Author: Green Owl

Title: Photuris: This Love

Disclaimer: I don't own or buy/sell/process this mind crack - I just abuse the hell out of it.

For the next six days, Jayne lived in absolute dread of anyone finding out about what happened in the cargo bay between himself and a certain member of the crew who was more than a few cards short of a full deck.

It didn't help matters that the damn girl seemed to be followin' him everywhere he went, as if she were tauntin' him as she shadowed him.

He'd be down to the cargo bay makin' an inventory the latest haul, calculatin' his take, and figurin' how much he could send home, and there she was sittin' in the common area, watchin' him.

He'd bring his guns to the mess to clean them and there she was sittin' in the lounge area, drawin' those loopy pictures.

He'd be spottin' the preacher through his sets and there she was in a ruttin' straddle pose, legs splayed out on either side of her torso, elbows on the cargo bay floor, chin propped up on her hands, gazin' at him.

Meal times were the worst because the entire crew was gathered together and the pucker factor of possible disclosure increased tenfold.

Crazy little girl had decided that her place was between him an' the cap'n and Jayne nearly lost his legendary appetite waitin' her for to let slip that she'd seen him "semi-buck-nekkid" or somethin' equally implicatin'. With her pompous prig of a brother sittin' next to him, Jayne estimated that the likelihood of bein' stabbed by a pair of medically-wielded chopsticks was pretty gorram high.

No matter that he hadn't even touched her: Jayne knew that he was abso-ruttin'-lutely humped if she so much as hinted that there had been anything improper between the two of them.

But River didn't say a word. She just gave him the breadbasket and a shiny smile each night while he scrutinized her with a combination of chaotic fear and studied indifference.

Carefully as he was watchin' her, he did happen to notice how her eyes were focusing better than they had in a long time. Instead of staring off into space, she looked at each person at the table as they conversed, as if she were really following the discussions.

Was the pygmy nutcase fakin' bein' unhinged?

When dinner and knife-sharpening time was over, he would go to bed and replay that disquietin' late-night encounter again and again in his mind.

Why in the hell hadn't she just told everyone that he'd sold her and the doc down the vacuum and be done with it? It's what he woulda done in her place.

Given the opportunity, Jayne knew he'd gladly flush her outta the airlock. Especially if he knew he could get away with it – he honestly didn't give a good gorram what happened to her as long as he didn't end gettin' shot, sliced or spaced.

Near as he could figure, this had to be some form of revenge or torture that she was inflictin' on him for Ariel. Gorram girl occupied his thoughts, disturbed his peace of mind, invaded his dreams. He would go to sleep and wake up in a cold sweat with visions of her gloatin' mug seared across his brain.

And any time he took himself in hand, so to speak, he was lucky if he spent more than five minutes reminiscin' past sexual encounters because he consistently ended up finishin' off to the memory of the way she moaned. It damaged his calm to no end that she was pushin' legitimate audios and visuals of women he'd spent good coin on outta his mind and replacin' them with mere delusions of what she herself might look like without her clothes.

It utterly galled him to recollect that he, a frankly imposin' sort of man, had been coerced into performin' for that scrawny bughouse fugitive so that she could get off.

"Girl bullied me, plain an' simple, that's what it was!" he muttered after he'd woken up the sixth night in a row in drenched sheets, hard and aching for the feel of her between his hands…either her neck or her body would do at that point.

Jayne sighed as he heaved his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. He knew he wouldn't get back to sleep unless he changed the sheets and had another wash.

Since the night he'd been exploited, the only serenity he had on board was in the shower.

For a man who enjoyed getting as dirty and greasy as he did, Jayne loved to bathe. In the black, he was forced to manage with recycled water – while it made do, it wasn't the same as an actual scrubbin' in world water with a bar of his ma's pine tar soap. Whenever the ship touched down on colonized worlds, he was the first one to seek a hot freshwash. If the population didn't support the installation of indoor plumbing, he looked for a likely lake or stream.

Even though he was washin' every cycle, he was startin' to feel mighty dirty. And each time he lathered up, he wondered if he'd ever feel clean again.

He'd been "less than fresh" ever since that night in the cargo bay, doin' his best to wash away that filthy-guilty feelin' on every occasion he recalled the four coppers she'd tossed at him like he was some sort of hired toy.

However things were lookin' up because tomorrow they'd arrive at Salisbury and he was anticipatin' spendin' some quality time in his preferred watercourse with a cigar and a bottle or two of whisky.

Then he'd go visit his favorite whore and make some new memories to replace those of Little Miss Feng Le and that would be the end of that.

One substandard wash later and he was descending the ladder into his quarters, ready to make up his bed and try to get some sleep in it before touchdown.

Only problem was, there was someone else who was already there. The Tam girl was sprawled face-down across his bed, fast asleep with her arms wrapped around his gorram pillow and her inky hair spillin' over both his sheets and her nightgown in dark rivulets.

Jayne could have kicked himself – how could he have forgotten to lock his bunk?!

He stood there for a full minute lookin' at her, wonderin' what he'd ever done to earn this kind of luck. There was no way he could explain this situation to anyone without a lotta eyebrow raisin' happenin' and possible airlock tossin' occurin'.

No time for bitchin' – have to get her back to her quarters before they know she's missin'.

He located a clean pair of pants and shoved his legs into them. Then he bent down over his bed and poked her arm. "Come on, girl, wake up."

She opened a sleepy eye and cuddled closer to his pillow. "Sleepytime."

"Yes, sleepytime," Jayne agreed. "Me here and you in your nice little room in the passenger dorm."

"Like this one better," she replied, "Prettier wall hangings."

Jayne looked up at his deadly collection of guns, knives and other weapons of choice mounted next to his bed and sighed. "C'mon, you can't stay here."

It took something to get her from his bunk, up the ladder, down the stairs and across the cargo bay, but somehow he managed to haul, drag, heave and heft her from point A to point B without anyone waking up.

"Oughtta get a gorram medal for this," he muttered to himself as he lowered her onto her bed.

"Metal on the dresser," she murmured and Jayne looked over to where she had arranged platinum coins in perfect clusters of four: two across and two down. "All yours."

"Don't need your gorram money, girl," he said as he pulled the sheets up to her chin.

"Mad man," she whispered sleepily. "What manner of merciless mercenary are you?"

"Go to sleep," he said, keeping his voice down. He had no interest in wakin' her brother or the gorram preacher. "And stay in your own ruttin' bed, okay?"

"Goodbye," she replied in a drowsy and cheerful tone as she rolled over and turned her back on him.

Jayne glanced at the girl, rolled up in the sheets like one of those donquito-mexi rolls that Wash liked so much. Then he glanced at the dresser for a moment and mentally counted the money.

Enough to buy at least one, maybe two cigars…

Across the hall, someone was stirring.

Jayne grit his teeth and went back to his bunk.

"Hey, Mal, can I ask ya a question?" Jayne asked, pulling his captain aside the next afternoon.

Business had been concluded and Mal was distributing the excellent take among the crew. Zoë and Wash were arguing over whether to spend theirs on a new kind of leather-steel protective vest and a quick bite at a low-class eating establishment or repairs on their current armor and dinner at a fancy restaurant. Kaylee had already dragged Book off to the market to hunt down fresh produce and herbs. Inara had booked a full afternoon and evening and the Tams were considering which end of the market street to explore.

"Sure," said Mal, willing to humor his crew member in charge of "Public Relations". "What's on that little mind of yours?"

"Why is she getting' a gorram cut?" Jayne demanded, cocking his head towards River, who had a fistful of credits in her hand and a huge grin on her face.

"She's crew," Mal said, as if it were self-evident. "Crew get cuts of the take, at least last time I checked."

"Yeah, well last time I checked, she don't do nothin' onboard 'cept harass people who are actually workin'," Jayne sneered. "Unless, of course, she's got some kind o' partic'lar understandin' with ya."

"Zoë, remind me to buy a cattle prod while we're here. Gonna need it to handle bull-headed crew members who initials are Jayne Cobb," Mal advised his first mate.

"Consider it done, sir," Zoë replied in a deadpan before she went back to debating future expenditures with Wash.

Mal returned his attention to Jayne. "For your information, ta ma de hun dan, Doc Tam made arrangements to split his share with her. Don't worry, Baby Jayne, you're not gettin' gypped."

"Hey! Don't you ever go sayin' anything about my ma!" Jayne called after them as Mal and the Washburnes set off in the direction of Kaylee and Book.

The brother-sister act stood there on the cargo bay ramp with him, Simon looking bewildered and River looking off somewhere in the distance.

"What?" Jayne growled, shooting a glance at the doctor.

"You have a mother?" Simon asked Jayne, dumbfounded by the revelation.

"Shaddup!" Jayne barked at him before setting off in the direction of the nearest bar.

He ignored River's voice as she called out, "Goodbye!"

An hour later, Jayne found himself in much better spirits.

He was waist-deep in a stream under a shady tree, cigar firmly clenched in his teeth, scouring his body and singing an off-key rendition of the latest bawdy song he'd learned in the bar where he bought his bottles of whisky.

"I placed my hand upon her thigh, yo-ho, yo-ho!" he sang, loud and clear as he soaped his chest and turned this way and that to get to all reachable areas of his torso. "I placed my hand upon her thigh, yo-ho, yo-ho! I placed my hand upon her thigh, she said, 'young man, you're waaay too shy!' Get in, get out, quit ruttin' about – aaahhh!"

The cigar fell out of his mouth as he let out what could be classified as a "squeak" if he didn't regard himself as too much of a badass motherhumper to make such an undignified noise.

She sat on the riverbank, watching him.

"Go on an' git!" he hollered, turning away from her. "Leave me alone!"

Crazy girl has no ruttin' business watchin' me wash and if we get caught like this, I'm the one whose ass'll be left flappin' in the breeze!

She looked him up and down and smiled as she reached for his half-full bottle of whisky.

"Hey, ya leave that be!" he ordered. "Where'n the hell's yer damned brother?"

She ignored him as she unstopped the bottle. She made a face at the smell of the liquor, and then took a quick taste of the stopper.

Jayne crouched a little lower in the water. The stream was pretty ruttin' cold, but the sight of her dainty pink tongue lickin' the cork was doin' a helluva lot to reverse his "shrinkage".

"Uisge-beatha," she said, contemplating the bottle before taking a sip. "Fermented grain mashed aged in casks of genus quercus. Aqua vitae, the water of life, but not blue-within-blue like the sandworms of Arrakis – Dune – desert planet this is, but it has a very nice oasis, yes?"

"Yes, nice oasis," Jayne agreed, rinsing as quickly as he could. Anythin' to get her the hell away from here. "Don't think yer brother'd be too happy with ya bein' here alone with me, so go find 'im and amaze 'im with yer gorram int'lect."

"Gone," she said, then shrugged before taking another sip.

"What?" Jayne wasn't quite sure he'd heard her right. "What do you mean, 'gone'?"

"Gone," she repeated, nodding as looked him up and down.

Jayne glanced down, wondering what could possibly make her stare so.

"Whaddya lookin' at? Just the same thing you saw last time!" he said, stifling the urge to turn around and cover himself.

"His body is very hairy," she pronounced, as if Jayne weren't even there. She took another sip and recorked the bottle. "Hair retains odors well, so he must wash often to render himself anew. Well-developed musculature and some degradation in the quality of skin due to exposure to inhospitable climates. The shirt will look good on him."

"Shirt? What shirt?" he asked, wondering what she was babblin' about.

She grinned as she reached into her sack and pulled out a folded bundle of cloth. She shook it out and held it up for his perusal. The shirt was pale red in color and featured silhouettes of different types of rifles, handguns and incendiary devices.

"Weapons of choice!" she said happily as she turned it this way and that.

"Is that for me?" he asked, eyes wide as he started to covet.

She nodded and laid it on the bundle of his clothes and personal effects propped up against the tree. "Substitution."

"That…that ain't too bad," Jayne ventured. Aw, who the rut was he kiddin'? The shirt was shiny as all get out! He allowed himself to let his guard down a little bit as he started working the soap through his hair. "All right, nī zi, you paid me back for the slash job on my togs. Now git!"

A little bit of relaxation became a lotta concern when she put down the bottle and picked up his pants.

"Hey, leave those be!" he yelled. No tellin' what she might get it in her head to do. He might find himself having to walk back bare-assed to Serenity if she made off with them…

She ignored him and held the pants up in front of her, extending her legs one at a time as if she were entranced by how much longer in body he was than she.

Waste of oxygen tryin' to tell her what to do, he concluded as she draped his pants over her shoulder and picked up one of his boots. Girl's just gonna do whatever she wants anyhow. Might as well get myself clean while I still got time and pray that she gets it in 'er head to run off afore Doc or the Cap'n or – God forbid – Zoë finds 'er here with me.

"Would ya turn around while I finish my bath? Please?" he pleaded once more, not expectin' her to listen, but hopin' she might do it of her own accord and decide to wander off once she wasn't lookin' at him no more.

To Jayne's surprise, she swiveled 180 degrees and sat down to finish examining his boots.

He took a quick moment to scrub everything below the waterline, all the while keepin' an eye on her in case she tried to make a break for it with his clothin'.

"Big foot," she said absently as she rolled onto her back, held her leg aloft and compared the size of their footwear.

"Yeah," he mumbled under his breath. "And ya know what they say about big feet."

"Big shoes," she replied, as if he'd spoken to her clearly. "And lots of hair. Sasquatch…yeti…these are abominable snowshoes – fall through the ice crust too easily."

Jayne bent backwards into the stream to rinse his hair. "What the hell ya talkin' 'bout?"

"Big foot," she said again as if it were self-explanatory. She rolled over and let her eyes drift down to where the water swirled around him and smiled. "You like River?"

"I like this river," Jayne clarified with a sneer as he moved into deeper water to try and cover up his increasin' reaction to her inspection. "It don't try to eye-sex me while I ain't go not clothes on."

"You like all rivers," she asserted mischievously as she kept looking.

He glared and she stared and neither said a word. He watched as her eyes drifted up to his chest and her little rose-peach mouth twisted.

Jayne raised a hand to trace the scar she'd given him, feelin' more than a little uneasy.

"Yes, better in red," she said, nodding to herself.

"I still owe ya for this," Jayne warned, glancing at Binky, who lay within easy reach. "Hurt like a bitch when ya did it. Still stings now an' again so's not likely I'd be forgettin' it anytime soon."

"Two by two?" she said, cocking her head to the side.

"What does that mean?" he asked, fed up with the phrase. "What's this two-by-two go se?"

She laid his clothes to the side and crawled over to the riverbank on her hands and knees. It gave him a clear view down her dress from her collarbone all the way to her knees. Jayne crouched a little more down into the water to hide John Thomas' obvious interest in her girl parts.

"Two by two," she repeated as she approached him slowly but surely. "Quid pro quo."

"Whaddya doin'?" Jayne asked, glad his very long arms let him stow his soap on the riverbank without revealin' anymore of himself than she'd already eyeballed.

River stopped at the edge, circled and sat down, her legs tucked underneath her. She looked down at Binky, who was also within easy reach of him.

"You may cut on me if you like," she said, sliding her dress off her shoulders. It caught on the peaks of her breasts for a moment before slipping down to her waist. "It's only fair."

"Wha' the – !" Jayne took an involuntary step back, his footing and his heart threatening to give out on him. "Put those away!"

Her breasts were a bit smaller than he usually liked 'em, but they were perfectly shaped, with rose-peach nipples the exact same color as her lips.

Jayne's gut twisted as he stood there, starin' at her, his mouth goin' completely dry while a whole lotta drool slithered down his chin.

She laughed and shimmied her shoulders, the movement jiggling the curves of her chest. "Weapons of choice!"

He slammed his eyes shut as he turned around but he knew without a doubt that the image of those soft, sweet rounds of flesh would be burned onto his retinas for a very, very long time.

"I'm gonna count to twen'y and when I open 'em, you'd better be covered an' gone!"

He made it as far as ten when he heard Doc Tam calling for his sister from far off.


Gorram girl continued to giggle while Jayne froze at the sound of Simon's voice.

"I'm here!" Jayne heard her call.

He sank into the water up to his neck and prayed to all the gods he could think of – Buddha, Bel, Jesus the Peace-Sheep Dude – that he would manage to off o' this planet alive.

"Girl," he begged, keeping his eyes closed, "for the love o' all that's shiny and righteous in this world, please cover yerself and git!"

"Are you enjoying the view?" Doc Tam's voice indicated he was still pretty far off.

"Yes, very nice," River shouted back.

Jayne silently counted eleven through twenty, sighing with relief as he heard the sound of her dress rustling. He took a quick peek to make sure that she was fully clothed. She was. That was the good news.

The bad news was that she was lyin' on her stomach, leanin' over the edge of the riverbank and gettin' a really explicit view of him as she reached out a hand to his hair.

"Thank you for self-time," she called out to her brother as she reached down and traced the clockwise pattern of Jayne's whorl. "I spent well!"

"Quit it!" Jayne said, batting her hand away.

"You're welcome. Are you ready to go now, mei mei?" Tam was about twenty meters away, Jayne reckoned, damn grateful that his clothes were hidden by the trunk of the tree shading this part of the river.

"Yes," River answered her brother, still looking Jayne as she rested her chin on her stacked hands.

"You ain't gonna tell your brother I seen ya half-nekkid, are ya?" Jayne whispered, desperately trying to stay outta Doc's line o' sight.

"Two by two." She grinned as she reached down to pat his cheek. "Goodbye."

One last trill of laughter and she disappeared.

Jayne waited until they were both long gone before he levered himself onto the riverbank.

No way he was ever gonna let this happen again.

He grabbed his towel from one of the branches and dried himself, wonderin' if he'd still have time to pay a visit to the whorehouse before they went wheels up. He was mighty interested in female company at the moment – especially if they had a brunette who looked like she could use a coupla hearty feeds.

A quick glance down at his timepiece revealed that the shirt was not the only thing the girl had left behind.

Little crazy had left sixteen silver coins next to Binky, all perfectly aligned in clusters of four.

"Qing-wah cao de liu mang!"

"ta ma de hun dan" - "mother humping son of a bitch"

"nī zi" - "little girl"

"go se" - "crap"

"mei mei" - "little sister"

"Qing-wah cao de liu mang!" - "Frog-humpin' sonuvabitch!"