Getting in the Game

"It's time," Kaylee said. She grinned gleefully and pulled on her boots, taking care to tie the laces tightly. It wouldn't do for them to come loose in the middle of things; it could lose her team the whole game if they did that.

Jayne stared at her as if she were crazy. "Time for what?"

"You know. Time to get in the game." She nodded in the direction of the cargo bay. "Mal's team is down Wash now we're so close to planetside and he's back to piloting. I'm goin' in."

"Sounds like fun," Jayne said. He watched as she finished tying her second shoe.

Kaylee stood and gave Jayne a quick grin and a wave. Then, she hurried toward the cargo bay. She quickly noticed Jayne following her. "Where are you going?" she asked.

"With you. Thought maybe there's another free spot I can take."

"Not unless someone else wants to sit out. You can stay with Inara. She'll be watching the game too."

He grunted in response; she shrugged and joined her team in the cargo bay. Still, Jayne followed. "Got a spot for me?" he asked the gathered crew.

Mal shook his head and gave Jayne a half-smile. "Not with us. Kaylee's our last spot."

"Nor with us," Zoe said. "That is, unless you want to finish up for the day, doctor?"

Simon shrugged and smiled softly. "I'm good to stay. I don't often get the chance to play games like this."

"Not many of us do," Book said. "But I'll step down. You can take my place, Jayne."

Jayne patted the Shepherd on the back, appreciatively. "Good man."

"You're with Simon and Zoe then," Mal said. "Me an' lil Kaylee and River'll get you easy."

Jayne's new role set, they returned to their game. Zoe started off strong and tossed the ball to Simon, who a moment later, got past Kaylee's defences and scored a goal.

Mal took up the ball then and scored a goal on his own. Jayne grabbed the ball next and ran toward the goal, determined to get them another point. However, the defence was strong; having lost a few goals to Zoe, they'd amped up their forces and between Mal and Kaylee, Jayne didn't stand a chance.

He scowled as Mal tossed the ball to Kaylee, who passed it on to River. River though, simply smiled on receiving the ball and held it up at eye level and patted it.

"River!" Kaylee shouted. "The goal!"

Jayne smirked and took the last few steps over to River. He easily swiped it from her grasp and threw it. It flew upward, high enough that it nearly hit the ceiling, and then dove downwards, plummeting, ready to crash.

Kaylee caught it.

"Nice catch, Kaylee!" Inara called to her from the catwalk above.

Jayne scowled until he saw the giddy grin on the mechanic's face. Something in him softened and his competitiveness suddenly didn't seem to matter quite as much.

The game moved swiftly on from there, and twice more, Jayne aided in Kaylee's winning a goal.

At one point, Mal pulled him aside, grinning smugly. "You're killin' your team's hope of winning, you realise."

Zoe overheard and nodded. "Keep it up and you're out, Jayne."

"Ain't my fault," he hissed. "You ain't that good at this yourself, cap'n."

"Stop working at that crush of yours and play ball," Mal replied simply, and then they'd split ways again and continued the game.

Over the next while, Mal's words burrowed deeper and deeper into Jayne's thoughts. "Crush" in particular, makes him wonder. Is that what this was? He'd always found Kaylee sweet but he didn't think it quite fit under him having a crush.

Maybe, though. Maybe, it was.

Maybe that's why for the first time in his life, losing a game was satisfying him much more than winning it.