Disclaimer: The wonderful characters and the good ship Serenity all belong to Joss Whedon, or Mutant Enemy, or Fox, or whoever actually owns them, and that person or entity is definitely not me. Written for amusement purposes only. No copyright infringement intended or implied.

Rating: M, for some sensuality

Summary: Post BDM. An angry Jayne throws down the gauntlet to River, with unexpected results. Rayne.

Showdown

"I could so take her," Jayne insisted. "Soakin' wet she don't weigh no more'n a rat."

Mal shook his head, chuckling.

"She'd kick your pi gu all around the 'verse and back, Jayne, and you know it."

"She might come at ya with that big bad beer tray again, Jayne." Kaylee joined in cheerfully. "Or give your sac another twist –" Leaning against the counter to the kitchen, Jayne suddenly lunged at her as if he was going to smack her and Kaylee dodged away, shrieking and laughing.

"Shi an jin! At least I got somethin' to twist, unlike your candy-ass fuck buddy." Jayne settled back and folded his impressive arms across his chest. "Now that I know exactly what she is –"

"Your superior in every way?" Simon said contemptuously, coming into the dining room from the stairs. He'd obviously heard the beginning of their conversation.

Jayne glared at the doctor with dislike and kept talking. "- I'd be prepared, like."

"I'd pay money to see that." Zoë gave a rare laugh.

"Who'd you bet on?" Mal asked her interestedly. "I'd wager on River."

"River," Kaylee nodded, deeming it safe to return to her seat.

"Definitely River," Simon sat down next to her at the table.

Zoë seemed to be pondering.

"You really think there's a contest?" Simon gave a disdainful laugh.

"He's mighty big…but she's mighty fast…" Zoë trailed off thoughtfully.

Jayne, completely insulted at the lack of support, looked at her beseechingly.

"Oh, c'mon, Zo'!"

"Oh, all right, Jayne," Zoë conceded generously. "I'd wager on you."

He looked relieved to have at least one member of the crew on his side.

"Wager on what?" River drifted down from the bridge, wearing one of her long, droopy sweaters and a filmy skirt. Her bare feet slipped gracefully across the floor. She didn't look like she could lift a kitten, much less take on six foot four inches of exceedingly muscular man.

"We're just havin' a little fun speculatin' on whether Jayne could take you in a fight, lil' albatross."

"Waste of time," River smiled, gliding over to the table and sitting down across from Simon.

"Exactly!" Jayne crowed in triumph. "Even crazy here admits it."

The smile fell away from River's face and her eyes narrowed at the big mercenary.

"I've told you before not to call me that. I meant: it would be a waste of time for you to try and overcome me in combat. You're slow, and you're stupid, and you're old."

There was a distinct chill in the air as they glared at each other.

"And I could still take you," Jayne lifted his lip in an unpleasant sneer.

"I doubt it." River raised a mocking eyebrow.

"Hah."

"I'm not afraid of you." River gave a twisted little smile.

"And I ain't afraid a you." He smirked right back.

"All right, all right," Mal sighed, playing father. "Settle down."

"No," Jayne shook his head, his eyes locked with River's. "I ain't gonna settle down. I want it proved once n' fer all that if I'da been tryin' to hurt her in the Maidenhead, she woulda got hurt."

"Name the time and place, wen wu de mei yong," River said coolly.

Kaylee gasped a little at the insult.

"Cargo bay, in an hour. We'll see then who's useless." Jayne switched his furious gaze to Mal. "I think you said somethin' about takin' bets? I'll cover 'em."

Mal laughed. "Hell, yeah."

"River," Simon said uneasily, "I don't think this is such a good idea."

"No, Simon, it's an excellent idea, and long overdue," River said, with clear confidence. "The cargo bay it is."

&&&&&&&

Chinese:

Pi gu - ass

shi an jin – be quiet

wen wu de mei yong – useless relic

&&&&&&&

The bets, a combination of heavy coins and ship duties scribbled on small pieces of paper, were down, the combatants were in place. The spectators were seated or leaning against the crates that lined the walls of the cargo bay. Inara was on the landing of the stairs closest to her shuttle, in order to make a clean getaway if it all became too violent. She'd declined to place a wager, and was very pessimistic about any good coming out of this event.

Mal was trying to figure out if there should be any rules, and then just shrugged. "This thing will be over when it comes clear that one a you has got the better of t'other. And there's not to be killin', either, 'cause I do not want to deal with blood or body parts or speakin' kindly over your stiff corpse, Jayne. I mean, either of yours."

"Thanks, Mal," Jayne said sarcastically. He was standing in the middle of the cargo bay, about ten feet from River. He was still wearing his usual cargo pants, t-shirt and boots, and River's only clothing concession had been to put on her black boots with the buckles, on account of the gratings. They faced each other, big man and little girl, in an adversarial stance that should have been ridiculous, if not for the look of quiet control on the girl's face.

"How are you feeling, River?" Simon asked anxiously from the sidelines. "You don't have to do this, you know. Everyone realizes who's going to win. It would be kinder on your part to call this off before you hurt him too badly."

"Oh, shut up," Jayne mumbled, rolling his eyes.

"Well, then, go to it," Mal said, leaning back against the crate, smiling avidly.

Jayne lifted his fists, holding them loosely in front of his sides, and bounced a few times as if to ready his muscles. River stood quietly, just watching him. Jayne edged forward a few feet, taunting her.

"Well, come on, then, crazy. Bring it. Show me what you got."

River gave a little smile, still not moving.

"What are you gonna do, stand there all day?" he sniped at her, adrenaline causing him to keep moving, shifting around her in a circle.

"I don't think I'll have to." River assured him, following him with her eyes, pivoting with one graceful step.

Jayne snorted, his spiraling movements gradually bringing him closer.

"This is bor-r-ring!" Mal complained in a singsong voice. "Will one a you do something?"

Kaylee gave a surprised giggle, and then clapped her hand over her mouth.

Jayne growled suddenly, and attacked. River slipped sideways and he lurched into the empty space where she had been. River raised one black boot in a smooth arc and kicked him in the back of the head. The sound of boot meeting skull echoed throughout the cargo bay and the force snapped Jayne's head forward and drove him to one knee.

Inara cried out in protest.

Mal face slackened in shock: suddenly, this wasn't quite so amusing.

The blank look on River's face was chilling as she looped back toward Jayne with intent. He was still reeling a bit as he forced himself to his feet, his expression murderous. River came directly at him, taking advantage of his unsteady state. Her fists uncoiled in a swift spray of blows, and she spun around to elbow him in the gut. Jayne's musculature had come in handy, however, and although her blows had force, they hadn't damaged him. He grabbed her elbow before it made contact and wrenched her arm up high enough to cause her to cry out. He swung her around and backhanded her across the face. River sprawled to the floor for only a second before she was back on her feet, and whirling toward him. Jayne managed to counter her strikes, and send out a few punches of his own, but he was being driven backwards toward a stack of crates. She ended with a roundhouse kick to the jaw that sent him flying back into the crates, which collapsed around him.

"Oh, shit," Mal muttered.

Jayne emerged from the tumbled crates with a bellow, and plowed River down, using his best weapon, sheer mass, against her. She struggled fiercely as he held her to the ground, immobile. After a few minutes of strained wrestling, River gave an infuriated cry. They all watched in disbelief as she arched herself backwards into a bow and pulled a knife out of her boot. Jayne saw the flash of metal and grabbed her wrist, grinning evilly as he wrapped a powerful arm around her neck, a jackknife flicking out of his hand, pointed right at her jugular.

"Mal!" Inara shouted in fear. "Stop this!"

"River…" Simon's eyes were wide, and Kaylee was holding him back by the arm.

"Hey, now! This was supposed to be funny, I mean, fun, y'all. You'd best be puttin' that steel back where it came from." Mal warned, stepping forward slightly and holding out one hand out in a placating way, the other hovering over his holster.

There was tense silence, with River and Jayne held stock-still on the floor, neither one wanting to give in or move.

Gritting his teeth in a snarl, Jayne eased his mouth close to River's head.

"Come back here at midnight…and we'll finish this," he hissed into her ear.

River's eyes flashed up at him and she gave a tight nod.

By tacit agreement they broke apart, and rolled away from each other, both breathing heavily, both still on the alert for a move from the other.

"Well, I'd say that Jayne got the better of her, sir," Zoë grinned and scooped up the money and the chore chits on the table.

"I'm just glad neither of 'em is broke or bleedin'," Kaylee still looked stunned. "Where'd those knives come from? One minute it's just punches, and the next –" she shuddered a little bit.

"Come here, bao bei," Simon said reassuringly, pulling Kaylee in for a comforting hug. He looked warily at the two people still staring at each other. "I'm sure that neither one of them really intended to use the knives."

River's eyes narrowed and Jayne gave a slight snort.

"Much." Simon ended weakly.

&&&&&&&

Chinese:

bao bei – sweetheart

&&&&&&&

At twenty minutes to midnight, Jayne entered the darkened bay cautiously, looking around. He already had his knife in his hand, just in case. It was quiet, and the crates had been restacked, and everything seemed normal. As he stepped out from under the catwalk the hair on the back of his head stood on end, and he looked up, a second too late.

She landed on him like an avenging angel, driving him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him and straddling his back, one hand cupping his jaw, the other braced against his shoulder. Her floaty skirt settled around them like a colorful shroud.

River leaned down, her long hair trailing across his arm with the erratic strokes of a spider's legs. Jayne shuddered.

"If you move a muscle, I'll snap your neck at the third cervical vertebrae, and you'll be twitching an eyebrow to say yes and no for the rest of your sorry life," she breathed into his ear. "Dong ma?"

Jayne gave an almost soundless whine of concession.

River sat back, satisfied. She took the jackknife from his limp hand, flicked it open, and very precisely slit the back of his shirt from collar to hem. When Jayne felt the material part and the cool air hit his flesh, he gave an unstoppable whimper.

"Don't be such a baby," River gave a smirk as she pushed the loose ends of the shirt away and let the knife clatter to the floor. Looking down at her handiwork with a pleased expression, she spread her small hands across his thickly muscled back, flexing her fingers into his skin.

"You' re so…dense," she murmured with wicked delight as her hands slid up and into the short hair at the back of his head, pulling so tightly at the roots that his head lifted off the ground. She released him and giggled as his head flopped down roughly and he swore under his breath. She let her hands roam around his broad shoulders and down to his strong wrists. She tipped forward, and her mouth found the red dragon tattoo on his left upper arm. She sucked the skin over the snarling head into her mouth until she felt a small welt form, then looked down at the hickey with a husky laugh, her breath misting across the slightly raised skin. She licked the spot with leisurely strokes, Jayne groaning helplessly with each movement.

"Red dragon…like Satan in the bible…the great deceiver…" she murmured. She dragged her tongue up, slowly, across the sun-starred yin and yang symbol, employing the moist tip very delicately to outline the letters "M" and "A," before continuing all the way to the last scale of the tail, feeling Jayne quivering beneath her ministrations.

"I can't stand it –" he whispered hoarsely, and suddenly he shoved off from the ground, knocking River roughly to the floor and rolling rapidly to haul her into his arms. "Go ahead and paralyze me then, you little bitch!" He claimed her mouth with shaking urgency.

River's arms came around him, trying to pull him closer, her slim legs wrapping around his waist as she strained up against him. They kissed with a blazing sensual energy that made their earlier combat look tame in comparison. Their frantic hands were in motion, stroking and touching every available inch of flesh, shifting and stripping off essential clothing, finding well-known pleasure spots. Jayne drove into her with mindless desire, watching in satisfaction as she found her pleasure and he took his own. As they lay together, gasping, he gave a loud moan of protest.

"I swore I'd never do this again, darlin', these gratings are hell on my knees."

"Well, what about my back?" River sighed, a relaxed smile on her face.

"And why'd ya gotta ruin another one of my shirts?" Jayne huffed, exasperated, as he rolled a little bit away and got his clothing under control. He lifted up the shreds of the shirt and then tossed them away in disgust. He handed River her panties and watched in appreciation as she lifted her legs and slid them on with one agile movement.

"I just can't wait to see you naked," she pouted over at him, and he grinned reluctantly.

"Wei feng, huh?" he flexed his pecs.

"Oh, god, yes, and your dragon…" she gave a shivery sigh, running her hands all over him, ending at the back of his neck and trying to drag him to her.

Jayne couldn't help it; he had to kiss her again.

"I totally got you this time," she purred as he rested his head on the hollow of her shoulder. "Makes up for when you tied me to your bunk."

"I think you made up for that when ya kicked me in the head earlier. That actually hurt," he complained.

"Sorry." She stroked his hair in apology. "I was a little nervous and didn't pull it as much as when we practiced."

"That's enough, you two, and Jayne, what the hell happened to your shirt? Again?" Zoë came up the steps from the sitting area.

Jayne jumped a little bit and then pulled away from River. He'd actually forgotten they'd arranged to meet Zoë. He was glad she hadn't decided to come early.

"Ask crazy here."

River smiled sweetly and sat up.

Zoë pulled a small leather bag from her pocket and dumped out the money and the small bits of paper onto a crate, beginning to divide up the spoils. "Not bad," she marveled. "It's a shame we won't be able to run this play more than the once. I can't believe this started out as a prank we were gonna pull on the captain after I caught you two in the shuttle. I can't believe it actually worked. Wash would have loved this." She laughed a little. "It was too easy; we should give 'em their money back."

"Hell, no. Simon doubled down on River – most a that is his, and I want it." Jayne shook his head.

"It was a good plan, Zoë," River agreed.

"Maybe we could pull the same ruse with…throwin' knives," Jayne suggested, standing and lending River a hand up. Once she was on her feet, he pulled her back to his chest and wrapped his arms around her waist, propping his chin on the top of her glossy dark head. "Have a contest."

"Target practice," River offered, snuggling back into him, curving her arms on top of his. "Although there's not as large a discrepancy in our skill level, since Jayne is so proficient. There's much less of a certainty than with hand-to-hand, so the odds against Jayne won't be so low."

"Hey! I held my own!" Jayne protested, giving her a squeeze. "I'll give you hand-to-hand." He growled, his hands beginning to slide upwards. River collapsed in his arms, laughing at the ticklish touch.

"Jayne!" Zoë rolled her eyes. "I told you, not in front of me. Ever again." She finished counting out the money. "No matter what we do, we're gonna have to wait awhile or captain'll get suspicious." She looked at them with dubious enjoyment. Their passionate affection for each other was so obvious. "You two really think you can keep your relationship under wraps for that long?"

River tilted her head back to look at Jayne and smiled. He kissed her forehead gently.

"Some secrets are fun, aren't they, wo de long?"

&&&&&&&&&

Standing in the shadows of the entrance to Inara's shuttle, looking down on that tender little scene, Malcolm Reynolds was torn between anger and amusement. Despite the apparent violence, he'd had a notion that Jayne had gotten off a little too lightly in that fight.

Fun, huh, he thought to himself. Glad all y'all had your fun. He chuckled silently, making an internal declaration of intent: We'll just see what happens when "fun" gets a taste of "psychotic."

Fin –

Chinese:

dong ma – understand?

wei feng - impressive

wo de long – my dragon

A/N: Still working on "Piece" but this came out of nowhere and I had to run with it. I am so going to write "Mal's Revenge" when I have time! Hope you liked – thanks for reading! Gem