Title: Apple, Apple
Author: Syn
E-Mail: veruca_werewolf@hotmail.com
Rating: PG-13
Content: Jayne/River
Disclaimer: Jayne and River belong to Joss and his minions.
Spoilers: Ariel and War Stories
Summary: River redefines forgiveness.
A/N: More J/R cuz I like it so much. This is kind of a weird one though.
Feedback: It would be much appreciated. :)

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It's dark when I wake up, sweating and warm, hair tangled around my face and a foul taste in my mouth. Blinking in the darkness, I notice shapes that are familiar and steady. The wall beside my head hums with power and I count the miles as minutes pass.

The fog over my mind has been lifted and I'm right as rain. The crook of my arm hurts from Simon's needles and I massage the sweaty skin with my fingertips, suddenly too awake to sleep and too full of sane energy to sit here and listen to Simon steadily breathing and mumbling in his sleep. I feel like I've suddenly been transported to the childhood I barely remember. A sudden burst of memory and I think of all the times he would watch over me as a child, keeping me safe.

Well I'm not a child anymore and I want to walk the halls and stare at things with new eyes. My stomach growls and I remember the taste of apples from earlier that day. The promise of the fruit is more intoxicating than sanity and I sit up, swinging my legs over the side of the bed, wincing as the cold floor sears the soles of my feet. The cold travels upward and I embrace it, wrapping my arms around my chest in an effort to keep the heat of sleep with me.

The door slides open silently, thanks to Kaylee's constant care. Simon doesn't even move as I close it behind me. The hallway is dark and deep shadows reach out with black fingers, dipping over my toes and threatening to take me with them. Not today, thank you.

The galley isn't far off and as I walk through the door, I'm suddenly transfixed in a flood of light. Blinking in the bright lights, I squint and see HIM sitting there, a shiny red bauble in his hand and a knife in the other. His eyes flick upward and his lip curls in that familiar way.

"What the ruttin' hell are you doing in here, girl?" He asks with a growl and I think I see a lion rippling across his features. He's like a great big cat, stalking his prey with a lean, easy grace.

"I was hungry." I say, inching forward, cold feet soft on the floor.

"Captain says you ain't supposed to be out of your quarters without that brother of yours." He's cautious, holding the knife in his fingers with assassin-like precision. He's a killer...mustn't forget that.

"He's asleep. I just want an apple."

"Well take one and get to bed." He says as he lifts the knife to his half-peeled apple, juice running down the blade of the knife. It drips on his fingers, but he doesn't notice. He's watching me, his dark eyes like apple seeds in his head.

"I'm not sleepy."

"Don't much care."

"What are you doing in here?" I've slowly inched forward, hugging my arms to my chest, a chill on my shoulders. Should have put on a sweater.

"I don't have to answer no questions." He spits, biting into an apple slice and chewing like that lion inside his skin.

"You can't sleep for all the men you've killed. One bite for each bullet. All red, like bloody, shiny apples." My voice comes out a whisper and I almost want to ask myself where it came from. Thought I was better. Thought Simon had found the key to that lock. Seems like ghosts are getting out of the keyhole.

He looks up at me, stopping in mid-chew; those apple seed eyes slicing into me like the edge of his knife. "Girl, I don't..."

"I feel the same way. Couldn't look at the whites of their eyes. They just went pop. How do you do it?" The seat next to his is empty and I sit down on it gently. He doesn't move, his knife still clutched in his hand, knuckles showing bone.

"You need to get back to bed."

I ignore him and take an apple from the bowl into my hands; twirling the red fruit in my hands and watching the lights undulate across the shiny surface. Stories from the Preacher's Bible come back to me and I hesitate before biting into it. The first taste of any apple is always the sweetest and you have to learn to savor that first flood of forbidden knowledge.

My eyes flick upward and I catch his gaze, biting into the apple and sucking on the juice that rolls out over my tongue. As I watch him, he swallows hard and shifts in his chair, the knife lowering slightly. I swallow and twirl the fruit in my hands once again, letting him watch in silence.

"Why did you buy these, Jayne?" He's startled at the sound of his name and he shakes his head as if he's clearing it of some dastardly thought.

"What's it matter to you?"

"Matters a lot. You think a crate of apples can make it all better. Like Mommy kissing your knee." He starts once again and sets the knife down between us. My gaze flickers from the sharp object and back to his face. I remember picking up one very like it and slashing him down the middle. My gaze goes to his strong, callused hand and I remember the feel of it across my face.

"I don't know what you're talking about..." He says, shifting once more and setting his half-eaten apple on the table.

"Apples are yummy." I take another bite and lick my lips. He goes quiet once more and swipes at his lips with the back of his hand.

"You won't...won't tell the others, right?" His eyes have left mine and he looks down at the floor. I didn't know a lion could feel shame, but I can see it tainting his expression.

"Never. None of their business." I say and the knife glints in the lights. The edge is wicked, serrated halfway down, and covered in white apple meat. His apple. His mouth stains on the blade.

Quick as lightening I grab for it. He's a fast cat and he goes for it at the same time, but my fingers are butterflies and they snatch it first. It dangles from my hand, wicked and dangerous.

"Give me that..." He extends his hand like I'm a rabid dog. Don't want to hurt him, but he doesn't know that. I pull the knife closer to me and watch as he inches closer too, leaning in carefully.

Slowly, deliberately, I cut into the apple in my hand, slicing with mathematical precision into the red hide. A slice comes away in my fingers and the juice drips down my knuckles. He's still reaching and I let him close his hand around my wrist. His grip is strong and sticky.

"Give me the knife girl..." Memories are etched across his features. Maybe he's having phantom pains in his chest. Maybe he's too close to me now. Maybe his breath is sweet and warm against my cold shoulders.

He presses hard on my wrist, the muscles quivering until the knife drops from my nerveless fingers. It hits the edge of the table and clatters to the floor at our feet, but I don't care. Our knees are touching and if I reach out, I can touch his face and feel the lion under his skin.

My free hand lifts into the air and I graze his cheek, meeting those apple seed eyes that are too confused to make sense of the world. I know that look all too well.

"River..." It's the first time I've heard him say my name and I'm not unhappy with the way his mouth forms the word. His mouth is drawn into a frown, but I can feel the purr under his skin. More ghosts escape the keyhole and I listen as they float around me.

"You wonder if I taste like apples now." His grip on my wrist tightens and I feel a twinge of pain. But it's nothing. My fingers light over his rough facial hair; his mouth opens slightly as he thinks about what I've said. My hand leaves his face suddenly and I take his other hand in my own. His fingers smell like apple juice and a musky, masculine scent.

"What are you--" He chokes off his question as I suck one of his fingers into my mouth. He tastes like apples, just like I knew he would. I swirl my tongue over the tip, enjoying the textured feel of his skin against my tongue. He suddenly jerks his hand away from me, pulling back and dropping my wrist. "Girl, I don't know what you're doing, but it's...you're..."

"Forgiving you."

"Forgiving me? I don't think that's what I'd call it."

"Maybe this is a new definition."

"Maybe you should go back to your brother."

"Maybe I don't want to."

"Maybe I'll make you."

"Maybe you could try."

"Maybe I'll slap that smartass smile off your face."

"Maybe I'll kiss you."

That stops him dead in mid-maybe and he stares at me with wide eyes. And then, before he can recover, I lean in and press my lips to his. It's not the sort of kiss a girl is used to; not a quick fatherly smooch, or a brotherly peck on the cheek or forehead kiss, not even a hungry, excited first kiss. This kiss is all scratchy and hard. His lips are moist and unyielding and he pushes me away quicker than thought.

"Jayne..." But I get cut off as he pulls me to him. This time I'm the surprised one, but my recovery is speedy, as his kisses get none too gentle. Just like a lion to go for the kill. Time to make him into a kitten. I pull away and frown.

"What?" His cheeks are flushed and his big hands are spread out over my shoulders, warming me with his heat.

"You're not doing it right."

"Gorramit! I do not get you! First you wanna and then you d--" He stops in mid-sentence as I climb onto his lap. "This is new."

"I'm going to forgive you the right way."

"Huh?" His eyebrows rise in more confusion and I curse my mouth for not forming the right words.

"Like this." Then I kiss him, slowly, pulling back when he gets too rough as a punishment. The lion slowly melts into a kitten and I feel his arms grow heavy around me, his fingers inching under the straps of my nightgown. His hands venture too far south and I slap them away. He growls, but doesn't protest.

I like his kisses now. They're smooth, slow and they make me feel like a real girl. The girl I would be if I could stuff up that keyhole. His hands feel nice in my hair and his hair scratches across my chin in the best possible way. My stomach suddenly growls as it slides against his and I pull away and smile.

"Still hungry."

"Me too." He pulls me in for another kiss and, just as our lips touch, I hear a familiar voice.

"River? Where are you Mei-Mei?" Simon calls from out in the hallway, the shadows clinging to him like they tried to do to me.

"Crap." Jayne mutters and I calmly slide over into my own abandoned chair, picking up my forgotten apple. I take a bite of the browning fruit and look up to see Simon round the corner and enter the galley. His hair is mussed and his eyes are bleary. Poor thing.

"What are you doing up? And what are you doing here with her?" He shoots daggers at Jayne and walks over to me, putting his hand on my shoulder protectively.

"I was hungry."

"Why didn't you wake me? And what are you doing here?" His last question is directed at Jayne again. He glares at Simon and picks up his own half-eaten apple.

"Just eating, Doc." He says as he takes a bite and stands. "I'm going to my bunk. Night."

"Goodnight Jayne." I call as he walks out, smiling slightly as he winks at me. Simon's eyes narrow and he turns his attention back to me.

"Why didn't you wake me up? You know the Captain doesn't want you walking around by yourself. And I don't want you talking to him..."

"He saved us, you know." I point out, lying through my teeth, but he doesn't have to know that.

"Yes, well...I still don't want you talking to him." He takes the apple from my hand and sets it on the table. "Now come on, we have to get back to bed."

He helps me to my feet and walks me back to the bunk. Sometimes my brother treats me like such a child. He forgets that I'm a girl and that I can do things for myself. But I let him settle me into my bed; one of those brotherly kisses landing on my forehead.

"Goodnight Mei-Mei."

"Night Simon." I say and turn to the wall that's still humming, still racking up miles and miles as we trudge along. The taste of apples lays heavy on my tongue and I smile, drifting into the sleep of a normal girl for once.

(end)

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