Of Softness and Steel - Part 4: Teatime
Saturday, November 5, 2005

Jaylee. Inara and Jayne bond.


Inara prided herself in her ability to read the faintest flicker of emotion in a man’s eyes. It was one of the traits that made her the most sought after companion in House Madrassa . It was a skill that had never once failed her.

Until now.

The galley was, as always at meal times, chaotic. People talking over one another, the scrape of chairs on the floor, the clink of dishes being shared. She sank elegantly into the seat on Mal’s left, surveying the table and noting that Simon and Kaylee hadn’t yet joined them.

A few moments later they’d attempted to slink in unnoticed, but it didn’t take a companion to read the happy glow radiating from Kaylee, or the sudden and inescapable aura of satisfaction surrounding Simon. The others exchanged knowing looks and pointed jibes and even River was lucid enough to tease her brother.

Listening to the good-natured laughter around the table, Inara had filled her plate with the usual assortment of protein and raised her eyes to Jayne seated across from her. He joked with the rest, his teasing louder and cruder than anyone else’s and he managed to turn Simon four different shades of red by the end of the meal.

But he never touched his food.

Inara had watched him push it around his plate for near an hour, and each moment that he didn’t take a single bite, she felt the prickle of dawning realization. Suddenly, life aboard Serenity was making a hell of a lot more sense.


She gave it a few days, let him adjust a bit to the change in ship dynamics. Of course, adjusting for Jayne meant getting meaner and by the time Inara invited him to her shuttle, she was the only one on speaking terms with him.

When the knock came on her door, she sat up straighter and arranged her skirts around her. Her heart gave a surprised twist when he entered, instead of the bright orange t-shirt, worn pants and plethora of weapons she expected to see, he wore his one and only button down shirt, his boots were clean and his chin freshly shaven.

He lingered in the doorway, his brow arched questioningly at her, and Inara got the distinct impression he was waiting for her to tell him this was a mistake. “Come in,” she gestured to the sofa, “Please, have a seat.”

He sank onto the plush cushions, and if Mal had always looked out of place in her shuttle, Jayne looked outright lost. Giving him a gentle smile, she gestured to her tea set, a fine delicate china that he’d probably never seen before in his life, “Tea?”

“Uh, yeah, sure.”

Busying herself pouring the tea, the artful flourish lost on him, she watched Jayne through her lowered lashes, wondering what it would take to make him comfortable enough to open up to her.

"Would you like anything in your tea?" She offered, her tone soft and soothing as she gestured to the small table.

"Whiskey?" He arched a hopeful brow, eyeing the tea set doubtfully.

Her smile, then, was genuine. “I haven’t got whiskey, I’m afraid,” she rose, crossing the room to a small cupboard. “But I have a Chinese wine. Huadiao Jiu. ”

He made a face, “I ain’t much for wine, ‘Nara.”

“Oh, I think you’ll like this,” she sank gracefully back onto the couch, adding a few ounces of the yellow alcohol to his tea. “It has a nice bite to it.”

The small cup was almost entirely engulfed by his hand, and she watched as he swallowed the contents in two gulps. Inwardly, she hoped she’d made enough tea.

He set the cup down and nodded, “Yeah, that stuff aint half bad.”

She smiled, refilling his cup, “It was a gift from a client a while back and I just haven’t found occasion to open it yet.”

“Well, hey, don’t be wastin’ it on me,” He frowned.

“It’s not a waste, Jayne. I’m glad you like it.”

“Oh.” He pursed his lips, watching her dubiously. “Well.”

Suspicion emanated from him. In the back of her mind she ticked off each sign; tense muscles, narrowed eyes, fidgeting fingers. She expected him to bolt at the first wrong move and it disconcerted her a bit, not expecting nervousness from him. Of course, unexpected behavior was the reason she’d invited him here.

“So how is your family?” she set about putting him at ease. “Have you heard from them since St. Albans?”

“Yeah, just got the one letter,” He nodded uneasily. “Maddy’s doin’ better.”

“Oh, I’m glad to hear that,” she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, taking another sip of wine. “The others?”

“Fine, far as I know.” He finished off his second cup of tea and let his eyes wander around the shuttle. “Why’d you ‘vite me here?”

The corners of her mouth tightened slightly before she gave him an amused smile, “I can’t invite you into my shuttle for a simple cup of tea?”


She should have known artifice wouldn’t work with him. Inara had been trained to manipulate men by the best courtesans in the ’Verse, and her own practice had taught her that beneath the surface, they were all the same. But Jayne was a whole different species of male, one she wasn‘t used to socializing with. This called for unusual tactics.

Slowly refilling his cup, she kept her lashes lowered, and shifted direction, opting for blunt honesty, “I’ve noticed your mood as of late has been more--”

"Da-shiong bao-jah-shr duh la doo-tze"

“I was going to say ill-tempered.”

“Aint nothin’. I’m always ill-tempered.”

And about to become more so, she thought. “You have feelings for Kaylee.”

He wasn’t very good at hiding his surprise, “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’ve got feelings for Kaylee,” she repeated evenly.

“I ain’t got feelin’s for nothing‘!” He denied, every muscle in his body tightening defensively. “Least of all fer some gorram grease monkey.”

Inara simply quirked a delicate eyebrow and waited.

“I mean it. I don’t care ‘bout no silly little girl.” He scowled at her, “Quit lookin’ at me like that.”

She smiled serenely, “Kaylee’s hardly a little girl anymore.”

“There ain’t no feelin’s,” he folded his arms across his chest, his mouth curling into a snarl. “Mercenaries don’t get feelin’s.”

“Oh, Jayne.” She rested her hand on his forearm, smiling gently at him. “You stopped being a mercenary a long time ago. I thought you’d figured that out by now.”

“If I ain’t a mercenary then what am I?” He narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“You’re as much a part of Mal’s family as Zoe is, though the man would never admit it. You’re a valuable member of this crew, which is why I’d hate to see Mal lose you.” Reaching to pour him another cup of tea, she laced it with the wine before handing it to him. “Now, I admit, I feel rather foolish having not caught on to your… non-feelings regarding Kaylee until now. So please, tell me, when did you start not-liking her?”

“I told ya, I don’t like her!”

She pressed the cup into his hand, her eyes widening innocently. “That’s just what I said, wasn’t it?”

“Don’t see as to why ya care,” he frowned, looking down into his cup.

“Kaylee is like a little sister to me…” she began, faltering slightly as Jayne raised his eyes, the dark blue dancing with emotions he could do nothing to deny. “I--I don’t want to see her hurt.”

He snorted, lifting the teacup and downing it’s contents, “Don’t gotta worry ‘bout that. Doc’ll take right good care of her. And if he don’t…”

“You will?” She guessed.

“If he don’t, you’ll hafta, cause Mal’ll be blowing me out the airlock for murderin’ our medic.”

“Ahh,” she nodded, trying to understand. “What is stopping you from murdering him now?”

“Ain’t done nothin’ wrong yet.”

Inara took a sip of tea, mulling over his words. She fully expected having to put out the flames of jealousy before he did something stupid that would ruin the tentative harmony aboard the ship. His seeming complacency regarding Kaylee and Simon threw her off a bit. Perhaps his feelings weren’t really as strong as she’d first thought.

“I’m to assume then, that these feelings for Kaylee--”

“There ain’t no feelin’s!”

“Right, sorry. These non-feelings for Kaylee, they’re of a protective nature?”

“‘Course. She can’t rightly look after herself.”

“I think she’d disagree with you.”

“Fool girl goes givin’ her heart to every chou wang ba dan that comes aboard this boat. She’s too trustin’ an’ good… Best gorram thing on this boat and needs protectin’.”

So much for simple brotherly concern.

“Protecting from Simon?” She arched a dubious brow, folding her hands neatly in her lap. “I hardly think the Doctor poses much threat.”

“That’s the problem, right there,” Jayne finished off another cup of tea with a growl. “Aint one of ya understands how much power the hou dan has over her.”

Inara refilled his cup, “I think I do, Jayne. But Simon is a good man. Even if in the Core, I’ve yet to come across a man more honorable than he.” She pressed the warm cup into his large hands, letting her fingers linger over his. “He makes her happier than I’ve ever seen her, and as obtuse as he can be I don’t believe he takes that responsibility lightly. He wont do anything to hurt her if he can help it.”

“Yeah, well,” he just stares into the cup and she doesn’t need to see into his eyes to know just what all of this was costing him. “What if he can’t help it?”

“Well, in that case,” she let her mask slip and smiled for him, “You can throw him out the airlock with my blessing. But in the meantime, he makes her happy.”

“Don’t gotta worry, I ain’t gonna do nothing’ when she’s smilin’ like that.”

Her primary reason for this tête-à-tête was to ensure Kaylee’s bubble wouldn’t burst and the assurance should have filled her with relief, but it didn’t. She hadn’t credited Jayne with emotion before, let alone something so substantial as self-sacrifice. Even more disconcerting was the urge to soothe the furrow in his brow and somehow make this bearable for him.

“That’s good of you, Jayne. Not many men would be so generous.”

Still not looking at her, his fingers tightened around hers, probably the only acknowledgement she’d ever get that any of this discussion had ever taken place. “I’m not sayin’ there’s feelin’s.”

“Oh, no.” She shook her head, “Of course not.”

“’Cause there aint.”

“None,” she agreed, feeling his grip tighten on her hand just slightly.

“And if there were--”

Mal chose that moment to burst uninvited into her shuttle, “Inara, I wanted to--” He froze in the doorway, staring at the tableau in front of him. Jayne. Inara. Holding hands.

He blinked and walked back out the door to check he’d gotten the right shuttle.

Entering a second later, he found Inara and Jayne staring back at him, the latter starting to look a little sick. “Shen sheng de gao wan! What in the seven hells is going on in here?”

Jayne stood up quickly, jostling the small table of tea, “Not a gorram thing, Mal. I swear. We‘re just havin‘ some tea s‘all.”

“Don’t look like nothing. Looks like wiles to me!” He glared at Inara. “Are you using wiles on him?”

She arched an eyebrow defiantly, “And if I am?”

“She aint!” Jayne glared at her, groping at his hip for a weapon to fend off Mal if he should choose to strike.

Inara leaned back on the cushions with a feline grace and a satisfied smile curving her lips. “I didn’t need wiles with this particular… client.” She let the last word roll lasciviously off her tongue.

“I weren’t no client, Mal,” Jayne held his hands up innocently, lacking any weapon to fill them with. He inched toward the door, taking the long way around Mal. “Wouldn’t be even if she offered.”

Mal watched his progress through narrow eyes.

“Not knowin’ how ya got feelings for her,” he finished, escaping through the door.

Mal gaped indignantly at the empty doorway. “There ain’t no feelin’s!”


Sunday, November 6, 2005 12:21 AM


Absoutely wonderful! Loved it to pieces! But there are nine hells Chinese mythology not seven. Your Jayne was priceless and so exquisite I wanted to hug him, loved that little dig at Mal at the end as well. Oh joy, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, November 6, 2005 12:45 AM


"There ain't no feelings!" Great story I've been waiting for part four. But Jayne...Kaylee tell me they're going to get together?

Sunday, November 6, 2005 9:06 AM


He blinked and walked back out the door to check he’d gotten the right shuttle.

classic mal, almost as good as "huh?"


Sunday, November 6, 2005 10:16 AM


Very, very nice! This is one of my favorite things you've written. I enjoy your Inara, such a pensive and pretty portrayal, which works well when she plays off of Jayne. And the end was especially good.

Well done.

Saturday, November 19, 2005 9:54 PM


LOL! What a ride! It gets better and better. More would be just the thing, so please get to it. Fave lines: "He lingered in the doorway, his brow arched questioningly at her, and Inara got the distinct impression he was waiting for her to tell him this was a mistake." and of course: “Don’t look like nothing. Looks like wiles to me!” He glared at Inara. “Are you using wiles on him?” Dude! Wiles! LOFreakinL, such good Mal it makes me shiver.


You must log in to post comments.



Learning to Lie - Chapter Two: Before the Gates
AU. Where it begins for Inara.

Learning to Lie - Chapter One: Tempest
Very AU. Where it begins for Jayne.

Learning to Lie - Prologue
Very AU. Jayne is not what he seems.

Big Trouble, Little Package
Something odd has happened to Jayne, and the crew has been working together to hide it from Mal.

Small World
Jayne has a talent for meeting the most interesting women.

A Helping Hand
There are some machines that Kaylee <i>isn't</i> familiar with. Short little Jayne/Kaylee naughtiness.

Jayne gets a little help from the girls.

Broken in Whole
Post-BDM. Wash/River/Mal. Definitely crack fic, but if you've read me before, you can trust that I didn't go completely off the deep end with this one.

Simon considers his place aboard Serenity Post-BDM. (I know, Simon-fic? By me?)

Five Times Jayne Walked Away
Five times Jayne might walk away from Serenity. Character Study