The next time Jayne meets up with Helen, it's because Mal sends him and the doc to check up on the Heart of Gold. Don't make much sense - wasting resources like that - but Simon got some kind of call about babies and sickness, and Mal shrugs when he brings it up at the dinner table.
He's awful easy with Simon some days, but Jayne has enough sense not to start asking why that might be.
So Mal shrugs, says it sounds like a good idea for Simon to take a shuttle and go and help out. Jayne's about to tune out of the conversation – doctoring ain't of much interest to him – when Mal looks at him and says, "Jayne, you go with him."
"Aww, Mal. Come on." Spending hours in a shuttle with Simon ain't never been what Jayne would consider a fun prospect. Or even tolerable.
Mal just stares him down. "He ain't taking a shuttle by himself, and me and Zoe got that rendezvous to make. So just do it."
Jayne knows by now that when Mal starts pulling out them long words, he means business. "Fine. It got pay involved?"
Mal turns to Simon, who nods. "Yes. There's pay for my services and those of any one who might be needed to accompany me.
"See Jayne? Pay for the doc and his protection. Plus." He looks at Jayne like he's the dumbest merc in the system, and continues, "It's a gorram whore-house. Woulda figured you'd be on the job, no questions asked."
And yeah, there's always that. Maybe being locked up in a shuttle with Simon for a few hours won't be so bad if he's got something to look forward to.
Jayne has a wash, puts on his best shirt, and makes sure his pants don't have too many stains. He helps Simon bring a couple boxes of supplies onto the shuttle, ignoring any attempts at talk.
Then he sets course to the planet, and decides to have a shave, make sure the beard is trimmed up good.
He's sitting in the cockpit, shaving with his straight-razor and a bit of broken mirror, when Simon comes in. "So. How long until we're there?"
"Good." There's a pause, and Jayne just knows that Simon has words to say. Finally, Simon points to Jayne's jaw, near his ear, and says, "You've got a patch here. It looks rough."
That ain't anything that Jayne was expecting. He figured something snarky, some remark about his clothes. Or something about whores being the only women Jayne could get. Something like that. Not grooming tips. "Thanks," he says, and takes care of the spot.
After, his skin stings a little. It ain't never a good idea to shave dry, but he figures by the time they get to the Heart of Gold, he'll have forgotten all about it.
He lands the shuttle a little way from the house. When they get out, Jayne squints in the bright sunshine and sees some of the whores outside of the house, waiting for them. They're smiling, grinning, laughing, all but one, who he figures is the baby's ma.
He looks for Helen in the group – looks for her bright hair and the way she stands a little taller than most of the women who whore out of this house. But he can't see her.
Simon goes off almost right away, talking about baby stuff and symptoms with Petaline. A couple of the boy whores help with carrying the supplies, leaving Jayne on his own. He smiles at the whores standing around him, lets their skinny little fingers touch him. He listens to them say things that make grin harder. And hell, later he'll take 'em up on their offers, maybe, but right now, he's got one thought. "Helen. Where's she at?"
Some of the girls shrug, others smile harder and say he doesn't need to go looking for her, and anyways, she mostly isn't taking customers these days. Got picky, one of them mutters. But one girl winks, and points out to the distance. "Hear that?" She asks.
He listens for a minute. "Gunshot?"
She nods. "Follow that sound, you'll find her."
So he does. He follows shot after shot, and most days it would make him wonder exactly who was getting killed and what exactly they did to deserve it. But it didn't seem to be bothering the whores none, so he figures – hell. It can't be too bad.
It's hot under the gorram sun though, enough that he's thinking about unbuttoning his best shirt, loosening everything up a little. But he dressed like this for a reason, and it don't make much sense to mess it up before he gets down to business. So he keeps walking, wishing he'd brought a hat.
When he figures he sees something, he shades his eyes. And yeah, there's a woman out there, in a long skirt, bright hair reflecting the sun. He takes a few more steps and stops, watching. Takes him a moment to be sure, but yeah. She's target shooting, some kind of small gun in her hand, glinting in the sun.
Even from a distance, he recognises the target - one of the makeshift ones he helped set up, back for the job.
Grinning, Jayne keeps walking towards her, picking up the pace a little. Then a lot. About ten paces off, he stops, watches, and she's concentrating so much that she doesn't notice him.
Helen makes about three out of every five shots - sometimes grazes, sometimes full-on the target. She ain't too bad. She ain't great, but he's seen worse, way worse. Simon, for example. He remembers telling her, back when they were gearing up for the fight, that she was a natural with a gun. That all she needed was more practice. Seeing her now, he thinks maybe he weren't all wrong about that. She holds it right, and it's real clear she's determined to get better.
Mostly he can tell that by the way she bites at her lip as she aims, and how she scowls when she don't make the target.
Finally, though, he gets bored of watching her aim, and starts staring at the curve of her ass, the way her strap of her shirt slips down her shoulder. Her hair's messed up a little, half tied up, half falling down her back, and watching a woman with a gun ain't ever a bad thing - 'less that gun is pointed at him - but he and Simon ain't going to be here forever.
"Hey," he says when she pauses to reload, her movements sure and practiced.
She turns, grinning. "You like watching that?"
And it figures that she knew he was there all along. "You ain't half-bad."
"Had a teacher, he weren't too bad himself." She winks. "He had interesting ways of making me shoot better."
His grin widens as he remembers. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." She drops the gun into a holster at her waist - something pretty and foolish, leather with colours and paste-jewels on it. Zoe wouldn't ever wear nothing like that. On Helen, next to her blue and white skirt, under her blue and black striped halter, it looks just fine. His fingers itch.
"Heard tell you weren't taking much in the way of custom these days."
Helen shrugs. "Ain't true." She gestures at the target. "Just got other things to do some times. Some of us remember it don't pay to be mostly helpless."
"So. You busy now?" His shirt is feeling real constricting now, tight around his throat.
Pants too, they're too tight.
Helen's eyes flicker down for a second, and then she smiles the sexy smile he remembers, the one he thinks about some nights in his bunk. Her eyelids droop a little, and she takes a couple of deep, slow breaths, her breasts straining against her top.
Jayne appreciates the show.
"Not busy, not yet." She closes the distance between them, and quick as you please, she's unbuttoning his belt, slipping her fingers along the edge of his pants. "You got something you wanna do?" She says it quiet-like, right in his ear, her tongue just flicking against his skin.
"Maybe," he mutters, pulling her close. She smells like dust and gunpowder and sunshine. "You wanna negotiate a price?"
Tilting her head up, Helen licks her lips. "I got a standard fee. We all do."
Something glints in her eyes, and he knows she ain't going to haggle. And - what the hell. Usually, he'd push for a bit of a deal, but he ain't seen a woman in a long time, she - she's just smiling at him. "I can do that." He pulls her hips against his.
"Or," she says, moving her hand to pat at his gun, and wiggling her hips a little, "we could work up a trade. Skill for skill. I'd be in the market for some pointers."
"Pointers, huh?" He leers at her a little, and leans his head down, saying, "Shiny," into her hair. The grit of dust over soft hair brushes against his lips. "Sex first."
She wriggles against him again, enough to leave him grunting a little, and then she slaps his ass before stepping away. "Come on, then." Taking his hand, she pulls him back towards the house.
It takes them less time to get to her room than it took Jayne to find her.
Spoilers: Heart of Gold
Summary: He looks for her bright hair and the way she stands a little taller than the others.
Notes: jbfrancis2000 mentioned that they'd like to see more Jayne and Helen stories (and suggested titles). I wrote that I would fret too much about characterization and couldn't write anything, and then promptly turned around (contrary-like) and wrote a mini-fic in comments. And then I kind of liked it. This is that fic, slightly expanded.
Sequel to Sturdy