Reunions - Part Two
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Serenity arrives on Whittier to deliver and collect goods, but Jayne and Karl manage to get themselves into trouble. 11th fanfic featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Grateful thanks to BlueEyedBrigadier for the beta. Having feedback is like charging my battery, please comment. Part 2 of 2.


Karl leaned on the railings watching Jayne, Mal, Kaylee and Bane play hoops. Zoe leaned next to him, although she barely showed yet, she had taken to wearing her shirts untucked as if in preparation. Getting ready to balloon, as Kaylee eloquently put it. “Kaylee told me I was gonna be an uncle,” said Karl, keeping his eyes on the game - and Bane. Zoe raised an eyebrow. “Not quite a blood uncle – though I’d be the first one to wish it – but a family uncle, like Mal,” said Zoe smiling. To Kaylee things were that simple; Karl was Wash’s older brother, Wash had been married to Zoe, therefore Karl was going to be an uncle. “And Jayne?” he queried. Zoe snorted in amusement and then nodded. “That nice fella in München know he’s gonna be a Dad?” he asked quietly. Zoe did not stiffen, but she remained very still. Then she relaxed, there was no need to deny it, she was not ashamed, quite the contrary. “I plan to tell him sometime.” “Afterwards?” he suggested perceptively and Zoe made a noise in confirmation. “I reckon he’s a good man from what I saw,” Karl added. Zoe chuckled. “And if he wasn’t?” He looked at her smiling. “Then you wouldn’t have gone near him in the first place,” he said logically. Karl had pried into her feelings and now it was Zoe’s turn. She looked down to where Bane had just pushed Mal over in order to pinch the ball from him, playing dirty as usual. “You got yourself a good one too,” she said quietly. Karl smirked, although him and Bane had not got around to sleeping together yet, they had been ‘circling’ as Mal had once put it, for – was it really about six months? – kidnappings and arrests notwithstanding. Karl was silent for a moment, thinking on all the things that had happened between them. He remembered what Zoe had told him at Tony’s wedding; life was too short to hold back. “Got me a handful of whirlwind and no mistake,” he replied happily. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I see that hun dan who jilted her on Whittier, I might just shake his hand – before I punch him.” “’S’cuse me?” said Zoe, not understanding. Karl explained the story of her engagement as Bane had told it to him and Jayne. After he had finished, Zoe could see there was something else on his mind. “Been thinkin’ on this for a while now, but wanted to run it by you first.” “Don’t need my permission – that’s the Captain’s job.” “This ain’t his area,” he answered, then began again slowly. “I wanna start usin’ the name Washburne again – wondered if you’d have anything ‘gainst it?” Zoe was touched that he had asked, but really did not think he needed to. Karl had used his mother’s name of Jacobsson since his first arrest after leaving home as a green lad, too ashamed to use the one he had been born with. The fact that he wanted to be known by Washburne again meant that he did not think he had anything to be ashamed of anymore. She was glad he felt that way, for he was as good a man as any on Serenity. “Like I said, you don’t need my permission,” she said kindly, putting a hand on his shoulder before leaving his side. “But I certainly don’t have any objections. Seems the right thing to do.” “Thanks, Sis,” he replied quietly after her wake, and went back to watching the game below. Later him and Jayne played cards in his quarters, it was the first opportunity they had since being reunited aboard Serenity. Karl could never imagine not being able to sit like this with Jayne. He saw them doing the same thing in thirty years time as two old men, sitting by a fire chatting about old times and old conquests. It was like having a brother again, although he had never really been any kind of a brother to Hoban. Monty’s crew had been friendly enough, but there was nothing like being back with family. Jayne shifted in his chair and then winced, he had a bruise forming on his thigh. “That girlfriend of yours plays real dirty at hoops – she like that in the sack too?” he said leadingly. Jayne’s thoughts never strayed very far away from sexing, or guns, and he had missed the insane ape. He shrugged. “Not found out yet.” Jayne starred at him, opened mouthed. “You mean you ain’t…?” “We ain’t,” Karl confirmed. “She don’t look unfriendly t’ords yer. Quite the opposite.” Karl threw down his crap hand of cards. He saw that Jayne did not really understand. “Oh she’s all kinds of friendly and welcoming,” Karl confirmed with some vehemence, to Jayne’s relief. Karl was curious, “You never tried ‘wooing’ a woman?” “What, talkin’ to them first? Sure, but alcohol’s quicker.” Karl laughed – it really was that simple for him. “You must be near bursting,” Jayne continued crudely, glancing quickly at his hatch to make sure it was shut. The last time he had spoken to Karl about Bane she had been eavesdropping. “There are ways of relieving that kind of pressure if’n I wanted to,” he stated. “’Sides the waitin’ part adds to the pleasure when it finally does come around, an’ hopefully Bane ain’t goin’ nowhere again anytime soon.” Jayne was still looking at him like he had gone moonbrained. “I know you go for the short-haul,” Karl continued. “Surely you don’t always want it to be like that?” “Never really thought about it,” Jayne said honestly. “An’ never bin on a planet long enough to wanna try.” He had a point, thought Karl. “I’ve had me short-hauls, even with crew members on other boats I bin on. Bane n’ me have bin on Serenity together now for over a year, ever since them Reavers at the Space Bazaar. Ain’t never gonna be short-haul with her, we’ve all bin through too much.” “Still think you’re missing somethin’ in the brainpan,” muttered Jayne, shuffling the cards again. Until you meet someone who will makes you want to do, thought Karl, smiling to himself. Would be one for the annals of history and no mistake. ~ * ~ “Hey, River,” said Bane warmly, as River climbed down her ladder. River saw that she was sitting at her desk doing some work on a gun. She went and sat on the bed, tucking her feet underneath her and making herself comfortable. “Karl hasn’t slept here yet,” she stated, running her hand over the quilt. Bane opened her mouth and then smiled. That was what River liked about Bane, she may try and hide her feelings from others, but she never did from her, ever since she had first come on board. Bane accepted her psychic abilities without question, fear or indecision, but as a natural state of being. Probably because she had a little of the ability herself. That was why River wanted to talk to her. “No, he hasn’t. Why do you ask?” If Bane was disconcerted by the stare River gave her, then it did not show in her face or her thoughts. “You want your time with him to be special, but you are…scared, no shy. Why are you shy? You’ve been with many men.” Bane stiffened, and River reeled at the wave of thoughts and feelings that assaulted her. “I’m sorry,” she said quickly, lowering her eyes. The words hurt, but Bane had known River long enough to see that she was trying to understand. Wasn’t that what they all wanted, she thought, to understand? “Yep, I’ve been with many men. But very few of my own choosin’. There is a ‘Verse of difference from lying on your back and bein’ rutted on, to lettin’ someone know every part of you, inside and out. I’m guessin’ you’ve experienced neither yet – even with Stan?” “Want to,” River answered softly, but keeping eye contact. Now Bane understood why she was asking and was touched that she had come to her. She put down the gun and tools and gave River her full attention. “You know Stan’s thoughts, I presume?” she asked. “He wants to suck my nipples,” said River matter-of-factly, earning a laugh from Bane. “Well, that’s usually the way of it,” she chuckled, remembering how she had come across the two of them at the wedding. “When you kiss him, what is you think about?” River considered and then blinked as the realisation occurred to her. “Nothing – or very little, apart from his feelings and my own. It’s like havin’ those headphones on when I’m pilotin’ at night. I think that I don’t want him to stop what he’s doing – or what he’s thinking about doing.” Bane could relate to every shiny part of that. “It could be a while before you see him again,” Bane said, trying to be kind. “Saw him last week – on a wave. Mal caught me once, but the rest of the time I made sure no one was around.” Bane shook her head in disbelief, River could be very devious. “Have you thought about contraception?” she suggested. River made a face. “Means goin’ to Simon. Don’t want him to know.” “Good point. Big brothers tend to have issues with men who deflower their sisters,” Bane said. “I had three older brothers, and one younger one, who beat the crap outta the first guy I slept with. Course they thought they had good reason cuz he dumped me right afterwards – I weren’t that broken up about it, either with them beatin’ him up or bein’ dumped.” “Can you get it for me?” River tentatively asked. Bane walked over to River and pulled open a little cupboard above the bed. “Already prepared,” she said quietly handing River a small sealed kit. River peered at it. “Needles,” she said distastefully. Bane sat on the bed beside her. “It’s an auto-jab kit – very quick, and self cleaning. To be effective it needs to be taken at least a couple of hours before you decide to – to do anything,” she added neutrally. “Then once every seven days. You keep the bottle attached to the little gun and just press the button each time,” she pointed. “Into one of your thighs – it’s less painful there.” “What will you do?” asked River, taking the package. Bane smiled. “I’ll just tell Simon I dropped it or something. Don’t worry, I won’t say anything.” “I know,” replied River trustingly. Bane resisted the temptation to scrape back a long lock of River’s hair behind her ear. “Bein’ a genius an’ all,” Bane teased gently. “You know how everythin’s supposed to happen?” River gave her one of her trademark bratty looks. “Read all Simon’s med books afore he did,” she stated confidently. “Well, the text books don’t say what happens up here,” Bane touched River’s temple. “And elsewhere. It’s a whole ‘nother ‘Verse when you get to choose.” River gave her a crooked smile and got up, hiding the kit in her pocket. “Thanks, Bane,” she said, starting to climb the ladder, then she added wickedly. “Don’t think I’d want Stan to dress up as a Viking though.” Bane yelped in surprise and then threw a pillow at her, missing because she had already disappeared, her laughter echoing down the corridor. * * * * * * * * * * * * The landing at Whittier was rockier than normal, on account of Bane re-acquainting herself with Serenity’s flight controls. Even Mal had been a bit worried, sucking in his breath, but fortunately nothing fell off his ship. He planned to make this a quick drop, as he was keen to keep moving. They might be stuck on Highgate for at least a week or so and they still had to earn platinum to stay afloat. There was enough time to do a little shopping around though. Bane had mentioned that her cousins might be in the market for having their goods delivered to places that would make them more of a profit. Bane looked warily around as she walked down the street of the Melrose settlement. She had wanted to stay on board, but Mal had asked her to top up on their food supplies while they were grounded. Although Bane had suggested that Kaylee would be better suited to the task, Mal reminded her of their original deal when she came on board – she wanted to be the one buying the food. That would be the thing that came back to bite her in the ass. “Got somethin’ on your mind?” said Karl coming up behind her and making her jump, she had taken some catching up. Bane looked up at him and shrugged off her worries. Although nothing had happened yet things had got considerably steamy in the confines of her workshop late last night. “Jus’ thinkin’ about something comin’ to bite me in the ass.” Karl raised an eyebrow and took a look at her ass. “Looks in a fine state to me,” he replied, putting his arm across her shoulders as they continued to walk. “Mal sent me to tell you that he wants to leave for your cousin’s farm as soon as you get back with the food. I’ll help you as well – looks like you want to get it over with.” “Well, there’s a certain person I don’t want to see.” Karl squeezed her reassuringly. “His loss is my gain,” he said simply. Bane stopped and turned to him. “You really don’t care, do you?” she said, her voice filled with happiness. Karl caressed her neck with one hand. “I wouldn’t say that. Man had no call to discard you so. But, like I said – if he hadn’t then the two of us’d not be right here and now.” Bane felt the pleasure shoot through her and although it was not her way, she kissed him right there in the middle of the dusty main street. It was Karl who parted first. “Come on, sooner we buy the food, the sooner you get back from your cousin’s and –“ “The sooner me and you can pick this up again in my bunk,” she finished for him. Karl gave one of his pleasing lopsided smiles that made his moustache wiggle. “So this Viking thing you keep mentionin’…” he said as they walked into the store. He loved making her all flustered and stuck for words, it was far better than playing pranks. When they came out of the store again, Jayne was waiting for them, wanting to go to one of the bars, even though it was still early afternoon. Bane made her way back with the box to Serenity to meet Mal and Zoe, feeling all kinds of warm and fuzzy. Karl looked back, watching her go. Soon as it got dark, he mused happily. “Bit early for us to be drinkin’?” he asked Jayne. “I ain’t hardly bin off the ship since you two went missin’ – got me some serious cabin fever.” They walked into the first place they came to and Jayne went to the bar. “What’ll you have?” Karl did not fancy anything too strong – he had important things to do later tonight and he wanted all his faculties in order to do them. “Beer,” he said, earning himself a shocked look from Jayne. He turned as Jayne ordered and saw the mule with Mal, Zoe and Bane on, drive past the small window. They sat down at one of the small tables. There were a few die hard drinkers in before them, but not many this early in the day. Luckily the place started filling up just over an hour later. This was more like it, thought Jayne. “What you keep grinnin’ at?” Jayne asked Karl. “Nothin’ – jus’ good to be back on the ship is all.” Yeh right, thought Jayne, man fiddling with munitions all night was liable to explode. He chuckled at his own coarse humour as he went up to the bar again to refill his drink, thinking he might as well be drinking alone at this rate. “You with that fella?” asked someone, appearing at his side and nodding towards Karl. Jayne looked down and sized the man up before answering. Runt, he concluded, could take him easily if he causes trouble. “Yep, why?” “Better tell him to steer clear of that girl I saw him fondlin’ in the street earlier.” Jayne looked puzzled. He had not see Karl fondling anyone but Bane. Ahh – realisation dawned. “Why’s that?” he queried. Anyone who knew Jayne would know that was a tone of voice to be wary of, unless you were too drunk to notice. “Cuz she’sh a whore,” the runt slurred, and Jayne recalled how he had been in the bar when they arrived. “Know ‘er, do yer?” “Was ‘gaged to her,” he burped. Jayne gave a dangerous grin and held out his hand. “Jayne Cobb,” he said amiably. “And you are?” The runt looked surprised and then, because he was halfway in his cups, he smiled and took Jayne’s hand. “Gabe Tuna.” Jayne put his arm around the man’s shoulders and walked him over to their table. “Karl – meet Gabe Tuna. He’s got some important information fer ya.” Karl looked up from his beer, having been miles away with his thoughts. “Tell ‘im,” encouraged Jayne. Gabe started to look unsure of himself and stuttered. “Tha-that Pye pofu I saw you with in the shtreet. I knew her – she’s tainted. Recommend you stay clear.” Karl was very still. So this was the shu ma nyaow that Bane has been engaged to. He did not look like much. Karl stood up slowly and watched Gabe’s face as his neck tilted backwards, unable to look away. Jayne was enjoying himself enormously and kept a firm grip on Gabe as he started to squirm. “Well? Dint you want to thank ‘im?” said Jayne to Karl. “Thank me?” asked Gabe nervously. Karl smiled, equally as dangerously as Jayne. “That’s right,” he said in a low voice. “Fact I wanna shake your hand, Gabe,” and he did. Gabe was bemused, but happy. Karl let go. “Now I’m gonna hit you,” and Jayne let go of the man’s shoulders as Karl swung a punch. The man went down, out cold. They both laughed and sat down again. “This day’s gettin’ better by the minute,” said Jayne. Then they heard the scrape of chairs on the floor and looked around. Seems the runt, Gabe, had friends. Karl counted five of them and held up a hand in placation. “Our beef was with ol’ Gabe here, not you fellas. You can jus’ go on your merry an’ we’ll not have a problem.” “You bring a whore into our town and flaunt it in the street and we do have a problem,” one of them said angrily. Jayne looked at Karl and grinned. “Is it my birthday?” he asked, and they both stood up at the same time. A chair flew across the room and they ducked instinctively, even though it did not come close. Karl was beside him as Jayne went for the nearest one and all kinds of hell broke loose. They made a formidable team. A shot rang out and everyone stopped what they were doing and looked around. Karl shook Gabe off his back, the man had been like a limpet after he had come to. The law had arrived. “What’s goin’ on here?” asked the deputy. “Nothin’, officer – just a misunderstandin’,” muttered one of the men, dabbing his sleeve to his mouth. The deputy looked to the bartender for explanation. “These two started it with Gabe, but that lot wanted to carry it on,” he said, his thinking being that it was better to get them all out of his place, as he had some clearing up to do. “Right – all of you to the jail. Maybe some time there will make you sort out your differences.” Karl was not smiling anymore, neither was Jayne. “Bane’s gonna kill me,” he muttered as they were marched over to the jail. ~ * ~ Mal had agreed to take on several loads of leather from Yang Pye, which he had agreed to deliver to Serenity the following morning. Since getting back from the farm before sunset, Bane had taken a long shower, tidied her room and waited. And waited. She was nervous, then berated her own silliness for being so. She sewed for a while and then had another go on the guns, but after two hours of activities and pacing, she pulled on a sweater, some pants and her boots, and stomped through the ship. There better be a gorram peach of an excuse and drinking with Jayne all night would not be good enough. Outside the ship it was night and there was a chill in the air, Autumn being on its way on Whittier. Bane started walking down the main street and a mule came up noisily beside her, heralding her cousin Wang. “I thought you were staying on your parents’ farm tonight?” she said, as he pulled up beside her. “Deputy called me. There was a fight in one of the bars earlier – got me a rabble in the lock-up to process.” Bane smiled thinly – yep, that would be an excuse, she thought, not a good one though. “Mind if I tag along? I have a feelin’ I know some of ‘em,” she asked. Wang saw the dangerous look in his cousin’s eyes, gave a shrug of one shoulder as Bane hopped on the back of the mule. Jayne and Karl had been put in the next cell to the six men they had fought. Karl was sitting on the bench leaning on his knees. He had felt alright until it had got dark, now he was imagining Bane waiting for him on her bunk on Serenity and wished that he had left the bar, instead of punching Tuna. He could be lying next to her instead of lumped in with Jayne, who was currently enjoying a starring contest with one of the guys in the next cell. There was also the small matter of him being wanted by the Feds after the jail break at Beaumonde. They all started shifting nervously when they heard one of the deputies say that the sheriff had arrived. Wang Pye, eldest son of Tsung and Antonia Pye, was also the settlement’s sheriff. “So,” Wang said loudly. “What’s been going on here?” Karl was smiling again, and it was not often he smiled at lawmen. “These gentlemen were callin’ your cousin, Bane, a whore.” Wang raised an eyebrow and looked into the other cell, past the larger men, for someone in particular. “Still spinning that one, Gabe? Really, after three years – get over it, man,” he said contemptuously at the man sitting on the bench. He walked over to the cell which Karl and Jayne occupied and held up the key. “You want out fellas?” Jayne looked at him like he was stupid, but answered as respectfully as he could, seeing as they were the ones standing behind bars as the moment. “Course, why wouldn’t we?” “Because of what I’m gonna do to you, if he lets you out,” said Bane, walking into the cell area, arms folded and looking angry. Jayne took a step back towards Karl and leaned over apprehensively, keeping his eyes on her face. “She looks real mad – glad she’s not my girlfriend.” Karl looked up at him. “Cheers, Jayne.” “Let ‘em out, Wang,” said Bane. She saw their skinned knuckles and Karl also had a swollen cheek bone. Wang opened the metal door, Karl stood up and walked out of the cell with Jayne. Bane walked out behind them. “Whore!” came a voice from the other cell. Bane stopped and turned around. “Shut it, Tuna!” shouted Wang. “It’s alright, cous.” Bane walked up to the cell and looked at Gabe. He had changed a lot and she guessed that the bar was the place he spent a lot of his time. “You’re a sad little man, Gabe,” she added, before walking out. Karl and Jayne were waiting outside for her; Jayne standing with his arms folded, waiting for the showdown. She turned to Jayne “Serenity’s leavin’ in the morning. Now bugger off.” Jayne was disappointed, but shrugged good-naturedly and walked away. “I’m sorry,” Karl started. “I didn’t-“ “Never mind that,” she interrupted and was already towing him away. “What’s goin’ on?” Bane did not answer, but kept pulling him back towards Serenity. In the moonlight he kept catching a flash of material waving out from under her sweater and he pulled at it. “What’s this?” She stopped walking when he stopped moving, still holding on to her garment. She pulled off her sweater to reveal a silky nightie. Karl opened his mouth. “Oh my,” was all he could manage to say. In the chill of the night air her nipples stood out like beacons and she looked all wild and exotic. Bane frowned; she was seething and all kinds of frustrated. She whipped the nightie out of his hands and pulled her jumper back on roughly. “The first time we kissed I got arrested an’ almost died. We start gettin’ cosy, an’ I get kidnapped an’ go missin’ for four months. The night we’re about to – to – to take it further, you land it jail. I’m just wondering what disaster is likely to happen next; plague, pestilence, famine?” Karl looked at her annoyed face and knew that if he smiled now that would be it. Probably the hardest thing he had ever done in his life was not smile at that moment. “So?” he asked, his body tingling with anticipation. “So?” she repeated loudly, “So…” Bane said again, realising that she had run out of steam. When she opened her mouth to speak again, Karl kissed her hard. She responded eagerly, anger quickly fizzing out. “How ‘bout we don’t wait to find out?” he growled and led her back to Serenity. ~ * ~ Meanwhile Jayne had been deciding how to pick up his day again – it was not too late after all. His stomach gurgled noisily. Hmm, he thought, food first, then more drinking. He spied a cafe and wandered over. Turned out to be the only café in a settlement that clearly preferred bars. It had the same look as the bars as well, shabby and unkempt – he hoped the food was a little better than the décor. Jayne was alone in the room when he walked through the door and that was not a good sign. A woman came out from the kitchen to serve him. Now that ain’t fair, she’s all covered up. What was wrong with this planet? No whores and the women here had nothing on display. “Evenin’. What can I getcha?” the woman said pleasantly. Jayne looked around at the empty room. “Not sure,” he said. “I usually go by what ever’ one else is havin’.” “Well you missed the three person rush we had on an hour ago and you’ve come on the wrong night for company,” she stated jovially. Jayne took more notice of the woman now that she had a nice smile, but wished she did not have that turban of cloth wrapped around her head. He had a thing about women’s hair and liked to see it. “What’s good then?” “Beef pie’s about the only thing we have on the menu that’s edible, less’n you want protein.” “Beef pie’s fine,” he confirmed. “An’ some beer to chase.” “Sorry, sir. We don’t serve alcohol in here. Coffee or tea.” Jayne was close to getting up and walking out. The waitress spoke again, quickly. “There’s four bars in this town serve a parcel of drinks. My boss likes to keep out the troublemakers.” “Hell, I’ll drink to that,” he joked, having just spent most of the day locked up as one. “I’ll have coffee, but don’t go ‘sir-ing’ me – name’s Jayne Cobb.” She turned away and walked to the counter. Jayne looked at the view of her ass and was disappointed. She looked like she was wearing a sack, he could not see anything, except she possibly had a nice pair of tits. Maybe there was a broadsheet knocking around here someplace he could read. Day certainly was not getting better. His coffee appeared quickly, but the waitress disappeared again, presumably to sort out his dinner on account of having no one else to serve. Sipping it, Jayne was beginning to wish Karl was with him. But Karl was off getting himself royally sexed no doubt, and if he interrupted, Bane would likely twist his jil ba until he sang like a choir boy. He chuckled to himself, Karl could do all the ‘wooing’ pi hua he wanted, but when a woman decides it’s time, then you had better not hang around with the talking and the teasing – that could get you all manner of damaged. “You had a good day, Mr Cobb?” the waitress said, placing a plateful of food in front of him. “Had me an interestin’ day,” he said taking up a fork. “Spent a good few hours of it in jail.” As he started eating, she regarded him sternly. “Are you a troublemaker?” Jayne chuckled with a full mouth. “Sometimes, but not today. Today me an’ a friend settled a score with someone called Gabe Tuna.” “Ah, the Wet Fish,” she said knowingly. “Know ‘im do yer?” The waitress looked around to make sure her boss, the cook, was not around. “You prob’ly seen there ain’t many women on this planet,” Jayne gave her a sympathetic look. “Gabe’s bin tryin’ to get himself a woman – and admittedly he ain’t half bad to look at – but no one’ll go near him.” Jayne grinned and then remembered his mouth was full and swallowed. “Pyes have a lotta influence then?” She looked surprised that he knew and then laughed. Now that was more like it, he thought. “You know about that? I thought you were a stranger. I ain’t never seen you before.” Jayne swallowed another mouthful. “I crew with Bane Pye, the one he jilted. We’re shippin’ out again tomorrow mornin’ for Highgate. Came in on that Firefly vessel earlier today. Say, what’s your name?” The waitress had stiffened slightly and Jayne figured he had blown it. “Esper, Mr Cobb.” He looked down at her hands, she was wearing four old tarnished metal rings on each finger of her left hand and she was twisting them. “You married?” he asked. Esper regarded him solemnly, she had been about to give him the usual ‘yes’ answer, but instead told him the truth. “That’s usually what I tell people.” “So’s they don’t give you any trouble?” “That’s the idea.” “Why’d you tell me the truth?” “Because I trust you to be a gentleman, Mr Cobb.” Jayne blushed, almost hearing the tangible laughter of his crewmates. “Somethin’ wrong?” “You’re the second one to call me a gentleman in as many years – it sits funny, is all.” Esper looked around again and sat down at his table. “Nothin’ to be ashamed of, Mr Cobb.” Jayne smiled ruefully. “Call me Jayne,” he put in. “It’s not that,” he continued. “It’s just that I’ve done a ‘Verse of things in my life an’ barely none of them could be called gentlemanly.” “We all change,” she said, getting up again as the boss came in. She pretended to wipe the table for the fiftieth time. “Never thought it’d happen to me.” Esper smiled and moved away. Jayne took another drink and started to smile himself. He decided to give the bars of Melrose a miss, as he had much more appealing company in front of him. ~ * ~ “So you only thought to mention it now that your older brothers’ll likely be at home for your wedding?” Kaylee turned her back to him quickly so he did not see her smiling. “Yes, sweetie. It dint cross my mind afore. Now the whole family’ll be there. Isn’t that wonderful?” Simon picked at his food. Great, he thought, not only did he have to deal with her father, but also three older brothers. Maybe he could get River to incapacitate them. “You’re on your own, big brother,” said River who was sitting opposite him. Simon gave her an annoyed glower. Mal came in from the cargo bay with Zoe. “Anyone seen Bane?” he asked. “She’s in her bunk,” answered River. Mal started to walk through the galley. “I wouldn’t disturb her if I were you, Cap’n,” suggested Kaylee. “Why the hell not! I’m the Captain, ain’t I?” River sniggered, and then changed her face back to passive when he glared at her. “Well she and Karl came chargin’ through here not two hours ago an’ I don’t think they was aimin’ to play cards.” “Oh,” was all Mal could say, looking in the direction of the bunks. “More like strip poker,” suggested River. “River!” chided Simon. “Like you haven’t played it with Kaylee,” she continued to Simon’s embarrassment. “Enough of the sex talk, people,” said Mal. “We’re leavin’ tomorrow, as soon as her cousin delivers the goods.” Zoe joined Kaylee in the kitchen area. “So they finally got it together then?” she asked, ignoring Mal’s request completely. Kaylee grinned. “Practically knocked Simon over on their way through.” Zoe laughed and Mal groaned, he did not want to hear the details of his crew and their sex life. ~ * ~ Karl came awake suddenly, not sure what had woken him up. He opened his eyes and found his nose an inch from the wall. Not his room, he thought, rolling over and then remembered. He stretched and then winced, reckoning he had pulled a muscle in his calf. He did not remember the how, just the fact he now ached in more than a few places. He saw that Bane was not lying next to him and he looked around to find out where she was. She was sitting at the table, sewing of all things. Sewing naked though. She looked like a mystical pixie, especially with that short hair and the tattoos snaked elegantly across her back. He watched her for a while before speaking. “Ain’t I worn you out enough yet?” he asked, watching her jolt with surprise. Bane put down Kaylee’s wedding dress and the needle and thread. Even in the half light Karl looked all manner of enticing laid out on her bed, the blond hair on his chest glowing in the lamplight. Karl was thinking something similar about Bane being lit from behind by the lamp. “You goin’ for a record or somethin’?” she laughed, and quickly slipped back into the bed next to him. It was like lying next to a heating duct. “Like you said, I’m jus’ makin’ sure the ‘Verse don’t end before we’ve enjoyed each other some,” he answered. “But first, I need me some more rest.” Bane pressed her body up against his to see if she could persuade him otherwise, but Karl rolled her over so he could get comfortable again. He snuggled into her back and comfortably massaged one of her breasts; she made a much better pillow and smelled like, well he could not put his finger on it, but it was real good. Bane was not in the least bit tired – a little sore – but definitely not tired. She started to move her hips against him, slowly and enticingly. “Stop that,” he protested meekly. Bane giggled. “Make me,” she replied continuing. ~ * ~ Jayne had lost track of time, although he knew it was late and he was still the only customer. He had also lost track of when he had stopped attempting to bed the waitress. He watched her now as she said goodbye to her boss. She was mighty easy to talk to and was getting easier on the eye the later it got, it was certainly not the alcohol making him see that, when all he had been drinking was coffee. “Don’t he worry that you’re here on your own with me?” Jayne enquired. “Nope, happens most nights. ‘Sides I tol’ him you were sly.” Jayne protested strongly. “Hey, there’s no call to get insultin’, girly. I bin’ real nice to you.” Esper had turned the closed sign on and sat down at the table before Jayne could think about storming out. “Was the only way the boss’d leave. You want me to get him back so’s you can tell ‘im you prefer womenfolk?” Jayne was stunned, then he looked at her confused. “You’ve already made it clear that you ain’t innerest’d. Now you are all of a sudden?” Esper looked down at her left hand again, the one with the rings on. Something he had noticed her do frequently. “No, I’m not, Jayne. But it’s bin a powerful long time since I’ve had me a conversation with a man’s ain’t trying to rip me panties offa me soon as I give him the word.” “Can’t say I won’t try an’ do that still,” he muttered, still confused. Esper fished into her apron and brought out a gun. “I’ve a pistol here that says you won’t.” Her voice was cheerful, but her words threatening, although she was not intending to offend. Jayne was the opposite of offended, he was all kinds of touched but in the wrong places. In fact that low husky voice of hers and those green eyes went a long way to touching him in all manner of places. “Prob’ly need that bee sting around here,” Jayne stated. Esper put the gun away again and sat back comfortably. “It’s come in handy a time or two.” “’Scuse me for the forward question – but why stay here on a planet that’s in short supply of women, when you ain’t plannin’ on settlin’ down with any of them?” He watched as she scratched her forehead, moving her finger up into the hair line and he could see the colour of her hair. She was blond and Jayne specially liked blonds. She shrugged a shoulder. “Need the work, an’ I’m not really lookin’ to settlin’, jus’ survivin’. But it’s also got somethin’ to do with the fact that I’m a package deal. You get me, you get my father. Not many are willing to take on both.” She had a point, thought Jayne. Esper had mentioned her father frequently in their conversation that night. “Just you an’ ‘im then?” he asked. “Yep. There ain’t much work for him around here, cuz most folks won’t hire an old man when they’ve their pick of the young ones.” Jayne carried on talking to Esper. It was about three a.m. when he finally did start feeling tired, exhausted in fact. He reluctantly stood up to leave. “I best be gettin’ back to my bed, Miss. It’s bin real nice talkin’ to yer, an’ I mean that sincerely.” Esper stood up as well and Jayne noticed that she was about Zoe’s height. He liked the way her face tilted up to look at him. “It’s bin a pleasure to meet you, Jayne, really it has,” and she kissed him gently on the cheek, just to the left of his face hair. Jayne used every bit of willpower he had got not to put his arms around the woman and follow up on what his body was screaming for him to do. “I – er. Yeh. It’s bin real nice. G’night, Esper,” he replied. This had been a very odd evening, he thought. Not only had he met perhaps the only woman living in Melrose, but he had also not pulled out all the tricks he normally used to bed a woman – he had just walked away. Jayne firmly decided that when they got to Highgate, he would make sure his first stop was a whore house. He needed to make sure nothing was wrong with him and everything still worked. ~ * ~ “’Scuse me. Are you the Captain?” the old man asked Zoe, who was bending over to check a seal on one of the many crates they had been loading up. She straightened up. “No. That’s the Captain over there.” “Thank you, ma’am,” he answered politely. Mal saw them coming and said goodbye to Tsung Pye and his son and daughter. He was still a little annoyed that Bane had not managed to surface this morning to greet them herself. He would have to have words with them both about the shipboard relationships thing and he really hated those kind of conversations. “What can I do for you?” “One of your crew said you were bound for Highgate, Cap’n, an’ we need passage there to find work.” Mal looked at them both. “Jus’ the two of you?” he asked, eying their meagre baggage. “Name’s Abram Fairly and this is my daughter, Esperanza. We can pay you somethin’, but not a lot.” Abram looked up at the ship. “She’s a lovely boat, Cap’n. I ain’t sailed in a Firefly for a parcel o’ years. Not too many of them about no more.” Mal looked up at Serenity proudly, fully aware he was being sweet-talked, but not minding. “She’s a good’n an’ no mistake. Take us a coupla days to get to Highgate. If you’ve a mind to relive some memories, I won’t charge much.” They agreed on a price and Mal called Kaylee over. “We got us some passengers to Highgate. Show ‘em to the guest rooms and up to the galley.” Kaylee beamed happily. “Shiny, Cap’n. Welcome. I’m Kaylee and this is Serenity. She’s a lovely ship to sail in. Come along.” Mal watched them go, relieved, because it meant he could hold off on the relationship talk. Bane would not be able to work on her munitions jobs while they had strangers aboard. “Time to get goin’, Albatross,” he called into the com. ~ Jayne felt the ship lift off and thought he better get up. He had slept extraordinarily well, despite the large amount of coffee he had drunk the night before. He climbed out of his quarters and farted long and loud, his logic being that there was no sense in smelling up his own bunk. He saw that both Bane and Karl’s hatches were closed, but he had no idea which one they would be in. He walked into the galley yawning. “Hello, Mr Cobb,” said a voice. It was the waitress from the night before – Esper, he recalled her name easily. He blinked in surprise, at a loss for words. Esper poured him out some of the tea that she had just poured her father. “This is my father, Abram.” “Pleased ta meet ya, son,” the old man said companionably. “My daughter told me you were headed to Highgate, an’ I thought it was time we looked for better employment.” Jayne still was not speaking, he was still looking at Esper. She looked different in the light of Serenity, less world weary. Abram turned to his daughter, confused. “Thought you said the man was talkative.” Esper smiled. “He’s probl’y a bit shocked to see me, father.” “Jayne!” shouted Mal from the corridor. “Lao-tyen boo! You know how to make a smell. Next time you wanna float –“ he stopped when he realised there were others in the galley. “I see you’ve made yourself at home,” he continued and then looked at Jayne, who was starring at the passengers. “I apologise for whatever he said – he’s not house-trained yet.” Esper smiled. “It’s alright Cap’n, Mr Cobb an’ I met last night.” Mal looked at Jayne, trying to size up what he might have done, and it was a long list. “You dint go get yourself married in some weird ceremony like I did?” “No, Mal – not unless they do it over coffee and beef pie.” Mal looked at Esper questioningly and at the rings on her left hand. Abram smiled on hearing his daughter’s laughter, it had been a pile of years since he had heard it and he studied Jayne Cobb a little closer. “You don’t need to worry, Cap’n. Mr Cobb an’ I are just friends,” she answered. Mal visibly relaxed, the last thing they needed was another strange planetary marriage custom to deal with. “But I’d like to hear more about the weird ceremony you experienced.” “That’s a story for dinner. You from New Melbourne?” Esper looked surprised and then her hand went to her turban. “The headdress gave it away? Yes, I was born there.” “They all wear that cloth on their heads where you come from?” Jayne had found his voice again. Esper nodded and sat down next to her father. “It’s the custom for women there,” she replied. Kaylee, Simon and River had now gravitated to the galley as well. To Mal it felt good to have a full and noisy ship again. “Bane and Karl still sexin’?” Kaylee asked, having not seen them since the evening before. She had no qualms about talking about them in front of strangers and cheerfully explained to their visitors who they were. “I’ve lost count,” stated River, seriously trying to remember. Simon looked at the newcomers, a little worried and was about to apologise for her, but then could not think of how to put it. “Nice,” grinned Jayne. “You got any details in that brainpan o’ yours?” “Jayne!” said Mal. “Remember we have guests who would prob’ly like to live in the fantasy that you’re a gentleman for a bit longer.” “You don’t need to worry about us, Cap’n,” said Abram. “Whittier ain’t exactly a haven of tea parties.” Mal regarded the old man kindly. At first glance he looked like he was about to croak, but in fact he saw a lot of toughness there, and sadness. ~ * ~ Bane went out of her quarters as quietly as possible. It was late at night and both of them had agreed that they should maybe emerge for some air, food and showers, much as they were enjoying their time together. They were certainly making up for lost time. Bane wanted to drop off Kaylee’s dress outside her quarters and then take a much needed shower. Karl came up the ladder behind her and went to the galley to make something to eat. On the way back from the showers, Bane went up through the cargo bay. She was surprised to see that there was someone else up – a stranger. He was sitting halfway up the stairs with his legs dangling. “Er, hello,” Bane said. The man came out of his stupor abruptly. “Hello to you too. You must be Bane Pye.” Bane’s eyebrows raised and Abram smiled. “My name’s Abram. My daughter and I are your passengers to Highgate. We were informed at dinner that you and Karl were –“ “Yes,” Bane interrupted quickly. “That would probably have been Jayne.” “No, Kaylee,” corrected Abram with some amusement at her discomfort. “You havin’ trouble sleepin’, Abram?” Bane asked, changing the subject. Abram looked around the cargo bay. “I’m an old man – I sleep light. ‘Sides I like the feel of this ship.” “Got nothin’ to do with age. Serenity’ll have that effect on you.” Bane walked up the rest of the stairs up to the galley. “Yes, but it’s more to do with Fireflys in general for me, I think,” Abram said quietly. Bane turned at the top of the stairs. “You wanna join me an’ Karl for somethin’ to eat? He’s cookin’ now.” Bane liked Abram immediately, he was weathered like an old book and his eyes were kind, like a wise old grandfather. “Thank you, no. I’m enjoyin’ jus’ sittin’ here. ‘Sides you two don’t want an old man interuptin’ your sexin’,” he joked. “’Cordin’ to young Kaylee you’ve been through the mill some.” Bane pressed her lips together and reminded herself to have a word with Kaylee about giving strangers her life story. “Haven’t we all,” she said gently, and left him to his thoughts. ~ * ~ River was in the cockpit before Mal the next morning. He had noticed she had been real quiet the day before and asked her what was wrong. “She’s not his daughter, Cap’n. Something’s not right,” said River. “Things rarely are,” said Mal, thinking that he could not exactly throw them out of the airlock. Well, not unless they cause some real problems. “Should I be worried?” “No,” said River, “They can’t hurt us, but I think we can help them,” she added. “I can’t be helpin’ ever’body in this ‘Verse, it’s time they helped themselves,” replied Mal leaning back for a stretch. “Reckon I’ll let Jayne handle this one for a change.” * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Author’s Note: Edited in September 2007 (Always looking to improve!).


Wednesday, November 7, 2007 12:29 AM


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