Mal had admittedly had some gorram feng le plans before, but this… this was just crossing into badness. For once in Jayne's life, he actually agreed with the doctor completely. Prettifying the crazy girl to lure their buyers into a job was just 'bout the most ridiculous concept the merc had ever heard of. Weren't nobody gonna up and decide to do crime with them because the crazy girl was dancin' around. No matter what crazy ass rumors were floatin' round 'bout them bein' uncommonly susceptible to womenfolk.

But Mal, Zoë and for some unknown reason, Inara; thought it was a good idea. Now, why they didn't just stuff Inara in some skimpy outfit and parade her around, Jayne couldn't figure. She was a whole lot sexier than the doc's sister. And further more, why was he here, shopping? He'd see the damn costume they picked out on the job anyway, why did he have to be here for the actual choosing?

He complained aloud as they walked into the private dressing room Inara had arranged. "Don't see why I'm needed, Mal."

His captain tossed him an infuriatingly knowing smirk. "Oh, I got my reasons for you tagging along."

Jayne gave him a look. "Oh, and what would they be?"

Mal chuckled. Smug sonofabitch. "You just be yourself, Jayne-y boy. That's all I ask."

Jayne sneered at him. "Well since'n you asked so nicely." The merc flopped back in on of the three the chairs outside the dressing stall. The room was surprisingly nice, with three big mirrors attached to a pedestal and real comfy white arm chairs. A minute later, Inara and River came into view, both of them carrying a ridiculous amount of garments to try on. Jayne observed the smaller girl in her ratty white t shirt and long black skirt, and deemed it a hopeless cause for the fifth time since hearing the plan. "Why for you got so many, all you need is one or two outfits." Jayne grumped. The more clothes the girl had to try on, the longer they'd be here. Inara raised a perfect eyebrow at him.

"We've collected this many because we need to find the best option, in order to do that, we need to mix and match." She said dismissively.

Jayne growled low in his chest. Gorramit, he couldn't think of a less appealing option while planet side. Didn't nobody else realize this was a pointless endeavor? Aint no way they was gonna magically sexify that stick figure girl enough so that she could impersonate a stripper. Moon brain and Inara disappeared into a stall to try anyway.

Just then, Simon came scrambling into the room with two armfuls of long dresses. The doc and Kaylee actually wanted to be here, but Kaylee had had to go get engine parts. "Mei-mei!" he said a little desperately. Inara poked her head out to ascertain what Simon wanted.

"She's a little busy, right now Simon. What is it?"

He held up a sample of his clothes. Jayne rolled his eyes. What a piece of luh-sa. The dress was huge. And almost the exact color of protein mash. His sis popped her head out under Inara's. Her face scrunched up in disgust. Jayne laughed aloud. Simon shot a quick glare at him. "What's wrong with it, Mei-mei?"

River's mouth opened and closed as she searched for words, for once in her entire life speechless. "Hell, doc, what aint wrong with that dress?" Mal said, lookin' just about to wet hisself from holding in laughter.

"It's a perfectly acceptable dress" Simon said indignantly.

"If'n blind nuns are dressin' ya. Yeah, sure." Jayne said, not bothering to hold in his laughter. To his surprise, the doc's sister joined in his raucous laughter.

"Jayne is correct; dress does not meet proper credentials."


"At all. And never will, Simon. She is supposed to be an exotic dancer. Less is more." With that, the two disappeared again and Simon dejectedly put his pile of clothing aside and took the third seat available.

There was much sounding of clothes rustling and giggles heard from River and laughs from Inara before the two emerged. Well, Inara emerged, River was dragged. Jayne quirked an eyebrow. The girl was decked out in a green silk, oriental dress. It fell to her knees. It was nice, sure, but for a stripper? Not a gorram chance. Jayne wrinkled his nose and glanced at Mal who looked back at him with the same expression. In almost scary unison they said "Next."

The two went back into the stall and the next seven or eight attempts were similar. Mal rolled his eyes at the companion. She was testin' his patience. "'Nara, have you ever seen a stripper?"

She looked taken aback. "Not in person, no." Mal sighed and Jayne shifted, quite bored, in his chair.

Simon, of course, threw in his two platinum. "I think those dresses are nice. Maybe when your older, Mei-mei."

River surprised Jayne again by turned to her brother with a scowl. "I'm 18, Simon. Butt out." Jayne let out a startled burst of laughter and did something he never thought he'd do. He shared a small smile with River.

"Jayne, help me break this down." Jayne (broken from his tiny moment in time with River) looked quickly at the captain.

"Whudda'ya mean?"

"I mean, what do you think we oughta try? These dresses are getting' us nowhere." The merc nodded. He turned his attention to River, looking her up and down carefully.

All he saw was a big ol' pile of crazy. But, he reasoned, nobody they were going to do business with knew that. They'd just see her. Hmmmm.

Jayne looked carefully, imagining he'd just met her, didn't know she was a loon. Saw past all that for a moment. And suddenly, there was a girl standing in front of him. Pretty one too. He started at the top of her head, nice hair-ish, if they could ever get the tangles out. Once Jayne took the time to see it, she had a pretty face too, sweet brown eyes. Not much chest to speak of but enough to work with, to get his hands around and start to play. A shiver went down his spine when he thought of that. He continued down her body. Stomach was most likely smooth and toned, all that dancin' and fightin' and the like. Legs were probly their best bet, legs and ass. But he didn't know if she had a good ass yet, those huge dresses never told him anything. Not that he'd ever really bothered to look. "Legs." He said out loud. "Let's start with legs."

Simon looked repulsed. "You disgusting pi-" Simon started in but was cut off.

"My thoughts as well." Mal said, and Jayne didn't know why but that one sentence got him a bit angry. "Little witch, go seek you out some shorts, tiny and preferably leather." Jayne perked up a bit; maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

River left in search of shorts and Mal sent Simon and Inara to put back their failed attempts. They'd both picked out so many that having them locate the places they'd come from and putting them back would take quite a while.

River returned quickly with several pairs of shorts, all of them leather. "Blue, black or red?" She asked the two men.

Mal considered for a moment. Jayne said "Red." in a heartbeat. River gave him a small smile and before he had a handle on himself, Jayne winked at her. Her smile broadened and she trotted happily into the stall.

Jayne reeled himself back sharply. This was just a big game of pretend, right? She was nuts! No way did he find her attractive. No way on all the planets in the verse.

Jayne immediately knew he was lying to himself when she came out in those shorts. If they could be called that. They rode low and cut high, and Jayne was seriously ruttin' thankful. Legs? That was a big ruttin' check mark! Wo de ma, did the girl have some stems on her. And the dark red really went well with her pale skin and dark hair. It didn't even matter that she was wearing that ratty white t shirt with 'em. The big merc literally felt himself being to salivate.

Out of the corner of his eye he registered Mal motioning her to turn about. But nothing could have prepared him for the sight that greeted him. Ai ya! Her ass cheeks were hangin' out the back of those gorram shorts! His ma would say they was undoubtedly the devil's shorts. And just at that moment he felt sure he would go to that special hell the Shepard always talked about. He suppressed a groan and turned to Mal. "I think those are our best bet."

Mal nodded with a troubled look on his face. He didn't like seeing River in those things. But it was for a job so he pushed down his fatherly concern and nodded. "Yup, they do seem that way. Good work, little albatross."

"Thank you captain daddy."

The captain nodded and turned to Jayne. "And for a top?"

Jayne tried his best to tear his eyes away from River legs but was just not succeeding. He faked like he was considering real hard. "Uh, not… not… a whole lot to… uh, what was the question?" He asked nervously.

"What should she wear on top?"

Nothing? Nothing would work just fine for Jayne. SHUT UP BRAIN. "Uh, just something sparkly and… tiny."

Mal shrugged. "I'll go find it. Don't need you walkin' about in those shorts and causin' them nice sales clerks to foam at the mouth."

River laughed softly, Jayne mentally kicked himself for thinkin' it was hott. "Her attire would not induce symptoms of rabies."

Mal smiled to himself. "You'd be surprised. Be back in bit." He shut the door to the room leaving Jayne all alone with River.

She spun about in front of the mirrors, skipping up onto the pedestal and examining herself. Jayne grinned wolfishly as she turned this way and that. All her shimmying around was givin' him a tasty view. Like his own private show. "What does Jayne think?" She asked, looking at him with a smile. He gave her a look.

"You're the gorram mind reader, little one. Why don't you tell me?"

Her eyes widened. "She wouldn't. Please believe her." Heaven help him she was walkin' over to him. All serious like. "Before, she had no control. Couldn't make out whose thoughts were whose and she just said anything that was in her head. She is much better now. She wouldn't peek inside, not without your express permission."

Jayne nervously rubbed the back of his neck. He hadn't meant to hurt her feelings. "I meant it jokin' like, girl. I know… that you wouldn't… not without captains orders or permission."

Her face went from sad to happy in record speed and Jayne felt inexplicably proud. "She is pleased you know her well enough to know that." He nodded and tried to remember to breathe proper when she took a seat on the arm of the chair he was sitting in. And his eyes almost crossed when she crossed her legs. Truthfully, the merc was grateful his jaw clenched instead of dropping to the floor. "Thank you for coming."

Jayne blinked hard. He didn't really think she meant it as dirty as he'd heard it. "No sweat." She looked at him seriously and he couldn't help paying attention.

"No really, she knows you would have rather spent your time somewhere else. But you really helped captain daddy, far more than Inara and Simon."

He shrugged. "Guess that's why he wanted me along." And once he said it, he knew that's why Mal'd brought him along. He needed somebody who would actually know what a stripper would wear and what would be hott. River suddenly looked a tiny bit sad.

"She fears all your efforts will have been made for nothing."

Jayne frowned. "Huh?"

"She doesn't know if she can do it."

"What?" he questioned, feeling like a tool for not understanding her. She wasn't even speakin' in crazy riddles.

"She doesn't really feel like part of the crew yet. She has done a couple jobs but nothing this big. Everyone has their place already. Captain daddy leads, Zoe picks up the slack and watches his back, Jayne keeps everyone alive. What can she really offer?"

Jayne frowned, he weren't normally one to go an' comfort crazy girls. But she was makin' some sense, and talkin' normal. And truth be told those damn shorts were makin' him feel some powerful strange emotions. "Girl… uh, River. Look alright, we're a good team; Me, Mal and Zoe. But way I figure, your just 'bout the only thing'll make us great. Knowing what'll happen, that's the best advantage you can get in the line of work we got. And that's what you can give us."

"She still doesn't know if it will work. The job. The girl can dance, but perhaps not this kind of dancing. She's never tried it."

"Yeah well, practice makes perfect." He said with a lecherous grin. She matched his grin to his surprise. She kept doing that today.

"And would you help me? Practice, that is."

"I might be persuaded."

"And how might I persuade you?" She said, and he knew that now she'd meant it to be dirty. Was it just him or were they… flirting? As cap'n would say: huh.

"Only three things ever known to persuade Jayne Cobb."

"Money, food and sex."

He smirked. Damn straight. "Far as I know you aint got a lot of money that'd be worth takin'."

"Then I just have to give you… what I have."

"Which is?" River's eyes got real dark and Jayne could feel himself being drawn closer to her, like she was north and he was south. Damn near magnetic. They was about an inch apart when Mal opened the door and Jayne was so startled he sprung backwards and nearly tipped the chair. Thank Buddha Mal didn't see on account of he was too busy untangling whatever contraption he'd brought for River to try on. And thanks again that he didn't see River smile at him real slow and smooth and then wink before getting up. As far as Mal was concerned River had been standing up the whole time.

Giving up entirely, Mal thrust the group of hangers into River's hands and flopped down in the chair next to Jayne. River giggled quietly and Jayne felt himself harden at the sound. He was so incredibly humped. She had him… so bad. It'd been a long time since he'd wanted someone so suddenly and it was kind of damaging his calm.

Simon and Inara finally made their re-entrance a minute later. There was only one seat left and Simon graciously offered it to Inara. Big mistake. At least if he'd been sitting he wouldn't have fallen over in shock when River came out of the room. Jayne would have laughed at him but he was too stunned to do a lot more than drool. Which he really hoped he wasn't doing.

The gorram top was scarcely more than too bits of leather. Black leather. There wasn't even a tie around back. It was two barely connected triangles of fabric with a tiny strap that went around her neck. Her tits were pushed forward somehow and Jayne felt that last bit of doubt in him snap. He had only thought about it so far, but now he knew. He absolutely knew with every fiber of his being that he would have her. All that pale flesh and dark hair and them eyes was just callin' to him.

Mal rested his face in his hand. "Somehow I knew you'd go for that one first." He said, voice muffled by his palm.

River laughed. "Hoped she wouldn't."

Mal glared at her, but not meanly. "Yeah, but knew you would."

Simon looked him, horror stricken. "YOU picked that? You sick hun dan."

Mal rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me you never sever seen a stripper neither."

"Certainly not!" Everyone turned to look at him. Even Jayne, whose eyes were glued to River, spared ten second to shoot him a 'Yeah? Well you're a pussy' look.

"Doc, it don't really much matter how sad and pathetic your existence is." Inara scoffed at Mal's statement but said nothing else. "All that matters is we have your sister's costume and that it seems authentic."

"She is NOT wearing that! I REFUSE to let MY little sister be DEBASED in public!" River snorted at this and all the attention went to her. Not that Jayne's had ever really left.

"Simon, stop talking in capitals and butt out. I'm almost nineteen and I'm on his crew just like you are, I have my own life!" She stormed back into the stall and violently slammed the door. There was stunned silence.

Ta ma de, she was beautiful all fired up.

"She said 'I', I never heard her say that." Inara murmured thoughtfully.

Jayne chuckled. "Well whuddaya know Doc? Secret to making her better was pissin' her off. Kinda simple."

Simon sneered at him in pure malice. "Well then she should spend more time around you, does the trick for me."

Jayne grinned. "She wears that gittup and she can spend as much time around me as she wants." He said, waggling his eyebrows to piss off the doctor further.

"Jayne." Mal said warningly.

"Done told me to be myself, Cap'n." He mumbled, leaning back in the chair, arms behind his head. After a beat he said "Can I go shopping with River more?"

"Jayne!" Mal nearly shouted, desperately trying to preserve the semblance of peace. Simon was practically frothing.

"Feel free." River said as she emerged from the stall once again dressed in a huge shapeless ensemble that Simon had picked out years ago. The big merc felt like pouting and wasn't entirely sure that he wasn't. "Inara, do we still have time to get my hair cut?"

The companion nodded. "Sure, Mei-mei." River handed her clothes off to Mal and borrowed a pen from Inara to write on his hand the exact coordinates in the store where he could find the other pieces of her costume.

"You couldn't have just done this in the first place?" he asked.

"Too many foreseeable options. Now we've agreed on a basis, she knows what else you will pick."

Mal just let it go and motioned for her and Inara to get going, completely silent and utterly tired. River and Inara moved towards the door. River had a hand on the handle and had started to turn it before she turned around and looked at Jayne. "Are you coming?"

Jayne smiled at her.

"If you insist."

"I do."