Please consider this small offering, originally inspired by c_quinn, as an apology for my total lameness of late:
Title: Out of sight, out of mind
"Seat's taken, friend. Best look elsewhere."
Jayne frowned, gaze sliding warily along the bar, but there was nobody around. He planted the tankard on the bar and made to pitch up on one of the stools.
Only to be shoved aside by nothin'. "Hey!"
"I said, seat's taken." The voice was impatient, some funny offworld accent that Jayne couldn't rightly place and didn't much care to.
Mal—? Jayne would've died before he'd own as much, but Mal was the first one he'd look to when things got a little crazy. Lookin' could fool, too - man didn't need eyes to lay a hand on the blade stashed in his pocket.
But across the room, Mal was busy makin' little Kaylee laugh. Figured.
When Jayne turned back, good an' ready to pull his favourite knife, there was some grinnin' son of a bitch sittin' there right in front of him on the stool. Arms crossed, all cocky-like.
The stranger leered at him. Jayne had never taken too kindly to leerin' - leastways, not when it weren't him as was doin' the leerin'.
He frowned. "What's so gorram funny?"
"Easy, mate." The stranger leaned back against the bar. "You can put that knife away too, thanks very much."
Jayne snarled, but slid the blade back inside his pocket. Could always get it out again right away, events called for it. "You a gorram Fed?"
At that, the stranger threw back his head and laughed.
Jayne didn't laugh; instead, he figured on the three easiest ways of movin' so's to cut the stranger's throat. Didn't mean anythin'; just a way of passin' the time, like folks might think on the best way of plantin' crops or how to get under that barmaid's skirts.
Just as abruptly, the man stopped laughing. "No," he said. "I'm not." He took a drink, a long, thirsty slug. Clunked the empty tankard down on the bar and wiped across his mouth with the back of his hand. "So how's that brother and sister workin' out?"
Jayne stared. Felt the fingers of his hand getting twitchy for the knife in his pocket. He let them touch it; the wood of the handle felt smooth against his fingers. Soothin', like.
The stranger grinned, showing far too many teeth. "What, you think they just walked her right out the front door?" He gestured to the barman to bring another. Another two, Jayne realised, as a fresh tankard was slopped down in front of him.
Jayne shrugged. "Didn't ask, an' they didn't tell." He gave the stranger a sly look. "Awful private folks."
"Doctor's a right ponce," the stranger said, lip curling beneath his beard. He took a long pull of beer. "Sister's probably a soddin' fruit loop." He shrugged, considering. "Nice kid though, when she's not screamin' blue murder."
"Reckon they messed her up pretty badly in there," observed the stranger, with a glance at Jayne.
Conversation was makin' Jayne more'n a mite twitchy. "You got some kinda' point?"
"No, friend — no point. Just passing the time."
"Yeah, well," Jayne growled. "Maybe best you pass it somewhere else."
"All right, keep your hair on." the man said, still good-natured like, which set Jayne's teeth on edge. See how cocky that ruttin' smug son of a bitch was with Jayne's knife in his throat. Yeah. The thought alone made Jayne feel good — kinda warm.
The stranger got up off the stool — taller'n he'd looked, sittin' down. Skinny, too — and looked Jayne square in the eye with a sharp blue gaze that made him uncomfortable. "Take care of those kids, yeah?"
"Ain't my kids." Fact was, Jayne'd sooner be rid of 'em. Maybe could, too, price was right.
The stranger sighed and shook his head, leaning in close. "Hope for your sake you're brighter than you look, mate. Not exactly zhen de shi tian cai, are ya?"
Jayne snarled, fingers grasping the wooden knife handle.
"Seeya," said the stranger with a wicked grin and a broad slap to Jayne's shoulder. "Thanks for the beer." And then he vanished.
Jane blinked. What in the di yu —? He looked around, but the man was gone. Really gone. Didn't make no sense. A man couldn't just vanish — weren't no law in the gorram 'verse said that should be so.
"That'll be seventy-five credits," the barkeep said.
Jayne swore fluently in Cantonese.