Tightpants and Mercs and busted water pipes
Jack sat at the kitchen table as Inara and Mal argued, chasing one another through the ship as they 'discussed' Jack's pending stay.
Staying or no, Jack was suddenly very aware that she would need to learn a bit of Mandarin.
"Can I see your coat?"
A black woman was sitting at the table with her. She looked tough and strong in tall boots and riding pants, she looked like a woman Jack wouldn't mind being one day. Jack handed her treasure over carefully, the woman picking it up just as reverently. Her fingers ran across the leather, pausing at stains and scuffs.
"Inara patched it up." It wasn't a question. "She works on mine too. Was it a gift?"
Jack nodded. "Imam gave it to me."
Zoe's eyes sparked before lighting up. Recognition, determination, these and more were in Zoe's eyes, even if her face was solemn.
"Mal." The passing captain stopped and looked at her. "She's staying."
"Now just a gorram minute, I'm the captain and-"
"And she has Imam's coat. We owe him sir." Zoe looked down at Jack, smiling ever so faintly. There was respect, a budding sort of affection in her eyes. "Besides, I think Bester could use hand with ship repairs."
Mal scowled, looking at the coat in Zoe's hands before he grunted and turned to the bridge, his own brown coat flaring behind him. The three females were left in the mess, Zoe handing Jack's coat back to her while Inara turned the kettle on to calm herself. The mess smelled like protein and rice and tea. Zoe was sipping at her coffee, scowling at it a second later before dumping it back into the coffee pot and pouring herself another. It must have gone cold.
"I never did catch your name," Zoe remarked as Inara stormed out of the kitchen. "Then again, you probably only caught mine because the captain was shouting."
"I'm Jack, but the orphanage said my name was Kyra."
"I like Jack," Zoe tilted her head in an almost nod. Her lips pursed as something on the bridge clanged. "Congratulations, you get to meet our pilot."
"Don't like him?"
"There's something off about him." Zoe scowled as the pilot walked into the mess. Jack didn't see anything 'off' at all. He was a bit colorful in a coral and teal Hawaiian shirt. She half expected him to be wearing flipflops.
"So you're the one who's got Mal in a fit," the pilot grinned, sitting down across from Jack. "Hoban Washburne, everyone just calls me Wash."
"Ooh, nice name, strong. Jack Serra...like some sort of mountain fighting hero."
Zoe obviously had no sense of humor. Wash was one of the funniest people Jack had ever met, especially when he started to fight an imaginary mountain. Inara returned around the time Mount Colossus pinned the pilot and when the mountain was overtaken some moments later, her sister was sitting next to her serving tea.
The young woman jumped, banging her head against the counter as Mal snapped. Pushing herself out from under the wood and metal, she saw Mal looking slightly repentant.
"You all right?"
"Five by five," Jack answered, rubbing her forehead with her free hand. The other was holding a wrench and keeping the pipe from leaking. "Can you hand me the plumbers tape while you tell me what you're going to tell me?"
She'd been on board for nine months now. The captain, while a hardass, was a good guy. He took care of his crew and when he'd discovered Jack had minimal knowledge of firearms, he started educating her on their use. In the Black, a body had to know to defend themselves, Inara's sister or no. Jack's musings were broken when Mal handed her the requested item.
"Think you'll get that fixed 'fore we land?" The captain was crouched down beside her, looking at the pipes with a perplexity. Whoever said men were made for fixing sinks was a liar.
"I'm mostly done, just need to finish checking for leaks and tighten a few things up." Jack glanced at the captain. "Why?"
"Need to know if you can drive a mule." Mal wouldn't have asked had Inara was on board, but her sister had gone to see a client two days ago. "Got a job to do and I need Zo armed and ready."
"Inara's going to kill you one day," Jack tightened the bolt. "Isn't Wash our pilot? Piloting extends to driving and whatnot, right?" Jack didn't bother asking about Bester. The buhn dahn was about as good at driving as he was fixing Serenity's basic functions. Like leaky pipes.
"That it does, but he's going to be keeping our girl warm in case we need a hasty retreat." Mal poked a pipe, jerking his hand back. "Hot."
"It's the hot water pipe," Jack snickered as she tightened the last washer. "Do I at least get a piece?"
"I reckon we can get you one," Mal agreed after a moment. "You done then?"
"Yup, the showers are runnin' again. I'll go grab my coat and meet you down by the mule."
Mal nodded as Jack slid out from under the counter, turning away in his own brown coat. Mal's coat hadn't been patched like Jack and Zoe's had been. It still bore it's holes proudly and the stains, while faint, were still visible. Malcom Reynolds was a proud man, and while he might insist the war was over like Imam did, you could see in his eyes that he would never stop fighting. Jack liked that about him.
When Jack reached the bunks, she could see Wash joking around with Zoe on the bridge. He was wiggling his moustache at her and Zoe was seconds away from smiling. Jack had a coat to get, not a pilot and a first mate to watch, and when she slid down the ladder into her bunk, something glinted in the dim light of her room. When she turned the lights up, she could see a pair of broken goggles hanging out of her dresser drawer.
The last three years fell away when she picked them up. Broken goggles she'd grabbed in an attempt to be someone else. To be a badass when really all she wanted was a place to belong. She had just wanted attention and now she had it. She had a sister who called her Kyra and a captain who treated her like an adult. She had a teacher and a goofy big brother and until Mal found a mechanic who actually knew what an engine was, Jack had to deal with Bester.
Jack threw the goggles into her pocket and grabbed her coat, meeting Zoe as she climbed out.
"Hair's getting' long," Zoe remarked, picking up a strand and letting it fall.
"I need to give it a trim," Jack scowled as she picked up the fallen curl. "Ends are getting split and Inara won't stop making noises at it."
"Well, it looks much better long than it did when you came to us."
Zoe took the lead when they got to the bay, moving down the stairs while Mal approached them. Bester was sitting by the bay door in a lawn chair, relaxing in the sunlight instead of maintainging their engine.
"Well ain't you just lookin' shiny?" Bester called from across the bay. "Maybe when you get back I can take you for a drink?"
"Kwai ju kai," Jack scoffed, thankful the captain was coming over. Bester was going to end up eating his own foot soon enough. Mal seemed to notice and drew her over to the mule. He extended his arm, giving her a handgun.
"Had it lyin' round," Mal told her. "Well, to be honest Imam gave it to me 'fore we parted ways. Figure it wouldn't mind bein' with you."
"It's light," Jack took the weapon. She'd learned more about Imam the Immaculate in nine months than she had living with the man for two years. Imam was a sniper and he'd only been shot once in his entire life; he took a bullet for Mal.
"Called it Ghost." Zoe was looking down from the back of the mule, her own Mare's Leg in her hands. "I reckon he still has Death Sentence."
"Ain't never seen a man with skill like that ol' hun dhan's," Mal chuckled as he climbed into the mule. "Well, come on, can't drop the cargo iffin' we ain't at the drop point."
She was glad she'd grabbed the goggles. All of Mal's drop-offs were on dusty, dead Rim planets. Granted, it wasn't to smart to smuggle goods onto highly populated Core planets, but he could at least find a planet with a forest or trees. Jack's orphanage had been surrounded by trees and you could set your watch by the rain. Xibalba was like that; alive. New Mecca had water gardens, they tried to bring life around, but it just wasn't the same as walking into the jungle and smelling the flowers. It was like they said, you only miss it when it's gone.
"I wasn't going that fast," Jack scoffed as they unloaded the cargo. Her captain and Zoe had taken about five minutes to reclaim their bearings.
"Jack, I'm not even sure I saw the town we passed," Mal grunted as he hefted another box from the back of the mule.
"That's because you had your eyes closed sir." Zoe helped Jack to move the next crate to the pile. "It was a bit grayish."
"Was it now? I thought that was a rock pile."
"Might have been sir."
"You can drive back then," Jack scowled at the captain as he sat down on one of the boxes. His holster was unlatched and he was watching the dust cloud on the horizon.
"Trust me, I am."
Zoe was standing next to Mal when the buyers pulled up on a rickety old wagon pulled by two miserable looking nags. They looked rough, dirty, one larger man was eying each of them with a hunter's eyes while the leader's beady eyes watched Jack and Zoe with a leer.
"Would you mind disarmmin' these fine folk?" Leader asked the large man.
His hand moved fast, gun firing so quick that Jack could have sworn only one shot was fired. But Ghost had gone flying, Mare's Leg was on the ground, and Mal's pistol was by his feet in the holster. Jack's head whriled as the situation shifted. They were going to ghost her crew, steal the loot and-
"Now cap-" Leader was cut off by Mal's laughter, just as Jack's increasingly poor thoughts were.
"Gorram but ain't that some fine shootin'!" Mal exclaimed with a grin. "You ever seen a man do that Zoe?"
"Can't say I have sir." Zoe's tone was emotionless as she rested her hands on her head.
"Jack?" Mal turned to her with twinkling eyes. Good, he had a plan.
"Impressed me." It actually had, even if he was a big dumb merc.
"How much they payin' you son?" Mal turned his attention to the one who'd fired.
"Now wait just a minute!" Leader was losing control, anyone could see it.
"Seven percent, standard wage." He was Rim born with a rough voice and a hard accent. It matched him well Jack had to admit. Hard accents, hard eyes, hard muscles.
"Is it?" Mal's eyes widened. "Well damn, I'm payin' you girls too much." Jack could see Leader's eyes narrow as his nostrils flared. "You at least got you're own bunk, right?" the large merc shot a look at Leader, mouth pulling tight. "Really? You got kitchen rights?"
"Jayne!" Leader shouted at the large Merc. "You better not be thinking-"
A bullet from Jayne's gun ended Leader's shouts and summoned his screams instead. Jayne was looking at Mal in a new light as Leader stared at the hole in his knee with shock.
"How much you gonna pay me?"
"Ten percent of the profit, same as Jack and Zoe. You get your own bunk and full kitchen rights, same as anyone on my crew." Mal didn't even flinch when Jayne shot his other crewmate in his gunhand. "You mind helpin' us load our mule back up?"
"Crew ain't I?"
Mal and Jayne got the mule loaded faster than it had taken to unload it. The merc was strong, focused, and his anger at having been underpaid had him working fast. Jack waited with the others while Jayne dashed back to the wagon to grab his bag. It was big, bigger than Jack almost, but the man handled it easily enough.
"Jack gimmie the keys," Mal stood by the driver's door.
"Not gonna happen," Jack grinned. "Gotta put the new guy through some kind of test don't we?" She could see Mal agreeing, even if the captain was still scowling at her. Jayne for his part was looking at her with that same appraising eyes he'd had before.
"Jayne Cobb," the merc nodded.
"Right then, I'm Captain Malcolm Reynolds, this here is my first mate, Zoe Allyane, and that there is our handywoman, Jack Serra." Mal climbed into the back of the mule, followed by Jayne. "Might wanna hold on to somethin', girl drives like a bat outta hell."
Jack was grinning by the time they pulled back into the cargo bay. She'd made every person on the mule squeak at least once, including Jayne. Although, Jayne's squeak had turned into a whoop as soon as it had escaped his lips. Zoe and Mal hadn't been so thrilled.
"Gorram, who taught you to drive?" Jayne asked after he hopped out of the Mule. He was grinning wide and his eyes had lit up.
"Riddick. Taught me how to steal a car too." And where to shoot a man so his death was quick.
"Shi ma?" Jayne grinned. "Well ain't that shiny..." His eyes fell to the gun on her hip. "Got a pretty nice piece too."
Jacked hopped down from the drivers seat, giving the keys to Mal; her captain looked a tiny bit green. "Just got it today. I haven't even had the chance to test Ghost out."
Mal called Jayne over before another word could be exchanged. Jayne Cobb was nothing more than a big dumb merc with a big gun strapped across his back and big muscles clogging up his brain. He was probably two feet taller than her, ten years older, and he was sweaty and dirty and Jack knew that she couldn't stop watching this man.
You never could trust a merc.
Jack wiped her brow as she climbed down from the ventilation shaft. They were stuck on some dirtball until Bester figured out what the fuck was wrong with the ships engine. Being stuck dirtside always came with one thing though. Rats. Jayne had been helpful enough to help her figure out a sort of poison for the buggers, but when they died, the rats climbed into the ventilation and started stinking something awful.
She still didn't trust him though. Jayne Cobb was a big meathead who went out drinking every night and came back smelling like a whorehouse every morning. Not to mention his room was a gorram fire hazard. The big ape had taken the room with the breaker box, a room Jack normally lived in while Inara was out, and his crap was strewn everywhere. He'd pasted a massive poster across the box and when she took it down Jack was certain the baboon was going to have a heart attack.
Jayne had moved the poster but he'd pasted five others up in it's place. Smaller, she could get to the breaker box, but it was still a fire hazard. Not to mention the girls were just gross looking.
"Vulgar," Jack snorted as she dumped the rat corpses down the trash shoot. Thing needed to be dumped soon; they'd spent too much time on the ground.
She released a breath as the mechanic came down the corridor. He was shirtless, pants falling off of his skinny frame. He looked like Johns but tattooed and younger.
"Unless you've found a new boat or you've fixed the engine, I don't care."
Bester grabbed her by the arm when she tried to pass him before pushing her against a wall. For being completely inept he was strong. "Take a break Jackie. Relax."
"I'm fine," Jack tried to pull away. "Shouldn't you be in the engine room? Or is Mal looking for you again?"
Bester only smirked, leaning forward. From this angle she could see the needlemarks in his neck. "Come on Jackie, let's get to know each other, explore."
The only thing Jack wanted to explore was a way to get Bester the hell off of her. The cologne on his skin didn't mask the stench of his sweat, sour and slinking.
"Kyra!" Bester jumped off of her as the gruff voice of Jayne Cobb filled the corridor. "Ain't you supposed to be doin' summat useful boy?" The merc was walking towards them, jaw set and brows tight. "Or do I need to tell Mal bout you runnin' off commitin' suicide?"
Bester scoffed, standing far from Jayne and Jack both. "Don't know why I was even interested, Bitch is hur bao duhn anyways." He didn't see Jayne's fist flying towards him, but he felt it.
"Get your pi gu into the bay Kyra," Jayne growled moving to stand over Bester. He grabbed the barely concious mechanic by the collar, dragging him to his feet. His knife was unclipped and before Jack knew it she was holding the merc's arm.
"Jayne, don't ghost him. Mal says no killing crew...and unlike some people you're actually useful." Jack could feel Jayne's muscles under her hand. "Please, lets just drop him naked in the middle of town. Hog tied even."
Jayne punched the mechanic again, knocking him out this time before walking away from the prone man. "Ain't worth the time. Not less we can find ourselves a better mechanic." Jayne looked her over then, his eyes doing the same thing they did every time they went on a job. Checking. "Where's your gun?"
"In my room, I shouldn't have to shot my crewmates." Jayne grunted before giving her a shove towards the door. "Don't push me. And why did you call me that?"
"Honest mistake. Now move so's I can lock the door."