Disclaimers in Part 1
River wandered the ship, aimlessly. Ever since Mal had banned soap operas, she was at a completely loss as to what to occupy her time with. Kaylee had the engine and Wash had the flying. River had nothing. Simon had suggested finding a new hobby. She'd just scowled at him. She'd loved that soap opera. She needed proper time to mourn it before replacing it in her heart.
She played dinos with Wash a bit, but it wasn't the same. They couldn't play as their favorite characters, and Wash was much better with plans of world domination on his own. She was too glum to play well anyway. So she'd pretty much just sit there and watch.
"Cheer up, little River," Wash had finally said to her three days after the banishing of daytime melodrama. "You'll find something else to take up your time."
"Not something as interesting. And Melissa was just about to have the baby."
"I know it's tough, kid, but you gotta cheer up."
"It's not just the soap operas," River stated.
River nodded sadly.
"Don't worry, it'll all work out."
"He doesn't want me. Thinks I'm weird."
Wash put down his dinos and turned his full attention to River. "Now, listen here, young'un. I've got sisters, and believe me when I tell you that every single teenage girl thinks that the guy she likes thinks she's weird."
"Not all teenage girls can her other people's thoughts," River said, pouting.
"This is true," Wash conceded, "But this is Jayne we're talking about. We were on Persephone yesterday and he didn't go running for the hills. That's a good sign, right?"
"Zoe thought I was weird at first, too River. But I'm a lucky guy, because I latched on to a lady who kind of likes weird things. I'm thinking you'll be just as lucky as I am."
Jayne and River spent most of the time moving about the ship like two awkward thirteen year olds. They tried as hard as possible to stay far, far away from each other. But every once in awhile, they'd pass each other in the hall. They'd just squeeze themselves against the walls as the passed, avoiding eye contact, and mumbling unintelligibly. "I gotta-"
"I'm just on my way-"
"So I'll see you later."
River stayed out of the cargo bay, Jayne stayed away from the passenger dorms. They were both quite miserable.
"This is getting ridiculous Jayne," Mal finally said after they finished up a job on Whitefall. "You either kiss that poor girl or you set her straight. Just do something. The tension on this ship is going to kill us all."
Problem was, Jayne couldn't decide whether he wanted to kiss her or tell her to get lost. Mal finally had enough of it by the time they were getting ready to go into town for supplies. "I want you to go buy yourself something fun," Mal said to River, handing her some money.
River beamed up at him. "Thank you, Daddy."
Mal nodded at her then called out, "Jayne!"
River and Jayne both winced. Jayne walked over rigidly. "Yeah, Mal?"
"River's got some shopping to do. Everyone's got stuff. I need you to take her."
River and Jayne looked at each other, than looked away quickly. "Mal I don't think that's good idea."
"Jayne, what part of what I just said sounded like a question?"
"Come on, Mal. Let her go with Kaylee."
River felt his rejection hit her like a fist. She bit her lip to keep from crying. Mal pointed a finger at Jayne.
"Kaylee's already gone."
Jayne started to say something else, but was cut off.
"Jayne," Mal said warningly. "Take. The girl. Shopping. And have a good time." He walked away and joined Zoe as they headed toward town. Jayne stared after Mal and sighed heavily.
River tried to swallow past the lump in her throat so she could get some words out. "It's okay," he voice trembled dangerously. "Don't have to go."
Jayne, hearing the tears in her voice and feeling them hit him in the stomach like a brick, looked down at River. And he started to panic. "Oh, hey, don't cry! Come on! I want to go shopping, I really do."
River shook her head, the tears coming faster. "No. Don't want to go. You don't want to be alone with me."
Jayne had no idea what to do. "No, that ain't true at all! I want to go shopping. I really, really do."
River was backing away from him now. "Doesn't want to take the girl shopping."
Jayne didn't know what to do. The girl was going into hysterics right in front of him, and he didn't like the heavy feeling that put in his chest.
"Doesn't want me," she whimpered.
Before he realized what he was doing, Jayne reached for River. She flinched away from him. "Afraid of her. Silly, stupid girl."
"Hey, now. You ain't stupid. You're the smartest gorram person I know."
"Doesn't want the crazy girl with her broken brain," she said as she sank to the floor, drawing her knees up and burying her face in them. "Weird girl. Weird crazy girl."
Jayne just stared at her, completely out of his element. She looked up at him, tears streaming down her face. "You think I'm weird!" she wailed at him.
Jayne briefly wondered how a big bad merc like himself had gotten tangled up in a junior high-style romance. River made another face at him. "You think I'm childish, too!" She let out a sob and buried her face in her knees.
Jayne knelt next to her. "You got it kind of wrong, there, girl. You may be able to hear my thoughts, but you don't know go se about understanding 'em."
He placed a hand tentatively on her shoulder. She whimpered, but didn't pull away, so he considered it a good sign. "Sure, I think you're weird." She went stiff under his hand. "But, I like that," he quickly added. "Don't mean you're bad or anything. Just means you're different from everyone else. Special."
River peeked at him from behind her knees. "Special?"
"Yeah," Jayne replied. He cleared his throat. This was definitely not his area of expertise, and he didn't want to mess this up. If he said the wrong thing, there was a very big chance she'd finally kill him with her brain like she'd always threatened she would. He also realized he didn't want to blow his chance with the girl. And that thought made him soldier forward.
"And I don't think you're childish. I think you're innocent. And I like that, too. Just means the 'verse ain't crushed your spirits yet."
"Not innocent anymore, though," she said, looking up at Jayne sadly. Jayne rubbed his hand along her arm as comfortingly as he could.
"Sure ya are."
"Not as much as I should be."
"Well, if you were too innocent, I wouldn't want you."
It took her looking up at him with wide, surprised eyes before he realized what he'd said.
"You want me?" River asked in a tiny voice.
Aw, hell. He hadn't really meant to admit that. "But you did," River said, with a slightly teasing tone to her voice.
"Because…?" River lead.
"Huh?" Jayne was confused.
River sighed dreamily. "Tell me why you want me."
Jayne floundered. "Well, you're….uh..."
River stared at him expectantly, eyes wide. Eyes. Yes. Eyes would be a good place to start.
"I like…your eyes."
"Why? They're pretty that's why."
River let out an noise of exasperation. "Well why are they pretty?"
"I don't know, they just are."
River considered it. "That's good enough I supposed. Continue."
Jayne racked his brain, thinking. "You're awfully graceful. Like that about ya."
"You like dainty, pretty things. Like small birds. Never let anyone know that, though. Think it shows weakness."
Jayne grunted, not liking the way she saw his brain like that.
"Doesn't make you weak. Makes you strong. Makes you a protector. Protector of small, beautiful things."
Jayne looked down, slightly embarrassed.
"You want to protect me," River said.
"Well, sure I do. You're a tiny little thing. Course I want to make sure you don't get hurt none."
"And because you like me."
River smiled. "More, please."
Jayne sighed. Women. "Well….I guess I kinda like the way you talk."
River's brow furrowed.
"Yeah, you talk all fancy, like you're always singing a song. It's….pretty."
River eyes welled up with tears. "Nobody's ever said anything like that to me before."
Jayne looked up to see a tear slip down River's cheek. He reached up to brush it away. "Hey, don't do that. I'm being as nice as I can be."
"I know," River said quietly. "That's why I'm crying. That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said."
Without warning, she unfolded her limbs and climbed into Jayne's arms. Jayne was surprised, but he wrapped his arms around her. She placed her head on his shoulder and sighed happily.
"So," she began. "Can we have the sex now?"
Jayne's laugh vibrated through he body, and she closed her eyes, letting it float through her fingers and toes.
"Now, you're moving a bit fast. We ain't even kissed yet."
River pulled back slightly and looked into Jayne's eyes. "Okay, commence the kissing."
Jayne chuckled lightly, but then became very nervous when he looked into River's waiting face. This wasn't something he did often, and especially not with sweet little girls who had been trying like hell to seduce him for weeks.
"Stop thinking so loud. Start kissing," River demanded.
"Okay, hang on. Let me, you know….prepare myself."
River rolled her eyes and leaned forward quickly, pressing her lips to his. It was entirely awkward at first, pretty much just two people with little kissing experience pressing their mouths together. They both pulled away, but before either realized it, their lips were fused together again, pressing, tasting. It was a slow kiss, sweet and exploratory. Jayne brought his hand up to tangle in River's hair, tilting her head to deepen the kiss as the ran his tongue against her bottom lip. River responded, fisting her hands in his shirt and opening her mouth.
She tasted like a mixture of the mint toothpaste they all used and the apple candy Mal had bought her on Persephone. Jayne thought it was the sweetest thing he'd ever tasted.
The pulled apart reluctantly, needing air more than either wished they did. River smiled at Jayne before resting her head on his shoulder, her face in the crook of his neck. Jayne pulled her as close as he could.
"That was nice," River said. Jayne merely grunted his agreement.
River kissed Jayne neck lightly before asking, "Can we have the sex now?"