She’s on her way to church in the dress Ma had insisted she wear so that she couldn’t sneak around to the city garage and lend a hand. It’s difficult to walk in these high-heeled shoes, and she has to concentrate. She swears as a gadfly lands on her cheek and crawls quickly up into her hair. She rips the bow from her hair and shakes it loose, wanting nothing more than to feel the insect fly away. The violent motion and the treachery of her shoes pitches her forward.
A steadying hand finds her arm and sets her back on her feet. It’s a friend of Daddy’s, Uncle Bill. “Kaylee? Honey? Whatcha doin’, dancin’ in the street like a monkey?” he teases.
She flushes a bit and quickly finger-combs her hair, but recovers to say, “I’m off to save my soul. And maybe I could put up a prayer for yours too since you cain’t be bothered.”
He guffaws and shifts his fishing gear to the other shoulder, watching her clumsily braid her hair. “Would ya, honey? That’d be mighty nice.” He takes off, whistling cheerily.
She watches him go fondly and sighs when she turns back to the direction of the church. The heels on her shoes have given slightly, so she has to pick her steps even more carefully. She’s achieved a pretty decent pace, even if she’s not looking graceful, when a familiar smell stops her dead in her tracks.
She takes her eyes off the road to see a man with dirty blond hair watching her. She pauses, unsure of the intent of his look. She’s used to the boys who’ve known her all their lives givin’ her that come-here-if-you-want-to-get-laid look, and gettin’ it in return too, but she knows she ain’t pretty enough to be attracting such looks from total strangers. All he’s wearing up top is a vest made of some tough, dusty-looking material. He hasn’t bothered to do up the fastenings, and there’s a streak of engine grease revealed by the parting. She smiles to herself. That grease isn’t there by accident. He’s deliberately smeared it on himself to draw attention to his chest, to his rough-and-tumble attitude. It’s the smell of it that draws her near.
He’s grinning from ear to ear because his gambit worked. All he needs are a few soft words and this little backworld church mouse will be lifting her skirts for him. It’s almost too easy. He reads the name cross-stitched on the bookmark tucked into her bible. “Afternoon, Miss Kaywinnit,” he tosses off, noting that she hasn’t met his gaze yet, that her eyes are demurely down.
Or maybe not so demure. She pushes her forefinger into his chest hard and lets it skid up, transferring some of the grease to her own skin as she does so. “Don’t tell me you’re using this stuff still. Ain’t you got moonshine grade at least?” His eyes pop open in disbelief. She’s stripped him of his pretty words and all he can do is watch as she starts putting the grease back on his torso. “You a mechanic?” He nods, watching the finger move lower, past the tattoos. “Where?”
“Ship. Called Serenity. It’s a firefly . . .” his voice trails off as that finger reaches his navel and comes to rest there.
“Show me,” she says, as her eyes finally meet his.
They’re walking toward the ship and she’s glad that he’s a few proprietary steps ahead of her. She doesn’t want to share the excitement the sight of the pretty firefly kindles in her. She doesn’t much care if he thinks the excitement is for him. She just wants to be on board Serenity. She’s savoring every moment, absently following the boy as she takes in the enchanting simplicity of the design, remembering the dusty plans Daddy had showed her. He’s about to veer off in the direction of his bunk, but she stops him and points with her chin to the engine room. “There,” she says, and his smirk is back, as if he’s earned her arousal all by himself. He’s got a hand on the sash at her waist even though they’re twenty paces from the engine room yet, and he’s careless enough that he runs right into the man who’s standing there in the shadows looking like the whole thing is just amusing as hell.
She’s afraid for a moment. She’s afraid until she looks right at him. Then she knows. This man is her kind.
He’s not the captain. He’s not built for that, the diplomacy and the sneakiness. He’s built for strength, for speed, for stamina. He’s the shelter on this boat.
She’s looking him up and down, and it seems he’s willing to do the same. The boy she came here with is gettin’ antsy, but that’s his problem. She’s not done here. “I’m Kaylee,” she says; no point giving him the name some preacher carelessly bestowed on her while her Ma lay close to death. She wants him to know her real name. She smiles and he flinches the tiniest bit.
“Jayne,” he says roughly. He fixes the boy with a look and brushes past him territorially, bumping him hard enough that his hand falls from her waist.
But it’s back soon enough, pulling at her sash like her nephews tugging at her hand when they want her attention. She’s hot enough now, metal all around them, thoughts of the man Jayne in her head, that she’s stripping the boy in front of her and herself when he can’t get it done fast enough. She’s on her back, looking at the engine upside-down, and it’s like a beautiful new world, made of cool light and responsive surfaces. He’s finally positioned himself, but the hand on her skin is too small, too indecisive. She closes her eyes, and Jayne’s hand, veined from work, cups her breast. It’s Jayne’s beard that scrapes teasingly along her belly, not the boy’s pants which are pooled just below his hips. She’s so close . . . but then something soft and skittery brushes against her face, and her eyes snap open. It’s the boy’s hair, and the fantasy is lost. He doesn’t seem to notice, and keeps thrusting away. Her eyes drift back to the engine. She frowns, noticing something awry with the reg couple. And that’s when, for real, the captain walks in.
Continue: Part 2/21