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A new Day Dawning

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Summary: Months after Early's visit, things start to change. Will the crew of Serenity be able to handle a grown up River?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Firefly > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories(Past Donor)sevangelFR1822121,019162444,4927 Nov 056 May 06No

Talks

Title: Talks
Disclaimer: Not mine
FYI: I know Adam is 43 years old in real life, but Jayne seems younger. In this story,
Mal & Zoe are 36, Jayne is 32, Wash is 30, Inara is 28, Simon is 27, Kaylee is 21,
and River will be 19.
Warning: This is a River/Jayne fic, so if the age thing bothers you, don't read.


Mal had left River with Wash and Zoe, with strict orders to work on the alarms as soon as Kaylee came up. He himself had some things he needed to think on. He was starting to get a little worried about this whole Jayne understanding River thing. The first time he just wrote if off to Jayne not being as dumb as Mal once thought. But just seeing the way he was able understand what she meant in almost no time freaked him out, a lot. He meant it when he said River wasn’t a child, but that didn’t mean she was old enough to even be thinking about a relationship with his hired muscle. Just the thought made him want to toss Jayne out the airlock. But he might just be seeing something that’s not there. So he decided to visit his professional on feelings and the such.

As he approached Inara’s shuttle he decided he better knock. He was coming here for her help, so it’d be best if he didn’t piss her off before he even started talking.

“Yes?” Inara’s clear voice could be heard. He was always amazed how clear and calm she sounded. Even when she was pissed off, her voice was completely controlled. It is very rare when you can get Inara to betray anything by voice.

“It’s Mal. Can I come in?” Mal asks, but starts opening the door before she even responds.

“Well, at least you asked.” Inara says gesturing to the couch for him to take a seat. “Though it occurs to me that you almost never do that. So, what do you want?”

“Whose sayin I want anything? Maybe I just wanted to see how you’re doing.” Mal replies. “Okay, we both know that ain’t true. You got any of that girly tea handy?”

Inara raises an eyebrow at the request, but dutifully pours him a cup of the tea she herself was drinking. She watches as he takes a sip and has to bite the inside of her lip to keep from laughing. She knew he wouldn’t enjoy the jasmine-clove flavored tea she had given him.

“How can you drink that stuff? Taste like perfume or flowers or something like that. Got any honey or sugar?” Mal cringes, wanting to wipe his tongue on his shirt but knew it would only rile Inara up. He takes the jar of honey she handed him gratefully and dumps some into it. He grabs the spoon off the side of her plate and stirs the honey around and takes another sip. Good, the honey was able to disguise the taste of tea.

“Are you going to tell my why you are here or are we just going to have tea?” Inara asks.

“You notice anything weird goin on between Jayne and River?” Mal questions.

“No.” Inara asks, quite shocked by the question. She would have never even given the situation a single though had Mal not brought it to her attention. “Where is this coming from Mal?”

“I had Jayne go to the Tam’s rooms and start takin down River’s bed so we could move it into Kaylee’s bunk. She was sleepin, wouldn’t get up. Startin in on that crazy talk.” Mal says. “Jayne understood her, way before me or the doc could.”

“I don’t understand why you’re assuming that something is going on based on that. He’s not the only person to be able understand her once in a while.” Inara replies, somewhat relieved. It was just like him to over dramatize something. She sometimes thinks he does it just to give himself something to do.

“Yeah, I know that. And if it were only the one time I wouldn’t be here. But it’s getting to be all the time. He’s almost becoming her personal interrupter. Or don’t ya remember last week when she was rambling bout the ‘grip clasps coming undone’. And how Jayne figured out she meant the handrails broke on the catwalk. I thought he already knew or just made a lucky guess. Till I seen him do a couple more times this morning. It’s like they’re speaking their own secret language.” Mal explains.

“Maybe Jayne is just able to process what she says easier then the rest of us. She tends to see things in a very physical way. It comes out in the way she talks. Jayne is one of the most physical people I have ever met and I’m not just talking about how much he likes violence and other such things. He has a habit of always needing to touch something or smell it. Even when he cleans his weapons he has a tendency to lick them. They both have been trained to be cold-blooded killers, River through the academy and I’m guessing Jayne on his own. It just makes sense that they might relate well to one another.” Inara says.

“Never thought bout it that way.” Mal replies. This is the reason he came to her. She sees things about people that he wouldn’t even think to look for. “There’s something besides her crazy talk. It bothered me more than any of that.” Mal goes on to explain what he had walked in on, seeing Jayne kneeling on the bed between her legs.

Inara doesn’t say anything. It’s the first time Mal has ever seen her speechless. In fact her mouth just opens and closes a few times, nothing coming out.

“I have to say Inara, this is the first time I’ve seen you speechless, much less flustered.” Mal comments with a grin.

“You left them alone, together?” Inara asks. “What would motivate you to do that?”

“I didn’t even……how’s it that you’re turning this around to be my fault?” Mal questions.

“I never said it was your fault. It just surprised me that you would leave Jayne alone in a room with River.” Inara calmly says.

“She was sleepin. Didn’t see the harm in it but thanks for pointing it out to me.” Mal defends himself. “I suppose looking back it wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve come up with.”

“No, but it isn’t the dumbest either.” Inara agrees.

“Hey, I resent that.” Mal glares at her. “Would you care to shed some of your thoughts on this?”

“I honestly don’t know what you want me to say. Do I see something happening between them, I’m not sure. If you’re just wondering if they would have sex, then yes, I think they could both be tempted to do that.” Inara says. “Them having a real relationship beyond sex, I’m can’t tell. That would depend on Jayne, I think. If he has the emotionally capacity to be in a relationship that isn’t based purely on sex because I don’t think River would settle for less.”

“What? Jayne is having sex with River?” Mal yells as he stands up, moving towards the door like he’s going to go kill the merc.

“Mal, would you listen to what I said.” Inara stands up to step in front of the seething captain. “This is why I don’t like talking to you about such things. You always over react.”

“I think wanting to kill Jayne for violating that child is not over reacting. It’s just enough reacting.” Mal growls back.

“First off, did you not just say a few hours ago that she wasn’t a child and we all needed to realize that. I’m beginning to think that you aren’t going to accept that any faster than Simon is. Second, I don’t think Jayne could make her do something that she didn’t want him to.” Inara says back, almost yelling.

“Oh, please. Jayne is about a foot taller and has to outweigh her by 130 lbs at the least amount. If he wanted to, there wouldn’t be a damn thing she could do about it.” Mal glares back.

“Yes, I’m well aware of the fact that he is larger than her. He’s larger than most people. What I am trying to say is for him to do what you are implying, he’d have to trust the fact that he could keep her quiet and keep her from hurting him. The first I suspect would be somewhat easy to do but the second, well none of us know the extent of her training. She could very well know many different ways to kill someone with nothing more than a few fingers. The whole point is we don’t know what she is capable of. Do you really think Jayne Cobb is going to test that? Because as unintelligent as he may seem at times, I don’t think he’s stupid enough to do so.”

For the second time, Mal was made to realize he didn’t look completely at all sides of the situation before jumping to a conclusion. He went with the fact that Jayne had once betrayed him and was a huge gruff man and automatically assumed the worst. But now that he thought about it, Inara was right. They didn’t know what River could do. Now Jayne may be an uncouth man who was mostly motivated by what’s behind his trousers, but at the same time he was also one for self-preservation. He wouldn’t risk his life for some trim.

“Going by your lack of a response, I’m going to assume you realize that I am right.” Inara says, smiling sweetly at Mal. “So, if there was ever to be any type of relationship between River and Jayne, I wouldn’t automatically assume Jayne was the aggressor. Because I think that River will have to be the one to do the chasing. I think he will put up a fight before he would ever give into her.”

“So, what are you sayin I should do? Ignore the entire situation?” Mal questions, disbelief coloring his voice.

“Yes I am. If you accuse Jayne of do something that he hasn’t done, it is just going to make him mad, which will probably make him do something stupid.” Inara calmly says. “Things between you and Jayne were tense for months after the job you pulled on Ariel. You’ve only now started to treat him like you used to. There’s no reason to ruin that on something that hasn’t happened.”

Mal didn’t even question how she knew something had happened on Ariel. There was no reason to, he knew she would figure out something was wrong, she always did. “You’re sayin I don’t say a thing, until what? Someone catches them or she ends up in the family way. Cause in case you hadn’t noticed, those two are very good at hiding things when they find the need. They could start sleepin together and none of us would know a thing.”

“Honestly, if Jayne was to develop feelings, real feelings for River, I don’t think he’ll be able to hide it for very long. We all know how possessive and grouchy he can be when it comes to his things.” Inara says with a small smile. “The first time she’s in real danger or the first time somebody looks at her in a way he doesn’t like, we’ll all know. He won’t be able to hide it.”

“Fine, I won’t say anything, although I’m doin it under protest. I still think I should say something but I’ll trust your superior judgment on these types of situations, seein how’s you’re the expert and all.” Mal smirks.

“I knew there was no way we could have a civilized conversation without you bringing my choice of careers into it. Is there anything else? Maybe a jab at my clients or forms of payment?” Inara replies. Her face is void of all emotion as is her voice. She could have just as easily been asking him how his day was.

“Gorramit Inara, I wasn’t even thinkin along those lines. Just meant you’re more versed at understanding people and relationships, better’n anybody else on this boat. I came here for you help, not gonna start in on you once I’d gotten it.” Mal says. He really didn’t mean anything negative when he said it. He was genuinely tryin to give her a compliment. Guess he needed to work on it. He didn’t really have that much experience in complimenting women. With Zoe, he didn’t have to tell her things like that. She knew when he was grateful or appreciated something she did. Never really needed to say it. Kaylee, he’d just give her a kiss on the forehead and tell her good job. With River, the only thing that he ever told her that could be remotely seen as a compliment was that she “ain’t quite right”. Maybe he was more of hundan then he originally thought.

“Oh. I just assumed you were making your typical remark about my being a companion.” Inara says quietly. Mal didn’t reply at her comment or the look he saw flash through her eyes. When had it gotten that she was always expecting him to insult her. Sure, he made his comments about her job but most of em he didn’t mean. He was just bein an ass. He thought she understood that. But the look he just witnessed showed how surprised she was and how vulnerable she really was.

“Always thought I was nothin but a mean, old liumang, but you just proved it.” Mal says. He sets the cup down on the table and leaves the room, not saying anything.

Inara watches him leave, not knowing what to say. Yes, Mal could be an ass at times but she never really thought of him as a mean, old bastard. She was just a little shocked that he said something nice to her. Maybe she was being too sensitive when it comes to Mal, but after the whole thing with Nandi, she found herself feeling too easily hurt by him. It was the reason she was going to leave before. The pain she felt seeing him coming out of her friend’s room was like nothing she ever experienced before, nor wanted to again. And it seems once she opened the doorway to admitting and feeling that pain, she found she couldn’t close it again. She was finding that she almost didn’t want too because at least she was feeling something.

When she was with a client, it was business. She could look at them and see what they needed to feel, to do. And she would do it to the best of her abilities. She would make them feel like they were the only person in the entire verse that she wanted. That she could have had anybody, but she chose them. Whether they just wanted an escort to a social event or if they merely wanted to bed an experienced woman, she gave them what ever they wanted. And she felt nothing but the occasional orgasm. Wasn’t their fault, nobody could touch anything beyond her body. It’s the way a true companion was supposed to be. No emotions, no hurt. But with Mal it was the complete opposite. They never had sex, never really had any physical contact other than the kiss he didn’t know about. He didn’t want anything from her, in fact threw a fit if she tried to help in any way. But she felt him in a way she has never felt anybody before, deep inside herself. She didn’t want to lose that.

~*~*~*~*~

Mal flipped the toilet up and redid the buttons on his pants. He turned on the water to rinse his hands and splashed some water onto his face. Wiping his hands off onto his pants, he walked over to his bed and plops down. He bent over to put his face in his hands. This was turning out to be a bad day. First, the whole thing with Kaylee, though he was getting some control over the situation. Then the whole thing with Jayne and River, still didn’t understand that fully or what he was gonna do about it. Finally, Inara. When she first came onto the ship, he viewed her as nothing more than a fancy whore. Then he got to know her. He almost wishes he hadn’t. Then he’d never come to feel for her. It was so much easier when he thought of her job as whorin. He can’t now. He may say it but he don’t mean it. She is so much more than her job.

Pushing his hands through his hair, he stands up and leaves his room. He makes his way down to the guest quarters to check on Jayne, only to find it empty. The merc was gone as was the bed. Even the boxes that had set on the floor next to the door were gone. The only thing in the room was the sliding door that separated Simon’s bed from where River’s had been. Damn, that man worked fast. When Mal and River left Jayne to finish the bed, he still had the whole thing to dismantle and move out of the room. That was only 35 or 40 minutes ago.

He left the room and headed up to the bridge to see if Kaylee had finally come up. He wanted them to get those alarms installed before it got too late. He would sleep better knowin they were working and he knew for a fact that Kaylee would too. Just as he turned down the hallway leading up to the bridge he could hear two different sets of giggles and looked to the bridge just in time to see Kaylee runnin down the steps, followed by River. They took off past him, still laughing and ignored his “no runnin”. Shaking his head at their antics, he walked up the stairs into the bridge, only to almost fall over with shock.

Zoe, his first mate, former solder, and all around bad ass side kick, was sitting in her husbands lap. That wasn’t out of the ordinary, but her hair was. Instead of the organized mass of curls or the low hung ponytail that she normally wore, her hair was braided into as bunch of little braids. Every stand of hair was braided. It was actually a very becoming look on her, but so completely different from how she normally looked.

“Don’t sir.” Zoe warned.

“What the hell……..I don’t understand……Zoe since when do you take so much care with your hair.” Mal asks.

“I asked you not to sir.” Zoe growls. “You should know I wouldn’t ever take the time to do this.” She gestures to her hair. “River was trying to explain to Wash and Kaylee how to hook up the alarms, but she seemed to get distracted and would kind of go of into hugely large sentences that none of us could understand.”

“Kinda entertaining actually. All about tenses and cuts of things. Didn’t understand a word of it, but it had a certain flow to it. Almost like poetry.” Wash cuts in. He sorta likes the hair. Or likes how he imagines it’s going to feel running over his body. Bad thoughts, must not think them in front of the cap’n. “Guess she figured we couldn’t understand her cause she stopped talking. She sorta floated across the room and jumped up on the counter behind lamby toes here.”

“Actually worried me for a few seconds, specially when I felt her running her hands through my hair. Almost jumped up, but remembered what you said about her playing with your hand. And sure enough, after she finished the first two braids, she started talking more coherently. Well, at least to Wash and Kaylee, personally, I didn’t get any of it. So I didn’t make her stop. She finished explaining the whole processes bout the same time she finished my hair. That’s where River and Kaylee ran off to, they went to get the tools they’re going to need.” Zoe finishes.

“Told ya she could make sense when she needs to. Just needs to focus her attention on something completely to do so.” Mal smirks. He knew they somewhat doubted him bout the whole hand thing, but now that they saw something like it themselves, they’d understand what he meant. “Where’s Jayne?”

“Once Kaylee came up, he went down to her bunk to get started on setting up the bunk beds.” Zoe answers.

“Good. Which alarm are you guys setting up first?” Mal asks only to be interrupted by a low beeping. Wash whipped around to the console to try and figure out what it was. “Wash, I ain’t ever heard that kinda beep. What the gorram hell is it and how do you turn it off?”

Wash continued to look around the entire console but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. “Hell Mal, I have no idea. Never heard it before either. Everything seems to be in working condition and there isn’t anything coming up on radar.”

“No, there’s no ruttin way they did it this early.” Mal whispers to himself. He turned and left without saying anything else. Kissing her husband, Zoe stands up and follows Mal down the steps. She walks up behind him and watches him open the hatch to his bunk with his foot. He didn’t go down, only stood there for a few seconds. She was going to ask what he was doing when she heard the low beeping again. This time coming from Mal’s bunk. Walking over to her and Wash’s bunked, she kicked their hatch open to hear the same beeping. Not saying a word, the two close their hatches and start down to the engine room.

When they walked into the engine room, they were greeted with the sight of Kaylee and River both under the engine. They could hear them talking but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Partly because of the loud engine itself, but mostly because they were both talking to fast.

“Told you with the beeping they would come.” River voice calls over the noise. Within a few seconds, Kaylee had crawled out from under the engine to smile brightly at the two intruders.

“It worked, didn’t it? Y’all heard the beeping and finally figured out where it was coming from.” Kaylee squeals. “Though I don’t get how River heard ya all come in here, over my girl’s rumblings.”

“Noise couldn’t penetrate, molecules changing caressed nerve endings.” River answers, coming to stand next to Kaylee. “Hi Jayne.”

Mal and Zoe turned around to see Jayne behind them. “Need something Jayne?” Mal asks.

“Yeah, need a leveler. Gotta make sure when I set up the beds I don’t get’em lopsided.” Jayne says. “Got one Kaylee?”

“Sure.” Kaylee walks over to her toolbox and starts to dig through it. She returns a few seconds later with the tool and hands it to Jayne. “There ya go.”

“Thanks.” Jayne turns to leave then throws a comment over his shoulder. “By the way, she said she didn’t hear ya come in, she felt ya.”

Zoe looks over to Mal as if to say ’what the hell was that?’. Mal just sends her his ‘I’ll explain later’ glare.

“What the heck was that?” Kaylee asks. “River, since when does Jayne understand ya?”

“Burrows under, changes occur. Safe home is found.” River answers.

The other occupants of the room just stare at her. “Where the heck Jayne when ya need him?” Kaylee asks.

“Why didn’t you two tell us you were settin the alarm up now?” Mal asks, avoiding Kaylee’s questions and the situation dealin with Jayne and River.

“We just got excited bout doin em, that we decided to start. This one’s the easy one, don’t have to go outside Serenity to hook anything up, in fact we’re pretty much done. We connected the alarm into the feeds for the normal coms, bypassing all but the bridge and you guy’s bunks. All I have to do is press the red button and it goes off.” Kaylee answers.

“We discovered that. How does one turn it off?” Mal questions.

“That’s the genius part of it. Come look.” Kaylee walks back to the engine to point underneath where they’d attached the alarm. Flipping the clasps on the side, she opens it up to show a number pad. “There’s a code. I press it in, hit enter, and the alarm goes off.” She proceeds to that. “The code’s my birthday, 0724.”

“Well, good. You two finish up here, and then I want you to get started on the other alarm.” Mal says. “When ya get what can be done inside Serenity, find me. Then we’ll get Jayne to put on a suit and test it.”

“Sure.” Kaylee agrees. She and River return to the engine to finish securing everything while Mal and Zoe leave the room.

“What the hell was that sir?” Zoe finally asks when they get back on the bridge. “Since when does Jayne understand River?”

“Hey the beeping stopped. Wait a second, did you just say Jayne understands River? Was she playing with his hair too?” Wash starts when he sees them walk in.

“No, husband. She was talking plain old crazy River talk. Didn’t understand what she meant. Jayne did, in fact he told us what she meant.” Zoe answers his question. “I just want to know why. Sir?”

“Hell, I don’t know Zoe. Been wondering that myself.” Mal answers. Then goes on to explain what happened early this morning, leaving out the whole bed thing. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about that, didn’t want the whole crew to know. If he saw anything else like it, then he’d tell Zoe. She trusted Jayne less than he did and wouldn’t hesitate to shot him if she felt he was hurting River. So until he had proof, he wasn’t tellin her.

“That’s a little bit on the scary side. The crazy, cold, blooded mercenary being able to understand the crazy, cold-blooded government trained killer. Could lead to all kinds of chaos.” Wash says.

“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking too.” Mal agrees. “Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m going to go tell Jayne to get a suit prepped. Wash, why don’t you go see if the girls have started settin up the alarm for the door.”

“Aye-aye captain.” Wash says with a salute. Mal just gives him a death glare and turns to leave the bridge.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Simon stayed in the infirmary as long as he could. After checking his nose and finding it wasn’t broken or even really bruised, he started cleaning. Sterilizing the infirmary was a task that relaxed him. He liked the order and routine of it. He knew the purpose and home for every piece of equipment in this room. It made perfect sense and was the one place he felt completely comfortable on this ship. Sometimes he actually wanted Jayne to come down and mess it up, just so he could have the excuse to lose himself in here.

It was the best place for him to think. And over the past few hours he had a lot to think about. Some of it was about River, which was normal. He tended spend a lot of time thinking about her. What he knew was done to her, what he didn’t know was done to her, and how to fix her. But today he was mostly thinking about Kaylee. He was a doctor. It was his job to save lives. He even took an oath to always perform that job to the best of his abilities. But he could say, with no doubt, if Jubal Early was on his table, he would kill him. Not because of the whole bounty thing with River. That wasn’t personal, he was performing his job. But because of what he threatened to do to Kaylee. She didn’t do anything to him, she wasn’t even a threat. He was nothing more than a sadistic monster who loved to hold his strength over people weaker than him.

He also started thinking about River sharing a room with Kaylee and realized that Mal was right. He needed to stop seeing River as the 14 year old he sent away to the academy. That wasn’t her anymore. She was almost 19 years old now. She’d also been through more in 5 years than most people did their entire life. But, like he normally did when it came to his little sister, he flipped out and became an ass. Them rooming together would be good for both of them. It would make Kaylee feel safer and at the same time make River feel more like a normal girl. He figures he owes the captain an apology for acting like a ben dan.

The only thing he was completely confused about, and it was what he spent most his time thinking about, was Jayne. How was it that he was able to understand River’s babbling, better and faster than Simon himself did. But most likely it was only the 2 times, the first being the catwalk incident and the other being the little sister/big brother issue. He figured he should probably ask Mal about this issue, as Jayne was most likely to either yell at him or ignore him. With that in mind, he left the infirmary and went in search on the captain.

After checking the bridge, the mess hall, and knocking on Mal’s hatch, Simon concluded that he must be in the cargo bay. Simon enters the cargo bay and his eyes automatically go to Kaylee. She is the most beautiful person he has ever seen. He’s not saying look wise, because although she is pretty, there are women more beautiful in looks. Inara for example. He just means all over beauty. Her personality, her way of always seeing the good in people, even those who don’t deserve it. The way she sees life is beautiful. She appreciates everything from the nasty protein they are forced to eat to the rundown ship they live in. He’s not used to that. The girls he dated before were very shallow. They had more money than anyone would ever need yet they still wanted more. They always took everything for granted, never appreciated what they had. Kaylee was like a breath of fresh air, he’s never known anybody like her, knew he’s never meet anybody else who even closely resembled her. A big part of him thinks he doesn’t deserve her. But that doesn’t change the fact that he does want her. Now, if only he could tell her that without being a ‘boob’, as River called him.

Kaylee sees Simon enter and watches as he stares at her for a few seconds. She wonders if he is comparing her to those rich, fancy girls he used to know; and how she measures up. Raising her hand she waves him over to where she is standing with Book, Wash, and Inara.

“What’s going on?” Simon asks, gesturing to where Mal, Jayne, and Zoe are quietly arguing. Jayne has a suit on, everything but the helmet. As he watches, he sees his little sister move from behind Jayne and gasps at her. She too has a suit on, though hers is not completely on.

“We’re not actually sure yet. Jayne was supposed to get a suit on so he could go out and test the alarm on the door. When we got down her to see if he was ready to go, we noticed you sister was trying to sneak out with him.” Wash explains.

“He isn’t going to let her go, is he?” Simon asks. He remembers the look on her face the last time they went out in space, she loved it. But it couldn’t be safe.

“Ummm…we don’t know.” Kaylee answers.

Simon doesn’t say anything but walks over to where the other group was standing. Mal is the only one talking, Jayne and Zoe were just staring at him. He didn’t hear most of the conversation, but from what he did hear, he guessed they were trying to figure out what River was doing.

“Gorramit Mal. I don’t know why she’s puttin a suit on, why the hell don’t ya just ask her.” Jayne growls back at the captain.

“Mei-mei, why don’t you just let Jayne do what he needs to and we’ll go find something to read.” Simon says slowly to his sister, holding one hand out like she’s a wild animal and should be approached cautiously.

River just rolls her eyes at him and takes a step closer to Jayne.

“Yeah, that worked.” Jayne says sarcastically.

“What would you suggest I do?” Simon says, glaring at the large man.

“Hey girl, what the ruttin hell do ya think ya’re doin? This ain’t no dress up game.” Jayne says, looking down at the small girl.

“Must attend. Mechanical mishap makes silence. Empty no repeats.” River says, smiling up at the merc.

Everybody just looked at the genius, trying to figure out what she meant, everybody except Jayne. “Son, can you understand what she is trying to say.” Book asks Simon, breaking the silence. But before Simon can say anything, Jayne walks over to the closet where the suits are stored and opened the door. He pulls out the smallest helmet they had, then slammed the door shut. He walks back the group and hands it to River.

“Make sure it fits okay.” Jayne orders. River takes the helmet and slips it on. It’s still a little big. She takes it off and hands it back to him. He automatically starts adjusting it.

“Jayne, what the hell are you doing? She ain’t going up with you.” Mal questions.

“Y’ll heard what she done said.” Jayne answers. In response, the entire crew just stares at him. “She said she had to go with me, cause if the alarm ain’t set up right, it ain’t gonna go off and we don’t have anything else to make another one with.”

Nobody said anything, just continued to stare at him. Jayne, tired of them all starin at him, turned towards River. He took in her suit, which wasn’t put on right. Closing the distance between them, he turned her around and starting fixing the back of her suit. When he got it all untangled, he spun her back around and started working on the front. “Ya know, for a ruttin genius, you ain’t got a lick of common sense.” Her response is to stick her tongue out at him.

“What are you doing to my sister?” Simon manages to stutter out. The entire crew had watched as the merc man-handled his sister, but nobody had said anything.

“Fixin her suit, lest ya want her to fill up with air and float away.” Jayne answers without looking up. He finishes getting her suit prepped. He pulled it up and put her arms through the sleeves. Then he actually had to put his hands inside the suit to finish fixing it. He can feel her stomach muscles flutter as his hands pass them. He adjusts the suit as quickly as he can, trying to ignore the feel of her under his hands. As they brush her sides, she lets out a giggle. He continues smoothing out the inside of the suit, trying to ignore her giggles. She starts laughing so hard that her whole body is shaking. “Gorramit, hold still.” Jayne growls at her.

“Can’t stop, it tickles.” She let out between gasps. He quickly finishes getting her suit prepped. Dammit, they should have taken better care of these suits, though it’s the girl’s fault for puttin in on before it’d been prepped. He probably shoulda made her take it off fore he started fixin it, but by the time he thought of that, he was almost done. He removes his hands and closes the front, his hands brushing across her right breast. They both suck in a breath. He quickly steps away from her, dropping his hands uselessly to his side.

“Alright, I guess she can go with you. But I want her tethered to you, Jayne. Nothing better happen to her, dong ma?” Mal says. He watched Jayne fix River’s suit with mixed emotions. Part of him wanted to slam the man across the room for touchin the girl. But another part knew he was just doing what must be done to keep her safe. It was something he’d done to Kaylee himself. Jayne didn’t do anything that could be considered out of line but it still made Mal nervous after what he saw this morning.

“Fine.” Jayne agrees. He turns to get the cord they used to attach one suit to another, but is shocked to see the girl had already gotten it. In fact, she’d already attached it to the front of her suit. Stepping in front him, she grabs him but his suit and pulls him a little closer. Once he is close enough for her to reach comfortable, she attaches the clasp to the front of his suit, rubbing her hand against his stomach a few times. Then she smiled up at him and his heart stopped for a minute. She knew what she was doing, that smile showed it all. She wasn’t crazy, at least not at this moment. She knew the effect she was having on him and she was enjoying it. Luckily his back was to the rest of the crew and it was large enough to hide what she just did. And the suit was baggy enough to hide his reaction.

River stood up at the same time that Jayne turned back towards the rest of the crew.

“I’m still not sure if I want my sister going onside of this boat. It can’t be very safe, no matter what you say.” Simon protests.

“She’ll be alright, doctor. Jayne isn’t going to let anything happen to her, seein how’s she attached to him. Sides, ain’t like they’re gonna be out there for very long. It can’t take that much time do that alarm, right River?” Mal says.

“Handfuls worth.” River replies.

“You sayin I went through all the trouble of puttin this ruttin suit on and we ain’t gonna be out there no longer than 5 minutes.” Jayne says.

“Yep.” River agrees with a grin.

“Great. Get your gorram rear into gear, girl. I still gotta finish your bed once we’re done with this.” Jayne grumbles.

“You rhymed.” River announces. “You’re a poet but you didn’t know it.” Then she giggles. Jayne just rolls his eyes at her and starts walking towards the door. “Hey, why do you get to go first?” She asks, following him.

“Cause I’m bigger.” Jayne grunts out.

“Yes, you have a larger mass, but that doesn’t make you superior.” River says from behind him. He comes to a stop at her announcement, causing River to run into his back.

“Did you just say I had a large ass?” Jayne questions, a little mad. He knew he’d put some weight on in the last couple years, but he didn’t think it was a large amount.

“No, silly. I said larger mass. Means size.” River explains. Then she tilts her head sideways to take a better look at his butt. “But now that you mention it, it is larger than normal.”

“Brat.” Jayne says down at her. Still ignoring the rest of the crew, he and River exit Serenity to slowly make their way to the outside door they are installing the alarm on.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Anybody else find that was strange and creepy?” Wash questions.

Seven hands went into the air, including Wash’s.

“When did Jayne stop addressing my sister as ‘that moon-brained child’? And why would I find it more comforting if he started again?” Simon questions. He was in shock with the ease at which River was relating to Jayne. She had laughed more in the past 5 minutes with him than she has the entire time she had been on this ship. She also didn’t flinch when Jayne touched her. That is what shocked him the most. River didn’t like to be touched. She still jumped away from him when he tried to touch her. She would only let him touch her long enough to give her medicine or to check her for injuries.

“Actually, I ain’t heard him call her that in a long time.” Kaylee says.

“I’m just wondering how Jayne was able to understand what she meant, before anybody else.” Book comments.

“He’s been doing that all day.” Wash answers. “Well a least he has courding to the cap’n.”

“What?” Simon yells. “Why didn’t you say something to me? She’s my sister, I need to know everything that happens to her.”

“You knew, you saw him do it before.” Mal says.

“I thought it was just those 2 times.” Simon replies.

“Well, you thought wrong.” Mal answers back. “Look, I’m dealin with the situation. There’s no need for any worry.” Mal looks over towards Inara, giving her a look. It pretty much said that he’s on the verge of having a talk with Jayne, despite what she told him earlier. “Kaylee, why don’t you and Wash go wait by the door, they should be there soon. Zoe, I want you on the bridge with me. Everybody else is on their own time.” Mal leaves the cargo bay, not waiting for Zoe to follow. She always did, there was no reason to wait.
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