Jayne awoke with a pounding head to find himself in the airlock. He knew why he'd ended up there; he'd been sexin' up the doc's crazy sis. He couldn't, however, figure out who put him in the airlock. He knew it weren't Mal or Zoe; he didn't have no bullet wholes. He knew it weren't the doc; cuz he still had his balls attached. Besides, whoever had drug him in here had covered him with a blanket. Who the hell would do that? The whole thing made no sense.
The com crackled to life. "He is awake now?"
"Moonbrain, you'd better notta put me in here." T'would explain the blanket.
"She did after she bludgeoned him with a wrench."
"You hit me wit a wrench!" Jayne couldn't believe that squeak came from him. In a much more manly tone, he demanded, "Why in the gorram hell would you do that?"
"He touched the blonde at the bar." River sniffed.
That's what this was about? Gorram girl. "It didn't mean nuthin'. Mal woulda noticed if I didn't even try to git some… company." Mebbe slapping the blonde on the ass was a little much. 'Specially with River at a table across the room wit her brother.
Jayne rolled his eyes. He should never've taken up wit the doc's li'l sis; she didn't know how to keep a secret like he did. "I gotta keep up appearances. Otherwise Mal or the doc'll kill me."
"She could kill him much faster." River snarled.
Okay, she had him there. He was so concerned the crew would find out he forgot River was the dangerous one. Which wasn't his ruttin' fault, she's such a tiny li'l thing she didn't look dangerous at all. Looked just like a fairy princess in her flowy dresses and bare feet and…
"She could kill him now."
Oh, right. He was still in the airlock, and she was still mad. Real mad.
"Not just mad."
Not just mad? Well, what else could it be? Jayne finally remembered the window and looked out it to see tears in his girl's eyes. And her bottom lip was trembling. T'wasn't fair. He couldn't think straight when she did that.
"Aw, don't be all girly. Ya know I can't take it when yer girly."
"But, she is a girl. She wants others to know she's a girl."
Jayne snorted, "The others'd hafta be blind not to notice yer a girl."
"She's just an unclaimed doll. Not a girl." River demanded, "Wants to be a real girl."
Unclaimed? There was nothin' Jayne hadn't claimed. He'd made sure of that.
"Not claimed." River stamped her foot. "Hidden. Secret. Unloved. Not a girl."
"Unloved? Now, that ain't true at all. Ya know that ain't true." Just cuz he didn't say it out loud didn't mean she didn't hear him anyways. She was a gorram mind-reader.
"Is true. He won't brush her hair before breakfast. Or hold her hand in town. Or kiss her before going off to commit crime."
Okay, she had him there. He didn't do those things.
"It's not that I don't wanna. But, I couldn't do those things if I was dead neither. And ev'ryone on this would be lined up to kill me iffen I did even one of those."
"He doesn't care enough to try. He's ashamed of her. He'd rather be all stealthy like and pet the pretty whores and make them real girls."
Jayne didn't really mind that she hit wit the wrench. He could understand why she put him in the airlock. But, those comments were fightin' words.
"First off, I didn't pet no whores. At least not since we… I barely touched one for a second. And I certainly didn't make her anything." Jayne growled. "Got no need to." Other women didn't interest him at all, he had his own crazy girl. No one else could compare.
"Secondly, I don't rightly care what the others think. We ain't done nothin' to be 'shamed of. And if either of us was gonna be ashamed, it'd be ya of me. High bred Core girl like ya shouldn't be seen wit a grumpy ol' merc like me."
River's face darkened. She puffed up, ready to rage at Jayne for believing so little of her.
Jayne held up his hand to stop River from speaking.
"And, lastly, ya know it ain't that I don't care 'nough. I can't protect my crazy girl iffen I'm dead. And I ain't gonna not protect ya. So, I keep my hands to myself. No matter how soft yer hair looks. Or how sweet your breath. I ain't gonna endanger ya. And that's final."
The anger drained from River. She leaned her face closer to the window. "He cares too much to tell?" Her voice quavered.
Oh, gorramit, she was all teary again. He couldn't stand much more. He was already a puddle a nerves. He needed to hold her. Everything was better when she was in his arms.
":Course that's why. I hate to see ya all by yerself when ya could be wit me." Ev'ryday, his heart broke when River wandered from room to room lookin' for someone to spend time with her.
"He cares a lot?"
"Yeh." His fingers twitched. He ached to wipe away her tears.
She leaned a little closer.
"A whole lot?" River's hand caressed the window.
"A whole lot." Jayne's palm rested against hers. He could barely. feel the window between them. "For a psychic genius, ya're pretty dumb." He'd kissed her on the mouth. He didn't do that for anyone else. What more did she want?
River blinked back the tears in her eyes. "She needs him to tell her. To make it real. To make her real."
Their noses were pressed against the window.
"Iffen I tell ya, I ain't gonna be able to pretend no more." Mebbe that'd convince her. He hadn't said too much. He could harden his heart back up now.
Her big brown eyes pleaded with him. "She promises Simon and Captain Daddy will give him permission if he asks. No pretending necessary."
Jayne could feel himself crackin'. It wasn't a wholly unpleasant feeling.
"She promises he won't get hurt if he tells her. She'd never let them hurt him. She hates him to be all alone when he could be with her."
She felt that too? Now, he was goo. A big ol' pile of goo. River took a deep breath. Jayne's eyes widened and the breath caught in his throat. She wouldn't do that to him. Would she?
"She loves him."
Oh. Oh. Oh, gorramit.
Jayne whispered, "He loves her too." He smiled. Other than the first blinding stab of fear, nothin' had ever felt so right in his life. Now, getting' Vera was third.
The smile she flashed would have melted a lesser man. But, he weren't no lesser man. And she weren't no lesser woman.
Suddenly, her face disappeared. He panicked for a moment. Where'd she go?
Then he heard the door being unlocked. He'd forgotten he was still in the airlock. He should be mad. But, when the door opened and she launched herself into his arms for the most amazing' kiss ever, he forgot to be mad, again.
He wasn't sure how long that kiss lasted. He'd have been happy wit forever, but somethin' always intrudes. This time it was a noise. Jayne heard clappin'. Wasn't it supposed to be bells?
He raised his head and checked around. No one else was in the airlock. He saw past the airlock door and almost had a heart attack.
The whole crew sat on crates in the cargo bay watching him, and River hadn't climbed down yet. Jayne swallowed hard. Was that a bowl of protein snaps Kaylee handed to Inara?
Tryin' to be all nonchalant and stealthy like, Jayne casually asked, "What's ev'ryone doin'?"
If he could just get River to let go, he thought he might be able to salvage the situation. Until Kaylee chirped, "We're watchin' you tell River ya love her. It was real sweet. Once ya stopped yellin'."
Jayne growled, "I ain't sweet."
He didn't rightly know what was goin' on but he'd show 'em he weren't sweet. He'd walk right out there into the cargo bay and face 'em like a gorram man. So, he gently wrapped his hands around River's thighs and hitched her up higher on his chest, and stomped outta that airlock like a man.
River purred contentedly on his chest. This situation could git real ugly iffen she didn't stop soon. Blood was rushing away from his brain real fast. Didn't help his concentration at all.
"What're ya all doin' here?" They all looked too comfortable, like they'd been sittin' there on the crates for a while. Jayne's eyes narrowed in suspicion. Better question. "Why ain't ya tryin' to kill me?"
"River wouldn't appreciate that." Zoe responded for the crew.
So far, Simon and Mal hadn't said anythin' or tried to kill him or nothin'. Made Jayne twitchy.
Jayne's gaze went from Simon to Mal to Simon to Mal. They stared back.
The women passed the bowl around, snacking and watching the men with amusement.
"Ain't ya gonna do somethin'?"
"Like what?" Mal and Simon asked in unison. Weird.
"I don't know. Kill me or somethin'." Jayne's brow furrowed in thought. This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen.
"Nope." Mal and Simon answered in unison again. Fully creepy.
Mal and Simon shrugged in response.
Finally, Jayne asked the burnin' question. "Ain't ya ev'n surprised?"
"Nope." Still in stereo.
Jayne wasn't sure he wanted to know but inquired anyways. "Why not?"
"River told us." Stop it.
"She told you!" Jayne squeaked again.
"Yup." I'm gonna kill ya if ya don't stop doin' that.
Jayne glared down at the woman still snuggled in his arms. She smiled beatifically up into his face.
River laughed, "They needed to know."
He'd spent all this time bein' worried, sneakin' 'round, and they'd all known. He didn't know where to begin to figure out how he felt. But, he was fairly certain, he was furious.
River patted his cheek. "She tried to tell you. But, you always kissed her to distract her. And, her Jayne distracts her very well."
The heat in her gaze knocked all thoughts other than pure lust from Jayne's brain. He grinned ferally.
Mal cleared his throat. Jayne snapped back to attention.
"We weren't pleased."
Simon's face scrunched up as if he was still trying not to be nauseous.
"They swore quite a bit. Some of word combinations she hadn't heard before. She filed them away for you."
Jayne smiled. His girl had learn'd him some new swear words. She was all manner of shiny.
Mal finally said something without Simon. "She put us in the airlock."
"Although we didn't get any blankets," pouted Simon.
River rolled her eyes. "She's not sleeping with either of you. She wasn't concerned if you were cold."
Simon winced. "Mei mei, could we not talk about that."
River stuck out her tongue at him.
"Hey, now, no sex talk. That was the deal. You don't talk about it. We don't see it. And everythin's shiny." Mal reiterated the rules he and Simon had agreed to when it was obvious River had no intention of letting them out of the airlock until they'd reached a no-killing-of-Jayne compromise.
Jayne had stopped listening earlier. "You put them in the airlock?"
River nodded. "She knew her Jayne didn't want to go out the airlock. She decided it was the best place to discuss her choice with Capitan Daddy and Simon. They'd understand her Jayne's fears and couldn't ignore her so violence wouldn't be necessary."
Well, that was nice. She didn't want anyone to harm him, 'though she didn't have a problem with doing it herself.
Simon was annoyed by the way Jayne smiled at his sister like she'd just given him a present. He decided to clarify the situation and perhaps deflate that smile. "She means she didn't want to hurt us."
"Ya woulda hurt 'em? For me?" No wonder why he loved her. Just thinkin' 'bout her beatin' her brother up fer him made him almost teary. But it weren't manly, so he didn't.
Okay, now, Simon was depressed. He knew there was no hope of breaking them up. Jayne practically glowed.
"If they would have tried to put her Jayne in the airlock, she would have had to stop them." River asserted. Jayne whooped, bent his head, and laid a very satisfactory kiss on her lips.
Determined to find some satisfaction in his day, Simon shared, "But we did get to put you in the airlock this time."
What? Jayne pried his lips from River's and looked confusedly at her.
"He was too heavy for her to move by herself without bruising him," explained River as she grabbed a handful of snaps out of the bowl. She offered some to Jayne.
Jayne took the snacks, even thought he was mad. Real mad. She'd set him up.
"She didn't set him up. She hit him when he joked about not getting any good sexin' in months." River scowled.
Yeah, mebbe that was a dumb comment to make wit her still in the mule.
Jayne rolled his eyes. "I already done told ya I did it too be all stealthy like." And he didn't ev'n have to. They'd already known. Were probably laughin' at him. Jayne growled.
"He doesn't have to be all stealthy like anymore. And while they did laugh, they also kept her from killing him at the bar."
Jayne's eyebrows rose. That's what the struggle with Simon was 'bout. Jayne thought she'd had a bad flashback.
"No flashback. Just mad. No more touching whores or the girl will toss her Jayne out of the airlock for real next time," growled River.
Most men would have shivered in fear from the tone of her voice and the glint in her eyes, but Jayne wasn't most men. His heart swelled up. He loved his girl more ev'ry minute.
A question suddenly occurred to Jayne. "How'd ya git the two of 'em in the airlock? Ya couldn't a lifted 'em neither." Well, mebbe Simon but not the Cap'n.
"She forced them in at gun point."
Zoe hid a smile. Inara lifted an eyebrow. Kaylee giggled. Guess they hadn't been told ev'rythin' either.
Mal looked embarrassed. Simon glared at Mal.
Jayne wondered where she'd gotten the gun. Was it one of his?
River shook her head. "She would never take one of Jayne's girls without permission. She used Captian Daddy's, from his holster." She smiled at Jayne.
Inara snorted in most unladylike manner. Zoe fell off the crate laughin'. And Kaylee nearly wet herself.
Mal blushed. Simon restrained himself from snorting, too.
Mal decided to return the laughter to its rightful recipient. "Don't matter how it happened. It did. And our little contract ain't been fulfilled yet, li'l albatross."
Jayne looked at River. What could possibly be next?
"He has to ask permission from Simon and Captain Daddy."
Uh, oh. "Permission for what 'xactly?"
"To court her." Jayne's left eyebrow went up. River's right eyebrow went up. "Unless he has something else he'd like to ask now."
Mal stared smugly at Jayne. All eyes turned to the couple. That was better.
"Er… I… well, now isn't… ah… the time… to… ah..," floundered Jayne.
River smiled and ran her fingers through Jayne's close cropped hair. She shifted her weight slightly, rubbing her body against him. Jayne's eyes darkened and his grip on her thighs tightened.
"He must ask permission so we can… leave." The pause nearly unmanned Jayne. Oh, yeah, baby. Time to leave.
"Cap'nSimonmayIhavepermissiontocourtRiver." Jayne ran through the words and then ran out of the cargo bay to his bunk. He didn't need the answer Mal and Simon yelled at his retreating back. River had already arranged it. Now, he could arrange her across his pillow; he sped up.