Disclaimer: The wonderful Firefly characters and the good ship Serenity all belong to Joss Whedon, or Mutant Enemy, or Fox, or whoever actually owns them, and that person or entity is definitely not me. Written for amusement purposes only. No copyright infringement intended or implied.

Rating: M, for language, violence, sensual content

Summary: AURayne – Hired muscle Jayne Cobb accepts an unusual assignment from the Blue Sun Corporation. Seemed like easy money… that should have been his first warning.

One: A Dangerous Man

Some of the items contained in the small one-room flat were: a stained mattress, flung haphazardly on the floor, three big cardboard boxes stacked in the corner, a small bureau festooned with food litter, a dingy-shaded lamp, a thermo plate, and, oddly, a shiny assortment of precision doctor's instruments, some already blood-stained. There was also a young woman, eyes and mouth held shut with dark grey tape, blood and bits of flesh spattering the torn bodice of her bright yellow sundress, tied tightly to a metal chair, keening softly, a bubble of mucus moving rhythmically in and out of one nostril.

I shoulda listened to Ma. I shoulda listened to Ma, the girl thought, over and over. Shock and pain had placed her thoughts on a hysterical loop, and it took her a long while to think something else.

Ma said don't go. Ma said that Bester was trouble. Ma said, "Kaylee, you ain't goin' to no bars chasin' after that lowlife." But she'd wanted to see him one last time, maybe do a little somethin' with him, before she shipped out on that Firefly. Ma's gonna be so mad at me for sneakin' out. Ma's gonna kill me.

No, the uppity little voice of sanity reminded her cruelly, he's gonna kill you. When he gets back, he's gonna cut on you some more, he's gonna rape you, and then he's gonna kill you, just like he said.

Kaylee began to sob anew, rocking back and forth violently. The plastic rope bit into her already raw flesh.

Stop cryin', stop cryin'! She screamed at herself as her nostrils filled with snot and she struggled to breathe. She forced what little air was left in her lungs out of her nose and felt the warm mucus roll down to her lip until it reached the line of the tape and the sensation vanished. She pulled in precious oxygen through the narrow passages with a wheezing sound, wondering why her body still cared so much about breathin'. Maybe it was better to suffocate than whatever that man had planned for her.

He'd seemed so nice, at first. He saw Bester dump her for that stupid bitch Lola and he was so sweet. So maybe he was kinda big and ugly, but he'd had credits, and he'd bought her drinks and snacks and told her she was like sunshine in her pretty yellow dress. He'd asked her shyly to walk him to his car…and she'd thought he deserved a little kiss for bein' so nice, and the money he'd spent on her an' all. The next thing she knew she was tied blind and gagged to this chair, him slappin' her awake. Weren't no fun to cut her when she couldn't feel herself bleed, he said. Taped her eyes shut so she couldn't see it when and from where it was comin', to keep that feelin' pure.

Kaylee shook her head a little bit and moaned. So stupid, so gorram stupid! Now she wasn't gonna get that mechanic's job. Now she wasn't ever gonna see anything of the 'verse. The last thing she was ever gonna see was that crappy, plastic-engined luh suh roadster owned by a psycho killer.

I shoulda listened to Ma. I shoulda listened to Ma.

Her head shot up as she heard a sound in the direction of the door. Terror iced through her stomach and into her legs, and for a moment she thought she'd peed herself. He was back. He was back from runnin' his little errand to get plastic garbage bags. He'd actually told her that. To do what with? Put her dead body in. What was left of it. Kaylee made a high-pitched sound of pure animal fear.

The door opened slowly and quietly and she shook her head convulsively. No, no, no, no, NO!

For a moment there was only silence. Kaylee started sobbing again, she couldn't help it. She cringed inwardly, waiting for that nice even tenor to start sayin' crazy, terrifyin' words. He liked to talk. He'd told her everything he wanted to do to her, all in that same pleasant voice. All she heard now was a small tiny creak, and the slight brush of shoes on the floor. And then the door closed, and shut. It took her a second to comprehend that something unexpected had happened. Had he just checked to make sure she was still there, then left again?

She let her head fall back hopelessly, dragging in tortured breaths through her clogged nose. She let herself whimper away, no sense in trying to be brave. She was dead, and all she could do now was pray to the lord that it would somehow be quick, and that her mama and her daddy wouldn't be too sad, and to feel regret for dyin' in such a stupid, shameful manner. Tears burned her covered eyes and ran out from the cracks in the tape on her cheeks. She couldn't stop and it was so hard to breathe…

She heard the footsteps comin' up the stairs this time. She heard him whistlin', and the rustle of bags. He practically sprang into the room, excited about his upcoming fun. Kaylee began to tremble.

"Honey, I'm home!" He taunted her gleefully.

"You got a strange hobby, Jube." The dark, growly voice came out of nowhere, and the shock was so great Kaylee did lose control of her bladder that time. That wasn't the cutter checkin' on her before, it was this guy comin' in. And waitin'.

"Who the hell are you?" screamed Jube. He had never even told Kaylee his name.

"We got some business." The voice was steady, very much in control.

"Business? You work for Niska? I don't know you!" Jube squeaked defensively.

"I'm working for him t'day. And he thinks that you might have somethin' a his."

"I don't have anything! Nothing I shouldn't! I receive the ingredients, I make the compound, and I give it all back to Niska's men."

"They seem to think the shipments have been light as of late."

"They're full of shit! I make the compound, and give it to them. Go down to the lab and see!"

"I been down there already. I got a feeling that what Mr. Niska's lookin' for is right here."

"Where? Here? You think I'd be crazy enough to keep something that volatile here?"

There was a moment of silence, punctuated only by Kaylee's uneven, rapid breathing. He'd been in here with her. He'd watched her crying, tied to a chair, bleeding, and hadn't done a thing. He wasn't gonna rescue her. He don't even care about me. Only whatever he came for.

"I think I got some fair to strong evidence that you're pretty fuckin' crazy, Jube," the voice drawled. "Open one of them boxes over there."

"That's just some old clothes!" Jube was nervous, very nervous.

"Open it." There was a decisive click, and Kaylee realized that the other guy had just cocked back the hammer of a gun.

There was a dragging, scraping sound and some rustling.

"See?" Jube voice was desperate.

"Take out all the stuff on the top." The voice was not impressed.

Jube made an anguished little noise and started to babble.

"Fine – yes, I took some! Only a little, not even one percent of each batch! That's nothing to Niska! I work hard, it was like a bonus…Niska is ripping me off. I'm the best chemist on Persephone, and he pays me next to nothing. I have all the danger, I have all the worry, and what does Niska have? All the profit!"

"Is this the lot of it?" The other voice cut through the rising shriek of Jube's diatribe.

"Yes – it's all here!" Jube was eager now to get rid of it and throw himself on Niska's mercy. "Take it to Niska – he'll see that it's all there. Tell him I'll cut my rates in half just for him. Wait – what are you –" There was a flurry of movement, a choking noise, the sound of feet scrabbling against the floor, and then a sharp, sickening crunch. And an extended thud, like a body slumping to the floor.

Kaylee's scream was muffled deep in her throat.

She could hear someone working quickly and efficiently, dumping out contents of the boxes, and moving items from one box to the other. Then the sound of someone going through the drawers of the bureau, flipping over the mattress. Checking to make sure there wasn't anything there that couldn't be left behind. Kaylee was certain then that the man had killed Jube, 'cause why would Jube hafta look around his own place? Was the man going to kill her, too, now? Rape her? Take up where Jube left off?

Then he spoke right into her ear. Kaylee startled, and strained away in fear, wailing brokenly. His voice was slow and rough, like syrup over sandpaper.

"I can see that you're scared," he began quietly, "and I can see that Jube down there hurt you some. I know right now you can't figure on how you might be grateful to him for anything, ever, but you should be. You should be very grateful that he taped your eyes shut, dong ma?"

Taped my eyes, what, taped my…It took Kaylee a minute to understand he meant that if she had seen him, he woulda had to kill her, too.

"Now, I'm gonna take off that mouth tape and ungag you so you can breathe a little easier. If you scream, things are going to take a bad turn, yeah? Nod if you understand me." She heard a whisper of cloth on skin…he was taking something off his hand… a glove.

Kaylee's jaw was shaking so hard it was difficult to make her head move up and down.

"Good." Without preamble, he dug his fingernails into the skin on her cheek, grabbing an edge of the tape and ripping swiftly. Kaylee grunted in pain, almost choking on the gag in her mouth. He pincered his thumb and index finger in between her stiff lips and pulled out the now sodden material that had been stuffed inside. Kaylee retched helplessly for a second, but managed not to throw up. She sucked in a deep breath, her throat burning, and filled her lungs with precious oxygen. All she could do for a minute was take in ragged pulls of air.

He waited a second before continuing.

"You got a choice, girl. You may a heard some things here. About a Mr. Niska. See, I'm just doin' a job today. I don't particularly care about Niska, so I don't care what you heard. Mr. Niska will. And if word about any a this gets out, he might hire me to do another job, if you get my meaning. Now I'm gonna cut the line tying you to the chair, first your feet, then your hands. After I do that, I'm gonna leave. When you hear that door close, you will count to twenty before you remove that tape from your eyes. You hearin' all this?"

"Yes," Kaylee rasped.

There was a pause.

"You know where you are? Where he took you?"

She shook her head.

"You're on Corona Street, not far from 15th. This your purse? You got a mobile?"

She shook her head again.

"There's a diner one street over. You can see the sign from the front of building. You can call whoever from there."

Kaylee felt one leather-clad hand clasp her ankle firmly. It must have been a big hand, because it dwarfed her whole foot. She heard a mechanical snick, like the sound her favorite screwdriver made when she flicked it open, followed by a series of sharp tugs. She realized her legs were free.

He reached behind her and with the same swift, sawing motion, liberated her wrists. When the tension on her arms released, Kaylee's hands lurched uselessly into her lap, purple and swollen and numb from lack of circulation, the skin at the wrists indented and rubbed raw from the line.

She heard him pick up the box with a soft whuff of air, and the slight creak of the door opening.

"Mister…thanks," Kaylee whispered hoarsely. She collapsed forward onto the floor, and began to sob helplessly in reaction.

The door closed, and he was gone.

Fifteen minutes later, Kaylee stumbled into Tito's Diner, and begged the shocked fry cook to let her call her mother.

&&&&&&

Chinese:

luh suh – garbage

dong ma – understand?

A/N: Thanks for reading, please let me know if you like the tone of this and want more. I think this is going to be a full-bodied romantic dark comedy noir, with fluffy Rayne topnotes. ::wink:: "PBP" will have priority for now, then this. Gem