Lessons in Latin.
By Lady Cleo
All Disclaimers Apply.
WARNINGS – they still apply, keep hold of that teddy bear, get some more tissues, and cling to the security blanket as the Dark Muse is still in control.
The tight space had not been built to hold a man of Mal's size or for any other purpose than just to occupy empty space, but damn it to all hell if Mal didn't love the fool that had designed the tight little niche in the ships hull. Pressing his ears close to the hatch he listened quietly to the man on the other side, fairly certain that the idiots that had taken his ship were now messing with the controls of his ship. And that was his dilemma.
The man on the other side of the panel wasn't going to just knock himself out. Though the tight little niche kept Mal from capture, it by no means solved the problem at hand. If this bunch followed standard procedure his crew was gonna end up joining Jayne in a more permanent sense. Despite all the wacky that had been happening, Mal was fairly positive that this problem wasn't going to solve itself with reincarnation. Though he wasn't entirely sure how the bound/recreation thingy worked, he was sure of two things; one - that it wasn't an instant coffee type thing. And two - that it didn't have any policy against discrimination.
Of course, it wouldn't hurt if his mercenary decided to rejoin the living right about now.
The pain slowly ebbed away leaving Jayne numb and scarred, his body throbbing from the after effects. Eyes still clenched shut he took a deep breath just to feel the rush of air into his lungs. Something soft and light covered his body, shocking him into awareness as he finally opened his eyes to blinding white. His fingers pushed into the air and felt the soft weight of material slip away, revealing the bright lights of the infirmary.
Jayne lay for a second, slowly taking stock of his limbs. A dull ringing echoed through his ears, quaking through the innards of his skull. Blinking rapidly he tired to shake the dreamlike feeling that seemed to cloud his vision and moved his arm slowly, testing limbs, still stiff from lack of use. Something soft and wet lay stretched across his chest, drying against his skin. Lifting his head, Jayne peered down at the bandage soaked with blood. He tugged at the gauze, reviling red smeared skin, but no wound.
The clash echoed in from the cargo bay. Jayne's head whipped up as muffled voices called to each other. Slowly sitting up, he swung his legs off the bed and dropped to the floor, moving slowly, quietly towards the door. Panic stirred in his stomach, his hand dropped down to the holster – empty. Jayne bit into his lip. "Ya just had to pull it on Mal didn't ya?"
A shadow passed by the cargo bay door, the figure almost unseen, but distinct enough to be unfamiliar. Jayne's fist tightened for a second and he turned back to the infirmary, a cold shiver running down his spine. "So this is how you're gonna play it?" Glancing over the room, he reached for a tray of the doc's tools and grabbed a scalpel. "We'll be seein' about that dying part this time around."
Simon glanced down the room to where his sister perched peering out the doorway, silently plotting her next course of action. This is where things would be skewed, where fate would step in and end Jayne's life, thus ending River's. This is where he always failed.
Across the room River's spine stiffened for a second.
Burying his face in his hands, Simon shook his head. He had to do something- he had to be able solve the equation. The key lay in his hands. But how to use the key evaded him - Jayne would take the bullet for his sister again. Unless someone else – Simon's head slowly lifted. That was it. He could -
A hand tapped on Simon's shoulder and he spun around- pain lanced though his body as the hand struck his jugular. His knees gave way, body crashing to the floor.
Hooking her arms beneath him, River dragged the dead weight across the room and into the pantry. Carefully laying him on the floor, she did her best to make sure he was comfortable and kissed him on the cheek. "Can't help this time." Jumping up she moved back for the door and tapped in the sequence, locking the pantry and overriding the safeties, shorting out the control.
Spinning on her heels, River froze. The large body stepped into her pathway. Dark hazel eyes fell down to meet hers. The breath hitched in her chest –
"Ain't no ghost, girl."
Blinking up at Jayne, River reached out with a trembling hand to touch his chest. Her fingers spread wide, feeling the pulse of his heart for a second before clenching tightly onto the material of the torn shirt. Stepping forward she buried her face into his neck.
A smirk settled across Jayne's face as he reached up to stroke the waves of brown hair. Hooking a finger under her chin, he slowly lifted her face towards his, "Reckon that means ya missed me." Jayne's thumb stretched out, gently stoking the line of her cheek. "Ain't been but a day or two."
River shook her head gently, "Longer," tears began welling up in her eyes, "so much longer."
Jayne frowned for a second as he stared down at her. In the soft contours of her face he saw the flashes of so many different emotions, the long history of so much pain and joy. He felt like a vice had suddenly constricted around his heart and was slowly squeezing the air out of his body. Leaning forward he pressed his lips to hers in a soft kiss. His hand fawned out over her cheek as his free arm wrapped around her waist pulling her closer. River's face flushed as her hands unclenched from his shirt, moving up to wrap softly around his neck.
Jayne pulled back, catching his breath as he stared down into her bright face. Tracing his fingers along her chin, Jayne leaned forward again, pressing his lips back to hers. The volt of electricity spread up through his veins and his grip locked on her waist as they faltered, stumbling backwards. River's back hit pantry door, her nails digging into his shoulder blade. Jayne's hand traced lightly down her neck, trailing over the smooth muscles and up to catch a hold her hands, his fingers entwining with hers.
Something had happened. Mal pressed his ear closer to the panel, listening to the quick retreating footsteps. Pushing open the panel quietly, he climbed out into the cockpit sealing the compartment closed behind him. A few quick hits on the control panel and he altered the auto pilot. Kaylee was gonna kill him for this later, but- reaching under the panel he pulled the wires, finding the two he need, he slit them and crossed them both. If he was lucky it would take his would be captors a while to figure out they were going in a wide circle. If he was unlucky it would take them a good thirty minutes to fix the wiring situation.
Mal turned away from the control panel to see what had districted the pilot. The sleazy little man was slinking along the corridor towards the dinning room, weapon held ready as though he sought to catch something. A flash of moment in the dinning room caught Mal's eyes. Checking his own weapon he moved forward.
"You gotta go back."
River glanced up at Jayne with a confused frown. "Back?"
Jayne nodded. "You gotta go back to Telphusa, ya gotta accept it all, all the pain, all the fear, all the past." River's forehead only wrinkled. "I know ya remember it all, but you ain't one. You gotta accept it."
River shook her head, "Not possible-"
"Ya just gotta trust me and go back, go and talk to Telphusa. Reckon maybe 'tween both them brains you can figure out the trigger-"
The sound of a body hitting metal startled the pair. Swinging around, Jayne pushed River behind him as he grabbed for the scalpel.
"Reckon that kind of thinking is gonna get you killed again, Jayne." Jayne breathed a slight sigh of relief as Mal stepped into view dragging the unconscious form of the pilot behind him. The captain glanced over the mercenary for a second, hesitation flickering over his face, "You name is Jayne- right?"
"Damn right it is." Dropping the scalpel, Jayne moved over to grab the body's legs, helping Mal tuck it in a corner before relinquishing the body of its weapons. "You got a plan ta get us out of this mess, Capt'n?"
"At the moment- no."
Jayne scowled, "Well think of one real fast- cuz if'n I die after all the damn work and pain I've been though I'm comin straight back to gut ya."
Mal turned back to the mercenary, "Me? Hell it's your own fault we're in this situation. If you hadn't of gone and thrown yourself in front of that bullet you'd never of died and brought all this Janus crap down on us."
"Thrown?" River questioned quietly silencing the two.
A light danced through Jayne's eyes as realization hit him. "I'll be damned." Turning around he moved back over to the girl, grabbing her arms. "You gotta remember. We've done this before. Before the red, before going back."
"What the hell are you talking about, Jayne? Of course she remembers."
"No, she don't. I didn't and I was the damn fool that stepped in front of the bullet." Turning back to River, Jayne gently shook her, "Gorram it, you gotta remember, remember before ya followed me into the black. Remember why I was laying on that bed bleeding, do you remember?"
River shook her head. "Was aimed, aimed at Jayne."
"I stepped in front of that bullet girl, it weren't aimed at me, I stepped into the shot. I died, I died for you once already and your damn brother brought me back. I stepped in front of that ruttin' bullet-"
Things weren't right. The air of the ship felt cold, the walls spoke of oncoming death, the ship trembling in fear, afraid of what was happening in her bowels. River sat silently listening to the whispers that foretold of red.
Simon set the bowl of rice before her as he spoke to Kaylee. "How long do you think this will take?"
"Not more than a few minutes if'n everything goes well." Kaylee answered back from the kitchen. "This ain't the first time we've done dealings with this lot. They're a greedy bunch but the Capt'n can handle 'em just fine."
River pushed the bowl away, her stomach turning. "Isn't right- she's afraid."
Simon frowned turning back to his sister, "Whose afraid?"
The ship trembled again. River pushed back from the table, jumping to her feet she made a beeline for the cargo bay, heart pounding in tune with the ship, stomach twisting in the familiar fear. The distant sound of voices egged her on, Simon's calling lost in the tumble of noises.
"What sort of concessions are you talking about?"
River stepped forward from the gallery. A toothy grin flashed across the dirty face, the glint of silver flashed out into the open. The gun swung wide, the resounding click and the thundering boom followed after. For only a second she saw the bullet flashing towards her. Then he moved and her heart stopped. The bullet disappeared; the body fell to the floor. The strangled cry of fear was ripped from her lungs as she stumbled forward, Simon's arms wrapping firmly around her waist and pulling her to the ground as the gunfire echoed.
River gave out a small startled shriek, her balance failing she tumbled forward into Jayne, body going limp. Jayne blinked for a second confused. "Reckon that weren't supposed to happen."
"What in the hell did you do now Jayne?"
"I didn't do nothing, she just sorted passed out on me." Jayne shifted the girl in his arms, moving his fingers up to feel for a pulse.
Mal glanced over at the mercenary casually, "She ain't dead is she?"
"Shit Capt'n, nothings beating."
"Damn it to all hell, suppose that means we gotta wait."
Jayne tuned an almost horrified expression on Mal. "She ain't breathing Mal, what have we got ta wait for? Shit, she ain't supposed ta die just suddenly like that, this ain't ever happened before." A hint of panic was racing through Jayne's voice as he awkwardly fumbled with the girl's body. "Shouldn't we be doing C.P.R. or something, can't just let the girl die like this. Ruttin' hell, after everything I went through I ain't just gonna-"
"Will you calm down?" Mal snapped, silencing his panicking mercenary. "Hell Jayne, you've died so many times this past week about the only thing that'll worry me is if you both go down and somebody accidentally buries ya." Shifting his belt, Mal glanced down the corridor. "Now, way I reckon it, you were out for maybe a little less than an hour. So figurin it takes her the same amount of time to do that li'l wakey-wakey thing you've been perfecting - well, we should all be dead by then."
"You talking about those hun duns downstairs." Jayne questioned, cradling the still River to his chest.
"Pirates. While you were taking you little ethereal nap, fate stepped up to fix her mistake in letting you live. They've got the crew cornered and they're gonna start killing people downstairs unless I show up real soon."
"Reckon you'd better head downstairs and save us all some trouble."
Mal ignored the comment, "We'll leave the girl here and figure this situation out. 'Tween the two of us, we might be able to survive." Jayne's grip tightened on River. "Now ain't the time to be playing keeps, Jayne. Sides', I figure with her dead up here, you ain't gonna be steppin' in front of any bullets to save her."
"Did it work?"
River blinked as the familiar voice questioned her. It took a second to pull her thoughts together, but slowly River pulled herself into a sitting position and glanced over the roman garden. Telphusa knelt beside her, worry etched across her face. Over on one of the benches an unfamiliar- yet distinctly familiar face watched them.
"Are Jayne and Janus one- did they join?" There was an undeniable hint of impatience in Telphusa's voice.
"Jayne- Jayne died."
The color drained from Telphusa face, her head shaking rapidly, "That's not possible, if that were so we'd be returned. We'd be one again, resting in the afterlife, not here, not here locked away from peace."
River shook her head, "Not dead, but he died, he died for her before. He took the bullet, stepped in front of the bullet meant for her."
"I'd thought we'd already established that," Octavia quipped quietly from the bench.
Telphusa glared at her sister before turning back to River, "What do you mean?"
"He had no reason, the Tiber wasn't crossed, weren't in love. Nothing- only little guilt left over for past transgressions."
"Now? Now she begins to doubt, oh sister dear, these pair are truly a mess to behold."
Standing up the elder sister marched across the garden. Grabbing River by the hands she pulled the girl roughly to her feet. "Fate? Fate does not compel him, fate has never compelled him. It is not your past, your present, or your future that determines his step. It is the failings of the human heart that makes him move, it is Jayne himself. Not enduring love, not a fate driven desire to protect you."
River's forehead wrinkled, "Doesn't make sense, Jayne doesn't-"
"Yes, well his actions speak otherwise." Octavia snorted. "The only reason the fool dies first is because of his will to keep your heart beating. According to the laws of fate, being bound simply ensures that once one of you fades the other follows. If it were to be tested, I am sure that should the bullet reach your heart first, he would then be cursed to follow."
"Octavia," Telphusa whispered as she pulled herself up. "I had no idea you knew so much."
"Oh, yes- well, I've had a few centuries to look into the matter." The elder sister managed a causal shrug before turning back to the befuddled River. "Whatever may have happened in that- mess- you call life, the oaf took actions to see that you survived. Now, the way I see it you can sit there, ponder and fuddle over the revelation or you can do as Jayne did, accept the past and the pain to make sure the poor oaf survives to see his next 50 birthdays."
"I count five of 'em." Jayne whispered to Mal. Below them in the cargo bay, the five pirates watched over the captured crew. Even from this vantage point they both could tell that Wash had been wounded and that Zoe was out of commission, leaving only the Shepard and Kaylee. "Hell captain, that just makes six countin' the fellow you clobbered. What'd ya do, welcome 'em onboard or something?"
"They were armed, you were dead. What was I supposed to do, throw Kaylee and the Shepard at them?"
Jayne snorted, "Well there's only five of 'em now, reckon could handle that by myself. They won't be expecting the dead guy, just the lousy captain that couldn't hold off six armed men."
Mal frowned, ignoring the comment as he watched the group below them. "Something's not making sense. Why haven't they started killing the crew, why aren't they tearing apart the hull looking for me?"
"Maybe they figured out the body ain't on the gurney anymore. Reckon that's enough to fry any man's innards and spook him clean through." Jayne's eyebrow hiked up for a second. "Be mighty fun to waltz down there, I ain't ever come back to life before."
"What are you talking about? This would be your- third time now?"
The flash of pain raced through River's body, the fear clenching her heart as the air rushed back into her lungs. River bolted upright, glancing around the ship's dinning room with wide hazel eyes. Pushing herself to her feet she wobbled unsteadily, the kinks in her mind straightening themselves out. "No time left."
The slim girl stumbled over to the pantry door, making quick work of untangling the mess she had made. The door groaned, pulling back to reveal her still unconscious brother. "Simon," River dropped to her knees, gently shaking her brother. "Simon, I need you Simon, need your help. Have to wake up now."
"We've searched wide and low," Mick declared. "Shuttles missing, but logs show that departed long 'fore we ever reached the ship. It don't make any kind of sense, Captain. There's got ta be some hidden compartments round this ship, but they ain't listed on the specs."
"Course they ain't, this ship was born and bred for smuggling. What kind of fool tells you where he hides his treasure?" Drew turned, glancing down at his small huddle of prisoners. "Reckon we've waited long enough."