Title: Fishing for Compliments
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: All your Firefly and Serenity are belong to Joss Whedon.
Secret Santa Prompt: For agilebrit, Simon says something really stupid (like he does), and Jayne says something that's just right.
Summary: 2300 words. Simon screws up, and Kaylee gets a chance to see the softer side of Jayne.
Notes: SPOILERS for the Serenity movie. Unapologetic use of dialect. Apologies to Simon fans! I usually am one, but this was a fun challenge to write.
The first clue Jayne had that the doc had screwed up yet again was the sound of Kaylee's voice, raised louder'n usual and trembly with tears. Didn't sound right comin' from her; a sorrowin' Kaylee always made him think on that time the Fed come on board and shot her, or the shocked look on her face down on that moon when Zoë'd said Wash weren't comin'. Made something clench up in his gut, all sour and unpleasant-like.
He'd blamed the doc for that shootin', the doc and his crazy sis; it had led him to do some downright stupid things in the name of gettin' rid of 'em. Well, that and the way Kaylee's eyes lit up every time Simon so much as looked at her-- what had she been thinkin', makin' eyes at some big city dandy who'd likely just take what she was offerin' without never stoppin' to appreciate it? Doc hadn't made any better of an impression for himself over the next few months, neither, callin' her ship le-se in front of her and implyin' she wouldn't be worth waitin' for if there was any other women available. Couldn't fault him for his care of his sis, but where real women was concerned? Only time the doc had shown a clue was that little motivational speech he'd given when the Reavers was comin'. 'My one true regret in all this is never being with you.'
So now Simon had got her-- Jayne knew what they'd been doin' back there, he'd heard her laughin' all joyful-like and dropping tools on the floor, somethin' she'd never do if she weren't distracted-- what was she doin' in tears? Could it be the doc weren't 'top three percent' at *everything* at that MedAcad of his? Jayne smirked at the thought.
Kaylee's voice rose up higher, enough Jayne could make out what she was saying, and the smirk slipped off his face. "...Shoulda known it was too good to be true," her voice wavered, full of hurt and self-hatred. "You coulda just said somethin', you know. Told me all it was, was to wind me up so's I wouldn't drop the gun down there and get myself killed, 'stead of lettin' me humiliate myself like this."
"But it wasn't, Kaylee, please, you don't understand..." Simon's voice rose, too, a little upset and a lot condescending.
Jayne's lip curled as he finished putting Vera back together. He'd just sat down to clean his guns half an hour ago, but if he were gonna have to listen to more of this, he might as well move 'em all back to his bunk and come back later. Weren't no use gettin' all worked up over it; girl would just forgive Simon again anyhow, and then *Jayne* would be the one gettin' the evil eye for interfering.
"Course I don't understand," Kaylee objected, overriding whatever Simon would've said next. "You're the one who went to that Medacad and got them fancy degrees. *I'm* just a prairie harpy who knows her way around an engine, what do I know about anything?"
"That's not what I meant!" Simon yelled back. "Kaylee, it's not that I didn't want to... You know I do. It's just that River..."
"River ain't the one in here with you takin' her shirt off! River ain't the one waitin' to be told she looks pretty, only to hear 'maybe this isn't the best time for this'! Well there ain't gonna be a better time, and I'm just sorry it took so long for me to see it!"
"Simon... Simon, let go of me!"
Jayne had heard enough. He scowled and got to his feet, setting Vera down careful-like with the cleaning cloth draped over her, and prowled out of the dining room with murder on his mind. There were times when a man's business was his own, and times when it was a man's duty to interfere. Didn't nobody manhandle Kaylee without her say-so.
He could see them as he stepped into the hallway, framed in the open hatch of the engine room: Kaylee, nekkid from the waist up, clutchin' a frilly little bit o'nothin' to her chest with one arm, and Simon facin' her, wearin' about as much, holdin' on to her shoulders with both hands. Kaylee's hair was mussed, her lips swollen from kissing, and what skin Jayne could see peeking from behind the loose-held fabric looked soft, richly curved, and inviting-- but that wasn't why he'd come out here. Jayne tore his gaze away from her chest and glared in Simon's direction. The point was Kaylee wanted Simon to let go of her, and he weren't playin' along-- not that it looked like he was playin' all that rough, but it was the principle of the thing.
"She was *watching* us, Kaylee, I could see her up in the ductwork! What did you want me to do, pretend she wasn't there?" Simon blurted, lookin' about as upset as Jayne had ever seen him.
"Maybe you should have!" Kaylee spat back, tears spillin' from her eyes. "Ain't like noone's ever seen me ruttin' in the engine room before, and at least I woulda known you cared!"
Simon's eyes widened at that, and his grip loosened on her shoulders-- not so much lettin' go as rejecting what he was hearing. Jayne frowned at that, knowing how Kaylee'd likely take his reaction-- and sure enough. Her lower lip trembled as she held back a sob, and a second later she'd wrenched free of him entirely and run off down the hallway fast as she could.
Jayne ducked instinctively out of her way, steppin' off to one side; he doubted she'd even seen him, as fast as she was going. Then he stared back down the hallway, glarin' at the doc for all he was worth.
Simon was already lookin' a mite shell-shocked; Jayne could tell the exact second the boy noticed Jayne's presence, as his whole body jerked backward like he'd been shot. He gaped for a second in disbelief, then clapped his mouth shut and glared back, crossin' his arms awkwardly across his bare chest.
"I'll thank you to keep out of my personal business," he said crisply, as if he hadn't just sent Kaylee cryin'.
Jayne just shook his head. "Too late for that," he growled. "I'm thinkin' it ain't your business no more, and if you know what's good for you you'll keep it that way."
He didn't wait to see what Simon would do next; he'd already heard Kaylee's bunk clunk open, and he wanted to catch her afore she locked it up and settled in for a good cry. He'd caught her a time or two, sneakin' off like that after that bounty hunter'd got on board; she'd blamed herself for givin' in and tellin' him where to find River, for lettin' him scare her at all, and it'd taken Jayne several tries to talk her out of there.
Some good Simon had been then, holed up in the infirmary with his shot leg and his feng-le sister. Some good he was now. What did Mal keep him on for, anyway? So maybe the sister'd turned out to be useful, but they'd done without a doc before. They could do it again.
Jayne caught the ladder to Kaylee's bunk just as she was closin' it up and put a foot on it. "S'just me, girl. Let me down there?"
The hatch stayed open, and he took it as a yes. He sent one last heated glare in the direction of the engine room, then thrust his feet down the ladder and dropped lightly to the floor of Kaylee's bunk. Once there, he hit the button to close the hatch, then turned to see her sittin' on her bed, curled up with that floral-print excuse for a shirt still held against her.
"I suppose you heard all that," she said, sniffling a little, watchin' him with wary, reddened eyes.
He shrugged, casual-like. "Most of it, anyhow," he said, then shuffled over and snagged the blanket folded up at the foot of her bed. He weren't about to offer to leave again just so's she could put her shirt back on, but neither was he gonna just let her sit like that, all vulnerable and distracting.
She started a little as he draped the blanket around her shoulders, then curled up even further as he sat down beside her. He lifted his arm up and grunted as she snuggled into his side, then dropped it down over the blanket and pulled her in close.
"Am I pretty, Jayne?" she asked, her voice a little muffled where her face was pressed up against his sweaty shirt.
"'Course you're pretty," he said immediately, anxious to reassure her. He'd had some time to think on the subject before Simon had come on board, back when he'd still thought he might have a chance in hell of winnin' her, and he still had a few compliments stowed up waitin' to be aired. "When you smile, it's like the sunrise over Persephone; lights you all up inside, makes a fella feel downright unworthy to be in your presence."
"Really?" she said, perking up a bit, turnin' her face up toward him.
"Swear on my pa's grave," he told her, dead serious. "And watchin' you work on engines-- you got magic hands, girl, makes a man wonder what else they'd be good at."
She blushed at that. "You think so?"
He rolled his eyes. "You fishin' for compliments now? You got the cutest little button of a nose, and watchin' you eat a strawberry's enough to make a man want to 'wave a shepherd for confession. You're always wearin' them coveralls, but they don't hide your curves none; you're a right figure of a woman, and if the doc don't see that there's somethin' wrong with him."
She turned her face back against his shirt, sniffling again. "I thought if River was better, if we got her safe so's he could pay some attention to me for a change... and then he what he said, about regrettin' not bein' with me... but it ain't changed nothin', after all."
Jayne grunted. "Want I should shoot him for you?" he asked, half-serious. It would almost be worth Mal puttin' him out the airlock for good this time, just for the expression on Simon's face when he realized Jayne weren't kidding around. Long as it made Kaylee happy, that was.
She laughed weakly. "I 'member you saying that," she said. "You'd shoot a guy if there was a woman. Does that mean I count as a woman? 'Cause you're always callin' me little Kaylee, like I'm your mei-mei, like I'm everybody's mei-mei..."
She was gettin' all worked up again, and Jayne frowned and rubbed his hand up and down her back in an attempt to soothe her.
"Ask me again sometime when you aren't cryin' over some other guy," he said gruffly. "'Sides, I'm ten years older'n you, and Mal would space me for so much as lookin' at you funny."
"No he wouldn't," she told his shirt. "He says he's a mean old man, but he's not. He likes you just as much as any of the rest of us, 'cept Zoë. Why d'you think he gets so upset when you screw up?"
"'Cause I screwed up?" Jayne said, baffled, raisin' his eyebrows at her logic. She sure saw a different side of Mal than he did. Hell, he was still half-expectin' to get tossed off at the next port for lettin' River loose before Miranda; the Captain never missed a trick, so he had to know what Jayne had been doing. What with everything else that happened that trip, though, Jayne was crossing his fingers and hoping he'd got a free pass this time.
Kaylee giggled again, sounding a little clearer. "Don't you ever change, Jayne," she said. "Don't you ever change."
He shook his head. "Women."
She corrected him, "Men!" and pulled back a little, swipin' at her nose with a free hand and frowning at the mess she'd made of his shirt. "Sorry for cryin' all over you."
Jayne snorted. "Ain't like I don't got plenty of t-shirts."
She sat back a little more, pullin' out from under the shelter of his arm, and studied him seriously for a minute. Her eyes were redder than before, that blanket tucked up around her shoulders hidin' everything underneath, but she looked a little less down than before; more like she were sufferin' a temporary set-back instead of like her favorite pet had just been killed.
"Did you mean it?" she said, finally, when the silence had begun to stretch.
"That I should ask you again when I wasn't cryin' over some other guy?"
Something lurched in Jayne's chest, and he swallowed. "I surely did," he said. "Long as you really mean it. I can go whorin' anytime I feel like if all I want is some pretty. I take up with you, you gotta understand, I'd be playin' for keeps."
Her smile was like the glow of starlight in the Black, a mite faint but still as brilliant as any sun. "I understand," she said, then darted forward and brushed a kiss across his cheek.
Jayne left her bunk feelin' lighter than he had in days, years maybe. He settled back into his gun cleaning with a will, smilin' all over again at the feel of her lips touchin' his face. He'd never thought he'd have anything to thank Crazy for, but if Kaylee really did decide not to forgive Simon this time, he'd have to think of somethin' small and pretty to buy for her next time he had money to spare.
le-se = garbage
feng-le = crazy
mei-mei = little sister