"No," muttered River, under her breath, "No, you are not doin' this to me again. You are not" – she dodged past a passing trader, "doing this to me AGAIN."
She was pushing through the Persephone crowd, her pale-skinned feet sinking into the mud as she pushed against the surge of bodies. Her face was set in grim, if desperate,determination.
"Let me gorram THROUGH!" she shouted, her eyes glowing like coals. As she shoved, her forcefulness drawing surprised gazes from faces around her, she cocked her head to peer above their heads. He had stopped walking, a distance ahead. His head was lowered.
She also came to a halt, and yelled his name. The shape of it on her lips felt alien. It was a word that had since come only to be mentioned in passing, in quiet, accepting - regretful - tones. But now, it was a name shouted, in urgent demand. He was alive. Here.
She yelled again, louder. But no response. She started to push, again, one hand in front of her - another across her stomach, protecting that which she carried.
"Let me through," she shouted again. And then, with mounting desperation. "Please, get out of the way….".
Mal and Zoe were only feet behind her, following in her wake. The others were hanging out of the back of the boat, reaching for view.
"The pig-headed gorram – " Mal was cussing.
"God, this man is beyond – " Zoe swore.
Up ahead, Jayne was standing in a side street, undecided. He looked at his hands again, clenched them, unclenched. His heart was in his mouth.
He murmured: "I don't know – what to..."
But he never finished.
Both Mal and Zoe stopped in their tracks.
Jayne spun around. His hands whipped across his body. No damage.
Then he looked into the crowd. Someone wailed.
"Oh god..!" started Zoe, and then, "River!"
Mal pressed his lips together. What had –
Another gun blast.
And then, like a gust of wind rippling tall grass, the crowd opened up before them. And there she was.
River was standing, resolutely, in the middle of the Persephone carriageway. The crowd were standing in a circle around her, wide-eyed. She was upright,bump protruding, her feet and face splattered with mud.
She had a laser rifle, pointed to the sky. A trail of smoke rose from its barrels. But now she was swinging it down. She pointed it towards the town.
Again, the crowd parted before her. And there, at the end of the open space that rolled out before her, was Jayne.
River's barrels were aimed directly at his chest.
He was looking at her with unbelieving eyes.
"You take one step more away from me, Jayne Cobb," she yelled angrily, pausing momentarily to catch her breath - "and I'll shoot you where you stand!"
Several moments passed before anyone could speak. Passers-by were all looking, with a mixture of terror and curiosity, at the girl who stood in their midst. Her black hair was streaked across her face, and she was breathing, heavily. Her shoulders rose and fell.
They looked at her. Then they looked at the gun. And then, they looked along its sights to where a big, muscular man was standing.
"So," she began again, her voice edging on shrill, "First you leave me at Montgomr'y. And now you're doing it again?" Her tone was one of rage, confusion. "How long have you been here for? How long?"
The big man carried on looking at her, his mouth hanging. He was staring at her with a strange expression. He looked suddenly, incredibly fatigued.
"Jayne!" cried the girl, her arm now beginning to tremble, "Talk to me, NOW. Or by god I will do for you. You gorram piece of –". Her voice began to break. "Gosa," she sobbed. The surge of adrenalin she had felt on seeing him was leaving her. Instead, just as him, shock was taking over.
At that point, the crowd saw a dark haired man and attractive black woman came up and stand beside her. The man laid a hand on her shoulder, pressed his lips to her ear, and started to whisper. Meanwhile, the woman wrapped her fingers around the barrel of the gun, and looked her in the eye.
The girl continued to stare. For a while, she seemed to resist. But slowly, she lowered her rifle. The black woman took it from her, and began strapping it to her belt. Then she began to lead to young woman towards one of the tarpaulins, with a protective arm around her shoulders.
The man turned to the crowd and warned: "Nuthin's to see here..."
At which point the locals started to mutter, and then fell into another swell.
Jayne carried on looking at her, as Zoe guided her to the tarp alongside. River glanced at Zoe, then at him, nervously. Meanwhile his eyes flashed to the generous swell of her abdomen. His brow furrowed.
Immediately he started towards her, his body lurching with nerves and uncertainty. But Mal caught him however, with an arm across the chest.
"Okay," said the Captain. "That didn't quite go to plan."
But Jayne could hardly hear him. Every sense was targeted on the small woman who stood now only feet before him.
"Just leave it a moment," added Mal. "She's had a shock."
The merc blinked. Then he looked at Mal with a strange, desolate expression. "She's had a shock?" he murmured. And then, exhaling quietly: "You din't tell me she was, uh."
He shook his head.
Mal looked at his face. He was suddenly pale and drawn, as if someone had sucked the energy out of him. Emotion, thought Mal. Shock. Worse than any ten-mile run.
Mal shrugged: "I know, I'm sorry. I thought it best to –"
He was surprised, however, to see that there were already tears in the big mans eyes. He looked across at Mal, with an expression so fragile, that for a moment Mal thought he would break.
"Who's she gorram been with?" he sobbed, with a voice like broken glass. "Why din't you tell me.."
Mal to a second to register what he was asking. But when he did, he couldn't help but let out a nervous laugh. Jayne's eyes suddenly snapped into an expression of glowering rage.
The Captain coughed, and then blurted: "No one, you gorram dumb sommbitch. For god's sake Jayne, do I need to spell this out?"
Jayne continued to look at him with a desolate, blank expression.
Mal sighed. He looked across at River, who was obviously beginning to calm, as she talked in low tones to Zoe. As she was speaking, however, her eyes never strayed far from Jayne.
"For god's sake, Jayne," he muttered. "It's yours."
The merc looked at Mal with incomprehension. But slowly, as the words sank in, his face began to burgeon with understanding. He blinked, and then put out a hand to steady himself against the smaller man. Mal's knees bent under the strain.
Jayne turned his head to look at her, again. Her eyes were nervy, teary and red. He felt a wave of protectiveness come over him like a cloak.
He hesitated for a moment. But then he took a single wobbly step in her direction.
Mal stepped away, while gesturing at Zoe to do the same.
As River watched what was happening, she felt as if she was removed from the scene, watching it happen to someone else. She barely felt Zoe's arm leave hers.
He was approaching her.
In many ways, he looked no different. But, she noticed, despite his current dazed expression, he was holding his body in more like the ways of old. He was lighter on his feet - no longer weighed down by the past. And she saw, that although he was obviously nervous, his whole body was focused on her.
She could see it in the way he moved. It reminded her of the way he had been all that time ago, in the copse on that dusty planet. But whereas then, the driving force had been more physical - he desire for her - this time, she could see vulnerability in his eyes. He was making no attempt to hide it. He needs me, she thought. And then, with a knot of emotion in her throat - he's been so lonely.
A wave of empathy passed through her.Because despite it all, and how far she had come, she had always been aware that nothing had quite filled the gap he had left. Not even the life within her.
I've missed you, she thought. His eyes were as blue as sapphires.
And you look so - beautiful.
Suddenly, he was right before her, his tall figure looming over her own.
Jayne looked at the woman before him. When he had been on his way to the boat, he had had so much to say. So much fear, but most of all, so much care. He wanted - no required - to tell her how much he had missed her. That he had thought of her pale skin, her kind, dark eyes, her cool body - every day.
But now, as he stood before her, and he looked into her terrified, questioning eyes - she realised he had no idea how to start. What words to use. Her face was so familiar -but yet also so strange. It had been so long.
All he wanted to do - was touch her.
River continued to gaze at his face. However, momentarily, she felt a warm glow on her stomach. She looked down, to find that Jayne had laid a hand, gently,on her bump. He was now looking at it. His skin was dark, scarred. But his eyes were as a child's.
River felt a strange, peaceful sensation move through her body. For a few seconds, they were still.
She started slightly as he dropped Vera into the mud.
Then he reached out his other hand, wrapped his dark fingers around her pale arm, and pulled her towards him. She closed her eyes, exhaled with relief, and relaxed. She felt his arms wrap around her.
Her feet slowly left the ground as he held her to his body.
Jayne pushed his face into her hair, and breathed.
Jayne sat out on the ramp and looked at the blue sky above him. The boat had set down on some dusty, empty terraform – as ever, Kaylee had repairs to make. But it was okay. He liked it when they stopped off like this.
It gave him the chance to walk out into the sun.
It also, he noted, gave Mal a bit longer with Inara.Was only a matter o' time before he finally got the nerve up, thought Jayne.
He looked down at the small, olive-skinned baby on his lap, and then at the variety of other pistols, bullets, and cleaning implements laid out on the ramp before him. The child looked uncomprehendingly at the guns, then looked back at Jayne.
"'kay, "began the merc, as his son watched him with attentive, blue eyes, "This, " he pointed, "is Vera. Now she's my very favourite gun. So you ain't to touch her, well, at least not for a little while. And you clean her using this grease stuff – no don't eat it .."
The baby had grabbed the grease tin out of his hand –
".. although I dunno what its made of, but, " Jayne stuck a finger in it –
"Hm, actually, it don't taste too bad."
Behind him, he heard the familiar sound of River's boots. They stopped just behind him, and she crouched down, and snaked her long arms across his shoulders.
"I'm not sure that's – healthy," she said, kindly.
"Hm," he replied, and put the tin to the ground. The baby pressed his hand against his father's jaw and gave his mother a wide, sunny smile.
"You off on another job then later?" asked Jayne of River.
"Yeah, it's my turn. You gonna be okay with him?"
"Yeah, 'course," he said. "I haven't even start'd to show the boy the clip-loaders, so plenty of stuff t'get through." At which point Jayne learnt forward and picked up one of the smaller pistols that lay on the floor before him, and waved it in front of his son's bemused face. "See, look, Lester, this one's a beauty.."
River smiled. "Well," she said, "Just don't let him played with any loaded ones, okay?"
Jayne tipped his head back and flashed her a look. "I'm fairly dumb," he said, "but I ain't that dumb." And then, after a pause: "And anyway's - you'd ruttin' kill me."
River ran her fingers through his hair and started to raise herself up. But just as she began to move, she hesitated. She quickly lowered her head back towards Jayne's, and laid her chin on his shoulder.
"So is it all…as you thought it would be?" she asked, gently. "Since you came back? I mean, it's not exactly an average way of life, is it…" Her voice trailed away, uncertainly.
Jayne lowered his pistol back onto the ramp, and raised his eyes to look across the great expanse of desert that opened up before them. For a moment, he was quiet.
"If ya mean it's dangerous and scary," he began, "..considerin' your still a fugie, weird 'cos I have to keep my bunk tidy, and – " he glanced at his son, "sometimes noisy, then hell it ain't average. But then I guess never looked for average. I jus' wanted to do what I had to do."
He then lowered his eyes, before adding, quietly: "Jus' turns out I found someone gorram amazin' to do it with."
Behind him, she flushed red for a moment. As she did so however, Jayne's face fell into a serious expression.
He continued: "But you must remember - if you ever wanna go, any time, to do stuff wi' your brain, be more than this, you gotta say. I'd hate it, but I know that things change, and well, when they do, you gotta go with 'em rather'n avoid it. I know that –"
River reached round a hand and pressed it over his mouth. "I know," she said."I know. You don't need to say."
She took her hand away, before continuing: "But you should also know that I am usin' my brain. Two years us bein' chased by the Feds and still we've kept goin'."
"Not without the others," said Jayne, "We'd not've doen it without 'em."
"Of course," she agreed. "But then they'dve also struggled without you & me, you big, mean…" At which point she pressed her mouth against his ear, and started to whisper just exactly what she….
Jayne's face went into an intense stare. "Hm," he said.
Then, returning to himself, "Stop it, you gorram devil-woman. Not in front of the kid." But as he spoke, he was laughing. She smiled, raised herself up, and walked away.
Jayne looked out again at the desert.
Slowly the laughter fell from his lips, but he continued to smile. Then he looked down again at his baby son, who was gazing at him with unblinkered adoration. Lester then narrowed his eyes in concentration, before pressing his tiny hand into a tiny fist.
Jayne stood up, and lifted him into the air.
"C'mon son," said the merc, "let's go find us some beetles or sumthin'. I tell ya, once you pull their legs off, they do the dang most curious thing…"
Hi, I hope if you go this far you enjoyed this fic. It kinda fell out of me and I really enjoyed it! A Boy Named Sue is a Johnny Cash song for those of you who didn't get the ref. Listen to it, it's a Jayne song.