Summary: Jayne is thinking, Mal gets worried.
Notes: Written for the Twenty Week challenge at http://www.livejournal.com/community/20weeks/411.html
Everyone was talking over dinner. Jayne had stopped paying attention when the Doctor said that lack of education was what created common criminals, or some such nonsense.
He had almost reminded the good doc where all his education had brought him, but Jayne reckoned that winding up the doc wasn't worth listening to Mal's bitching when things got ugly, because they always did when he and the doc discussed things. Not that it happened often, but when they did, Simon would always try to make him look dumb, and Jayne would respond like any normal man would: threatening to break a few bones. Kaylee would take the doctor's side, the Shepherd would frown on the violence, the crazy girl would scream nonsense, and Mal would get annoyed, and take it out on Jayne.
Yeah, he had learned his lesson, so he shut up and let his attention wonder. His eyes moved from person to person. He wasn't looking at faces or anything. He didn't believe that old saying about eyes being the window to the soul. He'd seen plenty of men looking you straight in the eye and lie if you were lucky, and kill you if you weren't.
No, Jayne was looking at hands. His mama told him long ago that hands don't lie. She also told him that he should pick his wife because of her hands, but Jayne didn't think his Ma understood that there were other parts that were just as important.
Inara's hands were like the rest of her, sophisticated, delicate, and showed that she'd never done a day's honest work. Jayne snorted when he looked at the Doc's hands; they looked just like Inara's, and like the crazy girl's, except you never knew when River would stab you.
The Shepherd had a callous on the middle finger of his right hand, from the pen probably, but he had strong hands. Jayne wondered what the man had done before becoming a priest, but he didn't ask. A man should be able to keep his secrets without anyone pestering him.
Jayne didn't bother with Wash and Zoe. They were taken, no point in wasting time there. Kaylee had slender fingers, used to get into anything. The oil stains under her nails rarely went away. His Ma would have liked Kaylee, too bad she was sweet on the Doc, and besides she reminded him of his little cousin.
That left Mal. The man had big hands, not as big as Jayne, but few people did. Cleaned and cared for, but full of calluses, like he wasn't afraid of hard work. He never moved them unless it was necessary, but always tense and close to the gun, just in case.
"Is there a problem, Jayne?" Mal asked.
Jayne looked up, and frowned. "No...I'm fine." Why would Mal ask him that? He had been quiet-like, not causing any problems, why in god's name did Mal have to pick on him? He hadn't even told the Doc off, but now the urge to do something, or hit someone was coming back. Pushing the chair back, he got up, and left without a word.
Less than an hour later, Mal was outside Jayne's bunk. He knocked, but it wasn't like Jayne wouldn't let him in. Jayne watched as Mal came down the stairs. Hands crossed in front of his chest, he got ready for a fight 'cause he hadn't done a gorram thing wrong, and no way Mal could say otherwise.
Mal stood in the middle of the room, hands by his sides, like they were itching to go for that gun. "Are you okay?" he finally said.
Jayne blinked. "Yeah..."
"You sure? You weren't actin' like yourself back there. Even the Doctor mentioned that you refrained from insulting him. You didn't say nothin', not even once," he exclaimed like the strangest thing in the world had occurred. "You're not sick or anything?"
Jayne blinked twice. Was Mal worried? He sounded like it, but Mal didn't worry, not unless they needed people for a job, and there was no job. "Not sick. I was thinking, that's all."
Mal sat down on the bed, and stared at Jayne. "Now, don't go saying these things and expect me not to take notice."
"What? I can't think? I'm too dumb for it? Just 'cause I don't know no fancy words like the Doc, it don't mean I'm dumb." Jayne rested a foot against the wall, and leaned back. Maybe if he pretended to be relaxed, they wouldn't get into a fight. Maybe.
"I know you're not dumb, but you don't spend dinner thinking either, unless it's about money, but we haven't had much luck lately."
Jayne snorted. "With those two on board, I don't see how we're goin' to get a decent job."
"I told you-"
"Yeah, sure, I know; we've had conversations before. You want 'em here, we have 'em here. I've learned, Mal. It don't mean I like it. They are nothing but trouble. Even the Doc's pretty ass ain't enough to put up with what we're risking."
A crooked smile appeared on Mal's face. "This ain't got nothin' to do with the job or thinking or trouble. Hell, you love trouble. You're jealous; you're jealous of the Doc." Mal laughed, shaking his head. "There's no need to be jealous. Doc isn't the one givin' me a hand at night, is he?"
Jayne shrugged. "How should I know? I don't remember givin' you a hand lately."
"Well, no one is givin' me a hand lately. Rutting ain't exactly at the top of my priorities. Food, an honest job or two without running into the alliance, that's more important."
"I know, Mal, and I ain't complaining. I didn't even tell the Doc that he's runnin' around with them ignorant criminals he dislikes so much, did I?"
Mal's head snapped up. "You were trying to make my life easier?"
"Don't sound so surprised. My life is better, less people shootin' at me and more money in my pocket when you come up with good plans." Jayne crossed the room and sat on the bed, next to Mal. "You won't have no problems from me; go do that captainin' we need."
Mal shook his head. "Nah, even a captain needs some personal time." He stared for a moment. "I could stay here, if you're not occupied."
Jayne looked the captain over. Mal's fingers were laced together in a calculated loose grip. The tension was still there, and Jayne knew that he wasn't the only one missing their nights together. Not that they were a couple or anything, but someone else's hand felt much better than your own.
Jayne nodded. "Yeah, you can stay."
"Why me?" Mal asked casually as he took off the holster with his guns. "Before the doc, I though you and Kaylee..."
Jayne looked at Mal's hands again. Mal was the one in charge, and not just because he was the captain. Jayne knew from the way Mal touched him, gripped his hips, squeezed his cock that Mal would always be the one in control. Those hands proved the willingness to take and to protect. Jayne liked the way they felt, not that he would admit it, because he was most certainly not sly. It was just the Captain.
Jayne looked up and grinned. "I like your hands." He saw the confused frown on Mal's face. It felt good that for once, he wasn't the one who didn't understand.
August 13, 2005