Rayne Summer Challenge Fic

Prompt: Games

Rating: PG-13/R (to be safe)

Pairing: River/Jayne

Disclaimer: I own neither River nor Jayne nor any associated characters. Joss is da man! Just letting the muse play in the sandbox for fun. My first Rayne fic – comments and reviews are most welcome.

Thanks: Thanks to NightLotus and GoddessofBirth for beta and commentses. Last portion unbeta'd, so all mistakes mine own! ;D


She was doing it again.

Jayne huffed a hard breath through his clenched teeth, letting the girl see his scowl. She'd better see his scowl, gorramit, better take notice of how upset he was getting at her antics. Ain't she done been told, a hundred ruttin' times if it was once, not to be actin' like that?

'Parently not.

'Parently, she thought it just shiny to go gettin' all bendy and twisty anydamnwhere she took a notion. 'Parently, weren't nothin' better in the 'verse than to do splits, one bitty little foot balanced on either side of the handrail at the bottom of the stairs. 'Parently, only time she could fit 'em into her gorram schedule was now, when he finally got done with his chores and had some spare time to work out. 'Parently, Mal's little talk with her didn't do a bit a good.

"'Parently, she don't give a good gorram," the feng le girl retorted, mimicking his own Rim accent. "She will do as she pleases, where she pleases, as do others aboard this ship, so long as none are harmed."

"Hmmmph," he huffed again in her general direction, making sure he didn't look over at her directly. Bad enough he could see her from his side vision bout near good as looking at her straight on.

"Periphery," she lilted.

"Gorramit, Moonbrain, cut that out!" he groused. "Captain done told ya bout prowlin' round folks' heads, too."

Like that ever did a bit a good, either.

"'Sides, I know what it's called," he said through gritted teeth, pushing the heavy bar back over his chest again. Jayne focused on the burn flooding through his arms and chest and back with each repetition. "Just don't like goin' round makin' other folk think I'm all high an' mighty, usin' fifty-credit words when plain talk'll do, 'sall. Fancy talk might fly in the Core, but out here, don't do nothin' but draw attention. Way I figure, less attention the better, dong ma?"

That seemed to shut her up for a bit, though she was still over there, doing that thing he was trying real hard not to think on. He adjusted his grip on the bar, forcing down the image of her toned legs flexed just right to hold her body perfectly between the rails, her little pink-painted toenails pointing in opposite directions.

It was just about to be his undoing, the way she'd been carryin' on around him lately. Weren't no secret he was a man what enjoyed and partook of fleshly pleasures, if there was a willin' woman about. But the last few weeks, she'd been doin' this bendy, flexy type thing just about every gorram time he laid eyes on her, and he was bout to forget she was the Moonbrain and the Doc's little Mei-Mei and Captain's Albatross, and just march his self over there and show her, good an' all why he weren't a man to be playin' games with…

He'd already mentioned it to Mal, kinda casual and off the cuff – like it weren't no concern to him but he was just bein' a responsible crewman. Course, he told Mal he thought she might fall and crack her brain, not that it mattered to Jayne, but he weren't gonna be the one to clean up the mess. Cause he sure as hells weren't wantin' nobody thinkin' that he was thinkin' overly much on the Moonbrain. Especially the type of thinkin' that might get him spaced by the Captain, or split open by an irate and very-handy-with-a-scalpel brother.

Them thoughts bothered him for a whole host of reasons, none of which he cared to study on, especially right now, where she could hear most of 'em. He wasn't sure what kinda games she was playin' at, but he wasn't stupid enough to take her up on 'em. No matter how delicious the thought of winning might be.

"Yer gonna get stuck like that, by the way," he said a few minutes later, like he didn't care one way or t'other, but hoping she'd stop maybe out of self-preservation. Jayne-preservation didn't seem to matter much to her.

Why didn't she just get down from there, already? Maybe it was one of them things the Academy had put in her mind, some kinda… crazy-killer-woman exercises she had to do. He'd never say that, though, never ask her neither, not even when she got him so mad he could chew nails and spit bullets. Made him too uncomfortable, thinking about that place and what kinda hell she musta gone through. Course, he'd never say that neither. But still, it did just the same.

"Will not get stuck," she said smoothly, raising her arms gracefully above her head. "And no, she is naturally limber, learned the balance through years of dance. Though she appreciates the man called Jayne refrains from mentioning… that place."

"Gorramit!" he roared, letting the bar slam into the rack's rests and whipping up off the bench. "Told ya, girl, stay the hell outta my head!"

She cocked her head, giving him a smug little look as she watched him stomp over to where she was balancing herself precariously on the railing. "Was not in his head. He penetrated hers. Cannot keep from engaging in mental intercourse of ideas when his thoughts slam into her so strong, and hard, and potent."

"What?" He yelped, stopping abruptly just a yard away from her like he'd hit a brick wall. "Girl, ya best not talk like that. Doncha know what kinda go se that'll get ya?"

She stared at him with those perfectly-arched brows lifting up like she didn't know.

"Go se, Moonie, not so ruttin' loud, neither! Ya tryin' ta get me tossed out the airlock? Listen, that ain't the kinda thing normal girls go round sayin', not less they're lookin' fer a quick grapple," he explained low, wondering if maybe them folks what decided she was a genius had maybe had squirrels in their own brainpans.

She snickered at him, possibly over the idea of squirrels, but he suspected she was poking fun at his expense. It just made him madder and madder.

"She did not entice Jayne's thoughts. Jayne thrust them into her and she could not resist letting them slide, hot and primal, into the waiting depths. Of her mind. Besides," she added as her smile slid away, "what would she know of 'normal'? She has never been technically classified as 'normal', and cannot manage an appropriately reasonable facsimile of such. She has tried. And failed."

He wasn't quite sure what to say to that. Still…

"Well, ya better learn somehow, girl," he said with a lot less of his earlier anger. "You go round, bein' all… bendy and such and answerin' questions folks ain't said outloud, it's bound to get ya noticed. Noticed ain't good, most times. Leads to questions. An' that leads to Feds, an' that leads to… y'know, them."

She dropped her head, letting that curtain of dark, silky hair hide her face, but he knew she was scared. Hell, he didn't even see them hundans and he was a little scared of 'em. Only a little, mind ya, cause he was Jayne ruttin' Cobb, they still weren't nothin' a bullet couldn't put down.

She peeked up at him as she read that. Seemed to make her a little less jumpy, so he replayed the image in his head – him and Boo standin' in front of her, facin' them faceless, blue-handed freaks down, fillin' them hundans full of lead and watchin' 'em fall.

For a heartbeat, she just looked at him like he kinda figured she woulda if that mind-picture had been real. Smilin' like he was her gorramed hero. He liked that, a little, but weren't gonna think on it too long, nor pay much attention to the way his chest kinda felt tight an' all swelled up when her chocolate brown eyes stared into him like that. 'Sides, that didn't solve her problem at the moment, and 'parently, till she got it worked out how she was supposed to act, he wasn't about to get no relief from her bendiness and flexificatin'.

"Can't ya jus'… y'know," he offered, hoping to get the issue solved, "maybe think back on how it was… before? Use that for a guide?"

Her bitter little laugh would have broke the heart of some man who let his self get all e-motional over feelings an' such.

"Was not what most would call 'normal' to begin with, Jayne," she said sadly. "Sheltered as a child. Cloistered away as a teen. And now that she is a woman, she has been scrambled, dosed and tucked away from spying eyes, as well as receiving multiple streams of mental data blasting in from all sides."

His mind was still stuck on that 'now that she is a woman' section of words when his brain settled on something.

"Well, why not just… listen in," he suggested quietly, not wanting no one to hear him as much as tell her to go snoopin' around folks heads. "Not crew, of course, but… folks where we land. Find out what they expect of a 'normal' girl. Ain't like they'd ever know. Just kinda use 'em to navigate, so's ya don't stick out so much, dong ma? Help ya stay under their scan?"

She tilted that pretty little head again, giving him a sarcastic look he usually only saw used on her brother. "His suggestion is valid, and would provide optimal parameters for social interaction. If thoughts remained within the acceptable boundaries of actions. But they do not."

Jayne felt a flush creep up his neck. Shoulda known she'd read what he'd thought about her and them fine, fine legs. Gorramit, a healthy man couldn't help his thinkin' on a woman sometimes. 'Specially when she bent sideways at the waist, touching her entwined fingers to the tips of her toe before gracefully arching to stretch the other side. Jayne's eyes couldn't help but stare at the two perfect lengths of toned and lightly muscled leg, the lithe line of her side, the tender, exposed, creamy underside of her arm.

"Thoughts do not always fall within range of socially acceptable actions. Minds are full of twists and turns, random musings and hidden desires and secret obsessions they hope will never be heard or suspected. Is nearly impossible for her to distinguish rational thought from desired fantasy in another's mind. Are perceived as the same by her scrambled-egg brainpan.

"No," she said sadly, "despite preliminary arguments for that course of action, using such thoughts as reference for 'normal behavior'… perhaps not the wisest choice. It all gets jumbled. She wishes… She fears…"

She looked off away from him, and it was all he could do to keep his hand from reaching up, tilting her heart-shaped face back to face him. He didn't know why he wanted her to tell him, to share her wishes and fears, but Buddha help him, he did.

"It does not matter, Jayne-who-is-a-man. Minds are set, and she cannot change them. The wheels have turned, the die has been cast. Objects in motion stay in motion…"

"Well, except for the bendy part, you do all right around here, lately," he told her, burning now for her to continue.

Not, he told himself firmly, that it was of any matter to him, but just for curiosity's sake. And he hated seeing her all down and out. This little lady took down a room full of Reavers, gorramit, a feat that had earned his respect and he didn't care who knew it. Couldn't change that, even if maybe some days her landing gear didn't reach all the way to the ground.

"Most times, ya just seem… kinda off in yer own thoughts. But not no more strange than most other folks. Ya hide it real well, most days," he complimented. "Maybe you could just… do whatever it is that lets ya do it here, and use it to do it out there?"

"Is a solid premise. Very few flaws," she smiled, and Jayne felt his chest puff up a bit at her saying so.

"Regrettably, the singular flaw to his otherwise very worthy plan is fatal to achieving the desired outcome. Is not the same with out there. Limited number of minds here, patterns familiar and expected. And they are gentle toward her. No harsh thoughts, nor vile nor obscene wantings directed at her. She does not have to fend them off here. Thoughts from those here are welcome to her."

She hid her face again. "Most welcome of all is he who helps her, who shields his own wayward thoughts, so as not to distress her. She is glad she does not have to struggle so hard in his presence."

Jayne cleared his throat a bit. "Well… wanna do my part, an' such. You're bein' crew, an' all. Maybe… maybe if ya told me what it is you was 'bout to… y'know, what you was wishin' and fearin'… maybe I could… think on a way to help ya with yer problem."

He wasn't sure if she was giving his offer weight or maybe just trying to kill him with her brain – cause he still weren't full convinced she couldn't, no matter what Simon said. But he stood there, rubbing the toe of his boot against the bottom step, flicking a glance up at her every now and then while she looked right through him again.

Jayne just about decided to walk away, forget he even said it when River spoke again, soft and quiet. He leaned in a bit, just to be able to hear her.

"Her ignorance in the ways of the worlds is… problematic. She fears she will always…be alone. She has been alone for so long. First when her Gei-Gei went away to MedAcad, he was the only one who looked at her like a girl and not a pet to be showed off. Then, when she went away to…"

Big tears trailed down her fair cheek. "It is of no matter. She only wishes…"

"Course it matters," Jayne gently urged her to go on, clamping down his fingers that itched to wipe those tears off her face. "What does she wish?"

"She thinks it would have been nice," River said, her head cocked to the side. A little smile played around her lips as she looked off over his shoulder, "to have someday had a mate. A shuai man to hold her hand and touch her hair and speak her name softly in the dark… How can she ever expect a man to court her, to want her, love her if… if she's Crazy River Moonbrain? None will understand. They will not see her, they will only see the damage done. She has been crippled, not by what has been done to her, but by the pity and revulsion on the faces of others, in the backs of their minds. What man will ever want her?"

She buried her face in her hands. Jayne struggled to find something to say, hating to see her all tore up like this. Weren't right, like she said, to have folks pin an idea of who and what ya was just cause they thought they knew. Sure, the little lady had days when her head was all scrambled up like eggs for breakfast, but gorramit, that didn't mean she shouldn't have a chance to be happy too, did it? Hell no, it did not!

"Her brother will always see her as a child, forever a doll, to remain untouched and virginal. Irrelevant that she is a woman grown and matured. That she has all the working bits and desires of a woman. To the 'verse she will never grow up."

Giving a shuddery sigh, she wiped her face with both hands and gracefully lowered herself from the railings. "She must accept that as her fate, for even genius can fathom no way to change the attitudes and preconceived notions of her reality." With a determined nod and a tight smile of regret, she started up the stairway toward the mess hall.

Jayne stood rooted at the base of the stairs, unable to say a word, just watching her float away. The wheels began to turn in his mind. He might not be no genius, but he weren't always dumb as he let on, neither.


To be continued… reviews are appreciated! ;D