Disclaimer: Joss is god, I am a lowly worshipper.
Spoilers: The series, and for the Baby on Board
Summary: As twitchy as a broodmare with her foals, and twice as deadly
A/N: Jayne went all quiet on me after I shot him. Wonder if he got scared away? Evie got quite mad, and went and knitted him an afghan to make him less frightened of me, and Phoebe chattered day and night at his door to get him to come out. River even tried to coax him out by offering to do naughty but fun things to him. And then Mal threatened to shoot him even more. Finally they sent Zoe in, and boom, out he came. She never told me what she did, and I’m kinda too scared to ask. Broodmare
River sat beside him, holding the tea towel to his wound. Evie kept pestering her with questions, asking her if she were all right. It kept her mind off of Jayne’s wound. River’s knuckles were white with fear. Her first instinct had been to protect Jayne and the babies during the gun fight, but now that it was done, her focus was beginning to buckle and bend, fracture and fling loose like a primary buffer panel that had broken atmo one too many times. Evie watched her quietly after a few noncommittal responses. She saw something brewing behind the younger girl’s eyes.
And then she slapped River.
The whole crew went eerily silent, and Wash’s mouth actually dropped open. River blinked back tears and only pressed her hand tighter onto his wound.
“Mama?” Phoebe whispered nervously.
“Don’t even think a breakin’ on him, girl. My boy needs yer strength more’n anyone. Cryin’ over spilt blood ne’er did no one any good, dong ma
? Need ta be strong, not only fer him, but fer them,” Evie said forcefully, her hand tightening on her shoulder.
“You break and there won’t be nothin’ to bring you back,” River said quietly. “You break and you’ll lose him all over again.”
“Damn right, and I ain’t loosin’ no one, dong ma
?” Evie’s mouth was drawn tightly as she glanced down at her boy. “Gorrammit Wash, can’t you move this thing any faster?”
There was a noticeable hitch as he pushed the mule faster, and Evie muttered something under her breath as she clutched tightly to River. They were quiet when they reached the Cobb home. Simon was pacing on the porch while the good Shepherd was reading from his symbol. River’s face tightened when Jayne groaned in his sleep.
“Mei-mei, are you all right?” Simon called, racing down the steps.
“Jayne’s been shot, doc,” Mal answered for her.
“We should get him to your ship, Captain,” Evie said quickly, glancing over her shoulder. “’Sides, the quicker y’all get off world, the better.”
“She’s right, I’m afraid I don’t have the proper equipment here. How did he get shot?” Simon frowned. “And why is he naked?”
* * * * *
They were on-world for another thirty minutes. River, Jayne, Simon, Zoe and Wash headed back first, leaving the others to gather up their things and thank Evie for her hospitality.
“You tell that boy of mine to send us a capture the second them babies are born, or there’ll be hell to pay,” Evie said tearfully as she hurriedly packed up another box of things for the crew to take with them. A ribbon bound package of captures were placed securely on top as she closed the lid.
“You’ll be the first one we wave, Ma’am.” Mal assured her.
“Keep ‘em safe, Captain.”
“I’ll keep ‘em safe-ish, Mrs. Cobb. It’s hard to keep Jayne a hundred percent safe.”
“Hmm,” Evie said frowning. “Well, you best be goin’, afore they take off without you.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Mal couldn’t help smiling as he turned away from the woman, her two youngest daughters creeping up beside her.
“You tell ‘em we love ‘em, dong ma?” Phoebe shouted after him, Mattie echoing with a “Yeah!”
Malcolm Reynolds had to ponder on what made Jayne Cobb such a lucky hun dun
to get such a loyal family.
* * * * *
It took Simon twenty minutes to remove the bullet from Jayne’s shoulder, another ten to put weave and an antiseptic on it. River was curled up on the spare bed in the med bay watching him work, her hands resting on her bloodstained nightgown.
“River, sweetie, let’s get you out of that dress,” Inara said quietly, trying to lead the girl away from the room.
“Can’t. Need proof, can’t bend or break. Have to be strong, like an Amazon,” River said shaking her arm free of Inara’s clutch.
“River?” Inara tried again. “You won’t do him or the babies any good by making yourself sick. The strongest thing you can do for him right now is to come with me and get yourself looked after.”
“Simon and me will look after him, River,” Kaylee said, coming into the infirmary. “Simon won’t let nothing happen to him.”
Kaylee slipped her fingers from Jayne’s hand, and River let her. Inara smoothed down her hair, cleaned the tears and blood from her body and wrapped her gently in clean clothes, while River calculated how she could have done things differently, but flashes of horror and death passed over her eyes - of what would have been if she hadn’t taken her the risk that had nearly cost Jayne his life.
Inara brushed her hair, murmuring words of comfort to the younger woman. River frowned.
“Is this how a mother acts?” She asked softly.
“I - I suppose.” Inara frowned, her hands pausing. “My mother never did, but not all mothers are the same.”
“I can’t remember her, they cut her out, cut out how I’m supposed to nurture,” River said tearfully, fracturing like she wasn’t supposed to. “Can I?”
“You learned, despite her. I can learn from you, my real
mother,” River peered up into the Companion’s eyes. “You went away. Don’t. Please?”
* * * * *
“You’ve let them go to ruin since I left, Mal,” Inara said hours later, after settling River down.
let them go to ruin?” Mal snapped. “They’s grown folks, ain’t no one let
them do nothing.”
“She’s just a child, she’s barely ready to be a mother!” Inara snapped.
“Who the hell is? She made this choice, for whatever her reasons mighta been, she did it.”
“She’s scared, Mal.”
“You don’t think I saw her face? It ain’t your problem anyway. We’ll have you back to your girls in a day or two’s time, and you can -”
“River’s asked me to stay.”
The room got quiet, and like so very often in the year she was on his ship, Inara couldn’t read his reaction. So she pressed on.
“She called me her real mother, and a pregnant scared girl needs -”
Inara smiled sadly, knowing it was crazy for her to feel this way. Mal just smiled back, as if he knew what she was going through.
“Girl once called me Captain Daddy, girls go needs for their daddies too,” he said quietly, warning her about what she was getting herself into if she stayed.
“It’s only another three months before she has them, and after that ...”
“After that, we’ll drop you wherever you want.”
* * * * *
Jayne sat up in the medbay, talking to Kaylee as they emptied the first crate his mama had given him. River smiled as she made her way into the medbay, a smile on her lips as she looked through the captures. Inara, Wash, and Zoe were in the dining area, having tea. Book and Captain were on the bridge, and Simon was sleeping, exhausted from his unscheduled surgery.
“Everyone’s home, safe and sound,” she murmured, snatching the pile of captures from Jayne’s hand.