Title: Wan Mei (Foolproof)

Series: Chinese Word (holy smokes Batman, I'm updating my series!)

Pairing: River/Jayne, Kaylee/Simon and implied Mal/Inara

Rating: All Audiences (PG)

Author's Notes: Here it is the second to last part of the Chinese Word series. They're getting harder and harder to write (has nothing to do with the fact that this is twice as long as any of the other chapters, nope not at all) so I think I'm going to stop while I'm ahead.

I love Mik for constantly beta'ing all of the crap I write and to everyone that tells me that I don't suck (it's something I find less and less true the longer I write, or it might be school doing it to me I'm not quiet sure). I hope this one fits into the rest of the series and everyone likes it, even if a certain someone does something fairly out of character in it.

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She stood in front of the bunk door nervously toying with the hem of her skirt. A million reasons to just turn around and head back to her own room were echoing through her head, a million reasons why it was a very bad idea to try to go down there. It wasn't like this plan was wan mei, she could just be opening a can of worms no one really wanted to acknowledge by going down there. Truthfully, there was only one reason she could think of to knock on the door, one single reason which just happened to mean the world to her.

Taking a deep breath and setting her shoulders resolutely, River knocked on the heavy metal of the bunk's hatch and a muffled "come in" soon followed.

River pushed the bunk's hatch open and made her descent, the butterflies in her stomach going wilder with each rung of the ladder she passed down. By the time her feet hit the floor, she was beyond worried and could only hope she was hiding the feeling well enough that a certain someone wouldn't notice.

"There somethin' you need?" the silk smooth voice asked as River refused to turn away from the ladder.

"I need to talk to you."

"Ya wanna take a seat an' give my ladder a break from that death grip you've got on it?"

River let go of the ladder quickly, and pulled her hands back like it had burnt her. She took a deep, shaky, breath and turned around to slide down into the seat offered her. She smoothed the wrinkles in her dress nervously before she decided enough was enough and turned towards Zoe.

She stared into the older woman's face for a moment, attempting to gauge her mood based off looks alone, a feat she should have known would fail given the Second's impossibly stony nature. "I wanted to discuss with you a matter that I've been giving a great deal of thought lately." River blurted out quickly, betraying her nerves.

Zoe nodded slowly and continued to stare at the young girl in front of her. "And this matter wouldn't happen to be Jayne would it?" She asked. The poor girl had been leavin' hints left and right and the big man had missed every one of them, or at least misinterpreted them. Heck, he'd even gone and ignored the fact that the Captain was practically tryin' to push the two of 'em together. She'd figured that given a few more weeks River'd be to the point where enough was far more than enough, an' then someone was going to end up hurt.

River's face scrunched up as she attempted to hold back a pout. "I'm afraid he'll never confess his true feelings and I will remain unattached to anyone."

Zoe nodded again. "Sounds like you've really thought this one out. There a reason you're telling me?"

"I am here to ask you for advice."

Zoe quirked her eyebrow at that. She had to admit of all of the people on the ship she figured she would be the last one River would ever come to for advice when it came to her an' Jayne. "Advice?"

"I need to begin actively wooing Jayne if I ever want a relationship to be established." River explained keeping her eyes locked with Zoe's.

"Oh."

River looked at her with eager eyes. It was imperative she let Zoe know how important this was to her, and how much she had thought it out.

Zoe leaned back on her bed, relaxing a bit now that she knew the matter wasn't so life and death as she had earlier thought. "I'm a little fuzzy as to why you're askin' me." Zoe said, giving River a questioning look.

"It would seem far more logical for me to ask Inara or Kaylee's input on the matter, but I wish to be successful with my attempts within the year." She explained, and had a good point, too. "Besides, you are the most like him."

Both of Zoe's eyebrows shot up at that statement. "Excuse me?"

River's brow furrowed as she tried to think of a better way to say what she meant. "Not like him, you're very different from one another." She said, brow still slightly furrowed from thinking. "You simply share similar emotional states, though he is a good deal less stoic than you." She amended quietly to herself. "So I was hoping…" She pressed on, ignoring the tiny voice in her head that sounded a great deal like Simon when he was flustered, telling her to give up and let sleeping dogs lie.

"You were hopin' that I could tell you how I finally fell for Wash?"

River's eyes shot back up to meet Zoe's. "Only if you don't mind though, I wouldn't want to do anything to upset you."

Zoe gave the girl a soft smile. It'd been almost a year since Miranda and everyone was still treating her like she was gonna break down any second if'n someone said the wrong thing. "You know, River, you can't just know what Wash did to win me over and think you'll be able to use that. Unfortunately, love ain't as easy as all that."

"I realize this," River stated, nodding her understanding at the comment, "but it would give me a frame of reference for my own attempts."

Zoe leaned back and studied the girl sitting cross-legged on the only chair in the room. "You know it won't really be the right kinda reference point to be workin' from."

River's brow furrowed in confusion. "I don't understand." She had thought this through over and over again. She had analyzed the problem from every foreseeable angle and had made sure to take extra care in choosing the correct individual in which she would query. Of course it was the correct reference point, she couldn't have thought it out to that extent and still be wrong. Obviously the Second in command was either completely off base or speaking figuratively.

Zoe smirked slightly at the puzzled look the tiny genius was givin' her. "See the problem with usin' me an' Wash is that he didn't know I liked him when he tried to win me over… You know how Jayne feels."

River quirked her head to the side and thought about that for a moment before saying anything. "But he doesn't realize the feelings are reciprocated." It was a small oversight. One she hadn't felt had any real relevance to the task at hand.

"Then don't you think he ought to be the one askin' for advice?"

"But he won't." River said giving Zoe an odd look that bordered on the one she used when one of the men onboard was being particularly odd. "I have already discussed that with you."

"Then maybe you ought to just find a way of lettin' him know you feel the same. Seems to me he'd be a bit more willin' to come out and admit how he feels if he knows there won't be any way of you rejectin' him."

River sighed morosely and slumped back in the chair. "I've attempted to do so, but every attempt has gone either unnoticed or misunderstood by him." She said grumpily. "He is rather dense."

Zoe smirked at the assessment. "You just now figurin' that out?"

River sighed quietly and continued on, ignoring Zoe's comment. "Captain suggested violence… and so did Simon, but for two different reasons."

"Your brother still throwin' a fit over all of this?"

"No." River said, staring at the wall next to Zoe instead of at her. "…well, not exactly." She amended. "He is disappointed that everyone is seemingly behind my decision, but I don't think he's that disappointed in the decision itself."

"Really?" Zoe asked genuinely confused by that, the way the Doc'd been moping about you'd think someone went an' shot his puppy.

"He's angry at himself for not noticing the signs of the mutual growing attraction." River explained as she fiddled with the hem of her dress. "He feels like he hasn't been paying me enough attention."

"An' so he's decided to take that anger out by glarin' at Jayne?"

"He's not as intimidating as Jayne, but he feels it's his only way of trying to properly play the part of ge ge."

"You Tams ain't quite right, you know that?" Zoe asked tentatively.

River's eyebrows rose at the comment and a kind of wry acceptance crossed her face. "At least I have an excuse…"

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Jayne glared at the ceiling, just like he'd been doing since he had run off to his bunk. The cold metal and grating seemingly mocked him as he lay in his bed. He was all kinds of stupid, kinds of stupid he hadn't even known existed…that probably hadn't existed until he went an' ran off like that.

It had been the perfect time, if'n ya ignored the fact that he'd just yelled at the girl. They'd been alone. He'd just gotten permission from everyone to go ahead an' tell her how he felt. Hell, he'd practically been begged to do it. Okay, Simon hadn't been givin' him the okay, but he hadn't told him it was out of the question an' been all… him… about it so that meant somethin'.

Plus, there was the way the girl had looked at him when they'd been in the hall, which really was what had done him in. She had looked kind of hopeful, like she was expectin' him to say somethin' important, an' he'd be damned if'n he was going to screw it up an' say the wrong thing. Last thing he wanted to do was to be the one that wiped that look off'a her face.

Sure, there might've been a chance that look was because she was waitin' for him to say he had feelings for her, but what if it had been for something else? What else he couldn't think of, but it could'a been for somethin' else.

Oh, gorramit, he was over-thinkin' things again. Last time he did that, he ended up down here, in his bunk… glaring at his ceiling like it'd done him wrong. He had been this close to just comin' right out an' sayin' how he felt. How had he gone from that to hidin' out? Weren't right in the least, not to mention un-manful. He ought to be able to tell a girl he might have feelings for her without feelin' all out of sorts.

The more he thought about it the less it made sense. Didn't sound like somethin' Jayne Cobb would ever do…running away from a bitty thing like her. He didn't run away from anything, let alone a member of the opposite sex… It musta been somethin' she did. She threw him off with those eyes of hers. He couldn't think none when she was lookin' at him the way she'd been doin' it lately.

Jayne growled to himself and flipped over onto his side to get away from the mocking gaze of the ceiling. After all, the wall was a far more worthy opponent for his frustrations. It was easier to glare evilly at his wall and mull over the things the girl'd been doin' to throw him off. He'd better just come out and say how he felt 'fore it got any worse an' he started getting thrown off while doin' something important… like keepin' Mal from getting' shot again on a job. Captain wouldn't be any kinds of happy if'n he got shot on account of him not payin' attention cause he was too busy mopin' about the girl.

That was it, he was gonna tell her. He was gonna get it out in the open. He was long overdue to be doin' it, too. He'd just get up and head up to the bridge, or maybe the mess, wherever she happened to be at the time, an' just tell her that he kinda sorta had feelings for her. Then he'd know if she felt the same way or not, or at least he'd have it off'a his chest. If'n she happened to feel the same way, well then, that was good.

Jayne nodded to himself and sat up in bed, ready to make his way on up and out to find River and implement his wan mei plan to get this whole mess behind them. He froze just as he got to the ladder to his bunk. If he told her and she didn't feel the same then what? Or worse, if she felt the same, then he was humped. Where do they go after that?

The whole thing was just plain stupid. How in the blue blazes was a man supposed to woo a woman out in the middle of the black on a bitty little boat like Serenity anyhow? Weren't like he could take her out to do somethin' entertainin' like a person on a date's supposed ta do. Heck, he couldn't even take her out to eat.

He couldn't just go up there and tell her how he felt without some idea as to where to go after that. Didn't make a lick of sense to not be knownin' what the next step would be. Things would get awkward all kinds of quick… an' then he'd say somethin' he didn't mean, or do somethin' stupid, an' then he'd be worse off than he was right now.

Maybe he'd just stay in his bunk until they landed…

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"It ain't wrong ya know. It's okay for her to like a fella… 'Sides, it'd do 'em both good to have each other." Kaylee said as she kept on stirring spices into the kind-of-a stew they were having for dinner.

"I know that…" Simon said dejectedly. "I do." He said defensively as Mal gave him a good glare. "I just wish she could have more options… maybe find someone she has more in common with than the… brute."

"Naw," Kaylee said shaking her head as she put her wooden stirring spoon down. "They'll be real good together once they just let themselves be together."

"All I can say is they're startin' to drive me batty." Mal said as he put the last plate down on the table. "I'm 'bout ready to lock 'em both up in the storage locker 'til it gets done with."

"Cap'n!"

"Please, don't do that… It's inhumane to lock anyone in that room for an extended amount of time… even Jayne." Simon said as he gave the storage locker a long stare.

"'Sides, they'd be 'bout as likely to kill each other as admit to feelin' anything." Kaylee scolded.

"Least it be over with." Mal said as he plopped down into his chair. "I don't know about you two, but I'm more than ready for them to just get to the riding off into the sunset part of their fairytale romance."

"That ain't fair." Kaylee pouted. "Ain't either of them ever done nothin' like this. Jayne's always been one for avoidin' relationships an' River ain't ever had the chance to even try her hand at one." Kaylee turned off the heat to their dinner and sighed at the thought. "She ain't ever got to flirt with a guy, or stay up jus' talkin' so's you could be together jus' a little while longer."

Mal and Simon both slowly looked at one another, a slightly panicked and deeply confused look on their faces. They both turned similarly horrified looks towards Kaylee as she continued to describe her version of a fairytale romance.

"She ain't even ever been kissed… let alone made love to someone."

Two rather startled and disturbed shouts came from the table at that last comment.

Kaylee rolled her eyes and glared at the two men sitting at the table. "You two are a couple of prudes."

"She's my mei mei, Kaylee… I'd rather not think about her doing anything like that."

"You sure you ain't jus' sayin' that 'cause of Jayne?"

"I'm sure it's not just because of Jayne." Simon said, his face still scrunched up in disgust from the idea of River doing anything with…. anyone… ever…

"It best not be," Kaylee continued turning back to the food she'd been preparing. "The more you try an' push 'em away the closer the two of 'em will be." She said matter of factly. She had experience in this kind of thing after all. Every time her Papa or one of her brothers had told her not to be with a guy, the first thing she did was run off an' find a way to be with 'im.

"Believe me I know that, why do you think I haven't just come out and said how badly I think this will turn out?" Simon said, staring down at the chipped plate in front of him morosely.

"Simon…" Kaylee pleaded, last thing anyone needed was him throwin' a fit over the mercenary an' his sister comin' together… 'Sides it was all manners of shiny, the stubborn man just couldn't see that 'cause he was too busy seein' his hurt little mei mei. "She's better now, an' she's all grow'd up. She can make her own decisions and figure out who is, or ain't, right for her."

Simon's face scrunched up in confusion. He turned and shot a bewildered look over his shoulder at Kaylee. "I know that." He said indignantly. "I just don't want to see her get hurt." He said as he turned back to staring darkly at his plate. "Jayne isn't exactly the kind of man I ever wanted to see River with… Well, maybe to shock my parents when we were younger, but I never actually believed she'd ever be with someone like him." Simon leaned back in his chair, slumping at the table in a less than proper manner Mal noted. "He just doesn't strike me as the faithful type, and I'd rather his first attempt at a steady relationship not be with my mei mei."

"It'll be her first go round at that too ya know, Doc." Mal said leveling a classic 'I know more than you 'cause I've been there an' seen that' look, as he leaned back in his own chair, "He's just as likely to get hurt by the whole thing."

Simon shot the Captain a look that struck Mal as 100 River, it always gave him the willies when the two siblings went and said somethin' or did somethin' that made it more then abundantly clear that they were, in fact, related. "You'll have to forgive me for not caring."

"I don't have to forgive you for anythin', Doc. I'm just sayin' she ain't the only one in new territory here." Mal said smirking at the Doctor's obvious disdain for the other would-be man in River's life. It was kind of cute the concern he was showin'… cute in a very annoying, could possibly ruin all of his well thought out plans kind of way.

"Ya know that's probably why he ain't said nothin' yet." Kaylee said absentmindedly as she added more canned broth to their stew. "He ain't got the first clue as to what he needs ta do to let her know he fancies her, an' so he's just keepin' his mouth shut instead."

"Why's he wait 'til now to keep his mouth shut?" Mal grumbled at the table as Simon continued to stare at the plate in front of him. "All I'm sayin' is if they don't make a move soon I'm bound to make them make the move."

Kaylee snorted, something Mal noted peeved him a bit. He was big and fairly intimidating, he could make people do things if'n he really put his mind to it. Hell, he'd intimidated Jayne before, sure he'd been locked in the airlock at the time, but intimidation is intimidation… It still counted.

"No offence, Cap'n, but you couldn't make 'em make a move if'n your life depended on it."

"I could too." Mal shot back, trying to keep the whining edge out of his voice as he glared at the bubbly girl in the kitchen. "I got ways of makin' people do things."

Kaylee gave her Captain a placating smile, which began to edge into smirk territory. "Right, just like'n ya made Jayne tell River she was pretty that one time… or ya scared Jayne into admitting he liked River…"

"Is that what he was doing?" Simon asked, shocked that he had been so oblivious to the other man's attempts at getting the two together, and to think he had thought that was about his relationship with Kaylee.

"Or how you're always given him little jobs 'round the ship that happen to be in the same place she is all of the time." Kaylee continued on unheeding of Simon's comment. "Or how you're always makin' sure to shoo everyone else outta the room so's they can be alone together, or like when ya tried to convince Jayne ta just tell her how he felt after he figured out that we all knew how he felt…"

"I got the point Kaylee." Mal said, abruptly cutting the younger woman off. He didn't need any reminding on how many attempts at hookin' the two of them up he'd gone through. Point of the matter was his attempts were gettin' no where and they were gettin' there all kinds of fast. He needed a new plan, a new direction to take this whole thing in. After all, if Mal was one thing, it was stubborn… all he needed was a cunning and wan mei plan.

Kaylee shook her head, a bemused smile tugging at the corners of her mouth as she turned back to the stew.

"Dinner smells wonderful Kaylee." Inara said as she glided into the mess. "I've been looking forward to it all day."

"Aw, that's just 'cause Simon cooked yesterday." Mal said offhandedly as he continued to plot away, earning him glares from everyone in the room, though Simon's was more hurt than angry.

"Have you called everyone to dinner yet mei mei?" Inara asked as she continued to glare at Mal.

"Not yet." Kaylee answered coldly, also with the glaring.

"'Nara'll get 'em all. Kaylee's gotta put a few finishing touches on dinner an' I got to finish settin' the table." Mal said as he glanced up from his plate. "So…" He trailed off as he did a small double take. Everyone in the room was glaring at him, though it was the fierce glares from the woman that stopped him mid sentence. "What?"

Kaylee shook her head sadly at Mal's inability to decipher why they were both glaring at him. No wonder no matter what he did Jayne never got the hint, it was 'cause of Mal. He always upset the avenues of communication for the crew as he was terrible at communicating anything beyond the apparent "shoot me" he was constantly advertising when they went out on jobs.

"I'll get them." Inara said as she suppressed the urge to roll her eyes at Mal.

"What?" Mal asked, genuinely confused at the women's actions.

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Jayne continued to glare at the wall of his bunk as he pondered things. He would definitely just have to stay in his bunk until they landed… Then he could run off to the nearest bar and get so drunk he couldn't remember the girl's big brown eyes starin' at him… or his name for that matter.

A gentle knock on the hatch to his bunk caused him to stop mulling over the finer bars on Persephone and sent him into a small, manly panic. There weren't no way in hell the girl could be up there… sure his Ma'd always said that when ya speak, or in this case think, of the devil he tended to show up, but there was no way his luck was so bad the girl would come down into his bunk. This was his safe place!

"Jayne? Everyone know's you're in there." Came Inara's calm and even voice through the heavy metal of the door, which eased Jayne's frazzled nerves instantly. Whoever was upstairs seemed to be lookin' out for him today, and of all the days he needed lookin' out for… Well, okay this weren't one a the best ones to choose to finally look out for him, but he'd take it.

Several seconds passed without any sign of movement coming from the bunk. Inara breathed out a small sigh at the older man's obvious discomfort with the situation at hand and shook her head. It was too bad he didn't realize how much River wanted him to get over being afraid of saying the wrong thing and just say anything.

The Companion cleared her throat and straightened in the hallway. She had two other people to find and let know that dinner was ready. She couldn't spend all evening sitting outside of Jayne's bunk hoping he would pop his head out. "Dinner is ready, Jayne." She said calmly. "You can go in whenever you want." She added, making sure he didn't feel too pressured to do anything he wasn't ready for, after all the last meal they all shared happen to have lead to this particular impasse.

The Companion shook her head again and began to make her way down the hall to Zoe's bunk happily noting the sound of Jayne's hatch opening.

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"If you're lucky Mal'll just give up on tryin' to help the two of ya out." Zoe said as River continued to slump in the chair. "He tends to muck things up."

"Highly doubtful." River muttered sadly as she began to slouch in her seat. "He believes the only way a relationship between Jayne and I will be successful is if he helps us."

Zoe nodded, "Then I suppose you ought to figure out how you want this to go before he has a chance to screw it up permanently."

"How?" River asked as she fixed her worried and pleading eyes on Zoe.

"Sweetie, that's somethin' you're going to have to figure out on your own." Zoe said as she gave the young girl a gentle pat on the leg. "But the way I see it, what do you have to lose by just lettin' him know that you like him?"

"Don't want to make the wrong impression…" River said, again ducking her head down so she could fiddle with the hem of her dress. "The last thing I want is for him to think I have a childlike crush on him, or that I'm settling because he is the only unattached male onboard." River said, eyes fixed on the floor. "...or worse…" she trailed off in a daze of all the bad things Jayne could think about her, or himself, if she did not approach the subject of their mutual attraction correctly.

"There's a worse?"

River looked up at Zoe, snapped out of her daze. Before she had a chance to answer the Second in Command's question a soft knock echoed through the room. The two stared at the hatch as it was pulled open. They also both shared a relaxed sigh when they saw who it was that had opened the door.

"I'm not interrupting anything am I?" Inara asked as she finished making her way down the ladder, a little surprised to find River in the room with Zoe.

"Nothin' that didn't need interrupting." Zoe said, giving River a soft smile as she stood up from the bed. Inara didn't make cordial visits to her bunk just out of the blue for no good reason. Actually no one just made visits down to her bunk for no good reason; even River had a reason to be down there today, even if the reason was less dire and serious than what Zoe was used to.

Inara nodded, noting the lighter mood the older woman had. It was rather rare to have the ship's Second in Command smile, and it was always a more then welcomed sight. "I just came down here to let you know dinner is ready."

Zoe nodded towards Inara, earning a soft smile before the Companion turned to start making her way back up the ladder and out of the room. She turned back towards River, who was still sitting on the chair, legs crossed, stiff as a board.

Zoe resisted the urge to quirk her eyebrow and the slightly vacant look on the younger girl's face. "C'mon, dinner time."

"I'd rather not go."

Zoe did quirk here eyebrow at that. "Ain't ya hungry?"

River glanced up at Zoe briefly before turning her eyes back to the floor of the bunk. "Yes, but my need for food is outweighed by my desire to avoid any ill-conceived courtship commencement attempts by the Captain."

Zoe nodded understandingly, after all the girl had been "helped" about all any person should be by the Captain, especially in a romantic sense. "I have a feeling he'll be helpin' ya along if you're there or not." Zoe said seriously. "No sense in going hungry to try and avoid it."

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Jayne walked into the mess, noting the absence of the four finest members of the crew as he stared at the table. He froze a few steps away from the table, an impossible number of bad reasons for this running through his head.

"Heya, Jayne." Kaylee chirped from the kitchen as she rummaged about for a pot holder. "Jus' grab a seat. Chow'll be served in a sec." She said with a bright smile.

Jayne glanced back at the table. Mal was leaning back in his chair a content smile on his face, the same kinda smile he got when he thought he had somethin' figured out, the kind he had right before he got shot most of the time. Simon hovered between the kitchen and the table, looking at Jayne with a mild distain, which was some kind of improvement over all the glaring he had been doing as of late.

Jayne squared his shoulders and walked over to his seat, making sure to keep the act as natural as possible as he attempted to keep the two men from knowing that he had a bad feeling about bein' in that room like that.

He plopped down in his chair about the same time Inara breezed into the room. "Zoe and River will be right up." She said happily as she took her seat towards the end of the table. Inara and Simon would often switch chairs depending on how well River was doing during the day, something they hadn't needed to do much since Miranda.

"That smells wonderful." Zoe said as she walked into the mess, followed closely by River.

Kaylee made a triumphant little noise out in the kitchen before a slightly muffled "Thank you" came out. Her head popped up over the counter a second later, the same bright smile as before plastered to her face. "Been workin' on it all day." She said happily as she moved over to the stove, her just found pot holder held tight in her hand. "Bet it tastes all kinds of shiny." She finished as she made her way out of the kitchen and into the mess.

Jayne steadfastly inspected the tableware for signs of… bad, unhealthy things as he valiantly forgo his chance to look politely, and not in the least bit longingly, at the girl as she glided into the room and gracefully sat… He blinked at the stew which had suddenly appeared in his bowl.

Kaylee dished out the dinner as everyone took their seats around the table. Simon looked around the table for a moment before attempting to make his way to the seat next to Jayne. His subtle plan to keep his sister and the Mercenary from sitting next to each other was cut short however by a well placed boot to the shin via the Captain. Kaylee gave Simon a pleading look as Zoe made sure to sit between Jayne and River.

Mal gave his Second an odd look before shrugging. Didn't matter where the two sat, his plan was gonna work no matter what. "How long 'til we land on Persephone, River?"

River gave the Captain a sidelong glance, trying to discern whether this was a part of one of his terrible attempts at helping her and Jayne or just an honest question he wanted answered. She figured it would be the former but answered anyway. "We will be landing in roughly 37 hours." She said. The Captain had asked for her to keep thinks like their estimated time of arrival more simple so she had taken to dropping the minutes and seconds from their ETA.

Mal nodded happily as he picked up his spoon. "Yup, we're gonna be ahead of schedule again. You're gettin' pretty good at that time saving thing." He said with a smile pointed at his new little Pilot.

River nodded slowly, still eyeing the Captain untrustingly. "Learned from the best."

Mal grinned at the comment and turned to look at Zoe, who wore her own soft smile. "So you did."

Kaylee finished serving everyone their dinner and ran back into the kitchen quickly, earning her a long wistful look from Simon. She re-emerged a moment later rather less tied down by the huge pot she had been serving food from and a little more tied down with a basket of rolls. "Well everyone, dig in." She said as she sat down.

"Because we're ahead of schedule," Mal began as everyone started to eat, "I figure we got enough time for us all to have a bit of R and R."

"Really? 'Cause I've been needin' ta go shopin', an' River could use a few more of those dresses that fit her like'n the ones we picked up on Sausbury." Kaylee agreed happily as she flashed the Captain that mega-watt smile of hers.

Jayne's knuckles whitened over his spoon. More dresses that fit? That just weren't rightly fair to a man's sanity.

"That could be fun. We can make a day of it." Inara added, earning her own smile from Kaylee.

Mal nodded, this was easier than he had thought it would be. "Sounds like a plan." Out of the 5 he needed out an' about he was already down three. "Doc', weren't you tellin' me jus' the other day how we needed some more supplies?"

Simon regarded the Captain with distrust equal to that of River. "Yes." He answered cautiously, the man was planning something which, to be perfectly honest, was always a fairly frightening idea.

"Good. Then you an' Zoe can go pick that up 'fore we make our run." Mal gave Zoe a pointed look.

Zoe raised her eyebrow at the Captain for a moment as he continued to give her a look. It either meant "go with me on this crazy ass plan of mine" or the "an' that's an order that sounds like you have a choice" look. She was still trying to decided which one it was. "Yes, Sir."

Mal gave Zoe a nod, glad she figured out what he had meant with his "back me up here" look. "So Jayne, I was thinkin' when we land you ought to take some time an' visit Evangeline." Mal suggested as he spooned out a large helping of Kaylee's stew into his bowl. "Been awhile since ya stopped on by, and we all know how tense ya get when it's been a while." Mal said as he dug into his meal.

Simon clutched his spoon tighter and glared at the Captain for all he was worth. He just didn't know when to leave it alone, when to keep his nose out of other peoples business. No wonder he was always getting shot at, he obviously didn't understand when to cut his losses. Couldn't he tell that Jayne clearly wasn't as interested as he thought he was, or at least not willing enough to say anything? And how on Earth-that-was was telling Jayne to visit a whore going to "help him admit his feelings"? The man was clearly insane.

"I know she won't mind havin' a big strong guy like yourself around for a while." He continued with a small smile, hoping to lure his Merc into a false sense of security. No matter how much Mal prodded and poked, no matter how many plots he could devise, Mal didn't have a snowballs chance in hell of gettin' those two together any time soon, least not like Evangeline could anyhow. She'd have Jayne seein' the error of his not quite admittin' ways in no time flat.

Simon slapped his spoon down on the table and glared at the Captain. "Enough is enough!" He announced loudly, causing the whole of the table to stare at him in wide eyed silence. "How many times does it take for you to get a hint? Jayne obviously doesn't want to tell River that he's developed less than platonic feelings for her and no amount of interference from you is going to change that!" He blurted out quickly.

Jayne's whole body tensed and he suddenly found his nearly empty bowl very interesting. He really shoulda stayed in his bunk 'til they landed… least then he coulda avoided this messy situation. The worst part was the fact that the girl was sitting right there, an' that sure as hell weren't any way to let her know he had feelin's for her, girl deserved more'n havin' her stupid ass brother blurt it out durin' dinner.

River stared at Simon utterly horrified. She had been so worried about the Captain saying something and ruining everything, she hadn't even begun to think on the possibility of Simon's inability to let her live her own life unhindered. Now, the odds of Jayne becoming more withdrawn and defensive were higher than before, and that meant she would have to wait even longer for him to tell her how he felt. Why did all of the men onboard have to be so stupid all of the time?

Simon continued to glare at Mal, who had a look of utter shock on his face. "If he want's to tell her how he feels, fine…" He said dismissively. "He'll do just that when he is good and ready to do it, but you have no right to try and pressure him into admitting something he isn't ready to admit."

Jayne tightened his grip on his spoon as Simon continued on, either the young man didn't care that everyone was in the room hearing his little tirade or he no longer realized it. An' who the hell was the Core-bred little snot to say what someone else was or wasn't ready to be admittin'? Weren't this the same guy that had to be facin' down almost certain death 'fore he went and "admitted" anything? When this whole thing was over, the Doc's face an' his fist were gonna have a little get together… Hell, the Captain's face might have ta join in.

"She's been waiting for him to get it over with for more than two months anyway. What are a few more weeks?" Simon finished bitterly, though he was trying to fight it. "Just because he's too dense to take any of her constant, eager hints of, still bewildering to me yet completely heartfelt by her, reciprocity…"

"Simon!" All four female members of the crew yelled simultaneously, halting anymore rash words from escaping the Doctor's now gaping mouth.

Jayne looked up from his bowl in time to see River's face turn from white to red. Aw, hell, he shoulda just bucked up an' told her before something this stupid could happen. She deserved better. He squared his shoulders, dropped his spoon and started to reach for her…

Utterly humiliated by her brother's unexpected and unwanted revelations, River jumped up from her chair and darted from the room.

Gorramit. Jayne dropped his hand back onto the table and slumped down in his chair.

Simon stared after his sister, mouth still hanging open. "A ya, lao tian bu."

Mal blinked and shook his head in completely bewilderment. "Wow." It was the only word that seemed even remotely accurate in describing what had just happened in the mess. "That was…wow."

"Mal!" Inara said angrily, cutting off any further thoughts he might have had. "Don't exacerbate things."

Mal gave Inara a baffled look and shook his head. "What does that mean?" he asked, almost angrily as he stared at her.

Inara held back her sigh and fixed Mal with an almost bored look. "It means to make things worse."

"I know what exacerbate means." He spat out angrily. "I meant what did you mean by sayin' what you said?"

"This is all your fault."

"What? My plan was foolproof! It ain't my fault the fools it was proofed against happened to be kinda ingenious in their own ways." He said indignantly as he glared at Inara. "'Sides it ain't like you're helpin' any."

"That's the point, Mal. They don't need anyone butting in." Inara continued on angrily. "It's their lives…"

"No, it's our lives. Last thing any of us need is a distracted Pilot and a daydreamin' Merc."

"I don't daydream." Jayne spat out reflexively at the slight even though his mind was still more concerned with trying to process everything that had just taken place.

Mal glared at his hired hand for a moment before turning his attention back to Inara. "An' you got no reason to be angry at me, I ain't the one that just blurted out that his mei mei happened to have romantic like feelings for him." He stated angrily as he waved a dismissive hand at Jayne. "That honor belongs entirely to our top three percentage genius Doctor over here."

Simon sat there completely still, his elbows on the table and his face in his hands. "Oh, what did I do?"

"You let the cat outta the bag, Doc. Can't say I blame ya though, what with these two acting at the speed of snails. The sexual tension is bound to drive anyone to blurtin' out a deep…dark secret. "

Simon removed his head from his hands so he could level an annoyed and confused glare at the Captain. "It wasn't that deep….or dark." Simon said defensively. "Besides, I'm not the one that was trying to make River jealous by pushing Jayne into the arms of some… whore."

Jayne's body tensed and his head shot up as the Doctor's last comment penetrated his swirling mental fog. "What did you say?" he growled out in a cold voice.

Simon looked at the very obviously enraged, man sitting on the other side of the table from him. "I wasn't trying to make River jealous…" he repeated, feigning obliviousness to the comment that had sent Jayne off. He was dumb enough to blurt out how his mei mei felt, but he certainly wasn't dumb enough to say anything to further anger the already fuming Mercenary.

Mal stared down at the Doc in a state of completely bewildered shock as he tried to figure out what the hell the younger man was talkin' about before Jayne went and killed him. This was a dangerous situation though he wasn't willing to agree with Inara on the fact that this whole mess was on account of his mei wan plan. Now, if'n the Doc got gutted 'cause of what he'd said, or didn't say, that would most certainly be his fault, and like it or not dealin' with an overly-pissed-off Mercenary now was easier than dealing with a mortified once-was-crazy-but-now's-kinda-better killer girl when she found out her would-be-beau happened to have murdered her not-so-socially-adept brother, so he thought hard and he thought fast.

"You know damn well that weren't the part I was talkin' about." Jayne snarled as his hands automatically fisted at his sides.

"A, er de yi gou… she ain't a whore!" Mal shouted out as he finally realized what the Doc had meant. "Evangeline is Jayne's mom."

Simon stared at the Captain, mouth slightly open, as Kaylee tried to comfort him with a reassuring hand on his knee. The Doctor opened and closed his mouth several times while he continued to stare at Mal before turning and repeating the movements as he stared at Jayne. "I…uh.." He stammered as the Mercenary continued to glare at him darkly.

Jayne shook his head and pushed his chair back angrily. "I'll be in my gorram bunk." He growled out and hastily made his way towards his room before he did something he'd be regretting tomorrow, the Doc had already done enough of that for everyone today.

"Why did you even bring up a visit to his mother? How would that motivate him to admit how he feels about River?"

"'Cause there ain't a thing in the 'Verse Evangeline can't make Jayne do." Mal said with a smug smile pointed in the direction of the crew bunks, one that was completely lost on the other man as he sat there still working things out in his head. "An' I know for a fact that every time Jayne visits she asks about when he plans on bringin' home a nice new daughter for her. Ain't no way he would be able to hide his growin' affections for a certain member of the opposite sex from his Ma… even if he tried."

"She would push him to come back and say something…" Simon muttered. He really had messed everything up.

"Especially 'fore that certain someone wakes up and realizes she's too good for him." Mal finished.

Mal gave the younger man a long stare as though he was trying to figure out how best to console him. "Good luck with your sister by the way."

Simon continued to look mortified as he sat at the table. "She's going to kill me." He sulked, sharing a pained look with his cutlery.

"Simon…" Inara began to try and soothe the young man.

"Probably with her brain." Simon blurted out, something he apparently had developed quite a fondness for today, after a moment of thinking.

"Oh, bao bei.she'll forgive ya'." Kaylee said sadly. "Not any time soon…" She amended giving Simon her best kicked puppy face, "but she will forgive ya… eventually."

"That's right." Mal agreed giving Simon a stern look. "Like it or not she's related to you an' when you get nervous or all… uptight, about things you tend to say things ya' don't mean or put your foot in your mouth. She knows it, we know it… jus' give her some space."

"Space?" He asked in disbelief. "Captain, this ship isn't that large. It will be practically impossible to avoid her for more than a day or so."

"Then I guess that works out for you seein' as well be on Persephone by then, gives you a whole world to avoid her on." Mal reminded, giving Simon an annoyed look.

Kaylee looked between her downtrodden boyfriend and her undoubtedly irritated Captain and knew another confrontation was about to take place. "C'mon, Simon," she suggested as she stood from the table, dinner a distant memory, "Let's get to our room… Ya can sulk all ya want down there."

Inara shook her head as Simon followed Kaylee out of the mess sadly. "I'm going to try and find River. She might need someone to talk to." She stated as she made her way out of the mess as well.

Mal sighed and leaned back in his chair glumly. He glanced over at Zoe, the only other one still sitting at the table, who had a small smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. "What?" He asked looking over at her watchfully.

"Oh, I was just thinkin'…" Zoe wondered as she leaned back in her chair. "How long do you think it'll be before Jayne realizes that Simon just told him that River likes him?"

Mal looked down the hallway towards Jayne's bunk. "Given how mad he is, I'd give him say an hour or two."

-----------------------------------------

Jayne stomped down the last few rungs of his ladder and slammed the hatch closed behind him.

He didn't take any kind of go se from the Doc as it was, weren't no chance he was gonna let him talk 'bout his Ma like that… The pretty boy's face and his fist were definitely havin' a little get together soon as they landed. Weren't no way the younger man would survive more'n a punch or two, and, with how angry he was over that comment, it weren't likely he'd be able to keep from hittin' the prissified fancy pants more'n two or so times.

An' who the hell did the girl's dumbass brother think he was goin' and blurtin' out all those feelings that weren't his own like that? Only the man with the feelings was allowed to go an' blurt out how he felt, that ain't somethin' for someone else to be doing for him. And then the Doc had to go and just put his foot even farther in his mouth by bein' all hurtful and basically chasin' the girl out of the mess by blowin' it and blurting out how she returned those fee…

…wait a second…

TBC, in the last one whenever I write it.