They lay together in the peaceful afterglow, quietly soothing each other.
"Hum?" She responded lazily.
"River, promise me something?"
Jayne wasn't even sure she was really still awake, but he needed to say this before he lost the courage to bring it up. He'd put it off enough already.
"Bao bei if you ever decide to leave me, please just kill me." He murmured.
That got her attention. "What?!" She propped herself up so she could look him in the eye.
"Do it quickly too, a nice big exploding bullet to the head should work, but don't let me see it coming."
She stared at him with her evaluating River-face turned on full.
"You're serious." Her eyes frowned at him, but her mouth hung open. "Why?"
"I…" He swallowed. It was painful, his mouth had never been so dry. "I never wanna live a second when you're not mine."
River blinked, slowly shaking her head. "What the hell does that have to do with shooting you?"
"Not now." He protested. "Just if you ever get 'satisfied that we won't work out' like you said right at first. Don't tell me or nuthin, just shoot me. You see, I couldn't go on without you, I love you." He gasped once the last three words were out.
Jayne wasn't sure why those words would make her cry, but they did. River collapsed against him, sobbing.
"Damn." He said after a moment, he rubbed her hair comfortingly. "River, I'm sorry, I'd take it back if I could. I can't stop it. I'd rather die happy having you than live miserable after I lost you."
"Shut up, you idiot." River sobbed. "Just hold me."
Jayne snapped his mouth shut. What the hell could he do to get her to stop crying? Must be his fault to start with. Musta said it all wrong even after thinking it over so careful.
"River…" He said after she stopped shaking so hard. "You don't have to promise. I could just go away." Desolation filled him at the thought.
River punched him in the side. Hard.
"I said shut up." River wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "No one's going to shoot you, and after what you just said, you better not be planning to leave me, either."
"Well, no, I only meant if…"
River hit him again, in the arm this time. Hurt less. Still caught his attention.
"I don't want you to go anywhere without me. Ever." She started crying again, with a funny smile on her face. "I love you." She said thru the tears. "I've loved you for so long."
"You do? You have?"
River nodded, sobbing harder.
"Well, whyfore are you crying then?"
She didn't answer, she just clung tighter, gasping and watering his shirt.
"River, you ain't going crazy again, are you?" He stroked her back, helping her hold him.
She shook her head.
After several very long minutes she finally calmed down enough to speak again.
"I've loved you so much for so long." She gasped and shuddered. "I didn't think I'd ever hear you say you loved me. And all that go se about killing you…"
"Alright, fine, no killing Jayne." He said, unable to stop a smile from forming. "I won't mention it again."
River laughed against his chest.
"So…" He cleared his throat. "Would this be a bad time, I mean, would you start crying again if I asked you to marry me?" He pulled the ring box from its hiding place and flipped it open.
River stiffened. She propped herself up so she was staring into his eyes again. Her face was blank, astonished.
"You're serious? You are serious." She kissed him passionately. "Yes." She said, letting up just enough to say it. "Oh, yes."
Jayne laughed thru the kiss. "Yes, you'll marry me or yes, this is a bad time to ask?"
River slapped the back of his head, but didn't stop kissing his face and neck.
"Definitely a bad time to ask." Jayne said grinning.
"You can't take it back." River said between kisses. "You said the words, now it's real."
"Hey, we ain't married yet." He damned sure wasn't changing his mind and she knew it.
"We could be." River grinned mischievously. "Married I mean, unless there's a ceremony you prefer."
"In the Black it just takes a declaration and registering on the Cortex. Some planetary customs don't even require the registration." She nipped at his shoulder. "I don't have a preferred ceremony."
"Well, I guess I never thought about it." Jayne admitted. He'd rather imagined having to find a Shepherd or some such thing.
River sighed. "As much as I'd like to forgo the ritual, it would ease the transition for the rest of the crew to have a formal marker."
"We could do both." Jayne suggested. The thought of binding her down right away was growing on him quickly. "Register now and let Kaylee, Zoë and Inara get all giggly over you later."
"Hmm," River cupped her hand around his cheek. "I like the thought of doing both. It would be nice to have the formal pictures and the flowers, oh, and the cake."
"Yeah, cake. I like cake."
River got a dreamy look on her face. "Do you think we could find a traditional red dress?"
Jayne groaned. "Will I have to wear uncomfortable fancy clothes."
"Compromise is possible." River smirked. "Fancy doesn't have to mean uncomfortable."
"Hey." He suddenly got worried. "Do I have to ask your brother for permission?"
"No!" River looked alarmed. "Blessing, maybe, permission, no."
"Good, 'cause he still might not give it."
She laughed. "Let's get dressed, husband, and hack into the Cortex while the rest of the crew is still asleep."
"Just an expression." River stood and stretched.
Jayne sat back and admired the view.
"Come on, partner." River laughed. "A token minimum of clothing is required." She pulled a dress over her head, hiding her body from him.
Jayne sighed and stood. River leaned against the ladder, watching him rummage for pants and a t-shirt.
"Jayne…" She began slowly. "How do you feel about having children right away?"
He lost his balance and fell hard against the bed, foot halfway down his pant leg.
"Why?" His jaw twitched. "Are you pregnant now?"
"No." River said slowly. "Entrapment of that sort was never part of my plans."
"Hmm, I, um…" Jayne licked his lips. "Can we wait to start on kids until right after the big wedding shindig?"
"If you prefer." River's brow was slightly furrowed.
"Uh, yeah, see, I want them, um, kids I mean." He took a breath. "I just wouldn't want anyone to think we rushed for um, family reasons."
"Alright." River still looked a little puzzled.
Jayne grimaced. "I know it doesn't matter everywhere, but it did where I grew up. I just don't want you open to any… ugly remarks, if you know what I mean."
"I think I do understand." She smiled fondly. "Thank you. So…" She said as he pulled a shirt over his head. "We should talk about money too."
"I propose that we keep separate finances. There's too much risk of loss the way I run my funds." She chewed at her cheek. "In fact, maybe I should issue myself a 10 cut too. Just for personal expenses."
River met his eyes pensively. "I mean, then our personal wealth would be the same, between my jobs and Mal's."
Jayne's mouth was still stuck open.
"I should probably set up my accounts more formally, too." She frowned. "I'm setting myself up for an audit the way I slush money around."
"That's my genius." Jayne stamped his sockless feet into his boots.
"Penniless seven year old millionaire." She grinned proudly.
"Our kids gonna be as smart as you?" His gut tightened at that thought. He hoped they wouldn't look down on him for not even finishing school.
River placed a calming hand on his arm, shaking her head slightly at his thoughts.
"Probably more like Simon, which is bad enough." She grinned. "You'll have to keep them balanced. They will get so much practical education from you."
Jayne stood and River proceeded him out of the cabin.
Jayne didn't bother stopping himself from peeking up his wife's skirt as she climbed.
Wife. He rolled the word around in his head.
"The next order of business, a report on the activities of R. Tam. Doctor, if you please?"
"Thank you, the subject continues to evade interception."
"I thought pursuit ceased when Parliament nullified our warrants."
"The subject is a valuable resource. All due effort has been made to effect her recovery."
"We will debate the point later, continue, Doctor. Her activities, if you please."
"Last month she filed a business plan with Alliance Merchant Central. An import/export concern, based on the Firefly class transport where she has been sheltered since her escape."
"The same one?"
"Yes, sir. She has reported a 2000 increase in capitol in the past month. The business employs three people, herself, the captain of her vessel, Malcolm Reynolds and a mercenary, Jayne Cobb."
"Very impressive. Can we cite our training to bring her to court over that?"
"We'd be laughingstocks. The subject has a history of hugely lucrative business sense. You remember the grey salt scandal on Osiris?"
"That was her?"
"When she was seven."
"She registered a marriage the day before the business plan. Her spouse is the same mercenary, Cobb."
"Do we know anything about him?"
"Local warrants on a dozen planets, nothing out of the norm for one of his kind."
The silent man at the foot of the table spoke for the first time.
"This subject is no longer ours. She was lost the moment she left the facility. I move we close her case. Permanently. She is a loss."
Note: I'm kinda sad this one is finished. Definitely looking forward to starting to post the next long one. Gonna be a long while before the long sequel to this presents itself. At least I think so.
Informal poll: Is there anything you'd like to see Fig tackle? Backstorys? Specific cliches? No promises...