Shying Away--Part Two
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Second part to Part One. It's all about Jayne, the man they call Jayne. Rated for strong adult content (read: Sex, violence and cussin'). Please be gentle.


Shying Away--Part Two

Jayne woke slowly, all tangled up with the woman sleeping against him. Remembering why made him grin even before he opened his eyes to see her there, head on his outstretched arm and her uncommon blood-colored hair spilling over them both. Yawning, Jayne carefully extricated his legs from hers so he could stretch the beginning of a cramp out of his left calf.

"Smells like sex in here," he noted with satisfaction.

Beside him, Shy stirred, smiled sleepily, "Go figure." She turned her head to kiss his shoulder.

Jayne considered the morning remaining to them before they had to head back to Serenity. "Know what I like?"

She didn't miss a beat.

"This." Shy moved her hand languidly down, down, until it came to rest in a place where it got up to some very good no-good. "Well, yeah," he agreed after a moment of breath-hitching reflection, "But besides that."

He figured he'd better finish saying what was on his mind before it went right out of his head. "A hot bath,” he said. "That's what I like." Jayne contemplated the low stained and peeling ceiling, running the fingers of one hand through her long red hair idly. "Don't get much chance for a good long soak, out in The Black."

Shy stopped what she was doing and raised her head to look at him. Whatever she saw in him looking back at her made her smile, and she sat up. "All right, you’ve got it, pirate. Put your clothes on."

But Jayne pulled her back down beside him instead; his arm just fit so damn well around her waist, her bright patterned skin moving smooth as silk against his own. “How ‘bout not just yet?”

She didn’t resist; in fact, Shy’s smile became wicked and her eyes gleaming greenly through the tousled strands of her hair as she fitted herself to him close as a second shadow, saying, “Shiny.”

Then Jayne forgot most everything else but mapping out her skin with his hands and where that led. ******************* Later on, once they got upright and dressed, Shy took him two doors down from the dicing parlor to a public bath house, one that rented by the quarter-hour, all day and all night--the kind Jayne would have expected to find near a dicing parlor. They paid for an hour up front.

As soon as the attendants fired up the water heater in their bath closet, Jayne and Shy locked the door and made good use of it, getting up to all manner of slippery devilry until in the last fifteen minutes left to them, they rushed to drain and refill the tub to wash and oil their skins.

After that, all shiny-clean and smelling like uptown, they looked for a place to eat because Jayne realized at some point between lather, rinse and repeat just what his granddaddy must have been talking about every time the old man cackled he was hollow as a bitch wolf. No small wonder, seeing as how Jayne hadn’t eaten a damn thing in the last day and a half except that plate of fried something tasting faintly of turpentine and onions. They found the kind of greasy spoon Jayne had been thinking of yesterday, found it on the edge of the tavern part of time. The coffee there didn’t suck much at all and wherever, whatever, the eggs had come from, the hash-slinger frying them made them taste pretty gorram good.

And Jayne was powerfully relieved to find out Shy ate proper-like--none of that pretending she wasn’t really hungry or eating without using her fingers or any of that girl-foolishness that made it such a gorram trial to eat a meal at the same table with a woman. In fact, with that sudden frightening jump in his chest again, Jayne realized he could probably get used to this, even.

While they ate, Jayne finally got a good look at what Shy carried: A .32, a solid well-made revolver. It was nothing to apologize for carrying, that’s for sure, even if the ammo was harder to come by than some. Hell, a .32’d slice a hole through muscle and bone cleaner and faster than government work, sure enough. When she offered the gun to him across the table for a closer look, no one even glanced up from their plates; Jayne figured he might even get used to this place.

On close inspection, Jayne found the .32 clean as a whistle and smelling of that fine blend of blued steel and gun oil. That, and the sight of how well the bird’s-head grips fit her long-fingered hand when he handed it back to her, how easily she slid the weapon over her painted skin and back into her waistband, had him half ready to sweep their plates and cups to the floor and jump her right there on the gorram table top. Few things Jayne knew of in the ‘verse were sexier than a woman who knew how to care for and handle her piece. The only way it could get sexier would be if he could watch her blow stuff away with it naked.

And when he described Vera to her, the set of Shy’s lips, the catch in her breath, told Jayne she was right there with him.

Gorram it, sometimes life was just that good.

At last he shoved his plate away and pushed his chair back from the table so he could lean back in it while finishing his coffee. “So you got anything you wanna take with you?”

Shy looked down into her own cup for a moment. Jayne thought maybe there was a dead fly in there or something until she looked back up at him and shook her head with a harsh laugh that sounded like it tasted bad in her mouth. “Not a damn thing but a few clothes.”

Jayne checked the grease-darkened chron hanging behind the lunch counter, figuring. “We better go get ‘em, then.” Where the hell did a good morning like this get to so fast, anyway?

Shy’s eyes darkened, and she frowned into her cup again. “Last chance to change your mind, pirate. I won’t hold you to last night if you woke with a change of heart.”

“Aw, bizui.” Jayne took one last swallow and frowned at her over the thick rim of his mug. “That’s just crazy talk.” He set the cup down again and waved a hand at her plate. “Finish up and let’s haul ass. Mal won’t wait.”

Shy smiled at him, her free, light smile and Jayne smiled back. Then they rose, paid their check and left. *********************** When they hit the alley and neared the stairs up to Shy’s place, that’s when Gustin and his goons fell on them. And even as Gustin cracked Jayne in the head with the butt of his gun twice, even as Jayne felt himself hitting the dirt, even as he watched Shy draw and get off three fast shots at the dandy pissant before the two goons clubbed her senseless, even as the world went black around him and closed up on the sight of Gustin’s goons dragging her body away down the alley, Jayne wondered exactly how the hell he hadn’t seen it coming. *********************** He woke up with a mouthful of dirt and a headache that made every hangover he’d ever had seem like a stroll through a village fair with a pretty girl on his arm. Squinting into the brightness, Jayne found the position of the sun and considered. He hadn’t been out all that long. There might still be time.

It was easy enough to track them; they’d made no attempt to hide their goings. Probably counted on him being dead, or at least out a lot longer, and that was good. His ma always did say Jayne had a hard head.

The track-signs led him right to where they were, all four of them boxed into a blind alley behind and between some buildings in the rough warehouse district bordering the wharfs; that was good too. Serenity wasn’t far away, due east of here.

But once he got close enough Jayne could see he hadn’t found them fast enough to keep them from doing to Shy whatever they’d had time to do. The bruises and blood on her face, around her throat, her shoulders, running down her legs, told him that plain as she hung by her arms between the two goons who held her swaying on her knees in front of Gustin.

One of the shots she got off before they took her must have hit the dandy pissant hwundan after all; he was bleeding hard out of his shoulder, and his fancy shirt and slacks were ruined for sure. That made Jayne smile.

Gustin didn’t look as pleased about it as Jayne was, though. His hair fell down lank over his sweaty forehead and stuck there, and Gustin’s teeth were bared in a grin made as much of pain as triumph as he snatched Shy’s head up with a handful of her hair and held his little candy-ass gun just inches from Shy’s temple.

Jayne knew then that he was walking up on an execution fixing to happen, sure as if there’d been a gallows and a rope with a noose in it sitting there.

And he knew it meant Shy wasn’t dead yet.

Jayne drew steel easy as breathing, easy as scratching an itch, and Gustin’s gun hand exploded in a mighty gratifying cloud of misty, chunky red through which his fancy little pistol cartwheeled away. His two goons died fumbling their own weapons and looking damned surprised before Gustin hit the ground moaning.

Shy fell facedown into the mud their blood made of the dirt, her hair spread around her head like a large-caliber spatter pattern.

Taking those last few long steps, Jayne finally crouched beside her. When he touched her cheek to turn her face out of the gory muck before she choked on it, his fingers came away wet with thick red. “Ta ma de, woman,” he muttered under his breath. Now, things might have ended differently if Gustin hadn’t heard him, hadn’t raised his head to scream at Jayne, “Jien ta-duh guay--what’s wrong with you? She’s a rutting whore! A hole, is all! Just a gorram ho--“

Things might have ended differently, but Gustin did hear him, and he did raise his head, and he did scream it; so Jayne shot out his throat and watched Gustin die choking, thinking how it was surely a faster death than the rat-bastard deserved. It was nothing new to Jayne, this killing fast and sure and true, and that's a fact.

His gun was made for it.

Reholstering his weapon, he checked the position of the thin, watery sun again. Not much time left. Looking around carefully, Jayne found what he was looking for. Leaning over one of the dead goons, Jayne tore off his long wool coat and turned back to Shy. Raising her carefully, he wrapped Shy in it, took her up in his arms, and stood, his head pounding something ferocious but oddly feeling a lot better, now.


Mal was waiting on him, standing right there inside the bay doorway.

By the look on his face Jayne could tell he was late, and that Mal had his ass-hairs in a twist and was damned close to making good on his promise. The captain took a step onto the boarding ramp and opened his mouth to say something Jayne bet would have matched his face, but then Mal’s eyes fell upon what Jayne carried and his expression changed.

“What did you do, Jayne?” Mal asked him, low and dangerous, his eyes dark.

Jayne didn’t have time to talk; as he neared Mal, he swerved to go around him. But Mal stepped in front of Jayne, hand on the butt of his gun. “You’ve got exactly one-half minute to tell me why you brought a dead woman to my boat, or I’m kicking your ass right back down the gangway and weighing anchor.”

“She needs the doc.” Jayne could feel Shy’s blood soaking through the thick wool of the coat he’d wrapped her in. “He back yet?”

Mal didn’t move, blink, or change expression. “What--you buy yourself a fixer-upper on the slave market, or just club some girl that caught your fancy? Fifteen seconds, Jayne.”

Zoe stepped up behind Mal; when her eyes fell upon what Jayne carried, her eyes widened. “Ai ya,” she breathed. Her eyes moved to Jayne himself and turned hard as flint as she dropped her hand to the butt of her gun, too.

Jayne sighed through his clenched teeth. “Gorram it, Mal, she’s a whore. Or was. Or might still be--hell, I don’t know. We didn’t talk about that part.” He shook his head to clear it, which made it pound worse. “But the pissant she was beholden to done this to her, him and his goons. Not me.”

If anything, Mal’s face grew harder. “And where are they now, Jayne--bringing a posse? What manner of trouble is following you?”

Her blood was running through his fingers now; he could feel it warm on his hands. Jayne took a deep breath. “I shot ‘em dead in a blind alley, all three, about four sectors that way,” he pointed over his left shoulder with his chin. “Ain’t much left to make a posse with, and nobody paid me any mind coming here. Gorram it, Mal. she’s gonna rutting bleed out, us standing here jawing about it. Can’t you chew me a new one while the doc sees to her?”

Mal looked out the bay door a long moment at the dingy wharfs and the vessels docked around them, at the distinct lack of any sort of disturbance interrupting the dockmen and the few folks just passing by. Then he glanced down at Shy’s bruised and bloody face, and his gaze went from there to the drops of thick red dripping from Jayne’s hands onto the bay floor. Looking hard into Jayne’s eyes, a muscle working in the captain’s jaw, Mal finally called, “Wash, get us skyward. We’re shoving off.” Then, more quietly, “Zoe, go find the doc. Tell him we’ll meet him in the infirmary ten minutes ago.”

And then, even quieter still, “This ain’t a done subject between us, Jayne.”

“Yeah. Fine.” Jayne stepped around him at last, his relief warring with urgency, and made fast for the infirmary as Mal hit the hot button and closed the bay door behind them.

******************* Mal stood with Jayne and Shepherd Book--who’d shown up as if conjured or called by God, Himself--to hear the doc’s verdict on Shy once he’d got a good look at her.

“She’s been badly beaten,” Simon was saying. Jayne snorted--he figured it didn’t take medical training to see something that plain--and ignored the sharp look the doc shot at him before going on. “She has cracked and bruised ribs, a concussion and internal injuries to several vital organs, and she lost a lot of blood. Frankly, I’ve seen people die of shock from less, but with the transfusion from Kaylee, she’s stable. When--if--she regains consciousness is currently the biggest issue.” He smiled tightly but to Jayne it didn’t look to have any real happiness in it at all. “I believe she was also...assaulted.”

Mal’s jaw clenched but the captain said nothing. Shepherd Book closed his eyes a moment and took a deep breath. Jayne frowned. “Well, no shit. She didn’t get all messed up like that drinking sweet-sap whiskey on a gorram church-day picnic.”

The look Mal shot him was dark; the one Simon shot him was incredulous. Finally Book said softly, “I think the doctor is telling us your friend was ra--”

“I know what he means,” Jayne cut the shepherd off angrily. “Ain’t no surprise, is all I’m saying. Not with those hwundans what had her. And shit’s sake--she’s a dockside whore. It ain’t likely the first time.” He shrugged. “She’ll be all right.”

Now they all stood and gaped at him.

It pissed him off mightily. After all, which one of the four of them had spent the weekend either in her company or trying not to think about her? Which one had tracked and killed the hwundans that had done this to her? Which one had carried her here? He had the right of it, Jayne was sure.

“Shy ain’t made of glass,” he growled at them.

“’Shy’?” Mal shook his head. “What the hell kind of name is that for a whore?”

At least this time the doc and shepherd stared at him.

But only for a moment. Then the doc went back to monitoring some machine he had Shy hooked up to and Book went back to sitting beside her bed. Praying for her, likely.

Jayne crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the doorframe again to wait a while more. ********************* Jayne was in the cargo bay three whole gorram days later working on Mal’s new mule when a tap on his arm made him kill his welding torch and turn. Kaylee was standing there beside him in a spare pair of goggles, her hair all mussed and she breathing heavy like she’d run all the way from someplace else. It all looked good on her.

“You got to go the infirmary right now, Jayne Cobb, if I have to drag you there by your short hairs.”

Now that was a mighty intriguing prospect; Jayne considered it for a moment, raising his welding shield to look at her more closely.

Kaylee bounced on her feet, her face a study in impatience, waiting, and then she frowned. “Move yourself, Jayne--Simon commed and said they need you there right now.”

There she had to go, bringing the damn doc into it and taking the shiny out of his whole track of thought. Jayne sighed and set the torch aside, the moment over. “What foolishness are you talking, girl?”

“Your friend--she woke up.” Kaylee’s eyes were sober. “And she’s taken after Shepherd Book. Best come on before Captain shoots her.”

But Jayne was past her and down the corridor before Kaylee turned all the way around to go with him. ************ He got to the infirmary door and had to skid to a stop to avoid running Mal down, who’d arrived at the same time as Jayne with his gun drawn. “You stand her down, Jayne, or I will.”

Jayne nodded and walked into the infirmary. What he saw made him stop short.

Shy was up and mighty spry looking for a woman who’d been bleeding her life away down the insides of his arms three damn days ago, and that made Jayne smile wide.

But she was backed into a corner and holding a scalpel--how had the gorram doc been fool enough to leave something like that lying around the gorram infirmary with sick people about?--and by the trapped-wild-animal look in her eyes, Jayne could see she was fixing to use it on Shepherd Book if he made any fast moves.

For his part, the preacher wisely had his hands up and open where she could see them, and was speaking to her low, calm as Book could, saying, “No one is going to cut you open, miss. I promise. Jayne is fine, and you are perfectly safe.”

But Shy didn’t seem to be buying a word of it. Jayne followed the sight of that gleaming bit of cutting hurt brandished in her unwavering hand to its inevitable conclusion, the one involving Mal--and probably Zoe, who’d just appeared beside Mal in the doorway gun in hand as well-- venting Shy full of very permanent holes.

Jayne wasn’t having any of that. He crossed the infirmary on long strides.

“Hey, girl. You ain’t dead,” he greeted her, coming to stand next to Book in front of where she stood backed up against the wall.

Her face went dead pale when she saw him. Then her green eyes caught wild sudden fire, and she smiled that old-friends smile at him. Gorram it, when she did that it cut right down to the center of him slick as that scalpel.

Glancing at Shepherd Book, and then at the scalpel in her hand, Shy shrugged one colored, patterned shoulder--the one spattered with a galaxy of stars--and tossed the scalpel onto a tray full of other creepy-ass looking instruments. “I thought Gustin sold me to a parts dealer,” she explained to Jayne, waving her hand to indicate the infirmary.

Made sense to him; he nodded. That’d be a sorry damn thing to wake up to, he figured--enough to put a weapon in any thinking person’s mind.

She looked again at Shepherd Book. “Nothing personal, mister,” she told him, “Just wasn’t going without a fight is all.”

Book lowered his hands warily, slowly, and cleared his throat. “No harm done.” And then he stepped back. Way back. When Jayne glanced that way again, the shepherd was gone. The doc had wisely got himself to the other side of the room, as well.

Shy looked up at Jayne through the strands of hair that had fallen over her face. “I thought you were dead, pirate. I truly did.”

“Well, I ain’t.” Gorram, it was good to see her standing again. Damn straight it was. He reached out a hand to brush that hair out of her eyes; it looked too much like blood there.

When Jayne could see her whole face, he could see written on it how scared she was.

She looked down, away, but every place her eyes came to rest made them wider, more scared-looking until they came back at last to rest on Jayne. “And here we are.” Her smile trembled a little.

“Here we are,” Jayne agreed.

The sound of the gun hammers easing back made them both look over to where Zoe and Mal were holstering their pieces.

“Yessir. We’re all of us here.” Mal noted, looking around him at Kaylee, Wash, Zoe, everyone who’d run to see the commotion. “That means work ain’t getting done elsewhere, people.” His eyebrows rose as he stared at them until with a few sighs and grumbles, they turned and drifted themselves away until it was only Mal, Jayne and Shy standing in the infirmary with the doc.

The captain turned to frown at Shy. “We have to have a talk, you and I. Now’s as good a time.”

The vibrant colors of Shy’s hair and her skin were stark against the white gown she was wearing, the white walls of the infirmary. She looked like a woman-shaped pool of spilled paints, there, Jayne thought. A right fine-looking one.

“Captain Reynolds, with all due respect,” Simon objected, “She should rest. There are tests--“

“I said a talk,” Mal emphasized, and the tone of his voice left no doubt that he wouldn’t be hearing any arguments, “Not a foot race.” After a moment, Simon nodded and Jayne moved back to stand beside Shy who was watching them all warily.

“Now, then. I’m Captain Reynolds and I own the boat you’ve been on these last three days.” Mal walked to the edge of the bed Shy’d been lying in until a little while ago, looked at her across it and tucked his thumbs behind his belt. “Jayne tells me you had a will and a need to be here. Is that the way of it?”

Shy glanced up at Jayne and then fixed her green eyes on Mal. “It is.”

Mal considered her, and her answer, a long moment. “I don’t mean unkindness, but I don’t hold with couching words either so I’m asking you straight. What use to me is a whore on my ship, eating my food and breathing my air?” He leaned back, his dark eyes resting deep and unreadable on her.

Shy looked down at her hands, fingers twisted together in front of her. They were pale and shaking and Jayne had a sudden powerful urge to tell Mal to leave her the hell alone.

But he put his boot on the urge’s neck hard--it just didn’t seem to help things much, him aggravating Mal. It hadn’t yet, anyhow. Besides, Jayne had seen Shy face down badder things than Mal, even Mal with his short-hairs knotted like this.

And besides. In the deepest places in him, where all his mileage had collected itself, Jayne knew the hardest truth: If she couldn’t, well, then nothing that happened from here on out mattered a jot anyhow because the ‘verse would just eat her entire, first chance it got. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the wall.

Shy shrugged, finally. “I don’t know. Don’t know what else I’m good at.” But then she raised her eyes to Mal’s and added pointedly, “Yet.”

Mal rocked back on his heels and looked at her for the longest time without saying a word. Then he shrugged and dug into a pocket. “Fair enough.” Pulling out his hand, Mal flipped a silver coin onto the rumpled sheets of the bed between him and Shy.

Then he began to unbuckle his belt.

Even the doctor looked stunned. Simon opened his mouth, but no sound came out for a few moments until he was able to say, finally, “Jesus, captain. That’s really... well... unconscionable. Without precedent.”

Jayne wasn’t exactly clear on what the doctor had just said, but he sure enough felt that silver coin hit the sheets like a slap landing across Shy’s face, and that woke something dark and bloody in him. He saw Mal see it, too, as Jayne stood away from the wall he’d been leaning on, ready to call Mal out and damn the consequences. But Jayne glanced back at Shy before he did and what he saw made him hold off on saying anything just yet.

Shy’s eyes had turned to cold glass as they followed the arc of that coin; by the time the captain stopped messing with his belt buckle and moved his gaze to Shy instead, her eyes had gone to dark green ice.

Her shoulders came up square and straight; her chin rose as she stared Mal down unblinking, unflinching. Jayne knew the look, all right; he leaned back against the wall and grinned big.

“I’ll arm-wrestle you for that coin, if you want.” She finally spoke, and Jayne could hear the go hump yourself behind the words actually coming out of her mouth. “Or I’ll play you a hand of tall-card. But that’s all.”

Mal blinked, and then the captain smiled a little, like she’d just answered some question he hadn’t even asked her, and answered it right. Jayne was even more mystified when Mal turned to him and said, “Now you know,” like Jayne was supposed to have some gorram idea what he was talking about.

Whatever the hell he meant, some of the hostile leaked out of the captain as he turned his head back toward Shy. Rubbing his jaw thoughtfully, Mal nodded. “That’s good to know. But plain truth is, we got work to do on this boat and places to go, and you don’t have a part in it--whoring or not.”

Now Mal looked from Shy to Jayne and back. “Since we’re near four days off Govanne on a long-run and I ain’t of a mind for turning around and making it even longer, here you are anyhow.”

Again, back and forth. Shy to Jayne. Jayne to Shy. And by the look of his face Jayne knew as sure as he knew how to find Vera’s trigger blindfolded that Mal was making up his mind about something important.

“Well, hell,” Mal spoke at last, “With you off the sick bed maybe I’ll get some gorram use out of Jayne again. That’s worth something, I conjure.” Mal glanced at Jayne and then smiled a little at Shy. “Tell you what. You mind yourself and I’ll consider you a passenger to our next port of call. Place called Strand--should be no more than two weeks out from here. Good a place as any to find out what else you’re good at.” Then his face grew grave, stern again. “You make me reconsider, though, and I’ll set you down on the closest chunk of rock in our path and not lose a wink of sleep about leaving you there.” He cut his eyes sideways at Jayne, adding, “And Jayne with you, if he bucks me about it.”

Jayne frowned, objected, “Hey,” but Mal paid him no mind at all.

“We clear?” The captain fixed Shy again with unblinking consideration.

Shy cocked her head like she wasn’t sure she’d heard the words right, and then her eyes narrowed thoughtfully on Mal; Jayne recognized the looked, remembered being weighed out by it like a pile of fenced silver himself. Then she nodded at whatever she saw there. “Clear. Thank you.”

“Good then.” Mal turned away and called back over his shoulder. “Go for it, doc. Test away. And Jayne? Get her some quarters in the passenger bunks for when the doc clears her, and then haul your ass back to that welding rig. You’ve got half an hour.” The last words drifted back down the corridor towards them since the captain was walking away that fast.

Shy’s light touch on his arm startled Jayne out of his astonishment at what had just happened and how little he understood how it did. Shaking his head, he muttered, “Yeah. Sure, Mal. Half an hour.” Then he turned to the doc. “What say, is she good to go?”

Simon looked back at him sternly and folded his arms. “No. She isn’t. Not without the tests. She just woke out of a three-day coma, for the love of… “ His voice trailed off and he shook his head. “And you have no idea what that means, so why am I even bothering. Just go find her some quarters and go back to work; I’ll run the scans and if they check out, she can go tonight, when you’re done.” He turned to Shy. “Is that all right with you?”

Shy nodded, but her eyes went to Jayne and stayed there, wide and dark and fearful again. Jayne frowned, and took a big guess at the cause.

Catching up her hand, Jayne told her, “Doc won’t hurt you. Kept you from dying, didn’t he?” But then he turned his head to look good and mean at Simon, adding, “Besides--he knows I’ll rip his gorram lungs out if he does.”

Simon rolled his eyes and shook his head again. “Goodbye, Jayne.”

Jayne grumbled, but he let go of Shy’s hand and turned to go. He turned back at the door, though, and told her, “I’ll be back. Don’t go killing anyone while I’m gone, all right?”

She grinned at him a little, finally. “Sure thing, pirate.”

As he walked away, Jayne could hear the doc saying, “Why do you call him... Oh, never mind.”

Jayne smiled. ************* By the time Mal called a halt to the gorram day, Jayne’d had enough a hundred times over. Today was different, and not just because he‘d successfully resisted the urge to throw a wrench at Wash any of the times he wanted to real bad. Today was different because Shy was waiting for him in the infirmary. At day’s end, Jayne set down his torch and shield, and was off to the shower closet so he didn’t go see her all stinking.

“It ain’t anything,” Shy was saying to the doctor when Jayne got to the infirmary, “Just burns a little when I laugh.”

The doc was helping her over to a chair despite her protests. “Come on and sit down.”

“Hwundan kicked me. A lot.” Shy frowned darkly. “I remember that much.”

“He’s dead enough now.” Jayne grinned and walked over to her.

She stood right up again when she saw him, making Simon sigh and throw up his hands. “Fine. You’re good to go, Shy. But go slow and take it easy.” He looked at Jayne sternly while he said that last.

That reminded Jayne of something he’d been thinking about earlier. “Hey. What about, you know, sexy stuff’? Can we--“

The doc rubbed his face with a hand before fixing Jayne with a dark stare. “Every rib on her left side is either cracked or bruised, Jayne. Do the math.”

“Math?” Jayne frowned. “When did gorram numbers enter into it? I just wanna know can we--”

“Shy,” Simon interrupted, turning his back on Jayne entirely. “You should be careful of any strenuous...” he cast Jayne a quick dark look back over his shoulder, “Activity... for the next few days. If it hurts, don’t do it. And if Jayne suggests it, it’s probably a bad idea in general. Do you understand?”

Damned if Shy didn’t wink at the doc. “I surely do, Doctor Tam. Thank you kindly for everything.” She reached for and found Jayne’s hand. “Let’s go, pirate.”

Hand in hand and both of them grinning like fools, Jayne and Shy left the infirmary. ********************* “This here’s your bunk.” Jayne nodded at the door in front of them, and then slid it open for her; he’d seen her favoring her left side even though she tried to hide it from him. Waving her through, Jayne followed her and slid the door closed behind them.

Shy stood in the middle of the small room and looked around, her eyes wide. “Mine, huh?”

“Long as Mal lets you stay.”

She stared around her at the shelves, the tiny closet, and at last her gaze fell on the narrow bunk, made up with some castoffs from Inara and the goofy pillow Kaylee’d brought over, all pink and stitched with butterflies. “This is...” Her eyes were huge. “Good.”

Then she noticed the wad of sacking Jayne had left there on the bed for her. It was clean sacking, he’d made sure, and tied with a battered yellow ribbon he’d wheedled from Book for the price of cleaning the galley an extra turn next week.

“What’s that?” Shy frowned the question at the rough bundle.

Jayne shrugged and sat down on the foot of the bunk. “Better check it out.”

With a curious smile at him, Shy sat down and untied the ribbon. And when she unfolded the rough fabric and saw her .32 nestled inside, she drew a swift breath and said softly, “Ai ya. I thought it was gone for sure.” Lifting it reverently, she turned it over and over in her hands, gazing upon it like it was some long lost friend of hers. Jayne supposed, strictly speaking, it was. “Where did you...?”

“In the dirt when I woke up in the alley. You dropped it when they grabbed you. Figured you’d want it back. You know, if you didn’t die.”

Shy’s eyes glistened brightly, and she leaned to throw her arms around his neck. Hugging him ferociously, she whispered in his ear, “Thanks, pirate.” When she let go of him, she wiped her eyes. Straightening, she made as if to set the sacking aside, and then frowned, felt it with her hand. Unwrapping it further, she saw what it held in its center and her eyes went wide with frank disbelief.

“Like it?” Jayne asked her, telling himself it really didn’t matter near as much as it felt like it did.

“Holy bleeding shit, pirate,” she whispered, and used a shaking hand to lift the small dandified pearl-gripped and gold-chased pistol from the folds of coarse weave. “How?”

Jayne shrugged. “Took it out of the mud. You can fence it most anyplace, if you want--a piece like that’ll fetch enough to stake you somewhere. Or you could keep it. I cleaned the blood off.”

She worked the hammer back, eased it back off, several times, checking the action, and then smiled up at him. “Looks a hell of a lot better without him attached to it, don’t it?”

Jayne smiled back, “It still looks like a gorram toy to me.”

“You killed him?” She watched his face.

“Sure as hell did.” Jayne closed his teeth hard on the memory of Shy’s blood-colored hair all spread out around her head in the gory muck, and Gustin screaming his hate for her. “His two boys, too.”

Shy considered the pistol in her hands. “I wasn’t the only girl he had, you know. You did the world a kindness.”

Her eyes lingered a while longer on the pistol before she folded it back into the sacking and placed the bundle carefully on the shelf above her bunk. Her .32, though, she set close to hand on the bedside table.

Then she sat looking down at her hands in her lap.

“What?” Jayne asked her.

“I...” Shy started and then fell silent again. “Thank you, Jayne.” She got it out this time, and looked around her. “For, you know. Everything.”

Jayne shrugged a little awkwardly. Accusations, orders, bullshit, he was used to. Not this kind of wide-eyed, serious-as-a-sucking-chest-wound gratitude. “I’ll take it out in trade when you’re square again.”

She set her hand on his thigh and ran her fingers up and down the long muscles there. “Damn straight,” she murmured, looking at him through her lowered eyelashes. Jayne about jumped out of his skin, he’d been missing her touching him so bad. Then she winked at him. “And I’m a fast healer. Just ask the doc.”

“Not fast enough,” Jayne lamented, “If you keep going like that.”

Damned if she didn’t just run her hand up and give him a quick squeeze where it counted most; then Shy sighed and settled her hands back in her lap. Jayne had to think hard about all the things he could throw at Wash and his smart-ass mouth tomorrow before he knew he could look at Shy again without initiating something that would hurt her even if she was willing to give it a go. Then he took a deep breath and rose to his feet. It was hard to do. In a lot of ways.

She looked up at him and Jayne knew her--knew women--well enough to recognize the invitation in her eyes for what it was. It took some serious doing, but Jayne answered it with a shake of his head. “Doc says you got to rest on account of your hurts. And Mal wants me back at work in the bright and early. They won’t get neither if I stay here tonight, rutting or not.” He put out a hand and stroked her uncommon hair, brushed it back from her face, wound it loosely around his fingers. “You just get rested up and I’ll be around. Said I’d look out for you, didn’t I?”

She turned her head quickly and kissed the skin of his inner wrist. “That you did, pirate,” she whispered. “That you did.”

There was really nothing else to say. Nothing else to do but go to his bunk alone or climb into her narrow bed with her anyhow. So Jayne just turned and let himself out the door.

He headed down the dim corridor to his bunk hatch, thinking of her hair sliding through his fingers, thinking of the wild freedom of her laugh, of all the naughty bad fun they’d been up to and all they could get up to in those nights between here and Strand once she mended. He thought of her drawing that .32 smooth as anything and getting off three shots with two men beating her down, and the hole he’d blown in Gustin’s throat and how gorram good it felt to find her alive after all of that.

And as he popped his hatch, climbed down the ladder into his quarters, Jayne whistled a jaunty tune all the way through to climbing into his bed.

Yes sir. Best damned twenty he ever spent.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007 4:02 PM


Damn...if this wasn't some brilliant writing, I will publicly swear utter fealty to George Lucas!

Definitely was all kinds of impressed with what you posted here, Shieldmaid. I was especially impressed with the moment in the infirmary where Mal takes the coin out, flips it out onto the exam bed and starts fiddling with his belt. Cuz damn if I didn't think Mal was actually gonna try something for a moment! Still...glad to see it worked out for all;)


Tuesday, April 24, 2007 8:56 PM


I'm liking how this is going! More, please!!


Saturday, April 28, 2007 5:21 PM


You got me where my heart beats, I love Jayne, I love Firefly storytelling, verse-speak and the like, so all around this was an awesome good fic. Well done, SM.


Thursday, February 7, 2008 9:27 PM


You have definitely got it going on! Love this tale!


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