Jack held a hand up to silence her man. Just fifteen minutes ago he'd come up to the bridge, all sugar and whiskey, and started to rub her shoulders. The door had been kicked shut and there wasn't a single person about to get up and interrupt them. Jayne had eventually picked her up, sitting on her chair and pulling her down into his lap. Things had been going great until the transmission had come in. Nine times out of ten, Jayne didn't care if a transmission came through, he'd keep going. It made for some awfully interesting talks with their dealers.
“Dammit, Jayne, go wake Wash up,” Jack pulled back with a laugh. “We finally got permission to land from Canton.”
Jack found herself on the floor as soon as the word Canton had come from her mouth. Cold steel was biting against her butt and Jayne was on his knees in front of her, begging that she not tell Mal and the others.
“I can't tell Dad that our job isn't happening,” Jack stood up. She pulled her pants up as she did so, glowering at the man in front of her. “We have a job, we're going to do it, and You are going to tell me what the hell got into you.”
“Kyra, I ain't really sure Canton is the best choice.” He glanced out the front window. “I, well, I mighta caused some trouble down there. Kinda trouble that maybe, might, demand my head.”
Jack scowled at the man and hit the comm to Wash and Zoe's room. Obviously, Jayne wasn't going to be much help on this job; he didn't seem too keen on apologizing for dropping her on the ground either.
Inara watched as Kaylee and Simon flirted with one another in the corridor below her. Neither had noticed she was there yet, too wrapped up in themselves and the budding love each felt for the other. Her budding love was beginning to wither at the moment. Neither Mal nor Kyra nor Inara herself had been prepared for what they'd been told by the magistrate last night.
They could only land if Inara met with his son. It didn't matter how many times she told him she was retired. Mal had even pulled the indignant husband act, shouting at the magistrate for daring to proposition his fiancee. For just a moment, Inara had wished it were true.
“Come on, admit it, it's true,” Kaylee laughed below her.
“No, I won't,” Simon shook his head. He was smiling like a schoolboy at the mechanic. “Because it's not. I use swear words like anybody else.”
“Oh really? See, I never heard you.”
Inara had to smile again at the two of them. The bridge had been filled with cursing and shouts last night as she and her sister had dealt with Mal and Higgins. Riddick had come up after a few minutes, grumpy and all but growling; apparently Mal had turned the comm-link on with his elbow, waking the entire crew up. Riddick had only walked over to flick the comm system off before turning back to his bunk. Mal turned the link back on five minutes later, grinning like a school-boy while a big and burly man could be heard shouting up a storm. For all his trouble he'd only ended up shouted at by River and Kaylee for making more of a ruckus.
Inara let out a breath and began the walk towards her shuttle. They needed to land and get the job done. She and Mal had no real attachment at the moment and they didn't seem likely to for some time. Going to see the magistrate's son was as much her Guild duty as collecting new apprentices was. She'd just hoped no one would call on this part of her duty.
“Hey there Inara!” Kaylee called up. “Heading off for some glamorous romance and docking permission?”
“One out of two, mei mei,” Inara laughed. “Simon managed to find some Good Night Kiss for me on our last stop.”
Kaylee began to squeal in delight, gushing over what Simon had done for Inara. The doctor was trying to brush it off, blushing the long while as he was praised for his actions. The Guild Liason continued into her shuttle, heart dropping to see Kyra and Richard's personal affects had migrated for her little trip. Even with her sister nearly living with Jayne and Richard inhabiting his own bunk, they both lived with her. Lived with her for so long she'd almost forgotten what her room looked like without them.
Jack jerked awake as a crashing noise resounded through the kitchen. She and River had been listening to Book read to them. Not from his holy book, but from the storybook, where Aragorn and Frodo adventured through the world. Book's voice wasn't like Imam's, it wasn't as tired and rough, but it was just as comforting; Jack had fallen asleep in mere moments. The crash downstairs had turned into a crashing, multiple items being thrown about and when Jack rose to investigate, River was heading towards the crew bunks, shaken and muttering about scalpels.
This was the beginning of a bad day. Jack could feel it.
When she reached the infirmary, the area from which the crashing had come from, she was greeted with proof that the day was going to continue being bad. There in the middle, taping a gun to his abdomen, was Jayne. Simon was in there as well, shocked and gaping as Kaylee stood behind him talking about swear words.
“What the hell are you doing?” Jack asked, just as confused as the doctor.
“Needed to find some tape,” Jayne answered. He tore another piece of it from the roll, very close to grinning at Simon's expression.
“So you had to tear my infirmary apart?” Simon was wading his way into the once-clean white room.
“My god, you're like a trained ape,” Simon picked his tools up. Jack was still upset for the stunt he'd pulled with River and Riddick, but he didn't deserve to have the infirmary destroyed; on this ship with Their crew especially. “Without the training.”
Jack felt Mal approach behind her. His hand came to rest on her shoulder for just a minute before he pushed his way into the infirmary and stood in front of Jayne.
“Jayne,” Mal crossed his arms as he spoke. “I told you we're setting down at the Canton factory settlement on Higgins' Moon.”
“Yep,” Jayne nodded. “That you did.”
Mal gave Jack a look. Jack could only shrug. She'd delivered both messages from both men in regards to weaponry, but neither seemed likely to budge and Jack was inclined to agree with her Captain Dad on this one.
“Canton don't allow guns in their town,” Mal pointed out.
“Yes sir.” Jayne looked downright proud of himself before his next words. “That's why I ain't strappin' one to my hip.”
Dear god, Jayne was trying to be clever. Not a bad thing, most days it could work out alright for Jayne to be Clever. He was getting a helluva lot better at being Clever, but here and now was the worst time for him to try and convince the captain that bringing a gun was a good idea.
“No, that's why you ain't strappin' one anywhere,” Mal spoke slowly, as though he were explaining to Zisa just why she shouldn't touch something.
“Aw, C'mon Mal, Kyra done told you what happened.” Jayne was two expressions away from looking panicked. “You know I got myself into some trouble n'how I mighta made me a few enemies thereabouts.”
“Enemies?” Simon gasped. “You? No, how ever could that have happened?”
Jack nearly snorted at that. Simon was Very slowly working his way back into her good graces, even if River and Riddick had forgiven him. Mal looked amused by the doctor's words too. Not that he let it show.
“Jayne, take it off and put a shirt on.” Mal turned and walked to the door. “We're landing in ten and so help me, if you're packing I will shoot you myself.”
Jayne watched Mal's retreating back, looking for all the world like a kicked puppy who'd had his bone taken away. Jack pulled him out as Simon grew yet more frustrated. She understood Jayne's reasoning, she really did, but that didn't stop her from slipping her fingers under the tape and ripping it from his belly. She did apologize when he whimpered, running her fingers along the now bare skin.
“You know,” Jack smiled up at him. “Core boys pay a pretty penny to have folks rip their chest hair out.”
“What in the gorram hell they wanna do that for?” Jayne asked. His skin was still red, and he was still looking pretty petulant, but he wasn't as upset as he'd been moments ago.
“Fancy ladies seem to think it's dignified.” Jack tossed the ball of hairy tape at Simon's head. The sound he made had both of them grinning. “So, you going to apologize for this morning?”
“Yes Miss Serra, I certainly am.” Jayne's arms wrapped around her waist. “In fact, I am most humbled by your continued attentions.”
Even if he was a Rim-born hic, and even if he did butcher a helluva lot of words, Jack wouldn't have had him any other way.
Mal watched as his crew walked down the ramp and onto the planet proper. The only upside of doing a job on Canton was the lack of security and the fact no one set foot on the place that didn't have to. Course, there was one unfortunate little detail about the planet that made any honest thief wary. Canton happened to be a penal colony. Indentured servants unable to pay their debts, former hypes and kids who hadn't made the smartest of choices. Mal would have taken a deep breath had they been on any other planet, but...
“Canton really...stinks.” Simon was making one of the strangest faces Jack had ever seen.
“Smells better than Crematoria,” Riddick spoke as he passed Simon down the ramp. The convict was wearing a real shirt for once, somewhat. More a vest than anything else; it made him look like some kind of combat genie. “Barely.”
“I'll be sure to cross that off of my vacation list,” Wash nodded behind Simon. “Let's make sure to do this job fast. Really, really fast so we don't end up in Rick's favorite vacation spot.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Mal nodded at his pilot. “Kessler's our man. He's holding the goods we're supposed to deliver, so we go in, make contact, easy peasy. Zoe, I want you to go ahead and call Bernoulli. Tell him we'll have his goods by the end of the week.”
“I left his number on the comm system.” Jack was sitting on the ATV behind Mal, though she was looking at Zoe. “Riv's been talking about 'watchful amazons' and jelly beans lately, so you might want to let her rub your tummy or something.”
Mal noticed as two men tensed at Jack's words. Simon's reaction was what it had always been. Drawn, tired, worried, the man was looking back into the cargo bay as though it might be the only place he ever saw the outside. Riddick wasn't so used to River and her bad days. Mal could see it in the man's shoulders. He could see the way Riddick's mouth drew into a hard line and his hands hand been fists since this morning. He'd been forced to help corral River last night, to get her away from the kitchen knives and into her bunk. Mal was fair to certain there hadn't been a once Riddick had watched someone fall apart like that. Not anyone he'd cared about leastways.
“I'm not entirely sure-”
Mal cut Simon off. “Now doc, I can't have you on ship when I need you on the job.”
“That's a great idea captain!” Kaylee was beaming brighter than the sun above them.
“What?” Simon's face all but drained of color as the crew grinned or snickered around him. “I don't, I don't think...”
“I know you don't,” Mal waved at him. “S'why you'll be perfect for what I have lined up for you.”
“Go on boy, see the sights.” Book clapped a hand on Simon's shoulder. “I can watch over your sister, we've been developing a rapport.”
“I...I don't know,” Simon shook his head. “River can be...”
“Simon, shut up and get on board,” Jack groaned. “They've been discussing allegories and ethics in fairy tales.”
“It's quite invigorating,” Book smiled wide. “Now go on, I'm a shepherd, I should be able to keep an eye on a flock of one.”
Mal had to grin along with the rest of them. Book and River's discussions would last until well into the morning cycle and only too many times would someone walk in and find themselves an example of one side or the other.
“We're not going that far doc,” Mal adjusted himself. “And you might start making yourself useful.”
Mal trailed off as he saw Jayne begin down the ramp. A heavy coat and a massive hat were covering his torso entirely from sight and a pair of diving goggles were covering the top half of his face. Almost everyone had fallen into a sort of silent shock at seeing the large man so hunched over and hidden. The captain shook himself first and dismounted from the atv before heading towards Simon on the ramp.
“Management don't take kindly to sightseers,” Mal continued. “That's why we're posing as buyers.”
“Doc does look the part,” Riddick grinned from behind Simon.
“Right? Pretty lips, soft hands, certainly a moneyed individual. All lily white and groomed.”
“Surrounded by daddy's thugs, couple of pretty things around him.”
“Exactly, sitting down in his office, all pasty and counting his coin.”
“All right!” Simon interrupted the two. “Fine. I'll go. Just...stop describing me.”
“You're the boss,” Mal saluted with a cheeky grin. “Boss.”
“Give him a big gauge and a bullet wound, he's ice, ask Simon to act like a core bred pansy...You sure this is a good idea Mal?” Riddick asked.
He and Jayne were walking beside Mal, Bossman Simon just ahead of them. Simon looked skittish, real skittish. How the boy had ever managed to bust Riv out was beyond him. Maybe it was just dumb luck, or maybe god liked him, but if Simon got any twitchier Riddick was going to have to break one of his promises. Of course, causing problems on Canton wasn't the best course of actions for an escaped convict; neither was walking around on the moon.
“Boy needs to get some experience in the muck of things if he plans to survive,” Mal defended. “Same as the two of you did, same as I did.”
“He's got a late start,” Jayne scowled neath his hood and goggles.
“Let's hope he doesn't get an early end.” Riddick looked around to the people working in the mud pits. Some weren't more than children, born into slavery because their parents or grandparents fucked up. Guards were packing and leering at all of them, even the crew. Especially the crew. Kaylee and Jack were the cleanest and shiniest some of these bastards had seen in a long time. Shiny enough to make a few men stop working altogether.
The warden noticed.
“Area's employees only!” He shouted, coming towards the crew. Riddick had seen this guy somewhere before. Where, he couldn't say. Only that he had and that the foreman had pissed him off even then. “You best be getting back to landing, unless you have business here.”
Mal gave Simon an elbow to the back to push him forward.
“Yes!” the doctor almost shouted. “Yes, I, I'm looking to buy some, uh mud. For ship parts.”
Riddick could smell the glee coming off of Kaylee over Simon's words. It was bright and sweet, like warm lemonade and honey. Simon was picking up on it beyond the way most humans might have, his shoulders relaxed and his chin lifted despite the fact he couldn't even see the mechanic. It made Riddick wonder if somehow the doc was tapping into that Furyan side just a little bit. He'd been exposed to his and Beautiful's blood multiple times, a spirit or two might have jumped skin.
“Of course we can handle any volume here,” Warden crowed. “We have over 2000 workers, most are thieves and debtors, some few are paid, though it is next to nothing. That way, we can pass the savings directly on to you, the customer.”
“I'm not concerned with savings,” Simon shook his head. “I'm concerned with the quality of the mud. Quality and quantity. You can provide both, correct?”
“Of course we can!”
“What happened to Simon?” Wash leaned over to ask Kaylee. “Who is this diabolical master of disguise?”
“Not entirely sure, but I think I might like it.” Kaylee had never seen Simon in this sort of mood. Sure, he knew how to take control in a medical fashion, but most times he didn't seem to know where to put his feet when he was walking. Seeing him like this, Kaylee didn't doubt he'd been able to sneak in for River without half an issue. It made her kind of hot too, seeing him in a take charge mood, a take anything kind of mood.
“We're going to survey the premises,” Simon cut Warden off. “My father doesn't care about what is in his parts, but I do.” He looked across the workers. “I'll decide on whether or not I'll make an account by tomorrow.”
“Of course,” the foreman nodded jerkily. He walked off to another mud field, shouting at anyone who crossed in front of him or dared to look up.
Kaylee would have run up and gushed over Simon's performance, but Mal stepped up instead, smiling wide.
“I think we might have to use the bossman a bit more often,” Mal laughed. “You can be right intimidating when you want to be.” Mal turned to the rest of the crew. “Alright, let's head into the worker town and find our man. Get this job done and back in the black.”
“Boy's gonna get us killed,” Jayne snorted. “He aught to head back to ship and pretend he's callin' his daddy.”
“Simon did a great job at pretending,” Kaylee defended. “Better job at disguising himself than you leastwise. Who are you supposed to be anyhow?”
“He's supposed to be incognito,” Riddick snorted. “Sticks out more than you and Jack.”
Kaylee tried not to shiver at the way Riddick said that. Hell, she tried not to shiver over a lot of things he did, man right unnerved her. He never did anything particularly aggressive towards her and Simon had a sort of trust in the man Kaylee could sort of understand bein that they were kin. Still, he was downright scary most days.
“You haven't been here in years Jayne,” Wash argued against the case. “You really think you need that getup? No one's going to remember you.”
Kaylee looked over to Mal to see what he had to say about the whole thing, but her captain was staring at something mighty big and intimidating. Jack and Simon were staring at it too. It made the argument about recognition fade away into nothing as she came to stand next to them. Because standing there, high atop a pedestal was Jayne Cobb, without the disguise and without a gun, but looking very angry. Just like he always did.
“You three wanna shaddup?” Mal shouted.
Kaylee could hear the conversation trail into silence and the heavy footsteps of the boys coming closer. It was downright insane, the way she knew Jayne Cobb was standing right behind here, and still looked to be right in front of her.
“Son of a bitch.” Simon took a step back from the mud statue, tilting his head this way and that.
“Jayne?” Mal asked, careful not to let his eyes leave the stone face above him.
“Yeah?” Jayne asked, trying to hide behind Jack's much smaller form. She looked between the statue and Jayne several times, trying to find some difference between the two.
“You want to tell me how come there's a statue of you here looking at me like I owe him something?”
“Wishing I could captain.”
“Shitty job of low profile Jayne,” Riddick spoke as he moved closer to the statue. “Might want to consider less bar fights.”
“Fair to certain they don't give statues away for barfights,” Mal turned to face his hiding gunman. “Jackie, hop on the cortex and find out what happened, yeah?”
“Look Mal,” Jayne moved forward, a hand on Jack's wrist to keep her from grabbing up the cortex. “I got no ruttin' idea why anythings put up. Yeah, I was here a few years back, pulled a second story, stole a lot of scratch from the magistrate up on the hill.” Jayne fell silent as some workers passed close by. The entire crew waited quietly for them to pass, feigning disinterest and bordom until they were well out of earshot. “Things went south, way south. I had to hightail it.”
“They don't give out statues for jobs turned sour,” Jack shook her head.
“Looking at some mighty compelling evidence says they do,” Mal shook his head.
“This must be what going mad feels like,” Simon breathed. He looked over to Riddick. “You don't have a statue do you?”
“Almost was one.” The convict was smiling wide as he circled the statue. “I think they got Jayne pretty good though.” Jack could see a tenseness in his shoulders that wasn't there before. Ever so slight, and despite his amusement, there was something just a little off about him. If they hadn't spent so much time together these last few months, she might never have noticed it.
“Yeah, really captured his essence.” Wash was still tilting his head back and forth at the thing.
“Looks sort of angry, don't he?” Kaylee was starting to move around too.
“That's kinda what I meant,” Wash nodded.
A whistle sounded around them, high and shrill, It made all of them wince. The doors of several buildings swung open, workers filing out while the guards escorted them to the fields. Shift four was going on duty according to the message going out over the comm system. It was a shrill reminder that they were criminals sneaking around on a prison planet and trying to smuggle illegal goods while harboring universally known fugitives.
“Hey, I got an idea,” Jayne hissed. “Instead of us hanging around playing art critic til I get pinched by the man, hows about we move away from this eerie ass hunk of mud and get on with our increasingly eerie ass day?”
“I'm finding it eerie how often I'm agreeing with a merc,” Riddick came back around. “Aughta find our man Cap. Recognize the warden, chance he might end up recognizing me.”
“Eerie is right,” Jack leaned back. “There's something about it that makes me feel like he's going to see me no matter what I do.”
“Everywhere I go, his eyes keep following me,” Kaylee hummed.
Jack didn't like Canton and she definitely didn't like Higgin's Moon. She'd spent her fair share of time on this moon before she'd landed herself on the Hunter Gratzner. She'd helped the bartender clean out his cellars her last pass through and she knew for a fact that two of the women offering their services to workers were younger than her. Canton had a way of claiming people and Higgin's made it possible. She snorted into her drink. Let them keep the statue, she sure as hell wasn't giving Jayne or any of her crew up any time soon.
Riddick was strangely relaxed considering. Maybe it had to do with the no guns policy and the fact the bar didn't have guards in it. Or maybe it had something to do with the beer he'd essentially downed upon entering the dive bar. He and Jayne both were drinking an awful lot since entering.
“I wonder if they'd do a commission for me,” Jack hummed as the crew sat silent in the bar. Silence could draw just as much attention as shouting. They had enough attention from he little boy who just kept staring at them. Mal looked grateful she'd spoken up. “Maybe pack it over to your ma.”
“Hell Kyra, you know it can't be a statue'a me. Ain't no reason for it.” Jayne shook his head and began on his next drink. “Flies in the face of every kind of sense.
“Won't argue with that,” Mal grinned. “Then again, you seem to drive a body's sense away from them.”
Wash spit his drink across the table before the familiar argument could break out. He gagged a few times before spitting a little bit more.
“Zhe shi she me lan dong xi,” Wash coughed out. The earthen cup was pushed far away from him as she began to rub his tongue on his shirt.
“They call it Mudder's Milk,” Jayne grinned at him. He took a large swallow and Wash gagged once more. “All the proteins, vitamins, and carbs of your grandma's best turkey dinner. And it's fifteen percent alcohol.”
“They have it over in Climatum,” Riddick grinned. “Three liquid meals a day, liquid snacks, and a full two hours yard time.”
“Well it worked for the Egyptians,” Simon stared down into a cup of the swill. “I can see why they'd give it to cons and workers.” Simon was met with a variety of stares, some interested and others less so. At least the little boy had someone to focus on now. “The Egyptians, back from Earth-that-was, they'd make something like this to keep the slaves from starving and the alcohol kept them from rioting.”
“Smart way to keep people where they don't want to be,” Riddick lifted his glass.
Jayne clinked his own against Riddick's, reminding Jack of just how uneasy they could make a person feel. Particularly when they agreed on something. She dreaded the day Mal would join them on anything. Speaking of, her captain dad was mumbling to himself as he stared at a very clean and well dressed man. The man was coming towards them, bushy moustache hiding his upper lip from view, though an inbuilt frown couldn't be hidden.
Jack shifted to get a look at him, somewhat frustrated with the little boy who just kept moving into her way. She tried to gently nudge him away, but he only leaned against her attempts.
“Go on and shake your head boy,” Jayne scowled at him. “Your eyes stuck?”
The little boy leaned back on awe before scurrying away. Jack made herself focus on the well dressed man and the deal he was brokering with Serenity. She could talk to Jayne about it later. Only a few seconds in, Jack could tell this wasn't their man. It was a man that happened to get involved.
“You wouldn't be looking for Kessler?” the man asked, taking a seat beside Mal at their table.
“Just having a brew,” Mal lifted his cup.
“Hm, I knew a man named Kessler.” the man looked at the dirt covered room as though it were tempting.
“Knew?” Jack asked. The man looked at her for a moment before answering.
“He was a good middleman, low profile, didn't snitch. Might have moved up in management.” The man shook his head in annoyance. “Last week the warden heard he was moving contraband through town. Gave him a peck of trouble for it.”
“What kind of a peck?” Mal asked. His glass was just to his lips, giving those around him the idea he was drinking.
“The kind where they hacked his hands and feet of with a machete,” the man answered easily. “Then they rolled him into a bog.”
Jack had to agree with Wash's assessment of the pecking order around here. It was a harsh punishment for a rumor, didn't matter if it was true or not. Mal went right back to business though, bringing up their client and their goods. It was one thing to hear your supplier was dead, another to tell your client. Particularly a client you didn't know anything about. The man assured Mal that everything was not only fine, but it was ready to go as soon as they had the chance. Jack took down the new man's account information easily enough, not altogether convinced that this man hadn't been involved in Kessler's departure. Didn't mater though, not so long as their crew was safe and sound. The man rose as she took down his last account number, tilting his head ever so slightly as someone began to tune his guitar.
“Well then, change in the job don't change the job,” Mal turned back to his crew. “Ricky, you heard anything of this warden guy?”
“Not til I heard about the machete,” he leaned back. “Called him The Puppet back in the Slam, liked to kidnap girls and boys bout Jack and Riv's age, hack em up and string em up in public places.”
“So how'd a man like that get put in charge of anything?” Jack wondered.
“Jayne.” the man with the guitar sang out that singular word and halted the explanation Riddick may or may not have given them.
“Yeh-soo ta ma duh,” Wash laughed as the busker began to sing. Jack wasn't laughing, she was listening very carefully as she watched her man's face go pale. His head nearly hit the table a few seconds later; Jack almost laughed at the idea that her man had given up money for anything except Ma Cobb or herself.
“Uh, Jayne?” Mal leaned over. His eyes were fixed on the singer and a grin was growing every so slightly on his lips. “You uh, you got any light you'd like to shed on this development?”
“No Mal,” Jayne shrank slightly.
“I was wrong before,” Simon slouched in his seat. “This must be what going mad feels like.”
Still the singing continued, this time with the mudders singing along, grinning wide. Some were starting to dance and some few others were waking up to join in Simon's proclaimed madness. It was catchy, enough so that Wash was humming along and Kaylee was bobbing her head.
“I'll be gorrammed,” Jayne moaned. The crew turned to look at him. “That's where the cash went. I stole that money from Higgins like the song says, but it weren't like that. Stole a hovercraft and got tagged and started losing altitude.” Jayne took a swig from his bottle of milk. “Sixty-grand untraceable, and I had to drop it right in the middle of town to stay airborne.”
“We gotta go to the crappy town where I'm a hero,” Wash grinned like a child.
The song continued for some time, mudders dancing and cheering as it came to a close. Jack was almost sad to hear it end, catchy tune that it was. Completely inaccurate and beyond out of character, but catchy.
“I think now's a good time to get the hell out of here,” Riddick shifted forward. “Don't fancy breaking out of the Puppet's playground with a dumbass Mie Xu.”
“I reckon that's quite a reasonable request considering the circumstances.” Mal gave the room a quick glance around before rising. The rest of them rose a bit slower to avoid notice, Riddick finishing his drink before he stood while Jack and Kaylee 'finished' a conversation. The crew had gotten better at leaving normally since Riddick had joined them, even if Mal didn't seem to care how he left. Jayne, who normally took the utmost care to at least look normally drunk when he left, shot out of the bar before everyone else was completely standing.
“Lookin awful frustrated there Jack,” Kaylee mentioned when Jayne burst out the doors. A roar of cheers combined with the chanting of Jayne's name. “I'm not gonna have to bail you outta jail am I?”
“No,” Jack glowered as Jayne ran down the stairs and up to the bar. “But you may need to help me hide a body.”
The entire bar erupted with noise as Jack finished speaking, and damn it all if Jayne didn't look as uncomfortable as she felt.
Riddick stalked up the ramp and into the belly of Serenity. The roar of the town was behind him, cheering and music echoing through the boggy valleys and up to the dock. The Puppet was prowling along the edge of the town, watching and waiting for anything to cross his path. The man didn't find something soon, he'd start hunting. Some Mudder girl was going to disappear and not a soul would raise a fuss about it when, if, she was found. No, they'd keep working.
He didn't want River to sit through it alone. The first night Shirah came to him, back when he was a company man, she'd started waking the spirits up. The heartbeats of his bunkmates, of the slaves, all of them. Heartbeats turned into scents, a feeling for each shift in the air until Fear and Rage were as easy to recognize as up and down. Happiness and Sorrow were as left and right. Pain was the one he recognized first.
His Khalessi was waiting for him to find her. Hiding from the Shepard who only spouted fairy tales and whimsy. He could scent her now, fear and paranoia cutting through the air like rancid lemons. IT came from deep within a storage compartment to his right, hidden behind crates and beneath the stairs. Riddick crouched down in front of the dark nook and pulled his goggles up. She was huddled in the back, arms around her knees.
“Kisha eth hide,” she whispered from deep within. “It burrows into his skull, changing his thoughts, cracking and splitting...ogat nayat attihat mae off to eyak. The Puppet dances tonight.”
Riddick climbed into the nook, shutting it behind him. He took her searching hand in his own as he sat down between her and the exit. Hardly a moment passed before she'd climbed into his lap and wound her arms around his neck.
“Nearly a statue, still as stone as she dances for her captors.”
“No dancing tonight Zhaena,” Riddick rumbled quietly. He kissed her temple and leaned back against the wall. “Nothing outside of this place right here.”
Jack was trying very hard not to hit the savior of the Mudders over the head with the bottle of Mudders milk in her hand. Five times she'd tried to get closer to her man, the first few times just to get him orders from Dad, then it was more to do with the fact he had some ginger haired floosie hanging off of him. Jayne wasn't interested, she knew, but the more alcohol he got in him the less aware he tended to be.
“Reckon maybe I can pretend I never heard a shot,” Kaylee laughed as Simon leaned against her shoulder.
“I can tell you exactly where to shoot,” Simon nodded drunkenly. “There's actually, if you stab someone just here,” he poked Kaylee in the side, causing a giggle. “You can do a whole lot of damage...can't even pick it up until it's too late.”
Jack shook her head and lifted an empty bottle as Jayne started toasting again. One quick flick of the wrist and he'd be covered in the yeasty smelling liquid.
“You know, I, I have saved dozens of lives,” Simon watched the bottl in Jack's hand. “Maybe hundreds! I even reattached a girl's leg once, her whole leg.” Jack did stop to look at simon then. The bottle went back to the table as he told of his own triumphs. “She named her hamster after me. A hamster...he drops a box of money, he gets a town.”
“You suck at being a terrorist,” Jack snorted. “You know, we should trigger a bunch of tech glitches, and leave a hamster behind...”
“The mark of the hamster,” Kaylee cheered. “Ya'll can attack banks and whatnot.”
Simon was thinking hard about it even as Jack started thinking up codes and delivery systems. If the Alliance was going to call them terrorists and hunt them down, why shouldn't they act out? In his brief time on the Rim, Simon had seen quite enough to develop a cause.
“A blue hamster,” Simon nodded his head. He was wearing a very serious face, determined to make himself a name.. “Grandmere, she always said I was thoughtless. That, I didn't have a purpose. Well you know what, forget her. I do have a purpose.”
“Yeah!” Jack and Kaylee cheered him on. His arm wrapped itself around Kaylee's waist and both looked thrilled the other didn't mind.
“I am the blue hamster!”
The bar cheered, and while it was for Jayne and his idiotic behavior, two voices were strictly for the Blue Hamster. A third voice joined the two, just a wee bit confused by their isolated celebration, but Mal had never been too upset with rebels and seperatists.
“Alright, time to get out of this nuthouse kids.” Mal waved them to stand and Jack did so a bit too quickly. “Steady there Jackie, got some plannin' to do.”
“Now Captain?” Kaylee asked. “Things are going so well.”
“Well, Jayne's certainly feeling better about life,” Mal scoffed as he looked over at the bar. The redheaded barmaid was feeling the scruffy man up, and Jayne was getting a bit too drunk to care as much as he should. “But the fact remains, we got a job and this place-”
“Dad, Things are going Well,” Jack pointed at the now distracted Simon and Kaylee.
“Oh! Well. I see,” Mal poked Simon in the head to regain their attention. “Tell you what, while Jayne is stuck here with his adoring masses, you two keep an eye on things. Jackie!”
The tech girl gave Kaylee a wink as Mal turned and began to walk back to the ship. Good. Kaylee and Simon didn't need to dance around each, they'd only end up hurting each other. Jack gave one last glance to Jayne before she ducked out completely. Hurting each other...the clay bottle made a very nice crack against his skull seconds after it left her fingertips. She could hear him roar as she left the bar, quieting as he realized just Who was walking out.
Mal said nothing beside her as they walked. He was quiet and calm, a hand on her shoulder for a few moments once they left sight of the bar. He might throw him in the airlock again, possibly cut him out of the next job, but Jack knew the dumb merc wasn't going to get fired. They needed him.
“You sure ol' Ricky boy can't work in the day-time?” Mal asked before they got to the ramp.
“Never said he couldn't Dad, but You don't need the feds crackin' down because he shivved someone for making eyes' at your girls.”
Jack's boots thumped up the ramp, pausing as she saw the strange spectacle in front of them. Wash must have returned early, because he was cackling at something while Book was talking at a hole in the wall. The sight alone was enough to make Jack stop and wonder. Zoe was quick to pull away from her husband to look at the captain and his daughter.
“Where you been Mal? Bernoulli's chomping at the bit. Says he wants his merchandise yesterday.”
“Yeah, well, we still got a few wrinkles to iron out.” Mal walked further into the cargo bay. His eyes had been caught by Book and the hole as well, until two silvery spots shone out from the darkness. “Found out I might need to kill my son-in-law some.”
“No,” Jack scowled as Riddick's boot poked itself out from the dark hole. “Turns out Jayne is a bona fide folk hero here on Canton. Everything from a song to a statue.”
“Here I thought my husband was drinking.” Zoe glanced back at Wash. The man was a giggling mess as he nodded in agreement. “You telling me that Jayne...”
“Saw it earlier,” Riddick rumbled from the mouth of the nook he sat in. River could be heard mumbling bhind him in that strange and gutteral language, a single pale hand holding tight to his shoulder. “Puppet's a bit pissed off at him. Probably snagged up a local girl, decided to cut into her. Come morning, you'll see the kid strung up in the town square.” Riddick pulled back into the darkness. “Probably have a riot over it if Jayne's half the man Kyra thinks he is.”
Mal scowled as the door of the storage space was pulled shut and the two Furyans closed themselves off from the world. Riv had been downright unsettling before and Riddick was renowned for being a scary hun dan, put together they could scare the sight out of a man's eyes. The scariest part of all was the fact they were usually right about people.
“Suppose that'd put a bit of a crimp in the Jayne Day celebration I got 'em to throw...” Wash was staring pensively at the place Riddick and River had been.
“A riot's bound to happen whether Jayne leads it or not.” Jack started up the steel stairs towards her bunk. “Spent a year or so here before I ran into Riddick on Hades, before Jayne's box of money. They get angry enough and it burns right through the alcohol. Give them a dead girl on a day of honor...you might want to keep Serenity warm while we get the goods on board.”
Jack left for her bunk as they continued to plan the day out behind her. Riddick and River were bunking down in the bay tonight and Inara was off with Higgin's wuss of a son. It made the ship a bti lonely to tell the truth. Out in the black you just wanted to be away from everyone, but once a girl hit dirt she didn't want to be alone. Especially tonight when her man was...
“Whatever,” Jack shook her head and kicked the door of the bunk open. She'd throw a blanket out for him before she locked up; he'd better use it too if he knew what was good for him. “Stupid man. I should have known a damn merc would do this.”
Jack jerked awake when the comm in her room started to make noise. The low strum of a guitar was filtering through the air as a low and slightly drunken voice hummed a string of notes and nonsense. Jayne had come back to the ship and while he couldn't enter their room, he'd found a way to get in. The tech girl reached over for the response button, missing it the first few times in her sleep adled mind.
“I'm angry at you,” she grumbled into the system.
“I know. S'why I left right after you did. Told them Mudders I had a treasure of my own, s'why I didn't need the money.”
“You didn't even know me then,” Jack snorted. She was trying to ignore what he'd said about her.
“Don't matter none if its true. Go on back to sleep bao bei.” The soft strum of his guitar picked up again and Kyra drifted off to sleep, still annoyed, but happy Jayne was alive. The Puppet hadn't grabbed him up and Mal didn't roll him into a bog and Riddick was wasn't cutting him into tiny pieces.
Jayne focused on the guitar in his hands instead of the gun at his back. Zoe was standing behind him with her Mare's Leg cocked and ready to spread his brains all across the console. Riddick had poked his head in a few minutes ago, and Mal a few minutes before him. Simon was poking his head in just now, stumbling over.
“Just keep moving,” Zoe waved them off. “Someone's apologizing.”
“Pfft, I don't care,” Simon waved him off. “I'm, I'm looking for some paper. The Blue Hamster needs a plan.”
Jayne nearly stumbled in his playing as Simon moved around him in search of paper. He found several sheets before stumbling out and to his bunk, Kaylee following him down the hall towards the passenger bunks. What in the sam hell was that boy talkin' on? Zoe's shotgun moved away from Jayne's neck and she stood up. The gruff man was sobered up now and looking mighty contrite about what he'd done tonight. Fact was, he'd been bawling like a baby when she'd gone to collect him. Talkin' to all of Canton about his treasure, his diamond in the sky, his celestial maid, a collection of names each more elaborate and worshiping than the last. Jayne had stumbled after Zoe when she'd come into the bar to get him, shaking off the muddied whores and the drunken fans as he thanked her for letting him back on the ship.
The gun was really just to keep Mal and Riddick from doing something overly stupid. Stupid like a Blue Hamster.
“You play until your fingers bleed if you have to,” Zoe said. It was more for show than need. “You have a job to do in the morning and Jack has to be in a stable and working mind.”
“Yup.” Jayne didn't even look up.
Zoe however, needed to go and sit with her man in hopes he might know what the hell was wrong with Simon. Convicts and crazies and mad doctors cavorting with mechanics...the ship was going to be a lot of fun soon enough, or a lot of trouble.
“You're not going to kill him,” Jack told Mal for the nth time. “If anyone is going to kill him, it's going to be me. Not you, not Riddick, me.”
“Not Jackie, every little girl's daddy has the right to shoot a man's done her wrong in some fashion.”
Mal was not listening to her as they rode down into town. He was, in fact, riding in the trailer of the atv while Riddick drove. Zoe was on board again, her mister keeping her company, while Book rode in the trailer with Mal. True to River's word, a young woman had been found this morning, strung up and gutted. The mudders hadn't a single holy man to send her off and Book was almost eager to actually help someone. They let him off before they continued through town, directing him towards the weeping and cries of the enslaved. He hurried off and they were driving again, focusing on the job once more...somewhat.
“Zoe pointed a shotgun at me last night,” Riddick laughed. The two of them were sitting back to back on the atv. “Just wanted to say hello to the guy.”
“Bullshit,” Jack snorted. “You were both going to try and kill him. The comm was on, I heard every word.”
“Then you should know exactly what I said to him,” Mal nodded. “You're going to be captain one day Jackie, can't let you get a ruinous past 'fore you even start out.” Even Riddick laughed at that one. “Least, moreso than you already have. Point is, Ricky and I got every right to make as many threats as we like.”
At least pick-up seemed to go alright. Riddick and Mal hefted the massive containers onto the trailer, thankful that Kaylee and Simon had found their way there sometime last night. Judging by the mud on their clothes they'd had quite a drunken and hungover adventure. One without naked fun. The cargo was loaded quickly, quietly, with Kaylee acting as lookout while Jack and Simon buckled things down and covered them up. They were even helpful enough to hop on the back and look downright ashamed as Mal loomed over them, Jack and Riddick still riding up front as they passed through town.
Men and women and children were shouting her man's name while Book quietly hopped on next to Jack. How the little machine managed, she had no idea, but it went along, dragging crew and cargo behind ever so slowly as they went through town. It even picked up more speed once they got out, rolling right up the ramp into Serenity's cargo bay.
“Zoe, make sure the cargo gets packed in nice, Wash, get Sernity heated up, wanna leave inside of an hour.” Mal turned to Jack and motioned for her to follow him. “Gotta make sure Jayne lives long enough for you to kill him.”
The people of Canton were watching as their hero took a stand in front of his own statue. He'd a heart, a kindness about him not many had seen in a long time. And his woman? Well, she'd shown up and she was standing near enough to him that all could see her. Clean and bright, just like the star he'd claimed her to be. Some few remembered her as one of the few who'd made it out. Just a kid then, mouthy and naive. She'd grown up, found herself a hero, but there was still trouble in her eyes; at least, some would claim that when they retold the story of Jayne Day.
The story of how Hessian Stitch stumbled into the town square with rage and hatred in his eyes, interrupting their hero's tale with slander and venom. They'd tell of how he'd pointed his gun not at Jayne, but at his woman, grinning wild for all to see. Yes, people would tell the tale of Jayne and his love.
Kyra watched as Stitch switched from herself to Mal. It had been a fairly normal speech given the circumstances. Why hadn't he come out sooner? Better still, why was the man packing heat on a prison planet while the guards were watching? Never mind, stupid question. The guards were looking on with glee, waiting for the man to shoot Jayne between the eyes so they could destroy the mudders a little bit more. The puppet was waiting to clap irons around anyone who ran with Jayne; herself and Kaylee in particular.
“Now why don't you just let ol' Stitch speak his piece?”
“Go on then,” Mal raised his hands and backed away. Her cap'n dad, angry as he was with Jayne was still trying to defend him. Or maybe he was just trying to keep the peace. Either way, Kyra had taken the opportunity to move behind Jayne and out of the way of the gun. Jayne'd shifted further in front of her too, one arm shifting to keep her out of harms way.
“Whole lot of Money in the magistrate's safe, weren't there Jayne?” Stitch grinned with a mouth full of rotting teeth. “Got away clean too! But then our plane took a hit and we're going down. Dumped the fuel reserve, the life support, hell, we even dumped the seats!” Stitch shook his head, resting his gun against his head. “Then, there's Jayne, the money, and me...and there ain't no way he's gonna dump the money.”
“He did!” someone shouted from the crowd. “He dropped it on the mudders!”
“By accident you in-bred dung-head! He tossed me out first!” Stitch let another shot ring out in the direction of whomever had shouted. “Fer Six months we run together! He turned me out before Ic ould scream...”
“You'd have done the same,” Jayne spoke calm and cold.
“No,” Stitch shook his head, gun pointing at Jayne once more. “You protect the man you're with! You watch his back...Everybody knows that! Well, except the hero of Canton. No, hero gets away, gets hisself a pretty little thing and a ship!”
“You gonna talk me to death buddy?” Jayne asked. “Is that the plan?”
“Nah, This is the plan.”
The story would tell of how thunder had echoed through the air and struck a man down. It would tell of the rage and pain that had echoed in his eyes and in his voice. Jayne the Hero had thrown a knife from his boot and struck the villain down in a shot before throwing himself at the man as well. His woman had been the one to pull him from his pain, the unnamed star he'd fallen in love with.
And then, it would tell of his final speech. It would tell of how he'd flew into the sky while the people rioted once more. Not in his name, but in their own.
Kyra walked slowly to Jayne, tea in one hand and whiskey in the other. He'd been quiet since they left Canton; even through the mad dash back to the ship and the troublesome take-off. He hadn't really moved from this place since. Even when he sat down, he hadn't left this single place on the catwalk. He was sitting now, staring at the knife he'd used to kill Stitch. Kyra set their drinks down before she took a seat next to him.
“No one pushed him.”
Jayne nodded slowly, though he didn't believe her words.
“And you won't even hear the shot when Inara takes you down.” Finally a response. A light smile was on his face, just at the corner of his mouth. “Assuming Richard doesn't take you out first...that one would be much less fun, so stick to the light if you piss him off.”
“Don't reckon i'd make it far off the ship,” Jayne took the glass of whiskey. “I am sorry 'bout last night bao bei.”
“I know.” Kyra leaned against his shoulder and sipped her tea. “You're nto the same man anymore Jayne. You're better. Jayne who threw Stitch out the window wouldn't have done what you did today, or half the things you've done since I met you.”
“Didn't know the old me,” Jayne tried to argue. He was silenced by Kyra's fingers on his lips.
“Don't have too. I know a merc when I see one. I know bastards and pushers, I've been harrased by pimps and I live with smugglers and cons. I know how to spot a good man Jayne Cobb.” She leaned against him once more and closed her eyes. “You're a good man. My good man. Next time i'm throwing the bottle at whatever bimbo tried to touch you.”
“And I will duck.”
we must ... kill (the) girl, show her..everyone
I just had the terribly interesting thought of Dr. Brennan is conceivably the ancestor of River Tam. That means Simon would be related to Seely Booth...Sorry it took so long. I had enough tests and projects to make anyone break down and cry. But it's up! And y'all love me! And StS is making VERY slow progress and CiWL is pushing me to write something else while T:VS is very eager to get three chapters ahead of itself. I'm going to try very hard not to start a new fic before these are done, but I can't guarantee anything.
Also, not a great fan of this episode, so it's quite choppy and missing a lot of scenes. No worries though. The next chapter will be longer. Also! Skipping Out of Gas as it covers how everyone met and I've pretty much gone over that in the first five chapters. Vaako makes an appearance in the next chapter and we learn a tiny bit more about his chosen bride; very important in necro culture. Chosen vs. Won.
Anyhow, leave a review, I haven't had many recently....