Author: Green Owl

Title: Photuris: Harder to Breathe

Disclaimer: I don't own or buy/sell/process this mind crack - I just abuse the hell out of it.

She was supposed to be scared of him.

He was not a smart man, but there were some things in this world that Jayne Cobb knew. His body, his bank account and his gorgeous girl, Vera, had to be maintained in perfect workin' order at all times. He needed a specific amount of sleep an' energy units each cycle to function. Bein' tossed in the airlock an' spaced out o' Serenity was to be avoided at all costs.

Why a moon-brained, skinny little girl didn't have the sense to be afraid o' him after he tried to sell her an' her brother for money did not make any gorram ruttin' sense to him.

But there she was, sittin' at the mess table, watchin' him with those huge dark eyes o' hers as he ate his rations.

She did that a lot these days.

In the beginning, Jayne pretended it wasn't him she was lookin' at. The captain was in his line of sight, so it was possible she was starin' at Mal with that vacant look that made Jayne think o' empty pockets an' hollow bullets.

That theory was shot to hell one night when Mal got up an' went with Kaylee to inspect the latest round o' repairs on the engine an' the girl's eyes failed to follow him; they stayed fixed on Jayne. It made him uncomfortable enough to want to deal with cold leftover protein rather than sit in the galley with the crew.

He had three blissful nights of peace before she sought him out again. Barefoot and bare-armed, she slid soundlessly into the seat opposite him as he ate.

"Somethin' ya want?" Jayne drawled between bites, trying to play it cool. She'd unnerved him ever since that little exchange with her an' her brother after his aborted transaction with the Alliance. Hell, it was just business, he thought, didn't mean nothin'.

She was silent for a long while, then she cocked her head to the side.

"Standard operating procedures," River declared. "Acquire, sell, spend, save, ne c'est pas? But the tummy hates churning and the brain can't see past yellow and the heart doesn't like this diastolic rate."

Jayne shoveled the last o' his food into his mouth, wonderin' what in the hell she was talkin' 'bout.

She just gazed at him, tendrils of her hair slipping past her shoulder to obscure her face as the seconds ticked by.

He glanced down at his waist, wishin' he'd thought to strap on Binky before this midnight raid on the kitchen.

"Gong xu," she said finally, tossing her hair behind her shoulder. "Comprehension accomplished."

She rose with a sinuous motion and walked out of the mess.

Jayne swallowed as he watched her go. What was she up to now?

Wherever the girl had gotten herself to, it wasn't the cargo bay. Jayne knew that because he was there all by his lonesome, pumpin' iron in the dead of the night.

Jayne was a creature of habit and there was a pattern to deep black travel: eat, clean his weapons, work out, clean himself. He'd already eaten an' shined Vera, so now it was time for him to take care of his body. First the chest-presses, then the biceps curls, then the push-ups and pull-ups.

He was in the middle o' the pull-ups when he heard footfalls from above.

Jayne looked up an' almost let go of the bars. She stood there, looking down at him an' providing him with an unobstructed view right up her skirt.

He'd seen her naked before when she'd popped outta the stasis box like some demented jack-in-the-box, but the for-his-eyes-only visual of those white unders wrapped around her lower parts was enough to make all the blood in his body head south.

Now don't that beat all – gettin' a hard one for that little crazy?

She didn't break eye contact as she used her wrist to wipe her mouth. Then she leisurely dropped to all fours and lowered herself down until she was stretched out above him. She curled her fingers around the slats and rested her cheekbone on her forearm.

"Two by two, up and down," she chanted in her soft voice, her eyes drilling into him. "Up and down again and again. Quick or slow, slow or quick, make the juices hot and slick."

He didn't know what kind o' freaky game she was playin', but he didn't want no part of it.

"Get outta here, girl," he growled at her. "Go back to your ruttin' bunk."

She shook her head and licked her lips. "Again and again and again…"

"Cut it out," he menaced. "You done scared me right proper in the medlab, so git. Ain't yer ruttin' monkey to perform on command."

She giggled as she reached into the neckline of her dress, pulled something out and let it slip through the grate.

Jayne looked down at the floor of the cargo bay as two coins landed, spun, then stuttered to a halt.

"C.O.D.," she said as he bent down to pick up the money. "Cash on delivery, deliver us from evil, lead us not into temptation, give us our daily bread and render unto Caesar who is rendered on metal and bloody knives with owls shrieking Ides of March and marching rivers…and all rivers lead to temptation, é tu Bruté?"

He looked up into her fathomless dark eyes and considered the innocent expectation that lurked there.

Jayne sighed an' bit his lips. "I ain't no gorram cock-for-hire, girl."

"Execute," she ordered, her eyes turning harsh as obsidian. "Execute or space will hold him in his arms and steal his fluids and he will wither from harsh vitality into a husk of a heroic dread."

So that was it: perform for her or get his ass blown out the airlock.

Time passed as they glared at each other and Jayne weighed his options. He could refuse and she would have him killed. He could call for help but the crew would find out and laugh at him or she might lie on him and have her brother kill him. He could try to wait her out and hope she forgot about it, but she might decide to "kill him with her brain" or something equally nasty. Or he could pocket the little pieces of shiny she tossed at him and do as she asked.

Truth be told, he wasn't really interested in getting himself killed or embarrassed, so the final option looked like the only scenario in which he survived with his skin an' reputation intact.

Jayne pocketed the coins, grabbed the handles an' pulled himself up slowly. Gonna get her for this, he promised himself as he closed his eyes an' grit his teeth. He was muscle for hire, yes, but this was gorram ridiculous.

She wasn't laughing, though. She weren't making no kind of sound at all as he lowered himself. Jayne stole a peek at her an' saw that she was starin' at him.

He closed his eyes again an' concentrated on the lifting motion. One-two, up-down, over and over again. It was a useful motion to be skilled at when he found himself hanging over the edge of a cliff or when there was too much stuff piled on the ladder to his bunk for him to take the steps. He knew he was in great shape and he could do this for a long, long time if he needed to, but he hoped she got her fill before he got tired.

He almost stopped in mid-lift when he heard a low whimper slip past her lips.

Jayne looked up at her, an' swallowed hard at the look on her face. She was watching him intently as a bird of prey watched her next meal.

He lowered his body slowly, never taking his eyes off hers. What the rut?

He did it a second time and River made that gorram sound again, almost as hot and aching as any groan he'd ever released in the throes of sexin'. Her lips were parted as she smiled, that vacant look in her eyes indicating she was absorbing everything she saw, like she was drinking in his energy as he worked through the set.

Jayne was no stranger to the flesh bliss. He'd sexed countless women since he'd become a man – hot, willing women who performed the most lewd an' lascivious tricks imaginable on his body an' made him holler like a cannon as he released. None of it had ever been as wicked as that moment he looked into her eyes an' saw her want, her need.

Little crazy was gettin' her sexual kicks watchin' him.

He let go of the bars, dropped to the floor, took a step backwards.

"Wuh de ma," he muttered. Part of him felt violated. How dare she?

She grinned at him as she reached into her bodice again. "Does he need to be fed some more? Another copper for a kiss?"

Jayne felt his gut twist as another coin dropped through the grate to land at his feet. He glared up at her an' didn't move.

"Or does the renegade want to renege and go to meet the starry-eyed darkness?" she pouted, pushing her bottom lip out at him. "Up in the nursery an absurd little bird is tick-tocking, tick-tocking."

He wanted to kill her. Wanted to vault up onto the catwalk an' rip her ruttin' head from her shoulders, break her neck, anything to wipe that smug smile from her face. He was not some fancy bit of trim to be bought!

As if she heard his thoughts, her face softened. "This is the law of economics, no? This is how it's done, yes? I pay, I watch. You want coins and I want…"

"You want what?" he said, loud as he dared.

She smiled at him. "Eighteen summers melt into the winters and still chaste as ice, pure as snow. Rivers are supposed to run free and wild. I'm dammed."

"Ya sure are," Jayne shot back, not having a clue what she said except the "damned" part. "An' so am I if yer brother catches us doin' this."

She turned her head to listen to the ship, then looked back at him with a grin. "All asleep, not a sound through the house and everyone's sweet dreams are made of this."

She dropped another coin down to him and giggled.

Fine, he thought to himself, she wants to pay, I'll give her a show. Jayne reached up, grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled it over his head. He tossed it away, then reached up, took hold of the bars an' began his third set of pull-ups, all the while looking her right in the eye. That wiped the smile off crazy's face.

No, she wasn't giggling anymore. She was breathing deeply, her eyebrows rising imperceptibly as she kept her gaze locked on him, eating him up as if he were her very own shiny red delicious.

He felt the welcome muscle burn start in his forearms an' creep down into his back as he bared his teeth at the pain, at her, at this situation in which he was completely powerless.

She matched him in intensity, breathing hard as her fingers gripped the grating. Her eyes darted all over his torso, never resting in one place, but roaming at will before settling on his face again.

Oh, yeah, little crazy's enjoying this.

Harder, faster, rougher, he lifted himself up to her, cursing at her under his breath. She made him furious. She made him frustrated. An' she made him burn, imaginin' what kinds of things he could do to her as he watched her writhe against the catwalk.

She was hot for him. Jayne could tell by the way she panted, wriggled, rolled her hips. And he could smell her, all of her, the waft of her skin, her cleanser, her fluids as they bathed him in scent. No woman had ever moved liked that with him an' he wasn't even touchin' her…

If I ever…get a chance…I will…make you…pay…for this.

All of a sudden she let out a long, sweet howl and Jayne lost his grip on the handles, collapsing to the floor.

She didn't seem to care that the show was over. Her eyes were locked on his as they lay there – she on her stomach, he on his back. They were both panting heavily from physical exertion, separated by nine feet of air and the metal of the catwalk.

He scowled at her fiercely, part of him screamin' to climb up there an' sex her blind, the other part incensed at how she'd used him.

She opened her eyes and for a moment, she was completely lucid.

"But I have paid," she whispered, trying to catch her breath. "That was the whole idea."

She smiled at him before she got up and walked away.

Jayne rolled over onto his side, aching all over from exertion an' arousal, tryin' to make sense of what just happened. Had she'd just…had they just…? He closed his eyes an' gulped. He'd been in some intense situations before in his life but nothin' ever matched this.

He rolled to his feet, caught sight of the two coins still on the floor. He bent down an' picked them up, feeling an uneasy combination of filthy an' guilty as he slid them into his pocket.

"Well, I earned 'em," he announced to the empty cargo bay. "I'll be in my bunk…uh, cleanin' my guns."

"Gong xu" - "supply and demand"

"Wuh de ma" - "Mother of God"