Title: Mustn't Touch
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Warnings: implication of violence
Category: General, Vignette
Spoilers: Ariel
Summary: Jayne's mother always told him.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon. What else can I say?
Archival: If you want it, please link to my website.
Notes: Been swimming around in my head since the episode.

Jayne's mother always told him.

"Mustn't touch, Jayne," she'd say, in her weather-worn voice, "Mustn't touch."

Jayne never paid much mind. She said it more as he got older, but it didn't sink in any more than a wheel-barrow on frozen ground.

The winter he was six, he stuck his tongue to the hitching post.

He wouldn't have, but he'd been dared. The moment he couldn't pull away, the other boy sneered and laughed at him, then ran, leaving him there.

Each time he weakly called, "Ma! Ma!" a little bit more of the muscle would tear away and he could taste the blood and ice, and the cold, cold steel.

It took ten minutes before his mother found him. "You fool boy," she'd said, shaking her head, "serves you right." She grumbled all the while she poured warm water on his tongue, a steady stream of "Do you listen at all?"

He was sweating now and he could feel the stale air hitting his forehead, cold as ice. The blood spilling across his hand was as searing as that water had been, as hot as River's skin in that split second. He couldn't understand that. She always looked cold and damp, the little witch, but she wasn't. She was fever-hot.

She was touching her hand to her mouth now, feeling the blood leaking there, and he hated that she wasn't bleeding more, that he hadn't been able to do more to her than just one crack across the face.

He could see himself in River's eyes, his face slack with terror, like a little boy's, and he could hear his mother's voice ringing in his ears.

Mustn't touch. You fool boy.