Should've Known Better

Jayne considered himself an expert on getting drunk. Rather, he considered himself an expert on getting drunk and not having to regret it in the morning. To and astonished crew he never seemed to have a hangover and they'd never seen him dash off somewhere to empty his stomach. He always seemed to be having the time of his life and never had to deal with any of the consequences.

All good things come to an end, and the consequences finally caught up with Jayne Cobb on a balmy summer evening on shore leave.

It was a fine day to get drunk and pass out in someone's bed--one's own being an optional choice. They'd just executed a fairly lucrative job, and the coin was good. The podunk they'd delivered the cargo to had been thankful for the increased revinue and invited the crew to join them in the festivities to be held that night in town square. Mal was never one to miss a party, although he was now particularly wary of any perspective brides.

To say that Jayne was drunk was a severe understatement. Given, most of the crew was also drunk, but that didn't hide the fact that Jayne was the drunkest of them all. He'd never thought of himself as a connoisseur of anything, and would have had trouble even pronouncing the word, but the homemade brew he partook of was finer than anything he was able to get his paws on in a long time. It seemed a general consensus.

Four drinks in and even Jayne was getting fuzzy. Jayne coughed a laugh, tipping the bottle up to his lips again. His vision, always acute due to his profession, had blurred through the consumption of mass alcohol. Despite this, he could still pick out his shipmates and their various activities being partaken of at this celebration. He squinted to make sure he wasn't staring at a tree, then reapplied the bottle to his mouth.

Kaylee and the good Doctor were dancing, or at least attempting to. Kaylee's bright laugh echoed as a drunken Simon tried his best to waltz with his girl. Sure, it was odd to think of the two of them together, but after three months, they'd all gotten used to it. And, of course, this left the people of the dusty little town to impress their finest drinks upon his little sister.

River had always been told it was impolite to refuse a host or hostess. She was 18 now, and, especially in the Rim planets, this was the legal age for drinking, smoking, sleeping around, and what-have-you. She smiled politely as she took the bottle from a grinning hostess. It tasted a bit like strawberries, but bitter and full of bubbles. She took another drink, just to be sure.

Two bottles later, River's head was swimming and her cheeks were a hot, blushing red; her smile was perpetual and her eyes hazy. She tried to focus on where her feet were going, and she nearly fell over twice. The third time, she fell giggling against a hard, fleshy wall. Two strong hands took her shoulders, and she realized suddenly that this wall was, indeed, a person.

She looked up, blinked, and smiled. "Jayne," she said simply.

"You're drunk," he said, not looking any better himself.

River shook her head, almost throwing herself off balance again. "Am not."

"Are too," Jayne returned, trying to keep her steady on her feet.

She sighed through her nose, an irritated impression of Jayne that was so accurate he had to laugh. She joined him, not sure why she was laughing. "All right. Maybe."

"Maybe nothin'," Jayne scoffed, tilting his head back to take another drink. "I'm gettin' ya back t' the Doc," he mumbled, releasing her shoulders to take a firm hold on her wrist. She followed dutifully, watching Jayne's feet and trying to match their gait.

They stopped. In actuality, Jayne stopped and River bumped gently into his back.

"Where's...?" He didn't finish, looking half-lidded out across the town square. The firelight from the center of the square filled the night with dancing shadows and confused the mind. "Gorramit, you ain't my sister."

He felt the bottle slip from his free hand, and he looked down to see River's thin little fingers had snaked across his back to wrench the alcohol from him. She tilted her head back in imitation of the man before her. She drank from his bottle and squared him with a daring grin.

"Hey, that there's mine. Get yer own." He snatched it back from her, holding it protectively to his chest. She hiccuped a giggle. "Take that back, you better not have any more."

"Old enough to think for myself," she told him. She sat herself down on the dusty ground with a plop, crossing her legs under her skirt. She smiled plaintively up at Jayne, who still cradled his own bottle.

Now, he wasn't drunk enough as to be completely useless yet. He figured someone had to be with the girl, and if it wasn't going to be Simon--he seemed far too occupied with the mechanic to see to his sister--and it wasn't going to be Mal, who had already passed out in Inara's lap, it had to be someone. And it looked like that someone was going to be him. Jayne rolled his eyes laboriously and stuck his bottle into her little fingers.

"Don't you move," he warned her, pointing one finger in her direction. He straightened himself back up and sauntered over to get himself another bottle. He was going to need it. When he returned to where River sat in the dirt, far from the bonfire and hidden in the shadow of a nearby stone house, she had nearly finished off the bottle he'd given to her.

"Jayne," she said again, as if meeting him for the first time that night. He sighed through his nose, an imitation of her imitation, and grunted as he sat down in the dirt beside her. He popped open the bottle and took a long first drink before she coaxed it from his grip.

She was flush red and giggling by the time they'd eliminated the bottle, and even Jayne had loosened up. She leaned her head softly against his shoulder, and he either didn't notice or didn't care. They shared a long laugh about something that wasn't funny. River's long and intelligent words began to slur and run into one another. And all the world was a hazy and evanescent. All at once, she grabbed his hand and attempted to pull him up.

"What?" He asked, not moving and seemingly amused at her efforts to pull him up by the hand. "What're you doin'?"

She failed twice to pull him up, and the last time landed on her knees in the dirt. She was very close, and he could smell the drink strong on her. "Dance with me," she said.

Jayne looked about, out to the bonfire, and saw that, indeed, someone was playing a song. He couldn't have placed it, and he supposed it didn't matter. He simply stared her straight in the eye.


She only beamed at him. "Why not?"

The third time, he allowed himself to be pulled up by the girl.

She wasn't graceful anymore. The drink had slowed her reaction time and her brain couldn't communicate with her legs and arms like she wanted it to. She tittered to herself as she placed her hands on Jayne's broad shoulders, uninhibited as she looked into his face for guidance. By now, he could hear the fiddle loud and clear, even as far away from everyone as they were.

"Naw," he said, shaking his head in a broad way. "You wanna dance, y' gotta get a lot closer'n that." He cinched one hand around her waist, pulling her flush against him. Hip to hip, chest to chest, and all in one sharp movement. She gasped lightly, and her hands fell to his chest. Her blinking doe-eyes were wide as they met his. "Y' still wanna dance with me?"

Her fingers twitched against his chest, and she settled her eyes just below his neck, somewhere on his collarbone. "Mmhmm," she responded.

"Awright," he said into their closeness. He took one last drink and tossed the empty bottle aside. His second hand joined the first on her waist. From here, she could practically feel the alcohol on his breath. She smelled slightly of strawberries.

Carefully, unsure of their footing with their minds jumbled and mixing signals, they laughed their way through the first minute of awkwardness. She stumbled too many times to count, and he always caught her. His laugh rumbled in his chest beneath her fingers. When her arms laced themselves up and around his neck, something in his eyes changed.

Their faces were entirely too close, she noted, but she did nothing about it. She liked the feel of his hair in her hands, the curve of his neck, the stubble on his cheek. She felt suddenly very tired, and cradled her head against the crook of his neck. Something else rolled through his chest, and she felt it all through her. His hands weren't just on her waist anymore. She felt calloused fingers up her spine, and she arched instinctively into him.

"You smell good," he murmured near her ear. She hadn't even known he was there until he breathed his hot man-breath against her neck.

"Mmn," was all she could answer. She was too busy liking the sensations his hands were sending through her. Her brain had nothing to do with her actions anymore as she stood high on her toes and kissed Jayne just at the hollow of his jaw. His fingers tensed on her, and he released the tension in a growling sigh against her neck.

Without another hesitation, Jayne had River hitched up in his arms, backed up against the wall of the stone house. He was sloppy in his drunkenness, but she didn't seem to care at all. She'd never been kissed before, after all. Something in her was suddenly awake and hot, and she grabbed fistfuls of his hair as he pried her mouth open with his. They lost themselves in the heat of each other, and his chest heaved hard against hers. She tasted sweet, like strawberries, and his fingers shook as he pulled her hips hard against his again.

Everything became a blur, of heat and color and the smell of sweat. Jayne's booted foot kicked open the door to his overnight room at the saloon, one he'd been planning to see a woman in. But not this woman. This blue and black and brown blur of a woman, hot and small in his big arms. This woman was a pleasant surprise.

She was surprised to find that he wasn't heavy as he pressed her into the coils. He whispered things into her ear, things she'd been told should make her blush and turn away. But she didn't turn away, her mind long-forgotten in the street. She murmured back into his ear, words she'd never dreamt of using and words that might curl even Jayne's hair. He laughed again, warm buzzing in his chest against hers.

Then, everything dropped out around them. Somewhere, someone was crying. Jayne's eyes were blue, very blue, and she couldn't look away. She hurt and hurt, and then it didn't hurt anymore. And then it was her turn, her turn to make him grit his teeth and look helpless. And then...

A sunbeam across Jayne's face made him grunt in dissatisfaction and turned over in his sleep. It was the harsh knock at his door that woke him up.

"Jayne?" Even with a splitting headache and everything below his stomach aching something terrible, Jayne recognized Mal's irritated voice.

"In here, Cap'n" Jayne growled, sitting up with obvious effort. His back cracked and he felt like he'd been hit in the head with something very blunt. Maybe a gold brick. He noticed all too late that he appeared to be completely nude under the bedclothes.

Simon and Mal entered the room once Jayne had made himself known. Both also appeared to be nursing hangovers, and didn't seem in the mood to fool around. Bags had formed under Simon's eyes. Mal was trying to tame his hair to no avail.

"What d'ya want?" Jayne asked, not looking forward to getting to know how these aches and pains had found him.

"We're looking for River," Simon said, "and the Captain needs you to help." He was terse after a night of drinking, Jayne noticed.

"Who said I know where the feng le girl is?" He rubbed one of his eyes, grumbling.

With a sleepy yawn, River sat up from lying beside Jayne, her long hair mussed and, also, missing the whole of her wardrobe. Languidly, her hand touched Jayne's shoulder.

"Shit!" Jayne, like a spooked deer, jumped straight out of the bed, thankfully taking one of the sheets with him to cover his shame. His breath heaved, clutching the sheet around himself as he saw River sitting serenely in his bed, a blanket clutched up to cover her own nakedness. Dead silence shook the room as if a quake had taken it. No one dared to speak. It was unspeakable.

But it was the look between Jayne and River that severed the silence. The consequences had finally caught up with Jayne Cobb.

"Ai ya," Jayne breathed.

"Jayne," Mal growled dangerously, "what the hell is this?" Jayne knew that voice. That was the Ariel voice. That was the voice that got Jayne thrown out of airlocks. That was not a good voice.

"Oh my God," Simon groaned, looking weak in the knees. He was suddenly at River's side, his face devoid of any color. "River? River, are you all right?"

"Fine," she said calmly, a tired look in her eye.

"Honest, Cap'n," Jayne pleaded, looking around for where his clothes might've gone off to, "I didn't... This ain't what it looks like."

"I suppose you was just havin' a tea party without your clothes on, huh?" Mal looked suddenly like a ravenous dog, and Jayne did not think he'd live to see the outside of this room again.

Simon's hand shook as he touched the side of River's face. "What'd he do to you?"

"Not he," River corrected. "We."

"Mal, I was drunker'n hell!"

"That don't make it any different!" Mal roared back, pointing at River. "I'm askin' you again, Jayne, what the hell is this?!"

"I--" He lost his breath for an instant, looking her quiet brown eyes. "She--I mean, we..."

"Don't bother," Mal spat. "You're off this boat as of right now. You better be thankin' someone on high that I don't got my gun on me."

"What?" The word came from two voices, Jayne and River, looking suddenly indignant with her spine stiffened.

"You heard me," Mal's voice got dangerously low again. "Now get your pants and get outta here."

Simon looked about ready to faint, his face ashen and clutching hard to River's hand. She stared hard back at Jayne. For one long, tense moment, the two watched each other and neither of them moved. Then, a dam broke, and Jayne couldn't keep the words from spilling out of his mouth.

"It wasn't no one-night-stand, I swear," he implored to the girl. "I'm that kind 'a guy, but you ain't that kind 'a girl. I really meant it. All that stuff I said, I really meant all 'a it."

Mal's mouth might've been hanging open in shock if he hadn't already cemented it shut. This wasn't Jayne. He should be gloating. He should be angry. He should be swinging his fist at Mal and laughing about it over drinks the next night in some dingy bar. But the Jayne he saw there, clutching a sheet around his middle, looked worried, almost afraid.

And the most astonishing of all was the smile that curled on River's lips as she nodded. "I know."

A smile brightened like dawn on Jayne's face. "All right, then." He stooped to pick up his pants, nodded his affirmation to Mal, and disappeared into the bathroom.

Jayne pulled on his pants from behind the locked door, listening to the voices from the adjoining room with his chest full of a strange fluttering he couldn't identify. He could hear them clear as day, arguing and debating, mostly on Jayne's fate. If worse came to worse, Jayne figured he could leap out the bathroom window and run for it. But he supposed he'd dug himself in too far for that now.

And then there was River, the sweet voice whose whispers he remembered from the balmy summer evening that seemed like an age ago. She'd ordered Mal into the hallway while she found her clothing, her voice steady and even.

"I think I'm going to have a heart attack," Simon muttered, sitting in a chair near the bathroom door. "River, could you get my med bag?"

"Just in shock," she told him. Jayne could hear her bare feet on the floorboards. "Little sister lost her virginity last night."

"Oh God," Simon groaned again, his voice muffled and probably hidden in his hands. "How did this happen?"

"Simon left me alone. Jayne took care of me."

"Don't make this my fault, River."

"Not anyone's fault. Fault construes a mistake."

"So you're saying that this was a well-planned-out sexual encounter?" Jayne could feel the sarcasm dripping off of Simon's words like a viscous liquid.

"Simon means to ask how drunk we were."

He gave another muffled response in his hands, and Jayne tried his best not to laugh. It wasn't in his best interest to laugh, even from behind a locked door. After the siblings lapsed into silence, Jayne lowered himself to sit on the edge of the bathtub to wait. He wasn't sure what he was waiting for, but he found out when a single, harsh knock came to the bathroom door.

"We're takin' off in half an hour," Mal said through the door, not waiting talk face to face. "You best get your things off 'fore that or we're takin' off with it."

Jayne focused hard on his feet, knotting the sheet tightly in his hands with a jerk. "Got it, Cap'n."

The sun was high as Jayne approached Serenity. No one was waiting for him as he reached the ramp, but his guns had been bundled up along with anything he might have considered valuable and laying in the dirt. Jayne scoffed, frowned, and knelt to pick up three things.

Vera. The LeMat. The worn picture of his family back on the homestead.

He buckled his holster onto his waist, shoved the LeMat in and made ready to strap Vera across his chest when a rustle of fabric caught his ear. He looked up, shaded his eyes from the flare of sun, and settled his shoulders upon seeing her dark feminine silhouette.

"Hey," he said.

She stood with one hand rubbing up and down her opposite arm, something that might've been coy had they been two other people.

"Bet your brother told you y' weren't allowed t' see me off," Jayne said, smirking as he squinted in her direction.

"And the captain. And Zoe, but she hasn't said it."

"She's ready t' string me up by my man-parts, huh?" He didn't know why he was feeling so good-natured about his exile.

"Among other things," River answered, not laughing.

He shouldered Vera in the silence, shifted his weight to his other foot, and looked up the ramp. No one was watching to make sure he didn't sneak on board. The sun in his eyes, he turned back to River.

"I didn't hurt ya, did I?"

She twisted a thick strand of hair on one finger as she walked down the ramp to stand before him. "Bruises on my hips in the shape of Jayne's fingernails. And the lower lip is swollen where he bit at me."

He checked her lip with his thumb. "Didn't mean to. I mean..." He returned his hand to his side, wondering if he'd overstepped his bounds. She shook her head, as if at a child.

"No. Left my mark on him too." She touched the side of his neck gently, where an angry red bite mark stood out harsh against his skin. He winced, but didn't shy away.

"Don't do that." It was for her own good, rather than his.

Her fingertips dragged slowly down his arms, and he could feel her claw marks from the night before as she traced them again. "Scratching post."

"River..." He'd wanted this to be a simple goodbye, but she seemed unable to do so.

"Jayne liked it. Liked me to bite him."

"Gorramit, girl."

"Liked it," she repeated. "Liked me to mark him."

He felt lightheaded when those big brown eyes turned up to look him straight in the face. Lightheaded, like his brain had suddenly decided to go on a vacation. He realized after a blank moment that he was forgetting to breathe, and it all escaped him in a pent-up breath.

"Ai ya." He leaned down, clutching her upper arms to pull her suddenly close, and kissed her. This seemed to be exactly what she wanted, and dug her fingers into his shirt at the chest, bunching the fabric in her fists.

"HEY!" It was Mal, and he had his Ariel voice on again.

Jayne and River broke apart at nearly comic speed, the former more red-faced than the latter. Mal was striding down the ramp with purpose in his angry eyes.

"I said t' get your stuff and get out," Mal hissed once he was near enough to point an accusatory finger right in Jayne's face. The merc took a wary step back. "I didn't say you could get in one more lay before we set off."

"Hey, now," Jayne growled, his hackles suddenly raised. "Badmouth me all ya want, Mal, but you say one more word 'bout her like that..." He trailed off dangerously. Mal realized that his high ground wasn't so high when his ex-merc had an arsenal at his side. Neither, however, backed down.

"No," River said at last. Both men looked at her, puzzled.

"What?" Mal asked.

"What's going on?" Simon asked, appearing on the ramp.

"Jayne isn't leaving," River said solidly, and with a single step, moved between him and the captain. Mal lowered his pointing finger, not wanting to blame the girl for any of this.

"Yeah he is, Li'l Albatross," Mal said as Simon appeared at his side, permanent concern stitched into his brow. "Now, c'mon, we gotta get outta here 'fore the traders set in, or we'll be landlocked all afternoon."

River backed herself up against Jayne, looking so little against him, and shook her head. Jayne looked marginally surprised, and one of his arm instinctually slid around her middle, holding a hand flat against her stomach.

"Can't fly without a pilot," she told Mal, sounding cross but not looking the part.

"River, wait a minute," Simon looked sickly.

"What're you talkin' about?" Mal was glaring at Jayne, instead of the girl he was speaking to.

"I'm staying with Jayne," she said firmly. "Whether Jayne is on the ship or Jayne is on the ground."

Even Jayne was surprised at this.

"Hey, girl, y' don't gotta do that for me."

"River, you can't be serious!"

"Made up my mind a long time ago."

"Y' really mean--"

"Just get back on the ship--"

"Made up my mind--"

"Bi zui! All 'a you!" Mal shouted, and the three arguers went silent. "Now listen t' me. This here's my ship. Ain't no one arguin' who's on and who's off my ship. I get t' say who, when, where and how, dong ma?" He sucked air into his lungs, filling them for his tirade, and focused very intently on River. "Did he treat ya badly? He hurt you, River?"

She shook her head. "No intent to harm me."

Mal turned his icy eyes to Jayne. "You just do this for the kicks, Jayne?"

"Well, I... No. No, she ain't that kind 'a girl, Mal." His arm tightened around River's middle.

Mal looked again to River. "You think he'd treat ya right? You know what he's like, Albatross."

"I know."

"Wait, don't I get a say in this?" Simon looked frantic, his feet cemented in fear.

"What did I say about my boat, my rules, Doctor?" Mal growled. "I can fly this thing if I need to, but your genius sister's a better pilot than any 'a us together." Frustration had set in, and Mal sighed through his nose, glaring hard at Jayne. "Get your things. You do one thing out 'a line, and I swear the Wrath 'a God is gonna rain down on you, Jayne."

Jayne blinked, dumbfounded. "You serious?"

"I'm seriously gonna kick your ass right back off the ship if you ask me one more stupid question!" Mal responded, throwing up his arms and turning away from them. "And if I get woken up in the middle of the gorram night by noisy love-makin', I am not hesitatin' to throw you out that airlock!"

"Got it, Cap'n!" Jayne said quickly, straightening up.

River squeezed Jayne's hand before she moved to he flabbergasted brother to plant him with a kiss. "I'm an adult now. Make my own choices, stand on my own feet. Simon must understand this."

"Oh God," Simon groaned once more, hiding his face in his hands.

Jayne walked past them, hauling his guns and effects in, grinning down at the Tams. "S' good t' be back home," he proclaimed proudly.

River followed quickly after him, and Simon turned just in time to see his sister slap the flat of her palm against Jayne's rear. He chased her off toward the passenger dorms, their mingling laughter echoing in the wide cargo bay.

AN: Hmm... How do I explain myself with this one? Well, I'll start off with the fact that this is still named after a Nickel Creek song (if you've never listened to them, look them up. They're worth it). Other than that, I'll be the first to admit that this is nothing like my other Rayne oneshots. For one, it's borderline smutty. I don't usually do that. But, these guys totally invaded my brain, and they basically said, "If you don't write this, we'll start fornicating in your brain." and I don't need that on my mind's eye. Maybe. Shutting up now. Well, tell me how you like stuff in this vein (and I'm sorry for the length; I pontificate occasionally) and if you like, I might be persuaded to write more. Dunno about venturing into the realm of GASP M-rated stuff... Anyway, thanks for reading, for sitting through my AN rant and, as always, continue to stay awesome!