Story: The Awaited One
Chapter 8: Rampant Misunderstandings
Timeline: Firefly-post BDM seven months after, Buffy – takes into account all of television series of both Angel and Buffy but no the comic books.
Summary: Five hundred years later there is a new light approaching. Rayne—S/K
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Buffy/Angel mythos and Firefly/Serenity are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Inc., etc.
Kaylee dragged Simon up to make dinner only to find Sara working quickly around the kitchen.
“Hi, Kaylee, Dr. Tam,” she greeted with a short look.
“Simon, please,” the doctor requested.
“Do you need any help?” Kaylee asked.
“Just the table set,” she told them.
“We’d be glad to,” the mechanic fluttered around the room bringing everything together.
“You don’t have an accent,” Simon stated.
“Ya ‘pect me to sound like Spike?” she drawled in an accent that rivaled Badger’s.
He nodded at her show.
“I have the accent, but I’ve perfected hiding it,” she slipped back into her normal voice as she flipped the meats. “It also helps that I grew up being spoken to in several languages… even if I only perfected English.”
“Did Spike see you off?” Kaylee wondered, she’d been in the engine room for the four hours around takeoff.
“No,” she stated succinctly.
“Oh,” she exchanged a look with Simon.
“New wounds are bleeding and raw,” River said from where she was at the door, “do not poke and prod.”
The three of them watched as Sara served everything, her jaw clenched. She finally finished and stepped back, “How do you tell…”
River hit the intercom, “dinner is ready.”
Zoe, Inara, and Mal were first to enter and sat at their usual places. River, Simon, and Kaylee filled in the other half of the food burdened wood.
“Sara,” Zoe gestured to the girl who stood watching them. Gratefully the young woman sank into the seat near Zoe, across from River.
“Where is Jayne?” the new addition frowned. As though her inquiry conjured him, Jayne dropped into the seat at the end of the table, putting him next to Sara and River.
He wasted no time in grabbing the closest dish and serving himself.
It was the quiet clanking of silverware that drove Kaylee to her question. “How did you end up a Watcher?”
Sara looked up, “Not exactly a choice when you’re the last of a lineage.”
“You mean you didn’t wanna?”
“I did,” she sighed. “Angel and Spike would have let me choose anything, even if it was just to find a guy and marry…”
“They would do anything for you,” Inara agreed.
“It wasn’t supposed to be me,” she told them, “it was supposed to be my brother, Nathan. He had been studying to be River’s Watcher since he was four. When mom died he threw himself into it. Spike says he was a walking encyclopedia, a Watcher before he even turned sixteen. The war… he believed so deeply in independence he left on the first recruiting cruiser.”
“How old were you?” Kaylee asked.
“Six,” she smiled gently, “I used to follow him around, so when he left I took all of it up.”
“Did you ever see him again?”
“No,” she shook her head, “we had letters for several years. But they stopped about the time the battles did… he was listed on the Independence KIA registry.”
“And you became the official waiting Watcher,” River finished for her.
“Yeah,” Sara scooped up her vegetables with less enthusiasm.
“So you took the position?” Simon hedged, “you’ll do everything he was going to?”
“Not exactly,” she smiled at River. “My brother was going to be everything the Slayer needed, or as close as he could be.”
“And you’re not?” Mal guessed.
She pursed her lips at his tone, “my brother was going to be everything… as in Watcher, friend, partner, lover, anyone she needed him to be.”
“Babysitter?” River volunteered.
“He would have been fifteen years older than River,” she looked at them, “this was supposed to be his life.”
Jayne listened to the conversation without ever looking up from his food. Keeping his gob shut kept him out of trouble.
Except the Reader next to him, she was not completely immune to his emotional battle taking place. She erected her best walls and waited out the storm. Through the meal it did not end, even as she watched the rest of the crew leave as Jayne performed clean up duty.
“Can I help?” she asked.
“I got it,” he said gruffly.
“No,” she stood next to him until he turned to her. She didn’t look up as she placed a hand over his heart. “Can I help?”
“Help what?” he glared down at her, “Whuz you doin’?”
“You are in conflict,” she told him, “again. It is my fault, how can I help?”
He stepped back to the sink and continued with the dishes. His emotions all over the place again.
“STOP!” she shoved him slightly. “If you are not going to calm, please control projecting at me.” She sprinted from the dining area and to her room.
Jayne went back to the dishes. His indecision giving way to anger and just as quickly weariness.
They touched down on a little moon two days later. River sent the appropriate transmission to tell the people who was arriving. They found only small towns, large farmlands and frightened people. It was a lush moon, but obviously isolated.
Mal stepped into the cargo bay with Jayne.
“These people are afraid of us,” River stated from where she was unhooking the crates at Sara’s instruction. “They have only ever been visited to be plundered and left with nothing to sustain them.”
“That’s not strange for small moons such as these,” Zoe commented as she lowered the ramp. The wind blew lightly, refreshing after scrubbed and recycled air.
“What do ya think you’re doin’, crazy?” Jayne snapped as he pulled the crate from her.
River surrendered the box to him, pulled her fist back and punched Jayne in the jaw. Then she preceded down the ramp and towards the town.
Sara shared a look with Inara. “You so deserved that.”
“What for?” he snapped, rubbing the forming bruise.
Mal scratched the back of his head, it they weren’t careful River and Jayne were going to drive Serenity to ground long before the baby was born. “Jayne, Sara, Zoe finish separatin’ the supplies for this area. I’ll radio when everything is clear.”
“Or when everything goes sideways,” Simon snarked from where he gathered his supplies.
“Well, you’re on the front lines today, doc,” he replied jauntily, “you’ll be there to patch me up if’n it does.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Sara said conversationally as she marked the inventory Jayne was moving.
“Shouldna done what?” he asked.
“Yelled at her,” she shrugged, “made her feel like she wasn’t strong enough.”
“She’s preggers,” he snapped, “shouldna be lifting heavy things.”
“River is a Slayer,” she rolled her eyes, “in a tiny package with a bun in the oven. But she’s strong enough to lift most of these crates… same as you.”
“I don’t think that’s why she slugged him,” Zoe commented as she opened one of the crates and removed a set of smaller boxes. “And I think Jayne’s going to need to figure it out by himself and talk to River.”
Sara raised an eyebrow, but the look on Zoe’s face made her believe she may have misjudged the reason for the psychic’s reaction. “You’re probably right.”
“Damn women,” Jayne muttered.
River trailed quietly behind the Captain. She had appeared at the edge of town without a word.
“What can I do ‘or ya ‘olks?” a tall skinny man greeted.
“We’re here on behalf of Vincent de Paul,” Mal said cheerily. “We’ve got some seeds, a few tech gadgets for ya, and cloth.”
“We have nothing to pay with,” he told them.
“It is a charity,” River told him, “meant to help those who have little on the Rim Worlds. We even have hands to help with construction and domestic tasks or farming that needs to be done.”
The man’s eyes widened, “That is mighty fine o’ you ‘olks! My name is Mer, I’m the mayor o’ this little piece of dirt.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Mal smiled, “I’m Captain Reynolds,” he looked where they had parked the ship, “the rest of my crew is on their way. Do you have a place for us to put all of the goods?”
“Yes. Yes!” He gestured to the townspeople, “show these people where to put what they brought.”
The mule pulled up sans Jayne.
“Did you push Jayne out?” Kaylee asked.
“No,” Sara said, though she clearly liked the idea, “there wasn’t room for cargo and him.”
“Hello, I’m Corrine,” a middle-aged woman in brown pants and threadbare shirt came along side them. “What can we do to help?”
Sara smiled, “Can any of your citizens read?”
“’Fraid only ol’ Caesar, but his eyesight is nothing anymore,” she admitted.
“Then I will need the head of every enterprise to go through this with,” she explained coming to stand on her own feet.
“I’m sorry, dear, I’m not sure I got that.”
Sara blushed, “apologies. I need those who know what goes on and is needed for each trade your village is involved in.”
Corrine placed a calloused hand on her shoulder, “you’ll want to talk to the store owner, Rusty, and Madam Rosie does the clothes and odds and ends. Peter is your best bet ‘or the crop report.”
“Thank you,” she watched the older woman’s aged faced. She suddenly wondered exactly how old the woman was.
Within two hours the crew was busy. Sara was talking various people about what needed to be done. Mal and Zoe had gone to inspect the houses that needed repair. Jayne was making headway with some of the lumber that needed preparing for the patches. Simon had gone to visit several sick patients. Kaylee was trying to fix equipment that looked ancient.
River sat with the children among the toys Sara had uncovered, one for every child. Some were simply dolls, or wooden blocks, even a rattle for each of the six infants. Inara was telling them stories she had learned as a child. River realized she was being watched by an elderly woman.
“You are unwell, child,” the crone stated.
“I am queasy,” River tilted her head.
The creases were more defined as she smiled, “being with child does that. But I meant your heart.”
“My palpitations are normal,” she pressed a hand to her chest, “my rhythm has not changed.”
“You are ‘ar too bright to play so dumb,” she shook her head as she came to her feet. “Come, child.”
River took her hand and followed the woman out of he small building. And to the edge of the village where the wood was being chopped.
“Tell me what you see,” the crone said, pushing graying hair out of her eyes.
“I see wood,” she stated.
“Not there,” the crone turned her slightly. “Now what do you see?”
River’s mouth went dry. It was Jayne, shirtless. The dusk light was enough to highlight the rivets of sweat as he sawed and measured the lumber. Muscles rippled in a symphony to his movements. Her body felt overheated, and her heart was hurting her ribs.
“I – I see Jayne,” she finally managed.
“I see a man,” the crone replied thoughtfully, “one who knows little o’ what he wants. I see you are a woman of the same mind. You are aware o’ duty. There is more to life, child. Obligation is not what a child needs, love is.”
“Love?” she tore her eyes from Jayne.
“You know what love is,” she stated, “but there are more kinds, things you both should know be’ore the little one comes.”
“Jayne does not want to be around me,” she scowled, “unless he is yelling or forced to. He does not want my help or this child.”
“Sometimes a man doesn’t know what he wants until it is not his,” she enunciated calmly. “And sometimes they don’t know what they have done.”
“I do not want to argue with him.”
“Then don’t argue,” she touched River’s shoulder for a moment, “speak softly, be persistent, and follow your instincts.”
River walked half the distance to Jayne before she registered the crone’s words and looked back. The old woman was nowhere to be seen.
“What are ya doin’ out here?” Jayne’s voice made her jump.
“I do not like you,” she stated looking at him. “You know more than anyone else and you use it to hurt me. You are cruel, Jayne Cobb, and I have done nothing – recently – to deserve such treatment.”
The merc stared at her a long time. “I hurt your feelings.”
River sighed, “to start with, yes.”
“When I took the crate from ya.”
“No,” she shook her head. She could see his confusion. “I don’t like to be called names.”
It finally clicked in his head. “I called ya crazy.”
She flinched. “I am, but is not my name.”
“I’ve always called you…”
“Not since we started sparring and playing cards,” she crossed her arms as though they could protect her from his disregard. “I thought we were friends, even without the partnership… but you have been like an angry bee in my head, you poke and irritate and cause welts. Blame me for the sense of wrongness.” She touched her abdomen in frustration, “wants nothing to do with her–”
Jayne’s arms around her cut off the rest of her ramblings. Her emotions caused more and more ‘crazy’ speak. She wanted to cry from the feel of him. He was solid and strong and he made it quiet.
“Why do you do that?” she asked as she breathed in his scent.
“Hug me when I’m mad at you.”
“Because it makes ya feel better.”
She pulled away from him, “I don’t think I like the idea.”
Jayne’s face went red, “fine, then ya can just cry your eyes out.” He grabbed his shirt off the workbench and stomped back into town.
She dropped to her knees and did just that.
Sara found her sometime later. She hauled River to her feet.
“All of it. Everything. Signals mix and cross and come out garbled. Always at fault. Try to fix things. The spider and crone try to help but they leave out the steps.”
“Jayne was here,” the redhead guessed. “Only he can make you this upset. Doesn’t he realize this isn’t good for you?”
“Hurt him, maybe,” she admitted.
“Tell me what happened.”
River explained their conversation filling in some of the things about their partnership.
“Hmm,” she considered, “what didn’t you like about his hug?”
“He was manipulating me,” she sighed, “Thinks it makes me quiet, less dangerous… knows it does.”
“Did you ever think he wants to make you feel better?” she suggested.
“Jayne does not want responsibility,” she said stonily, “caring is too much responsibility. He thought I would hit him.”
Sara suddenly understood why Zoe thought they needed to figure it out themselves. They had no clue about one another. They would sooner be alone then trust each other.
“Fine,” she said, “I’ve got to get to the kitchens, I promised to help with dinner.”
Within ten days Serenity left the tiny moon. Things between Jayne and River had deteriorated even further. Sara ranted to Inara and Kaylee about the stupidity of men and Slayers. Finally Inara interrupted.
“You seem set on their relationship.”
“Everything has a reason,” Sara replied, “River is meant to be with the father of that baby, is meant to have protection.”
“I think River can take care of herself,” Kaylee commented.
“For a true warrior,” she quoted softly, “the hardest person to love is thy self. The hardest thing to accept is the love of another.” She dropped to Inara’s couch, “for Slayers… this is doubly true.”
“What are you not saying?” Inara’s eyes narrowed. “You are dancing around something.”
“Slayers… especially those who became mothers… they were vulnerable to post-partum depression. More so than other women. Of the nearly 1100 live Slayer offspring… 19 died at the hands of their mothers.”
Kaylee gasped, “that’s awful!”
“I thought the Slayer didn’t suffer any ailments,” the Companion frowned.
“Physically, it is very rare for a Slayer to be ‘ill.’ Mentally, they are as susceptible as any other person… and they are more extreme than any other person.”
“So you want Jayne to be able to protect the baby from River,” the mechanic tried to work it out.
“No, even if he wanted to, Jayne could not physically defeat River,” she sighted. “The common thread of all those mothers was that they were never open to love, and when their baby came… they just expected it to happen – it didn’t.”
“But Simon loves River.”
“Siblings… it’s a bond that little can interfere with, but it is non-voluntary we are conditioned to feel a certain way about them. With anyone else… we have to believe and to a degree choose to love them.”
“And if River doesn’t learn this…” Inara prompted.
“You’ve described her episodes after some of your more violent cases,” they nodded. “Imagine if she’d just killed her baby, not some gun hand.”
Kaylee looked to be fighting tears.
Inara’s mask was firmly in place.
“I need your help with this; you know the two of them better than I do.”