Author's note: The second part for an_ardant_rain (ILB) secret santa on the rayne_exchange. Ooo-er! This is long…longer than any of my others I think. But it's done for the moment. Yes, it is a little bit late, but I'm surprised I've got it done. It was tough! Good fun to write…but tough! I just hope ILB approves. If the end seems a little rushed….that's because it was. Just didn't want to it is then…enjoy. Again warning for the smut. ;) This takes place six years not four years after BDM.


The Broken Christmas

River came out of her blissful stupor, unaware of what time in the cycle it was. It must have been early as there was no sight or sound of the other members of the crew. Her entire body ached, though a pleasant warmth rested beneath her and a thick blanket covered over the top of her. She wasn't quite sure where she was, so she pulled a corner of the blanket off from her head and looked out at the dark devastated scene before her.

"We've broken Christmas." she whimpered, noting with faint amusement the minute traces of blood crusting her fingers.

There was nothing hanging on the walls of the mess hall now, for all the pretty and intricate decorations that had been painstakingly put up, were on the floor; ripped, broken, smashed and in lots of pieces. Squinting, River noticed that even the walls themselves appeared to have suffered, for she could make out the distortion of the metal and the scratches. The kitchen was in chaos, for nothing had escaped the fury of the hours before hand. All that had been left out on the counter was on the floor; pots, pans, paper chains, glittering plastic snow flakes, even a curious little elf thing, its happy smile broken in two, had been destroyed because of them.

The ceiling decorations were also gone, snagged by the top of a fallen Christmas tree, but at that time neither Jayne or River saw just how spectacular that fall had been. She could make out the many presents beneath the tree, though she couldn't tell if any of them had been damaged by its fall.

A couple of the chairs were broken, a huge crack in the middle of the dining table was plainly visible and through the tangle of non functioning fairy lights, a scattering of pine needles covered the floor. River squinted and saw that even the snack lockers had been dented and the blobs of jellies and "cake" (if any of those puddings could be called that) slopped down the walls. Looking back under the blanket, she realised her body was covered in the remnants of desserts, syrups and creams and the trail of sweet had been smeared across the floor and walls by her….River smiled…and Jayne.

"Christmas is all in bits. We've ruined it for the others. Captain Daddy will be most vexed." River gazed round at the mess again and shook her head. "I was unaware we were that destructive."

"Yeah?" moaned a voice beneath the blanket. River giggled as a wiggling warmth below her moved and two large palms clutched at her bottom, squeezing hard. When the soft teasing bristles of a goateed face kissed and nipped at the inside of her thigh, River had to hold her breath. "Girl, there weren't nothin' registerin' with me 'cept you and all them things you did. But these bite marks an' the food stuffs all over us, ain't that evidence enough?

River nodded in acceptance of Jayne's logic.

"I am quite sore, it will be a while before everything you've done to me sufficiently heals."

"Yeah, well…same here, moon-girl. Ya've taken so many chunks outta me, I think I'm gonna be walkin' wonky for months!"

She sighed as he kissed once more, tenderly at her throbbing wet lips. She jiggled slightly, catching the top of Jayne's head, so in retaliation Jayne grabbed one of her feet and gently bent her leg so he could take several snarling bites at her toes. He nibbled hungrily at each one after which he followed with his tongue, licking delicately around her ankles. She wriggled again, wrenched her feet away and rested them on the arm of the sofa so she could tease his own jelly smeared feet with her mouth. She nearly received a kick in the head as well as his leg shot up; his laughter instantly reminding her of what they'd done with all those puddings.

"Ya still hungry, lil' bit?" Jayne's muffled voice replied, making River snort and giggle at his heated breath on her skin. "Cuz I know I'm still mighty rumblin' for some more tastes of ya….."

He never got to finish, River nearly screamed as Jayne smacked his mouth fully over her . She jumped at the sensation of the tip of his tongue amongst her folds and let loose a pining cry. Jayne grabbed her to prevent her slipping away but as he again lapped, devouring her, the intense sensations made her bolt suddenly up and she sent a sharp kick to his face.

"Gorram!"

It hadn't been the first time she'd done that. He was dazed, disorientated by that blow but he laid his head back and waited for it to clear. He tasted blood in his mouth. Again.

She wasn't going to apologise for kicking him, nor did he expect one, for neither had said sorry for any of their injuries, there simply wasn't a needed to. They loved it too much.

River smiled and flung the blanket back over her head. She ignored the little pangs of pain from her various bite marks and bruises on her skin and she was instead comforted by the feel of Jayne beneath her and of his hardening, inches from her face. She chuckled fiendishly and a single finger gently stroked at his length, making it twitch at her soft touch. Jayne held firmly at her waist, lifting her.

"Moon girl…don't…not again…ya do that and it's gonna fall off! Then I ain't gonna be able t'sex ya no more…or ever, an' that don't go down well with me. "

"I won't bite him hard. Promise."

Her lips kissed against the tip of his moist soft head, but before she could enclose her whole mouth around him and lick with her tongue, she let out a high pitched squeak when he moved and shifted beneath her, pulling the blanket off her head. On such a small sofa, River could only laugh more as the huge naked merc tried to turn round to face her. He swore at the effort it took him, eventually settling into a sitting position with River nestling on top of his lap.

"You always bite hard, moon girl." he replied, watching as the blanket fell from her shoulders, showing her bare marked body. Now it was his eyes turn to devour her. "Norm'ly I ain't got a problem with that, but I don't want the goods to be permanently damaged."

"That would not bode well, for both of us." River frowned.

"No kiddin'?" he scoffed with sarcasm.

"Can I bite just a little bit?"

"What did I just say?"

"I don't care! You like it! He likes it, it's yummy!"

"My meat is yummy? Can't ever say I had a gal say that about ma manhood before."

"Best kind of lollipop." River laughed. "Sucks well!"

"Okay, now ya freakin' me out….ya sounding crazy again! Stoppit before I damned well give ya reason to regret all of this!"

No more crazy right now. I have never been more lucid and sane in my whole life, even before the academy. He knows…I see it in his eyes, Jayne Cobb can see me now. It scares him greatly. He needn't be afraid…not yet.

"I'm sorry." River said, genuinely apologetic. "I'm just enjoying myself too much. I don't think I've ever been this happy for a long while. No sickness, no insanity confusing me…just sex. The good sparing, wrecking and pleasure…can I please bite again? I know you like it when I bite."

Go on…you know you want it, you love it!

Instinctively, his large hands came up to touch and squeeze at her breasts and River moaned pleasurably; she loved how he massaged them though both were still sore and tender from where his teeth had bitten; but the strength in his hands, the sharp pleasurable pain as he pinched her sensitive nipples made her head flop back.

"You love it when I bite hard." she moaned, swaying dreamily from side to side. Her moan whined when he tugged on her hardening nubs, rubbing and twisting .

Jayne laughed at her whining cry.

"Yeah…yer quite spry, lil' bit. An' you ain't nearly as delicate as I dun thought ya was. Didn't think you'd like what we did, for it weren't exactly gentle like. "

"Doesn't hurt." River whispered, lulling with Jayne's rhythmic fondles of her and the teasing stokes of his erection against her belly. "You fit in me now and it feels right."

In an instant, the smile vanished from his face and from his eyes. His hands dropped from her breasts and rested on the side of the sofa. He was stiff and tense, no longer relaxed or comforted in his position.

"We'd best git up." he said, gruffly, slipping his fingers under her legs to push her up from him. "Don't think we should be here when the others wake up. I'll be shoved in the airlock fer sure."

Jayne's doubt had resurfaced. In the aftermath of an abrupt explosive marathon of sexual tussles, Jayne had slipped momentarily into a comfort zone. He had been really pleased lying here with her for she sensed deep within him a contentment and happiness that hadn't been there before. Now as she glared defiantly down at him, Jayne could not look her in the eyes. His attempts to push her away became more forced and River struggled against him, yet she knew he could quite easily fling her onto the floor like everything else with one push from his hand.

"Look at me."

When he did not comply, she grabbed a fist full of his hair and jerked his head sharply back, glaring into his defiant scowling eyes. He was looking at her like he used to, when he was afraid and angry at her and she knew that if she didn't convince him quickly, this would be finished. She leant in close to his exposed neck and spoke to the bulge of his Adam's apple. "I will not allow anything to happen. The Captain can't and will not hurt you, because this was my choice. Besides…only I can hurt you."

She felt the old leering smirk creep across his face.

"Tell me 'bout it." he sneered. "Look, we gotta stop now. We're both bare bucked an' if we're caught..well …fuckin' hells…ow!"

She had ripped more of his hair with such a hard tear that Jayne thought she had ripped off his scalp as well, but he just glared in shock and contempt at the handful of hair she waved about in her fist. Then he gripped his hand round her wrist and twisted her arm round and up. Any further and he could break it with a small turn of his own. She smiled, liking the slight crack in her shoulder and of the pinching hurt of his fingers on her wrist. She knew his intent and it wasn't to break her like this. It took but a simple application of pressure with her legs against him, squeezing herself hard into his groin that loosened his grip and in a flash she slipped her hand out from his hold and latched on to his shoulder. River then curled along the scratch marks on his back with her bloodied nails and lightly kissed at the many impressions of her teeth over his shoulders and neck before purring delectably in his ear.

"We are so alike. Dark thoughts, passionate lusts. We need to feel something strong. You and I…we are explosive."

Grabbing his hands, she covered his knuckles and guided his palms over every part of her body that he too had marked. His eyes followed with want, before he wrenched them away and flung her off his lap.

"Yeah? Really?" he snorted, reaching for the blanket that had been discarded. He shook off the pine needles and covered himself. She knew he didn't like the direction her "crazy talk" was going in, for he knew exactly what she meant. So many times he pretended her words were gibberish, they could be, but he knew. He understood.

"All what we jus' did…you sayin' that makes us gorram sweethearts now, lil' bit? I don't think so. Yer the one whats started all this, you did the teasin' and the temptin' and you made all o' this. Not denyin' ya got somethin' fiery in ya, nor that I dint like it. It was some good sexin'…but I ain't fergettin' what'cha are."

River frowned at harsh words, but then jumped back on him and poked the side of his head with a single finger as if it were a gun.

"I know what I am." She replied, whispering in an emotionless cold voice. "I'm dangerous and very deadly. I can kill a swarm of Reavers, I know how to use every weapon there is and I know every martial art ever created. I am a weapon, I am a tool for the Sun. Never to be a sweetheart, there's no room for romance; no flowers, chocolates, candles or hand in hand strolls in the moonlight. I offer no obligations or strings attached. It is not my intention to court you."

River feared he would end this, she had frightened him too much in the past and now everything had changed. She actually felt hurt that she and Jayne couldn't be something more.

Sweethearts? Ugh…too vulgar and sickening a term, for there isn't anything sweet about either of us. Partners in crime we could be, for always Captain Daddy teams us together. The mercenary and the Assassin, the deadliest members of the crew, the members of the family that are not like the others. At the very least would we be able to be friends?

River wasn't sure, the look in Jayne's eyes was worrying her.

"Why'd ya do it?" he suddenly snapped, scratching at his scalp where his hair had been torn. "Why come on t'me and do all this? Ain't as if I like ya much…or at all."

"You do like her or there would have been no way you ever would have sexed her so visciously! You're afraid to admit it." River wiped some of the sweat from his brow, raking her nails through his hair before digging into his scalp. "You have such dirty thoughts about me, good dirty lusting thoughts."

"Get out of ma head, woman! Jus' say…why the ruttin hells was it me?"

"Why I chose you?" River shrugged her shoulders as if she was uncertain. The facts had been so clear in her head at the time, nothing else was important, but now there were snippets of broken data in her head, faint sensations of emotions and traces of the black grey aura whisping still in the air. "The Jayne-man was the one viable option left on Serenity. I could not go to Simon. He cannot be applicable…incest is not something I wish to ever partake in."

"Moony…that's jus' wrong you even thinkin' on it! It ain't natural and well just gorram wrong!" Jayne shuddered, provoking a similar horrific reaction in her.

"Agreed." River shivered. "Captain Daddy already has his mate, his companion. I could have waited until we reached Persephone and found a suitable partner there, but your thoughts wouldn't go away. They were so strong…." River stroked at his face with her other hand, a light clawing touch along his stubbly cheek, before she grazed her teeth over his forehead. "Experienced. Knew he would satisfy, eventually."

"Huh?" Jayne choked. "What'cha talkin' 'bout…eventually?"

"First penetrative indulgence, the foreplay was not adequate. You did not hit all the right spots."

"Aw hells…you gonna list faults on ma performance? "

"No. You learnt quickly…adapted to my needs, surprised me and took me over and over the edge many times."

"Well…good." Jayne proudly stated. "I ain't ever had complaints from any woman I'd sexed."

"What about me? Was it all right?" she asked, her voice suddenly quiet and unnervingly humble. "Did I do things properly for you?"

"Er…"

Hell yeah. More than anything, the bull wants to go again, he wants to keep going, keep touchin' and ruttin'. He loves how bendy and tough she ishe loves it when he's in her, when she is swallowing him, he loves hearing her gasping screams and her retaliations. She ain't frail.

River sank lower down to rest herself against his chest, the fuzz of his hair was comforting and she snuggled contently with that feeling. Surprisingly Jayne's hands settled on her bottom and held her gently in place, unaware that he had rested his face against her head, nestling in her hair. The doubt and fear was slowly fading again, he was going back into his comfort zone.

"Girl, I tell ya…that was the most intense and exhilaratin' sexin' I have ever…." Jayne turned his head away as he tried to compose himself. River giggled and pulled his head back round to face her. She clamped her hands on either side of his face and beamed a huge smile back at him. "Hey! Don't get too high an' mighty cuz ya sex good…I was only sayin' is all! I jus'…thinkin' back on it…I dint. Think that is."

"Neither did I." she cooed, snaking her hands down his sides. "Instinctive, driven to find you. All the parameters in the directive were correct and the needs had to be met. I'm sated now, the fire has been put out, but it still smoulders. I enjoyed our times…wild, erratic and chaotic."

"All six of 'em?"

"Yes. All six copulations were different but I saw the infinity of everything, every time. A good Christmas gift."

"If ya say so."

"But you did say so." River frowned and poised as Jayne like as possible before adopting his accent. ""Was the most intense, exhilaratin' sexin' ya ever had!""

There was an ambiguous look of amusement and revolt upon Jayne's face at hearing her impression of him and to make her stop, he grabbed at her forearms and squeezed hard; River ground into his lap with delight, laughing menacingly into his ear before taking a bite at his lobe. Then she smacked her mouth against his jaw line, running her teeth through the stubble, kissing him closer and closer to his mouth. Her fingers curled up once more in his hair and she felt his fear when her kisses became softer, tender and with less bite. Just as she was about to touch her lips with his, Jayne rose his knees and River was lifted up away from his face. He jabbed a finger in her face, again trying to be intimidating.

"Right, jus' so we're clear, lil' moon-river. I don't ever kiss on the mouth; its my rule cuz kissin' on the mouth leads to unwanted feelin's, an' possibly gettin mugged whilst yer past out. So what we did aint ever gonna be more than fun. Mushy love feelin's jus' complicate things and I sure as aint ever lookin' or needin' that go se. Dong ma?"

"So you want us to just be sex mates?" she asked inquisitively

Those were the best words he could ever have wished for and River loved it. The grin that spread across his face was as if the most miraculous thing had just happened, the best thing since sliced bread. This agile, nimble and vicarious young woman had just suggested they be sex buddies. That meant willin' sex without him having to pay for it, yet it was not without risk. The rest of the crew wouldn't like it and he had a few issues of his own that still plagued at his thoughts.

"Jayne should not worry." River said, scraping her nails down across his face and neck and following the new red marks with her mouth. "Good sex-mating fun is all she wants."

"Not here…" Jayne supplely squeezed his hands on her thighs, breathing hungrily against her shoulder. "My bunk…we need to go to my bunk. "

"No! Now!"

Jayne nodded and murmured "gorram dominatin' minx" in response, smiling eagerly when River took hold of his hand and placed it between them.

Her body gently moved up and down his, the warmth of her belly pushing at his cock and as she did so, she further guided his hand in between her legs. She was wet again, (gorram! She cert'inly has a strong appetite.) wanting. From just that the feeling of his finger brushing over her throbbing clit, her breaths became shallow and hard, she urged and desired Jayne to make her cry. She rose up onto her knees to give him easier access and the merc wasted no time at all in wrapping one of his arms around her waist to steady her and then without a warning, he slipped two of his fingers deep inside of her core. River already felt like her name, she was gushing as he pumped slowly but hard into her and she had to cling to his face to muffle the mews that keened from her mouth. As she rocked in time with the motion of his fingers, she heard his enticing Mandarin encouragement, the growls of her name and how supple she felt.

He knew how she liked it now, hard and tough, so he kept up the pace but the teasing at her sensitive aroused lips was varied, not just restrained to one area. She liked it, oh gods she liked it, River was overcome, she could feel the flushing heat on her insides intensifying and throbbing with each thrust he gave her along with the tingle of his stubble on her breasts. A series of heavy pants gasped from her mouth, mixed in with broken utterances for more and mews of his name. Her small lithe body shook pleasurably in synch with his fingers and rolling groin, before eventually and mutually they both broke apart.

"Again, Moony?" Jayne smirked, smearing his fingers up her belly.

"And again and again."

River rose up and then she slid blissfully down over him, tensing only for a second before relaxing and beginning a steady rhythmic grind. The pressure from his kneading hands on her hips and of him inside was peaking her to blissful new heights. As he matched her rolling rhythm River could feel the hot sticky film of sweat beginning to coat them both once more.

Arching her back, she lifted her arms above her head and closed her eyes, riding the sensation of Jayne like he was a bucking bronco, shaking the usually strong frame of both man and sofa to a weakening state. Jayne kept up well, but he was faltering. River knew that he was watching her euphoric expressions, he was watching every shake of her head, the panting rise and fall of her chest; he was entranced and trapped, gasping for breath.

He was drunk upon her, yet he was yearning still for more. A long languid lick of her lips trapped his gaze. Through the pushing squirming motions of their bodies and the sweat dripping in his eyes, a haze washed over him as he fixated intently on the moistness and plumpness of her lips and tongue. There was an urge to suck at those lips, to bite that dangerous tongue and River only played on it. Reaching up a finger, she placed it between her teeth and bit down, moaning.

It provoked him even more.

Don't kiss those lips. Ya don't ever kiss 'em on the mouth or you'll be out cold and all ya val-u-balls will be swiped. But hers…all them times you both bin screwing along, why would just one kiss on those lips make much of a difference? She ain't gonna leave ya high an' hard. Will she taste as sweet on these lips as she was on her others? Just one kiss…it aint gonna hurt ya. Gorrammit! Ya don't ever kiss 'em on the mouth!

This time he did and he didn't even realise it until it was too late.

His hands pulled up from her waist, skimming up over her breasts before cupping tenderly at her face. Time passed by achingly slow and even with her eyes closed, their skin sliding and slipping tightly together, River saw through his. He was weakening as he brought her reddening face closer to his own, his groaning ragged breath breathed upon her mouth, before he covered her, crashing his mouth over hers with fierce hungry motions. She offered no resistance to this kiss, opening wide and welcoming Jayne's warm hungry tongue to battle with her own. River had never been kissed like this before, never felt such wet hot passion bursting in her mouth and now she couldn't have imagined not kissing…him. It fuelled them on, harder, rougher and invigorated; the kiss sparked a new fire and it roared in Jayne as he heaved himself up off the sofa, carrying River across the room. He slammed her into the wall, his mouth still crashing with hers, his hands ravishing over her body as he ground himself deeper.

She tried to cry her ecstatic screams into his mouth, he tried to reply, but they were muffled and dowsed with their heavy breaths and the vibrations of the metal made with each crushing blow he drove into her. Until the need for air broke them apart.

"Jayne!"

His name was all she could muster in between her chokes and the brutal force of her already scarred body smacking against the wall. With her legs latched around his waist and her arms coiled round his neck, she pulled Jayne back for another kiss, pulling him a little off balance.

She could once again feel the imminent pressure swelling inside her, the uncontrollable quivering tension of her walls crushing Jayne. She was going to burst once more and so she begged him not to stop.

However, someone else made them.

The click of the gun made Jayne drop her, him slipping out of her, shattering and abruptly ending her impending orgasm. Jayne spun round frantically and when she saw him freeze, when he cupped himself, she peered through his legs and saw a very angry looking Mal pointing the gun at him.

"Get away from her, Jayne."

The Captain's restraint was wavering, how he wasn't screaming obsenities and threats was curious as his mind was full of them, angry red swirling inside and flaring on the out. Behind him, Zoe was standing looking in shock at the mess they had made. Too many thoughts now flooded River's mind, it was hurting and not in a good way. Unable to block them out, she buried her face in her hands and began to rock back and forth.

"Mal! It ain't what it looks like!" said Jayne edging away as the captain began to tread over the debris.

"Keep talkin'…." Mal seethed angrily. "Just give me an excuse to pull this trigger you si pi yan!"

"Mal! Gimmie a chance t' explain! She and I we…."

The captain wasn't listening, he stormed right up to the merc, grabbing the discarded blanket and throwing it to River before pressing the barrel right into Jayne's face. From her position on the floor, River saw the fury in her Captain along with the anguish and discomfort of being so close to a naked Jayne Cobb. His protectiveness towards her was so great that he wasn't thinking straight, he wasn't in the frame of mind to be reasonable. She had to act.

Mal did so before she could.

His fist flew right at Jayne and caught him full on his nose. There was a crack and Jayne went falling to the ground.

"You dare to do that t' a member of my crew! You have the gorram gall to defile her, hurt her after everything she's done for us? You low life stinkin'…."

"Mal it weren't ever like that!" Jayne growled back, caring not for the blood streaming down his nose. "I din't defile her! I swear!"

"The words coming from your mouth ain't carin' much for my temper, Jayne." Mal spat, his face now a furious red. "You have exactly ten minutes to haul your ass outta here and off ma ship!"

"But we're in the middle of the black, Mal! You gonna space me, jus' like that?"

"It's either that or I shoot ya. Take ya pick."

"I ain't goin' no where! I've done nothin' wrong! Cept break up the kitchen an' all, sure…but Mal, I dint beat up on her! Gorrammit it's the truth!"

"Captain…it might be best we let him explain." said Zoe slowly edging up behind Mal and touching lightly at his shoulder. When Mal shrugged her off and again aimed his gun, both the first mate and River realised that Jayne presence would never help Mal calm down any time soon. River scuttled over to Jayne and eased him up into a sitting position, whilst Zoe gently pulled Mal's gun away from the merc.

Jayne needs to get out of here. Go to the one place he can be safe.. He needs to go now, before Simon finds out as well. Zoe and I will tell him what really happened…she knows, she saw. She understands.

"Go." River whispered into Jayne's ear.

"Nuh-uh! I aint runnin' away like some yellow belly hundan when I dint do nothin' wrong!"

"Captain-daddy is not himself. All he sees is red, he jumped to the wrong conclusions and can't see past the angry haze with you here. Go and find Inara."

"What? Why would I wanna go an' see her?"

"It's safe with her."

"But it smells funny in her shuttle, it always has!"

"I'm still counting!" yelled Mal, straining against Zoe's restraint.

"Just go, Jayne. Please."

"Girl…I knew we shoulda gone t'ma bunk. You an' ya damned sex lustin's, ya just couldn't wait, could ya?"

"Jayne!"

"All right! Made! I'm not gonna take the rap for crazy doin's, dong ma, ya loony bint!"

Though Jayne wasn't going to argue any more when he noticed the twitching in Mal's eye. When that twitch happened, along with the flaring of his nostrils and the clenching of his jaw, everyone knew that the Captain was going to snap and snap hard.

Jayne rose to his feet and grabbed the closest thing he could to cover his modesty. It turned out to be far from the best thing to hold in front of his privates as the large plushie Santa ("Who brought that gorram thing?") started to move in a strange dance and sing. River couldn't help but smile even in their dire predicament, the tinny sound of "Jingle Bells cut through the chaos of thoughts strangling her and eased the anxiety within. She was distracted by the dancing Santa in front of him, amused as the tall normally frightening man blushed far beyond embarrassment, so much so that she didn't sense the approaching couple.

Too late. Jayne didn't leave quick enough, as he collided with River's brother when he stumbled through the door. The jolt between the two men was followed by an eerie silence and then a "Ho Ho Ho, Happy Christmas!" from the Santa between Jayne's legs.

"Oh what happened to the festive pretties?" Kaylee squeaked from behind them, trying so hard to draw the attention away from Jayne. It didn't work.

Simon had gone extremely pale, more so than his normal complexion. His mouth was hanging open and the usual choking gasps of pure horror gurgled from it as his eyes were assaulted with something he had never wanted to see. Ever. He staggered, remaining up right only thanks to Kaylee who grabbed hold of his waist. The situation wasn't quite registering at first, but after a long agonizing silence, River could feel her brother piecing the scene together.

Naked Jayne, wrecked mess hall, broken table, naked River. Oh no.

"Mei mei?"

Coming out of his catatonic state, Simon immediately pointed an accusing finger at Jayne, stammering and River thought he may have even started foaming a little at the mouth and his eyes looked as if they were going to explode right there in the sockets.

"YOU!" So much hate and spite oozed in that one single word that blurted out from Simon's mouth. His pointing finger was shaking and even if it was possible, his skin was taking on a more paler shade. Jayne stood in front of him, glaring down defiantly, betting him to continue or even take a swing at him, but Simon couldn't get the words out. He just pointed with one hand and his other clenched into a fist. "YOU!"

"Mornin' doc." Jayne said, shifting on his feet. "Happy Christmas. Dint getcha anythin', so don't get all upset 'bout it."

River sniggered into her hand when Jayne then quite calmly side stepped her fuming brother and when he reached the door he vanished with all the speed he could muster.

Now, she was left alone with the rest of the crew, an angry Captain and a traumatized brother, to explain what happened. With the object of the two other men's rage gone, it would be just a little bit easier to tell them the truth.

If she knew what the truth was.

River wasn't sure. The details of why she had taken it upon herself to engage with Jayne sexually, were slipping further and further away from her.


Inara had heard the commotion not long after she had slipped from Mal's bunk and gone back to her shuttle. Inara finished washing herself with her sponge from her bowl and as she dried herself with gentle dabs of her towel, she went to pick out her dress for the morning. Inara had hazarded a guess as to what Mal's yells had been about, but she never expected to be drawn into the serious complications and consequences derived from the bizarre couple's entanglements.

The pounding on her door came almost as suddenly as Mal's angry ranting had done, but Inara put on her favourite red Chinese dress first and secured her hair up with some sticks before she walked over to the door of her shuttle and opened it up. There would be time to beautify her appearance later. More important matters were at hand.

"'Bout gorram time, 'Nara! Lemme in! There's a draft in the bay and it's shrivellin' me up like a pickle!"

She was speechless as Jayne scuffled into her shuttle, buck naked with only a dancing plush Santa toy singing and squirming in front of his privates. That wasn't what shocked her, Inara had seen plenty of naked men. Nakedness didn't shock Inara, it was a natural and beautiful thing. Yet the state of Jayne's skin was quite surprising.

"Erm…Jayne…? What can I help you with?" she asked, as he paced right over to her bed and replaced the toy with one of her cushions. Much to her dismay. Yet even with the quick swap, she could see that pretty much his entire body was covered in bloodied nail marks, bruises, bites and other injuries, given to him by a small young twenty three year old. The blood dripping from his nose was probably Mal's doing.

"I dunno." he said, sniffing at the air and frowning when more blood dripped all over his chest. "Little crazy tol me to come an' see ya. Why, I ain't rightly sure…but I'm guessin' it's a safe place whilst she talks things over with the captain. A sanctuary till Mal comes t' his senses. If he ever does. 'Nara…gorram! It still smells in here!"

"It's still and always will be incense, Jayne. It creates a pleasant and soothing atmosphere and its supposed to smell nice!" she replied with a despondent sigh. She picked up her bowl and got a fresh cloth from her silk bag and held it out for Jayne to clean up his blood.

"Something to drink, Jayne?" she asked as he tended to his nose. He grunted a few strange sounds but Inara went ahead and did so anyway. It wasn't the most comfortable of situations as she and Jayne had never really seen eye to eye, but that wasn't a reason to be rude especially when he so clearly needed some help. The comfort of words or advice.

Inara prepared some drinks, during which she picked up some blankets and beautifully embroidered throws and offered them to the merc. He accepted one of the more plainer ("less girlie lookin') darker throws and snaked it round his waist. Once the tea was made, Inara poured one into a china cup for self and a mug that Mal sometimes liked to drink from. Both men never cared much for drinking daintily out of posh cups that didn't hold much.

"Ta." he said. "Got any sugar?"

Inara held out the sugar bowl and Jayne scooped up three of the larges cubes and dropped them in his cup.

"So…why did River send you here?" she asked, settling down onto the sofa by the bed.

Jayne slurped loudly at his tea and wiped his face with the back of his hand, letting out a relieved and pleasured "ahh!" which was immediately followed by a restrained polite belch.

"I'm guessin' cuz the Captain' didn't much like seein' both of us nekkid, sweaty and sexin'." he said.

"May I ask why didn't you go to your bunk? You could be more comfortable there."

"Well…nah! Mal can get into my bunk, even if I do lock it. He's the Captain, he got all the codes!"

"But still…."

"All right!" Jayne snarled. "I'm thinkin' that it's cuz you might be able to keep Mal at bay if he comes lookin' for me. Plus this shuttle o'yours, aint it sanctified or somethin'? I might be askin' for asylum, your protection as it were."

"You're asking for asylum from me?" Inara touched lightly at her chest, startled. "That's a very unusual request, Jayne. My shuttle, when I entertained my clients, was a place of union, meaning that only the people involved in the act of union are allowed in here. But I don't do that any more and you and I we are not going to be…."

"Yeah! I know that! Ya've told me enough times! What I am askin' for is ya companion-y status to y'know…make sure Mal don't come in here and turn ma brain inta splattered bits on the walls!"

"I think you're exaggerating, Jayne." she said with slight laughter in her silky voice. "As for your request for asylum, no one asks companions. I've never known anyone to…that's normally reserved for shepherds, priests and other religious figures."

"Well, the preacher's room ain't much use to me now he ain't there, is it?" Jayne scoffed, rubbing at the end of his nose to see if the bleeding had stopped. Satisfied that it was he took another big gulp of his tea. "It wouldn't 'ave stopped Mal anyhow! As for the preacher…god rest his soul or whatevers…he would have jus' given a lecture on the special hell and about takin' advantages if he were here still. You…you can keep Mal from coming in here…right?"

"I wish I could. He barges in here when he pleases."

"What, for the sexin'?" Jayne briefly grinned and winked at her, before realising the captain and his lady might have done it on the bed he was sitting on. So he shot up to his feet, nearly spilling his tea. Inara couldn't believe this.

"Jayne, you're not here to discuss what Mal and I get up to. You have come here, clearly troubled…not to mention naked…and you have a problem that I maybe able to help with. If you wish."

"Look, I jus' wanna to keep breathin'! No need for talkin' 'bout what the crazy gal got me in ta!"

"So you don't want to talk about what happened between you and River?"

Jayne didn't answer her straight away. Instead he looked at her intently, squinting his eyes, watching the for subtle changes in her facial expressions and in her body movement. Inara gave away almost nothing, except for the look in her eyes. He saw behind all that companion training that she was curious and not in a professional manner. He smirked.

"Wanna know all the sexy details, 'Nara?" he said eventually, wiggling his eyebrows.

"I heard plenty to know, thank you very much." Inara smiled back through the sarcasm tainted in her voice. Jayne scoffed back a "yeah right." in amused response. "You can tell me anything you want to, I won't judge you or even ridicule you. I'm offering my help, Jayne."

"So yer not angry at me? Ya not gonna lecture me?"

"No. But I will ask the questions you're asking yourself to help you realise the answers. Do you think you were irresponsible with her? Did you feel that you took advantage of River when she offered herself to you?"

"I dunno."

Jayne laced his fingers and hands round his mug and gazed down into the warm tea as he paced up and down her shuttle. He did it a number of times, hitching up the throw when it nearly slipped off his hips and then walked over to the sofa. He plonked himself down next to her with a heavy thud and sigh. Inara didn't recoil or move away, in fact, with a deep long breath, she turned to him and briefly patted his arm. She understood all too well what turmoil his mind was in.

"Jayne, I'm not Mal. I have a far more deeper understanding to sex than he does and I don't tend to jump to conclusions either." said Inara softly.

"He thought I had defiled her." The angry frown clearly showed his disgust at the thought of it. "He pretty much assumed that I treated the young lil' bit like a gorram whore. Which I dint!"

"I know you didn't, Jayne. Mal knows this too, or he will when he calms down. I do think you two could have been more discreet, but I suppose I should have known better, you have never been discreet in anything you've done. Or do."

"Oh. Thanks." he said, quite proudly.

Inara returned a sly smile of her own, just as a long coiled wisp of ebony hair fell across her cheek. With a single finger she gently hooked it behind her ear and took another sip of her tea.

Inara could see in his eyes that he was waiting for her to ask more questions. Again the aching silence dragged on and he was clearly getting more and more uncomfortable, she could see the struggle within and although she normally tried to put people at ease, keeping him in some form of discomfort may help him make the first move and speak of what occurred. The long drawn out silence became unbearable for him and eventually, nervously, he began to talk.

"She said, we fit, Inara." Jayne said, shaking his head. "Clearly she's all confused 'bout it, we've never gotten on. She irritates the hell out of me! Yeah, she's grown now and all pretty, a mighty fine young woman as my ma would say…but she's weird! She uses all them big unnecessary words, when like jus' a few will do! She reads a man's mind, stares at ya with those wide unnervin' eyes! And she does it all the time ya tryin' t'clean ya guns, eat, take a piss….hell even when I'm wannin' alone private time she's always gorram there! She is creepy as….creepy things! And hell knows what that Academy did to her brain! I bet Moony don't hardly know either! The things she can do, the fightin' moves, its aint natural for a little thin tiny gal like her!"

"Jayne?" asked Inara, restraining the smile because although he thought she was annoying him, Inara always saw River's pestering of him as a very obvious sign of her affections. He didn't seem to realise, but then again Jayne was a man. "Do you believe you acted irresponsibly with River, that you took advantage by having sex with her?"

Jayne shifted on the sofa and gave his scrotum a nervous scratch.

"Nah, yeah…a bit. I dunno!" His hand reached up to the back of his head, he felt the torn patch of hair and then touched at his nose, wincing at the pain from Mal's punch. "I dint start it an' she wouldn't let me stop. Then I guess I didn't wanna…ah! Di yu! I'm such a fei-fei de piyian! Ma de! That girl..that gorram woman has screwed me up I don't know what I think!"

That's more like the truth. Inara nodded in understanding. The youthful Tam woman was not like anyone the crew had met before and even with all their differences, River and Jayne's past squabbles and conflicts had bothered each other far more than was let on. The real reason behind the violence, threats and physical altercations went unnoticed by the couple themselves and certain other members of the crew. To Inara, it was there, plain to see. It wasn't conventional attraction, but the tell tale signs of affection was there. They argued and teased each other like children in the playground, it was the only way they knew how to interact.

"Tell me what happened, Jayne. I might be able to help you make some sense of it all."

Jayne shifted once more. He took in some deep long aching breaths, unsure as to if he was going to say anything at all. Then whether it was the damned incense, the stinging throb of his cuts and bruises or just the chaos of emotion that was choking him, he let everything go.

"I was just mindin' my own business, 'Nara. I was 'bout to go back to ma bunk and get some kip, for that damned lil' tyke of Zoe's had done my head in asking questions bout Santa and stuff; when she turns up and not in her usual crazy mode neither. I'm talkin' extra weird and creepy. She don't say a thin' which fer starters differs from her babbling nonsense all tha' time. She then starts sniffin' an' lickin' me like some kinda meat chop, digs her nails in me, bites at me and grabs ma tackle!"

"Has she behaved like this towards you before?

"Not exactly like that, but the last time she grabbed and twisted my knackers, she weren't acting her usual self neither. She was beatin' everyone up in that bar on Maidenhead, zoned out and all killer psycho."

"Ah." Inara gently bobbed her head in recollection. "That was when she was triggered by the subliminal message in the Oatie bar commercial."

"Yeah. She also behaved like that when she killed all them Reavers on 'Verse's moon." Jayne shuddered at the thoughts of those things.

Inara zoned out herself for moment, lost in thoughts as she rose from her position and walked over to her dresser. Jayne's mention of River's trigger all those years ago troubled Inara as she stood in front of the mirror to apply her makeup. As she picked up her mascara brush and lightly touched it at her lashes, Inara worried that River had started something she possibly didn't mean to, or would be able to stop. It meant that there was something else from River's Academy days to deal with, but Inara wasn't with the young assassin. She was with Jayne. He needed her help now.

"You allowed her to continue her advances towards you." she stated, turning round and walking back over to him.

"Well…" Jayne put down his mug and wrapped the throw round his shoulders.

"You were unable to say no?"

"I did say no! On a number of occassions! But she was still insistent!"

"Yet you continued to have intercourse with her, more than once, because you think of River in a way that is contrary to what you let on. "

"Ya what?"

"Jayne….you're not stupid. Think about it."

He did.

"It was sex!" he yelled, rather suddenly. "I don't have 'mantic mushy feelin's for her! It was plain consentin' ruttin' sex is all! She liked it, hell I liked it…nothin' more to say 'cept I don't have girlie lovie dovie feelin's towards the moon-brain!"

"Did you kiss her?"

"Huh? Why'cha ask that fore?"

"Did you kiss River?"

"Well sure. All over an' in between too."

"That's not what I meant and you know it. Did you kiss River on the mouth?"

He had and he nodded. Inara didn't need to say any more. She sat back down on the sofa, looking and waiting for Jayne to realise what that kiss actually meant for him. She didn't pressurize him or coax him further, Inara patiently waited. Sure enough, Jayne's face went through a series of different expressions, from disapproval, disbelief, anger before at last shock and acceptance.

"Huh. I like her then?" He said, draining the rest of the mug and wiping his goatee with his arm. Inara nodded, pleased that he was accepting something positive about River, other than the sex. "Not so bad, I guess, but that ain't changin' the fact that she's still a brat and annoying."

"I would say it was more than just a simple case of liking, Jayne." Inara replied taking his empty mug away from him and placing it down on her table. She approached him again and gently knelt down in front of him. She took hold on his hand, which made him jerk away briefly, and looked at him long and sincerely in the eyes.

"Love? You think I love her? No ruttin' way!" He wrenched himself free from her grasp and headed straight for the door.

"Everyone is different, Jayne." Inara called out, stopping him as his hand just rested on the handle. "Feelings are different. Yours and possibly River's wouldn't be what I would deem love in the normal sense, but it is love all the same."

"Nah. I don't fall in that." said Jayne solemnly. "Specially not with her. She and I…it was just sex, okay? That's all it ever is about…don't need nothing more from her and she won't get none more from me. Plain and gorram simple."

Inara was saddened greatly by those words but that sadness quickly turned to shock once more when the door opened and there was a yell.

"So! It was just about the sex was it? You wang ba dan!"

The door slammed once more and as Inara rushed to Jayne's side. There was fear in the mercenary's eyes, fear not just because Mal was now pounding his hands on the other side of the shuttle, but because he might have to stop lying to himself.

He was stuck here with her and until River managed to explain things, there wasn't anything he could do, except avoid the Captain's fury.

"'Nara? I know ya said you don't…but I'm askin' anyway. Will you grant me asylum? Please?


Simon had opened and closed his mouth so many times, that it began to annoy her.

River sat on the examination table, now wrapped snugly in a large white blanket and although some of her more deeper and more painful cuts had been tended to, she still ached. She watched as her brother paced, then paused, leaning on the counter as he still tried to come to grasps with what Christmas had delivered to him today.

When Mal had gone after Jayne, babbling in such strong Mandarin phrases that Niska would have been shocked to have heard, she had obligued her brother by going to the infirmary.

Don't worry Captain-daddy…it will be all right. You will accept it with ge ge. As will I. I hope. The bright sun might shine through the dark black clouds, but it's not warm and comforting. Not yet.

"Wh-?" Simon nearly said a whole word, River was impressed, but not any more patient for his boob-ness. She sighed and looked around at the rest of the room, bored and frustrated at first until once again she felt the chill of fear creeping over her. River had never liked it here.

"I'm sorry!" she suddenly blurted out, startling Simon and making him upset some of his trays of surgical instruments. "Everything was made pretty, presents were brought and wrapped and put beneath the tree, Christmas was going to be special, better than the ones at home! But I'm sorry, it got broken."

"Mei mei…" Simon looked despondently down at the clutter on the floor, ignored it and rushed over to River. He brushed her scraggy hair out of her face and gently cupped at her cheek. "It's all right…I…I…never thought that even Jayne would be so.."

"No!"

Why did they always think badly of him?

It was the way he grinned when he spanked her. It was his deep roaring growls as he raked his nails, drawing her blood, the naughty things he had in his mind and whispered in her ear. Dirty, lusting…so strong…life smart, gun smart…tactile and very very naughty! That's why!

"It popped!" she gasped, her eyes widening, her hand touching at Simon's own cheek, feeling his smooth unmarked skin. "It popped in my side and I felt…felt hot and shaky. I didn't feel like myself. I think they wanted me to…I saw the calculations they made, the alterations and additions they made and put inside of me. I knew what I had to do but now…Simon? It doesn't make sense any more."

"River…just take long deep breath. You're having another episode."

She rolled her eyes at him.

"Hardly." she said. "Not been crazy for five years!"

"River, do you realise the fragile state you are in?"

She smiled and nodded her head, all too perfectly aware of the state she was in. She ran her hands over her belly and gently swayed from side to side with her eyes closed.

"Happy…warm, sore but blissful. Jayne took me there, let all of me run and gush and cry."

"Aww!" Simon drew away from her, clutching his fists in his hair and shaking his head. "I don't need to know that…please…mei mei, sweetie…why? Why are you defending that ape after what he did to you?"

"After what I did to him?" River held up a finger, an in a very motherly like way waggled it in front of Simon's face. "I was the one who instigated the copulations , I marked him, tasted him first. I just felt that he was right."

"Right? Right? River, it's…" Simon felt a little disgusted and even his throat tasted of bile. "It Jayne! The man is not only a brute with all the grace and manners of chimp playing with dung but he is old enough to be your father for gods sake! Plus…plus…he's Jayne! Why in all the 'Verse did you even contemplate doing something like that with him?"

River frowned and gave him a slap.

"You are mean! Why are you mean to Jayne when you two have been getting on so well?"

"We tolerate each other…and ow! River, I know he's changed since Miranda, you have, we all have…but he still essentially who he is. He's rude, crude, disgusting and mei mei, he's not exactly the kind of…man I thought you would go for. He's not the man I wish for you to be with. I'm betting even the captain would agree with me."

River then shook her head in dismay, slipped off the bed and wrapped her arms around his waist. He was shaking and she squeezed him as tightly as possible

"Dear wonderful, Simon you are not just a boob, you are an ass." River reached up and gave him a kiss on the cheek, lovingly as a little sister would do to comfort her sibling. "You don't hate Jayne as much as you say, but as soon as I pick him…as soon as I chose to have sexual gratification with him you say he is nothing more than a stupid simian!"

"River, he is not the man…."

"YOU want me to be with. As for what I want…." River trailed off in mid-sentence as it all began to dawn on her. It was beginning to make sense.

Didn't know how I was behaving. I didn't even realise what was going on in my own head. The pop, the pain, it was all at the wrong time, not in syncronization with the other cycles, not accompanied by usual symptoms. Trigger. Trigger of a different kind! I didn't know…I never knew I wanted him. Strong man, perfect structure, olfactory senses, the right specimen, the right donor. He fits! They just didn't know that I would have chosen him anyway. They gave me strength to do what I was afraid of.

"Simon, am I bleeding yet?"

He didn't know quite how to respond.

"You want to? Is that why you let Jayne hurt you like that?"

River turned round to face him and gave him one of her "you think I'm the crazy one?" look. She shook her head and then hitched up the sheet that had been wound round her to check her skin. There was nothing more than the redness from her injuries and that seemed to frighten River. She shook her head and she too began shaking, almost crumpling to the floor.

"Bad. This is bad. The trigger and the normal woman feelings both point and direct towards the bear man. "

"Bear man?"

"A much better animal comparison for Jayne than ape. He growls and is strong, very dangerous and deadly. His claws could rip me in two, but it feels so good. We are similar, we like the fight and the battle scars. The euphoria and thrill of the clash."

"River…I don't understand. Are you saying that….that you love Jayne?"

"I am attracted. Yes." River smiled slightly. "I think…it could be more. More than just the battles we share and the fights we have. We gave each other great presents today…even though it did ruin it for everyone else."

Christmas wasn't ruined, that's what Kaylee had said. "Sure it's a little messed up, but it ain't nothin' that can't be fixed." Simon had still been catatonic when Kaylee had started to clean up the room, brave woman considering what had taken place. Simon didn't like that River and Jayne both consented to this strange sexual groppling but she was an adult and could make her own choices. He just hoped she made an important choice where Jayne was concerned.

"Mei mei…I need to ask…"

"Contraception?"

"Yes." Simon rubbed nervously on the back of his neck. "Did you or Jayne use any form of contraception? At all?"

"No. Neither of us did during the six…seven times we had intercourse."

Simon almost collapsed once again. He clutched at his chest and had to steady himself against the counter. He didn't need to know that there had been more than one time Jayne had done this with his sister, but the fact that contraception hadn't been used worried him greatly.

This was not how he pictured waking up today. This was not how he planned on spending Christmas, talking to his little baby (no not a baby any more) sister about her first sexual experience, with Jayne no less. Simon didn't hate Jayne…didn't exactly like him either, as the older man was far from anything he had hoped for River. He hated thinking the way he did when he was back on Osiris, but he couldn't stop hoping for someone better. River looked at him with her head tilted to the side and crossed her arms, scowling angrily. It didn't make him feel any better remembering that she could read his mind. She was getting more and more accurate each year.

"Its not your normal time of mensturation is it?" he nervously asked, changing the subject. She shook her head.

"I didn't know what I was doing at first, Simon."

"What being the right word, River."

"Uncalled for, ge ge." she waggled her finger again. "I'm trying to make sense of what has and is going to happen. Your thoughts on Jayne are not helping!" River tied the sheet around her like a toga and then as if calculating a long difficult sum on her fingers, she began to pace up and down the infirmary. "The flashback…it hurt so much, but I saw I remember now. It happens or will happen…but it cannot be now. Yet, this could be the beginning."

"River! I don't understand!"

She sighed.

"My brain was changed, cut and programmed. They made me into what I am. They gave me the abilities, did they not?"

Simon nodded in agreement, pleased that she was beginning to explain. Yet her mention of "Them" couldn't block out the sight of her in that chair. The Academy had done awful things to her, the sound of her screams, the sight of those devices sticking out of her flesh…it wrenched his insides. It panged guilt into him that he hadn't gotten her out sooner.

"What if it was not just my mental abilities they changed?" said River, placing her hands on her stomach and stroking the cloth that covered it.

"They altered your biology and physiology as well?"

"To make, naturally, what they created." River tilted her head back to gaze at the ceiling. "Instints to mate, instincts to find a perfect donor to create another me. The science is possible, by altering DNA, re-sequencing the codes and implanting programmed behaviours and conditionings. I do not recall that happening to me, but there were years in the Academy, periods of blackouts I could not explain. Woke up in pain yet there no visible indications of surgery or cutting."

"River…you are saying that all this, you…with Jayne..it was because they programmed you to reproduce? That any children you had would be like you? A weapon, assassin…?"

"It is logical. Offspring with my mental and physical abilities, combined with those of a suitably compatible man with equally strong characteristics and build, could produce a child that would be a perfect tool for the Sun. Parliament…those who made the Reavers would have something stronger. My child…my children would be theirs for using for their own means."

"But why didn't they do something while you were…."

"It could be that you got me out, Simon. They never got to finish?"

Simon smiled and then once more wrapped his arms around his sister. He felt such a huge weight lift from his shoulders as she hugged him back with all the love she had. Another secret of the Academy that had been hidden away was revealed, it was another piece of the puzzle. Even if it was just a guess. A pretty good one though .

River felt her brother's relief, it was a warm breeze all over her. All his worry his fears were eased, not completely gone, but ever since he had broken her free from that place, Simon had never been happier. So she felt happy…light and bright. The sun was shining radiantly for her now.

"River…do you have any ideas on to why it happened now?" he asked, stroking at her hair. She shook her head.

"A Christmas present?"

"It's been six years, mei mei."

"Faulty gene sequencing. Didn't work. They were not adept enough for the complexities of such meddling, they didn't have the time. The timing was all wrong."

"I need to do some checks on you, to confirm it."

"Yes. But not now."

"Why not now, sweetie? I need to…"

"First…I need to go and talk to the Captain. To stop him from hurting Jayne."

"He won't, mei mei. We can talk to him together…explain to him that you and Jayne only did…what you did…because of what was done to you."

River smiled and then took hold of his hand and patted it gently.

"Yes, Simon. If you say so."

Linking her arm around her brothers, River walked with him out of the infirmary. He may have thought that, the captain and Jayne himself may even believe it, but it wasn't the truth.

Not then and not now.


Christmas, back on Earth that was, was mainly a Christian holiday. Celebrated for the birth of Christ, the son of god. It was a belief that River had found preposterous. The bible and in all its teachings, made absolutely no sense and held no merit of fact. Shepherd Book had told her it was about faith and how faith could fix a person. She understood that, she could see how someone would need faith, for it gave hope in times of sorrow and pain. Faith not just in a deity, but in ones family and friends, that she could understand.

But Christmas was also a time a goodwill and peace. Supposedly. Out here, away from the Earth-that-was, it didn't happen. Not much anyway. This day was as people saw it, the birth of Christ or a day, a time in the year to celebrate just the frivolities of buying lots of presents and eating too much food. But to River now, it was a time to spend with the family, the crew, to appreciate what they really had.

Now as Simon and Zoe talked Mal down, explaining River's new revelation, she looked to Inara standing at the door of her shuttle and smiled back at the companion.

Asylum. Jayne asked for the companion to look after him. Not ever needed someone to look after him before, he could do it himself. Still could. He only came here because I asked and he never did anything I asked of him before. Something new has begun and he is changing. He's given the best present ever, the experience of something raw and wonderful, the prospect of a brighter future.

A child with Jayne. How strange would that be?

River looked to the only child on Serenity. The boy was sitting up on the catwalk, poking his little legs over the edge and watching with fascination at the scene below. So like his father, smiling and sniggering, wearing a little Hawaiian shirt crumpled and covered in grease. He wasn't interested in the large amount of presents he had waiting for him, Finn Washborne had something much more exciting to watch. Christmas was also a time for the children, to see them smile and laugh, that too she understood. She wanted to see that in a child of her own.

"Well why didn't she say so?"

Mal's frustrated voice bellowed. River chuckled to herself.

Captain daddy…more a father than the real father. So protective and concerned, he never wanted anything to happen to her…she was crew, his Albatross.

"Sir, you never gave either of them the chance to explain." said Zoe, sighing in relief when Mal holstered his weapon. The Captain sheepishly nodded as he realised how stupid he'd been and River saw the same wash of relief on his face as she had seen on Simon's. It wasn't Jayne's fault, he hadn't forced River into anything. He hadn't done anything wrong.

"He's gorram wrecked my boat though!" said Mal, pointing up to where Kaylee now came from. "Kaylee…don't you dare tidy up anything in there! Both of them whats done and messed up will damned well clean it up themselves! D'ya hear?"

"Wouldn't even know where to begin, Cap'ain." she said, walking over and sitting down next to Finn. She smiled at the little boy and the two of them began to swing their legs back and forth together as they leant against the rails.

"Mal…I think you owe someone an apology." said Inara, looking up towards her shuttle.

"Is he still hiding in there?" asked Mal. "He actually asked you for Asylum? I thought your sort didn't do things like that."

"My sort?"

River saw Simon and Zoe shake their heads in dismay, walking away from the Captain to distance themselves from an impending argument. Jayne wasn't the only one he had to apologise to.

"All right, I meant companions! I thought only them religious folks did that. Or captains on ships."

Inara placed her hands on her hips and waited for him to apologise. Mal murmured a sorry that River only just heard before she got up from the steps and began to climb up to the shuttle.

"Why did he ask you for that?"

"You were threatening to kill him, Mal! You accused him of defiling and basically raping her!"

Kaylee clamped her hands over Finn's ears. He didn't need to hear this, and Zoe nodded in appreciation.

"Hey I never said rape! Never said that!"

"You implied it! What were you thinking?"

"I dunno! I just saw the two of them up against the wall, she looked beaten up and defiled! What was I supposed to think?"

"That they were both consenting? That Jayne and River were enjoying themselves?"

"In my mess hall? What's wrong with his bunk or her room? Did they have to destroy everything in there because…."

"Oh no you don't! Don't you dare try and turn this around! You didn't think, Mal and so you decided to blame Jayne! You always blame Jayne for everything!"

"Oh and you think he's so perfect do you?"

"I know he's not. There is only one person on this ship that thinks he is and its not me!"

"Yeah! I know! Its himself!"

River didn't think that she needed to hear any more herself. Let the Captain and his companion fight it out, their Christmas would be great indeed afterwards as they make up in the only way they knew how to.

She passed Kaylee and Finn, the two of them grinning up at her so much that it made her grin back. She ruffled at Finn's black bouncy hair and walked over to the shuttle. He was still in there, probably getting irritated at having been left alone with no idea on what was going on.

She placed her hand against the metal of the door and closed her eyes.

Since being found out, the thoughts and noises in her head hadn't stopped. The headache had been constantly there, she had experienced many, but those caused by her family were bearable. Just.

Not from him though. It used to, when he hated and wanted her away from him, but now all he could do was want her near.

Slowly she opened the door.


Jayne had been fed up with pacing Inara's shuttle. So he sat down on the sofa again, but after a few minutes that didn't help either. Beyond all levels of frustrated, he threw one of Inara's cushions across the room and rose to his feet. Caring not he left the throw on the ground, he stormed angrily over to the door of the shuttle, only to see it open.

He was angry. Pissed off that he had been hiding away like a coward when he hadn't done anything wrong, he was angry that Inara thought he was in love with River, even though he had the horrible niggling knot in his gut that kept saying she was right. He was angry at himself, for so many reasons.

But that anger disappeared when instead of Mal or Inara walking through the door, River came through instead. The angry flush on his face diminished and he froze staring at her draped only in the white sheet and his mouth dropped open.

"Hi." She shuffled nervously closer to him, her eyes gazing seductively over his naked body.

"Yeah. Same to you." he stammered. "Mal calmed down yet?"

"Yes and no." River opened the door and Jayne heard the obvious argument going on between the Captain and companion. Hearing them made the merc smile, a small curl on one side of his mouth.

"He's not gonna kill me is he?" he asked, his own lingering gaze still roaming over her with desire. River shook his head.

"He wouldn't have done. Not armed…you had no way to defend yourself, Captain daddy was all rage but never would have acting upon his hasty words. He has accepted it now…so has Simon."

"Dint like bein' in here, lil' bit. Not at all…asylum was all fine and well, 'Nara helped out a lot…but she said thin's that well…what happens from now on?"

"What do you want?"

"As if you dint know, crazy."

River closed the door behind her and approached him, licking her lips before letting slip the sheet from her body. Even with all her marks and bruises, she still looked beautiful. Dangerous, but so beautiful in his eyes. She was certainly a woman now, he had experienced everything about her and even with her faults, her crazy and not so crazy ways, Jayne was finding it hard to argue that he didn't have feelings. Not them mushy loving girlie feelings…but feelings all the same.

"You do wind me up." he said, stepping into her and brushing her hair out of her face. He then gripped hard at a cluster of her hair and pulled her roughly against him. "You make me so mad."

"I know."

"Ya know too much. You planned all this, dint ya? You set me up and made me get all these gorram…."

"I didn't plan it." she said, smiling up at him as she stroked the hair on his chest. "Wasn't me. They did it. Cut into and altered me…to make their tools, to make their weapons."

"Huh?"

River opened her mouth to explain, but instead of words coming out of it, she felt his tongue slip inside. As another hot crashing kissed meshed against her lips, Jayne's hands coiled round her waist and hoisted her right off the ground. Her legs wrapped around him as River reacted back to his sudden kiss with equal vigour, pulling at his hair to keep him attached. As the kiss grew fiercer and harder, Jayne became unbalanced and he staggered clumsily over to the wall. Her back slammed against it, the force so strong it made her cry into his mouth. He sniggered back, his hot breath breathing sweet on her tongue, before Jayne pushed her high up the wall of Inara's shuttle. She lost co-ordination, her arms flapped out and caught several of the tapestries hanging nearby, tearing them away from their holds as his mouth ripped away from hers. He received a bite on his tongue when it slid out and a lush sexual moan as he licked down her neck to her chest. When he took her breast within, his teeth biting at her nipple, he was rewarded with another vocal drawl and a sensation of blood rushing to his head.

River could feel the throbbing of his muscled arms beneath her legs and the heating pulse between them was aching. His beard and stubble, two different textures of rough scratching bristles and soft enticing hair, made her body convulse when they grazed over her breasts and in between. She was shaking, aching so much that he couldn't keep himself upright.

Thankfully Inara's bed softened their fall; they landed, bounced and rolled, Jayne's large sweating body nearly crushing her as their mouths locked once again. Their hands tore and groped desperately, scratching and pinching at skin. River whined, grabbing his ass and squeezing with agonizing strength and causing him to hiss at the pleasured pain. In reaction, he forced apart her legs and directed his hardness up between her legs. He broke apart the kiss, trying to catch his breath whilst he pushed himself slowly inside her. She tensed and wailed, then finally relaxed as she allowed him to sink further inside.

"God ya make me mad, woman." he panted, stroking her face tenderly, pushing his hips harder until he was fully inside. "Ya damned minx…I hate ya fer this."

"Hate you too." she gasped, giving Jayne a gentle squeeze and a smile.

No. Its not love as love would be. It's something more. More than hate, more than anything. We aren't normal, nor could we ever hope to be. This is better.

"Ta ma de! Chuo zi!"

The abrupt interruption caused Jayne to jump right off River, the fast extraction of himself from within her made her cry, nearly as loud as Inara had done when she and Mal came through the door.

"Oh shit!" Jayne grabbed the nearest thing he could find, only to his dismay, it was the same plushie toy from the mess hall. River leapt up and hide herself behind his large frame, grinning.

"That's my bed!" Inara cried. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Having sex?" River sniggered into Jayne's shoulder.

The red flushed shock on the companion's face was most unlike Inara. She was lost for words, gasping and trying to speak something, anything that could possibly convey her shock even more.

"Now you know how I feel." said Mal turning his back and clenching his teeth.

Inara couldn't have agreed more.


"When can I open my presents?"

Kaylee looked up from her hand of cards and looked across the young boy, who's mind obviously wasn't in the game as he was showing all the cards he had. The mechanic smiled and placed the coloured cards down on the catwalk.

"Not yet. Soon. You're not in any hurry are you?"

Finn shook his head and then placed his own cards on top of Kaylee's. He pulled his legs back up from the edge and crossed them, looking over his shoulder in the direction of the mess hall.

"I'm not in any hurry…but Uncl' Jayne did say that I could open 'em on Christmas day. That is today…ain't it?"

"Sweetie…" Kaylee ruffled his hair with an affectionate rub. "Don't ever call him that, you know he doesn't like it."

"But…."

"Finn…I know yer Ma got ya things, we all did. But at this moment, it aint quite safe to go in there yet. Have a little patience…sides…we're havin' fun here, ain't we?"

The boy nodded. Mal and Inara's fights were fun to listen to. He was about to pick up the pack sitting next to him, when there was an almighty crash, followed by some more shouting. Kaylee looked behind her and to her horror, running towards them was Jayne, carrying River on his back. River had a large white sheet covering over her and Jayne, but Kaylee could still see glimpses of flesh and other….things that made her gasp. She immediately reached over to Finn and covered his eyes as the laughing couple rushed past them. The cries of Mal and Inara sounded off again in the distance, but it was the sound of a "thump" that was loudest, followed by a strange musical singing voice.

When Jayne and River disappeared, Kaylee allowed her hands and fingers to fall away from Finn's eyes. He was grinning, laughing at the hilarity of it all, before he spotted what lay on the ground next to him.

"Oh! A toy! Is it mine?"

His tiny fingers reached out to get it, but Kaylee lunged out and pulled him back.

"Erm….I don't think that would be wise. You don't know where Santa's been."

Her words confused the poor boy, but she wasn't going to explain that the toy had been wedged against Jayne's nethers, so with her boot she pushed it away.

"Ho. Ho. Ho!"

Ya gotta love, Christmas, thought Kaylee shaking her head. It's never the same and never boring. Family rows, plans going wrong, wrecked decorations…it just wouldn't be Christmas without them. Bring on the New Year and the surprises it brings.

The End?