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A new Day Dawning

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Summary: Months after Early's visit, things start to change. Will the crew of Serenity be able to handle a grown up River?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Firefly > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories(Past Donor)sevangelFR1822121,019162445,0707 Nov 056 May 06No

Quiet outing

Disclaimer: not mine

-
There was a lot of arguing after River and Kaylee left the room. Simon wanted to know what happened between his sister and Jayne. Mal got annoyed after explaining it 5 times and was about to hit the doctor. Book was able to calm them both down by saying River was most likely imitating Kaylee, who often kissed them on the cheek. The fact that she kissed the rest of them meant her kissing Jayne had no more importance than her kissing Mal or Wash. Mal and Simon finally agreed with Book after a few more minutes of arguing. Eventually the men scattered, Wash and Mal going to the bridge, Simon the infirmary, and Book to his room, leaving Zoe and Inara alone in the mess hall.

“Did you buy that too?” Zoe asks Inara after a few minutes of silence.

“No.” Inara answers, with a laugh. “I just think it’s easier for them to accept Book’s theory then having to face what was really there.

“I have to say River is damn good.” Zoe replies. “Kissing the rest of them made kissing Jayne not seem like anything.”

“Yes,” Inara agrees, “she does know how to manipulate them.”

“What do you think is going to happen between River and Jayne?” Zoe questions the companion.

“Honestly, I give it a month before someone catches them in some compromising situation.” Inara answers.

“This is Jayne were talking about.” Zoe cuts in. “Two weeks. That’s the most he’ll be able to hold out for. I’d actually bet on it.”

“15 credits.” Inara says.

“You’re on.” Zoe holds her hand out to Inara and the two shake on it. “You got a client booked when we land on Menthos?”

“I have an appointment, yes, but not a client.” Inara answers. “One of my teachers from the guild is living on Menthos. When she found out I as going to be on the planet she asked if I would come see her.”

“A registered companion is living on a plant like Menthos?” Zoe is a little shocked. Menthos wasn’t a backwater planet like Canton but wasn’t someplace you would think to find a companion living.

“She is no longer with the guild.” Inara states. “Not every companion supported unification, Madam Gwen was one who didn’t. When the war was over, the Alliance pushed her out. She was from Menthos originally and decided to return home.”

“Well, I hope you enjoy your visit.” Zoe tells the smaller woman. “I’m gonna head up to the bridge. Captain and my husband shouldn’t be left alone for long amounts of time.”

“Yes, I think it’s time I retire to my shuttle.” Inara stands up and follows Zoe out of the cargo bay.

-

The next morning came fast, too fast in Mal’s opinion. The couple hours sleep he got in Kaylee’s room wasn’t much, especially when you add in the restless night he just had. Wearily, he made his way into the mess hall to see Simon and Jayne. Jayne was sitting at the table cleaning one of his guns, probably planning on taking it on the job today. Simon was at the stove cooking breakfast.

“Any coffee?” Mal questions, plopping down in his chair at the head of the table.

“Yes.” Simon says. He moves over with two cups and places one in front of the captain and one to the side of the gun Jayne was cleaning.

“Thanks.” Mal offers and takes a sip. “Damn, doc, that’s some powerful stuff.”

Jayne, who had only acknowledged Simon’s offering with a grunt, takes a drink out of his own cup. “It’s good.”

“Sorry. I never got out of the habit of making coffee strong enough to survive residency. Should I make a fresh pot?”

“Naw, stuffs too expensive to waste.” Mal replies. “Sides, the crew can handle it, well most of em, though I’d advise not giving any to Kaylee, likely make her more cheerful.”

“Yes, that’s probably true. I won’t let River have any either, she doesn’t handle the caffeine well, makes her jumpy.” Simon agrees.

“Hmm…that probably wouldn’t be a good thing.” Mal comments. “Hate to see her more nervous than normal.”

“Also makes her talk in detail fashion about the effects of caffeine and its origins. Trust me, it’s not something you want to sit through.” Simon says, with a smile.

“What’s with ya Mal. Ya look like you was tortured again.” Jayne asks.

“I feel like it.” Mal groans. “I don’t think I slept more than 2 hours. All I could hear was giggling. I thought those two were bad just runnin round the ship. T’nothin compared to sleepin in the bunk next to em.”

“I could have told ya those two roomin together weren’t ya’re best idea.” Jayne smirks. “Hell, I have myself some younger sisters back home. Still ‘member hear’em gigglin’ all night bout boys and the such. Was annoyin as hell, but let me know whose head to bash in fore hand.”

“Umm…that’s nice in an violent, overprotective way.” Simon says after a few seconds. “Jayne.”

“Uhhh.” Jayne grunts.

“I want to thank you for making that guard for River’s bed. It never occurred to me.” Simon reluctantly says.

“Don’t worry none bout it.” Jayne growls. “Weren’t no big deal, sides your little sis a’ready gave thanks.”

“Yes, I heard about that.” Simon replies. “I’m sorry if she made you uncomfortable, I think she’s is just getting used to what is appropriate with certain people. She kissed myself, the captain, Wash, and Shepard Book on the cheek also.”

“What?” Jayne blurts out. “I mean it weren’t no big deal, know she didn’t mean nothin by it.” Jayne don’t like the idea of her kissin on the rest of the crew. Makes his stomach churn in a way he’s never felt before.

“Yes, well, I just wanted to tell you if she does something else that seems inappropriate, I would appreciate it if you would say something to me.” Simon replies.

“Now, doc, your little sister is a genius, I’m sure she knows what’s appropriate and what’s not, most the time.” Mal cuts in.

“If it was in a social situation, such as a formal dinner party or a business function, then no I wouldn’t be worried. But River’s never really associated with people in an informal environment. Now she seems to want more contact with the rest of the crew besides myself and Kaylee, which is a good thing, but I’m afraid she’s not going to know how to go about it.” Simon explains. “Everybody here is so open and physical. Look at Kaylee, she’ll kiss and hug everyone here.”

“What bout at home, with your parents, she didn’t have physical contact with them?” Mal questions.

“Our parents weren’t physical people.” Simon answers. “They didn’t approve of physical displays.”

“What if’n she had a nightmare or was scared or somethin?” Jayne asks. “They didn’t comfort her or n’thing?”

“They would have never known if she had a nightmare.” Simon answers. “Their rooms were in the opposite wing of the mansion. We were not permitted to enter that section of the house. When we had nightmares it was our nanny’s job to take care of us. Once I got older, I took care of River.” With a deep sigh, Simon got up from the table and went back to making breakfast.

Nobody talks; Mal just sips his coffee while Jayne goes back to cleaning his gun. Jayne don’t like how much he’s bothered by what the doc just said. He just can’t imagine parents not takin care of their kids. His folks never really had no money, but they always took care of their kids. When his kid siblings had nightmares or were scared or somethin like that, his parents were always there. His mama was always huggin and kissin on all of em, even when they weren’t wantin her too. It just seemed wrong that River’s parents didn’t comfort or hold her themselves.

“What’s the matter Jayne?” Kaylee asks, coming into the mess hall. “You look mad or somethin.”

“Nothin. Just thinkin bout the job comin up.” Jayne lies. He looks up at where Kaylee is standin’ only to see that she is no longer there. Instead he is starin straight into River’s eyes. He’s never noticed how brown they were, like lookin down into a good glass of whiskey. She smiles at him, her mouth wide, teeth straight and white, lips plump and juicy, like she just got done chewin on em or somethin and he can’t help but think bout em. He wonders what they taste like which shocks the hell out him. He doesn’t kiss on the mouth, hasn’t in almost 5 years. Not since that one whore used somethin like that ‘goodnight kiss’ stuff on him.

He was working with a ta ma duh named Larry Breyers. They’d been partners for almost two years when they’d pulled a job on a moon named Tixe. Most money Jayne ever made on a job, including the meds they stole from the hospital on Ariel. Larry wanted to celebrate, so they stopped at the local whorehouse. Jayne had barely gotten a drink down when one of the whores came over and dropped on his lap. She was a beaut called Molly, tall blonde-hair, blue-eyed with big tits and hips, but not too big. After he threw back a few more drinks they went up to his room to have some fun. He just wanted to get some trim is all, but she kept wantin’ to kiss him. He didn’t normally like kissin, found it to be a waste of time to get to the good stuff, but he gave in. That was it. He don’t remember nothin’ after that. He woke up on the floor of his hotel room with a headache and nothin else. His guns, knifes, everythin but the clothes he was wearin was gone. He’s just glad he didn’t have Vera then. He went down to Larry’s room to tell him what happened, only to find his room empty. Then he went down to the front desk to see if they knew where Larry was, only to be told him and his sister left planet. His blonde, big-breasted sister named Molly. Took Jayne 6 months to get off Tixe, had to work in the mines to get nuf money to pay the fare to ride on a transport ship. Taken him 5 years to get his weapon collection to half of what it used to be.

After that he stopped trustin people. He took other partners but never trusted them, never looked out for them, was only in it for himself. Worked that way for a’most 5 years then got his job on Serenity. He tried stickin with his old ways, only thinkin bout himself, but this crew made it damn hard. His last attempt to stickin to his old ways was Ariel but even that didn’t work out like he planned. Not talkin bout Mal findin out, Jayne always knew he would, he’s talkin bout what he felt. He figured he’d be able to turn the Tam’s in, get some coin, then get off Serenity fore anybody knew the difference. He figured by the time Mal knew what had happened he’d already be off planet, with a load of extra cash. Shoulda been easy, somethin he would’va done a year ago without a second thought. But seein what those ho-tze de pigu’s did to a helpless girl made him feel somethin. Didn’t know what it was till Mal almost threw ‘im out the airlock. Guilt. He handed the girl back to bastards that did it to her in the first place, she would be there now if it weren’t for those guards screwin up and givin them a chance to make an escape. After that he knew he had a choice to make. Either go back to being the selfish, self-absorbed bastard he was fore or admit that he cared about the crew, most of em anyways, and learn to start trustin again. Still didn’t trust nobody completely, but was startin to think of Serenity as home.

Didn’t trust women either. He’d fuck em but didn’t care one way or the other bout em. Just get some and get gone. He noticed most of the trim he bought looked like Molly. Weren’t cause he found blonde’s more attractive; mostly to prove to himself she has no effect on him. He can bang her look-alikes and be the one to walk away. The only thing she’d changed bout him was he don’t kiss no more. But since it was somethin he never really enjoyed fore, it weren’t no big deal.

“Jayne. Jayne!! Gorramit, what the ruttin hell is the matter with you?” Mal yells across the table.

“Huh?” Jayne grunts looking towards Mal. He’s shocked to see the rest of the crew sitting down eating breakfast.

“The doc set a plate in front of ya five minutes ago and you ain’t touched it yet.” Mal says.

“Weren’t payin attention.” Jayne growls. He picks his fork up and digs into the food in front of him.

“As I was sayin, we ain’t gonna be on Mentos long, just enough to drop the goods and get paid. Me, Zoe, and Jayne will make the exchange. Inara’s got an appointment, so she’ll be off on her own. We’re only go be here a couple hours, so you’ll have to be fast.” Mal tells Inara.

“I’m sure I’ll have enough time.” Inara replies.

“I’m sure you will.” Mal says back. “Now, the rest of ya will still on ship, there ain’t no reason for ya to get off.”

“Cap’n. I need a couple parts.” Kaylee cuts in.

“Fine.” Mal sighs. “Give me a list of what ya need and we’ll pick it up.”

“Ain’t that simple cap’n. I don’t really know what I need. I mean I know what’s broken and all, but if you wanna replace the part completely, it’s gonna cost a lot.” Kaylee says.

“We ain’t got the extra cash for somethin, expensive, little Kaylee.” Mal warns.

“I know cap’n. Which is why I need to go. I can look round and find some spare things to fix it with, won’t cost next to nothin that way.” Kaylee explains.

“Fine, we’ll get the Shepard to go with you. That okay Book?” Mal looks towards the Shepard’s chair only to find it empty. “Where’s Shepard Book?”

“Binding broke and the story makes no sense. It’s all damaged.” River whispers.

“Huh?” Mal asks.

“Shepard’s sick?” Jayne asks River. She just nods at him.

“Book’s not feeling well, River? He never said anything to me.” Simon asks a little worriedly. He stands up from the table and heads towards the Shepard’s room, the rest of the crew following. He finds the older man lying on his bed, still asleep. He walks over to him and touches his forehead, pulling back almost immediately.

“He’s got a fever, pretty high judging by his skin’s temperature.” Simon declares. “I need to get him to the infirmary.”

Jayne moves around the gathered crew and picks the older man up off the bed, then carries him to the infirmary, not saying a word. He lays him gently on the sick bed then moves away for the doctor.

“Thank you Jayne.” Simon says. Ignoring the rest of the crew, he pulls on a pair of gloves and a face makes. Pulling out his “doctorin tools”, as Kaylee likes to call them, he moves over to Book to figure out what is wrong. The Shepard, who hadn’t so much as groaned since they walked into the room, lets out a deep cough and slowly opens his eyes.

“I’m fine son.” Book croaks out.

“No you’re not.” Simon announces. He pulls out a slight sedative and injects the sick man. Putting his tools on the table behind him, he moves towards the exit, waiting for the others to follow. He quietly closes the infirmary, and then turns to face the anxious crew.

“Well, doc, what’s wrong?” Mal asks, a little worried.

“I’m not quite sure yet. He has a very high temperature, 104 degrees to be exact.” Simon starts only to be cut off by Kaylee.

“Shepard’s gonna be okay, right?” She asks, almost in tears.

“I’m sure he’s going to be fine Kaylee.” Simon says, patting her arm. “It’s going to take me a while to figure out what’s wrong with him. Frankly, general health care is not my area of expertise. I’ve mostly only dealt with surgery.”

“But you will find out what’s wrong.” Mal states firmly.

“Yes, but that isn’t all. I’m going to have to come up with something to cure him with and some kind of vaccine so the rest of us don’t catch it. It’s going to take at least the next 3 or 4 hours.” Simon explains.

“Fine, you get to work on that.” Mal orders. “Kaylee, I can’t spare Jayne or Zoe. We’ve never dealt with these men before, don’t right know what to expect. With the doc and Shepard both being otherwise occupied, I don’t want to send Wash with you. Need him to guard the ship. How important is it for you to get these parts?”

“Oh, not that important, if you don’t mind somethin happenin like Simon’s birthday or Serenity just fallin out of the air.” Kaylee says.

“Je shr shuh muh lan dong shi. Why didn’t you say somethin before?” Mal growls. “I ain’t sendin ya out there alone.”

“I’ll go.” River offers.

“What? No ruttin way.” Mal declares.

“Why?” River asks, moving to stand closer to Jayne, her arm touching the side of his. “The Alliance stands clear of Menthos, it’ll be safe.”

“River, no. You’re not leaving this ship.” Simon firmly says, not noticing her closeness to the mercenary.

“I believe this is my ship. I give the orders.” Mal growls at the doctor. “Fine, you can go.” The two girls grin at the captain and start to say something when he cuts them off. “But, there are rules. You two will stay together, not matter what. One of ya has to pee, the other does too, dong ma?”

“Yes.” They both chirp.

“And you will stay in town, go get whatcha need, then get back home. No wanderin off. And take care of yourselves. Do I make myself clear?” Mal orders, his tone completely serious. Seeing both girls nod, he looks towards his pilot. “Shouldn’t ya be on the bridge makin sure we don’t crash?”

“Headed that way in a sec. We should be breakin atmo in roughly 30 minutes, still got loads of time.” Wash answers.

“You two go get ready.” Mal tells the girls. Reaching into his pocket he pulls out some money and hands it to his mechanic. “For the parts, now scat.”

River and Kaylee both move towards the captain, stopping when they are on each side of him. They smile at each other, then reach up to kiss him on opposite cheeks. “We love our captain.” They say together, then join hands and skip down the hall to their bunk.

Mal gets ready to speak when Jayne walks by, bumping into his shoulder, almost knocking him into the wall. “Jayne, what the hell?” Mal yells.

“Goin to my bunk, get some guns.” Jayne growls, not stopping to look at anybody, just continuing towards his bunk.

“That man just gets grumpier and grumpier.” Wash grins, watching the mercenary stomp towards his bunk. Mal and Simon nod their agreement; not noticing the knowing look Inara is sending Zoe. In turn, Zoe smiles and holds up two fingers.

“Mal, I don’t think sending River off the ship is a good idea.” Simon says.

“She’ll be fine. She’s right, there ain’t no Alliance on Menthos and the nearest Alliance cruiser is a days ride away.” Mal says. “I ain’t got no mind to argue this, she’s going. You just worry bout figuring out what’s wrong with the Shepard.”

Simon nods angrily at the captain but goes back into the infirmary. Inara returns to her shuttle to prepare for departure. The remaining crew heads towards the bridge to prepare for Serenity’s landing.

-

“You two behave yourselves and remember what I said.” Mal tells River and Kaylee as they walk down the loading dock. Jayne and Zoe are loading the cargo onto the mule.

“Hao, cap’n.” Kaylee cheerfully says. Grabbing River’s hand the two make their way into the small town of Menthos.

“Mal, ya sure they’ll be okay?” Jayne questions from behind him, making him jump a little. For such a large man, Jayne sure does move quietly.

“Yeah, they’ll be fine.” Mal assures Jayne. And himself. He’s sure they’ll be fine. What kinda trouble could they find on this small moon? “We ready?”

“Sure are sir.” Zoe says, starting the mule. Mal gets in the passenger side while Jayne hops in the back seat, sprawling out to take up all the room.

“See ya in a couple hours husband.” Zoe calls out behind her.

“Be careful.” Wash yells back.

“Always am.” She answers. Putting the mule in drive, they head towards the meeting point, a couple miles out of town.

-

“This is the place.” Kaylee declares once they reach the parts shop. Opening the door she moves into the dusty store. “Ohhh….look at all the pretties.” Kaylee cries out, moving to touch all the parts she can reach.

River follows at a more sedate pace, looking around the room. Without thinking, she takes in every entrance to the store and who is present. Besides herself and Kaylee, there is only one other person in here, an older man, about Shepard Book’s age, behind the counter. She could feel his thoughts pushing in on her but pushed them back out. It’s getting easier. The calmness she gets from Jayne’s presence is starting to extend to when he isn’t there. She knows it won’t last long, only a few hours until she won’t be able to push them out. Then she’d need another Jayne fix. He was starting to become like a drug addiction to her, one she had no plans of curing. He made her feel safe, safer than she has ever felt, even before the academy. He also made her body hum, in a way she’s never felt before and she can’t wait to explore it from every angle.

“River, I found what I need. Wish cap’n gave me a little more coin so’s I could replace that coil, but it’ll have to wait.” Kaylee announces, startling River out of her thoughts. She takes the part Kaylee is holding out to her and follows the older girl to the counter.

“You two alone?” The shopkeeper questions.

“Nope, pa’s waitin outside.” Kaylee lies. “Just need these parts.”

“Hmmm…firefly parts. If’n your gettin these I’m guessin your havin some problems with your engine relay.” He says, and then continues at Kaylee’s nod. “Well then, you’re gonna need one of these.” He pulls a part from off a shelf behind him and holds it out to her.

Kaylee takes the part from the old man and examines it carefully. “Well if I were havin trouble with the landing gear and were flyin in a skyblazer, then this part may come in handy. But since I’m not, no thanks.”

The man stares at Kaylee for a second then starts laughing. “You’re the first person who didn’t fall for that. I’m impressed, in fact I’ll knock 5 credits off your total.”

“Xse xse, sir.” Kaylee grins. He takes the money Kaylee hands him then puts her purchases in a large tote bag.

“You two be careful out there.” He warns. Kaylee smiles again and takes the bag, letting River move in front of her. They leave the shop and start back to Serenity. They almost at the edge of town when River stops in front of an old tavern, grabbing Kaylee’s arm to make her stop.

“Cap’n said we have to go home after gettin the parts.” Kaylee says.

“Said to get what we need. I need apples. You need strawberries.” River protests.

“Strawberries, ya think that got’em in there?” Kaylee asks. She ain’t had strawberries since that time cap’n got in a sword fight.

“Only one way to find out.” River says, opening the door.

Kaylee casts a guilty look around the town, and then follows River into the tavern. “We’ll have to be quick. Cap’n won’t like this.” She warns the younger girl.

River just nods then takes a seat at the booth nearest the door. After a few seconds the man from behind the counter comes to their table. “You two meetin somebody?” He asks.

“Nope, just us.” Kaylee answers. “You got any strawberries and apples.” She asks hopefully.

“We got strawberry pie and apple crisp.” He answers nervously.

“Shiny. I’ll take a piece of the strawberry and she’ll have a piece of the apple, glass of water with each."

“I’ll bring it right out.” He says, moving quickly to the kitchen. He returns a few seconds later with their order balanced on a tray. Setting their order in front of them, he says, “It’ll be 5 credits.”

Kaylee digs into her pocket for the money she had left over and hands it to him. “Xse xse.”

Both girls dig into their desserts before he’s even gone. They don’t talk, just shovel the sweets in. Kaylee finishes first and takes a look around the tavern. “River, maybe we should go now. In case you ain’t noticed, we’re the only girls in here.” Kaylee says a little scared.

River glances around the room then whispers, “too late.”

Before Kaylee can respond, she is roughly pulled out of the booth and finds herself being held to the chest of some stranger.

“You’re a pretty girl, don’t try anything. You do and I’ll put a bullet in her head.” The large man threatens Kaylee, his head nodding towards River.

Kaylee nods quickly, fear taking over.

“Alright little one. You’ll wanna get out of the booth now.” He orders River.

River slowly moves out of the booth, her eyes never leaving Kaylee’s. She stands slowly, about three feet away from Kaylee and her captor. “Kaylee, quack, quack.” She whispers. The man looks confused and loosens his grip a little. Kaylee stares at River for a second, and then realization flares through her eyes. She quickly dunks down, folding her body over his arm, just in time to avoid being hit by River’s boot.

River kicks the man holding Kaylee across the face. He falls backwards, letting go of Kaylee. River grabs Kaylee and pushes her back into the booth. “Stay there.” River demands, then flips the table off its legs to act as cover for Kaylee. River’s left leg kicks up behind her to hit the man trying to sneak up on her. She spins around quickly, her arm coming up to block the punch the next man is aiming at her face. Her hand grabs his wrist and pulls it back hard, breaking his wrist. She then aims a kick at his face, knocking him down. She dances past him to kick the next man in the ribs, then launches another kick at his face. He falls and she steps over him. She doesn’t notice the big man who sneaks up beside her. He’s Jayne’s size, though he is fat where Jayne is muscular. He manages to pick her up and throws her into a wall. She hits the wall then bounces off it hard. As she hits the ground she rolls herself over and brings her fist up into the fat mans groin. He grabs his crotch and cries out. She brings herself to her feet and kicks his leg, shattering his knee. As he falls to the ground, she brings her knee up to his face, breaking his nose and knocking him out. She uses his body as a springboard to kick another man across the face. He stumbles slightly, and then manages to punch her in the face, hard. She falls back a few steps, but manages to keep from falling over completely. She stares at him, then spits out the blood pooling in her mouth. He pulls a large knife out of his coat and throws it at her. She moves to the side quickly, bringing her arm up to catch the knife by its hilt. Spinning around, she throws the knife back at him, embedding it deep into his shoulder. He cries out and falls over.

The fight lasts no longer than 5 minutes. In the end, River remains standing, her hands fisted at her sides, panting slightly. She looks around the room at the men scattered on the floor. The one with the knife in his shoulder is slowly coming to his knees. She calmly walks over to stand in front of him. She quickly pulls the knife out of his shoulder, kicking him in the face at the same time. He falls backward, unconscious. She wipes the knife off on his shirt, then puts in the pocket of her dress. She digs around in his pockets for a few seconds, taking out some things. She moves around to the rest of the unconscious men, collecting objects as she goes. She drops them into the Kaylee’s bag, still sitting next to the table. She walks to the counter and drops some money in front of the very stunned barkeep. “For damages rendered.” She turns to the rest of the cliental, the calls out. “Dance card’s not full, anybody else want to take as spin?” Nobody looks at her, they just continue what they were doing before the fight broke out.

She walks back over to Kaylee and moves the table out of the way. Bending down, she grabs Kaylee’s hand and pulls the larger girl to her feet. “We can go now. Captain daddy is coming and he won’t be happy.” Kaylee nods quietly and follows River out of the tavern, her hand clenched in River’s free hand. River carries the heavy bag containing the parts and objects River had taken from them men. They move quickly out of town, almost running. They make it to Serenity without any trouble. Luckily for them, Inara isn’t back yet and Simon is still locked in the infirmary with the Shepard.

“Tell Wash we’re home.” River orders Kaylee.

With a shaking hand, Kaylee reaches over and pushes the com button. “Wash, me and River are back.”

“Shiny. Get what you needed?” Wash questions back.

“Yep, we’ll be in our bunk.” Kaylee cuts off the com and follows River back to their bunk.

Once they are locked in their bunk, River turns towards Kaylee. “You aren’t going to be afraid of me again, are you?” River questions.

“Oh, no sweetie.” Kaylee says at once. “In fact I’m thinkin I’m gonna feel safer roomin with ya then even if I was roomin with Jayne or Mal.”

“Just don’t want you to be afraid of me.” River whispers quietly.

“Oh sweetie, look at ya.” Kaylee says back. She fills a pan with water and grabs a towel. Then she begins to clean the blood of the smaller girl.

-

“I don’t know Jayne, I’m actually glad a job finally went well.” Mal tells his mercenary.

“Yeah, sure Mal, but I was all ready and didn’t even get to fire once. Just disappointing is all.” Jayne slightly whines.

“Well Jayne, maybe you can find yourself a fight when we stop.” Zoe says.

“Yeah, maybe.” Jayne says hopefully.

The job went smooth, for the first time in a good long while. They decided to stop off at the only tavern in Menthos for a drink. Zoe parks the mule in front of the tavern and they all get out. Mal leads the group, opening the door and moving into the tavern.

“Well, Jayne looks like you missed out on the brawl.” Mal says, indicating to the men unconscious on the floor.

“Gorramit, I miss out on all the fun.” Jayne growls.

Mal moves over to the man standing behind the bar. “Seems like you had yourself some trouble. Anybody coming to help them?”

“Nope.” The barkeep replies.

“You ain’t gonna call anybody, sheriff, maybe a doctor or two?” Mal asks, a little shocked by the man’s careless attitude.

“Personally, I’m hopin they bleed to death.” He answers. “If not, well they’ll just have to get help for themselves.”

“That’s not a very charitable state of mind.” Mal growls.

“If you knew them, you’d think charity would be puttin a bullet in their brainpans.” He says. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“Nope, where I’m from we don’t leave people to bleed to death.” Mal answer, angrily.

“You read the posts before landing here?” He asks. Mal shakes his head no. They’d forgotten bout that again. They only checked the Alliance presence. “Well, ya should’a. We got a problem keepin our womenfolk safe round these parts. They tend to disappear. Rumor is they’re bein sold to rich, old men or into the entertainment business, if ya’re gettin my drift. Those men on the floor, they’re the one’s responsible.”

“Oh. So somebody decided to stop them?” Mal asks.

“Nope, nobody round here would try that.” He says.

“So what happened?” Jayne questions from beside Mal.

“Bout 20 minutes or so ago, a couple of young girls came in.” The barkeep explains. “Knew they weren’t from round here, most know better then lettin their women out unguarded. The leader grabbed the bigger girl.”

“What’d they look like?” Mal interrupts.

“Little over 5 feet. One was small, dainty like, long brown hair, bout to her waist. Other was more solid, reddish brown hair. Think she mighta been a mechanic, was wearing a mechanics suit.” He answers.

“Ni ta ma de. Tian xia shuo you de ren dou gaisi!” Mal yells.

“I’m takin ya know em?”

“My nieces.” Mal lies, sending his elbow into Jayne’s gut to stop the larger man’s protest. “Where are they?”

“Don’t know, they left, alone.” The barkeep answers.

“Someone stopped them from takin em?” Mal asks.

“No.” He answers. Mal growls at him, but the barkeep just puts his hand up to stop him. “Ya don’t understand. This bar weren’t always mine. Used to belong to my best friend, knew him since we were kids. He stopped them from taking a couple girls out of here once, made them leave the bar, told them not to come back. When he got home that night, he found his wife and kids, all dead, hung up in his front yard. He hung hisself right next to em. I got family at home. I didn’t want anything to happen to your nieces, but I couldn’t risk them comin after my family.”

“So what happened?” Mal demands.

“After he grabbed the bigger girl, he told the little one to get out of the booth. She did. But fore anybody could grab her, she kicked the one holdin the other girl in the head, knocking him out cold. Bout five minutes later, the rest of em were out.” He answers.

Mal doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, just stares at him in shock. “Ya got security film of it?” Mal asks after a few seconds.

“Yes. Got a recorder couple months back. Why?” He questions back.

“Like I said they’re my nieces, my sister’s kids. Her ex was doin things to em a father ought not. I got em out of there, but he’s got money, probably trackin us. Feel better if all traces of them were gone.” Mal lies.

The man nods and moves to the office behind the bar. He returns with a disc and hands it to Mal. “No charge. Feel bad bout not helpin em.”

Mal nods to the man and leaves the bar, Jayne and Zoe quietly following him. He climbs into the mule and waits for Zoe to start driving. Mal grabs the com and pushes the button. “Wash, everybody back yet?”

“Girls got back bout 20 minutes ago. Inara just docked. You guys okay?” Wash answers.

“Yep, we’ll be on Serenity in bout 2 minutes. I wanna leave soon as possible, dong ma?” Mal orders.

“Yes sir, captain sir. Starting her up now.” Wash says.

Zoe continues to drive while Mal just sits there steaming. He shoulda known something would happen. Never should have let them go into town alone. Zoe parks the mule in the cargo bay with no problems. “Wash we're on.” Mal says over the com, and then hits the button to close the cargo bay door. “Get the mule hung up, Jayne.” Mal orders.

Mal makes his way to the bridge, Zoe at his side. “What are you going to do about this sir?” She questions.

“Don’t know yet.” Mal answers honestly. They run into Inara on the way to the bridge. “Appointment go well?” Mal asks the companion.

“Fine, you both look unharmed. Did the exchange go well?” Inara asks back.

“Smooth as glass.” Mal answers. He pulls the disc out of his pocket and shows it to her. “Got somethin that’ll play this?”

“Yes.” Inara answers confused.

“Bring it to the mess hall in 10 minutes.” Mal orders. She glares at him for a second, and then heads towards her shuttle.

“We out of atmo yet?” Mal questions Wash once they’re on the bridge.

“Bout five minutes.” Wash answers.

“Fine.” Mal reaches up to hit the intercom, “I want everyone in the mess hall in 10 minutes.” Mal sits down in the co-pilot’s chair and runs his fingers through his hair. He stares out at space waiting for them to get out of atmo.

-

Ten minutes later, they entire crew is gathered except for Kaylee and River. Book, who looks like he’s feeling 100% better, is sitting in his normal chair, sipping a glass of tea.

“Glad you’re feeling better, Book.” Mal says, then turns towards Simon. “What’d he have?”

“The flu. He’s going to be okay now.” Simon answers, then pulls out one of the guns he uses to give shots. “I got the vaccine for everyone, already gave it to Inara, Wash, and myself. I’ll administer it to you three, then Kaylee and River when they get up here.” Simon walks over to the captain, who pulls up his sleeve, and gives him the shot. He then moves over to Zoe, then lastly Jayne.

“So, what’s the meeting about?” Wash asks.

“Inara, you got that player?” Mal asks, ignoring Wash’s question.

“Yes.” She answers and then hands it to him. He sets it in the middle of the table then puts the disc in it. It’s a 3D player that will play what’s ever in it like the person watching it was actually there. It’s an expensive machine; most people only have the normal player, which just plays the disc like a movie.

“What are we watchin?” Wash asks, excited.

“We’ll see as soon as our girls get up here.” Mal says. A few seconds later Kaylee walks into the room, followed by River, who’s carrying a bag. Kaylee moves to the side and the gathered crew gasps when they see River. Her right eye is blacked and her bottom lip is busted open. Her dress is splattered with blood and when she sets the bag on the table by Jayne, they could see her knuckles were split open and bleeding.

“Mei-mei, what happened? Are you okay?” Simon asks, running over to his sister. She just slaps his hands away and moves away from him.

“Fine, I’m fine.” She assures him.

“She would be fine!” Simon yells at Mal. “You said she would be fine. Look what happened to her!”

Mal gets ready to say something when he is cut off by River. “Bi zui.”

“River.” Simon says, stunned by her tone.

“I am fine Simon. Wasn’t captain’s fault.” River explains. “I am not a child anymore Simon, I can take care of myself.”

“River I know you’re not a child but look at you.” Simon points out. “You have a black eye, split lip and you’re knuckles are bleeding.”

“Yes, I did realize that. You forgot the big bruise on my back and the one or two bruised ribs.” River says back, ignoring her brother’s gasp. She moves over to stand in front of Jayne, tapping him on the shoulder so he’ll look at her.

“What?” Jayne asks, trying not to look at her bruises. The thought of someone hittin her hard enough to mark makes him feel like killin someone.

River reaches into her pocket and pulls the knife she pulled out of the man’s shoulder. The crew kinda jumps back at the sight of the knife but Jayne just looks at it then at her. She places the knife in front of him carefully. He reaches out to touch it, but she grabs his hand and places it on her right shoulder. Jayne opens his mouth to ask what she’s doin, but before he can says anything, she pushes against his hand, hard. He feels her shoulder pop back into place and almost jumps back. “What the hell ya doin girl?”

“Hurts less this way.” She explains. She then takes a seat next to Jayne, reaching under the table to grab his hand. He jerks back, but she doesn’t let go. After a few seconds, he just gives in and starts running his thumb across the veins in her wrist.

“What happened?” Simon demands, pacing across the floor.

“Why don’t you take a seat and we’ll find out.” Mal orders. Once Simon is seated, Mal presses the play button.

The crew watches it all play out, River and Kaylee entering the tavern, them eating, then the man grabbing Kaylee. Then they watch River’s fighting in shock. Nobody says a word during the whole thing, though Jayne growls slightly and tightens his hand around River’s when he sees the big guy throw her into a wall. After it’s over, they all turn to look at River.

“You got any light you’d like to shed on this development?” Mal asks.

“My reactions were off. The big one should have never been able to sneak up on me. I was a little unbalanced on the second roundhouse, almost fell over.” River critiques.

“Gorramit, I ain’t talkin bout you’re fightin, I’m talkin bout what you two were doin in there in the first place.” Mal roars. “I told you to get the parts, then get back on Serenity, did I not?”

“No, you said get what we needed. We needed food.” River argues.

“Huangmiu, I assumed ya’d know I meant the parts only.” Mal says back.

“Well, you know what happens when you assume, captain.” River says.

“Huh?” Mal looks confused.

“You make an ass out of you and me.” She clarifies.

Everybody’s silent, then Wash starts laughing, followed by Jayne and surprisingly Simon.

“What are you laughing bout, doc?” Mal questions.

“Nothing much. I ever mention you have to be very specific when you tell River to do something. She will find and use any loophole she can.” Simon says, still laughing. He’s happy to see his sister acting somewhat like her old self, though it worries him. She has a way of talking herself out of any situation.

“Be that as it may, Kaylee, you knew better than to go in there.” Mal says to his mechanics. “Do you realize what could have happened to you two? If they had a knife…”

“Had a knife, caught it when he threw it, then returned to sender. See, it’s Jayne’s now.” River points out. “We got out fine.”

“Yeah, but what if one of em had a gun and followed ya out. What would’a done then?” Mal points out.

“Couldn’t happen.” River states.

“How do you know that? Could very well have happened.” Mal yells at her.

River reaches over to grab the bag she’d placed next to Jayne. Then she tips it over, dumping its contents onto the table. “Took their guns.” She explains.

Jayne puts his free hand out and grabs one of the guns with a grin. He starts examining it, excited with the prospect of new weapons.

“Okay, so they couldn’t shot ya, still doesn’t change the fact you two shouldn’t have been in there.” Mal says, looking at the guns in front of them. He wants to grab one too, but didn’t think it was the best example to set. “Specially you Kaylee. You two are in trouble. In fact, I’m thinkin you both are grounded.”

“Grounded?” River asks, a little confused. “We are 150 miles from the nearest moon, how can we be on the ground?”

“River, grounded means you aren’t aloud to do anything. You have to stay in your room.” Simon explains.

“She never been grounded before?” Mal asks.

“No, she was always able to talk her way out of any trouble. Our nanny gave up trying to punish her by the time she was 5. My father tried once, but she brought out graphs and charts to prove her point.” Simon explains.

“You won’t be able to talk me out of it. For the next couple days, you two are confined to your bunk, dong ma?” Mal orders.

Kaylee doesn’t say anything, just puts the parts back into the bag and starts to leave the mess hall.

“Kaylee, where do ya thing ya’re goin?” Mal asks.

She slowly turns around to look at Mal. “Zoe, would you please tell Captain Reynolds that I am going to repair the broken part, unless he would like us to fall out of the sky.”

“Can do Kaylee.” Zoe says, grinning widely.

River pulls her hand from Jayne’s and smiles at him. “Enjoy your new girls.” She tells the big man, running her hand over the gun he is holding. Ignoring the rest of the crew, she follows Kaylee down to the engine room, leaving the occupants of the cargo hall slightly confused and worried.

~*~*~*~*~*
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