AN: You guys wanted a follow-up. So here's the epilogue. Just took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do. I was having trouble with it. Then Jayne came for a visit while I was heading to the grocery store, but I had my boys with me and they scared him off. Got me to thinking about how odd it was that he was scared of kids. Why was he so scared of kids all of sudden?
Disclaimer: Forgot this on the first one. I'm not Joss, so I don't get anything but reviews from fabulous people. Gorram it. I could use some money cause my 5 year old boy eats more than a full grown man, but the reviews are nice too.
"Does our merc seem a might skittish to you?" Mal asked, turning to Zoe with a quirked eyebrow.
The stoic woman next to him nodded her head once, her eyes scanning the horizon constantly.
Mal quickly turned his attention back to the buyers approaching them. "Gorram it. I'm getting' shot."
Zoe's lip twitched slightly. An uncharitable person might have even called it a grin.
An hour later the ship's doctor finished tying off the last stitch. "Don't get the stitches wet…what am I saying? You know the drill."
Mal slid off the table, wincing as his weight landed on the injured leg. He turned a glare to his mercenary. "What exactly am I paying you for if I keep getting shot on these jobs and you don't have a single scratch?"
He didn't receive the anticipated gruff response. Instead Jayne merely gave him a wide-eyed look, shook his head and quickly fled the room. Mal shared another look with Zoe. Something was clearly wrong with his hired man, and it was high time Mal figured out what. Jayne had been acting suspiciously for weeks now. The man was skulking around the ship, not talking to anyone. He was keeping his head down and his thought to himself. Normally Mal would be happy with this. Hell, who wouldn't be happy with less of Jayne's mouthing off? But no talking? That was just creepifying. Something was off in a bad way.
Mal had really started worrying when Jayne began pushing his food around on his plate instead of eating a week earlier. Jayne was a bottomless pit. The man would eat anything he could catch. But he had known something was truly wrong when they stopped off on Persephone and Janye had not gone whoring. Mal should have taken the merc straight to a hospital. It was a sign of a major illness or depression or something. The man must be dying. Now Mal would have to find a new merc. Gorram it. And he had just gotten to the point he could stand this one.
Mal hobbled through the ship, searching for the merc. He went to the galley first, from habit he supposed. Instead of finding Jayne there, he found River instead. She was perched on the counter, dipping tofu sticks into soy sauce and eating them. She glanced up, her big eyes filled with sadness as they met his.
Her eyes pleaded with his as her mouth opened. "She did not mean to collar him. She doesn't want a pet freak. She told him she won't try to take him for walks. That he is free to go, but he won't go."
Mal nodded and moved to her side, patting her shoulder. He had no ruttin' clue what the girl was saying, but she was clearly torn up about it. "It'll all work out, Albatross. Have you seen, Jayne?"
She held up a slender arm, ramrod straight, one finger pointed down the hall toward his bunk. "The inmate is in his cell, pacing, awaiting his execution."
Mal chuckled. "I'm not that angry. Just a little flesh wound."
She cocked her head to one side, giving him a funny look. Mal suddenly had the feeling that they had been having two separate conversations the entire time. He was used to experiencing that sensation around River though. So he just shrugged his shoulders and moved toward Jayne's bunk. As he was walking out of the galley he heard Simon calling out to River.
"Come along, mei mei we need to check your levels."
He heard her boots thump on the floor as she jumped from the counter. Her heavy sigh followed Mal down the corridor. He couldn't blame her reluctance to face Simon's tests and needles.
Mal banged on Jayne's hatch. "Open up, Jayne."
The hatch opened to reveal Jayne standing below with a pale face and wary eyes. He had a hand on Vera. Mal stepped back, his hand immediately moving to his own gun. Gorram it, why was Jayne opening the door to his captain with a hand on his gun? Something more than a gorram common cold was going on!
"Why don't you come on out of there." Mal demanded with a hard voice. He wasn't about to climb down into that small bunk with all those weapons.
Jayne's eyes stayed on Mal's as he climbed out into the hall. Once he was out he stood with his feet slightly apart, his hands resting on his hips, a deceptively relaxed position that placed them within easy reach of at least three weapons that Mal knew of, and surely more that he didn't.
"What exactly is going on here, Jayne?"
Jayne's eyes widened slightly. "You tell me. I was minding my own business in my bunk."
Mal stared at the man before him, wracking his brains. River's words floated back to him. She'd said something about Jayne waiting to be executed, But Mal had a feeling she hadn't been talking about his leg wound. So what had she been talking about?
"I got the feeling you been doing something behind my back. Something I should be knowing about."
Jayne's jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed. "That's private business, Mal."
Aha! He'd hit a nerve there. "There ain't no private business on Serenity! This here is my boat and there ain't no secrets on it. I am to be included in everything that happens on this here boat."
Jayne's face scrunched up in disgust. "Well you ain't gonna be included in this!"
Mal was about to press the point, but Kaylee came running up to his side, grabbing his arm. "Mal, you gotta come quick!"
She started dragging him off. "What? Did something blow in the engine room? Please tell me we ain't gonna all freeze and suffocate again? Once was enough for me."
"No, something's going on in the infirmary. Simon's really mad at River and they're arguing. She's getting awfully upset. I'm afraid she might hurt him. Please go calm them down."
Jayne swore violently. He shoved them both roughly to the side and took off at a sprint. Mal and Kaylee stared at him in a shock. This was the most animated they had seen Jayne in weeks. And over a fight between River and Simon? Sure he loved to watch River fight, they all knew that. And he did love to see Simon taken down a notch or two, but a fight between the two couldn't be entertaining. It would last two seconds at most. Either she would hit him once, putting him down, or he would manage to spit out the safety phrase knocking her out and it would be over. How fun could that be to watch?
They rushed to catch up, finally coming up behind him as he came to a stop in the infirmary doorway. Simon and River were facing off. Simon was livid. His face was bright red, his eyes wide. His entire body was trembling with rage. Across from him was River, completely composed, which was a danger sign to anyone who knew her well. She was eyeing him with a calm expression, her pale face a neutral mask. Her weight was balanced on the balls of her feet, ready to go in any direction.
"Tell me who," Simon demanded.
She cocked one eyebrow. "There is too much static. You will not receive the message well."
Simon growled. He actually growled. Mal hadn't thought the fancy doctor even had a temper. "Some gorram hun dan out there is going to die, preferably slowly and painfully. Tell me his name."
"No." She replied with a small smile.
Mal pushed Jayne forward, out of his way. He walked into the bright white room to stand between the siblings. "What is going on here?"
"Ge ge does not accept the butterfly emerging from her chrysalis. Wants her to remain in larva stage forever."
Mal turned to Simon for the English translation. Simon threw an arm toward his sister. "Someone knocked her up!"
Mal's mouth fell open. Albatross was getting sexed? By who? Mal felt the rage flow through him. Who had laid his filthy hands on his little psychic? He'd find the hun dan and rip the man's hands right off.
River placed her hands on her hips and turned to Mal. "No. She likes his hands where they are, thank you."
Wait. Wait just a gorram minute. She likes where his hands are? Likes? As in, right now? So, this was an on-going relationship? This was someone she saw regularly? There weren't very many men she saw regularly. In fact, there were only three. And they were all in this room. Since two of them were shocked as hell that left man number three as the daddy to be. Mal spun around.
Jayne met Mal's eyes with a guilty expression. Mal's eyes narrowed. "Airlock. Now."
Kaylee gasped. "You're the father? You sexed River?"
Inara was glaring at the man. "How could you? Were you really so desperate between whoring stops that you would take advantage of the poor girl?"
Jayne's jaw clenched. "Didn't take 'vantage of nobody. Girl could kill me with one hand if she wanted to."
Mal shoved Jayne in the chest, pushing him toward the cargo hold, and the airlock. "This is your stop. You're getting off my boat."
"Then so is she." River announced, stepping forward.
"River, no," Simon moved forward to stop her. "No one is mad at you."
"Should be. She started it. She kissed the man with the girl's name. He tried to run but she caught him."
Even in the midst of the tense situation the two shared a small smile at her words. Zoe caught the smile, recognized it for what it was. She pushed off the wall of the infirmary and moved to stand next to Mal. This was one of the few times that she might have to go against his orders. But her time with Wash had taught her many things, one of them being that sometimes going against Mal's orders was the right thing to do. If she hadn't, she never would have had all of those years with her wonderful, irritating, sarcastic, genius of a pilot husband.
"Jayne, how do you feel about River?" Zoe asked quietly.
Jayne's eyes flashed to the soldier's, panic filling them. "Ah…why do you ask?"
"Jayne," she warned.
He glared at Zoe before sighing, all of the fight leaving his body with the breath. He muttered the words quietly, like he was confessing to a sin. "Love th'girl."
River squealed and threw herself across the room into Jayne's arms. Everyone else was too shocked to stop her. They stared in horror as the mercenary wrapped his big arms around her, squeezing his eyes closed as he held her tightly against his chest.
Mal turned to Zoe. "Well I have completely failed as a surrogate father."
Zoe shrugged. "She's happy. And he'll treat her right."
He furrowed his brow, trying to understand how Zoe could possibly come to that conclusion. His second in command read his expression and explained. "You've seen the way the man worships his weapons. She's the shiniest weapon he's ever seen."
Simon stomped up beside them. "You have to do something about this! Stop this abomination!"
Zoe chuckled. "You know, Simon is right. This is an abomination. Jayne's ma would be awfully disappointed to hear he had a little one out of wedlock."
River's head whipped around as Simon began to sputter.
"No. She will not force him into a collar."
"Shh. It's alright," Jayne spoke up. "Long as you're the one holding the leash, Riv, I think I'd kind of like that particular collar."