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"I ain’t what you’d call a romantic, and I’m glad of it. The way I figure it, the whole point of sex is gettin’ a couple people together, havin’ some fun, and then leavin’ a tip on the bedside table if the service warrants it. Nice and simple. It’s when people go complicatin’ it all with hearts and flowers and such go se that things generally turn out poorly.

“Now, this story here is about a fella who was clearly of the same mind as me on such matters. when we parked at Sihnon, I had a pocketful of shiney goodness the likes of which I hadn’t seen since before we picked up the doc and his addle-brained sis. Naturally, I took my credits and headed to a bar that looked like it might have a fairly good shot at bein’ a place where I might get decent beer and maybe a nice bit of pretty on the side. I weren’t wrong, neither. I grant you, though, after three big glasses of some first rate quality beer, everyone started lookin’ fairly pretty regardless.

“I’d been eyein’ a pair of twins, blonde gals with good, firm bumps in all the places a female should have ‘em. I figured if one wouldn’t have me, maybe the other would, and a fella can always hope that maybe he might get real lucky and wind up with a dream come true and both of ‘em would be up for somethin’, but it wasn’t a go. Apparently, I said one of them dumb things women don’t like. I thought sayin’ the one closest to me had a behind that reminded me of one on a horse I rode once was a compliment. Women! Next thing I know, I’m wearin’ one gal’s drink, and the thing after that her sister’s throwing hers in too. As they pranced off, their steps completely synchronized in the same bounce that was showin’ off just what I’d lost a chance at, I heard a laugh from behind me.

“’Friend, let me give you some advice,’ he said, sittin’ down across from me. ‘Never tell a woman that her rear view reminds you of a horse. Never goes down well.’

“He talked like he was from Londinium, but somethin’ told me he wasn’t. Strange lookin’ fella, though. He weren’t much higher than my armpit, and lean like a python, but dang if it didn’t look like every bit of flesh on his was muscle. His hair was nearly white, and that’s somethin’ you don’t often see. He was dressed up in a long coat, black, not brown like Mal’s, and the rest of his kit was black too. He looked like someone had gone and dunked him in ink from the neck down and milk from the neck up. As he nodded to the barkeep to bring over another round, I noticed a scar cuttin’ through his eyebrow that looked like it’d been part of a right nasty fight. I figured if I wasn’t gonna get no pleasurable company tonight, I might as well kick back and have a drink or two more with someone interestin’ for a change.

“’I suppose I should remember that. Name’s Jayne,’ I said, given his hand a shake.

“’You must have had some fights in school when you were a kid with that one,’ he said, grinning sort of devilish like.

“’Built character,’ I said with a shrug. ‘And you?’

“’Spike.’”

“I snorted then.

“’My momma mighta named me somethin’ that weren’t no picnic, but at least she didn’t go and call me after some piece of pointy metal she was usin’ to fix the cow pen,’ I said, and he laughed.

“’You’ve got me there,’ he agreed. ‘So… what brings you to Sihnon?’

“’Hopin’ for some amusement,’ I said, eyein’ the rest of the crowd but noticin’ all the best lookin’ gals were already partnered off with fellas. ‘Not findin’ all that much outside of beer, though.’

“’Know the feeling, mate,’ he said and tipped back the rest of his glass. He could definitely handle a drink. ‘Well, then, what say we make our own fun?’

“’What ya got in mind?’ I asked, feelin’ slightly suspicious. I didn’t want to get ambushed or mugged or some such.

“’If we can’t find birds and the beer’s already done its magic, why not move on to the next most manly occupation available: picking up illegal arms in the less respectable part of town,’ he said with a shrug.

“I considered a moment, but then figured why not. Sounded like a decent plan to me. Maybe I could find somethin’ to keep Vera company if nothin’ else. Next thing I knew, we were walkin’ down a side alley in a dingy part of town, and sure enough if Spike didn’t know exactly the place to go for good, decent priced weapons. Granted, that made me a mite more cautious around him, but I generally have a pretty good sense of folk, and he didn’t seem so much a killer as a hellraiser. After three months cooped up with the likes of Simon, that didn’t seem like a bad thing at all.

“I walked away from that with a right pretty gun, a McCallister 6000 that shot straight and made an impact what with it bein’ close to the size of my whole arm. Spike went with somethin’ more discreet, a little bitty Cooper minigatt that could fit in the pocket of his coat without creatin’ no worrisome bulges. We swapped back and forth as we were walkin’, and somewhere along the way we started tellin’ tales of some of the heists we’d done. Turned out he weren’t none too fond of the Alliance neither, and he and his partner, some guy named Angel of all things, had been responsible for the breakout of a whole passle of prisoners that’d been packed into one of the Alliance flagship like a load of cattle. Weren’t no profit in it as far as I could see, but sometimes you just gotta enjoy makin’ the top brass feel foolish. I told him about our job on Miranda, and he seemed right impressed, whistled through his teeth and all and said he’d seen that broadcast. Course he did. Whole ruttin’ verse did.

“’Angel got a kick out of that one, I’ll tell you,’ he said. ‘Reminded him of the old days when we took down the Circle of the Black Thorn.’

“’They the gang as used to work out of Bernadette?’ I asked.

“’Nah,’ he said, lookin’ away. ‘They were further out than that.’

“’So where’s this Angel at?’ I said.

“’Oh, he’s probably in a very posh bar somewhere, staring into a glass of brandy like it holds the answers to the universe. It’ll be the same glass of brandy all night, too. Somewhere around, oh,’ he glanced at his watch, ‘actually, right about now, he’ll start reminiscing about all the misery in the world and becoming gradually more and more mopey until his arse practically starts to droop. I swear, he could make a flower wilt just by giving it one of his patented Despairing Sighs.’

“I laughed hard at that one.

“’I got two of ‘em like that back aboard ship,’ I said, shakin’ my head. ‘The captain, he ain’t never really got over the war even yet, always seein’ ghosts everywhere he looks. The doc, he done lost the silver spoon he had wedged in his mouth since he were born, and he’s got a sister ain’t quite right in the head, so most days he spends lookin’ like he done et somethin’ sour and it won’t go down right. Sometimes I can practically hear sad fiddle music in the background when the walk past.’

“’Why can’t they just loosen up?’ he says, takin’ a seat on the edge of the pavement and pattin’ the space next to him for me.

“’Hell if I know,’ I say, settin’ down. ‘Make life a sight more pleasant, wouldn’t it.’

“‘It would at that,’ he says with a long-suffering sigh. ‘Just have to make the best of it, won’t we?’

“I was about to nod when the next thing I know, he’s kissin’ me smack on the mouth. Well, now, that weren’t at all where I was expectin’ this to head up to, and maybe it was cause I was drunk, or bored, or getting’ over bein’ cooped up for so long, but dang if I didn’t start a-kissin’ him back. Only a little, of course. Well, maybe a little more than a little. Fellas don’t usually fall into the category of folks I’m kissin’, but he weren’t exactly ugly, and there weren’t nothin’ around that was female that looked promisin’, so why not? He was pretty good at it, too, almost too good. I didn’t think he was ever comin’ up for air.

“’You been plannin’ this all night?’ I ask him, tryin’ to catch my breath.

“’Let’s see… I bought you drinks, got you drunk, took you out to look at weapons, and now I’m trying to shag you,’ he said, countin’ off on his fingers. ‘Sounds like my usual pattern for a date, except maybe for the weapons. So, yep. That a problem?’

“I cocked my head to one side, tryin’ to remember if there was a problem somewheres in all that.

“’Nah,’ I said, wrapping an arm around his shoulders as we both stood up. ‘Captain’ll have my head iffin I bring a stranger back to the ship. Something about invitin’ in strange folk bugs him.’

“’Your captain is no fool,’ he says with a smile. ‘I’m staying just around the corner from here, on pure coincidence, of course. Shall we?’

“‘Eh, why not? Ain’t got nothin’ else to do,’ I said with a shrug.

“The place he were stayin’ in weren’t no dive, I can tell you. Big room, big fireplace, big rug, big window with big drapes, big bed: everything in the whole blamed room was big. Sort of a lot to live up to, but I weren’t really worryin’ on it. Next thing I know, he’s kissin’ me again. I suppose some back on Serenity might find it strange that I didn’t really have no problem with Spike bein’ a man and all, but like I said, sex ain’t nothin’ but havin’ some fun if you’re doin’ it right, and let me tell ya, Spike was doin’ it right. He was stripped out of them clothes like lightnin’, and the firelight all over his skin was somethin’ to see. He seemed kinda chilly though at first, which was odd as there weren’t no cold weather goin’ on, but he heated up real nice right about the time we hit the rug.

“I’ve had some experience in my time, and it takes kinda a lot to impress me, but this weren’t no amateur hour. He knew exactly what he was doin’, and he was doin’ it with some style. I don’t know about this Angel fella, but he has got to be some kind of an idiot not to be waitin’ for him in that bed, not unless he’s some kind of eunuch or such. Course, Spike weren’t complainin’ much about me neither. Generally speakin’, I try to return a favor for a favor and keep everythin’ all equal and the like. From the moanin’, I’m guessin’ he was fairly happy he done picked me in that bar, and I weren’t exactly missin’ those twins much.

“Round about five hours later, we both woke back on up again, and after another go-around, I done picked up my clothes and got dressed.

“’Leavin’?’ he asks, lookin’ up from the bed.

“’Yeah. My ship’s pullin’ out in a couple hours, and if I ain’t aboard the captain’ll take off without me and leave me on this here lousy core planet with the high mighty, up tight, snooty types,’ I said, shruggin’ back into my shirt.

“’Mmm, fate worse than death, that,’ he agrees, but he’s still lookin’ at me like I’m a nice big piece of genuine chocolate. Then he sighed, sorta regretful like, and got out of bed. Didn’t bother puttin’ a stitch back on, but then again it weren’t nothin’ I hadn’t already seen from practically every possible angle. ‘Well, Jayne, if we ever do bump into one another again, I’ll be pleased to see you again.’

“’We’re both in the trade,’ I said, noddin’ as I strapped my new gun down in a holster under my coat. ‘Most likely will. Good luck gettin’ that Angel fella a little more relaxed.’

“’Mate,’ he says to me, sprawlin’ across the chair by the fire, ‘trust me when I say, if I had centuries, I would still be nowhere near getting him to relax. Thanks for taking my mind off it for the evening, though. Good luck yourself with your crew.’

“’Pleasure were mine,’ I said as I go out the door.

“So, Kaylee, what’d you do while we was parked?”

Kaylee, who hadn’t blinked in the entire time Jayne had been speaking, sat at the kitchen table with a strawberry halfway to her mouth, entirely forgotten.

“Um… I got some new power couplings at the junkyard and ate sushi.”

“Well, it’s good you done somethin’ you liked,” Jayne said as he scratched his head and headed for his room. “I’ll be in my bunk.”

“Yeah,” she said as she watched him go. “Yeah, me too.”