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Feathers Ruffled (the job gone sideways remix)

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It should have been simple, as far as jobs went. It should have been a little bit beautiful.

An old junker ship pieced together from parts salvaged from a garbage dump put in storage deliberately chosen for its shady reputation. They could even enjoy a few days of shore leave before Simon went in, all dressed up and flaunting the high-faluting manners he usually tried and failed to suppress. He’d play the businessman and convince the guy running the place that their heap of scrap metal dressed up as a ship was worth fifteen times what they’d get for selling it as legitimate salvage.

The guy was a known rat and so they were pretty sure at the point he’d run back to Mal with an offer to buy the ship - for much less than he thought it was worth but much more than it actually was and Mal would pretend to be dumb enough to accept. They’d walk away with a tidy profit on a product that was worth next-to-nothing and it would barely take any work.

It was practically a vacation.

Especially for Jayne.

He barely had a role in the plan, all he had to do was keep an eye on things and make sure that Simon made it in and out without anyone roughing him up any. It was a bit dumb but as much as he tried to pretend otherwise Mal could be a bit of a mother hen sometimes.

He’d staked out a spot outside the storage facility, settles on a low wall for a smoke. Anybody could have kept watch but Jayne knows Mal picked him because Jayne is good at looking menacing which would keep him from being hassled by the locals. The only other member of the crew who might have been able to handle it was Zoe and Mal was keeping her in reserve just in case he needed to throw another person capable of talking business into the mix in order to hurry the plan along. There was nothing like the possibility of a rival buying to speed up a transaction and make people offer big.

He’s watched Simon go in earlier, all prettied up like only Inara could compete with, and in a suit that probably cost three or four times more than all the clothes Jayne owned, although when the doctor was wearing it Jayne could almost see how it was worth that.

Now all Jayne has to do is wait and watch for Simon to come out again in one piece.

So he waits.

And waits.

They hadn’t had much experience using Simon on jobs like this (though if everything went well then Jayne suspected the tactic might make into Mal’s regular playbook, especially now the heat had died down some and the doc and his moon-brained sister didn’t have their faces plastered on wanted posters in every Alliance township) but Jayne knew how long it took to talk about buying a ship and Simon was being real slow about coming back out of the storage place.

Maybe too slow.

Mal or Zoe would have been out by now. Even accounting for the fact that Simon was using all the airs and graces of fancy core folk who never seemed willing to cut straight to business, he’d been in there an awful long time.

Jayne’s supposed to be waiting and watching Simon come out safely, but this plan was supposed to be a walk in the park and Mal hadn’t actually told Jayne what to do if Simon didn’t come out. For all he knew the doc was just taking a real long time about convincing the storage guy the ship was worth buying. For all he knew the doc had pissed off the storage guy real good a minute after walking in there and been shanked and bled out while Jayne was sitting waiting.

Well shit.

The ship wasn’t far, but going back to get the others would mean no longer being able to keep watch on the building, and Jayne suspected that the moment he stopped watching would be the moment Simon came out because the doc was a contrary sort that way. He didn’t have no interest in being made to look like some kinda fussin’ goose running to get the rest of the crew all whipped up to rescue the doc when there was no need.

What the hell kinda trouble could the doc have got himself into that would be more than Jayne could handle anyway? Well, excepting the alliance sort of trouble but that was a whole other brand of bad from shady storage guys. Jayne hardly needed to go fetchin’ the others over this, he could sort this out and they wouldn’t even need to know that he’d maybe possibly managed to lose the doc a little bit when Jayne was supposed to be keepin’ watch over him.

Nah, he’d go in there and haul the doc out, maybe make it seem like a shakedown so as not to ruin Mal’s plans by giving away that the stick up Simon’s ass weren’t quite what it appeared, and nobody would even need to acknowledge that things were maybe not quite going to plan except as a funny story they could tell later.

There was no need to ready himself, Jayne was always ready for a fight that was how he’d made it this far in life, he abandoned his distant watch-post and headed towards the storage facility.

The entrance was dimly lit, the windows covered over with years worth of dirt, but it didn’t take much looking around to see that there was no sign of the proprietor or of Simon anywhere in the poky front office.

Jayne ain’t stupid. That ain’t good. A place as shady as this wouldn’t just leave the door unlocked with nobody watching the entrance without a very good (or very bad) reason.

Gun at the ready —and sure it was more subtle than most of Jayne’s collection but right now he was wishing that Mal had permitted him more than one tiny fucking hand-gun— Jayne walked down the first hallway off the office, find to his left an open door leading into storage bay and to his right a door that looked like it lead to a plain old fashion store cupboard.

And cupboard door with a manual lock. Well, that made this easier.

Jayne pulled out his knife. Shooting the lock would be quicker, but it would also be loud and draw attention and while there was only the one guy running this place it’d be stupid to discount the possibility that he had goons around. Of course, Jayne could take a coupla guys but Mal’d be pissed if it got back to him that Jayne had endangered the doc just to get a little action.

It was the work of a hot minute to break the lock and when the door swung upon sure enough there was the doc, sat against the back wall with a storm-cloud scowl.

Anger suited Simon. It had suited him on Ariel when Jayne watched his quiet fury at the incompetent doctor who’s patient he’d deviated from their job (the job of helping Simon’s precious sister no less, to save and Jayne had realised that Simon’s lack of fire didn’t make him him soft it just meant that his was a cold sort of anger and anybody who spent time in the black and had a lick of sense knew the dangers of cold. It suits him now as he glares despite one rapidly swelling eye socket and Jayne would bet all of his share of this job that the doc’s big brain was whirlling and tryna think of ways out afore he got a rescue.

Well, too late for that. Jayne was here. The doc got to play the damsel in distress in this episode and if he bitched about it then Jayne could leave off being his knight in shinin’ armour and show him the real meaning of distress.

Didn’t seem much chance of needing to do that though, not when Simon’s whole self brightened when Jayne stepped into his view.

“Good,” Simon says. “I assume you’ve got a way out of here?”

He stands up and Jayne knows enough to recognise the movements of somebody who’d taken a blow or three to the ribs, but the doc didn’t bitch. Simon would never be a real fighter, not the physical sort anyway, he just didn’t have it in him, but, to his credit, the doc could take a hit. He’d thrown down with Early despite a bullet in his thigh, a few punches weren’t gonna make him dead-weight in this escape attempt.

“Was gonna use the door,” Jayne points out. It wasn’t like the place was well defended.

“Has the marked popped out for his daily constitutional?” Simon says, which is the sort of remark Jayne would usually ignore except for that Simon follows it by adding, “Because he didn’t seem all too keen on my departure.”

“Yeah, ‘bout that… You telling me you couldn’t convince them you were a hoity-toity, stuffed shirt prissy windbag?” Jayne asks incredulously.

Simon shakes his head. “Too convincing,” he admits. “I think he’s decided he can get a bigger profit off trading me than the ship.”

Jayne figures on that for a moment then decides he must be referring to ransoming him back to whatever chichi core connections he’d was playing at having, because Simon sure was pretty and he might turn a decent profit as a whore but in that line of work he’d get worn down and lose his shine a lot faster than he’d earn the kind of money they were supposed to be convincing the storage owner he could flip the ship for.

Or the owner was a moron who hadn’t even thought about going to Mal, just seen a rich guy and decided to make a quick buck in the first way he could think of.

Jayne had been all ready to fight his way out but Simon seems to have been right about the owner going for a stroll, or more likely going to find somebody who could aid him with whatever his plans for Simon were, because they make it back out onto the street without any trouble.

That’s when Jayne starts to keep a sharper lookout though, because somebody who radiates money like Simon still does in all his core getup it always a target and roughed up like this he might be mistake for an easy target without Jayne at his back radiating fuck-off vibes.

And if hanging back a half-pace also makes it easier for him to steal a few glances down to admire the fit of those fancy pants, well, that’s Jayne’s business.

“What I wanna know,” he says. “Is how even with your face smacked up you still look like such a fancy fella, that getup got magic to it or something?”

Simon laughs. “Breeding and rearing,” he says. “In my family’s circles there was never an excuse for laxness or impropriety.”

“Then how come River ain’t got no manners?” Jayne prods. It was all well and good knowing that she didn’t have the control over her urges that real folks did, but most folks didn’t have such stabby urges to begin with, Jayne was sure Simon wouldn’t have if he’d been in his sister’s place.

The smile slips off the doc’s face. “Well, she was sent away young and the academy wasn’t exactly as big on culture as a typical core school.”

Gorramit. Last thing Jayne needs is Simon coming back to the ship all roughed up and down in the mouth because he’d got to thinking about the shit done to his sister. He’d have the crew blaming Jayne for lettin’ him get that way, even though truth told he was practically shiny except for a few bruises and those weren’t worth making a fuss about.

The doc being prissy at Jayne is a familiar situation and one the crew will take in stride a lot easier than if he comes back moping, and it’s never hard to get him worked up. Simon wears his weaknesses right out in the open for anybody to see and poke at and he doesn’t seem to learn no matter how many times it happens.

“I don’t get to play the knight in shiny armour real often,” Jayne remarks. “You ain’t exactly a picture book damsel in distress, but I guess you’ll do.”

“I’m not a damsel,” Simon points out. “And I could have got myself out of there with a little more time.”

Mayhaps he could, the lock was flimsy enough and for all his soft hands Simon wasn’t weak, if he’d hit it enough times it might have given out but, “Afore the owner came back and moved you someplace more secure?”

Simon hesitated. Jayne grinned. Now for the ace up his sleeve.

“Way I see it, you owe me,” Jayne expounds, and sure enough, Simon’s face turns sullen.

“For doing the job Mal assigned you?” Simon says. “For the task that is supposed to be you earning your cut of the profits from the ship we’re selling.”

“For busting your ass out of there before your pretty face got too banged up,” Jayne says. “Mal wouldn’t cut me out just for bein’ a little slow rushing to the rescue.”

Simon sighs. “And what do I owe you?”

“Well,” Jayne says, fighting to hold back his own laughter. “A kiss is traditional.” That’s bound to get the doc all puffed up and bristling, so worked up that nobody —least of all Mal— will be able to take any complaints about Jayne seriously.

Sure enough Simon stops walking as soon as the ‘k’-word comes out of Jayne’s mouth.

He’s too easy.

Jayne stops too, waits for his reaction, grinning as Simon steps towards him, right in his face like he’s expecting Jayne to be intimidated by—

Then Simon’s lips are on him, and he’s not just flipping the joke back onto Jayne with a quick brush of the lips, this is a kiss, the sort of kiss Jayne usually pays for and Inara gets paid for. He hadn’t thought the doc had it in him, but hell, Jayne ain’t gonna say no.

Simon’s fingers tangle in his shirt and there’s still standing in the middle of the street so it’s mostly practical when Jayne grabs him by the shoulders and presses him against the wall but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like having Simon’s body trapped between him and the wall. The doc is good at this, a lot better than Jayne had expected given his awkwardness around womenfolk but maybe it’s the fact its always womenfolk taking an interest in him that gets doc all off balance.

He bites down, Simon’s mouth didn’t take any hits but if he gets back to the Serenity with it looking a little busted up nobody is gonna be putting any extra blame on Jayne for that, and instead of getting prissy Simon bites back, and apparently Jayne isn’t the only one who gets all worked up and looking for it good and hard after a fight.

This ain’t quite the sort of het up he was angling at driving Simon to, but Jayne ain’t one to complain.