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17 February 2006 @ 10:27 pm
title: once upon a time
author: cathybites
pairing: mal/jayne
rating: pg


It wasn't as if his crew hadn't been in fēng le predicaments before - sometimes Mal wondered if somebody had taped a big 'KICK ME' sign onto his ship when he wasn't looking - but this had to be one of the craziest. Figured, dāng rán, that it'd have involve Jayne.

"You comin' to get me down or what?"

Mal sighed and turned away, rubbing a hand over his face like he was trying to erase this all away. Somehow, Jayne had managed to get himself trapped by some kuángrén woman and locked up in a tower. Normally, that wouldn't be much of a problem; Mal'd either tell Jayne to quit dallying and get his pì gǔ down or he'd just fly Serenity overhead and dangle a rope down for Jayne to climb up. But as luck'd have it, it didn't seem like the tower *had* any sort of exits other than the one window . As for his ship, it was currently on the other side of the planet where the rest of the crew were surely dancing and drinking and not getting stuck in towers. They weren't scheduled back for another three days and Mal had no way of contacting them, seeing as how his radio had shorted the night before. Because it just wouldn't be *interesting* without everything going gǒu shǐ.

"There ain't nothin' in there long enough for you to use to climb down?"

Jayne leered. "There's the one thing, but I don't see how I can climb down it. Maybe you can grab a hold and I'll lift you up."

There used to be a time when such talk from Jayne would've flustered Mal, made him red in the face and hot all over. Now, it mostly just made him shake his head and groan.

Well...maybe it still made him a little hot all over, but it wouldn't do to let Jayne in on that.

"How about you jump?"

Jayne leaned out the window a little more, taking a good, hard look at the distance from where he was and where Mal was, and scowled. It had to be a good thirty feet. "How about *you* jump? Ain't no way I'd land with all my parts intact."

"You tellin' me your parts ain't hard enough to stand the drop?"

Jayne mulled that over for a moment, brow all wrinkled up like he was actually thinking it over. Mal was about to tell him to forget it when Jayne shook his head and flipped him off. "If'n I jump, then you're catching me, dǒng ma?"

Mal opened his mouth to yell that there was no way that was happening when he heard somebody walking toward them. He turned to see an old woman shuffling up the path to the tower, her eyes narrowing as she drew closer.

"What're you doing there, boy? Ain't nothin' of interest to you," she yelled, spit flying from her mouth as she talked, landing in the long, grey braids that framed her face. She was dressed in a tattered brown robe and had a crudely carved walking stick in one hand.

"As a matter of fact, ma'am," Mal said, tipping his head to her, "my hired gun got himself locked up in that tower. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that would you?" He flashed her a quick smile and ignored Jayne's loud whisper of, "That's her! Psssst, Mal! That's her!"

The old woman squinted at Mal, chewing on something as she stared at him. She turned her head and spit out some tobbaco juice and smiled back at Mal, her teeth stained brown. Or, at least, what was left of them.

"I reckon I do seein' as how I put him up there." She suddenly looked up at Jayne and pointed at him with her stick. "You be quiet, boy!" Mal watched in amazement as Jayne shut his mouth and ducked out of sight. I need to learn that trick, he thought.

"Your boy was trespassin' on my property," the woman said, drawing Mal's attention back to her. "I caught him in my field, throwin' up all over my greens. Now I got him shut up in that there tower until I decide what to do with him."

A small part of him was awfully tempted to tell the lady she could just keep Jayne and be done with it, but at the same time, the thought of shooting up things and getting into bar fights without Jayne watching his back made Mal feel a bit uneasy.

And then there was the whole thing where he and Jayne had been humping each other for near two months. Mal supposed that he'd miss that something fierce. Miss *Jayne* something fierce. Like it or not, Mal had gotten rather attached to the yú bèn de hún dàn.

"Well, I apologize for whatever grievance Jayne might've caused you, but I kind of need him back on my ship." The woman just stared at him, mouth twisted up with a scowl, and Mal sighed. "Whatever reparations need to be made, I'll see to it that they're taken care of."

The woman howled in laughter and Mal stepped back, startled by her reaction. "Now, see here, son. That Jayne of yours belongs to me now and if'n you think I give a zao gao about you needin' him on your ship, then you need to get that purty head o'yours checked."

"Gòu huāng táng," Mal growled and made to move past the woman to figure a way up the tower. He was stopped by her hand on his arm, bony fingers digging into his flesh.

"That boy is staying put right where he is until I says different, dǒng ma?"

Tā mā de but the old hag had a strong grip. She hadn't looked like much, just an ancient crone wrapped up in rags, but there was some sort of hidden strength to her. Her eyes glared at him and Mal swore that, for just a second, they glowed. He winced as she tightened her hold on him and nodded. "Yeah, okay. Keep him as long as you need."

Jayne's head popped into view and he shouted his disagreement but the woman just smiled, let go of Mal, and patted his arm. "Don't you worry none, Mal Reynolds. I'll take good care of your bao bei, make sure he gets back to you in one piece." With that, she scurried away, moving faster than Mal would've thought possible.

"What the gǔi you mean by lettin' her keep me?" Jayne yelled down. "I think she's got designs on me and I ain't too agreeable with that."

It was Mal's turn to point at Jayne. "If you could've kept yourself out of trouble just for one night, you wouldn't have need to worry about that." Mal sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I'm gonna find a way to get in touch with Zoe. You just sit still until I get back," he said, turning to leave.

"Like I can go anywhere!"


Jayne didn't know how much time had passed since Mal had given him up to that old wū pó, just that it had turned dark a while ago and he was starting to feel a might peckish. He looked around the small room he was stuck in; there was nothing to be seen except for a nightstand with a lamp and the bed that looked to be about two feet too short to be comfortable. His stomach rumbled and Jayne went to the window, thought about reconsidering the jump.

There was movement below near some of the bushes and Jayne dropped into a half-crouch, ready to bolt if it was that pō fù. Where he was going to bolt to, he didn't know, but he figured he might as well be prepared. She got him up in the tower somehow, which meant that there had to be a way for her to get down. If she showed her face, he'd just push past her and go wherever she came from.

When the figure stepped out from the shadows, though, Jayne was almost disappointed to see that it was just Mal. The disappointment grew when he realized that it was *just* Mal. No Zoe, no Serenity, no nothing. "What're you doing back already? You get in touch with the ship?"

"Step back," was all Mal said.

"What do you - gǒu shǐ!" Jayne barely managed to get out of the way before the grapple came flying through the window. Without a thought, Jayne picked it up and hooked it onto the sill, then looked back down to see Mal tugging the other end of the rope, checking to make sure it'd hold.

"What are you waitin' for? Climb down the rope. Zoe's waitin' for us over yonder with the mule."

Jayne eyed the rope, scowling a bit. "You sure this is secure?"

It was too dark to get a good look at Mal's face but Jayne was pretty sure the captain was rolling his eyes. "You want rescuin' or not?"

This was it then. Jayne double-checked the grapple, made sure it was stuck nice and tight, and swung his legs out the window. Just as he was set to rappel down the wall, a trapdoor in the floor flew open and the old woman stuck her head out. She looked around quickly and when she saw Jayne, she snarled and practically flew into the room, hands reaching out for Jayne.

"Cào!" he yelled and slid about fifteen feet down the rope. He gritted his teeth, trying to ignore the pain.

"You git on back here, boy!" she shrieked at him, yanking on the rope. She was actually pulling it up, slowly, and Jayne yelped. He looked over his shoulder to see that Mal had pulled his gun out, even though he wasn't aiming it anywhere but the ground.

"Mal! Mal! Shoot 'er, Mal!"

Bits of stone rained down on his head and only then did Jayne realize that Mal had fired. Unfortunately, Mal had missed and it just seemed to make the woman angrier. She screamed in no language that Jayne recognized and he was still being pulled towards her. He glanced up and nearly pissed himself at what he saw - a snarling mouth filled with the sharpest teeth he'd ever seen, gnarled hands with fingers that were more claw than flesh, and a pair of eyes that seemed to glow red in the moonlight.

"Wǒ de mā," Jayne said and before he actually figured out what he was doing, he'd let go of the rope and was falling.

He hadn't been too far from the ground when he fell but it still smarted plenty when he landed. For a long moment he didn't move, just laid there and tried to catch his breath. Mal rushed over and knelt down, feeling him all over for broken bones. "Lǎo tiān yé, Jayne. Tell me you're okay."

Jayne just grunted and slowly, painfully, sat up. "I'm good," he said. He shot Mal a dirty look and poked him in the chest. "I thought you were supposed to catch me."

Mal grinned and stood up, offering Jayne his hand to help him get to his feet. "I missed?" he said, not sounding the least bit sorry for letting Jayne drop to the ground like a rock.

"Yeah, well you better start thinkin' of ways to make it up to me 'cuz I'm thinkin' I'm gonna be mighty sore about it."

Mal shook his head, mouth curling up at one corner. "We got more important things to think about, like getting out of here before she locks us both up in that tower."

Jayne smiled, wide and easy, and licked his lips. "Could think of worse things than being locked in a room with you." There was another shriek from the tower along with the sound of something descending a staircase quickly and the leering look on Jayne's face was replaced by one of fear. "But maybe elsewhere, yeah?"

"Best idea yet," Mal said, grabbing Jayne's arm and leading him quickly away. They met up with Zoe and were back on board in no time, safe from any towers or crazy old women. And if Jayne took to avoiding heights for a while, and if Mal took to hovering over Jayne a bit more - just to make sure he didn't get into trouble, of course - nobody said anything of it and life was peaceful.

Until the next time they were planetside and Jayne ended up in some sort of trouble.

But that's a story for another time.


fēng le - crazy
dāng rán - of course
kuángrén - lunatic
pì gǔ - ass
gǒu shǐ - shit
dǒng ma - understand
yú bèn de hún dàn - stupid bastard
Gòu huāng táng - enough of this shit
Tā mā de - fucking hell
gǔi - hell
wū pó - witch
pō fù - bitch
Cào - fuck
Wǒ de mā - my god
Lǎo tiān yé - Jesus
randominity on February 18th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC)
Oh, this was so sweet and funny! I love that it took Jayne being captured to make Mal realize how much he missed him and had to go to such lengths to rescue him. And I especially thought it was in character for Mal not to catch Jayne when he fell. This was awesome - I'm grinning up a storm over here. Thanks so much!
randominity on February 20th, 2006 05:10 am (UTC)
And okay, I must again thank you, cathybites for being such a champ and writing this as back-up fic. I'm so immensely grateful that you wrote me something this lovely in addition to your own assigned story. You rule! ♥
cathybites on February 20th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC)
yay! I'm so glad that you liked it. Reg asked and I really couldn't pass up a chance to write Mal/Jayne. ^_^
van on February 18th, 2006 05:43 am (UTC)
This is really funny, and really cute. You've got a great handle on both Mal and Jayne's voices. It's just crazy enough to almost have been a real busted job, too, ahahahaha. Poor Jayne. :D

You rule, too, for doing make up fic. YAY!
cathybites on February 20th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC)
thank you, especially for the comment on Mal and Jayne's voices. that's something I'm always working on, character voices. ^_^
madders on February 20th, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC)

Loved this so much- you seriously rock ;o)
cathybites on February 20th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC)
thank you! :D
lemniskate on February 20th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
ah, so cool. the banter in the midst of real jeopardy, the dialogue, everything. loved it :)
cathybites on February 21st, 2006 02:21 am (UTC)
thank you, hon! I'm kind of getting a kick out of writing mal/jayne banter. :D
nomdeploom on February 21st, 2006 04:40 am (UTC)
lol so cute, love jayne's leerin comments :)
cathybites on February 22nd, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
thank you! :D
danakszoul on March 30th, 2006 10:48 am (UTC)
Hee-hee! Fairy tales, definitely more fun with Mal/Jayne twist.

charmedhottie on June 1st, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
I loved it couldn't help laughing.
"Lǎo tiān yé, Jayne. Tell me you're okay." - awwwwww Mal really does care
"That's her! Psssst, Mal! That's her!" he's like a little kid lol but you gotta love him :D