Disclaimer: I still don't own any of it, I'm just grateful to play in Joss's sandbox. He is Boss.

Author's Note: I completely appreciate the reaction this story continues to get, despite me being the worst updater on the planet. I love you all, and thank you.


Hiding – Chapter 10

A quick intake of breath, and then one sentence in a dangerously low voice. "What the hell is going on here?" That was all it took to shatter the perfect peace River and Jayne had found on the bridge. Jayne jumped at the sound of Mal's voice, upsetting River from his lap as he stood to face his boss. River was saved only by her unnatural grace, somehow catching herself and managing not to meet the floor. She also faced the captain, but where Jayne was equal parts scared and defiant, River's face was empty. Waiting.

"Cap, listen, it's not…well it is…and…" Jayne stuttered to find something, anything, to say to the very angry captain as he paced onto the bridge, but River's face when he started to deny everything stopped him.

"It's not what, Jayne? Not you cozying up to my pilot when I have made the rules quite clear? Not you puttin' your hands on River when you know fairly well that it won't end well for you? Please, illuminate me." Jayne had never seen Mal this angry.

"Stop this." River said. "I'm a big girl, I can make this decision…"

And Mal cut her off. "Got nothin' to do with you, 'Tross. Jayne knows the rules. He knows where this is going. Jayne, bags. You got 'em, you pack 'em. You're off this ship the minute we touch dirt."

"Cap…" Jayne started, but he knew it was for nothing. Reynolds had let this rule slip once, and look where it had gotten his crew; broken, that's what. But he had to try, for River. "Come on." It was a clear plea.

"Don't, Jayne. Go." And as Malcolm Reynolds turned to leave the bridge, River spoke up again.

"Then this will be my port of harbor as well." Jayne gaped at her, shaking his head, and Mal turned, but still she stood there, hands clasped behind her back, looking like a perfect soldier. Her face wasn't blank anymore, not even close. This was anger, and River was riding it like a pro.

"Excuse me?" Mal said, disbelief clear on his face.

"Jayne did not force himself on me. We both broke the rule. We both must go." She took a breath, squared her shoulders, and met Mal's eyes. "Where Jayne goes, I go, Captain."

"River-girl, come on, you can't…"

"Do not tell me what I can and cannot do, Jayne Cobb, you will find that you are most certainly underestimating me."

"I told you River, this ain't about you. You're just…" Mal regretted it instantly as he saw River's face harden.

"Just what? Just a girl? Just a broken, little girl? Not so broken she can't fly your ship, but too broken to decide she wants to stop? No. If Jayne goes, I go too." She looked at Jayne, more sure of this than he'd ever see her be about anything. "We stay together. We're partners."

Jayne couldn't help but nod. She was right. Mal looked at them both in complete disbelief. "River, you know that wasn't what I meant. You're…Zoe!" He turned and left the bridge yelling for his first mate.

River's shoulders sagged as he left, and she looked at Jayne, uncertainty in her eyes for the first time. "Do you really think Captain Daddy will make us leave?"

Jayne looked at her, and as willing as he'd be to go wherever she went, he knew that he couldn't let them leave her home. His home. Their home. "Not if'n I have anything to say about it." He took off after Mal, yelling for the Captain as he went.

"I don't care what he did, Sir, you haven't seen –" Zoe cut off the rest of her sentence as Jayne ran into the common room and found them. Simon and Kaylee stood on the other side of the room, looking incredibly concerned. Zoe cleared her throat, nodded to Jayne and seemed to make a choice. She faced Mal squarely and met his eyes. "I married your last pilot. If Jayne wants to take it on himself to love this one…then you should take your ben dan rule and stick it where the sun don't shine." Crossing her arms, she stood and waited for him to make the call.

Simon and Kaylee both gaped at Zoe's sudden and complete rebellion against the captain, and Jayne couldn't swear that his face wasn't doing the same. Really? She'd stood up for him? For them? And…who'd said anything about love? He'd just kissed the girl, for heaven's sake, and love…well, that was a fair bit more complicated than whatever this was. Wasn't it?

Mal stood there for a moment, broken syllables escaping his lips before he turned to Jayne, took a breath, and walked up until he was dangerously within the other man's personal space. "Understand me, this is not over. You stay, because she is staying, and losing you and her, not what's best for mine. But if you hurt her, Jayne, understand this. I will not hesitate to press the button this time." And with that, the captain tried to storm out of the room, pausing only to get around River, who was now blocking the door to that hallway.

River stepped forward slowly and took Jayne's hand, moving as if she was afraid to spook him. She met Zoe's eyes and smiled. "Thank you." Zoe nodded and went to her own bunk, going the way the captain had gone.

She knew he'd never let her live this down. She just hoped the two of them would make it worth it.

Jayne looked down at River's hand in his, and then at Simon and Kaylee across the room, still standing in shock. Kaylee was starting to smile and bounce up and down though, unable to keep her happiness for them at bay for long. Simon just stared, until Jayne called over. "Your turn Doc?"

Simon seemed to think about it, and Kaylee stopped her bouncing. Jayne and River could hear her murmur into Simon's ear, and Simon looked at River. With a sigh, he shook his head. "Not this time, Jayne. Not this time." He smiled at the two of them, though it was weak, and let Kaylee lead him away.

Jayne looked down at River, brought her hand to his lips, and kissed her fingers, before heaving a sigh of his own and sitting in the nearest chair. When she walked over to stand before him, he looked up at her and asked the only thing he could think of.

"Well, Riv…what do we do now?"