Jayne comes bursting into the galley. "All right," he says angrily. "Where is he? Which one a you ruttin' bastards took him?"
Everyone looks at Jayne with varying degrees of confusion. "What ARE you yammering on about?" Mal asks with a frown.
"Someone took Speedy. I wanna know who. Right now," Jayne replies, an unspoken threat of violence in his voice.
"Speedy?" Wash says incredulously. "You named one of your guns Speedy?"
"Speedy ain't a gun, idiot," Jayne says with exasperation. "He's my turtle."
"Your turtle?" Wash asks, confused.
"The cute little stuffed one ya won at the fair, a few months back?" Kaylee asks.
"Yes, gorramit. He's missin'," Jayne says, "I left him in my bunk this mornin' and now he's gone."
Mal swallows a laugh. The incongruity of Jayne getting so upset about a missing toy was just too damn funny. He knows that if he and Wash make eye contact that'll be the end of it, so he keeps his eyes firmly on the table. Inara just rolls her eyes and continues sipping her tea. Zoe shakes her head in amusement at Jayne and wonders if there's ever going to be a meal he doesn't disrupt in some way.
"Are you sure he's gone? Kaylee asks, "And not just lost somewhere in that mess?"
"I looked everywhere, Kaylee. He ain't lost - he's missin'," Jayne says. "He's been taken."
"Now, son, you shouldn't go about making baseless accusations," Book says calmly.
"Maybe he got up and walked away," Simon says at the same time with a bit of a smirk.
If looks could kill, Simon would be a smear on the deck plating. "Someone took him," Jayne says fiercely between clenched teeth. "If I find out it was you, smart-ass, you're gonna find yerself in an EVA suit with a low oxygen supply."
Simon makes calming motions with his hands and suppresses the shudder at the threat. "I swear, Jayne, I didn't take your turtle. I didn't even know you HAD a turtle," Simon says calmly.
"Fine," Jayne says, casting a suspicious eye at Simon, not sure that the Doc wasn't yanking his chain. The 'verse knew he had pulled a few lousy tricks on the boy and he knew he had it coming, but Jayne decides to believe that Simon didn't take his turtle.
"What about the rest a ya?"
Each of the crew members swears in turn that they did not take Jayne's turtle, no one noticing that River had slipped from the table part way through the whole confrontation. He stomps out of the galley and heads back towards his bunk, furiously trying to figure out who is lying to him.
Jayne meets River in the corridor. She is clutching Speedy to her chest and looks up at Jayne with wide eyes.
"Hey!" Jayne exclaims and reaches for Speedy, "I KNEW someone took him. Gorram crazy-girl. He ain't yours to have."
"I know," River says, holding Speedy out to Jayne. "I'm sorry. Didn't know you needed him. Reminded me of home, of when I was a real girl."
Jayne sees the sadness in River's eyes and lowers his hand. "Keep him. Looks like you need him more than I do right now," Jayne says gruffly and walks away quickly.
River smiles at Jayne's retreating back, hugs Speedy close, and rubs her face against the soft, fuzzy toy. Memories of her childhood flood back to her - memories of being safe and secure - things that she thought were lost for good.