AN: A bit of an experiment of mine, as well as my Ur-fic in the Firefly fandom. Let's see where this goes.
Disclaimer: I don't own Firefly or its characters. Joss, boss, etc.
One Gorram Reason
Part OneHe missed having a spotter.
Jayne Cobb sat up, grabbing a towel after he'd set his weights back on the rack. The sweat stained all his clothes, dripping down from his hair, and it took him a good few minutes to finally stop perspiring. It had been a good workout.
But he still missed having a good spotter.
The burly man rose to his feet, peering around the open cargo bay, cool air drifting in from the open bay doors. The ship was quiet, empty and silent, most of the crew having gone dirtside for recreation and work. Mal and Zoe were lining up a new heist, Doc and Kaylee were out doing who knew whatever lovebird games they played at, and Inara was dealing with another client.
Thinking of Inara and clients made Jayne grin, and he stood up, stretching his oxygenated muscles. He spent a few minutes doing so, getting all kinks out of his body after having spent all that time pumping iron, and threw the towel over his shoulder. Grabbing a water bottle, he strolled into the common area past the bay.
It was boring being left behind to guard Serenity, but Mal had figured no one would be in better shape to protect it than his two meanest fighters. Of course, one was liable to sell the ship off for a couple platinum should the fancy take him (or so Jayne boasted) and the other could end up wiring the ship to blow up if she wasn't dumping soup into the catalyzers. One way or the other, the gorram little girl was going to get them all killed, and having her flying the ship just upped those odds as far as Jayne Cobb was concerned.
As he walked into the common room, he could hear grunting coming from the washroom, by the passenger dorms, and since only one other person was on the ship, it didn't take much learning to figure out who it was. The mercenary considered just walking on past, but then he heard a familiar hurking sound, and the heavy splash of someone rendering their breakfast and lunch moot points.
"Better there'n on the bridge," Jayne grunted, but figuring it wouldn't be stupid to check on the girl, he lingered outside the washroom until she stumbled back out. He wasn't surprised to see her a bit green around the face, wiping her mouth as she stared down at the floor, her bare feet padding along the bare metal.
"Alright?" Jayne asked, and she mumbled something, looking up at him. He frowned, catching the question in her eyes without her having to speak it. "Well, can't have you flying around if you're gonna be spraying munched-up bits of your brother's cookin' everywhere." He sat down on a chair, propping his feet up. "Don't know much 'bout machines but I know they ain't takin' too well to havin' digestible goop all over 'em."
"Side effects of medication," she replied dully, and wandered toward the infirmary.
"Thought your brother said you didn't need none of that anymore," Jayne replied, and he honestly wished she didn't. Bad enough she was both the pilot and crazy, but being pilot, crazy, and drugged up on some medical whatsit concoction was a recipe for ugliness.
"Keeps input from getting cloudy, filters," River replied, shaking her head and tossing her hair about. She closed her eyes, took a breath, and seemed to steady.
"Well, whatever. Don't be crashin' the ship or nothin'."
"Difficult to do so without being airborne," she replied, and he grunted.
"Talkin' about later," Jayne said, and she moved past him, toward her dorm room, before pausing.
"Quiet," she whispered, and peered around the room. It was quiet down here, Jayne had to admit, and with her brother shacking up with Kaylee half the time, the girl was alone in the dorms. He felt an odd pang of sympathy for her being left down here; he wouldn't want to be separate from everyone else like this either.
"Sympathy doesn't become you," she said, fixing him with her big brown eyes, and he sneered.
"Tossin' your face into the toilet don't make you any prettier either," he replied. She glanced away, her tangly hair obscuring her face. Had to admit, even if he didn't like the crazy little moonbrained girl, she was pretty, and it would take some serious bruisin' to hurt that. Body wasn't too bad either, and she hadn't changed much at all since the first time he'd caught a pleasant eyeful of her figure. Body flexible like that, she could do things . . . .
She snapped her eyes back toward him, giving him a glare that might have been reserved for serial killers and door-to-door salesmen. Without warning, she turned and stomped back toward the washroom. Jayne watched, confused, and she leaned back out of the door, her arm pumping almost too fast to see. Jayne ducked with the practiced ease of someone who was used to taking cover or losing his head, but the object still managed to bop him across his forehead.
"Ow! What the hell are-" he was cut off by the sight of the projectile, laying in his lap, and he looked up in confusion. "You throwin' soap at me?"
The top half of her head poked out of the washroom, glaring at him with the peerlessly hateful intent of a child told they couldn't have any cookies.
"Jayne has a dirty mind," she muttered. He grinned, and thought of a dozen more ways she could use her physical gifts properly, starting with her feet and moving up. River's eyes widened, and she ducked back inside the washroom. The mercenary jumped to his feet and rolled around the chair, just in time to avoid a bottle of sanitizer.
"Gotta work better on that aim, crazy girl!" he yelled. She stepped back out, still angry by Jayne's estimate, and he flopped back down.
"No more suitable munitions," she said, walking past him, and then pausing. "Still has hands. Can deal with dirty Jayne-thoughts the hard way." She looked down between his legs, and he jerked, reflexively putting his hands over his weak spot in a conspicuously unmanly manner.
"Hey, you can throw all the cleanin' nonsense you want at me, but them's off-limits," he warned.
"Continuing antagonism will drastically reduce your chances of bearing offspring," she replied, but her mouth twitched up, and the mercenary relaxed at the smile. She sat down in a chair across from him.
"Don't want no kids anyway," he replied, pointing at her. "No family for me. Too busy, and the prospect of leaving little Cobbs runnin'a 'round every moon we go to isn't a rightsome thought."
"Little Jaynes grow beards by six, start sexin' before out of the crib," she said, smiling, and he laughed, because he'd been thinking the exact same . . . oh, right.
"Downright creepifying you get sometimes," he remarked, and looked away. "Seriously, though, no kids for Jayne. Don't want the trouble it brings."
"Then he doesn't mind if I squeeze them?" River asked, and he went rigid.
"No! I mean, yes! I mean! Stop insinuating you're gonna-" He stopped as she burst out laughing, wrapping her arms around herself as she shook. After a second, he managed a chuckle too.
"Easy mark, easy like Simon," she said after overcoming her laughter. "Makes faces like twisty hairy bears."
"Well, I am a bear, but I ain't too hairy," Jayne replied, rubbing his chin. "Need to shave, honest."
"Beard is better," she remarked, and he raised an eyebrow.
"Ya think?" In response, she rose, stepped across the short distance between them, and stuck her hand into his face. her arm was a tiny blur of pale whiteness, and by the time Jayne realized it, she had already grabbed his chin. He reached up and grabbed her wrist, more out of surprise than anything else, and his fingers engulfed her entire hand.
"Fuzzy," she added, unperturbed by his grip. "Rough but nice touch." He released her hand, and she pulled away, smiling. "Hair also hides ugly chin."
"Ugly what?" he shouted, hands snapping up, but the girl was already skipping away, laughing and smiling and gorram did she move so smoothly, those legs dancing her across the room like a . . . dancing . . . dancer. Right.
"Simon again," she said, her voice oddly sing-song. "Jayne like Simon, Simon like Jayne, both easy marks."
"Glad you're in such a good mood," he muttered, but the grin didn't fade from his face. Her cheery mood was infectious, and being playful meant she wasn't crazy and cutting him with a btucher's knife or anything.
And like that, the good cheer vanished, River coming to a complete halt and her face shifted from smiles and brightness to pensiveness in the blink of an eye.
"Apologies." Her tone matched her face, low and quietly pleading. He frowned, and then remembered her knifing him back around Ariel. What a pile of go se that ended up.
"Nothin'," he replied. "Weren't you doin' the cuttin' on me anyway. Bat-brains an' all."
"Wasn't thinking clearly," she said, stepping back toward him, her gait now that of an uncertain child. "Saw the blue on your shirt, had to make it red." She reached down and poked a finger into his chest. "Red inside. Quickest way to make it red was with a blade to the fleshbag."
"Fleshbag?" he echoed. "Ain't the most flatterin' term."
"Bloodsack, meatbag, hamholder, skinseal-"
"Stop it." Gettin' creepifyin' again. "Look, I get it. You weren't thinkin' straight when you took the knife to me. I understand." He paused, and nodded. "So, there. Better?" He hoped so, and she managed a smile.
"Better," she answered, and then her face twisted up into that thoughtful expression she had, as Jayne remembered other times she'd used blades. "You like it more when she's cutting other people." He smiled.
"Damn right, crazy," he replied. "You cuttin' up them Reavers was one of those things I'm never gonna . . . ." he stopped as her expression shifted again. Gorram it, this girl didn't stay one way more than a heartbeat. Now she was looking away, probably not wanting to remember the Reavers she'd been forced to kill. But that thought of her standing in that doorway, blood dripping off her weapons, hair mussed up, chest heaving, eyes wide, piles of dead monsters all around her . . . .
It had been one of the most beautiful sights he'd ever seen.
Too bad it was this stupid, crazy, moon-brained girl who did it all. Otherwise by now he would have already . . . .
She looked back at him, her cheeks flushing, and Jayne realized he needed to stop thinking like that, about her. Gorram, she had a nice body, but she was a kid and the last person he'd ever want to . . . . Mal would space him, her brother would invent something with that doctorin' brain of his, and the girl would rip him apart with a pinky if he laid a wrong hand on her.
"Can't apply enough force with one finger," she said, her cheeks still flushing. It was Jayne's turn to look away, which he did by standing and stepping away from her.
"Gorram, girl, got my pecker runnin' off in the wrong directions," he snarled. No. Couldn't think of the damn girl that way. Even though he'd thought the same way about Zoe, Kaylee, Inara - especially Inara.
She looked up at him, not sure what to say, and he finally waved his hands in the air before walking back out of the common room, before she could get him thinking things he shouldn't and didn't really want to be thinking.
Mal and Zoe came back later that day to find Jayne relentlessly exercising in the cargo hold. He only gave them a grunt of agreement when they mentioned they had a lucrative job; only Zoe noticed his relative lack of enthusiasm at the prospect of piles of cash for an easy run.
Once Simon and Kaylee had returned and Inara docked, the crew readied the ship to lift. No one really noticed that Jayne went out of his way to avoid seeing River again, going so far as to "wander" out of the cargo bay when she wandered out onto the catwalk overhead.
At dinnertime, he avoided looking at her as he tore away at his meal. The meal was interspersed with the usual joke-telling and story-recounting, but mixed in were comments that Jayne was eating fast, even for his usual lack of table manners. His only reply was some off-hand response about all the exercise making him hungry. Once again, no one seemed to note that the only times he looked up, he would cast quick glares River's way. For her part, the pilot only picked at her food, giving Jayne the occasional look while he was eating.
Once he'd taken care of dishes - cleaning them in record time - the mercenary announced he was heading for his bunk, and did so with all haste.
He tried sleeping, and after about an hour's worth of fitful turning and twisting, he finally managed to calm down enough to get into a light doze. The doze didn't last long, and he found himself staring at a ceiling he didn't like and wished he could punch. Cleaning his guns didn't help ease the tension he felt, either, nor did sharpening his knives.
Wasn't right for him to be thinkin' about her like this. Sure, she was tough, and had some serious guts taking on a horde of rape-happy skin-eating space pirates with her bare hands. But she wasn't for him to be focusing on. Just a gorram little kid.
He finally clambered back up his ladder and wandered out into the mess, grabbing one of his bottles of whiskey. He opened it, sniffed, and then, after a long moment's consideration, capped it. He wanted a clear head, for once. Best way to clear his head was a nice walk around the ship and finding stuff to do.
The cargo bay was open and dark, fitting his thoughts. He lingered there for a bit, doing the occasional pull-up or weight set, followed by checking the weapons lockers and cargo.
Gorram it, not having the Shepard here to spot for him was disconcerting. Four months after he'd gone on, it still bothered Jayne Cobb.
Once he ran out of make-work to do, Jayne wandered down past the infirmary, toward the passenger dorms, as the washroom down there was closer than the toilet in his bunk, and he needed to empty himself.
sand in her toes, surf roaring, laughter and gulls calling on the shores of Osiris
She smiled as he spoke a question, her brother looking off into the seas. Didn't need to hear the question, as she knew what he was saying before he spoke it. She opened her mouth to reply-
neEDles knives blinking lights scalpel raised cold steel on wrists and aNkles naKEd probing
such good work
She sat up, breaking the illusion, banishing it with gasps of shock and twists and turning and warmth
Ragged breaths escaped aching lungs. She trembled despite the heat wrapping around her.
River. Her name was River and she was home. Not there, not in that place.
Proof. She needed to remind herself where she was. Fingers reached out, touching walls and floor, sliding over the familiar tactile textures of the vessel. Her breathing slowed as she touched the thrum of the ship, her ship, the reassuring whispers of Serenity.
Anything to keep her mind off the date, the place, the good work starting when she was fourteen.
Sweat was in the air, the presence of dark thoughts, a billowing mass that was tinged with relief and exertion. Jayne. He was about.
The darkness in his mind was her fault, and she needed to fix it. And maybe he could distract her, get her away from-
No, no thinking about it. Just find Jayne and trade barbs.
She rose, fingers on the plastic of her sliding door, and bare feet sliding and padding over the metal and carpet.
Damn, it felt good to cut loose. Jayne kicked the toilet back into its little alcove int he washroom, and zipped up as it flushed on its own. With a contented sigh, he stepped outside, rounded the infirmary, and ran headlong into River.
The impact sent the girl, a third his musclebound weight, stumbling backwards, but she regained her balance by the time Jayne's hand snapped out to catch her. She let her hand get caught by his meaty fingers again though, and offered a smile as she steadied herself.
"Shit, girl, sneakin' around like that," he muttered.
"Heard you building muscle," she replied. "Wanted to apologize again."
"I was trying to be quiet," he muttered, and she shook her head.
"Didn't hear you. Heard you." Jayne caught the emphasis, and frowned again.
"Can't go anywhere without you pokin' around in my head, huh?" he asked, and then his mind caught up with her words. "Apologize for what?"
"For making your pecker uncomfortable," she replied. His mouth dropped slightly at her use of the word, which didn't seem to make any sense coming off of her lips.
"Naw, that ain't your fault," he said quickly, hating to see that look on her face. "Its me that's got the bad thoughts goin' at you."
"Not bad thoughts," she said, pouting thoughtfully, and started wandering back past the infirmary, toward the couches. "Just dirty Jayne thoughts."
"Ain't none better," he replied with a grin, following her. "Anyway, I'm bettin' I was the one who upset you, and I don't want you knifin' me in my sleep or anythin', so I figured I'd clear the air."
"Wasn't going to knife you," she said, sitting down, and then that mischievous smile she'd worn earlier appeared. "Had soup warming up, though."
"I just went into the mess, ain't no sou- oh." He jabbed a finger at her. "Put soup in my hair I'll think so many dirty thoughts you'll be pourin' bleach in your ears!" She stuck out her tongue at him, and his counter was to cross his arms, stare directly at her, and consider what she could do with said tongue.
Her face quickly came to resemble a strawberry at that.
"Finally, I got a way to beat you at that mind readin' game," he said with a triumphant grin, and she giggled. That noise sounded . . . nice, after seeing her all petulant-like.
"Jayne likes his dirty thoughts," she added after she'd stopped laughing and he shrugged.
"Dirty thoughts, guns, and winnin'. That's Jayne. Surprised little genius like you ain't got that by now."
"Mountains turned to anthills," she mused. "Thinks he's a hero but when times roll, he makes complex things too simple to recognize."
"Stop degrading yourself," she said, bluntly and direct, frowning.
"Ain't doin' none of that, girl," he muttered, shaking his head.
"Then why do you keep thinking that you don't want me?" she replied. The question was innocent, direct, and so childlike that it took the burly mercenary several seconds to catch the meaning.
"Honesty," she said, standing, while his face still resembled a mounted fish. "You spent the whole night unable to sleep because you want to sex me, but you don't want to sex me." Jayne's eyes did a passable imitation of dinner plates, and he held up his hands.
"Shush up!" he growled. "Anyone hears you, Mal's gonna chuck my privates out the airlock!"
"No big secret," she replied. "Crawled out of the box naked, everyone who wanted an eyeful got it." She smiled. "You really wanted the eyeful."
"Well, uh," he replied, considering what to respond with, but then realizing it didn't matter what he said. Finally, he settled on the blunt truth. "At least it was a nice eyeful." Her smile expanded at the compliment.
"And you want more than an eyeful?" she added, to which he took an immediate, distinct and very, very cautious step backward.
"Whoa, now! Want and want are two completely different things, moonbrain!" he growled. "Wouldn't mind snaggin' some from Kaylee, or Inara, or Zoe, but don't see me thinkin' I should, or would if I could! 'Specially not you, crazy!"
He expected her to be upset. It was as blunt a rejection as he could manage without saying it outright. And half of him wasn't even sure why she was bringing it up like this. River never cared about him, ever, and he'd only given her the same ordinary masculine thoughts most men gave most women and vice versa. Maybe bein' a reader made things different, and he had to admit that there was a lot more sexy to her after she'd kicked the shit out of him twice and ripped up a jillion Reavers without a scratch but dammit Jayne Cobb wasn't gonna to do anything with this stupid, genius crazy reader girl!
End. Of. Discussion.
"You get all that?" he snarled, and she nodded.
"Lots of words. Lots of thoughts. Lots of emotions." She cocked her head to the side.
"Not one gorram good reason not to, though."
He scowled, shaking his head, and turned around, crossing his arms and refusing to budge like any real, proper man did when confronted by this sort of thing.
"Ain't happenin', crazy." He was resolute in his refusal. He looked back at her, his scowl still as intensely Jayne-like as ever. "And why . . . why you pressin' this anyway?"
"Have my reasons," she replied, sitting down. "Agreement?"
"'Bout what?" Jayne asked, turning back toward her.
"Give me one gorram reason why your brain doesn't want me," she replied. "And I tell you why I'm pressing it."
The machinery whirled in Jayne's mind, and he nodded, straightening his shoulders.
"You want reasons why I ain't ever gonna sex you, darlin'?" he asked, and grinned tightly. "Gotta shipload of 'em."
And he'd damn well get to the bottom of this probin' of his pecker, too. Gonna be an interestin' and awful truthsome night.
AN: First part of a three-part series. Expect much more development next chapter as River and Jayne keep locking horns.
Personally, I find the River/Jayne pairing to be interesting, mostly for other peoples' take on it. Its difficult, not supported in canon very much, and their personalities so violently conflict that it seems impossible. So, as a bit of an experiment, I decided to try and write a Rayne fic that fit River and Jayne's personalities, but I'm opting to take things in a slightly different angle than what most Rayne fics tend to go. Precisely what that angle is going to be, however, is soemthing you'll have to find out next chapter.
Until next chapter . . . .