A/N: Title comes from an old Groucho Marx quote: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.” Small spoilers for FF 0115, The Message. This was written for fiction_stadium, an Iron-Chef style challenge com. This was for Battle: Confusion. :D
His friendships seemed to be what caught most people off guard.
It was partially what made him a good fighter, the fact that Jayne had a knack for surprising people when-and how-they least expected it. Even just day by day, he could get people looking at him funny. Strange actions, out of character statements, making people look twice...most of the time, unless sex or money was involved, Jayne was about as predictable as “a bat outta Hell with it's wings on fire,” as Zoe had put it.
Lately though, he was frustrating the entire crew of Serenity with the liking he'd taken to Shepard Book.
"What's Jayne want with the Shepard anyway?" Zoe muttered to Mal, watching the pair from the upper staircase. Jayne was spotting Shepard while he lifted weights, laughter from both floating up to their ears.
Mal shrugged. "Maybe he doesn't want anything from him."
"It's Jayne we're talking about, right? He's always wanting something from someone."
"Well, maybe that someone right now ain't the Shepard." Mal shook his head. "Don't worry yourself over it. Long as Jayne isn't shootin' no one and Book doesn't...do whatever it is he does, preach and whatnot, I don't particularly care what they're doin'."
Zoe shook her head as Mal turned and walked away. Sparing one last glance down at the pair, she headed off as well.
"Yep” Kaylee grinned at Simon, scuffing the toe of her shoe against the floor. “It's his night for dinner, after all."
"And you all...trust him?” he asked. “To make food for everyone?"
"Well yeah. It's a might bit better than trusting the Captain or Zoe to it. Wash does make some good sandwiches, though he don't like to admit it. Doesn't want to be thought of as a ship-husband or some such nonsense."
"But...what if Jayne were to try and...you know?” Lowering his voice, he asked, “Poison you?"
"He has." Kaylee smiled as Simon gaped at her. "We just like to call it Chili Surprise round here though. Sides, Shepard Book is in there with him. Not like he's gonna attempt murder in fronta a Shepard."
"Um, Kaylee? He has killed people in front of Shepard Book before, remember?"
"Yeah, but they was tryin' to kill us too." She frowned at him. "Jayne don't kill people he likes, besides."
"Yes, well,” Simon snorted. “That doesn't exactly make me feel very safe."
"Well...you'n Jayne ain't the easiest pair to get along with, and I don't think that helps, you catch my drift."
"I-" Simon sputtered. "I, I'm very easy to get along with, it's his-"
There was a clatter of pots, the sound of glass breaking, and Jayne started swearing up a storm.
"Dinnertime!" Kaylee chirped.
River smiled to herself. She knew exactly what they were doing.
Humming a movement from Beethoven's Fifth, she moved on down the hall, pausing to spin on her tiptoes as she passed Jayne's bunk.
Book sat at the foot of Jayne's bed, watching with mild interest as Jayne cleaned his guns and shrugged. Most of Jayne’s collection was spread on the mattress between them.
"It's like I told 'em all before. If I'da wanted schoolin', I'da gotten it. Well," he reached for the closest gun. Quickly and methodically, he pulled it into several pieces, replacing all but the smallest piece. He started to wipe it clean as he went on. "I'm just wantin' it now."
"I see," Book nodded. "Any particular reason, or is this truly just a whim?"
Jayne looked down at the guns he'd spread over his blanket, half clean, half waiting to be disassembled.
"Matty. My kid brother. He's getting big, almost fourteen now I think. Last I heard, he's been goin' to school and learnin' how to read and count and stuff. Don't want that little brat thinkin' he's better'n his big brother next time I see him, just because he can talk like Inara and read everything, understand?"
"I understand completely," Book nodded again. Offering the book to Jayne, he asked, "How much do you know, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Enough to get by, I s'pose..." he trailed off, staring at the book. Setting the gun he’d been working on aside, he flipping to the first page. “Takes me a might longer than it ought to. Maybe."
"Well, good. We’ll start at the beginning then."
"Sounds good t'me," Jayne nodded.
They sat in silence for another moment.
"It's fine," Book repeated. "Just do as much as you can for now."
"Right." Taking a deep breath, Jayne looked down, and began, "In the beg-beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth..."