Note: Quotations in bold italics should be read as lines spoken in Russian.
Jayne was clean and sober when Serenity touched down in the Stari Novgorod Docks.
River could appreciate the irony in the name now. Old Newcity. Made even funnier if you knew there was a city called Novgorod on Earth-That-Was.
Mal reluctantly agreed to a three day visit. The crew would return to Serenity to sleep.
River hoped they could arrange everything in three days. Assuming there was anything to arrange.
River refused to assume anything. Her instincts told her things were leaning in the direction she preferred.
Jayne could be unpredictable.
River was looking for an opening. She needed to talk to him, and he was still… was he actually avoiding her, or were they just…
In an uncharacteristic show of largesse, Mal hired a van to ferry them all to Nona's house and back. Zoë drove. The rental agency liked her driving records better than Mal's.
Nona met them at the door.
River surprised everyone by greeting her in fluent, if oddly accented Russian.
Jayne looked more shell-shocked than anyone.
Before anyone could react, Kolya, Sasha and Misha ran over from their yard, nearly bowling Jayne over. He chased them off, all four howling with laughter.
Smiling, River made the necessary introductions in Jayne's absence.
"Those hooligans." Nona sighed. "They've been so excited that Zhenya was returning. I'm glad I can just shove them out the back door, otherwise they would have driven me totally crazy. Come in, come in."
"Leave your shoes." River whispered, demonstrating.
"Excuse me," Leina said, navigating her way through the crowd. "I must go rescue my cousin. I'll send him right in, Nona."
The shoeless crew of Serenity followed River into the living room.
Jayne spoke from the door a moment later, he still had his boots on, so he stayed outside.
"Ma! The boys won't settle unless I spend some time with them. I'll take them down to the park for an hour or so." Jayne hugged his mother, who had joined him in the hall.
"You're right, of course. They're too worked up." Nona agreed. "Hurry back."
"I'll go along." River offered, slipping her shoes back on. "I could use some air."
And she wanted to talk to Jayne.
"Yeah, come on." Jayne agreed. He was radiating the discomfort the inevitable topic provided him.
The children ran around them in circles and practically led them to the park down the street.
The boys rushed off to climb, leaving the adults room to talk.
"You have considered my proposal?" River asked, her mouth feeling dry.
Jayne sat on a bench and watched the children. "Yeah, I considered it." He agreed. "And I considered how I shouldn't want to go along with it half as much as I do."
"But you do? Want to?" She tried to keep the hope out of her voice.
Jayne growled low in his throat. Then he sighed. "Yeah, I want to." He scuffed his boot along the ground. "What about you? Have you changed your mind, do you still want to marry me? I can be an ass."
"I haven't changed my mind. I still want to tie my life to yours." She smiled up at him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "We're partners. This is a logical step for us."
"Logical?" Jayne's brow knit together. "Shouldn't it be emotional or passionate or something?"
River smiled and shifted herself into his lap. "Emotional will come, passionate is just beneath the surface."
She snuggled into his chest and smiled as his arms reached up to hug her to him. She felt so safe in his arms.
"I don't properly love you." Jayne warned.
"Neither do I." River grinned up at him.
"Marriage is important to me, sacred. We'll have to be faithful, ain't really marriage without the faithful. I'd kill anyone you were messing around with." He said the words so bluntly, with such minimal emotion that River knew he meant them.
"So would I." River challenged.
A huge grin split Jayne's face. "Good. Keep me in line. I wanna be a good example to our kids."
He kissed the top of her head and breathed in the scent of her hair.
He chuckled. "Looks like we're being a bad example to Leina's kids."
Kolya, Misha and Sasha squealed when River looked up at them. They were all on the fence surrounding the picnic area.
"Kiss her! Kiss her!" They chanted, shrieking with laughter.
River looked up at her fiancé. "One should always be a bad example to other people's children." She said, smiling softly.
The boys cheered when their lips met.Their next kiss had an audience too. There was less cheering.
River prefered to keep the arguing away from Jayne's family as much as possible. To that end, they waited to make their announcement until the crew returned to Serenity that night.
It was early by ship standards, so everyone gathered in the lounge. They were still feeling social.
River and Jayne sat side by side on the couch.
River looked at Jayne.
Jayne looked at River.
Both smiled. Both took steadying breaths. Both surveyed the cheerfully assembled crew.
"Do you want to say it or should I?" River asked in Russian. She was grateful they had a 'code' they could use.
"Should sound better coming from you." Jayne said nervously.
River considered him for a moment. She hadn't realized before how concerned he was about the probable angry responses. Some of his tension spilled over into her.
River bit her lip. Looked around again and opened her mouth.
"Jayne and I are getting married tomorrow." She winced inwardly. She could have led up to that better.
The statement dropped like a bomb on their peaceful evening. Everyone was suddenly talking at once.
Except Zoë. She was watching, gauging responses, preparing to stop rash action before it started.
"Quiet! When did this happen?" Mal's voice rose above the clamor. "How long have you been romancing behind my back?"
River and Jayne exchanged a glance. Both had to bite their lips to keep from laughing.
"They haven't been." Zoë said. "Unless there's something I don't know."
River shook her head. "All my idea. We aren't… We haven't…"
Mal turned on Jayne. "Tell me what's going on here."
"I like her cooking." Jayne said cryptically. "Plenty of grounds for marriage."
The whole crew winced. They were sure he was being factitious. Few of them liked River's cooking. She was too apt to serve sludge.
"Will you make me that blue stuff again?" Jayne asked. "Like you made before."
"I remember." River laughed and leaned against him.
"I'm serious, guys. It was really good." Jayne smiled fondly down at her.
"You were also drunk." River reminded him placidly. "Your taste buds could have been faulty."
Jayne grinned at her in a way that made her toes curl.
"Stop that." Mal ordered. "That leaning against each other thing. I won't have this!"
Jayne inched away. River followed.
"Just how do you intend to stop it?" Zoë asked in a deceptively calm voice.
Mal looked at his partner, his second and most of the fight left him.
"We don't have to stay if we're unwelcome." River said. "We have our money from the vault job. We could buy our own ship or a house in the suburbs."
She was talking to Jayne now, watching his face. "A few doors down from Grandma, plenty of cousins to play with."
She could see the dream building in his mind. Jayne smiled wryly and shook his head clear.
"Take some job lifting other people's shit around in a place where I could never even shoot a gun, much less wear one full time. Too many people around, too many rules." He grinned. "Besides, I was counting on our kids growing up with Kaylee's."
"How are you feeling, anyway?" Jayne smirked at the mechanic.
"How do you know…?" Simon began.
Jayne laughed. "Sudden nausea? There's nuthin wrong, but Doc hangs on her like a leech? Ain't hard to read the signs." Jayne looked around at the lot of them. "I'm a tracker, remember? In a week or two everyone will know. There won't be any hiding it."
Kaylee made a face at him.
"At least I'm marrying you before I make babies with you." Jayne murmured quietly in Russian.
"That's another thing." Mal complained. "How is it that you two know a whole language I didn't know you knew?"
"I always knowed it." Jayne shrugged. "Most folk do who come from Stari Novgorod."
"Captain, I know eight languages you still don't know I know." River rolled her eyes. "I have a gift for languages."
"Among other things." Simon agreed. "You're really sure about this, mei mei"
"As sure as I've ever been about anything." River affirmed.
Simon groaned and rubbed his face with his hand. "Fine. Just don't come crying to me when your husband starts being all… Jayne."
River laughed. "I promise. I'll complain to Kaylee instead."
The wedding was small, although the groom's side significantly out represented the bride's.
They had a justice of the peace perform the short ceremony in Nona's back yard.
River and Jayne both missed Shepherd Book.
Jayne booked them a room at the Intourist Hotel in Stari Novgorod.
River didn't expect him to carry her over the threshold. That custom was no longer part of the traditions on Osiris. Jayne laughed.
As he dropped her on the huge bed, he told her she should be glad he didn't feel obliged to put her in through the window.
Then went back for their bags.
"Husband?" River licked her lips and watched him as he pushed the door shut.
"Yes, wife?" He grinned at her.
"You don't regret our decision, do you?" She sat up, dangling her feet over the edge of the bed.
He crossed the room to her. "Why? Are you changing your mind already?" He lifted her chin to look into her face; brushed callused fingers over her cheek.
"No." River relaxed slightly. His emotions were a riot and easy to misinterpret.
"Good, cause you ain't never getting a divorce from me." He was smiling, but she felt the iron belief beneath the statement.
River laughed. "Not even if I asked very politely?"
"What's going on in that super-brain of your's River-girl?" Jayne looked worried. He sat heavily on the bed next to her. "We made a decision, a commitment, this was all your idea, remember?" He ran both hands through his hair.
"Are you going to sex me now that I'm your wife." She twisted her hands together. Was it too forward just to kiss him again? She wasn't sure, his thoughts were all tied into anxiety about what they'd just done.
"Need doctors to get kids if there's no sexin." He swallowed hard.
River felt relieved. He was squishing it, but he still desired her. She could feel that now, under the anxiety.
"But you'd rather do it the sex way?" River smirked at him. "So would I."
A load of tension eased out of his shoulders. "I'll have to flush the contraceptives out of my system before there could be kids." He admitted.
"That's comforting, actually, it will give us time to adjust to our new roles." River bit her lip. "Shall we practice anyway?"
River angled her body towards him, placing a suggestive hand on his knee.
The sheer volume of lust that rolled off him startled her. "Yeah."