The quiet on the boat was deep and still, the homey thrum of the engine and the various lighting and heating elements the only noise. If elsewhere anyone was still up, they remained in their bunks, and the two in the common room weren't aware of them.

"What things do I make you consider, Jayne?" River still held her gift clutched to her breast.

He opened his mouth, and then closed it. Her eyes dropped to the next, final item on the list.

"Children? Do you consider children, when you think about me?"

He sighed air out his nostrils, forcefully. "Yeah. I do." He appeared perturbed by this information. She lifted up and down on her toes once, wanting to dance. But this needed tending.

"You think things, about the future? Far from now?"

"Yeah, farther than I've ever thought before." He was tired of being so distant from her and stepped in close. Really close. She had to tip her head back to see him, so all her lovely hair brushed his bare arm as he slowly wrapped it around her waist, tentative, as though she was going to leap away like a startle rabbit. When she didn't, he fisted his hand in her dress and hauled her up close against him. Her lithe softness crushed into his broad hardness, and her hands were caught between their bodies. She twisted them out, guarding the List jealously, and bent backward over his arm in an agile move he never could've managed, to lay it carefully on the couch behind her. Her abdomen pressed into his groin when she did that, and he hissed out a breath. He moved both hands to tangle in her hair and pulled her back up, roughly. His fingers and palms entirely encased the back of her head. She's so little, he sighed mentally, while dainty fingers landed on his shoulders.

"Or maybe you're just big," River answered out loud, and it didn't bother him, that she'd read that. The fingers on his shoulders hesitated, then slid downward. River slanted her neck to one side to watch herself, stroking her hand down his t-shirt sleeve until it ended and she hit real skin. She let out a moan of contentment when she felt the hard bulge of the muscle there, tensed around her. His own hand was sliding below her waist when she leaned her head in where she'd been looking. He felt her wet tongue land on him and lap slowly down into his elbow. Groaning out loud, he cupped her buttocks, small but round, and lifted her to grind her pelvis into his. She wrapped both arms up around his shoulders and turned her head to nuzzle it into the hollow of his shoulder, switching her attention to his neck. He paused to wonder through a red-heat-haze where she'd learned the thing she was doing with her hips.

"Hey, River," he gritted out, "you done this before?"

"No," she told him, "but I've seen lots. In your head."

He winced and jerked a space away from her. "That seems really wrong," he said, staring down at her. She stared back up, eyebrows lifted.


He shook his head. "Those weren't – those women – they weren't you. I don't want you bein' like them."

She furrowed her brow in perplexity. "I believe there are a finite number of ways to do this," she said.

Now he had frown lines between his eyes. "Finite?"

"Limited." She raised her fingers and began to tick them off. "Standing unsupported, as we are now. Standing supported, as in up against a wall. Seated, female on top. Seated, male on top"- she had to stop talking, because any further words would have been unintelligible. Jayne's hand was clamped hard over her mouth.

"I get it, moonbrain." Then his smile was wolfish. "Maybe so, but on that limited number of ways, there can be ifn – infinite variations."

She smiled back. "You will teach me? So that I am following your directions, instead of copying the others. The others are gone. I will be me, and you will be you." He was reaching for her again when she reached out to hold his forearms off. "They are gone, my Jayne? They will be no more?"

He folded his arms in to just lie along hers, and stroked her elbows lightly. "Don't need 'em, if I got you," he told her softly. Her glinting smile was his reward. But she still held him off, and then backed away.

"I have a gift for you, too," she whispered, and stopped a moment to snatch her List off the couch, before dashing out. Leaving him standing there, now truly impatient. He didn't want a gift, he wanted sexin', and thought he'd been mighty gorram patient about it too. He thought about following her to her bunk, but figured clomping around the boat might wake somebody up he didn't want awake. So he dropped down on the couch, sprawled his legs out, and waited for her return with the fingers of one hand drumming out his edginess on his other arm.

It wasn't really that long before she was back. There was a white box cradled in her hands. She looked at him all starry-eyed and he couldn't hold back a grudging smile in return. Especially when she crawled up to straddle his thighs, box in her lap, and manually uncrossed his arms so she could push the container into his keeping. But she held his fingers down over the lid.



"Do you love me?"

His lips pursed together and he breathed in deeply, but didn't reply. She clenched her fingers tightly around his, around the box. "Please," she uttered quietly.

He muttered something in the direction of her toes. She angled her head in and under his, looking up, just like some gorram duck – or swan, or something.

"Didn't hear," she said with wide-eyed earnestness.

"You're a gorram mind reader! You need out-loud words?"

"I like to hear you say it."

"Well, I said-." He had to stop to relax his jaw, and finished quieter but audibly - "always will."

Just like that. It had been scary, but not so difficult when he got to the actual doin' of it.

Her quiet smile warmed his soul.

"Me too."

He leaned in to pull her to him, but she stiff-armed him away. He let out a howl of frustration. Now she was the one covering up his mouth, and she was giggling. "Will wake the boat. Captain Daddy will arrive, and bluster. Brother Simon will see, and stutter."

He nodded. She dropped her hand, and lifted his, the now slightly crushed container still there. "First things first."

He sighed with great forbearance, and pulled the lid off. Pushed aside some concealing tissue. Stopped dead. His mouth dried right out, instantaneously.

"Erm. River." How did he say this?

Her dark head obscured his vision for a moment, as she peeked into the box.

"It is for insertion," she informed him, "as preparation. I had it made to order. At first the craftsman was rather recalcitrant, but after I drew him a picture and became very specific about size, he acquiesced. I believe the dimensions are correct, bigger than me but smaller than you."

"Yeah. River, I'm pretty sure you know your 'natomy better'n I know mine, but let me just say, I'm the man here. The MAN. And you don't – you don't – in my 'verse, those are for women. Women only." He pointed a finger at the box. His legs under her were tense, though she could tell he was aroused just by the sight of it.

"Yes," she affirmed, rooting through the paper to pull the phallic shape out, "it is for me."

He relaxed a little. "Then why are you givin' it to me?" His mind wobbled, trying to wrap around the image of her drawing this out for some sales clerk, earnestly attaching length and width measurements. Wait a minute, smaller than him? How did she know –?

She smacked him lightly on the chest. She wasn't using her mental shielding at all. "Silly. Jayne thinks about it a lot. You feel size is very important."

She held it up in front of his face. He flinched back a bit. She grinned at his reaction.

"The answer to your question; you said so before. I am small. You are very big." He couldn't help his smug smirk. She shook her head but smiled back. "It will be less difficult, if I am made ready for you. You will not have to go as slow. You will not have to worry about being as gentle." She laid the dildo back down in the box and leaned into him, her hands linking behind his neck. He moved the container on her lap down to the floor, grabbed her hips in his hands, and pulled her flush against him. "All right, then," he rumbled at her sexily, "if that's what it's for, then I guess its fer me. Thanks."

She sighed contentedly. "I know you like it rough," her breath tickled his ear. He laughed, and she treasured the sound.

"Sometimes," he acknowledged. "But not always."

He leaned his head back, and soothed her hair away from her face. The strands didn't want to stay, and he struggled with them awkwardly until they obeyed. She watched his face.

"River," he said hesitantly, fingernails caressing the bone ridges he found below her scalp. He discovered one line that was longish and puckered. A scar, from where the Academy had mutilated her brain. He gently rubbed his forefinger over it while she leaned back into his touch, eyelids shuttering in catlike contentment.

"Yes?" a little grin, self-satisfied, tipped her lips at what she knew he was thinking.

"Wanna kiss ya."

Her eyes re-opened, and she leveled her chin to look at him square on. "On the mouth?"

His twitched up at the corners, while he eyed hers. "Yeah."

"That would be . . . good," she breathed. His smile turned full-fledged. "Uh-huh," he agreed, and angled her chin, and angled his, and touched her that way. Lips just open, glancing off each other, barely moving. Then returning, tender and deeper as he flicked his tongue across the underside of her top lip and she gasped at the sensation. When he nudged her mouth further open to let him in, she met his wet heat with her own, slipping her tongue under and around his and swallowing the vibrations of his groan. Reveling in the feel of him, she pressed up as close as she could get with her feet and thighs and chest and arms, trying to take him into her soul. He chuckled lowly as he wrapped both arms tight around her, never leaving his ministrations to her mouth. He tilted them over sideways unto the couch cushion and they were lost.

And found.