Title: Lessons
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Jayne, Inara, Mal, Kaylee, Zoe
Pairing: River / Jayne, Inara / Mal
Disclaimers: not mine - Although, in a perfect world they would be.

Summary: "What for do they make this so confusin'? If'n the flower is pretty why should it say anything other than…Here's a flower that's pretty, 'cause I like ya, huh?"

A/N: Number Twenty. yowza Follow the links for the prior installments: Expert , Slippers , Letter Home , Gifts , Rats , In Dreams , Holes , Simon , Bob , Splinters , Salutations, Blood Drops , Pas des Deux , Butterfly , Scar Tissue , Wild Things , Soon , Intimacies , Gifts from Ma

bugchicklv, beta-extraordinaire, has just done a brief read through of this but didn't catch any glaring errors, so I'm posting it. I'll correct stuff later, if needs be. If you see anything odd, let me know. Thanks again for the reviews and such – they spur me on.


"I feel like an idiot," Jayne scowls petulantly at Inara, who merely pats his arm. "Seriously. What for am I learnin' to drink tea?" He spits out the last like he's swearing and glares at the little cup in his hand.

"You asked me to teach you how to properly court River," Inara replied gently. "Remember?"

"Yeah, but I din't think ya'd be makin' me drink tea!" The large man is indignant. He feels like a ben tian-sheng de yi-du-rou, sittin' on the tiny little stuffed love chair in the Companion's shuttle. His knees are practically touchin' his chin, the darn thing is so short. He's afraid it's gonna collapse under him.

Inara sighs, "What did you think courting implied, Jayne? There are rituals one must follow - you want to do it properly, don't you?"

"Yeah," Jayne grumbles. "But why're these ruttin' cups so little? It's like tryin' to drink from a thimble."

"For you, maybe," Inara agrees. "Most men find the cups tiny. You must remember, however, the tea ceremony is a way to express your interest in a woman. By providing delicate cups, you are letting your partner know you appreciate her femininity and grace. Large clay mugs don't reflect this. Remember, you are doing this for her and not for you."

"Fine," Jayne mutters as he gently places the fragile cup back on the tray. "How long am I supposed to let them tea leaves steep for again?"


"Why the hell would I want to give her yellow roses, if'n they mean 'I am not worthy of you'? It ain't somethin' I should be remindin' her of, I don't think."

Inara rolls her eyes but maintains her façade of patience, "I'm not saying you should give her yellow roses, I'm just helping you learn what they mean. For example, if you were on-world somewhere that had a nice florist shop and you decided you wanted to purchase a bouquet of flowers how would you know what to buy? Each flower represents something different. Each color represents something different. If you don't know what the flower means you could end up giving your partner a bouquet that says you don't love her anymore, you've been unfaithful and you wish she was gone from your life, dong ma?"

Jayne scowls, "What for do they make this so confusin'? If'n the flower is pretty why should it say anything other than…Here's a flower that's pretty, 'cause I like ya, huh?"

"Jayne, must I remind you again that you asked me to help you? River is from the Core; she will know all about the language of flowers. If you want to do this properly you have to learn."

"Right," comes the disgruntled reply, "so learn me. But I still don't know why this is so important. Most 'a the flowers available out here are weeds anyway."


Mal grins when Inara slumps onto the settee beside him. She's changed a lot since returning to Serenity with him. She's more relaxed, for one thing. She don't wear her make-up like a mask anymore. Before, he'd had a difficult time figuring out what she was feeling 'bout things, but now she's way easier to read.

"If I didn't think River would kill me in my sleep, I'd shoot him with my bow and arrow and put him out of my misery," she sighs. "Why did I agree to show him the proper way to court a lady again?"

"Because you thought it would be amusing to do so," the Captain offers, "and because he asked you so nicely?"

Inara snorts. The sound, coming from her, is so unlikely Mal laughs. "Well, he sure got to you. I didn't know well-bred ladies could make noises like that."

"It's not funny," Inara returns crossly. "Do you know how frustrating it is trying to teach him anything? He's sullen and moody and always asking why he needs to do it."

"He's always like that," Mal grins. "After two years on this boat, I'd 'a thought you'd have figured that out by now."

"You're not helping."

The Captain shrugs, "I done told you not to do it right from the start," he protests. "But you were all 'I think it's sweet he wants to learn,' and 'Why can't you see he wants to improve himself?' I think I'm entitled to gloat a bit. Ain't often I'm right and you're so very wrong."

"Hun dan," Inara replies, but her voice is tinged with affection despite the insult. "You are just like a little boy, sometimes."

"Sure am," Mal smiles wickedly at her, "What are you gonna do to make a man outta me?"


"When in doubt, work from the outside piece of cutlery in," Inara advises. "You are less likely to use the wrong utensil that way."

Jayne is sitting in front of a full place setting, looking at the tiny escargot fork pinched between two massive fingers suspiciously. He looks completely out-of-place, like a lump of coal pretending to be a diamond. "What for do ya need all these anyway? And why'd anyone in their right mind willin'ly eat snails?"

Inara shrugs, "I could go into a lengthy and boring lecture on what each utensil is used for and how it came into being if you want. I don't think it will interest you though."

"Ya got that right!" Jayne agrees. "'Sides, I ain't never been anywhere that I got more'n one spoon, one fork and one knife with my meal."

"I'm not surprised, but if we ever land at a semi-respectable settlement again and you decide to take River out to dinner you don't want to be stabbing at your steak with your Bowie knife do you?" When Jayne shakes his head no at her, she smiles. "Remember what I said then – when in doubt…"

"Work from the outside in," Jayne sighs.


"Remind me never to court no one else ever again," Jayne grumbles when Kaylee smiles brightly at him and asks him how his day is going.

The little engineer laughs at him, "I think that's the point there, Jayne. Courtin' is supposed to end with you getting' the girl and never havin' 'to court no one else ever again.'" She lowers her voice to a growl as she says this and if he weren't so plumb tuckered out he might find her imitatin' him funny.

"Har-de-har," he mutters instead. "I knew the Doc hated me."

"Oh c'mon now, Jayne, it can't be all that bad!" Kaylee chirps, "Besides, we's all real impressed with the effort you're makin'. Ain't no way a girl can resist a man so eager to do the right thing by 'em."

"Really?" Jayne perks up, "Or is ya just sayin' that?"

"Really truly!" Kaylee confirms, nodding twice for emphasis. "I know Simon approves. He didn't realize you'd actually go ahead and try ta learn the traditional courting methods of the House of Shinon. Even he don't know them, and he's been to university! Proves to him you really are serious about his sister."

"Whaddaya mean, he didn't think I'd try to learn to court Crazy proper? What did he mean when he tol' me I could court her then?"

"He just meant you had his permission to spend time with her, that's all. It was his way of lettin' you know he trusts you. But now, with all your learning to do it right – boy howdy! He's really touched. Says he misjudged you from the start."

Jayne just stares at her in disbelief before gritting out, "Why ain't no one tol' me this 'afore I made a fool of myself? Do ya know how many different types 'a flowers I had to learn about? I still got a headache from 'em and that lesson was five days ago. Gorramit – I'm gonna kill someone."

Kaylee is laughing and patting him on the shoulder. "Next time, why don't ya just ask Simon what he means? It'd sure save you a lotta trouble."


Zoe looks up as Jayne stomps into the kitchen and cocks an eyebrow when, instead of going direct to the coffee already hot and strong on the stove, he grabs some leaves from the pantry and proceeds to make himself a tea.

"What?" he demands as he sits across from her.

"Nothing," she replies calmly. "Just don't recall ever seeing you drink tea before, is all."

"It calms my nerves, okay?" Jayne retorts. Zoe doesn't reply, but after a few moments of silence Jayne speaks up again.

"Can I ask ya what Wash did ta make a woman as fine as you are fall in love with a man like him?" He pauses when he notices the brief flash 'a pain in her eyes, before quickly addin', "If'n ya don't mind talkin' 'bout it?"

"No, I don't mind. It's just…no one talks about Wash to me. I think you're the first person to really mention his name since Miranda."

"Yer shittin' me!" the large man exclaims.

"No," replies Zoe. "I think everyone else is afraid I'll break down in tears, or something."

"Nah," Jayne scoffs, "that ain't you. Ya'd never cry in fronta any one else. I figure ya save all your tears for the night time, when you're alone in your bunk."

"Gee, thanks Jayne." Zoe responds sarcastically, "That makes me feel so much better."

"Don't get angry, I din't mean it in a bad way. We all admire ya for it – how well ya can hold it together. Hell, it weren't no secret how much ya loved Wash. Definitely weren't no secret how much he loved ya back. You're a strong woman, Zoe – any man would be mighty proud to have ya. Always thought so, from the moment I metcha." The large Merc is very sincere when he says this. "I'm just wonderin' how Wash managed to catch ya, is all. Ain't hard to understand why he wanted ya, but why'd ya want him back?"

"He made me laugh," she states simply. "He made me laugh more than I'd ever laughed in my whole life."

"But what did he do to court ya?" Jayne pushes. "There's gotta be somethin' specific he done to win ya over."

"No, not really," Zoe replies. "He didn't have to court me. He was always doing little things for me, of course. Teasing me and offering to do stuff he knew I'd appreciate. Mostly, though, he just made me laugh."

"I don't understand."

Zoe leans across the table and puts one of her hands on his, squeezing it gently. "I know what you're asking me Jayne, and I don't know how to explain it any better than that. The way he courted me was by making me happy. I didn't need any flowers, or fancy dates. All I needed was him."

"Alright," Jayne nods. "I think I know what ya mean."

"Don't try to be something you're not Jayne. It's sweet, what you're trying to do for River, but I don't think it's necessary. She likes you because you're you – not because you could be someone else with a little bit of training, dong ma?"

"Wo dong," he replies and sips his tea.

ben tian-sheng de yi-du- rou – stupid inbred stack of meat

Hun dan – bastard

dong ma? - understand?

Wo dong - I understand