Title: Ba Xiu (Screw it)

Series: Chinese Word

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

Rating: All Audiences (PG)

Author's Notes: Welcome to the end, it's kind of freaky that I actually finished this thing. I blame that entirely on Mik (blame, thank... whatever). But without her constant pushing, and our everyday 10 min. of writing, this would probably still be getting worked on.

As you all know, I wrote this half as a joke because I use way too much chinese in my stories. Okay, so no one knew that but that's the point behind the titles and the chinese in it, its a playful jab at myself because that's the kind of gal I am. Seeing this how it is, I'm rather happy with the way the series turned out. What can I say I love the slow building romance filled with awkward situations and mishaps, because that's how life really is (not to this extreme, at least for most of us) but life is rarely perfect and everything takes time.

Oh yeah, I also blame Mik for the ending being how it is (it was her idea) and for a good portion of, well, everything else in there.

I loved writing this thing. Okay, no I didn't. I wrote all except for this part when I was deeply depressed. I just love that all of you love it. To everyone that's been reading since the beginning, for those of you that picked it up along the way, and to anyone that decides to join in now, thank you.

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Jayne sat in his bunk staring off into space, something he seemed to be doing more and more ever since he figured he had feelings for a certain dark haired, big eyed, moobrained girl on board. He must've logged at least a weeks worth of time just sittin' down in his bunk and pondering on things, which weren't like him in the least. Sure he had a lot to think on for a long while now, but it weren't nothin' compared to how much he had to think on now.

She liked him…

…she liked him a lot….

He wasn't the only one spending hours on end trying to figure out what to do next, she'd been doin' the exact same thing down in her own bunk, or on the bridge. Everyone'd been pushin' him to say somethin', and everyone had been doing it to help her because he was too gorram stupid to figure out how she felt.

Frustrated with himself, Jayne flopped back onto his bed violently. He ignored the strangled creak of his bed as he squirmed in an attempt to get more comfortable.

Weren't right for two people to be like they were. When folks liked each other, they told the other one. That way they could be together. They weren't supposed to spend hours on end starin' at nothing trying to figure out what the first thing they would say when they saw the other one again was gonna be. They weren't supposed to feel like they were being backed into a corner with no way out and that time was considerably longer than it was supposed ta be. And, they certainly weren't supposed to not notice that the other person felt the same way.

He turned over and punched his pillow.

He wasn't supposed to be down in his bunk trying to figure out how he missed it. He wasn't supposed to be down here moping because he wasn't brave enough to say what he felt. And the ship was certainly not supposed to be as hot as it was at this very moment!

He gripped his hair in frustration.

What the hell was he supposed to say now that he knew how she felt? "Gee, that makes things easier. Now, because I know you aren't going to reject me, I don't mind finally telling you out loud somethin' you obviously already knew." Yeah, that was smooth.

Even if she did accept that, which weren't exactly likely or even remotely realistic, then what's he gonna do? Should they go on a date or something… What in the hell does someone do on a date? He never got that far with a girl, relationship wise. Oh sure, he'd gone on dates when he was younger, they just never made it to the actual "date" part… always got a little lost along the way.

He flipped back over to glare at the ceiling once more.

Besides that, where the hell would they go for a date? To threaten Badger into givin' 'em what he agreed to give 'em when he gave 'em their latest job? That weren't romantic, an' no two ways ya cut it there weren't no way to even make that romantic.

He wasn't about to hold her hand when they were off threatening people… even if people that like each other hold hands… it just weren't right to do it on the job. Badger wouldn't take them serious in the least if'n they showed up an' he was holding her hand… Not her gun hand, obviously, she had to be able to draw her weapon even if it was just around Badger… His eyes narrowed. Then again the smarmy little man did always give her these odd looks… He ground his teeth together. She wasn't going to threaten Badger with them ever again...

Growling angrily, Jayne decided to skip the part where he figured out what they would do the first time they actually, ya know, went out… in public… together… like a couple. Yeah, best to skip past that. Goin' on dates was important an' all but they were out in the black more often than not. So really he ought to be concentrating on something else, like what the hell they would talk about, because folk that like each other talk, and he ain't ever been much for words… T'was why he always got lost along the way on his earlier attempts at "dating".

Maybe he should get some books to read? She liked to read. It could give them something to talk about. Or art! She liked art, an' he could weld as good as any Cobb there was. He could take her to the junkyard an' look for... found art or somethin'… Kaylee always loved goin' to the junkyard, 'course Simon hasn't taken her to one yet. Then again the younger man wasn't exactly that smooth when it came to the fairer sex, he leaned more towards the awkward situations and stickin' his foot in his mouth. Jayne scoffed to himself, like he should be talkin', least the Doc opened his mouth long enough to get his foot in there.

Flopping over on his side, Jayne turned from angered pondering to depressed sulking. The whole gorram situation was just pathetic, an' he was hopeless… maybe he should visit his Ma like Mal said. She'd know what to do, what with bein' a girl and all. No, that wouldn't work, 'cause Mal was right about more'n his need to visit his Ma. She'd want to meet River, too.

He'd show up an' there she'd be all smiling an' happy, and his Pa would be all nice and… dad like… Then he'd tell them 'bout River and his Pa would give him an "I told you so" look, and with that look would come anger. Ma'd be all kinds of pissed if'n he showed up an' told her about a girl he liked more'n he'd ever cared for anyone before, especially when he showed up without her… and she found out she was on planet, but he still didn't bring her home. That'd be disrespectful of the girl and his Ma, and his Ma didn't allow disrespect in her house.

He sighed heavily.

He was screwed. Didn't matter what he did, or didn't do, it'd be the wrong thing. Here, he was, overthinkin' things again, and if'n he weren't careful he'd end up sittin' in his bunk 'til they landed, and then soon as they ramp kissed the dirt, he'd be off an' runnin' to the nearest bar drinkin' his worries away, and then he'd do something really stupid… like Mal an' Inara stupid.

He smashed his fist into the mattress then forced himself up.

Ba Xiu! He was done with this. High time he just started actin' like himself anyhow. He was gonna go up there, search the whole gorram ship no matter how long it took 'til he found River, then he was gonna say something. What, he had no idea… but it was gonna get said. That's how he tended to say everything anyhow an' it'd worked thus far so why the hell wouldn't it work again?

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Jayne threw open the hatch to his bunk, eyes immediately darting to the bridge where River used to always be. Weren't likely she'd be there now though, he hadn't seen hide nor hair of the girl since the whole mess "incident".

Sighing to himself Jayne finished climbing out of his bunk and headed down towards the mess. If he just went about it intelligently, weren't no way he could miss findin' River. He just had to systematically search every inch of the ship 'til she didn't have any more places to hide.

He'd tracked men down across barely terraformed planets…highly trained men….in instances of life or death. He could find one emotionally unstable, slightly crazy, tiny girl on a Firefly.

Weren't no way she was getting' away from him that easy.

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"Gorramit, she's disappeared!" Jayne roared as he kicked an empty crate out of his way in the cargo bay.

Weren't fair, or seemingly possible even. He'd searched for over three an' a half hours and he still hadn't found her. An' he had been through, very very through. He was a gorram tracker for Buddha's sake, an' still the girl eluded him.

"Ba xiu. Ain't even worth the trouble anyhow." He muttered to himself as he kicked another innocent, unsuspecting crate out of his way. "Gorram girl might as well stay hidden for all I care."

"Someone's gone to the Serenity school for how to woo a woman." Kaylee said smugly from her spot on the catwalk above Jayne, earning an irritated glare for her troubles. "Swear ain't a one of you on the boat knows what he's doing when it comes to romancin'." She said with an overly bright smile aimed at the Mercenary.

"Don't exactly have a lot of practice in it, case you hadn't noticed." He said aggravated by the Mechanics too cheery nature, wasn't right to be rubbin' her happy relationship in his face… even if that wasn't what she was actually doing… still rubbin' it in.

"Oh, we noticed. That's why we're making a comment on it." Inara said with a soft smile of her own aimed at the large man in the cargo bay below.

Kaylee crossed her arms on the railing of the catwalk and leaned down to rest her head on her forearms. "Figured you don't wanna be where Simon or the Cap'n was at this stage of their attraction towards a member of the opposite sex."

Jayne glared around the quite empty cargo bay, save for the two poor crates he had brutally beaten. "Yeah, 'cause you're all kinds of helpful what with the making fun an' all."

"Aw, Jayne…" Kaylee cooed in that lovey dovey voice she got when someone was doing something sweet. "We ain't makin' fun of ya. Just a gentle pokin' ta get your attention's all." She explained giving him a huge smile in an attempt to make him lighten up a bit.

It didn't work.

Inara decided to try a different tactic with the, quite obviously, livid Mercenary. "So what were you planning on saying once you found her?"

"Wha?" Jayne muttered distractedly. He had seen a shadow move and was temporarily entirely focused on it. When it ended up being part of one of the badly butchered crates he had dealt with earlier catchin' the light weird, he turned back towards the two women gloomily. "Oh me? No clue." He answered shaking his head.

It was a good question, one that merited further thought really, but the last time he did that, he ended up holed up in his bunk for the night. He couldn't take the chance that would happen again. They'd be on Persephone real soon now, and River was bound to rabbit the second that ramp kissed dirt, then he'd be out of luck.

The two women stared at him like he went an' sprouted a second head, or something equally disturbin' and out of the ordinary, as he stood in the middle of the cargo bay actively pondering something. Whatever it was was beyond the two of them.

"How can ya have no idea what you're gonna say?" Kaylee asked seriously.

"Jayne, every time you've tried to tell River how you felt it's ended… Well, abruptly." Inara said, trying to snap him out of his stupor as well as get to the point. Jayne wasn't one for beating around the bush.

"Ain't ya been down in your bunk for, like, hours?" Kaylee continued on. "What did you think about when you were down there?"

"She was very upset the last time any of us saw her, Jayne, maybe you should think about what you want to accomplish when you find her before you actually find her." Inara also continued on, it was pointless for him to spend all of his time searching for River if when he found her, and he would find her Inara had no doubts about that, he didn't have anything to say.

"You couldn'ta just been sleepin…"

"I just don't want to see her hurt any further then she's already been hurt by all of this." Inara finished giving Jayne a serious look, hoping that he had been paying attention to her part of the conversation more then Kaylee's.

"'Nara's right," Kaylee nodded, the bright smile dimming down slightly so she could give Jayne a serious look. "She was all shook up last night when Simon… well, was Simon."

The two women stared down at a slightly baffled Jayne. That was a lot of talkin' that just went on there at the exact same time and he was still tryin' to figure out just what 'Nara had said. How Kaylee had been able to be talkin' and still know what 'Nara said was beyond him.

"Kaylee."

Zoe stepped down from the stairs leading to the mess and into the cargo bay, taking in the sight of the two women looking down expectantly to an introspective Jayne below. It was a sight she had not expected to see, or one that she was eager to walk in on again any time soon. "Kaylee." She said, not only announcing her presence but also helping to cut the awkward silence mercifully short.

The two women turned to look at her while Jayne continued to think below.

"Hey, Zoe." Kaylee beamed.

Inara gave the second a soft smile, to which Zoe gave a slight nod of her head in response. "Captain wants you in the engine room while we're landin' Kaylee." She said, choosing to ignore the groan that escaped the younger woman.

"He's gonna kill my girl the way he beats her about when we're landin'." She muttered as she pouted on her way towards the engine room.

Zoe ignored Kaylee's whining as she moved towards the engine room. "An' he asked me to come down here and see if you weren't busy." She continued giving Inara a pointed look.

"Not at all."

"Good," Zoe said, a tight smile threatening to break loose, "he needs all of the help he can get."

Inara smiled at her as she moved towards the bridge.

Zoe continued to stand on the catwalk above as Jayne continued to think below. She fixed a pointed look at him and tried to figure out how best to say what he needed to hear. "And Jayne," she piped up causing Jayne's head to snap up so he could look at her. "Best advice you can follow is whatever the hell your head is tellin' ya. You ain't ever tried to impress her before so I don't see why you ought to be tryin' now." She said with a small nod towards him before she turned to start making her way up to the bridge. "Seems to me she likes you fine the way you've always been." She said matter-of-factly as she continued on her way, never once turning back to make sure Jayne had heard it.

Jayne nodded to himself as Zoe turned and started to make her way back towards the bridge.

The ship shuttered as it hit atmo, and Jayne's body went stiff. If the ship just hit atmo, that meant someone was flyin' the ship, or that they was all gonna die, but it was more likely that someone was flyin' the ship. A certain short, skinny, big eyed, brown haired genius someone in fact, seein' as how it was her job and all.

He turned towards the nearest stairway and took the steps two at a time until he reached the top. Without wasting a second Jayne turned the corner and tore down the hall on his way to the bridge. He blew past the Doctor as he sullenly made his way to the engine room to help Kaylee work and past Zoe in the mess with little trouble before he reached the bridge.

He stared wide eyed at the person behind the wheel. While it was a familiar head of brown hair, it weren't exactly the head he was wishin' it would be.

"Jayne? There a reason you're tearin' through the ship like you've got a pack of Reavers behind ya?" Zoe asked as she moved past him and onto the bridge.

Jayne stopped glaring at the Pilot long enough to show Zoe a thoroughly ticked off face. "Gorram Mal!" he muttered before spinning around and stomped out of the room leaving a snarled "Ba xiu!" behind.

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Kaylee scurried about the engine room, trying to keep her engine in one piece as opposed to the bits that tended to come from the Captain's flyin', and doing her best to avoid tripping over Simon as he sat morosely at the door holding her toolbox.

Simon stared at the engine, the quiet humming reminding him of what River used to say about "the ship's voice", he never really understood how literally she had been speaking. He missed a lot of things when it came to his mei mei, and now, he took it one step beyond missing things and went right to ruining things.

"Gorramit, Simon, jus' go find her already would ya?" Kaylee said angrily as she marched over and took her toolbox from him. He weren't being any manner of helpful just holdin' it and not handin' her nothin' so she might as well keep it close that way she might actually get to the tools she needed before it was too late to use 'em.

"I've looked…" He said staring at the engine as it spun around, the continuous quiet humming making him all the sadder. "You know as well as anyone that if River doesn't want to be found we won't find her."

"Well, ya gotta do somethin' 'sides sittin' around here mopin'." She said as she fiddled with the engine, unflinching as sparks flew out of the engine just behind her.

"Like what?"

"I don't know, but then again I'm not the one that went and told my sister's crush that she liked him." She said as she moved over to the area the sparks came out, setting to work right away. "Or blurt out that said crush happened to like her too, good thing she already knew that or you might've screwed up even more'n ya did."

Simons face scrunched up in complete embarrassment "Oh, god, Jayne!" He buried his face in his hands and leaned back so he could lie in the doorway of the engine room. "He probably wants to kill me."

"Yup, but if'n it makes you feel any better, I have a feelin' he wanted to do that 'fore you said anything." Kaylee said finally taking her eyes off her baby to look at her disheartened boyfriend as he lay in the doorway to the engine room, his arms thrown across his face like he was tryin' to smother himself.

"That actually does make me feel better." He mumbled out from under his arms. He shook his head sadly and lifted his arms slightly so they could hover just above his face. "She likes him, and she hates me." He said plainly before dropping his arms back down onto his face. "It just isn't fair…"

"Well, life ain't fair, Simon. If it were, you an' River probably wouldn'ta ever met any of us." Kaylee said seriously.

"That's not true."

The two froze as the third voice joined in. Simon blinked for a second before sitting up quickly, arms falling to his sides. "River?"

"Yes, Simon." River answered almost exasperated.

Kaylee and Simon looked around the engine room trying to find the source of River's disembodied voice. Kaylee looked at Simon wide eyed and mouthed the words "Where is she?" to him.

Simon shook his head in confusion as he continued to look around the room. "Are you…" Simon began before shaking his head at himself; he really never thought he would have to have a conversation like this again. "Are you part of the ship again mei mei?" he asked seriously.

River sighed before she stuck her head out of a small opening in the ceiling. "No, Simon."

Kaylee stared up at River, mouth hanging open slightly. "How did you get up there?"

"River, please get down from there?" Simon asked trying to ignore the small twinge of panic from seeing his little sister half hanging upside down out of the ceiling above a box of very sharp, and probably very painful, tools.

Kaylee blinked, her brow furrowing in thought. "How often do you hide up there?" she asked, not doing a very good job at hiding why she was asking, as she looked at Simon with a slightly panicked look in her eyes.

River's eyes went wide at Kaylee's question and her eyebrows arched, but she kept her mouth firmly shut.

Simon squeezed his eyes shut in horror at the idea that his mei mei might have been up there one of the times he and Kaylee… worked on the engine together… He shook his head and took a deep breath before turning back towards River. "Please get down?" He pleaded with her desperately.

River rolled her eyes before disappearing back into the ceiling completely. Simon fought back the urge to call for her to come back, worried he'd scared her off again. Before he had the chance to re-think the calling, a pair of feet appeared in the area where River's head had just been. They were followed by a pair of legs, and eventually the rest of River's body.

"River…"

"No, Simon." River snapped, cutting him off. "I don't want to hear it."

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Jayne stomped into the mess angrily. Stupid Mal was flying the gorram ship instead of the person that ought to've been flyin' it. An' she'd be doin' a damn sight better'n he was too if'n she'd been behind the wheel.

Jayne sighed angrily and plopped himself down in his usual chair at the table. Last time he had sat here everything had gone to hell, he thought bitterly as he glared at the lantern that Kaylee had left on the table from breakfast that mornin'.

He couldn't even enjoy breakfast that mornin', he'd been too upset 'bout the night before to bother with actually chewing his food, let alone enjoying it. An' lunch had been the same. Weren't right in the least for him to stop enjoying the simple pleasure of eatin' food.

He glared at the empty seat next to him. That was where she usually sat, right next to him drivin' him 'round the bend with her nonsensical comments and thievin' ways. An' he found himself missing it more an' more the longer she stayed holed up who knows where. She hadn't been to the mess all day, he'da known she was there seein' as how he was in there every few hours his own self, 'cept when he was lookin' for her, and then he woulda heard her, or at least one of the girls woulda told him she was up there, they seemed to be on his side. So he knew that she hadn't been in the mess all day.

Come to think of it she hadn't eaten any dinner the night before either. She hadn't popped her head out for breakfast, or lunch, or a brunch... or a mid-meal snack. The gorram girl was probably starving where ever she was. Weren't like she had much to fall back on, bitty little thing like her. She weren't nothing but skin an' bones, and some muscle, but sure as hell no fat.

His stomach started to growl at the thought of food which just made him slightly more frantic. After all if he was this hungry and he had had all of those meals how the hell hungry would she be? She could be stuck somewhere an' too hungry to move an' that's why she hadn't come out yet. She could be stuck anywhere on that ship and none of 'em would ever be able to find her an' then she'd starve to death.

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Simon stared at River as she continued to glare coldly at him. He needed to at least try to apologize to her for what he did. It wasn't right that they had gone through so much together only to end up here, with her refusing to talk to him. Of course he knew she would talk to him again eventually, but he wanted to make sure that eventually happened within the next few months.

"Mei mei…"

"No Simon, no apologies." River said again, her brother really was a boob.

"But River…"

"Simon." River practically pleaded as she pushed past him in an attempt to flee the argument she knew was coming.

"Simon, maybe you should just leave her alone for a bit?" Kaylee asked him, giving him a pleading look that told him that it was more of a suggestion then a question.

Simon stared at Kaylee for a moment before shaking his head, he couldn't let his sister leave without at least trying to make things better, he hated when someone he cared about was mad at him, and he had a great deal of experience in it too. "River…" Simon spun around and followed her out of the engine room. "Where are you going?"

"Doesn't matter." She muttered sulkily as she turned the corner and started to make her way towards the cargo bay. "Won't be there long." She just needed to stay hidden long enough for Jayne to leave the ship, then she could figure out what to do with herself.

Simon sighed to himself as he continued to follow River into the cargo bay. "Please stop," he asked her halfheartedly, he knew she wouldn't so it was rather pointless, "we need to talk."

River shook her head as she moved to the stairs that lead down into the cargo bay. She just had to get Simon to leave her alone long enough for her to relocate to another one of her hiding spots, then it was simply a matter of time. "No, we don't Simon. You need to talk to help ease your mind and make you feel less responsible for my current state of lugubriosity." She said as she started to make her way down the stairs. She could hide in one of the, now empty, storage spots where the Captain stashed their stolen goods. Jayne wouldn't think to look there, it was too obvious.

"I can't just let you run off to hide again, mei mei." Simon said making sure to stay close on her tracks, the last thing he needed was to fall behind and loose her again altogether.

"That's exactly what you can do." River stated stubbornly as she marched down the stairs.

"You can't just keep running off and hiding." Simon said tearing down the stairs after her. "You can't hide forever." He knew all about that, it's why he and Kaylee had stayed apart for so long. He had been hiding, granted for different reasons, and he didn't want to see River go through all of that, not if he could help her learn through his mistakes.

River paused on the stairs. He was right, she couldn't hide forever and it was foolish to try. She spun around to look up at her big brother who stood a step above her and was currently fixing her with an irritating "I know more than you" look. River glared at him slightly. "Been around the Captain too long." She said before spinning around and continuing on her way.

"What does that mean?"

River rolled her eyes and kept walking.

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Mal flipped the three overhead switches to shut Serenity down now that they were finally on Persephone. "Well, that was the longest two day trip I ever went through." Mal muttered as he spun his chair around to face Zoe and Inara.

"Still got a day to kill before we have any real work to be doin'." Zoe reminded him with a small smirk.

Mal groaned and let his head fall back to lean against the pilots seat. "Think we'll make it that long with those two?" He asked seriously, trying to ignore the small twinge at the back of his head, last thing he needed was his headache starting up this soon.

"They aren't that bad, Mal." Inara said tilting her head to the side and giving him a small smile.

Mal's head shot up and the pointed a skeptical stare her way. "Yes, they are…How have you not noticed?"

Zoe continued to smirk at the Captain. "Don't much see how it matters. You can always just stay off the ship until we head back out."

Mal turned in the chair to face Zoe more than Inara before he answered. "As much as I like the sound of that, it's a bit more complicated. I gotta be here when Badger waves us with the coordinates of the drop."

Zoe nodded slowly. "Can we trust these men we're doin' business with, Sir?" She asked seriously, though she was more than sure she already knew the answer.

"No." Mal answered honestly, giving Zoe a blank look. "But I figure that just leaves us exactly where we always are." He said, again being completely honest. Weren't no point in lying about it. She'd know they were 'bout as crooked as they came the second she saw 'em, that and the fact that they were doing business with them and Badger, which was always a dead give away to anyone's moral character.

Inara shook her head as she finished shutting down the ship. "One of these days Mal you're going to regret being 'where we always are'." She said simply giving him a flat look.

"One of these days?" he asked as Inara stood up and started making her way out of the bridge, "I already regret it." He said as he followed the two women out of the cockpit and into the mess where they were met with an extremely down trodden Mercenary. "(Damn)Chinese?, Jayne, if I knew you were gonna mope about this much after knowing how she felt about you, I might not have pushed so gorram hard to get the two of you together."

Jayne gave Mal a disgusted half grin. "Ha ha." He said darkly before moving his eyes back to the table top.

Inara gave Mal a look that bordered on annoyed before Zoe spoke up. "What are you going to do before the drop off, Jayne?"

"Sit here." He muttered angrily as he crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.

"Sounds boring." Zoe said as her brow furrowed in confusion by Jayne's choice of "leisure activity".

"Yup."

Mal gave Zoe a look of slight worry; this was not the way he expected this to go. Granted he expected Jayne to have admitted how he felt a long time ago and by now, to be deeply annoyed with his very large, very scary, Mercenary acting love struck as he went through the whole "new relationship" phase of his romance with River.

When that fell through, he had expected to be deeply annoyed having to drag Jayne back from the nearest bar completely smashed. Then to be deeply annoyed when he got shot at and his Merc wasn't there to help keep him from actually getting hit by the bullets.

Nowhere in those two scenarios did he expect the man to be sitting about glumly in the mess of Serenity for hours on end.

"Jayne, you can't just sit in here and feel sorry for yourself," Mal began to say as he gave the other man a long stare. "That's Simon's job right now… Don't need to pay two of you to do it."

Inara gave Mal another somewhat annoyed look. "You can't blame Simon for this, not entirely."

"I blame Mal." Jayne said cutting Inara off. "Ya know it's easy to blame Mal when things go wrong since, so very often, it really is his fault that everything went to hell."

"Hey!" the Captain proclaimed angrily, pointing a very stern finger in Jayne's direction. "No blaming me." He said in a voice that edged on whiny. "For once this isn't all my fault… I'm faultless." He explained to the whole room.

"Let's not get extreme, Mal." Inara said giving him a half smile, trying to tame his disillusionment.

"It's not that extreme." he muttered darkly to the room.

Inara shook her head, choosing to ignore Mal's comment, much like everyone else in the mess was doing. "Jayne, you just need to give her some time." Inara explained, trying to help him relax and stop feeling like he'd ruined any chance he might have had to be with River.

"Right, 'cause givin' me time worked out all kinds of shiny."

"I'm very often right…" Mal continued to talk to himself.

"She'll come around, Jayne." Inara continued to ignore Mal and concentrate on helping Jayne feel better about his current situation. "She was embarrassed in front of her entire family by the person she trusts the most, and it takes time to get over something like that." She explained simply.

"Yeah, sure, Doc messed up. He always messes up." Jayne growled up as he continued to sit in his chair, though now more annoyed than depressed. "Why didn't she just say somethin'? Why's she gotta play games an' dance around lettin' me know she had feelings too?"

"Why didn't you say something?"

"I…" Jayne snapped his mouth shut at Mal's comment. Gorram man had a point. "'Cause she knew how I felt, while I didn't know how she felt!"

"Bù jīng zhī tán! She figured out you had feelings for her by the way you acted, not by readin' your gorram brain." Mal said glaring at his hired gun, the man was miles beyond dense… might even be denser than the Doc. "You started actin' different and she noticed, an' she's been acting different around you just as long, you just didn't take to noticin' it."

"Well, why the hell didn't someone say something?"

"We did!" Mal shouted out exasperated by the conversation. "You just didn't want to listen to any of us."

"You didn't say 'River likes ya, Jayne. So you should just go an' tell her you like her too.' Mal, I'dve remembered that."

"I didn't realize I had to be that literal!"

"'Course you've got to be that literal!"

The two men glared at each other. One pissed as hell that he missed his chance to take action. The other a bit peeved at the fact that his little pilot was getting blamed for the whole mess that was obviously Jayne's fault, Jayne and Simon's fault really.

Inara looked between the two men and shook her head softly. "Jayne, you can't just stay holed up on the ship the whole time we're here."

"Wasn't plannin' on it." He snapped at her, still angry at Mal for sticking his nose where it didn't belong. "I'm gonna go make the drop. That'll get me off the ship." He explained turning back to stare at the wall on the other side of the mess, that way he wouldn't be glaring at Mal and getting the urge to do something stupid, like punch him.

"Yes, while I'm sure Mal is terribly confident in your abilities with the mood you've been in lately, I'm sure Zoe won't appreciate being the only one with her mind actually on the task, and not getting shot." She explained in a half amused voice, those two were like a pair of brooding teens.

"Don't matter, only he'll get shot." Jayne muttered, still refusing to look at anyone else in the room.

"Oh!" Mal shouted angrily, that was just shiny. Here he was, payin' Jayne to do a job, and he didn't even care if he got it done anymore.

Inara cut off Mal's already forming tirade on Jayne with a quick glare before she turned back to the sullen man. "And that's not true, the last time we dealt with Badger, you were the one that was shot."

Jayne sighed to himself she had a point. He'd pushed Zoe out of the way and gotten hit in the process, which really weren't what he was aimin' to do. He'd just been trying to push her out of the way, not step into the spot where she had just been. Gorram Badger.

"You need to get off the ship and clear your mind, Jayne. It's what's best for both you and the rest of the crew." Inara continued taking Jayne's silent scowl as the closest thing to an agreement that she would be getting. "Besides, no one can find River anywhere, and if Mal does get shot on the job today, we won't have any way off the planet when you all get back." She explained. Jayne wasn't nearly as stupid as he could act half of the time. He'd listen to her. After all, it was what was best for everyone.

Stupid Badger gotta always try'n pull one over on 'em, and gorram Inara for making a valid point on the whole matter. "Ba xiu, I ain't goin' anywhere." He said stubbornly. She might've had a point but what if River decided to finally come outta hiding soon? It'd be just his luck that she'd finally pop her head out soon as he left the ship, and then he'd be outta luck on that front.

Whether Mal or 'Nara liked to admit it or not pullin' off their latest job weren't exactly on the top of his list of most important things to accomplish today, 'cause he needed to get to tellin' River how he felt sooner rather'n later and that happened to be whole heaps more important than gettin' shot at by Badger's guys.

Inara blinked, a little taken aback by Jayne's decision. He looked like he was ready to agree with her just a second ago. "Excuse me?"

"I ain't leavin' the ship 'til I gotta." He said again grumpily.

Mal glared at Jayne. Now, the Merc had gone and truly pissed him off. "Yes, you are."

"No, I'm not Mal."

Mal continued to glare at Jayne, though it hadn't quite taken on the cold anger that a good deal of the glares he aimed at the other man usually did, though it was getting close. "Don't make me make it an order, Jayne."

Jayne scoffed at Mal and rolled his eyes. "Right, 'cause I take orders so well from you most of the time."

"I can be very persuasive Jayne… or annoying, either one works for me."

Jayne just leaned back in his chair and continued to glare at Mal for all he was worth, weren't like he was gonna step down and let the Captain think he'd won.

"Maybe we should just leave him alone." Inara said eyeing the stubborn Mercenary wearily. She really did hope that he and River got past all of this soon. She wasn't sure how much more advice she could keep dishing out when all she really wanted to do was shout in anger at their constant back and forth.

"No." Mal said giving Inara a slightly hurt glare, she was supposed to be on his side and back him up on all of this. Oh well, he could do it on his own if she was gonna be like that. "It's my ship, an' he's my crew," He explained to Inara before turning to again glare at Jayne, "That means you have to do what I say."

Jayne just snorted again and gave Mal a slightly cocky grin.

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

River sighed as she walked towards the smuggling area that she had intended to use as her hiding spot. She wearily eyed the remains of several crates that had been brutally murdered as she walked over there. Someone had been in a bad mood earlier.

She sighed loudly and turned around to glare at her brother. "Simon. Go back to Kaylee." She ordered pointing back the way they had come. He was like a puppy that had followed her home one day, an annoying puppy that she did not want and certainly did not need.

"Not until you talk to me." He stated crossing his arms across his chest, if she wanted to be stubborn well he could be just as stubborn.

River sighed melodramatically; he was making it exceedingly difficult to ruminate on her current situation. "Please?" She asked in her best sweet and sad voice.

"River, hiding isn't going to help any." He said trying to console her.

River groaned angrily stomping her foot before marching past Simon.

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

Jayne grumbled with each step he took as Mal practically pushed him out of the mess. "Don't see why you're makin' such a fuss over it."

"'Cause I don't wanna get shot tomorrow." Mal answered giving Jayne another good shove towards the stairs that would take them down to the common room. "We're gonna go into town and get drunk today, that way you'll be too smashed tonight to forget about getting any sleep." He continued to explain as he made sure Jayne kept moving. "That way, when tomorrow comes 'round, you'll be all manners of pissed that you didn't get to mope about all day today and you'll take it out on the bad guys."

Jayne snorted as he made his way down the stairs. "Ain't we the bad guys most've the time?"

Mal paused for a moment as he thought about that. "Yeah but, not tomorrow… Tomorrow, we're slightly less bad than the other guys." He explained as he stared down the stairs again. "Besides, we're not bad to us, just to everyone else."

Jayne shook his head and gave Mal a confused look. "That supposed to make us not bad guys overall?"

Mal paused for a moment "…no…"

"Mal, you an' Zoe go to the bar. I don't feel like it." He complained as they finally reached the common room.

"No, you're going whether you like it or not."

"Gorramit, Mal just let me stay here." He barked angrily. "I promise I won't get ya shot tomorrow." He added on lamely to the end, trying to make it sound less like a demand and more like a very persuasive suggestion.

"That's very kind of you, but no. You're comin'."

"You can't make me." Jayne said glaring down at the smaller man. "Only reason I left the mess was 'cause I needed ta get to lookin' for River again." He said, and it was only a half lie. Mal could be intimidating, but he could never let him know that were the truth, and he really did need to keep looking for River.

Zoe raised one eyebrow as Jayne made up reasons to be left alone, and she had to say it was rather disheartening. Any second now, he would be begging to be left behind so he could spend more time searching the ship with no luck. "Maybe we should just leave him here, Sir."

Mal quickly turned towards his second, or the backstabber as she would soon be known, as if she didn't stop taking everyone else's side soon. "What?"

"Just think he might be better off stayin' here is all, Sir."

Jayne smirked slightly as Mal opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water. Yup, that put him in his place. He was about to make a comment on how if'n Mal didn't have Zoe on his side he sure as hell weren't goin' anywhere he didn't want to go no matter how much the Captain threatened him. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately it really depended on your point of view, he never had the chance. He was too busy staring in a shocked stupor at the small girl standing in the doorway a few feet away.

River froze, her eyes going wide in shock, and maybe a little horror, as she stood in the doorway between the cargo bay and the common room.

"River?" Simon asked concernedly as he tried to push past her to see what had shocked her still.

River shook her head slowly and took a tentative step backwards, and that's when Simon saw what had stopped her dead in her tracks. Standing on the other side of the common room was the only other person he needed to apologize to, and probably the only other person his mei mei didn't want to see.

Jayne took a large step forward, and damn it all if he wasn't going to have to thank Mal for makin' him leave the mess now. "River…"

River spun around and darted off into the cargo bay, pushing past Simon on her way.

Jayne took another few steps forward before he growled "Ba xiu!" and spun around to make his way back up the stairs he and Mal had just come down. "Stay here case she doubles back!" He barked out to Mal as he flew up the stairs, making sure to take them two at a time.

Inara stopped just short of her shuttle when she heard the sound of boots pounding on the grating below. She turned to stare down into the cargo bay as River came barreling out of the common room, running to the stairs as though a ship full of Reavers were following. "River?"

Stupid Simon, he ruined everything… again! River thought frantically as she ran up the stairs, unheeding of anything that was going on around her. If Simon hadn't been distracting her, she would have known Jayne was in the common room, and she would have avoided it at all costs. Now, she was running like a woman possessed to only Buddha knows where. Inara blocked off the shuttle, and Mal and Simon were still downstairs, they would doubtlessly follow her to any hiding spot she would think of picking and give away her position in seconds.

Kaylee brushed a few stray strands of her hair out of her face, smudging a good deal of engine grease on her forehead in the process, as she watched her friend dart up the steps and turn the corn coming right at her. "Riv?" She asked worriedly before she jumped out of the way.

The young genius kept right on running, paying no attention to the quizzical looks she got along the way, she didn't have time for that just now.

Kaylee turned away from the hall her friend had just fled down and gave Inara a baffled look. "Wha?"

"I have no idea." She answered; looking down the hall River had just disappeared down. "But I have a feeling we'll know soon enough." She finished as she looked down to see Simon, Mal and Zoe walk out of the room River had just run from.

"What did you do?" Kaylee asked accusingly as she glared down at the two men in the cargo bay.

"I didn't do anything." Mal said staring, open mouthed, up at the two women. "Why's it y'all are always blamin' me for everything? Gripe on him for a while." He said disgustedly as he waved an angry hand at Simon, who simply glared at the Captain for all he was worth.

Zoe shook her head slightly before looking back up at Kaylee and Inara. "Jayne found her."

A startled, yet extremely excited, gasp came out of Kaylee as she threw her hands up to cover her mouth in a futile attempt to keep her glee on the quiet side. "Shiny."

Mal did a double take up at the mechanic. "Shiny? More like 'bout damn time." He said still slightly annoyed by being blamed for River's running off.

"Well, that could bode well for the rest of us." Inara said with a smile, choosing to ignore Mal's comments.

"I just hope they know what they're doing." Simon said fidgeting where he was standing. This was it. One way, his mei mei would probably be crying for hours on end. The other, she would be happy and romantically attached to a man that would never have been worth her time had she… Well, he just had to hope for that second one.

"It'll all turn out fine, Simon." Kaylee said as she looked down the hallway behind her, giddy at the idea of Jayne an' River bein' together. They'd be so gorram cute!

"Yeah, if they don't mess it all up." Mal said offhandedly. "Which is why we're going up that way to make sure they get everything sorted out." He said with a happy grin as he looked around at his able bodied crew.

The women all shared a groan and Simon shook his head.

"Sir, don't interfere." Zoe said seriously, giving Mal her "I'm not joking" face. "I don't want to have to shoot you, but I will."

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

She needed to get somewhere where he couldn't follow so she could think, and she needed to do it quickly. Unfortunately, as her body took off, her brain seemed to fall a step or two behind, something she wasn't used to in the least. She was still trying to come up with a suitable hiding spot even as she passed most of them by. Forget it! She'd just lock herself on the bridge, Jayne wasn't known for his patience so she could just out wait him.

River jumped the few steps that lead down into the mess and pushed her way around the table, only a few more yards and she was home free. She would have smiled had the situation been any different, and less pathetic… She was running, literally running, away from the man she claimed to care for. The whole ordeal was highly irregular, love wasn't supposed to be this way.

Just as she took to the first step leading up to the crew's bunks a rather hulkish form blocked her path. She stopped immediately, just short of running into him. This did not bode well for her original plan to out wait him.

Jayne threw his arm out to grab a hold of the other side of the doorway to keep River from pulling some fancy ass spin she learned from dancin', or worse, and movin' right past him like it was nothing.

"Thought you'd get away?" Jayne asked as he stared down at River's slightly panicked face. "I've been hired to hunt down men no one could find, 'cross planets weren't fit for livin'. Ain't no one gets away from Jayne Cobb 'less he let's 'em go, an' some Core-bred slip of a girl ain't gonna be the first." He continued as he took large slow steps towards her.

River took equally large steps backwards, which was harder for her given how small she was in comparison, as Jayne continued to move towards her. This wasn't right. He wasn't supposed to have been in front of her… How did he get in front of her? She had been in the lead and he had been following. It was physically impossible for him to have appeared in front of her if he had been behind her only moments ago.

She looked nervous, which made him nervous. What was she so nervous about? Maybe she didn't feel the same an' that's why she's been hiding, because her brother had blabbered on like a fool about something completely untrue. But that couldn't be. Everyone seemed awful sure about her feelings towards him an' they couldn't all be wrong. Maybe after the awful start their would-be relationship was gettin' off to made her stop an' think, an' now she's come to her senses and doesn't know how to tell everyone it was just a phase… He didn't want to be a gorram phase.

She looked around her carefully, as though any large movements would set him off… to do what she didn't know. All she knew was that she wanted to avoid any possible going offness. They were in the mess… which explained how he got in front of her. "The other stairs…" she muttered to herself. Had she not been staring down Jayne at the moment, she would have hit herself upside the head for being so stupid and not noticing the quite obvious reason to his sudden appearance before her.

"Yeah, the other stairs." He practically growled out. Ya know if'n he was just a phase she really needed to say somethin' and let him know so he could get on with his life. She was bein' all kinds of unfair to fall in an' right out of… like… with him. He didn't do that to her.

As Jayne took another step forward, River took another back. A small squeak escaped her mouth as she hit into the edge of the table, so much for avoiding direct confrontation, at least when she wasn't backed up against the table she had a small glimmer of hope to escape. "Bad things happen in this room." She said quietly as she began to frantically search the room yet again, as though a sudden escape route would sprout out of thin air and she would be home free. Granted she knew there would inevitably be an after to this whole debacle, but she could deal with that when it got here.

She took a deep, shaky breath. He was angry. It was practically pouring off him in waves, plus he was wearing that "I don't need anyone in my life for me to live my life just fine" scowl he got when someone he cared for was making him angry.

She nearly stomped her foot. He wasn't allowed to be angry at her, that wasn't fair. Just because she didn't want to hit him over the head with a heavy and blunt object to get his attention before announcing, in no uncertain terms, that she had a deep infatuation with him didn't mean that she was at fault for everything. He was the one who didn't notice how much she liked him. He was the one who had initiated the what one could call "courtship" procedures after he followed her down into the common room to make her feel better after the Captain had embarrassed her in front of the crew. He was the one that was being nicer to everyone, even Simon, and sharing looks and brief touches… This was all his fault!

"We need to talk." Jayne announced surely. Whether she wanted him or not, she was gonna hear how he felt. He didn't care how long it took. He'd had enough of running, he'd been running for goin' on two months now, and he refused to wait another two for her chance to run. It was time to get this settled.

River looked up at him then, and her eyes filled with that same look she'd given him the other day, before he ran down into his bunk to hide. The panic and shock was gone, and all that was left was hope. Jayne knew this was his last chance to make right all of the wrong that had been their relationship so far, and he suddenly found it was very difficult to do said talking. After all, talking was not his strength.

It was like time had slowed down completely and nothing existed outside of the mess, which sounded like something Mal would say about him but for different reasons than the one he had now. His Ma had always said that love weren't like was in the books an' on the Cortex, it was harder'n all of that. A person didn't always meet someone and simply know they were meant to be together. Things like that take time and most of that time got spent not realizing what's right under your nose, but when you got past hatin' each other, or ignoring each other, or just plain not understanding how you felt about each other, and realized it was more'n all that, then you couldn't let it just pass you by because love didn't tend to come back around quite as often as some would like.

He had all of the reasons why they needed to stop hiding from each other. He knew why they should be together. Heck, he even knew that if he didn't tell her that he loved her he would regret it for the rest of his miserable life, because it would be miserable without her. It was like he had lived his whole life without ever really feeling anything until the day he realized how he felt about her, probably before that even, he was just too thick to realize it at the time.

Which sounded great in his head, and was exactly what he should be telling her, it just seemed to be havin' trouble coming out quite right. Somewhere between his brain and his mouth everything he wanted to say turned into "uh…" and that weren't cutting it.

River breathed out a silent sigh before her eyes darted down to the floor between the two of them. This is exactly what she had wanted to avoid all day, an awkward confrontation to help them deal with the whole situation. She was slightly crazy and he wasn't good with words. It was doomed to be a bad situation one way or another.

Oh gorramit, he was ruining it, his one chance! Wasn't fair in the least, not like he could help how tongue tied he got when he knew he had to say something important. It put all kinds of pressure on a guy, and she looked so shiny standing there. The light from that stupid lantern of Kaylee's glowing right behind her like it was, glinting off the utensils laid out on the table, kind of put a warm halo around her.

River gulped slightly, still staring at the floor between the two of them. He was a few steps away, apparently as soon as she hit the table he decided to stop coming towards her which was nice because she had no way of continuing to move away from him if he had kept coming towards her. She could make a get away if she wanted, she could move fast enough he wouldn't be able to stop her… but where would she run off to?

This was foolish, running away from her problems. She needed to just face it head on. If he couldn't say the words he felt, or worse refused to, then she would just have to accept that. That and the fact that she'd be alone forever. He liked her, she knew that for a fact, but that didn't necessarily mean they would ever end up together. He was a complicated man, even if no one else on the crew seemed to want to acknowledge it, and a man like him had reasons for never having relationships. She couldn't make him want to be with her, no more than she could make Simon stop saying the wrong thing to everyone. It wasn't supposed to end up like this. She had thought out several different possible outcomes and none of them ended even remotely like this one had.

This was not the way it was supposed to be going. He was supposed to be saying something; anything. Didn't matter if it sounded good or not just so long as he said it an' she heard it. Of all the things he could be doing, nothing was right up there with the worst. Seeing River go from panicked, to shocked, to hopeful and then end up at disappointed was eating him up inside. This was much harder than he thought it would be.

"Ba xiu!" He growled out before taking another large step forward and closing the space between the two of them. His hands cupped her face softly, his touch feather light, as he moved down to gently place his lips on hers.

Her eyes went wide and her body went ridged the instant his lips met hers. It was like nothing she had ever experienced before, or read about in any of her books. Her stomach churned and a feeling, far too similar to nausea, took over for a split second before her body went completely numb.

For a moment she thought she had died. Her brain seemed to stop working entirely and for the life of her she couldn't make her body respond the way she would have wanted it to, that is if her brain was still working. But her heart was racing and it seemed impossible that Jayne couldn't hear it.

That thought, of all things, seemed to be the one that triggered her brain into a properly functioning mode. An all-encompassing warmth surrounded her as she relaxed into his embrace. She felt like a princess from one of the fairytales from Earth-that-was, finally waking up. She sighed happily as Jayne slid one of his hands around the base of her skull to tangle in her hair, as his other slid down her body to wrap around her waist, bringing her even closer.

He was in heaven, weren't any other way to describe it an' do it any kind of justice. He wasn't sure why he did it, but he sure as hell wasn't going to take it back. Kissing her had definitely been the right thing to say. At first he'd been a little panicked, or completely terrified either one worked; as she just stood there that he had made the biggest mistake of his life. But she relaxed, and soon after responded, and all was right with the 'Verse. And gorramit if it didn't feel good havin' to wrap his arms around her tightly as her knees gave out, though knowing he was the reason for her knees giving out felt just a little bit better.

He slowly pulled back so he could look down at her face, arms still wrapped around her body tightly, as if the 'Verse might come tumbling down on top of him if he let go. Her shining smile finally helped him find the words. "Do you want to meet my ma?"

The End

AN: part two (electric boogaloo) I feel so freakin' corny after that ending... I'm not cut out for the romance/fluff stuff. I can't write it for shit. Can I please go back to torturing people now?