BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

NEROLI

Ballet And Bullets chapter 2
Thursday, June 24, 2004

River and Jayne reflect on their meeting, and Inara goes to the ballet.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3721    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer: Characters do not belong to me; they are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Fox.

Feedback is always welcome.

This one is a River and Jayne AU. It is based around the idea of what would River be like if she had never gone to the Academy, and what if she met Jayne under different circumstances. Thanks to Cassie E., Kryptonite and tori_deathangel for the inspiration. Thanks as always to Cassie and jebbypal for the shiny beta's.

Chinese translations: Chunren: jerk Dong Ma?: Do you understand? Hundan: Bastard Tchen wah: Slut

<><><><><><><><><>

…She heard the slight rasp of his callused hand against the thin, silk fabric of her coat as it came to rest at her waist. His other hand languidly trailed up her arm, sending shivers through her. The heat of him warmed her back as he leaned closer to place a soft kiss on her neck. Gentle fingers slid the silk off one shoulder so they could run across her bare skin. His tongue traced a slow pattern up towards her ear as the hand at her waist moved around to splay across her stomach…with a sigh she melted back into him…

River groaned as the alarm went off; she didn’t dare hit the snooze and sink back into her dream again. Still, she pulled the cover over her head and closed her eyes tightly for a moment, trying to burn the memory of the dream into her head.

It wasn’t until she sat up and turned the alarm off in frustration that it hit her just who it was she had been dreaming about. That crude, uncouth mercenary from last night. He’d never said just what it was he did, but the air of danger and the efficient way he’d dispatched her tormenters spoke volumes.

A slight shudder went through her at the memory, if he hadn’t come to her rescue she would have been in real danger. In spite of what she had told him last night she was well aware she would have been helpless against the whole group. And in a place like that it is unlikely anyone else would have come to her aid; at least, not without expecting her to pay them back with a tumble in one of the rooms there. And all he’d asked for was a kiss.

The way her body had reacted to him it was more then likely if she had kissed him, really kissed him, it would have turned into a tumble right there on his table. The way he’d smelled, all cigars and whisky and an indefinable musky, male scent. The unexpected smoothness of his cheek under her lips, except for the slight raspy-ness where the corner of her mouth had brushed against his stubble. His hands with their long, slender fingers; she could almost feel those hands caressing every inch of her. And the heat that radiated off of him. That was what pulled at her the most; it made her want to step in close and let the warmth of him seep into every pore.

She was almost disappointed he hadn’t pressed the matter.

With another sigh she slid the rest of the way out of the large, empty bed and headed to the bathroom for a quick, cold shower.

<><><><><><><><><>

Jayne staggered up Serenity’s ramp, knowing full well he was in for a lashin’ from Mal. He’d promised to be back long ‘fore this. But after the girl’d left he hadn’t been in no mood to be stuck on the ship. So he’d gone and gotten as stinking drunk as he could and passed out at the table. Apparently they’d been unable to move him to a room.

So now he was stuck with the mother of all hangovers. The one bright spot was a vague memory of lurching over to the four creeps that’d attacked her earlier and scarin’ the piss out of ‘em. Of course, they’d turned tail an’ run so it hadn’t been nearly as satisfying as it could’a been. And everyone else he glared at hoping they’d get offended enough to pick a fight with him had looked away. Gorram bunch of yellowbellies.

Jus’ when he thought he was gonna get lucky and reach his bunk without Mal seeing him, he ran straight into him.

“Sorry Mal,” he mumbled, squinting down at the man sprawled on the floor. Least there was only one of him, but he was tending ta get a mite fuzzy lookin’.

“Gorramit Jayne,” Mal glared at him as he stood up. “Is there some pressing reason ya can’t look where you’re going?” Mal’s eyes narrowed as he took in his disheveled appearance. “You just getting back? I thought we agreed you were just to go for a quick drink?”

“Ran into a bit a trouble,” he muttered, hoping Mal made this a short lecture.

“Looks to me like the only trouble you ran into was an ornery bottle of whiskey,” Mal said dryly. “Go on, git. Not going to be much use till you get some sleep anyways.” The Captain jerked his head in the general direction of Jayne’s bunk.

Jayne headed off gratefully, hoping he still had enough whiskey in him to dull the smell of lavender and the memory of the curve of her hip under his hand.

<><><><><><><><><>

River slipped into the studio relieved that she had managed to arrive early. Today would not have been a good day to be late. Mr. Hao had promised to make a decision on which piece was to be added in next week's program. She’d nearly forgotten that the announcement was today after all the birthday hoopla and Alexia’s peevish mood yesterday.

He preferred to perform only Balanchine choreographed dances, so she had known it would be a struggle to get hers included when she started working on it. But it was so lovely and would make a perfect showcase piece for her first solo. Of course that was another strike against it; she was not a seasoned dancer yet. And there were several other dancers vying for the spot that had unexpectedly opened.

It was unusual for a soloist and her understudy to both suffer injuries in the same week. Breanna would likely be back at rehearsals within a month or so, but Sherise’s injury had been serious enough that she would not be dancing for the rest of the season. So an older ensemble piece had been dusted off to fill the gap until a more suitable one could be found.

She glanced up from doing her laces in time to see Tabor and Bennie entering the studio. With a wave, she caught their eyes.

“About time you two showed up,” she teased as they sat down beside her.

“Well, some of us didn’t get to sleep so early,” Tabor replied with a wicked glance at his lover.

“You would have if you hadn’t started kissing me,” Bennie added, his gentle voice filled with amusement at Tabor’s attempt to put the blame on him.

“So, you think we might have another reason to celebrate tonight?” Tabor asked. River could tell by the mischievous twinkle in his eye that if there was he fully intended to drag her back to that bar and see if he’d be there again tonight. The scary part was she knew there wouldn’t be much need for dragging.

“You know that tonight is the night the Governor is attending,” Alexia, the Prima Ballerina of the company, said from behind them. “It is expected that we are all present and accounted for at the after-party tonight.”

“Good luck River,” she added as she leaned down to give River an encouraging kiss on the forehead.

“Thank you,” River said softly. “I think I’m going to need it.” Alexia chuckled and gave her shoulder a squeeze before heading off to the front of the room.

“Looks like we weren’t the only two that didn’t go to bed to sleep,” Tabor said dryly as Cerina and Ana Marie hurried into the room just as the door to the director’s office opened and Mr. Hao moved to stand at his customary place in front of the mirrors.

“As you know we are adding a new piece to next week's program,” he began without preamble except for a slight frown in Ana Maria and Cerina’s direction as they settled down quickly. “In spite of my reservations on Ms. Tam’s readiness for a solo spot, it does seem that her piece is in the most polished form at this time. So we are adding the “White Widow” featuring River Tam on a trial basis.”

He gave River a stern look, “Here is your chance to prove me wrong River. But if you prove me right, one of the others will get their shot.”

At River’s stunned smile and the squeals coming from the small group surrounding her, he gave her a slight smile. Letting his gaze move over the room he clapped his hands for order.

“Let’s get to work, dancers.”

<><><><><><><><><>

After a few hours of sleep an’ a pot of something that passed for coffee, Jayne was starting to feel almost human again. Of course, that meant Mal had put him to work scrubbing decks again.

It weren’t so much that he minded the work, jus’ the lack of anything to break up the monotony of it. And the mindlessness of the job gave him too much gorram time to think. To remember her sweet smile after she’d told him ‘bout that song. The defiant look in her eyes when she’d told him she could’a handled that chunren and his buddies. Even the way she’d rolled her eyes in disgust haunted him.

And then there was the memory of her soft lips brushing against his cheek. They’d felt cool against his flesh and he found himself wondering if they would have heated up any if he’d grabbed her an’ pulled her in to kiss her back. If those soft lips would’a parted and let his tongue in to taste her, what they’d feel like pressed against his…and gorramit, he was not thinking ‘bout kissing her.

With a disgusted snort he slopped the mop out of the bucket and tried to force his mind back to the chore at hand.

Weren’t like thinking on her was gonna do him any good anyways. Not likely he’d ever see her again and if’n he did she was outta his league. Hell, they weren’t even in the same gorram ‘verse. Her with her fancy clothes an’ soft, cultured voice. The other girls with her had been well spoken, but not like River had been. And the others clothes, while nice, had hardly been silk.

So it was clear she was a bit above her friends in station. Probably came from a moneyed family. Hard saying what it was she did, if anything. He jus’ couldn’t quite fit the image of her or her friends into any job he knew of. Bugged him a bit, he was usually good at figuring folks out like that. Came in handy knowing what folks did without them telling ya. It was kinda like tracking,

“Evenin’ Jayne,” Kaylee chirped annoyingly at him as she bounced into the cargo hold. For a brief second Jayne entertained the idea of hitting her with the wet mop. She frowned as he scowled back at her. “Oh, don’t look at me all grumpy-like. I ain‘t the one that poured a gallon of whiskey into ya.”

“Least I can hold a gallon,” he muttered back, tossing another scowl at her snort of amusement.

“Not sure I’d call that holding it, Mr. Grumpypants,” she grinned good-naturedly up at him. “Ain’t never seen ya this tetchy from a hangover ‘fore.”

“Ain’t you got work ta do on that engine?” he snapped at her, hoping she didn‘t notice the slight flush of embarrassment. But his luck on that score was no better then it had been on getting to his bunk without seeing Mal had been. Her eyes narrowed at him thoughtfully for a second before she let out an excited squeal.

“Ya met a girl!”

“Did not,” he lied sullenly. He went back to his mopping, hoping she’d get the hint an’ go back to her own work.

“Liar,” she said, grabbing his arm and trying to drag him over to one of the crates sitting nearby. “Come on, I wanna hear all the details.”

“Even if I did meet a girl, an’ I ain’t saying I did,” he pulled his arm out of Kaylee grasp, “why would I tell you ‘bout it?” He growled the words at her angrily and then felt like a heel at her hurt look.

“Fine,” she sniffed, trying to hide the quick tears, “Least you get to get out some. Ain’t stuck here workin’ all day.”

Gorramit, why’d he have to have such a soft spot for the li’l slip of a girl?

“All right,” he ground out, irritated at himself for giving in. “Jus’ don’t be telling’ no one, dong ma?”

With a happy grin, Kaylee led him over to sit on the crates. Mal was so gonna kill him if he found him chatting with Kaylee instead’a mopping. He weren’t even sure what he was gonna tell her, ain’t like anything much had really happened.

“So, what’s her name? How’d ya met? What’s she look like? What was she wearin’? What’s she like? Did ya do her?” the questions poured out of Kaylee in a dizzying torrent. Jayne blinked at her, shocked at the last question. He surely hadn’t heard that right.

“Weren’t like that,” he said defensively.

“Ya didn’t?” Kaylee looked at him disbelievingly. “Seriously? And you’re this googly eyed over her? Wow, she must’a been somethin‘ special.” He shifted uncomfortably under Kaylee’s awed gaze.

“We never left the bar,” he muttered, studying his hands until Kaylee snorted again. He glared at her.

“Like that ever stopped ya,” a mischievous twinkle came to her eyes as she added teasingly, “Jayne’s got a girlfriend.”

“Gorramit,” he stood abruptly, “Knew I shouldn’t tell ya nothin’.”

“Ah, come on,” she pleaded, “I was jus’ teasin’. I won’t no more, promise.” He settled back down, knowing he was going to regret this.

“So, her name?” Kaylee prompted, more serious this time.

“Her name’s River,” Jayne said, a slight frown creasing his face as he tried to remember all the questions Kaylee’d asked. “Her’n some friends showed up at the bar. They left her ta go have a little fun upstairs’ an’ some hundan started buggin’ her. So’s I went over to knock some sense into him. Then we had a drink an’ talked a bit, then her friends came back an’ she left.”

“So ya saved her,” Kaylee sighed, “How romantic, like a knight in a fairy tale. So what‘cha talk about?”

“Nothin’ much,” he said, remembering her calling him her knight. She hadn‘t said it in that dreamy way Kaylee had, but it still gave him a little thrill of pride. “Didn’t have much time fer talkin’.“ At Kaylee’s disappointed look he added, “She did tell me ‘bout a song she’d heard once ‘bout a feller named Sue though.”

“I’m assumin’ that was after ya told her your name’s Jayne,” she teased, and then held up her hands at his fierce scowl. “Sorry, forgot, no more teasin’.”

“That’s what ya said last time,” he groused back before continuing. “She was like no one I ever seen ‘fore. All fragile and delicate looking, even more’n ‘Nara. Probably ‘bout your height, bit taller but not much. Real slender, but she had some muscle on her too. Sinewy, and real graceful. Like a cat. Round kinda face, with a cute little nose, kinda turned up at the end. An‘ these big, brown eyes.” He felt the stupid grin on his face as he described her for Kaylee, but he was powerless to wipe it off.

“Had her hair all pulled back tight in’a bun,” he avoided looking at Kaylee, even to himself he was sounding mighty smitten now. “So you could see her neck all long an’ graceful, like a swan. Her hair was real dark, almost black. Pale skin, like some china doll…” he stopped as he heard the familiar steady steps heading their way.

“Mal’s comin’,” he hurriedly got up and grabbed his mop again. “Best get busy.” He moved to the middle of the deck so he’d catch Mal’s eye right away an’ Kaylee’d have time to slip behind the crates and out of the cargo hold behind him.

<><><><><><><><><>

Inara let her gaze drift over the opulent room. It had been an exquisite performance this evening; she truly wished she could catch the ballet more often. And Governor Peter Jansch had proven to be a wonderful host and charming client. She was pleased now that she had contracted to spend most of her two-week stay with him.

She knew he rarely attended the ballet himself, but his old friend Jacob Rezai had brought up that his lover was a ballet dancer at a dinner party her first night here and Peter suggested they attend after seeing her interest. Of course, Jacob had made sure the company held a special after party in his honor.

Coyly, she glanced up at the distinguished gentleman beside her; laughing lightly at his comment about never understanding how male dancers could stand wearing those tights. His company was the perfect balm for her recently shaken faith in her abilities in selecting clients. There was neither hint of the arrogance Atherton had displayed nor the sullen childishness of some of her other recent clients.

She was even able to put Mal and his tchen wah of a wife out of her mind.

Jacob led a lovely young boy over to them, proudly introducing him as Kinza. Inara remembered seeing him dancing in the background a few times. He was good, though hardly as talented as some of the dancers had been. He would probably never rise to soloist in the company, but that appeared to matter little to Jacob. He was utterly smitten with the boy. Although, if it were not for the wise eyes that gazed steadily back at her, Inara would have been a bit disturbed by the fact that he seemed no more then 16 years old to Jacob’s nearly 60 years.

Whatever the age difference, it was clear this boy was a consenting partner in the relationship. As he turned and beamed at Jacob, it was obvious that there was a strong emotional attachment on both sides. An attachment that became clearer as a young lady started to pass by until Jacob stopped her. The look Kinza quickly hid was one of jealousy and fear. Inara made a note to try and get the young man alone sometime tonight to soothe his fears. The expressions on both Jacob and the girl's faces told her he had nothing to fear from her.

“River dear, you must allow me to congratulate you on receiving your first solo piece,” Jacob gave her a familiar hug and a chaste peck on the cheek. Former lovers perhaps, but whatever spark might once have been was gone now. “When does it debut?”

“Thank you Jacob,” she said in a soft, cultured voice. “It is being added to next week's program.” She turned a shy smile towards her and the Governor. “I hope you enjoyed this evening's performance, Governor?”

“It was lovely, Ms. Tam. And it is a pleasure to see you again,” Peter responded, giving her slender hand a kiss. “Allow me to introduce my guest, Inara Serra. Inara, this is River Tam.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” Inara said, giving a slight curtsy. She studied the girl discretely; she was only a few years older than Kinza. A pale, slender girl with dark brown hair which was tied in a bun and large brown eyes. Inara recalled being very impressed with her talent during the performance. She was not a bit surprised that she had just achieved solo dancer status.

“The pleasure is all mine,” the girl gracefully returned the curtsy, and then turned to Kinza. “You danced beautifully tonight.” Inara knew the praise was a little high, but the girl’s tone was both genuine and warm.

“Thank you,” he responded with a slight flush, which caused the young lady to give him a quick hug and whisper something in his ear that made him visibly relax for the first time since she had joined them. Perhaps she wouldn’t need to reassure him after all, the girl seemed to be doing that already.

“Ladies, Kinza, if you will excuse us I do need to talk to Jacob in private for one moment,” the Governor said smoothly, before leading Jacob off to a quieter corner at the others quick acquiesce. Kinza excused himself to get a drink as soon as the two older gentlemen left. Inara smiled slightly at his innocent faux pas in not asking if anyone else wished for one.

“You handled that quite well,” Inara said, turning back to the girl with a smile. She laughed softly.

“Thank you,” her eyes twinkled back at Inara, “Kinza is having some troubles accepting that I don’t find Jacob as enthralling as he does. Or that Jacob is considerably more taken with him then he ever was with me. If Kinza had met him first, I never would have stood a chance.”

Inara was impressed by the girl’s lack of malice towards her apparent replacement.

“How did you meet Governor Jansch?” she asked with a refreshing lack guile. “If you don’t mind my asking.”

“I’m a Companion,” Inara smiled, happy to be able to tell someone her profession without worrying about their judgment of her.

“I considered studying to become one briefly,” the girl shared with a wicked gleam in her eyes. “Until it was pointed out to me by my brother that I would have to be pleasant and charming to everyone all the time, even him.”

“I think they make an exception for brothers,” Inara said with a laugh. The girl was utterly charming; she didn’t think she would have had any difficulties at all had she decided to become a Companion.

“Now someone tells me,” River rolled her eyes in mock exasperation before letting out a husky chuckle. “Are you based here in New Dunsmuir?”

“No, I travel with a transport ship. I’m visiting Beaumonde for two weeks.” Inara found she was genuinely starting to like the girl. “So you have a solo in next week's performance? Would that be starting Monday? Perhaps I can catch a performance before I leave.”

“Yes,” River said with a nervous smile. “It’s hard to believe next week is only two days away. We had to add a new piece due to injuries to two of the other dancers, so there was a bit of a rush on it.”

“It is a shame about the other dancers.” She was touched by the obvious concern that had been in the girl's voice. “I hope that it was nothing too serious?”

“The soloist that was injured, Breanna, should be back to rehearsals shortly. Although it may be a while before she is back to performance level.” River said softly. “But her understudy was hurt rather badly; they feel she will have to sit out the rest of the season.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said gently.

“It was horrible,” River replied. The girl then seemed to shake herself free of the bad memories and gave Inara a bright, curious smile, “So, what kind of ship are you traveling on?”

“It’s a Firefly class,” Inara stated as she allowed the girl to shift the conversation back to her. The topic had been getting a bit heavy for a party. “Her name is Serenity.”

The effect on the girl was immediate. Her eyes widened in shock and what little color she had drained away.

“Serenity,” she said faintly. Inara moved closer to place a gentle hand on her arm.

“River?” she asked with concern. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” the girl flushed slightly. “I…I just wasn’t expecting you to be from that ship.”

“You’ve heard of her?” Inara asked, wondering what had caused the girl such distress.

“I was in a bar near the docks last night and met one of her crew,” River said, the flush getting deeper. At Inara’s curious gaze she went on softly. “A couple of my fellow dancers took me there to celebrate my birthday and ended up heading off for a bit. While they were gone a rather unpleasant man decided I was fair game and started creating a scene. Jayne stopped him.”

“Jayne?” Inara said in disbelief. Now Mal she could see coming to someone’s aid like that, but Jayne? River laughed at her stunned expression.

“Yes, so my estimate that saving damsels in distress was not a common past time for him was correct?” River seemed to be recovering her equilibrium, Inara noted.

“You could say that,” Inara smiled faintly. “Usually he doesn’t do anything that does not benefit him somehow.” That comment brought a laugh out of the young girl.

“Well, he did try and collect a reward afterwards.” Her secretive smile made Inara wonder just what kind of reward Jayne had asked for. But then again, considering the attractiveness of the girl and the morals of the mercenary in question, perhaps it was best not to know. River didn’t appear overly disturbed by whatever it had been. However, there had been her earlier reaction.

“I hope he wasn’t too crude and obnoxious,” Inara probed gently, just to make sure there really had been no harm done.

“Overall, no. Not too crude and obnoxious at all,” River’s expression seemed faintly surprised at that. “I mean, he had his moments. But he never pressed the issue and actually allowed me to sit with him while I waited for my friends to return.”

“With a little training, he might even make a passable Knight In Shining Armor,” she mused as that same wicked gleam she’d had earlier returned to her eyes. Inara was sure she saw something else there as well; something that told her the girl had been more than a little impressed with Jayne Cobb. Unsettling as the reflection was, Inara found herself wondering how the mercenary had reacted to this young woman. River Tam was not what she would consider his type at all.

But any chance to learn more about the events of the night before passed as the Governor and Jacob returned.

“Forgive us for taking so long ladies,” Jacob said smoothly as his eyes wandered over to where Kinza was talking to a small group of his fellow dancers.

“That is quite all right, it gave Inara and I a chance to acquainted,“ River replied with a smile.

“Yes,” Inara said, “It seems we have several common interests and a mutual friend.”

“Really? Anyone we might know?” Peter asked. River and Inara both laughed.

“Not very likely,” Inara answered, “He’s the mercenary attached to the ship I am on.”

“A mercenary?” Jacob said as he looked at River questioningly.

“Yes, and how I know him is none of your business,” she laughed and gave him a quick kiss to ease the sting of her comment.

“If you’ll excuse me, I need to go speak with some friends,“ River added. She graciously removed herself from the group with quick hugs for Jacob and Inara as well as a curtsy to the Governor as Kinza drifted back to Jacob’s side.

Inara watched her walk off contemplatively, a nebulous idea forming in her mind.

<><><><><><><><><>

TBC…

COMMENTS

Thursday, June 24, 2004 1:34 PM

JEBBYPAL


Still love River in this one..every bit the brat even when Simon's no where to be found! Can't wait to see Inara's devious plan to throw those two kids together!

Friday, June 25, 2004 10:21 AM

JIEJIE


Yay! I was sooo happy to see that you'd updated! Neroli, bao bei, you get better every time you post. Your characterization of River is enthralling and the way you've handled the pair of them thinking of each other afterwards makes me grin. Can't wait to see the next chapter!

Saturday, June 26, 2004 4:40 AM

BRITCHICK


Mal has a wife? Did I miss that in part one??

This is great, it's made the unbelievable, believable...I really can see Jayne and River getting together.

Hope to see the next installment soon

Thank you :)

Saturday, June 26, 2004 4:44 AM

KISPEXI2


That was great. Jayne kissing one of 'em on the mouth! Who'd have thought it?

Thought the Kaylee/Jayne scene was priceless. Him thinking about hitting her with the wet mop, her asking "Did you do her?" Very in character and very sweet.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 5:59 AM

EARTHSHINE


Very good story-Please dont keep us waiting much longer! Thanks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 9:03 AM

SHINEY


more, encore, encore encore! =claps=

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 8:17 AM

BELLONA


i always hoped those two kids would get together...


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