After, it ain't that Inara's any less sexy. When she swishes around Serenity, dressed in her fancy clothes, he still thinks of her out of those clothes, sexing up her clients. Just means that sometimes, he figures that maybe she's more dangerous than he thought. Most women are, he supposes. Even if some of them get dressed up in silly clothes and spend too much time worrying about their hair.

When they're back up and flying, what's left of them, one night he walks into the cargo bay. He's planning on lifting weights for a good long while. Inara's already there. She's set up a target, and she's shooting at it, concentrating so hard that he ain't sure she even notices him at first.

And it ain't like he ever walks real quiet.

He watches for a space, 'cause he's got a good view of her ass, even thought it's a bit covered up with the fancy parts of her dress. But also –

"Can't see how you can go and shoot when yer dressed up like that. Might get tangled up, and that ain't gonna help none."

Inara doesn't turn around, just looses another arrow. It hits the target, barely. He remembers she didn't do too bad, down on the planet, but maybe that was mostly luck.

Just like the luck she had, her being the only one of them who didn't get shot, or cut up, or beaten down. Or dead.

She walks over, pulls the arrow out, and says, "If we get – if they come on – " she pauses, like she's afraid to say the words. But Jayne knows what she's saying. If they meet up with Reavers again. If they ever get boarded.

She continues, "I won't always have the luxury to change into something more sensible. I might as well practice this way." She ain't even looking at him; he wonders briefly if she's pissed that he's come and interrupted her quiet. Not that he really cares, they all have to share space sometimes.

He sits down at the weight bench, and gets to his lifting. Sometimes he glances to the side, and she's still at it. Standing still, aiming that fancy bow, and shooting at the target.

And missing, too often.

He's counted 30 reps when he hears her mutter under her breath. Maybe swearing, though he can't quite tell. It makes him smirk. He'd be cursing too if he had her kind of aim.

"You ain't too good with that thing." He thought she was, but it looks like he got it wrong.

Maybe that ain't the right thing to say, because she turns on him, the bow still in her hand. And hell, she could just march over and shoot him with it. Not that she'd get too close before he took her down. But still.

He sits up anyway, and grins at the scowl on her face. "Well, you ain't."

Inara sighs. "I used to be better."

"Yeah?" If he keeps her talking, he keeps getting to look at her. Full on, without no one to tell him that staring ain't polite. And that ain't a chance he gets often. Her dress curves down her chest, giving him a real eyeful of pale skin. He's looking, and maybe she ain't noticing, because she's still talking, going on about her past.

"Yes. At the Academy, we were expected to learn these kinds of skills."

Jayne's heard all about how Inara coached Mal with sword fighting. Seems like a stupid thing to be learning. How often do folk sword fight these days? Ain't like it would help her look after herself if she got attacked or anything. "Why?"

She shrugs, and like pretty much everything about her, it's real delicate. It shifts her dress a little, and the whole movement makes him think about seeing it when she don't have any clothes on. But that ain't ever going to happen.

"Self-defense. It's expected that we would have some means to look after ourselves, even if most Companions keep rooms in Houses on the central planets."

"Maybe they'd be better to stick a gun in yer hands."

She gets this little half-smile on her face, and it's maybe the first time she's ever looked at him like that. Like he's a person who she actually sees when she's talking. "Perhaps. But that would hardly be ladylike or elegant. I've learned some gun technique on my own, but I'm still more comfortable with our traditional weapons." There's a little pause, and she continues, her voice a little more soft, "Shooting the bow also lets me concentrate and focus very tightly. It's an important skill for a Companion."

Yeah. He gets that. Sometimes, a body can't be distracted. Distraction might lead to all kinds of misery, and maybe no pay. "I gotcha." He nods.

This makes her smile even more; her head tilts slightly to one side. "Jayne. Are we having a conversation?"

If she were some woman he met in a bar, this would be the time he'd offer her a drink and good time. But Mal would kill him for sure. So instead, he stands up, and says, "Let me see that thing."

He doesn't have much experience with bows, them being slow to reload, and sometimes clunky. But hers is real nice, he can tell from the moment she puts it in his hand. She hands it over like she's reluctant to let him have it, but maybe she figures he'd never mess with a weapon. It's gorram stupid to mess with something that might come in handy some day.

But still, he holds it carefully, 'cause she's watching him closely. It's a decent weight, not too heavy, but enough so he doesn't feel like it might break if he held it too tight. It feels downright shiny and sleek in his hands.

"Where'd you get this?"

"They're made for Companions. We have a manufacturer under an exclusive contract. Each Companion gets a personalized one after he or she is certified on the practice range."

The thought of a bunch of Companions, all sorts of pretty, practicing on a range gives Jayne certain thoughts. Thoughts he knows he'll be going back to later. "It's decent." It's a lie; this is the best damn bow he's ever seen. If he could get his hands on one, he'd snap it right up. Would be good for some of their jobs, especially if he wanted something he could shoot in close quarters without making noise. Maybe – "Got an extra you wanna sell?"

Inara shakes her head, her smile maybe apologetic. "I'm sorry. They're controlled."

He can't figure as to why this might be, other than maybe it's some status thing. That kind of stupid crap that seems to be just everywhere in the 'verse, even on Serenity some days. "Whatever."

Maybe she feels bad, because she asks, "Would you like to try shooting it?"

Hell yeah. Who wouldn't? He nods, heads towards the target, and sets himself up.

Inara points at the side. "I can show you how to fire it."

He shrugs. There weren't ever any weapon he couldn't figure out pretty fast. That, and he had been watching her take her shots. He ain't stupid.

When he fires, he aims it good, and he knows he's gonna hit the centre of the target. Ain't like it's too far away. But the arrow hits wide of the mark. Real wide. "Huh."


"Somethin' ain't right with it."

She reaches out to take it away, saying, "It just takes practice, Jayne." Her tone is condescending, and that ain't fair. If Jayne knows anything, he knows he can hit a target straight on when it's only 20 feet away. Hell, he could hit something at 300 feet or more, given the right weapon.

He steps back, doesn't let her take it. "Nope. Something's off."


But it's a point of pride. Nothing should make his aim that bad. It just ain't right. "I'm gonna look at it. Don't get pushy, it'll do better for you after." And he walks off, leaving her be. He's got something to do.


He sets it out on the kitchen table, takes some time looking at it from all angles first. Then he starts to take it apart. When Inara comes it, she takes one look at the table, and says, "Jayne!" She's just scandalized or something, and that makes him grin, as he figures out the mechanisms and bits.

Kaylee ain't the only one who can figure how moving parts work. A merc who don't understand the insides of his weapons is just asking for problems.

Maybe it's because he's concentrating so hard that Inara shuts up. She just stands, makes tea, and watches him. It don't take long to see the problem. Bearings got banged up, thrown off balance, leading everything to shoot off-centre.

"You drop this thing?"

"I'm not certain." She answers hesitant-like. Guess it's possible during the fighting with the Reavers, or even after, that she dropped it. Maybe she stumbled, in all the confusion.

"It's knocked off-kilter. Just needed to realign it all, and it's good as new." A few more minutes and it's put back together. Only one way to test it out.

"Come on," he says, and heads back down to the target. When he shoots the bow, he hits the target dead-on, and grins. Yeah. That's more like it.

"May I have it back now?" Inara's holding out her hand, imperious as you please, and for a minute, Jayne feels right ornery. Gorram fancy folk, can't even say thanks when they get helped out. But he hands it over, 'cause what else can he do? If he just up and took it, she'd run to Mal, and Mal on his ass ain't something he needs right now.

She turns away from him as soon as she gets it in her hands. He steps away, makes to leave the room, but he can't help stay and watch her for a minute. Just to give him something else to think about later in his bunk.

When she fires, she hits close to centre. Not as good as him, but who is? She does a decent job, better than before, and he grins briefly. So that she can't see him. It's all down to him. Maybe she knows that too, because she turns to him, smiling widely. "That's wonderful."

He grunts.

"No, really. It is. Thank you."

Yeah, well. "No sense having somethin' that don't shoot right. Get us all in trouble, maybe."

But she's still smiling at him, and maybe she's laughing a little inside. Not at him. Just pleased. It's a look he never expected to get from Inara. Or any of her type. So he grins back.

Characters: Inara, Jayne.
Rating: PG
Summary: "Jayne, are we having a conversation?"
Notes: For Unovis.

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