"Ah," Wash said with a small smile over his coffee cup as the voices carrying from the hallway reached new and exciting levels
of pitch. "The mid-afternoon lovers' quarrel, right on schedule. What's the topic today, can you hear?"
Jayne held a knife up to the light, frowned at it, and reached for his whetstone again. "He ain't demonstrative with his
"His words or Kaylee's? Cause they're sure not yours."
"His. Who talks like that around here but the doc?"
"Good point." Wash took another sip and almost choked on it as Kaylee came flying through the door, throwing a wrench in
the direction of the table and missing.
"What the hell is wrong with you people?" she shouted, planting her hands on her hips and glaring at the two of them. Wash
fidgeted. Jayne placidly continued to hone.
"Us people in what capacity?" Wash asked after a long, danger-tinged moment.
"Men," Kaylee growled, and Jayne reached for a larger knife in the interest of prudence and just general goddamn good
sense. "What the hell is wrong with you as men?"
"I think I hear something on the bridge calling me," Wash mumbled, putting down his mug and taking a cautious step toward
the door. Kaylee had never shown any predatorial instincts before, but the only woman he'd ever seen this mad had been Zoe,
and that had certainly made him feel like prey.
"Your dinosaurs need an afternoon feeding?" Jayne asked mildly, keeping on eeye on Kaylee as he exchanged the whetstone for
a polishing cloth.
"Something like that." Wash reached the safety of the doorway and cast a longing glance back at the half-finished coffee,
abandoned on the field of battle when discretion proved the better part of valor.
"Chickenshit," Jayne muttered. Kaylee scowled at them and retreated to the kitchen for the kind of enthusiastic sulking best
accomplished with objects to bang together and gusty sighs.
Jayne gave her a few minutes to perfect her technique before he spoke. "So what's the problem this time, Kaylee?"
"Simon." She dropped a pan to the stovetop with a satisfying clatter. "Ain't he always the problem?"
"I've been known to say so." Jayne nodded solemnly and held another blade up to the light. "Is it somethin' he's doin' or
somethin' he ain't?"
"He don't ever do anything, which is just exactly the problem." Dumping condensed soup into the pan just didn't make
a racket, so she kicked at the cabinets for good measure. "Won't even touch me if he thinks anybody can see. If I
didn't know better, I'd think he was ashamed of me." Just enough wobble in her voice there to make it loud and clear that
she didn't know better, not even a little bit. Jayne had met enough women in his life to pick up on that.
"Have to be crazier'n a Reaver an' dumber than dog shit to feel that way, Kaylee," he said mildly, too engrossed in the intricacies
of sharpening a serrated blade to put more heat behind the words. She slammed a lid on the pan and heaved another sigh by
way of answer, and he rolled his eyes. All right then. Time for the big guns, the ones with the real pricey ammo and the
most satisfying aftermath.
He put the knife down and walked over to the kitchen, moving up behind her as she sulked over the stove. "So the problem
is that he don't kiss you in public."
"Not a real kiss," she muttered, tucking her chin to her chest and scowling. "Not like he wants me."
"Uh-huh," Jayne said, settling his hands on her waist and turning her to face him. She looked up at him, startled, as he
slid his hands around, fitting them around her neatly, with his thumbs nestled in the soft flesh under her navel and his palms
nearly spanning her waist. "So he don't do things like this." He kneaded her torso gently, rippling his strong fingers against
her, and she uttered a small squeaking noise that got swallowed up as he covered her mouth with his.
The kiss stretched on for a long moment, one that didn't match any of the laws of time and physics that Kaylee knew, though
in plain fact time and physics were pretty far from her mind just then. His attention was split just about evenly between
Jayne's casual occupation of her mouth with his tongue and the extremely interesting pattern of advance taken by his hands
across her abdomen, his fingers crawling down and across the soft skin until his thumbs pressed against the little shelf of
bone between her hips. She squeaked again at that, in neither objection nor surrender, and he let go, releasing her waist
and her mouth and stepping back to study her face cooly. "That the kind of thing he don't do?"
She straightened her shirt and flicked her hair out of her face, taking a few exaggeratedly casual deep breaths before speaking.
"Just that very kind of thing." She did her best to communicate that there would be dire consequences if he noticed that
she was blushing. He scooped a protein ration off the counter and turned back to the table.
"Huh," he said as he swung his chair around and straddled it, picking up another knife. "I do that sort of thing all the
"We weren't in public, Jayne," she said, seizing on an angle where she still had some high ground. "No witnesses, doesn't
"I beg to differ," came a dry voice from the far corner, and Kaylee made another highly undignified squeak. Jayne grinned
at his knives.
"Shepherd Book!" Kaylee gasped. "I didn't see you there!"
"Obviously," the preacher replied, closing his Bible and rising from the couch with a patient glare for both of them. "I
wonder if I should go start preparing a wedding sermon?"
"C'mon, Shepherd," Jayne said cheerfully, while Kaylee blushed like an engine ready to overheat and blow. "Can you imagine
what I'd do to her at the altar?"