Disclaimer:I neither created nor own these characters. (All hail Joss!) Just havin' some fun, no cashy-money comin' to me…

***

Shattered. Splintered. Fragmented. Whole.

Inara lay still, bliss pulsing throughout her body and mind. She held his trembling body in her equally trembling embrace, savoring the weight of him on her. Jayne held much of his formidable size on his own strong arms, arms still wrapped firmly around her.

His ragged breath fanned across her neck as they lay in communed silence, both stunned by the force of their union. Gently she stroked the limber length of his back, making little circles with her fingertips, stroking the definition of his broad shoulders.

"Jayne, bao bei," she purred in his ear, nibbling the lobe. It may be the softest part of him, she thought.

"Hmmmmmm," he sighed the contentment of a man who'd had his hunger fully sated.

Tiger. Languid and drowsy, taking his leisure. She knew his lightning reflexes and lethal power could catapult him to action in a breath. But for this moment, he was completely relaxed.

They lay quiet, an easy peace between them. It smoothed his brow, taking years off his appearance. For a while, there was no danger for him to face, no foe to vanquish, no threat calling for response. He could just be.

She wanted that for him, this brief respite from the hard life in the Black. And for now, she could be that for him.

"'M I getting' heavy on ya, darlin'?" Jayne shifted his weight to move off of her. She tensed her embrace to halt him.

"No, sweet man, you feel good," she answered, easing her arms when he relaxed again. "You feel – how did you put it? 'So gorram good' here with me."

She felt his smile against her neck. A tender kiss in the same spot followed it.

"Never imagined I'd hear those words on your lips," he chuckled.

"Neither did I," she answered.

***'

Jayne sighed, content and a little bittersweet. Her lovely face was so relaxed as she dozed up against him, completely spent out. Companions went on about 'composure' and all, but he'd never seen her so peaceful. Made him happy, that he'd done that for her, but made him sad, too.

Things weren't never gonna be the same. Even if they didn't keep the night of loving they shared a secret from the crew, from Mal, it still couldn't be the same.

Jayne knew Inara wasn't looking to settle down with him, though damn if the idea didn't give him a brief sweet ache in his chest. But it weren't gonna happen, even if she asked.

Weren't that he couldn't manage to live in her world. He had manners enough when he wanted them. He never told nobody, but his Grandpop had been a company big -shot once. Core-born and bred. Power-plays and back-stabbing had got him transferred to the company's farthest station, out on the Rim. Where his little girl had smack-dab fallen in love with a big, rough working man – Jayne's Pop.

Though her father disowned her, the old man softened up when the babies started coming. Brought the eldest boy to his fancy house during the winter, when food got scarce and there weren't much work needed doing on the farm anyhow. Taught him as much 'culture' and fancified living as a buck-wild young Rim boy would let him. Jayne hadn't seen much use for all the fuss, but learned it since it made his Ma happy.

Not a soul on this boat would dream it, but Jayne even knew some of the fancy ball dances.

Weren't that he didn't have the know-how. Didn't want-to. Folks all gussied up, afraid to get their lily-white hands dirty. Pop taught him to take pride in a man's hard work. A long day of sweating was better than working your ass off for some company and getting jerked around like his Grandpop had.

Mostly, it was the way they lied to each other. Everybody smile to your face when their eyes said they wanna gut you. Saying how nice it was to see each other, what a lovely time, la-ti-da, not meaning a bit of it.

Folks needed some good whiskey. Maybe play some foot-stomping music, not that funeral-like crap, them Core-folk would get loose and get right. Quit being such tight-asses like Doc.

Inara stirred against him, one dainty hand resting on his chest. Woman like this might make a man change his mind, put on all that fancy to make her happy.

Don't kid yourself, boy, Jayne told himself. Not even for her. Not even if she asked.

He'd be in heaven with her for a while, sure. But then it'd start to chaff at him, a tight collar with too much starch. He'd start resenting her, even while he loved being with her. And it wouldn't be fair asking her to give up the life she knew, even if she'd be willing to.

"Your brow is awfully troubled for a man who's just shared union with a Companion," her voice slipped into his thoughts.

"Hmmm," he grunted, rubbing her arm lightly. "Just thinkin'. Takes a bit of effort on my part, ya know. Helps to scrunch my face up some."

"Don't try that fei hua on me. I already knew you were sharper than you let on," she scoffed. "Academy training, remember?"

They grew silent again for a time, though the ease was some damaged by thoughts of the 'verse creeping back on them.

"I can't stay," she said finally in a sad, small voice.

"I know, darlin'," he kissed her temple. "I never expected you to stay with me. Jus' damn glad you wanted to be here in the first place."

She squirmed to face him, eyes shining earnestly. "I don't mean… it's not you, it's me."

"Don't," he rasped. "Don't do that, bao bei. Ya don't have to with me. Not the 'it's not you, it's me' thing? I never expected it to be that way with us. Hell," he gave her a brief squeeze, "I never 'spected it to be like this with us, girl. I just want ya to always be able to tell me straight what's on yer mind. Just be honest with me. Do that for me, darlin'?"

A tear slid down her cheek. Damn, he thought, capturing the salty crystal with his mouth. Sliding his lips to hers, he softly kissed her and let her cry on him.

"I can't stay on Serenity."

"Why the hell not?" he demanded, worried it was because of him. "If it's Mal findin' out, well…hell, 'Nara, ya don't have to tell him if ya don't want. I won't say a word, my hand to God. Don't run off on my account, all right?"

"No, it's not you, Jayne, really," she stroked face. "I wasn't giving you a line about that. It really is me, you see."

He didn't see, and told her as much.

Inara sighed, sounding like somebody let all the air out of her. "What we… what you gave me tonight was a gift to me, Jayne. I meant what I said. I've never been able to just let go, not worry about all the rules and structure of the seduction. To not put the client above all else. You let me be free with you. I can never tell you how much that means to me."

He smiled at her. "Seems to me, I was the lucky one what got the gift."

"I came out here to the Black to find that freedom, that passion. For the longest time, I thought I'd find it with …. But he…He wouldn't…"

She trailed off, her eyes going hurt and distant.

"Mal's a ruttin' fool, 'Nara. Can't say I'm total sad 'bout that. If he weren't I don't reckon I had half-a-hump's chance bein' here in your bed. But I know ya wanted it to be him, an' I know he hurt yer heart by not loosenin' up enough to take what you offered."

"I wasn't thinking of him while we were together," she insisted.

"Ain't what I meant, gorramit. I know you had yer heart set on him, and I ain't never took no offense to that. You an' me? I knowed what it was from the get-go. I ain't never gonna be sorry about it, layin' down with such a fine woman as yourself. But don't you worry I'm hopin' for nothin' more." He held her chin in his big hand, looking her square in the eye with as much no-nonsense as he could work up.

"Ya listen to me, Inara Serra. I ain't expectin' no happy-ever-after go se. So don't you worry I'm gonna run my mouth 'bout this lil' bit of heaven we took, dong ma? If ya still want Mal, an' he ever smartens up, I'll be happy to see ya get yer heart's desire. I mean ever bit of it."

"You're a better man than you let people see," she said. "A woman would be lucky to catch you up, Jayne Cobb. If things had been different…"

"Woulda, shoulda, coulda, darlin'. Don't matter, though." He tucked a strand of her black silk hair behind her ear. "Man like me ain't cut out for yer fancy world, no-how. An' yer too good a woman fer me to want ya to leave your'n. Ain't sayin' we can't meet in the middle any time ya take a notion. An' I mean any damn time. But no pressure. An' no regrets."

That seemed to ease her a bit, though he could see she still upset. Wanting to get her mind off her worry, and maybe ease his own, Jayne fell back on the one thing he knew could make a body forget their troubles. Besides, might be the last time he ever got the chance to touch her, especially if she was leaving.

He kissed her neck gently, then with more intent as he felt her respond. Trying to ease her onto her back again, he felt a stab of disappointment when she resisted, pushing against him.

"I'm sorry, 'Nara. If ya don' wanna, it's all right," he apologized. "Just thought ya might."

"Didn't say Ah don' wanna," she mimicked in his Rim-bred accent.

A sultry smile widened across that sexy mouth, and Jayne thought again about the wolf story. Nobody ever mentioned it mighta been a she-wolf in that tale.

Growling back at her, he grabbed her hips firm. Inara tossed a long, lean leg over his groin and straddled him.

"Ah jus' thought ah'd take me a lil' ride, cowboy," she drawled.

"Well, saddle up, lil' missy, an' let's git," he told her, nearly whooping when she did just that.

***'

The End