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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The crew sets down on Persephone, and River doesn't want to be left on the ship alone...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 674 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Firefly, Serenity, and all related proprietary characters are the intellectual property of Joss Whedon and corporations with whom I have no affiliation. Said property does not belong to me, and the fictional story below is of my own creation. (I don’t own ‘em, just like to play with ‘em!)
Much to River’s delight, Serenity did touch down on Persephone thirty-eight hours later, with the talented teenager at the controls. Inara was quite amused when River told her that Mal wanted to keep the landing exercise a surprise to the rest of the crew. So when Jayne and Kaylee wandered into the kitchen a moment after Serenity had landed and found Mal making coffee, the mercenary’s alarm was understandable. “Mal, how the gorram d’you get in here so quick? You just parked us like five seconds ago!”
“Who said I parked us?” Mal’s mischievous grin only intensified as Jayne tried to ponder who else could have made the landing. “Don’t hurt that brain of your’s, Jayne. Li’l Albatross wanted to try settin’ down, and she always seems more settled sittin’ in that chair than anywhere else on this boat.”
Kaylee couldn’t decide whether to be proud of her mèi mei or horrified. “Cap’n, you sure that’s a good idea? I mean…” Gŏu shĭ , ‘Nara told us not to talk ‘bout that stuff… wait a sec, shouldn’t even be thinkin’ on it, she’s a gorram reader! Oh gŏu shĭ… If not for the serious nature of the conversation, Kaylee’s facial expressions while she went through that thought process would have been almost comical.
Luckily Mal figured out what Kaylee meant and brought her out of her musing. “Don’t fret! Think I’d let her make her first try unsupervised? I was sittin’ two feet away, she wasn’t gonna crash us. ‘Sides, Lord Harrow’s estate has it’s own landin’ platform, big enough for four of Serenity, and we’re the only ones here.” Mal made his way back out of the kitchen, heading back towards the bridge, when he abruptly stopped in the hall and stuck his head back in. “Now would be a good time to be congratulatin’ her… y’all thought it was me landin’, so I’m thinkin’ she musta done a decent job if y’all couldn’t tell the difference.”
“Mal, you suck at landin’s… why you think Zoë demanded you get a pilot?” Jayne’s barb fell on deaf ears though, as the captain had already left.
But Jayne’s comment did not escape Kaylee’s notice, as she responded with a punch to his arm. “You idiot, River prob’ly heard that!”
“What? I just said Mal sucks.” Jayne rubbed the spot where Kaylee’s fist had hit him. Gorram, she might be tiny, but she’s got fists like iron!
“After ya just said you thought he landed the boat…” Kaylee’s patience, waiting for Jayne to figure it out for himself, was waning. “You moron, River’s gonna think that landin’ was bad now! Wasn’t nothin’ wrong with it neither!” Exasperated, she hit Jayne again, in nearly the same place.
“Would ya stop that? I got ears, I heard what ya said.” Dragging Kaylee out the other end of the kitchen and down into the bay, Jayne plopped himself down on the catwalk. “Yer right, landin’ wasn’t that bad… not fer a first try, anyhow. So what’d we do now?”
“We? I’m gonna go tell everybody else River just made her first landin’, so nobody says somethin’ as dumb as you just did. You, you’re gonna go up on the bridge, apologize to River, and tell ‘er she did good. Then you’re gonna ask her if she wants help with anythin’, ‘cause if ya wanna be ‘er friend, best start actin’ nicer toward ‘er. Women-folk like it when men-folk offer to be helpful.” Kaylee was muttering under her breath as she walked away in search of Simon, Zoë, and Inara, low enough that Jayne missed most of it, but he was fairly sure he heard “stupid piece of gŏu shĭ” in there somewhere.
For a moment, Jayne stayed put, contemplating what Kaylee told him. Friend? I guess so… she’s been nothin’ but nice to me, no reason she wouldn’t wanna be friends. Oughta do somethin’ for ‘er, dunno if I can steal nothin’ as shiny as she gave me… ain’t got money to buy nothin’ like that neither. Hmm… maybe she’d like one of them boy-whores for an evenin’, could ask one of the girls on Persephone if they got a friend that’s clean and such. On second thought, her brother’d go nuts if he found out, probably Mal too… bad idea. Maybe should ask ‘Nara, she’s always got good ideas… Zoë’d probably laugh at me, but ‘Nara’d be nice ‘bout it.
Suddenly Jayne was brought out of his reverie by a hand on his shoulder. Grabbing the offending appendage before spinning around, Jayne was just as quick to drop it after discovering it belonged to Mal. “Whoa there, Jayne! You didn’t hear me comin’ or callin’ for ya the last minute and a half?”
“Sorry, Mal… was thinkin’ on things, not payin’ attention. You need somethin’?” Jayne had the good sense to appear slightly mollified and apologetic rather than angry. It would do no good to get in a fight with Mal, particularly since Jayne was trying to get along better with everyone.
Mal seemed slightly startled by Jayne’s response. “Well, we gotta go up to Lord Harrow’s estate for dinner in a couple hours. Just wanted you to know that you gotta dress up nice, see ‘Nara if you need any reminders on all those fancy manners we oughta be usin’.” Mal slipped past Jayne to the stairs and descended into the bay, then out of sight into one of the storage units.
Gorram stupid rich folk and their fancy gŏu shĭ… well, oughta go see the little genius first, then go find ‘Nara… Jayne hoisted himself up from the catwalk and headed off to the bridge, pleased to see River still sitting in the pilot’s chair and seemingly staring off into space, much as he had been doing moments earlier. “Hey… umm… good job today… didn’t crash us, so that’s a good start.”
River didn’t turn around to face Jayne, focused on the view of the estate in front of her. “Not good enough, won’t ever be. Can’t be him, and he was perfect.” River’s voice displayed a clear sense of melancholy, reminiscing over Serenity’s former pilot and resident funny-man.
“Maybe ya can’t be him, but that don’t mean ya can’t be perfect… definitely don’t mean ya can’t do a good job.” Jayne slid into the co-pilot’s seat alongside River, before turning to her with a wide smile. “‘Sides, why ya wanna be him? Like ya just the way ya are.”
River’s head snapped sideways, staring at Jayne intently for a moment. “You actually mean that, don’t you? Can tell when people lie, their faces change… you’re not lying.” This self-revelation brought a little smile to her face.
Jayne wasn’t quite sure what possessed him to verbalize his last comment, but the fact that it made River smile told the mercenary that, for once, speaking without thinking had led to something good. “‘Course I meant it! Ya wouldn’t be half as much fun if all ya were was a little copy of him. No gorram way he’d ever steal gun scopes for me neither.” River’s light laughter permeated the cabin, so Jayne took it as a sign that he was doing well. “Speakin’ of which… was wonderin’ if ya needed help with anythin’? Think the least I can do is give ya a hand if ya wanted it.”
“Don’t need any help at the moment, but I appreciate the offer. Perhaps later this week… would you stay with me tonight?” The confused look on Jayne’s face indicated that she needed to clarify her question. “I can’t go with everyone to dinner… too much danger someone might recognize me, and gē ge said I don’t know enough etiquette to avoid being noticed.”
“You mean manners and stuff? I don’t neither, was ‘bout to go see ‘Nara, ask her what I gotta do. Wanna come with?”
River shook her head. “Chuán zhăng already said I have to stay. Afraid I might go crazy during dinner and kill our host.”
Jayne rolled his eyes in response. “The both of ‘em are idiots. Don’t see why ya can’t go, you’ve been loads better lately. Lord Harrow’s friendly-like, ain’t like he’s gonna turn ya in.”
“Too much risk, no benefit for anyone but me. No reason to take chances.” River’s voice had gone soft again, tainted with disappointment. She would have very much enjoyed an opportunity to get off the ship.
Jayne frowned, very much displeased with Mal and Simon, but unfortunately unable to find fault in their logic. “Well I still think they’re idiots. Ya ain’t gonna learn how to be out in public if they don’t ever let ya off the boat. But why’d ya want me to stay? I’ll admit this dinner ain’t exactly my kinda thing, but…”
“You should go. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”
“Hey now, I didn’t say I wouldn’t stay. Was just curious…”
“You’ll think it’s stupid… silly.”
Jayne laughed at River’s assertion. “So? I’ve done all manner of stupid things in my life, some of ‘em were kinda fun.”
“I… don’t want to be alone… and you are… good company.”
Jayne ceased his laughter, sensing that this was one of River’s serious moments. “First off, that ain’t stupid. Everybody needs to be ‘round people, even an ornery merc like me. Keeps ya from gettin’ bored, and from doin’ stupid gŏu shĭ that gets ya in trouble. Second, I dunno who told ya I was good company, but if you think so, that’s good enough for me. If Mal says it’s alright, be happy to stay here with ya.” Getting up, Jayne offered a hand to River. “C’mon, ya know Mal can’t resist that puppy-eyes thing you and Kaylee can do.”
River took the offered hand, and practically vaulted out of the pilot’s chair. “You would stay? Just because I asked?”
Jayne led River out of the bridge and the two quickly made their way to the cargo bay, Jayne in the lead. “Who besides yer idiot brother could ever say no to you? Mal, where the gorram are you?”
Poking his head out from under the catwalk, Mal looked up rather skeptically. “Same place I was five minutes ago. Somethin’ wrong?”
“I ain’t comin’ to dinner tonight.” Jayne suddenly realized he was still holding River’s hand, and let go. Good thing Mal didn’t see that, he’s already wound up enough. A glance to his side and River’s face indicated she understood.
Now this got Mal’s full attention. It was a rare occasion that Jayne would pass up a meal, much less real food. “You not feelin’ well? Need some fancy clothes? I told Lord Harrow we were all comin’, he’ll be disappointed.” Mal made his way up to the catwalk from the bay floor, not noticing that Inara had stepped out of her shuttle with Kaylee behind Jayne and River.
“When you said ‘all’, how many did you say we are?”
“Six. You, me, ‘Nara, Kaylee, Simon, and Zoë. Albatross, I thought we talked about this already.” And that’s when Mal noticed Kaylee and Inara, the former looking shocked, the latter rather angry.
“Cap’n, why can’t River come? She grew up in the Core, she prob’ly knows all these silly rules they have better’n me. And she’s been nothin’ but good last couple days!” Kaylee seemed to be under the impression that it would be a travesty not to allow River to socialize like everyone else.
Mal could see he wasn’t doing well, and he needed to end the discussion quickly. “It ain’t safe, Kaylee. Not lettin’ nobody know we have anyone on our boat that even resembles her… people get greedy, even folk you think are friendly. Decision’s been made. Now, Jayne, why ain’t you comin’ with?”
“Ain’t right leavin’ her here all by herself… I wanna stay and keep her company.” Jayne could see that if he sounded like he was demanding rather than asking permission, Mal would get suspicious.
Mal was speechless for a moment. What the gorram is wrong with my merc? He was about to say no without any further thought, but one glare from Inara was enough to dismiss that notion, so he decided to switch targets. “Albatross, you want Jayne to stay here with you?”
River’s careful mask of veiled interest in the conversation evaporated instantly, replaced with excitement. “Yes, please!”
That was not the response Mal was expecting. But before he could say anything, Inara cut across him. “I think it’s a wonderful idea. Even though Captain Reynolds is completely paranoid, and doesn’t seem to understand that young women need to socialize, it would be unfair to leave River on the ship alone while everyone else gets to go on a fun outing. River, I’ll make sure he brings food back for you and Jayne if you’d like. Mal, you can tell Lord Harrow that Jayne was not feeling well, and did not wish to disturb everyone.”
And so it came to pass that two hours later, Jayne shut the cargo bay door behind Zoë, the last one leaving the ship, and River was finishing a final set of pull-ups on the bar Jayne had hung under the catwalk. “Alright, Miss Tam, just us now. Ya got me all to yerself, what’d ya wanna do?”
If Jayne could have heard the vast litany of lewd, crude, or otherwise inappropriate responses that River’s mind ran through as possible rejoinders in the second and a half it took her to respond, he likely would have had a heart attack right where he stood. Finally the lithe female, dressed in a pair of Kaylee’s sweatpants and a tank-top, decided against all of them, and dismounted from the bar with a somersault. Vaulting the weight bench into a handspring off an empty crate, River landed gracefully a few feet from Jayne and shrugged her shoulders, in a decidedly teenage fashion. “Don’t know. What do you want to do?”
“That was… umm… impressive.” It took Jayne a moment to come up with anything more coherent to add. “Well, figure they’ll be gone ‘bout four hours, from what ‘Nara said. She said she’d bring back dinner, so no need to eat. Umm… I was wonderin’… you said there was stuff you could teach me? Stuff I’d like? What’d ya have in mind?”
“Hand-to-hand combat, both unarmed and with weapons. Unfortunately I do not have the appropriate things yet to teach you with. I was going to get them while we were here on Persephone.” River sounded slightly dejected by the fact that she was unable to follow through on her promise.
“Well, that’s ok, not yer fault ya can’t get off the ship without an armed escort and a disguise. That teachin’ yer talkin’ ‘bout does sound like my kinda fun, but we can find somethin’ else to pass the time.” Both stood in silence for a moment, trying to do just that, before Jayne had a brainstorm. “Say… ya know how ya can look inside folks’ heads? Can ya do it over a Coretex connection?”
River frowned. “Sorry. Won’t work, need to be in close proximity to the actual person. Coretex communications are just electronic signals, not the same thing. What did you have in mind?”
Jayne shrugged. “Not a big deal. Was thinkin’ you could help me figure out how to milk these buyers for more money. Want to get as much as I can for each scope if we have to sell ‘em.”
“I know how much each one is worth. If I go with you when you go to see each buyer, I can help you then.” River sighed in frustration. “That is, if gē ge and the chuán zhăng ever let me off this ship.”
Jayne put an arm around River’s shoulders and started walking back across the bay to the stairs. “Don’t fret about that. I’ll make sure you get some free time out an’ about, preferably without the whole ship as an escort.” Arriving at the base of the stairs, Jayne gestured for River to go ahead. “What say you an’ I go look at the initial offerin’s these lowlifes made for yer shiny stolen property?”
An hour later, the pair had finished sorting through the offers, and sent text-only replies over the Coretex. Jayne sat in the pilot’s chair, while River alternated between standing behind him, leaning on the chair back, and sitting on the armrest. When they finished, River was sitting on the armrest, and appeared rather pleased with herself. “They don’t give you enough credit. You are much smarter than they think.”
For the first time he could remember since joining Serenity, Jayne blushed. “I dunno ‘bout that. Guns, money, bein’ intimidatin’… those things come natural. But I ain’t a genius, not like you anyways.” Jayne shut down the communications channel they had been using and turned his head to face River. “Figure we still got another three hours almost. What else ya wanna do?”
Much to Jayne’s surprise, River slid off the armrest and into his lap. “Can we play the riddle game?” A smile bloomed on the young girl’s face.
“You know how to play that?” River nodded enthusiastically. “Wow, didn’t think that would still be popular… we used to play that as kids when I was little. So what should we play for?”
“Loser gives the winner something the loser thinks the winner would like. You can start if you like.”
(J) "Which creature in the mornin’ goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evenin’ on three?"
(R) “Starting with the classics… man crawls in infancy, walks upright in adulthood, and with a cane in old age. As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives. Every wife had seven sacks, every sack had seven cats, every cat had seven kits. How many were going to St. Ives?”
(J) “Only one. I s’pose ya do know how to play. My momma’s a cloud, my pa’s the wind. My son’s a cool stream, my daughter’s fruit of the land. Rainbow for a bed, earth my final resting place, I'm the torment of man.”
(R) “Rain. Each morning I appear to lie at your feet, all day I will follow no matter how fast you run, yet I nearly perish in the midday sun.”
(J) “My shadow. There’s four brothers in the world all born together. One runs, but never tires. Second eats, but is never full. Third drinks, but always thirsty. Last sings a song that is never good.”
(R) “Water, fire, earth, and wind. What has roots that no one sees, is taller even than the trees, up and up it goes, yet we cannot see it grow?”
(J) “Mountain. I’m one with eight to spare, if I should lose my one, but not a number.”
(R) “Cat. This thing all things devour: birds, beasts, trees, and flowers. Gnaws iron, bites steel, grinds hard stones into meal. Slayer of kings, ruin of towns, and beats even mighty mountains down.”
(J) “Time. Voiceless cries, wingless flutters, toothless bites, mouthless mutters.”
(R) “Wind. Man walks over, man walks under, in times of war, he burns asunder.”
(J) “Bridge. I can run but never walk, have a mouth but never talk, have a bed but never sleep, have a head but never weep.”
And for the first time River was stumped. I’ve never heard this one before. He wouldn’t cheat, so there must be an answer. “Could you say it again please?” Jayne repeated the riddle, but River still had no idea. “You win. What is it?”
Jayne chuckled. “This is one of them ironic things… beaten by your own name.”
“River… a river runs deep, but has no legs. Its mouth opens to a larger body of water, but it has no voice. Its bed is the rocks which line the bottom, but it is always moving. Its head is the beginning, but it has no eyes, so it cannot cry. Well done, you are victorious.” River studied Jayne for a moment, apparently trying to decide something. “Our agreement was that the loser would give the winner something the loser thinks the winner would like. Would you like me to give you your prize?”
Jayne smiled. “Ya don’t have to, but it’s nice that you offered. Just a game, don’t wanna take somethin’ from ya.”
“Are you sure? I really think you’ll like it.” River waited a moment before Jayne silently gestured acquiescence. “Alright, hù wèi zhĕ, close your eyes.” Jayne opened his mouth to protest, but River put her index finger over his lips. “Just close your eyes.”
Jayne complied, and for a second, he was wondering why. She ain’t gettin’ up to go fetch somethin’… does she have some secret drawer she can reach from here? But then all thought ceased, as he felt soft lips press against his own. For almost a minute, Jayne completely forgot where he was, and all cognitive functions failed him. Then everything came crashing down at once, and his eyes flew open to find River was indeed the one kissing him. Gently Jayne pulled River away. “River… you can’t… I mean, ain’t that it wasn’t nice, and I’m flattered… but it ain’t right.”
“Why not?” Confusion marred the young genius’s face, making Jayne even more uncomfortable.
“Well for starters, you’re the only pure thing left on this gorram boat, and I ain’t gonna ruin that. You got plenty ‘nough troubles without borrowin’ from me.” Jayne was desperately searching for the right words; instinctively he could tell that some reasons, no matter how true, would be hurtful. “What ya just did… was that ‘cause you wanted to? Or ‘cause ya thought I wanted ya to?”
“Both. Wasted so much time… have to catch up now.”
“I ain’t ‘bout to sit here and tell ya that you don’t know yer own mind… but why would ya wanna do that? You know as well as I do that Mal would throw a fit. An’ I don’t even wanna think on what yer brother’d wanna do to me.” Jayne sighed and moved his hands down from River’s shoulders, taking the young woman’s smaller hands in his own. “I ain’t no good for ya, and much as I think you’d be a mighty fine lady to be with or court or whatnot, I ain’t so deluded that I’m ‘bout to let ya waste yer life on somebody like me. Ya deserve someone better… someone like yer brother. Only person on this boat even close to worthy’s ‘Nara, and I’m thinkin’ you prob’ly ain’t interested in her. You need someone that can provide for ya… education, money, strong family, all that stuff.”
“Those things don’t matter if they don’t bring happiness.” River turned a little to look back out over the estate. The sun was setting, the horizon a mix of purple and orange in the distance. “Am I not attractive? Or is it that I’m crazy? Or perhaps my lack of experience?” River was trying hard not to get overly emotional, but for the first time in her life, she was being rejected for something besides being too smart, and tears were starting to form in the corners of her eyes.
“Hey now! Don’t cry!” Jayne pulled River back towards him, embracing her in a light hug. “None of that stuff matters… and besides, I think you’re plenty pretty. I just… I don’t wanna see ya get hurt, ‘cause that’s what was gonna happen if I didn’t stop ya. That’s all I’ve done my whole life… hurt womenfolk.” Couldn’t live with myself if I added you to that list.” Jayne loosened his embrace a little more, and looked down to see River staring up at him. “Now I gotta ask ya somethin’, and ya gotta be completely truthful, ‘cause it’s important. I know girls younger’n you, they were just lookin’ for someone safe, ‘cause they were curious. Wanted to feel things out, get some experience bein’ ‘round menfolk, have some fun if they could. Did ya want this ‘cause ya want somethin’ from me in particular, or were ya lookin’ for a safe way to figure things out?”
“I assume there is no possible response that results in getting to kiss you again?” Jayne resisted the urge to laugh, and solemnly shook his head, prompting a frown from River. “It’s both. I am curious, but more than that, I like you. There will never be anyone who would be safe, someone I could trust unconditionally, except the people who call Serenity home… I hold no grudge against you or Inara, but I could not bring myself to purchase another’s time, even if it was safe, which it wouldn’t be. I cannot say with certainty that my being with you, in any capacity at all, would work out in the end. But I believe in you, and whatever you might say, I am far more likely to hurt you than you are to hurt me. I am at your mercy; you are my solution… but I will not ask for or take something you do not wish to give.”
Both sat in silent contemplation for awhile. Neither knew what to say. Finally Jayne made up his mind. “I can’t rightly decide on somethin’ this important right now. Wouldn’t be fair to ya… think if it’s alright with you, I oughta talk to ‘Nara. Maybehaps you should too. Don’t think she’d say nothin’ to anybody else, so no worryin’ ‘bout yer brother or Mal findin’ out. That sound okay?”
“I have no objections. Would you like me to go now?”
Jayne blinked in surprise. “Why the gorram would I want ya to go? I stayed here to keep ya company.”
River tensed. “I was not sure you would want me to stay. What I did could be construed as being manipulative. I thought you might be angry with me.”
Jayne only laughed and pulled her into his arms again, his right arm rubbing her shoulders, his left massaging her lower back. “You an’ I both know I can’t stay angry at ya any more.” Suddenly Jayne had three burning questions pop into his mind. “Was this why ya wanted me to stay, did ya lose that game on purpose, an’ how far exactly did ya think I was gonna go past kissin’?”
River smiled against his shirt. “I had no plans for this evening, I simply wished for your company. I had no intention of doing anything until the moment I kissed you. You won the game honestly. I had never heard that riddle before. And as for your last question… I was willing to let you do as you pleased. Actually… let me rephrase… I am willing.”
Jayne scowled inwardly. Gorramit, swear she’s tryin’ to get me to drag her back to my bunk… “Yer not gonna change my mind. So just sit still and relax for a bit. Nobody’s gonna be back for at least…” Jayne glanced at the timepiece on the console. “Another hour I guess.” Almost ten minutes passed before Jayne spoke again, the sky now dark and stars just beginning to make their first appearances. “This is nice… I could get used to this.” But when Jayne looked down at River, she was deep in sleep. Carefully taking his right arm from her shoulders, Jayne stretched backwards to reach the blanket Mal had left on a crate. Gently lifting River in his other arm, Jayne wrapped her lithe body in the light blanket before carrying her off the bridge and down to the cargo bay. Sitting down carefully against a crate, Jayne smiled as he began his wait for dinner in the dim lighting of Serenity’s hold, River held protectively in his arms.
As the rest of the crew left Lord Harrow’s house and began the brief walk back to the ship, Zoë decided it would be a good time for Kaylee’s surprise. “Sir, I think one of your crew has forgotten all about a birthday the day after tomorrow. I believe presents are in order, no?”
Kaylee practically squealed in excitement. “Oh my gosh, Zoë, you’re right! I completely lost track of what day it is. But y’all don’t gotta give me nothin’, I’d be happy just to have a nice day with everyone.”
Mal chuckled. Typical Kaylee… “Think ya might wanna reconsider that… not often Zoë gives people birthday presents, usually they’re pretty special.”
“And I will hear no argument from you, mèi mei, I am getting you a real cake for your birthday… with strawberries.” Inara was in a very good mood; the entire dinner had passed without incident, and even Mal managed to remember almost all the etiquette she had spent the better part of the day drilling into his brain.
Zoë continued on as though no one had interrupted her. “Sir, I think it is high time that the ship’s new official couple should have the double bunk. And we should all be in the crew bunks, those passenger bunks are entirely second-rate. If you have no objections, I’ll take the bunk next to yours, across from Jayne. River can have the one next to me, and we can put all the storage into the unit across from River, next to Jayne. It should all fit if we take the furniture out. Perhaps it can go in the second shuttle, or somewhere in the cargo bay.”
Simon was slightly baffled. “I’m sorry, Zoë, but I could have sworn you just said you were giving me and Kaylee your bunk for her birthday. Did I mishear you?”
“Can’t slip anything past him, can you, Zoë?” Mal was grinning from ear to ear. Zoë had discussed this with him the week before, and was just waiting for the right opportunity to share the plan.
“Actually, sir, I believe I did. Simon, you and Kaylee are not just getting my bunk. You two get to keep the big bed too.” Zoë couldn’t help the mischievous glint in her eyes. “I can’t understand how the two of you fit on the passenger dorm bed, much less in her bunk. Those gorram things are tiny.”
Suddenly Zoë found herself teetering on her heels, and completely enveloped in a hug by an exuberant Kaylee. “Zoë, you are the best ever! Sorry, Cap’n, afraid you’ve lost your title.”
Simon feigned feeling put out. “What am I? Chopped liver? How am I not even mentioned?” But even the young doctor couldn’t keep a smile from forming.
“Don’t worry, Simon.” Inara couldn’t help but match Mal’s grin. “I’ve been her best friend for three years, and I have more people ahead of me on that list than I care to count. In fact, if you weren’t in her bed every night, I’m sure you’d be below me on the list too. The list bears absolutely no resemblance to reality.” The good-natured teasing came naturally, and soon everyone was laughing. So when the crew came up to Serenity’s doors a few minutes later, nobody even noticed as they let themselves in and walked right past Jayne and River, hidden in shadows, and by now both deep in sleep. Everyone assumed they had decided to go to bed early. But when Inara returned from the kitchen, having put dinner for both of her friends in the cold storage unit, and the lighting came on as she opened the door to her shuttle, she saw an oddly large shadow cast on the cargo bay floor. Ever cautious, Inara grabbed her bow and arrows from their hidden compartment above the door before stepping back onto the catwalk above the bay. Silently gliding across to the light controls, Inara drew an arrow, and with her right elbow, flicked them on, ready to fire.
Jayne flinched awake in the sudden brightness. “Aww, gorramit, turn those off!” His fierce whisper flew across the bay to Inara, trying not to wake River, but at the same time, the lights were far too strong to stay on.
Quickly Inara relaxed her bow and slid the arrow back into her quiver, then switched the lights back off in favor of the dimmer safety lights. These she flicked on as she got to the control at the top of the stairs before proceeding back down to the bay floor and walking swiftly over to Jayne. “What ever possessed you to want to sleep there?”
“SHH!” Jayne motioned to the blanket in his arms before drawing the top part back a little, revealing a still sleeping River. Jayne motioned for Inara to kneel down next to him, and lowered his voice even further. “Wasn’t plannin’ on sleepin’… was expectin’ y’all back almost an hour and a half ago. Y’all just gettin’ here?”
Inara nodded. “About five minutes ago. Everyone else is in their bunks. Why don’t we go to the kitchen? I brought food back for you both. We can talk there. Think River would like to eat?”
“Almost sure of it. She skipped lunch today ‘cause she was flyin’ us into atmo. That was a pretty good landin’ she made too.” Jayne braced River with one arm and used the other on the crate to hoist himself to his feet.
The trio made their way to the kitchen in silence. Jayne put River down on the nearby couch while Inara began reheating dinner. After poking his head into the hall to make sure all the crew bunks were shut, Jayne collapsed into his chair with a sigh. “Think we got a problem… well not so much you as me, but you’re like her mother or somethin’… thinkin’ you ain’t gonna like this.”
Inara finished what she was doing at the stove and walked over to the table. “She’s been doing so much better lately! What’s wrong now?”
Jayne nervously looked over at the still sleeping River. ‘Nara ain’t gonna be half as bad as Mal or the doc… just gotta get through it, she ain’t gonna hurt me or nothin’… no reason to be scared. “Umm… ya see… while y’all were at dinner… she said she liked me… not like a friend, but the ‘I like you’ kind of liked me… and then she… umm… she sorta…. she gorram kissed me.”
gŏu shĭ – shit; mèi mei – sister (younger); gē ge – brother (older)
Chuán zhăng – Captain; hù wèi zhĕ – bodyguard
Thursday, June 05, 2008 5:35 PM
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