Games We Play 6 ~ Epilogue
Rayne Summer Challenge Fic/Prompt: Games
Rating: R/M, for language, some grown up type thoughts, and perhaps more…
Pairing: River & Jayne
Disclaimer: I own neither River nor Jayne nor any associated characters. Joss is da man! Just letting the muse play in the sandbox for fun. Sorry for the long delay. Unbeta'd, all mistakes my own. Reviews appreciated! ;D
Part Six ~ Epilogue
Jayne stepped into the dusty sunlight of yet another back-berth world at the rear end of the 'verse, sliding on dark glasses against the glare. Mal's contact wasn't scheduled to hit dirtside for another day, so once the crew had seen to Serenity's fuel and supplies, Captain had given them shore leave until the following morning.
Suited Jayne's purposes just fine. The big man smiled to himself, stepping away quick as he dared without looking overeager. Didn't wanna draw any extra attention from his crewmates, or more than the evening would be blown. Then again, he didn't dawdle so slow as to give Mal time to find yet another bit of work on the boat before he could leave, and time was wasting.
They'd been out in the Black several weeks now, only hitting dirt for a couple of quick transfers, and no time to see to certain physical-type needs. The promise of answering those needs now drove Jayne resolutely down the side street with a spring in his step.
Ducking into the shade of an entryway, he scanned back over the way he'd come. Yep, sure enough, here she sashayed down the street in that bright yellow sundress, heading toward his location, but from a different direction. Had to double back, no doubt, shake her over-protective brother from her trail. They both knew exactly how well her brother or the captain or pretty much any of the crew would react about finding out Jayne and River's plans.
Keeping to the dark recess, he watched her saunter by the doorway. She glanced toward him as she passed. Anyone else would see just another confident young space-faring woman, stretching her combat boot-clad legs after a month in the Black. No one else would have noticed that knowing smile and barest of nods that she let slip as their eyes met for a millisecond. He gave her a smile back, and a nod he was sure she'd feel more than see.
Waiting until she'd been gone a full minute, Jayne eased away from the entry. A quick check of the back trail showed neither of them had been followed. Still, just to be sure, he worked his way to the rendezvous by criss-crossing through the back alleyways. A quarter-hour later, he came to the entrance of their pre-chosen establishment.
"Beaureguarde's Tavern and Fine Dining" wasn't one of his usual spots. The place was a bit too middle-class respectable for his tastes, with a freshly whitewashed façade and crisp checkerboard cloths on the tables in the looking-glass window. Then again, he wasn't just picking a watering hole for himself this time. Had River to think on, and a woman ought to have a little niceness when she could.
There were few enough fripperies to be had in the Black, he could compromise on this small thing. Besides, he wasn't sure he wanted her associating with the typical customers at his regular sort of hang-out.
Not that she couldn't handle herself if it came to it, he thought with admiration, but… he just didn't want her to have to. This was a rare occasion, a bit of free time to relax and enjoy. Didn't want to spoil that for either one of them.
As he slid through the door at Beauregarde's, Jayne was pleased to see the place wasn't just all doilies and tea biscuits. A long, polished wooden bar ran the back length of the main room. The variety of bottles lining the wall behind it spoke of decent, working man's liquor, nothing fancified, but not just rot-gut offerings, either. A well-worn tap offered ale, and from a door past the bar, the aroma of potatoes and some kind of grilled meat drifted out into the main chamber.
A few couples sat eating around the tables, eating or drinking from plain, clean-looking ceramic mugs. On Sundays, this place was probably a family establishment. Thankfully for him, this was a Friday. Not too many matrons here to wag their fingers at a man looking for a bit of necessity.
A few fellas had already started the festivities with a round of ale and a friendly - for now - game of cards. A decent looking whore, not showing quite as much flesh as some places, perched on one of the men's lap. A couple of her co-workers reclined on a nice sofa off to the side, their eyes lighting up when he nodded politely toward them.
Jayne eased onto a barstool, and rested his forearms on the wood as he studied the ladies through the big looking glass behind the bar. One of them, a statuesque blonde with just the right amount of ample bosom displayed, made eye contact in the mirror. She whispered to her co-worker on the sofa, and rose to head toward the well-built stranger who obviously had time and coin to spend on a Friday night.
He watched her amble toward him. Checking the rest of the room in the mirror, he spied River at a window table.
If the whore had dolled up her definitely female attributes to attract customers, River had merely accentuated her feminine qualities. She looked fresh and young, but not so innocent that she'd be an easy mark. Jayne nodded as she smiled and gave a tiny wave at his reflection.
This last month, she'd really started to bloom. He had to give himself just a little credit on that score, but most of it was her own doing. He might have opened the door to a whole new world for the sheltered, and still slightly 'egg-cent-trick' girl, but she'd flung it wide open and run through to a whole new kinda world. Didn't even call herself "she" anymore. Well, not that much, anyway.
"Haven't seen you in here before," a dusky female voice purred in his ear, just about the same time her flame-colored fingernails slid up the back of his arm, in open invitation. "And believe me, I'd remember a shuai, strong man like yourself."
Reflection-River frowned at the woman's obvious interest. Tilting her head in question, she stared at Jayne until he nearly thought he could hear her thoughts, 'stead of the other way round. He tried to think real loud, let her know she didn't have to be worried, that he'd follow the evening's plan. He musta been thinking loud enough, since River relaxed a little in her seat and sipped at the fruity drink she'd ordered.
"Don't reckon I ever been in here before," Jayne answered the whore, turning his head to smile at her and give an appreciative look-over of her wares. "Ain't likely I'd forget someone like yerself, Miz…?"
"Rose," she said softly, with a hint of that same color rising to her cheeks under the makeup as she turned her head coyly to the side. She was skilled, this one, maybe had even had dreams of being a Companion once. But the fancy whore academy didn't accept too many girls from out here on the Rim, not unless they were absolutely stunning. And pretty as this Rose was, she couldn't be considered stunning, not like Inara or her friend Nandi. Course, a working girl, even one at a 'respectable' establishment like this, didn't have to be. Clean, friendly, willing and not to terribly hard on the eyes was 'bout all it took out here.
Jayne took another sip of his brew, his eyes swinging back to the mirror and the young woman in the yellow sundress. She was watching them covertly, trying not to look too worried at the full-grown woman's attempt to lure him upstairs.
'Don't you be worried, darlin', I gave ya my word and I aim to keep it, dong ma?' he thought the words clear and slow, just like they'd been practicing. Funny, but the same 'powers' he used to fear and find feng li, now he saw for the advantage they could be during jobs, or in recreational situations like this.
Her posture relaxed at his thought-words, then snapped back to attention as a male figure came to stand by her table. Shooting a quick look at Jayne, she raised her brows slightly and smiled at the newcomer as he spoke to her.
Jayne let a frown drop over his face, patting Rose's hand and removing it from his bicep."'Scuze me, somethin' I gotta take care of right quick," he told the disappointed woman, adding a quick squeeze to her hand. "Might take a while, so don't hold off on your tradin' on account of me."
Raising his body to its full six-foot-four imposing height, he stalked over to the table, clamping an iron hand on the unsuspecting young man's shoulder from behind. Jayne resisted the urge to spin the fellow around, instead settling for looming over him as he gave a tight, toothy smile. The other man stiffened and slowly turned to face the hand's owner with wide eyes.
"This fella botherin' you?" he growled out to River, who sat calmly with her hands in her lap, her head tilted slightly to the side as she studied the pair of them.
To his credit, the younger man didn't wet himself or start shaking too much to speak, though the implications of being latched onto by a scowling, towering wall of muscle were evident on his slightly paled face.
"I-I only asked her if I could buy her a refreshment, mister! Didn't mean anything by it, if… if… if she's with you, I didn't mean to – "
"What's your name, boy?" Jayne asked him, pulling the young man closer to peer intently into his face. Low enough that only the three of them would hear, he added, "And don't lie to me, cause I'll know."
"Ch-char-char-Charles, sir, my name is Charles. Bu-bu-but they call me Chuck. My friends, that is, they call me Chuck." Chuck held up both hands in surrender. "Look, if the lady's with you, I can just – "
"Where ya from, Chuck?" Jayne pressed, eyeing the neatly dressed fellow as if the secrets of the known 'verse depended on it. He didn't go armed, at least not with visible weapons, and Jayne's practiced eye couldn't make out any tell-tale lumps or creases in his clothes that spoke of concealed arms.
Despite being the same height as the gunman, the younger man was of lankier build, a fact that Chuck obviously was considering that as he looked over Jayne's well-defined muscle mass with a healthy dose of respect.
"You from around here, or just come in off one of the ships? You some kinda travelin' Fed, Chuck?"
"Ship! I'm on a ship! I mean, I fly on a ship, sir, the Carmichael," he answered quickly, looking nervously between Jayne and River and the oh-so-far-away door.
Jayne pressed him further. "So, are you?" His fingers bit into Chuck's shoulder with a little more force.
"Are I –?"
"Am I a – no, no, not a Federal, I'm a computer."
Jayne's brows raised at that. Chuck shook his head quickly, color rising to his face. "No, I mean, of course I'm not a computer, that's just silly. I work with computers. Fix them. Traveling computer repair, Orion Tech Repair? You know?" He nodded hopefully to River and Jayne, as if that cleared up everything. At their continued silence, his nod turned to a shaking of his head.
"Ya don't know. Oh. Well. We don't have a huge presence out here. Yet. Kinda why I'm out here, traveling around, letting folks know I'm… y'know… around. Just 'cause you live on the Rim, doesn't mean you don't have computer problems, cortex connection issues, hand-held information devices, that sorta thing."
Jayne shot River a purposeful look. "So, L'il Gal, what should I do with our 'computer fixer'? You reckon I oughta take him to meet Vera?" He gave Chuck a smile that was more threatening than friendly.
"Hey, hey, hey, I said I didn't mean to intrude upon your… your lady-friend, I didn't know you were together. I'll just – I could just go – "
"Not a unit. She – I like club soda. Chuck and Jayne would please bring her a club soda?"
Jayne wrapped a thick arm around Chuck's shoulder and steered the perplexed young man toward the bar.
"Hey, look man, I really didn't know she was with you. If I stepped over the line, I'm sorry," Chuck offered sincerely, obviously anxious to get out of the larger man's striking distance. "I'll just buy the lady a club soda and you a… a large, manly drink, and be on my merry."
"You ain't leavin'," Jayne said matter-of-factly. "Evenin's still young, an' ya don't wanna make the little lady wait too long, dong ma?"
"Not really, I don't understand at all."
Jayne looked back over his shoulder at River, who now appeared to be concentrating on making origami figures from her napkins.
"She likes ya," Jayne stated, giving the other guy a skeptical look. "Ain't sure why, but then, ain't no accountin' fer taste, right?"
Chuck laughed nervously. "That's awfully nice, but… but I'm really kinda old fashioned, y'know. Two's company and three's… three's a… three's just a little more… ahem, interesting… than I usually – " his eyes widened in alarm as Jayne growled at that, and hurried to add, "NOT to say there's anything wrong with that… sort of thing. If you're, y'know into that sort of … thing…"
Jayne scoffed as the fellow kept talking himself into a hole. The more he said, the more nervous he got, and the harder it was for Jayne to keep from busting out laughing in his face or knocking him senseless for what he was implying.
"Relax, Buttercup, you ain't my type," Jayne sneered, relieving the guy's fears. "I don't mean you an' me an' her, I mean you an' her."
Chuck looked stunned. "You're her… and you find her… I mean you share…"
Jayne clarified, shooting daggers from his eyes. "I don't share my women," he growled. "But she ain't my woman. And there ain't gonna be nothin' like that goin' on here with her anyhow, dong ma?"
He could feel some of the fear ease away from the younger man at that relevation. "You're not with her?"
"No, I'm not with her, we're just here together," Jayne said slowly, certain that would clear the fellow's misconceptions up.
Chuck's look said otherwise. Jayne sighed. "We're crew. Gotta look out for your crew, right? 'Specially young, pretty female crew who some hundan might think to make a club soda into more than the lady had in mind, dong ma? Unless they know there's a big mean man watchin', who'd look on that unkindly, and turn their insides to the outsides if that happens. But that's not gonna happen, is it, Chuck?"
Chuck laughed nervously, but the relief was written all over his face. "No! No, no, I would never… not even if you weren't here."
Jayne looked back to River, thinking his question loud and clear, and getting a smile and enthusiastic nod in reply.
"So, club soda it is," he smiled in a more friendly way. "And maybe a bit of dinner and talk, at that table right there, dong ma? Ask her about her dancing," he added in a low, conspiratorial whisper. "And mathematics. She loves mathematical talk."
"Yes, thanks…er, mister, I will," Chuck said, casting a beaming smile back to River before ordering two club sodas and asking for a menu.
Back at the table, Chuck sat down across from River. He started scooting over for Jayne to join them, but the big man waved him off, and threw a grin over his shoulder to Rose. The lady seemed captivated by the play she'd just witnessed, and had indeed held off on plying her trade with someone else.
"You all good?" he asked River.
"Excellent," she said, sipping her soda. "Charles and I will converse now. Your amusement awaits."
"Well, alright then. You kids play nice, me and Rose are gonna go do some grown-up 'conversing' upstairs." Leaning over Chuck's side of the table, he spoke low. "You know what I'm gonna say here, doncha boy?"
Chuck nodded with certainty. "Yes, Sir."
"Then I ain't gotta even say it, do I?"
"Good!" Jayne said cheerfully, slapping him hard on the back and returning to the bar where Rose waited.
The whole plan had gone smooth. Taking Chuck from the table, getting him to focus on Jayne and the healthy fear that his life could be in danger, had given River enough time to read the man and see what kind of intentions rattled around in his brainpan. It was the best he could do for her, short of sitting in as a chaperone, and Jayne did have his own needs to see to, after all.
River wouldn't begrudge him that. What lay between them was something special, for sure. Ever since that night a month ago, there between the satin sheets of the Golden Lotus, there had been – would always be – a special bond between him and the woman she became that night.
They'd held nothing back, and he had been slightly surprised that anyone who was that closely related to Simon 'stick-up-his-pi-gu' Tam, could be as free and unabashed in her own skin. She'd spoke the truth as much as he had, though. Neither of them looked for the picket-fence forever after the sun rose.
Their friendship had cemented in the weeks since then, a kinship Jayne wouldn't have imagined when he'd first met the girl. As a working pair, they were a fearsome team. Even Mal seemed surprised how well they worked together during meets. Helped that she could read his intentions, and while Jayne weren't nowhere near to being psychic, he could read her body language and the looks on her face well enough to know when she was picking up on bad things about to happen.
She hadn't sought him for more physical learning since that first and only night. He wasn't sure he'd have agreed to that anyway, though he still helped her out with advice on how to act in public, and specifically romantic, settings.
This trial run had gone pretty good, he thought. Couldn't expect her to go meeting suitors on her lonesome, but the crew still had a pig-tails and knee-socks image of her burned into their brains. Until one or t'other of them finally woke up to realize River was a woman full-growed, Jayne figured it was up to him to look after the little lady when she wanted to pursue normal, womanly pursuits. Like letting a decent fella buy her dinner and a club soda.
And tonight had soothed any worry she mighta had that he'd just drop her off first chance he got and head on toward his getting his own play. Jayne held up his end of the bargain, distracting the fella so she could get a good read on him without freaking him out, and provided enough 'mean bad man' threat that any hundan with a lick of sense would mind his manners with her.
He was fair certain Simon would keel over, if'n he ever found out. That right there was enough incentive by itself for Jayne to go along with the arrangement.
"Sorry 'bout the hold-up, just had to look out for my crewmate," he explained to Rose as they moved toward the stairs.
From across the room, River called out, "Xie-xie, Jayne. Happy fornication!"
"That's the plan," he answered with a wide grin, his eyes focused on the pretty woman at his side.
# # #