Rating: Hard R for adult-type concepts
Pairing: Jayne Cobb/Inara Serra
Author's Notes: Nope, I still don't own any of this, though I'm still hoping our favorite Merc and Companion could still be available for contract (a gal can dream can't she?)
Aboard transport ship Serenity …
Five sets of eyes kept darting toward the ramp, watching for Serenity's newest resident to grace the portal. Every one of them tried to look like as they had a reason to be loitering around the cargo bay. At least Jayne had a legitimate excuse, even if it was because Mal ordered him to restack the same bunch of crates he'd done straightened earlier. Busy work, much as anything, but at least it wasn't the septic vac.
Mal was doing his best to look captainy, not over-eager for the beautiful Companion's arrival. Most like, he didn't want her to see how much he wished their 'strictly professional business relationship' would take a more personal turn.
"Best Sunday-go-t'meetin' behavior, folks," he reminded, the fourth such warning in about as many minutes. "Don't want our newest shipmate thinkin' we're complete heathens an' ain't got social graces. That means no scratchin' parts what ought not be scratched at the table," he leveled a stern glare toward Jayne.
"An' no pesterin' her with a hundred questions about her occupation," he said with a softer expression as he eyed the bouncy mechanic, though the authority in his tone didn't waver.
"Aww, but Cap'n," Kaylee said, looking like somebody done let all the air outta her balloon. "Ain't never even seen no fancy Companion afore. Sure ain't met one up close an' personal. Sure ain't met one up close an' personal. You sayin' I ain't to show no int'rest about her career? Doncha think that's kinda rude? I mean, I appreciate when folks ask about mechanickin'. Lets me know they're int'rested and got some respect for my trade."
Mal sighed. "I ain't sayin' to not be interested, Kaylee. Just don't want her bombared with a bunch a nosy questions 'bout what she does, the second she sets foot on the ship, dong ma? Woman asked for her privacy, an' I aim for us to honor that request. Reckon if we don't run her off with our backwater ways on the first trip out, she maybehaps could be stickin' round a fair while. And folks, I ain't gotta tell ya, we need that steady rent off the shuttle. Got too many bits flyin' offa my boat of late, an' not near enough coin to fix them. We need to see to that before it's some part we can't afford not to have."
Kaylee seemed to weigh the burning curiosity about the fancy Companion against the promise of a repair budget for her girl. Nodding at the captain's sage advice, or at least at the half-veiled bribe of getting new parts for Serenity, she bit back her objections and shrugged in agreement.
"Plenty of time to get to know her proper," Mal soothed. "Later on, if she wants to get personal…" he flushed at the words, "that is, to share personal things… information… well…"
Jayne covered his smirk by ducking down to readjust a crate. Mal was trying to play it solid, but that man could no more hide his interest in Inara Serra than Jayne could blend in with a family of midgets. Peril of her trade, he figured, and all part of what drew men to the Guilded Ladies, ensured they had plenty of work lined up. Couldn't fault a woman for seeing to her own job security. Still, it could be hilarious, watching the other menfolk on board try and keep their eyes from lingering too long. Jayne mighta even enjoyed that, if he wasn't so nervous his own self about having her aboard.
Looking around the hold, he could see Wash fidgeting with his bright-colored flowery shirt-tail, his laughing blue eyes darting between the doorway, his wrist chrono, and his wife's observant gaze.
Course, he couldn't blame Wash for the curiosity, even if there weren't a chance in nine hells of it going anywhere. The man was married to one of the finest women Jayne ever laid eyes on, and all the charms and beauty of a Companion wouldn't shake the bond between those two.
Not that he blamed Wash a bit for his devotion. If circumstances had been different, Jayne might have made a play for the tall warrior-woman's affection himself when he'd first joined the crew. He always did have a fondness for dark, mysterious eyes. And any woman what could handle a weapon and stay calm in a firefight like Zoe, that was a woman who earned his respect any day in the 'verse. But circumstances weren't different, and he wouldn't change much about them even if he could.
Weren't obvious, the draw between Zoe and Wash, and that particular relationship had put his brain to work at first. But the more time he spent around the happily-mated pair, the less he tried to find the commonness betwixt them. They just worked. Plain an' simple. Despite the 'verse that said they shouldn't have a chance at happiness, and all the differences in their backgrounds and personalities. Jayne could respect that.
Wash was apparently too gorram chipper to notice the rest of the 'verse quirking its brow at their unexpected partnership. And Zoe had a way of convincing the 'verse to shut the hell up and accept them as they were, just by her sheer iron willpower alone. Gave Jayne a kind of comfort, knowing that if those two unlikely lovers could carve out a place for themselves out here in the Black, maybe there could just be room for other folks to do the same.
He liked the couple. Liked the whole crew, in fact, though he tried hard not to let them see it overly much. Made it easier if he had to pick up and jump ship at a moment's notice. The past had a way of catching up to a man, whether he wanted it or not. But Kaylee's eternal optimism chipped away at his jaded attitude, and Mal's steadfast if sometimes unpredictable sense of honor reminded him of a time when his services weren't always reserved for whoever offered highest coin. Been a long time since those days, and he had to admit, he didn't dislike the reminder of them.
They were a good pack of folks, and their honest affection for each other was the main reason he'd chosen Serenity as a place to stick around, even when the coin was thin. A bunch like this didn't come along every day, and didn't he know that from painful experience. Last few crews he'd shipped out with weren't worth the cost of the bullets it would take to put them down with. None of them were the kind that a Registered Companion would be safe trucking with. The idea of Inara Serra flying with his past crews gave Jayne a chill in his gut.
Still, weren't but so far he could trust even this crew. Mal had dug into is tight pockets for a decent meal tonight, real meat and fresh vegetables in honor of the new tenant. Jayne saw it as a sign of how much he wanted to impress Inara. That in itself sent off warning bells in Jayne's head. Captains that go changing their behavior got unpredictable, and unpredictable had a way of getting crew members in bad positions.
Mal could spout all the 'business arrangement' go se he wanted, but his interest wasn't near as business-like as he let on. This was gonna be a narrow road to walk, Jayne could already tell and the woman hadn't even got moved in yet.
As if she'd heard his thought and took it as a cue, the satin-clad lady arrived at that moment on the ramp. Jayne lost all track of everyone else's reaction as he drank in the sight of her. The bright sunlight backlit her rich burgundy gown, tracing every curve and dip and swell of her body. He tamped down a sign of disappointment at her dark curls, constrained in a careful arrangement on top of her head. He had hoped she'd have it down, like earlier, but it was probably best she' put it up. It was all he could do not to march over and pull those high-credit gold pins from her hair, let the whole sea of black silk cascade over the smooth bare flesh of her shoulders.
He felt his fingers twitch to do just that, and gripped the crate to steady himself. Yes, less dangerous this way. If she'd left it down in all its ebony glory, the way he'd like, he didn't know if he could have resisted the urge to twine his fingers through it, pull her face close to his, claim her luscious ruby lips with his own.
"Ms. Serra, so glad you joined us!" Mal's charming voice scraped through Jayne's thoughts. "We'll get yer belongings stowed and have supper ready soon, though I doubt it compares to your usual fare."
The captain gallantly offered her his elbow and gave a flourishing half bow.
"I'm sure it will be quite suitable, Captain Reynolds." The Companion took the proffered arm, her fingertips resting lightly atop his forearm in the Core fashion, and gave a courteous nod to the room at large.
"Please, make yourself t'home. Everyone, this is Ms. Inara Serra. This here's the crew: my first mate, Zoe; our pilot Wash; Kaylee, Serenity's mechanic and resident ray of sunshine. You met Jayne. Cobb! Fetch Ms. Serra's things and see 'em into Shuttle One, mashong."
"Right away, Captain," Jayne said, heading toward the waiting hovercar piled to the gills with neatly stacked trunks and baggage.
He chanced a quick look toward her as he passed. Inara caught his glance for the barest of seconds longer than any Companion would bestow on a lowly mercenary before her dark eyes swept to the others. Jayne stared at the open ramp, running his tongue over suddenly parched lips.
Transferring the multitude of boxes and trunks to the shuttle was no problem for Jayne.
Keeping his mind and his eyes focused on the job at hand – not the woman he ached to spend a few moments alone with – the woman standing just an arm's length away and smelling of exotic flowers – was more of a challenge.
Mal wasn't helping, or maybe he thought he was, in that he helped carry some of the more awkward or large pieces, but the rest of the time, he hung around wherever Inara was. It was hard to tell if he was trying to just be close to the beautiful lady or if he was intent on keeping tabs on Jayne.
For his part, Jayne just kept toting her things from the ramp to the shuttle, trying to catch her eye unnoticed by Mal. She was playing it straight, though, keeping that reserved smile on her lips, flashing him a quick unreadable look every time Mal turned his head away. If only the captain would step out of the shuttle, just for a few minutes… or days, Jayne mused.
But a good half-hour into the loading process, and it was clear the man wasn't going anywhere. Jayne felt his shoulders sag a bit as he resigned himself to the fact, casting a look of pure longing toward Inara as Mal turned to move a delicately-carved table into the corner she pointed to.
"Thank you, Captain, that's the perfect arrangement," she told him with a smile that made the captain nearly beam with pride. "All that's lacking is the… Oh, do you see a small blue case? The one with gold latches?"
The three of them turned in the small shuttle, looking around at the various trunks and cases.
"I hope I haven't forgotten it in the car… it was a gift, from someone very dear to me. Could you… oh, I hate to be an inconvenience," she paused, heading toward the portal herself. "I hope the driver hasn't left yet."
"Oh, no… no inconvenience," Mal nearly ran through the doorway. "I'll catch him…"
His footfalls sounded off the metal as he charged down the stairway to the cargo bay.
Inara turned in a flash, gasping as Jayne captured her in his arms. As he pressed his lips to hers, she slid her hands to cup his face with those dark eyes staring into the heart of him as her mouth opened to accept his.
After what seemed like mere seconds and an eternity both, they split apart as if a lightning had struck between them. Wiping a bit of red lip glaze from the corner of his mouth, she smoothed the lines of her gown and took a deep calming breath.
"He's nearly back to the stairs," Jayne whispered, tracing her cheek with a fingertip.
"There will be time, bao bei," she whispered back softly, giving him a tender smile before the mask of Companion dropped back securely in place. "We mustn't –"
"I know, darlin'," Jayne said in a low voice, glancing to the door as footsteps came closer. "Soon enough…"
He pivoted to lift a large box, moving it to the side of her ornate bed. Inara knelt in front of another trunk, raising the lid and pulling out a small blue case with golden latches.
"Here it is!" she announced loudly, with an air of relief. "I would have been distraught, had I lost it! Mr. Cobb, could you please inform the captain – "
"No need, Ms. Serra, Captain heard the glad news," Mal said, trying to catch his breath as he leaned in the doorway. "Driver got to the end of the block before I could catch him."
"I appreciate your efforts, and apologize for the undue exertion," she said as she placed the case on the bedside table.
Mal waved off the trouble, about to reply when Wash's voice carried over the intercom, announcing departure clearance from the port. "Jayne," he motioned toward the door with his head in an unspoken 'get the go se outta here' order, "head on up and see if Kaylee needs help in the engine room."
"Well, I have to go do captain things, now. Ms. Serra, you need anything, just holler. And welcome aboard Serenity."
Jayne tromped the stairwell toward the upper deck, needing to put as much distance between him and the shuttle as he could right now. Every instinct urged him to fly back down to her door, punch Mal on the way through, and lay her down on that big fancy bed.
Tamping down the visceral urge to do just that, he headed on long strides past the dining room and toward the long hallway leading to Serenity's engine room.
He stopped in his tracks, looking over his shoulder at the captain in the doorway. "Yeah, Mal?"
"Thought we had an understanding about her." The cool, quiet tone may have fooled a stranger, but the gun-hand's hackles raised. Mal shouting wasn't nothing to fret over. Mal deadly quiet and serious was a warning of dangerous ground.
"Thought so too, Cap'n," Jayne said, letting a confused frown slip up his brow. "Far as I can tell, I ain't stepped outta line nowhere."
Mal stared at him with a look that was hard to nail down. "Not sayin' you stepped outta line," he finally conceded. "But I saw how you was lookin' at her. Can't say you weren't eyin' her pretty good."
The incredulous look on Jayne's face was real. "'Course I was lookin', are you feng li? The woman's beautiful. She's a Guild-registered Companion." He ticked off the points on his fingers. "She makes a livin' makin' herself look so damn irresistible. Hell, Mal, I ain't dead nor blind nether one – of course I was lookin'! She's used to men lookin', banks on it, point of fact."
He shook his head and scoffed. "Was I lookin'? Truth of it, she'd probably be more upset if I didn't at least look. Wonder what she was doin' wrong, if all her fancy efforts couldn't even turn a Rim-rat's head. I ain't done a ruttin' thing to make her mad, I swear it, Mal."
The captain was turning that bit of knowledge over and over in his head, he could tell, but couldn't nail down anything he'd really done wrong. "Well… just make sure you don't."
Jayne nodded and turned back toward the end of the ship, listening to the man's steps taking him to the opposite end. He fought back a snarl, knowing Kaylee'd be right there in the engine room and would see his rising anger if he let it show.
Captain's interest in Inara ran much deeper than he'd first suspected, if he was chastising Jayne over the barest of looks. That spelled trouble of a variety Jayne didn't want to even think on. Couldn't lose this gig, not now, no way! Too much at stake, too much to lose. Crouching and making like he was retying his bootlace, Jayne bowed his head and took a deep, steady breath, resting his forehead on his bent knee. This was going to be more difficult than he'd even thought.
To be continued….
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