"Hey, Crazy, you still in here?" Jayne whispers, stickin' his head through the open door of the cockpit and lookin' around. The ship is pretty quiet – the type of quiet that only happens when everyone else is below deck in their bunks, sleeping. Jayne'd be there hi'self, if'n he were smart. Ain't no one ever accused him of that 'afore though, and he don't figure he should start actin' smart now.
He don't quite understand what he's doin', lookin' for the girl. He's tired and his shoulder is achin' somethin' fierce. So're his ribs, come to think of it. His whole entire body feels like one big bruise and he figures all the extra tension he's carryin' around ain't helpin' none. He feels like someone has twisted his insides real tight, like an elastic band – he's just waitin' to be sprung now.
"Bouncing off the bulkheads hurts," River giggles from her co-pilots seat as she swivels around to face him. "Might break your wings."
"Huh?" Jayne mumbles in response as he moves a bit closer to her. Girl's got that silly pink hat his Ma'd made pulled down over her ears and is wearing a pair of the socks on her feet. Looks sorta cute, like a crazy butterfly. "What're ya still doin' up? Don't ya know how late it is?"
"Time flies, just like this ship," she states serenely. "She was waiting for you; wants to see with her eyes that you're still whole."
"Nothin' to worry about, Girl, you're brother done sewed me up all nice and pretty. See?" He points to the fresh row of stitches on his shoulder and suddenly realizes he's standing there shirtless.
River smirks at him, "Jayne-bird is breaking one of the Captain's rules. She might have to tell on him."
"I ain't breakin' nothin'," Jayne disagrees. "I'm shirtless, not pantless, so Cap'n's got nothin' to ruttin' complain 'bout, dong ma?"
She shrugs at him and slides out of the seat, moving closer to him. He can feel her eyes inspectin' his shoulder, watches her closely as she lets her gaze slip across his chest and drift down towards his belly. His stomach twists just a little more.
"You're blue and purple and yellow," she states, reaching out a hand to just barely graze the skin above his heart, "like half a rainbow."
"They're bruises, Crazy, not rainbows. It ain't nice to go comparin' a man to something so sissified." He barely manages to grit this out, because his tongue seems to be stuck to the roof of his mouth. Her hand is cool, but it burns where it touches. Of their own volition, his hands rise to her shoulders. He thinks he means to push her away or at the very least stop her forward momentum inta his personal space, but his hands betray him by wrappin' around her as she leans her head against his chest.
"Heart is fluttering like a bird trapped in a cage," she whispers. "Wants to break free. Wants to be wild. Wants to fly."
"Don't go getting' all poetical on me, ya hear?" Jayne responds, "I don't like it."
"He likes it just fine," she responds. Her hair feels like silk against his skin, and when she talks her words slide on moist breath across his chest. He tightens his arms around her and decides not to argue the point.
"Ya ain't hurt, are ya?" he asks quietly, breakin' the silence that has momentarily surrounded them.
"Not hurt, only broken," River replies solemnly, "but my Jayne can fix me."
"Who says I'm yers, Crazy?"
"She says; Simon says," her arms have wrapped around his waist now, her slim fingers strokin' the skin on his back. He can feel them tracin' along his backbone and the top of his cargo pants and he swears to all the gods he's ever heard of ain't nothin' ever felt that good 'afore in his life.
"What about what Jayne says, huh? I ain't said I'm yours."
"She doesn't need to hear the words to know they're true."
"Ain't no truth to words that ain't been said." Both are silent again for a few moments. River is still pressed against him and his arms are still wrapped around her, holdin' her closer than they did when they were dancin'. He swears he can still hear the music that was playin' earlier this evenin', only this time it's a mite slower and softer. Sounds almost like a heartbeat, but there are two of them providin' the rhythm and the creaks and sighs of the ship around them is the melody.
Jayne wonders how a man can feel all tense and all relaxed at the same time. It ain't normal, he knows that for certain. Neither is this simmerin' heat radiatin' off this little girl in his arms; glowin' so shiny and warm, makin' him ache. She don't know the power she has; how easy it would be for her to make him snap – consequences be damned. He always knew she was dangerous, but this is something else entirely.
He wonders what courtin' is like, wonders if'n he can do it proper. He ain't a gentle man by nature and he gorram sure ain't a patient man. In his mind, courtin' implies holdin' hands and buyin' flowers and sneakin' the occasional kiss when no one is watchin'. It means doin' the right thing by a girl and tyin' hi'self to her for the rest of his life. And, like the Doc said, she's young. She ain't ready for some of the stuff he's been thinkin' 'a, despite the fact that she fits so well against him. To be truthful, he don't think he's ready for it, either.
"You should go to bed," he sighs as he releases his hold and pushes slightly away from her. "It's been a long day."
"Yes," she agrees, "and Simon is waiting."
Jayne rolls his eyes at her. "Why ain't I surprised?"
"He loves her," River responds. "You do too."
He shifts uncomfortably and looks away from her for a minute, before lookin' back at her and shruggin', "I ain't your brother."
"Don't need another." Her eyes catch his as she says this and her hand reaches up to touch his chest again before saying more firmly, "You love her."
"Don't wanna see you hurt," he retorts. "You're part of the crew."
"She can hear the words you don't say, remember? You love her."
Her touch is brandin' him, markin' him in some way and he knows it. He thinks his heart might explode right outta his chest in its poundin' attempt to place itself in her hands.
"You love her," she states gently.
"Maybe," he agrees.
Through the windows of the cockpit, the stars seem to blend and blur around her. "Don't keep Simon waitin' no more. Just got things settled 'tween me and him and I don't want him thinkin' he done made a mistake already." His hand covers her own, pressing it flat against his chest, before liftin' it away. "Go to bed, little girl."
"She will dream of you," River murmurs as she drifts by him. "Dream of kisses on the mouth and fingers in the hair and warm skin and scars. She'd kiss you goodnight, but you aren't ready yet. Soon."
"Soon," Jayne agrees, long after she's gone and he can breathe normal again. "Soon."