Kaylee was the one who found out first. Jayne had managed to keep his none-too-little secret for all of a day and a half before she had knocked just a shade too softly on his door after he’d said he was going off to oil down his gun collection. When there had been no response, Kaylee had simply opened the door to ask him if he would help her unscrew a coil that had gotten stuck so tightly she couldn’t dislodge it, but he was most definitely busy.
That wasn’t so surprising, really, but in the instant before she gasped and was about to start apologizing profusely, she realized she had never seen the girl underneath him before. The next second, the unknown girl noticed her standing there, and her face shifted into truly bizarre lines that weren’t even human. Kaylee, completely understandably, screamed blue murder.
This was quickly followed by Jayne looking over his shoulder, back at the girl in his bed, catching sight of her face, and screaming louder and higher than Kaylee while leaping up, grabbing the nearest of his arsenal, and aiming it directly at her.
“Oops,” said the girl as her face slipped back to normal. “Uh… can you get the gun out of my face now?”
By this time, a crowd had gathered in Jayne’s room. It was rather amazing the number of people who could fit in the relatively small space.
“There’s a girl in here,” Wash said, stating what was the obvious. “Jayne’s got a girl in his room.”
“Maybe we should all step outside for a moment,” Simon suggested, cautiously averting his eyes.
“I’m thinkin’ not,” Mal said, walking over to Kaylee, who appeared to be frozen, her eyes popping in shock and her hand to her mouth. “Kaylee, you all right?”
She didn’t say anything, but her eyes swiveled to the captain and then back to the blonde still in Jayne’s bed, then back to the captain once more.
“Okay,” Mal said, taking a breath. “Jayne, you want to explain why you’re pointing a gun at a stowaway in your bunk, how Kaylee got broke, and most important of all what the high hell you think you’re doing?”
“Copulation,” River supplied helpfully for the last question.
“Thank you, River. Doc, you want to maybe get your little sister out of the room?” Mal said with a sigh.
“Yes, sir,” Simon said as he pulled her out the door, but not before the entire assembly heard her say, “He’s right. He does have man parts.”
It was at this point Jayne remembered he was standing naked in front of every single crewmember on Serenity. The next second, he decided he didn’t particularly care anyway and paid it no mind given the circumstances.
“She’s one of Nandi’s girls,” Jayne explained, still keeping the gun trained on her.
“Hi,” she said with a wave, pulling the sheets a little higher. “I’m Harmony. And this is really embarrassing, so could you all stop being perverts for a minute and let me get dressed?”
“Not until you explain what in tarnation happened to your face!” Jayne yelled.
She gave a little huff, then rolled her eyes. “Okay, you caught me. I’m a demon. Satisfied?”
Book, who had been tastefully gazing off into a corner during the scene, suddenly riveted his eyes on her. “Pardon me, Miss. Would you mind explaining that a little further?”
“Not until I’m a lot less naked!” she said loudly.
“Everybody,” Inara said, suddenly turning around to face the crew, “out.”
Harmony gave a decisive little nod of agreement. “Thank you. By the way, cute shoes!”
As they shuffled down the hallway, Zoe tactfully looked at Jayne, who was coming along with them, and said, “Uh, I don’t really think that includes you.”
“Oh,” Jayne said, looking down. “Right.”
Five minutes later, the crew reassembled in the cargo hold, all of them staring at Jayne and Harmony.
“Alright,” Mal said. “Jayne, kindly explain what gives you the right to bring an extra, non-paying passenger on my boat without notifying me of it?”
“Hell with that,” Jayne said. “I want to go back to this demon go-suh.”
“I’m rather curious about that myself,” Book said, giving Harmony a piercing look.
“That’s all well and good, but I’m still the captain here, and I want an explanation before we get to the fairytale,” Mal said, sitting down on a crate. “We’ve got thirty hours before we reach Sihnon. Get talkin’, Cobb.”
Jayne angrily chewed on his lip a minute, then, realizing he didn’t have much choice unless he wanted to be shunted out an air vent, he launched into his story.
“It’s real simple. After the fightin’ was over, Harmony here came up to me and asked if there was any way she could hitch a ride off that godforsaken rock,” Jayne said, still looking at her suspiciously. “She didn’t mention nothin’ about being no demon, though.”
“And you just volunteered Serenity as her little taxi service?” Mal asked in annoyance. “We ain’t no shuttle for getting’ folks from one spot to another.”
“Actually, sir,” Zoe cut in, “we are.”
“Well, yeah,” Mal agreed. “Okay, so, we’ve taken paying passengers a time or two when work was slow in the petty crook department.” At that he shot Inara a withering look, which made her look a tad guilty. “But the key word there, Jayne, is ‘paying.’ I’ve yet to see a red cent from this girl you brought on.”
“Oh, I can pay,” Harmony jumped in.
“I don’t mean in trade,” Mal said, sparing her a glance, “though I’m sure you’re mighty talented and all.”
“I am,” she agreed with a smile and a nod. “But I’ve got credits, too.”
“You didn’t say anything about having money,” Jayne said, glaring at her.
“You didn’t ask,” Harmony shot back with a shrug. “More money for shopping.”
“Shopping?” Kaylee asked. “You left Nandi’s brothel to go shopping?”
“Uh-huh,” Harmony replied with a wide smile. “Well, not just to shop. I’m sick of living on that big dirtball of a planet. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go, nothing interesting to see, nobody fun to talk to, and, yeah, is it a crime if I got tired of wearing clothes that looked like they came out of a bargain basement sale at a fifth rate wholesale market?”
“So, your leaving had nothing to do with, say, wanting to do better than being a… you know,” Wash suggested.
“Whore? Nope, not really. Not that I liked sleeping with really disgusting guys, and believe me, when those idiots of Rance’s came in off the prairie, ugh! Smelly. I mean, hello, soap’s been around a long time, it’s cheap, look into it!” she said with a sniff of disgust.
“Wild guess,” Simon said. “You’re not a companion.”
“Absolutely not!” Inara said firmly.
Harmony shot her a dirty look. “So?”
Mal sighed in a put-upon, martyr-like way. “What I’ve been saying for over a year. Let’s put it this way, okay? You give me my money for your fair, minus the fee for what Jayne’s already had, and we’re square. Jayne, you’ll be paying the difference on her passage from the earnings on our next heist.”
“You mean I gotta pay you for sleeping with her?” Jayne yelled indignantly.
“No, you’re paying me for bringing her on board without checking with me first,” Mal said in a perfectly calm voice that suggested he was not in a mood for playing. “Dong mah?”
Jayne glared at him for a moment, then nodded sulkily and was storming halfway towards the kitchen when he turned on his heel abruptly.
“Wait half a second! What about her being a demon?” he said loudly.
“Right,” Mal said in a mock-serious tone. “She’s a demon, and Kaylee keeps leprechauns in the engine room.”
“There are no such thing as leprechauns,” River abruptly said with absolute conviction.
“Uh, Captain?” Kaylee said timidly. “I hate to bring this up, but I saw her face too, and believe me, it weren’t human.”
“Little Kaylee, I don’t know what it is you think you saw, but there ain’t no such thing as demons,” Mal said in a tolerant tone.
“Not enough data to make that observation yet,” River said as she walked closer to Harmony and looked at her critically. “Tests would need to be done. And, of course, it would skew the entire universe as we know it, a paradigm shift, but those happen regularly anyway.”
Simon was about to lead her away from Harmony, who was looking a little disturbed by River’s intense gaze, when his sister moved faster than he would have thought possible. In one swift, fluid movement, she reached behind her, grabbed Book’s Bible from his hands, and held it firmly against Harmony’s bare lower arm. Instantly, the blonde girl’s face changed into a collection of bumps and ridges while she howled in pain and whacked River’s hand out of the way, though her arm was still smoking and a red welt in the shape of the book was already starting to rise there.
The entire crew took a gigantic jump backwards as one.
“How the hell did you do that?” Mal asked in a very high voice, and his gun was in his hand so fast it seemed to have flown there.
“I told you I wasn’t seein’ things!” Jayne said in satisfaction.
Book, meanwhile, stooped to the floor and retrieved the Bible, carefully dusting it off. “I see you’re telling the truth,” he said simply. “Tell me, what kind of demon are you?”
“This doesn’t seem to be coming as all the big a shock to you, preacher,” Zoe said.
“In my business, it’s not all that startling a realization that not everything that looks human really is,” Book said, gazing more closely at Harmony’s face, which hadn’t changed back yet.
“You freak!” she yelled in River’s direction. “That really hurt!”
“Sorry,” River mumbled. “Just testing the hypothesis.”
“Yeah, well, go buy some shoes or something!” Harmony said, rubbing her arm ruefully.
“I am sorry you were harmed, but I must ask you again, what kind of demon are you?” Book said, and while his words were polite enough, there was a silent edge to them that suggested he was going to get an answer.
“I’m a vampire?” Harmony said with a small, half-hearted smile.
“But we saw you in full sunlight at Nandi’s home,” Book said suspiciously. “A vampire cannot stand in the light of the sun.”
“Yeah, well, turned out to be just the one sun. The rest of them don’t bother me,” Harmony explained.
“Wait,” Simon cut in. “What do you mean ‘the one sun?’”
“You know. The one that Earth That Was went around. That was the only one that bugged me. I can tan now and everything!” she said happily.
“You were on Earth That Was?” Wash said, sitting down on the stairs with an expression that said if he didn’t sit, he’d fall. “Just how old are you?”
“I was 19 when I died around the turn of the millenium,” Harmony answered. “I haven’t aged a day since.”
“You were actually on Earth That Was?” Kaylee said in wonder. “What was it like?”
“Before we start asking about scenery from centuries ago,” Book interrupted, “I think we need to find out exactly what this young… or not so young… lady’s intentions are. If I recall correctly, vampires drain the blood out of human for sustenance.”
“Blood draining? There’s draining of blood involved here?” Wash said turning paler yet. “I like my blood right where it is, thank you.”
“We all do,” Mal said, cocking the trigger on his gun a bit more. “You’re not feeding off of none of mine nor none of those belonging to me.”
“Oh, for crying out loud, will you put that thing down!” Harmony said, exasperated. “It won’t even kill me. I’ve gone vegetarian… well, sort of. I mean, I don’t drink vegetables or whatever, but ever since people started eating that processed gunk instead of actual food, the blood just tastes blech, you know? I drink animal blood now, usually horse or cow. It’s less plastic-y.”
“And we should believe you why?” Mal said, still keeping the trigger aimed on her.
“I’ve been on board, what, two days now? Has there been a problem? And did Nandi have any trouble with me? You can call back there and ask. No weird deaths, no nipping from customers. I may be evil and soulless, but I do have some self-control,” Harmony said defensively.
“Inara?” Mal said, not taking his eyes off Harmony. “You want to check that out?”
“I’ll call now,” Inara said, quickly exiting for her shuttle.
“Geez, I have got to ask her where she got that dress,” Harmony said, eyeing her blue silk sari enviously.
Five minutes passed until Inara returned, her expression curious.
“They say she’s telling the truth,” Inara said. “They knew she was a vampire, and they’re sure there haven’t been any suspicious deaths or disappearances in the area. She’s clean.”
Very slowly, Mal lowered his gun, trying to get his universe back into alignment as he did so.
“Okay,” Mal said clearly. “I guess maybe we all better just take a minute and breathe here. You’re a demon.”
“Duh,” Harmony dead-panned.
“But you’re not dangerous,” Mal continued.
“I could be!” Harmony said, offended. “I just don’t feel like it. Well, most of the time I don’t.”
“But there are no leprechauns,” Mal said, grasping at any remaining straws of his sanity.
“Nope,” River said certainly. “No leprechauns.”
“Right,” Mal said, looking around the cargo bay at the faces turned to him, apparently expecting pearls of wisdom. “I’m going to bed. I think I need to sleep… or something. Probably a lot of something.”
The next morning found the ship’s crew not quite sure how to behave, or at least most of them. Kaylee, on the other hand, after finishing the daily check on Serenity’s engines, made a point of tracking down Harmony, and it wasn’t long before the two of them were in the galley, kicking back a couple Blue Sun colas and chattering away.
“So they really used to spend hours just staring at TVs?” Kaylee asked earnestly.
“Yup,” Harmony said, “until the shows all got stupid. Well, stupider. They’d been stupid for a really long time, but it was kind of a habit by then.”
“Wasn’t it crowded with all those people jammed on one teeny-tiny planet?”
“Sometimes,” Harmony said wistfully. “But it was pretty, or it was until it got too bad for anything to live there. I miss the flowers. They don’t smell right anymore.”
“Must have been neat,” Kaylee said. “How’d you leave?”
“I hitched a ride on one of the transports out to the base on Sihnon kinda early on,” Harmony said with a trace of guilt. “I kinda got into trouble and the police were looking for me back on Earth That Was, so I skidaddled.”
“What kind of trouble?” Kaylee asked interestedly.
“I sort of blew up a mall,” Harmony said with a wince. “There wasn’t anybody in it at the time! I was only trying to steal stuff.”
“How’d you blow it up?” she asked in disbelief.
“I’m not really sure,” Harmony said, knitting her brows. “I think it had something to do with the solar powered engine on my getaway car and the floor cleaner they were using in the atrium.”
Jayne had quietly entered the kitchen behind them, hoping not to draw attention to himself. He was trying to avoid the situation, but hunger had gotten the better of him. However, the story was vaguely interesting.
“So you’re a thief?” he asked.
“I have been,” Harmony said without a trace of remorse. “I got real good at fencing stuff over near Bernadette. After a while, the law caught on, though, and I needed to hide out for a few decades until it blew over, so I wound up out in the sticks at Nandi’s place. Well, it wasn’t Nandi’s then; it was Tillet’s first, and then Jo-Jo’s, and then Nandi’s.”
“Been cooped up a long time then,” Jayne said, venturing to sit down at the table.
“Yeah,” she said, pouting. “I think the coast is clear now, though, so fresh start, yea me!”
“Huh,” he said as he peeled an apple, or at least what looked like an apple, and chewed it thoughtfully. “And you can’t get hurt by guns?”
“Hurt, yeah. Killed, no,” Harmony said, sipping a little more of her drink. “Yeesh, I miss Coca-Cola. Stupid Caffeine Control Act.”
Book, meanwhile, had drifted into the room as well and was regarding the scene with pensive eyes. It had been bizarre when his seminary studies had included the small section on pre-diaspora demons, but oddly it seemed they had been largely correct except that this girl—demon—didn’t seem half as evil as some of the other folks he’d met. In fact, he found her much less depraved than even Jayne. Rather… mentally unexercised… but not as disturbing as he thought she would be.
“And you have no soul?” Book asked, his voice startling the others who hadn’t realized he was present until he sat down at the table.
“Preacher, you scared the hell out of me,” Jayne said, shaking his head.
“That would be an interesting method of spiritual cleansing,” he said with a smile. “But how do you know you have no soul?”
“I just don’t,” Harmony said, shrugging. “It’s part of the deal.”
Book nodded, trying to figure out what his place was in all this. There really was no way to save someone who had no soul… which meant that he needn’t feel guilty about failing to dissuade her from doing evil. It was oddly relieving.
By noon of the following day, Serenity was docked at one of the less prominent sections of Sihnon, in part because Inara needed to check with her housemother, and in part because Harmony had heard there was a sale on at one of the nicer nearby dress emporiums. It was the last they ever expected to see of the vampire as she strolled excitedly down the gangplank after giving Jayne an entirely too-powerful hug.
When she showed up again twelve hours later with a huge load of extremely illegally come by designer shoes and a proposition that the crew could take half the proceeds from the sale in return for getting her to her buyers, Mal tilted his head in consideration for a moment, then said, “Eh, what the hell. Why not?”
If Jayne was perhaps a bit openly pleased that she’d returned and seemed perfectly happy to bunk in with him for the rest of her time on board, it came as no shock to the others, particularly River.
“Morally bankrupt, kind of evil, and just a little dumb,” she whispered with a smile as she watched them from her perch above the cargo hold. “They’re made for each other.”