Title: In Dreams
Author: Michmak
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimers: not mine
A/N: number 6 in a series – the others can be found here, and should be read in this order: Expert, Slippers, Letter Home, Gifts and Rats.

I'm playing with styles a bit, so if something strikes you as particularly odd or awful, please let me know. This was betaed by bugchicklv, who is awesome.


Jayne was in one very bad mood. Worse'n he'd been in for quite some time, in fact. Rolling over, he punched his pillow, trying to squish it into something that mighta been vaguely comfortable, before he finally gave up with a huff.

"Gorram girl!"

He weren't used to this – all this thinking was making his head hurt. With a muttered curse, his feet hit the floor and he stomped from his bunk.

It was nighttime, or what passed for nighttime anyway out here in the black, on Serenity. The cargo bay was empty seeing as how they hadn't had a decent paying job in several weeks. The Captain was getting a mite tetchy about the situation…and so was he, truth be told. He needed to shoot someone, soon. Preferably someone big and mean and lookin' to shoot him; preferably NOT some crazy girl with big brown eyes and long dark hair and a mouth that…Jayne gave himself a mental shake. Don't go there, Jayne.

Sighing, he headed towards his weight bench. Best way to work off stress, if'n all other avenues were firmly closed. And they were. Closed. Firmly. He'd as likely have better luck cold-crackin' a safe.

It didn't bother the Merc so much that he had sex dreams. He was a man, after all. A big man, with big urges. He couldn't control what his mind thought on when he was sawing' logs; and if his dreams occasionally slipped to Inara, or Zoe or even Kaylee, it didn't bother him none. After all, they were women, the lot of 'em, and Inara sexed people up for a living. There was probably hundreds of men dreamin' of her. Zoe? Now she was just all- kindsa- hot, in that 'I could snap you with my thighs without breakin' a sweat' kinda way she had about her. And Kaylee…well, he'd never really thought about her as a piece of trim before she and the Doc started bangin' each other like clockwork, right next door to his bunk. Gorram, but the girl could talk dirty, and her moans was seven types of sin. Weren't his fault he could hear her through the grates when the doctor was makin' her scream.

No, it was the dreams he had of the crazy girl that bothered him…and not just because they was sex dreams. What irritated him was that they wasn't – least 'ways, not entirely. Sex dreams he could handle; it was them other things that tended to come with the sex dreams that had him not-sleeping soundly no more.

Jayne was far from pretentious, and he had no illusions about himself. He weren't well-educated, certainly not like the Doc or his genius wacko sister. He weren't fussy, neither; give him three squares a day, a pot to piss in, ammo for his guns, an occasional fight, and a tumble with a good whore every now and then, and Jayne thought he was purt'well taken care of. He didn't need no soft little girls with big brown eyes and fairy tales and kittens to make him feel like a man. Least ways, he shouldn't need 'em. Never had afore.

The fact that River Tam was the craziest, scariest itty-bitty-killer he ever did see didn't change the fact that one smile from her made his chest ache. He shouldn't be noticing the way she moved when she walked: all floaty and graceful-like. She shouldn't be remindin' him of those Black-Eyed Susans his Ma planted every year in her little garden, back home. Damn near the only things she could actually get to grow outta that dung-heap he grew up on – those yellow flowers and big strapping boys like him an Matty.

She shouldn't be remindin' him of nothing…'cept mayhap the time she went and cut him up; or how she almost got 'em all killed by the Alliance, more times than he could count.

But she did; she reminded him too damned much of things men like him never had and never would.

Jayne had led a hard-scrabble life, growing up on a ball of dirt on the outer rim. Life hadn't treated him gently, and it didn't bother him a jot. His Ma was 'bout the only one in his whole life who'd ever treated him like he mattered, but she had already been old when he was a kid. Not old in body; old in spirit. The kind of old that you ended up with once life had kicked you around just a mite too hard, and a tad to often. She had only been 23 when Jayne was born, but he couldn't 'member if she'd ever been truly young. Even when he was little her shoulders had already been bowed by too much work; her face had been lined by sun and wind and strain; and her hands were as tough and callused as a pair of old boots. The only time she'd ever really looked her age was when his Daddy would finally come home after being at the weld-shop all week. He'd snatch her up in his great big arms, and swing her around. "There's my girl!" he would say. His Ma would smile, her grin a mile wide when she heard him tromping in; and she didn't once give him no-never-mind about all the dust and grit he drug in with him.

His family had always been poor. Strugglin' just to get by. Jayne had hated it; hated the way the kids with richer Daddies had laughed at him and his brother; how they'd looked down their pretentious noses at his family on accounta them not having no money. But, he had hated the other kids, the ones from families like his own, even more, 'cause they never stood up t'any of it. Not a one 'o 'em. They just took it, cowerin' like they was dogs.

Well, Jayne sure as hell weren't no ruttin' dog, and he didn't lick the boots of nobody. Didn't take long afore he'd grown big and tough, getting into more fights than he could remember, and for more reasons than he wanted to remember. No Sir, weren't no one gonna laugh at a Cobb no more, not after Jayne finished with them.

His Ma'd fuss over him something fierce. 'I wish you wouldn't fight so much, boy,' she'd murmur, as she patched his hands or stitched him up.

Jayne would reply, 'One of these days, Ma, I'm gonna make so much money no one will ever look down their noses at us again. You'll have enough money to buy yoursel' some fine dresses, and you and Pa and Matty will have fresh produce every day. None'll ever call us back-birth's or poor again.'

'They's just words. Words ain't never hurt no one 'afore; and we got a good life here-- an honest life. We don't need nothing, 'ceptin' each other.' His Ma's reply was standard, repeated as if she'd learned it by rote. Jayne figured she mostly meant it. Sometimes, though, he'd see the way her eyes would yearn when she saw a fancy lady walking down the street in some fine leather boots and a store-bought dress. He'd figured out pretty early on that the only people who believed money couldn't buy happiness was thems that already had it.

He'd left as soon as he could, flying outta there on the first ship as would carry him. And even though he sent his Ma money, and lots of it – more'n she'd ever seen afore – Jayne hadn't once gone back. He told himself it was 'cause he was never close enough to go home for a visit, but he knew that was a lie. He didn't go back because of all the things his Ma reminded him of.

Like River. Not that she reminded him of his Ma or nothin'. Well, not much. Just… certain things she did, like always smiling when she saw him; ain't no one ever smiled when they saw Jayne Cobb coming 'ceptin' his Ma, until Crazy. She talked to him, too - and even though she was a genius, he mostly understood what she said. Girl didn't treat him like he was a dummy; that tended to get old, fast. She weren't scared of him, neither. Jayne realized it was probably 'cause she knew she could kill him with her mathematical gun-shooting - but it was nice having at least one person on this gorram boat who didn't think that 'thug' was all he was.

She was different from his Ma as well. Girl was stronger; more graceful. She'd been through a hell of a lot for her age, and it mighta made her nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake - but she was still fighting. She could still laugh and smile and be brave. She was shinier than anyone else he'd ever met, and that's why his dreams of her had him restlessly roaming the ship late at night.

It wasn't just the sex dreams, them he could handle. Some might believe she was too young to think on like that and they mighta been right, but Jayne was what he was -- and he weren't ashamed'a it. So no, it wasn't just the sex dreams that had him flummoxed. It was the stuff that came afterwards in them dreams: the softly whispered words of devotion; the tender caresses of hands through hair; the way she'd snuggle down against him - as if she belonged there; the way she seemed to just fit.

River made him want things he didn't think he'd ever want. Dreams of her reminded Jayne of home.

-fin-

A/N Redux: the seed of the idea for this story was taken from the Roy Orbison song "In Dreams" – particularly this bit:
In dreams I walk with you
In dreams I talk with you
In dreams you're mine
We're together all of the time
Ever in dreams, in dreams…
…It's too bad that all these things
Can only happen in my dreams
Only in dreams
In beautiful dreams