Title: Make Things Even
Author: walkwithheroes
Email: Summary: River Tam, Jayne Cobb, and how Serenity went from a smuggling ship to a love boat and family cruise in less than four years.

Make Things Evenwalkwithheroes River Tam, Jayne Cobb, and how Serenity went from a smuggling ship to a love boat and family cruise in less than four years.

Rating: PG -13
Characters: Mal, Zoe, Wash, Inara, Jayne, Kaylee, Simon, River, and Book.

PG -13Mal, Zoe, Wash, Inara, Jayne, Kaylee, Simon, River, and Book.

Pairing: Mostly Jayne/River. However, there is some Wash/Zoe, Kaylee/Simon, and Mal/Inara goodness.
Warning: Jayne loves River, some people aren't fond of that.

Mostly Jayne/River. However, there is some Wash/Zoe, Kaylee/Simon, and Mal/Inara goodness. Jayne loves River, some people aren't fond of that.

Spoilers/Timeline: After 'Serenity', spoilers from the movie.

Sequel To: ------

Series: ---------
Disclaimer: I don't own them, I never did.

---------I don't own them, I never did.

Author's Note: Takes place in the same universe as the 'The More Things Change' series (all three parts can be found at my live journal), but can be read as a stand alone. Companion School: Secondly, I have no idea when Companions start taking clients, but I decided to use the age of nineteen for several reasons. Firstly, in a deleted scene from the movie Inara says Companions starts training at age twelve and the ideas of sex aren't even discussed for years. I also remembered that during 'Heart of Gold', it is said that Inara was young, but could have risen quickly. I decided Inara must have been between 23-25, meaning she left at about 22-24, meaning she hadn't been seeing clients for a long time. Plus it fit's the story.

Takes place in the same universe as the 'The More Things Change' series (all three parts can be found at my live journal), but can be read as a stand alone. : Secondly, I have no idea when Companions start taking clients, but I decided to use the age of nineteen for several reasons. Firstly, in a deleted scene from the movie Inara says Companions starts training at age twelve and the ideas of sex aren't even discussed for years. I also remembered that during 'Heart of Gold', it is said that Inara was young, but could have risen quickly. I decided Inara must have been between 23-25, meaning she left at about 22-24, meaning she hadn't been seeing clients for a long time. Plus it fit's the story.

Serenity was becoming a gorram love boat, a family cruise.

First, Simon and Kaylee had started sexin' each other. Then, Zoe and Wash had announced they were going to have a baby. That was followed by Inara staying on Serenity and taking less clients; Mal had gotten real happy after that. Then, the baby had been born and he'd been named Hoban Malcolm Washburne (Rex for short). After that, things had really taken a turn. Inara stopped taking clients that liked sex all together and then, then the doc had asked Kaylee to marry him.

After that, well after that, things had really gotten weird. For one thing, Jayne Cobb started looking at little River Tam in a new light….

It had started in the cargo bay one lazy day, about two months after the birth of baby boy Washburne and about eleven months after the events on Miranda and at Mr. Universe's place.

Jayne had found her laid out on the catwalk, eyes closed and body perfectly still. Her sundress was flowing around her like water and Jayne couldn't help but think that she looked more peaceful then he'd ever seen her.

He hadn't even been aware that he was staring at her, until her wide brown eyes popped up and stared at him. She slowly rose to a sitting position and gave him a small and somewhat loopy smile. This gave the mercenary an uncomfortableness and he had quickly moved back.

"How did you get Vera?" River asked him softly. "She's your favorite."


Jayne never did get a chance to finish. Because at that moment, River got a look over her face, smiled softly, stood, and drifted past Jayne as if he wasn't even in the cargo bay with her.

At dinner that night, Jayne told the story about how he had gotten Vera.

That's how it had started. One little conversation and Jayne Cobb turned into a ruttin' wuss. He found himself seeking River out. He found himself thinking about what it would be like to kiss her. What it would be like to touch her pale skin. Hell, he even found himself getting jealous of everyone else on Serenity. He found himself getting jealous whenever she and the captain shared little smiles. Or when they stopped at Haven and Shepard Book baby-sat River. Or when Simon comforted her after nightmares. Hell, he even got jealous when she and Kaylee played in the cargo bay. And River? River, the mind reading genius, never seemed to notice, or if she did, she pretended not to.

Jayne's problems got worse on the day of Simon and Kaylee's wedding.

The two were being married on Kaylee's home world, and Shepard Book had even come all the way from Haven to perform the thing. Kaylee's mother made a wedding dress. One year old Rex (with a little help from Wash) had held the rings. Mal made toasts. Zoe actually made a joke about Simon finally being able to talk to girls. All this would have been fine by Jayne. Except for one little thing: Inara and River played bride maids and Inara loaned River a dress.

Throughout the time that Jayne had known River, he had seen her in a number of sundresses, over sized shirts, pajama pants, black shorts, ratty skirts, and heavy combat boots. But, he had never seen the girl in a dress that had fit; that had showed she had developed curves and muscles that looked like they belonged on a dancer. River Tam was a creature of grace and the dress Inara had given her showed this. Showed that River was growing into a woman. This alone made Jayne feel uncomfortable.

This uncomfortableness grew to jealously and guilt after the wedding. Kaylee's family had prepared a feast and the whole damn planet seemed to have showed up. The bride kept introducing the crew to her cousin or her aunt or uncle or old family friend. Simon held his new wife's hand and tried to remember everyone's name and how they were related to Kaylee. River stood close to the happy pair and beamed every time Kaylee called her 'mei-mei'.

From a table full of food, Jayne watched the trio. He watched how everyone but him was with the people they wanted to be with. Jayne watched as Zoe and Wash played with little Rex. Watched Mal hold Inara close as he chatted and joked with Book. Jayne watched as Kaylee introduced River to a boy, who smiled at her. River blushed slightly and looked back at Simon, who gave a nod. River and the boy headed to the dance floor. River danced with twenty-three boys that night; Jayne counted.

During the late night hours, the party died down and Simon and Kaylee went off to their 'honeymoon suite' at the local hotel. Jayne saw this as his chance to get some alone time with River. He had quickly gotten up from the table he had been sitting at all night and gone over to the table where River sat with Book, Mal, and Inara.

Wash and Zoe had taken little Rex back home a couple of hours before. This led Jayne to think that he could innocently suggest walking River back to Serenity, seeing as she was just eighteen, a child really. 'Course thinking of River as a child just made Jayne feel guilty and dirty. So, he put a stop to that and decided that young woman shouldn't walk home alone. Yeah, that sounded better.

"Jayne, finally joining the party." That was Mal. He was giving Jayne a knowing smile and for a moment Jayne thought he was caught. Mal would throw him off Serenity for sure. "Or are just sad 'cause they don' invite whores to weddings."

"Mal!" Inara gave him a pointed glare.

From across the table, Book and River shared an amused look. And it was Book who spoke next: "Oh, I'm sure Jayne's just been enjoying the fine food Kaylee's family prepared."

Mal didn't look so sure and Jayne found himself shifting uncomfortably under the captain's eyes.

"Tired." Everyone turned to River, who had suddenly spoken up in that little girl voice of hers.

Jayne opened his mouth, but Inara beat him to it: "It is getting late, isn't it, sweetie?" Inara stood from the table. "I'll bring you home."

Book stood next. "Oh, I'm feeling a mite tired myself. I think I'll join you ladies."

Jayne tried again, but this time Mal beat him to it: "Yeah, I could turn in, myself. All this excitement makes a man wish for his bed."

And suddenly, before Jayne even knew what was happening, the four people were headed back to Serenity, without him. No one even seemed to notice that he wasn't walking with them. Jayne stared after them, Mal holding Inara close and Book holding River's hand, the two seemingly helping each other over the rocks in the dark.

Jayne wished more then anything that he was holding River's hand instead of Book.

For the next three months, Jayne Cobb felt like an idiot. He kept trying to get River alone, kept trying to flirt, but nothing seemed to work. There were two main problems: one was that River was never alone. She was always with Simon or Kaylee or Simon and Kaylee or Book or Inara or Mal or Inara and Mal or Wash or Zoe or Rex or Wash, Zoe, and Rex. She always seemed too busy. Another was that River was not Jayne's usual type of girl. Jayne usually went for whores or women older then eighteen. He couldn't help but feel dirty and unworthy when it came to River. And what if she changed him or he changed her? He liked her the way she was, creepy and smart and beautiful. The last thing he wanted was to jade her.

If only River would return his affection.

Exactly three months after Simon and Kaylee's wedding, Jayne had a birthday; he turned forty-one years old. Kaylee baked him a cake, that was really more or less what they had eaten for dinner that night. After the cake, gifts were pulled out from hiding places throughout the dining room. Book got him a book on military history. Zoe and Wash had gotten him a new tee-shirt. Mal had gotten him a new gun, and Inara had bought it a beautiful leather case. Kaylee and Simon had gone in together and gotten Jayne a very old bottle of whiskey. And there was River.

She sat at the opposite end of the table from Mal, Simon on one side and Book on the other. For a moment she looked at Jayne very carefully and seemed to be waiting for just the right moment. Finally, she offered him a small smile. "I didn't get you anything; I haven't money." She stated flatly.

Jayne's face fell slightly. River seemed to notice, because she stood up, walked gracefully over to Jayne and gave him a small kiss on the cheek. Jayne could hear Kaylee giggle and Simon gasp in horror. River cocked her head to one side and watched as Jayne's face turned a slight shade of red. River gave Jayne an amused smile before she turned on her heel and bounced back to her seat.

Kaylee's giggling fit was stopped when Mal cleared his throat. "Well, it's not every day a pretty girl kisses you without you paying for it. It must be your birthday." The table broke into laugher and Jayne flushed a deeper red.

According to his calendar, Jayne had been thinking on River for one year and eleven months.

He could remember because he started thinking about River in a less then angry way when Rex had been two months. And now, now Rex was just a little over two years old. Wash and Zoe were happier then ever. Kaylee and Simon were married and somehow the doc had gotten her knocked up; the baby was due any day. Inara and Mal were even together, though there was no marriage in the works and Book did seem to spend an awful lot of time telling Mal about 'special hell'.

As for River, she was nearly nineteen. Her birthday was in three weeks and everyday she told Simon that she wanted a strawberry cake for her birthday, and a niece. Jayne knew that meant Kaylee would be having a baby girl.

And sure enough, two weeks and three days before River turned nineteen, Kaylee went into labor during dinner.

Simon panicked, he rushed to the infirmary without his wife, but everyone knew that was coming. Thankfully, Mal and Inara were there to help Simon out by bringing Kaylee to the infirmary. Wash and Zoe cleared the table while Book decided it was a good time to pray for a healthy baby. After the chaos died down, Inara stayed with Simon to help with the birth of the baby. Everyone else was forced to wait it out in the dinning room.

Wash and Zoe played with baby Rex in the sitting area, while Book quietly read his bible. Mal nervously walked around, as if it were his baby being born and not just his 'adopted' little sister's baby. Jayne sat at the table and cleaned a few knives and much to Jayne's surprise, River sat right next to him.

"I wondered who was in there." Jayne glanced to his side, surprised that River had spoken to him. She was talking so low that Jayne doubted anyone else had heard her. "For months and months. But, then, I saw. A girl, healthy. Simone Lee Tam, but we'll call her Lee." River briefly glanced over at baby Rex before turning back to look at Jayne. "I saw."

"Yeah?" Jayne's voice was suddenly in a whisper. He wanted this conversation to be private and special; something with just he and River. "Ya see anythin' else? Like any winnin' poker games in my future?" He offered her a wide grin and she gave him a small smile before shaking her head.

They were silent for another moment. Jayne cleaned his knives with an old shirt and River sat beside him.

"You'll have three." Nearly jumping, Jayne turned to look at River and gave her a 'what?' look. "Three." River repeated. "You and the captain both."

Jayne looked down at his knives and then back at River. Off in the infirmary, Kaylee let out a scream. Jayne opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again: "Ya mean kids?" River just stared at him. "Uh, now…."

"First ones soon. Inara'll have a new person inside her womb in eight months." River looked over at Mal, who had begun making himself a drink. She turned back to Jayne and there was something in her eyes that made Jayne want to ask her the burning question.

"W-w'at 'bout mine?" His voice had been so low that he was scared River hadn't heard him.

She lowered her eyes for a moment, before looking into his baby blue's. "Sooner. But you have to court first. No free milk from rivers."

The way she said it….Jayne felt oddly happy at the thought of having a baby with River, even if he hadn't even gotten to kiss her yet. He and River stayed sitting next to one another for the next five hours, ten minutes, and forty-eight seconds; Jayne counted.

At that time, Inara came walking into the kitchen, smiling broadly. "It's a girl." She announced. "Healthy. They're calling her Simone Lee." Everyone in the room started smiling and talking at once. Inara looked over to River. "Simon and Kaylee are asking for you."

River smiled shyly at the others before standing and rushing out of the room. She had been right about the baby and its name. Glancing over at the private conversation Mal and Inara were having, Jayne guessed River was right about the two of them having a kid within the year. And if she was right about all that….Jayne made a mental note to write his mother and ask what kind of flowers girls liked to be brought when they were being courted.

Serenity was at Haven for River's birthday. They had stopped to drop the Shepard off again and to get baby Lee baptized. Since there was so much going on, Mal made the announcement that the crew of Serenity would be staying at Haven a whole week. No one seemed more excited by this then River. In passing, she told Jayne that being on a planet for her birthday meant there would be a strawberry cake. Jayne had decided that being planet side for River's birthday meant he'd be able to give her a good gift and finally make his move.

The day of River's nineteenth birthday, Jayne entered the kitchen and his entrance was met with a 'whoa!' from Zoe. All eyes turned to Jayne and nearly everyone seemed to let out a gasp of shock.

Jayne was wearing his whore shirt-the shirt he wore when he visited whores-and that could only mean one thing, Jayne Cobb was going courtin'. The whole crew stared at him as if he had started speakin' poetry or some such. They actually looked horrified. Hell, Simon had the same expression he had had the day the crew had come across a statue of Jayne on a planet a couple of years before. Jayne half expected the doctor to say: "No, this must be what going mad feels like."

"Jayne." That was Mal and the captain was clearly trying to hide the amusement in his voice. "You are aware that we ain't hitting a world with whores for at least another week, right? Haven's not a place for that. 'Less you think you'll find one in the mines."

Jayne tried not to look at Mal. "Jeez, can't a fellow dress f'r breakfast now and again?"

"Not unless he's the king of something." Wash thought out loud. "Or Simon." The last sentence, the pilot added as an after thought and with a cheeky grin.

Simon didn't seem to notice the comment; his mouth was still hanging open. "No, this must be what going mad feels like." He put a hand to his mouth and looked over at his wife for support. Kaylee moved baby Lee to her other arm and covered her mouth, as she was trying not to laugh.

"This ain't funny." Jayne growled. "It's a shirt, it ain't like I'm dressed in a fancy suit."

"Maybe Jayne's got a girl in Haven!" Kaylee suddenly blurted out. "Last time we was here, maybe he met somebody."

All eyes turned to Jayne. He opened his mouth, but no words came out. Grumpy, Jayne moved to get himself a cup of coffee. While he was getting it, River came wondering in, dressed in the same dress she had worn on the catwalk the day she had asked him about Vera.

"River!" Simon went over to his sister and the two exchanged a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Happy birthday, mei-mei." Simon guided her over to the table, where the rest of the crew joined in on birthday wishes. Kaylee brought River a plate of food and a glass of juice. She kissed River's cheek and let River say hello to little Lee.

"Now, don't go filling up." Mal advised. "I have it on good authority that the Shepard has his flock making you a dinner for tonight."

"They'll be music." Inara chimed in. "And lots of presents. You're a woman now, River."

River beamed. Last year she had turned legal, but at nineteen, she felt more grown up. More like everybody else. Last year at this time, the crew had been in the middle of a job that was dangerous and highly illegal. That had meant just a few birthday wishes and a few small gifts, that were really hand me downs or things from around Serenity. But this year, this year River was getting a party and a cake. She'd be able to dance and play and talk with her loved ones without worrying about anyone getting shot.

"Do you have any special birthday wishes?" Kaylee asked her sister-in-law. "Like maybe meeting a sweetheart?"

Mal laughed, but stopped when Simon made a noise. "Kaylee! River's much too young for that sort of thing."

"She's nineteen, now." Zoe reminded the doctor, not unkindly. "Most folks would think that's old enough."

"He's just being overprotective." Wash thought out loud. "I'm sure he just wants River to met a nice doctor or lawyer or some other rich profession having guy."

"And he wants this guy and River to have the most chaste courtship in history." Mal added, a teasing tone to his voice. "Then marry, but River'll still sleep in her room and her husband in another."

Simon was blushing a deep red. He was over protective, but River was one of the three most important people to him. Kaylee, Lee, and River, they were his to protect and take care of. And as snobbish as it was, Simon did not want River to have her first sweetheart in a miner from Haven. After everything that had happened, River deserved only the best.

Inara offered Simon one of her smiles. "You know Simon, Companions start taking clients two weeks after they turn nineteen."

From the counter, Jayne snorted. He had been quiet this whole time, but now he stupidly had to put his two cents in. "Yeah, well, River ain't no Companion." Everyone seemed to give him dirty looks. "W'at?"

"I'll have you know," Simon began angrily. "when River was twelve she was approached by the Companion training house on Osiris. She turned them done because she wanted to continue her studies in the math and science areas. Companion training didn't stress those areas enough for River. "

River stuck her tongue out at Jayne and went back to her breakfast. Jayne felt like a royal idiot. Well, at least he hadn't brought up the fact that two years later, River's love of learning got her sent to the Academy and years of inhuman experiments.

It only took a moment for the kitchen to go back to the way it was before. With people talking over one another, making jokes, excusing themselves for chores that they wanted to get done before the party that night. All nice and normal. Expect that Jayne was trying to figure out how to get River alone. After all, she had told him that he had less then eight months to get her pregnant and he was never one to disappoint a lady.

Jayne got a chance to not disappoint River around lunchtime. Most of the crew was busy, either finishing chores on Serenity or in town and helping with that night's birthday party. Jayne was moving supplies around the cargo bay, trying not to get his shirt dirty.

He lifted a box and was about to walk over to the other side of the cargo bay, when he looked up. River was watching him from the catwalk. She offered him an awkward smile before floating down a staircase, her bare feet hardly touching the ground.

Suddenly Jayne's mouth felt very dry. She walked over to him and stood there, hands behind her back. She stood, swaying slightly and smiling at him.

"River?" Jayne asked, his voice oddly low.

"Two. Four. Six." River told him simply. She looked like she was expecting him to say something big, but Jayne was just looking at her. River could have rolled her eyes. She decided to take another try. "Simon took a wife. Wash and Zoe are a pair. The captain and Inara are a duo. Two by two. You can't get milk until you give the beans."

"River!" Both Jayne and River looked out to see Book and Mal come walking in from outside. Mal waved her over. "Best go out there and make sure Kaylee doesn't eat all the strawberries that are goin' in your cake."

River spared Jayne a look before leaving the ship. Jayne stared after her, long after she had disappeared from his sight. Neither Book nor Mal seemed to notice.

That night the town of miners threw River Tam a nineteenth birthday party. Table after table was set up with the best food the town's people had to offer. Fires were set up every few feet. There was even a band and a small dance area set up. After all, it was River who had held the secrets of Reavers. It was River who had helped the signal carry; she had told Mal where the secrets were and how to get them out there.

River was given a seat of honor and even a head crown made of flowers. Mal made a joke about River not dancing with girls she didn't know; Inara hit him in the arm.

Jayne watched from another table as River laughed with Kaylee. As she gave Simon her special smiles. As she and Wash talked about dinosaurs. As she spoke to Book about things Jayne knew he'd never understand. And Jayne watched as boys-and they were boys, no one over twenty-two-bashfully asked River for the favor of a dance.

Jayne watched her dance with the boys, her dress flowing all around her, her legs moving in ways Jayne had only before pictured in his mind. She was beaming, laughing, whispering secrets to these boys. It made Jayne want to punch every single one of them. There were nine; Jayne counted.

Just as Jayne thought he'd have to kill everyone, Book called River over to the rest of the crew; it was time for River to open presents. River let her hands trail along the shiny wrapping paper before she'd open the gifts. The town's gift was the party, but as a remembrance, Book had gotten River a snapshot-movie of the town setting up. River gave the old preacher a kiss on the cheek as a thank you.

Kaylee handed River the next two gifts; one from Simon and one from Kaylee and baby Lee. Simon had gotten River a new set of history books, the complete history of Earth-That-Was. River knew he'd been saving for months. She gave her older brother one of her 'just for Simon' smiles. Kaylee and Lee's gift was simpler, a beautiful cotton sundress. River let her long fingers trail over it for a moment before telling Kaylee that it was pretty, like Kaylee herself.

Next had been Zoe, Wash, and little Rex's gift. The little family had gotten River two things, as well. Wash had written River a special card, saying that he'd allow her to co-pilot Serenity and even let River land and take off anytime the girl wanted for the next year. River had looked excitedly at Wash and thanked him. Zoe and Rex handed River a gift that Rex had picked out, a music box that played an old lullaby from times long gone by.

The birthday girl thanked Zoe and gave Rex a kiss on the forehead.

Inara was next. She gave River a small box of white paper and a new paint set. River told Inara that it was lovely, because this new paint set had ten colors her old one didn't. Mal gave River a pat on the head and handed the small girl a box, inside the box was a book of poetry.

"Well, little albatross, looks like you've had yourself a fine birthday." Mal gave River a fatherly kiss on the head.

"Not over." River told him with a knowing grin.

"No, of course it isn't." Simon told his younger sister kindly. "There's still the cake and more dancing."

"Jayne." She looked over to where Jayne sat. "His present. It's my birthday. Special day. Big day."

The crew of Serenity looked Jayne's way and he shifted uncomfortably under their stares. Awkwardly, he stood up and walked over to the table. Stopping only once to make sure his shirt wasn't dirty. "I…" Words caught in his throat and he wished more then anything that it was just he and River. "I left it on the boat."

River gave him a look. "No you didn't. Pocket."

Everyone waited. Jayne reached into his pocket and pulled out a black box. He opened the tiny box and placed it gently on the wooden table. Kaylee let out an "Oo, pretty." at the same time Inara said: "Oh, my." Inside the box was a tiny silver ring, with a small diamond in the middle, it was clearly an engagement ring. The ring had been Jayne's grandmother's. Jayne had been holding on to it for months.

"Jayne, don't you think that's a bit much?" Mal asked.

"That's an engagement ring, isn't it?" Inara added.

"You're giving my sister an engagement ring for a birthday gift?" Simon's voice had gotten awfully high.

"My," Book's voice was unusually calm. "isn't that….special."

Jayne scanned the crew. Mal and Zoe both looked like they wanted to kill him. Inara and Book looked like they were about to tell him about morals and that special hell he had heard tell of. Wash looked utterly amused. Kaylee looked like she was about to squeal and say how cute it all was. Simon looked like he had back in that Mudder town years before. As for River, she was staring down at the ring as if it were a foreign object that she had never seen before.

Jayne could feel his face growing red. "Aw, hell. My Ma sent it a few months back. Said I should find me a nice girl and settle down. Ma said she wanted grandkids from me, like she got from my sisters and Matty. I…hell, I don't know. Thought she'd like a fancy piece of jewelry to wear and then lose."

"Wait, you're giving River a ring from your mother?" Wash asked. The pilot sounded like he was trying his damnest not to laugh. Zoe gave her husband a look. "I just, I'm so confused." He let out a small chuckle. "Our mercenary is giving our genius an engagement ring, from his mother, just so she can wear it and lose it."

"Shiny." River spoke up. "Pretty."

"Oh, honey, it is pretty, but you really shouldn't…." Kaylee trailed off as River put the ring on her middle finger.

"River, maybe you should take it off and give it back to Jayne?" Simon was using the voice he used whenever River got upset and had to be calmed. The voice that made it sound like he was talking to a three year old. Jayne hated that voice; made him want to punch Simon.

"It's mine." River said simply. "Jayne gave it to me. You don't return a gift, it's bad manners."


She looked up at her brother and quickly cut him off. "His intentions are honorable, Simon." She stated in a matter of fact way.

The others were very quiet and Jayne looked like he wanted the world to open wide and swallow him whole. River started humming, just as a new song started up.

Just like that, River seemed to forget about the other people at her table. She stood and wondered back to the dance floor. One of her former dance partners quickly asked her for the honor of another dance.

River Tam left the crew of Serenity speechless. Just what was that little girl playing at? And more importantly, just what were Jayne's intentions?

Mal stared hard at Jayne. The captain looked like it was taking every sane part of his being to not ask Wash to start Serenity, just so they could all take turns pushing Jayne out of the air lock. "Jayne, just what have you been playing at with little River?"

"Nothing!" Jayne's answer was faster and sounded more guilty then he wanted it to. "Honest Mal, I've never laid a hand on her. I jus'…jus' thought she'd like the ring, is all."

"I think it's awfully sweet." Kaylee stated. She was giving Jayne a little grin. "Jayne wants to court River! You could marry her, Jayne, and then we'd be family."

Simon did a double take. "Kaylee, he can not have a relationship with River. It's not cute. It's a man-ape gone wrong lusting after my sister." The doctor turned on Jayne. "You just keep your apish traits to yourself." From down the table, Wash had to laugh at that line. Simon shot the pilot a dirty look. "I mean it, River and Jayne would be unnatural."

"And a Companion and petty thief ain't? Or a wacky pilot and a career solider? Or a mechanic from some ruttin' moon and a pretty-boy doc from the Core?" Jayne retorted. "Face it, doc, this whole ship's full of couples that ain't natural."

"Wait," Mal held up a hand. "I am not a petty thief."

"Mal, that's really not the point." Inara whispered with a roll of her eyes. "We're talking about the fact that Jayne is in love with River."

"I never said I was in love with her!" Jayne quickly clarified.

"I don't think it matters." Zoe, who had been quiet through all this spoke up. "River doesn't seem to return his affections." She nodded toward the dance floor. The band was playing a folk song and River was dancing, twirling around the dance floor and changing partners every few seconds. She was laughing and smiling. River seemed to not even be aware of what was currently happening nor did she seem affected by what had happened during the present giving. "Likely she just thinks of Jayne as family, nothing more."

"Praise the Lord." Everyone turned to give Book looks. The old Shepard just gave them all a 'what, you can't judge me. I judge you.' look and started searching for an after dinner cigar.

Jayne quickly turned his attention back to the dance floor. River was still dancing, twirling faster and faster. She never seemed to stop smiling and laughing. It was at that moment that Jayne Cobb suddenly had a thought: River Tam was playing mind games with him. Oh, for nearly two years she'd been fully aware of the fact that he was thinking on her. And for the last few weeks she'd been quietly laughing at him. Laughing at the way he made her flowers from wires and placed them around the ship for her to find. Laughing at the way he kept getting tongue tied around her. At the way he wanted to kiss her on the mouth. And mostly at the way that stupid man-ape Jayne thought he was going to have a child with her; thought he was going to have a child with her and was thrilled about it.

Suddenly the mercenary was filled with bravery and anger and maybe every emotion given to men. Muttering, "To hell wit this." Jayne fixed his shirt and stormed toward the dance floor.

He pushed past the miners and their families until he came face to face with the object of all his emotions. She stopped moving and let the people run into her.

River gave him one of her classic looks. "Rocking horse people eat cotton candy lies."

"W'at?" His brow became knitted in confusion, but he was ready to stay focused and give her a piece of his mind. "No, don't even….now ain't the time f'r that, girl." River just gave him a look. "I want to know w'at your playin' at."

River could have kicked him. Really, he was nearly as bad as Simon had been with Kaylee. "Two. Four. Six." She tried for the second time that day. "Things must stay even. Two by two." She leaned closer to him and gave him a smile, a 'just for Jayne' smile. Jayne didn't seem to get it. River shook her head sadly. "You are such a boob." With that, she breezed past him and back toward the tables and tented area.

Jayne took a second to gather himself before following her. "River. River! I'm talkin' at you!" River whirled around to face him, an annoyed look on her face. "I'm trying to have a talk with you and I don't need you spilling your crazy talk."

"Not crazy. River. River-speak. You'll have to become bilingual."

Jayne sighed heavily. "Okay, fine. But, about the game you've been playin' wit me-"

"No game." River quickly cut in. "You're just a boob; like Simon was with Kaylee before madness came to our door."

"Huh?" He tried to piece together what she was talking about and by the annoyed look on her face, Jayne figured he better figure it out sooner rather then later. "Ruttin' hell, you sayin' I'm missin' your signals?"

River shrugged. "Can't stop the signal, Jayne. Can just delay it for a while. You gave me grandmother's ring. Two months of courtship. After two more months, engagement and marriage. After two more months," she lightly touched her stomach. "little one. If only you'd voice it out loud."

Something dawned on Jayne then. Two. Four. Six. River would be carrying his baby in six months time and they'd be married four months from now. 'Course none of that explained why she had put the ring on the wrong finger and then gone off dancing with any boy who looked her way.

River spoke suddenly, causing Jayne to jump slightly. "You were angst made flesh. Had to get you angry, so you'd react. Besides, Rivers love to flow. And we aren't engaged yet. I don't belong to you. Can't even voice it." She took the ring off her middle finger and handed it back to Jayne. "Four months. Give it back then."

Jayne clumsily took the ring and stared down at it for a moment. "Give it back in four months? Sure, I can do that."

River offered him a 'just for Jayne' smile; this time Jayne saw it. "You'll have to ask Simon." She told him seriously. "And the captain. Ask them about being more then friends with me."

"Now hold on one gorram minute-"

"It's not proper to not ask permission!" River cut off urgently. "Must do things properly or all is lost."

Jayne gave the girl a look. "You sayin' you won' be wit me 'less it's ok wit the others?" River gave him a little nod. "Aw, hell, girl…that ain't never gonna happen."

"Don't know that. Don't know unless you ask. Ask, Jayne." She gave him a pointed look. "Ask and ye shall receive. You can't get something for nothing, you know."

"River." Jayne gave her the sternest face he could; she was not about to have control in the relationship. "No ruttin' way in the seven hells is yer brother goin' agree to let me and you do anythin' tagether."

"Jayne, don't be intelligently challenged." She gave a little sigh, took his meaty hand in her little one and drug him back to the table and their family. "Jayne has to ask Simon and Captain a question." She said in a sing-song and teasing voice.

Mal narrowed his eyes on Jayne. "You got something to say?"

"I want ta court River, then marry her, then do other thangs…" Jayne trailed off, as he was sure he was turning red. It didn't help that Kaylee was beaming and looked like she was about to squeal, while everyone else looked like they were either going to kill him or vomit up their food. " 'Cause I've been thinkin' on her fer over a year an'…"

"Oh God!" Simon looked like something had just dawned on him. "Is that why you've been hanging around the infirmary all the time? And always staring at River? I think I liked the idea that you were plotting her death better; at least then I knew she'd just kill you and we'd all be done with it."

"Simon!" Kaylee hit her husband on the arm. River shot him a dirty look. "That's no way to talk. Jayne loves River, jus' like 'Nara said!" She gave Simon a smile and then a pointed look. "You agree t' the courtin', Simon. It's the sweetest thing, ever."

"I…" Simon turned to Mal. "you…we…couldn't…could we?" He looked over at River, who was swinging her and Jayne's hand back and forth. She looked so happy. "I thought he was your friend." Simon began slowly. "You liked him, but no more then you like a pet. River, are you…he'll never challenge you on any level. And he's boorish and like an ape half the time."

River gave a little shrug. "And you're a boob." Jayne and Wash let out laughs, but they both quieted when Inara and Zoe shot them looks. "Jayne is my Jayne. He's my friend and we love each other, now. He'll take care of me, like you take care of Kaylee. Like Wash and Zoe take care of each other and Rex. Like Captain and Inara look out for one another. Like Book watches all of us. Jayne will do that for me." She looked up at Jayne and offered him a happy and huge smile. "I'll knit!"

Simon and Mal both looked doubtful, but in the end ground rules were set: no sex, all dates to be held in view of a shipmate, no staying in one another's bunks over night, and have River back in her room by the time Mal went to bed.

The rules were set with the idea that Jayne would grow impatient and visit a whore, which would lead to River calling it off. Or that River would realized that she had more in common with an apple and call it off. Or that Jayne would stop acting like Jayne and he'd call it off. All in all, the pool aboard Serenity had the couple lasting no more then two weeks….

Two Months and One Day Later:

Breakfast was going on in its usual way; lots of talking and people saying things like: 'Just a quick meal, I got to go.' or 'Hey, didn't we have real green tea last night?' It all changed the second River came skipping into the kitchen. The girl had a smile a mile wide and there was a shiny little ring on her ring finger.

"Whoa." Zoe breathed at the same time Simon let out a: "River!"

River had just smiled at everyone, who were all currently staring at her in a mix of shock, horror, amusement, and happiness. "It's three, next month will be four." She explained. "Jayne got ahead of himself, but that just means a longer engagement."

"The hell it does." Jayne stated as he came walking in, pulling a tee shirt over his head and running a hand through his uncombed and wet hair. "Soon as we get ta Haven, we find the preacher and git hitched."

"Got to stay on schedule." River told him seriously. "You wait."

"River, I've been waitin' forever ta have sex wit ya." Jayne made a truly miserable face before sitting down next to her.

"Well," Mal began calmly. "that was all kinds of horrific. Could we never talk about you two having sex again, ever?"

"I think we can all agree with that, sir." Zoe seconded.

"You have to wait till month four." River told Jayne with a 'just for Jayne' smile. She gave him a small kiss on the cheek before getting up and walking over to get herself and Jayne two bowls of oatmeal. Jayne didn't seem all that happy, even with the kiss.

Everyone else just looked like they had a whole bunch to say , but weren't overly sure how to say it.

It was Wash who broke the silence, he cleared his throat. "So, who had marriage?" Suddenly everyone was taking slips of paper out of their pockets. "I had three weeks."

"Two weeks." Mal said with a sigh.

"Four weeks." Zoe chimed in.

"One week." Inara stated.

"Five weeks." Simon said, though he seemed to be in a daze.

"I had the longest!" Kaylee nearly squealed. "I had nine weeks."

Jayne glared at the others. "Y'all were takin' beats on how long we'd last?" The others nodded and no one seemed overly guiltily about it. "An' no one thought we'd last longer then nine weeks?"

"Shepard Book did." Kaylee assured Jayne. "He had ten weeks."

Jayne just glared at her. River smiled. "I had forever." She gave Jayne another kiss on the cheek and set his oatmeal bowl on the table. "I win." Jayne gave her a smile and took her waist, so he could place her on his lap.

"Well, I suppose there's going to be another marriage in two months." Simon spoke up. "River," She looked over and smiled. "best wishes." Simon stood up and went and gave River a kiss on the top of the head. "Jayne?" The merc gave Simon a look. "Congratulations. And if you ever hurt her…you'll have a whole crew to answer to."

"They can kill you." River assured Jayne. He gave her a pinch. "But, they wouldn't. Grandfather Shepard Book will marry us and it'll be all right."

Mal cleared his throat. "You know, you all love to break my rules. I think mayhap I should come up with some new ones."

Inara leaned over a took Mal's hand in hers. "You adore that we break your silly rules, Mal. You did always want a nice family."

Mal looked over the table, Wash tryin to get Rex to act out a battle with toy dinos and Zoe watching, Kaylee playing with baby Lee, while Simon fixed his wife some breakfast, Jayne eating his oatmeal, a crazy little girl on his lap. And Inara, holding his hand. Jayne made a comment about Wash and the table ended up in a strange conversation about who would win in a fight: dinosaurs or Reavers.

"Wacky family, you mean too say." Mal muttered to himself as he smiled out at the table.

"Wait, do the Reavers have weapons?" Simon questioned.

This made the conversation pause for a moment.

"Doesn' matter, Reavers would beat 'em." Jayne answered.

"Dinosaurs would win." Wash stated firmly.

The debate raged for three weeks and six days; in the end, it was decided that River could beat both dinosaurs and Reavers.

Month Six:

River woke up with a small start; someone was staring at her. She took a moment to try and go through all the thoughts on the ship: It's month six. Yes, Jayne was staring at her. She rolled over to find Jayne indeed staring at her. He was propped up on one elbow and was staring at her stomach.

"Jayne?" She smiled slyly to herself. "It's commonly called a stomach."

He gave her a look. "I knows it." He placed a hand on her stomach. "It's month six. Somebody growin' in you?"

"Jayne." She put her hands over his. "We made a baby a week ago." She wasn't at all surprised when he dove on her and kissed her. She giggled and pushed him off her. "I don't know who it is yet."

"It's our baby." Jayne told her quietly. "That's all we need know." He laid on his back and let River curl up against his side. She laid her head on his arm and he stroked her hair. "But, when you find out, be nice ta know if it's a boy or girl."

As Jayne drifted off to sleep, River whispered: "It's a boy."

Nine Months Later:

Inara was seven months pregnant and moving gracefully through the infirmary. River Cobb was in labor, had been for twenty hours, and Inara was simply trying to help Simon deliver the baby. Simon was practically freaking out-he hated seeing his sister in pain-but, he was trying his best to deliver the baby.

The twenty year old mother-to-be wasn't screaming, but she was covered in sweat and had her eyes closed as tight as they would go. Outside, the whole crew waited. All but Jayne, who was kneeing at the window to the left of the infirmary, silently watching; the last time he had done that was when Kaylee had been shot.

Jayne had wanted to stay with River, but Simon had kicked him out at hour one, simply because Jayne had thrown something at Simon when River had let out a heartbreaking scream of pain. The mercenary nervously watched as Simon and Inara tried to get the baby to be born; River had stopped screaming-stopped everything-fifteen minutes before. Jayne knew it had something to do with the awful lot of blood that was coming from his tiny wife. It was taking everything Jayne had to not rush in and demand that Simon save wife and baby.

"Jayne?" That was Kaylee, a peacefully sleeping Lee in her arms. "She'll be okay. River fought Reavers and Simon would rather die then let anythin' happen ta River an' the baby. Come on, I'll make ya some coffee." She gave him a pleading look. "Please, I can' stand seein' her jus' layin' there."

Jayne didn't want to leave, but he didn't want to make Kaylee watch either, so he followed her into the dinning room.

Nine Hours Later:

Simon entered the dinning room, covered in blood and sweat. The poor guy looked like hell and there were tears in his eyes. He gave Kaylee and Jayne a small smile and released a heavy sigh.

"Jayne, you have a son."

Jayne felt like a weight had been lifted off his heart. "And River?"

Simon swallowed hard. "I honestly have no idea how she did it. She's the strongest person I know and it was such a hard labor."

"Simon." Jayne pressed. "River?"

Tears started to stream from Simon's dark eyes. "She's still alive, but it's touch and go. She lost so much blood." He sounded so confused that Kaylee had to rush over wrap him in a hug. "And toward the end, you should have seen her-she seemed to have made peace." Simon looked over at Jayne. "If she makes it through the night, she should…it'll be okay."

Jayne nodded. "Could I see her?" Simon just nodded and Jayne rushed from the table, letting the chair fall onto the floor.

Inara was in the infirmary when Jayne tore into it. She was holding his son in her arms, cleaning him and cooing to him. River was laying on the side bed, she looked so peaceful and like a sleeping angel. Inara had cleaned some of the sweat off River's hair and face.

" 'Nara?" Jayne's voice sounded shaky. "That my son?"

Inara gave him a small smile. "Yes, he's beautiful. Would you like to see him?" Jayne nodded and Inara handed him his son. "Careful with his head and don't be scared if he moves a bit, it's all right."

Jayne held the small baby in his big hands. "His name?"

Inara shrugged. "River didn't say, she didn't…" Inara trailed off. "I'll leave you alone with your wife and son." She smiled at him again, gave River a look, and headed out of the infirmary, closing the doors behind her.

He stood in the middle of the infirmary for a moment before heading over the stand by River. Looking down at his son, Jayne had to smile. Jayne Cobb had a son. A little Cobb to carry on the family name. The baby was staring up at Jayne with wild blue eyes.

"I'm yer Daddy." Jayne told the baby. "An' that sleeping beauty is yer Ma. She's only been twenty 'bout three months an' she's really jus' a girl. So, we gotta make sure she don't die 'fore she meets ya an' the siblings she told me you'd have. 'Cause she said I'd have three an' I ain't 'bout ta have 'nother woman in my bed." He kissed his son's forehead. "This here's a family an' it can' lose the crazy reader." Jayne leaned down and kissed River's head and whispered. "Hear that, you can' die."

Two days later, the crew of Serenity docked on Haven. Shepard Book came aboard and went straight to River's old room.

"River?" Book entered the room to find the girl peaceful and sitting up in her bed, her son in her arms. Jayne was sitting on the edge of the bed and looked more happy then the preacher had ever seen him. Book's face softened. "Oh, isn't he a sight?" He entered the room and went straight to River's side. "Have you two thought of a name?"

"Jayne Cobb Junior." Jayne told him proudly.

River cleared her throat. "Jayne Cobb the Second."

"Now hold on, woman. My boy ain't 'bout to have that. Jayne Cobb Junior is jus' fine." River gave him a death glare.

Book shook his head with a smile. "Either way is fine, I'm sure." He looked down at the baby and felt his lips break into a smile. "He's adorable."

"Looks like his Daddy." River agreed with a soft smile at Book. "Jayne Cobb the Second."

"Jayne Cobb Junior." Jayne protested. "Junior."

River gave Jayne a 'just for Jayne' smile. "Shepard Book will baptize our son 'Jayne Cobb Junior'. It makes my Jaynes happy." Jayne gave River a quick kiss. "Good boy."

A day later, the baby was baptized 'Jayne Cobb Junior'. Two months later, Serra Kaylee Reynolds was born. Four years later, Matthew Simon Cobb was born. A year later, Derri Faith Reynolds came into being. Shadow Alexander Reynolds was next, he was born eleven years after Jayne Cobb Junior. Finally, Rayne Tam Cobb was born, thirteen years after her oldest brother.

Sixteen years after the family of Serenity came together, they had turned the boat into a gorram love boat, a family cruise.

-The End-