NOTES: This is for 30fluffs LJ community challenge #26-carnival; activity where I have chosen weapons as the challenge topic to use in each of my 30 fics.

"Now try it again," he said, rushing back to her from resetting the targets. If he didn't know better he'd swear she was doing badly on purpose. Anyone who could take on dozens of Reavers and come out fairly unscathed should be able to pick up just about any weapon and handle it with ease.

Not that he was complaining. The rest of the crew was off at some street fair shindig and Jayne wasn't much in the mood for celebrating. Correct that, he wasn't much in the mood to get into a fight. And whenever he went celebrating with Mal and Zoe, fights always seemed to happen. It was inevitable. So, when River had asked for some target practice with one of his guns he was more than happy to oblige.

He came up behind her, trying to see what she saw when she was aiming. The targets were nothing but some empty tin cans he'd found strewn around near their ship. It was strange that of all those on the ship it was this girl who'd share his love for weaponry. She recognized fine quality when she saw it, which led to this lesson.

She fired again. And missed again. He wasn't going to go through the motions of showing her anymore. She knew how to fire a gun. She was the only one on the crew he thought might be handier than he was in a gunfight. Maybe she was just out of sorts? Having an off day? It could happen to anyone. Or maybe without her Alliance assassin switch thrown she was useless. No, that couldn't be it. If it was in ya, it was in ya. He placed his hand over hers.

"You're overcompensating too much to the left."

"I know what I'm doing."

"You've missed every time so far!"

"Teachers should have patience."

If he didn't know better he'd think she was teasing him.

"I am patient. And I ain't no teacher. I wouldn't bother teaching someone who didn't have a knack for it the way you do."

"Thank you."

He turned to look at her profile instead of their target. Inara and Kaylee had sunk their claws in and cleaned her up real nice. Her hair was not just combed today but styled a little. Almost as if she'd made an effort to do something with it. And instead of the dresses that hung like sacks he was used to seeing her in, this one fit and actually emphasized her curves.

Curves he really had no business noticing. Up close and personal like this, though, he couldn't help but notice the smooth, polished alabaster tone to her skin. Or the way her eyes didn't make her look so lost anymore. She looked whole, complete, no longer haunted. Which was saying something considering all she'd seen and done.

In fact, she was downright pretty cleaned up as she was. Maybe celebrating was a better idea than being here alone with her. It'd been a while since he'd enjoyed the company of a woman. Clearly, it was clouding his judgment.

She reached with fingertips that seemed to dance in the slight breeze and tucked some hair behind her ear. It gave him a better view of her face. And it let him know she was aware he was watching her and not the target. Come to think of it, she hadn't made an effort to pull the trigger either.

"You're welcome," he said gruffly.

"You don't want to be here anymore."

"What? What do you mean?"

"You want to be with the others."

"Now, that ain't so. All Mal does is start fights he needs me to come in and clean up after him."

"You don't like noticing I'm a woman."

"Girlie, I've known you're a woman."

"No. You thought of me as an it."

"I didn't think any such thing."

"You did."

He was about to protest again when she turned to look at him with her eyes wide, challenging him. That coupled with the fact she still held the weapon she'd been practicing with made him think twice. "All right, maybe I did a little."

"I look that different?"

"Well, yeah, you look all woman-like. Your dress actually looks like it was made for you instead something you found lying on the ground. And I won't even get started on your hair."

She whimpered and he wondered if he'd gone too far.

"It looks nice now, I mean," he added quickly. "You run a comb through it once in a while, so it has to look better. Right?"

She brought her fingers to her hair as he spoke of it. They seemed to dance along the length of her dark hair as if to confirm there were no snags or snarls. He wasn't sure why whenever he saw her move he thought of dancing. She did everything so graceful where he was all brawn. He supposed that was why.

"You think it looks nice?"

"Yeah, sure, of course it does."

"It smells like," she brought a few strands under her nose and then extended them to him. He was close enough still he could smell it.

"Flowers," he said simply. "Some kind of flower. Inara's got you trying all sorts of stuff, ain't she?"

"There's nothing wrong with it."

"You'd better talk to your brother about that. Dressing better, looking prettier, smelling nicer. You're going to attract men."

"I don't want men."

"Well," he said with a stammer. He'd always wondered what Inara, River and Kaylee did on that shuttle together all of the time. If he came in, they giggled like a bunch of schoolgirls. "Women then."

"I don't want women either."

"What else is there?"

"I just want one."

"One what?"

She smiled then. She brought her hand, still holding his weapon to his face and set it against his jaw. He should have been afraid of her holding a gun to his face. No one was sure if she was guaranteed stable all the time now. The look in her eyes, though, told him she was all there. River.

"One man." She smiled then, drawing her hand away from his face. She ran the length of the weapon along her jaw, kissing the tip of it. "Do you think I really don't know how to shoot this thing?"

As if to prove her point. Without looking away from him, she pointed the weapon and fired. He didn't need to look to see she'd hit the target.

"Well, then why the hell did you ask me to show you how to work it?"

"Because I knew you didn't want to go with them and if I'd asked you to do something you'd have gone with them just to get away from me."

"Well, now," he said with a frown. He turned his face then to look at just how dead-on she'd been with the weapon. She was as accurate as you could get. "I don't get it."

"Of course you don't."

"Now you're insulting me. At least I think you are."

"No, I'm not." She set her hand against his cheek, prompting him to look at her again.

"What was this? Laugh at Jayne day? See how stupid the big dumb merc is?"

She smiled then and shook her head. "You don't listen. You never listen to me."

"That's because you babble half the time and never get to the point."

She kissed him then. Just hauled up on her tiptoes, reached up out of nowhere and kissed him. He might be a big, dumb merc but he wasn't completely stupid. A pretty woman kisses you, you kiss her back. And when you suspected the woman kissing you hadn't ever done that sort of thing before, well you best be sure you don't leave them wanting to go elsewhere. Not that there was anyone else on the boat for her to go to besides Mal. And that was just. Nah.

He took hold of her then, hands at her waist, drew her against him. She went willingly, he didn't have to tug or force her to him. He was aware of the sound of a clunk by his side followed by her arms going around his neck as his skimmed her tiny waist to bring her even closer.

Oh, yeah, this he could definitely get into being a teacher of, he mused, as he coaxed her ripe red lips open. Another of Inara's influences, lip paint. It looked good on her, even if the stuff didn't do anything for him overall. Not on a woman like River. She didn't really need any of that stuff as far as Jayne was concerned. And when in the hell had he started noticing her like that?

She was evidently as eager to learn as he was to teach. Her tongue was busy exploring the workings of his mouth and tongue the same as his was. Occasionally their tongues would meet and do an intimate dance and then move on.

Only it was like no dance he'd done before. Kissing wasn't his thing. If he'd known it could be done this well and taste this good, he might have had a different opinion about it before now. She held nothing back either. She wasn't too eager as to make him think she was ready to fall into bed with him, but she wasn't afraid to let him know she wasn't going to cry foul in a minute.

His hands were busy memorizing the shape and curve of her backside. He was right, too. She had nice curves. Fleshy, but not too meaty. Just right as far as he was concerned. He groaned when she pressed up against him. He didn't need the reminder that he was raring to go for more than kissing. And sure enough, she pulled away just then. It had to frighten her off.

"Lao Tyen yeh," he muttered. She stared at him, unblinking. And he felt pretty put on the spot. He was supposed to think after being kissed like that? He was all revved up, and unfortunately that usually led to his mind not working too well. He cleared his throat.

"So, you just said you wanted target practice to spend time with me?"

"Yes," she said softly.

"Well, I'll be," he said with a chuckle. "That was pretty good if I do say so myself."

"You think so?" She lifted her eyes to meet his, looking so hopeful he couldn't help but smile.

"Well, yeah, I do." He ran the backs of his fingers along his jaw, not sure what to do now. His body wanted to escort her back onto Serenity and into his bunk. His mind told him that wasn't the way to play this. "So, did you want to go to the fair then? Cuz you clearly don't need no lessons."

"It did sound like fun."

He snorted. "Yeah, fun. Is that why you got all dolled up?"

"No."

"Well, why did ya then?"

"You don't like how I look?"

"Well, sure, you look fine. It's just you look like you're," he stopped short. She was dressed and made up like someone who had someone in her sights. He didn't need to be clubbed over the head to make the leap the rest of the way.

"Like I'm what?"

"Well, like you were going on a date." That wasn't exactly what he was going to say, and by her raised eyebrow he could tell she wasn't totally convinced either.

"It doesn't have to be a date."

"Are you crazy? If I don't stake my claim they'll be pawing all over you and then I'll get into a fight trying to defend your honor. Which, I'll remind you, I'm trying to avoid this time. So, no tricks or games to try and get me into a fight."

"I wouldn't."

"Yeah, you and Mal, never do nothing to nobody to cause trouble. It just follows you wherever you go."

He stooped to pick up the dropped weapon. "Best go put this away then. Need anything before we head to town?"

"No. Just you."

"Is your brother going to be okay with this?"

"He has no say over who I spend my time with."

"Right, okay. I'll be back in a minute then. One of these days, I'm going to have something you don't know how to use and I will actually have to teach ya."

"I look forward to it."

"Yeah, me, too," he said with a wide grin. There was nothing better in his opinion than passing on the love for a good weapon.

The End