I trust him as far as I can spit
"Dain't they look shiny?"
The voice whispered wistfully in Simon's right ear. He felt the scratchy hay bale drop as a weight joined him.
Simon sighed in response to her frivolity. Usually, he enjoyed playing up to Kaylee's romantic side; surprising her with strawberries and pretty things he knew she deserved, but tonight he had something other than his beautiful girlfriend on his mind.
They had received the wave from Kaylee's home planet months earlier. It had been unexpected. A wedding invitation. Florence, a second cousin twice removed or something. It was a small town.
He'd never liked weddings. Too giddy. Thinking of the future through rose-tinted glasses. And the dancing, he hated the dancing. Brought back too many memories.
He breathed out slowly and pulled at the collar of his only dress shirt causing Kaylee to lean over and fix it. He smiled at her, his eyes dipping to the emerald green dress she had borrowed from Inara. It was simple, satin, in a Chinese pattern with a mandarin collar. He could see her legs every time she crossed them, the material falling away.
Why did Inara have to own such appealing dresses, and let Kaylee borrow them at a time when he could do nothing about it for at least four hours?
She took his hand and returned his smile. He rubbed the back of her hand in a circular motion. It felt oddly comforting, but did nothing to quell the uneasy feeling in his stomach.
The barn smelt like it had been a cowshed just the day before, the rafters full of bird nests and cobwebs. Candles in jars on the wooden walls of the barn, created long shadows, emanating enough light to spare them from the darkness that could be seen through the open barn door.
Spotting a few dozen hay bales stacked up against the wall, he assumed the bridal party had just used the cow feed as seating. They gave off a musty smell in the heat, that he tried to ignore.
A group of three guitarists played on the centre of the room on an small stage; in front the bride and groom danced a sequence that he had never seen before. They glided around the dance floor, smooth and silent. Her white dress swept the floor and it looked as if she was floating.
Zoe was dancing in the corner with a few young men who were vying for her attention, but she wasn't looking happy about it. He concluded that the Captain had probably pulled rank and ordered her to. He could almost picture Wash next to her, dancing around like he had been set on fire.
A world away from Zoe and her husband's ghost, danced the Captain and Inara. He held her in his arms, their steps matched, footprint for footprint, but as on the ship there was inches of free air between them.
"Gotta keep believin' there's a happiness for everyone, in the 'verse" Kaylee looked as him pointedly as she spoke, but he didn't respond.
"Sometimes it is not the most appropriate happiness."
His tone was low and dark. Kaylee's eyes followed his gaze.
He was not looking at the bride and groom, but at the small dark haired girl who was trying to teach their colossal mercenary how to dance.
Jayne's only concession to the occasion was a clean shirt, -Mal ended up in the infirmary with a black eye for asking for more-, and even that small gesture was accompanied by a lot of muttering and something about not getting paid enough.
Simon had long ago given up trying to talk to or have some kind of rapport with the perpetually scruffy and tattoo'd hired gun; other than during his urgent and very loud visits to the infirmary, with requests to be stitched up or have bullets removed.
So, he felt it quite bizarre, that since Miranda, he and his sister had taken to sitting quietly cleaning weaponry together in the cargo bay and disappearing into bars when they were planet side. Something he didn't like at all. Then there was the eating ice planets incident that made him want to bleach his eyes.
"She should not be spending so much time with a rim-rat"
"You are such a core-bred snob, Simon Tam." She snorted and dropped his hand. "I'm a rim-rat, and you spend plen'y of time with me" A half smirk gracing her features.
"But, you don't kill things just because they look at you funny. I trust him as far as I can spit. He will get her killed."
He felt like his words were running away without him and he was having trouble keeping up.
Kaylee grinned at his attempt at rim speech.
"River took out a whole bunch of Reavers, by herself"
"She's my little sister. I have to take care of her." The words came out as a sort of whine, not very manly.
"Stop worryin'. She ain't gonna have a life like you had in the Core an' all, but River's family and we love her. We ain't gonna let anyone hurt her."
Kaylee spoke loudly, but he was no longer listening, concentrating on his delicate Mei Mei in the arms of that ape man.
"All I can see right now are knife fights, bullet wounds, laser burns and River dying on the operating table" He grimaced, then his face paled "or Jayne babies", he rubbed his temples with his thumb and forefinger. "Is this what going mad feels like?"
"They're just dancin', a n' River looks awful shiny"
They watched River take Jayne's hand and put it on her waist, holding the other, moving to the beat of the music. The music taking over, she let go of him. Her pale pink silk dress, borrowed from Inara's vast wardrobe, showing off her long legs as she twirled. Dark hair fanning out. The crowd backed away, letting her take control of the dance floor.
River twirled faster and faster, suddenly loosing purchase on the floor, but she did not land, Jayne caught her before she hit the floor. She laughed and stretched out like she were flying, whist lying back across his arms.
She no longer looked like the scared little girl that he rescued all those years ago. Her brain, her half mind, though not completely healed, held less scars. She looked like a woman and he sure as hell was not ready for that. She glanced over at him and shook her head; like she had read his mind, silently telling him not to interfere.
She returned to dancing, chastising Jayne when he stood on her toes. She tapped her dainty pink dancing slippers patiently, waiting for him to curse and gesticulate angrily.
From his face, they were words that Simon was glad he couldn't hear. He was so glad the merc's guns and myriad of other weaponry had been removed at the door.
Jayne threw up his arms and moved to stalk away, Simon assumed it was to the bar; when she lightly touched his arm, stood on her tiptoes and whispered something into his ear.
Whatever it was, made him grab her hand and gracelessly pulled her close to try again.
Simon started to rise from the bale at the physical contact, but sat back down when he felt Kaylee touch his arm.
"Leave 'em be. It's harmless."
"Have you ever heard anyone refer to Jayne as harmless?" Simon continued, not taking the hint at all.
"Who's callin' my merc harmless?"
The captain slid onto the bale next to Kaylee. He was holding a glass full of brown liquid, Inara nowhere to be seen.
"We was watchin' Jayne 'n River, Cap'n"
"I can see no good coming from that alliance, ever. Though the boat has been a lot quieter, since he found she could hand him his ass, and then some."
"She is bewitching, isn't she?" Inara's voice whispered as she sat on another hay bale next to them. A glass of wine in her hand "She has him captivated" Her gaze flitted over to Mal, them back to the dancing. "He sees the girl. Sees her as a equal"
"If he hurts her" Simon said, still finding whole situation a mite disturbing.
"He's a dead man." Simon and Mal said together.
"At least you two can agree on something" Kaylee giggled with delight.
She rose and put out her hand towards Simon. Her smile turning devious.
"Dance with me"
"I'd rather not."
"For me." She spoke these words aloud. Her eyes saying if he didn't, his would be the only death to worry about.
Without speaking, he let Kaylee guide him to the centre of the barn, into the crowd of people. The smell of perfume mingled with sweat, almost overwhelming. He put his arms around her waist and they swayed to the music.
Simon watched River over Kaylee's shoulder, she had finally got her partner to follow simple steps. As much as he hated to admit it, they worked well together.
Jayne's concentrating face was reminiscent of the time they did the job on Ariel, before he had tried to turn them in. Simon could never forgive him for that. River, who had somehow managed to, was all smiles.
He relaxed a little in Kaylee's embrace
"See, told ya." Kaylee whispered in his ear.
"I still trust him as far as I can spit."
"Better learn t' spit further then. 'Nara is never wrong" Kaylee made them turn towards the band "I could teach ya tomorrow if you like."
"I thought you were going shopping for parts with Zoe?"
"We all have to make sacrifices" Kaylee purred as she brushed her lips against his, then put them up to his ear and spoke slowly. "Jayne babies."
Simon's face paled for the second time that evening, he let go of Kaylee and bolted towards the bar.
"Was it somethin' I said?" She shouted after him, a look of glee on her face.