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names like blood on your lips

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She spends a week on Serenity, a week of scurrying and sweetness and the Captain's pathetic hungry eyes, and she can't shake the feeling that there's something strange here. The way these people treat each other, the kindness and affection, pretending they want nothing from each other, pretending they're good and sincere and a gorram family. That's a joke. It makes laughter bubble up in the back of her throat, and she keeps a straight face and chokes it down even when it feels like she'll explode. She's had a taste of family, the real flesh-and-blood sort, seen it time and time again, and these people thinking they have any better chance of keeping it together than actual relations…well, it'd be cute if it wasn't so disgusting.

Already she can sense the cracks in the façade. The doctor's got a selfish streak, and he watches his sister so closely he can't see what's two feet in front of him. The merc's a wild card, an unappealing brute of a man, and if she had more time she'd take some pleasure in giving him a kiss he'd never forget. Even the good Shepherd has his secrets - he think's he's all good and holy but she can practically smell it on him, the history and blood still rotting on his hands.

Funny, right?

At the same time, for whatever reason, it seems to be working for them. For now. They have this tenacity that she figures must stem from their sheer stupidity. She leaves them dead in the water, collects on the cash, and half-expects to hear talk of their demise within a week - even so, she can't bring herself to be surprised when the Captain tracks her down a day later.

He asks her who she is. He wants to know her name. What does it matter? she prepares to say. Will a few long-forgotten syllables help you get to sleep tonight?

Instead, she gets a gun handle to the head.

She wakes up to an empty room with a splitting headache, the taste of her own blood on her tongue, and a name trapped between her lips that she swore she would never utter again. She wipes that name away with the blood and tries a different one, the taste of it round and bitter and all the more delicious for its meaninglessness.

"Malcolm Reynolds," she whispers. "Nice to meet you."