Jayne was lyin’ on his back on the dry, hard soil of Deadwood. He was gonna pretend he were dead until those hwen dan with superior firepower and damagin’ intentions left.
A shadow fell on him, and a woman’s voice said: “Well, well. Look what the ‘verse coughed up in my flightpath.”
Jayne cracked open his eyes, closed them again right quick. The woman was blockin’ the sun, her face in shadow. He felt all exposed without Vera in his hands.
Fact was, he had no ruttin’ idea where Vera was, and he knew that woman’s voice. She weren’t to be trusted. Mal and Zoe and Inara always said so. Jayne didn’t care what Mal and Zoe thought no more, not since they kicked him off the crew, but Inara was a smart ‘un.
If she’d-a been less smart, maybe Jayne would-a got a freebie off her afore Mal chased him off like a gorram dog. Maybe Jayne wouldn’t be lyin’ here now, hopin’ Li Yu’s men didn’t notice they left someone livin’ on the desert floor…
Jayne jerked half upright when the woman snapped her fingers right next to his nose. After that, he saw no point in pretendin’ to be dead.
“Gorram it, woman,” he said as he heaved himself up and squared his shoulders, pretendin’ he had another gun concealed somewheres on his person. “No one ever teach you not to disturb a man when he’s fully armed and restin’?”
She had to tip her head way back to look him in the eye. Her red hair caught the desert sun somethin’ awful nice.
“You’re about three guns short of being fully armed, and you’ve been playing possum so long you’re starting to burn,” she said.
Tresses, that was the word Jayne’s mother used when a woman had nice hair.
Jayne rubbed the bridge of his nose – his skin was tinglin’. He had to focus now, else she’d run somethin’ past him. He was in enough go shi without Mal’s former bride pullin’ a fast one on top of it.
“Whatchu want?” he demanded. He didn’t even have to aim to sound surly.
She scanned the dusty expanse of dead bodies and wrecked machinery, all casual-like, her hand restin’ on her hip just by her holster the whole time.
“I want you to go through these bodies and see if any of them have money or other concealed valuables,” she said, still watchin’ the scenery. “I’ll take care of any guns and ammo left lying around. In exchange for that and for helping me unload my cargo upon arrival, you may have a lift to Muir.”
Jayne crossed his arms, widened his stance, and scowled. “What makes you think I need a lift?”
She looked back up at him, one eyebrow raised, then she started walkin’ toward the dead bodies.
“Weren’t you s’pposed to be on some prison planet?” Jayne shouted after her. She just laughed and called him a monkey’s even stupider uncle without lookin’ back.
Jayne fully intended to skedaddle on Muir. He didn’t like that stinkin’, no-good planet, but it was solid dirt under his boots, and her ship was awful small, and he didn’t need no woman sneerin’ at him all the time if she wasn’t gonna put out none.
But then she wrangled a job which required muscle, so Jayne went along for the payday. He needed credits and new guns. She wouldn’t even tell him if she found Vera anywhere, back in that desert on Deadwood!
The job was easy, and she didn’t even try to double-cross him. That was new.
They got another ship out of it, a bigger ship. It weren’t Serenity, but Jayne had his own bunk again, and she sure was a prettier sight than anyone on the crew Jayne ran with after Mal and Zoe. Those were all fellas, each one uglier than the last.
“So what do I call you?” Jayne asked her as she took them off Muir, leanin’ over her chair back for a better look at her bosoms.
She kept her attention on the nav panel. “Whatever you like.”
She looked back over her shoulder. Jayne got a feelin’ she knew he was lookin’ down her blouse. Her eyelashes sure were long.
“I rather like the idea of being called ‘cap’n’,” she said with a sly smile.
Aw, hell. Jayne never called no one that before. Fellas who liked that kind-a thing, he enjoyed never givin’ them what they wanted. Then again, he ain’t never worked for no woman before. Might be he wouldn’t be workin’ for her long anyhow, them both bein’ such treacherous sorts.
Jayne didn’t want to ask it, but he really needed to know. It were her fault, he weren’t usually the talkative type. She wouldn’t let him roll over and sleep after they got sexed – havin’ to get up and get dressed got him thinkin’.
“I’d-a thought you’d prefer one o’them pretty boys you picked up on Parth.”
She got a whole rackful o’crew for a song and an eye-flutter from some slaver she knew well enough to sit on his lap while they hammered out the deal.
She stretched on her bunk, pale skin rollin’ over soft flesh. Jayne bunched his shirt in his hands, wonderin’ if she really wanted him to leave, seein’ as she was stretchin’ like that.
“Everyone has to relax sometime,” she said to the ceiling. “I’d rather it weren’t with anyone I couldn’t read.”
Jayne stopped bunchin’ his shirt. “You could-a said someone you trust,” he muttered as he put it on.
Trust was odd and it limited a man’s options, but Jayne figured it had its uses. That was one thing, at least, he learned back in his time with Mal’s crew.
She sighed, ran her hand over her breast. Jayne stopped pullin’ his shirt down his front. She really wanted him to leave?
“Yes, I could have,” she agreed. “But that would have been boring.”
She rolled over to face the wall and turned out the light, deprivin’ Jayne of the sight of her behind and leavin’ him to climb up outta her bunk in the pitch dark.
“All right,” she snapped, pink little palm raised in the air, when Jayne kept askin’ her questions in spite of himself. “Let’s play a game. I’ll tell you three things about me. Two will be lies, one will be a truth. Got it?”
“Yeah. Nothin’ wrong with my hearin’.”
She sat back against the cushions on her bunk, one leg folded under her, breasts displayed to best advantage. “So? Shoot.”
Her poutin’ like that put Jayne in mind of a different kind-a shootin’, but he wasn’t goin’ to pass up his chance, now she wanted to talk.
“Where’d you learn to fly?”
“At the Companions’ Academy.”
Oh no. She could use her wiles all she liked, Jayne was not to be deterred.
“How long were you there for?”
“Until they had nothing useful left to teach me, and then I left.”
This was not goin’ the way Jayne wanted it to. She was answerin’ his questions, but she told him nothin’ solid.
“Well, where’d you learn to fight in that kicky way with them...”
He seen her put a man down with a flutter of her eyelashes, a roundhouse kick to the head, and other parts of her body put to other uses. He waved his hand in the general direction of her lower body.
“With them legs?” he finished. Legs was safe.
“At the Milliford Abbey.”
Where in guai was that? Preacher Book would know. Now Jayne thought about it, the old man had a few tricks up his sleeve too. Didn’t pick those up in no abbey, Jayne’d bet on that.
She wagged her finger and clicked her tongue. “Now, now, don’t get greedy.”
Jayne scowled and stood up. If she was gonna be that way, he’d leave her to keep herself company.
“Aw, you didn’t tell me nothin’ true. It was all just stories.”
She looked at him in that way she did sometimes, like the word ‘stupid’ put her light years away from her meanin’.
“I also told you two things would be lies and one a truth,” she said. “Then I told you three things.”
“Huh?” Jayne started countin’ on his fingers.
She sighed, slithered down the pillows till she was lyin’ down, and started runnin’ her hands over highly distractin’ places on her body.
“Jayne,” she said, “I can either take care of myself or you can leave mastering advanced arithmetic for another day, and come the hell here, and do something you’re actually ruttin’ good at.”
He grinned and moved toward her bunk, leavin’ his clothes on the floor. “I like it when you talk rough like that.”
Her teeth were very white when she smiled. “I know.”
He learned not to start his questions about her past with ‘where’ or ‘when.’ She always answered those so gorram precise!
“How’d you learn to crack safes anyhow?” Jayne asked, keepin’ his eyes on the door and his guns trained on the windows.
As a general principle, rich folk’s houses had too many big holes that other men with guns could walk through. She was workin’ fast on openin’ the safe, and the big man whose house they was burglarizin’ took his security along on vacation. Jayne figured he’d sneak up on her with a question while she was busy.
She put down one lock pick, chose another from the neat row she spread out on a table with spindly legs, didn’t look like it could hold three mugs o’beer put together.
“I know lots of men who work for the Alliance,” she replied. “They have all kinds of useful skills to impart.”
Jayne took his eyes off the door. “Really?”
She took her eyes off the safe, one eyebrow already raised. Her hands kept probin’ at the lock while she trained her eyebrow on Jayne.
Jayne went back to watchin’ the door.
He wasn’t the jealous sort, didn’t see the point. Made a man all steer-like.
Still and all, it made him feel squirmy inside, thinkin’ about her with some purple-belly or ten. What if she used to work for those hwen dan? The one time Jayne tried that...
The experience weren’t nothin’ he cared to remember. He never did get paid for his big idea to turn in the pretty doctor and that sister o’his, and that operatin’ table was awful cold under him while he failed to move his arms and legs, and the Tams threatened him, all polite and reasonable-like.
If he were gonna be honest, which he weren’t about to admit out loud, the one thing Jayne really wanted to know was why – that time when she was called Saffron – why she picked Mal as her mark. Sure, Mal was the captain and all, but she could-a had her pick o’them all.
After they unloaded the loot on Persephone, and she gave the crew the night to have fun, and she looked to be in a good mood, with all that money stashed away in the compartment under her pilot’s chair – it looked like a good time to ask. Seein’ as they been flyin’ together for goin’ on half a year, and she ain’t shot or poisoned or even double-crossed Jayne yet.
They were standin’ in the loadin’ dock, the lights and noise of Persephone’s docks washin’ over them. Her face was half dark, half pale in the light o’lanterns strung across the front of a nearby brothel.
“You would have been too easy,” she said.
Jayne scuffed his boot against the metal floor. That weren’t exactly a surprise, so far as her answers to his questions went.
“Well, hell,” he said. “I ain’t fixin’ to be hard when it comes to women.”
She smiled, all dimples and flutterin’ eyelashes.
Jayne stood up straight, his chest out and his shoulders square. “Hold on, now, I didn’t mean it like that!”
“How did you mean it, then?” Now she was laughin’. Gorram.
Jayne aimed for somethin’ nasty to say in reply, but it flew right outta his grasp. He rubbed the back of his neck, hatin’ how warm it felt.
“I like to keep things simple,” he said. “You like your games, well, I got simple tastes. I see ‘em, grab ‘em, put ‘em down when I’m done with ‘em. Let the next fella have a crack, if he can.”
Both of her eyebrows were fully arched, but at least she wasn’t laughin’ no more. “And you think this is still the part where you’ve got me grabbed?”
“You got me grabbed,” Jayne blurted out.
He shrugged, looked out at the teemin’ docks. Should-a gone carousin’ with the crew instead of standin’ here spillin’ his guts.
“Hell, you know that,” he added quietly.
She didn’t say nothin’. Jayne glanced at her, casual-like.
Her smile was wide and brighter’n sunshine on fresh snow. Naw, hell, nothin’ that prissy. Brighter’n a well-polished gun.
“Yes,” she said. This time Jayne didn’t mind she was laughin’. “Yes, I do know that.”
He grinned back. “Just don’t think I’m gone all silken-hearted, now,” he warned.
She came right up to him and put her arms around his neck, risin’ up on tiptoe. It improved Jayne’s perspective on her bosoms somethin’ marvelous, havin’ them squashed up against him like that.
“Jayne,” she said, “the only thing about you which is soft, is your head.”
He started to grin again, stopped. “That ain’t nice.”
She pouted. She used that exact pout while hagglin’ with Badger earlier in the day.
“Nice is boring,” she said.
Jayne had to admit as this was true. A thought came to him.
“Is... is relaxin’ nice?” he asked.
She shook her head without hesitation. “No, relaxing is not nice. At least, not like you mean.”
Jayne wasn’t sure he meant the same as she meant, but flyin’ with her, he learned not to expect too much honesty all at once. Man might get overwhelmed.