TITLE: Body Shots


A/N: Ok, a super belated bday prezzie for Baschashe (an all-round shiny person who brings sunshine wherever she goes), based on an inadvertent prompt from the ever cheeky Cede-lede (the saucy minx).

Jayne narrowed his eyes. The bar was near silent, and she was stretched across his lap, trying to look bold when everything in her body was obviously screaming to start a war. Her breathing was ragged, shaky, and despite the calm look on her face he could feel her heart racing, tattooing a beat across his palm.

He licked his lips.

This was all Mal's fault.

And somehow he couldn't quite bring himself to be pissed.


Mal grinned as he explained the plan to his dumbstruck crew. "Now I know it's a lil bit on the crazy side, but then again so're we, so I figure it just might work."

Simon finally found his voice, standing at the galley table and pointing an accusatory finger at the Captain. "You want her to be a whore!"

Mal rolled his eyes, shaking his head. "Come on Doc, ya know that ain't what I'm sayin'."

He rubbed his temples impatiently, speaking slowly, as if to a very young child. "What I'm sayin' is that they ain't never seen Jayne or yer sister, but they know me an' Zo'. Now Jayne can't cover the whole bar on his own, an' they got people on the lookout fer us, so yer sister is a good bet for backup. If they go in together things're gonna look mighty fishy ta our mark, so we need 'em both inside separately."

Simon's face was a little red at being patronised. "I'm not a moron, Captain." Mal and Jayne shared a smirk that only seemed to irritate the doctor more.

"I understand full well that he'll need backup; what I don't understand is why my 19 year old sister working as a whore in a bar full of criminals is necessary to the fulfilment of your pla-"

"Doc," Mal's voice was sharp. "This ain't the kinda bar that's used ta women goin' in fer a drink. If your sister goes in she'll be noticed in a heartbeat; nice little Core girls don't just stroll into the most dangerous bars on Likure every day, dong ma? This'd be fer her protection too."

Simon groaned. "Well why can't Inara do it?"

Inara wasn't particularly insulted by the request; she understood Simon's concern, but she also knew exactly what the Captain's answer would be.

Although she didn't think the scoff was necessary.

"Doc, I could feed ya all the usual lines; I'm the Cap'n, my word is law, Inara ain't exactly gonna be believable as a common whore an' yer sister has already shown Badger that she can act well iffen she's so inclined."

His eyes grew firm. "But I ain't gonna say any o' that because you know the biggest reason; yer sister is a damn good lil weapon, an' Jayne's gonna need decent backup in this place. Zo' an' I'll be around an' ready should we be required, but the bottom line is there ain't nobody better to take Jayne's back than yer kid sister."

Simon was silent and Jayne scowled. Being told he needed backup in the form of a 90lb teenager rankled, but he'd seen her shoot before, and given who they were dealing with he knew the Captain was right.

Didn't mean he had to like it.

The girl in question raised a brow, and he was suddenly a little too focused on that purple dress and the way that it clung to her lean frame to remember what he was being pissed about.

At Simon's silence Mal nodded. "Good, glad we sorted that out." He turned to River. "Now, lil 'tross, I reckon yer gonna have ta ask Inara here iffen she won't mind deckin' you out all appropriate. Seems I don't have the wardrobe ta be so accommodatin'."

Inara rolled her eyes but smiled as she stood, gesturing for River to follow her. The youngest member of Serenity was currently wearing that purple dress that always seemed to make Jayne's eyes follow her (though the ex-Companion admitted that since the girl had slashed his chest wearing that same dress maybe the merc's concern was valid).

Jayne stood without ceremony, striding out towards his bunk to do a weapons check before the Captain insisted on briefing him all over again. He hated running jobs himself; being the big scary guy who didn't have to interact until violence was required tended to be his raison d'etre. Still, Maxwell Itre knew the Cap'n and Zoe, and they needed someone who looked like a criminal to meet with their mark.

Which ruled out Simon.

Still, the idea of going into the den of criminals with the Reader as backup was…disconcerting. Especially since she tended to distract him when she was wearing baggy dresses and stolen shirts, so he wasn't particularly comfortable with the idea of her dolled up like one of the women he was so damn fond of.

He didn't mind having the girl as a second gun hand; truthfully, his back had never been better covered. They worked well together, didn't need much talking with a Reader around, and while she didn't have Zoe's warrior woman presence, she sure gave the element of surprise.

Which didn't excuse the way she traipsed into his thoughts as if she owned the place.

He sighed, wishing for a minute that Book was still around, since the Shepherd had an easy way of talking to him that didn't rile him up. He also wished Wash was around, if only to get rid of the sadness in Zoe's eyes.

Zoe looked at Mal across the galley table, the two of them alone as the rest of the crew went about their preparations (or, in Simon's case, cleaning the infirmary six times to help deal with his nerves).

The first mate shook her head. "You sure this is a good idea, sir?"

Mal smirked. "Course I am Zo', shouldn't be much trouble at all."

She stood, shaking her head.

Mal hadn't seen the way Jayne was looking at the Reader, and this plan had all the indications of something about to go very, very far south.

Inara smiled as Kaylee trotted into her shuttle behind River, eager to help. "You even got somethin' that'll look right on her 'Nara?"

The ex-Companion nodded. "Yes. Some clients prefer a certain…flavour to their sessions. Whilst it was never my personal preference, it became necessary to develop somewhat of an…extra wardrobe."

Kaylee tilted her head, eyes sparkling with interest. "Ya mean…costumes?"

Inara sighed but laughed. "Yes, I suppose that's the best way to put it."

At the hopeful look in Kaylee's eye River glared. "Please do not consider copulation with sibling in costume while she is here."

Kaylee had the grace to blush as Inara pulled a chest from under the sumptuous bed, the rich mahogany a reminder of days gone by. No tug at her chest when she thought about her old life; she wouldn't trade all the elegant parties in the world for her crew.

River was standing silently in the centre of the room, and Inara took a moment to study her before opening the chest. Slender and pale, though her previously tangled hair was now brushed into chocolate curls. Still no make-up, but she honestly didn't require it; her newfound grip on sanity meant that the medications that had ravaged her system with dark circles and a sickly pallor were no more.

Inara's clinical eye swept over the slim figure, small but supple breasts, narrow waist and lean hips. She evaluated, much like a house madam, and quickly picked up on the best traits to enhance.

She smiled as she opened the chest, reaching inside to pull out the outfit she had in mind. Kaylee's eyes went wide and River swallowed nervously.

Inara nodded. "Yes, this will be perfect."

The bar was crowded, dark, thick with smoke and loud voices. Painted women trawled through the crowds, deftly avoiding the hands of those desperate for a feel without monetary exchange, smiling falsely through hardened masks. The patrons were rowdy, well into their drunken states, games of pool soon to transform into arguments and then brawls.

Just his kind of place.

He adjusted his earwig, knowing Mal and Zoe would be instructing him quietly if need be, relieved that they didn't feel the need to chatter constantly. The lights were low, but his eyes could pick out every face in the crowd, and he thanked his Pa for being tall. He couldn't see Crazy anywhere, but Mal had assured him that she was in position. Inara had pulled some strings, flirting the bar owner into taking on her 'niece' for the evening, and Jayne had grinned at hearing yet another example of Inara's easy manipulation. The ex-Companion was a damn valuable addition to the team.

He spotted the mark and strode towards the table. The heat meant he was only wearing a black t-shirt and green cargos over his boots, but he preferred being unencumbered.

People tended to assume it meant he was unarmed.

He hid a grin. He liked it when people assumed things.

The meeting started easily enough. Maxwell Itre had the lean, hungry look of a whippet, and Jayne recognised another mercenary when he saw one. Only difference between them was that Jayne's job title was clear; Itre was pretending to be a respectable businessman, looking for a cargo transport.

And given the kind of cargo he hoped to transport, he wanted his passage to be just as dodgy as he was.

As the conversation struck up Jayne surpressed a niggling irritation. Firstly, he still hadn't spotted the girl, and secondly, he was starting to suspect that Mal had thought he would blend in for other reasons. Enjoying the company of a whore was one thing, pretending to be a people trafficker was something else, and he made a mental note to have words with the Captain. `Even though they were planning to dupe this guy, take his cash and set his slaves free, Jayne couldn't help a feeling of discomfort that his Captain thought he'd fit in so damn well.

Itre grinned. "Well, looks like we got a deal Cobb. Reckon we should celebrate."

Jayne fought the urge to sneer, knowing what kind of celebration a man like this would have in mind. As Itre clicked his fingers towards the barkeep Jayne slammed back his whisky, hating this part of the job. He was more than comfortable being a filthy perv on his own time; sharing women wasn't something he found a particularly pleasant hobby.

Itre's eyes lit up at whatever tasty was being called to the table, and he shot Jayne a gap toothed grin. "Which you prefer Cobb; blonde an' curvy or brunette?"

Jayne turned as the girl's approached the table. The buxom blonde was wearing a skin-tight blue dress that seemed to be made of some kind of leather, artful ringlets falling over her shoulders and overly made up face. The feather in her hair had wilted slightly from the heady atmosphere of the bar, and Jayne couldn't help but think that on a normal day she'd be exactly what he went for.

The other…

Ma de.

Tousled chocolate curls tumbled around pale shoulders, smoky eyes regarded him carefully, and Jayne felt his mouth go dry. The bodice and skirt were the darkest red he'd ever seen, clinging tightly to the slim frame, pushing up the small breasts until they looked ready to spill over. Lean legs were encased in heeled black boots, the stockings leading up under the skirt, and his fingers itched to find out just how high they went.

Itre grabbed River's arm, drawing her closer, his leer making Jayne's blood boil. "Now there, how old are you sweetheart?"

She blinked prettily, reaching forward to take the already poured shot of whisky from in front of Jayne. "Nineteen." She slammed it back, her face showing no sign of the burning in her throat, and Jayne felt a moment of respect for the Reader.

Short words, little opportunity to tangle her sentences.

Itre grinned. "Well you don't look a damn day over 16, an' yer 'bout as pretty as a peach."

She dipped one finger into the now empty glass, drawing up the last droplets of whisky and sucking her finger into her mouth.


He felt his blood begin to warm, saw the way her eyes flicked to him for the briefest second, and wondered just how much of that little display was meant for his eyes only.

Something flared in Jayne's stomach and he made a snap decision, yanking her arm and pulling her down into his lap. He smirked at Itre. "Ya don't mind, do ya? I got a thing fer skinny brunettes lookin' like jailbait."

Any other man would have recoiled in disgust; Itre gave him an approving nod. "Be my guest Cobb." He gestured to the curvy blonde, who looked slightly put out at having missed an opportunity with the big man.

Jayne struggled to concentrate as he wrapped hands around River's cool skin. He tried to send out an apology, but had no idea if she'd Read him. For her part she was doing her best, curling one arm around his back and nuzzling into his neck. Her voice was soft and her breath cool.

"Tread carefully; he has mischief in his heart."

Jayne wasn't likely to ignore a warning like that, although the scent of her was making it difficult to breath. As Itre's cronies joined the table he kept an arm slung around River's narrow waist, carefully laying a claim in an attempt to spare her embarrassment.

Although he had to admit, his attraction wasn't exactly forced.

The group drank, harassing the serving girls and trying to ply favours from the whores as they delved deeper into drunkenness. If River was put off by the way their hands would occasionally grab for her leg, she didn't show it. Jayne, on the other hand, was finding himself growing more and more tense, not only due to fending off such advances, but from the offensively smooth body currently sitting in his lap. He let them carry on, rowdy and loud, and was getting ready to find them an exit when one of the cronies turned beady eyes to River.

"'ere then Cobb, how's about ya share a lil bit? Ain't like you've taken her for a turn yet."

Jayne glared darkly, a look that tended to make smart men back of quickly.

Unfortunately, his opponent wasn't smart.

Itre noticed the possessive tightening around River's waist and his eyebrow twitched. "You seen the girl before Cobb?"

Jayne growled. "Nope, first time on Likure."

Itre's eyes narrowed, and Jayne saw him smelling a rat. "Seems like yer bein' a might particular bout her. Everythin' I heard says you'd've taken her upstairs for a spin by now. Yer seemin' a mite shy."

He leaned forward, uncaring as the blonde in his lap was jostled. "You wouldn't be tryin' ta play me, would ya?"

Jayne flashed him a cocky grin, silently apologising to River as he ran a lecherous hand up her slim thigh. "Naw, jus' like playin' with my food afore I eat it." He kept the leer on his face as his heart stopped around where the silky stockings turned to silkier skin.

Itre wasn't convinced, and his right hand man whispered in his ear. Itre grinned knowingly. "Well then, how's about we get the festivities started?"

Jayne felt his blood run cold. He'd seen this before; animalistic displays designed to put off potential sneaks. Anyone in the slave trade had little issue treating a body like a toy, and the merc knew he was in for some trouble as they leered.

Itre gestured to the barkeep, a serving girl bringing over the tray of shot glasses filled with tequila, wedges of lemon, and salt. Of course. The bar had thinned, and Jayne was acutely aware that they were largely in the company of very dangerous people, all of whom were eyeing him, ready to pounce.

Jayne narrowed his eyes. The bar was near silent, and she was stretched across his lap, trying to look bold when everything in her body was obviously screaming to start a war. Her breathing was ragged, shaky, and despite the calm look on her face he could feel her heart racing, tattooing a beat across his palm.

This was all Mal's fault.

And somehow he couldn't quite bring himself to be pissed.

There was a reason Mal had chosen him for this role, and his Captain was about to see exactly what happened when you sent a lion in with a lamb.

He scratched at his ear, the tiny earwig falling out unnoticeably, and he knew what he had to do. He breathed carefully for a moment, tapping into that dangerous, dark part that had lead Mal to hire him. Tapping into the mercenary, the leering rogue, the man who enjoyed whores regularly. He fought the urge to apologise again, knowing this was the quickest, easiest way to get them both out of here.

He grinned, wrapping a large hand around her slender throat.

"Bout time you boys showed some balls."