"So, I see you brought the muscle," the buyer said, his eyes flicking over to Jayne, who hulked in the doorway. "Who's he?"
On the inside, Dean laughed at this pathetic fuck of a man, all three piece dandy suit and white gloves to handle a shotgun, the shotgun that he had stripped and cleaned two days ago -- with his bare hands. Even though he knew it would probably piss off Mal, who had given him express orders to keep his mouth shut, Dean spoke, "I'm the brains." He pasted a Cheshire cat grin on his face for good measure.
Mal simply blew a long breath out through his nose, but the buyer laughed. "Walked into that one, I did," he said with a hint of amusement, causing Dean's opinion of him to rise a little. When his eyes flicked back to Mal, they were all business. "I must say you did a wonderful job on this. I know that the previous owner kept it in frightful conditions." He shuddered slightly.
Dean cleared his throat and Mal reluctantly said, "Well, like he said, he's the brains."
Stepping forward a hair, Dean said, "You said, 'clean and ready for action.' It is, but I feel it's only fair to warn you, in case you ever do shoot it, that gun saw a lot of action, and I can tell you the firing pin lock is worn and might be prone to slipping. I cleaned and adjusted it as best I could, but I can't guarantee that it will stay cocked if she gets a hard knock or a good shake."
"So noted. She'd only be test fired for research." He handed a credit chit over to Mal. "I trust that should I need more antique weapons procured I can count on the services of you and your crew?"
"Ruttin' richies with more money than sense," Jayne muttered as soon as they hit the street, "gotta love 'em."
Dean could see the banked fury in Mal's eyes. He thought about saying something, but clenched his jaw against the words -- better not to set Mal off. He'd spoken knowing that it would come with a price, but there was no point in poking and prodding, hoping to make it happen. Mal would let him have it when Mal felt ready.
"I ought to dock you," Mal said, low and hissing, "opening your mouth, giving the buyer information he didn't need to know or would've found out on his own. What if he had decided to pay us less?" He whirled on Dean. "I asked you for one simple thing, did I not?"
"And now you got nothin' to say?"
Dean cocked an eyebrow and said, "You will or you won't and that's the end of it."
Mal's eyes bored into his and then he snorted. "You'd spit in the Devil's eye, wouldn't you?"
If only you knew. Dean smiled. "If he's real? Totally." Every chance I got.
Three days later they came across a derelict Firefly.
River worked herself into such a frenzy, babbling garbled nonsense about Reavers that Simon had to sedate her before she did something drastic.
Mal held council around the galley table.
Even the potential for booty or something else useful, given that Reavers weren't exactly the most organized or methodical pillagers, wasn't enough to fully tempt Mal or Zoe. Jayne wanted nothing to do with the ship and immediately voted to fly on by.
(That always struck Dean as curious. The way that Jayne had enough swagger for three men, and could back his words with a hard right or a good swift kick. Hell, Dean or Mal sometimes had to back him down from a fight they knew he couldn't win, but Reavers genuinely frightened the man.)
Carefully avoiding the use of the word "cannibalize", Dean mentioned that Kaylee could always use spare parts, so why not see if this ship --
"Kaylee's not going on board that ship!" Mal snapped, slamming his cup down.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Dean replied, silky smooth. "But if she makes me a list? I'm coming along well with her teaching me the engine. I might be able to find and pull parts, or at least grab whatever spares they got."
Finally, with a pointed look at Mal, Kaylee suggested that if there were any folk left behind by the Reavers, they should at least have some words said over them. The look in Mal's eyes grew flinty and sad before he finally gave the word.
"Ain't never seen anybody eager to step on a ship what's been hit by Reavers," Jayne grumbled as he methodically slotted bullets into a clip.
"Yeah, well, I'm a little different -- as you well know." Dean smirked. "Besides, there are things scarier than a Reaver." And I've hunted and killed them.
"Yeah," Jayne spat the word. "there are things scarier than a Reaver -- like two Reavers."
The chill and stench slammed them the moment they stepped through the airlock into the derelict. Even though their breath frosted in the air, they could still smell it: old blood and rotting meat. Dean's stomach lurched, while Zoe, without ceremony, simply turned her head and brought up the cream of wheat she'd eaten for breakfast. Dean found that he actually welcomed the sour, curdled smell of it as it steamed into the atmosphere. Acrid and sharp, it seemed almost clean next to the cloying over-ripeness of putrescence.
They stumbled over the remains of the first body just outside the galley. Gnawed to the bone. Strange. Because even Dean knew it wasn't like Reavers to pick bodies so clean or smash the long bones for marrow.
They got jumped on the catwalk above the loading dock.
Dean reacted immediately, dispatching the one nearest to him with a blast from his shotgun. (One thing that hadn't changed in 500 years -- Mossberg still made a superior short-barrel riot gun.) He pulled the trigger again at the one that popped up right behind it, but despite turning the Reaver's shoulder into a bloody ruin, it and one of its buddies closed the distance on him, grappling for the gun, and over the railing they went, crashing heavily to the floor below.
The black snapped up in Dean's eyes on the way down. There were things in the 'verse far scarier than Reavers, and Dean wanted them to know that they faced a real monster before he killed them.
Dean caught only fragments of the melee above. The muzzle flash of Mal's pistol as he shot one. Jayne's voice screaming "I won't get et! I won't get et!" over the din of gunfire. Zoe's rebel yell and the sound of her shotgun.
Staggering to his feet, Dean kicked his shotgun away and drew his kukri knife. It was even darker in the loading dock than on the catwalk above but he could see like a cat in the dark. He whirled and ducked as the first one, the hamburger-meat-shoulder one, charged, hamstringing one of its legs as it flew past. With the same inhuman speed and grace, he came out of his crouch, still spinning, and disemboweled the other on the upstroke.
(So good, the sound and feel of blade cleaving through flesh. As sweet to him as their howls of outrage and pain.)
But, to Dean's disappointment there was no fear in the Reavers' eyes, only frenzy and hate, and their attempts to attack him were downright pathetic. It took but a flick of his wrist to cut their throats.
He forced the black down when he heard Mal calling for Zoe to make sure the airlock was secure, and, legs shaking from the rush, Dean climbed the ladder.
"You move like River," Mal said as he used his foot to poke at the body of the Reaver Dean had gutted.
"So you say," Dean replied. He'd never actually seen River in action, just heard the stories that a few of them told after a long day and a lot of sake. Apparently she'd knocked Jayne out once.
Mal pursed his lips thoughtfully as he ran his flashlight over the body. "Makes me wonder if there's some other Alliance program going on, a back-up plan."
"If there is, I was never a part of it." Dean wiped his knife clean on a shop rag he'd found in the engine room before sheathing it.
"You say that, and still I wonder if we won't have the Alliance breathing down our necks because of you."
Dean cocked his head. "You were there when I killed those two agents." And you were damn grateful for it at the time.
"Captain," Jayne cut in, "I think that anybody with moves that keep us from ending up as Reaver meat is just fine."
Mal glared at him.
"Just sayin' is all," Jayne mumbled.
Zoe lifted an eyebrow. "So noted."
"I can leave the ship if you like," Dean said quietly.
A long moment followed before Mal spoke. "No, you're fine where you are."
Zoe shone her flashlight at the body of the Reaver Dean had hamstung. "They look starved."
Mal crouched and took another look at the body. "Given what these folk do to their faces, that's hard to say." He used his knife to slit the shirt.
They all saw the ribs.
Jayne scratched his hair. "Why didn't they eat each other?"
"Maybe they have been," Dean observed.
It didn't take long to piece together the story of this particular Firefly. Reavers had overwhelmed it and several had stayed behind to take her over, but the coms had been damaged in the fight, and the engine (which had clearly not been well maintained by the previous crew) had all but given out at some point, producing just enough power to keep a breathable but not -- very warm -- atmosphere on board.
The last entry on the nav computer showed no progress towards their course and had a date of 2 months ago. And their fellow Reavers had either not cared or not noticed that their companions had fallen behind.
Cold and hungry Reavers indeed.
"I say we go for the salt and burn," Dean said. "There's nothing on this ship worth taking. I say we gather the bodies, salt them, and torch the ship."
"Why salt?" Zoe asked after a moment.
Shit. "It's an old burial ritual from my neck of the woods," Dean said as casually as possible.
"Fine." Mal shrugged. "But you gather the bodies." He hooked his thumbs into his suspenders. "Jayne, you got any of those Willy Pete grenades left?"
"Awww, Mal, that's my private stash," Jayne grumbled.
"Get them. And the salt."
Dean said nothing when he got back on Serenity, just walked straight to his bunk, cleaned his blade properly and felt incredibly relieved ... in a manner of speaking. He still needed to get laid something fierce, but that could wait a few more minutes.
It had been too long without a good bloodletting. He had hoped that River's ravings meant Reavers aboard that ship, and they were always good for some sport.
But, it was a damn lucky thing that the others hadn't gotten hurt.
What could he do about himself the way he was now? Not Demon enough to be snared by a Devil's Trap, but too impure to cross a line of salt. Some day, his needs were going to bring trouble down on the heads of the Serenity's crew and Dean didn't want that, either.
Perhaps he should get off at the next planet. He liked these people, but he didn't need them. And they liked him, but had gotten on just fine without him before.
Shave and a haircut, six bits rapped on his door broke that train of thought.
"Door's open, Jayne," he called.
"How'd you know it was me?" Jayne asked as he clomped down the ladder.
Dean laughed. "Dude, you're the only one who uses that knock with me."
No need to ask why Jayne had come here. Hell, if Jayne hadn't, Dean would've made his way over to Jayne's bunk once he realized he'd spent too much time being thinky and not enough time having "holy shit, I'm still alive!" sex.
Jayne tossed a small tin of salve at him. "I figure this is better 'n gun oil."
Dean lifted the top off and snickered as the first faint hint of roses wafted up. "You sure are a girl sometimes."
"Take a sniff," Dean said, thrusting it under his nose.
Jayne blushed, swore a blue streak in Chinese, and finally said, "Well, gorramit, I swear I thought I'd grabbed the tin next to it."
Dean flicked the cap at him and Jayne caught it in mid air. "How about taking a look at the ingredients list and making sure this isn't some sort of Lady Tiger Balm before it's too late for both of us."
The first round was simple, Jayne eyes front, trousers down, hands braced against the table, swearing at Dean to give a man a chance to get adjusted and then swearing at him to do it harder.
"Strip," Dean told him. "And don't turn your back, I want to watch."
"I can't believe you like to look at me," Jayne said as his shirt hit the floor, followed a moment later by his trousers and underpants. He made no attempts at being seductive, thank god, just took off his clothes and stood there.
Dean said nothing for a moment, simply let his eyes rove over the body before him -- big, battle-scarred, bulky with muscle. Honest muscle, not something gym bunny pretty, put there by work and for work. "Go lay on the bed. And why not look at you?"
"Just weird is all," Jayne said as he lay face down on the bunk. "It's not like I'm ruttin' pretty. Not like you."
"Maybe I'm not interested only in your face." Truth be told, Jayne had a handsome face of the sort that had graced a thousand strapping farmboys, and Dean liked the meat and potatoes regularity of its features, but he wasn't going to lie to Jayne and tell him he was something he was not, like pretty, or delicate, or striking.
Jayne reared up on his elbows and looked over his shoulder at his body. "And it's not like my body's something to write home about."
Dean's lips twitched. "I'll beg to differ." He closed his eyes and let the black roll up behind them ... because, that hard, scarred body, bigger than his, and strong? He loved nothing more than to take it and bend it to his will, feel it shiver beneath him, around him.
He loved making Jayne his bitch.
And Jayne loved it too, being made, being bent to another's will, fingers clenching Dean's thighs and ass as Dean fucked his mouth, head craning forward, seeking, wanting it, mouth making a little noise of disappointment when Dean withdrew.
"Can't get enough of it, can you?"
Jayne didn't answer, just stared up at him, lips slightly parted, wet and shiny, and not even the glaze of tears still filming his eyes could disguise the sheer want in them.
He bucked back as hard as he could when Dean fucked him hard and fast, hand jerking, working, stripping his cock mercilessly.
The third time, Dean took him slow and deep, rocking, endlessly rocking, hand ghosting, caressing Jayne's tired and slightly tender prick, rousing it to hardness, teasing, finally making Jayne seize and spend yet again, even though the well had all but run dry.
"Hey Dean, can I ask you something?" Jayne asked softly, nuzzling into his neck.
"I could swear your eyes looked all black for a moment there when you was going at it with them Reavers."
Dean mmmnd in thought and said, "Trick of the light." He paused. "What did you think?"
"It looked creepy as hell."
Dean cursed inwardly and vowed to be more careful the next time.
"Can I ask you something else?"
Something about Jayne's tone gave Dean pause. He hesitated a moment before he replied, "Go ahead."
"What you said to Mal -- you seriously thinking of leaving this boat?"
"I might be," he said after a moment. "Or, there might come a day when Mal asks me to go."
"Oh." Pause. Then, "Take me with?"
Dean turned his head and looked at Jayne for the space of several heartbeats. Jayne had a certain raw cunning and he knew his way around weapons and a fight, but mostly he was a big lug who would always need looking after. Dean could move much more deftly and swiftly through the 'verse without having to deal with the messes Jayne's being Jayne would inevitably land them in.
"Yeah." He smiled back at Jayne. "If I go, of course you're coming with."
"Thanks," Jayne murmured and a few seconds later, his breath fell into the soft, even cadence of sleep.
Dean stared at the steel decking overhead and tried to figure out why the hell he had told Jayne yes. Why the hell it had felt so right even after he'd thought of the reasons no?
He still didn't have an answer by the time his eyes drifted shut and his breath, too, fell into the soft, even rhythm of a sound sleep.