Family (Part 7/14)
Thursday, February 2, 2012

Girls' night out for warrior women. And Kaylee and Simon discover why Paquin sweethearts don't go on romantic moonlight strolls.


The captain was not at all surprised by her findings, and Zoë hadn't expected him to be. "Corruption runs deep in this town," he stated after she'd reported back to him in Serenity's cargo bay that afternoon.

"That it does," she agreed. "There's a killer on the loose here, and he's protected by the locals. Not 'cause they like 'im, but 'cause they're scared of 'im."

"I hate that!" he muttered. "I hate how the rich and powerful always get away."

Zoë studied him closely. She could see that even though there was a look of resignation on his face, he was still hard at work trying to come up with a solution. Planning, plotting, scheming…

She had to stop him.

"Sir," she said. "You promised Jayne you'd stay out of it. Perhaps we should honor that promise?"

He looked at her, his eyebrows contracted in a frown. "You think so?"

"What else can we do? We try and do anything we'll only bring a whole lotta trouble down on us and the Cobbs. You don't mess with this guy."

"Haven't even met 'im," Mal mumbled. "Haven't seen 'im, sized 'im up. But I guess I don't have to. You're right, we can't do nothin'." He sighed heavily, showing how much it bothered him to come to this conclusion. "We'll stick around for a few more days," he decided. "Try and keep Jayne outta trouble."

She nodded. "You reckon he'll do somethin' stupid?"

"It's Jayne," he said, and it answered her question perfectly. He gave her a stern look. "Don't tell 'im," he warned her. "Don't tell 'im this man killed his father."

"I won't," she promised. "But I think he knows."

Mal sighed again. "Most like. All the better reason to keep an extra eye on 'im."

Zoë felt a smile tug at the corners of her mouth. "Why this sudden need to protect our resident man-ape? Is it the mother?" The look he gave her only widened the smile. "No worries, sir, I'm glad you like it here. You needed the break. We all did."

Without further conversation they turned and walked down the ramp out into the sunlight again. While the captain headed back towards the potato patch, calling for Wash to join him as he did so, Zoë stopped for a moment outside the ship to enjoy the sight of the Cobb home. It looked quite peaceful and idyllic at the moment. She spotted Kaylee and Obadiah hunched over some old pieces of machinery in the driveway, and she could just make out River's tiny frame moving about in the ditches by the road, picking berries it would seem. Zoë moved a little closer and saw how the girl ran to join Mattie on the bench by the house, to share the berries with him. He said something to her that made her smile.

Zoë looked on in amazement. This was new.

River hardly ever interacted with the people they met in their travels and if she did, it was just to deliver one of her creepy and/or incomprehensible comments, and yet now, at least from this distance, she looked like any other teenage girl entertaining her summer fling.

This place had certainly done wonders for them all.

Someone inside the house was playing the banjo; Zoë could hear the sound coming out of an open window on the first floor, and she spent another moment listening to the music.

And she really, really wished she could have taken that MacHaig guy.


Jo met up with her at sundown. She'd instructed her to dress warm because the nights got chilly and said that while she could use her shotgun if she wanted to, it would probably be better to bring a rifle, and so Zoë had done precisely that. Wash had come to see her off and now as Jo began loading her equipment unto the pick-up truck, Zoë saw that shadow of worry she'd come to know so well fall across his face. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze and he turned to meet her eyes.

"Zhuyi," he admonished.

"I always do, sweet cakes," she replied and kissed him goodbye. She climbed into the car and then gave him one final wave as Jo turned the ignition and they drove away.

Settling into the passenger seat, Zoë spotted the dead rodents by her feet. "Rabbits?" she asked.

"For bait," Jo explained. She smiled a little. "That was the first thing Pop had us do, me and Jayne, back when he taught us how to hunt; shootin' rabbits for bait."

"Your father taught you this?"

"Yup. How to shoot, how to track, everything I know."

"Were you close?"

"Pop and I? I guess. I 'preciated the fact that he never treated me no different than my brother. He never saw me as just a girl. Suited me fine. I never wanted to be no princess."

Zoë smiled. "Kinda got that impression from you." She glanced out the window. It was getting darker; she could barely make out the landscape now. "So how come you don't work at the factory with everybody else?"

"I did work there," Jo replied. "Didn't last long, though. I was sort of asked to leave."


"I ended up in a fight. One of the foremen grabbed my ass, so I gave 'im my fist instead. Next thing I know there's a big brawl and I'm labeled 'instigator of trouble'." She shook her head. "Pop was furious with me, but I walked outta that place with my head held high and I never looked back."

"And then you took up huntin'?"

"Well, the only other career choice for women around here is becoming wives and mothers. I figured huntin' dogs would be safer."

Zoë chuckled. "Bein' a wife ain't that bad," she said. "You just gotta find the right guy."

"Yeah, you and Wash," Jo smiled. "Now, there's an oddity, if you don't mind my sayin'."

"Well, you ain't the first one to have said it," Zoë replied.

Jo glanced at her. "But, hey, you love 'im, and that's all that matter, right? You don't give a damn 'bout what other people think. I like that."


"But I'm tellin' ya, there ain't no right guy for me out there," Jo stated, and just as Zoë opened her mouth to protest, she clarified, "Not 'cause he ain't right, but 'cause he's a guy."

And Zoë understood and smiled. "I see."

After a few more miles, Jo pulled over and parked the vehicle by the forest edge. "We have to walk the rest of the way," she said and handed Zoë a pair of goggles. "For night vision."

Zoë put the goggles on and saw the world in hues of grey and green, but at least now she was able to see it. She strapped on her guns and followed Jo into the woods and down a narrow path between the trees.

The trek wasn't long; they soon reached a clearing overlooked by a cliff and Jo came to a halt, declaring this was usually a good spot. She put the rabbits down in the tall grass, and then gestured for Zoë to follow her to a thicket below the cliff where they crouched down behind the bushes.

"So, what's Jayne like?" she asked while they got settled. "Now, I mean. Seeing as I haven't seen him in ten years, it would be interesting to know if he's still the same."

"Well," Zoë replied, "You want the honest answer?"

"Hell yeah."

"He's all do-first-ask-later, he's rude, he complains, he cheats, he can't take a hint unless you scream it into his face, and by then I guess you can no longer call it a hint. But he can always be counted on in a fight; he's a good shot and a terrific tracker. Your father taught him well." Jo smiled, and Zoë locked eyes with her and made sure her face mirrored her earnestness. "I know he's got my back, and even though I might not trust 'im with my money, I do trust 'im with my life."

"Hm," Jo pensively said, "guess he hasn't changed that much, then." She pulled her coat tighter and swept her eyes once more across the clearing in front of them. "Okay, now we wait."


Kaylee found Simon on the porch. She had seen him leave the living room where they were all spending the evening with the Cobbs, and seeing this as a possibility to have some alone time with him, she had followed him.

It was a clear night. Shinbone, the closest of Paquin's moons, was full and the garden was bathed in the white lunar light, and Kaylee turned to Simon with a wide smile on her face. "Ain't it beautiful?" she asked.


"The full moon, of course. Look, on a clear night like this, you can actually make out the cities up there."

He did throw a glance upwards, but he didn't look very interested. She sighed inwardly, but she was determined to get him relaxed tonight, so she grabbed his arm and pulled him along as she headed for the big oak tree in the middle of the garden. "Come."

He came and she hung on his arm and chatted happily as they walked. "Radiant says Jude and her family will come back tomorrow. Can't wait to talk to Fergus again. You know he fixed up that pick-up truck that Jo's drivin'? That thing's ancient and he made it work! I hope he can teach me a thing or two."

"Hm," Simon said.

They reached the tree and she pointed to the thing she'd wanted to show him. "Look."

There was a heart carved into the tree, with the letters M and R inside, and he studied it, though not with the enthusiasm she had hoped for.

"It stands for Matthew and Radiant," she said. "He carved it the same day they got the deed for the land. She told me. It's so romantic."

"Hm," he said again.

"Simon," she groaned. "You're doing it again. You're going all stiff on me."

He sighed. "I'm sorry. Just got a lot on my mind."

He sounded so tired that she instantly felt bad for being so impatient with him. "No, I'm sorry," she said. "Is it the thing with Mattie? You makin' any progress?"

"A little. I've managed to exclude a couple of possible diseases. I've got some theories."

"I sure hope you can help 'im," she said, and then smiled. "River seems to like him."

"Yes," he muttered and the frown on his face made her frown as well.

"What?" she said. "What is it?"

"I… I just don't want her to get hurt."

"Simon!" she hissed. "You're not bein' fair! Mattie ain't Jayne."

"No!" he exclaimed. "No, that's not what I meant. I…"


He shrugged. "No, never mind."

An uncomfortable silence fell between them and after enduring it for just a few moments, she hurriedly started talking again, just to get rid of it. "Looking forward to see the kids again to. They're so cute."

And now he really stiffened. His whole body tensed and his eyes widened.

"Simon!" she exclaimed again. "Will you relax? I'm just talkin' 'bout the kids, it ain't like I wanna have babies with you."

But he wasn't looking at her; his wide eyes were staring at something behind her and his face turned just as pale as the moonlight. "Kaylee?" he said, and it came out as little more than a squeak.

With a surge of fear in her stomach, she turned around to see for herself – and the first thing she saw was a pair of yellow eyes staring back at her.

Wild dog.

She had never seen a live one before and it was half hidden by the shadows, but there was no doubt in her mind that it was one. It was less than a hundred feet away from them, hunched down in the bushes at the edge of the forest, as if ready to leap on them. The aforementioned eyes reflected the light from the house and the moon and they never wavered. Kaylee felt the blood drain away from her face.

She heard Simon repeat her name, whispering, as if whispering would help now. "Should we run?"

She struggled to find her voice; her mouth was suddenly all dried up. "I… I don't know."

She sensed movement to her left and nearly panicked, but then she recognized Jayne in the dim light as he slowly stepped up next to her. He had drawn his pistol and his eyes were glued to the dog.

"Go back to the house," he instructed them in a low voice, not ever letting the animal out of his sight. "Nice and slow. If you run, it'll chase ya."

Kaylee swallowed hard, but then she did what she'd been told. She slowly turned back to Simon, accepted the hand he offered her, and walked back towards the house with him, constantly fighting the instinct that told her to break into a full sprint.

Then a loud snarl pierced the night, and they heard Jayne yell, "Gorram it!" followed by, "Run! Go! Go!"

And they ran.

The gun fired. Once… Twice…

"Jayne!" Kaylee screamed and wanted to turn and see if he was alright.

"Come on!" Simon shouted, pulling her along.

She thought maybe she heard the animal closing in behind her, approaching, but then they reached the house and threw themselves at the door, and they stumbled into the living room where the others waited, their eyes wide with worry. Mal was at his feet, so were Radiant and Obadiah.

"Jayne!" Kaylee gasped again, but just then the mercenary burst in through the door after them, slamming it shut.

Obadiah stepped forward. "You get it?" he asked.

"Nah," Jayne replied, his face split in a grimace of annoyance, "I missed."

"We should look for it tomorrow then. That's too close to the house."

Jayne nodded his agreement, still panting. He shifted his eyes to Simon, who was just standing there, staring at the door, frozen in shock. "You thank your sister and the creepy fact that she knows where you at all the time," he snarled and then spun around to face Kaylee. "And you… I'd expect this from him, him being a city slicker and all, but you should know better. You don't go wandering around the woods in the dark!"

"Sorry," she panted. "And thanks."

Simon still hadn't moved. Jayne frowned when he saw it. "What's with you?"

"It was huge," Simon muttered.

Jayne huffed. "That one wasn't even full grown," he said, and walked away.

"Wait, wait," Wash said, as he rose from his seat in the sofa. "This is what my wife's out there hunting?"


Zoë must have dozed off a little, because the next thing she remembered was Jo gently shaking her awake and gesturing for her to be quiet. Then she pointed, and Zoë peered over the bushes in the direction her index finger indicated and spotted the big animal moving about between the trees on the other side of the clearing.

Jo leaned in close and whispered in her ear. "It's hesitatin'. Maybe it's caught our scent. Can't get a clear shot unless it comes out into the open."

Zoë could easily see why a clear shot was necessary here. If you ended up wounding this thing, you'd have four hundred pounds of fury on your hands. It was a big animal, like a bear, but the slim body, the long snout and the tail gave it that distinct canine look.

"They're smart," Jo whispered. "But easily provoked. Are you fast on the trigger?"

"When I have to," Zoë replied. "Why?"

"I'll help it along a little. Be ready."

Without further explanation, the woman got to her feet and stepped out from the bushes and into the clearing. Zoë was about to shout at her, asking her what the hell she was doing, but decided it would be best to just play along. She readied her weapon.

Jo slowly moved towards the spot where the bait was, eyeing the animal the entire time. "Come on, big boy," she told it. "You don't want 'em, I'll take 'em."

Zoë held her breath.

A twig snapped.

And then the wild dog attacked.

It bolted into the clearing, headed for Jo, snarling and barking, and Jo spun around and sprinted towards a pile of large rocks nearby. "Shoot, Zoë!" she hollered. "Shoot it!"

Zoë let her instincts guide her. She jumped to her feet, took aim and fired just as Jo reached the largest rock and threw herself behind it.

The bullet struck home. With a yelp the dog crashed to the ground, dead almost in an instant, and Jo popped her head back up from behind the rock again. "Yeah!" she yelled, throwing her arms up into the air. "Good eye! Good eye!"

Zoë breathed for the first time in what felt like minutes and lowered her gun. Gorramit, this woman was nuts!

Jo just grinned. "Great shot! I'd say you're definitely fast on the trigger."

"And I'd say you're definitely a Cobb," Zoë replied. And then she smiled.




Thursday, February 2, 2012 9:52 AM


I'd been getting kind of a vibe that direction from Jo. The hunt was fun, and something tells me the wild dogs are going to be plot significant.

Mal doesn't stop scheming just because someone tells him to...

Thursday, February 2, 2012 6:28 PM


Yeah, Mal, you're not fooling me. You can't resist trying to right wrongs and help those in need, particularly kind maternal folk like Radiant that remind you some of your own ma.
Will Jayne do something, stupid or otherwise, about this situation with his family? Well, it's Jayne.
I particularly liked how the dialog between Zoe and Jo had a little bit of everything: character illustration, backstory, plot building, seamlessly integrated without being obtrusive.
The scene with Kaylee, Simon, Jayne and the wild dogs was menacing without being over-the-top.
Good chapter!

Friday, February 3, 2012 1:14 PM


Lucky Jo had Zoe with her or that mean old dog would have had her and I can't believe Jayne missed the wild dog he was aiming at when he told Simon and Kaylee to run! Hope the next chapter comes along soon, Ali D :~)
"You cn't take the sky from me!"

Friday, November 23, 2012 1:49 PM


Wow...a dingo as big as a bear?! That is a screw-up in the cloning process, alright! Damn...


And I can totally see McHaig using captured wild dogs to either attack the Cobb home - one just showing up when Kaylee and Simon were outside seems suspicious - or for something else nefarious.


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Angels We Have Heard (Part 5/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 4/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 3/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 1/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

The Night Before (revised and reposted)
It's the night before Christmas and Jayne is having spiritual problems. Literally.

Book of Secrets (Part 8)
Mal drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, closing his eyes for a moment. "Gorram preacher," he muttered.

Book of Secrets (Part 7)
Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.

Book of Secrets (Part 6)
The captain dances, Inara's feeling out the new girl and the first secret is revealed.

Book of Secrets (Part 5)
Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.