You Give Me Fever
Jayne had always known that he would be the first to slip. River would never slip, she was too smart for that. In the past three months they had made out, groped, and had sex all over the ship, but she had never let them get caught. And he knew she was good at acting from when someone would walk in right after. She'd be calm, distant, just as crazy as she always seemed, but he always got out of the room as fast as he could, usually with an "Are you sure you're ok?" Following him out of the room.
So, he knew he'd be the first to let out the secret. He'd look at her wrong or call her a pet name at the table and they'd all know, know everything because it would be clearly written across his face. He couldn't hide anything.
Yup, he would definitely be the first to slip . . . But then, he hadn't figured in the fever.
River had gone off to the market when they'd been planetside and had come back with a new dress, some more gun oil for Jayne, and the flu. As soon as Simon noticed the symptoms he had inoculated them all, so no one else fell sick.
River threw up and slept for an entire day, and the next morning, instead of improving, her temperature soared to 105 degrees and she became delirious. At first she had just babbled nonsense. Simon said some of it was a metaphysical interpretation of a philosophical question and other parts were theorems from most of the advanced sciences.
But then the ramblings turned fearful. She screamed, thinking she was back in the Academy. Screamed about hands of blue and needles and human guinea pigs. Mice that were forced to run through mazes, an electrical shock at one end and at the other, instead of cheese, a huge needle would shoot out of the ground and go through the mouse's skull, leaving it impaled and twitching.
The rest of the crew were terrified and helpless. Clinically, Simon knew he could do nothing more until the fever broke, but he couldn't stand seeing her so scared. He kept trying to reassure her that she was out, he had gotten her out, she was safe. But she would not be soothed, he had no idea if she could even hear him, much less understand what he was saying.
Then, she started screaming one word over and over again. Simon sat back in shock, but she just kept screaming.
Jayne was out in the cargo bay. At first, he had been sharpening his knives, but after realizing he was going to stab something or someone very soon, he had put them down and taken up pacing. It was killing him to stay away from River. He had to though, or the crew would need to know why he was so concerned for her.
He gritted his teeth as her terrified screams rang through the ship. They would have been muffled down in his bunk, but he didn't want to go too far. The cargo bay was safe, just down the hall from her room, and no one would wonder why he was there.
Then she started screaming one word over and over again, and before he could even think, he was racing down the hallway and to her bedside. Her screams of "Jayne, Jayne, Jayne, Jayne, Jayne" repeating in his head, even as she continued screaming it.