"There..." Mal grunts it out as he twists the screwdriver a few more vicious times into the paneling. "... that oughtta do it."
He turns and gives a very pointed glare to Kaylee, who blushes real deep, but doesn't look away. She smiles a bit, not a big, bright happy smile, more like a guilty one.
"Thanks." She says awkwardly, rocking back and forth a little as she holds her hands behind her back. "Um... it'll make things... easier?"
"See, how it works is: you need to press these two buttons now, at the same time, for the com to work." He's enjoying it, the bastard. "You'd have to be relatively sober to talk to the whole ship. No more room for accidents."
24 HOURS EARLIER:
Kaylee sits at the table staring at the letter in her hands. She doesn't know exactly what to do right now, her eyes sting and she wants to cry, but she knows if she does that's gonna bring questions and questions will only bring long, rambling stories out of her. Nobody wants that, not in the mood she's in.
And she was so happy to get the letter when they'd first picked up their mail.
She feels Simon enter the dining room, feels his eyes scan her up and down, and doesn't know exactly what makes her fold the paper into her hand and shove it quickly into the pocket of her coveralls. Just that she doesn't really want him to see her weepin' and carryin' on.
"Bad news?" He just has to ask her.
"Oh, no." She tries to smile, but she ain't really feeling it as she looks up at him. "It's nothin'. Don't worry about it."
By the crinkle of the skin at the corner of his eyes, she knows he doesn't believe her, not one bit. She's vaguely aware of Jayne sitting down at the other end of the table, spreading his blades out and picking up a cloth. She hopes he doesn't start spitting and such, it only drives Simon mad.
"It has to be something." Simon insists as he sits down on the chair next to her. "You look like you're about to cry."
Out of the corner of her eye, Kaylee sees the quick jerk of Jayne's head snap up to give her a once over and then settle back down to his task of polishing. She should know better by now, should know to trust her instincts, but she's a little fool, always has been around the pretty men her daddy says.
"It's George." She tells him as her chin trembles. "He's dead."
"That ol' bag of bones? He still around?" Jayne chuckles to himself. "Well, I guess not, hey?"
"Jayne!" Simon hisses and then turns to pat her hand. "I'm sorry to hear that. He must have been very special to you."
She nods and maybe even sniffles a little.
"He was gettin' too old, Kaylee." Jayne speaks gently and she sees warmth in his eyes when she looks at him. "An' you know it. It's better he died now than lingered too long, makin' hassle for your folks, gettin' in the way an' all."
"I... I guess so." Her voice sounds so small.
"Are you completely devoid of all emotion?" Simon turns on Jayne and Kaylee finds his outburst a little startling. She puts her hand on his arm to steady him, but he doesn't even notice. "What's the matter with you?"
"Steady on, doc. Don't get your panties in a twist." Jayne finally gives into the urge and finds the most obnoxious moment to hawk up some spit. "It's better for the old ones to go quickly. Thought you'd agree, bein' all medical and stuff. It's better for everyone, don't want 'em hangin' around whimpering in pain an' wettin' theyselves. It's cruel."
Simon shakes his head.
"I don't believe you." His voice is cold and he still doesn't notice Kaylee or the way she takes her hand from his. "You are the sorriest piece of..."
She's had enough, she can see the wounded look in Jayne's eyes and knows he doesn't deserve it.
"Simon!" He turns in time to see her stand up, she can feel her face redden. "Don't be mean! Jayne was tryin' to help, an' he was right."
"Right?" Simon blusters. "You agree with him? You think this George was better off being put down like some decrepit old dog?"
"Well, yes." Kaylee frowns in confusion. "George was a dog."
"Oh!" Of all things, Simon begins to laugh. It needles her a little, especially when she sees Jayne's eyes buzzing between them, back and forth. "Oh, geez, Kaylee. I thought... he's just a dog? George is just a dog!"
"Yes." She agrees dully, more than a little injured at his glibness. "Just a dog."
"No, Kaylee, no." Simon looks like he could kick himself and Kaylee really understands that inclination right now. She feels like kicking him, too. "I didn't mean..."
"Don't bother, Simon, I heard you just fine." She holds up a hand to stop him following her, because that's exactly what he looks like he wants to do. "Don't, okay? I'd rather be lonely by myself just now, than lonely with you right next to me."
Jayne takes his sweet time in folding the knives into their cloth. He knows Simon is just standing there, a blank look on his face. The man is all kinds of fool not to know better.
"Nice goin', doc." He mutters it as he stands up.
"What did I do?" Simons sounds genuinely lost in the moment. "You said he was better off dead."
"Not so." Jayne answers. "I said it was good he weren't in no pain no more. I never said he wasn't important, or that he were just a dog. That was you."
"How was I supposed to know he was a dog?"
Jayne just rolls his eyes.
"Surprised you don't know the name backward and inside out by now. Girl never shuts up about that dog when she's homesick and goin' on about home an' her folks."
Jayne's eyes narrow as he sees the flush spread over Simon's face.
"I... ah..." Simon frowns. "I don't think we've ever talked about her family before this ship."
"Funny," Jayne's pretty sure that 'funny' is the last image his tone of voice is bringing up right now. "I was under the impression she knew all about that fancy hospital you worked at an' the school you went to."
"Yes." Simon sighs. "I think she does."
Jayne can barely muster up enough energy to give a snarl of distaste as he pushes past the man.
He finds himself staring at the walls of his bunk, with nothing to do but think about the way Kaylee said the word 'lonely'. Shouldn't happen, girl like that, she's all but throwin' herself at the doc an' sometimes she even does that. Right shameless. Poor girl's gonna get her heart broke and broke pretty bad at that.
His fist clenches.
It's not like he can do anything about it, he supposes she's gonna chase after whatever pretty boys come her way and he knows that particular animal is in short supply around here. What he can do, however, is fix the lonely part. They ain't spent much time together lately and Jayne misses it.
He grabs the flask he has under the shirts in his third drawer and swabs at the layer of dust on it. Not that he thinks she'd mind. Kaylee ain't one to turn up her nose at things just 'cause they ain't all shiny new an' perfect. Not like some.
Of course he finds her in the engine room, maudlin' over that letter again, sittin' up in the hammock and lookin' like she's about to start cryin'. Well, not if he has any say in it.
"C'mon, Kaylee, it's not all that bad." She throws him a look and he pushes the flask at her in offering. "Have a drink on me, 'kay? You know George would have wanted you to be happy. It's really good stuff, not cheap."
"Really?" Her brows furrow a little in suspicion.
"Would I lie?"
He must look sincere, 'cause she takes it and unscrews the lid.
"To George!" Kaylee raises the flask and knocks back a swig with ease. Her eyes widen with appreciation. "Hey! This is the good stuff."
"Told ya." He grins, then grabs the flask back. "Now, don't hog it."
Jayne settles himself on the hammock next to her, not entirely displeased with the way the movement jostles her against him and makes her place a warm hand on his arm to steady herself. He gulps a mouthful and hands it back.
"Where'd you get it, anyway?"
"Back'n Canton." He says and watches the way even her eyebrows jerk as she throws another mouthful back, her whole face is alive. "The barman gave me a bottle, this is the last of it."
She brings the flask down slowly as her eyes look him up and down.
"You've kept it this long?" It's a fair question, as is her disbelief. "And you're sharing the rest of it with me now?"
"Too good to waste."
He shrugs off the blush in her cheeks. Most of the times it don't bother him, Jayne may not be as smart as the doc, but he knows one thing is true. Things are the way they are, not much you can do to change 'em if they don't want to be changed. And Kaylee likes the doc, that's as plain as day to anyone with eyes an' ears an' half a brain. Jayne's pretty sure that covers him in some form or other.
So it don't matter if he likes to watch the way she swallows the whisky like it was water, like she enjoys the burn as it makes its way down. She doesn't make faces as if it stings, like most girls do, the kind of face that makes him wonder why they drink it if they don't like it 'cause it's a damn waste. He's pretty sure, though, that any face she made would be adorable.
He can't change the way she looks at Simon, but Jayne can change the way he looks at her.
"Jayne?" She nudges him out of his reverie. "What are you starin' at?"
"Me?" He grumbles. "I ain't starin' at nothin'."
Kaylee's buzzing, she can feel the alcohol thread itself through her blood like coolant through a freezer coil, tingling and making her dizzy. She likes it, likes the feeling of weightlessness. She doesn't want to admit it, but she's missed this, the easy camaraderie between herself and Jayne. It takes her a moment of intense concentration to figure out when they'd stopped playin' about so much. Right about the time when...
"Gah!" The movement makes her head spin and she tries to blink it off. "I don't even know if I like him anymore. Not really."
"Bunch of go se." Jayne frowns as he looks at the flask in his hand, he swirls it a bit and she hears the barest little slosh sound in the bottom. "Who don't love their dogs?"
Kaylee raises her brows when he gives it to her without drinking his turn and tries to remember what they'd been talking about.
"Dog?" She tries to press it back in his hand, but he won't take it. "Oh, yeah. Dog. 'Cause that's what I meant. Uh huh."
The last of it plinks onto her tongue and Kaylee squints into the top of the upside down flask, wishing the gorram thing would stop being so blurry. She can hear Jayne laugh at her.
"It's empty." He reaches up to take it from her and she feels the roughness of his fingers brush her own. "Time to play good again, Miss Kaylee."
She grins and fumbles at the shelf above her head, producing a large flagon of engine stilled wine and her eyes light up with pride.
"Nup! I gots plenty!" She frowns, suddenly confused. "Nup? Nope? Nup! Nup's a word, ain't it?"
Jayne grins a little.
"'Course it is, you just said it, didn't ya?"
"Yep." It makes her giggle. "Nup. Yep... Nupyep... Nupper..."
"You're drunk, Kaylee."
The full laughter bursts out of her throat.
"Ya know? I think I might be."
"No." He insists, maybe a little forcefully. "No, it goes Yo Ho Ho first and then comes the bottle'o'rum."
Kaylee smacks him on the arm and it stings a little.
"Who you callin' a ho, Jayne Cobb?"
Jayne pauses, frowns a little, even with his fuzzy booze soaked brain he knows there's a trap in that question, best thing is to come up with something really absurd, so grins as he whispers.
Kaylee spits a mouthful of the wine over the edge of the hammock and dissolves into giggles against him. Jayne can't help but chuckle with her. She slaps him again, but kinda misses his arm so it comes across as a slide of fingers over his biceps and onto his chest.
"That's mean!" He watches her sit herself up all proper like and give a little sigh. "Lucky rum."
Jayne starts to chuckle harder, but it dies off in his throat as his brain catches up with the words. It's not the only organ that does.
"Ain't you heard, Kaylee?" He shifts a little, puts a little distance between them, as much as he can in a hammock that wants to smoosh them together. "I'm nothin' but a mean, mean man."
He likes her smile when it's all wonky like this and aimed at him, her eyes all squinting as she peers through them to look at him.
"You bark lots." She admits as she blinks. "You ain't bit me, though. You ain't mean. You're... gruff."
She pauses and he wonders if she's thinking or if she's just plain forgotten to talk. State she's in, he wouldn't put it past her.
"You're gruff. Gruff. Not too gruff. I like your gruff." She smiles again, nods and her hand pats his chest to emphasize her words. "Jus' gruff enough."
He thinks maybe he should stop drinking now and she definitely should. There's danger in these here waters, he knows it, but as he reaches to take the jug, she grabs it away from him.
"Nooo!" She pouts at him and Jayne just can't find it in him to say no back. "Aw, Jayne, that would make you mean."
"See?" He gloats, puffs up his chest and pokes out his chin. "Mean."
A big frown creases her forehead right down the middle.
"Why you gotta do that, huh?" Oh, dear lord, she's pouting even more now. "Why can't you just say 'thanks Kaylee' or 'gee you're right, Kaylee' or 'gosh you're so darned pretty, Kaylee'? Men, gotta be all big, like it's so bad to be good."
He starts to speak, but she's not listening. She is, in fact, waggling her shoulders back and forth and making her slightly slurred voice all deep. It's so damned cute, Jayne just balls his empty hand into a fist next to his leg to stop himself reaching out.
"I'm such a man, I don' take no sugar in my tea. I'm so strong, I don' need no weave on this here amputated leg, it'll jus' stop bleedin' on it's own. Don' come near me with those there feeling things, feelings is so distasteful. I's gotta go to a bar an' get myself all whored up and then shoot at summin' small and furry."
"Aw, come on Kaylee." He starts. "We ain't all bad."
"Don't bother me none with those there womanly things, I gotta sit here and fondle my gun. It's so manly. Not at all sly..."
"Hey!" Jayne cuts her off right there. "Ain't nothin' sly about the way I handle my guns."
A smile quirks the edges of her lips.
"Who says I was talkin' 'bout you, Jayne?"
He looks down at his hands for a bit.
"Don't need to be said." He knows she's waiting for him to finish and he sees the bravado in her stare, but he also sees something else, something a little shaky that she usually hides well, so he gets the words out as quick as possible. "Everybody on the ship knows how pretty ya are. Don't need to be said. Guess that's why no one says it. But ya are."
Kaylee doesn't smile or gasp or go on about it like he was kinda expectin' her to, but she hands him the bottle and instead of putting it out of her reach, he takes a swig and hands it back. Her eyes twinkle.
They've been quiet for a long time, well, long in the sense that Kaylee's drifting back and forth and she doesn't quite remember saying anything for a while, but she knows she was saying something before.
"'Cause, you know..." The words tumble out of some conversation she supposes she'll be able to pick up soon as he answers.
Well, that ain't gonna do it.
"Aw, Jayne." She complains and bats her eyelids. "For liddle ol' me?"
"Hell, girl." He pouts a little and it makes Kaylee smile. He's gotta be well on his way to drunk if'n he's pouting. "I ain't gonna sit here an' list why and how I think you're pretty. Tha's what the doc's for, in'he?"
"Yeah, well." Kaylee feels her own pout now as she lifts the jug in salute. "I ain't no dead cow, am I?"
"Wha?" Jayne frowns, confused. "He call you a dead cow? I'm gonna go fix 'im right up, I'm gonna..."
She smiles and reaches out to stop him trying to sit up. Mostly 'cause she thinks they'll both go toppling to the floor, 'cause neither of them are that steady.
"He didn't mean nuthin' by it." She nudges his shoulder with her own. "I think he was tryin' ta be nice, even."
She sees him look at her, all disbelief and bluster.
"I ain't his kinda pretty, I know it." She sighs. "Ain't never gonna be no fancy core girl, jus', ya know, sometimes it's jus' nice ta hear it."
"You listen to me, girl." Kaylee blinks at him, he sounds so serious she feels as if she should salute or something. "You ain't fancy, but yer better than fancy. You don't need no fluffy dress to make ya special, you hear me?"
Kaylee screws up her face a little.
"You think my dress was fluffy?" His face looks angry and she knows she missed the whole point of it, so she better start listening soon or he's gonna start yellin'. "Sorry, um... special? Keep going."
And there, behind his angry puppy face, she sees a smile lingering.
He can't believe it, he can't believe he's actually doing it.
"An' that teddy you got there on your coveralls." His hand touches it, but he must be drunker'n he thought 'cause it lands kinda heavy and makes a thud. "Is all furry. Tha's special, too."
She bends her neck to look all the way down at her leg, tryin' to bring her head back at the same time, as if her eyes was all out of focus.
"You like my bear?" He watches her face light up and then dim some. "s'kinda stupid."
"No, ah! Ah! Ah!" He lifts a finger to her and waggles it. "What'd I say?"
She furrows her brow at him.
"No sayin' no. I's to nod at everythin' you say."
"Yes." He nods once. "Bear's special."
Oh, her eyes is all shiny again an' he wants to keep 'em all shiny and his brain thinks real hard.
"'Cause you wait 'tills we ain't got no food an' Mal puts on them rations, you wait 'tills we all go to sleep an' you sneak your extras inna our food lockers an' think no one knows." He grins a little. "Special."
She makes a face then, kinda squinches her lips together and blows a raspberry.
"That don' count none, Jayne, 'cause you wait 'til I goes to bed an' you put yours in my locker to make up for it."
He blinks for a second. She knew that?
"Whad I say? Kaylee? Whad'd I say?"
She sighs and nods.
"No sayin' no. I's to nod at everythin' you say."
"You's special, Miss Kaye Frylee, jus' special. So shut yer mouth an' accept it already. 'Cause I'm kinda dizzy now."
"Jayne." She half sings it, half calls it, trying to get him to open his eyes. "Oh, Jay-ne!"
"What?" Well, she got one eye open. "Whaddya want?"
"We gonna jus' stay here all night? Smushed up in the hammock?"
He looks as if he's gonna say yes to it and Kaylee almost wishes he does.
"'Course not, ya drunken fool."
"I's spechial, Jayne," she pouts at him 'cause she knows he's weak like that, "you said."
"I did. I did." He nods at her. "'kay, then, 'course not ya special fool."
She dissolves into giggles, which erupt into laughs, which then has her snorting.
"Hey, you shush up." He hisses the words. "You'll wake 'em all. Mal'll yell."
Kaylee can't help but laugh even harder as he reaches up to cover her mouth with his hand and it doesn't get any better when she ducks to escape it and it sets the hammock all topsy turvy and they both clatter to the floor, all limbs and hands and she thinks maybe even the slide of a mouth on her shoulder, but it's all too quick to tell.
"Let 'im yell!"
"Gorraminit!" Jayne frowns as he struggles to find his own limbs. "I mean, gorram, I mean..."
She can't help it, she lets herself go all limp as the giggles run through her. He's such a nice, soft cushion, all warm and snuggly.
"Would you quit it?" He growls it, but she can feel how still he's gotten, how he's not struggling against her no more. "Mal starts yellin' and I'm jus' gonna point to you."
"Wha's he gonna yell for? Is we having fun? Oh no, can't have that." She sits up and brings back her deep voice. "No fun on my ship! I ain't gettin' laid, so no fun!"
Jayne's guffaw makes her bold and she manages to slip out of his hands before he can stop her and makes her way to the com by the door.
"Attention!" She calls. "This is your ca... your cap... "
Jayne's chuckles aren't helping and Kaylee breathes in real deep so she can concentrate on getting the words out.
"This is your canpin speaking. Shush Jayne. Your canpin and I wanna say, no yellin' on my ship! And no fun! S'all the fun's locked up with my nethers, ain't no one gettin' any 'till I do!"
She falls in a heap of giggles as Jayne stumbles up to her and tries to get her away from the com. He's laughing too and they stumble together as the sound of footsteps echo loudly up to the door.
"Kaylee?" Mal growls as he looks into the room. "What in the name of all that's...?"
"Canpin Mal!" She gasps and manages to push Jayne away from her. She carefully puts one foot in front of the other as she walks over to Mal and places an arm around his shoulder. She leans in real close. "I think... I think he's drunk, Mal."
"Really?" Mal deadpans as he leans back away from her breath. "Can't imagine why you'd think that."
"Hey!" Jayne lifts a hand and points in her general direction. "That ain't kosherized! I was gonna blame you!"
"See?" She tries to lean closer to Mal. "He's all rantin' and crazy. Mebbe you should lock 'im in the hold. For a month!"
"Are you two out of your gorram cotton picking minds?" Mal carefully extricates himself from Kaylee's arms and sets her away from him. "We have a ship to run and right now I can't afford to be without my mechanic or my mercenary."
"Tha's all the 'm's." Kaylee notes with a frown. "S'I could be an engineer. That's a 'e'."
"Yes, thank you Kaylee." Mal sighs. "This stops now. I don't care what you have to do, drink coffee, sleep it off, whatever, but you better be all bright and shiny in the morning, both of you. Do you hear me?"
Kaylee sees him give an extra special glare to Jayne.
"Yessir, Capin Grumpy Pants."
She shrinks back a little when he aims it her way.
"And stay away from the com."
The door closes and they both stand there.
"See?" Jayne frowns. "Told ya he'd yell."
Something's changed, shifted, she can feel it even through the fog. She wants to go back to the laughing and the warmth up against him and him tellin' her how nice she is. Back to the them, before the him standing there lookin' as if she just peed in his morning coffee.
"Aw, he ain' mad none." She watches him raise an eyebrow and pokes out her tongue at him. "An' what do you care any how? You ain't never worried much 'bout it before."
"It ain't..." He looks as if he's about to say something else, but he doesn't.
If it ain't the captain, Kaylee doesn't know what coulda put him in such a bad mood, unless...
He watches her frown a little, then sees a light go off behind her eyes. Dammit if the woman ain't too cluey for her own good. Even drunk like this.
"Aw, Jayne," she's got her wheedlin' voice on and he frowns even harder to stop himself giving in. "I didn't mean t'rat ya out. Hones'. I'll go tell 'im 'sall me."
He don't really wanna stay mad at her, not that he can, not when she steps near him and looks up at him all hopeful and blushin' and her eyes are all hazed out with the booze. He's a goner, it's too late. There ain't no hope for him now.
"C'mon then." He says it too roughly, but her grin tells him she gets it. "There's coffee in the kitchen."
"Oh pefsh." He watches the white of her teeth bite into her lower lip. "We's still got some wine lef'. The coffee can wait."
He's about to argue the folly of that when she giggles more.
"Coffee can." She blurts out and drags him back to the hammock that's going to get him blasted out the air lock. It ain't even funny, but he smiles.
They melt into the cloth together, he's not even sure how they do it without killin' themselves. Somehow they're closer than before. He takes the jug and eyes the contents, there ain't much left, so he takes an even bigger mouthful than usual so it'll be gone soon.
She gives him a look as if she knows what he's doing and takes her own large mouthful. Jayne grins and settles himself more comfortably. They don't say anything for a while, just pass the ever dwindling jug back and forth.
"Jayne?" He looks at her in surprise, she's suddenly all soft and sleepy like, and he gives a small hum of an answer. "You watch River sometimes."
"What?" That's the last thing he expected to come out of her mouth.
"You grouse a lot, but you're always makin' sure she don' hurt herself or no one else, like her big gruff brother." He watches her eyes close and she leans her head on his shoulder. "You're special, too."
It's gonna be a long night.
Title: Whisky Bears
Author: Jacqui [website]
Details: Standalone | G | gen het | 24k | 10/24/05
Characters: Malcolm, Kaylee, Jayne, Simon
Summary: Pure, unadulterated Jayne/Kaylee fluff. Just. fluff. But drunken fluff.