Disclaimer: Serenity and her crew are the sole and rightful property of Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, and Mutant Enemy. No disrespect is intended in my borrowing them; no financial gain is mine by writing this.
Notes: NC-17, no spoilers

***
It wasn't that he'd never seen Jayne scared - for a man as big and deadly as the merc was, he could get an attack of the jitters that was downright awe inspiring. No, it wasn't that. It was that he'd never seen Jayne panicked before. But here they were now, rushing blindly uphill, the panting, frightened voice in his ear urging them to go faster, faster.

Mal shifted his grip on Jayne so that the merc's arm across his shoulder didn't put so much weight on his neck; he grabbed Jayne tighter around the waist and half-carried, half-pushed him up the hill. It didn't help that both of them were bloody; his red-slicked hand kept slipping off Jayne's wrist. He wasn't even sure which one of them was losing all that blood, but he couldn't stop yet to find out.

Behind them was the screaming and the fire. Ahead of them should be the cave. If he heard the girl right before she died, they should be coming up on it soon. Mal had a brief flash of the young woman bleeding out in front of them as he desperately tried to push her innards back inside her. She'd managed to whisper the location of the cave, then begged Mal to finish her, not leave her for the Reavers. He squeezed her hand and then pulled the trigger.

It should be around here. It had to be here. He stopped and tried to remember the landmarks. At his side, Jayne's voice was rising higher and louder: "We gotta go, Mal! We gotta get outta here! Mal! They're gonna find us! Mal, you gotta get us outta here!"

Mal covered Jayne's mouth with his hand and whispered to him, his mouth up against Jayne's ear, trying to keep his voice calm. "Jayne, you gotta be quiet now. I'll get us outta here, but you gotta be real quiet now, dong ma? I'm not gonna let anything happen to you. Shhh. Quiet now." It started to work, he quieted down but his breathing was still fast and hard.

There it was! That had to be it. He moved them as quickly as he could to the spot where the tree seemed to grow out of the side of the rocky wall. He kicked aside the bramble and his knees almost gave out on him from relief when he uncovered the small opening that led back inside the hill.

"We made it Jayne! We made it." Jayne didn't say anything but he dropped his head so that his forehead touched Mal's. Mal placed his free hand on Jayne's chest and they allowed themselves a moment to breathe. An explosion from the town below them brought them both up quickly, and Mal wrapped Jayne's arm around him again and helped him closer to the cave opening. "You're gonna have to crawl in - can you do that?" Jayne nodded, and Mal lowered him to his knees as gently as he could, wincing when he heard the merc groan. Slowly he disappeared into the dark.

Once he was convinced that Jayne was safely inside, Mal went back and covered their tracks as best he could. He didn't think anyone followed them; there were enough bodies in the town to keep the Reavers busy. But they were crazy hwoon dan, no telling what they might take into their heads to do. Like check the surrounding area for survivors. It was a full moon, but he hoped that it would still be dark enough to cover what he missed. He made his way carefully back to the cave, and with a last look around he kneeled and crawled backwards into the opening, dragging the bramble with him to cover up the entrance again.

"Jayne?" He couldn't see a thing, but he could hear soft breathing.

"Over here, Mal. I can see ya; it just takes a minute."

Mal scooted over towards the voice and fell over onto the hard body blocking his path. Jayne gave another groan.

"Ta-ma-de!"

"You OK? Did I hurt you?" Mal groped blindly and his hands found Jayne's face. It was sticky with blood. Jayne brought his hand up to cover Mal's.

"Yeah, I hurt my rib back there. It's OK."

"It ain't your rib that's bleeding all over me."

"Nah, that would be my head. Knife, I think. I don't remember." He moved Mal's hand from his face. "I'm sorry about what happened," he mumbled low.

"What happened? That ain't no fault of yours. You didn't call the Reavers to that town."

"That ain't what I mean." He sounded angry and embarrassed. "I mean about going all chicken shit scared like that."

"Jayne, it's Reavers. Only ones not scared are the ones is dead."

Jayne didn't answer, just tried to make himself more comfortable sitting against the rock wall. He gave another groan.

"Look, I know you can take a hit, and you got the scars all over to prove it, but I ain't gonna have you dying on me now that we're all safe and cozy here. So just tell me - where are you hurt?"

"How do you know I got scars all over?" Jayne's voice was a mixture of suspicion and amusement.

"You ain't exactly shy. Everyone on board has seen you walking nekkid at some point. The doctor asked me to talk to you about that, by the way. He's afraid that you'll scar his sister worse than she is, I suspect."

"I expect that ain't all he's afraid of," Jayne said smugly.

"You leave that boy alone, hear. He's a perfectly good doctor, and I don't want you breakin' him or scarin' him off." Mal's voice was even but firm.

Jayne started to laugh but cut it short with another small groan.

"If you won't tell me where you're hurt, I'm just gonna have to find it out for myself. And you won't like it."

"You sure about that?"

"That you won't like it? Hell, yeah."

Jayne didn't answer.

The moonlight spilled in through the spaces in the bramble and it was easier to see now.

His eyes had adjusted to the gloom; Mal took a better look around. The cave went back another 20 feet or so, but it didn't get much higher. He figured neither one of them would be able to stand straight. That wasn't a problem - it made it harder for any attackers, too. Actually it was a good defensible position; the family had lucked out who found this place. Except that they never got to use it. Mal brushed the thought out of his mind. Peering more closely into the gloom, he saw a large bundle.

"What's that?" he pointed with his chin toward the back of the cave.

Jayne's head whipped around and his hand flashed toward the gun in his belt. "What?" His voice was suddenly breathless with panic.

Mal placed his hand on Jayne's leg to calm him. "It's nothin' to worry about. I think we got left a present is all." He scrambled around the merc toward the back of the cave. Just what he figured - it was a large duffel bag. He unzipped it and grinned to himself when he saw the contents. Canteens of water, food packs, blankets, a gun with extra ammo, a small lamp. Clever settlers. "How clever?" he wondered. He took out one of the blankets and headed back to the cave entrance.

"Mal! You ain't leavin'?" Jaynes voice was urgent.

"Quiet now," Mal whispered back to him. He felt around the edge of the entrance and sure enough his fingers found the mountings to hold the blanket tight across the opening. Not soundproof, but it would camoflague a low light. He stumbled a bit but finally managed to hang the covering. It was pitch black in there now. He could hear Jayne's breathing becoming more rapid and labored.

Feeling his way back to the bag, Mal fumbled around inside and pulled out the lamp. It was half-covered, so that the light would only spill where directed. He pointed it toward the back wall and flicked the switch. In his mind he knew the light was low, but suddenly the cave seemed to flare as if the sun exploded.

"Put that out, you ruttin' kuang ren! They'll see us!" Jayne started to crawl toward Mal.

Still crouching he caught Jayne by the shoulders and held him in place. "They're not gonna see us! The light's too low and we got cover now. Might hear us, though. You gotta stay quiet, Jayne." He ducked his head a little so that he had direct eye contact with the other man. They held each other's gaze and Mal watched the panic recede from Jayne's eyes slowly. He applied soft pressure to the broad shoulders under his hands and urged him gently back to former position against the wall.

A diversion. Something commonplace to calm him down, that's what he needed. He took a better look at his companion now and was startled by the amount of blood that covered his face and his arms. His shirt was dark with it. His heart started to beat faster and he moved in a quick crouch toward Jayne, dragging the bag with him.

"Ta-ma-de! Where'r you hit?" He gently felt the big man's torso; Jayne stayed still, watching him. He suddenly grabbed Mal's wrist and held it.

"I ain't dying if that's what you're worried about. Got slashed a couple places; I think a bullet bounced off my ribs." He looked down at himself. "Not all this blood is mine anyways. Some of it could be yours." He looked pointedly at Mal's left arm.

Mal followed Jayne's gaze and was shocked to see his sleeve soaked through with blood. "Huh!" Now that he saw that he was wounded, the pain managed to seep through to his brain. "And, ow!"

"We're a pair, ain't we?" Jayne grinned for the first time in hours.

"I need to check out your wounds, Jayne. No tellin' how long we'll be here."

"You thinkin' we're gonna make it outta here?" Mal saw the grin disappear from his face and heard the fear under the casual question.

"No doubt in my mind. I spent too much time makin' you civilized. Well, more civilized. I ain't givin' you up that easy."

"Aint' neither of us lookin' too civilized right now." And Jayne held up one of Mal's blood-covered hands.

"It's hers." Mal pulled his hand away. "Take off you shirt. I need to check you over."

Jayne settled back against the wall and considered him for along moment. "You, too."

Mal looked at quizzically. "What?"

"You, too. I ain't the only one hurt. I get to check you over, too."

"Fine," he said with exasperation. He lowered his suspenders and unbuttoned his shirt. Shrugging it off was more painful than he thought it would be. "Satisfied?"

Jayne nodded.

Mal pulled out one of the canteens and after a slight hesitation he soaked part of his shirt with it. Pretty much ruined anyway. He washed the blood from his hands pushing back the memory of how it got there, then he turned to Jayne.

"Lean forward. I gotta clean you up a bit." He knelt in front of him, straddling one of Jayne's legs. Jayne leaned forward slowly; his head was even with Mal's chest. Mal started to gently wipe the blood from his face and head. "Yeah, it's a bleeder but it ain't too deep." He breathed in sharply when he felt Jayne's hands on his hips. Jayne was staring up at him, the look in his eyes unreadable. Neither spoke, neither looked away.

The silence was torn by a terrible scream, unearthly. It was followed quickly by vicious snarling growls. Mal hissed as Jayne's hands clamped down like iron claws on his hips. "God, they're here!" The words were barely audible, Jayne's throat must have constricted with fear.

"Jayne. Jayne! It's not Reavers. It's some animal on a night kill." Jayne's eyes were unfocused, all of his attention on the nightmare he was imagining outside the entrance. Mal put his hands in the dark hair and pulled Jayne's face up, then pulled more sharply to bring him back to reality.

"We're all right, Jayne. You hear me? We're safe."

"Mal." He was back. Mostly. "They can't take me. Dong ma?" His hands relaxed their panicked grip, but they stayed in place on Mal's hips. "Don't let them take me. I seen what you done for her. If it comes to that, you do as much for me.

Mal's hand was still tangled in the dark hair; he smoothed it down gently.

"If it comes to that, I mean to do us both."

At that Jayne let his head fall forward against Mal's chest. Neither moved for several breaths. The fear, the tension, the adrenaline rush - it was all gathered around them now. Mal held himself tight, then shuddered when Jayne's lips brushed across the sweat-soaked skin above his sternum. His hand grasped the coarse dark hair again, but he didn't pull Jayne away.

The rough lips moved downward now, an open kiss that left a trail of wet electric jolts as it traveled across Mal's body. Jayne's hands moved from his hips and slowly encircled his ass. He jumped when Jayne suddenly nipped at the flesh above his beltline. He heard the merc give a low growl and then gasped out loud because Jayne was mouthing his cock now through the cloth pants.

Mal moaned and the sound brought Jayne's head up to look at him. Quick as a flash he pulled Mal down on top of him, one hand behind Mal's head as if he were afraid that he'd try to escape. It was the last thing on Mal's mind. He needed release, he needed to feel his blood pounding, he needed flesh on flesh, he needed to know that he was alive after all that death around them.

It had been a long time since he'd felt a man's lips on his, and he gloried in the rough strength of it. There was nothing gentle about this; the both of them needed to connect fast and hard. Their mouths fought each other for dominance, tongues thrusting and dancing. Jayne broke first, gasping for air and Mal followed him, not letting him retreat, taking Jayne's lip between his teeth and biting down. Jayne cried out and pushed Mal down onto his back.

Their wounds were forgotten; they bruised each other some more, hands groping and pushing and pulling on exposed flesh. They attacked each other with mouth and teeth and hand, trying to take each other in, trying to become the other. Their cocks rubbed against each other, steel on steel. So hard there should have been sparks. There wasn't time to undress, they pulled at each others clothing until each was released and under control of the other's hand.

This wasn't a game. This felt like life and death. Mal had never felt such need. Frantically he pushed himself in Jayne's hand, frantically he pulled on the throbbing cock in his. They rolled into each other, onto each other, falling again, always gasping, moaning, their names like prayers on each others lips. He was going to come - he was going to scream. He smashed his mouth against Jayne's and let the other man swallow his cries as he shuddered and came over and over. His hand spasmed around Jayne's cock and with as great a cry the merc came for him.

They lay there, Mal half on top of Jayne, worn out, trying to get their lungs back under control. Mal saw that Jayne's lip was bleeding freely and the head wound had started to bleed a little again, too; the wound on his own arm had opened up again and blood flowed there, as well. The bruises on both of them were already starting to show. It looked like a slaughter happened here, and he laughed against Jayne's chest. Jayne lifted Mal's head and looked at him.

"What? What's so funny?"

"We were so worried about the Reavers that we damn near did their job for them."

Jayne took in the damage and barked a laugh. Mal slapped him gently on the stomach.

"C'mon, let's clean you up. Again."

"Mal?" Jayne held him in place. "You all right about this?"

"This?" He looked at Jayne steadily. "It wasn't our usual outing, I'll give you that. But yeah, I'm good with it." He paused. "Sometimes the blood calls to you. Sometimes you gotta answer."

They both startled at the sound of craft flying overhead. Powerful engines, a lot of them. Alliance. Somehow the message got through to them. Feds to the rescue at last. It broke the mood, and both men stiffly pulled themselves together.

"We wait another hour just to be sure. Then we head on back, see if the shuttle is still in one piece." He looked at the ruined shirt, then shrugged and poured more water on it. He turned back to Jayne.

"Now, where were we?"

Finis.