Title: Rats

Author: Michmak

Disclaimers: not mine

A/N: a huge shout out to bugchicklv, who really polished this up for me. I fiddled around with it so much yesterday, I couldn't see the grammar for the spelling mistakes….LOL. Anyway, here is number 5 in the series. If anyone can tell me how to do the link-thingy to the other stories, I'd appreciate it.

"Gorramit Jayne! Who are you and what have you done with my mercenary?"

The sound of the Captain's angry voice jerks him awake, and he looks around the room warily. He's in the living area, stretched out on the couch. Something is vibrating on his chest, and when he put one of his hands up to feel what it is, it bites him.

"Shit!" Stupid girl couldn't even do one simple thing. Sitting up carefully to make sure the kitten doesn't go tumbling, he looks at Mal and scowls. "What?"

"You know what! Wanna tell me what a gorram kitten is doing, sleeping on your chest?" The look he shoots at the furball is scathing. Jayne places a hand over it protectively.

Damn thing bites him again.

"T'ain't mine," the big man replies. He hopes that answer will be good enough, but knowing Mal, it won't be.

"I don't care whose it is, what the hell is it doing on my ship?"

"Happiness is a warm kitten," River's voice floats over from the doorway as she comes into the room, followed by Simon and Kaylee.

"Is that fleabag yours?" Mal asks impatiently.

"Jayne belongs to himself," she replies, "but the furball is owned."

"You saying I got fleas, girl?"

Simon smirks slyly at him, "I could design some type of collar to keep them from getting into your eyes, Jayne."

"Hardee har har, Doc. Listen…"

"Where the hell did the kitten even come from?" Mal demands. "The girl didn't leave the ship our last stop!"

"You didn't leave the ship, did you mei-mei?" Simon interjects worriedly. "You told me you wouldn't leave the ship."

"Will ya leave her alone? I got her the damn kitten."

Silence reigns for a moment. Doc is looking at Jayne like he's suddenly spouted a second head. The Captain's doing a slow burn.

"Now wait a minute," Mal starts sputtering. "Gorramit, Jayne! A kitten? What in all hell where you thinkin' when you brought that thing on board?"

Jayne shrugs, "Weren't thinkin' much of nothing. 'Cept that a girl should have a kitten, if'n she wants one."

Mal scowls at him, "And what about what the captain wants, huh? I am still the captain around here."

"You never said you din't want no kittens," Jayne grumbles back, "How's I to know? I ain't no gorram reader!"

"What about the 'no-animals' rule? I told you how it was the day you signed on with me – 'no animals, no romances with the crew, no shooting the crew and no wandering around naked where any one can see you.' What about them rules, huh?"

"No one else needs to keep 'em. Why do I?"

"Whassat?" The Captain is starting to get pissed.

"Kaylee and Simon are sexin' each other up on a regular basis," Jayne says, ignoring Kaylee's startled giggle and the Doc's red face, "and so was Wash and Zoe before…well, before. You pranced around naked on Bellerophon…"

"My clothes were stolen, at gunpoint I might add!" Mal protests, but Jayne cuts him off.

"Don't matter none. You was still naked as the day you was born. And I seem to recall you pulling a gun on me when we was being attacked by Reavers that time we robbed the bank."

"Ta ma de, I was shooting at the harpoon stuck in your leg!"

"Still shot at me," Jayne shrugs. "Still broke your own rules. Don't see why the girl can't have a kitten, long as she looks after the gorram thing."

Mal looks at him in disbelief. "Aren't you the one always saying she's crazy? Haven't you been trying to get rid of her and her brother since the day they arrived? Since when do you buy her gifts?"

"Since Ariel."

Everyone turns to look at River. It's Jayne's turn to scowl.

"Them apples was for everyone, girl, not just you."

"Says your mouth," she retorts.

"You know about what happened on Ariel?" Mal looks slightly flummoxed, like the wind has just been stripped outta his sails.

"What happened on Ariel?" Kaylee is confused, and Simon shushes her with a shake of her head.

Jayne glares at River, who has moved to stand in front of him and is gently prying open the one large hand covering the kitten before she reaches in and strokes it with a finger.

"Ain't that just the shiniest little ball of cute I ever did see!" Kaylee has sidled over, a large smile plastered on her face. "Wish I had me a kitten!"

"Don't go getting any ideas," Mal scowls. "That kitten is going the next time we're on-world."

Jayne looks at River, who is still petting the kitten, and at Kaylee, whose face falls at the Mal's pronouncement.

"We got rats."

The Captain growls, low in his throat. "What?"

"We got rats," he repeats. "In the cargo hold. I seen 'em the other day. When this furball is a mite bigger, she can help control that."

"We don't have rats!"

"Do too."

Kaylee is nodding madly beside him in agreement, "Big rats. Really big rats. Bigger'n Beagles, I tell you!"

Mal raises an eyebrow all skeptical-like, but decides not to argue the point. "I ain't paying for her food."

"I'll buy her food," Jayne, Simon and Kaylee all speak up at the same time.

"Just don't let me catch a-one of you feeding her our protein cubes. And, if she shits all over the place, she's gone."

"Furball is fastidious," River inserts.

"Yeah, what she just said," Jayne agrees. "I can rig her up some type-a litter box afore dinner."

Mal is looking at him all funny again, and it makes Jayne a mite twitchy. "Best get on that then," he finally says, sighing. "Should maybe make a few to put around the ship. Serenity's a mighty big ship, and she's just little kitten."

Jayne nods at him curtly and heads towards the door, thankful Mal seems to have relented on getting rid of the kitten. He stops when he hears River following him and turns around to face her.

"What now?" he asks in exasperation.

"I think she wants her kitten back," the Captain offers, smirking.

"Gorramit!" Jayne mutters, realizing he's still cupping the cat protectively against his chest. He holds it out to the girl, who takes it from his hands and rubs her face against it, smiling. "Keep this thing away from me, ya hear?"

"She's got a name, you know," River replies.

"Yeah? And what's that?"

"Jayne, Jr."

"I thought your kitten was a girl, River," the Doc says. "Are you sure you want to name it Jayne?"

"Jayne is a girl's name!" River grins.

Jayne throws his hands up in disgust, muttering under his breath as he stomps away.

"Yeah, well Jayne ain't a girl. Pi Hua."