Lights in the Sky, Chapter 6/?
Author: Sarah-Beth (memorysdaughter)
Series: Chapter 6/?
Summary: While recovering from a "suckin' chest wound," Jayne is forced to take care of a very ill River.
Lights in the Sky
Somehow he convinced her to sleep again, and he laid her back on the bed, brushing her hair away from her face. He started to stand, to go back to his drink, but somehow he couldn’t. Instead, he slid to the floor next to her bed and leaned against it. He listened to her breathe. Somehow it seemed to take longer and longer for her to take each breath, but he was sure that wasn’t really true.
He shifted on the floor, his hand sliding under the bed as he did so. It hit something that crinkled as he touched it. He pulled it towards him.
It was a thick folder, papers spilling out of it. Jayne picked it up and flicked through the contents. Drawings, mostly, with a handful of poems scattered through it. He pulled out sketches that intrigued him, mostly portraits of the crew.
Moon-brain was really quite talented, he thought as he paged through the drawings. It just proved exactly what he thought about her – for all her crazy, helpless façade, she was actually brilliant, actually talented. She was somebody, and it wasn’t always somebody crazy.
On the bed River shifted and moaned a little. Jayne looked over, but she was still fast asleep.
He tried to think of everything he knew about sick people. His ma had always said they needed clear foods, whatever that meant. He couldn’t think of any clear foods, only clear beverages. Vodka was clear, wasn’t it? And there was a drink on Bronson-Eddick that they called “shotgun fire” that was clear, too. But no foods.
His ma had also been fond of what she called “the nicer things” whenever anyone was sick. Ma Cobb would fluff up a very special pillow, one with genuine goose feathers in it, and an embroidered cover. And she had a soft blanket to go with it.
But Jayne had none of those things, and he couldn’t think of anything to replace them.
He leaned back against the bed, and let his eyes fall closed.
She was swimming in the bathtub. It wasn’t an optimal place to swim, but it was raining outside, making the pool at the Senators’ Club out of the question.
It wasn’t a small bathtub, five feet by two feet, and River was a slippery eel in its warm water. She wriggled from one end to the other, her long hair streaking behind her like a mermaid’s. She flipped over on her back and looked up at the turquoise tile ceiling above her, misty and streaked in the warm atmosphere of the bathroom.
She sat up, giggling, water streaming from her hands and face, and then dove under again, trying to see how long she could hold her breath. Stomach to back to stomach…
… and then out of nowhere hands clamped around her neck, pushing her down.
She gasped, trying to breathe underwater. But she wasn’t a fish, and the water bled into her lungs, hot and horrible, and she was drowning, drowning, drowning…
On the bed River was having some sort of fit, her back arching, her mouth open. Jayne scrambled to his feet. “Moon-brain? Hey?”
She flopped and squirmed, and then her eyes flew open, still black and empty. “Fish!” she cried. “Stay away, fish!”
She shot into a seated position, and threw her arms out wildly, as though searching for any obstacle in her way. “Stay away!” she repeated.
“Hey, hey,” Jayne said, trying to stay calm. “It’s just me. It’s Jayne.”
The fear seemed to slip from River’s face. “Jayne?”
“Yeah, baby doll.”
“No fish here.” He slid onto the bed next to her. “Though I did find yer sketches an’ poetry.”
River looked confused. “Poetry?”
“Y’know… fancy words. Writ down.” Jayne leaned down to scoop up the folder. “Here. Lemme remind ya.”
He found a poem and shifted back on the bed. He took her hot little hand in his and began to read. “ ‘I see the way he looks at her / Like a waterfall of ice…’”
River was shaking her head.
“Those aren’t her words.”
“Well, it ain’t like I wrote this stuff.”
“Those aren’t her words!”
“Take them back! Take them back!” she shrieked. Her hands, desperate, grabbed for Jayne’s hand, for the poem he held. She found it blindly and began to tear it to pieces.
Jayne could only watch helplessly as the poem became confetti, and the sick girl seemed to become sicker before him.
When the poem was destroyed, she clapped her hands over her ears and began to rock back and forth. “Not her words, not her words…”
“Shh, Crazy, shh,” Jayne said, feeling more and more lost. He wrapped his arms around her and moved with her, until her three-word mantra became his heartbeat, until he felt like he was breaking along with her.