It is a routine that Mal has come to expect and this time is no different. He is checking the Mule one last time when the hurried tread of heavy boots upon the metal stairs announces Jayne's presence. "Mal!" He sounds especially desperate this time and the captain struggles to compose his expression before turning. The big man's eyes are wide and he keeps glancing over his shoulder as if an entire garrison of Alliance troops is hot on his heels. "You gotta take me with ya, Cap'n," he begs.

Mal digs his nails into his palms to help stop the smile that is threatening his tenuous control over his facial muscles. "I'm thinkin' Kaylee might want you around to help with the new engine housing," he can't resist teasing, though he is careful not to let any of the amusement he feels break through into his voice.

Jayne's expression grown even more desperate and he throws another worried look behind him, hunching his shoulders unconsciously. "I'm beggin' ya, Cap'n – don't leave me."

"Now, Jayne…"

The distressed merc interrupts him. "You got no idea what it's like, Mal. Like havin' Reavers down in your bunk with ya that like the color pink an awful lot – she's the sweetest gal you'd ever like to see otherwise, but aiya…you gotta take me."

Mal can't help it any longer, and he starts to laugh. "Mercy, Jayne – won't be but another two months until we stop at Ita for the job we've got lined up and then we can get more of what Simon tells me she normally takes. What'd you do this time to set her off?"

"Hell if'n I know," Jayne wails helplessly. "Every ruttin' thing I say or do is wrong when she's like this."

The captain makes a small production of looking the hulking mercenary up and down. "Can't rightly believe a man big as yourself can be so afraid of a little woman a quarter of your size."

"Oh, she may be teeny, but that girl can get awful mean. She– oh, no…"

Both men look up to the door of the cargo bay as Kaylee's voice rings out. "Jayne? You in here?"

Jayne casts about wildly for a place to hide, but finds no adequate cover so squares his shoulders with a long-suffering sigh. "Yeah, baobei, I'm talkin' t'Mal."

"'Bout what?" She appears at the catwalk's railing to scowl down at the big man, who flinches at her tone of voice.

He shuffles his feet and peers up at her. "Well, I was askin' when we was gonna meet up with Monty." He offers the spectacular lie with a loud throat-clearing that wouldn't fool a toddler.

Big brown eyes narrow dangerously. "Oh, you mean you wanted to know when I'd get back on my-"

"No, 'course not, xingan," he says hastily. "Don't wanna spoil it, but I asked Monty t'bring ya somethin' special…picked it out myself an' everything."

"Really?" The tiny mechanic perks up and offers her cringing lover a smile. Jayne nods in confirmation and expels a relieved sigh when she leaves, a great deal happier than she'd been the whole morning.

Mal eyes his mercenary, brought low by the foibles of a woman's reproductive system. "Did you really?"

"Hell, no…but now I really gotta go with you since she might be monitorin' any waves comin' from the ship."

"Well, I don't know-"

"I swear I won't try to bring no grenades this time!" After a long pause that really sets the other man to sweating, Mal gives in and tells him to grab his gear. "Thanks, Mal…this TNT thing is a gorram nightmare."

"You mean, PMS?"

"Naw, I call it TNT… what with how Kaylee turns into a ruttin' timebomb I'm thinkin' it's a mite more appropriate. No one never told me bein' someone's nánpéng youwas like this." Jayne leaves to collect his weapons and Mal turns back to the Mule, shaking his head. He'd learn.

A soft voice calls out his name from above and he turns once more, a smile at the ready for Inara who is gracefully descending. "What was that all about? I saw Jayne running down the corridor for some reason."

Mal grins down at the woman he loves. "Told him he could go along."

"But what about Kaylee? I thought…"

"Oh, she's in one of her moods again – you know she's been every month since she went off her regular dose…what?"

Inara arches a dark brow with an unidentifiable expression in her eyes. "'One of her moods?'"

He unthinkingly digs an even deeper hole for himself. "Well, you know that Jayne's got a lot to learn about women - got no idea how to handle himself in the face of female hormones."

An extremely cool look passes across her face. "I'd say he's not the only one who has a lot to learn."

Uh-oh.

END