"You need to see to your sister, Doc," commented the Captain. "She's starting to grate on everyone's last nerve."
"I know," he replied with a resigned sigh. "Nothing I have tried lately seems to help her. I am running out of pharmaceutical options and there are no neurological treatments available...at least not on the ship."
"Yeah, well, I ain't gott clue what you just said. Drug her if you gotta. Even Kaylee ain't as bright and cheerful as her usual shiny self. Kinda hard to be when a hyperactive banshee won't let no one sleep more'n 4 hours."
Simon retreated to the infirmary and readied a dose of sleep aid. He commed Kaylee to assist him in cornering his sister, hoping that her presence would calm the skittish girl.
However, River ran away screaming and dodged them both. Finally, in the common area, they tackled her to the couch where she began kicking and screaming even louder.
Just then, Jayne barrelled in roaring, "What in the HELL is going on in here? A man's likely to shoot someone he hears that kinda ruckus!"
Startled by both his presence and the outburst, Kaylee and Simon momentarily lost their grip on the struggling girl. River took the opportunity to dart out from under them and ran to hide behind the glowering mercenary.
"Please, help me," she pleaded with him, huge eyes brimming with tears. "Two by two, hands of blue. The dragons come for me in the dark and I can't fight them if I can't see."
"River, no one and nothing is going to come for you. You are safe here with me, with us," Simon countered.
She just sniffed and rolled her eyes and complained, "You never understand. Always answer with needles. Needles can't slay the dragons."
"Hey! Here's an idea: How 'bout you not drug her so much?" Jayne sneered. He wasn't really defending her. He just figured taking so many injections and pills had to be bad for anyone ain't dying.
"I've tried that. For more than a week now. THAT is why she's acting like this," he answered.
"She's drivin' me nuts Jayne. I can't get no work done and Serenity needs me," Kaylee finally offered.
"Naw. She just needs something to occupy her mind and keep her busy. A body's likely to go stir-crazy without nothin' to do. And we got lots o' nothing out here, most of the time. She needs a hobby. Like I got my guns."
"She has hobbies, you ape. She reads copiously and she enjoys drawing and painting."
Jayne rolled HIS eyes and said snidely, "Somethin' NOT boring. 'Sides, my Pa always said 'Idle hands and idle minds are a waste of good--"
"Yes, well," Simon cut him off. "I am sure your father has many such pearls of wisdom, but no doubt he has limited experience in dealing with mentally and emotionally damaged teenagers." He paused, then continued contemptuously looking Jayne up and down: "Or maybe he does."
"Did," the man growled, his jaw clenched tightly with barely restrained anger.
"Shu muh?" Kaylee asked quietly.
"DID," Jayne replied a little louder. "He died 'bout 8 years back and my sister Matty's a bit tetched in the head. So, yeah. He did have experience and I trust him miles more'n I do you."
"It was peaceful, Jayne," River whispered. "He didn't suffer and he was surrounded by the people that loved him."
"Not all of 'em," he answered, his voice edged with guilt and regret.
The big mercenary gave her a grateful half smile, then swatted her behind playfully. "Go get somethin' more comfortable on, girl. Like them black shorts you got."
Simon, concerned about Jayne's plans and slightly off-put by his familiarity with his sister, demanded to know what he had in mind.
"Well, first we're gonna clean this room. Then we'll move down to sweep, mop and dust the cargo bay...floor to ceilin'. After that...well, I dunno yet. I'll think of something. I suggest you take advantage of the quiet to get some sleep."
"I don't think I am comfortable leaving my sister..." he said hesitantly.
"Look, ya'll been bitchin' 'bout how she's on your nerves, won't settle down none. Well, nothing tuckers me out faster than some good old fashioned hard work. Gotta work on her some, too."
"Really, I don't know about this," Simon continued.
"Oh Simon. Let him try! If it don't work none, you can always give her a smoother later," Kaylee begged.
Simon silently assented and turned to head toward his room. He paused a moment to throw Jayne what he hoped was a significantly threatening look, then continued down the hall.
Jayne smirked and shook his head, clearly unfraid of the doctor and called out, "Hurry your scrawny ass up, girl."
Several hours later, Mal and Zoe found them asleep on the couch, her head in his lap and her hand tucked under her cheek. Jayne, his head thrown back and snoring slightly, had his arm curled protectively (possessively?) around River's shoulders.
"Do I need to be concerned about this?" he quietly asked his first mate as he looked on in shock.
Zoe turned her head to look at him and replied, "Best leave 'em be, Sir. She ain't so much as squawked in hours, and personally, I am enjoying the peace and quiet."
Mal nodded and they strode off toward the cargo bay.
"What the..?" Mal uttered, astonished at what he saw once they got there.
"Shiny," Zoe said with a smile.
"Ain't it just!" he chuckled.
More than 2 weeks later, Book commented to the Captain on how well River seemed to be doing. "It's quite a marvel."
"More like a miracle," Mal responded as they both sat at the dining table, coffee in hand.
"Why Captain, I thought you didn't believe in miracles."
"Well, if the shoe fits..."
Suddenly, Jayne burst into the room (as was his habit, it seemed) and called, "Come out, come out wherever you are!"
"Uh, Jayne? You mind tellin' me what it is that you are doin' exactly?"
"Hide and seek, Cap'n. And I just know Kaylee's in here; I can smell the engine grease."
A quiet giggle came from the pantry.
Jayne threw open the door and tagged her.
"Gotcha!" he yelled proudly.
"Shucks. It don't ever take you long afore you find me. I can't hide as good as River can," she pouted prettily then plopped down next to Mal.
"Now, I just gotta find River. Gorram girl always manages to elude me," Jayne said with a smile and headed toward the cargo bay.
Simon, in the kitchen (since it was his turn to prepare dinner), complained, "I haven't seen her in what seems like forever, let alone talked to her. Don't get me wrong," he said as he turned to face them, "I am happy that she appears to be doing so well and is behaving, and especially that she hasn't need any medication. I guess I just...miss her. Miss doing things for her. I'll never understand why she prefers the company of an untrained ape over mine."
From under the table came a quiet response: "I would rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad."
Book glance quickly down at the hiding girl and asked, "Quoting Elizabethan works from Earth-that-was, are we?"
"Quotin' what?" Kaylee asked.
"A lovely play called 'As You Like It.' I can get you a copy of it off of the Cortex if you would like to read it," offered the Shephard.
"Naw, I just thought what she said sounded pretty. I didn't understand it none. 'Sides, I gotta go check on my girl," she answered happily as she rose and skipped off to the engine room.
"I understood her perfectly well," Simon said regretfully. He placed the lid on the pot of stew and said, "That should simmer for while." Then, his shoulders slumped, he headed for the infirmary.
Mal looked at the Shephard, who nodded at him and said, "I'll see to him, Captain. It appears the boy may need a friendly ear."
Book then hurried after the saddened doctor.
"Right," huffed Mal as he started for the bridge. "I got captain-y things to do anyway."
After a moment, Jayne, with great stealth, returned to the dining room. He crouched low and and gently pulled out one of the chairs and whispered, "You're it!"
River giggled behind her hand and peeked out.
"Took you long enough," she whispered back, and grabbed his hand to drag him under the table with her.
"It's not so crowded here now. And not in my castle," she said happily. "You chase away all the dragons."
Jayne carefully tucked a wayward lock of hair behind her ear and chuckled.
"Guess I can play at bein' a knight in rusty armour for a while. Gonna need one of them big long sticks."
"A lance," she corrected. "Typically used for jousting in competition."
"Right, whatever," he answered as she climbed into his lap.
"Here, a token from the fair maiden as her favorite prepares for battle," River offered and she kissed him gently but firmly on the lips and without hesitation.
He couldn't resist the warmth of her mouth and wrapped his arms around her tightly. And he kissed her quite thoroughly in return.
Jayne pulled back after a few moments, gasping and confused.
"What the..? Gorramit girl! You shouldn't have done that; makes me all...Wait! What battle?"
Just then, Zoe's legs appeared next to the table.
"Jayne? I think you have a bit of explaining to do..."