Title: "Chilly"

Author: Green Owl

Prompt: #12 - "Hell"

Challenge: Copper For A Kiss Mini-Challenge (July 2008, 50 Prompts Table)

Word Count: 1500

Rating: PG

Author Notes: Pinch-hitting! It was supposed to be a drabble, but those two had other plans...

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

"Whatcha studyin', River?" Wash asked as he set the platter of sham and eggs down in the middle of the table.

"Dante's Inferno," the girl replied as she wrapped her free hand around an ankle and pulled her leg up to her chest.

"Pretty heavy reading for breakfast, isn't it, sweetheart?" Inara asked as she glided into the room and sank into the seat next to Kaylee in a smooth skirl of silvery silk.

"Not unless the gravity thrust malfunctions," the girl answered as she turned a page and twined a long lock of hair around her index finger.

Zoe paused in the middle of forking sham onto her plate. "That ain't scheduled to happen anytime before we reach Beaumonde, is it?"

River lifted her head, listened to the ship, then shifted her gaze to Kaylee and shook her head.

"Not for another fifteen cycles," the mechanic verified as she spooned eggs onto her plate. "All things remainin' equal, o' course."

Book paused in the middle of cutting into his slice of sham. "Are you saying that you're able to pinpoint exactly when that part will need replacing?"

"Among others. River figured it out all by herself," Kaylee explained as she made a smiley face with her food. "We was doin' pedicures in the engine room yesternight and she just up an' grabbed the polish and made me a junkyard shopping list on that piece of panelin' that broke off last week while me an' Simon was – "

"Whoa, I do not need to hear this conversation!" Mal announced as he picked up his plate and headed for his bunk.

"Playing horsehoes in the cargo bay," Simon finished quietly as he sliced his sham into surgically precise pieces.

"Oh." Mal sat back down and resumed eating.

"Blushing," River announced as she lifted and turned her tucked leg up higher to show one of her elegantly arched feet. Her toenails had been painted a soft, sheer pink that almost matched the pale rose-peach color of her lips.

"River, would you put your leg down, please?" her brother asked her as he passed her the salt and pepper.

She placed her foot on the smooth, scarred eating surface and returned her attention to her book.

"These don't belong on the table, darlin'," Mal reminded River, gently tweaking her big toe.

"Cold," River pouted as she tucked her limb underneath her bottom.

"Go stick 'em on the reactor then," Jayne grumbled as he lumbered into the room and sank down into the only available chair which was right across from her.

The girl looked up from her book to stare at the mercenary from under her lashes.

He pointedly ignored her as he placed three slices of sham and a mountain of eggs onto his plate and started scanning the table for the salt and pepper.

They were at River's elbow.

"Pass the seasonin'," he grunted at her.

"Say 'please'," she instructed primly.

"He don't pay me to talk pretty," Jayne sneered, motioning towards Mal with his fork, "and you don't pay me at all, so why dontcha just shut the hell up and pass the gorram cān zhuō yán and hēi hú jiāo, dong ma?"

"No," she retorted coolly as she placed the shakers next to Simon and resumed her reading. "Petulant pistol-wielding whiners do not warrant the black nor the white, much less any shade of grey. Absorb a little etiquette before you re-attempt acquisition, ape-man."

Jayne grit his teeth as he shoved away from the table, stood up and used his incredibly long reach to snatch the shakers. "Yer a gorram pain in the pi gu, ya know that, girlie?"

"Yours especially," she said with a cheeky grin as she turned the page.

"Gorram right ya are," he griped as he plunked himself down, seasoned his food and started shoveling it in his mouth.

The rest of the crew ignored the them as they sniped at each other – it just was another common, garden-variety morning on Serenity with River and Jayne going back and forth like pair of bratty children.

Well, that was until Jayne splattered Mal with his entire plate of food as he screeched and sprang out of his chair.

Conversation halted as Mal struggled to pluck gooey globs of egg out of his eyes and hair while glowering at Jayne. "What. The. He– "

"Not my ruttin' fault!" Jayne hollered as he pointed down at his chair.

Mal craned his neck and saw that a pair of slender, delicate girl-feet were propped up on the seat, ankles elegantly crossed and toes serenely pointed. He glanced at River, who was trying to hide her giggle behind her book.

"All right, Albatross," he sighed, "since you're having some difficulties comprehendin' this morning, let me be a little more specific: feet belong on the floor or on your chair, not Jayne's or anybody else's."

"But he reacted so well," she said with am impish glitter in her bright dark eyes. "And he liked it, too."

"I did not!" Jayne protested, shooting Book a horrified look.

"You did, too," River cooed as she marked her place in her book with a colorful piece of paper and speared a piece of sham with her fork.

"Did not!" he hollered at her.

"Did, too!" she sing-songed and chewed.

"Did not!" he shouted.

"Liar-liar, pants on fire!" she simpered.

"Ain't goin' to Special Hell on account o' the likes o' ya, girlie, so shut yer ruttin' mouth!" he shouted, shaking a menacing finger in front of her face.

"Why don't you shut it for me?" she taunted, then stuck out her tongue as she snatched the salt and pepper back.

Jayne stood there, seething, shaking, clenching his fists and his jaw, ready to detonate at the least provocation.

"You hit her, I space you," Mal warned Jayne softly as Simon went for the emergency smoother he kept stashed in his pocket.

"But she's…she's like Satan's valentine or somethin'!" Jayne said, gesticulating at the girl. "Man can't even eat his gorram breakfast without gettin' assaulted!"

"I didn't assault you," River replied calmly. "I did not a-pepper you, either. All I asked was for you to say 'please'."

"Like I told ya before, moonbrain – "

River rolled her eyes, reached into the pocket of her dress and tossed a coin at him.

Jayne caught it out of reflex and hefted it as he looked at it, then at her, then back at the coin again.

She kept a firm grip on the shakers with one hand while she tapped out an "I'm-getting-bored" rhythm on the table with the other.

"Would you please pass the ruttin' salt and the gorram pepper, ya thrice-humped pygmy nutcase from Hell?" Jayne asked as he carefully sat down.

"Certainly!" River replied graciously as she slid the salt and pepper shakers back across the table.

The rest of the crew sighed in relief and started eating again.

"You're cleaning that up," Mal told River as he pointed to the mess. She nodded reluctantly and went to fetch some paper towels.

"How much'd she pay him?" Kaylee asked Simon under her breath.

"I think it was a copper," Simon whispered as he used a piece of bread to sop up the sham drippings.

"Not a bad price," Inara commented before she took a sip of her tea.

"We got anymore food?" Jayne asked Book.

"Yes, I think there's a bit more," the shepherd replied as he went back to the stove to see what was left in the cookware.

"Feet are still cold," River declared as she sat back down and finished her breakfast.

"Yeah, well my lap's not for sale," Jayne announced.

"Too bad," she said, opening her book up again. "I was prepared to part with my place-marker for toasty tootsies."

He froze, fork poised at his mouth as he saw what she'd been using to indicate the page she was on. Then he got up, went to the lounge, retrieved a blanket and spread it over his lap as he shifted a little sideways.

"All right, give 'em over," he told her.

She lowered the book ever so slightly to peer over the top of it at him, an expectant expression firmly fixed on her face.

Jayne sighed. "Please?"

River beamed and placed her feet sideways in his blanketed lap as she him handed a 5-credit bill. He pocketed the money, wrapped the blanket up around her ankles and started eating again.

"So, uh, tell me, Jayne," Wash ventured as he cuddled up to his wife. "How much for a foot massage?"

Jayne shot him a look that would have macerated metal.

"I'm just asking, since you're seemingly available, an' all," Wash clarified.

"Cold day in hell before I'd ever touch your feet, little man," Jayne said as he concentrated on eating.

"Seems a little chilly in here to me," Zoe murmured as she watched the big mercenary absently tuck the blanket a bit tighter around the little girl's toes.