Disclaimer: The wonderful Firefly characters and the good ship Serenity all belong to Joss Whedon, or Mutant Enemy, or 20th Century Fox, or whoever actually owns them, and that person or entity is definitely not me. Written for amusement purposes only. No copyright infringement intended or implied.

A/N: This was written as a prompt challenge fic for Jane Eyre.

Passage/Quote #11: "I never met your likeness. Jane, you please me, and you master me-you seem to submit, and I like the sense of pliancy you impart; and while I am twining the soft, silken skein round my finger, it sends a thrill up my arm to my heart. I am influenced-conquered; and the influence is sweeter than I can express; and the conquest I undergo has a witchery beyond any triumph I can win. Why do you smile, Jane? What does that inexplicable, that uncanny turn of countenance mean?"

Smile

"Why you always gotta be pointin' that thing at me?" Jayne demanded, slapping down the paring knife onto the counter with a grouchy frown. Ever since Simon, Kaylee and Inara had chipped in to get River that capture for her birthday he'd been looking up to see moonbrain aiming it in his direction. At first it had angered and annoyed him, but she'd just smiled her secret little smile and kept on doing it. After a while he'd gotten almost used to it…until another thought…a kind of exciting thought…entered his mind. Now he was getting confused, and impatient…waiting to see what she would do next. What she was really after.

River looked up at him, surprised at his sudden vehemence.

"Don't matter what I'm doin', you're on the spot," he continued, glaring at her. "I'm gonna start callin' you 'Tail,' 'cause it seems I can't turn around without seein' you trailin' you behind me."

"I'm documenting what life is like on the ship. What you have to do on the ship. It's…fascinating." River responded innocently, standing on the dining room side of the pass-through, continuing to record him.

"Yeah, exercisin', haulin' trash, cleanin' my guns, chainin' the mule…that's some fascinatin' shit," he chortled disdainfully, shaking his head.

"I've never really known anyone like you, Jayne…you're very interesting." River sent him a placating smile.

"Yeah, interestin'," he snorted. "What the gorram hell is so interestin' about me peelin' potatoes?"

"Well, you're cooking. You're a good cook." River offered. "Not everyone can cook."

"No lie," he muttered as he lifted the knife and resuming peeling a dusty, golden-skinned potato with efficient curling motions of his wrist. "Not on this boat, that's for gorram certain."

"What are you making?" River asked.

"Uh…potatoes." Jayne gave her a look that clearly indicated she was a moron.

"Just plain potatoes?"

"With garlic n' peppers."

"Mmm. That's a lot of potatoes. Are you going to eat all that yourself?"

"Don't think even I could eat all these potatoes on my own. Well, maybe if I was starvin'," Jayne considered.

"This wouldn't have anything to do with the fresh chicken that Simon and Kaylee bought at the market this morning, would it?" River commented archly. "Perhaps you're hoping that if you'll share, they'll share?"

Jayne allowed a sly grin to lift one corner of his mouth. "Could be."

River laughed a little.

"Who taught you to cook?" she asked curiously.

"My ma, a course."

"My mother didn't teach us to cook," she informed him, almost sadly.

"Far as I can tell, your folks didn't teach you nothin' useful."

"You seemed to find Simon's skills quite useful the last time you were shot," River reminded him, a little coolly.

"That's book-learnin'," Jayne waved the paring knife dismissively, sending a wayward scrap of potato skin flying across the counter. "I'm talkin' about stuff like cookin', or sewin' on a button, or scalin' fish, like that."

"We had a housekeeper. Oh, and…stores,"River added dryly.

"Musta been nice." Jayne had always thought about what it would be like to be rich enough to have servants.

"Actually…no, not really," River sighed. She watched him work for another few minutes. "You and Kaylee are the only ones that cook like that…from fresh ingredients. Shepherd Book did, too. The rest of us just open tins and packets on our nights. I'd like to learn to cook some day."

Jayne looked at her over the counter, and raised an eyebrow.

"You want to learn? Well, watchin' ain't doin'," he jerked his head, inviting her to come around to his side. He wondered if she would.

River hesitated, as if unsure whether he was serious or not. Jayne shrugged, indicating it didn't matter to him what she did. River put the capture down, placing it carefully so that it could continue recording, and walked around to the kitchen.

Jayne rinsed his hands and the paring knife he was holding, shaking off the droplets of water.

"Wash your hands." He edged away so that she could access the sanitizer and rinse.

"Now, take the potato…hold the knife sideways…yeah, like that…" He handed her the paring knife and a large potato, watching with a chuckle as she held it too tightly and the potato shot out of her damp grip. "Easy there."

River gave a half-frustrated little snicker and tried again. As soon as she got the feeling for it, Jayne wasn't surprised to see her manipulate knife and potato deftly. One of the things he did appreciate about River: she was good with a knife. He liked that in a woman.

"Aren't there devices that perform this action more efficiently?" River leaned over to grab her second potato and her long hair hung over the counter. "Automated peelers?"

"Yeah, but knives are…whoa, better get that out of the way. Don't want hair in the food." Jayne pointed out her loosely swinging hair.

River held up her hands, full of knife and potato, and already covered in floury potato juice.

"Would you mind?" she asked, looking up at him with her big brown eyes.

It took Jayne a second to realize she was asking him to push her hair back. To touch her hair. He always wanted to…and now she was asking him to. This cooking thing had definitely been a good idea.

"Uh…" he thought for a second, then remembered he had an extra bootlace in his pocket from when he'd replaced one this morning. He moved behind her, taking the opportunity to appreciate her hair. Deep brown…like fine dark chocolate, he always thought, but glimmery, like silk. The air on the ship was dry, and he'd heard the women complain many a time about the damaging effects it had on their skin and hair, but River's hair never looked frizzy or dry. It always looked soft, with just a hint of a wave.

"I'm sorry…I'll do it…" River interpreted his inaction as not wanting to assist her, and started to set down the potato she was holding.

"No," he said hurriedly. "I got it." He reached up with both hands, drawing her thick, shiny hair over her shoulders. His fingers brushed the sides of her neck as he went back for a few errant strands, and Jayne felt River go very still. He couldn't help it…he skimmed his fingers through her hair, a secret caress, as he gathered it into one long hank. He dug in his pocket for the corded bootlace and looped it underneath. He pulled it tight and tied it up into a lopsided ponytail, grinning to himself as he flipped the end around his finger and gave it a playful tug.

"Think that'll do…Tail."

"Thank you," River's head bent down to her work, giving a breathless little laugh.

They peeled potatoes in a companionable silence before quartering them and moving on to the yellow and orange peppers, glowing bright in the dingy kitchen.

"So pretty…" River mused, watching as Jayne cut into one to show her how to detach the spongy core and scoop away the seeds. "It seems a shame to cut them up."

"Women," Jayne snorted, shaking his head. "Food ain't pretty – it's…"

"Delicious?" River inserted for him teasingly, and he nodded.

"Exactly."

They cut up the peppers and Jayne began to sauté the garlic he'd minced earlier. He poured vegetable oil into the big bowl full of peppers and potatoes and instructed River to start mixing it up.

She took a big wooden spoon and tried to sift the oil through the heavy vegetables, with little success.

Jayne made an impatient noise and turned the heat down on the garlic.

"No, you gotta really get 'em coated…don't be afraid to get right in there…" He snatched the spoon away and tossed it onto the counter. He moved behind her again and grabbed one of her hands in each of his, plunging them down into the large bowl.

River gasped in surprise and gave a little shriek as the cold, viscous fluid oozed over her fingers.

Jayne manipulated her hands through the chunks of vegetables, using them like little scoops to evenly distribute the oil.

"This is…disgusting!" River exclaimed happily. She became more enthusiastic, following his example, her hands twisting and lifting the greasy chunks.

"Best way to do it," he rumbled, suddenly conscious of how she was wrapped in his arms, almost pressed back against his chest.

"Is cooking always this messy?" she queried lightly, enjoying herself, not even seeming to realize how intimately they were standing together. Was that good, or bad? Jayne puzzled.

"Like my ma always says, the messier the dish is in the kitchen, the better it tastes on the dinner table." Jayne was so close he could smell her hair, and some kind of faint rose-scented shampoo or perfume.

"Then these potatoes should be wonderful." River giggled.

There was something incredibly sensuous and earthy about feeling River's hands and skin, sleek with oil, rubbing alongside his in the bowl. Jayne felt the never-far-off desire he tried so desperately to control stir within him, and his body responded almost helplessly by curving into hers. He felt her bottom against his thighs, her shoulder blades against his chest, her head almost tucked into the space just beside his jaw. Gradually, he abandoned all pretense of mixing vegetables, sliding his hands around her slim wrist bones, following the delicate tendons down to ease his big fingers between hers, stroking the tender webs of skin at each apex, exploring the shape of her small, capable hands.

River went stiff in his embrace, her hands jerking to halt. Jayne winced, bracing himself for the setdown he knew was coming. His fingers were still twined together with hers, and he started to ease them away, embarrassed, when he felt it…a tiny movement…her fingers…curling around his.

Jayne blinked suddenly, not sure if he was imagining it or not, but then she skimmed her thumb along the hollow of his palm, and excitement poured through him. For a few breathless minutes their writhing hands provided their sole communication, a slippery, surprisingly arousing mating of flesh. When he grazed his fingers across the sensitive skin of her inner wrists, he felt her whole body quake.

Slowly, River's face turned up to his, a shy, tremulous smile on her lips. Jayne wasn't about to let this opportunity get away. If he'd known giving her a cooking lesson would have this result, he would have dragged her into the kitchen ages ago. He kissed those sweet, shy lips, gently at first, and then with increasing depth and pressure as she opened her mouth to him.

The oil-coated hands that had provided such a frenzy of delight only a minute earlier were now frustrating devices of torture as River turned fully to him and they realized they couldn't touch each other without smearing the gunk everywhere. Jayne wouldn't have cared, but any one of the crew could walk in at any minute, and he didn't want River to be embarrassed by having to explain that to anyone. Limited to proactive touching with only their mouths and tongues, they kissed hungrily, forcefully, trying to cram as much sensation as possible into that intersection of skin.

They broke apart as River gasped, "Burning!"

"Hell, yeah," Jayne murmured in satisfied agreement, about to delve back in again.

"No – garlic!" she said frantically.

"Oh…shit!" Jayne swore, finally smelling what she smelled. He twisted around and used his elbow to bump the pan of garlic off the heating coil. He couldn't believe he'd been so far into her that his nose had shut off like that. He'd turned the heat down but not off, and although the garlic wasn't actually burnt, it was seriously over-browned. He was going to have to chuck it and mince more cloves. He flipped the vent on to draw the slight haze and odor out of the air.

"Is it…ruined?" River asked tentatively.

He turned and saw that she had pulled a towel out of a lower drawer and was wiping her hands clean, slowly backing away from the counter. Her cheeks were flushed, but with residual excitement or newly-found embarrassment, he didn't know.

"Naw, just have to chop some garlic," he shrugged, watching her warily. There was a definite "running away" quality to her movements. She edged toward the doorway.

"Thank you – for the cooking lesson…" She gave an unsteady smile, and ducked around the corner to pick up her capture. She stared down at it for a second with something close to shock, and then held it up quickly, almost protectively, to her chest.

He looked at her challengingly through the pass-through. Was she really going to ignore what had happened?

"Jayne…" she said slowly.

"Yeah, Tail?" he smirked, leaning on the counter.

"We started out messy, didn't we?" she blushed, gave him one last bright look, and flitted away toward the bridge.

Jayne stared after her, stumped until he remembered that saying of his ma's that he'd told her earlier. Messy? Couldn't get any worse, really, then the taunting and the slashing and the selling out to the Feds and the beat-downs and whatnot. A huge grin formed on his face as he realized what River meant…that they were headed for something good. Something really good.

Just then Kaylee wandered in from the engine room, opening the refrigerator, looking to begin on the chicken for dinner. She glanced at Jayne, still leaning against the counter, still floating in dazed delight at the implications of River's parting comment.

"Gonna get that chicken goin'…barbeque or teriyaki, do ya think? Hmm, that garlic's lookin' a little black around the edges, ain't it? Are those potatoes for everyone? The good pepper ones that you bake? Shiny! But ya didn't need to do that, Jayne. We'd a shared, anyway." Kaylee chattered. When she received no response she looked over at him. "Why ya got that strange smile, Jayne?" she chuckled curiously. "You lookin' forward to dinner?"

"Gorram right I am," he laughed. "All the way through to dessert."

A/N: Okay, yes, it's very Ghost-y…lol…but this is Jayne, so it's food. Hope you liked! Gem