Rating: [R]sex & violence/angst & romance
Disclaimer: Mutant Enemy & Joss Whedon own all; all's I got is this shiny bottle of scotch.
Summary: An incident on a trade planet induces some strange changes in Jayne, and they have quite the effect on Kaylee, who has found (after the events with Jubal Early) that she has affections for someone other than the good doctor, putting her in the line of fire when things turn violent. Takes place after Objects in Space, so slight spoilers. Will eventually be 6 or 7 chpts. Oh, & this first one's not beta'd. Couldn't find one. If your interested to do the rest, please let me know.
CHAPTER ONE: THE SLAUGHTERED LAMB
Prolog: [Present day - 2517]
Heat is a hard element to control. Especially in a confined space. Like Serenity. No windows on a ship. You can walk down the metal corridors and literally see and smell the air burning. Shimmering on steel. Creeping into your brain. Making you loopy. Kaylee was deep in the engine room, her palms so slippery, she kept dropping the wrench. It clattered to the grate a fourth time before she realized it was time to take a break. Too unbearable. A week ago the temperature stabilizers went crazy on ship, but thanks to the Captain (and the stop they made on Outpost 10) she now had the parts to repair her.
Should've stayed on 10, Kaylee rambled to herself. At least then we'd still have some fresh air to escape into.
But as it always went on this side of the 'verse, you fix one thing and something else goes wonky. Or make that some one else.
Case in point:
Jayne was sitting at the dinner table, one long leg propped up on a corner, the other stretched under the table, both shoe-less. He was pushed languidly back in his chair, grinning like a wildcat, a set of cards in one hand, and wiggling a sock-clad toe in the direction of Wash.
He, Wash and Zoe were hoarding the kitchen, playing a game of Strip Poker. Playing for coin as well as clothes, not to mention ventilation. As usual, Wash was loosing.
"Ain't no amount of cards gonna help you this time, Red. Just cough it up."
"I feel so violated," Wash mocked, and slid off his shirt.
Truth be told, Jayne wasn't much better off. Kaylee got an eye full of his boxers as she managed to slink past to the cooler unnoticed.
"Argh. I think I'm rutting blind," Jayne mumbled at Wash, and glowered in Zoe's direction, who sat sweating slightly, but still fully clothed and grinning at her husband.
"You'll be naked by lunch time, Darling."
"Yes. Ain't that always the way."
"Spare me." Jayne grunted. He then lost that all encompassing grin as Zoe threw down a full house.
"Shirt," she said, pointing a carrot stick at him.
Kaylee listened to these exchanges in amused silence, trying not to draw attention to herself as she scavenged through the fridge for the small stash of precious fruit and veggies that was brought on board days earlier after a particularly profitable trade. She shot a secret glance at Jayne and began to creep back out of the room. The way Jayne was acting of late was just downright unnerving. Oh, sure, on the surface he seemed like his ol', ornery, disgruntled self. But there were these little things. She wasn't even sure that anyone else had noticed it. But ever since they had taken flight from -
There was a rough cough behind her. "Ahem. 'Lil Miss Frye."
Kaylee froze, turning in his direction, seeing the last bit of the bikini clad pin-up girl on his T-shirt disappear as he ripped it over his shoulders.
"If that gorramn thermostat you've been playing with is givin' ya trouble, why don'tcha git your ass over here and play with us?"
Underwear and socks.
That was all her mind could register. Well. Maybe not the only things. There was that awfully nice line of hair going down his ... Argh, what's the matter with you, girl! Get a grip! Maybe it's YOU who needs to check into a bughouse.
She gave herself a good mental shake. "In your dreams. Besides. I cain't."
"You got clothes don'tcha ya? Then you can play. Zoe's not making this very interesting."
"My pleasure," Zoe grinned.
All of a sudden, Jayne stood up and sauntered over to Kaylee, his near nakedness startling her more than she cared to admit. Zoe and Wash exchanged a glance.
She backed up and hit the door frame, bumping her head and nearly dropping her cold fruit.
He plucked at her coveralls. "Can't be wearing much under these in this heat, girl." He leaned in a bit closer as if to look down their front, and looked her in the eye and mumbled, "I bet you could give me a run for my money... So to speak."
Jumbled, Kaylee came back to herself. Stuck out her chin. He was just pushing her buttons. Trying to get a rise out of 'lil Kaylee again. Great fun.
"Yeah. And then some."
But she didn't move from her spot. There was a heavy cut above his brow in the midst of healing, still very bruised, and it cast a darkness over his entire face. Somehow that was all her fault. Could feel it in her gut. So many questions about that night... Quickly, she wiped the concern building inside her away, and pushed him back with a finger. "That hole in your head is making you wonky."
And with that she managed to escape back into the heated metal that was Serenity. She stopped for minute outside the engine room door. Stared hard at it. There'd been an awfully good reason why they had to lift in a hurry from Outpost 10 before everything was fixed. They would've stayed put. But there'd been trouble.
Was it really so much a change in Jayne that was getting to her? She hadn't been quite right herself since take off. Maybe even before. She looked down at her arms, all filled with chilled bananas and mangos; a luxury on Serenity. She thought briefly of Simon. And of Jubal Early. Then again on Jayne.
Where was that extra layer
of skin she used to wear around that man?? It had disappeared as of late,
no doubt about that. Gorramn this rutting heat! She couldn't think
straight. And just a week ago today, it had been the cause of everything....
1. [A week ago]
Outpost 10 was a fringe planet; earthy, vagrant, damp, and just this side of lawless. And it had one of the more frequented supply posts this side of the quadrant - Holy City Zoo, a literal plethora of all things trade-worthy (and not so trade-worthy).
Lest yea forget the hardcore entertainment value - a large amount was available in all shapes and sizes for those not willing to pay too high or loose too much.
"Jayne, ya really think Vera's necessary?" Kaylee asked, as they all escaped the sudden heat of the Serenity and strode down the ramp into the twilight of the sprawled city. Obviously it looked as though no one was foolhardy enough to stay with her ship and risk heat stroke; just as well. They were all do for a bit of a break, not to mention some fun after that last big trade. There was the little matter of a thermo stabilizer part, and then she'd be off, shopping.
Jayne bent forward and grumbled in her ear. She wasn't sure if he just didn't want the others to hear, or if there was something else. "You don't know this place, Kay. I've been 'ere plenty. It's a gorramn bughouse."
With that he strutted out in front of her, past the others, and toward the streets.
"Wait a minute." Mal's voice rang out loud and steady. Jayne hesitated in his tracks, turned, and glared.
"YOU'RE going with Kaylee to find parts - " Jayne began to protest, saw that Mal wasn't humping around and shut his mouth, "- and stay right around here; no horsing around, ya hear? If I see you got Kaylee anywhere near the Slaughtered Lamb, we'll be having more than words."
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever." He kept walking, not waiting for Kaylee to follow, mumbling to himself about baby-sitting.
"Don't pay too much attention to that boardhound, Kaylee," Mal was saying, hardly a comfort. "He knows the places to look here, you'll be fine."
She swallowed; tried to toss the uneasiness from her voice. "Where you gonna be?" ....if I need you ....
"Around. We'll probably be close to the town square." He squeezed her shoulder. "Take care. Stay alert." And he was gone.
She clutched her pack, and tried to catch up with the mercenary from hell.
The closer The Zoo got to a solid nightfall, the noisier the town became. This was all fine and dandy if your main goal in life was to blend in and avoid talking to your reluctant bodyguard. However, it made it a bit more difficult to search through heaps of discarded rumble and engine parts at the local junk yard. Made her irritated. Made her brain start working over time.
Mal had always trusted her to take care of ship business on her own, even on the more seedy of worlds. And this one was just as seedy. Maybe even not so much. Reminded her a little of Persephone. Just slightly more wet. And the more she mulled it over, the more confused and angry she became. Wondered how exactly it was the two of them saw her. She cringed. They think she couldn't stomach the night life? No, she thought to herself. Just this "Slaughtered Lamb". Whatever that is. Mal knows very gorramn well that I can handle myself! ...Well, maybe not in the extremist of circumstances ...
Jayne had given up on looking much and had taken to watching her instead. For the past fifteen minutes. She must be getting real good at giving him the cold shoulder because it seemed to be finally getting to him.
"What's eating you?" he growled at her.
She didn't look up at him. "Nuthin."
"Nuthin?? You got your panties in a twist 'bout something."
"You best be leavin' my panties out of this, Jayne." Kaylee hovered over a heap at her feet, avoiding him. "I know what you'd rather be off doin'." He snorted, and Kaylee finally stood and faced, giving him the Look. "Cap'n knows it too. 'Suspect that this 'babysittin' job's a way to keep you outta trouble."
He looked away, not anticipating her next question.
"What's the Slaughtered Lamb?"
He studied her a moment. Looked at her real hard. Seemed to come to a decision. Then only shrugged his shoulders.
"Nowhere you need to be wonderin' 'bout, that's for sure. Just a place, that's all."
"A bar? A brothel? I ain't dumb. It must have a rep if Mal tells ya to stay away."
He ignored her some more and didn't see that she had already found the part she was searching for. He was not liking where this was heading. She had made her way over to him, obviously not done with being upset, but from the look on her face maybe he wasn't necessarily the cause of it all. In fact, that glint in her pretty little eyes was suggesting, yes, he definitely did NOT like where this was heading.
"You can just put a plug in that curiosity of yours. You're not as tough as you'd like to pretend. Not tough enough to do what I think your thinkin' of doin', girl."
"Just show me where the gorramn place is at. Mal ain't ever gotta know how I found it."
"You think I'm dumb enough to git you anywhere near it, Captain or no? And why is you so hungry to upset Mal?" he asked curiously.
"I ain't!" Kaylee was all indignant. She would never go against the man who gave her a job when no one else would. "I just wanna see what the fuss is about." She tipped her head to the side and smiled up at him. "'Sides. We don't have to go in. Then, once I seen it, you can take me somewhere 'tame' and buy me a beer. Relax. Partly what we came here for, right? Time off. Ain't no harm in that."
Jayne looked suspiciously down at the girl before him as if he'd never seen her before. Not this side of her. At least not recently. And certainly not directed at him. This schoolgirl crap was usually reserved for Mal. Or that doctor kid. He clenched his fists. Unclenched them. What in the gorramn hell was she thinkin'?
In turn, she saw a look of - what? Protectiveness? Was what she was askin' really that bad? - pass over his stony features, and he sounded downright solemn when he opened his mouth next, that she couldn't even bring herself to reach out and smack him.
"What makes you think I'd risk that pretty ass of yours just to show you a lowdown, no good dirty whorehouse that's got a little bit of infamy attached to it? That's all it is, Kaylee." He shifted his weight from foot to foot, going all uncomfortable, looking a little defeated. "Come on... I ain't THAT much of a jerk, am I?"
It accrued to her that he was, indeed, asking her this question in that simple Jayne-way that he had when he actually wanted an honest answer. Almost child-like. But she took advantage of it.
Jayne kicked out at a pile of rumble in the dark, swearing in chinese, watching Kaylee disappear beyond the yard fence. When he said no, he meant no, gorramn it.
Did she really have the gall to think he'd cave?! He thought there'd been a slight look of surprise on her face when he blew up at her just now. Well. Hell. He was tired of being taken advantage of! .... Not that he'd been a pillar of innocence, but it's not like Kaylee knew anything 'bout that. He hoped.
"Oh, jun jen sh guh kwai luh duh jean jan..."
Jayne took three long strides in the opposite direction. Came to a slow stop. Took out a cigar. Lit it. Stared at the glow against the darkness.
Mal'd skin him alive if he let Kaylee wonder about this place at night. Alone. And knowing the party life on this twirlin' dirtball, he found himself not liking the idea much either. The girl was downright ... downright ... well, "insatiable" would've come to mind had he given it much of an effort. Nosy, was what he settled on. Trustin', was another one. Suddenly visions of her being tore to pieces in some dank alley by the local color turned his stomach, and turned him back striding in the other direction.
She wasn't there. Nowhere in the vicinity. He took a turn through a makeshift alley way and successfully startled the old oriental dealer, who sat crouched behind his tiny counter, reading smut by a weakened yellow light.
"Wuh de tyen, ah, you scare this old man! Where the hell you come from, beanstalk!"
"A girl 'bout ye high, coveralls came through here? Pay for a piece?"
"Yep." Went back to reading his literature, a toothy grin playing about the wrinkles.
Patience wasn't one of Jayne's strong suits.
"You see which way she went?" he growled, laying both fists on the table.
"Oh, I KNOW where she went, son."
Jayne grabbed a fistful of the man's shirt and nearly dragged him over the counter. "Don't play kate me, nee hwang chian!"
"I gots landlords like anyone else! They pay top credit for a little piece of tenderloin like that ---" Jayne started to shake him. "She was asking about it! She was the one asking!! Quite persuasive that one! Argh!"
The little man dropped, hiding, out of sight before Jayne was even off the lot, growling to himself.
He could've just told her all the little, bitty important things way Mal didn't want her near it. Would she've listened to reason? No! Gorramn slave market. Can't a guy just mind this own business? Get drunk. Get laid. Why I gotta git all involved with this crap?! 'Cuz I'm a caring guy that's why, gorramn it...
He headed eastward, away from shipport, and toward Yaowarat Road.
The red light district.
And on his way, he had
the sudden sneakin' suspicion that someone was following him.
Thick incense and aromas were assaulting Kaylee's nose the deeper she moved into the city, and she began to shed the apprehension that Mal and Jayne had tossed over the entire situation as she went - there were so many shops!
She hardly ever got to be a girl! All this exotic jewelry! I bet Inara would love this!
She prattled on for ages through the narrowing streets, taking her time, noticing here and there that there seemed to be fewer tourists and traders. And more locals. Barrels of bright fire lit the walkways despite the dim old lanterns that swayed on every street corner. And the more merchants she spoke with, the deeper she had to dig to place certain chinese phrases and turns of dialect. The more fascinated she became, more isolated she felt. She stopped and bought some mochi from a nearby food vendor and tried to wipe away her anxiety with a spot of sake.
She wanted to see this Slaughtered Lamb. At least she had certainly convinced the junk yard dealer she had. He had seemed more than eager to point her in the right direction. But now she as wondering how far away from the original town square she really was. Where the rest of the crew probably was at this very moment. And Jayne?
Kaylee glanced back over her shoulder. Was Jayne following her?? She smiled at the thought (had that really been concern on his face?), though she wasn't quite sure why. All she had really wanted to do was get him worked up. She had, indeed, been peeved about all the over-protection. Played a little devils advocate, was all. Silly men.
Seemed like if there was really any danger in checking this place out, they would've come right out told her. Just to scare her. But they hadn't really, had they? Despite the curiosity that carried her forward, she resolved to turn back soon, side-stepping a red billowing tent on her left that was turning the road crimson. The music in the air rose and fell in waves as the night breeze became stronger. As did the crowd. Maybe she was getting closer.
In answer to this, a stocky man in a dirty white suit shoved himself into her and grabbed at her pack to right himself.
Kaylee, instead of excusing herself, listened to her nerves and sent her mochi flying at him, rice tumbling everywhere. "Yeh soo! Git off, gorramn it!" The street was so crowded now, she had a time pushing him away. Why hadn't she learned kempo when her brother did?
"Oy, mei mei! Oy!" The man, not any taller than herself and unshaven threw up his hands to ward her off, but Kaylee found the smile on his face condescending. Not to mention dangerous. She clutched her pack and took a step backward, balancing herself.
"S'cuse me," she said curtly, and turned to go. And felt a muscled grip close over her forearm. "Hey!-"
The man's breath was on her instantly, all sour with bourbon and gum disease. She flinched, her veins turning to ice. "Where ya goin', mei mei? We only jus' met. You looking for something, girl? It looks like ye are. A good time maybe??" He laughed and coughed; Kaylee felt him slide a hand down her backside. She swung out at him, the crowd around them purposely oblivious, but the man caught both her wrists and held them steady. "No, no, no, girly. You want what Rooy's got. Trus' me. I gots stuff to show ya."
And from out of nowhere, he waved a large, shimmery piece of hard plas into her face - a hologram card. It's surface was blank and wavy. "Pretty ani't? Look familiar? I thinks this is what you've been looking for. I's certainly been lookin' for you....""
Then the pictures inside the hologram came into focus - there were three changing images, one morphing into the other; no words. The first was a young, white lamb standing in a meadow. The second was a girl... well, hardly a girl, really. She was what men would call a whore; she was very young, sweating, near naked and on her knees, a strap of leather around her neck. And the third ...
Kaylee stared at it hard, unable to look away until she could make out what it was, and then, suddenly, she didn't want to see and realization hit before she could look away. Of course. A slaughtered lamb. But not just slaughtered. Skinned and strung out until you couldn't see anything more than red pockets of intestines and a skull. Lots and lots of red.
Rooy licked his fingers and touched the tips of her hair. "I can show ya, mei mei. Why don't -"
There came a grinding of metal on metal as a very large gun was cocked over her left shoulder, followed by a murderous voice she knew all too well.
"Git that little pink thing away from my property."
Jayne moved in behind her; a safe wall of stone at her back. Rooy, needless to say, didn't take an instant liking to Vera.
Rooy's grip fell away immediately as Jayne advanced, but he managed to have the balls to look not too pleased. Kaylee felt Jayne slip a fist into her hair, and pulled her back against him roughly, her neck in an uncomfortable angle; she hardly noticed the pain or wondered what he was doing - she was too blinded by her sheer dumb luck.
Rooy kept his eyes on Vera. "Just doin' business. She's fresh. Letting her wander about free an' all makes her anyone's meat."
Jayne bent his head down over Kaylee's shoulder, barely glancing at the malnourished pimp, and made as if to smell her neck and hair for good measure. "This one here's mine, dong ma," he growled, yanking on her, making her wince. She didn't mind. "Ain't that so, darlin'."
Vera disappeared under Jaynes coat, as Rooy backed off. "Fair enough. Not very smart if ya ask me," the little man braved, again. "Ass like that - you's need to keep it on a leash, mate." And then the crowd seemed to swallow him whole as Jayne let loose a string of chinese obscenities that drew more attention than his gun.
The two of them stood there like that, letting their adrenaline escape out into the dankness, and he felt her sink back against him. Relief, rage, and a thick tiredness fought over his whole being and he stepped back and away from her abruptly. She turned to him with a shaky smile.
"He's right. You do need a rutting leash!"
He grabbed her arm and headed back the way he'd come. "Later. We ain't having this conversation here."
She didn't argue with him on the way back down Yaowarat Road. And although he had eventually let go of her, she stayed back only a few paces - took to watching him. He seemed too distracted by something to be mad at her. In fact, he kept looking back over his shoulder. Not at her. Just looking.
But for all she could see, it was just the plain 'ol night behind them. Nuthing hiding in it except for maybe a little regret and a longing for a drink.
Finally, when they were about to come upon the town square, she had to ask. "What is it? Jayne. What you keep lookin' at? You don't honestly think that little twerp has the gall to follow you??"
He stopped and turned toward her so fast she ran right into him. "No," he replied. His voice was rough, but indifferent, his large hands absently shooting out to steady her, his continued stare into the darkness suddenly a little unsettling.
She laughed nervously,
startling him out of his vacant expression. "Come on, gorramn it. I think
I owe you one gigantic drink."
The town square's local tavern had plenty of down and dirty exciting life in it for Kaylee. Yep. Plenty.
She and Jayne sat across from each other, looking at their drinks, the rest of the crew seemingly nowhere in the recent vicinity. She knew they would pass this way eventually.
Jayne had chosen the chair facing the door, and he kept glancing up at it. His wheels seem to be turning awfully hard...
She kicked him under the table, and was rewarded with a half-hearted scowl.
"'Suppose we was lucky."
He furrowed his brow.
"Lucky, I mean, that there was only one low-life to deal with... Thanks."
"Don't git all mushy. 'Sides, more guys just woulda meant that much more fun."
She smiled at him.
He wished she would stop doing that. He generally gave her hell for all her downright cheerfulness. But eventually it breaks a guy down. Makes him used to it. Makes him like it ...
She was fishing in her coveralls, and he saw her visibly flinch as she pulled out a piece of paper. Or what he thought was paper. She tossed it at him, and it slid hard across the table and winked at him. A hologram card. He knew what it was without having to look at it, but he nonchalantly picked it up, nonetheless. He'd seen it around before.
"Nice piece of advertising, ain't it," he said dryly, and Kaylee took a drink, rolling her eyes. He watched the girl and lamb. Raised an eyebrow, and muttered something that startled her. "Innocence destroyed."
She narrowed her eyes at him, incredulous. Jayne waxing poetic? But then again, he was surprising her an awfully lot this evening. It was same thought she had had earlier, when she had first seen the damn thing.
Oblivious to his own statement, he took a shot a tequila hard, and appeared to relax, taking in his surroundings. And the people. And the local women.
Kaylee found herself amused. And a bit jealous. She paused briefly on this emotion and filed it away for later. She leaned forward, and kicked his foot again.
She was smiling at him again. A little more loosely this time, and he stared openly at her for a moment, mimicking her lean. "What?" he asked again, dropping the edge. He could tell she was getting a little drunk. He found this funny. Until the next question came out of her mouth.
"Nothing. Why would you frequent somewhere like this?" She picked up the card in question, and twirled it about. "I know you're a big, mean and scary guy, Jayne - "
"Pride myself on it -" ... a hint of a smile.
"- but even this ain't your style." She spun the card on it's corner, and he slapped it down flat, his voice unusually soft.
"Yeah it is."
Again, she leaned in. "I don't believe that."
He sighed, and found himself even closer to her inquiring eyes. "Life ain't a storybook, sweetheart."
She blinked at him. Took herself too serious for a split second and retorted, "I know that." And sat back a little.
I know that ...
Uh-oh. She's on the defensive. Crap. Now that mouth ain't staying shut.
But she downed the rest of her drink, and avoided his gaze, only commenting again moments later as she watched some folks at the bar.
"I know you better than you think I do, Jayne."
She saw some local women at the bar. Not companions like Inara. But that's what they were there for nonetheless. She wondered briefly what he saw when he looked at her. Weakness? Like that bounty hunter had? Hell, she knew now in light of recent events the real reason why he and Mal didn't want her to stray too far. Kidnapping and slavery went unchecked on this world. She, and every other young girl and boy, were natural targets. But that didn't change the fact that none of them could bare to think of her as a real woman. Or was that just her own insecurities?
She glanced over at Jayne. His eyes were on her, lips parted, all ready to say something to her-
"Howz it?" Mal greeted them. The two of them looked up, startled, having no idea how long the Captain had been standing there.
Kaylee stood quickly, swiping the hologram into her pocket before Mal could see it, despite the fact that she wasn't the one that had done the disobeying, strictly speaking. She threw on an ecstatic expression. "Hey, Cap'n! Havin' fun?! Where ya been off to?"
Mal glanced from Jayne to Kaylee and back again. He pointed at his mechanics face and smiled himself.
Looking back on it now, Kaylee wished she hadn't gotten quite so drunk. Then maybe she would've been paying more attention to Jayne.
And how he even had Mal all nervous as they headed back to Serenity.
But now it was too late; he was gone!
One minute they were walking up the hard steel ramp. The night was dead all around them. It had been too quite. Like just before rain-fall.
Then she could've swore she'd heard voices; maybe some vagrants arguing from a nearby alleyway (-and later the others claimed to not have heard a thing-). She had been the last one inside, ready close her up; so sure that he'd been right there on her heels (and, in fact, had been listening to this heavy boots behind her, on the metal). Then silence.
She had turned and looked into the murky shipcity, panic growing inside her, the hair standing up on her and neck, and she reached for someone, anyone ... Mal! But he had already disappeared inside ...
Chapter 2 coming soon