Title: Countdown
Author: Lokaia
Rating: R for rating
(A/N): JayneRiver. Thirteenth in a series of thirty for the LJ community, 30Kisses.


There were ten tables. Ten. Filled with food, real food, not bars of bland protein in every color of the rainbow that stimulated one tastebud. Strawberries, apples, celery, real meat. He was staring at it like a starving man and he knew it, and found it incredibly difficult to care. Perhaps he would have found it easier if he tried - but that was beside the point. In fact, probably the only thing keeping him from running over to the tables and gorging himself was River on his arm, tightening her hold every time he tried to move toward the tables.

Rutting bitch...


There nine men. Nine who had come up, completely disregarding that he was on her arm and he was scary, to request to dance with her. Nine men who abruptly scampered off when he glared fire at them. Or so he thought. Because when he went to glare at Man Number Nine, he happened to glance to the girl on his arm. The fire in his eyes was made with a match - the fire in hers was a flame thrower.


There were eight glasses. Eight glasses of champagne sitting on a tray and, gorramit, if he couldn't have food he'd sure as hell get to drink. He'd had champagne before, the cheap stuff they sell on the border planets sinc they only sell what they can make themselves. This stuff, pale gold and bubbling, lifted off the tray and inhaled - must be delicious. And as he lfited it to his lips, his eyes caught on those of his companion. And then on her mask. A mask that couldn't be lifted to eat or drink without revealing who she was.

With a sigh, he replaced the flute back on the tray. But he was definitely stealing some before they left.


There were seven women. Seven women who had come up to River to compliment her dress, one or two who had complimented her 'beau' in soft words they thought he couldn't hear. He had fun glancing over to them right after, grinning jauntily and waggling eyebrows. One of them flushed bright red and scampered away. The other one smirked and walked away with a slow swing to her hips. Hmm...

A poke from the girl on his arm. Right, the job. They had a job to do and he couldn't go about rutting with random women just because they were attractive, available, and rich.

He'd just keep telling himself that. All night. Sigh.


There were six pillars. Six pillars that surrounded the dance floor, closing it off like a cage. He and his companion made their rounds on the outside of the pillars, looking for and making note of the people Mal had told them to look for. Not that they knew why they were looking for these people, or why it mattered that Sir James Jameson (yes, that was his real name) ate thirteen grapes that night, and not that Jayne was going to admit that circling inside the pillars made him instinctly nervous. Like being in a cage. But he wouldn't say that.

Then again, he didn't need to. It was the girl on his arm that kept him on the outside of the pillars, on the outside of the bars.


There were five dances. Five dances that Jayne couldn't recognize, much less perform. Male guests were becoming more bold, more insistant with dance requests for River and her escort was getting pissed. So the next time one of them came up, Jayne watched the dance carefully. Did he know it? Could he memorize it? Could he sweep her out onto the dance floor and shock all her little 'suitors' with his mastery of the dance?

...No. This was fucking ridiculous.

So Jayne does the next best thing. When the next man walks up, before he can even finish his request, Jayne has moved his hold from River's arm to tight around her waist, fingers splayed against her stomach.

The way she giggles as the man dejectedly walks off and leans her head on his shoulder makes it worth it.


There were four guards. Four guards frowning and gesturing to them, glaring whenever Jayne met their gaze. Frowning back, he looks around for exits that don't lead directly past the guards. How do they get out? Do they need to get out?

"Mal stole our invitations." Her eyes are dark, but the way she looks at him, he can tell that she's smiling. "The real guests just walked in. They're going to call us frauds."

He could ask her how she knows when she hadn't been in a position to see them. But he'd rather just lead her off to that side exit he saw.


There were three steps. Three steps taken before guards shouted and took off after them. And that, Jayne thought, ruined their cover about enough that grabbing River by the wrist and full-out running wouldn't be much of a problem.


There were two miles. Two more miles before they reached the ship, but at least they'd lost the guards and could walk now. Running in her heels had been difficult for River, though, and he let her slip an arm through his, lean on him to keep the weight off her feet. And when they passed out of a wooded area, her skirt torn in places, burrs stuck, and she tripped and fell into him, it wasn't such a transition to put his arm around her waist instead. To keep her standing, to keep her steady.

And when she slipped her arms around his neck, the mask fallen aside to reveal that sweet and slightlyoff smile of hers, he didn't mind letting her lead the dance she started in the moonlight.


There was one pocket. One long, deep, waterproof pocket that Kaylee had sewn into the back of her dress. And when they arrived back on the ship and River carefully unloaded strawberries and apples, celery and carrots, and a bottle of champagne wrapped carefully in what was, apparently, a stolen banner from the party, the joy of the crew was so intense that no one even looked at him sideways when Jayne threw his arms around her for a bear hug.