The characters and situations in this story are the property of Joss Whedon, FOX, and probably other entities I don't know about, and I do not have any permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended, and this story is not for profit. Feedback is most appreciated.

NOTE: The Gentleman is a little less in-character than I normally write. The concept intrigued me, so I decided to see where it would go.

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He could hear them talking in the kitchen as he passed by. Girl talk, all feelings and secrets and the kind of giggles that gave a man an uncomfortableness. You'd come in, and they'd stop talking and watch you with those sly looks that just waited for you to leave again so they could go on. So he didn't go in...but he did slow down just a little, so as to hear what they were saying.

"Enough about Simon," Kaylee was saying in that voice he knew meant she was blushing and pretending she wasn't. "What about Jayne?"

Well, his ears just pricked up at that. He stopped and waited in the shadows as Zoe's rich chuckle sounded. "No, I don't think so," she demurred.

"Jayne?" That was Inara, with that tone in her voice she used with him. He never liked it. It was superior, like he wasn't worth her time. He leaned just a little so he could see round the hatch, and watched her hitch her shawl back up over her shoulders. Those shoulders drove him crazy, he couldn't see why she had to walk around with 'em bare all the time.

"I don't think Jayne's capable of gentle," Inara went on, and he frowned. For some reason he didn't like that. "He only knows one thing--take what you want."

Suddenly Jayne didn't want to listen any more. He moved out of the shadow and back down the corridor towards his bunk; the idea of working out didn't seem like fun any longer. The voices faded behind him, but he'd already stopped listening.

His bunk was all that Mal had promised him--his and his alone. No one snored, no one griped, no one dropped clothes on the floor but him. No one came in there either--well, except River that one time, and he still hadn't figured out how she'd got into his gun locker. But she hadn't done it since. He dropped down onto his mattress and stared at the ceiling.

They were just talking, the way women did. Why did it bother him, what Inara had said? He almost wished he hadn't stopped. But I heard my name. What else was I supposed to do?

The thought slowly came clear that what bothered him the most was that Inara had said it. Zoe's opinion didn't count, he would never mess with her on a serious basis. And Kaylee was just a kid. But Inara was a professional, she knew her stuff.

Jayne snorted and rolled over. Taking worked for him. He had nothing to do with gentle--that was for pretty-boys like the Doc and little men like Wash. His style got him plenty of willing company when they were on the world.

But that don't mean I couldn't be... He didn't know where the thought came from, only that it was from a part of his mind he didn't listen to much. It wouldn't go away, either, just sort of hung around. Out of sheer annoyance, he finally took a good look at it. And it brought more ideas with it.

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It was the middle of ship's night when Jayne decided to do it. He wanted to prove something to himself, make that little doubt that Inara had planted go away. So he made his way to the cargo bay, boots soundless on the deck. He'd learned to be silent long ago.

To his surprise, the shuttle hatch wasn't locked. It made him suspicious, but he'd passed by Mal's door on the way and heard him snoring all the way through the deck, so the captain wasn't in the shuttle. So we're in deep space. It's still stupid to leave the hatch unlocked. He snorted and eased it open.

He was running a risk here, but he was willing to bet that Inara wouldn't wake up. They'd all been up late, and Shepherd had produced a bottle of wine he said he'd picked up at their last stop.

Jayne felt a sneeze coming on as he paced into the shuttle, and hastily suppressed it. It was that gorram incense 'Nara used, it always made him itch. The place was fluffy enough to unnerve a man anyway, cloth everywhere till you didn't know where to step. But it wasn't that big, and he'd seen it before.

Inara was sound asleep in that big bed of hers, all long hair and silk and smooth sheets. He stopped for a moment just to appreciate. Whatever else, 'Nara sure was easy to look at.

She didn't stir when he stepped closer, and he grinned in the dimness. Lucky for him she was lying near the edge; he wouldn't have to put his weight on the bed to reach her.

Carefully, cautiously, reminding himself of his goal, he reached out and moved a tangled strand of hair from her face. Nothing changed, not even her breathing, and he let out his own breath. He'd catch it from her and Mal if she woke up and found him here, no doubt about that, but the risk was worth it.

He eased down to one knee next to the bed. This was the trickiest part. The perfume she wore, something rich and musky, seemed to go straight to his insides, but he did his best to ignore it. He leaned forward and slowly brushed his lips across her forehead...her cheeks...the tip of her nose. And taking the biggest risk of all, and using the lightest touch he could manage, he kissed her lips...gently.

He straightened and got to his feet, catching back a deep breath. Looking down, he could see no change in her still, and felt a rush of relief. He'd proved his point to himself, and wouldn't have to deal with Mal. He left the shuttle as quietly as he'd come.

Behind him, Inara's lips parted in a smile.