had to live with the fore knowledge of two possible deaths for Wash she’d have been rolling on the bay floor screaming crazy things too. River Tam was a damn sight stronger than she gave herself credit for.
The next morning River got up at her usual time. She had the early shift on the bridge and she knew that if she was going to put her life back together again, and be sure that Jayne didn’t end up dead in the process, she needed to go on as if nothing had happened.
“Mornin’ Little Albatross.” Mal was surprised to find the girl at her post. He’d gotten up figurin’ he’d be doin’ all the flying for a while. “You sure it’s all right for you ta be here.”
“The smoother leaves me with a slight headache, but since Simon has stopped all the other medications, the pain will go away when I get some coffee and breakfast.”
“I was speakin’ on the other.” He moved to the copilot’s seat and sat back watching her. “I’m sorry Little One, but Jayne had to tell us about…he called ‘em visions.”
“When I didn’t wake-up in the infirmary, drugged senseless, I assumed he did.” She looked carefully over the controls and double checked their course. “I believe the first was another one of my episodes and the second…well…I overreacted. I don’t think it’s necessary to worry about them.”
“I worry ‘bout everyone on my ship and everything.” He tried to sound captainy but doubted it had come out that way.
“We know and that’s why we love you.”
“Don’t try and pull that go se with me. You got that brother ‘a yours wrapped ‘round your finger and I get the feelin’ that big mean mercenary ‘a mine ain’t all that far behind him…”
“No…” she whispered and tears filled her eyes. “Please don’t say that. All I can do is assure you that I won’t do anything that would harm him. I won’t fog up his thinking and spin him around. Anything else between Jayne and me is our business.”
“You just stay outta my head.” He glared, recognizing the words he'd shouted at ‘Nara less than an hour after stealing her back from the Training House. River hadn’t told him the truth ‘bout her ‘visions’ and he knew it. She was tryin’ with all she had to keep him off the scent. He’d let her, for the time bein’, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t gonna be careful.
“Some thoughts can’t be avoided, especially when they are very near the surface.” She smiled gently and Mal figured he hadn’t deceived her one bit, but at least she knew he was watchin’.
Over the next three weeks things appeared to be normal, but they weren’t. River and Jayne still sparred every night, but the joy was gone. Both participants would laugh occasionally, but the hollow sound made Kaylee cry. It was nothing like the full throated happiness that used to punctuate their matches.
The small Alliance trained killer and the huge hired gun worked together everyday to perfect their skills. But it was just that, practice and nothing more. Inara would watch them and it broke her heart to see a small hand reach unthinkingly to caress a large arm, but it would be pulled back just before making contact. It always made the two freeze, clear their throats and continue as if nothing had happened. It was just as heart wrenching to see large callused fingers reaching for long silky brown hair, but stop just before they could be lost in the dark strands.
The crew pulled two more jobs successfully. They got paid and no one ended up in Simon’s infirmary. It was only when working, that the two hired guns didn’t slip and let their feelings show. Both were more serious, and more determined than anyone had ever seen them. By the middle of the third week, River was showing signs of stress. No one knew if they should be relieved or worried, because this time they were physical signs, not mental. There were dark circles under her eyes and she was loosing weight.
A light tapping on the hatch to Jayne’s bunk had him out of bed and up his ladder in no time. It was after midnight and they would be on Boros the next day.
“Come with me, you need to see this,” Inara whispered to the big man.
“Is River all right?” He dressed quickly. unsure when he’d begun calling her by her real name in front of other people, but it felt right to him so he wasn’t gonna stop. ‘Sides he had bigger worries.
Simon was standing in the hatch, looking down into the cargo bay from the main steps. The man moved back to let Jayne see what was happening below. The Merc had expected to see River, but he’d never expected to see her as she danced and moved to music only she could hear. He’d seen her dance plenty, but never like this. She had on sweatpants and her usual white top, but her hair was held tightly up on her head. Her feet were bare and she was on tip-toes as she moved. Her arms and body creating complicated patterns as she turned and leapt lightly into the air.
Inara pulled both men back into the mess and they sat looking stunned. “You recognize what she’s dancing don’t you, Simon?”
“I…ah…It looks familiar, but I haven’t been to the ballet in years. River would drag me to a performance occasionally…but…”
“Wait…what’s this ‘bout? Girlie is exhausted. We need to go down there and stop her.” Jayne began to get up when the Companion grabbed him by the t-shirt and wouldn’t let go.
“Sit back down!” she ordered.
“What the gorramn hell difference does it make what she’s dancin’, what ever it is, she’s killin’ herself doin’ it.” The Merc glowered.
“It’s very important to her stare of mind, especially if she is dancing what I think she is: the second act of Giselle. The forest scene, though since she has no partner, or Corps, she’s improvising, adding steps of her own. I may be wrong.”
“That’s where Giselle dances from midnight to dawn to keep Albrecht from dying.” Simon added as he remembered the ballet. “It was always one of my sister’s favorites. I believe you are correct.”
“You’re both talkin’ gou pi! Have you lost your ruttin’ minds?” He was gettin’ a sick feeling in his stomach and he didn’t like where this was goin’.
“Jayne it makes perfect sense to River.” Inara shook his arm with all her strength. It made her ribs twinge, but she didn’t care. “The parallels are uncanny if you know the story. The main character is Giselle. In the beginning she appears fragile, almost waif-like. She is taken advantage of by the prince of her country. It drives her mad. The weak version of her dies. Later she emerges sane and strong. This is the part of the story that she’s dancing. I’ve seen her dance it for the last three nights. She is begging for the life of the man she loves. When her request is turned down, she uses her love to support him. All he has to do is survive until dawn, and then he will live. She uses her strength and dances with him, even when fatigue overtakes him, she keeps on dancing.”
“What are ya sayin’? Parts of it I can understand, but why is she dancing?” He buried his face in his hands unable to say what he really meant, and wanting to deny it with all his might.
“I know my sister cares about you, just like I know you care about her.” Simon shrugged surprised it didn’t upset him more to be having that conversation with the Merc. “If Inara is correct, and I think she is, the key is what River perceives to be the reason her vision changed. She won’t talk about it to me, except to say the first time she was having an episode and the second time was an over reaction.
“No,” Jayne shook his head and growled. “We talked about that first vision a few nights before we left Persephone. She was a mite raggedy around the edges emotionally. We’d been working in the outside duct late at night.” He nodded to Simon. When the younger man blushed he knew that the Doc knew exactly which night he was referrin’ to. “She was scared, and unsure what was happening, ‘cause the Shepherd had died the way she’d known he would. She didn’t trust what she’d seen ‘cause she had doubts about her sanity afore Miranda. She needed ta know it wasn’t some crazy thing from her past, so she deliberately recalled the vision. It was the same. I died an old man, in bed, children, grandchildren.” He shrugged unsure if that was that they needed to know or not.
“I think she is dancing to try and keep you alive.” Simon smiled as he thought of his sister. “It is something that is consistent with the person River was before the Academy, a girl genius who liked to express herself through dance.”
“That’s plumb crazy!”
“There is that possibility as well.” The Doc shrugged, though he was sure it wasn’t the answer. “Remember when I mentioned she used to have what I called flashes of brilliants. Not everyone saw them as such.”
“Flashes of brilliants, my ass!” the big man muttered and scowled fiercely sure that craziness ran in the Tam family.
“Did she ever say anything about the woman in your life?” Inara rested her hand on Jayne’s knee, curious, but also attempting to keep him from hitting the Doc.
“No.” He thought for a moment. “Wait…The first time I told her she was crazy, cause I was always careful when I was with...well you know. Then she mumbled something from that Chinese samurai she likes ta read…ah…Lao…Lao-Tzu. It was something ‘bout courage, strength and lo…lo...” He stuttered unable to say the word love. “Just made me think she was really nuts.”
“’To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.’ Is that the one?” The Companion knew the quote well, but it had only been the last two years that she’d believed its words.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“But did she say anything specific about who the woman was or what she looked like?” ‘Nara kept digging.
“I asked her straight out who the whore was.” The Merc was lost and confused and didn’t think Inara was helpin’ any. “She just said she didn’t see one.” His face was buried in his hands so he missed the surprised look exchanged by the two people sitting across from him.
“Jayne do you love my sister?” Simon almost whispered the question.
“Why does everyone keep askin’ me that?” he exploded. “I can’t say the ruttin word, how the gorramn hell do you expect me to feel it!”
“Who else asked you that?” Inara looked at him with dark worried eyes.
“River,” he sighed. “The night we was tryin’ ta talk it out.” He got up and began to pace. “She knew. She already knew the answer. I’d been fussin’ all day, and she felt it. She was mighty upset, but not at me, at herself. Kept sayin’ she’d pushed me, asked too much ‘a me. But it don’t make no sense. It was the day after I stayed in the shuttle with her. But I swear Doc, I didn’t…I didn’t use her like some trim. She’s been through too much go se in her life. The first time she’s with a man like that it’s gotta be somethin’ special.” He got a faraway look in his eyes as he remembered what it felt like to hold Girlie in his arms and sleep. “She done somethin’ special for me that night, though. I never just held a woman without no sexin’. Got the best sleep,” he muttered.
“Interesting,” Simon had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. He never in his life expected to see Jayne Cobb lovesick and if anyone had told him a year ago that it would be over his sister, he would have ordered a mental scan.
“Ya think, it’s ‘cause Girlie and I are sorta…well…we’re…ah friends?” It was the best he could do, especially in front of River’s brother. T’weren’t no way he was gonna admit to feelin’ all hot and bothered about the girl to him. “Think I miss meetin’ up with the piece a trim she seen me with in the first place? Not that her and I…I’d never…but…and that changes everything somehow?” His was interrupted by a loud bang in the cargo bay, followed by a gasp that he’d recognize anywhere.
Jayne turned and glared at Simon and Inara. “You stay here. I’ll take care ‘a this!” He pounded down the stairs not caring if he woke the devil himself. He was just mighty relieved ta be doin’ somethin’ that might help and not gabbin’ like a nitwit.
River looked up in surprise from where she was huddling on the deck. She’d already tried to push herself up to a sitting position once but her arms had given out. “Jayne,” she squeaked. “What are you doing here?
“I could ask the same ‘a you.” He stood tall and fierce over her. His hands fisted on his hips and his eyes spitting blue fire. “Up ya go.” He wasn’t polite and didn’t ask permission. He simply leaned over, grabbed her by the arms to pull her up and toss her over his left shoulder.
“You can’t do this!” She pounded on his back. “Put me down.”
“Oh yes I can and no I won’t, ‘less ya plan on makin’ me.” His strides ate up the steps to the catwalk and he was at the shuttle in no time at all. He yanked the hatch open and walked in.
“Stop! I’m not through. There’s still more I have to…” She gasped as he dropped her on the bed and followed her down to pin her in place.
“More you have ta dance? That ain’t gonna keep me alive River.” He rolled on his side with her held tightly in his arms with one leg thrown across both of hers to keep her in place.
“I have to try.” She wiggled to get out of his hold.
“It’s just gonna drive ya to exhaustion.” Jayne hated to admit it, but Simon had been right. “The way I figure it, you bein’ too exhausted to do your job just might get me dead!”
“Jayne please don’t do this, please,” she begged as she gripped the front of his t-shirt and pressed as close to him as she could get.
“I don’t know what’s got you so upset, but someday soon you’re gonna trust me enough ta tell me.” He kissed her forehead, but it only made her shake more, as she fought to keep from breaking down as she’d done two and a-half weeks earlier. “I told ya before we was gonna have some rough patches ‘till we got this figured out. We need to add one more thing to that little rule of ours that says no gun, knives or airlocks if we get angry or upset with each other. We gotta add that we’ll be honest ‘bout what’s goin’ on, or we’re gonna find ourselves usin’ them guns, knives or airlocks.”
“I had to do something,” she sobbed. “It was all I could think of to do. In the middle of the night, when I was all alone, it made perfect sense.”
“I know, Babe. Inara tried to explain what ya was dancin’. Part of it makes sense and part don’t, but it were the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” His right hand was deep in her hair and he’d tilted her face so he could see her beautiful eyes. Something warm and soft filled him and burst deep in his chest. He could hardly breathe as he leaned in to kiss her. He knew if he could just find the name for the feeling he was havin’ everything would be all right, but it was just outta his reach. “Ya gotta remember ya ain’t alone no more.”
“We’re just going to make this worse,” she whispered against his lips.
“No we ain’t. Worse is the last two weeks. You were right. I am strong enough to hold ya while ya sleep and not try ta get in ya pants, ‘cause anythin’ is better than bein’ tore up the way I been. The way we both been.”
“You shouldn’t stay.” She wanted him sleeping beside her badly but was still frightened of the consequences.
“I ain’t givin’ ya a choice in the matter.” He reached for the blanket behind her and pulled it over her shoulder. “Gotta make sure you stay warm.”
“You do a good job of that.” She held his hand against her face and kissed his palm. “I really do like your hands.” She wanted to feel his skin against hers, but couldn’t ask it.
“You’re a strange one, River Tam, but I…” Suddenly he couldn’t remember what he was gonna say. The word was on the tip of his tongue, but his mind was drawing a blank. “Go ta sleep, Babe. I got ya.” He rested his chin on the top of her head and rubbed her back under her top until he felt her body completely relax and her breathing become deep and even. Only then did he let himself follow her into sleep.
Simon moved to the main circuit box in the galley and turned off the lights in the cargo bay. “We won’t be seeing them again tonight.”
“You’re all right with that?” Inara’s brows rose as she got up.
“I don’t think I’ve got a choice. What do you want to bet that my sister is the woman in her vision? She is too sneaky for her own good.” The Doc shook his head and laughed. “Telling him she didn’t see a whore when he asked about the woman.”
“Sorry, I’m not taking that bet.” She smiled. “I’m just happy Jayne thought that entire ballet analogy was chun. Most scholars believe that up until almost midway through the second act, the prince Giselle died for, and danced to save, was exactly like our mercenary used to be.”
“As you said the parallels were uncanny. I have no doubt that early in the dance, the Prince would have sold Giselle back to the Academy if the money had been enough.”
“Simon!” Inara shook her head and pulled her flashlight from her pocket as she headed toward the back stairs. Her lonely bed in the dorm beckoned. It was made all the more lonely because tonight, she and Mal were the only ones sleeping alone.
On to the final chapter 12 - Where Strength and Courage Are Found
Wednesday, November 01, 2006 3:50 PM
Thursday, November 02, 2006 4:40 AM
Thursday, November 02, 2006 5:13 AM
Thursday, November 02, 2006 3:19 PM
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