Time

Author owns no rights what-so-ever to Firefly, nor the universe in which it lives. He writes solely for his own amusement. It’s okay not to sue him.
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“Boy, it sure would be nice if we had some grenades. Don’t ya think?”

“Shut up, Jayne,” Mal shot back, “and keep shootin’.”

“I been shootin’,” Jayne snarled. “Fer all the good it’s doin’. Seems like ever time I hit one, another comes and take ‘is place.”

“Noticed that myself,” Mal muttered.

It was supposed to be a simple job. Mal should have known, then, that it would be anything but. He just couldn’t understand why, just every now and again, things couldn’t go their way. Was it really too much to ask?

Rock chips biting into his cheek from a near miss answered that for him.

“Mal, I think we’re cut off, here,” Jayne told him quietly.

“Really? Jayne? And what was your first clue?”

“I mean really cut off,” Jayne snapped back. “Not just from the ship. I don’t see no way outta here ‘cept how we got in.” Mal frowned at that, looking around carefully. They were holed up in an old warehouse type building on the far side of town from where the ship was. And, it looked like Jayne was right. Their way in was also the only way out.

At least Zoe and River should be back to the ship, Mal comforted himself with that thought. He had sent them ahead, while he and Jayne had stayed for a bit.

A bit too long, he added. Seems he and Jayne had managed to get caught in a crossfire between two feuding families. Both naturally assumed that Mal and Jayne worked for the other family, so they’d been taking fire from all side.

Gorram ignorant ass hill billies,” he heard Jayne mutter as he switched magazines for Vera, and then pulled his shotgun up to reload it as well. For once, Mal was glad that Jayne was a walking arsenal. That had kept them alive. For now, anyway.

“Best we can try is wait it out,” Mal told his mercenary quietly. “Permaybehaps they’ll kill enough of each other they won’t think overlong about the two o’ us.” A heavy bullet whanged off the steel beam overhead just then.

“Or not,” Mal shrugged.

“We got contact with the ship?” Jayne asked. Mal held up his com unit, shattered by a ricochet in an earlier exchange.

“Figures,” Jayne shook his head. “I swear, Mal, it wasn’t for bad luck, I don’t think we’d have any at all.” Mal looked at him.

“‘We’, Jayne?” he asked.

“I’m here with ya, ain’t I?” Jayne growled. Mal grinned slightly.

“So you are, Jayne, so you are.” Jayne looked at Mal thoughtfully for a moment, until Mal had to ask.

“What?” he demanded.

“Well,” Jayne shrugged, looking back to the doorway from their perch on the lofted second floor. He paused again, forcing Mal to ask again.

“What?” Jayne looked at him, then shrugged again.

“I’s just thinkin’ it’s time you sexed Inara good and proper, that’s all.” Mal just looked at him, stunned.

“I mean, I know it ain’t no one’s business,” Jayne went on calmly. “Thing is, though, two o’ you are makin’ it uncommon hard on the rest of us. Way ya’ll spit and wail and hiss and what not.”

“I don’t spit!” Mal managed to stammer through his anger. Jayne grinned at him.

“Figure o’ speech is all.”

“And you’re right, it ain’t no one else’s business, especially yours!”

“I already said that,” Jayne nodded, undeterred. “Thing is, Mal, it’s obvious you two love each other. Ever’one o’us can see it, even if’n the two o’ ya’s can’t. Ain’t no reason ta keep avoidin’ it. I mean, look at us sittin’ here, right now.”

“We liable not to make it outta here,” Jayne went on. “You die, then ya done left all that unsaid. What’s Inara gonna think? She ain’t never gonna know, fer sure, how ya felt.”
Mal looked at Jayne as if he’d suddenly grown another head. Since when did Jayne philosophize? Or think, for that matter.

“Somethin’ could happen to ‘Nara, too,” Jayne went on, watching the doorway carefully while he spoke. “Then you’d be the one wonderin’. And kickin’ yaself fer not tellin’ her.”

“All I’m sayin’, Mal, we ain’t promised another day. Hell, we ain’t even promised the rest o’ this’un. Don’t leave it unsaid, or undone, no more.”

Mal waited for more, but there wan’t more. Jayne was finished talking. In fact, he wasn’t moving, either. Mal scrambled over to where the big merc was laying.

Suddenly, he stopped. There was a puddle of blood behind Jayne. The big man had been bleeding even as he was talking. Mal rolled the merc over, seeing a large wound in his side. Jayne was still breathing, he was glad to note, but there was a lot of blood.

Ai ya, Jayne,” Mal muttered. “Why’nt you say you was hit, stead o’ runnin’ off at the mouth ‘bout me and ‘Nara?” He pulled Jayne’s knife from his sheath and cut the merc’s shirt off, using it as a makeshift bandage. Mal took his belt off and used it to strap the bloody shirt to the merc, trying to stop the flow of blood.

“I gotta get us outta here,” he muttered to himself. Just as he was looking at the door, he heard a familiar sound. He was about to raise his head when the rear of the building exploded, leaving a large hole. River was the first one in, followed by Zoe, and then Simon.

“Up here!” Mal called. “Simon, Jayne’s down!” he added. As River and Zoe provided cover, Simon took the steps two at a time, rushing to where Mal was kneeling beside Jayne.

Simon slid to his knees at Jayne’s other side, and lifted the bandage slightly.

“Looks like it went through,” he said, more to himself than to Mal. “I need to get him to the infirmary, though. Looks as if he’s lost a good bit of blood. Help me move him,” he ordered. Mal slung the merc’s guns, and then took Jayne’s shoulders. Simon took his feet, and they started for the stairs.

“Coming down!” Simon yelled. River and Zoe increased their fire, supplemented by two thrown grenades that River placed with uncanny accuracy. Things went so fast that they had Jayne down to the ground floor and were heading out the improvised door before Mal realized it. Zoe and River followed them, River having tossed two more grenades, smoke this time.

Everyone scrambled onto the shuttle.

“Go Inara!” Zoe shouted, and the shuttle began to lift even before Zoe had the hatch secure.

In minutes they were back aboard the ship, and River had them screaming for the black. Mal and Zoe carried Jayne to the infirmary, and Simon set to work, with Inara helping.
Mal watched them for a few minutes, then left. He grabbed a quick shower to get rid of the blood, and walked up to the bridge.

“That was some might fine daring do, Zoe. Albatross.”

“It’s what we do,” River sighed theatrically. Zoe snorted.

“We figured you was in trouble, sir,” Zoe nodded. “Heard shootin’, and then River did her ‘away’ thing, said you was trapped, and Jayne was hit.”

“I’m grateful to ya,” Mal nodded. “All o’ ya,” he added. “Didn’t think we was gonna get outta there ‘cept in a box.”

“How’s Jayne?” Zoe asked. Mal looked at her, sensing a deeper concern than she might normally have shown.

“He will recover,” River assured the warrior woman. “Wound is ugly, will leave another scar. Main issue is blood loss. And stubbornness,” she added.

“He is that,” Zoe nodded, her relief evident. Mal almost frowned but caught himself. Was something going on between Jayne and Zoe? He shook himself mentally.

Don’t matter if there is, he told himself. Ain’t my business, and Zoe’s a grown woman.

“I’m goin’ down to the infirmary and check on him,” Mal said. Zoe rose.

“I’ll tag along,” was all she said. Mal caught a slight smirk on River’s face, and decided something was definitely going on. He promised himself he’d keep shut about it.
They found Simon and Inara cleaning up. Jayne was resting, still out.

“He’s still sedated,” Simon told them. “He’ll be down a few days, but his constitution is remarkable. He’ll be up and around in less than a week, I’m sure.” He started cleaning Jayne up.

“I’ll take care o’ that,” Zoe said softly, taking the cloth. “You need to rest a bit, Simon.” The doctor gave her an odd look, which she ignored, and then left. Mal looked at Inara.

“Need to talk to you,” was all he said, but the tone of his voice said much more. Inara looked at him in surprise.

“I got. . .I got things to say to ya,” Mal’s voice was quiet, almost gentle. “Ain’t got the time to wait no longer.” He held out his hand, and Inara took it, surprised by his gentleness.

The two of them walked out, Zoe hiding a smile as they left.

“Well, Jayne, I guess you did it,” was all she said, working gently to clean him up.

“You said it needed doin’,” he murmured from the bed. Zoe looked at him.

“Didn’t know you was awake,” she said neutrally.

“Think I’d sleep through you givin’ me a sponge bath, woman?” he leered. Zoe chuckled softly.
**********
Mal stayed true to himself, and never said anything about Jayne and Zoe ‘getting closer’.
Not that he had time to pay a lot of attention. He and Inara had a world of lost time to make up for.

But the one thing they had, in the black, was time.

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