Title: Mei Li
Pairing: It's a crazy Wash/Zoe, Simon/Kaylee and implied Mal/Inara Rayne story…where the River/Jayne is implied, and Wash is dead…It'll make sense once you read it.
Author's Notes: As I was writing this I realized there were parts that would be perfect for Wash, just perfect. You see in my perfect little world Wash never died in Serenity. The ship crashed, the Reavers came, the crew ran and had the showdown…but all survived. The message was sent out, the wrong was righted as much as it could have been, and the ship was patched up. The crew came together again, life moved on, all was normal. b That /B is my perfect little world.
It's too bad I never write about my perfect little world.
So here it is post Serenity, just like you saw it in the film
Serenity landed with a gentle squeak of the landing gear and the dust from the planet began to settle as the engines were cut.
River punched in a few commands to shut off the Cortex as the wave from their buyer cut off.
"Looks like we just got ourselves a bit of R and R." Mal stated as he moved away from the pilots seat.
"Only a little over a day's worth," River stated, flipping the three overhead switches and ensuring the ships landing gear was locked. "won't put us far behind schedule."
Mal nodded as he fell back into the co-pilot's seat. "That's good."
River grinned and tilted her head as she studied her quieter then normal Captain. "Penny for your thoughts?"
Mal stared up at the girl, who was doing that head tilting thing that kind of creeped him out. "A what for my huh?"
River smiled and shook her head. "What are you thinking?"
"Oh, why didn't you just say that?"
"I enjoy being enigmatic."
"You sure you ain't crazy?"
River shook her head again, and quirked an eyebrow at him. "Avoiding the question."
Mal opened his mouth, ready to give her a witty response along the lines of mind your own business when a startled shriek came echoing down the hallway from the mess. River's eyes closed as Mal's hand fell to his holster, and the gun he always had ready there.
The sound of laughter and an accusatory "Simon…" soon followed after, allowing Mal to relax back into his seat again. River opened her eyes and smiled sadly down the hallway to where she knew Kaylee was cleaning dishes with Simon's help, or at least his attempted help as they were mostly just getting one another wet.
Mal gave out a short chuckle and shook his head. "I swear, those two's flirtin's gettin' about outta hand." He turned to look at his pilot, as she stared down the hallway sadly. "You look a little glum there."
Mal nodded and it slowly became a shake of his head. "And this is something to be sad about?"
River looked at him for a moment before she shook her head and spun back around in her chair so she could face the controls once again. Things had finally begun to fall back into place, everyone was back to where they wanted to be and it was pointless to do anything that might jeopardize that. Kaylee and Simon were finally together, Mal and Inara were right where they felt they should be, Zoe was finally at peace with herself, Jayne was….Jayne.
"Hey...what is it?"
"Oh right, because that answer will be enough."
River barely suppressed an annoyed groan as she turned to stare at Mal. "It's just...it's nice..." She explained dumbly. Mal wasn't dumb, not even close, and far too conscientious of his crew to miss her sudden lapse in vocabulary. She hadn't used the word "nice" since she was three for Buddha's sake. "They're nice..." she finished looking back down the hallway behind them.
Mal stared at River, then down the hallway, and back to River again. "Um, you're gonna have to explain that a bit more...and in man talk."
River gave him a small grin and an even smaller shake of her head. "I'm happy she has someone that loves her, and that Simon stopped being a boob."
Mal looked back down the hallway, where he could hear Kaylee telling Simon to just sit and have tea with Inara and let her take care of the dishes. He grinned and looked back over to River. "It was one of the finer ideas your big brother's had since comin' on board. If Kaylee can get him to loosen up some it might just be the best thing that's ever happened to him." He shook his head again before turning in the co-pilot's seat so he could look straight out the front of the ship. "I swear I'm about to be runnin' a gorram love boat sooner then I'm going to be gettin' us another job. Next I know it Kaylee'n your brother'll be gettin' hitched an' you'll be runnin' off with some fancy to-do from one of these places.'"
River snorted at the notion and leaned back in her chair.
"What? You will, ya know." Mal said as he leaned forward and stared at the young woman next to him. "Some gorram guy's gonna come in here an' sweep you off your feet and before I know it I'll be huntin' around for another pilot that's half as good as you are." He mused with a small grin, which was slowly turning into a frown as he thought more on the likeliness of that situation.
Mal huffed unhappily and fell back in his chair. He glared at the doorway and the laughter that quietly filtered in from the mess just beyond. River tilted her head slightly and stared at him as he continued to glare.
Mal caught sight of River's staring, which always did seem to get a mite creepifyin' real quick, and took to staring at her in return. "Don't give me that look."
"I'm not disillusioned Captain, I will never have that."
"What do you mean never?"
River shook her head and turned back around to the controls behind her.
"Hey, no ignoring me...I hate it when Jayne does it, I hate it when 'Nara does it, an' I sure as hellfire hate it when you do it." Mal stated angrily, he was still peeved at the idea of having to find a new pilot for his ship, not to mention doctor and mechanic. Weren't fair of 'em to even think on leavin' without givin' him notice or some thing, that's how they did it on Earth that was. He was conveniently ignoring the fact that it was still done on the Core planets and Alliance held positions of course, they gave notice for these kinds of things.
"Now what do you mean about what you just said?"
River stared at him for a moment, in an attempt to decide the best way to broach the topic while simultaneously finding the best way to have this conversation done quickly. "Won't ever be like that...I'm not normal."
"That's a fact, but it don't mean ya can't have what they've got someday….someday in the far…far future."
River nodded firmly at the 'an that's that' look on Mal's face. She should have known that wouldn't be the end of the conversation, nothing was ever over once Mal wore that face.
"Jayne! Tell River she's desirable."
The entire room froze. Kaylee stopped cleaning dishes, Inara and Simon stopped their conversation over tea, and Zoe stopped cleaning her gun. They all turned their heads at seemingly the same moment to stare at Jayne with a mix of perplexed, interested, and horrified looks.
Jayne froze, bowl of protein noodles in one hand and chop sticks in the other, only a few feet away from the table. "Wha?"
"You heard me."
Jayne closed his mouth and decided it best to sit, this was bound to be one of those days.
"WHAT !" Simon screamed out after finally finding his voice
Mal gave Simon one snort annoyed look before turning back to his Mercenary. "Do it!" Mal demanded once again as he pointed at River. "Tell her you think she's desirable."
Jayne turned to stare at River, who had been staring at Mal in utter confusion since he began this whole 'River is desirable' thing he had goin' on. "Uhhh…"
His heart thundered in his chest and he was sure everyone could hear it, there was no way they couldn't. He stared at the young woman in front of him completely and utterly terrified. It wasn't like he'd gone an' planned this, or even thought that in a million years Mal'd go and order him ta say somethin' like that, not that he minded. She was desirable, whole heaps of desirable, it's just that this was a less then ideal time to go an' tell her he thought so.
"Don't even think about it!" Simon shouted out, appalled at the thought of the Neanderthal even thinking of saying such a thing to River.
Inara stared up at Mal, worry written across her features "Mal…"
"No!" Mal turned to Inara and Simon and shushed them both with a small wave of his hand. "She don't think anyone would ever want to be with her," he explained simply before turning back to Jayne. "So you tell her."
River turned to look over at Jayne, giving him a look akin to that of utter horror, an' he'd be lyin' if he said that didn't knock the wind right out of him. After all it was one thing to have your Captain tell you to confess to havin' feelin's for the once crazy girl gone pilot when you were still tryin' to deny 'em your own self and a whole other one to have said girl crush any wild notions that your feelings might have been mutual.
River closed her eyes against the stares of the crew and shook her head. "You don't have to answer him." She said quietly, reminding herself to take deep even breaths to keep from crying. She wasn't even all that sure how they had gotten to the point where Mal decided the only way to prove to her that she would find someone to fall in love with was to prove that people found her desirable. It was a completely illogical jump to an even more illogical conclusion, and thus was obviously entirely the Captain's fault.
She had faced years at the Academy, and unstable sanity, she'd even fought an entire ship of Reavers and still none of that could compare to this very moment, in front of everyone, having the man that she…well, Jayne…being ordered to tell her something that he obviously didn't feel. She was mortified.
"Yes he does."
"No he doesn't!"
"What I tell you 'bout givin' orders on my boat Doctor? Long as I'm Captain, I give the orders…now do it."
Kaylee stared at River as the two men bickered back and forth over how much say the Captain had in the personal lives of his crew, watching as her friend slowly became more and more humiliated. "Why don't you tell her Cap'n?"
"What?" The sound of four very confused, and several startled, crew members shouted out in unison.
Kaylee looked around at everyone. "Yeah, sure." She shrugged and grinned at Mal and Simon. "Ifn' ya think a guy's gonna want River then you could just tell her yourself. Ain't no reason to go and be orderin' Jayne ta do it."
Mal stared at Kaylee wide eyed, mouth hanging slightly open. "I..." His mouth opened and closed several times before he turned and looked at River. "Well I..."
"What? You don't think she's desirable?"
Mal's head snapped back around to Kaylee. "What? No! I mean," He sputtered for a moment as he racked his brain for the right words. "You're like my mei mei and that's just...icky"
"I think this entire conversation is mental and we should all just pretend it never happened." Simon said as he put his head in his hands and closed his eyes, secretly willing this all to be some terrible nightmare…a terrible freakish nightmare.
Kaylee glared at Simon and shook her head. With a small sigh she moved over to River's side to give her the patented Kaylee 'feel better' side hug. "Too bad Wash ain't here, he'd tell ya you was pretty in a second." She offered with a soft smile.
"That's my man."
Kaylee gave Zoe a sad smile as she continued to hug River.
"Mei mei, you're beautiful and brilliant...anyone would be mad to not want you." Inara explained leaning forward in her chair at the table, in a small gesture of reassurance.
River stared at Inara for a moment before looking to Kaylee, who was still firmly attached to her side. She slowly moved her gaze around the room, looking at everyone in turn. She ended on Jayne, who looked confused and upset at the whole ordeal. She shook her head and pushed away from Kaylee and out of the room as quickly as possible.
"Well handled Mal."
Mal glared down at Inara, who sat primly in her chair glaring daggers at him. "What? I was helpin'! An' it wouldda worked too if Jayne'd just told her he wanted her." He shouted, deciding it would be better to glare at the reason for this whole problem himself, rather then 'Nara, especially since glarin' at Jayne was all manners of easier then glarin' at 'Nara anyhow.
"Qui zhu zai tian ting wo zheng zai shui jiao." Simon muttered, trying to bury his face in his hand even more then they already were.
"You heard me." Mal said in that cold and even voice he got when he wanted to be manly and intimidating.
"You want I should go tell her I want her?" Jayne barked out, giving Mal a glare he was not likely to forget any time soon.
Jayne shook his head, not once looking away from Mal. "You're completely off your axel! A year ago, gorramit a month ago you'd shove me in the airlock for sayin' that." He shouted, pointing an accusatory finger at Mal.
"Not if I told you to say it!"
"It's one thing for you to go stompin' about playin' lord 'n master of us all when we're workin' but ya can't go around barkin' out orders for us to go an' do things ya want us to do when we ain't gettin' paid ta do 'em." Jayne growled out as he pushed his chair back with a hard shove and stood. "It's no wonder your love life's in such great shape." He muttered as he turned and stomped out of the room angrily.
"What does that mean?" The bewildered voice of the captain echoed down the hall after him as he tromped down the stairway, growling under his breath the whole way.
Jayne turned to storm into the cargo bay so he could lift some weights but was stopped short by the sight of River sprawled out on the sofa in the common area, face buried in the single throw pillow like she was trying to smother herself.
He stood there for a moment, completely frozen in the middle of the common area, trying to decide how he should proceed. A big part of him wanted to just shrug off the sight of her all sullen on the sofa an' just march right past her and into the cargo bay like nothin's changed, while another part of him wanted to make sure she weren't too upset with what Mal'd done upstairs. Of course there was that third part of 'im, the one that was still reeling from the quick and harsh crushing of his feelings, even if she didn't know about 'em.
He had just made up his mind to leave the girl be an' just move on, to leave the room an' head for his weights an' never look back when he heard a small sniffle escape the throw pillow. Crushed or not, he'd be a damned fool to think he could get over something like slowly, kind of, developing feelings for someone so quick, an even dumber to think he could ignore the sound of her crying…or sniffling as it were.
With a deep growl, that border lined on a sigh, he turned towards her. "Girl.."
"Would rather be alone now…" she muffled out her response.
"Yeah an' I'd rather be eatin' my noodles, we don't always get what we want."
River muttered out something about how a man shouldn't live on complex carbohydrates alone and left her face stubbornly smooshed into the throw pillow.
"Look girl, Mal's a bit slow in the brainpan. I think all that unresolved sexual tension 'tween him an' 'Nara's got to his head."
"Coerced me to talk and then embarrassed me in front of everyone." She mumbled out again, still refusing to move her head out from the safety of the throw pillow.
Jayne nodded and took a few steps towards the sofa River was sprawled out on. "Yeah that's Mal for ya." He stared at her for a long moment before shaking his head. "Look why ya want to go an' have a guy anyhow? Ain't a person in the 'Verse gonna be good 'nough for ya."
River's head shot up from the throw pillow a look of shock and betrayal at the notion that this whole ordeal was because of her wanting a "guy" was quickly replaced by one of stern indifference. "The idea of being alone forever is less then appealing."
"Even if it means ya gotta settle for someone that ain't good enough for ya?"
River quirked her mouth to the side and slowly sat up, hugging the throw pillow to her chest as she moved. "Good enough is a relative idea."
"Whaddya mean by that?"
"One individual's definition of 'good enough' does not hold for the next." She explained as Jayne shifted uncomfortably on his feet next to her. "Besides, it's not a matter of good enough."
Now River was known for saying some zany stuff, somethin' Jayne had thought was taken care of after the whole Miranda thing, but he had obviously been wrong 'cause this ranked right up there with the whole "little soul" thing she went spouting off about on Jiangyin. "An' what is it a matter of?
A smile slowly spread across her face as she stared off at nothing in particular. "Right enough. There is someone right enough for everyone, completing of souls..." she finished with a slightly dreamy smile.
His chest suddenly felt too tight and heart was thundering again. As he stared down at her he realized he didn't have a chance, hell he never had a chance.
Weren't a snowball's chance in hell he'd be able to pretend that the young pilot didn't turn him inside out as of late, that he felt too big and clumsy every time she was about, that he didn't sometimes think on bein' nicer to that priggish brother of hers just on the off chance that she might send one of those breath-taking smiles his way, or that he always felt that the oughta be doin' more with himself just so he could even entertain the notion that he was good enough for her.
Yup, weren't no two ways about it, Jayne Cobb was fallin' for the girl faster then he ever thought possible, an' he would do anything to be the guy "right enough" for her, even if it did take a few lifetimes.
He swallowed heavily and turned away from her big eyes with a short nod. His eyes raked the room in an attempt to find something to take his mind off of the object of his apparent affection, if only for a few seconds. After deciding that the common room was all kinds of boring, an' that Mal oughta be spendin' more time tryin' to make this place homey insteada goin' around causin' a fuss with his crew, he shrugged in a small attempt to make it seem as though he hadn't gone an' spend a good five minutes starin' at the girl in front of him. "Right, you'll find 'im." He stated with an uncomfortable nod, the very thought of encouragin' the girl to find herself a perfect man seemed all kinds of wrong. "An' in the mean time just ignore Mal…it's what I do.
"That makes him very angry, besides the Captain just wanted to help me feel mei li, even if he was being a..." she trailed off as she tried to come up with the best term in which to describe her Captain.
"Yeah well wouldn't be Mal if'n he weren't goin' around makin' all our lives harder then they got the right to be." Jayne said with a small smirk. "Why he's got to make everything harder then it's got to be is beyond me. If ya want a girl to feel pretty ya call her pretty." He finished, suddenly keenly aware of the fact that he was standing far closer to her then he had realized, or had even been since before the whole Maidenhead thing.
Well that and the fact that she had just admitted that Mal's crazy plan had just been to make her feel pretty.
"He does have a way of drawing things out and making them more difficult."
"You are you know." He blurted out suddenly, catching River off guard. His mouth had suddenly gone very dry and his ability to use words longer'n four letters had begun to leave him as she stared at him in confusion. "Mei li…"
The confused expression left her face immediately "You think so?"
He nodded dumbly for a moment before realizing that she couldn't see him doin' it, what with her head all bowed down an' all. "Yeah…" She looked up at him and the second their eyes met his mouth was doing that too dry thing again, an' he was honestly thinkin' about talkin' to the Doc about it later because it was all matters of annoying. He cleared his throat noisily and nodded, breaking eye contact with the movement. "Ya know…for a crazy girl." He explained with a small shrug.
River rolled her eyes and shot him her best disinterested stare as he turned and made his way out of the common area and into the cargo bay. Once his large form disappeared through the door way, and the sound of his heavy footsteps echoed quieter, she let the grin she had been holding back spring free. "Boob."