Authors Note: contains consensual quazi-sexual activity between minors. Y'all don't know how lucky you are that I warn you of anything at all. Please leave feedback, no matter what you thought.

"Not in the mood for whining, Jayne." Mal was unable to shake Jayne as he strode through the ship.

"Ain't whinin', Mal. Just don't see why I have to do it. There's gotta be crates to move or guns to load or …somethin'. Somethin' not that."

"There's none of either, which you plainly know. We're only going to the meet. This fella likes to deal with family businesses, so that's our caper today – actin' the picture of a big, happy family." He stopped and whirled about-face, nearly being plowed down by Jayne in the process. "Everyone's hands are full right now getting ready. Everyone's but yours. Look, queer as it may be –and it may be mighty queer-- this is a job. If this is a job, that means everybody works...everybody who's looking to get paid, at the very least. Now, you wanna get paid?" It was not really a question, since Mal never asked and Jayne never missed the chance to make money. "Go brush River's hair and make sure she's dressed right." Mal turned on his heel and walked off.

"Go tsao duh hwoon dahn. Kuh-oo duh lao bao-jun-"

"And Jayne," Mal called back without turning, "play nice." He laughed at the growl that wafted down the corridor, followed smartly with the successive percussions of heavy boots.

Jayne tried to calm himself as he stalked to the passenger dorm. "Calming" was not a strong area for him. He knocked needlessly hard on the flimsy door to River's berth. "Shu mu?" came a bird-like voice.

"Um," Jayne found his orders suddenly difficult to reiterate as he slid open the door, seeing River sitting in profile to him on the edge of her bed, hands folded perfectly in her lap. She was already in the knee-length calico dress Kaylee had found for her, though it hung billowously off her front in a strange way. He braced one forearm on the top of the frame and leaned in nonchalantly. "Cap'n says I'm supposed to get you ready for the meet." River just nodded, staring fixedly at a point low on the opposite wall. "Gotta brush your hair." Jayne stepped into the room, which felt that much smaller for having two bodies in it. River just stared. "You just gonna sit there like a lump?"

"I'm being good," River whispered, almost breaking a grin. "That's what Cap'n said I'm supposed to do. My job today is expressively and exclusively to 'be as good as I can manage'." She produced a hairbrush from beside herself on the mattress and thrust it towards Jayne. She looked up at him when he did not take the brush immediately. "Simon says my brushing is substandard."

Jayne snatched the brush and gestured with it. "Move down here to the end of the bed, facing out." River hopped herself sideways down the bed. Jayne could see why the dress looked so big on her – it was unzipped down to her waist in the back. She wore no bra and he took too long examining the unspoiled expanse of her back with its beautiful subtle clough down the center. That was not going to make his task any easier. "Do yourself up, girl. You ain't dressed yet."

"I can't reach it."

"Fine," he grunted and bent down with one knee on the bed. Jayne jerked the zipper tab up so sharply that it jammed only one-third of the way up. River had arched her back away from his hand and sharp movement. He tried to negotiate it down again, but it was thoroughly stuck. "Tsao gao. Forget it. Little Kaylee can fix it for ya later." Jayne stood straight and River slowly began to relax. "Let's do this." He dropped himself onto the bed behind her, one crooked leg as a barrier between the bodies. The sudden extra weight behind her nearly made River lurch backwards into Jayne, but she grabbed at the edge of the mattress to remain upright.

Knuckles white as he clutched the brush as tightly as any knife, Jayne began to brush River's hair. It was not badly knotted, just "bed head" really, and each stroke gave back a bit of its luster. Jayne breathed hard through his nostrils as he watched her sepia-brown hair become burnished under the brush. A small snag made River turn her head slightly and Jayne could not help but follow the statuesque line of her bared shoulder and graceful neck. He nudged her head forward again when the snag was undone. It was getting hot in the small room, despite the open door. Jayne tried valiantly, desperately to stay focused on his task, but that only seemed to make it worse. He was becoming sexually excited. He always became excited when brushing a woman's hair.

A definite knot stopped the brush entirely. Jayne held the section of hair with his other hand -- a hand nearly the size of her head-- so he could work it out without hurting River. Her hair was so smooth against his rought palm and fingers and he would have sworn on his arsenal that it smelled good too.

"It's hard," River said quietly and Jayne froze. "It's hard to act and be the way they want when it runs counter to your nature." She turned in profile to him. "It's alright, go ahead. I don't mind."

"What are you on about?"

"You're aroused. You're aroused and you want to relieve yourself of the tension it's creating." River turned to face forward again. "I don't mind. The truth of the matter is, I'd like you to."

Jayne was struck dumb. "You don't know what you're talking 'bout."

"I do. And you illustrate my point. Everyone thinks I'm still fourteen, the girl-child Simon waved goodbye to that morning. I'm not, I don't want to be anymore. I have thoughts, feelings, desires that they would not believe and cannot understand." River took a deep breath, as if preparing herself. "Will you share yours with me?"

"Ain't right for me to touch you."

"No touching me. Touch yourself, but let me enjoy it."

"I can't do it with you watching."

"Won't look."

"Don't have enough time."

"We have half an hour."

"Ain't right."

River turned to look at him full-on for the first time since he had sat down on her bed. Her dark brown eyes, which had the power to frighten him, were calm and serious. "You don't believe that."

"This is crazy."

"Now, that you believe. How apropos."

River turned back around and Jayne resumed brushing, even though he was practically finished. As sure as his prediction when Mal had given him his assignment, Jayne did not like this situation. It was not right, being attracted to a girl young enough to be his daughter, and a girl with whom he was sequestered on a tiny vessel in the middle of inhospitable space. But how bad could it really be, he muddled, if he did not touch her, if she did not even see him exposed, if he was only being sexual coincidentally in the same room as a girl already as old as his mother was when she had had him. That would not really be such a grievous sin, right? And he was really hard.

River reached out with one balletic foot and slid the door closed. 'Okay,' Jayne thought to himself as he blew out a deep breath, 'I'm gonna do this.' Never taking his eyes from River, Jayne unzipped his pants and maneuvered his hard member into the warm, still air of the room. Jayne wrapped his left fist around himself and resumed brushing River's hair with his right. Long slow strokes. No hurry. Enjoy it. Jayne's focus narrowed to two things, the mounting excitement in his groin and the sleek, shiny hair that swam like water around the bristles of the brush. A hand appeared over River's shoulder and dropped two tissues from the box on the bedside table to float lazily down to land on Jayne's knee.

River's eyes fluttered closed as she opened her mind and gave herself over to the pleasure flowing from Jayne. It was wonderful, like the sun on her back or sliding into a warm bath, and it eroded the troubling thoughts and anxious feelings that wriggled around in her brain always. The heat saturated her, it poured over and through her and her body tingled with it. With the arousal, came feelings, memories, glimpses of the past distorted by time and intermingled with fantasy.

"Brawny. Tawny. Toni. An-toni. Antonia. That's where it started. Where she got it, I don't know."

"Don't like you pokin' in my head, girl."

"You said you'd share," she said in a small, plaintive voice. "Just this. Everything else is sacrosanct." River only faintly heard the sounds of breathing and the fleshy and unmistakable fap fap fap noise as the colors and shades became images in focus. The next door neighbor girl, two years older than young Jayne, pretty but with a wicked streak not yet fully realized. On the walk home from school, Antonia grabbed Jayne by the arm and pulled him behind a tree. Before he could bark in surprise, she was kissing him. His very first kiss, and with tongue to boot. She slapped away his hand as he reached for her breasts. River could hear Antonia's voice in Jayne's memory as she lured him to her bedroom, quickly, before her parents came home from work.

In her pink and purple upholstered bedroom, Jayne latched onto Antonia as soon as she could close the door. That first kiss had had his heart pounding and sense sparking like nothing he had ever known and he had to have more. He would get more kisses, Antonia promised, as long as he did what she wanted and did it right. Not caring what the awful or arduous task might be, Jayne agreed. "Brush my hair," she ordered, slapping the brush handle into his hand hard enough to sting his palm.

Jayne accidentally pulled Antonia's chestnut hair the first time, and he got no kisses. A week later, on the walk home, she gestured with a nod of her head for him to follow her. This time, Jayne did it perfectly and was rewarded with five minutes of what he was quite certain was the most enthusiastic kissing the world had ever seen.

That was their routine. Once every week or so, when Antonia knew her house was empty, they would run up the stairs and into her room. A week at a time, Jayne earned the privilege of feeling her small, pointed breasts through her shirt, kissing her neck, touching her through her training bra and finally seeing, but not touching, her bare breasts. That reward would come at a higher price - Jayne would have to braid her hair.

River felt Jayne's mind skimming over the unfortunate truth. He had never gotten the knack of braiding well enough to put his hands or mouth on those budding bosoms that entranced him. Instead, Jayne's mind side-stepped into fantasy. They were a little older now. He would practice braiding thongs of leather, scraps of ribbon, whatever he could find until he mastered the perfect plait. He left school before the final bell and went to her room. There, he lovingly brushed her hair and wove it into a most gorgeous braid that fell down the center of her back. So impressed was Antonia in Jayne's fantasy that she immediately pulled her dress off over her head, stripped off her white cotton bra and panties, and lay down on the bed, his for the taking.

River's heart thundered in her chest along with Jayne's. He was nearing his climax. That much would have been obvious even without a sense of his mind. Jayne's breathing was short and harsh through clenched teeth and his fist moved at a rabid pace.

Jayne could see that River was truly under the effects of his arousal. It had begun very slightly at first, but now her back was arching like a bow and she seemed unable to catch her breath. Her delicate hands had gripped the edge of the bed on either side of her thighs and one moved into her lap where he could not see. River's head fell back and her hair shook down like a graceful waterfall. The meek, thready moan that rose from her as her body began to tremble was enough to rush Jayne into his orgasm. Cock pulsing in his hand, he spurted into the tissues. Jayne had to clench his jaw until his teeth ached to keep himself from crying out with the force of it. He had never come so strongly by his own hand in his entire life.

Even through River's dress and panties, it had only taken a few precise strokes of her tender bud to send the lightning through her body that she so longed for. It shook her down to her bones, making her feel more vital, more alive, more real than she had in years. Her orgasm crashed into Jayne's like waves on a jetty and River let herself be swirled away by their waters. She was falling, or flying, there was no way to be certain.

No words were spoken as their deep, panting breaths made report of their sweet exertion. Jayne, having more than amply finished his task, did up his pants and stood up on somewhat untrustworthy legs. River just sat facing the door, though her eyes were closed now. Jayne tried to slide from the room as soundlessly as he could.

"Thank you," River whispered.

"Yeah," was all Jayne said as he closed her door.

Simon was hot on Mal's heels, with Book close behind. "I just can't believe you'd assign Jayne to get River ready. There's so much wrong with that I can't even. . . Do you at least have an explanation I'm expected to believe?"

"What is it that makes this crew think that chasing me all over the ship is some great inducement to change my mind?" Try as he might, Mal could not elude them. "When I bought Serenity, I handed over my land legs, an assload of credits, and the little gland that makes a captain-y man explain his orders. Dong ma?"

"Captain," Book interjected in his typically calm manner, "we just don't understand-"

Mal raised his hands to silence them. "This is the last thing I'm saying on this, then you two are going to get ready. Diyu, I'll even make it Biblical for your Shepherd. It's a lot like Daniel into the lion's den." With that, Mal strode for the cargo bay.

Simon turned to Book, none comforted by the captain's obtuse simile. "But which one's the lion?"