Author: Green Owl

Title: Photuris: Shiver

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

Of course it happened again.

This time, the entire crew went out to haggle and play except River, Inara and Jayne.

River was staying behind because Simon would be needed to bargain for a good price on their contraband medical supplies and he didn't have time to keep an eye on her.

Inara was staying behind to catch up on her correspondence and keep an eye on River.

Jayne had been left on board because this transaction needed more finesse than force. He'd been so on edge lately that Zoë told him point blank that Mal didn't trust him not to break out Vera and start strafing for the pure bloodlustin' fun of it.

When he found this out at dinner the night before, Jayne went all sorts of white, then red, and started protesting. "But, Cap'n, I need to go get more ammo for Vera. You can't leave me behind with her – "

"I thought I told you to lock it up," Mal said, cutting him off. "Inara will be here to play nursemaid, so no more lū out of you or you're on dish-duty for a month."

Jayne snapped his mouth shut and directed a wary glance at River.

She sat there on his left, grinning at him as she forked a piece of his protein and popped it into her mouth.

He suppressed a shiver. He did not like this, not one little bit – not the look in her eyes or the eagerness in her smile.

But there was no way in ruttin' hell he was gonna let himself get scared by no half-wit wafer like her.

"We'll be back in four hours. If we're not back in five, you have permission to strap on your arsenal and come after us," Mal instructed Jayne as their party made ready to exit the cargo bay.

Mal looked past Jayne to Inara and said, "Make sure our little albatross stays out of trouble. Why don't you teach her to sing "The Ballad of Jayne" or somethin' useful-like?"

Jayne looked over his shoulder. Inara was brushing River's hair while River was playing with a long piece of string laced across her fingers, manipulating it to form different shapes with each hand movement.

"Cap'n, this is a bad, bad, bad idea," Jayne muttered to Mal. "Did you forget she almost killed me?"

River looked up, giggling as she displayed something similar to a spider's web.

"Gou huang tang. If it makes you feel any better, Doc Tam is of the same mind," Mal replied, clapping a hand on Jayne's shoulder. "But we're low on coin and you won't get paid if you don't stay behind. So what's it gonna be, Cobb – no money or no girl?"

Jayne was silent for a moment and Mal patted his shoulder. "Thought so. Remember, four hours. After that, come out with all females firin'."

With that parting shot, the crew departed.

"Well, River," Inara said, as her charge turned to face her, "How shall we occupy ourselves?"

"Dǎi?" River asked, reverently stroking the embroidering sateen of Inara's jacket.

"That would be lovely," Inara replied, smiling as she brushed a lock of hair from River's forehead.

"I'll be in my bunk," Jayne announced as Inara linked arms with River and led her to her shuttle.

Half an hour later, Jayne was in the middle of taking inventory of his bullets when he heard a knock on his hatch.

"Yeah?" he barked, frustrated at the interruption and the all-around lack of ammo the count had revealed.

"Jayne, it's Inara," came the muffled tone from the other side of the access portal. "I need your help."

Jayne opened the hatch and popped his head out. "Crazy escape again?"

"No, River's in my shuttle taking a nap," Inara replied. She pursed her glorious red lips and said in a hesitant voice, "I have something of an emergency. I need to leave for a couple of hours to see an unexpected client who has just asked me to meet him for dinner."


Inara smiled. "Could you keep an eye on River for awhile? She's asleep right now and these naps usually last a pretty long time. I don't think she'll wake up before – "

"No way," Jayne shot back, interrupting her. "No ruttin' way! Butcher knife – remember?"

He slammed the hatch shut.

Inara's voice was louder as she hollered, "I'll give you a percentage of my fees."

Jayne opened it again. "How much?"


"Which would translate to…?"

Inara smiled as she named a figure.

Jayne considered the amount for a moment. "Only if ya get me these while you're out there."

He handed her a list of the kinds of ammunition he needed to bring himself back up to a respectable level of firepower.

Inara took it and reviewed it. "Going to war, Jayne?"

He grinned at her. "You have your needs, I have mine."

"Fine," she said, rising from her crouching position. "I've locked the shuttle so River can't get out, so you don't need to worry about her."

"You gonna be back before the others? They ain't gonna like it if they find out there's only me in here with Doc's sister."

Inara nodded regally. "No worries, Jayne. I'll be back before anything bad can happen."

"Don't forget the grenades!" he called out as she headed for the stairs.

She threw him a smile over her shoulder and kept walking.

Jayne watched her go, admiring the alluring sway of her hips.

He was gonna need some more bunk time.

Fifteen minutes later, Jayne wandered down to the cargo bay and inspected the shuttle to make sure it was sealed tight. No way in hell he wanted that nutty little girl to get loose and molest him again.

Everything looked ship-shape as he tested the door.

For a moment, he contemplated taking a peek inside Inara's quarters. He'd heard stories of how richly it was decorated and he wondered if he'd ever have another chance to see the inside of it, bein' that he'd had a severe allergic reaction to the woman's incense and spent most of the time during the life-support fiasco knocked out by an industrial-grade anti-histamine.

What was the chance of little crazy waking up and coming after him? Better than average.

And what was the chance of him ever seeing the inside of Inara's shuttle again? Astronomically low.

Jayne weighed the two options and decided to err on the side of caution. Luck was not with him when it came to Doc's sister.

"Wheel of fortune."

Jayne flinched as the voice came out of nowhere and went into full battle-ready mode.

"What? Hey! Where are ya, girl?"

He heard a giggle from below and looked down to see her standing underneath the catwalk, grinning up at him like that goddamn cat from that 'toon reel from hundreds of years ago. "Three hours-seven minutes-twenty seconds until the cavalry arrives!"

Beautiful. Ruttin' beautiful. Jayne was left alone with the one person he feared in the 'verse besides his ma. "How'd you get outta that ruttin' shuttle?"

She just smiled and spun until she sank down into a graceful posture on the floor.

"Don't you go getting' no ideas, girl," Jayne cautioned, eyeing her from above.

She smiled and made a mock-determined face as she imitated the pull-up motion he'd used weeks ago.

Jayne felt a sheen perspiration form on his skin and run down his back. Oh, no. Not again.

"Outta yer gorram mind if ya think I'm gonna do that!" he growled at her and went for the stairs. He had to capture her and get her back in the shuttle before Inara got back or he'd get hisself blown out the airlock for sure.

He took his eyes off her for a moment as he jumped the last few steps and swore when he found the cargo bay was empty.

Gorramit! Where 'd little crazy gotten herself to?

Jayne searched the corridors of Serenity carefully, checking in all the hidey-holes he knew of and finding a few more in the process, but River was nowhere to be found.

He was worried and how. No tellin' what she would do if left to her own devices.

He finally gave up after an hour, went to the bridge and set up the comm system to alert him if any modifications were made to the engine or other necessary parts of the ship.

He didn't give a rut if she broke into the infirmary and ate all of the doctor's gauze, just as long as he could get off this gorram planet with brass in pocket.

Hungry and edgy, he went to his bunk, retrieved Deirdre and a canister of gun oil, and headed for the mess.

Deirdre was not as large as Vera, but she was just as beautiful: a stunning LeMat revolver, almost 700 years old, and in as good working condition as she'd been when she'd been manufactured thanks to Jayne's ceaseless maintenance.

He stripped her down, singing under his breath as he oiled her, all the while keeping an ear open for the alarm. "He dropped it onto our houses…he dropped it into our yards…the man they called Jayne…"

"He stole away our pain," her voice came, soft and perfectly in tune, as she stepped into the dining area from the aft passage. "And headed out for the stars…"

Jayne jumped and dropped the cleaning jag. "Lao TIEN yeh!"

River glided over to retrieve the fallen instrument and placed it in front of Jayne. She looked at the gun and said, "A 9-shot cylinder revolves around a separate, larger caliber smoothbore central barrel. Flipping lever down causes moveable striker to fall upon primer set directly under hammer, discharging lower barrel; left in standard position, it would fire chambers in cylinder."

"Uh, her name's Deirdre," Jayne growled, hunching his shoulders as if to protect the gun from her. Or maybe it was the other way around…

She smiled as her eyes wandered over the pieces that lay on the table. "Of ruin great cause thou art though famous, and fair, and pale; ere that Félim's hid daughter from life shall part, all Ulster her deeds shall wail."

"Where you been, girl?" Jayne demanded, shooting her an angry glare as he began reassembling Deirdre. "Wasted quality gun-cleanin' time lookin' for ya."

"Here, there, everywhere," she replied, circling around the table. "It's time for a tune-up and I expect prompt service."

Jayne felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. "Whaddya chatterin' 'bout now?"

She pulled out a chair, sat down and placed a credit in front of him.

"Already told ya, no way!" He got up, tucked Deirdre into the back of his pants and went to the sink to wash his hands.

She didn't respond.

"Ya know what your problem is, feng le?" he said as he scrubbed his hands. "Ya think just 'cause the Cap'n's taken to ya that ya can just sashay around this ship and do anything ya like. Well now that everyone's gone, it's just you an' me and we're gonna lay down a few rules. No more o' this ruttin' stalkin', for starters. I ain't gonna stand for it no more, hear?"

He turned around to see if she was paying attention to him. She sat at the table, still as a statue, her eyes fixed on the canister of gun oil and the cleaning jag.

"Don't even think about it, nī zi," he cautioned. "I'm not in a good mood and you're disc-dancin' on my last gorram nerve."

She ducked her head, then raised her eyes and smiled at him. Quicker than he thought possible, she snatched the jag and made a break for the fore passage.

"Hey!" he shouted, tearing off after her. "Gimme that!"

While Deirdre was a stunning weapon that he valued highly, she was by no means easy to keep up. She required a rare type of cleaning instrument – .16 gauge jags were precious hard to come by in the 'verse and he only had the one. No way was he gonna to let that girl use it in one of her art projects!

Jayne chased her down the stairs, across the cargo bay, up the stairs to the aft passage, and still she eluded him. He had strength and speed, but, damn, if that girl didn't have stamina. She was hardly winded as she ran from him, executing feats of flexibility and balance that he'd be in awe of if he weren't so annoyed with her.

He finally cornered her in a dark corner of the cargo bay. She was laughing at him as he advanced on her, cutting off all possible routes of escape. She held aloft the cleaning jag, and dropped it down the front of her dress.

"Finders keepers, finders weepers!" she crowed as he grabbed her arms.

"Gimme my gorram jag!" he growled, shaking her until her teeth rattled.

She coolly arched an eyebrow and glanced down. "Also called a contusion or ecchymosis, kind of injury to biological tissue in which capillaries are damaged, allowing blood to seep into surrounding tissue."

Jayne looked down at her arms where his fingers easily circled her upper arms. They were digging into her flesh and more than likely would leave marks.

He immediately released her, but placed his hands against the wall, blocking her from leaving.

"Give it over, girl" he demanded. "I ain't got no time for games! Gimme the damn tool!"

She bit her lip as she looked down.

"The girl's name is River," she said, using a finger to stroke his belt buckle. "The man's name is a girl's plain vanilla-chocolate-strawberry-Kaylee smiles-name. Will he show her the man parts now?"

Jayne felt his skin go tight in the vicinity of his man parts. "No!"

"River will show you hers," she said, looking up at him. "Chutes, bends, eddies – all currently in working order, but in need of service to continue operating at maximum capacity."

"The hell ya will," Jayne countered. "We're both keepin' our clothes on and no more of this grown-up show-n-tell ever again!"

"Need tools for cleaning," she declared, giving him a brilliant smile. "Woman parts need lubricant. Two by two - wet, dry, wet. Need shaft for chamber, yes?"

"Just gimme the damn jag," he pleaded, weary and wary at the look in her eyes. He was getting hard with the way she was talkin' and he didn't want to have to go lookin' for the tool down her dress. No tellin' what she'd do, and if Inara came back and caught them, he'd be in a whole stack of trouble.

"Need it," she insisted, brushing against him. "Need it more than big, bad guy needs it."

Jayne closed his eyes and exhaled softly. "Please, just give it back and we'll talk about it when I get you back in the shuttle."

"Need it now," she said softly and her eyes went dark. "Need it here."

He hadn't had a woman in weeks and here she was, smearin' herself against him like some sort of feline in heat…

"This ain't the time or place," he said, more for his benefit than hers.

He could swear she saw him gettin' weak because she gave him that innocent smile as she licked her lips, extracted the tool and held it out to him. "No one else aboard. Perfect time and place. No witness, no sound, no one knows and girl gets cleaned."

Jayne didn't say a word to her as he took the tool from her and tucked it into his back pocket. He was trying not to look at her, but she reached out a hand and brushed it across his jaw.

"Please?" she whispered, her eyes darker than the black.

He looked up at her and knew he'd made a serious error. Jayne knew lust when he saw it and she had it written all over her face. But there was something else there – somethin' akin to faith or admiration as she smiled at him – and it twisted, low and harsh, in his gut.

Why couldn't she be afraid of him like other people were? Hell, most people were ready to foul themselves when they came up against him and his formidable temper…

"There is nothing to fear except fear itself," she said, smoothing a hand over his cheekbone and ear. "Does he not know this? The captain, the engineer, the warrior woman, the husband knows this and he does not? Truthfully, is he scared of the girl?"

That pissed him off. Screw it, he'd had enough of this chitchat!

"'Girl' needs to be taught a lesson," he growled, turning her around, grabbing her wrists and slapping them against the wall. "And I'm thinkin' I'm the one who's gonna be teachin' it."

She looked at him over her shoulder and smiled.

"Eyes forward!" he ordered. She obeyed, but that sweet curve didn't leave her lips.

"I ain't no shiny Core-man," he warned as he kicked her feet apart. "You ain't gonna enjoy this."

She had the nerve to giggle!

"Not a word," he snarled into her ear as he slid his hands from her shoulders down, down, down to her waist, tilting her hips up against him. "Not one gorram word, ya hear?"

She tensed and he congratulated himself on finally shutting her up. But then she arched her back as he layered his chest against her and all thoughts of cruelty and humiliation fled in the wake of how soft and right she felt in that position. Her hair was silky against his cheek, her skin resilient under his hands and her 'bends' ideal for any number of sexin' activities.

One of his arms banded around her ribcage, just under her breasts, while the other slithered across her stomach, his hand coming to rest against her abdomen. She smelled good, like apples and vanilla and he closed his eyes as he took a good, long drink of her scent.

She didn't make a sound, but he could feel her breath catch as he leisurely raised her skirt, bunching up the fabric one fistful at a time. He used his wrist to pin the soft, silky cloth against the sleek, bare skin of her stomach while his hand slid between her legs.

She made as if to moan, but that was against the rules. He put his other hand over her mouth as he tucked his chin into that sleek place where her neck joined her shoulder. He nuzzled her skin, took a bit of it between his teeth, and she shuddered.

River couldn't move, couldn't get away, couldn't make a sound and Jayne liked that just fine as he took his time and discovered just how swift and wet she ran.

She managed an undulating motion, rolling her hips against him when he executed a particularly delicious stroke that made her rise up onto tiptoe. He responded by sucking that sweet spot of her neck into his mouth and sliding a middle digit into her.

He felt her start, her body stiffening at the sudden invasion. He grinned against her skin and crooked that finger in a firm, languid gesture.

Her knees buckled and she howled, long and low, into his hand.

He liked that response so much he added a second finger and did it again. And again. And again.

She reacted with a series of gasps synchronized with his motions that he stifled against his palm.

Jayne didn't know or care how much time passed as kneaded the flesh between her legs, gnawed the flesh along her neck. It was so ruttin' hot, discovering the way she felt against him, around him as he worked her. He wanted more, a whole lot more.

He knew he wasn't gonna be satisfied with her until he discovered just how many different ways he could get her to make those sounds, Doc and Mal be damned to all sorts of hell!

He felt her head moving against his cheek, her hair brushing against him as if she were nodding.

"Yeah, baby girl," he whispered in her ear, "You want that? You wanna see how many places I can 'strip' ya and 'clean' ya afore ya start hollerin'?"

Jayne sank his teeth into her neck as she screamed and struggled against his hold, bearing down on one hand and biting the other. He grinned, imagining what it would feel like to have other parts of his body gripped by her as she quivered and quaked around him.

He gave her a few moments to catch her breath before he extracted one hand from between her legs and took the other from her mouth. He settled them on her waist and steadied her as she sagged against the wall – if not for his arms supporting her, she would have collapsed to the floor.

Jayne held her for a few minutes as she calmed, one hand stroking her hair. He felt her turning in his arms, all slow and careful-like, and he placed his hands on the wall, bracketing her as he watched her to make sure she wouldn't fall down.

He waited for her to give him an indication of what she wanted. His bunk or her cabin – what was it gonna be?

She didn't say a word as she reached out and smoothed her palm down his ribcage.

Jayne watched her hand, his breath catching as her palm lifted away and her fingers continued their descent to the place where his shirt was tucked into his pants. He glanced up at her eyes and gulped as he felt the back of her fingers stroking his stomach, right above his belt buckle.

She looked at him, a mixture of feral heat and glee in her eyes. He bit his lip and sucked in his breath, wondering what she was planning.

River took advantage of the extra space between his stomach and his pants to slide her fingers in and grip his waistband. Her fingers were elegant and cool against him and he entertained some very graphic visuals of what she could do him with that hand and a helluva lot of spit.

She smiled as he watched her hand tighten around his buckle.

He smiled as she reached her other hand up to feel the beginnings of a sex bite on her throat.

Then he stopped smiling as her hand drifted down to her chest and moved into her bodice. Quick as he'd ever pulled the pin from a grenade and lobbed it, she drew out a roll of credits and tucked them into his pants.

"Hey!" he yelled as she broke free and danced away from him. "That ain't right!"

She looked over her shoulder, grinning as she sighted him and pirouetted. "What? Has the big, bad merc's price gone up?"

He looked down at the wad of cash she'd tucked in his pants. "That ain't the point and you know it!"

River sat down on an empty crate, crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap, the model of propriety. "And what, pray tell, is the point?"

"This ain't right, girl!" Jayne stalked over to her, grabbed the credits and shoved them in her face. "Nobody buys Jayne Cobb!"

"You buy women all the time," she replied in a confused tone, though her eyes were clear and focused. "How is this any different?"

"I ain't no gorram whore!"

River stood up, calm and self-possessed as she regarded him. "You sell services to the captain, to the Feds, anyone who will reimburse. My credit is good. Does it matter as long as you are compensated?"

Try as he might, he couldn't think of one ruttin' thing to say to that.

She smiled at him as she drew out another credit from her bodice and held it out to him.

"What's this for?" Jayne asked as he slowly took it and wrapped it around the roll she'd already given him.

Her smile became a grin as she reached up to touch her sex bite again before ascending the catwalk. "To insure prompt service."

Inara returned not fifteen minutes later and found Jayne in the mess, honing his knife. She placed a small bag in front of him and he upended it quickly, frowning when he discovered the contents were credits.

"Where's the ammo?" Jayne demanded.

"I had a stockboy bring the boxes to the cargo bay," Inara replied. "How was River?"

Jayne shrugged, not looking her in the eye as he concentrated on sharpening Binky.

"Well, you definitely earned your coin today. Who thought staying on the ship could be so profitable?" Inara teased before retrieving an apple from the table and going back to her shuttle.

Jayne eyed the pile of money on the table in front of him and looked down at his pocket, where his other "wages" were stashed. That filthy-guilty feelin' was back and he didn't know if he'd make it to dinner tonight.

"This is gettin' downright unsettlin'," he said as he put down Binky and started scooping the cash back into the bag and adding the other roll of credits.

"lū" "chatter"

"Dǎi?" "Play cards?"

"Gou huang tang." "Enough of this nonsense."

"Lao TYEN yeh!" "Jesus!"

"feng le" "crazy"

"nī zi" "little girl"