Title: Splinters

Author: Michmak

Characters: River / Jayne

Disclaimers: not mine

Summary: Jayne thinks he's changing, and he doesn't like it.

A/N: I'm back from my weekend visiting the in-laws and return bearing new fic. I'm not so sure about this one, to be perfectly honest, but seeing as my email still doesn't appear to be working properly and I don't know if my beta is getting these, I'm going to post it. bugchicklv is an awesome beta, and the mistakes I'm sure are in here wouldn't be there if I could just send out freaking attachments. Let me know if you see anything really awful.

This immediately follows Bob, which follows all the others, which can be found here, and run in the following order: Expert, Slippers, Letter Home, Gifts, Rats, In Dreams, Holes, Simon and Bob. Also, this series is official now called The Little Things, thanks to deadlikegeorge for the suggestion, and to everyone else who offered suggestions as well. They were all good, but I thought this one (hopefully) fits the best.

"Things is going from bad to worse," Jayne growled as he stomped back to his bunk. That little crazy girl was gonna be the death of him – if Mal or Simon didn't toss him outta the airlock, he might just shoot hi'self and get it over with. What in all hell had possessed him to give her a gun? One of his guns? He must be spendin' too much time around her, 'cause the crazy was catchin'.

Not that it hadn't seemed like a good idea at the time – he din't like seein' her all shot up like that, and she did have the right to protect herself, just like anyone else on this gorram ship – the gun was really too little for him to use anyway. And the smile on her face when he had shown up to give it to her – all big and happy to see him – well, it had been all kindsa gratifyin', that was for damn sure. Man could get used to having a girl smile like that at him.

Even the Doc, the most uptight, stick-up-his-ass person he'd ever met in his whole entire life, had been surprisin'ly okay with it. Coulda knocked Jayne over with a feather when Simon had said he should visit the girl and give her the gun hi'self.

What Jayne hadn't counted on was how givin' her the gun would make him feel – like he was some gorram super hero. And he hadn't counted on how Crazy would react to it – as if, by giving her the gun, he was givin' her permission to smile at him and tell him what to do and tease him. Ain't no one teased Jayne Cobb and lived to tell about it. He was unteasable. Except…that feng girl…she teased him, and oddly enough, he didn't really hate it.

Sure, he acted all grumpy and growly about it – he did have a reputation as a bad-ass to keep – but deep down, her teasin' didn't bother him none. Deep down, her teasin' made him happy and this, in turn, made him angry.

He couldn't really figure out why she felt she could tease him and get away with it, and he weren't real sure she wasn't just pokin' fun at him. Wouldn't be the first time someone had had a laugh at his expense. Normally, stuff like that din't bother him, but the thought of Crazy makin' fun sorta hurt his feelin's. Gorram girl had him tied up in itty-bitty knots and he din't like it one bit.

He had visited her every day she had been confined to her bunk, tellin' her stories about some of the jobs he'd pulled. Sometimes, he'd just sit there and watch her draw, admirin' the way her hands would flutter about like little birds as she sketched things. Most of the time, the pictures she drew were things Jayne had no interest in – like princesses and castles and fairies with wings. She'd show him what she was drawing and he'd growl, "I ain't interested in a bunch of gorram fairy tales, Crazy. What for you don't draw somethin' I'd like, huh?" So she'd drawn a picture of Vera for him to tack to his wall. It was purt'near the most beautiful sketch he'd ever seen.

The Doc, a'course, would pop in every half hour or so and try not to act all suspicious-like when he asked the girl how she was feelin', even though Jayne knew he was mostly there to see what she and Jayne were doin'. He rather liked the fact that at least one of the Tams was still nervous around him, 'cause the girl sure as hell weren't.

When Doc had finally given her permission to leave her room as long as she had someone to help her, Jayne'd been the one she'd turned to. Girl wanted a tea, all she had to do was pout at him and he'd scoop her up carry her to the kitchen. Crazy wanted to clean her gun, well there was Jayne, carrying her and her gun and her gorram cat to the big table where she could clean 'em and tease him and call his gun Bob.

She was like a splinter. She'd worked her way up under his skin and was festerin' there right now, and he had no idea how to remove her. And he had to remove her – it weren't safe to let her burrow her way in any further. Not safe for her and not safe for him, neither. She made him feel more'n he should, what with being a stone-cold mercenary and all. It weren't safe for a man like him to be thinkin' on big, brown eyes and skin as pale as buttermilk. She was a distraction he din't want or need. And she was gettin' harder and harder to stay away from. One-a these days, she would say somethin' or do somethin' or look at him in just that way she had, and he'd go and do somethin' stupid right back – like kiss her. If'n he were lucky, he'd only be out a job when that happened.

He'd thought on it, somewhat – kissin' her - and not just in his dreams no more. It was hard to ignore the way she felt in his arms when he carried her around the ship. She'd wrap her arms around his neck and snuggle into him when he lifted her. He'd feel her breath against his neck and the tickle of her hair hangin' over his arm, and he'd wonder what her breath would feel like elsewhere on his body and what her hair would feel like flowin' like water 'cross his thighs. She was a dainty little thing, mayhap not as fragile as she looked, but still delicate. Too delicate for the likes-a him. Too good for the likes-a him, truth be told, and he knowed it.

It didn't help the girl was all kindsa confusin', neither. He couldn't rightly figure out what exactly it was about her that got to him. She was too ruttin' skinny compared to the kinda woman he normally liked and, if'n it came right down to it, she weren't really a woman neither. Least ways, not the type of woman he was used to – brazen and fleshy, flashy and loud.

The type a woman Jayne liked were the type a woman who didn't make him feel too much emotionally, someone who weren't interested in no form a relationship outside the purely physical. He didn't want a woman who needed him, because he never wanted to be needed. He knew he weren't a reliable man, lessin' he was getting paid somethin' for bein' reliable. He shouldn't like the fact that Crazy seemed to count on him to do things for her. Ta ma de, but he shouldn't like doing things for her.

If he thought on it real hard, he didn't really know who he was anymore. He sure weren't Jayne Cobb, merc-for-hire. He weren't just in it for the money no more, although money was nice and shooting things up was always seven kindsa fun. It was just…well, before Crazy and her brother came on board Serenity he woulda never given no one a gun, 'specially not one of his own. He wouldn't'a cared about crazy girls with cold feet, who liked kittens. He wouldn't'a a felt bad if'n someone got shot jumpin' in front of a bullet meant for him – he woulda shrugged it off and thought 'Gorram idiot shouldn't'a done that.' He weren't the type of man people took bullets for, despite the fact two people had done 'xactly that now.

He din't like the ways he was changin'. He din't like the way she made him want things he knew he weren't good enough for; the way her teasin' made him all warm inside; the way his chest sometimes felt fit to burst when he saw her in those damn pink socks and hat, smilin' at him and talkin' her crazy talk.

He knew he could never have her, knew he shouldn't want her – but he did. The wantin' was an ache deep in his gut and every day it got a little worse. Made him tetchy and twitchy and angry, because she weren't his and wouldn't ever be, no matter what. He wished he could be Jayne again, the Jayne he was comfortable with, the Jayne that din't want no soft little killer girl-weapons messin' up his life. It was getting a mite hard to keep hi'self from just given in and doin' what he wanted with her. He weren't used to bein' noble.

Jayne had never had a problem his whole life in reachin' out and takin' what he wanted, 'cause if he din't take ain't no one was gonna give it to him. If'n that made him a bad guy in some people's eyes, it din't bother him none. He knew he weren't a good guy, that was for gorram sure.

He'd told her as much, this morning at breakfast when he'd let her steal the last pancake off his plate. He'd scowled at her and growled, "Listen, Crazy, I ain't a good guy, so don't be pullin' no stunts like that once you get to feelin' better, got it?"

She had just smiled at him, her eyes warm as chocolate, and replied, "You're a not-so-bad-guy, Jayne. Good enough."

He wished he didn't wish that that was true.