Shying Away--Part 4 (Repost)
Friday, November 16, 2007

It's Jayne, Jayne, Jayne and his further adventures with the red-haired, tattooed, arm-wrestling ex-whore with the ironical name. Rated NC-17 for adult content (sexin,' violence and cussin'). Posted before, but hacked. 'Nuff said. Please be gentle; still new at this.


Shying Away Part 4

Reavers caught them unawares, and there was no time to wonder exactly how, or who had failed to do the one thing that might have spared Mal and his crew such a woeful fate. All Jayne knew was how one moment Serenity was a mote moving across the dark eye of The Black, and the next she was a tin can full of screaming and blood. One moment the Reavers weren't there, and the next they were. One moment he was sleeping next to Shy in his bunk, and the next he was running backward up the gangway, laying down cover fire for her and Kaylee--the only ones he was able to get to as the ship was overrun--while the three of them tried to make for a shuttle. One moment he was fighting for their lives. And the next, he was down, his spine shattered by a bullet to the neck.

As he lay there dying under a pile of Reavers doing things to him he was mightily grateful he couldn't feel, Jayne heard someone screaming, making high, hopeless sounds with no more human in them than in the rabbit's death-shriek once the fox catches hold. Might be Kaylee. Might be Mal. Hell--it might even be him, he supposed.

One thing he was sure of, though, it wasn't Shy. Her death had been almost as quick as it was horrific once the Reavers pulled her away from where she'd crouched over Jayne--out of ammo and snarling like a bitch over pups--and started taking her skin off. Who'd have guessed they'd fancied tattoos so?

As the world faded out on him, Jayne's last thoughts were prayers to God Almighty--and anyone else who might listen--to roll time back a ways, just far enough that he could take Shy's .32 when she'd offered it to him, take it and put a bullet to her and Kaylee, and then eat the barrel himself.

This here was no halfway decent person’s death. Not by anyone’s measure.

Speaking of Reavers, damned if one didn't lean over to speak directly into Jayne's ear. "It’s okay," It said quietly. "Wake up."

Jayne's eyelids fluttered.

"Come on now, wake up." Louder now, further away. “You’re okay.”

And suddenly Jayne was sitting up in bed with a head and heart pounding full of a killing will to live, breathing hard and blinking away the darkness. Someone standing across the small space of his bunk said, "Easy, pirate. It’s just a dream."

It didn't look like no Reaver.

He shook the last webs of sleep out of his head and reached up to turn on the bedside light, rubbing his face with his other hand. Then he looked closer at the figure speaking at him.

It was Shy. And her fine sweet skin--every colored, patterned inch of it--was attached to her flesh. Jayne exhaled a deep breath and frowned at her, "What are you doing way the hell over there?"

She chuckled. "Staying out of reach. The way you were carrying on, you’d’ve sent me airborne if I touched you. That’s all good and fun till you hit a wall." Stepping closer, Shy leaned over, stroked the line of his shoulder hesitantly before coming back to sit on the edge of the bed. "Bad dream, huh?”

Now he was awake, Jayne sure as hell didn’t want to think on it. The sound her skin had made tearing away from the muscle beneath it still hung in his ears. “Yeah.”

Her eyes said she was thinking about asking, so he was powerful glad when she just nodded instead. "You okay?"

Even in the gos se lighting she looked like a painting or one of them uptown art statues. Or maybe a statue of a painting. Or a painting of a statue. And being alive, finding her alive, after a dream like that one made him want to celebrate the fact. Jayne slid an arm around her waist. “Yup. ‘Cept here I am awake in the middle of a good long night, and I scared my woman out of bed.” The words just sort of slipped out.

Shy stiffened in his embrace. “Your woman, hmm?"

He considered claiming she’d misheard him, or lying outright, but in the end Jayne just ran both hands slowly up her bare back and back down again. “You heard me.” Reached around her to cup those twin swells, a weeping moon and a grinning sun, teasing them awake until she leaned back against him and sighed, closing her eyes.

But her eyes flew open again and she sat forward, shaking her head like she was trying to stay awake. "But what do you mean?"

"Well, ain’t you? I mean, whose bed are you in, here?" His hands busy, Jayne leaned closer to kiss the back of her neck. "Don’t mean we’re hitched or none of that chui nui, if that's what you're so scared of."

She looked back over a shoulder at him, green eyes gleaming in the light like gemstones on a rich woman’s hand, and considered him like Jayne was a bomb needed defusing or something. “I don’t belong to anyone.”

“Aw, shut up,” Jayne muttered against her smooth painted skin, “Ain’t what I meant and you know it.” He put his teeth to her right there, right where her neck became her shoulder; bit her gently right where a flock of tiny painted crows spun into a spiral of ink, right where he knew it’d make her go to hard-burn fast.

Sure enough, her breath quickened immediately and Shy's fingers found and tightened in his hair. Jayne grinned and closed his teeth a little harder, smiled wider when her breath hitched and her eyes fell shut.

Sometimes Jayne figured if he were a doctor or a ship captain or something other than just some simple workingman, it might get old, having to be right all the damn time. But not here, not in bed. In bed, being right paid off better than cashie money. And it was free. Fleetingly he thought of Fat Maude, of Ellisand, and listened to his painted lover whisper his name with trembling breath.

When he drew her by the shoulders to face him, she didn't resist; Jayne pulled her close and lowered his mouth to that swell of sun, of moon. Making a low sound in her throat, Shy let her head fall back until her hair spilled like dark wine onto the sheets behind her.

When Jayne finally raised his head again, she leaned close to murmur into his ear, her voice smiling and ragged, “Your woman says lie down, pirate.”

She was all over him then like soft rain, like hard summer sun, like a hundred pairs of hands and a dozen hungry mouths, making him shiver, setting him afire, making him twist and groan like a rope bridge in a windstorm until it was almost more than Jayne could bear and still have something left to give her.

And then she was under him and Jayne was all tangled up in every salty-sweet shade of her, hands buried deep in the flowing cool flood of her hair as she ebbed and rose against him. And even when they were belly to sweat-slapping belly and making raw animal sounds, even here and now Jayne was still no closer to figuring how every single inch of her could feel as gorram good against him as that first time he'd measured out the length of her with his own skin, except that here in his bed Shy was right all of the time.

Finally they were still again, Jayne all but asleep, his arm resting in the curve of her waist where it fit closer to perfect than most things in his whole life. As he sank into sleep, Shy whispered beside him, “Three more.”

“Huh?” He asked without opening his eyes.

“Nights to Strand.”

Jayne frowned and yawned at the same time, rolling over onto his back. “Oh. That. Don’t fret it, girl. Lots can happen in three nights--engine could founder. Feds could catch us. Or we could explode.” He scratched his chest thoughtfully. “Hell--we're always almost exploding round here.”

Turning with him, Shy fitted against his side. “Oh,” Her voice was full of dry amusement in his ear. “Well, that makes it lots better.”

It made him smile a little. “I’m just saying. Don’t do no good to wind yourself up over something ain’t happened yet is all. Go to sleep.”

She was quiet for so long that he might actually have dreamed her whispering softly, “Easy for you to say." ************************** Three more.

It caught up with him the next day and hit him hard as an ironwood fence post upside the head. And when it did, it was with such sudden strength that he fumbled the welding torch in his hand and nearly dropped it, earning him a good chew-out from Mal right there in front of Wash and Kaylee and the doc who’d stopped in to talk with the captain.

Three more.

And then Shy would be gone.

After working he headed to the shower, part of him wishing for the Alliance, or engine trouble or some other gorram thing to come up and stretch time beyond its limits.

He found Shy in her quarters, after, and the way she looked up from the bit of cloth in her hands she was bent over and smiled at him when he came through the door caught at something in Jayne's chest and pulled so tight it hurt. Jayne looked around her quarters and imagined what they would look like without her in them any more, just another empty passenger bunk, and that made him sit down beside her, catch her up in his arms and squeeze her hard enough to make her eyes go all curious and concerned. He cleared his throat and loosened up on her.

Shy leaned against him. Freeing an arm, she wrapped it around one of his. “Bad day?”

She smelled sweet, like candy. Like Kaylee. Without even having to look around, Jayne guessed the girl must have given Shy some of her own scented soap. Gorram, she smelled so tasty he wanted to lick the sweetness from her skin like she was a bright stick-candy on Winter's Eve. Instead, he said only, “Close enough.” Then his eyes fell again on what she was holding in her other hand--a scrap of pale cloth stretched on some kind of round frame, with a needle and some colored thread hanging from it. “What’s that?”

Ducking her head, Shy shrugged. “The preacher came by this morning. Asked what I was good at besides whoring and card-sharking and arm-wrestling.” She raised her head to grin a little wickedly at him, “'Course, he didn’t use those exact words,” before looking down again to say, “Seems the captain said he’ll help try to set me up with something on Strand if he knows what to look for.” Her eyes were dark and troubled when she looked back up and met Jayne’s eyes squarely. “Why would he do that? Man hardly knows me.”

Jayne considered that for a moment and shrugged. “Mal knows about starting over.” And if that wasn’t the truth, Jayne didn’t know one; still, he didn’t like to think on the chance the captain had given him any better than he liked to think about why it had been necessary.

Her green eyes were curious on him a long while until she nodded to herself. Holding the cloth where Jayne could see it better, she said, “Something my mama taught me--said it was a proper lady’s past time.” Her voice went low and bitter all of a suddenlike. “For all the rutting good it did either of us.” But when Jayne looked, there was no sign of it on her face.

“What is it?” Jayne asked again, cocking his head to one side to try and see it better.

Shy held it out to him and he took it. Damned if the surface of the stretched cloth wasn’t covered in tiny flowers--yellow and blue and red--all stitched with threads in twining patterns. He even recognized some of them from his ma’s garden when he was a kid: glad-bells, kiss-me-kates, blue-buttons. Jayne hadn’t thought about them in years.

What the hell anyone was going to do with a bitty scrap of cloth covered in strings of flowers he couldn’t fathom, but it was right pretty and he told her so.

And if he didn’t know better, he’d have believed the praise made her blush a little. “It isn’t anything, really. Just seeing if I recall how to do it. Kaylee, though, she made me these clever stretchers right handy out of something she had--blown valve collars, she said, or some damn thing. And the preacher gave me a needle and colored thread from his sewing kit and rustled up some cloth for practice.” She held up the scrap again and chuckled. “I think this is a piece of his pillowcase.” But then the humor drained right out of her face. “The captain thinks I might be able to get work with a tailor or a seamstress or something, if I can remember how to work a needle.”

Jayne waited for her to go on, but she said nothing more. Instead, she sat silent and still within his arm around her, looking down at her handful of thread flowers. Didn’t take a rutting magistrate to name the sadness that had settled into her face for what it was. Sadness, and fear as well. And Jayne felt the same thing trying to refashion his expression as well so he frowned instead. “It’ll beat the gos se out of humping fuel jockeys for some pissant hwundan like Gustin, I conjure.” The sudden, unbidden image of Shy humping some guy—any guy--for money or pure whimsy made his chest hurt bad, bad enough to threaten him with a right ugly mood. And whether that guy made her weep or sing didn’t enter into it one iota. But he didn’t say any of that.

Shy’s eyes went to the bundle of sacking on the shelf next to her bed, the sacking wrapped around Gustin’s dandified pistol, and stared icy-hard and unblinking. “It surely will.”

Because changing the subject seemed like a very good idea all the way around, Jayne asked, “So. You decide to fence that thing or not?”

Shy rested her gaze on the bundle a little longer and finally turned back to him. “I thought maybe I’d hang onto it a while, see if I could make a living otherwise, first. Might come in handy, later on. You know?”

He did. A fancified inlaid hogleg like that would fetch enough even on a crap-rate fence market to buy her a small house outright on most edge worlds. Nothing fancy, but the kind of house a woman with the means to live there might want if she wanted to raise a kid or two away from the shitty parts of town. Jayne's mind went easily enough from there to an image of Shy standing in front of a clapboard farmhouse like the one he grew up in, with a basketful of apples and a couple red-head kids in hand, and the wind dancing in her long hair.

The image made something break in him like a rib.

Jayne took a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah. Smart idea.” Then he frowned down at her. “We gotta find you a stronghouse to lock it up in, though. Word gets around you have something like that all by yourself, some lowlife’ll gut you in your sleep for it.”

That made her smile her old-friends smile at him again, something he hadn't seen much of lately, and it soothed his hurt some.

"Do you remember where I come from?" She teased him, raising an eyebrow.

The hell of it was, for a second Jayne had forgotten.

For a second, it seemed she'd always been here, hard and soft within the circle of his arm.

Just for a second, it seemed they'd always been together.

Instead of getting up and running, which is what the pain in his chest told him to do, Jayne groused at her, "Yeah, yeah. You're my scary-ass dockside woman."

She rose against him to kiss his neck beneath the angle of his jaw, and whispered, "And don't you forget it." Grinning, she gave his earlobe a goodly nip on her way past.

That made Jayne think of different matters entirely.


It was late when they emerged from Shy’s quarters; they’d been busy with more compelling things than tracking time. Jayne was pretty okay with the hour, himself, because it was late enough that there’d likely be no one in the galley when they went in search of something to eat, and that meant Shy didn’t buck the idea much. She hadn’t got over her last run in with L’il Crazy, that’s for sure.

And there wasn’t anyone there when they got there—just a cleared table and a clean cooktop.

“I’ve got a hankerin’ for eggs, woman. Hard-fried.” Jayne threw himself down into a chair.

Shy arched an eyebrow at him. “Your hands are broken?”

“I cooked last night,” he protested.

Shy laughed. “If I recall, god’s man cooked last night. He was just feeling charitable towards us.”

Jayne considered that and shrugged. “Yeah. I guess so. But it was worth a try.” He sighed heavily and got up. “Cmon then. Let’s see what we got.”

What they had turned out to be half a loaf of something meaning to be bread, a cold slab of something meaning to be cheese, and some tinned stuff that might have been spreadable nut butter or maybe liver. Much as Jayne was hating the thought of setting down on Strand, he was sure enough looking forward to some actual bona fide food again.

Afterwards, they played a few rounds of cut-throat for stakes the nature of which Jayne couldn’t wait to collect on later that night and honestly didn’t mind losing, himself.

And out of the blue, right when he was finally holding a true winning hand, Shy asked, “Ever been there?”

Jayne frowned into his hand of cards; a natural cut-throat, a hand he’d been dealt in his lifetime only as many times as he could count on his fingers. “Huh?”

“Strand. I wonder what it’s like, is all.”

“I raise that thing you do with your mouth to match.” Jayne frowned harder at his cards. “Strand? It’s a gorram armpit of a place, same as most.”

Shy raised her eyebrows in surprise. “The mouth thing, is it? Must be holding something real good.” She considered the cards in her hand with a truly unreadable expression; damn, Jayne thought to himself, she was good. “An armpit, huh? Since Govanne was a right pigue, it’s got to be better than that, then”

“Naw, it ain’t so bad.” Jayne wondered if she could be distracted before she answered his bet. He knew he should have opened lower. Playing cards with the gorram crew all this time was making him soft. “It’s a place built on dirt-farming, mostly. Some towny places in between stretches. Folks are mostly just folks. A few rough traders but nothing you can’t stay clear of or outdraw, I conjure.”

Her face betrayed nothing at all as she nodded. No wonder she made so much sharking tall card. Silence fell on the galley like darkness as Shy considered her cards. Finally, she smiled wickedly at him, “I’ll match the mouth thing and bounty up that slinky dress you like me in so much. And I’ll raise you some shackles.” When she finally changed expression it was only to wink and flash a lightning-quick dirty grin at him before going all card-faced again.

Gorram, she was ruthless. Jayne weighed the merits of folding his cutthroat hand and taking that dress, sleek, black, tight, off her-- something he was sure Inara had given Shy just to torment him—against the rare chance to trounce her soundly with a natural cut-throat, take his winnings with her to bed for some fine-quality gloating. He shook his head. Nope. Betting the dress could only mean one thing: she had a handful of gos se. Jayne wasn’t about to let her win no matter what she was wearing. He grinned and threw down his hand. “My strike and I hope you’re feeling damn sexy, woman. That there’s a natural cut-throat.”

“Kao,” she swore with a low whistle and eyed the cards. “That takes the whole damn bounty and the blind purse, both.” Shy glanced at both galley entries, her red hair spinning around her head and then she grinned at Jayne with a smile full of naughty bad fun. “Aren’t you the lucky hwundan tonight.”

He about fell out of his chair when she sank to her knees and disappeared under the table, and again when she resurfaced there. He spared a brief moment of alarm at the thought of someone walking in on them, but then Jayne stopped caring about much at all for a while except how gorram wonderful luck is when it blesses a man. ******************** Later on, back in his bunk, she made good on her losses with a vengeance until Jayne was wrung out wilted as a piece of Sunday laundry beat clean on a river rock. “Gorram, woman,” he gasped, lying back and running his fingers through the long sweat-damp strands of her hair. Shy’s head rose and fell on his chest with the rhythm of his heavy breathing. “I surely do like playing cards with you.”

“Right back at you, pirate,” she murmured. “Going to have to travel some for a rematch, though.”

Jayne considered that with a frown. Oh, yeah. “Ain’t so bad. We get to Strand a couple times a year. Mal’s got business there fair regular.”

She sighed, a long exhalation. “You’ll have to look me up then.”

“Damn straight I will.”

And neither of them spoke for so long Jayne was falling asleep when he heard, like a whisper in his dreaming, “Two more.”

That woke him sharp as a kick to the balls, and he lie there a long time with the throb of his hurt, staring into the dark listening to the sound of Shy’s quiet, even breathing, taking the scent of her skin, her hair, her sweat as deep into his lungs as he could so there was no way he could forget.

Two gorram more. ***************** “You’ve got to be kidding. It’s a gorram graze!” Mal shook his head, frowning down at where Jayne lay propped up against a cargo crate in the holding bay. “A gorram flesh wound! What the icy spine of hell is wrong with you these days, Jayne?”

Jayne looked down at his hands, pressed hard over the gaping hole in his chest. Blood leaked through them like dark running water and dripped onto, through, the floor grating. “I dunno, Mal. Feels like it goes pretty deep, you know, for a graze.”

Mal stared down at him impassively. “I warned you,” he said finally, “This is where a man ends up, consorting with whores. ‘specially whores who arm-wrestle and play tall card. Ta ma de--every man knows that. ”

Suddenly Inara was there for some reason, brushing Mal aside like he was made of sand or smoke. Why she was there, Jayne couldn’t conjure; he sure as hell couldn’t figure out why she was suddenly sinking to her knees beside him. “Poor Jayne.” She smelled all of summer flowers.

Gently she moved Jayne’s hands aside with her own, so small and smooth, her fingernails unimaginably clean besides his big bloody meathooks, and gazed upon his wound a long grave moment. And then Inara looked into his eyes and smiled. “Why, Jayne. Your heart’s been torn right out.”

Jayne frowned back at her. “That’s what it feels like,” he agreed slowly.

She raised her hand to his forehead, gentle, cool on his skin. Inara looked deeply into his eyes and her voice was sober, solemn and kind, “It always does.”

“The good news is it won’t kill you.” She smiled that way Inara had, a little sadness, a little sweetness, making it so confounding hard for a man to figure out her meaning in it. “The bad news is you’ll wish it had. That can’t be helped, I’m afraid. It’s the nature of the hurt.”

Jayne looked down at his hands, at the blood spilling between his fingers at an alarming rate. “Gorram. Where’s that doc? I’m fixing to bleed to death right here on the rutting floor.”

Inara looked back towards the infirmary over one smooth, pale shoulder, bare where her fine green robe had shifted a little. “Didn’t you hear? Doctor Tam and Kaylee are taking refreshment poolside and can’t be reached for comment.” Then she turned back to face Jayne, who was beginning to feel sort of drifty as his world went all wavy around the edges. Inara smiled at him. “Don’t worry. It’s never that simple anyway.” Her smile widened, brightened, and Jayne thought, That’s a downright… what’s the gorram word… smile Inara’s got.

And as he lost consciousness, it came to him.

Radiant. That was it.

Downright radiant, Inara’s smile.

“Hey, pirate.”

Someone was calling him across a great distance.


And they wouldn’t shut up and leave him to whatever peace was to be found in dying from a gaping chest wound where his heart was supposed to be and wasn’t.

“Jayne, wake up!”

He woke with a start, sitting up in bed and feeling all over his chest with his hands. There was no hole there, no blood. With a sigh of relief he settled back down again to the sheets and turned to where Shy’s shape was sitting up beside him. He could feel her looking at him even if he couldn’t see and he was glad of the thick, heavy dark between them.

“Another one?” she asked quietly.

“Huh?” Funny thing was, he could still feel that hurt, right there in his chest even though his skin, muscle, bones lay unbroken beneath the weight of his hand.

He could hear her hair rustle, imagined her cocking her head to one side to look at him. “Bad dream. Another bad dream. You sounded…” Her voice trailed off uncertainly, and one of her hands settled lightly over his there on his chest.

With a grunt Jayne rolled over onto his side, away from her, and when Shy’s hand slipped away from him, he waited for that hurt to lessen. But it didn’t. Setting his jaw, he pulled the sheet up over his chest and closed his eyes.

Shy said nothing; behind his eyelids he could imagine the look that accompanied that silence and it made his chest hurt even worse. Gorram woman. He willed himself to sleep.

He felt her lie down, and then the mattress shifted again as she sat back up. In the darkness he heard rustling, felt her moving. Then, “I guess I’ll see you in the morning, then.” And he heard the question lying under the words as clear as the flat finality that made him frown into the night and roll over onto his back once again, reaching for her hand without looking.

His fingers closed on a sleeve; she’d dressed that quickly. That figured, he supposed. Surely she’d had plenty of practice at it as a whore, dressing fast in the dark and leaving a man alone in bed. Jayne adjusted his aim and tried again; this time he caught Shy’s wrist. “Where you goin’?” he asked.

“I… Back to my place.” Her voice trembled a little and the pain in his chest widened; sure enough he’d hurt her feelings. Jayne was powerfully glad he didn’t have to look at the expression the sound of her voice surely went with. “Didn’t want to keep you awake.”

Jayne considered a lot of replies, and all of them made him ache like a bad case of swamp fever. And he considered letting her go, being done with the pain once and for good.

But when he opened his mouth, what came out was, “Don’t.” And once it was said, the pain gave up some of its grip on him. “It was just a bad dream, is all.”

She didn’t resist when he drew her down beside him with his hand on her wrist and his arm around her waist; Shy even helped him help her undress once again. And when she was there, fitted against him with her arm around his belly, he raised up to kiss the top of her head quickly, awkwardly, and found he could breathe again.

Jayne fell asleep quickly after that. But not before his dozing mind noted that a man could, indeed, feel both pain and the absence of pain at the same time, and wondered which one hurt worse. ******************************


Saturday, November 17, 2007 3:30 AM


More, please!!!


Thursday, February 7, 2008 9:47 PM


Awesome, just awesome!


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