Also - Squee! Happiness! Joy! Ecstasy! Two days!
Title: A Ribbon at a Time
Author: Sullen Siren (adena(at)direcway(dot)com)
Summary: "He didn't know nothing about women. But she was a nice girl. Been a long time since anyone called him sweet who wasn't his mama."
Disclaimer: I own nothing of worth. Please don't sue. Firefly and all related characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, the Evil Fox Corporation, and so on. Definitely not mine. I'm just playing with their toys a bit.
Feedback: Loved and worshipped and greatly appreciated.
Note: Dedicated to maleficently, who asked for Jayne to worship Kaylee from afar. This is close as I could get. Title is taken from the Dickinson poem "I'll tell you how the sun Rose." Thank you to oraclejenn for the beta-read, too.
"She’s a rose
in a Lily’s cloak.
She can hide her charms;
it is her right.
There will be time
to chase the sun
with Ribbons undone."
- Tori Amos, "Ribbons Undone"
He notices it when they first take him aboard the hunk of sky-junk they call a ship. Not that his last was any better, but they was good on their word. Had his own bunk and everything, and the company could be worse. Could be better too, since the only piece of tail he could get near were married and likely to rip his heart out if he so much as gave her a nice swat on the ass. Which were a shame. Zoe had the kind of ass Jayne could watch for hours.
He didn't watch so much now, 'course. His fingers still hadn't healed from last time she'd caught him. Had almost been worth it though.
So Zoe was off limits, and Jayne wasn't used to not having regular stops at whorehouses cross the 'verse. Man's got urges, after all. Which was probably why it irked him so much that he was obviously being kept away from the only other female-type ship-board.
They weren't even subtle about steering him away from that mechanic girl. She weren't his type at all. Jayne liked his women with meat and hips and breasts big enough to bury your face in. But she were female and she were pleasant enough to see, and it was damn irritatin' to never get a minute alone with her because the rest of the gorram crew were always running interference. Hell, he so much as looked at her funny and Mal took to glaring with that slit-eyed look he got. Jayne hated that look. Reminded him of his mama.
He'd been ponderin' how to get around that and get some time with the girl when she solved the problem herself. She plopped down opposite him in the mess and smiled like there weren't nothing wrong nowhere in the universe. She had grease on her nose and a tear in her overalls and a ribbon in her hair. "You're Jayne, right? How come you been on the ship a week and haven't said nothin'? You shy? I like your name. It's shiny – bet there isn't hardly anyone else with a name like that. Least no boys. But that's good. Makes you unique." She grinned again and offered a hand. Grease under short-cropped nails and a beaded bracelet around her wrist. "I'm Kaylee. Cap'n brought me on to keep Serenity runnin'. Ain't she pretty?"
He took a minute to process all the questions. Close up she smelled like an engine room and sun-warmed dirt and something else that might be peanut butter but he hadn't had none since he was a kid so he couldn't be sure. He didn't know which to answer, so he said the first thing that came to mind. "Piece of ruttin' go se*."
Her face fell and she drew back as if he'd hit her. "She – she's . .. she's just not. Sure she ain't all new and perfect, but she's got heart and she . . . she's just shiny is all." She pulled the ribbon from her hair with one hand and toyed with it. It was pink and faded.
He wasn't much use with women you couldn't buy. He was fair sure she couldn't be bought, and even surer that Mal'd have him taking a spacewalk if he tried. "Better than the last ship I were on. Half our air was probably toxic," he finally said by way of apology.
She smiled again, and laid the ribbon on the table. "Ain't it funny what people'll fly 'round in when just a bit of time and know-how can fix it right up?"
He thought a moment and then tried to give a charming smile. "Guess they ain't so good at fixing stuff as you."
She beamed. "Ain't you just sweet? I gotta go check the timing on the rotator – think it's off. Wanna come? Can tell me about your last ship. How'd you sign on anyway? Cap'n said he hired you off another crew – were they mad?"
She hopped to her feet and pushed her hair behind her ear. He looked toward the engine room, which passed by Mal's quarters and then shook his head. "Got things to do."
She shrugged. "Okay. Well, don't be such a stranger, alright? We all live together now – we're a family. Gotta get to know each other." She smiled at him and squeezed his shoulder and then turned and walked toward the engine room, her voice singing out a hello to Zoe as she passed her in the corridor. She didn't barely sway when she walked and her ass wasn't half so nice as Zoe's.
Zoe lifted an eyebrow as she entered, looking suspicious and he shrugged. "Gorram girl talks more than my cousin," he complained half-heartedly.
She eyed him and then smiled faintly. "She ain't the quiet sort," was all she said.
He picked up the ribbon on the table and shoved it in a pocket when she'd left again.
Funny, but the room seemed dimmer than it'd been a minute ago.
He glanced toward the engine room he couldn't see and ran a finger over the ribbon in his pocked, smiling faintly. He didn't know nothing about women. But she was a nice girl. Been a long time since anyone called him sweet who wasn't his mama.
Something right cheerful about her. Like she carried a little bit of the sun with her and shone it out when she smiled. He hadn't never met anyone like that before.
Yeah, she was a real nice girl.
She wore paint beneath the grease on her nails now, and she smelled like something too expensive to touch. Wasn't her smell, and he didn't much like it on her. It weren't Kaylee.
She smelled like the Companion.
Jayne didn't have no problem with whores. Hell, he'd loved his share of 'em. Problem came when a whore wasn't a whore but some kind of gorram nobility who sold her skin on the side. She acted like she was better'n him and it rankled because she was and they both knew it.
He didn't have no illusions about what he was. He was border-trash. He came from a nothin' planet and scraped out a nothin' life. It didn't bother him much. He took what he could grab and did well enough for himself. Got away from that rock he'd been born on, sent money home to his mother. But he didn't pretend he was anything he wasn't either. He didn't put on airs or fake politeness he didn't feel any. Inara's type went for the fake and the flattery and that crap.
Kaylee and him weren't so different. She were border-trash too, and she were honest about what she was and what she wasn't. She didn't look down on him none either. She talked to him – 'stead of at him, way that Mal and Inara did. Zoe didn't talk much at all and that whacked out pilot didn't say nothin' of substance anyway. Kaylee was more real than Inara could ever be – even if Inara was so damn sexy he couldn’t stop staring at her.
Didn't much like her changing Kaylee though. Kaylee weren't meant for airs and perfumes. Ought to just leave well enough alone.
She weren't afraid of him either. Kaylee wasn't scared of him, but he liked that about her. It was irritatin' that Inara didn't fear him though. She didn't much like him, that much he knew. She got that little smile that said he were beneath her whenever she saw him.
Kaylee didn't never look at him like that. She'd come and sit with him in the mess and play cards and ask about his mama. His mama sent her notes sometimes, in the letters she sent him. He didn't know what they talked about – he'd read the first one Kaylee sent, and she'd looked at him all big-eyed and said it was rude to read things that weren't for him, so he didn't read no more – but she'd giggle and look up at him appraisingly, so he thought she were probably hearing stories about when he was younger.
He didn't mind her knowing, since she didn't tell no one else. (He figured if she had, he'd be hearing about it, so she must not be.)
Companion stayed holed up in her shuttle most of the time. Jayne didn't ever go in there – it smelled like women who'd never look twice at him and fabrics too soft to sleep on – since he weren't invited. But even with her shut in half the time, she changed things. Kaylee talked to her more, mooned over her things and tried on her clothes. She didn't wear ribbons in her hair no more because she said it probably looked like something a little girl would do to 'Nara. She didn't sit around and play cards much with Jayne.
He didn't mind so much. Girl could talk up a storm and Jayne liked the quiet sometimes. But he . . . well not worried. But pondered, sometimes. He didn't want Kaylee to look at him the way Inara did. Like he weren't nothin' at all. Like he was dangerous and unclean and stupid.
Things was changing with Inara here, and Jayne didn't much like it. But Kaylee still smiled at him, and Inara was sure nice to look at, so he dealt with it alright.
He kept the pink ribbon in his pockets most days. He wished she still wore them in her hair. Once when they were planetside he'd picked some pretty pink flower thing and handed it to her. She'd laughed and kissed his cheek and tucked it behind her ear. Inara had smiled at him – kinda smile he didn't never see from her – and she'd been better lately. Less of a stick up her ass when he talked to her. Which wasn't often.
He guessed it would be alright.
She watched him all the gorram time and it was getting on Jayne's last nerve. She ought to hate him, with his prissy white hands and perfect diction. Hadn't been for him she'd not have ended up with a hole in her gut damn near dying.
Kaylee didn't never hate on no one though. And she hovered on the doctor the same way she did on 'Nara. (Though maybe for different reasons, 'less 'Nara and her were having a whole lot more fun than he was thinkin' on, and if so he needed to think on it more.) Doctor were clean and smart and proper. Kaylee liked that.
Jayne thought she probably wished she were that. His sister had too, 'fore she got married. He thought maybe it was a girlfolk thing. He hadn't never wanted to be starched and proper. Just wanted to be rich and lazy.
Kaylee couldn’t hate the Doc, and she probably liked him more than she oughtta. Jayne could hate him for her though. Hated the way he smiled only after thinking whether or not he should, and how he folded his shirts and how straight-up he sat. Like he had a rod in his back. Hated how that gorram encyclopedia he had cost more'n most everything Jayne owned, but for Vera. Hated that he didn't know how to shoot a gun worth a shit and that he used words Jayne didn't understand.
Inara looked down on him 'cause she was high class and dignified and he weren't, and he'd gotten to be alright with that, most times. Simon looked down on him because he was stupid, and that wasn't alright. Jayne knew he wasn't smart, but he wasn't dumb neither. He knew how to make it in the black. How to grab what needed grabbing, stay alive, stay moving. He could find jobs, find transport. He could pick out the killer in a crowd of rough necks and could spot the plainclothes Fed hiding in the bars. (Usually could anyway. Fact that he hadn't spotted the one on the ship wrankled somethin' fierce. He reckoned that were the Doc's fault too.) He wasn't book smart, but he knew how to survive. The doc wouldn't last five seconds in Jayne's life anymore than Jayne could do his doctorin' for him.
Difference was Doc didn't see any worth in Jayne's life, and Jayne couldn’t help but see the worth in doctorin'. It was plain as day. Fixin' up folk was a good thing to do.
Hated him all the more for that.
He remembered watching him work when Kaylee lay all still on that metal bed in the infirmary. She'd been pale and he'd realized then that she might die.
When he'd seen her fall back against the wall, bleeding, he'd just thought that she were shot, and he'd wanted to kill the bastard. Both of them, for good measure. But it was just regular killin' rage. Not special. 'Cause Kaylee'd been hurt and he might not have been that smart, but he knew they were in for a world of trouble. He'd a killed him if he let her die, but didn't think he'd have that right anyway. Mal'd have beat him to it.
Kaylee watched Simon, and Jayne watched Kaylee, and River watched Jayne. Jayne hated Simon, and he was alright with that, because hate was familiar enough that it didn't faze him much. He didn't hate River – he was too . . . he weren't afraid. But she were creepy as hell. Doc looked at him like he couldn't figure out what made him tick, like he didn't understand how people like Jayne managed to stay alive.
His sister watched him like she knew exactly what he was thinking, exactly who he was, and exactly why she couldn't trust him. He looked at her and saw a walkin', screamin', creepy-ass pile of credits. She were trouble, and she could just be profit if they turned her in, but Mal didn't much see things the same way. Maybe. Jayne didn't always get Mal. Mal played like he were Jayne's kinda people, but he was smarter. He had all these ideas too. About right and wrong and honor and war-time codes that didn't have no meaning out in the black, where there weren't no units or generals – just a million men grabbing up every last bit they could for themselves.
River watched him, and he hated it. He didn't hate her, 'cause she was just a crazy girl, and his mama wouldn't want him to hate on some moonbrained female. But her brother'd almost swapped Kaylee's life for hers, and it weren't at all a fair trade in his mind. River weren't worth Kaylee's life. Ain't much he could think of that was.
He went and saw her now and then, when she were still laid up. She were still pale and she'd gotten sick-up when he told her the Fed were dead. He thought she was just afraid 'cause now the Fed's would be on their ass, but she started cryin', 'cause he'd died and she thought it were 'cause of her. It weren't. It was 'cause he'd gotten in the way and Mal'd taken him out. Jayne still hadn't quite figured why they didn't just let them two go, but it weren't her fault.
He told her that and she'd smiled at him. Weren't no one who looked at him like he was somebody but Kaylee. She looked at everyone that way, but it didn't make it no less special.
She were up and about now, and sometimes he went to see her, 'cause she wasn't about much when she weren't with 'Nara, or River, or Simon. She'd talk about engines and he'd nod and not know a gorram thing she was talking about, but that was alright too, 'cause she talked to him, and not at him, and she smiled when he listened.
It was enough. Most times. Jayne didn't have no friends. Kaylee was the closest he came.
Hated the way she watched Simon though. ‘Fugees weren't nothing but trouble. Mal'd realize that, get 'em off, send 'em away. Maybe even make a profit in the doin'.
But for now this was enough. River, 'Nara, Zoe – could come and go so far as he cared. Long as Kaylee stayed. Maybe if they all went away, she'd put the ribbons back in her hair. He missed the ribbons.
* (dog shit)
Jayne's POV was, by the way, trickier than I thought, and I think I may have overdone the Firefly-speak in this. The way they use the slang and the western-induced bad grammar tends to be inconsistent, so I tried to keep it that way, but not sure how well it came off.