Though River seemed fragile as porcelain the crew soon came to realise those looks could be deceiving, as if they hadn’t learnt that from watching Jayne these past weeks. Far from the brutish and thoughtless muscle he had always been, the crew aboard the Serenity now saw a softer side to the unlikely father as he cared for his son, Daniel, and helped nurse poor River back to health. A bullet wound wasn’t something that anyone just bounced back from and with River so young and small, taking the shot to the core of her body, it was always going to be a long and painful process getting her back on her feet again.
The first day that Simon would allow his sister to wander freely on the ship, believing she was no longer in any imminent danger of a fall or collapse of any kind, River knew exactly where she wanted to run to. Of course, her well-rested legs did not respond well to her request for speed and the wound at her middle pulled tight with every misplaced step, but River hardly felt a thing. She must be immune to battle scars as this crew was, as their ship was. So much was to come that her precious family (both blood and bond alone) knew nothing of but that was a way off yet.
All River wanted to think about right now was her boys, her beautiful baby, Daniel, and her brave soldier man, Jayne. They were the world she had fought to hang onto, that she would suffer anything she must in the name of.
“Here they are.” She smiled as she found them sat at the table together in the galley.
Jayne was apparently cleaning his guns whilst telling Daniel tales of where he had got each one and why it was special, letting him help out a little too.
All work and stories were abandoned in an instant as River spoke. Daniel was out of his seat and bolting over, throwing himself at his mother and hugging her tight. Though he made impact with her wound and made her physically wince, that Jayne saw, she made not a sound and said not a word about it. River just held her son close, rubbing the back of his head as he buried his face in her dress and rattled off at a mile a minute about how much he loved her and how glad he was to see her better, interspersed with bits of the stories his Pa had been furnishing him with.
River was listening, of course she was, but her eyes were locked on Jayne’s own and the gaze did not waver as she smiled his way and he managed a similar if not awkward expression back.
Jayne didn’t know rightly what to think or do. Whilst River was mostly confined to the Medical Bay he’d got into a decent kind of a routine where he took care of his son, visited his girl, completed his ship chores and so on. Though all he wanted was to see River up and about again it would somewhat upset the balance they’d found lately.
Jayne knew he loved River, knew she knew it too, and felt the damn same way. He was resigned to the fact he was most likely long-suh but knew he’d be forever happy to be so with this young woman at his side, their son to raise ‘tween them the best they could.
Still, Jayne hadn’t really had to face up to the whole situation yet, not til today. They had limits and boundaries whilst she was fixin’ and now that was done them lines in the sand might shift some. Trouble was that Jayne didn’t much care for all these rules, all that was right and proper, not til now. He didn’t know how to treat a woman like her, not really. Though he was raised right by his Ma, too many lonely years out in the black saw to it that Jayne used women who came cheap and easy to give him the servicin’ he needed and let him on his way.
Love wasn’t something a man like Jayne Cobb went looking for, but here it was, havin’ hit him right between the eyes. It was a bigger shock than any bullet in the back or similar might’ve been, and though it was a good warm feeling in a lot of ways, Jayne was less than keen on diving head first into it, for fear of screwing up like he so often managed to do somehow.
“I got you a present, Ma!” Daniel enthused, bouncing at his mother’s feet like a crazy jack-in-the-box. “Aunt Kaylee has it in her room for safe keeping. I can go get it!” he told he excitedly, bolting off to do just that and leaving his parents alone a while.
“Er, it’s good that you’re all up and about now,” said Jayne awkwardly, his chair scraping along the floor as he got himself up and turned to face her.
“Mended, good as new.” River smiled, as her hand went across her middle. “Almost,” she added as she realised the pressure of her own fingers near her wound still brought some discomfort.
Of course, River knew how to fix that, how to make sure all the pain went away. She wanted her Jayne’s arms around her, wanted to feel him close like the way she’d seen Wash and Zoe be together before. Couples in love, contact was key, every touch so special. River wanted it all and felt she had already waited too long.
“Hand holding was pleasant when nothing else was practical,” she said, taking a step further into the room, as Jayne moved one more pace her way too. “Ready now. Ready to know.”
“Know, what?” he asked her, almost nervous about what her answer would be though he showed no sign of it on his face as she moved closer still, practically standing toe to toe with him by now.
“Not made of glass.” She shook her head slightly, dark brunette waves fluttering around her face. “Can touch,” she said, as she reached out slender fingers to run down his arm, closing around his hand and bringing it to her own cheek.
She smiled at the contact that remained even when she let her own arm fall back to her side. Yes, this was what she’d craved too long, this simple physical connection that only served to enhance what she felt deep inside her heart.
“Ain’t so used to bein’ all... like your gentleman folk and such,” he admitted gruffly, feeling so stupid right now.
He moved to take his hand away from her cheek but River was determined not to let this moment end right now. Stepping in incredibly close, she stood up on ballerina-like tip toes, her breath on his face as she spoke softly.
“I woke and you were there, on Ariel,” she reminded him. “Woke from death and the only angel I wanted to see was there to watch over me,” she said, then repeating words that had stunned him the first time she’d said them, but did not so much now. “Copper for a kiss,” she practically whispered, before Jayne finally gave in and pressed his lips to hers, arms winding round her body and pulling it flush to his own.
River felt like she was drowning in the most perfect way as she was kissed deeply and completely by the man she had longed for too long. She may be only eighteen, her mind might play tricks on her making her seem crazy, but above all she was woman. Her body craved this kind of feeling, strong arms around her slender form, lips against her own, the world to spin out of control in the most delicious way for just a few seconds.
The couple only parted when they absolutely must and Jayne looked as stunned by the intensity of the moment that had passed as River looked pleased with it. He didn’t kiss women on the mouth as a rule, there were dangers attached to that as Mal had proved with that odd little wife of his a while back. This was different, this was River, and as sissy as he knew he sounded, even to his ownself inside his head, this was what he’d been waitin’ for the whole course of his life. Somehow he’d been waitin’ for her to come along and show him what it was to love and be loved, as they were now.
Daniel chose this particular moment, mere seconds after his parents had parted from their brief but blissful union, to pelt back into the room, a fashioned wooden bead necklace clutched in his hand as a present to his Ma.
“What’re you doin’?” he asked, head tilted to one side as he stared curiously at the closeness of his Ma and Pa, Jayne’s arms around River’s waist still.
“Your Pa had a present for me too.” She smiled, glancing at her son a moment then back at the man in question, the look in her eyes suggesting she had plans to share a good few more ‘presents’ with Jayne yet, and a hell of a lot more besides given half the chance.