Kaylee padded up to the crew corridor, biting her lower lip nervously. This was the last place to search for her part. Simon was in the cargo bay, overturning crates. Kaylee had a sinking feeling the closer she moved to Jayne's bunk. He'd locked it. She knocked once, and a loud thump and a string of muted cursing followed soon after. A long pause, and nothing else happened, so Kaylee knocked louder. There was a click, and the lock disengaged. Quietly, she pressed the hatch open.
"Jayne?" Kaylee called down into the bunk, looking down the ladder into the darkened room below. She could see him walk into the shaft of light, shielding his eyes. He was clad only in his dark boxer shorts, his pants in his other hand ready to be put on.
"What the hell you want?" He asked in a sleepy growl of a voice.
"Have you seen River?" She asked quickly in a subdued voice. "I mean, last night after dinner or anythin'? Simon woke up this mornin' and her bed was empty. No one else's awake yet, and we didn't want t' stir up a panic but--"
She cut herself off wide-eyed as River stumbled into her bird's-eye-view, struggling to pull her shirt on over her head. Otherwise, the girl was clothed only in her underthings. Jayne looked just as startled as she bumped against him, grunting and fighting the shirt. Kaylee had never seen Jayne blush, let alone as bright and red as he turned at that moment. He wordlessly helped River pull her shirt on, at which she smiled thankfully, then the both of them looked up at Kaylee. A short, awkward pause ensued.
"I, uh..." Jayne looked from Kaylee to River then back again. He jerked a thumb at the girl. "Found 'er."
"You two--" Kaylee put a hand to her mouth, not sure whether to be gleeful or frightened for Jayne's life. "Y' mean y'all--"
"Sex," River said monotonically beside her beau, making both Jayne and Kaylee jump. "Copulation. Fornication. Coitus. Intercourse." She smirked in a way that surprised Kaylee. "Mated."
A muscle twitched in Jayne's jaw and his face turned an even brighter shade of red.
"Jayne!" Kaylee's face mirrored his own, how much she was not sure.
"Three times," River clarified, holding up three fingers as a reminder.
"She don't gotta know that!" Jayne said suddenly, his hackles raising and blushing all the way down his neck. He disappeared from Kaylee's view momentarily, and River's shorts flew out of the darkness at her. "Get yer pants on, 'fore the Doc's brother-senses start tinglin' and he finds a mind t' pull my brains out through my ears."
"My hui xiong is always so inventive," River mumbled pleasantly, pulling her shorts on. She climbed up the ladder, met Kaylee with a wide smile on her face, then linked elbows with the young woman. "Let us go tell lies to my big brother."
Despite the shock, Kaylee mirrored the girl's smile and hugged her arm close to her side. She was the only secret-turtle in this club.
Simon, Kaylee and River met in the galley to find Book preparing his own breakfast. The doctor deflated and hugged his sister close without introduction.
"Found 'er dead asleep in the copilot's chair, Simon," Kaylee said cheerfully, feeling proud that she now had a secret all to her own. "Looks like Wash's lessons're rubbin' off on her."
"Perfectly safe," River assured Simon, patting his shoulder as she sat at the table.
The others filed in as usual, despite the unnatural silence that seemed to have seized all of them. Most didn't know what to do now that River and Jayne were common knowledge. Wash personally felt a little put-out that there was no longer a secret club to partake in. Mal, for the most part, tried to ignore the look that broke over River's face when Jayne entered the room. The mercenary mussed his hair with a morning sigh, looked about the room once, then pulled out the chair directly beside River and sat.
The girl kissed him right on his scruffy cheek, and that action seemed to wash the silence from the galley.
Most of the talk was pertaining to the drop-off on Demeter in two days, giving them plenty of time to make the fifteen crates from Dorian ready. It seemed that while their tobacco was completely legitimate, their salvage from Greenleaf wasn't. So, Wash had found a longer but safer route to Demeter that would tack a day onto their running time. Jayne stuffed his spoon into his mouth as he wrapped his arm around River's shoulders and scooted her nearer. The previous tension morphed into a comfortableness that neither of them had had the pleasure of experiencing in a long time.
The next two days were theirs. They laughed and smiled, two things that never came easy from Jayne. Even Mal had to admit he liked Jayne better while he was with River--she made him almost civil, which was much easier to bear. And when the night came, she stole away to his bunk in silence, and afterward she returned to the passenger dorms before Simon could wake and worry. Only Kaylee knew, and she wasn't saying anything.
It was agreed that Mal, Zoe and Jayne would cart the crates out to the rendezvous point, where they would meet with the buyer and supplier of this little moon, a fella going by the name of Terrin. Mal didn't know anything about him, and Wash couldn't dig up any dirt on the Cortex, so they assumed that he was generally a good guy.
Jayne stood facing the grassy plain of Demeter just as the sun rose over the horizon. A pretty pink and gold dawn, opposed to the evening they'd been experiencing on the ship; not Jayne's favorite time to work, but better than a beating the noonday sun could give you. He checked systematically to make sure he had all of his guns strapped to himself. River unsurprisingly appeared behind him, holding out her single pistol.
"May need her," she said solemnly. Jayne grinned in a way only he was able.
"Naw, she's yours now. 'Sides, got myself a pretty number 'a guns on me, don't think little Susan'd do much difference. Why, you think somethin's goin' down?"
"A strange feeling," she murmured, placing a hand low on her stomach. "Unsure. Her head is a jumble of nothings." She looked up at him for guidance. He shrugged.
"Simple drop-off. I ain't worried, so you don't get your panties all knotted up over it, all right?"
"Such interest in my under-things," she murmured, tucking Susan back into her holster at her side.
"You ain't givin' me a reason not t' be interested," he smirked. His fingers curled on the back of her neck, pulling her up for a toe-curling kiss. "Back 'fore you can blink."
"Mmn," she responded simply, still dazed. As he sauntered down the ramp, she regained herself and called after him. "My love, hui xiong!"
He turned, grinning widely and pulling his sunglasses down on his eyes. "Back at ya, bao bei."
When he was shot, she felt every bullet go through him like hot fire. Simon didn't know why she'd suddenly shot to her feet, screaming. River clutched at her chest near her heart, shouting about the blood, so much blood, can't stop the bleeding.
As Simon and Kaylee together carted the wailing River off for the infirmary, Wash's voice came over the ship-wide com. Mal, Zoe and Jayne were on their way back. It hadn't gone smoothly. Simon was to have the infirmary ready, and bring the stretcher. Kaylee stayed with River in the infirmary, stroking her hair and asking what was wrong over and over.
Mal and Zoe lifted the bleeding and half-conscious Jayne onto the exam table with the stretcher, who groaned and complained in a loud, strained voice. Kaylee's eyes couldn't blink, staring at the merc's blood-soaked shirt. He was still holding his gun.
"What happened?" She pleaded, edging toward the door. Mal wiped the sweat from his brow, looking more concerned than usual.
"Deal went south. Bandits snuck up on all 'a us and Jayne here was the only one what saw 'em comin'. Zoe 'n me would probably be dirt-nappin' right now... Anyhow, got himself shot who-knows how many times. Doc, you better be thinkin' on seven ways t' save this man's life, your eyebrows all furrowed like that."
Mal felt someone brush by his side, and looked down to see River move silently past him to the man on the exam table. The arguing masses went into a quiet rumble when Jayne turned suddenly silent. His breathing was labored and deep as he reached his bloodied hand out toward her. She wordlessly gripped his paw in both of hers, holding him close to her chest.
"Think I been shot," he rumbled. Simon tried to quietly usher the onlookers out of the infirmary. He and Mal assured everyone that no one was going to die today, but River kept her eyes locked on Jayne's. "Was gonna wait a while, t'... looks like that might not happen, but--"
"Jayne..." River said at last, her voice small.
He wheezed, shaking his head. "Cut that... Gettin' on, I was gonna... Gorramit, girl..." He clutched her hand, not knowing what to say or how to say it, or even if he had enough time to. But Mal knew, and he stepped forward shaking his head.
"Don't you even think on it, Jayne!"
"Oh, I'm thinkin' on it, Cap'n," Jayne grunted in response. "And I don't give a good gorram what you think, I just..." He looked to River for help, and she in turn looked pleadingly up at Mal.
"You're the captain," she told him. "Need you now more than ever."
"Don't see what difference it's gonna make now, Jayne--"
"Just do it, Mal!" As he spoke, blood flecked on his lips, and he was quick to wipe it away with the back of his free hand. Concern flickered over Mal's features only briefly, then he finally consented and gave a stiff nod.
"I need a Bible or anythin'?"
"Here, Captain," Book handed over his volume without looking up from the couple clutching to each other on the exam table. Mal took the book wordlessly.
"All right." He cleared his throat, looked nervously sideways to see the entire crew had gathered outside the infirmary doors. Kaylee had her fingers gripped tight with Simon's, tears in her eyes. Wash was ashy and silent, something that set Mal's brain into a tailspin. Wash was never ashy and silent. Mal turned back to River and Jayne, the latter of which grimaced in pain and squeezed the girl's hand in his vice grip. She didn't even flinch.
"Let's do this quick-like," Mal said gravely.
"Sounds like a plan," Jayne grunted, chest heaving for breath.
A sigh through his nose, and he awkwardly fumbled with the bible. "You, River. You take this bumblin', sloberin', hulkin', uneducated hun dan t' be yours 'til one 'a you kicks it? This is forever, Li'l Albatross."
"I know. Very much so, Captain," she said solemnly. Mal winced a bit when he saw the big tears rolling down her face. Jayne worked past the pain to wipe his thumb across her cheek to rid her of those tears. He left a smudge of blood there instead.
"And you, Jayne? You take this skinny, moonbrained, babblin', little genius girl for your wife so long as you're breathin'?"
"Yeah," he wheezed through the pain. "You bet your life on it, Cap'n."
A short unsure pause as Mal discovered something obstructing his throat. He cleared it, then handed the bible back to its owner. "Well, then," he said once he'd regained his voice, "y'all are man and ruttin' wife. Go on and kiss t' seal the deal."
She didn't need another moment to think, as she grabbed the sides of Jayne's face in her hands and kissed him. The assembled watchers didn't know if they should be clapping or crying or both. With Jayne's bloodied hand bunching her hair passionately in his fist, kissing her with what strength he had left, it was a macabrely touching sight. Kaylee dug her fists into her eyes, trying not to cry aloud. Simon pulled her against him to stroke her hair in comfort. Inara unthinkingly entwined her fingers with Mal's, something that, surprisingly, didn't surprise him.
Suddenly, Jayne's whole body jerked and stiffened, his one visible hand trembling. He pawed once at her hair, then his hand fell limp to his side.
River pulled back, looking frantically down at the slack form of a human being in front of her. "Jayne?"
Simon stepped away from Kaylee quickly, and was immediately pulling River down off of her husband. "Get her out of here," he said very pointedly to Mal. He didn't even bother arguing at the look in Simon's eye as he latched his fingers around River's wrists.
"Jayne!" She cried out, struggling against Mal's grip as he pulled her from the infirmary. "Jayne!!"
As she was pulled silently away from the infirmary, she could see his body seizing under Simon's best efforts to placate his last throes. River struggled, fought weakly to go back, to be with him. Mal's arms encircled her, keeping her in one place as she babbled nonsense in a watery voice, kicking and flailing.
"C'mon, Li'l Albatross!" Mal shook her slightly in his arms, trying to get her settled. "Nothin' you can do right now; let yer brother do what he does."
"Not fair!" She cried, not bothering to rid her face of tears. "Time's too short, all dies and fades, and he's gone! Can't be left alone--too many tears, she'll dry out and float away!" Her next words were lost in an unidentifiable wailing. Kaylee wordlessly closed the doors to the infirmary, where wildly beeping equipment drowned out all other noise.
She'd exiled herself to Jayne's bunk, where she lay curled up on his bed, clutching Susan tightly to her chest. She sniffled and wheezed every now and again. Kaylee sat in the corridor above, knees pulled to her chest in her own silent mourning as she stood watch over the newly-wedded girl. River was right. It wasn't fair. Someone in the 'Verse is lucky enough to love and be loved back, it just wasn't fair to have it all pulled out from under you. She poked her head in to check on River from time to time, and eventually found her wrapped in an unsteady, tear-induced sleep.
Mal stood on the bridge, looking out at the map of stars before them, saying nothing and thinking on much. Inara could read him easier than a book, and lay her head comfortingly on his shoulder. There were no words, and they both preferred it that way. No one came in to interrupt their silence, thanks to Kaylee sitting outside in the corridor as their door ward as well. There was time to talk later. Now was time for quiet contemplation and silent thoughts.
Simon exited the infirmary more than an hour later, wiping his brow and closing the doors behind him. Wash jumped up from the nearby chair, looking tired and nervous. Simon was surprised to see him there, of all the people on the ship. Wash was wringing his hands, peering into the covered windows to perhaps glimpse the wounded merc.
"How is he?" Wash asked, upon not seeing Jayne inside. Simon ran a nervous hand over his eyes.
"Right now? He's not dead, and I consider that quite an accomplishment."
"Wo de mah," Wash muttered, looking at his feet. "What happened? Was he hit by a bus?"
"Three bullets in total," Simon said as unattached as possible. "One just by his heart, too. He was lucky to live through his own wedding, let alone his honeymoon."
"How do you feel about all that?" Wash asked, hoping to get off the subject of bullets and death.
"I don't know," Simon admitted, feeling a little sickly. "As odd as it sounds to say it, Jayne's a friend. But part of me knows how dangerous his line of work is, and that this could very well happen again, and often. I don't want River to..."
"Yeah," Wash muttered, crossing his arms to give them something to do. "Mal married me and Zoe too, you know," he said out of nowhere. "He didn't like it one bit, but he did it right over the dinner table then went right back to his mashed potatoes afterward." He rubbed his eyes, looking a nervous wreck. "Zoe couldn't stay. She went to try and sleep, which I assume is where everyone else went." He paused, sighing with a whole heave of his body frame. "We gonna go spread the news?"
"I suppose we should let everyone know my brother-in-law is alive," Simon murmured, glancing over his shoulder before walking alongside the pilot up the nearby staircase.
Kaylee and Book looked up as the two men entered the crew corridor. Kaylee stood at once, her eyebrows knit. Mal poked his head out of the cockpit, and he took down the stairs followed closely by Inara. There was no sign of Zoe or River.
"She's dead asleep down there," Kaylee said quietly, nodding down the ladder to Jayne's bunk. "I never seen anyone cry themselves t' sleep, Simon. 'Bout broke my heart."
"How's my mercenary?" Mal asked intently.
"Alive," Simon said, bolstered slightly by his little chat with Wash. "Stable, considering all the trauma he's been through. He's lost a lot of blood, enough to need a transfusion. Thankfully, Mikhail was smart enough to leave me enough plasma, and in Jayne's blood-type. If left on his own without a lot of drama, he should be back to good health in about a week. That means--" he added quickly before Kaylee could interrupt, "--no parties, celebrations, anything to get his blood pumping faster than normal rate; he can't go out on any jobs for at least a week, probably longer if you want him functioning properly."
"That's good news, right?" Kaylee asked at last, offering a tentative hint of a smile, ready to wipe it away if it wasn't.
"It's good news," Simon assured her with a tired smirk. "You'll have your swearing, uncouth mercenary back before you notice he's gone."
Kaylee threw her arms around Simon's neck and practically squeezed the life out of him. She knocked the breath out of him, which he was barely able to recover before she kissed him soundly on the cheek. She sang his praises for another good minute, making the doctor awfully red in the face. The tension released from the gathered crew, and Mal actually smiled at Inara.
They allowed that River could stay asleep in Jayne's bunk so long as he was in the infirmary. Simon said that Jayne would be okay to move up to his own bunk in a day or three, depending on his pain level and how ornery he was. They all took to their rooms to sleep, think, and dream. It was time for River to wake.
Night cycle was dead quiet. Even River's bare feet made no sound as she stepped down toward the infirmary. She slid the door noiselessly open to glimpse her man asleep on the exam table. His chest moved steadily up and down, his mouth slightly ajar. She padded silently to his side, observing the harsh contrast of his stitched wounds, where the blood had been cleared away. He was pale, and cold. River placed her warm hand directly in the center of his chest.
After a long wait, his voice rumbled in his chest under her fingers, something she'd come to enjoy. "Know that ain't the Doc," he said groggily. His fingers rose from his side, covering hers in a drugged, soporific way.
"I'm here," she said calmingly. "Your Mrs. Cobb."
The edge of his lips twitched up, and he gripped her hand feebly. "Oh yeah... We got hitched, didn't we?"
"Yes," she said quietly, running her thumb over his knuckles. "Changed your mind, now that you are not dying?"
"Cut that talk," he told her, still not opening his eyes. "You know that ain't true. I prob'ly woulda got t' it 'ventually. Just ain't good with the words."
She smiled helplessly. Her fingers skated through his hair, something that made his smile curl up like a cat's. River leaned down, careful of his wounds, and kissed him delicately. A low grumble of pleasure, and his hand gripped weakly at the back of her neck.
Simon arrived in the doorway just in time to see his sister pull away from Jayne, smiling and holding tight to his hand.
She stared tearfully at the blood under his fingernails. "Yours forever, now," she said quietly. "To love, honor, respect... to be loyal, Mama Bear and Papa Bear. She is your problem now."
For a moment, she wondered if he had gone back to sleep, but he managed to utter in a low voice, "Good problem."
She smiled fondly down at her man. "My love, Mr. Cobb."
He took only the space of a sighing breath to respond: "Back at ya, Mrs. Cobb."
"Let him get some sleep," Simon said from his position at the door. "He'll be here in the morning. I promise."
As she hugged herself tightly to her brother's side, he could barely hear her little voice. "Thank you for sharing, Simon." He embraced her in return, wordless and silent, comforting in only the way a brother can.
Three days later, in Jayne's bunk, his grandmother's ring on her finger sealed the deal. As careful as she was, she still managed to raise his heart-rate.
AN: WELL, this is it. This is the end of the journey! The final chapter! I had ever-so-much fun writing this, and it was great to have y'all here with me for it. I seriously love writing these guys, which is why I am soooo sticking around to write a sequel to this. Which makes it a tri-quel to SENSE... So it'll be a Rayne trilogy... And, I've thought of a theme for the next series. I'm thinkin' western zodiac (leo, aquarius, cancer etc.) for the theme! Tell me if that sounds cool, and if not I'll change it. I hope all of you like the last chapter, and hope it wasn't too melodramatic or anything. I absolutely love it for different reasons. Thanks, all, for sticking with me and sending me love all throughout. I love all of you, and have a great summer!