Jayne's a poet, and River didn't know it

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DISCLAIMER: Joss Whedon et al own Firefly and Serenity. I'm just playing with the characters for the sake of fun and making zero profit. Oh, and I don't own the works of Lord Byron or William Blake, either, though I'm letting Jayne and River have their wicked way with those gentlemen's poems.

Set a year or so post-BDM. The first chapter is River 's POV. Massively OOC for Jayne and River, I'm sure, but I couldn't resist turning Jayne loose on a famous poet with his own version of the old-fashioned editor's blue pencil.

Author's Note:

Since this site doesn't use the strike-through feature, I've omitted Lord Byron's original words, wherever Jayne had crossed them out, and have instead indicated the original words which Jayne left in using italics and Jayne's own, unique contributions using bold font.

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THE 'POET' THEY CALL JAYNE (1/3)

River Tam, genius and psychic assassin, was hard-pressed to explain the sudden fluttering feeling in her stomach - as though a large number of insects of the order Lepidoptera had suddenly emerged from their cocoons inside her belly and taken flight - when she lay back upon her bunk and unfolded the torn piece of paper she'd managed to lift from Jayne's back pocket after dinner that night.

She'd seen a corner of the paper sticking out of the pocket of his cargo pants when he'd been moving some newly arrived crates in the bay earlier that day, and she'd assumed he'd received another letter from his mother. When she asked him about it (knowing that he didn't mind reading his mother's letters aloud to her, so that she could bask in the warm feelings that came with them), he'd practically blushed and said it was nothing: just a scrap of paper he'd found on the floor and was meaning to throw away. Then he'd tucked the paper more securely into his pocket and buttoned the flap over it, all the while thinking the words to "The Hero of Canton"as loudly as he could so she was unable to get a Read on him.

With such obvious encouragement, River's curiosity wouldn't let her rest until she'd seen whatever it was that Jayne so badly wanted to keep from her.

Now, she noted with some initial disappointment that it seemed to be merely a page torn out of one of Simon's books - a collection of Earth-That-Was poetry which Simon had picked up in a used book store months ago, when he'd been desperate to learn how to talk to Kaylee without insulting her.

This made no sense to River. Why would Jayne try to conceal from her the fact that he'd (not for the first time) defaced one of Simon's books? Perhaps he was trying to get rid of the evidence of an earlier act of petty vengeance against Simon, now that he and her brother were getting along better?

Turning the page over, she saw that Jayne had apparently written over one of the poems, crossing through some lines and scrawling his own, alternative wording in the margins.

She read . . .

SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY by Jayne Cobb

She walks in beauty, like the night
With flyin' fists an' broken glass
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her eyes when kickin' ass.

[River noted that something else had been crossed out in the middle of that line - something that began with 'tight lit'l...' - but she quickly turned her eyes to the last two lines of the stanza.]

Thus fired up by a rousin' fight,
She shakes her head an' calls me 'crass.'

One shade of crazy more or less
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face,
When fixin' the Cap'n's latest mess
And flyin' the ship through the black of space.

And on that cheek and o'er the brow
So soft, so smart, an' so hell-bent
On thinkin' me a gorram hero now,
I catch the tears from past torment
An' I'd give up everything I know
To have her safe an' innocent.

Having read Jayne's poetic effort through (and mentally corrected the spelling and punctuation), River found that the butterflies had apparently moved from her stomach to the vicinity of her heart, judging by the strange, rapid beating she felt there.

River suddenly smiled. Jayne had - knowingly or not - issued a challenge to her in writing this down and leaving it where even the most inexperienced pick-pocket could easily obtain it. She would have to answer her favorite ape-man's challenge with one of her own.

Deciding that she didn't want to waste the time it would take to tear another page out of Simon's poetry book (and it was unnecessary, anyway, since she could remember every word from every poem she'd ever been forced to read as a child by a succession of clueless but expensive tutors), River reached for her drawing tablet and tore out a fresh piece of paper.

She began writing . . .

(to be continued)