Happy Ruttin' Valentine's Day
Summary: Jayne makes a revelation to the crew that explains a whole lot.
Spoilers: Set post BDM.
Dudes, not mine! Joss's!
Notes: Take one currently-single classics major, one major Hallmark holiday, one cancelled space-cowboys sci-fi series, and a dash of pink food coloring. Blend on "crack" setting until well mixed. Pour into glass, garnish with umbrella. Serves one.
Further notes of the author kind: So, today being Valentine's Day and also a slow day at work, I was cruising around the internets. And being Valentine's Day and being that I work in a museum with a big marble statue of Aphrodite and Eros as our centerpiece, I looked up one of my favorite poems, Eros by Anne Stevenson. And being Valentine's Day and being hyper with the V-Day chocolate that I was, I did read that poem and I was certainly bitten by a plot bunny. So it being Valentine's Day, and being that I have pounded out this fic faster than anything I've done in a long while, I decided to present it to the world as a joyous V-Day cractastic fic valentine. :D
The more Jayne heard about this supposed "plan" of Mal's, the less he liked it. Sure the pay-off was good, and the big-honkin' diamond they were supposed to be stealin' was all manner of shiny, but the plan just got more and more complicated the longer Mal talked about it. Jayne didn't like complicated. Complicated meant more places for a job to go south, and when jobs went south Jayne didn't get paid. Jayne liked getting paid. When he got paid he had money for whores and weapons, and when he had whores and weapons he was a happy man.
And booze. Booze was nice, too.
He snorted loudly when Mal finished outlining what they were going to do to make sure his general disdain of the plan was known. "Ain't there an easier way a' goin' about all this?"
Mal shot him a long-suffering glare from across the table. "If you've got any better ideas, Mr. Cobb, please do go ahead and enlighten us all."
Everyone glanced bemusedly at Jayne. Normally that would be his cue to sit down and shut up, but this time he actually had a suggestion. "Well, this Mortsen fellah, he's supposed to give that diamond to his one true love or somethin', right?"
"Yep. A fine family tradition these Core-folks have."
Jayne frowned, thinking. "Then why don't we get him to love one of us enough to just hand it on over?"
Silence descended upon the mess. Every pair of eyes in the room was now stuck on Jayne. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Jayne was used to horrified silences after one of his comments, but this staring at him as if he'd grown a second (heh… third) head was a new thing.
"That there is a mighty fine plan, Jayne," said Mal eventually. "But if you hadn't noticed we're on a bit of a schedule here. Don't have time to go about courtin' the handsome young Paul Mortsen."
Simon snickered, but Kaylee and Zoe appeared to be giving this plan some serious thought. Precariously balanced on the back of her chair, River was ignoring them all and tracing heart-shaped patterns onto the table with her finger.
"I dunno, captain," mused the mechanic. "We could send Inara."
"No," said the companion firmly. "I am not going to let this rare visit to the Core go to waste by skipping out on my previous appointments to help you with your caper."
Jayne shook his head. "Wouldn't work, anyhow. He's slyer than a pack of pink poodles with polka-dotted parasols."
"He can alliterate," Simon whispered in awe. "The untrained ape can alliterate!"
"The 'untrained ape' can shove all your teeth down your ruttin' throat if you don't bi zui," growled Jayne.
"Wei!" Mal snapped. Jayne glowered at the doctor for a moment longer before leaning back in his chair and returning his attention to the captain.
"So," said Mal. "Say we were to follow your advice and try to win the heart and the diamond of our rich Core friend. How exactly were you planning on going about it?"
Jayne grinned, knowing he had the ace up his sleeve that would make the whole thing go down smooth. "Hold on a tic," he said as he stood from the table. "I'll be right back."
Down in his bunk, Jayne got on the floor and began to fish stuff out from underneath his bed. After setting aside half a dozen boxes of grenades, the box he kept all the letters from his mother in, and the oxygen case Kaylee had rigged up for Vera so they didn't have to waste another suit next time he wanted to shoot in space, he finally pulled out a long, old-fashioned trunk. The battered leather that covered it showed that it had seen far better days, and when Jayne flipped it open he was assailed by the heavy sent of dust and moth-balls.
Coughing a little, Jayne reached into the trunk and pulled out a leather quiver even older and more battered than the ancient trunk. It was full of arrows, some gleaming gold, others a dull grey. He set it aside and reached back into the trunk, this time lifting out a long, cloth-wrapped object. Carefully undoing the bundle, he revealed a slightly tarnished bow made of pure gold. Giving it a quick shine with the hem of his shirt, he fished out a coil of gold-wrapped cord from the trunk and set to work restringing it. He had to work quickly, so when he pulled the string back experimentally he wasn't surprised to find that the tension was not quite right. He frowned but let it be. It'd get his point across, and he could always restring it later.
There was one more bundle waiting for Jayne at the bottom of the trunk. He unwrapped it carefully, rough hands going to reverently stroke the soft feathers that were revealed. The wings were faded some and moth-eaten in places, but their leather harness had held up well. It felt good to strap them on again after all this time, and he concentrated on flapping them experimentally. Jayne was pleased to find them strong despite their years of being locked in the trunk, and a few good flaps had his toes just barely grazing along the floor of his bunk. Satisfied, he snatched up the bow and quiver and climbed back up the ladder.
As he made his way down the corridor he could just make out the quiet murmur of voices from the mess, but once he stepped through the door and into the warm-lit room all conversation stopped.
Zoe was the first one to speak. "Jayne," she said. "Is there any particular reason you've suddenly acquired wings and a bow and arrow?"
Jayne clutched the bow to his chest proudly. "You like it? My pa made it for me custom. He can't walk too good, but you give him a bit of metal and a hammer…" He sighed, remembering. "Best bow in the 'verse, this is."
"Lovely," said Mal. "Supurb. How in the tian xiao do is it gonna help us?"
Jayne reached into his quiver and pulled out one of his golden arrows, laying it on the table so that everyone could get a good look at it.
"I'll use it to shoot him with one of these. 'S gold, fletched with dove feathers. A light arrow, but strong. Bring the biggest, toughest man down to his knees." He grinned with quiet glee. "I hit him with that, and he falls in love with one of us. Hands the diamond right over."
Entirely too many people had stared at Jayne today, he decided. He otta start chargin' 'em for lookin', since they were so keen on it.
The little vein on Mal's forehead, the one that twitched when he'd just about had enough, was going at it full force.
"Ti wo de pi gu… Are you meaning to tell me that you're ruttin' Cupid!"
Jayne looked disgusted. "Cai bu shi, Mal! That gou cao de Roman midget's a complete copy-cat. He's been stealin' my thunder ever since they done come up with Valentine's Day." He glowered at the table. "Been a real prick about it, too."
Simon had watched their little exchange with complete disbelief. "You cannot expect us to believe," he said slowly. "That you--xiong can sha shou you—are Eros, the Greek god of love. Just… look at you! There isn't a thing about you that fits in with any concept of the word 'love'!"
"He's thinking of the wrong deity," piped River, never looking up from her invisible drawing on the table top. "Thinking of Aphrodite. Pure love, mother love, writes letters and knits hats. Eros is her son, sired by a soldier, raised by a blacksmith. God of sexual love, bittersweet and cruel, as Sappho said. Likes to toy with his victims and leave havoc in his wake."
Simon frowned in thought. "Okay. I guess I can see it. But…" He gestured vaguely at the time-worn leather straps that kept the wings on the mercenary's back and the scruffy pants and t-shirt that made up his usual garb. "Aren't you supposed to be… younger? Cleaner, perhaps?"
Jayne scowled. "That was ruttin' three thousand years ago! Ain't a feller allowed to change none in ruttin' three thousand years?"
"Judging by the way you smell?" Simon sniffed the air carefully and made a face. "No."
Jayne saw red. The wings on his back stirred, puffing themselves up in anger. He reached into his quiver and pulled out a grey arrow, which he brandished threateningly in front of the doctor's face.
"You see this? It's made a' lead. 'S fletched with owl feathers. I could shoot you through your eye with this little baby and all my troubles 'd be over, but all I gotta do is prick you with it and all of Kaylee's pretty pinings for you 'd be for naught. Poke you with it a coupla times in the right spot and you won't even fancy the company of your own right hand, dong ma?"
Mal's hand was on the back of his shirt, pulling him away from the startled looking doctor. Kaylee kept looking back and forth between the two of them with alarm.
"Let's all just calm down here for a second. Jayne, you really think you could hit him with that?"
Jayne closed his eyes and breathed deeply, willing the anger to go away or at least stay quiet for a while. He'd amuse himself later with smackin' the doctor some with the dull shaft of the arrow. He'd probably jump near a mile. He wondered if he could get away with scratchin' him with it, just a little.
He opened his eyes and turned to address Mal's question. "Last guy who questioned my aim with this thing was Apollo. He thought he was some high-class shit, wasting a whole quiver of arrows on one dumb beast. But I showed him. Nailed him good from a hundred an' fifty yards up a slope at dawn in the mist, made him fall in love with this chick I'd done shot with a lead arrow earlier." It was a good memory, chased the last of his anger away, made him smile for real.
"Well that's just great," said Mal, smacking him on the back in a manly, captainly fashion to show that he was still the one in charge. "Just so long as you don't nail me with one of them things."
Jayne rolled his eyes. "Don't worry about it. I done shot you once already."
Mal blinked at him in confusion. "…What?"
"Done shot you once. No need to do it again. 'D be redundant."
Mal's face was the strange sort of still it sometimes got when he was trying his durndest to be the responsible figure of command and not to throttle the person in front of him. "Jayne, when in the gorram hell did you shoot me with one of your love arrows!"
"Didn't, cap'n." He hefted the leaden arrow of indifference once again. "Shot ya with one of these one time when you ticked me off. 'S why you're so uptight about getting' some trim." He gave an apologetic shrug to the stunned Inara. "Sorry about that. Was afore you came along."
"Kao, Jayne! You xiong meng de kuay nu, gui…"
They all turned to look at Zoe. She was sitting ramrod straight in her chair, her expression one of quiet contemplation. "It's a good plan, sir. I say we go with it."
"Zoe, did you not hear the part where this hun dan shot me with a frickin' no-sex arrow!"
She smiled slightly at that, but her gaze remained steady and business-like. "I heard, sir. And I still think it's a good plan. If Jayne makes himself the target of Mortsen's affections, the rest of the crew wouldn't even have to go near his complex. Or the dozens of guards surrounding the complex. Or the air duct system. Or the laser net surrounding the jewel. Or the forty foot drop down the sewage pipe that's the only way out again."
Mal opened his mouth as if to protest, but shut it again with an audible click. He appeared to be thinking.
"Jayne? You willing to be the sacrificial love lamb as well as the sniper?"
Jayne shrugged. "Hell. I'll even sex up the poor bastard some, just so he ain't so unhappy about losin' that ruttin' diamond. Make his gorram month."
With a sigh, Mal began to gather up the bits of paper that had held the outline to his previous plan and crumple them into a ball. "It's settled then. Seein' as how we won't be needin' this extra time out in the black to prepare, I'm going to go set our course for a hard burn. Should be there in a day's time."
He gestured for River to follow. "C'mon, little albatross. Got us some piloty things to do."
River stood from her balancing act, a complicated motion involving lots of unfolding and elbows and knees. For the first time since they'd started going over the plan, she looked up from the table and let her gaze fall on Jayne.
"Knew he was a perverted old man," she said. "Just didn't know how old!"
Jayne made a face. River giggled and skipped to catch up with Mal, who was waiting for her by the door. Simon also rose from the table, pulling Kaylee with him, and the two of them left the mess quietly, Simon's face a closed storm, Kaylee giving a Jayne a nervous wave as they passed him. Mal's voice echoed down the corridor and into the mess. "You know, we ought to take more jobs like this. Staying on the boat while Jayne goes out and does the dirty work, means I get shot at a helluva lot less. Well, with bullets, anyhow."
Jayne watched them go before bending to retrieve the golden arrow from the table top. His left wing itched, and he scratched at it idly with the tip of the love arrow before sliding both it and the arrow of indifference back into their quiver.
He turned. It was Zoe.
In a move that was deceptively casual, she idled right up to him. "Did you ever shoot any other members of the crew with one of your arrows?"
She smiled at him sweetly. Mentally cursing himself for letting himself get cornered, Jayne looked around quickly for an easy way out. "Maybe."
She kept on smiling at him. It was starting to unnerve him, just a little.
"Did you ever shoot me or Wash with one of those pretty gold-colored ones?"
There was a sudden loud ka-chick of a shotgun being cocked, and Jayne didn't have to look down to know that Zoe had her piece pointed right at his crotch—he could feel the cold press of the double-barrel even through the thick material of his pants. He got the impression that if he answered incorrectly he was going to lose a much-loved part of himself. "M-maybe…"
Zoe was still smiling. Goddam women. Crazy, all of 'em. "Who did you shoot, Jayne? Me or Wash?"
"Why did you do that?"
Jayne was a terrible liar. It went against the whole nature of love. After a couple of millennia's practice he finally had a pretty decent poker face, but when it came to important things like this or him and Mal at the airlock it all went right out the window. Or the crack in the cargo-bay door. Whatever. So he told her the truth.
"You seemed lonely. Angry. And you didn't look like you liked bein' that way, not like the captain. Thought you could use a…a friend. So I gave you a little push. Y'know. In the right direction."
This was it. He was going to die, or at least receive some serious damage to his poor John Thomas. He braced himself for the gunblast, but was surprised to feel only the gentle press of lips against his cheek. He opened his eyes to Zoe's smiling face.
"Thank you, Jayne," she said. There was genuine gratitude in her voice. "Thank you for giving the two of us a chance."
Turning, she holstered her shotgun and headed for her bunk. Jayne couldn't be sure, but he thought that there was a little bounce in her step that hadn't been there since Miranda. He reached up to touch the spot where she had kissed him, only to find that he was smiling, too.
Aw hell. Now she had him feelin' all squishy and sentimental-like.
call for love 'Madam,'
cries Eros, We slaves who are
But help me, who arrives?
This thug with broken nose
And squinty eyes.
'Eros, my bully boy,
Can this be you,
With boxer lips
And patchy wings askew?'
'Know the brute you see
Is what long overuse
Has made of me.
My face that so offends you
Is the sum
Of blows your lust delivered
One by one.
Gloss your fate
And are the archetypes
That you create.
Better my battered visage,
Bruised but hot,
Than love dissolved in loss
Or left to rot.
We slaves who are
bi zui—shut up
tian xiao do—name of all that is holy
ti wo de pi gu—kick me in the ass
cai bu shi—no way
gou cao de—dog-humping
xiong can sha shou—ass-kicking killer
xiong meng de kuay nu—violent lunatic