Disclaimer: I do not own Firefly/Serenity.

A/N: Originally written for a challenge over at Copper For A Kiss - using a random prompt generator (the link's dead now, I think, though). This is a funny pre-Rayne fic where River and Jayne pose as a couple to keep a mark distracted. There is an unfinished sequel to this, in a file buried deep, deep in the darkest reaches of my harddrive. One day... I shall post it. Heh. I just need to finish the fight scene it.

Anyway, enjoy, everyone!

Just a Walk in the Park

"Captain! We're here." Wash looked to the triceratops sitting on the console near him. "Just you and me, buddy. You and me." He stared out at the gray surface of the planet rising rapidly towards him. Landings were easy - easy, just as long as nothing went wrong, as long as he kept the girl steady, as long as he was smooth, gliding in, a leaf on the wind...

He let out a long, low breath and then grinned. Another perfect landing.

"Good job," Mal – who was suddenly behind him – said, giving the pilot a clap on the shoulder. "Now meet in the hold - we're disscussin' the job."

Wash stood and followed him out. "What? I get to know the intricate details of our crime? Am I allowed to participate this time?"

Mal ignored him.

As soon as everyone had gathered in the hold, Mal assumed his most captainy stance: feet apart and arms on his hips. "Well." He gave everyone a stern look and said, "We got somethin' of an oddness this time 'round. Man who hired us has somethin' of an enemy in these parts - one he didn't bother tellin' me about 'til jus' now. And he's the one we're stealin' from."

"So?" Jayne shrugged. "Why's that matter? I c'n just shoot him." He hefted one of his smaller guns up, grinning.

"That would be easy, wouldn't it? But he knows that we're comin' and he knows most o' the crew."

"We can't just give up the job, captain," Zoe said seriously, her arms folded. "We need the coin."

"Do not worry," River said, popping up from her seat on Jayne's weight bench. "He has a plan."

"That's right, li'l witch," Mal said, nodding slowly. "I have a plan." He coughed and said, "He knows most o' the crew, but not all of us. He ain't never seen River."
"Send the girl out," River informed the rest of them, nodding seriously. "Reconnaissance."

"Well... yeah," Mal agreed, still disconcerted from the mind reading. "Was thinkin' that - "

"That what?" Simon asked angrily. "That you would send my still mentally handicapped sister out onto an unfamiliar planet and ask her to spy on some hun dan just to perpetrate some insignificant heist?"

"Ain't too insignificant if it means the diff'rence 'tween eatin' and not," Mal replied sternly, his jaw tight. "An' I know your sister ain't exactly a whole cuppa brains there, but that's why I wasn't sendin' her out alone. Don't be gettin' any ideas about runnin' this ship, doc. That's my duty an' I take it pretty seriously."

"No fighting," River said. "Danger is minimal. The girl may be damaged, but she is capable and willing." She looked at her brother seriously, her eyes not pleading but telling. "I will be fine, Simon."

For a moment the doctor hesitated, but then he sighed. "Fine. That's fine. But I'm going with her."

"Oh, real good idea," Jayne scoffed. "So we'll lose the doctor 's well as the crazy girl when things don't go smooth."

"Not losin' anyone, Jayne," Mal told him. "But doc, he's got a point. You think you can take care o' things if somethin' happens?"

"Simon is very brave," River said, patting her brother's head. "But he is useless in a fight."

"Hey. I'm not useless, mei mei," he chided, grinning all the while. "Just... not as adept as say Zoe or Jayne."

"I could go with her," Wash said suddenly. "Act like the benevolent uncle or something, taking her out for a day on the town. I may not have arms the size of small children..." He gestured at Jayne, who did not detect the sardonic note in Wash's voice and looked rather proud. "But I think I can figure out how to pull a trigger if I need to."

"Need you to stay with the ship, watch her in case we need to get out quick." Mal sighed and looked to Jayne. "An' me and Zoe gotta pull the biggest part of the job off..."

Jayne looked confused. "So you're sendin' 'er with Kaylee?"

Zoe rolled her eyes and for a moment Kaylee looked a bit worried. "No, not quite," Mal told him. "She's goin' with you."

"What?!" Jayne and Simon both yelped, looking at the captain as though his brainpan had been fried.

Mal just nodded serenely and said, "Y'heard me."

"Captain, I don't think this is a good idea." Simon looked over at Jayne skittishly, moving forward a little towards Mal. "Jayne has never been the most understanding of River, and what if he decides – "

"He ain't gonna decide," Mal said sternly, giving Jayne a piercing stare. The mercenary scowled and crossed his big arms petulantly over his chest. "He's gonna do what I tell 'im and take care o' the girl jus' long enough to get their guards down."

"But Mal," the large man whined. "Why I gotta do it? She don't like me, an' I sure as ruttin' hell don't like her. The only thing that'll be distractin' about it is when we get to arguin' an' she goes ape-shit on me."

"Won't happen," River assured him coldly, her expression and tone indicating she was more than a little incensed. "You are not the girl's first choice, either, man-with-a-girl's-name."

"I done told you to stop that! Jus' cause some girls got my name don't mean it's a ruttin' girl's name!"

"Girl's name! Girl parts! Man-called-Jayne is no man at all!"

"Wha – Oh, that's it, crazy, you ain't gettin' away with that!"

"What will you do?" she asked archly. "Grunt at me?"

With a growl, Jayne sprinted towards her. River only let out a disdainful laugh and darted away from him.

The two ran in circles around the others. Mal sighed and let his head fall.

"Gorram it, you moonbrain! C'mere and let me pound you."

"Such incentive! What people skills you have, ape-man."

"Y'all done yet?" Mal asked, stepping into their circle. River darted around him while Jayne skidded to a stumbling halt right before crashing into him.

River giggled, sticking her tongue out at Jayne as she peeked out from behind the captain. "We are through, Captain Daddy."

"Yeah, we're through," Jayne said through clenched teeth. "F'r now…"

Mal rolled his eyes. "Good. Now… you ready to listen to the plan? Ain't gonna be hard – you an' River are gonna go out and have a little stroll through th'park."

"The park?" Jayne growled incredulously. "We're gonna jus' go for a walk in the ruttin' park?" He huffed. "Oh yeah, Mal, real gorram genius plan there."

"You know, I don't recall askin' for your opinion on this, Jayne. In fact, seems like your opinion don't matter t'me at all." He looked at Jayne intently for a moment before turning his attention to the rest of the crew. After clearing his throat, he continued outlining his plan. "Now, Jayne an' River are gonna be somethin' like a distraction. Man knows we're here, knows Jayne is one o' us. He sees him with River, he's gonna think it's just a spacer visitin' his niece or daughter or sweetheart or somethin' an' won't think nothin' of it. He walks in this park every day, and bein' as he's suspicious by nature, he'll prob'ly follow 'em. That's when me an' Zoe go in, do the job, an' then get outta there."

Simon scratched his head. "So… the danger will be relatively low? For River, at least?" Mal nodded. The doctor smiled a bit and nodded back. "W-well that's good. I… This plan seems needlessly complicated, and it hinges on only a possibility. What if he doesn't follow Jayne and River? I don't understand why he would."

"Jayne is a mighty intimidatin' fellow," Mal informed him. "Why would we pull a big job without our hired gun with us? Wouldn't make no sense."

"Not unless you know what a good shot Zoe is," Wash added, slapping his wife's thigh lightly.

"Thank you husband," she said with a smile, running a hand through his hair.

"Well Zoe's good shootin' aside," Mal drawled, "I still think we can use Jayne as bait t' keep from havin' him back too soon."

"Very wise," River put in. "Use the most expendable."

Everyone snickered at that except Jayne, who only scowled fiercely and slid into the empty chair.

Mal nodded. "Looks like we got a plan, then. All right – Jayne, River, you two go on an' get prettified for your walk. Zoe, you an' I need to get ready for the heist. Kaylee, let's see those blue prints."

Half an hour later, they all gathered in the hold, ready to disembark.

"Now remember you're supposed to be lookin' for a tall fella with brown hair an' a scar across his face," Mal told River.

Jayne huffed beside her. "Y'done told us twice already, Mal. She might be crazy but she ain't stupid."

River grinned naughtily. "Cannot say the same for him, though."

"Hey! I'm not stupid, you moonbrained little – "

"Oh, good," Simon said, rolling his eyes as he walked past them. "Things are already going so well."

Jayne growled. River only giggled.

"You two had best take this serious," Mal instructed firmly. He gave River his sternest look; she bent her head and nodded quickly. Jayne wouldn't be swayed so easily. "Else I'm takin' part o' your cut."

"Gorrammit, Mal! I – "

"Just do the job, Jayne. An' don't kill the crazy girl."

"Fine," the big man muttered, glaring at the small young woman beside him out of the corner of his eye. "I won't kill her."

The four going out on the job walked off the ship together, towards the little town. Mal and Zoe were headed to the large manor near the northern edge, and Jayne and River were going to the town's pride and joy, a small, carefully-tended park.

"Have fun you two," Mal told them, his serious face barely masking his teasing intent. "We'll see you back on the boat."

River waved happily as the captain and Zoe walked off; Jayne only grumbled to himself, knocking around a small rock with the toe of his boot. It wasn't fair, really; why did Mal and Zoe get to have all the fun while he was stuck looking after a crazy little girl who couldn't even brush her own hair?"

"Excuse her," River seethed, glaring daggers at him. "The loss of brain matter is trivial compared to follicle care!"

Jayne's brows lowered to a point between his eyes. "What?"

River frowned and shot him a "don't-be-stupid" look. "Have more important things to worry about."

"Yeah, well…" He sniffed. "Stay the hell outta my brain."

"What brain?"

He clenched his teeth together hard, wondering again if it was really worth listening to Mal. "Jus' shut up an' start walkin'."

She looked quickly around them, taking in every detail of their surroundings. Jayne started walking and she snuck up next to him, pressed against his side.

"What the hell do you think you're doin'?" he asked angrily, shoving her away from him.

"We are on an outing together," she stated, giving him a dark look. She came back up to him, but didn't actually touch him. "We cannot allow our audience to perceive the underlying animosity."

"What, you mean we gotta look all lovey-dovey or somethin'?"

"That is one option. Would prefer uncle and niece as ape-man is not appealing romantic prospect, but…" She stepped closer. "Will take what she can get."

They walked through the park for about three-quarters of an hour, nearly silent the entire time. A squirrel scared River once when it ran across the path in front of them, but other than that the walk was boring and Jayne was itching to get back on the ship.

Suddenly, though, River poked him hard in the ribs. "Look!" she whispered, pointing over to their right. Jayne scowled, rubbing at the spot she'd jabbed her finger into. "It is our mark. The mission." She stood up straighter and put a little more sway into her walk. "Do not do anything foolish."

They continued walking at their leisurely pace, following the meandering path towards the man their shipmates were robbing. River smiled at him brightly, her little face rounding out as she beamed.

The man smiled back at River, putting a hand to the brim of his hat. She slipped one arm through Jayne's as they walked past. The big man tried to pull away, but River sank her nails into his skin.

"Stop it," she commanded in a hiss. "We must be believable - play along, keep in character."

"Ain't no one gonna believe it anyway," he groused, though his arm did relax a little. "You look like some scraggly teenager, not some fancy lady a guy'd have on his arm."

"And you look more like a bodyguard than my equal partner, so be silent." She shot him a sideways glare. "And smile. A romantic outing should inspire feelings of contentment."

"Yeah, like anyone'd be content with you." She smacked his arm. "Oww! Gorrammit."

"This point is crucial. Captain and Zoe in the lion's den, must keep the cat away while Serenity's mice play."


"If we continue bickering, we will inspire more suspicion! He knows you are one of the crew; he must think nothing except that I am a lady friend you have taken shore leave to visit." She stopped suddenly, her head tilting and her eyes glazing over. After a second or two she whirled on him and whispered heatedly, "You see? His thoughts - we are not performing." She took a step backward and said, quite loudly, "How dare you! I hardly ever get to see you, bao bei, and when you do return to me, you are insulting!"

Jayne looked completely bewildered.

"Play along," she told him as quietly as she could. "Or I will kill you now. With my brain."

Grimacing, but recognizing a real threat when he heard it, Jayne shouted back, "I'm sorry, baby doll. I just don't watch what I say real well. You know I, uh, don't mean none o' that."

River's expression softened. "Really? Are you sincere in your apology, my paramour?"

"I... What?" Her eyes narrowed and flashed dangerously. Jayne sighed. "O' course I'm sincere. Don't you know by now I'm just a big, dumb hun dan? I think you're..." He paused, willing himself to continue. "Well, that you're just the prettiest, shiniest thing in the 'verse."

"Then of course I forgive you! Your words are simple but you are not dumb. And you are big, yes." She laid one small hand on his chest. Jayne fought the urge to pull away. "But your size makes you imposing. Impressive." She stepped forward, her little cheek resting a little way down from his shoulder. "How could I doubt your affections?"

"Yeah," Jayne said baldly, clearly disconcerted. "Uh... You're better off jus' not listenin' to me, honey. I ain't real good at talkin'."

"I know," she replied, suddenly sounding breathless. The part of Jayne's mind used for cataloging female responses perked up, recognizing what usually happened when a woman sounded like that. 'Play along,' she mouthed. He nodded mutely and she purred, "There are things you are much better at than talking."

And with that, she popped her little mouth right onto his.

Jayne's first instinct was to pull away - as crazy-girl mouth was full of crazy-girl teeth, and since she wasn't opposed to stabbing, she probably wasn't opposed to biting, either. But on the chance that she actually could kill him with her brain, he didn't want to make her angry by not "playing along".

Her skinny arms had gone around his neck and she was pressing against his mouth so hard he could feel her teeth. It wasn't a proper kiss anyway so he felt a little better about it - and he awkwardly put his hands on her waist. Feeling the crazy girl's curves was definitely not an activity he'd envisioned for his day, but since he'd already gotten started he might as well enjoy himself.

He tugged her a little closer, feeling the pleasant swell of breast pressing gently into his chest. Jayne had always appreciated breasts, and even if they were attached to a moony-brained little genius girl he certainly wasn't going to ignore a nice pair right there just asking for him to enjoy them.

River had either Read him or was displeased with his actions because she growled against his mouth.

'That s'posed to deter me?' he thought, amused. Clearly the girl didn't know much about how kissing worked, and feeling suddenly generous, Jayne decided maybe it wouldn't hurt to give her a little lesson.

He nudged her mouth with his, sucking gently on her lower lip. That made her go completely stiff, and she seemed a little shocked that he'd decided to actively participate. Not, of course, that she'd been doing much of that herself. But her little mouth was warm and sort of soft, and if he didn't think about the whole knife incident it really wasn't all that bad. Jayne had experienced a few bad kisses in his life, all wet and quick, no warm spark that made his insides quiver – but the crazy girl… Maybe it was because he had a vision of her naked to work with, but she certainly didn't feel like she was just a pair of plastic lips.

'What?' he thought, posing the question to her in his head. 'Thought you wanted me to play along with your little act. Don't people on a romantic outin' kiss?'

"It is just an act," she mumbled against his mouth. "There is no need for… that level of realism."

'What level?' He kissed her softly, three times in quick succession, right in the center of her plump bottom lip. He couldn't see her expression – he kept his eyes closed, staring at something so close made his head hurt – but he imagined she'd be angry, eyes shining bright and brown just like they did when she was fighting. That was a nice thought, and he had to admit he might have had a moment or two of weakness when he'd used the image of her fighting to get himself off.

"Stop it," River hissed, pulling her face away from his. "Allowing yourself to become aroused will provide no help to the situation!"

'Ain't my fault,' he thought. He knew she was listening. 'Your idea to pose as sweethearts. An' you were the one all on about makin' it believable. Seems like this would be mighty believable to me.'

Personally, Jayne wasn't really interested in being believable. He was a little bit more interested in keeping that soft little mouth connected to his, and maybe seeing if he could get a better feel of the slender body he had his hands on. It might have been about pride, teaching the genius something new. Or maybe about power: physical control, having the moonbrain helpless to his touches. Or it might have even been about nothing more than ready access to a woman. It didn't really matter the precise reason; Jayne was not a man to question his motivations.

So, in the interest of furthering his "keep kissing River" scheme, he wrapped his left arm around her and tangled his right hand in her wild hair. She hadn't been particularly receptive, but if she hadn't pushed him away, then even if it was only for her little plan, she at least was partially in favor. And if she hadn't had much experience before, then she had to be a little curious. 'Hell,' he thought to himself, 'Jus' hope I don't ruin it all for her – ain't gonna be able to find a man t'compete.'

"Arrogance," she muttered, sounding breathless again. But he knew that time it wasn't faked.

'As arrogant as they come, girlie.' She was still there, all pressed against him, so maybe it wouldn't hurt if he kissed her again. If the man was still there, they were giving him quite a show. Which, he thought smugly to himself, would certainly keep him distracted enough for Mal.

Jayne tilted her head up just a little, then put his lips gently to hers. 'Open your mouth,' he mentally commanded.

Very, very hesitantly she obeyed.

He took advantage of that, her top lip between both of his. 'Don't have to be still,' he told her. It was almost handy being able to talk to her in his head – saved him the trouble of talking – and kept him from having to drag his mouth away from hers. 'You got a tongue in that little head o' yours. I ain't gonna mind if you use it.' To demonstrate, he opened his mouth a little wider and let his own tongue sweep across her lips. And that either pissed her off or pleased her because she tightened her hold on him. And one hand had worked its way under his shirt collar and it felt nice to have a soft hand right in the dip where his shoulder met his neck.

Needing no further encouragement, River reached out to rub her tongue gently against his.

In the back of his head he knew she was still the same girl with the same addled brain, the same little sister to that gorram doctor, the same little slasher who'd come at him with a butcher knife. But she tasted like apples and something tingly and sweet that he imagined might have been the crazy, and she had skin, supple and smooth, that made his hands ache for a better feel.

She was very methodical in her reactions – following his lead, taking in each sensation as he let her feel it.

"Is this correct procedure?" she asked, pulling away slightly. "Fuzzy… Cannot read mists of your mind. Is… Cannot quantify when experience is unmatched."

She was so innocent, so vulnerable asking him that. He was not kind, though, and he had half a mind to hurt her, to take advantage of the moment to say something cruel. But she tasted like apples and crazy, and no one was even around to see if he was a bastard to her or not.

"Yeah," he told her gruffly, grabbing a hold of the back of her dress, pulling her closer. "You're doin' it fine."

River looked up at him curiously, her eyes glued to his. "Further investigation may be required."

"Thought this was just an act."

She flushed adorably. "Yes. Man-called-Jayne is correct." For a half-second her eyes flashed over to where their target had been standing. "He has gone."

"But he might come back."

"Truth. The girl acknowledges this possibility."

"The girl acknowledge how maybe we need to do a bit more o' that distractin'?"

"Immediacy would be key, as well."


"You think the girl tastes like apples and crazy," she whispered, her thin lips right against his, breath warm and soft on his face.

He lifted her arm by the elbow and guided it around his neck. 'That's 'cause you do.'

"Not a hitch," Mal said happily, putting his feet up on the table. "All went down without a single hitch."

Kaylee shoved them down again with a teasing smile. "Well that's jus' shiny, cap'n! That mean maybe we can get some real food next stop? We got a lotta coin now, right?"

"We got enough," Mal told her, leveling her enthusiasm with a stern look.

"Celebration!" River said. "Must give the girl of suns and smiles her ripe, red fruit."

"A celebration, River?" Simon asked with a smile. "I take it nothing went wrong on, uh, your end then?"

"Ape-man and I were very distracting," she confided in a whisper.

"Y'all do both seem to be whole," Zoe noted drily. "Better than I expected."

"Give our little genius some credit!" Mal chided jokingly, giving River a pat on the back. "'M sure she came up with some gorram twisty sort o' plan."

"Apples and crazy," River agreed. "Man suspected nothing amiss." She lifted big, brown eyes up to Jayne. "Am I correct, man-called-Jayne?"

"Yeah," he said thickly, not looking at her. "We fooled him good an' proper." He sat up a little straighter, letting his eyes land for less than a moment on her lips. "Apples an' crazy. Apples an' crazy."

Thanks for reading; hope you enjoyed it! Please review!