A Year and almost a day
Disclaimer: I own nothing, Joss is boss.
"You're not good enough for her." Simon snarled. "S'that so?" Jayne drawled with a grin. "Not good enough by half. This isn't going to happen. I'll take her off this ship and we'll disappear, you'll never see her again." Simon vowed. "Doc, not that you ain't all kinds a creative and determined when it comes to your sis but knowing all that fancy math like you do; what do you think are the chances a River goin anywhere she don't want to?" Jayne asked peering up at him over the edge of the massive hunting knife he was sharpening. "You hated her, wanted nothing more than the both of us gone. Now three months later she's moving into your bunk? You think I'm just going to accept that?" Simon asked angrily. "Ain't gotta make sense to you. All you can do is accept it." Jayne replied mildly not at all intimidated by Simon's anger.
Simon shoved a frustrated hand through his hair, this wasn't getting him any where. "Fine you want me to accept this, then convince me you're in love with my sister." Simon demanded. "I ain't gotta convince you of a gorram thing." Jayne growled standing to face him. "Now this is gettin to be real wearisome. I'm wit your sister. That's the long and the short of it. Like it or not she chose me and I ain't never been one to turn down a good thing when it's offered." Jayne told him gathering up his knife and sharpening supplies. "You don't get to just…" Simon began hotly grabbing Jayne's arm. "No! You dense, irritating, gigantic pain in the pi gu! River chose me and is movin into my bunk! End of story. Buh-bye. See ya later." Jayne shouted shaking the smaller man's hand off his arm and storming out of the kitchen. "You got a death wish doc?" Mal asked with a low whistle. Simon spun to face the captain, startled to find him sitting in the crash lounge with a book. "How long have you been there?" Simon asked blinking in confusion. "Since before you walked in here tryin to breath fire at a dragon." Mal replied shaking his head at him. "I'm not afraid of that Neanderthal." Simon sneered. "Then you ain't nearly as smart as you claim 3%." Mal snarked. "You don't really think he'd hurt me?" Simon scoffed half heartedly, his intended tone of strength coming out sounding uncertain. "Simon, only one on this ship who don't know that River is the only reason Jayne ain't put you through a bulk head , is you." Mal told him honestly.
River sat in her dorm for the last time and looked around wistfully. Part of her was going to miss having this space as her very own, but the rest of her was thrilled to have been so completely accepted into Jayne's heart and life. River sighed as she suddenly felt her brother's anger moving toward her, again. "River, I'm sorry but I can't allow this to continue. I never should have let it go on this long. I know you care for Jayne, you may even think you love him but he isn't right for you. Being involved with him will bring you nothing but ruin. So I've made the hard decision, we're leaving Serenity. We'll be back on Persephone in two days time and that's where we're getting off." Simon told her coming into the room. "Simon Serenity is our home, our family is here. Mal, Zoe, Kaylee, Inara and yes Jayne too. I'm not leaving them." She refused. "I don't want to leave Mal, Inara and Zoe either. We owe them our lives and our freedom, but it's for the best. As for Kaylee, she'll come with us of course. She and I have been talking about building our lives together, I know she'll understand why we need to leave. Maybe now that my accounts have been unfrozen we can use the little that's left to get our own ship, travel the border moons and the rim bringing people medical care." Simon suggested his face lighting up.
"You're delusional. Kaylee loves you, but she also loves Serenity and everyone else on her. This ship and these people have been in her life and heart far longer than you have Simon. That you just assume she's going to give up her entire life to follow you through the verse, for no good reason I might add, is supreme arrogance." River told him. "Kaylee will have to make her choice, and if she choses to stay behind I guess I'll have to live with that. But you, you are coming with me." Simon informed her. "No Simon, I'm not. I don't want you to go, and certainly I have no intention of giving up everything I've found here." River replied. "River, I love you and it's my job to protect you even from yourself. Now I didn't want to do it this way but I gave up everything for you. My career, my freedom, our parents literally everything I had to save your life. Now it's your turn. You best make your peace with it and say your good byes because come Persephone we're off this ship." He said intensely.
River felt as if she were a balloon that the air had been let out of. Never once did it enter her consciousness that Simon would use saving her life against her as a bargaining chip. Simon watched as her shoulders slumped in defeat and the light went our of her eyes. "Alright Simon, I have no defense against that. I literally as you said owe you my life. You can use that against me, use guilt and manipulation to get what you want. I have no defense. But over the next two days I want you to answer one question. If you're willing to rip apart everyone's lives. If you can take a daughter and another pilot from Mal. If you can take a confidant from Zoe. If you can take a mei mei from Inara. If you can take a best friend from Kaylee. If you can take a love from Jayne and you can take all of that plus a home from me just so that you can be happy; Simon how does that make you any different from the people you rescued me from?" River asked her eyes filling with tears and her voice catching. With one last searching look at her brother she fled the room unable to be near him for another second.
Late that night after everyone had let him know exactly how much of a fool they thought he was being. After Kaylee had tearfully told him how mean and selfish he was and that he couldn't possibly expect her to choose between Serenity and him. After Mal had cursed and Zoe had thrown Wash's death in his face. After Inara's pointed silence had drenched his insides with shame and the sight of his sisters tear filled eyes as she clutched tight to the unusually silent Jayne made him flee, Simon sat in the empty kitchen brooding over a cup of tea as if it held all the answers in the verse.
"We gotta talk." Jayne said sitting across from him. Simon glanced up at him for a moment before looking back down at his mug. "I have nothing to say to you." Simon told him. "Then you can sit there and listen. I ain't one for talkin on feelin's, but you seem hell bent on pullin everything we got here apart cause you think I'm gonna hurt your mei mei. Now I ain't a good man, never been like you Core boys. Never wanted to be. But that girl means more to me than I ever thought any one person could mean. You're makin her choose between the life she's built here and the ge ge who gave up everything for her. I ain't gonna make her choose, but I ain't lettin her go easy neither. If I gotta track you to the end of the verse and through Reaver space to find you all, I'll get her back. And I'll do it cause she wants me as much as I want her. You wanna threaten me, do horrible things to me if I hurt her? Fine, but right now you're the one hurtin River not me. On top a that you're hurtin Kaylee and yourself too. You need to decide what's more important your pride or your sister." Jayne told him before standing and walking away.
When Jayne returned to his bunk he wasn't surprised to see River sitting on the bed waiting for him. "You're really goin to leave with him, aren't you?" he asked harshly. "I don't want to, I'm hoping he'll see reason." River told him staring at her feet. "And if he don't?" Jayne pushed. For all he'd just told Simon he wasn't going to make her choose he had to know where he stood. "My entire life the one constant I've had, the one sure thing has been Simon. Even when we annoyed the go se out of each other, we were still on each others sides. He risked everything getting me out of that place. But…I don't think I can walk off that ramp. I love Serenity and everything I have here, especially everything here in this bunk. I love this so much that, I don't think I can lose it. For the first time in my life I can honestly say it would be harder to walk away from Serenity, than from Simon." River confessed looking up at him with tear filled eyes. Jayne stared at her for a long moment before swiftly pushing off the wall, crossing the bunk in one large step and pulling River into his arms crushing her to him. "Thank God." He breathed into her ear as they clung to each other. Outside the forgotten open hatch Simon stood in the quiet hall trying not to be devastated by the fact that his sister simply didn't need him anymore.
The next morning Mal walked onto the bridge and took his place in Wash's seat. Despite being told she could, River never sat there unless she was playing the dinos. Mal took his shift there and Zoe often spent long hours in her misters chair, especially now that she knew she was pregnant. But River didn't. It was her way of letting everyone know she wasn't trying to replace Wash in any way. "I got something to say Tross and I know you can probably pick it right out of my head, but I still need to say it out loud. Brother or no brother you got a place here on Serenity. This boat is your home for as long you want it to be. You've been through hell darlin and the freedom you got now was all kinds a hard own. Don't you be lettin it go now outta guilt. You know well as I do freedom's like air, it don't mean a damn thing til you ain't got any. You remember what I told you about flyin? Well you decide to keep us flyin and I swear we'll all keep you in the air darlin." Mal told her sincerely. Having said his piece Mal stood and after a moments hesitation crossed the bridge to stand behind her. "Ai lǎo hǔ nǐ nǚ 'ér.*" Mal whispered before placing a kiss on the top of her head. Then quick as he'd come Mal was gone leaving River sitting there with tears streaming down her pale cheeks.
After lunch Mal and Zoe took over the bridge leaving River at loose ends while Jayne helped Kaylee with some heavy lifting in the engine room. River was making a cup of tea when Inara entered the kitchen. "You read my mind mei mei." She greeted with a smile. "Not this time." River quipped smiling back at the older woman. Inara crossed the room to stand beside her and cupped River's cheek affectionately. "Whatever are we going to do without you?" she asked. River's eyes filled with tears again causing Inara pull her into a motherly embrace. "Don't cry bao bei, it will all work out in the end." Inara soothed. "Everyone is so sad, I can feel it all around me and swirling through me. You're all so sad again. Because of me…again." River cried. "No, River this isn't your fault. None of it. You can't shoulder that burden mei mei, it's not yours to bear." Inara insisted. "It hurts." River whimpered burying her face in Inara's shoulder trying to soak in as much comfort as she could.
Mal sat impatiently at the table simultaneously trying to ignore Simon and will Kaylee into the room so they could eat dinner. "I'll get her sir." Zoe offered moving to stand. "No, I'll go." River said standing abruptly. Before anyone could speak she was gone. Kaylee sat in the back of the engine room, tucked in the corner crying when she felt someone sit next to her. "This is all my fault." River told her. "I brought us here. I wanted Jayne, I knew Simon wouldn't like it but I didn't care. I was selfish. I'm sorry Kaylee, truly I am." River confessed. "Ain't nothin to be sorry about. This ain't your doin, it's Simon's. You're a person ain't ya, got a right to be free, to be happy just like the rest of us. You found love, don't matter what no one else thinks. Just can't stand I was so wrong about someone. Never woulda thought in a billion years that Simon would do somethin like this. Not just objectin to you and Jayne, but decidin that the best thing is to up and leave. To decide for me that I should be leavin too, that I'd follow him anywhere like some star struck prairie harpy. Don't care what shiny Core world he was born on, don't make him better than me. And brother or no it ain't his right to force you from your home and your family just when you finally found a bit of peace and happiness in this verse. Simon Tam ain't all knowin and you shouldn't be lettin him push you around like this." Kaylee told her, her voice getting stronger with every word.
"I'm not pushing her around." Simon defended walking into the room. "Yeah you are. You been pushin all of us around, tryin to make us do what you want. You wanna make River chose you over Jayne, you wanna make me choose you over everything I got here and you want everyone else to just bend over and take it. Well I ain't takin it any more Simon Tam. You and me are through. I'd rather live with batteries for the rest a my days then shed one more tear over you. You just remember one thing Core boy, years from now when you're sittin in some fancy room by yourself; that I'm going to be the one thing you wish you'd never had for wantin it back so bad." Kaylee told him intensely before walking past him out of the engine room. River stared at him for a long moment before shaking her head sadly and following her friend.
The next day Simon spent his time avoiding the others. He couldn't stand the pressing guilt anymore. He longed to go to Kaylee and beg forgiveness, to let go of his foolish pride and stop the whole thing. Yet something held him back. Simon couldn't let it go until he had some sort of guarantee that Jayne truly did love his sister and wouldn't intentionally hurt her. As the hours ticked by Simon racked his brain trying to think of a way he could get that kind of assurance and save the situation before his pride did anymore harm and he lost these people forever. Crossing from his room to the bathroom Simon looked longingly down the hall toward Book's old room. He'd of given just about anything to have the wise Shepherd there to guide him. After seeing to his needs Simon decided to go and sit in the man's old quarters hoping some lingering bit of his presence could soothe his troubled mind and spirit. As Simon sat there letting memories of Shepherd Book wash over him he was struck by inspiration. Hurrying back to his room he logged onto the cortex and found what he was looking for. Now all he needed was for Jayne and River to go along with it.
An hour later Simon walked into the kitchen only to have the laughter that had been spilling down the corridor fade away. River's gaze flew to her brother, hope blooming in her eyes as he walked purposefully toward Jayne. Everyone watched him with concern and curiosity as Simon stopped a few feet from the merc holding a data pad and stylus. "I don't want to leave Serenity any more than my sister does. Assuming you are all willing to forgive my inflexible pride of the past few days and give me a chance to make things right, I have a life and a family here. A life and a family I want to keep, and a love that is worth far more than my pride." Simon said glancing at Kaylee as he spoke. "This all started with the decision that you and my sister would be sharing a bunk. You aren't a good man Jayne, you've said so yourself. Yet in my quest to prevent a broken heart, I seemed to have caused seven instead. So if you are sincere in your affection for my sister, I am willing to withdraw all objections to your relationship. If you really do love her, I will eat as many helpings of crow as deemed necessary to make my behavior up to the crew, in between long minutes of begging Kaylee to forgive an over protective fool with a stupidly large ego of course. All you have to do is prove it." Simon said.
"And how is it I'm supposed to do that?" Jayne asked suspiciously. "You both sign this." Simon answered placing the pad and stylus down on the table in front of Jayne. Jayne pulled the pad toward him and looked down at the screen reading what was there. "This is a marriage certificate." Jayne said in shock his head snapping up to stare at Simon. "Yes. You see your year and a day marriage to my sister expires tomorrow. However if you sign that and file it on the cortex tonight you will remain married." Simon informed him. "Don't make a lick a sense doc. You was all hot to get her away from me cause you thought I'd hurt her and now you wanna bind her to me for life. You ain't never getting rid a me this way." Jayne pointed out baffled by the other mans behavior.
"My fear, was that you were either toying with her to have some steady sex while out in the black or that you'd get itchy feet and drop her to go back to whoring. This way I know you're in it for the long haul." Simon explained. "What if Riv don't wanna keep me on permanent? I got no beef wit signin, but we ain't talked about this. Baby girl I don't want you doin somethin you ain't ready for." Jayne said turning to face River. River smiled at Jayne before leaning forward to capture his lips in a kiss. When they parted (after a dinner roll thrown by Mal bounced off of Jayne's head) River scooped up the stylus and sliding the data pad toward herself signed her alias with a flourish. "This gonna be legal with Riv usin a different name?" Jayne asked as he scratched his own name onto the screen. "Elizabeth River Reynolds is what's on her ident card issued by the Operative, it's legal on all the worlds spinning." Zoe confirmed a smile tugging at her lips. "I didn't know you did that." Mal said surprised. "Tam no longer fit ba ba." River replied smiling. "Great, now Jayne's my son-in-law." Mal groaned in mock pain. "Love you too dad." Jayne taunted with a smirk as he hit the submit command and handed the pad back to Simon. "Satisfied xiǎo dì di **?" Jayne asked with a taunting tone. "Just concentrate on satisfying my sister and we'll be fine." Simon replied. Jayne's face took on an evil grin as he opened his mouth to reply when Simon held up his hand and continued talking to stall further comment. "And never tell me about it."
*.Ai lǎo hǔ nǐ: I love you nǚ 'ér: daughter
**xiǎo dì di: little brother (Also slang for penis I figure Jayne is just as likely to call him a dick in this moment as he is a brother. Yea for delightful dual purpose words.)