Everything had been fine and good until he entered his bunk and noticed something amiss. Wasn't quite sure what it could be, exactly, until he gave the room another once-over. Nothing wrong with the sheets, they were just as thrown to the side and tangled as he'd left them this morning—and Vera was sitting on his night table, clearly untouched. Good thing, too, he thought to himself. He picked up the gun and absentmindedly felt for scratches while he tried to figure out what about his bunk was different. He couldn't place what was missing until he ran one hand through his hair and his eyes widened and—

"My hat!" Jayne set Vera on his bed and dropped to his knees to check under the mattress. It had been here when he'd woken up; it was always sitting there next to his other small weaponry, right where he could keep an eye on it, and now it was gone. It wasn't like someone had gone and taken one of his pocket knives or even a handgun—that he could handle—but it was an understood, implicit rule; you did not mess with the hat. Unless you had a death wish, you never even thought about putting your hands on it. To actually remove it from his personal space…someone—he cocked his gun—was going to get it. Kicking his already-open door wider, he stormed down the hallway with a newfound vengeance.

"Who took my hat?" he bellowed, causing everyone sitting in the kitchen to stop talking and look at him like he was totally off his rocker.

"Shenme?" Wash asked, breaking the silence and blinking with some degree of confusion. "You're down here with a loaded gun because you misplaced something?"

"Misplaced?" No one could possibly have taken him seriously as a mercenary with how purely offended he looked at the suggestion. "That is the hat my Ma made me; I would never just set it down willy-nilly! Someone stole it!"

"That's a serious accusation, Jayne," Inara pointed out gently. "Are you certain it could not have fallen off while you were wearing it, perhaps on your way to bed last night?"

"'Nara," he whined, "I'm telling you, I would never, never mislay it. For it to be gone, someone had to have took it."

"Taken it," Simon corrected from his spot leaned up against the counter.

"The hell did you just say?" Jayne lowered Vera in disbelief.

"You were grammatically incorrect—the proper term is 'taken'." Simon sipped his tea and gave his shipmate a pointed look with his piercing blue eyes. "If you're going to indict people, at least do it right."

For a moment, there was absolute silence, and you could hear every person in that room placing silent bets on whether or not Simon was going to get killed now or in his sleep later tonight.

"Fine." Jayne glared with enough venom to cause the doctor visible discomfort. "Someone has taken my special hat, and when I find out who—"

"Look, Jayne." Mal stood up and ambled over to his friend, placing one hand on his shoulder. "You're definitely a force to be reckoned with, which could be why I hired you in the first place. If any of us had done anything with any of your possessions, you'd definitely be able to tell who…and do you know why?"

"Why?"

"Because you're scary." Mal nodded, keeping an absolutely straight face. "You're scary, and your forearms are bigger around than most people's skulls. Judging from how many of us are just sitting here looking at you like you're kuangzhe de…"

Jayne's face took on an expression of total concentration as he surveyed the room. After a moment, he took an audible breath.

"Very well," he said finally, looking as though he'd very much love to clip his captain upside the head. "I will take my business elsewhere." With that, he turned on his heel and took wide strides out of the kitchen, until all everyone could hear were his boots stomping upstairs to cover more ground.

"I'll give that boy one thing," Book said with some obvious admiration. "He is hell-bent on finding that present from his mother."

_________________________________________

The mercenary was on the warpath. He took a little time to scour the general area of his room, just to be sure, but he had a pretty good idea of where his hat had gotten to—and it didn't help the suspect's case that they had been the only one absent from the previous encounter with the crew.

Jayne headed in that direction, pausing outside the door. For whatever reason, he leaned up against it to see if he could hear anything before attempting to break it down.

Singing.

Crazy girl.

He rolled his eyes and threw the door open as hard as he could to see River sitting cross-legged on her bed, swaying side to side, hat in question sitting atop her curls as she sang,

"The hero of Canton, the man they call—"

There was a sudden pause as she registered that she had company, while his eyes merely widened in pure shock.

"—Jayne." River finished, still managing to remain on-key.

"What you about, girl?" he exploded as soon as he was able to talk again. "You crazy? The hell are you doing with my hat?"

All he received in response was a tilt of her head to the side, as if she had absolutely no clue what he was ranting about. She appeared so clueless that, had she not been literally wearing the evidence, he might have seriously reconsidered barging in on her like that.

"Don't touch my things," he said indignantly, to which she giggled. The girl was beyond insane! Here he was, a fully armed man with the ability to crush her with one hand, and she was laughing at him! He knew from what Simon had told him that she couldn't really control what she did and didn't fear, but for crying out loud, it was common sense.

"Shall I give it back?" she asked, and her tone of voice just screamed she was trying to provoke him, and he refused to give her the satisfaction. He wanted the hat back. Now that he knew where it was, though, he was less inclined to put forth any effort, especially if it involved River. After all, it was no fun if you couldn't scare someone in the process, and she looked like she had no intention of being fearful. Maddening.

"You can play with it for awhile," he answered grudgingly, "so long as nothing happens to it."

At this, she actually seemed surprised, clearly anticipating more resistance.

"And quit with that song," he snapped, turning to leave. "Crazy girl."

"Crazy girl has a name."

He had almost been out the door. He had been this close to leaving her alone, and she had to go and pull this now. What was it with womenfolk and having the last word?

"Shenme?" he wheeled around on his heel.

"I have a name," she repeated, putting extra emphasis, as if she were older than he was, as if he were a child that needed explaining because he was just that slow to grasp things.

"River," he said finally, glaring daggers at her. "Happy?"

"Yes, Jayne." She looked too satisfied for her own good.

"River," he muttered again. Of all the people on that ship, he was by far the one that used her name the least.

"Jayne."

"River." He narrowed his eyes.

"Jayne," she said happily, clearly enjoying the game she was making up.

"River," he replied, exasperated. This could easily turn into something repetitive he'd be roped into playing for much too long. As it were, he wasn't sure how much longer he could keep this up.

"Ja-ayne." Her tone of voice had taken a sharp turn, and her eyes now held more than a little amusement.

"Shenme?" was all he could say, as that seemed to be his word of choice for the day. His throat felt dry. "Say that again."

"Jayne," she chirped.

"No." he shook his head and set Vera down on River's night table. "That wasn't what you said."

"Of course it was." The look she was giving him was the absolute definition of 'gorram moron', and he felt his hands ball into fists. "The only difference, if there was any, was in the way I said it, not in the context."

"Then say it again."

She giggled for the second time.

All Jayne remembered for a moment was kicking the door shut. He wasn't sure when exactly he went from standing several paces away from the crazy girl to being on top of her, pinning her to her bed by her arms, but there he was, and there she was under him.

"Again," he demanded.

When she had the nerve to laugh a third time, that was it. She'd had her chance, and Jayne was about done with asking. That she possessed the audacity to lie there, completely pinned, with no way to move out from under him, and still wearing his hat

She was enjoying every minute of his fury, and that was driving the mercenary straight up the gorram wall. Couldn't have that, of course.

He used significantly more force to hold onto her wrists and before he'd even meant to do it, his mouth was on hers. See how she liked that, see what happened when she went too far with her strange little games. His legs were bent at an angle against the wall, and when he straightened them, she was pushed up against the wall, hat falling over her eyes some.

"Jayne!" she gasped as soon as she'd gotten a chance to take some oxygen.

"Again," he insisted, voice more like a low growl than anything else. His breath was coming out in rough intervals, and he was positively piercing her with his eyes. For a moment, she seemed too jarred to actually say anything. He broke her out of it by delivering a sharp bite to her neck, to which she responded by using some unseen force to flip him over so that she was straddling his torso.

"Ja-ayne," she repeated finally in the same infuriating tone as before, leaning down until she was bracing herself on his shoulders. There was a long period of total silence, and the intensity of the eye contact they were making was enough to destroy the room. The air was charged, almost oppressively so, and with the noise they were making it was surprising no one had come looking for one of them yet.

The speak-of-the-devil moment occurred a second later when footsteps could be heard jogging up the stairs, accompanied by Simon's voice calling out to River to see if she wanted to come play a game in the cargo hold with the rest of the crew. Something involving a ball and several cardboard boxes. River was thoughtful, and with one hand, she removed his hat from her head and returned it to that of its rightful owner.

She deftly slid off Jayne after giving him the most ridiculously satisfied smile he'd ever seen.

"You should come play the game," River said finally. "You didn't look like you were having much fun with this one." At that, she giggled a final time and twirled out of the room as if nothing had happened, meeting Simon halfway. From where he was still laying on River's bed, he could hear the doctor inquiring as to where he was.

"Oh, him." River's voice held the same degree of amusement. "He found his hat. I think he wanted to be left alone."

"River," Simon said warningly. "Did you take it?"

She never actually answered him. All that could be heard after that was her skipping to the staircase and descending, singing at top volume,

"The hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne!"

Jayne rolled off the bed and steadied himself. If he ended up going down to the cargo hold to play the game, it'd be after he paid a visit to his bunk. He picked up Vera and inevitably looked down.

A long visit.

"Crazy girl," he muttered. "Crazy, crazy River."

There would be no living with her after this.

THE END. (: