Title: Exposed

Disclaimer: Not mine.

He refuses to look at her, letting the thrum of dinner table conversation settle around him, drowning out his blood rushing in his ears. Book and Inara speak quietly at one end, discussing some ancient playwright. Simon and Kaylee chat with Wash and everyone is polite enough to pretend they're not holding hands under the table like a couple of school kids.

Jayne sucks his teeth, irritated.

He misses the way River's head tilts to the side, catching the tail end of his thoughts.

He's so wrapped up in listening to nothing that he forgets himself for a minute, and reaches for the basket of protein buns. His hand hits bony fingers and their eyes lock momentarily. For the briefest, barest of seconds he quirks an eyebrow in a way that could almost be construed as playful if it wasn't now a warning sign of things to come. Her eyes narrow and she tightens her grip on the last remaining bun.

"Let go."

He smirks, "Be a cold day in hell 'afore some scrawny wench takes food from my hand."

She rolls her eyes, neither of them noticing as their little display begins to draw attention.

"Eats enough as it is; doesn't need to be taking more than his cut."

He glares. "Drop it."

She cocks her head to the side and he swears he knows what she's going to say next.

She's going to say "Make me."

And he'll lose it. He'll reach over, tear that pretty lavender dress clean down the middle. He'll grasp her wrists before she gets a chance to backhand him over his chair, and they'll struggle until she's against the wall. She'll hiss in his ear and he won't be able to resist running his teeth over her collar bone and she'll use his distraction to sweep his legs. She'll steal the backhand he denied her seconds earlier, and the sound of her knuckles hitting his cheekbone will ring in his ears just long enough for her to go for his throat. He'll block her; he knows all too well what those nails can do, what they can make him do. He'll smirk as he head butts her, dazing her just enough to get her back against the wall, where he wants her, where they both want her. He'll pin her wrists again and her legs will come up and wrap tight and then…

"Jayne, give her the damn roll."

Mal's voice cuts through his reverie and he can't look away from her eyes, seeing the fury, the heat, and the barest hint of disappointment there.

The interruption had stopped her from saying those magic words, from provoking both of them, and giving everything away.

He's trying to force his throat to work, trying to make his muscles do anything but what he was about to. Seconds tick by and every missed moment is costing them a little bit more, creating a little bit more suspicion, and then it will be the end of the game.

He's not ready for it to end, but he's not quick enough to make the next move.

She is.

She shoots him an imperious look that makes him feel like a moron before twisting her wrist deftly and holding her prize close to pink lips pulled into a smirk.

"Thank you-," he nearly bites through his tongue because he knows what's coming, "-Daddy."

The rest of the table is slowly returning to their conversations, comfortable in the knowledge that another one of River and Jayne's immature spats has been averted by the Captain. The moments of discomfort, and the potential curiosity they may have caused, are obliterated from memory as River leans close to her brother and joins Kaylee in a discussion on grav boots and reg couples.

Outwardly Jayne gulps down his beer before stomping away from the table, dumping his plates in the sinking and leaving the galley without a word. Nobody comments, nobody really notices, the behaviour isn't exactly unusual. They can't read minds.

Well, most of them at least.

If they could they'd see that image of her, well groomed brow carefully arched, imperious and regal and practically begging to be dragged through the dirt. They'd hear her voice, initially sweet and light, darken and become rasping velvet as she utters that word. Paternal claim, authority, knowing it riles him up to holy hell to know he's enjoying the ships darling in the darkest of ways. Knowing the thought of her willingly bedding someone like him sets his skin on fire, knowing that if the others found out he'd be dead before he could blink.

"Funny, ain't it? Pretty lil Core thing like you wantin' a big ol' Rim boy ta show ya a good time."

She lifted a brow, looking oddly regal despite her nudity.

"Funny, isn't it, that he takes her innocence, sexes her six ways from Sunday, leaves his marks all over her skin, and he still fantasises about the taste of her lips."

He drops down into his bunk, hating the way that conversation still ran through his mind. She had been right then, she was right now. Everything else about their fucked up situation he could understand. He knew why he wanted to fuck her, fight with her, hell he knew why both of those things got him off. He knew why salt and sweat and screaming left him hard as a rock. He knew why taking Simon's sister in the med bay late at night, or fucking Mal's ward in the Captain's chair under the stars, or sending the ship's albatross to her knees made felt so damn good he occasionally wondered how he was still breathing.

But he didn't know why he wanted her lips.

And he hated that.

He knows he'll find her later, or possibly she'll find him. He hopes it's the former; he wants the upper hand to wipe the smug smile off her face and leave her hating him with her eyes and hissing out his name in ecstasy. He'll go in search of her after his workout, he wants to leave marks on her skin. If it's the latter he already knows she'll push him further, enjoy her throne a little too much; last week he almost had a broken wrist when she'd slung those cuffs on him. He knows she'll leave him panting and cursing her name and that every thrust and movement will push him a little closer to trying to taste her lips, to roaring her name through the ship, to ending the whole damn game in one foul swoop of capture and torture.

The alternative, however, is that he doesn't fuck her tonight.

And that is completely unacceptable.

She watches him stomp away, already planning her next move. He has a workout planned for late in the night, he plans on hunting her afterwards. He doesn't know she's already stashed manacles behind a crate, doesn't know his work bench will be his home for a few hours after the crew have settled into slumber.

A soft giggle, two minds whispering to one another.

She glances at her brother and Kaylee, the latter nuzzling into the former's neck.

He looks so happy.

Strawberry scented wisps of romance tangle between them, and she knows tonight will be filled with low sighs, hums, intimate chuckles and heady whispers.

She thinks of her cold manacles, her heated skin to be bruised.

She looks away, the tug in her chest heading straight to her stripped amygdala.

She feels sadness.