This is the third in my accidental Firefly trilogy that starts with Seeing is Believing followed by Hat Trick. Accidental? Because it was supposed to be just one story, but somehow grew. I'm not sure I believe that River and Jayne would ever actually get together, but as I thought about what might bring them together and how it would turn out, this story popped into my head. And anyway it's not exactly canon, is it? So let's just have some fun and get this out of our systems, shall we?
Serenity's medical bay, normally meticulously clean and tidy, was in disarray following their latest job. Mal and Zoe had both needed surgery to remove bullet fragments, and quickly. Zoe in particular had been bleeding out. At one point, afraid that she was going to give up, Simon reminded her, "Wash would want you to live." A flash of anger had crossed her face, then determination. She made it, but would take some time to fully recover.
Now that calm had returned to the boat, Simon was organizing the equipment and shelving new supplies. Lost in his thoughts as he worked, Simon heard a soft voice.
Turning about, he saw no one. Not in the medical area, nor in the hallway outside.
Simon looked about again, and then looked up. There was River, looking down at him from the ceiling.
"River. What are you doing up there?"
"I have elevated blood pressure."
"Elevated... River, did you just make a joke?"
Dropping down to the floor, River said, "Simon, something's going to happen. I need to be ready."
"Something? What, River? What's going to happen?"
River smiled. Before she could continue, however, Zoe's voice came over the PA system. "All hands to the galley. We have a situation."
When everyone was seated, Zoe began. "The captain's in trouble."
"Again?" It was Jayne.
Ignoring him, Zoe continued. "You all know that we left the captain on Persephone yesterday. Reason was he had a lead into who might have been laying traps for us lately. Like the one that nearly got us both killed. He just sent us a wave." Zoe pushed a button on her handheld.
"Um, rescue? Rescue, please. And..." and Mal's voice was cut off.
"Another trap," said Kaylee.
"Looks that way," confirmed Zoe. "And the captain walked right into it. We need to mount a rescue mission."
Zoe let the crew digest this. "I'm in no shape for it myself, and besides, if they know Mal they likely know me. And Jayne for that matter. But chances are, they won't know you, River. That means you'll have the element of surprise in your favour."
All eyes turned to River. She simply nodded. Simon practically flew out of his seat. "No! Don't even think about it. She's just a girl."
"Just a girl, Doctor?" said Zoe. "Just a girl who took out a hall full of Reavers single handed. Do I have to remind you? She's the strongest of us all. And the smartest. And at this point, she's the captain's best hope."
Simon slowly sat back down. River reached across the table and took his hand. "It's OK, Simon. I want to help."
"Jayne, you'll be River's backup. Use the shuttle. Go to the coordinates the captain received."
Jayne started to open his mouth.
"And yes, Jayne," Zoe interjected, "You can take grenades."
After the briefing, Zoe limped back to the bridge, sank disconsolately into the pilot's chair, and picked up a toy dinosaur.
"Curse your inevitable betrayal," she whispered, then smiled a small smile.
Blood trickled from Mal's mouth as he received another punch. He was tied to a chair in a large storage area. It contained haphazardly placed crates, racks of equipment, and banks of control panels set against one of the walls. He'd been able to wave Serenity from there after breaking loose for a moment. He hoped it had gone through. Looking at the two men in front of him, trying to size them up, he couldn't decide if they were crazy, dangerous, or both.
"Now look what you've done. You've gone and made the poor man bleed."
"I never. Well, look at that. I did! Awfully sorry about that Captain Reynolds. It was quite unintentional."
"Maybe you want to cut these ties and try that again?" Mal suggested.
Another punch. "Look, I did it again. Just couldn't help myself."
"The thing is, it doesn't matter if you don't admit it to us. We know you spilled the beans on Miranda. And so do they. And when they come, well, let's just say they won't be as sensitive to your feelings as we are."
"That's right. Now take this here," he said, holding up a model of a Firefly-class boat. "It'd be a shame if anything were to happen to this here boat, wouldn't it?"
"A cryin' shame."
"Still, accidents happen, don't they? Things get broken." And he dropped the model.
"Now look what you've done. You've wrecked the man's boat."
"On, dear me, now I've gone and stepped on it."
"Now it's all in little pieces."
"And the crew all dead, I suppose."
"I suppose so. Pity, innit?"
"Please, no!" cried Mal. "Don't break the toy. I'll talk."
"How long do you think it's going to be?" wondered Zack.
"With them?" Zeek replied. "Who knows? Not that it matters. We just wait here until they show up or some of the other guys come relieve us. What I can't figure is, who's going to try anything with two big guys like us out here and a dozen more inside?"
"Still, hope it's not long. I don't like standing still for so long."
"I don't like standing still for so long," mocked the other. "What are you, a baby, little brother?"
"Quit yer wisecracks and check this out."
They both quieted as they watched a thin girl wearing a long, shapeless dress and combat boots come round the corner and walk up to them.
"Hi, can you help me?" she said. "I'm looking for Malcolm Reynolds. I'm here to rescue him."
Eyes widening, Zack said, "You're here to..."
"Rescue him," she confirmed.
Zack and Zeek looked at each other and grinned. "Here, little girl," Zeek said, taking her by the arm, "I'll take you to Captain Reynolds and then you can rescue him, OK?"
"That's so kind of you. Thank you," she replied sweetly.
Looking after them as they entered the building, Zack chuckled to himself until a fist suddenly connected with his jaw.
Mal felt his jaw was about to break when the heavy metal door to the storage area opened. His two captors turned to look. A squadron of grinning men were escorting a girl into the room.
When he spotted River, Mal tried not to smile.
"What's the meaning of this, then?"
"This here girl," said Zeek, "is here to rescue our Captain Reynolds. The boys didn't want to miss this."
"Oh, she is, is she? Well, by all means bring her in, then."
The group approached with River at the head.
"So, you mean to rescue 'im, do you?"
River nodded brightly and the other men chuckled.
"Well, that's fine. You go right ahead. There's just one problem that I can see, though. To rescue him, you have to get past us. What do you say to that?"
River looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled and shrugged. Then she gave the man ahead of her a kick in the abdomen while she elbowed the one behind her. The others were stunned for a moment, then sprang into action. One tried to grab River from behind, but she hooked him by the arm and tossed him overhead, crashing him into the group before her.
In the meantime, someone at the back of the group yelped as Jayne gave his head a sharp twist. Now the fight was on two fronts.
As River jumped, kicked, and pirouetted, Jayne fought like a barroom brawler. Men were dropping, mostly not getting up again, when Jayne noticed that part of the wall ahead of him seemed to detach and move towards them. It was a device with a clear, football-shaped enclosure on top, a metal trunk with switches, lights and rotating mechanisms, and thick limbs, two for moving, two for... attacking him and River! Few men could touch her in a fight 'cause she knew what they were going to do before they did. But against this?
"That's some kind of gorram robot. River!" Jayne yelled. She swiveled her head towards him while ducking a blow.
"Git down!" he yelled again.
With a kick, River downed her assailant and rolled. An extensible arm zoomed over her where her head had just been. Jayne grabbed it with two hands as it started to retract. Lifting his legs off the ground, Jayne let the arm propel him towards the robot, letting go at the last second. His momentum was enough to topple the robot over. Standing over it, Jayne drew his pistol and fired several rounds. The robot flailed, then was still. When Jayne looked back again, River was the only other person standing.
"You saved me," she said.
"Hello," interjected Mal. "Over here? A little help, please?"
Holstering his pistol, Jayne took his knife and cut Mal's cords. Mal stood up shakily, rubbing his chin. He started to sag until Jayne caught him. River took his other arm and helped him over to the comms station.
"You've looked better, sir," Zoe commented on the vid screen.
"Thanks," Mal replied matter of factly. "You comin'?"
"Be there in an hour."
"We'll grab ourselves a couple of my newfound friends. I have questions I'd like to put to them. Out."
"Better find some place to sit a spell before you drop," commented Jayne.
"In the corridor," River suggested. "There's a bench."
As they assisted Mal, Jayne muttered, "Never ended up usin' any of these gorram grenades."
Mal set himself down and lay on his back, gratefully. "Thanks, I'll just rest a spell, then..."
But before he could finish, River grabbed Jayne and shoved him back into the store-room.
"Dung ee hwar!" roared Jayne.
Mal sat up and saw River enter the room and close the door behind her. He heard a click as the door locked. Mal shuffled over to the door.
"Hello?" he called.
An hour later, Zoe arrived with Simon. When they heard the crashes and exclamations on the other side of the door, Zoe asked, "Sir?".
"Truly, I have no idea," Mal said. "But it's been going on for the past hour."
Just then the noise stopped. After a minute, the door opened and Jayne emerged, covered with scratches, and bruises. His clothes were shredded. He was limping and had a broad, wolfish smile. His eyes were glowing.
Seeing Mal, Jayne said. "Boy, that was, I mean, I've never..." Then he noticed Simon. With a cough, Jayne nodded and limped down the corridor.
They turned to see River emerge, without a scratch and without a hair out of place. Smiling at Simon, she reached up to kiss him on the cheek, then nonchalantly followed Jayne, her hands folded behind her back, while the others stood stock still, staring after them with open mouths.