BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

INSTANTKARMAGIRL

The Girl and Jayne Cobb Part 2
Monday, August 11, 2008

River continues to reveal her past to the only person on Serenity that doesn't want to fix her.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1976    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: The Girl and Jayne Cobb Author: Instant Karma Girl Date: Started July 2008 – Ended August 2008 Words: 45,734 (Entire Story – all parts) Disclaimer: Joss is Boss and I would do nothing to detract from him. He and others own the ‘Verse…I just wish they played in it again. Author’s Note: I haven’t provided translations for the Chinese because they didn’t on the show and if you use your imagination (and a translator), you can get the gist. This is my first Firefly fic. I hope you like it! Thank you Michelle!!

Inara and I found a lot of great food for River’s birthday meal. No strawberries, but we were able to find grapes, apples, and mangos. Hell, I even picked up an eggplant for her. I thought the vegetable would be one she would like. I hadn’t ever had it, but River liked strange little things like that.

I was right. The next night at dinner, Mal showed her the food and actually handed her the eggplant. “No one knew quite how to fix it, so here,” he handed to her.

River smiled, bringing her hands to fold together on the table, like a kid at Christmas. “Eggplant! The eggplant is a member of the potato family, and it is known ‘Verse wide as aubergine, eggplant, brinjal, melanzana, garden egg, patlican, or qui zi.” She was the happiest about the eggplant. The eggplant was my idea, I kept saying in my head, hoping that she would read it. Don’t know why I was so bent on having her know that it was me that decided on it for her.

Much later that night, I sat on my bunk, waiting for her. For some reason I felt relief when I saw her remove the grate and lower herself down from the vent. A long, long time ago, I felt relief when she *left*the room. Reaching up, I put my hands on her waist and helped her down, even though I knew she didn’t need help.

“Thank you Jayne Cobb for the Eggplant.”

I swear I blushed. “Yeah, well, now we just need to learn how to fix it and eat it.” I turned and grabbed the package off my small trunk. “Here.”

She looked at me with something like wonder. “More?”

I shrugged. “I guess you can just use your mind readin’ to find out what it is.”

“No fun. Not in the spirit of the day.” She took the package and tore the brown paper off it quickly. The blue dress opened, her hands holding the small straps and the bell of the dress floated down. “It’s lovely. Truly, truly perfect. Like the dresses I used to wear to my dance recitals.”

Good. She liked it. Before I knew it, she pressed herself into me, hugging me tightly. “Oh, well, glad you fancy it.” It was amazing how uncomfortable I could feel with her at times and how comfortable I could feel at other times. Her body felt so good. I wasn’t getting flush or nothin’ but I was thinking about how easy it would be to kiss her. But she was just a girl and I was…

“I’m River and you’re Jayne Cobb.”

“Stop reading minds,” I said lightly as I pulled out of the hug. “And you can just call me Jayne. Doesn’t always have to be Jayne Cobb, you know.”

She laughed. “The Girl and Jayne Cobb.” I heard a noise outside the door and felt her tense up the way I did. She whispered, “Noises detract. Makes people think they are doing wrong.”

“I don’t reckon your brother or the captain would be too happy to find you here in my bunk with me late at night.”

“There are places on the ship that even the captain can’t find.”

“I seriously doubt that,” I replied.

“I can show you.” Carefully, she folded up her dress and tucked it under an arm.

“I can’t fit in air vents, River.”

“Yes, you can.”

I sighed heavily. “Okay, fine. I’m a little uncomfortable in cramped enclosed places.”

She smiled and took my hand. “We’re not going into the vents. We’re sneaking like brown mice in the farmer’s house. But don’t go near his wife, she’ll cut off your tail with a butcher’s knife.”

I shook my head. “Have I told you how delightful you are to talk to?”

As she moved to the door, she said dreamily, “I remember. I damage your calm.”

Very quietly, we moved through Serenity more quickly and stealthily than I ever thought possible. It was odd to feel so graceful, simply because River was holding my hand. Sure enough in a matter of minutes we were in a small compartment I’d never seen or even thought could be there. It was on the right side of the cargo bay, behind the fuse access panel. The back wall was cold, letting me know that on the other side of the hull was the emptiness of space. River let go of my arm and twirled. “It’s just big enough to dance.”

“It’s just big enough to hit my head when I stand up.”

River smiled and giggled a little. “Yes, I don’t have that problem, but for you I can see where it’s a little confining.”

I sat down, my back to the inside wall. “So now what? We just hide out until someone misses us?”

She sat down across from me, her foot brushing my extended leg. “Tell me about you.”

I shook my head. “You can read my mind, there’s no point.”

River shook her head. “But you’re not thinking of you. You’re thinking of me. Tell me about your brother. The letter from your mother said he had damp lung. Is that why you send credits to them?”

Not really the conversation I wanted to have, but I was comfortable around River in a way that I’ve never been comfortable with anyone before. “I send credits because my father’s a nu lin se hai dao. He drinks away his pay before making sure his family’s cared for. Been like that all my life. My mother has to take work cleanin’ houses of the rich people to make rent and buy food. So I send money when I can.”

“And your brother’s in a hospital?”

I chuckled. “There ain’t no hospitals on Elend. Just doctors that don’t know much about healing folk. My grandmother told me once of the healers that used nature to do their work. They were all women and the men drove them out, off the planet. Called them witches. Said that if God wanted someone to suffer, they were meant to get sick and suffer.”

“The Alliance wanted to spread enlightenment to planets like that.”

“The Alliance woulda run off them natural healers too. People like your brother need to make money. Money comes from keep the sick people stupid, not teachin’ ‘em how take care of themselves, not helpin’ them heal themselves.”

“Your grandmother’s mother was a healer?”

“Yes. My grandmother knew some of the old ways. But my father would never let her around us kids, even when Sarah…” I trailed off, realizing how much I was spillin’.

“Sarah got very sick. Beaten like your brother and forced to spend the cold, wet night out in the barn.”

Guess I didn’t have to say it for her to know it. There was no way out of it but to talk. “I tried to keep ‘em warm, but it was windy and they were hurt. They were already sick from the pneumonia going around our town.”

“He made you stay out there while he hurt your mother.”

I cleared my throat and tried to clear my mind. We didn’t need to be talking about that stuff. “It’s not a good topic of discussion, River.”

“You can show me instead of talking.”

I shook my head. “No. I don’t want to see that pi hua. I lived it, once is enough.”

“It’s a part of who you are.”

Fixin’ my eyes on hers, I replied, “I know that. Doesn’t mean I have to revisit it all the damn time.” I sat silently, letting my eyes drop down, examining my legs.

“But you took care of them. You got big enough to fight back and he didn’t hurt them anymore.”

Slowly I looked up. “That was only after Sarah was dead and Matty was sick and my mother was broken. All I can do now is send credits.” I watched as she scooted closer to me. Very gently, she positioned herself within my arms, managing to avoid my healing leg and shoulder. Her head rested on my chest as she looked up at me. “Hey,” I said softly with a smile. God, I was…content.

“Hello,” she said, the smile growing on her lips. “This is nice.”

“It is,” I agreed.

“I’ve waited forever to be close to someone.”

What was that hot, thumping sensation in my chest as she said that? Like her, I’ve waited a long time too. My kind of life doesn’t last, so there’s not a lot of point in creating lasting relationships. But suddenly, I wanted one with her. “You’ve got your brother.”

“Not the same. And Simon resents me, even if it’s just a little. He has since we were kids. It was difficult for him to accept that his little sister was smarter than him. It was difficult for him to accept that I was chosen for the Academy, although now I’m sure he’s glad it wasn’t him. And I know that he still wishes that he were a famed doctor in Capital City. Sometimes he imagines what his life would’ve been life if he hadn’t given up everything to help me. Sometimes he thinks about what life would be like if he never had a sister.” She shook her head as she pulled away. I could see the tiny tears welling up. “But it isn’t his fault. He’s allowed to be sad for what he lost.”

“He loves you. Your brother rescued you from that place and those people. That’s a stand up thing to do. I woulda done it for my…” I let my words trail off as I thought about Matty and Sarah.

“Why don’t you call him Simon?”

“He looks down at me. Thinks he’s better. He doesn’t have respect for me because all he can see is differences. I won’t show respect for someone that doesn’t respect me based on the similarities.”

River nodded. “Yes. He was fairly close to the Alliance before all of this started. It is very outside of his comfort zone to be doing what we do on this ship. He’s probably never met anyone like you or the captain.” Shrugging, I pulled her back against me. “One day he’ll be a little less uptight.”

“Once he realizes that he ain’t no better than anyone on this boat.”

“It’s getting late,” she said, her head turning upwards. “Do you think that what we’re doing is wrong?”

My brow furrowed. “What are we doing?”

“Being friends. Being close.”

“Can’t say that I think it’s wrong.” I paused, running a hand down her hair. It was soft like silk. “But I know that the doctor and the captain would never approve. I’m not an honorable man.”

“That’s not true.”

“Someone told me once that honor was like an island and that once we leave, we can’t never go back.”

“But you have honor.”

I chuckled a little at her blindness to see me for who I was. “I’m a paid killer, girl.”

“No, you are paid to do a job that entails protecting others. You do not go into people’s homes and kill at random or for sport. You don’t hurt women. You don’t hurt children. You are paid to perform the action of protection and unfortunately, that includes killing from time to time. You might work for the highest bidder, but you do not perform anyone’s dirty work.” Smiling, I saw her point. No one had ever looked for the good in Jayne Cobb. “I on the other hand…” she said, her voice trailin’ off as she pulled away and wrapped her arms around her body.

“You are not responsible for anything that you’ve done. They did that to you.”

“But it was my hands and legs that killed and hurt those people. It was on my behalf that Preacher Book, and Wash, and the other died.”

“No,” I said loudly. “They all died because they believed in something. It was their choice.”

“But if I’d never sent those coded notes to Simon, everyone would still be here and Simon would be a great doctor.”

She was starting to piss me off with all that self blaming pi hua. “Your brother is a great doctor. He’s all the time saving our asses when we get shot up. And if you hadn’t sent him those notes, he’d of never meet Kaylee and look how well they get on together.”

Her arms unwrapped and she placed a hand on my cheek. Instinctively I placed mine on hers and went palm to palm with my other hand. Instantly I was transported to large wooded area. River stood before me, breathing heavy, blood drippin’ from her closed fists. I saw her head cock to the side as if listenin’ for something. Suddenly, she began to run, soundlessly as her bare feet hit the dried leaves. Without trying, I moved with her, staying a few steps behind her.

A man popped out from behind a large tree to her right and another man to her left. I watched as she took them both out easily, killing them quickly and noiselessly with only her hands. From out of no where, a woman jumped down upon her, knocking River down. There was a brief struggle before River managed to grab the attacker’s gun and shoot her point blank in the temple.

River paused for just a moment, then twirled around like some kind of fancy dancer. When she stilled, her eyes slipped closed and a small smile formed on her lips. Without warning, she shot, six times, pointing with precision.

“Eto Kuram Na Smekh,” I heard from behind me. I watched River go limp and fall to the ground, just as the woods disappeared. It was a hologram. Just a training room. Looking around I saw the bodies of all of her kills. It musta been 15 or 20.

Out of the shadowed corner came the man I knew as Dr. Mathias. “Excellent. No hesitation. No deviant thought. She responded well to both the trigger and the safe word. She assessed the field of battle in one quick moment and it seems she could anticipate her opponents’ next move. These are fabulous results.”

The room changed and for a moment, I thought another hologram program had started, but in reality, River had brought me back to the present. “Couldn’t see.” Her eyes searched mine. “I wasn’t in the woods.” She was reading what I had seen. “They were real people.” Before I could say anything, she cocked her head to the side like I saw her do in the training room. “We’ve stayed too long. They’re looking for us.”

“What?” I asked, obviously a little too loud because she sushed me.

“We are not where we’re supposed to be.”

“Well, that ain’t good. How we gonna get outta this one?”

She was silent for a moment. “They have not checked the shower. You should go there.”

“So I’ll be in the head and you’ll be...?”

“Anywhere,” she smiled. “I’m moonbrained, remember? I can be anywhere and it’ll be logical. But you need to go now. Low and behind crates. You’ll make it. Do not hesitate.”

I took a quick moment to smile at her, rubbin’ her cheek with my thumb before I broke all connection, stood up, slid the secret door open and left the place only we know about. I found it quite easy to make it to the head without being noticed, even with a limp. I heard people callin’ out her name, but I didn’t hear anyone close until I was naked and in the shower.

“Jayne?” I poked my head out of the stall and saw Mal. “You alone?”

I laughed inwardly. “’Course I’m alone. No offense there captain, you’re a handsome fella and all, but…”

“River’s missing.”

I shrugged. “The girl’s got a way of blendin’ in with the ship Mal.” I stepped out and grabbed my towel, wrapping it around my waist. “She’ll come out when she’s ready, I expect.”

Sure enough about an hour after hoppin’ out of the shower, River showed up, her face a little smudged with grease. She moved right over to the kitchen and grabbed herself a cup of coffee. The smile on her face told me that she was clearly enjoying her theatrical entrance. “Mei mei, we’ve been worried, where’ve you been?”

She took a sip of the brown liquid and put on her best loony face as she looked at her brother. “There was a wire, deep inside Serenity. It went buzz and hiss and buzz again. It disturbed my sleep so I found it. It doesn’t buzz or hiss any more.” She turned to the captain with a wide smile. “You’re welcome that I fixed your ship.”

“River,” her brother said gently. “You shouldn’t drink coffee. It’s not…”

“Yes, it’s not good for me, but you and the captain and Kaylee and Jayne, and Inara and Zoe all can drink it.” She slammed the cup down. It was hard to tell if she was really angry or just extending her alibi. “I am, by all accounts of legal age, Simon. My father has abandoned me and I don’t need you to be one. I am not your pet and I will do as I please.” Her eyes narrowed, her jaw fixed like a stone. “And I dare *anyone* on this ship to try to stop me.” Okay, now I knew she wasn’t playing. River don’t make threats.

“Mei mei,” the doctor tried again, reachin’ out to touch her face but she batted his hand away.

“No.” Her chest was risin’ and fallin’ quickly. “No, not mei mei. I am not a child. I am nu ren!” With that, she fled the galley. It hurt not to be able to go to her. It hurt that she had to fight with her brother because she’d been sneakin’ around with me. But she was right. She was an adult and at some point everyone on this ship would have to deal with it.

River stayed in her room for the rest of the day. Inara and Kaylee took her meals. When she emerged the next day, she was sporting the blue dress I gave her, cunningly hid under a large sweater. She was full of crazy ramblings that day, so full of it that I was getting’ a little worried about her. Later in the day as she walked past me, her brother running after her like a little puppy, her voice rang inside my head. Don’t worry, Jayne Cobb, the girl’s fine, but it’s better when they don’t think so. Gorram, the girl was a genius, actin’ all crazy to keep them from being suspicious of me…of us.

She stayed away from me and from everyone else except Kaylee and the captain, when she had to pilot the ship. Speakin’ of pilots, Mal mentioned stopping at the station and pickin’ up a pilot. No one was thrilled about the idea, but everyone admitted we needed one. The question was, who would it be? Maybe a Fed in disguise? Maybe a lunatic? Maybe someone who wouldn’t want to be involved in the things we were involved in. These questions had been brought up to the captain, but he overruled all the objection. And since he was the captain, there wasn’t nothing any one could do. Book’s old room was empty, so the new guy would have some place to stay. I hoped it was someone who could spot me lifting.

The day we were ready to dock, the doctor gave me one last injection after having looked at my wounds. “You’ve progressed nicely.”

“Thanks. That means I can go about my business now? No more babysittin’ the likes of you?”

With an annoyed look, the doc said, “Yes, you’re cleared to work, but just know that if you get shot again in that shoulder, you could lose use of that arm permanently.”

“Thanks for the warning, I’ll try to keep that in mind the next time there’s a gun fight.” I moved to hop off the table, but he didn’t move back.

“Jayne, I’m serious. Think about getting some body armor.”

“I’ll think about it, but since I don’t have thousands of credits to my name, I doubt I’ll be able to do anything else about it.” I scooted around him and headed for the door, but stopped when he spoke again.

“My sister’s very fond of you,” he said. I turned around to look at him as he wetted his lips and narrowed his eyes. He added, “I don’t why though.”

“Maybe she’s a better judge of character than you.”

“Maybe she’s lost the thin grip on reality that she once had,” he shot back. Shaking his head, he said, “I just want you to know, that I’m watching.”

“Good to know.”

“Whether or not she’s of legal age, Jayne, she’s not right, you know. It wouldn’t be…”

Moving back into the infirmary, I stepped up close to him. “Don’t think it’s been a secret that I was never a supporter of having you and your sister on this ship. Just because she’s ‘fond’ of me, doesn’t mean that I’m fond of her…or you, for that matter. You wanna watch, well that’s just fine. Watch her, she’s the ticking time bomb.” And with that I left.

It burned me up to have to act like I didn’t care about her, like I didn’t know what he was talking about. But it burned me worse to know that no matter what, I would never be approved of for her. And I thought it was zhu sui that people thought I could take advantage of her. I might’ve been a killer loyal to the highest bidder, but I sure as hell wasn’t a rapist or heartless person.

When we docked, I went with Mal and Zoe to interview the list of pilots they had received. The others went to pick up parts and supplies. The first two applicants were fresh out of flying school, never flown a firefly before. Didn’t take a genius to know we’d pass on them. The third one had a history with the Alliance, he said, indicating that he had been run off. I made my voice heard on my opinion of him. Most of the rest were the same. Finally, after hours of meetin’ and greetin’ we found Fan. He was quiet, he had references from disreputable men, and he seemed not to care about where we’d be flying, just when he’d get paid. Instantly, I liked him.

Back on Serenity, I helped Fan bring his gear aboard and showed him to his quarters. Zoe moved into Book’s old bunk and gave hers up to Fan, since he’d be on the bridge the most. I noticed him looking at River in a not completely honorable way, so I mentioned, “You’ll want to stay away from her. She’s totally fa feng and she can kill ya with her brain.” He looked at me like I was fa feng, but I nodded, “Seriously, I’ve seen it.” After the grand tour, Fan undocked Serenity from the station and we were on our way. The captain didn’t say to where, but we were heading out. Fan wasn’t Wash, but he would do.

It had been about a week since River had shown me the room no one knew and I was feeling antsy. River and I couldn’t be seen together much so I was getting kind of anxious to spend time with her again. Generally, she was in charge of when that would be. But as we sat there eatin’ supper together with the rest of the crew, listenin’ to Kaylee retell the same tale about the doctor puttin’ his foot in his mouth, I tried to communicate with River with my mind. Tonight? I kept repeating until out of the corner of my eye I saw her begin to smile. Tonight, she answered.

I paced back and forth all night, wonderin’ when she was gonna come. I worried that maybe I should’ve gone to the room in the cargo bay. Maybe she misunderstood what I was asking. Maybe her brother was on to her, to us. Maybe she decided she didn’t need anything from me any more. Any more? What the hell did she need from me in the first place? The girl’s a super hero mind readin’ genius.

“Not the girl, River,” she stressed as she jumped down from the air vent. I breathed a sigh of relief then moved to her quickly, gathering her into my arms and pressing her tightly to me. “You missed me.”

I chuckled and loosened the hold. “How could you tell?”

“Paranoid thoughts and…” she did not finish, as I brought her down to the bed with me. I laid back with her on top of me, her head resting on my chest. “You have a good heart. Thump, Thump, Thump.” I said nothing, just breathed in the scent of her. “What is your impression of Fan,” she asked.

“Decent enough.”

“He’s hiding too. Doesn’t want to be found. Good choice for the crew of Serenity. He doesn’t much care about the rest of us, but he cares enough to protect us from the Alliance.”

“Think he knows who you are?” She shook her head against my chest. “Good. Hate to have to waste him and be pilotless again.”

“He does free me up from flying. Captain too. It will make it less problematic.”

“Make what less problematic?”

“Remembering whose turn it is to fly and also me sneaking to see you. Captain can spend more time with Inara and less time focused on what is transpiring on his ship while he sits in the pilot’s seat. I worry for Zoe, though. It seems unusually strange to see her on the bridge without Wash.”

“Not that she’s been spendin’ much time up there,” I pointed out. “Nuff about Fan and everyone else.” She brought her head up, and then followed that action by sliding off me and sitting cross legged next to me. I followed suit. She ran one hand up her other arm, her head cocked to the side, her eyes fixed on mine.

“There are endless things to see.” I didn’t say anything, knowing that all things River said made sense in her mind. If she saw fit, she would let me in on the meaning. “The experiments were vast and varied and some were unofficial. There’s a giant lock in my head and it’s not seen its key for awhile until you.” She smiled. “What would Simon say if he knew that the key was Jayne Cobb?”

“I don’t get your meanin’, River.”

“Some things I show you, I don’t remember myself, so taking you there, to those places in my memory, helps me see.”

“Is there some place you want to show me tonight?” She nodded. “If you can’t remember it, how do you know you want to show it to me?”

“I’ve often wondered about it.” She moved to touch my cheek with one hand and my palm with the other. “But I won’t go there first.”

I was taken again to Dr. Mathias’ laboratory where men in masks and blue gloves were standing around a table. Dr. Mathias stood at the head of the table, sweat rolling down his brow. Moving closer, I saw that River was on the table, her wrists and ankles bound to the table. She wore a hospital gown, not the tunic and body suit that I saw before. A hole in the middle of her forehead was trickling blood as the doctor positioned a laser at it.

A pop and a zap later, I saw River’s body twitch. I saw her fingers tighten and tears slip from her closed eyelids. The laser was removed and a small scalpel was inserted. The doctor seemed to be rotating while watching a holographic screen to the side. I focused on that. It was like the picture I’d seen on Ariel. It was of her brain. I could see the scalpel cutting and scraping somewhere in the middle of her brain.

Then suddenly, the doctor removed the instrument. One man with blue hands injected her with something and her eyes opened. River looked around frantically, her arms and legs straining against the bounds. For whatever reason, they freed her. I watched as she scrambled back on the table, until she fell very un-River like to the floor. The doctor had backed up to the wall by this point and was surrounded by men with blue gloves.

“Simon, Simon, why won’t you come for me?” She said, her face to the ceiling, her arms were wrapped around her legs that were drawn close to her chest. Suddenly she stood up, the hospital gown making her look like a rag doll, her hair covering most of her face. River’s arms were out at her sides, palm up, her hands quickly making fists. Without warning, she launched herself at the closest nameless, faceless man with blue hands. He subdued her quite easily, slamming her down on the table, forcing her arms and legs back into the bonds.

“The aggressiveness is there,” the doctor said, triumphantly as he retook his place at the head of the table. “Now we’ll have to work on training. We’ll start with the ocular implants that will train her eyes to find the focal points in the battlefield. Additionally, let’s go ahead and implant the muscle memory generators. We will remove them in approximately one month.” He gave her a shot, making her body go limp.

As the doctor began to work on her eyes, not just placing imaging instruments this time, but taking his knife and slitting open her eyes, the others began to open up various parts of her body. Biceps, forearms, thighs, calves, abdomen, chest, shoulder, were all slit open to implant objects in her. They worked from top to bottom and from front to back. It was disgusting to watch.

Thankfully the scenery flashed and switched, but this scene was no easier to watch. River lay in the middle of the room on the floor, all her limbs twitching as her muscles contracted. Her eyes fluttered underneath the lids. Her hands tightened and released quickly. Her back arched and then slammed back down. River looked unconscious, but her mouth was moving and very faintly I heard her repeat, “Oh god, oh god, oh god.”

The sights changed and River was once again on the laboratory table. The doctor and men were gathered around, but this time they were looking at her abdomen. My eyes followed their focus and oh, Jesus, I saw the doctor cutting into her body, below the belly button, fiddling with her insides. No one said anything, letting me know what they were doing, but ai ya, I knew it wasn’t good.

Images swirled around me and I found myself back in the laboratory, River on the table. She did not have a gown on, she had on her gray tunic that barely covered her with no body sleeve on underneath. One lone man stood looking down at her. I didn’t like this. I knew where it was going but I couldn’t close my eyes. I watched as the man looked to his left, then to his right before placing his hands under her tunic. Her eyes were fixed on the ceiling, dull and nearly lifeless. Oh ai ya, that sou ji mu jin xing xing jiao.

The deeper and deeper River took me into her memories the more and more I hated these men. I hadn’t realized that my eyes were closed until I heard wind. Opening my eyes, I saw that I was outside, although I knew I was probably just in that holographic room or some other high tech government room. River stood in front of me, as ice and snow swirled around her. She was only wearing her tunic and body sleeve. She was shivering but as men sprung out around her, she fought them.

The scene repeated with scorching heat and then unbearable humidity. One by one, I watched River take out heavily armored men. They were training her to fight in different conditions. They were really trainin’ this girl for some shit.

The images changed and I hoped that it was for the last time. I didn’t know how much more I could take. I watched as River was being transported down a hallway. She was walking, but her arms were bound and she looked to be dropped. Two large men in masks flanked her. Then I saw the man who had raped her on that table walking the opposite direction. River stopped, her head cocked to the side. “Keep going, Echo 12.” The man to left her nudged her forward.

River did not move. The men looked at each other then grabbed her arms as if to drag her forward, but she easily bucked them off and then hit each of them with her double closed fists, still tied together. Before the surrounding people could react, River launched herself with amazing speed at the man, whose expression was of total fear. How had she even recognized him? River elbowed him in the face, then moved quickly to bring his head between her arms. She used her bound wrists as a rope, strangling him with such force you’da never thought she was a 100 pound girl.

His body went limp and a second after that, someone jammed a needle into the back of River’s thigh. She slumped down, her body twitching slightly. Her brown eyes were open, but they did not see. A small smile played on her lips.

The room darkened and I saw the little man sitting across the table from where River paced back and forth. “Tell me, why did you kill that young man today?”

River shook her head, her body trembling. “I didn’t like him.”

“Did you know him?” She shook her head. “How do you know that you didn’t like him? He was a young man with a new wife, just at the start of his career.”

“There are some flowers that are poisonous, they might look friendly and beautiful, but they’ll hurt you, they’ll kill you. And there are some people that know these flowers just by looking at them. That flower was poison.”

“Will you sit down, Echo 12?”

She stopped pacing. “Not her name. Her name is River. River Tam. You can call her River Tam.”

The man smiled a small smile. “You are Echo 12 at this point. Remember? Remember how you’re involved in helping the Alliance bring the universe into harmony?”

“Harmony? I fail to comprehend how ending life is a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts. How is what is happening to me harmonious? What type of agreements or accords do you expect to achieve sending ambassadors like me out? Or are you talking about musical harmony? The planets each have their own energy, but I do not think I’m the person to arrange them into a blending of simultaneous sounds of different pitch or quality.” River’s hands were pulling at her hair. She was obviously confused.

“Now, Echo 12,” the little man said, his voice a little too calm, “You’ve had a very upsetting day and I can tell that you’re a little distressed, but you need to remember the breathing training. We’ve already given you the maximum dosage of the Paxilon Hydrochlorate today, anymore and we risk permanent damage to your health and I wouldn’t want to make you sleep, so if you could just calm yourself down…”

“No! Don’t make me sleep.”

Being brought back to the present was abrupt and I felt disoriented. When my eyes focused, I found my bunk empty. I heard the air vent slide close and I realized that River was gone. I waited for someone to knock on my door, but it never came. Why the hell had she high tailed it out if no one was coming?

I stood up, realizing how hungry I was. Slowly, I made my way out to the galley, surprised at how tired I was. “Good of you to join us, Jayne,” I heard Zoe say. Although her voice was good-natured enough, it pissed me off a little.

“Am I late for something?” I stumbled in to the kitchen and grabbed a cup of coffee.

Mal answered. “Just discussing our next job and seeing that the doctor fixed you up just right, thought you’d want to be a part of it.”

“Hell, yeah,” I said as I took a seat.

“Need to know that you’re up to it.”

“What ya mean?”

The captain looked from me to Zoe, then back to me again. “Well, you’ve been hurt for a while, almost dying and all, and acting a little strange.”

“No offense, Jayne,” Zoe began, “But you’ve been staying in your bunk longer and longer and you look like xiong mao liao.”

I managed a smile. “Thanks Zoe, you look stunning as usual.” She smiled back at me, but just briefly. I could tell that she and the captain were really concerned. “I’m fine. Just, uh, well…don’t usually almost die, I guess. I’ll be on the mark. What’s the job?”

The job would be a rather complex heist. It involved River again. It wasn’t simple robbery; it would take some impersonation and infiltration. I couldn’t wait to get back into it again.

I didn’t see River at all that day. I overheard Kaylee telling Inara that River wouldn’t come out of her room. I could hear the concern and I knew that if Kaylee was that concerned, I imagined that River’s brother was flippin’ out. I guess she was having a hard time processing some of the things she showed me last night. I guess anyone would.

Although I really wanted to check on her, I forced myself to do other things. I made chit chat with Fan, teased Kaylee, lifted some weights and tried to read the Bible Book left me. It didn’t hold my interest. I walked by River’s quarters, pretending to need something from Zoe and even visited the doc, faking an ache in my shoulder. All the time trying to tell River through my thoughts that I wanted to see her; to know she was okay.

Just as I was about to sit down to chow, after having sent her another mental message, I heard her voice. Tired. I looked around and didn’t see her. She’d responded in my mind. How the hell did that work? It would be another two days until we landed to pull that job and I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to wait until then to talk with her, but then if she needed time to process what she just fully realized happened, I understood. She’s fine, Jayne Cobb. Just eat your dinner. She doesn’t want to see but doesn’t want to sleep. She’s tired.

It was always a tad disturbing when she talked about herself as she. But ate my food and pushed my concern for her away, trying to remember what it was like not to care. Somehow I managed to waste the rest of my evening by cleaning my guns, loading and unloading them, practicing assembly of them with my eyes closed. But even that lost my interest. Laying back on my bunk, I let my eyes drift closed and I dreamt.

I dreamt about Ariel and calling the Feds on the Tams. It felt like I was inside one of River’s memories, but I knew it was mine. I watched myself make the call. I watched myself look at the pictures of River’s brain. I watched myself lead River and the doctor out the wrong door, into the waiting hands of the Alliance. And I hated myself for it.

I woke with a start and realized that I wasn’t alone in the room. When I realized River was perched over me, I jumped a little, sitting up and trying to get my blurry eyes to focus. “Girl, what are you…”

“How could you do that?” she asked, her eyes full of confusion and hurt, threatening to spill tears. She didn’t wait for a reply. “Would you do that again?”

It took me a minute to realize that she was asking about my dream. Did I dream it because she made me or was she just there to witness it? “Of course not,” I finally replied. She just shook her head and moved to the door. She didn’t go out the air vent, she left by the door.

Draggin my hands down my face, I yawned. Well that was just shiny. I knew she was a mind readin’ genius and that it would only be a short time before she found out about Ariel but before I hadn’t really cared all that much and now that I did, I felt like scum. I stood up and pulled on some pants and a shirt before I headed out of my quarters. It was late, or early rather. I had expected to find the galley empty, but I found her, sitting on the counter, her feet dangling. Her head was bowed, her hands resting in her lap. The small white dress she wore made her look even younger than she was. “River,” I started before I even knew what I wanted to say.

“I don’t understand how you could do that…to people you knew…to people who…”

“I *didn’t* know you or your brother.” I moved closer to her, my hand resting on the counter next to her hip. “Thought you were dangerous. Thought the both of you would jeopardize what we had going. Didn’t care about knowing ya.”

She looked up at me, eyes brimmin’ with tears. “You knew Simon sacrificed everything to save me, to get me away, but you called them. You called the people who hurt…”

“River, I’ve always been out for myself. I ain’t never lied to no one about that, not to Mal, not to Zoe and not to you. I stood to make money off the deal and at the time…”

“But they would’ve killed Simon,” she said, cutting me off, “and continued to hurt me.”

“River,” I started, trying to touch her face but she jerked back. “Look, I didn’t know what they wanted you for. I didn’t know that you two weren’t interplanetary mass murderers, did I? I didn’t know what they had done to you, River.”

“You would’ve never turned in your sister or Matt.”

My jaw clenched at the mention of them. “You ain’t my sister or my brother,” I said tightly. “And none of my family’s worth a pile of dog shit to the Alliance.”

She shook her head, her tears finally running down her cheeks. “I don’t comprehend how you could do that to anyone.”

Taking a deep breath, I tried to remain calm. I’ve never been good at being judged by people for my actions. Who was anyone to tell me that what I did was right or wrong, they weren’t in my boots. “Look, girl, there are good people like you and your brother, and Kaylee and Shepherd. There are good people who do bad things like Mal and Zoe and then there’s rotten bastards like those gorram men with blue gloves.” I moved back out of the kitchen, standing by the table. “An’ me? I’m somewhere slightly above the blue hands, okay? I apologize for that. I’m sorry that in the past I didn’t want to know you or care.” Feeling angry and frustrated, I picked up a chair and threw it at the wall. I watched her flinch and instantly felt bad but I wasn’t about to let her see that. “There ain’t nothing I can do about the gorram past, girl.”

I turned to leave, hopping up the stairs, passing Mal on my way back to my bunk.

I’d been in my bunk for about ten minutes when the door opened. There was no knock, so I knew it would be the captain and that he was fired up. Turning to face him, I set my jaw off to the side. “You need something, Captain?”

“What was that about back there?” His face was tense. I’m sure he heard part of the conversation and after I left, I’m sure he saw River there looking weak and helpless and crying. But she wasn’t helpless. It was her that killed all them Reavers.

“She knows what I did on Ariel,” I said simply.

“Of course she knows, Jayne.”

He was looking at me expectantly. “Anything else?”

The captain’s eyes bore into me. “You going to be on the level when we reach Spencerton?”

“I’m on the level now.”

Mal took a moment before saying, “Doesn’t seem like it, Jayne. Don’t rightly know what’s going on, but I can tell you that I don’t much care for it. Not one bit.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, Captain.”

He took a step closer to me. “You do.” I raised my eyebrows at him and he continued. “I think it’s awfully strange to find you talking to the girl while she sitting there cryin’. I think it’s awful strange the way you’ve stayed in your bunk for longer than ever before.”

“Mal,” I said, my voice deep and controlled. “You pay me to be by your side when the jobs go down. That’s where I’ll be. My wounds are healed and I’m just shiny.”

“Good,” was all he said before he left.

Anger was bubbling up fierce within me. I’ve never lied about who I was and what I did. I would never sell River out now, but then, how the hell was I supposed to be judged now for something I did then? I was a whole ‘nother person. I hadn’t known her. I hadn’t know what they did to her. Hell, I didn’t even like her then! And then the captain bargin’ in to *my* bunk like that. It’s his ship, true, but he’s got no right to go into places he give to others.

Gorram it! Why’d I have to go and let that girl infect me like that? Showin’ me shit I ain’t asked to see? Why did I have to care about these folks now? Maybe I’d stayed on this ship a little too long. Damn the captain. Damn that his money was better than the goin’ rate!

I fell back asleep for a short time before going back out and helping Zoe outfit the mule for this job. After a half hour of silent working, Zoe asked, “Are you sure you’re okay, Jayne?”

“He zhou ma! Why does everyone keep askin’ me that? I’m fine! I’m the same Jayne as the day I stepped on this boat. When I change, I’ll go an’ tell everyone, okay?”

“Calm down, just concerned for you.”

I tightened the bolt connecting the canvas bag to the mule. “I don’t need no concern from no one, Zoe.”

I looked up when I heard Zoe slam her wrench down. She wiped her cheek with the back of her hand then looked me straight in the eye. “Jayne, I don’t have anyone to be concerned about anymore, okay? Wash is dead and all I have is me, so excuse me for being concerned for your well being.”

I leaned back against the mule and crossed my arms over my chest. “Sorry, Zoe.” It seemed that today was the day of apologies.

She straightened up, probably mentally kicking herself for showing what could be seen as weakness. “It’s fine, Jayne.”

“No.” Zoe stopped and looked at me again. “I’m sorry. Thank you for your concern.”

She was quiet for a moment, and then a small smile spread over her face. “See? This is why I’m concerned. Jayne Cobb apologizes and says Thank you?”

I shook my head, feeling my face turn red. “I know. The ‘verse is going crazy.”

We finished up with the mule and I went to work out. Lifting weights always made me feel better about any situation. It was one activity that I could focus on form and technique. Before I knew it, it was dinnertime. I sat down at the table, noticing River’s lowered head and the concern her brother and Kaylee was showin’ her. I tried to ignore it.

In fact, I tried to ignore everything. I pushed down my concern for her as well. She was supposed to be some kinda genius and she couldn’t figure out why a guy like me would turn her and her high horse brother in for some money. Sure, I felt bad about it all, but I apologized and there wasn’t anything that I can do to take it back. I didn’t ask her to befriend me. I didn’t ask her to share her memories with me. I didn’t ask her to come onto this ship.

“Jayne?”

I turned. The captain was looking at me. “What?”

“Inara asked for those potatoes.” I passed the re-hydrated potatoes. I felt the captain’s eyes on me so I quickly ate my food and stood to leave. “Why don’t you stay awhile, Jayne?”

“Yeah, what’s your rush?” Kaylee asked.

“No rush, just done eating.”

“You don’t sit with us much anymore.”

I shrugged at Kaylee, picked up my plate and moved to the kitchen. It wasn’t my turn for the dishes, but I washed mine anyway. Wouldn’t want anyone to do me any favors by cleanin’ my plate. After that, I went back to my bunk and looked up at the pin up pictures above my weapons. Most of ‘em were blonde, but I focused on the few dark haired girls.

The next day was spent pretty much the same. I sat around waiting for us to land so that I could get off this xiu chou boat. I barely listened as Mal went over everyone’s roles again. As expected the doctor was a mite concerned about his little sister being used again, but I think he’s come to accept her role as a part of the crew.

Thankfully, the job wouldn’t take place for another couple of hours, leaving time for us to explore the town. Not that there was much to explore, but it did have a saloon, so that’s where I headed. Turns out, so did everyone.

I drank a beer while I watched River dance to the local music. She was pretty good. Thoughts of betrayin’ her crept back into my mind, so I turned my head. I found Mal watching me looking at her. I lowered my eyes instantly and quickly drained my ceramic mug. With a deep sigh, I pushed myself up and went back outside.

The town was a bit run down, but the scenery still was nice. I found myself a grassy area under a tree and laid down, looking up at the clouds. I wondered what the clouds looked like on the Earth-That-Was. “Just like those.”

River stood hovering over me as I squinted up at her. “What?” I sat up, not really sure how this conversation would go between her and I and out in the open.

“The Academy had old images of the Earth-That-Was. It showed many things. The clouds looked exactly like those.”

“Oh.”

She sat down next to me about arm’s length away. “I enjoy the clouds. They remind me of being young.”

“That’s right, ‘cause you’re so old.” She smiled at me. “So are we friends again or something?”

“We’re friends.”

“But just the other…”

“Clouds can be very violent but then the storm passes and the clouds dissipate.” What the hell was she talking about? Quietly, she said, “I know when you did that, you were different. Different than now.”

Before anything could be discussed further, Zoe and Mal came out of the saloon. “Ready to make some money?”

The heist went according to plan, except that I got shot at again while River was busy wrigglin’ into the small hole blasted into the vault. I didn’t get hit and it was more than worth it when she came out with crazy amounts of coin. We usually didn’t steal coin straight up, but it wasn’t marked and easy pickin’. I don’t know how Mal found out about it, but there was a whole underground complex holding all sorts of property belonging to some old retired Alliance admiral.

Back on board Serenity, everyone celebrated. It’d been a while since we pulled off such a lucrative job. Everyone voted for a vacation destination, but as the doctor needed to replenish his medical supplies, we would have to stop on a moon that was used as a medical hub called Asclepios. Part of our stolen money was set aside to make sure we were stocked. According to Fan, it was a two-day easy burn to there from here.

Later that night, I found myself in my bunk, holding River again. We’d been silent since she entered the room. I hadn’t known what to say or if I should say anything and apparently neither did she, so we just sat down and eventually, I came to be holding her. Eventually, she closed her eyes and I fell asleep.

When I awoke, her head was lying on my chest, her hair spread out, tickling my chin. Jesus, what was I doing with this girl? Why was I letting myself get so involved? Why was I feeling this way? I’d never felt this way about anyone. There were the girls of my past, but that wasn’t love, that was lust. This girl, this girl spun my head and heart around.

The position was causing my neck to cramp, so I tried to move without wakin’ her up, but I failed. She looked up at me and smiled. God, she was so gorram pretty. Sitting up, she raised her arms, stretching her back. I sat up too. I was thinking that it was probably getting on in the day and that she probably needed to leave before her brother started to freak out about where she was. That’s when it happened.

Very gently, she pressed her lips to mine. It was very soft at first and my instinct was that I wasn’t supposed to be kissin’ girl and that I should push her away. But her hands moved to mine, her thumbs rubbin’ circles. I moved my lips against hers, slipping my tongue between them, just trying to taste her. Very sweet. I snaked a hand around her waist and pulled her closer, pressin’ her to me and deepened the kiss. I could feel her heart racing. I could feel my body reacting too.

I pulled back. She was breathing hard as her fingers of one hand moved up to dance over her lips. Gently she brought her other fingers up to mine. She smiled, her teeth nibbling her lower lip.

Suddenly, River’s hands dropped, her head cocking to the side. I thought she was upset about what just happened. Maybe she was remembering what had happened to her before. “I’m sorry, Riv…”

“Have to go now,” she said in a whisper. Before I knew it she was up in the vent and Captain was opening my hatch. That was two times in the past couple days that he was bargin’ in without knocking.

Captain’s eyes immediately went up to the air vent. He musta heard it slid close. “Can I help you?” I asked, my voice relaying my anger.

“River’s missing again.”

“Well, she ain’t in here, for Christ’s sake, Mal.”

His jaw was set to the side and his eyes were on fire. “That so?”

“Look around.”

He entered my room completely, moving close to me. “I’m not stupid, Jayne. I have eyes and I see pretty far and wide.”

I stood up, forcing him to move backwards. “Then you can see that I’m all alone in here.”

Mal licked his lips, nodded his head, and then stepped back to the door. “Don’t be zhuang, Jayne. I’ve told you that girl isn’t for you. You’re damn near twice her age and she’s not a normal…”

“Is that all, Captain?”

“It’s all when I say it’s all.” He paused, looked around, then said, “That’s all. Now get around. It’s your turn for cooking breakfast.”

It used to be that the captain looked out for everyone, even me, but now it seems that he looked out for everyone but me. I thought that I’d proven myself to him. I thought that he saw me as a person and not just a mercenary he couldn’t trust. Mal’s assumption about me wanting to take advantage or hurt that girl was wearing on me, but I pushed it to the back of my head. I had breakfast to slop onto plates.

We landed on Asclepios and only Fan stayed on the ship. Inara went to get her required yearly exam and the rest of us set out to pick up supplies. I’d never been to this place before and it was unlike any place I’d ever been. Everything was medicinal. All of the shops sold medical apparatuses, gear, instruments, pills, injections, tonics and whatever else you could think of.

I glanced over at the doctor. He looked like he was about to wet himself, he was so excited. Like it was gorram Christmas or something. Kaylee walked next to me and River was next to her, which I guess was the closest we’d come to walkin’ together. To be honest, I wanted to kiss her again, but hell, I’d be just as happy holdin’ her hand.

These feelings I was having were completely new to me.

The doctor gave everyone a portion of the list. Zoe started off to the left, he and Kaylee broke off to the right, leaving Mal, River and me to go straight ahead, in search of a chemical decompression modulator, whatever the hell that was. We entered a store that seemed to sell medical supplies and animals. Monkeys were in cages strung from the ceiling while dogs, cats, and rabbits were all in bigger rings on the floor, separated of course, by species.

As Mal started searching the store, River reached down and picked up a small kitten, bringing it to her chest. She started whispering to it, but then froze after a minute. Shoving the cat at me, she moved towards the back of the store, her hands moving to clutch at her hair. I replaced the kitten in the ring and followed River. Mal noticed the direction she was heading and made to follow as well.

In the back, I found River standing in a group of people watching as a man in a white coat performed some kind of experiment on a small dog with a weepy eye. The man was talking about some sort of illness it had and proceeded to take a knife and cut into the dog’s belly. I could tell that the dog was doped, but probably not enough. Its legs kicked and there was a whimper that escaped his throat. It was just about too much for even me to watch, and I don’t get squeamish about much.

I looked at River. She turned to Mal, her hands grabbing his forearms. “Please don’t let them do that!” Tears were already running down her cheeks.

Mal’s face softened, but he said, “That’s just what they do on this rock, little one. It’s not for me to stop.”

River’s breathing began to speed up, her face wrinkling. A scream came bubblin’ up outta her as she stumbled backwards towards the door. Mal looked at me and I looked at him. “Just get that thingamajob and I’ll go after her.”

“Maybe I should go get her.”

I just looked at him. “I don’t know what the doc needs, Mal, and I don’t care, neither, but someone needs to go out after her before she goes assassin again and starts hackin’ up the townfolk.” He looked at me for just a moment, then gave me a short nod. I started out the front, walking rather quick like to catch up to her.

Didn’t take long to find her. I looked down a small alleyway in between the shop we were just in and another store and found her facing the brick of the building, her hands ripping at her hair. I moved to her quickly, taking her hands and pulling them away from her head. “Shhhh. Stop,” I said softly.

“Testing and poking, always testing for this and that and poking, poking with heat and cold asking what the day is.”

She wasn’t making sense to me, but that wasn’t unusual. “River, you have to…”

River gasped. She straightened up, smoothing down her hair. “Simon will see and then he’ll make me sleep. When he worries, he makes me sleep and I don’t want to sleep.” When she turned to me, I saw that her forehead was bleeding. She musta banged it on the brick.

“River?” I heard her brother call. I backed away and let him get to his sister.

“I’m fine,” she said quickly.

“You’re obviously not fine. I’m not a dummy, River.”

With a smile, she said, “You could’ve fooled me.”

That got a smile outta her brother, but he still had Kaylee and Inara take her back to the ship while we finished our medical shoppin’. I wanted to go with her, but I knew that I couldn’t.

Back on the ship, the captain had Fan set off as soon as possible. The doctor had suggested we left the moon as quickly as we could since it was obviously the reason River was having such a hard time. I guess if what the doctor said was right, that she couldn’t not feel things, being on a rock that has a lot of suffering, either human or animal would probably be pretty hard for her. I think her brother began to see that she might not have had the control he thought she had since Miranda.

She was quiet at dinner and didn’t eat. Her brother kept trying to engage her, but she wouldn’t take the bait. I tried to talk to her without speaking, but she wouldn’t look at me either. After dinner, she went down to her room with her brother and Kaylee following closely behind.

I went down to work out, which brought me closer to River’s quarters. I wanted to see her, I wanted to talk to her, I wanted to…comfort her. It’d been a long time since I’d comforted anyone.

Guess she wouldn’t be comin’ to my bunk tonight. We probably should’ve thought that a medical moon might have upset her. Why didn’t anyone even think about that?

After working out, I was going to grab some grub before heading back to my bunk, but my direction changed when I heard a scream. It was definitely River. I could hear feet pounding on steel towards her room. My heart began to race. I moved quickly to her quarters, finding everyone but Fan gathered around her doorway.

“River,” her brother said, very cautiously. “River, you need to put that down, okay?”

“Come on, River,” Kaylee tried quietly.

“There’s no need for that, little Albatross.” Mal’s face was filled with concern and that was how I knew something was very, very wrong.

Pushing through, and thankfully being a little taller helped, I saw River on her bed, knife in hand, blood seeping from her bicep and thighs. “Have to have a biopsy, test the concentration. Have to cut the sickness out. There’s sickness. She’s sick. It’s just how we do it here. It’s sick, it has to be removed.”

“Mei Mei,” her brother tried. “You have to stop cutting your…” his voice trailed off as she made another slit in her arm. He moved into her room slowly. “Shen sheng niang jiao gou!” His body froze as she brought the blade to her neck.

He obviously couldn’t handle this. Looking around, I realized that no one was prepared to handle this. I pushed the others away and entered into her room. As I got in there, everyone else disappeared from behind me. I couldn’t even hear them any more, all I could hear was River’s breathing, her rush of words, and my own heart. “Just let your brother help you, girl.”

“Not girl!” She yelled, her eyes flashing at me. “*River.* And Simon can’t help her! Needles and pills and sleeping won’t help. Didn’t help that puppy, can’t help poor River. The Hero of Canton already knows. The Hero of Canton…”

“River,” I said, as gently as I possibly could, reaching out for her hands and taking the knife. Taking both her hands into one of mine, I carefully pulled her forward, gathering her up into my arms. My, but she was small. When I turned around, every one of them was starin’ at me. “I’ll take her to the infirmary,” I said to her brother as I passed him. To her, I said in my mind, He’ll help you. Just let him help you, River.

I set her down on the table, looked into her eyes and gave her a small smile and a subtle wink. I turned to see the captain and the doctor enter. I cleared my throat, wiped my hands on my pants, and then moved to the door. Before leaving, I turned around for a last look. She looked frightened, her eyes darting between Mal and her brother. Finally, her eyes rested on me. In my mind, I said You’ll be fine, ai ren.”

I was nearly back to my bunk when I heard Mal from behind me. “Well, gee, Jayne. I hadn’t realized you were so good at handling emotional outbursts from traumatized young girls.” I stayed silent. “Thought we had had a conversation about…”

“Aw hell, Mal. You could just say thank you for Christ’s sake. You care about her, just like everyone else.” He was just looking at me. “Look, I’ve been here, experiencing all the same pi hua as everyone else where the girl’s concerned. But I’m not allowed to care about her the same as the rest? That’s just Da shiang bao tza shr duh lah doo tze, Mal! Just like before, all I was doin’ was trying to help.” Moving close to him, I continued, “Now, I respect that you’re the captain of this boat, but I’m getting mighty tired of you actin’ like I’m taking advantage of her. I ain’t never forced a woman and ain’t never gonna force a woman.”

My blood was boiling. “If you don’t trust me with your money, I understand that. If you don’t trust me because I work for the man offerin’ the most coin, I can respect that too. But I ain’t never gave you reason to think that I would…”

“Jayne, I will say this only one more time. River, Kaylee, Inara, hell, any damn woman that steps on this ship IS NOT for you.”

“Tsway niou. So that goes for you, right and the doctor? Hell, Wash bunked with Zoe every…” My words died as Mal’s fist connected with my chin. I was knocked backwards, my back hitting the cold steel wall.

The captain’s hands wrapped in my shirt and he hauled me close to him. Honestly, without guns, there was no doubt in my mind that I could take him. I could beat him to a bloody pulp, but since I considered him a friend, I allowed him to take control of the situation. “You best start rememberin’ who you’re talking to. *I’m* the captain and I pay you to do as I say.”

Biting down on the inside of my cheek, I managed to keep quiet. I lowered my eyes even though I wanted to shove him back and show him who could be in charge if he wanted. His hands loosened, but his eyes were borin’ into mine.

“Captain?” We both turned to see Zoe standing in the doorway. Her eyes were narrowed as she walked towards us. I know she wanted to ask what was going on but it wasn’t her way. She was sizing up the situation on her own. “Captain, the proximity alarm’s going off. Fan’s calling for us on the bridge. I thought it would be shiny if we went to check out what we’re about to hit.”

Mal gave me a final sharp look before heading to the bridge with Zoe. I went to my bunk, which seemed to be the only comfortable place on the ship for me anymore, when Mal wasn’t bustin’ in. My body was almost shaking with anger. I knew in the past I’d been stupid, I’d made bad choices, but it pissed me off that Mal could think… Well, chur niduh, it made my blood boil that I’d allowed myself to think of the people on this boat as friends, but clearly they didn’t think of me that way. Mal and the doctor can have special relations with the females on board, but me? Apparently I’m not good enough for no one. Let me know what he thought of me. I haven’t hurt River at all. I was helpin’. And why was I the only one beholden to celibacy? Who the guay was he to tell me who I could care about?

I’ve never been one for respecting authority, but I typically could work within it to survive.

The proximity alarm turned out to be caused by one of Mal’s old buddies. Normally not happy to bump into people in the middle of space, the captain’s attitude changed when he got an “easy” job out of the encounter.

The next day was quiet and tense. Captain explained the job at dinner. I only half listened. Truth be told, his voice was making me want to vomit. Every once in a while I glanced at River, her arms bandaged. She kept her head low and I could tell that her brother had doped her.

I ate very slowly and very little. Didn’t feel hungry at all. You’re leaving, River said inside my head.

I sighed, keeping my head low as well, looking at her out of the sides of my eyes. Can’t stay.

You can.

You’re the smart one, River-girl. Tell me how I can stay. Tell me how I can continue to live within the rules. He’s as bad as the gorram Alliance, tellin’ people how to live!

She was silent until I heard a gasp. I looked over, just like the rest of them. She was crying. I watched as her brother tried to comfort her but she shoved him away. Dropping my fork, I picked up my plate, stood up, dropped my dishes in the sink and left the galley. Jesus, her tears were like a knife in my heart.

End Part 2

COMMENTS

Monday, August 11, 2008 5:25 PM

GILOVE2DANCE


Ow....my heart is actually aching....this was so incredibly moving...it stirs such emotion. Aiya! How is it that you are such an amazing writer? You have my highest regards!

Rayne is the most addictive thing in the 'verse...you should join rayne_shippers at livejournal!

Monday, August 11, 2008 10:12 PM

ROMANCEGURU


I just love this story. I haven’t been this absorbed by a fic in a long time. That first kiss made me melt. *sigh* There were so many lovely bits to this, the one between Jayne and Zoe stands out. Oh, and I love when River feigned crazy as cover up, that he’s has more of a grip than people think. I really feel for Jayne in this fic. You’ve taken the standard course for Rayne (the inevitable un-acceptance) and really illustrated how hard that would be. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 2:13 AM

JANE0904


Unfortunately Jayne has it right. *This* Mal does have double standards, because of who Jayne used to be. So the big man has to show them he isn't like that anymore, and running away is not going to help. Good stuff, though, and I can't wait for more.


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