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Red

By Nival Vixen

Humor / Romance

Chapter 1

Jayne was lifting the weight bar when River made her way over to him, her dress flowing around her as she spun and hummed a tune he ain't ever heard afore. He ignored her; sometimes she just liked to watch him lift, other times she's actually useful and spots for him. If Jayne's honest with himself, which he is mostly 85% of the time, River's probably one of the better spotters he's had in a long gorram time. The last time he'd let Mal spot for him, he'd almost squished 'em both. Finally, after rep number 210, Jayne rests the bar up on the metal V's, pauses, and looks over at River.

"What're you waitin' here for, girl?"

"My birthday present."

After Miranda, it ain't been peaches and berries, but she's definitely more lucid than before. As he and her are both people of few words, Jayne's surprised his own self at how much he gets along with River.

"Told ya I'd get it on the next planet."

"I know. There's a dance at Athens. You can go with me."

For a moment, Jayne thinks she's talking to someone else, that Simon or Kaylee's standing behind him without him hearing, but River's looking directly at him. She's obviously waiting for him to recover from the surprise and answer.

"All right, girl, if that's what ya want, that's what you'll get. But I ain't dressin' up," he mutters roughtly.

"I do want," River replies, grinning broadly as she looks down at his sweaty form.

Jayne pretends the flush in his face is from exercising. He leans back and starts on his reps again. River grins again and skips away, humming her song again.

"Oh, and there'll be at least one chance to kiss me," River calls over her shoulder.

Jayne almost squishes his own gorram self.

...

Jayne doesn't get to his bunk until well after dinner. River'd declared the whole week to celebrate her birthday, and considerin' she's probably missed most of 'em, no one has the heart to deny her. Not even Jayne's said nothing 'bout it, even though he's lost more card games this week than he has his whole life. (They ain't got enough protein for a cake, but River didn't care 'bout that. She just wanted to have fun with them all, and seems like her idea of fun is kickin' everyone's gorram asses at cards. Jayne's quietly impressed, and wonderin' if she'd ever gamble on a place like Persephone; she'd probably end up with enough coin to buy the whole ruttin' 'verse.)

Jayne's tired, cards and suits still behind his eyes, and he stops for a moment, trying to figure out what's wrong. He sees it a moment later, and has no idea how River's done it, but somehow, she's left a shirt on his bed in his bunk. Not even Mal can get into his bunk, but River's done it and she probably made it look easy. The shirt's thrown there, probably creased as all ruttin' hell, but it's definitely not one of his. He knows this 'cause the thing's red. He don't own a red shirt, 'specially not after bein' sliced up by River in her early days aboard Serenity.

He mutters under his breath 'bout birthdays and of all the gorram folks in the galaxy he's gotta owe a present to, it's her. Still, Jayne crosses his bunk in two long strides and picks up the shirt proper. There's a mirror, as there is in all of the bunks, but unless he's shaving, he rarely has a use for it. He has Lux resting on the mirror's shelf, his gun's bulk blocking most of the mirror itself, so he moves his gun aside and holds the shirt up.

Jayne remembers doing the same thing as a kid, his Ma pinnin' needles in the hem's of his older brother's shirts so he could fit 'em, then undoing the stitching when he went through his growth spurts. He'd always hold the shirt up in the mirror, so proud of his Ma's way of stitching, hardly visible despite her shakin'. This shirt's more obvious with its stitchin', probably made on a outer Rim planet, if the last few planet-side stops are any indication. It ain't the shiniest thing in the world, but it's still new, and he reckons that River probably paid a family's week of food for it.

The red don't look too bad, he s'poses. But still, it ain't nothing to gorram slice a man over.

He finds a hanger at the back of his small closet, stuck behind Gina, his second-favourite after Vera, and a bottle of oil he thought he'd lost, and hangs his new shirt up proper, like it's s'posed to be. Jayne doesn't want to see the ruttin' thing, so he turns away and spends an hour cleaning Vera with the new-found bottle of oil. He's feels corpsified by the time he's done, but it's good too, and once he's set his head down, Jayne's asleep afore he even realises it.

...

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