Hat Trick
Rating: PG-13
Teaser: The first time his hat goes missing, he's sure it's his imagination, since he wakes up the next morning to see it lying near Vera.
Notes: A semi-fluffy Rayne tale with a side of angst and a heavy dose of hat love! Posted because I am the biggest feedback whore of all time, yep... also, because fluff is sometimes needed, me thinks.

-

Balancing Act

-

The first time his hat goes missing, he's sure it's his imagination, since he wakes up the next morning to see it lying near Vera.

The second time, he knows it's not his imagination and after two hours going through his bunk, he begins his search through Serenity with a scowl and Sarah at hand, hoping that the doc had taken it so he could shoot him and have an excuse to do it. Of course, it would probably turn out to be Kaylee who had taken it, using it to twist a screw or something along those lines.

Damn if he was going to shoot Kaylee, though….

An hour into his search, he's turning up nothing and he's beginning to twitch slightly in his murderous fury, eyes peeled for any hint of his Ma's gift as he goes from place to place. He's already cornered Doc in the infirmary, poked at him with Sarah and made ingenious threats until the young man snapped and told Jayne to go jump out of the airlock.

Okay, fine, it wasn't the Doc— he didn't have enough spine to sneak into his bunk and— wait….

He stumbled in his angry stride, his own spine stiffening as he resisted the urge to smack himself for his stupidity.

Only one person could come crawling into his place in the dead of night and steal his hat without disturbing him or his girls, light sleeper that he was. Scowling automatically at the unhappy realization of how easy it would have been for her to slice him up for good this time, he spun on his heel and made for the catwalks, searching for any flash of brown hair or flowery dresses.

It's only the fact that he's in Serenity that keeps him from firing--which is odd enough, considering people had as big a habit of getting into the ship as Mal does at getting shot--when he feels something like a bare foot poking him in the back of the neck. Still, he spins, releasing the safety and shoving Sarah in her direction, meeting unerringly intelligent brown eyes with a hard stare of his own. "Give me it back, and I won't blow your head off."

A few moments of silence as she continues to stand on the railing before, with a loopy smile, she clamps her hands to her skull and shakes her head, brown hair lifting in a dark halo around her form. He notices with an inward cringe that her dress matches the hat, a wispy thing of reds and oranges and, before he can stop her, she raises one leg again, ball of her foot pressing against his forehead. "I am surrounded with love," she states calmly, and he knows she's laughing at him. Her voice is pleasantly patient, but he knows she's laughing at him.

"Give me the hat," he snaps, and cocks Sarah, trying to intimidate her.

He's aware of how awkward their stance is, and how easy it would be for her to tip backwards and fall and break her itty-bitty neck on the floor far below them and it only makes him more uneasy, since she isn't the least bit afraid and any sane woman— girl in that position would be scared out of her girly wits.

Of course, she isn't sane, so he doesn't know what the problem is.

"Get your foot off my face," he adds, and she grins, and he automatically shifts his gaze to her hands, breathing a silent sigh of relief to find no cans of fruit ready to bash his skull in. That's the same grin she had before, and its there now, somehow growing wider as he shifts his gaze from soft-looking hands to eyes lit up with amusement.

She'd grinned at him like that as she'd dropped on him, knocking the gun out of his hands and bringing the peaches down with unerring accuracy. Now, she beams, nodding as she flexes her toes against his face, and the way she's standing shouldn't, technically, be possible but then it shouldn't be possible for him to get knocked out by an itty-bitty thing armed only with peaches.

"The center of my gravity is easy to control," she whispers conspiratorially, and he lifts one eyebrow, not quite sure what to make of that comment as his stomach does interesting things. He raises his eyes to where her foot rests against his forehead, studying it with something that feels suspiciously like interest and she grins again, nodding more happily. "You're ability to learn is more than Simon thinks it is," she states, and her smile is so brilliant that he almost doesn't mind the fact that she's just said something about his brainpan.

"I didn't see you," he states awkwardly, Sarah still pointing at her but he's unwilling to point it anywhere else because, yes, this is the same crazy who liked him better in red if he remembered correctly. Resisting the urge to squirm as she tips back and then forward again, he instead clenches his jaw and watches as she tilts her head, pointing up with one finger and he risks a quick glance up, knowing that if she tried anything he could just push her ankle and send her flying down.

Above them is an open grate and he rolls his eyes, glancing back at her and noticing the hat again, a welcome reminder of why he has Sarah out in the first place and pointing it at her. "Give it over," he blurts out, relieved to have his anger back, using it brush off his confusion and the fact that she has her foot against his forehead.

"I am surrounded by love—"

"Stop that," he snaps, and her brows contract, eyes narrowing as she studies him and he again finds himself wanting to squirm. Her mouth curves down for a heartbeat and her eyes darken, and she stares at him as if he's done something she doesn't approve of, which doesn't help his mood any.

"If I have to say it again—"

"My mother never surrounded me in love."

And, just like that, he's knocked off balance again, which is not a welcome feeling despite the fact that he's the one with his feet flat and she's the one balancing on the railing. "What are you talking about?" he asked roughly, and she shrugs, a little move of delicate-looking shoulders and small hands that he knew could break him in two.

"This," she murmurs, raising a hand to caress the knitted object on her head, too big for her and falling low around her skull and he winces, tightening his hold on Sarah unconsciously. "She did her dances and sang her songs and stared at me with empty in her eyes," she adds, nodding, and he winces again, helplessly.

"Not your fault," she sighs softly, and drops her raised foot to the railing, flexing her ankles and rolling her shoulders and he echoes her movement without thought, lowering Sarah and flicking on the safety in one movement, wishing she would just hand him his hat and he could head back to his bunk, where he wouldn't have to start thinking of her in terms of anything other than a crazy girl.

He takes a step towards her when she sways forward, hand automatically snapping towards her, but she simply places a palm on his forehead and steps down, bare feet pressing lightly against the grating as she reaches up and pulls the hat from her skull, fingering it with a look of unhidden longing before she finally held it out, staring down at her feet. "Your mother's dances are clumsy but her center of gravity is sure," she finally sighs, and he gives her a sharp look, irritated that he wasn't irritated at her anymore.

"Go play with your brother," he finally snaps, cramming his hat onto his head and turning away, stomping quickly away from her, making it halfway down the stairs before he notices Mal staring at him oddly, as if he were the one balancing on the railing preciously just minutes before and not the crazy.

It doesn't help anything that's left of his sanity, and he grinds his teeth harder.

"Better have the Doc give her something extra strong tonight," he mutters in the Captain's vague direction, and heads quickly for his bunk, keeping a tight hold to Sarah, a steady weight in his hand that he can control. She's not Vera, but she's a beauty, and he strokes his fingers absently across polished metal, resisting the urge to glance back.

Crazy.