TITLE: Marriage Counseling, 101
AUTHOR: Mnemosyne

Disclaimer: Not mine!
SUMMARY: River and Jayne are having a fight, and everyone else is caught in the crossfire.
CHARACTERS: Mal, River/Jayne, Zoe
I have no idea where this story came from. It just appeared the other day as I was taking a shower. LOL! All my fic ideas seem to show up when I'm taking a shower. Huh. Odd. Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy! It's just a strange little ficlet; don't expect the world. ;)

DEDICATION: For companionau, who wanted "happy, fluffy smutfic" to make up for the tragedy that is "Daddy's Little Girl." Not much smut, I'm afraid, but plenty of fluff towards the end!

Raised voices made Mal look up from his bowl of cream of mushroom soup. Normally his crew was pretty well-behaved; not a lot of bickering or in-fighting. Sure sometimes things got heated, but rarely to the point where any actual fighting occurred. Well, unless Jayne was involved; then all bets were off. Which probably meant...

Yep, that was definitely Jayne's voice. Muffled by bulkheads, but there was no disguising it. Which meant the other voice could be just about anyone, since Jayne could pick a fight with anybody, up to and including Jesus and the saints. Mal listened closer. High-pitched... definitely feminine... not Zoe... couldn't be Kaylee, cause Jayne never yelled at Kaylee... Which meant it had to be-

"Oh, you've gotta be shittin' me," Mal grumbled, sitting back in his chair and throwing his hands up in the air. "Guess the gorram honeymoon's over!"

A minute later his suspicions were confirmed, as the angry voices got louder and closer, and suddenly River was storming into the common room with a face like a thundercloud. She stopped when she saw him sitting at the table and glared. Then, craning her head around, she yelled over her shoulder, "Captain Daddy wouldn't say no!"

"Huh?" Mal asked, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. He didn't want to get dragged into a fight between his resident warrior princess and her mercenary husband.

River ignored his confused and worried interjection and stormed towards him. Mal scrambled up from the table and backed away a few wary steps until he felt the kitchen counter hit his tailbone.

"You wouldn't say no to me, would you, Captain Daddy?" she asked, closing the space between them until she was virtually standing on his toes. Her big, brown eyes gazed up at him with absolute trust and resolution.

"Uh, depends," he hedged. "What's the question?"

Just then, Jayne came stamping into the common room, and if River's face had been a thundercloud, Jayne's was a gorram hurricane. "Get off 'im, River!" he snapped. "Ain't none of his business!"

"The big, loud man will shut up and go away!" she snapped over her shoulder. Looking back at Mal, her fury melted away, replaced again with utter innocence. "Captain Daddy and I were coming to an understanding."

"No we wasn't," Mal said hurriedly, feeling Jayne's angry eyes burning through him like hot pokers. "Wasn't no understanding going on here, Li'l Albatross. Hell, I'm just as confused as I ever was."

River laughed, and that was more than a mite unsettling. "Silly Mal!" she cooed, reaching up to ruffle his hair. The temperature in the room seemed to drop as the air around Jayne went from blistering rage to cold fury. "Always joking!"

She kissed him. She had very soft lips; they tasted like watermelon. It'd been a while since Mal tasted watermelon, fresh or otherwise, so it wasn't wholly unpleasant. When she drew back a second later – just a quick peck on the lips, really – he was disappointed that he couldn't taste a bit more.

"Thank you, Captain Daddy," she said with an angelic smile, then went skipping away.

Mal was about to say, "Thank you for what?" but he was interrupted by pain.


"OW!" he exclaimed, slamming back against the counter before stumbling to the side, doubled over and clutching the side of his face. "The gorram hell!" He glared at Jayne through his good eye. "Whatcha hit me for, you liu kous hui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi!"

"No kissin' River!" Jayne bellowed, stabbing an angry finger in Mal's direction, forearm corded with rage. With no further explanation, he spun on his heel and stormed off after his wife.

"Lao tian, she kissed ME!" Mal hollered after him, railing against the unfairness of an unkind universe. Stumbling back to the table, he sat down in front of his soup and began tenderly poking his face. Yep, definitely swelling already. Significant swelling already beginning to occur. He'd be seeing out of one eye for a week.

"OW!" Wash exclaimed in the distance. The ruthless twosome had apparently made their way to the bridge.

"O, zhe zhen shi ge kuai le de jin zhan...," Mal muttered, forcing himself to his feet. "Jus' got used to havin' one crazy person on board, and now she's gone and infected my mercenary." With a put-upon sigh, he unholstered his gun. He was about to round up the two most dangerous people on his ship; wouldn't do to go unarmed. "Guess we gotta have a little talk."



"SIT," Mal ordered, gesturing to the table with his gun.

Jayne and River exchanged angry glares, then obediently sat down, a good arm's length of space between them. Mal hobbled to the table and gingerly took a seat across from them, wincing as he did so.

"She apologizes for kicking you, Captain," River said, sounding genuinely sincere and only slightly loony.

"Yeah, well, don't much help after the fact, now do it?" Mal snapped testily, rearranging himself so his sore leg could be stretched out to the side.

"Oh, so you apologize to him but not to your own man, huh?" Jayne griped, glaring at his wife.

River returned the glare with equal fury. "I apologize to him because he is not an arrogant piece of walking le se!"

"Oh, you gonna start calling me garbage now? 'Sthat it?"

"Only truisms flow from the river."

"More like a gorram babbling brook!"


"I WILL START SHOOTING PEOPLE!" Mal barked angrily, propping his gun on the tabletop and aiming it in their general direction. "Do not think for a second that I won't! Say you're sorry!" He heard two sullen apologies and nodded sharply. "Right. Now, I don't mind sayin' that I'm a mite peeved with the pair of you. For no reason that I can rightly see, you been takin' my fine, healthy crew and been turnin' 'em into mince pies."


"What part of I will start shooting people do you not get, Jayne?" Mal snapped, effectively cutting off the other man's retort before it could even begin. "The I the will or the shooting people? Cuz I'd be more than happy to demonstrate 'em to you."

Jayne obediently zipped his lip. River smiled smugly.

"Don't you start grinning like the cat that got the cream, Lady Jayne," Mal warned, giving her a stern look. "You got equal blame in this, same as he does."

River looked down, suitably chastised.

"Good. Now that I've got you both to shut up for a minute, hows about one of you tells me jus' what in God's name y'all are fightin' about. Since ya got married you ain't been nothin' but cuddly and all kinds of nauseatin', and while I appreciate the change in behavior, I don't rightly appreciate the manner o' that change. Dong ma?" He shifted on the bench, wincing a little. "Enlighten me."

Sullen silence.

Followed by more sullen silence.

Followed by more sullen silence.

"I will start shoot-"

"He's a Scrooge!" River exclaimed, looking up from her study of the tabletop, eyes alight with anger.

"I ain't nothin' of the sort!" Jayne barked, rounding on her.

"Yes you are!" she shouted back, turning to him. "Tug, tug, tug, all night long!"

"Ain't so bad as you!"


With that last furious exclamation, the pair spun around again so their backs were to one another, arms crossed angrily, pointedly staring away from each other.

Mal looked from one to the other and back again. "Okaaaay," he finally said. "None of that made a lick of sense. Someone care to translate?"

River rolled her eyes. "He wants to keep the covers all to himself," she explained, sounding bored.

"She's a low down dirty liar, Cap," Jayne argued. "Don't you believe a word of it."

Mal stared at them. Then-

"That's it?" he exclaimed. "You're fightin' and hollerin' and beatin' up on my crew cuz Jayne steals the covers?" He laughed; a hollow, disbelieving laugh. "Gorram, I think I will go on and shoot you!"

"'Tain't like that, Cap!" Jayne protested. "I don't steal the covers, no how!" He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at his wife. "She's the blanket hog!"

"Oink, oink!" River snorted, scowling over her shoulder at her husband.

"Listen," Jayne said, turning to face Mal head on, holding out his hands imploringly. "I wake up, middle of the night, cold like a popsicle, and Riv's all bundled up in the blankets. She's a little thing, right? You'd figure I could jus' give it a bit of a tug and she'd let go some, yeah?" He snorted. "Riiiiight, you'd think that. Only she don't leggo, dong ma? Hell, she wraps up TIGHTER, and there's me, all cold and sleepy-like, and her, snorin' away, happy as a pig in shit!"

"I don't snore!"

"SHUT UP!" Mal barked. He gestured to his face. "Black eye, split lip, bruised shin. I got a pilot with a concussion and a doctor with a swollen eye. Tell me, River darlin': how does kissin' every man on the crew get ya even with Jayne?"

"She were doin' it to make me jealous, Mal," Jayne snarled. "Tryin' to convince me she could sleep somewhere else; don't gotta be with me."

Mal nearly choked on his tongue. "Come again?"

Jayne glared at him. "I'd 'purciate it if you'd not use that kinda language, given the situation, Cap," he sniped.

Mal blinked at him. "Huh? Oh!" He glared. "Shut up." Turning to River, he said, "That true, girl?"

River shrugged, picking at the tabletop with her fingernail. "Mebbe," she said, sounding so much like Jayne it made him want to laugh.

"So, when you kissed your brother-"

"Thanking him for patching you up, Captain Mal. You and Wash."

"That were me overreactin', Mal," Jayne broke in, scratching the back of his neck. "Blood runnin' high, got a bit carried away. You know how it is."

Mal stared at him. "And then you hit me. AGAIN."

"Uh, mistake?"

"I was just kissing his boo-boo better!" River snapped, glaring at her husband. "No call for violence!"

"Gorrammit, girl, you'd already gone and kissed him once!" Jayne argued. "You go and kiss 'im twice, what'm I s'posed to think?"

"You think the girl is a whore!"

"No I don't!"

"She would sleep with anyone!"

"I do not!"

"She would lie with any man and have orgasms with him!"

"OH GOD!" Mal shouted, desperately wanting to turn back time so he could stop her ever saying those words. "The pair of you, shut it!" He shuddered with revulsion. "I don't gotta hear the sordid details of yer love life, dong ma? Christ on a cracker, it were bad enough when all I had to deal with was Wash and Zoe doin' some heavy pettin' on the bridge. Now I got you two, not to mention Simon and little Kaylee, all goin' at it like monkey's at the zoo!" He sighed and rubbed his face, gun unwavering. "All right, lemme see if I've got this straight." He looked wearily from River to Jayne. "Jayne, you're angry that little River here keeps hoggin' the blankets."


"And River, you're angry that Jayne keeps tryin' to take the blankets away from you."


"Right. Now, sounds to me like we got ourselves an underlyin' issue that ain't bein' addressed by neither of you. See, sounds to me like the pair of you is sleepin' on opposite sides of the bed. That right?"

Jayne and River shared a look, then quickly glanced away, nodding.

"Yep, figured. Kay, River, when's the last time Jayne told you he loved you?"


Click. "Seriously. Ain't lyin' about the shootin' thing, Jayne. River?"

River ducked her head, her dark hair curtaining her face. "Two weeks, six days, three hours, fourteen minutes," she mumbled, miserably twiddling her thumbs. "And sixteen seconds. Seventeen. Eighteen."

"Jayne, why ain't you told your pretty little wife you ain't loved her in near three weeks?"

"I thought she knew," Jayne said, looking at River with confused eyes. "Baby doll, that the reason you been cuddlin' up under all them blankets? Cuz you thought I didn't love you no more? Didn't you hear it in my head?"

She looked at her husband through the veil of her hair. "Jayne doesn't like it when the girl goes in his brain. She stays away; needs his lips to say what he means." She sniffled. "I was chilly from your cold shoulder."

Jayne's face fell. "Aww, baby girl."

"No words." Snuffle.

"Jayne, tell your wife you love her," Mal ordered.

"I love you, River girl," Jayne said, not needing to be told twice.

River raised her head, eyes red and a little shiny. "Even though she's crazy?" she whimpered.

"Cuz and 'specially cuz you're crazy," he said with a sharp nod, a small grin crooking his lips. "You're all special-like. All mine."

"You don't think she's a cheap whore?"

"Hell no! Why'd I think that? Cuz you sleep with me?" He shook his head. "Don't you know I married you cuz you make me a better man, baby? "

River managed a small smile. Reaching out, she gently poked him in the chest. "Love you, too, my Jayne," she cooed. Then her face fell again. "Only love Jayne, my Jayne. Wouldn't sleep with anyone else. Not even Captain Daddy."

"I know, baby gi- Hang on, whatcha mean, Not even? That mean you fancy him?"

"Oh for God's sake, Jayne, just kiss your wife and shut up," Mal griped. "I already got one black eye; don't fancy gettin' another cuz you're insecure in your manhood."

"My manhood's bigger'n your-"Jayne began, but was cut off when River clambered into his lap and draped her arms around his neck.

"Love," she said firmly, nuzzling his nose. "Love, love, love." Kiss, nibble. "Love my Jayne and all his manly goodness."

Jayne growled, his arms wrapping around her waist, Mal forgotten and shoved to the back of his mind. "Love my River girl," he muttered, his fingers fisting in her dress. "Ain't been with you in too long, baby doll. Why din't you tell me all this sooner?"

She shrugged. "Thought you knew."

"We're gonna have to talk more 'bout what we know and don't know, cuz I don't think I can go 'nother week without bein' inside you, baby girl."

"Me neither."

"Can you both please shut up?" Mal asked from the other side of the table. "Your wife kicked me hard; means I can't run away screaming."

The snuggling duo ignored him as Jayne groaned. "Wo de ma, hummin'bird, you wearin' knickers?"

River shook her head. "No."

"Gorram, thought I smelled you," Jayne growled, one hand sliding down her side to plunge under her dress. River's head fell backward and she moaned, waiflike body shuddering.

Mal squeezed his eyes shut, desperately trying to block them out. "Right, guess this is my cue to hobble away screamin' instead," he said aloud, hoping they'd hear him and at least hold off for the thirty seconds it would take him to get to the common room door. Judging by the sounds River was making – not to mention Jayne – he wasn't going to have any such luck.

"Still in the room!" he pointed out, loudly, as he stumbled towards the door, eyes still closed. River chose that moment to let out a low, desperate moan, which sent Mal into full panic mode. Opening his eyes, he lunged for the door and managed to make it into the corridor beyond. Closing the door behind him, he slid down the wall and sat panting on the floor, thankful that Serenity's bulkheads were at least partially soundproofed.

"That was impressive, sir." He opened his eyes and looked up to see Zoe standing over him, an amused smile on her face.

Mal glared up at her. "Help me up," he said, holding out his hand. She took it and hauled him to his feet.

"Where'd you learn all that stuff, sir?" she asked, as she followed him away from the common room towards his bunk.

"What stuff?"

"You sounded like a marriage counselor, real and true."

He shrugged, using his good leg to open the hatch to his bunk. "Read it in a book," he said.

Zoe arched an eyebrow at him. "Really?"

Mal glared at her. "I do read you know," he defended himself.

"I have no doubt, sir," she said, then added, "Just not the kind of thing I expect you'd be reading."

"I done read everything else on the ship," he said, balancing one foot on the top ladder rung that led down into his bunk. "I borrowed a few things from 'Nara. She's got all kinds of touchy-feely psycho books so she can help her clients get in touch with their feelings." He made a face as he said the last bit, as if it left a bad taste on his tongue. "Figured it'd come in handy, what with all you shackin' up like it were the end of the world and all."

"When do you have time to read, sir?"

Mal gave her a withering stare. "You know when you and Wash have sex?" he said.

Zoe had the good sense to blush. "Sir?"

"Then." He paused, thought, and added, "Times three."