All the characters belong to Joss Whedon.
Mal poured himself a cup of coffee. They had a job to do in Daton and he didn't get enough sleep. He turned around and looked at the two people responsible for that. River and Dawn were standing in the middle of the dining room. They were staring at each other and neither of them were blinking. They put their right hands up and then they put their left hands up. They tilted their heads to the left and then to the right.
What creeped him out was that they were doing this at the exact same time. He didn't know if this was just a mind reading twin thing, or one of them was really good at copying the other one. Inara, who was just coming into the mess, came over and stood next to him. "What's going on?" she asked.
"I can safely say I have no idea," he replied. He tore his eyes away from the twins and looked at Inara. "Do you have any clients you have to go see?"
Inara shook her head. "Not this time. I'm sure the people on Daton are lovely, but they're not really my type of clients."
"Yeah, they're poor folk," he agreed. He wanted to say more, but he couldn't find the words. She had said she was leaving, but after the Early incident she seemed to change her mind. He had found himself more happy about that than he would ever admit.
Zoe and Wash came into the room. Wash let go of Zoe's hand and went over to River and Dawn. He watched them for a few minutes before coming over to Mal. He stuck his right hand up and waited.
"I'm not playing with you," Mal said.
"Why not?" Wash replied. "It's better than juggling baby geese."
Book, Simon and Kaylee joined them. "Captain we may have a slight problem," Book said. He had a small smile on his face. Both Kaylee and Simon looked like they were trying not to laugh.
Mal groaned. He hated problems. They made his life too complicated. "What kind of problem?"
The sound of Jayne screaming and yelling echoed throughout the ship. Dawn and River stopped playing and looked at each other. They both had a giant smile on their face. Mal suspected that they knew what happened to Jayne.
"What in the gorram hell happened to me?" Jayne yelled as he came storming in. He had make-up all over his face and he looked none too happy about it.
Mal glared at him. "Jayne, we have a job to do today. This is no time to be exploring your feminine side."
Jayne glared back. "I'm not exploring anything. Somebody did this to me."
Kaylee giggled and Simon and Book were barely repressing their grins. Zoe was looking the other way and Mal was fairly certain she was laughing. Wash was the only one who looked serious.
"You people stop laughing!" Wash scolded. He walked up to Jayne and put his arm around him. "This poor, brave man is trying to explore his hidden urge to be a woman! We should not discourage this!" He looked at Jayne and smiled.
If looks could kill, Wash would have died ten times over. Jayne pushed Wash away and glared at Dawn and River. "It was you two. You two moonbrains did this to me."
Dawn and River looked at each other and then at him. "Prove it," Dawn said. She folded her arms over her chest and glared right back at him.
River bounced up and down. "I love staring contests! I get the winner."
"Jayne, go wash your face and leave Dawn alone," Mal ordered.
"But Mal--" Jayne started to object.
"Now Jayne," Mal said. His voice left no room for argument.
Jayne gave Dawn one last dirty look before storming out of the room. Dawn smiled and skipped over to Mal. "Captain, can me and River go shopping?"
"It's not safe for you to go off the ship mei mei," Simon reminded her gently. "Remember?"
She rolled her eyes. "The nearest Alliance ship is a good three or four days away." She stuck out her lower lip. "Please please please please please pl--"
"Okay, okay!" Mal said. He held up his hands in a surrendering position. "You two can go. But you're not going by yourselves."
"I'll go," Simon volunteered.
"NO!" River and Dawn yelled at the same time.
"You'll make us look like virgin sacrifices," Dawn said. "And I've been kidnapped enough already."
"Besides, you have to spend time with Kaylee," River said. She grinned at Simon. "You have to kiss her and love her and make me a niece or nephew."
"River!" Simon exclaimed. He and Kaylee both turned deep red. Zoe and Wash chuckled.
"What?" River said innocently. "He gives her that good, down low tickle."
Dawn burst out laughing. She remembered how happy Faith was to talk about down low tickles. That talk was usually followed by Giles furiously cleaning his glasses and trying to change the subject.
"Do we need to have the talk about the special hell?" Book asked.
"No we don't," Mal replied. "I've heard enough talk about that.
"I'll go with River and Dawn," Inara volunteered. She had decided to bring the conversation back to its original topic.
"Okay then," Mal said. "That's good." He pointed to River and Dawn. "You two will behave yourselves, dong ma? If you get tied up and almost burned at the stake again, I'm going to be very upset."
"Don't worry Captain," Dawn said. "The only way I'm getting tied up today is if I meet a cute boy and want to have some bondage fun."
"Dawn!" Simon yelled.
"Jeez, overreact much? I was just joking."
Dawn, River and Inara found a clothing store about two miles from Serenity. Inara watched with a smile as the two teenagers eagerly started grabbing everything they could find. She had to admit, Simon did still dress them like they were fourteen. He couldn't seem to comprehend that they were seventeen now. They wanted to pick out their own clothes, think about boys, talk about bondage and down low tickles...
On second thought, maybe they should discourage that last part. Conversations about bondage and down low tickles were more than likely going to cause Simon to have a heart attack.
"What about this one?" Dawn asked. She held up a small purple tank top.
"I like it," River replied. She handed her a pair of leather pants. "Wear these with it. It'll make boys look at you."
Dawn took them and continued looking. She picked out five more shirts, four pairs of jeans and three skirts. River picked out three shirts, four dresses (sexy dresses, not little girl ones), two skirts and two pairs of jeans. They were about to go pay for their purchases when River's eyes went wide. She grabbed Inara and pulled the companion safely behind them.
"What is it?" Dawn asked. She knew her sister only wore that look when trouble was coming.
River pointed to the four men that just came in the front door. "They kidnap girls and sell them into prostitution. They see us and they think we can get them lots of profit. Shopkeeper wants to kick them out but he's afraid. He has a little girl at home and he doesn't want them to come for her."
Inara glanced around the store. "Can we get out without them seeing us?" she asked.
River shook her head. "Too late. They see us. They'll jump us from behind when we leave."
"Or they'll do it right now," Dawn said. The four men were walking over to them. One was tall with red hair, one had a short, scruffy beard, one was short and really fat and the last one had a tattoo of a skull on his left arm. River and Dawn looked at each other. They had to make the first move. Dawn picked up River and the psychic kicked the bearded man in the chest. Dawn put River down, spun around and punched the tall guy in the throat and kicked him in the knee as hard as she could.
There was a sickening crack as his kneecap broke. He fell to the ground, gasping for breath. Dawn didn't have time to celebrate though. The fat guy punched her in the stomach and then in the face. He grabbed her in a bear hug and started squeezing tightly. She struggled to get free, but he was too strong.
There was a loud crash and suddenly Dawn was free. She fell to the ground, but she got up quickly. The fat guy was knocked out cold on the floor. River was standing over him, the cash register raised over her head. Dawn grabbed a hold of it and they both smashed it against the bearded man's face. River let the cash register go so she could kick the gun out of the tattooed man's hands. She executed a perfect roundhouse kick, knocking the guy to the ground.
Dawn and River grabbed their purchases as the shopkeeper waved them out the door. "Just go," he said. "Forget about payment. Seeing them get knocked down is enough. But you have to get out of here. They have friends that will come after you if you don't go."
"We're really sorry," Inara apologized as she was dragged away. "We could pay for the damage if you want."
"Just go," the shopkeeper said urgently.
The three of them left the shop and ran back towards Serenity. Dawn's ribs were killing her, but they were broken. They would be hurting worse if they were. "Mal is going to kill us," she said.
"But when has death ever stopped a Summers woman?" River asked.
Dawn glared at her. "Would you shut up? It's not like I need to be reminded of all that."
"You want to forget but you never will. You will always be Dawn Summers and Dawn Tam."
"You're going to get punched again," Dawn warned.
River stuck out her tongue. Dawn tried to grab her but she missed.
Mal was in the cargo bay when the three of them ran in. He groaned as he saw Dawn's bruised jaw and River's black eye. "What did you two do now?" he asked.
"Got attacked," Dawn said.
"It wasn't our fault," River said. They kept running until they reached the safety of their own rooms, leaving a confused captain and a breathless companion behind.