He didn't get it all the way set down, though, instead sliding it out a second time that night as he glanced around his room. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up, and that usually meant something was at the very least different, if not altogether wrong.
Nothing looked out of place, he realized, easing up a little as he scanned his bunk and saw nothing to cause alarm. He checked the hidey-hole he kept his weapons in and all was as he'd left it. He was overreacting, still up for a fight from earlier that was all it was.
Until he noticed something on his pillow. He wasn't sure why he was surprised. This wasn't the first time there'd been something there. He just wasn't sure what to make of it.
First, it had been a piece of paper made to look like a card. Hearts, flowers, and other things had been hand drawn on it. All it had said in the way of writing was BE MINE on the inner part of the makeshift card.
Be your what? That's what had crossed his mind when he'd first seen it. Heaven help him if Mal ever realized he'd not just gotten a flowery card but actually held onto it he'd never live it down. He'd never gotten a card before. Well, maybe from his ma, but that was different.
He'd dismissed the card as being a joke of some sort. Who on Serenity would give him a card anyway? He'd stashed it away, putting it out of his mind.
Until he'd gotten the piece of chocolate. Real chocolate. He'd savored that piece of chocolate for hours, taking small bite after small bite with plenty of time in between each so he could enjoy it. He wasn't much of a sweets man, preferring instead to spend his money on other things. That piece of chocolate had made him feel like he'd died and gone to heaven.
Today, though was something that went beyond appealing to his taste buds. He knew whoever had given him the chocolate was out a fair amount of credits for it. They were planet-side at the moment, but delicacies like that cost a lot. There on his bed was something that exceeded the cost of a piece of chocolate by far. It was a single, red rose. He'd never seen one up close and personal, knew what they were only by hearing women yammer on and point at them. Jayne Cobb wasn't the type to buy flowers for the women he spent time with.
He picked it up, mindful of the thorns on the stem and couldn't help but bring it to his nose. Women always spoke of the sweet, distinct scent of a rose. He glanced around his room, up the ladder leading from his bunk to ensure he was alone before actually taking a sniff.
"I'll be," he whispered. It smelled … nice. Not something he'd want to take a bath in or anything, but a nice scent just the same. He wouldn't mind smelling it on a woman, though. And he wondered if the scent would rub off if he caressed a woman's skin with its petals.
He had no idea what he was going to do with it. He had no water here in his bunk and knew flowers needed water. If he went to the galley, though, everyone would see him with a flower. He could do without that type of embarrassment.
He sat on his bed, turning the rose in his fingertips to glance at it from all directions. It was perfect. He didn't need to have seen a hundred of them to know this one was everything a rose should be. So, who was it from?
Kaylee? He doubted it, as she was still bunking and rutting with Simon.
Zoe? He doubted that, too. She wasn’t much for flowery words or expressions. He imagined she probably liked romance as most women did, but only when she was actually with a guy. And she was still grieving he imagined.
River? Nah, that was impossible. She was too crazy to do anything like this. And focused on learning all she could about Serenity to worry about a guy.
That left… Inara? His eyes widened. The Cap'n would kill him if he found out. And that made him bite back a mumbled curse. Inara wouldn't switch from Mal to him. No way, no how. Those two were more discreet than Kaylee and Simon, but there was no question in Jayne's mind they were sharing a bunk more often than not.
So, what then? A joke? Were they all in on it? Toy with the one on the ship who wasn't getting any regularly.
"Not the only one," came the soft, feminine voice from beside him. He wasn't startled exactly, but he hadn't been paying attention neither. Hadn't heard her footsteps coming down the ladder or padding across his room. Of course, he could take some consolation in that as he'd seen her in action and she was stealthier than a jaguar hunting his prey.
"Yeah, well," he muttered under his breath, not willing to say his next thought aloud.
"I'm not insane," she said, picking it out of his mind just as if he'd spoken anyway.
"You did this?" he asked, holding the rose out to her for emphasis.
She nodded simply, grazing her lower lip with her teeth as if uncertain he really wanted to hear the answer. Now she chose not to read his mind.
"I read stories of a phenomena on Earth-That-Was known as Valentine's Day."
"It was a holiday based on love."
"Who'd want to go and base a holiday on that?"
She shrugged, but gave him a smile that suggested he was being dense.
"So, the card? The chocolate? The rose? What's it for?"
"Didn't you read the card?"
He frowned. Read it? It hadn't said anything. "Yeah," he said, cautious with his tone in case there was a trap in her question somewhere. Had she written something in invisible ink or something? He wouldn't put it past her.
"I want you to be mine."
"Be your what?" he asked, remembering now and reiterating the question that had occurred to him when he'd read those simple yet very open and possibly suggestive two words.
"What's that mean exactly?"
"It means you're my sweetie."
He coughed. "I don’t know that you fit the bill of being anyone's sweetie, River," he said, before realizing she was serious. He didn't need to be an expert in women to know his words had wounded her.
"Hey now, I didn't mean nothing by that. It's just you're," he shrugged.
Her eyes widened, as if anticipating him saying something.
"What?" he asked.
She shrugged again, sliding to his lap. She was tiny and limber and weighed next to nothing, so it was no inconvenience having her there. And he'd be lying if he tried to say she didn't feel good nestled there, her cute ass on his thighs. Oh yeah, he'd noticed a time or two it was cute.
"I'm what," she asked?
"You're not made for sweetie material."
"What am I then," she whispered, not appearing hurt now.
"Well, you're my type of material."
"Which is why I chose you. We are well suited, don't you think?"
"I, uh," he glanced at the ladder leading to the hatch of his bunk.
"Simon is preoccupied with Kaylee and knows nothing of my plan."
"So, what does this mean? I accepted your gifts and everything. So, now what? I'm your sweetie?"
She leaned in as if to kiss him. Her eyes were closed so it gave him the opportunity to watch as she closed in on her target. Her lips quivered. Again, he didn't need to be a genius to know she was nervous. Had she even done this before? That did things to him, riled things up in him he had no business allowing to get riled up.
Her lips met his then, tentative and hesitant yet warm and moist. Had she licked them before kissing him? He hadn't noticed. She gave a light puff of breath against his mouth and then slanted her lips over his, sealing them together.
He slid his arms around her, distantly aware as he made a fist around the rose's stem that he'd drawn blood but not seeming to care just then. Oh yeah, he could get used to this sweetie business, because damned if she wasn't the sweetest thing he'd ever tasted. Innocent and pure and a killing machine such as he'd never seen before in his life. How she could be both, he wasn't sure but there was no doubt that she was untouched. Until now.
"Be mine, Jayne Cobb," she whispered.
"Your what?" he asked again.
"You lay a lot on a guy on the first date."
She smiled at that, rubbing her cheek against his rough jaw like a cat. He wasn't sure why her movements always reminded him of some sort of cat, be it of the larger jungle kind or the household variety.
"Are you not man enough to be mine then?"
"Man enough," he said, not truly as wounded by her words as he pretended to be. He gathered her to him, tightening his hold as he slid her to his bunk. "I'll show you man enough."
She smiled then, and he knew he'd given her just what she'd wanted. He took in her face, looking into her eyes and realized that, yeah, he could do far worse than River Tam. He'd say settling for her, but he was pretty sure it'd be the other way around with her doing the settling.
"Because we are alike. Killers, mercenaries. Like produce like."
He swallowed hard. "You want me to produce with you?"
She smiled then, giving a soft giggle as she wrapped her arms around his neck. She drew him to her, sliding her mouth to her ear. "Not yet, Jayne Cobb."
He swallowed. She'd said yet, not no, not never. And yet, as her hand touched him, grazed his cheek full of stubble since it had been hours since he'd shaved he wasn't so sure that thought was as offensive and mind-numbing as it should be.
"Do you expect gifts in return?"
"You can give me the gift of teaching me how to use your weapons."
He swallowed. She was asking a lot, going right to the heart of the matter. He knew, though, that he wouldn't trust anyone but her to handle his weapons with as much care as he did.
"Yeah, all right. But the flowers and stuff…"
"Yes?" she said, kissing his ear. That caused him to forget for a moment what he was going to say.
"Cut it out," he whispered hoarsely.
"Giving you things? Or kissing you there?"
"Both. Neither! Damn it. You make me feel like a sissy with the cards and the flower. I might be a big lug of a man, but even I know it's supposed to be me giving you those things."
"You wouldn't have thought of it."
"Well, no," he said. Of course he wouldn’t have, that was a given.
"And we would not be here."
"Oh, right," he said, nodding realizing here was a pretty good place to be at the moment.
She slid her thigh between his legs, brushing against him and if he didn't know better he'd swear she did it on purpose.
"Be mine, Jayne Cobb."
"Well, hell," he said. Put like that, he couldn't possibly resist. He held the rose up, smiling. "I had this idea earlier," he whispered.
"Oh," she said, smiling just as widely as he was. That led him to believe she already knew his plan.
"It involves this rose here and just how much of you I can make smell like it."
"And you will smell me to be sure?"
"Oh yeah," he whispered, starting with her throat. She was a tiny thing, but there was still plenty of her to cover before he was through with his experiment.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com