"Jayne, I think we need to have another little talk. Seems like you didn't get the message clear in your head the first time..."
Captain Mal had that tone to his voice that let me know I was in for another lecture, a tongue lashin' about somethin' I done wrong. But hell, it weren't like I was doin' anythin' improper, just testin' River's skill with the blade. So why was both Mal and the Doc lookin' at me like I was the devil incarnate or somethin'?
Mal pulled me to one side, and it seemed like Simon was draggin' off River too. Guess we were both in for a good talkin' to. I followed Mal over to one side of the cargo bay and stopped when he did. He stared at me with a mighty perplexed expression.
"What?" I prompted, scratchin' the back of my neck, and meetin' Mal's gaze eye to eye. "What have you got your pants all bunched up about now?"
"I could ask the same of you, Jayne. I'm thinking some part of the lower end of you is controlling your brain somewhat right now. And that's not a good thing." Mal replied, cockin' his head to one side, with eyes narrowin' and arms crossed against his chest. "What in tiān xiăodé do you think you were doing? Have you forgotten that Rivers a mite volatile? And that she's not exactly 100 percent if you catch my drift?"
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, puzzlin' out what Mal was tryin' to get at, and finally placed my hands on my hips.
"Yeah, I know that. She's fēng kuáng de and all. But she knows stuff. Guai Mal, she can name every blade I got, and hit any target I tell her to aim for. Don't that strike you as more than just crazy? Maybe them people had a purpose for what they did to her. Made her into a killin' machine or some such." I shot back, tryin' to explain what I'd been doin'.
Mal shook his head, and clamped his hand on my shoulder again.
"A killing machine? River. No, I think she's a poor lost girl who needs to be handled with the utmost care. And that means she's off limits to the likes of you. Do I need to spell it out to you, Jayne? Because god help me, I will if I need to."
I bristled at that. What the hell was he implyin'? That I was goin' to take advantage of River? Sure, maybe a while ago I'd entertained the notion when she'd first come on board, but now? I knew better'n to tempt fate, and frankly it pissed me off that Mal'd even suggest such a thing.
"Dĕng yìmiăo! I ain't got no designs on River. I swear. What kind o'man do you take me for, Mal? She's barely eighteen!" I protested, shruggin' off his hand, and takin' an indignant step backwards. Mal looked relieved for a few seconds but then his eyes latched onto somethin' and I followed his gaze. It was River, comin' up to us and layin' a familiar hand on my shoulder. She leaned into me and whispered somethin' so softly I had to strain to hear.
"We can play this game again Jayne. The blade will be freed another day." Then she turned and headed back to Simon, who was givin' me the evil eye or somethin'.
For some reason, River's words made me to glance over to Mal, who was lookin' like he'd just had confirmation of his worst fears.
"Mal-" I began, wantin' to set the record straight, but he interrupted.
"Jayne, if you so much as touch a single hair on that girl's head in an inappropriate way, I'll make sure that you're keelhauled to next Tuesday. Dong ma?!" Mal barked at me, eyes all ablaze with anger and disapproval.
What was he? My gorram mother? Still, I sighed and nodded, holdin' my hands up in mock surrender.
"I get it. She's off limits. Whatever you say, Captain, you're the boss."
Mal nodded, and seemed satisfied with my answer. Finally he left and went back up to the galley. I stood there starin' at his back as he walked away. River and me? That was yúbèn de. Complete ruttin' bull. As if I'd go after someone like her! What the guai did they take me for?