Author's web site: Exaggeration and Blank Verse
Spoilers: All 14 little episodes.
Notes: Thanks to mongrel_idiot for the title and everybody on my flist for their extreme patience while I shrieked and wailed about this essay in my journal for weeks.
She's a space Pollyanna in overalls. His favorite hobby is shooting people. Why on Earth would they ever get together?
Superficial answer: Because opposites attract.
Deeper answer: Because they have a lot in common, too.
Who are these people?
* Kaylee: She's the ship's mechanic- but more than that, she's the ship's darling. In "The Message," Simon says to her "You manage to see the bright side of every single thing," and she does. She tries to patch up the disagreements onboard Serenity, tries to keep everyone smiling- and keeps a smile on her own face, even though sometimes you can see that it's pasted on.
The thing is, Kaylee isn't all sweetness and light, and she isn't stupid or naive. She has a core of steel under her bright side, and she keeps that smile on because really, in the end, happiness is a choice and she chooses not to cry. (On that ship? With Captain Disillusionment and the Repression Kids? If someone wasn't making a conscious effort to keep it light, they'd all go mad. Wash can't carry the load alone!)
Other things about Kaylee: She's the Captain's pet, she's quite young, and her mechanic skills come from instinct, not training. This suggests a certain degree of confidence in herself. (As does her pursuit of Simon Tam- her reaction to his continued evasions is frustration with HIM, not doubt in herself.) She's not puritanical about sex (to borrow a phrase from Inara) and isn't ashamed of pursuing the pleasures of the flesh- she does everything but strip naked and chase Simon around the cargo bay.
* Jayne: He's the muscle of the crew, a mercenary. He's in it ("it" being...life in general) for the money, honey. He likes guns, booze, a good bar fight, and sex. He doesn't think before he talks; sometimes he doesn't seem to think at all. He's impatient, rude, and would eat a bullet before he'd admit that he's as in love with Serenity as anyone else on board.
There are deeper layers to him, of course, which he does his best to hide, but if I get going on that subject we'll be here for years. (I went on about it over here, at idol_reflection.)Suffice it to say: It takes some coaxing to see the softer side of Jayne.
Canon and Subtext and Projecting, Oh My
The most obvious side of the canon relationship between Jayne and Kaylee is comfortable crewmates. They've both been on Serenity for some time before the series starts, and they work together well. One piece of equipment that appears in several episodes is a harness system on a winch, which they use to lower Jayne onto moving objects or over crowds of angry townspeople. Kaylee's in charge of the machine. There has to be a fairly significant amount of rapport- dare I say, even trust?- between them for Jayne to put his life in her hands like that.
In the very first episode, Jayne cracks a crude joke at Kaylee's expense. But this same episode contains several of the sweet little moments between them that make me sing the song of ship. Most obviously, when Simon is operating on Kaylee's gunshot wound, the camera pulls out to show Jayne huddled on one of Serenity's catwalks, looking down into the infirmary. Later, when Mal decides they need to get the engines ready for "full burn" (and that to do that, they need Kaylee in the engine room), Jayne carries her down there. Of course, she's in no shape to do the actual preparations, so she talks Jayne through the mechanic-ing. He gets flustered and impatient; she cooly and calmly tells him to settle down and listen to her. And he does it. He doesn't get angry, he doesn't shout or throw things; he just follows her instructions. He trusts her to walk him through it.
Really, the first three episodes of Firefly are spent in getting to know the characters and their relationships, so I'll go through all three before I sum up my view of their pre-series rapport. In "The Train Job," they banter while setting up the previously mentioned harness/winch device. Simon joins in with some questions, which Kaylee answers pleasantly and Jayne mocks. Then he adjusts his little helmet/goggle thing, looks at her, and says with a slight excess of drama, "Time for some thrilling heroics." She's somewhat less than impressed by his oh-so-tragically masculine posturing. But then, she's used to him.
"Bushwhacked" has only a slight moment, but it's telling: In the teaser, the crew plays some basketball-type game in the cargo bay. More teasing, more banter, and then Kaylee gets up on Jayne's shoulders to reach the hoop/basket. Again, the contrast between them in size and manner is adorable. Again, he's gentle and careful that she doesn't fall.
So. Based on those three episodes, what can we conclude? I read it as Jayne having a bit of a crush on little Miss Kaylee. Even the too-far teasing in "Serenity" fits into this, in the classic fourth-grade "if you like her, tease her till she cries!" way. She doesn't hold any grudges over it, and he's too awkward with all that mushy stuff to pursue it past that fourth-grade level. At the very least, he has an older brother's protective feelings toward her.
In the rest of the series' run, the focus was on developing the Kaylee/Simon romance, so there wasn't much textual Jayne/Kaylee. Still, that's what fandom is for, isn't it- finding the faintest shreds of subtext and blowing them up to poster size? Of course it is.
-"Shindig": The look on his face when he sees Kaylee as Badger's hostage, and the way Zoe knows that that sight will be enough to put a halt to any arguments about shooting anybody.
-"War Stories": Kaylee walks in on Wash and Zoe getting their guns ready.
Kaylee:"What's going on?"
Zoe:"We're going to go get the Captain."
Kaylee: "Oh, good." ::turns to Jayne:: "Can they do that?"
Jayne, with a look of pure disgust: "NO."
It's the tiniest of moments, but the way she turns to him on "Can they do that?" warms a shipper's heart. Well, this shipper, anyway.
-"Trash": Working together to reprogram the garbage drone; more of the dangerous grunt work side by side.
-"The Message": Kaylee's warm heart shows as she's the first to react to the hat his mother sent him- "I think it's the sweetest hat ever." Of course it is.
Also, in the big showdown between Mal and Tracey, when she gets away from Tracey, she runs and hides behind Jayne. (I told you, any SHRED of subtext...)
My personal take on the pairing is that eventually, at some point, Kaylee has to get tired of getting the runaround from Simon (Doesn't she? PLEASE?), and go looking for something completely different. You don't get much more different from Simon than Jayne. Alternatively, Jayne might get tired of WATCHING said runaround, and finally get off his butt and start pursuing Kaylee himself. These are both fun scenarios with lots of potential for cuteness, snarky dialogue, and possibly Simon getting the crap beaten out of him.
Obstacles in their path? Well, Simon. And also Mal, who makes it abundantly clear that he holds Kaylee in very high esteem indeed and Jayne...not so much, with a marked drop following "Ariel." Of course, Kaylee's a big girl and can make her own choices, but Captain Tightpants might have to be reminded of that. The last major obstacle is the fact that, emotionally, Jayne's about twelve years old.
But let's say they do get together; what similarities would they have to bond over? Well, they're the two "working-class" crewmen, for lack of a better term. They come from the rough-and-tumble terraformed planets; they don't have fancy educations or titles; they didn't fight in any war. Neither one of them has the blazing ideals and loyalty to a cause that Mal and Zoe share. They're coming from a similar place and at least to some degree have a common point of view.
Like the rest of the crew, he's protective of her, but knowing that Jayne's at your back is a slightly different thing than having, say, Wash looking out for you. (And I love Wash.) Personally, I believe that Kaylee almost certainly has to feel some traumatic effects after "Objects In Space." Early violated her security and psyche in a very real and deep way. Who could blame her if, after that, she went looking for a safe place?
Also, there's the teeny little fact that she could absolutely wrap him around her little finger and keep him in line with no trouble at all. I have confidence in Kaylee. And if that doesn't have all kinds of potential for hilarity, I just don't know what does.
And in conclusion...really, the main reason Jayne and Kaylee should be together? Because they're pretty. The end.
Firefly's still a pretty young fandom. It doesn't yet have vast centralized archives catering to certain pairings or genres. So what I'm providing here is a sampler of some Jaylee fics I really enjoyed, plus a few places to find lots and lots of stories.
Expedient and its sequel, Restless, by Ana. (Both NC-17)
Violent Heart by Desert Dragon. (R)
Observation by abelladonna. (PG) (I recommend the ff_fanfic community in general, really.)
Powerful Weapons, Sexy Machines by serrico. (R)
The Firefly section of crack_van's memories. This community rocks for finding a variety of stories from a fandom. There are TONS of stories on that page...unfortunately, not many of them are Jayne/Kaylee. But if you just need a Firefly fix, that's the place to go.
ship_recs. One of the 'ships they...um...rec...is Jayne/Kaylee. The "Firefly" section of the memories has a number of great stories, including the first two listed above.