Part Three


Her eyes opened at the familiar, comforting voice, and she stretched languidly beneath the blankets. They were smooth, soft, and still wet.

Empty, too. Jayne had left sometime in the night, and for good reason. If Simon found them curled up like that . . . .

"Simon?" she called, sitting up as he stepped into the room. He paused, a tray of food in his hand, but quickly recovered, not expecting to see his sister naked under the blankets. But since he was a doctor and her brother, her being naked in his presence didn't bother him much at all. He just averted his eyes until she'd pulled on her nightie.

"You slept straight through breakfast," he admonished, and she laughed. "Can't be having a lazy pilot. The captain said as much."

"Serenity is fine," River replied, and her hand slid along the smooth wall beside her bed. "Purrs like a kitten." Like Jayne after she bit him.

"Kaylee said the same," he replied. River took a bite of her protein breakfast, and then started scarfing it down as her stomach reminded her how hungry she actually was. Last night used up a lot of calories. Simon watched her, her smile never wavering as she dug in.

"Mei mei, you alright?" he asked, and the pages in his mind flipped, showing curiosity. At her questioning glance, he gave her a slight smile, tinged with honesty. "You've been smiling the whole time since I came in here." In response, her own grin widened.

"Happy," she admitted. Couldn't tell him why, but didn't need to lie either. "You and Kaylee. Big brother found someone to keep him safe." He chuckled, nodding, and she looked past, seeing the concern in his mind. He knew what today was, had been dreading it.

"I'm all right," she said, and reached up, putting a hand to his face, wartmh flowing up her fingers. He wasn't certain, and doubt flickered through his mind.

"Do you," he began, not sure if he should bring it up, but she put a finger on his lips.

"I know, Simon," she said, closing her eyes and thinking of last night. "Over. Gone. Air through the engine."

"You're sure?" he said, and the hope in his voice made her spirits rise up even more than they had been before.

"Can't leave it behind," she replied, struggling to hold on to that moment of clarity and happiness while she thought of her past, and what she'd gone through. Jayne hadn't erased it, but what he'd done for her . . . .

"Can try to forget," she added, and he nodded, understanding her meaning.

"Well, I was just bringing you breakfast and letting you know that the Captain wanted you up as soon as possible," he finished, and the cheer that rolled off him was genuine, pleasant, and rebounded off her own mind. River leaned forward, grabbed her brother and pulled him into a hug.

"Thank you, Simon," she whispered, and kissed him on the cheek.

Simon left a few minutes later, and after she finished eating breakfast, the pilot got dressed, pulling one of Wash's old tropical shirts over her dress. Zoe always smiled when she saw her wearing his outfits, as if she carried him with her into the cockpit.

Kaylee was up in the mess, helping Simon clean up, and the bright-eyed engineer waved from inside the kitchen, sunshine pouring from her eternal like a star.

"You're all smiles today, aren't you?' she said, moving around the counter to walk with River up the passage.

"Good night," she replied, and Kaylee cocked her head to the side, a gesture she'd gotten from River herself. Curiosity rang off her head like a gong.

"Good sleep," she clarified. "No nightmares for once."

"Was it Doctor Tam's medication that cleared yer head?" the engineer asked, and River's smile widened.

"Don't know," she replied enigmatically, and by that time they'd reached the end o the crew corridor. Kaylee saw River off and hurried back to where Simon was still busy.

Mal sat in the pilot's chair, and spun around as River walked onto the bridge, her bare feet ever silent except when she wanted to make noise, which she did. His thoughts were dark, as usual, and while he was probably planning to chew her out when he came around, his thoughts died a sudden, screaming death as he saw her face.

"You're the picture of sunshine, little Albatross," he remarked, honest surprise gleaming on the pages of his brain. "Sure you're not Kaylee underneath some of Inara's cunning makeup?"

"One hundred percent moonbrain, Mal," she replied, and he stood up, gesturing toward the pilot's chair.

"Well, use those brains and moons in your head to keep us from crashing, would you?" he asked, and she sat down.

"Hard to crash surrounded by just vacuum," she remarked, and he chuckled. "You're in a good mood too, aren't you?"

"Getting paid five hundred percent market price to run hot cakes," Mal replied. "Those things are selling like bobbly-headed geisha dolls, you know? People love those things."

"Your course is fallacious," River said as she looked over the nav charts. "This route gives us seventeen extra hours flight time."

"It . . . wha huh?" Mal leaned over her shoulder as she changed their course.

"This is why I fly, and you shoot, captain," she added, smiling up at him, and he sighed, seeing the math play out on the screen before him.

"Can't fly straight if you sleep all day," he grunted, and turned away. "Let me know if anything funny happens."

"Such as?"

"Unicorns popping out of the black with ribbons and candy," he said, as an example, strolling out of the cockpit and leaving River alone, giggling at that mental image.

"Things around here seem a bit odd to you?" Zoe asked as she and Inara walked along the cargo bay catwalks.

"Now that you mention it, the ship does seem a bit livelier," the Companion replied, thinking. "Its not just because of Simon and Kaylee though. there's something else, like . . . ." She paused as both herself and Zoe moved to one side, seeing Jayne's burly form rumbling toward them, a towel around his neck.

"Mornin', ladies," Jayne Cobb said with a sod as he moved past them, and both women froze in shock. He continued on, oblivious to their stares.

"That may be part of it," Zoe remarked. "Jayne's been a whole lot looser this morning."

"'Loose' isn't the word to describe it," Inara replied, frowning. "More like . . . civil."

"'Jayne' and 'civil' don't mix, not without 'authorities' in there," Zoe replied, shaking her head. "Things are getting strange on this boat." They continued on up the stairs toward the mess.

"Aren't we smuggling pancakes now?"

"We are."

Jayne heard 'em talking, but he didn't care. After what he did last night, what that little moonbrained kid showed him about himself and how he felt after helpin' her help herself . . . .

He paused, setting his towel down as he hefted his weights. Mal had given the Shepard as best a funeral as he could back at Haven, and brought Book's Bible back on board as a reminder of their loss.

He hadn't noticed it went missing from the mess, and once everyone was gone, Jayne Cobb reached into his pocket, taking it out. He peered over the pages, and though he wasn't much good with the words, he knew what it meant.

Gorram little girl had his mind bent up and out of shape, and he liked it.

She was right. He wasn't the same man. Things had changed him. What they'd done last night had changed him.

Jayne put the book back in his pocket, figuring he would give it a poke-through one day or another, maybe find out why the Shepard had liked it so much. Least he could do to honor a friend's passing. Jayne lay back and reached up, grasping the weight bar and doing his usual.

He went through two reps before he felt another presence in the bay. Raising his arms to full length, Jayne looked up, and a slender shadow wreathed in one of Wash's colorful shirts loomed over him.

"Mornin', crazy," he said with a tight grin, and set the bar back, sitting up. The look on her face, that smile, content and happy, set something off in his own heart, and he laughed for no reason.

"Thank you," she offered, and he nodded.

"Welcome to it," he replied. He looked down at the grate, and his tone lowered. "Ever have nightmares or fears again, come get me. I'm no doctor, but I . . . I'll do what I can, okay?" He spoke quietly but firmly, a tone he rarely shared except in those moments where he was his most serious. And she understood his intentions.

"Not just sexin'," she whispered, and he nodded.

"Need me to help you through anything, I'll be here for you, girl," he said. She nodded, her smile never faltering. The mercenary looked over her face, and then reached up, moving a bit of hair out of the girl's eyes. His thumb lingered where he'd first seen her surgical scars.

Gorram it, he didn't know why he'd treated her so wrong. 'Till he'd held her, seen her cry up close, looked at those cuts and known, he'd been almost as bad. He'd make it up to her, though. What happened last night was just part of helpin' this girl heal up like she should.

Her own probing little fingers reached out in response, feeling over his face, her features shifting to curious and thoughtful.

"Didn't you do enough feelin' on my manly features earlier?" he asked, and she laughed, her voice like ringing glass beads or some other imagery he couldn't properly place.

"Fingers give different sensations than tongues," she replied, and he couldn't disagree with that. After a few seconds, Jayne pulled his hand back, becoming self-conscious. Doc would have a fit if he saw this, so he grasped the weight bar again and raised it before his manly image could be further compromised.

"Weight conditioning without a spotter is risky," she remarked, walking around and standing at his head.

"Think you can handle the weight, little girl?" he asked, and she stuck her tongue out at him. He laughed, honest and clear enough for the both of them.

She made a good spotter.


AN: Well, that's the end of that story. The final part isn't as long as the others, as its mostly just a follow-up to cap the story. I wonder if I made Jayne too "jolly" this chapter, but I do remember how he and Book get along really well in the series, so I tried to reflect that in this, along with what River did for him the previous chapter.

While this story did include sexuality, I tried to set it up so that while it was involved, it wasn't the impetus for what happened between Jayne and River. There's a distinct reason why I didn't set this as part of the romance category, because it isn't really a romance story in the traditional sense. I felt that since there's already a lot of fics out there (including very good ones, I might add) that involve River and Jayne being sexually attracted, I went for something different. Of course there's some sexual attraction between the two, but I didn't want it to be the defining factor; I feel that Jayne wouldn't simply sleep with River just because he thinks she looks good, at least not without some work on both sides. That was why this story focused so much on River's pain and her trying to convince Jayne he really is a decent person, and that he's worthy of doing something like this to help her out.

Or rather, that was the plan. I'm not sure if I pulled it off perfectly. Let me know what you think. Later on I might go for a more "traditional" Rayne pairing. I certainly found this one interesting to write.

Until next story . . . .