Malcolm, Zoe, and Jayne sat at what used to be Serenity’s dinner table. They had since repurposed it for the time being and it now served as their weapons cleaning area. The air was pungent with the bite of gun oil as each of them scoured their disassembled weapons, muttering idly about the next job they had lined up.
“Another message came through earlier from Memphis,” Zoe muttered, rubbing a stained and worn cloth over the sleek barrel of her Mare’s Leg. “He says he’s willin’ to talk business.”
“Memphis? Ain’t he still sore o’er what happened the last time he hired us?” Jayne asked distractedly as he blew traces of lint off the stock of his rifle.
“That blunder weren’t ourn,” Mal protested as he began to reassemble his gun. “‘Sides, we got most the product delivered intact. Memphis knows we’re good as our word.”
Zoe cocked an eyebrow. “Don’t you mean as good as our guns, sir?”
A smile hinged on Mal’s mouth. “That, too.”
“I say we see money first,” Jayne interjected. “Seein’s how he might think we still owe him somethin’ after last time.”
“Oh, I don’t think he’s keen on keepin’ grudges,” Mal replied casually.
“Is that why you got us cleanin’ our weapons, sir?” Zoe asked slyly.
A broad grin broke across Mal’s face. “Routine maintenance. Plus, ain’t hurtin’ nothin’ in bein’ prepared.”
Jayne snickered and Zoe smirked knowingly. Mal was never looking for a fight, but always seemed to find one. Zoe lifted her eyes and her expression changed from amusement at the lighthearted banter to shock.
“Sir?” Zoe whispered, lifting her chin and indicating to something behind the Captain. Mal shifted in his chair and turned to see River standing in the doorway of the common area. However, standing was a generous term. She languished against the metal of the doorway, wearing a dress far more revealing than any of the ones her fancible brother got her.
“ Feh Feh Pi Goh!” Mal gasped unhappily as he gazed at River. “Where’d you find that getup?” The gown was incredibly tight, accenting her young body in all the right places. It was also remarkably sheer, adorned with stitched flower blossoms strategically weaved into the thin fabric. They were the only things protecting River’s virtue.
She ignored Mal’s question, tilting her head and coyly fluttering her eyelashes as her hand trailed intimately down her body. Jayne’s rifle clattered noisily against the table and Mal grimaced, grateful it hadn’t been loaded.
“Uh, River, honey,” Zoe ventured uncomfortably. “Did you take that from Inara?”
“She has pretty things,” River responded softly, her eyes drifting over Mal and Zoe before settling on Jayne. She looked at him as if she were a predator stalking prey. Her gaze was so intense that it caused both Mal and Zoe to peer over at Jayne quizzically.
“ Yoa Nu! ” Jayne exhaled forcefully, fidgeting under her stare. “What she want, ya figure?”
“By the looks of it, I reckon it’s you she’s after,” Mal replied jokingly.
Before Jayne could respond, River swiftly and silently bounded from the doorway and leapt onto the table, startling both Mal and Zoe. She crouched low to the surface, sliding her lithe and limber body towards Jayne.
A frantic pleading ripped through Jayne’s expression as his eyes swept in dismay to the Captain and his crewmate. River approached him, crouching and sliding the length of her body against the table before placing a single finger on Jayne’s dirty yellow shirt.
“Jayne,” she whispered his name in a slow, singsong way, her eyes raptly fixed to his.
“Mal, Zoe,” Jayne murmured nervously as he leaned away from her. “What’s goin’ on? She’s lookin’ at me like she’s a snake and I’m a gorram mouse!”
“I don’t gotta a clue what to make of this oddness,” Mal scoffed. “Zoe?”
“Don’t look at me, sir,” Zoe replied.
“We should copulate,” River remarked with a precise emotionless matter of factness that shocked the group into a stunned silence as they gaped at her.
“Er-come again?” Jayne mumbled, unable to grasp the strange girl who beheld him.
“Yes,” Mal echoed, clearing his throat and leaning forward. “Might you repeat that?”
River remained undaunted, her eyes still focused on Jayne. “We should mate,” she replied more simply. “It’s logical.”
Zoe pursed her lips, endeavoring to halt the laughter which threatened to shake loose from her. “I’ve heard some strange things in my day, but this has gotta be the strangest.”
“It’s biological,” River continued, ignoring the others. “Survival of the species, procreation. The strongest and most desirable male.”
Zoe snorted, her sniggers escaping in little torrents as she placed the back of her hand against her mouth. “Jayne? The most desirable?”
“Listen here, I don’t---” Jayne began, only to be silenced by River’s finger as she placed it firmly against his lips.
“Candidates for male intercourse are limited,” River explained. “Other potential prospects are no longer viable due to extraneous circumstances including prior commitments, chasteness, blood relation, and geriatric age, making this the most logical alternative.”
“Did she--” Mal turned to Zoe in mock bewilderment. “Did she just call me old?”
“I do see some wrinkles, sir,” Zoe chuckled, finding it increasingly difficult to contain her laughter.
“Oh, yeah, this is Hi-larious, Zoe,” Jayne grumbled. “I could use a little help here, Mal. I’m a mite pinched.”
“No, no,” Mal replied, holding up his hand. “I think you got this under control, Jayne.”
Jayne growled under his breath, glaring at River. “Now, lookit here, little girl--”
River grabbed his cheeks, squeezing his lips together and effectively silencing him. “Don’t deny you’ve never thought of it. What bedding me would be like. I can see inside your mind.”
Jayne wrenched his face from her grip. He bared his teeth at her. “Don’t go traipsin’ ‘round in my head! Them thoughts is mine, ya hear!”
“What little thoughts there are,” Zoe interjected, succumbing to her suppressed laughter.
“It ain’t funny!” Jayne sputtered.
“I can’t put too much a fine point on it, but I’m gonna have to disagree with that fact there,” Mal chuckled.
“Lotta help the two of you are!” Jayne griped as he shoved himself away from the table. Before he could stand, River slid herself off the table and into Jayne’s lap, deftly wrapping her legs around his waist and the chair.
“Get off me, gorram it! Git!” Jayne swore, pushing against her shoulders ineffectively while trying to stand.
River leaned into him, her lips close to his ear. “You can’t resist. The primal drive of all animals is to mate and you’ve exhibited behavior proving you are the most primal animal of all. It’s only a matter of time.”
River quickly unhooked her legs from Jayne and stood. Jayne gazed at her incredulously as she trailed her fingers sensually over his chest. The others gawked at her in wonderment as she casually departed from the room.
Beads of sweat shimmered against Jayne’s brow. His chest rose and fell with unsteady breaths. “What the hell just happened? She’s actin’ like some crazed doxy!”
Mal shook his head, returning his attention to his weapon. “Looks to me like you got yourself an admirer. A Wei Shian Dohn Woo.”
“I’d lock my bunk tonight if I were you,” Zoe said. “Never know what you might find creepin’ up on you.”
“This ain’t funny!” Jayne reiterated vehemently. “She’s like one of them things that’s only after my manhood!”
“I’m surprised to hear someone like you objectifyin’ to that,” Mal quipped.
“Well, normally, no,” Jayne replied defensively. “But most women I go ruttin’ ain’t moonbrained!”
“I would argue against that,” Zoe remarked nonchalantly as she pushed herself away from the table and stood.
Jayne rolled his eyes. “I’m glad you two are getting your laughs on, but this is serious!”
Mal holstered his gun and nodded. “You’re right. It is. I’m gonna have a chat with the Doc and see if I can suss out why his sister’s rubbin’ ‘round you like a cat in heat.”
“Might want to use a gentler term than that, sir,” Zoe advised. “It is his sister, after all.”
“Oh, right,” Mal hummed. “Rather insensitive of me, but you know how us old folks can be.”
He turned on his heel and strode to the door as Zoe followed closely behind.
“Hey!” Jayne called out in a panicked voice. “You’re not just gonna leave me here alone, are ya?”
“What’s wrong, Jayne?” Zoe derided. “Can’t fend off a little girl?”
“It’s not that,” Jayne mumbled abashedly. “I just don’t know if I can be alone with her while she’s crawlin’ around all slinky like.” He gave a lecherous grin. “I am a man, after all.”
Zoe scoffed. “You’re a Chwen Joo .”
Mal smirked at Zoe’s remark. “I’ll send in Shepherd Book. He can protect your…” Mal waved his hand. “ Ji ba from brazen little girls.”