He'd always loved weapons – the bigger and shinier, the better. He liked the way they felt when he held them; enjoyed the solid weight and the way the cool metal would warm to his touch. He loved that each weapon was different. Knives were different from guns. Daggers lighter than hunting knives. Pistols were smoother and easier to grasp than semi-automatic rifles. On a good day, he would take a soft piece of old flannel and clean them, making sure they were free of any grit or grime, making sure there weren't no blood gunking up around the handles of his knives or the butts of his guns.
He understood his weapons and they understood him. He didn't ask them for much – shoot were he aimed at, stab where he wanted them to. Help him protect himself and the other people on this gorram ship, out here at the ass end of the 'verse. And in return, he'd treat them well. Oil them when they needed oilin'; clean them when they needed cleanin'. It was a fair deal.
His guns never talked back, his knives always did what he wanted. Killed what needed killin'. They spoke his language. They never made him feel stupid. He had always been fascinated by weapons.
Maybe that was why he found himself watching River more and more now. The way she floated across the floor in her bare feet, moving with some inner purpose only she seemed to know. He bet her skin was as smooth as metal.
When she was on the ship, laughing with Kaylee or talking her crazy-girl talk, he would study her. He tried to be all sneaky-like about it, because he didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea. Sometimes though, she would catch him looking at her and she would look right back. Her eyes wide and open and dark, like twin barrels on a sawed-off shot gun. She would look at him and she would smile.
He used to find her creepifying. Who wouldn't? But now he found her…well, he found her interesting. She was so tiny, didn't look like she could do much damage to anything. She reminded him of the small derringer he liked to hide in his boot sometimes. Weren't much to look at. When he held it in his meaty hands, you couldn't barely see the pistol at all. He always put hollow bullets in it though, with little cross-hatchings on the tips. Gorram thing made more of a hole going out than going in. It was deceptive looking.
She was deceptive looking, with her frail little body and her long dark hair and her big crazy eyes. Looked like a wild flower sometimes, with bones no bigger than a birds. She looked like she could be easily broken, if'n someone had a mind to break her. He knew that weren't the case though. Tiny little crazy girl might look soft, but he could see the way her muscles flowed all supple and graceful-like under her skin. He wondered if he was the only one who noticed.
The other day, he had walked into his quarters and she had been sitting on his bunk, talking to his guns, looking for all the world as if she belonged there. The sight had been oddly…stirring.
When he had asked her what in the gorram hell she was doing, sitting in his room and talking to his guns without never asking his say-so, she had just smiled at him.
"I understand them. They understand me," she'd replied. "We're the same, after all. Made for one purpose. We're purposeful."
He'd just grunted at her, before replying, "Well, best get your purposeful little ass offa my bed before someone comes lookin' for ya."
"You can use me, if you need to," she whispered as she slid to the floor and walked towards him. "It's your job, after all. Your hands could make me work."
And when she stood up on tippy-toe and pressed a kiss against his cheek, he didn't tell her to get the hell away from him. Just looked at her, kinda considerin'-like. "You're something else, girl," he'd muttered at her. "Something else entirely."
"I am unique," she agreed happily as she slid leaned into him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Only one River made in the whole entire 'verse. Something worth collecting."
She had spent the evening with him, watching him as he polished his guns, not saying much that made sense but smiling at him every time he looked up at her. He didn't mind having her there. She seemed to fit.
Later that night, lying in bed, mixed with the smell of gun powder and oil and leather, he could still smell her as well. She smelled like the wind after a storm, earthy and loamy, with just the faintest hint of apples.
He fell asleep dreaming of warming her cold skin with his hands, the way she would feel solid against him, yet soft too. He could do for her like he did for his guns and knives, keeping them clean and shiny and cared for.
He was the weapons expert after all.