Wasted Opportunity

"I ain't never been in a town full of people so gorram ugly," he says, just to say something. Tracking is boring as hell, some days. He cranes his neck out, sees the way is clear, and nods.

Course, before she goes and moves, Kaylee frowns and hits at him, "Different folk got different ideas 'bout what's pretty, Jayne." Then she takes a step out. He follows her, watching their rear.

Right. He could list off all the reasons these locals are so ugly. List would take two hands, at least. But as he pulls her behind a broken up wall, he just states the most immediate ones. "Looks like none of them had a wash in at least a year. And don't you go telling me that you think all them scabs and sores are shiny and sexy."

"Might be a sickness. Might not have water. Might be a sickness 'cause they ain't got water to wash with. Might be a sickness from the water. Don't mean they're ugly underneath it all." She's talking a mile a gorram minute, and maybe starting this up was a mistake. He wants to just reach out and cover her mouth with his hand. But then she'd probably start kicking up a fuss, and at least right now she's whispering.

"Whatever," he says, crouching down. "Check to see if we picked up a tail." While she does, he crawls out from behind the wall, and looks for signs that folk have passed through. He finds them easy enough – don't look like they're trying to cover their path. Probably never figured someone would be tracking them.

He crawls back behind the wall. "Anything?"


"They went thatta way."

"It easy to tell?"

"Yep." He motions her forward. "Go slow."

She nods, and she can't ever let up, not Kaylee. "I just think maybe that's why they took Simon. 'Cause they're sick. Need a doctor."

Jayne figures that's a load of bull. Ain't like the doctor wears a sign on his head that says 'Doctor'. Though some days, he might as well be wearing a sign that says, 'I'm rutting stupid, why not kidnap me?'. So he don't buy that sickness excuse. "More like they got sick of popping out ugly babies. Maybe want a new breeding stud."

She mutters, but it's loud enough to hear. "They're gonna need luck, then."

It makes him smirk. Ain't a secret no more that the doc's sly. Or at least, mostly sly. And yeah, he can see how that, added to Simon's general stubbornness, would mean that any folk looking for breeding stock are going to end up with headaches more than anything else.


It's maybe an hour before dusk by the time the trail ends. Jayne crouches down behind a pile of garbage, and checks out the scene. Old building, not much in the way of windows. A couple of folk – ugly as hell folk – are wandering around outside. They don't look so much like guards as people who just ain't got anything else to do. He motions Kaylee forward, and she comes running over, bent low. "See him?"

"Nope. But they stopped moving here. Maybe just for the night."

"Think we can get him out?"

He figures that yeah, that's going to be possible. Even if them who're wandering around outside got guns, it won't be hard to shoot them first. "Shouldn't be a real problem."

She looks around. "Maybe we should call the cap and Zoe for help."

That makes him snort. "Oh, yeah. What're they gonna do? Distract 'em by puking on their boots?" Mal and Zoe, they got some kind of sickness, enough that they ain't keeping much down. Simon said it weren't anything real serious, but there's no way they got it together enough to come down here.

"Maybe River –"

"No. More trouble than she's worth. Locals might be ugly as sin, but I ain't willing to have a gorram bloodbath if she takes it into her head to be pissy 'bout her brother being snatched." She might come in handy some days, but she still ain't what Jayne – or Mal – would exactly call stable. Especially when it comes to her brother. Her moron brother who had to go looking for local medicines that might help Mal and Zoe get better faster.

Hell. Maybe he had been wearing a rutting 'Doctor' sign on his pinned to his stupidly shiny shirt.

There's a pause before she says, "Yeah. Guess you're right."

"Settle in. We'll wait 'till it gets darker."


Dusk seems to come fast. Maybe because the sun's gorram tired of shining down on ugly people in an ugly town.

Kaylee frowns at him again when he says as much. But it's almost dark, so he pretends he don't see it. When he peers up and around their garbage-pile shelter, what he can see is a bit of light shining through a sliver of a window. He pokes Kaylee's shoulder, and points it out. "Gonna see what's inside. Stay here."

The folk outside the building don't do regular patrols, and that's annoying as hell. It's always easier if they've got a routine. But he gets lucky, makes it to the window without anyone noticing.

He crouches low, and slowly peeks up over the sill. Mostly all he can see are curtains, but there's enough of a space that inside –

He grins when he sees it. He knew it. It's tempting to start laughing, but that ain't going to help none. So instead he sneaks back over to where Kaylee's waiting.


"He's in there."


He starts laughing a little; he can't help it. Least he does it quiet-like. It's a gorram shame that Mal missed this.

"What? Why are you laughing?" She pushes at his arm.

"I was right."


"Come on." He checks out the area – no one – and motions for her to follow him. When they get to the window, he whispers, "Look."

She does, and almost right away, her hand flies to cover her mouth.

He knows what she saw. Simon, stripped down to his skivvies. Tied up on a bed, a bed covered in fluffy pillows in all manner of colours that even he can see is just one bad, bad idea. Room's full of soft light, and Simon's face – well, Jayne couldn't see that, but he can just imagine what it's looking like right now.

"You were right!"

Probably he can count the number of times someone has said that to him on one hand. Maybe. "Yep."

"We gotta get him out of there. Them scarves are probably chaffing."


"The ones tying him up!"

Oh. Whatever. He hadn't looked that close. And anyway, he's had enough of this. It were fun and all; always nice to spend an afternoon brushing up on his tracking. But he's got other things to do. Things that don't involve ugly locals and their kidnapping, baby-breeding ways. "Door must be on the other side."

She nods. "Should we –"

He slips a small gun out of a holster and hands it over to her. He remembers when she would have dropped it, or looked nervous, but things have changed, since Miranda. Now she just takes it. She still don't like guns none, that's clear as day, but she's getting to be better around them.

He ain't sure if that's mostly a good or a bad thing.

"I'll go in. You keep watch by the door. We ain't out in five minutes, you start shooting."


It's easy to break in the door. He shoots a couple of folk – nothing fatal, it ain't their fault the doc makes a tasty treat – bashes in some other doors until he finds the right one, and then he's inside. In a fluffy, flouncy room with a tied up doctor. And a cowering girl.


"Doctor. I ain't interruptin' yer fun, am I?" He don't move too fast to get Simon up and dressed, because Simon Tam mostly naked and tied up spread-eagled on a fluffy pink, red and puke-orange bed, that ain't something a person's like to see everyday. It makes his head itch in a peculiar way. His eyes too, but he figures that's mostly because of the way the colours seem to just hit him across the face.

Simon rolls his eyes, repeatedly tugs at the scarf tying his right wrist to the bed. It's kind of mesmerizing to watch the motion. "Um. No. What took you so long?"

He's got half a mind to remind the doc that he's even lucky that they came at all. But he can't quite find the right words, so instead he takes in the scene for a couple more moments, then gets down to work.

Jayne's half-way through cutting the first scarf when the girl starts babbling. Something about shiny presents, and don't take him, and it's her birthday, and nothing else is pretty around here. Goes on and on, and cries, and it's just like little sister on a bad day. By the time Simon's up and pulling on his pants, Jayne's heard just about enough. He's about to shoot her in the leg, just to shut her up, when Simon tugs at his arm, "Let's go."

Fine. Right.

They go.


Best part is telling Mal. Jayne sneaks into the infirmary, and lays out the whole story. Zoe ain't there and Mal says she's well enough that she moved to her own bunk. But that's okay, telling just Mal is enough.

"Scarves?" Mal asks, laughing. He's only looking a little green around the gills, now.

"Yep. You shoulda seen the room. Like Kaylee's dress went and grew all over the walls and bed. But worse. With more colours."

And then they're laughing together, hard, for what seems like an age. Finally, Mal takes a deep breath, and says, "He'd be the pissiest sex-toy ever."

"Wouldn't shut up."

"He'd probably bitch about the way the scarves were tied."

Oh, hell yeah. "Would have to go and say how they didn't use the right kind of bind-off knot or somethin'. Give 'em a lecture," Jayne snorts.

Nodding, Mal says, "Go on and on about circulation." He pauses, grins a little more. "I'm thinking that you and Kaylee did that girl a real favour. It might even get you a reward, if you go back and explain it all to her. Or to her daddy. Bet he'd hate to see his baby girl's present making her ornery."

"Think it would be as much as what you'd give me if I went and took him back to her?"

Mal gets his concentrating face on, pretends to think about it, and then they're both laughing again. They laugh until, from the doorway, someone clears his throat. "It's all very amusing to the two of you, I'm sure."

Glancing over at Jayne, he sees Mal wiping away tears. Or just sticking his finger in his eye like a dumbass. Jayne can't entirely tell.

"You know what they say." Mal grins. "Laughter, best medicine."

"Well." And yeah, Simon's expression is prissy as all hell. "I'm thrilled you're feeling better. I'm going to bed. If you need anything, please don't bother to call."

"Jayne," Mal says, loud enough that Simon will be able to hear, "It's too bad you didn't take the capture with you. It ain't right not to share that image with the wider 'verse. Might have been able to make some money by selling it. Inara's probably got all kinds of contacts looking for that kind of thing."

Ah, hell. Mal's right. And Jayne really hates them kind of wasted opportunities.

Kaylee, Jayne, Simon, Mal
Notes: Excessively silly birthday fic for ssfan. Happy birthday! Slight movie spoiler.

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