TITLE: Bad Day


A/N: A little gift for C Watherston, who inspired this snippet. Set in the Chosen-verse post Aftermath, but could be read as a standalone.

What a bad day.

That was putting it mildly. He groaned as he stepped off the mule. The sound was seconded by Mal, and even Zoe couldn't keep the sigh from her throat. Successful they may have been but damn, why did it always have to be so hard? Jayne knew he of all people was normally up for a good tussle, but seriously – do work, get paid. It wasn't complicated.

Mal had a bullet graze on his shoulder, and it would have been a lot worse if Zoe hadn't pulled him aside at the last minute. When their clients had opened fire they hadn't been particularly surprised – honestly, it's not like they weren't warned beforehand. Readers sure were handy when crime was the name of your game.

Still, the fight had lasted longer than it should have, and every limb ached. He had a deep cut running along his thigh, and he was fairly sure he'd cracked a rib. The three of them headed straight for the infirmary, allowing Simon to fuss and patch them up where necessary. It was well past midnight, the doctor looking half asleep but still tending their wounds with a clinical eye. His daughter blinked happily at her father as he worked, and Jayne felt briefly sympathetic towards Simon. Marina tended to sleep whenever she wanted to, and from the way she pulled at her father's ear that wouldn't be for a while.

Zoe disappeared into her bunk, where Wash was reading a bedtime story to their sons. Mal shuffled away to find Inara and his own offspring, praying that Jack wouldn't feel the need to jump on him immediately. Somehow Jayne thought he was in for a tackle.

He limped towards his bunk, wincing as he opened the hatch. Simon had wrapped his ribcage to let the bones set, and having his back bandaged and his movement restricted always made him edgy. He lowered himself down the ladder carefully, grunting when his feet hit the floor.

He loved his job, always had. The cashy money was good, Serenity was his home, and being paid to shoot people and be bad guys was a dream come true. Still, as the ache in his bones made every step painful, as exhaustion began to weigh down his eyelids and the dirt and grit rubbed against his skin, he couldn't help wondering what life would be like with an easier gig.

He turned and stopped. His wife was stretched out on their bunk, the oversized t-shirt she'd stolen from him years ago slipping down one shoulder. She was so lean she barely took up any space, though he noticed with a grin that she'd hogged all the covers to wrap around herself and her little bundle. Her dark hair was spread over the pillow and one slim arm was wrapped tightly around the little girl lying in front of her. His wife's features were miniaturized on his sleeping daughter's face, the peaceful expression making her look like a little doll. They were both cuddled against the wall that held his prodigious collection of weaponry, River holding Lily protectively as she slept.

His wife opened her eyes, giving him a sleepy smile. She was still recovering, otherwise she would have come with them on the job, although he was glad she'd been able to get some rest and avoid the fight.

Course, it would have been over a lot quicker if she'd been there. Looking at her thin form and the still visible scars on her arms he was relieved she hadn't been.

He moved quietly to the bed, stripping off his cargo pants and bloodied t-shirt, wearing only his boxers as he slipped under the blanket. He stretched out one arm, carefully shifting his wife and daughter into the crook of his shoulder, so his baby-girl was half resting on his chest and River's cheek was pressed into his neck. He noticed she didn't throw her leg over his as she normally did, and realized it was because she didn't want to jostle the wound on his thigh.

He felt her press a light kiss on his neck, her soft skin nuzzling against the stubble of his goatee. He wrapped his arms around them tightly, his daughter's sleepy hum sounding like music in his ears as she was cradled between her parents.

River nuzzled her nose against his cheek, her voice very, very quiet. "Missed you." He turned his head, pressing his lips against hers in a gentle kiss. "Missed ya too, baby-girl."

As his wife drifted back to sleep, her silken hair brushing his arm, he thought back over the events of the day. Do job, get shot at, get wounded, come home. He looked at his beautiful girls cuddled up against him, felt his wife's cool skin and his daughters warm heat against his side, smelt the faint scent of baby powder and cinnamon in the air.

He pressed another kiss on River's forehead as sleep began to overtake him once more.

Yup, great day.