TITLE: Changes

DISCLAIMER: Not mine.

A/N: Hello children, so glad you all seem to be enjoying reading these as much as I enjoy writing them. Poem by Banjo Patterson. Super shiny thanks to you all. 8th in the Discovery-verse.


Things were different. Jayne had never thought he'd be in a relationship, especially not with a little crazy person who had once slashed his chest open. He'd watched Simon and Kaylee's slow and awkward progress with a sneer, had watched Mal and Inara claw at one another until their hearts were bloodied and bleeding.

But that had been a long time ago. Ever since he'd started seeing his crew mates as more than colleagues, ever since he'd started seeing them as friends, he'd tried to look with different eyes. Simon and Kaylee were beginning to work things out, and Jayne noticed that when Mal and Inara fought small smirks would occasionally cross their faces. Some things didn't change though, and he was the first to admit that he was a little nervous at the idea of embarking one of those agonising paths.

The day after they'd kissed he hadn't had a clue what to say. They'd made out like teenagers until the rest of the crew had found them, catcalls and whoops sounding from their inebriated comrades. Simon and Mal had immediately grabbed an arm each, strolling Jayne into the galley for a little talk. Said talk largely consisted of both men giving him stern warnings but smiling nonetheless.

Considering the reaction he was expecting their apparent nonchalance about him kissing River had been a surprise. Mal wandered off to bed while Simon looked at him evenly, studying the confusion on Jayne's face.

His voice had been calm and slightly amused. "You've been changing because of her. We've all seen it; don't be surprised that we were expecting this. Treat her well and we'll never have a reason to disapprove."

Simon's eyes went cold and hard. "Hurt her and you'll welcome death by the time I'm finished with you." Jayne had nodded, standing and heading to his bunk. River was walking past him and he caught her arm, grinning at her. She gave him one of those radiant smiles and he kissed her quickly before letting her head off to bed.

When he'd gone to sleep he'd felt happy, even suave at having snuck in an extra kiss. In the morning however it had been a different story. He had no idea how he was meant to act, no clue what he was meant to say or do.

He wasn't much of a talker, was she going to mind that? Plus thinking wasn't exactly his strong point, and she was a rutting genius, would she get bored of him? When he walked into the galley he felt queasy. This was a terrible idea. He didn't know what to say, what to do, how to act. He wasn't fluffy or sweet, he didn't know the first thing about buying flowers, and he'd never even asked her if they were…what? Dating? Courting? Together?

He groaned, glad he was up early so he could eat quickly and then hide in his bunk and try to figure this out. He should have remembered who he was dealing with.

When he entered the galley he was hit with the rich smell of protein cakes and fresh coffee. River was moving two plates to the table where a steaming plate of cakes already stood, complete with sugar syrup in a jug on the side.

She gave him a quick smile before returning to the kitchen to grab a cup of hot coffee for him. He knew she didn't tend to drink coffee; it made her edgy, which wasn't a good thing for someone already on the psycho side.

She brought the cup over to him. Her sleep shorts and tank top were dark blue, her feet encased in the warm ugg boots the crew had been given after the job on Midas. She looked downright adorable standing there like that, her hair messy and loose, and as he accepted the cup with a smile his doubts left his mind completely. She stood on her tip toes to plant a quick kiss on his cheek before turning and moving towards the table.

They sat down, eating in silence, and Jayne was struck by how comfortable he felt. He slung one arm over the back of her chair, pleased when she leaned into him as he shovelled the food into his mouth. The girl could brew a damn good cup of coffee, and Jayne thought there were far worse ways to start a morning.

As the crew began to meander in River stood and took the second plate of protein cakes from the oven, as well as a large pot of coffee. People thanked her absentmindedly, slowly waking up as they dug into the coffee and then breakfast. Kaylee's face lit up in a wide smile at the sight of River leaning into Jayne's side, the big man's arm resting along the back of her chair.

Jayne began to feel uncomfortable again at the knowing looks from the rest of the table, and wondered if he was meant to say something. River poured more coffee into his cup and rolled her eyes at him. He took that to mean he wasn't required to make an announcement, and relief flooded through him once again.

As Simon and Zoe began to clear Wash looked at River. "So little one, we gonna have another flying lesson?" She smiled at him and nodded, standing to go and get dressed. She bent quickly, giving Jayne another one of those sweet kisses, and then she was gone.

Seven pairs of eyes stared at him when she left the room. Jayne groaned. "Y'all ain't gonna jus' let this be are ya?" Kaylee shook her head, a triumphant smile on her face. "Nope, we reckon it's right shiny yer together, but ya ain't getting' away without some teasin'!"

Jayne opened his mouth to retort when River re-entered. She began to follow Wash out of the room and towards the bridge but turned at the last minute. "Kaylee, strange noises came from the engine room last night, was everything alright?"

She didn't bother waiting for an answer, simply swept out of the room. Kaylee and Simon had both gone bright red, and attention was immediately turned on the embarrassed couple. Jayne smirked as he left, his girl was so ruttin' smart.

His girl.

And that was it. There was no big announcement, no sudden declarations. She didn't demand he give her flowers or talk about his feelings all the time. She didn't try to force him not to spit or drink or smoke cigars. She just accepted him. And that was enough to cement in his mind that this was a girl he wasn't letting go of anytime soon.

Didn't hurt that the sex was phenomenal. He'd been trying to be good, not to push her, especially since she was only 18. And if he was spending his nights abusing his John Thomas so he could control himself around her than he wasn't going to complain. She was worth waiting around for, and he expected to wait a while. He should have remembered who he was dealing with.

So when she appeared in his bunk one night dressed in a towel and nothing else he couldn't help his mouth dropping open. Her hair was wet, her skin moist, the towel clinging to her slim body. He'd grinned at her when she let the towel drop, his eyes going wide as she sauntered towards him. Her voice was soft. "He said once he wanted to take another look. Is now acceptable?"

As usual he didn't give her words, but that didn't seem to bother her none.

Yessir, he reckoned he had the gorram shiniest girl in the 'verse. He'd never known relationships could be like this, so easy going and comfortable straight from the get go. It helped that she was a Reader but he thought it was probably more than that. It wasn't just that she knew what he was thinking; it was just that she wanted to make him happy.

And he couldn't help but want to return the favour every chance he got.

He couldn't choose flowers but he could take her for weapons fittings and give her handmade leather sheaths that would fit around her slim thighs. He couldn't dance but he could watch her glide and twirl for hours, stopping her only when he couldn't take not touching her any longer. He couldn't cook but he could make sure she never had to do the dishes.

Everything was going fine until he got sick.

It was after a trip on planet, a vicious flu virus that he picked up on Hera, and he spent a few hours cursing the vendor who'd sneezed near him. Simon had relegated him to bed rest, loading him up with flu medication. He couldn't sleep, not with bones aching like this, and he'd lain in bed grouchy and miserable for a few hours.

He missed her. He didn't want her seeing him so sore and tired looking, didn't want her to realize how old he was compared to her, didn't want her to be forced into the role of nurse. Well, maybe that last one a little bit. More than anything though he was annoyed because lately it had seemed like words kept trying to come out of his mouth. It might have seemed innocuous but those three little words kept trying to slip out and he wasn't sure he was ready to say them.

Or if they wouldn't scare her off. The first time he'd thought he loved her was when she was dancing while stirring protein mash. She'd been humming under her breath and the sight of her in the kitchen wearing his orange cap and blue t-shirt had just been too much. He'd come up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, pleased when she leaned her head back against his chest.

Mal had interrupted and kept him from saying it.

The second time had been after a job on Persephone. They'd met with Badger and River had come along to deduce any lying on the part of their slimy contact. The little man's eyes had lit up when he'd seen her, and the way she'd coldly rebuffed him just like the last time they met had made Jayne grin. When they'd left he'd slung an arm around her shoulders and bit his tongue from saying it.

The last time had been two days ago. River had spent a few hours with Kaylee, Inara and Zoe, and Jayne was sure he saw he slip into the Companions shuttle with a familiar brown coat. When Mal had asked him later if he'd seen the pilfered jacket Jayne had grinned at him, shaking his head. The girl was too funny for her own damn good. She'd snuck into his bunk later wearing it, and had him in stiches with the ridiculous impression of their Captain.

He'd looked at her then. "I…yer real funny." She had smiled at him and opened the coat, revealing her complete lack of clothing underneath, and he'd been suitably distracted with the idea of having sex on Mal's jacket. If her eyes had briefly looked the tiniest bit disappointed neither of them said anything.

So now he was sulking in his bunk, sick as a dog and confused. He wasn't sure why he wanted to say it, or why he couldn't say it, and was utterly annoyed at not knowing the answer to either. His stomach growled loudly, and he groaned at the thought of having to trek to the kitchen to find some food. He'd been vomiting up everything he ate, and the lack of sustenance wasn't helping his mood.

Then his bunk hatch had opened and slim legs had appeared on the ladder. She stepped into the room and his eyes grew wide. "Where'd ya get that sweater?" She looked at the black hooded sweatshirt that came past her knees and gave him a cheeky smile. "Laundry."

His grouchy mind thought briefly about telling her off for going through his things but her eyes warned him of the danger of such an idea, and whatever was in that contained smelled too good to jeopardize. She passed it over and removed the lid, smiling when his eyes lit up. "Chicken soup?" She nodded. "Simon waxes lyrical about the immunization boost of garlic and onion, protein is required for recovery. Added sleeping drought is to promote decent rest."

He didn't try to dissect her words, simply took the spoon she offered and dug in. The bowl was finished in minutes and he placed it on the ground by the bed as she stepped away. She took a folding chair from the corner of the room, moving it beside the bed. She sat down, stretching her bare legs out until her feet were propped on the bed, and took a small book out of her pocket.

His eyes were starting to feel heavy but he kept them open, gesturing to the book in her hands. "Whassat, gon' read me a bedtime-" "Shhh." She cut him off, simply opening the little book to a page and beginning to speak. Her voice was soft and lilting, wrapping around him like warm blanket.

"Wilt thou love me, sweet, when my hair is grey

And my cheeks shall have lost their hue?

When the charms of youth shall have passed away,

Will your love as of old prove true?

For the looks may change and the heart may range,

And the love be no longer fond;

Wilt thou love with truth and the years of youth

And away to the years beyond?

Oh I love you, sweet, for your locks of brown

And the blush on your cheek that still lies

But I love you most for the kindly heart,

That I see in your sweet blue eyes.

For the eyes are the signs of the soul within,

Of a heart that is leal and true.

And mine own sweetheart I shall love you still,

Just as long as your eyes are blue.

For the locks may bleach and the cheeks of peach

May be reft of their golden hue.

But mine own sweetheart I shall love you still,

Just as long as your eyes are blue."

As she spoke his body shifted from sitting to lying down, his head resting against his pillow. He cracked one sleepy eye open. "Ain't much fer poetry, that weren't bad." She smiled and nodded, moving to stand. He grabbed her wrist, the sleeping drugs slowly consuming him. "Yer eyes ain't blue, they's brown. Girl in the poem had blue eyes."

She smirked at him. "Jayne is a girl's name." He waved a hand as he rolled over. "Gon', git." Her tinkly laugh was the last thing he heard before he fell asleep with a smile on his face.

When he woke up she was back at his bedside with some hot tea and more soup. He told her he loved her in between bites and her smile lit up the room.

Yup, everything was going fine until he got sick. Then suddenly it was going even better.