Brought to Heel

For the first time in a long while, it's just Mal, Wash and Jayne who head for the local bar on the nondescript moon they are currently holed up on.  Things are quiet, they've just finished a decent job, and it's time for a bit of a relax.  Wash suggested the bar, but Zoe begged off, claiming some need to talk with Inara and Kaylee.  Simon wasn't too keen on visiting "another rim-world slop hole",  and bars have never been the Preacher's thing.

So it's just the three of them, and they've won a little money in darts.   Better yet, at least from Mal's perspective, their opponents actually paid up without a fuss.  He thinks though, that Jayne might have enjoyed a friendly little bar-brawl. 

All in all, it's a good night, and Mal isn't reluctant to think so as he hands Wash some coin to get a new round of drinks. The beer is actually decent, enough so that Mal is thinking of buying a few barrels for the ship. 

Jayne's in rare good form, and Wash hasn't been riding him too hard.   A few more drinks  and Mal knows he won't fight too hard when Jayne makes a pass at him later tonight.  Theirs  is a casual thing, and these are the kinds of nights that they tend to get together for some fun.

It's while Wash is gone that it happens.  Jayne's telling a joke, something bawdy that Inara would frown at hearing, but Mal's finding it funny enough.

One minute, they're laughing and drinking with Jayne crowding him, and the next, Jayne is hastily pushing himself up and away from the table.  He's wiping the beer foam from his lip and smoothing down his clothes.  It takes Mal a few confusing, somewhat fuzzy moments to realise Jayne is starring at a woman walking towards them.

She's smiling at Jayne, and that ain't usual.  Mal takes a closer look, wondering what she's up to.  She doesn't look much like a bounty hunter, and Mal doubts she's a whore.   Her clothes are too conservative, and her smile isn't that kind of acquisitive.   She's plain, her hair is long and tied back tight, and she's a little on the short side.  Most women out here are.  It makes Zoe stand out even more in crowds.

Jayne is fidgeting a little, but he stills when she reaches their table. 

"Jayne.  Can't say I expected to see you out here." Her voice is low and welcoming.

Mal looks at Jayne, not sure what he's expecting.  The awkward, unsure smile he sees is more than a little surprising.  Automatically, Mal starts to stand, the politeness deeply ingrained.  He catches himself and stays sitting as he watches the exchange.

"Constance.  You...uh..." There's a pause, long enough for Wash to return with the next round of drinks and shoot Mal a 'what's going on?' look.  Mal shrugs and turns his attention back to the scene in front of him.

"Your hair looks real pretty."  It sounds like the words are being dragged out of Jayne's mouth.

It's a surprise, and Mal laughs.  He'd never thought he'd hear Jayne utter such things, much less to a woman who wasn't wiggling on his lap.   He almost makes his laugh sound like a cough, but Jayne doesn't even notice.  Jayne doesn't seem to be noticing much aside from the woman standing in front of him.

"Thank you."

There's another longish pause and Mal decides to break it.  "Jayne."  He uses the tone that always get Jayne's attention, no matter what.  Even so, it's a space before Jayne turns to him.  "Care to introduce us to the lady?"  He doesn't miss the roll of the woman's eyes at the word 'lady', but he fixes his gaze on Jayne.

"Yeah.  Constance, this is Mal.  Captain of the ship I'm on.  Mal.  This is Constance.  She's... uhh..."

The pauses between words are becoming downright annoying, and as Mal's thinking that, he almost misses Jayne's next words.

"My wife."

Mal blinks and turns at a strangled sound.  He moves in time to see Wash nearly choke on a mouthful of drink.

"Wife?  What do you know about having a wife?"  Wash's drink is wavering in his hand as he speaks.  "I'm the only one around who's supposed to have wife experience."  He looks hard at Mal.  "*Real* wife experience.  Bought and paid for."

Mal can't see Zoe taking real well to that kind of talk, but then, Wash is well past tipsy and on his way to walleyed drunk.

"Can you even spell wife?"  Wash's eyes are wide and his face is red.  He keeps muttering, even as Jayne ignores the jibes.  "Can he even spell 'wi'?"  The last question is directed to Mal, who is too busy watching Jayne and the woman to acknowledge it.

She's smiling at him in a way that women don't use to look at Jayne.  Jayne gets disgust or tolerance or maybe a little lust mixed with calculation, but nothing like this.  She's looking like she's actually glad for seeing him.  And he's looking almost glad right back.

It gives Mal an uncomfortableness.  Whenever something from Jayne's past crops up, it seems to lead to problems.  As he thinks this, he watches as the expression on the woman's face turns from gladness to something like speculation. 

The look makes him antsy.   She hasn't said but a handful of words, but Mal's seen her kind before.  This is a woman used to having her way. 

Things just never go smooth.

Mal tunes back into the conversation. 

"What're you doin' here?"

The woman shrugs and says, "I was just leaving." 

Jayne moves to sit back down, nodding at her.  He looks a touch relieved, like he's glad he can get back to his drinking.  "Nice seein' you."

As much as Mal wants her to walk away now, he knows she won't.  She's got some idea in her head for Jayne, the kind of idea that's bound to mess up Mal's plans for the night.

There's a silence before she says,  "Escort me?"  It isn't really a question, and Mal frowns.   It's a tone that's used to being obeyed.  Mal fixes her with a hard gaze, then meets Jayne's eyes as he turns towards him. 

It almost amuses him, the way Jayne is looking between him and the woman.   He'll never say so to Jayne's face, but the man's a dog looking for the head of his pack.  He can't help but want someone to tell him what to do sometimes, and making this kind of choice likely ties Jayne up in knots.

Mal knows he should lay down the line, tell Jayne to stay put, but something stubborn inside stops him.  He looks away and takes a drink.

"Jayne.  Now, please." 

Mal can imagine she's tapping her foot underneath that skirt, like she's waiting for Jayne to come to heel.

"Yeah."  There's a scrape of stool across the floor, and then Mal hears Jayne say, "Meet you back at the ship."  They're gone before Mal has a chance to saying anything else.

Jayne with a wife, and one who just ordered him away from under Mal's nose.  There's something powerful wrong in the 'verse the day Jayne Cobb turns up having wife, much less one who seems to have a head on her shoulders and a kind of gladness for seeing him.

Wash is laughing now.  "I can't wait to tell Zoe this."  He slams more of his drink, then puts the glass down.  It balances on the edge of the wood, and Mal slowly reaches out to push it more firmly onto the table. 

"She's going to regret not coming out tonight."

Nodding, Mal thinks maybe, what with Wash's 'bought and paid for' comment, it's better she stayed on Serenity. 

They stick around for a few more drinks, Wash talking too much as he gets progressively more drunk, and Mal still wondering at what he'd just seen.   Eventually, Mal manages to get Wash back to Serenity.  Then he sits up and waits for Jayne to return.  He justifies it the way he always does when waiting for his crew -- he has to know they get back safe before he can comfortably close up for sleep.

The wait isn't so long as he thought it might be, and when Jayne ambles into the cargo hold, Mal isn't sure if he should be worried or relieved.  He sits still until Jayne sees him.


He nods, once and sharply.

Jayne looks uncomfortable, but says, "Weird, seein' her again.  Hadn't thought I would."

"Keen."  He leans back against the wall behind him, crossing his arms as he moves.  "So.  It never occur to you to mention that you got a wife?"

"Why would it?"

"Might have thought I'd like to know if someone has a prior claim on the man I'm," he pauses, trying to think of the right word.  He settles on the first one, even if it doesn't quite fit, "bedding.  Sometimes."

Jayne's answering smirk is enough to make Mal want to punch him in the mouth.  "Awww Mal, you put it like that, it's real romantical." 


"She ain't got no claim on me.  We ended it a long while back."

"Huh.  And it sure looked like it, back in the bar.  Didn't seem like she had a hard time convincin' you what to do."  Jayne looks pissed at the comment, but Mal ignores the scowl as he straightens up.  "I ain't comin' between a man and his wife." 

"Seems to me you've been doin' a lot of comin' between us.  Didn't hear no complainin' at the time." 

There are some times when Mal finds Jayne's tendency to leer and be blunt an asset.  This is not one of them.  "I don't do complications of this magnitude, Jayne.   And I expect my crew to apprise me of things I might need to know. That includes you, even if there ain't much you know that I don't know better."  He pauses.  "And I ain't real fond of it when my crew takes off at the order of someone else."

Jayne's forehead wrinkles, the way it does when he doesn't quite understand what's going on.  "You coulda said no."

Walking over to the door controls, Mal punches them shut.    "I'm gonna get some sleep."

"Lookin' for company?" 

He sighs.  "No."


The next morning he finds himself standing outside the kitchen, listening as Kaylee, Wash and Zoe talk about Jayne's wife.  It might seem cowardly that he's standing outside the room, but in truth it's sometimes good to hear what the others are maybe reluctant to voice around their captain.

"I still don't believe it."  Zoe always has been the skeptical one.

"Believe it, babe.  I've seen the wrongness that it is myself."  Wash sounds a little rough this morning, but not near enough for what he drank last night. 

The talk is mixed with the sounds of food being made and then people eating.  They're homey sounds, and they're inviting.  He almost wants to go inside, be part of the meal and the company.

There's a little pause, and then Kaylee says,  "What'd she look like?"

"Not much.  Long hair, not too tall."


More space without words, and Mal figures they're eating again.   Then,

"Who would marry Jayne?"  Zoe asks, her tone a little confused, a little amused.

"Not me."

Zoe laughs, and Mal can imagine her smacking Wash lightly in response.  "I hope not."

"I mean, can you imagine him trying to remember and repeat the vows?  He'd be as likely to pull out a gun and shoot the preacher for making him confused."

They all laugh, and it's a little uncharitable, Mal thinks.  Jayne's not stupid, he's just -- impatient.

"Jayne's big.  He's strong."  Kaylee's voice is supportive, the way she gets when she feels bad for making fun.  "Maybe she married him for protection.  Some of them colonies ain't real safe for a woman alone."

"Kaylee, Jayne's the kind a woman wants protecting from."

"Not them mudder women."   A chair pushes back across the floor, and Mal figures it's Kaylee getting up from the table.  "They liked him just fine."  He hears dishes being put into a sink.

"Huh."  Wash again.  "Yeah, he was a real hero to them, dropping all that money.  Women don't throw themselves at Jayne like that unless it involves money."

"Captain seems to like him."  Kaylee's tone is innocent and sweet, and Mal can just picture the wide-eyed look she's got on her face.  Devious girl.  If she thinks he's fooled by that anymore, she can think again.

"Captain doesn't have many options on this boat."  Zoe will never understand what Mal is doing with Jayne, and Mal knows it.

"He could try Simon." 

Mal is going to kill Kaylee.  Slow-like.

There's a loud cough, and Mal's surprised to hear Simon's voice follow it.  "I don't think so."
Has the doctor been in there the whole time?  It's not like him to be so quiet.

"Why not? Captain's good looking, and he didn't mean nothing by hitting you all those times.  You should try.  Might have some fun.   The 'verse knows you ain't wanting it from me."

"Kaylee --"  Simon sounds resigned and a little sad.

"I'm just saying!  I got it figured out now."

"I am not going to pursue Captain Reynolds.  For one thing, Jayne would probably kill me for it."

"Not if the captain told him not to.  Anyway, who knows, maybe you could join in on their --"


"I know!"  Wash sounds a little desperate.  "Let's get back to talking about Jayne's wife.  It's more interesting that Simon's unrequited lust and Kaylee's disturbifying threesome suggestions.  You guys should have seen it!  She was all smiley at him."

"Unnatural."  Zoe's response is dry.

Mal remembers thinking the same thing about Zoe and Wash.

"I do NOT have unrequited feelings for the captain."

"You keep telling yourself that, Simon."  Kaylee's voice holds the tiniest bit of sing-song.

Wash breaks in again.  "Know what else was weird?  She told Jayne to take her home, and he just did it.  I've never seen him just do something without some complaining.  Especially if it means leaving beer behind."  He laughs.

There's a little pause and then Zoe asks, "What'd the Captain do?"

"Nothing.  He just let it go, went back to drinking."

It's silent again until Kaylee says, "It ain't like the Captain to let Jayne on such a long leash."


"It isn't."  Zoe sounds almost concerned.

They're right.  He needs to find Jayne and make it clear who he gets his orders from.  But first he's got time to mess with a few minds.  He pushes himself away from the wall and walks through the doorway.

It gives him a kick to see the faces of his crew when he walks in.  Simon looks nervous, Kaylee a little contrite.  Zoe meets his eyes dead on, the way she does when she's feeling defiant, and Wash busies himself with stirring his drink. 

Fighting the urge to smirk, Mal nods, fixes himself some coffee in a leisurely way, and heads back out.  He can almost hear the sigh of relief behind him, and it makes him laugh, a short, sharp bark they're all bound to hear.


He finds Jayne in his bunk, surrounded by too many guns and knives to count.  It looks like he's taking inventory and making decisions.  The collection is impressive.

"Goin' somewhere?"


"Care to tell me where?"  He can already guess.

"Got a job."

A job.  "Really?  'Cause on this here boat, we like to share jobs.  Tell each other all about the money-making opportunities."

"Ain't for money."

"Ah, so the Hero of Canton strikes again."

Jayne just scowls.  "It's for trade."

Oh lord.  It doesn't take much to put together what Jayne is likely trading for.   "This for your wife?"


Jayne is looking focussed and vaguely annoyed.  Mal sighs and sits down on the bed.  It's a hard bed, and one that's seen a decent amount of action.  "Jayne, you ever think I might want to know about this job? And other little details about your life such as this wife of yours?  It occur to you I might need to know this kind of stuff?"

"Why?"  Jayne's frowning down at one of his knives.

"Because I'm the captain and I need to know my crew's actions and attachments, maybe?  And 'cause I'm the one givin' the orders around here."

Jayne is looking down at him, his face a mass of confusion.  "You coulda said no last night.  I figured you didn't much care."

"That ain't the point."

"So I should tell you stuff about before I got hired on here?"

He nods.  "Yeah.  Things I might need to know.  Things like pulling a botched job in Canton and what that might mean.  Other stuff.  Important stuff."

"So you want me to tell you about these red-headed triplets on Brighton?  I had some extra coin and they did this thing,  it was like nothing --"

"Gorramit, Jayne! I'm not talkin' about stuff like that. I'm talkin' about important stuff. Job stuff.  Stuff that might make me lose my  --"

"Was important to me, Mal.  Never saw the like before, nor since.  Didn't think three women could bend that way. And the thing they did with the --"

Mal groans and it shuts Jayne up fast.  They look at each other for a spell, then Jayne gets this look like he's figured something out.  He leans over and pats Mal gently on the shoulder.   "Don't get jealous."

He's not jealous.  Theirs is a casual thing.  He has no hold on Jayne, and there's no reason for jealousy.

"We ever get to Brighton, I think I can find the place again and you can see it for yourself."

Oh for the love of -- "Jayne.  You are a dumb ox."

He's up the ladder and half-way down the hall when Jayne hollers, "Yeah, that's what Constance used to say too!"

Sometimes Mal wonders if Jayne plays up his stupidity.  This is not one of those times.  He turns around in time to catch Jayne pulling himself out of his bunk.  "We'll leave tomorrow mornin'. I don't care what this job is, but you get yourself back here by then, or we'll go without you.  And don't bring the law to Serenity."  He walks away quickly before Jayne can respond.


He's standing in the cockpit looking for something to do when Inara joins him.  He nods at her and smiles.  His smile fades a little when she says,

"My bet is an arranged marriage."

Gorram Wash.  He'd spread the news faster than a whore spreads her legs on half-price Tuesdays..

"But Kaylee thinks childhood sweethearts.  She has such a generous disposition.  Wash still thinks it's a joke, and I suspect Zoe feels Jayne forced the woman.   What was her name?"


There is a small pause as Inara's lips twitch.  "How very puritanical."

"Yeah.  She looked kind of conservative."

"Hmmm.  Do you think she took his name?"

"Don't rightly care."

"I could ask around about her."

He can see that, Inara all delicately dressed, making discrete inquiries amid artful conversation.  "There's no cause for that.  She hasn't hired us, doubt she's working for the Feds, and Jayne can take care of himself."

"I thought perhaps it would interest you to know about her."

"Nah.  Jayne's got some kind of job for her today.  It don't involve us."

"Yes, I saw him leaving.  He seemed quite heavily armed."  Inara gives him a pointed look.  "More so than usual."

As her words sink in, Mal thinks, 'ah, crap'.  She's right.  It wasn't inventory he was taking.  Jayne doesn't get that serious about weapons unless he's anticipating trouble.   "It's these kinds of complications that make me not so observant." 


"You wanna go ask those questions?   My sources ain't real reliable, and they'll want the kind of coin we can't afford to spend."

"Of course."  She nods and leaves the cockpit, her dress swishing behind her.   The image leaves him slightly mesmerised and wondering how it is that a person can walk that gracefully, yet move so fast.

Shaking off the thought, he punches the comm.  "We got potential trouble, people.  Meet in the kitchen, three minutes."  He looks around the cockpit again, shakes his head to clear it, and heads down to the common area.

By the time he gets there, they're waiting for him, and they all have the good sense to look tense.   There's a noticeable absence of Jayne, and Mal wonders if he's the only one who feels it.   "Now I know by now someone's spread the delightful news about Jayne's wife."  He looks hard at Wash, then Zoe.  "And I'm sure we're all giddy at the thought of such a thing.  Speculating." 

Kaylee, at least, has the grace to look ashamed. 

"Like two orbiting bodies, never quite making the connection.  Causing explosions if they touch."  River's voice is dreamy.

"Right."  Mal crosses his arms.  "Puttin' River's cryptic talk aside, I'll confess I had a few thoughts myself about this little gem of news.   Enough that I didn't take much note of Jayne talkin' about some job and then leavin'.  Inara's pulling in some contacts now, trying to find out what mess Jayne may have got himself into.  Might be nothing, might be trouble.  So, Wash, Kaylee, get Serenity in order, and be ready for a fast leave.  Zoe, I want you ready down in the cargo hold, we might have to go be heroes again.  Simon.  Get your gear together."

He watches as they all leave the room, each heading in the appropriate direction.  Zoe hangs back, her face serious.

"You got any details, Sir?"

"Not much.  Jayne's got some job in trade for his wife.  Told him to get back before we leave, but he didn't say so much that he would."

"Huh.  Meaning this in the best possible way, sir, but is this a real problem?"

He knows what she's getting at.  Zoe and Jayne have never gotten along as such, and she's well aware of the incident on Ariel.  He suspects she's uncomfortable with him and Jayne sometimes sharing a bed, and that makes sense.  He's a mite uncomfortable with it too.  Still.  "He's crew.  He's watched our backs enough times that we should return the favour."

"Of course.  But depending on what it is he's gotten into --"

"Dependin' on what it is, we'll all talk about it and them as want to participate can.  That includes you."

"Sir."  She nods to him and heads down to the cargo hold.

When this is done, Mal has a right mind to have little a sit down with this Constance. It ain't right, her messing with his crew. 

Rather than stew, he heads to his bunk to gather up his guns.


It takes the space of several hours before Inara finds what they need.  Mal's still in his bunk when she comms him.  They meet with the rest of the crew in the cockpit. 

"Constance Cobb is a small-scale merchant of alcoholic beverages and related supplies.  She has some ties with the bars in town, and is well-known to brew the best beer on the planet.  She is apparently quite a good businesswoman."  Inara looks slightly gratified at the thought, and Mal wonders if she feels some affinity for the woman working on her own out here.

"A reasonably well-off trader named Hank Dawkins has recently moved his operation to the planet, and he is attempting to undercut her products.  The local people are mostly sympathetic to her problem, but he has a number of employees who have convinced bar owners to switch."

"Muscle."  Typical middle-man trying to take over the business of the producers.

"Yes.  Some of the local men are willing to help her out, but they have families and children they are concerned about. There are rumours that Dawkins has some unpleasant appetites and the power to get what he wants and get away with it.  The local law is apparently willing to overlook his sexual indiscretions."

Much as Mal doesn't hold with that kind of behaviour, it's no use discussing it right now.  "So it's possible Jayne was hired to deal with this little problem?"

"I would think so."

Mal turns to Zoe.  "You thinkin' what I am?"


"It were me, I'd take out Dawkins' operations.  Keep him from havin' the coin to pay his muscle.   But I'd need someone who could get through a defensive perimeter."

"Ah." Zoe nods.  "Jayne could probably do it, if it were enough of a surprise.  He also once said he's had some experience lighting a decent fire."

"This Constance sounds like my kind of ruthless, though I can't say much about her hirin' manners."  Mal stops and thinks for a minute about how Jayne might approach the job.  "He's probably scouting now.  He'll likely hit at dusk."  He turns back to Inara.  "Any idea where this Dawkins keeps his property?"

"It's a few miles from town.  From what I understand, most of his assets are tied up in a warehouse.  He left his previous community quite quickly, amid some sort of scandal." Inara flashes a sharp, hard smile.

He nods his thanks to Inara, a kind of dismissal she has learned to heed.  It's better for her not to be involved in the rest of this operation.  As she leaves the room, he turns back to the rest.  "Anyone got any interests in me givin' Jayne some back-up?"

"How do we know he doesn't have some?"  It's not an objection as such, so Mal just scowls at Simon.

"If she could pay for more than one, she would have asked for the crew."

"Perhaps Jayne wanted the payment for himself."

"It's trade, not coin."  It doesn't really answer Simon's concern, but the doctor has enough sense not to keep asking.

"I have no objection, sir."

Wash shrugs in what Mal takes as agreement.  "I'll go with Zoe on this one."

The others nod as well.

Good.  "Fine.  Zoe, me and you'll go scout things out.  I don't have much mind to take over this job, but Jayne's one man, Dawkins has lots.  Extra eyes won't hurt.  We'll hang back unless we see trouble.  Jayne's likely to get ornery if we start interferin' before that.  Simon, Wash, you stay here.  We'll call if needed." 


The warehouse isn't much to look at, but Mal would love to get a peek at the goods inside.  Beer takes wheat and wheat means flour and therefore something else besides protein powder.  As it is, it's a real shame everything's going to get lost.  If Kaylee were here, she'd probably be making noises about bread and real pancakes.

Guards are set up at regular intervals, but Mal can see the holes.  Zoe points some out.   They could have done this job real easy, if they'd been asked.

They set themselves up comfy behind some grassy dunes, watching the area Mal figures Jayne will first approach.  It turns out he guessed right, and at dusk, Zoe points out a low-moving figure along the perimeter.

Watching, Mal admits to himself that Jayne's awful good at what he does.  The man might not get any genius awards, but he can set up a good, if crude, plan of attack when he has to, and his aim don't have no match, not even Zoe.

After a few minutes, Jayne makes his first kill, quiet and with his hands.  The hired, imported muscle are tough compared to the scrawny farmers eking out a living on this rock, but most still aren't up to Jayne's physical standards.   He's halfway to the building before he has to use a gun.  After that, things start to get a little hectic.

Mal hears shots and loses sight of Jayne. 

"He's entered the building, sir."  Zoe's got eagle-eyes, and he nods his thanks to her for using them.

More shots and some muffled cries, and then there's a longish space of quiet.

"He's out.  Moving fast."

Mal can see.  He also sees the three men converging from one side.  Jayne doesn't seem to notice, likely intent on getting far from the building.  "It's going to blow."

"Think so."

"You see the ones comin' at him?"

"Yes, sir.  Seems he doesn't."

Mal gives it a few more paces, but Jayne still hasn't noticed the guards advancing.   Ah, crap.  "Zoe.  You watch my back."

"It'll blow soon."

"I ain't goin' sight seein'.  I'll stay away."  And then he's up and running low, moving close enough that he can get a decent shot.  The first bullet connects, bringing one man down, but the next misses.  The action's enough to get Jayne's attention though, and Mal ducks low as the merc starts firing.

Then the warehouse explodes, the fire hot enough that he can feel it from here.  Whatever gear Jayne used to do that, it was something they didn't have on Serenity.  Jayne falls forward, pushed by the power of the explosion, but he gets up fast enough.  Mal turns and runs back to Zoe, motioning her to follow him.  They make a run for where Zoe first spotted Jayne.  It's dark, but the way is partly lit by the warehouse fire.

Mal figures none of the locals are going to be running to help put it out.

Being closer, they get to their destination before Jayne does and Mal nearly stumbles into someone's bolt hole.  He and Zoe pull up short, and when he looks closer, he sees it's Jayne's wife.

She's waiting, holed up and aiming her gun towards the compound.  Maybe Jayne didn't go in totally alone after all.  Could be she's planned a double-cross though.  Mal gets the drop on her, and kicks the gun aside.  "Howdy."

It takes her a minute to get over the surprise, but then she's pushing herself upright and brushing off her clothes.  "Captain.  What did you say the name of your ship was?"

"Don't recall that I did."

"Hmmpf."  She turns to Zoe.  "And you are?"

"Right now, she's mighty annoyed.  As am I.  Next time you want to hire one of my crew, I'll thank you to let me know first."

Blinking, she replies coldly, "I wasn't aware my husband required permission to take on jobs." 

"Ain't about permission.  We hadn't been here, you might not have a husband comin' back to you.  We work as a crew.  Not solo."

"Of course.  Perhaps you should see to it that Jayne understands that."

He stares at her, thinking about how she was holding the gun, how easy it was to get the drop on her,  and he and figures she's lacking in this kind of experience.   She was never more than the illusion of back-up.  Maybe she didn't rightly care if Jayne came back, as long as the warehouse blew.   He's about to make mention of his thought when Jayne finally shows.

Mal takes a quick look and doesn't see serious wounds.  There's some slick, tight skin on his arm and Mal figures maybe it's a minor burn. Jayne's shirt is all torn up and it looks like he's got some mild bleeding from the gut area.  Jayne is dirty and sweaty, but he's grinning uncertainly at the scene that confronts him.  "Mal?"

Some petty part of him grins that Jayne spoke to him first.  "Anyone follow you?"

"Nope.  All dead or not movin'."


He's about to say more when Constance moves forward.  "You're injured."

"Ain't no big deal."  But Jayne's looking awkward again, and Mal grits his teeth.

She frowns.  "I'll clean you up, if you come back with me."

Yeah, and maybe she'll convince him to stay on, take care of these kinds of jobs whenever she needs them done.  She'll send him in with bad back-up, or all alone. 

"I'm fine."

"Jayne, please --"

Mal cuts her off, stepping a little forward.  "My crew.  My medic will see to him.  'Less you got a medacad degree I'm unaware of." He fixes her with his best implacable gaze, and there's a long silence.

Constance looks a bit pissy, but she lets it go.  Finally she turns to Jayne and says, "You earned your trade.  I'll have everything sent to your ship before morning."

He smiles down at her.  "She's in the corner of the docks.  Firefly-class."

"Thank you for this.  Now go get fixed up."  She reaches up and cups Jayne's uninjured arm and smiles.  It ain't tender, but it's a smile with history behind it, and Mal thinks maybe she wasn't quite so uncaring as to Jayne's health.

Nodding, Jayne turns away, moving slowly and carefully.   He's limping a little.  They're a few paces away when Mal asks, "You want me to comm Wash to bring the shuttle?"

"Nah."  The three of them walk a little further before Jayne asks, "That you who fired those shots?"


"I didn't see those guys comin'."

"Guessed not."

They keep walking.


Getting back to Serenity takes a bit of time, what with Jayne being a little rocky on his feet. Wash and Simon are waiting in the cargo hold, and as Wash hugs Zoe and drags her away, Jayne and Simon head to the infirmary.  Mal stands watching them leave, then walks to his bunk to clean up.

It only takes him a few minutes, and then he goes to the infirmary.  He waits as Simon finishes patching Jayne up, then orders the doctor out.  "So."  He looks down at Jayne, still lying on the infirmary bed.  "You want to tell me what this was all about?  'Cause I ain't real fond of my crew gettin' shot at when I got no clue as to why."  The question is redundant, Jayne must realise they figured out everything.  Still, he has to ask.

"It was a trade.  You saw.  I helped out when she asked."

Uh-huh. More like when she told.  "And what about this whole wife situation?"  They stare at each other for a few minutes, but Mal wins.  Jayne almost always folds.  He looks away as he starts to talk.

"Me and Constance got married way back.  Before the war.  Her daddy was real old-fashioned, told her she couldn't have the ranch if she didn't get married.  When he kicked, she didn't have a man and stood to lose it all."

Mal's no stranger to these kinds of arrangements. 

"We knew each other, my pa worked on the ranch.  We'd get into a mess of trouble around the place, her and me, when we were real small.  She was real smart and had wicked ideas."   Jayne is grinning a little at his memories, and it's weird to think of him as some rabble-rousing youngster.  "Her daddy thought my kind were scum.  She got a laugh out of the idea of marryin' me."

"She made the offer.  It came with good coin, she said we'd end it after a couple of years.  I'd get paid for my trouble.  With benefits."  Jayne leers a little.  "Weren't many women around and she was real pretty for those parts.  My pa didn't have no land, and I had next to no coin.  Figured I'd try for somethin' better, least for a while."

It's hard to imagine, Jayne working on a ranch, shacked up with a hard-headed woman.  Mal tries not to look skeptical.

"Me and the cows didn't much get along.  Me and Constance were a little better.  She said I made her laugh, probably 'cause I didn't much understand her most times.  My pa would never have let my mamma do half the things Constance took into her head.  But she was smart, and her ideas worked good, and a couple of years passed, and she asked me to stay on for a third."

Jayne snorts a little, and then turns and glares at Mal.  "Yeah, I know yer thinkin' 'Why?', but it was a good thing.  We kept out of each other's way, got along good enough.  Woulda said yes too, but then the Feds came along."

Mal wants to close his eyes at what's about to come.  He's heard the same kind of story over and over again.  He'd seen it happen too.

"You can guess the rest.  They wanted the land.  It was rough, couldn't be used for much beyond a little grazing.  They said it was good for trainin' grounds.  War was close.  We didn't have much choice.  They bought the cows and the land, paid us ok, but not near enough.  She said we should split, and she paid what I was owed.  Didn't see her again.  Didn't figure I would, either." 

Jayne stands up from the infirmary table, wincing.  The bandages on his stomach are a little bloody, but the bleeding seems to be slow.  "So.  You got the story."


"I got myself geared up with the money."

"Huh."  A thought comes to him.  "You two have kids?"

Jayne snorts again.  "Nah."

"Can't imagine the 'verse with a passel of yous around." He smiles as he says it, trying to lighten the mood.

Jayne just shrugs, but he's wavering on his feet a little.  The drugs Simon likely shot him up with must be starting to work. 

"We done here?"

He nods and then watches as Jayne turns and heads towards the door.  At the man's retreating back, he says,   "Next time you take it into your head to pull somethin' like that, might want to ask for help first."

He gets a grunt in reply, but Jayne doesn't turn around.

Another thought comes, and he's an idiot for not asking it before.  "What did you trade for?"

This time Jayne does turn around.  His face is inscrutable.  "We got some of her brew comin'.  Some vegetables she grows.  Some wheat flour, yeast and eggs."  There's a small pause, then, "Divorce." 

Mal blinks.  Huh.  "We'll keep an eye out for the trade goods." 

Jayne is already down the hall, and he gives no indication he heard.

Pairing: Jayne/Mal
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Anything in the show
Disclaimers: Not my characters or show concept

Notes: Set sometime in after Objects in Space.  Not too far in the future.

Stacey provided the best few lines in this story.  They involve a past experience Jayne had on a little moon named Brighton.  She is awesome for 1) thinking of these lines 2) letting me use them and 3) betaing this story with her usual stellar helpfulness.

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