Summery: This was written to distract literarylemming from a disagreement so I could win. Its set IN the Carnival verse, but has nothing to do, directly, with Carnival, or the sequel. Its just..an interlude.
"Jayne?" A pair of large brown eyes peeked around the corner of the mess hall.
Jayne grunted in annoyance. He was cleaning his guns and didn’t want to be disturbed. Especially not by little bitty girls with big squishy turtles tucked under their arms.
"Jayne," she said again. And now she was standing at his shoulder and ..looking at him. It should be illegal for her eyes to be so powerful.
He kept ignoring, even though he could feel those eyes in the shivers going up his back.
The girl slid onto the bench beside him, straddling it so she could look at him full on. "Turtle has missed you since the fair. You do not come visit, and we would like to see you."
She made Turtle nod in agreement. Then she leaned her head against the turtle's, and they both gave him identical big eyed looks.
Which was interesting as all get out, as Turtle was stuffed and not real.
But Jayne weren't looking. No sir. He was sitting here with his guns, cleaning away.
He weren't paying a lick of attention to the girl who just laid her head on his shoulder beseechingly. Not one lick.
She was still looking at him, which he could handle. She couldn’t manipulate him with those eyes. He was made of stronger stuff. He weren’t about to be putty in her little hands.
But then she tucked her face into his shoulder, which he'd been kinda nervous she might do.
And all he could see was her eyes. And they was getting bigger and bigger the longer he ignored her.
Girl should be shot, looking at a man like that and making him feel all kinds of strange on the insides.
But he gave in.
Cause there weren't no power in the 'verse that could deal with that look.
"What?" he gritted out finally. "You and your turtle shouldn't have been missing me." He tried to focus back on his guns.
The girl and Turtle nodded seriously. "We do." She dropped her eyes to the side shyly. "We like Jayne." She glanced up through her eyelashes. "We thought Jayne liked us?" It was a question, and the look on her face was all kinds of unsure.
"I don’t like nobody, girl," he grumped. "And nobody likes me."
The girl had the gall to smile where she was still leaning up against his shoulder. He really should get around to shaking her off, but she weren’t heavy, and ...and..his arm was cold. So he could let her stay there for a minute or two afore her brother came in to usher her off to do things that didn’t involve mercenaries.
"Not true, Jayne." Her eyes was smiling now, and gorramit, if that didn’t do weird things to his innerds too. "Turtle likes you," she announced. She glanced down, so he couldn’t see into her eyes anymore to see what she was feeling. “I like you." Her voice was kinda quiet and shy.
He shifted uneasily. "Naw, you don’t."
She nodded. "Do."
Her little hand drifted to one of the guns he was cleaning, and he slapped it away without thinking. "Don’t touch my guns, girl.”
She squeaked and stuck her stinging fingers into her mouth. "Sorry," she whispered, eyes big and startled. "She forgets sometimes."
Her looking up at him, sucking on her fingers was all manner of sinful, and he blinked at her for a second before figuring out what she was talking about.
He shook his head hard to get himself back under control, and turned back to his guns.
Girl seemed perfectly content to lean up against him and watch him take care of his girls, and she weren’t getting in the way or screaming or nothing, plus his arm was still cold, so he let her be.
"See this?" He pointed to one of the smallest guns on the table. "This is a pretty basic little piece. One of the first guns that was ever all mine."
She nodded, fingers still in her mouth. She was watching intently.
"You gotta know how to take care of your weapons, you gotta take care of your girls, or else they can't take care a' you, dong ma?"
She nodded again, eyes wide and watching his every move.
"Now, first things, you gotta know all the parts, the insides and the outsides, and you gotta be able to take it apart and put it together." He weren’t real sure when he decided to teach the girl gun work, but hell, she was here and quiet, and that was good enough. 'Sides, he weren’t always gonna be around to shoot anybody who came near her.
She shifted against his shoulder, still leaning up against him, but turning so she could see everything he was doing. One little hand crept up under his arm and fastened around his bicep, fingers edging under his shirt sleeve to rest on bare skin.
He found it a mite distracting, to tell the truth. But he kept on with the lesson, not letting her touch anything, but letting her look.
"Now, what's this part?" He held a piece up for her to see.
She tilted her face up to him and smiled, "Trigger guard."
"And what does it do?"
"Keeps the gun from going off if it gets jostled," she answered promptly, leaning a little more across him to get a better look. "Keeps people from getting killed if they don't know how to handle a weapon." She took a breath and kept going. "A gun is a tool in the right hands, a weapon in the wrong ones." She burrowed into his chest suddenly. "They scare me."
He lifted his arm from where it was trapped against her and wrapped it around her instead. It was less awkward this way.
That was the only reason why he did it.
From there it weren’t hard for her to slip her entire body under his arm, and suddenly he had a lapful of girl.
Well, not lap, she was sitting between his legs more like.
But truthfully, that weren’t much better for his state of mind.
Or his body.
He patted her back awkwardly. "A gun ain't nothing but a tool, girl." He gestured at the ones spread out on the table. "They do the job they was made for, that’s all. Just like anything else."
"What job was I made for?"
The question was so soft, he almost thought he imagined it. He looked down at the top of the girl's head, which was all he could really see of her. He blinked. "You don't got a job."
"Everybody on Serenity has a job," she explained, little mouth pressed up against his pulse point and sending shivers up and down his back. "This girl doesn’t."
He blinked in confusion, absently smoothing a strand of her hair in his fingers. "You don’t need a job," he said blankly.
"I’m useless," she sighed. "I have no purpose. Nothing to do."
"You draw and stuff. And read."
She snorted, shifting in his arms to rest her forehead on his collarbone. "Unimportant things. Useless. Jayne has the guns, Simon has medicine, and Mal has his yelling. What job is left for a girl?"
Huh. He rested his chin on top her of head and thought for a second. She had a point. She didn’t have nothing to do, really. 'Cept to bedevil her brother.
"You want a job, then?" He asked. He figured, but he wanted an actual answer. Plus, he was still turning something over in his mind.
Chances were, Mal weren't going to kill him. Probably.
"Think you could be in charge of my girls when I ain’t here?"
She blinked, her eyelashes brushing against his skin where his collar was a bit frayed. "What?"
This was a bad idea, all the way around. But he didn't have any better. She couldn’t be a maid or nothing. She would end up organizing everything in all sorts of odd ways. Last week, all the eggs had gone missing, ‘cause she had decided to try and catch a rabbit by hiding 'em. Or something.
And 'sides, it'd be months before he'd actually have to let her do more than look.
"Yeah," he said, warming to the idea. "You can help me look after my girls. What say you?"
She sat up in his arms, pushing herself up to his eye level. She searched his face anxiously. "Jayne is serious?"
A beaming smile broke over her face.
"You can't just jump in, you know," he cautioned hastily. "You gotta learn all their names and their parts first."
She wiggled in his lap, which really weren’t doing his brain power any good, and turned to point at the guns on the table. "I already know Joanie, and Bertha, and Samantha!" She turned that beaming smile back on him, and his felt his insides flip over again.
He couldn’t help it, he even smiled back. A little. 'Cause she needed to be encouraged. Not 'cause she looked like Christmas had come early or nothing.
"That’s a good start then," he said softly. Her face was awful close to his, which was making him all kinds of uncomfortable.
She just looked so happy, sitting there, with her knees squished up and resting on his thigh, and one little hand caught in the fabric of his shirt.
Something was wrong with his breathing. And his mouth was awful dry.
And she was looking up at him through her eyelashes again, and that big smile had died down, leaving a more hesitant look on her face.
Maybe he was dying. It would explain why his heart was beating twice as fast as normal
And he couldn’t seem to focus on anything but her mouth.
His hands were on the small of her back, which he didn’t remember doing, but that was alright, her back was safe enough to touch.
Her eyes was getting bigger, but that’s because he was getting closer. Or she was. Something.
Somehow, they had shifted, and he could feel her breath on his mouth. Dimly, he wondered how they had gotten so close.
She blinked those impossibly big eyes, and her tongue darted out to lick her lips.
She seemed to be having some trouble too, cause her tongue actually touched the underside of his bottom lip, they was so close, and he jumped at the feeling, breaking whatever spell they was under.
He backed up a little, and she tucked her head back under his chin. She was shaking a little. That was ok, because he was too.
Maybe they was both dying.
"I will.." her voice was a touch unsteady. "I will be your gun keeper, Jayne."
He nodded, tightening his arms around her. "That’s good." He nodded again, inanely.
He wondered what they looked like, all squished up together on a bench in front of the table, with all his guns spread out in front of them.
She sighed, a quiet exhale that he echoed unconsciously.
"Mal is coming," she said.
They sat intertwined for another few seconds, her hands drawing light patterns on his chest.
She drew her feet up, and he loosened his arms reluctantly.
She smiled timidly. "We will see you later?" Her eyes were nervous again, and he made himself nod as she stood.
"Yeah," he cleared his throat. "Gotta get some more lessons before you can be the gun keeper."
She studied him, eyes gone all shy again. "Thank you, Jayne," she said, placing one little hand on his face. "Thank you."