Jayne had finally taken a seat near the door, still twitchy but having decided that pacing wasn't worth it if it got Crazy all riled up. Occasionally he glanced over at her. She was always staring at him with that unnervingly steady gaze. He found himself annoyed that he kept looking over, but he could feel her eyes on him and it made him nervous.
"Wouldja stop lookin' at me like that?" he growled finally.
"Like what?" River said, innocent as a child.
"Like you're readin' my mind," Jayne muttered, and River laughed.
"What should I look at you like?"
"Shouldn't look at me at all," Jayne replied gruffly.
"I like to look at you," River said, and slid of her hammock, walking that dancer's walk to crouch next to him. "You get uncomfortable." She cocked her head, grinning, and reached out a hand to touch his arm.
He flinched, and immediately felt weaker for it. To prove he wasn't shy of her touch, he reached out and grabbed her wrists, both of them in one hand. They were so thin that he was afraid he might break her. She didn't move to free herself.
"You better watch what you say, girlie," Jayne said in a low voice, refusing to look away from her eyes. "When I'm cooped up in one spot I get edgy, and when I get edgy, I shoot stuff."
She sat there, completely still, her wrists still trapped in his hand, looking up at him with those big brown doe's eyes. For a moment there was silence between them. It seemed almost as though she leaned towards him, but perhaps that was just him getting drawn into that dark gaze. Then she spoke, breaking the spell.
"Nothing to do," she said regretfully. "Who knows how long we'll be in here?" Jayne released her wrists.
"How should I know?" he asked irritably, and then River's eyes trailed over his shoulder and lit up. "What?" He turned to look and actually felt his spirits lift.
"Praise God for Kaylee's inter-engine brewery system," Jayne said with a relieved grin as he stood. There were three bottles of the stuff tucked behind some box with wires coming out of it, undoubtedly meant to have been hidden, but then, Kaylee wasn't the most secretive girl by any shot. Jayne doubted if she had ever even told a lie with a straight face.
"Now you'll be happy," River said smugly. "Perhaps you'll even sing, if you drink enough of that." Jayne wouldn't even allow this barb to get to him. He uncapped the first bottle and came back to sit down next to the engine. He took a long drink and became visibly more cheerful.
"Everything is going to be okay," River said.
"Now that I have booze it will," Jayne replied, taking another swig.
"Say," River said contemplatively. "How does that taste?"
"Aaaand if you hafta leave, she saaaaid
don't forget my siiiiister!"
It was strange hearing River's childish soprano raised in one of the dirtiest drinking songs Jayne knew, but she'd insisted that he teach her. They were halfway through the second bottle and Jayne was already forgetting why he'd been so worked up in the first place. He was the furthest thing from drunkit took more than a bottle of wine to go to his headbut he was feeling much more relaxed.
"Ohhh, I left the" Jayne began the third verse heartily before realizing that River wasn't singing along anymore. "Hey, girlie, it's the verse about the goat! Your favorite!" River didn't stir, slumped forward like a rag doll. Frowning, Jayne reached out and shook her shoulder. Her head lolled back and she smiled at him dizzily through squinted eyes.
that one," River admitted, speech slurred. Jayne had let go of her shoulder and she started to fall backwards. He grabbed hold of her shoulder again quicklyMal would kill him if she cracked her head open on Serenity's engine.
"Hey, girl," Jayne said, suddenly worried. "Stay with me." She'd been handling herself so well that he'd forgotten she was just a ninety pound girl who'd probably never drunk alcohol before.
River reached for the bottle and Jayne knocked her hand away scoldingly. "No more for you," he said firmly, and River pouted. If only she could harness the power of that pout, Jayne thought somewhat distantly, she could have every guy in the 'verse in the palm of her hand.
"Let's play a game," River said, only a little fuzzy around the consonants.
"Fine," Jayne said impatiently, pulling her across the floor to prop her up against a wall. "What do you want to play?"
"How about," she said slowly, without opening her eyes, "never have I ever?"
"What in the gorramn hell is never have I never?"
"Never have I ever," River corrected. "We each have one hand, with five fingers."
"If you're gonna start spouting about meta-parcels again
"Metatarsals," River said. "But no. We each have five fingers and they're like strikes. When we get a strike, we put a finger down. Whoever runs out of fingers first loses."
Against his better judgment, Jayne was curious. "How d'you get a strike?"
"Well, say it's my turn," River explained. "I might say something like
never have I ever named a firearm." Jayne looked up sharply and River smirked. "And then you would put a finger down."
"That doesn't count," Jayne said hurriedly, keeping all five of his fingers splayed out. "You were explaining."
"Fine," River said, waving a hand negligently. "You want to go first?"
Jayne was skeptical about what sort of game this was, but River seemed relatively more alert than she'd been before, so he settled back against the engine and wrinkled his brow in thought. What had River done that he never had?
"I never" he started, and River cut him off.
"Never have I ever," she corrected. Jayne grimaced.
"Fine. Never have I ever
worn a dress!" he said triumphantly. Making a face, River put down a finger.
"My turn." She peered at Jayne thoughtfully, as though trying to read his face, despite the fact that undoubtedly she could read his mind with no trouble. "Never have I ever
slept with a prostitute." Jayne cursed under his breath and put down a finger, using his other hand to take a drink. He might be buzzed, but he wasn't drunk enough to be able to handle losing a stupid game to the crazy girl.
"Never have I ever
" Jayne took another drink while he racked his brains for a way to get her. "
been to school," he admitted finally, and River looked up at him sharply.
"Never ever?" she asked, and Jayne shrugged.
"Nope. Couldn't afford it."
"Education is free under the Alliance," River said.
"Yeah, but if I weren't workin' two jobs, we couldn't 'a kept food on the table fer all of us." Jayne seemed uncomfortable by the turn this conversation was taking. "Put down a finger," he said gruffly, and River did as she was told.
"Never have I ever gotten a letter from my mother," River said.
"Never?" Jayne asked, incredulous. "Why, were you never away from home long enough?"
River laughed. It was a harsh, cold sound and it shocked him into leaning back from her.
"I was in an Alliance training academy for more than two years," she said. "I wrote letters home every week at the beginning. I never received a single letter in return."
Jayne thought about his own mother, and the cunning orange hat she'd made him to keep him warm in his travels. He suddenly felt pity for River, and this made him uncomfortable.
"Never have I ever," he said quickly, to interrupt the awkward silence, and then realized that he hadn't thought of what to say. Seeing River's eyes, still cold and guarded, he lost his train of thought. "Never have I ever met my father," he blurted out. At first he wasn't sure why he said it, but when her head came up and her eyes met his, that familiar curiosity sparkling in them again, he didn't regret it so much.
"Do you know who he is?" River asked, and Jayne shook his head.
"Nope. All ma ever said was he was a no-good lyin' bastard and he weren't suited to raise a child. But through all her tough talk, if there's one thing I know fer sure, it's that he did the leavin'. Not her." There was a pensive silence. River was presumably thinking on the idea of not knowing who your own father was. Jayne pretended like he was reflecting on a fatherless childhood, but really he was watching River's hands playing with the fringe on her skirt. He tore his eyes away, feeling guilty.
"Never have I ever broken my word," River whispered, and Jayne's eyes met hers with a sort of panic. She met his gaze unwaveringly and he thought about turning her and Simon in on Ariel. Face burning with shame, Jayne slowly put down a finger. Still holding his gaze, River tucked her own finger down.
For a moment they watched each other, unmoving. Then River spoke quietly.
"Your turn," she whispered.
"Never have I ever looked down on people poorer 'n me," Jayne said firmly. He looked over at River and she was watching him. "You didn't put down a finger," he said.
"I know," River replied. Jayne raised his eyebrows and sat back.
"Never have I ever," River said softly, keeping her eyes locked on Jayne's, "been kissed."