River sits on the catwalk above the cargo bay, her legs dangling freely in the open space below her. Before she can hear him, loud and clomping…before she can smell him, all musky sweat and gun metal…she can sense him, guilt rolling off of him in waves, threatening to knock her forward with its intensity.

She sits still, blithely pretends she doesn't notice his clumsy attempt to creep up on her unnoticed. When he is but a pace away, he pauses. She can feel his uncertainty as he balances on the precipice between right and wrong. He almost chooses to back away, but that would mean he was afraid, and big scary men aren't allowed to be afraid of little girls. It's not proper. Taking a deep breath, he firms his resolve and takes the final step towards her.

"Hey, girlie," Jayne says, nudging her shoulder with his knee. "I picked me up a crate o' apples at this last stop. I's thinking since we're rich and all now, I'd share 'em with the crew. Ya want one?"

River stands up slowly, ignoring the apple in his outstretched hand. He wants to say he is sorry, but everything is all backwards. How can you apologize for a crime that hasn't been confessed yet? The guilt crushes his insides though, so he tries to speak without words, using actions, loud and blaring.

She stares into his eyes, not certain if she is ready to forgive. "And the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field," she accuses, her voice soft and lilting.

Jayne scratches his head in confusion. "Serpents? What're you on about? There ain't no serpents here on Serenity."

River continues, trying to make him understand. "And the serpent said to the woman, 'you will not surely die.' So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. But the woman was deceived. The serpent swore to protect…to help make her wise. But all he offered her was death."

"Hold on now," Jayne grumbles. "I'm not appreciatin' the accusatory nature of your tone. There ain't nothin' wrong with these apples. If you don't want one, jus' say so. It won't hurt my feelin's none…that'll jus' be one more apple for me."

"He hears, but he doesn't understand," she sighs in frustration. "They offered him silver, and he chased after a dream of a better life. But the silver was just a mirage in the sand. When he approached, it disappeared, and there was nothing but death all around."

Jayne begins swearing in Chinese under his breath, turning to stalk away from the crazy girl and her bughouse talk, but River grips his arm tightly and will not let him go. She can feel cautious eyes watching them from below, and suddenly she knows how to make Jayne see how she feels. Words would not work…not with him. She would have to speak with actions…a language he could comprehend.

River creeps closer to Jayne, until their chests are almost touching. Tracing her finger over the apple he is still gripping, she lets her hand continue upward until it cups his face. Jayne tenses, opening his mouth to protest, but River's lips are on his before he has a chance to speak. The kiss is brief, but both of them are breathing hard by the time Jayne pushes River away.

"Copper for a kiss," she says, a satisfied smirk on her face as she hears a gasp come from below.

"Now listen here," Jayne growls, looming over her menacingly, "as much as I love nubile young things throwin' themselves into my arms, you're just fixin' for a world of trouble if 'n you're thinking' to play games like that with me. And I ain't so noble as to push you away a second time."

"But does he see the girl for who she is? Or does he only see broken bits, fit to be sold to any who will buy?"

"You're all woman from where I'm standin'," Jayne says with an appreciative leer.

"And her eyes were open, and she knew that she was naked," River whimpers in a trembling voice, her eyes wide as she backs away a step. She had not expected the kiss to make her head spin so…or for him to react this positively to her advances. These factors would have to be added to the equation. But he still had to be punished for his crime…that was a foregone conclusion, already set in motion.

"Gorrammit! Don't go getting' all scared now. I'm not gonna hurt ya. You're the one who was flingin' herself at me, remember?" Jayne sighs in frustration. "Don't know why I'm even botherin'. It's a waste of time tryin' to reason with a nutjob like you."

River's eyes go vacant for a moment as her body stiffens. Suddenly, her demeanor is different…swaggering and arrogant…and her voice is not her own. "It's a girl. Cute, too, but I don't think she's all there. 'Course, not all of her has to be..."

Jayne gets a petrified look on his face as he hears his own words echoed back to him. If she had heard him say that, then he would be hard pressed to convince her that his intentions were nothing but honorable…or as honorable as he ever gets at least. River approaches him again, splaying her one had over the muscles of his chest as the other begins idly creeping up his thigh. Jayne lets out a shuddering sigh, and just as he is about to reach down and show her what it means to play with a real man, he feels a vice-like hand grip down on his shoulder.

"Aw, hell girl. You jus' got me in a heap o' trouble," Jayne mumbles with a resigned feeling of dread.

A huge grin spreads across River's face. "Now we're even," she whispers with a conspiratorial wink. Giggling, she grabs the apple from his hand, yelling "apology accepted" as she runs off to leave Jayne to his scolding.

"Is there a problem?" Mal asks icily, glowering at Jayne.

"No problem here, Cap'n. Girl's just got a funny way of sayin' she likes apples," Jayne answers with a gulp.

"You know, the preacher's got some mighty fine words to say about them that takes advantage of poor, delusioned girls. Seems there's a special spot in hell reserved just for those types. If'n you don't want to be joining them any time soon, I suggest you stay far, far away from young River there."

"And does the Preacher's good book say anything about young girls who like to play games to land innocent men in the hot seat? Perhaps she's takin' after that whack job wife of yours."

"I ain't got no wife, and you'd do best to remember that," Mal snaps. "And last time I checked, there weren't an innocent man aboard this ship, you least of all."

"Maybe I ain't the one that needs a talkin' to is all I'm sayin'," Jayne grumbles.

"Fine. I'll have me a few words with River as well. Make sure she doesn't have any crazy notions about you being a respectable fellow. But in the meantime, I suggest you go cool off somewhere that ain't nowhere near her vicinity."

Jayne glares at the Captain, his jaw clenched, but Mal gives him a looks that says that there will be no arguing. "Fine," Jayne growls as he stalks away.

"I'll be in my bunk."