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Skyplex Lady Washington

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Disclaimer: Sadly I do not own any of these wonderful characters, or even the setting and world of Firefly. They all belong to Fox/Universal and Joss Whedon.
James Norrington and related belongs to Disney, Gore and Ted and Terry.
Setting: Takes place right after Insomnia.
A/N: One-shot story and bit crossoverish with Pirates of the Caribbean.
Pairings: Kaylee/Simon, Mal/Inara

Skyplex Lady Washington

-
Malcolm Reynolds watched, as his next port grew closer as his ship neared the station. The silver structure shaped like a spindle in the center of several wheels was not unique in design. There was not much that made it stand out in comparison to the others. Malcolm knew where it was by the coordinates he had studied and remembered. This particular station was the home of an old friend he planned on doing business with.

He did not wait for the familiar small shudder of Serenity docking into the space station before he left the bridge and made his way to the air lock. He had grown way too accustomed to it over the years and the many stations they have made port at. His pilot did not need his guidance. He was ready to step onto the pseudo land and be greeted by the re-circulated air. There would be no familiar scents until they had stepped onto the many streets and he would indulge on the buttery aroma of popcorn, greasy scent of meat, the richness of chocolate and the tart, sweet and fresh scent of fruit.

“Do you have the coin?” Zoe was the first person to appear behind him. She had her arms by her side, in the position that read she was ready to take orders.

“Right here.” Mal gave his pocket a small pat while watching as the rest of the crew pooled into the area. “Do you have everything you need, Jayne?”

“Got my letter.” Jayne held up an envelope. “And the package.”

“Just wait until we finish business with Byron first and then you can send that rag off.” Mal knew about the contents of that package, one of the small souvenirs they picked up during their little detour into the 18th century. Mal had no idea why Jayne wanted that worm eaten pirate flag. Then again, the less he knew about what Jayne was thinking, the better

“Then it’s corn dogs, fried curly carrots, frozen custard, ice planets, shaved ice and ramune,” Jayne smacked his lips at the idea of the carnival like treats.

“They do not really serve dog with corn in this future,” James asked weakly. He was dressed in some of Mal’s borrowed clothing and carried his naval coat in a clear bag. The wool material needed special cleaning and they had to get it done on the station, not every planet they stop on was going to have dry cleaning.

“It’s more like a sausage,” Simon explained. “Made out of pork, or beef or poultry.”

“Sometimes even a mixture,” Inara added. “Sometimes you don’t even know what they put in it.” Mal could never see her eat a corn dog, or a hot dog, or a chilidog. She would deem such food to be beneath her and it would ruin his perception of her if she did chow down on such foods.

“It’s just a very skinny sausage,” Simon said. One of his hands was holding onto Kaylee’s. “The poke a stick at the bottom and they dip it into this cornmeal mixture and fry it.”

“The dog part is because they are long and thin like those little dogs,” Kaylee tried to explain.

“I see.” Norrington nodded.

“Better let him know that we don’t actually eat a planet when we buy an ice planet,” Jayne chuckled until he earned sour looks from most of the crew.

“Very droll indeed, Mr. Cobb,” James kept his face expressionless as he stared at the missionary.

“Don’t call me that,” Jayne made a face. “I aint no gentleman.”

“I would have never made the connection.”

“It’s a beverage,” River spoke up. “The last one. Comes in a bottle, has a little glass ball.” She noticed they way they were all staring at her. “Sorry I peeked.”

“I was wondering what the last one was,” James smiled and placed a reassuring hand on River’s shoulder, earning a smile from the girl.

Mal blinked. The way the girl looked up at the commodore made him wonder if what Inara had said was true. Did the girl have a crush on Norrington?

Mal cleared his throat. “Children, we don’t want to be late.”

“How can we be late?” Zoe asked as Mal opened the air lock. “Byron isn’t expecting us.”

“Just work with me,” Mal said.

“I always do.” Zoe briefly smirked at him.
-
“Byron?” Mal called out as soon as he and the crew had stepped into the collection shop. There were a few other customers walking around and staring at the displays of very rare stamps, cards, and coins in small glass cases.

“Sergeant?” A voice Mal hadn’t heard in awhile answered from the back of the store.

“Yeah it’s me,” Mal smiled as he glanced at his crew. Inara was admiring the display of silver coins that were minted when the first settlers had begun the terraforming process. Simon was thumbing through one of the empty binders used to store either the cards, or stamps, or coins. Kaylee and River were reading a chart of stamps representing the different countries and providences of the planets and moons. Jayne was looking through the displays of packs of cards featuring that new animated series he liked. James was staring at everything. The poor guy was going through sensory overload. He had never stopped gaping at everything the second he stepped off of Serenity.

“I’m here with him,” Zoe said from her place next to Mal.

“Zoe,” a wiry man in his late thirties hobbled out, using a wooden cane to help him walk. His left leg, from knee down, was made out of dark and shiny metal. “Sorry it took me a while. I had to get my leg on.”

“Byron,” Mal clenched onto his arm. “I see you got a new one since the last time.”

“Been a few years,” Byron ran a hand through his stringy carrot colored hair. “I’m sorry about Wash.”

“Thank you,” Zoe said softly before Byron hugged her. “How have things been with you?”

“Great,” Byron said. “My little Nene is about to start school soon and business has been well.” He stared towards the direction of the crew. “I briefly met Kaylee the last time you stopped by, but I don’t know the rest of them.” He waved. “Hi Kaylee.”

“Hi Byron,” Kaylee waved back and smiled. “I’m engaged.”

“All right,” Byron clapped before he approached James. “Are you the lucky fellow?”

“I am afraid not,” James said while keeping eye contact with Byron. Mal was certain the commodore was trying to keep from staring at Byron’s leg. “Dr Tam is the one who is engaged to Miss Frye.”

“Interesting accent,” Byron rubbed his thumb against his chin. “Is he from Dyton, or Angel, or-“

“Angel,” James answered.

“He lost it in an explosion,” River said. “Still saving for the one with the fake flesh.”

“Fake flesh?” Byron blinked and stared down. “You mean my leg. Yeah I lost it not long after Mal became sergeant. It got myself out of war. I been though a bunch of different legs before I got me this nice cybernetic doohickey.”

“Cybernetic?” James briefly stared at Byron’s false leg in confusion. Great. That was going to take a hell of a time to explain. “Ah yes, cybernetic.”

“This is our new pilot, River Tam,” Mal introduced. “And James is our navigator and strategist.” He would think of an official title for the commodore later. “River’s brother, Simon, is our doctor.” He turned to Inara and Jayne. “Jayne is in charge of,” he coughed. “Security, and Inara is an official Companion.”

“Nice to meet you all,” Byron shook everyone’s hand. “Congratulations to you two.” He smiled at Kaylee and Simon.

“Thank you,” Simon said.

“Byron this isn’t really a social visit.” Mal tapped Byron on the shoulder. “We are here for a bit of business.”

“What kind of business?” Byron raised his eyebrows.

Mal leaned over and whispered. “How would you like to own an actual 18th century English penny?”

Byron’s eyes widened. “Follow me to my office.”

Mal nodded. “Zoe, you and James come with me. The rest of you can look around, but don’t touch anything, Jayne.”

-
Mal waited until Byron had slid into his chair before he reached into his pocket. “I tried to keep it preserved since James gave it to me.”

Byron pointed to the 18th century man. “This was your coin?”

“Yes it is,” James nodded. “I needed a crew to join and to sweeten the deal I offered to give him the coin.”

“You are willing to part with it?” Byron raised an eyebrow.

“The Norrington family has several of them,” James continued his fabricated story. Mal had to give him credit for thinking it up on the spot. “All from Earth that Was.”

“He is getting the most of the cash,” Mal stared into the sea green eyes of Norrington. “I am taking a share for passage and standard captain’s fee.”

“I plan to share a little with my new family,” James said, earning a smile from Zoe.

“We appreciate it,” Zoe kept her arms folded.

“Let me see it,” Byron held out his hands.

“Here,” Mal handed the small box over to his old military friend and watched as Byron opened it and slowly unwound the cloth that was covering the coin.
Byron’s eyes bugged out when he saw it. “Wow. I didn’t expect it to be this well preserved.”

“I kept it in its box and polished it whenever I possibly could.” James said

“Very impressive,” Byron turned the penny over and over in his fingertips.

Mal chewed his bottom lip. He tried to make the coin appear older. Granted it was pretty grubby to begin with, considering where it came from but he tried to age it a bit more. Each member of the crew took their turn at stomping on it, and that was fun display of hilarity at watching Simon try to stomp, and surprise at how well both Inara and James could slam their heels on the coin. He suspended it in salt water for several hours and had Kaylee scuff up the sides of the coin with a screwdriver before scorching an edge with a blowtorch.

“Looks like it is made of silver,” Byron squinted his eyes. “And I do believe that is the face of King George the second.” He raised a finger and set the coin down on the cloth before he reached under his desk and pulled out a book. “Let me confirm it.” He flipped through several pages before he stopped. “Lets see here.” He stared at the coin in his hand and then at the one in the book. “Well I’ll be.”

“Is it authentic?” Zoe asked

“It certainly is,” Byron begun to rewrap it in the cloth.

“Give it to me straight,” Mal said and was glad Jayne wasn’t with them. His hired gun would have demanded how much money the coin was worth. “How much do you think it’s worth?”

“About Fifty thousand,” Byron answered. “And to think, back in its time a coin like this was practically worthless.”

“Quite fascinating,” James said once he stopped gaping.

“I can give it to you in half cred and half plat,” Byron placed the wrapped coin back in the box.

“Sounds good,” Mal calculated what his percent take would be. “I’ll take what is do to me off the credit and James can have the rest.”
“Thank you, Captain.” James said.

“Don’t thank me,” Mal held up his hands. They could thank Jack and Mal almost wished he could see the pirate’s expression if he knew how much he actually paid the commodore. “Once this is settled you meet up with Inara and the rest of us will wander around for about four hours and then meet up at the docking bay.”

-

It was like a city floating in space. That was how James could describe the space station, or Skyplex as it was called. It almost felt like he was walking the streets of Port Royal with the vendors selling their wares. The only differences, besides the clothing, were that when he looked up he saw a massive white ceiling instead of sky.

“Why is it named the Skyplex Lady Washington?” James asked as a teenage boy rode past them on a small vehicle with two wheels, a bicycle, it was called.

“That is what they are officially called,” Inara told him as she led him down one of the streets. “They are a little more going on inside than a mere space station, a lot more shops, and entertainment, and food. The name was after a seagoing vessel from Earth That Was.”

“Why didn’t you tell me its actual title?”

“We were not certain if you would have been able to understand,” she shrugged. “Mal had thought Station would have been easier, and he tends to call them stations.”

“Like how he calls his ship a boat.” He bit his tongue whenever Mal had referred to Serenity as a boat. It annoyed him, but he felt he couldn’t mention to his captain, not quite yet.

“I know of a couple stores that specialize in men’s clothing,” Inara said. They had already dropped of James’s coat at the place that cleans without using water. “There is one on this street. There is also a large store that sells clothing for everyone if you also want to look there.”

“That would be best,” James tried to remove his gaze from one the shops. All he could see from inside were people wearing strange headgear and gloves and there were several flashing lights and glowing trails, and the noise coming from such a shop was unbearable. “We might find everything I need within the first two shops.”

“You do not have to settle for those,” Inara gestured to their surroundings, causing the multiple thin bracelets on her arms to jingle. “There are hundreds of clothing stores here.”
“We are on a schedule.” He may no longer be in the Royal Navy, but he still believed in following orders.

“Mal won’t mind if we are a little late, and if we are then I shall take the blame.”

“I would also like to sample some of the food Mr. Cobb had mentioned. The frozen custard sounds like a fine dish.” He had no intention one eating one of those battered sausages on a stick.

“I know of the best frozen treat parlor here.” Inara smiled. “But it is a dessert and we should have a proper lunch first.”

“Of course.” James smiled back.

“Inara Serra.” a woman in a gown the colors of sunset approached them. Her skin was a pale contrast to Inara’s and she had applied some sort of cosmetics that made her shoulders and the top of her bosom shimmer. With each step the gauzy cloak she wore fluttered and the small gold bells hanging from her belt jingled.

“Endora Rojavek,” Inara smiled at the woman. “How long has it been since we seen each other?”

“Nearly five years.” Endora clasped Inara’s hands into her own and both women tried to kiss each other’s ears, but ended up kissing the air next to their heads. “I have heard you are traveling aboard a pirate ship.”

James coughed into his hand. “It’s a transport vessel.”

“He’s right.” Inara stepped back from her friend. ”Serenity is a Firefly class transport ship. The crew carry’s cargo from one place to the other. Where did you come up with the idea I was on a pirate ship?”

“Sheydra.” Endora smiled sheepishly as she flicked at her brown curled tresses.

“I thought those stories were going to fade.” Inara rolled her eyes. “The young girls made up stories about me.”

“They must adore you then.” Endora placed a finger under her mouth. “There are only two about me.”

“What brings you here?” Inara said.

“I have set up a place of business.” the other woman clasped her hands together. “A few other Companions work with me. Many of the station’s civilians send in waves and now that word has gotten out we receive requests from hopefuls in incoming ships.”

“That is clever. I don’t believe there are many Companion Houses in the different stations.”

“I’m afraid not.” she glanced over to Norrington. The look made him feel quite uncomfortable. “Are you with a client?”

Inara stared at James before laughing politely. “James is a member of Mal’s crew. We are shopping.”

“You wouldn’t have time to meet the others.” Endora pointed to a building that reminded James of a smaller version of the Swann mansion. “We are about to have a meeting and I am certain they would love to meet you.”

“I would love to, but what about James?”

“He can wait.” Endora’s smoke colored eyes stared James up and down, causing him to feel a bit of discomfort. “He is a big boy, and the meeting won’t be long.”

Inara turned to face Norrington. “You will be fine by yourself? During a Companion meeting no one is allowed to enter a Companion house other than those with the guild.”

“I will not move from this very spot,” James said. He didn’t plan on moving far from where he stood. “You have a friend you haven’t seen in awhile.”

“Thank you” Inara nodded towards him before she followed the other Companion. “I won't be long.”

James leaned his back against the Companion house wall and watched as the crowd passed him by. It would be a good time to study more of the men’s fashion. And try to determine which he would favor. It would be easier to find new clothing when he and Inara enter the stores.

One group of people caught his eye despite the fact their clothing did not stand out in particular, nor did any of their features or way they styled their hair cause a raised eyebrow. It was what they carried. All three of them carried black leather cases. The one carried by the woman was the same shape as a string instrument, about the size of a guitar.

“You are never going to sell that, are you?” The shorter of the two particular men asked. He had dark skin and wore tan trousers with bright red leather patches on the knees, and a white shirt that hugged his chest

“Why should I?” The taller man said as all three of them set down their cases on the ground. His trousers were baggy, billowing around his ankles and held secure by a thin black belt. He also wore a light blue shirt and a black waistcoat, correction they were called vests these days. “You think this is a good spot?”

“Right next to a Companion House.” the dark skinned man pointed towards James’s direction. “A lot of people come by this way.” He pulled out a round cloth cap and placed it on his head, right after he brushed his finger over his short dark hair.

“Why are you wearing that?” The woman asked as she pulled her instrument out of its case. Her dark blue pants clung to her skin and reflected the overhead lights. Her hair was cut short, the edge several inches above her shoulders. Her golden yellow shirt seemed to have an actual cravat sewn into it and over it shore wore a jacket made out of the same material as her trousers. It was a type of guitar, with leather strap that the woman used to secure the instrument to herself. “You are not trying to look like a pretentious arteest are you?”

“I am not,” the shorter man removed two small drums from his case. “I just like to wear it when I play.” He brought three other drums and set two beside the first one and the largest in front of the other two.

“I think it makes you look sly.” the woman adjusted the strange locket she wore. “If you know what I mean?”

The shorter man gave her a look before he sat down in front of his drums. James hadn’t realized the first two were connected.

“Yet you say nothing about Alfie’s choice of chin fuzz.”

“My goatee is not pretentious.” the taller man ran a finger down the light brown hair on the end of his chin. “Maybe if I had a soul patch.” He ran his fingers through his short brown hair before he pulled out his instrument. James wasn’t sure what it was. It was almost like an oboe and a horn fused together.

“Someone is watching us,” the woman said. Her blue eyes met up with James’s. “Can we help you?”

“Help?” James hadn’t realized he had approached the group of musicians. “I don’t need any help.” He placed a hand on the top of his head. “I am just fascinated by your friend’s instrument.” He pointed to Alfie’s J shaped instrument.

“You don’t see many saxophones like these.” Alfie ran his fingers across the polished keys of the black and silver instrument.

“I have never really seen a saxophone before.” James fought to keep his tongue from making a fool out of him. “It is a type of horn.”

“A lot of people make that mistake.” the woman shook her head.

“Cyn is right,” Alfie said. “It’s actually related to the flutes. This is an actual Feiland Saxophone.”

“Sin?” James raised his eyebrow’s at the woman’s name before he turned to Alfie. “Feiland?”

“It’s short for Cynthia,” She explained.

“Feiland was the Stradivarius of the 23rd century,” Alfie explained. “Nobody could duplicate the way he made saxes.”

“You three are a musical troupe?” James took a step back. If they were about to play he certainly wanted to give them room.

“That is the gist,” the man with the drums said. “I’m Ray and he’s Alfie and you already know Cyn’s name.”

“Yes,” James nodded. “Forgive me for not introducing myself. My name is James Norrington.”

“We plan on getting a few more members.” Cynthia grabbed onto the end of her guitar. “Start a real band.”

“And you play before you are complete?”

“You can’t stop the music,” Cyn said. “If there is poetry or a song, or a talent it will come out in some form and you can’t stop it.”

“It has been a while since I played the spinet.” James stared at his hands. He did own a spinet in his old home and had spent hours with his fingers at the keys, trying to duplicate the beautiful music the many fine musicians of Port Royal had created.

“What?” Ray asked

“A spinet. It is like a harpsichord.”

“Piano family,” Alfie explained to his friend.

“What do you do, James?” Cyn asked.

“I am employed aboard Serenity. It’s a Firefly class transport vessel. The Captain performs different kinds of jobs, as long as there is money.”

Alfie nodded. “Do you like jazz?”

“I never really heard that type of music before.” James hoped it was a type of music and not a song, or an instrument, or a composer.

“It can be quite soothing.” Cyn touched her locket again. “Testing, one two.” Her voice was a little louder than before. “Okay hit it.”

Both Alfie and Cyn began together in unison. Alfie’s fingers pressed against the keys and he blew, staying within the same melody as Cyn’s guitar.

Cyn started to sing about heaven, doors and stubborn people. When she started to sing the second stanza, Ray began to beat his hands against his drums.

James wasn’t sure how he felt about the music. The style was soothing and he could understand the meaning of the lyrics. The three of them were talented musicians. He was too used to the music from his original time period. By the time Cyn sang the second chorus he was starting to actually enjoy the song.

More people gathered around to listen to Cyn’s group perform. Some people he even threw handfuls of money into the open cases. James felt a twinge of guilt. He should at least pay them. He had a nice conversation and he was introduced to a new style of music and he liked it. He reached into his pocket, perhaps one of the small strips of marked paper would suffice.

“Let me get that for you.” Inara threw a handful of both the paper and coins into Alfie’s case. “I see you found a new appreciation for a new form of music.”

“It is fine music.” James said as Inara tossed in money into both Cyn’s and Ray’s cases. “The meeting has already ended?”

“It ended when they all wanted to hear about my adventures across the galaxy.” Inara shook her head. “I told them I was busy shopping with a friend.”

“Thank you” James smiled as he followed Inara along the street.
-
“That was waste of money,” Simon said once he had closed the cloth flap leading to the magic show. “I know there wouldn’t real magic, but I was hoping to see something that wouldn’t be so explainable.”

“You couldn’t help it.” Kaylee had exited out of the tent along with him. “You are too smart.”

“You could-“ He paused. If he continued he would have insulted her again. “You could even say that Jayne would have figured some of them out.”

“Jayne?” Kaylee gave him a look. “This is a type of show that would entertain young children. This would appeal to his soft side.”

“Who was the one whispering in my ear about the arrow and ribbon trick?” He sought out his sister. River wasn’t far away and she was purchasing a few bottles of ramune. “And it wasn’t River.”

Kaylee shrugged. “It was simple engineering.” She brightened as River approached them with the drinks. “Thank you River. I was feeling pretty thirsty.”

“I knew,” River handed her a bottle of translucent pink liquid. “I knew what we all wanted.” She handed the clear bottle to Simon and kept the orange one to herself.

“Thank you,” Simon smiled before he removed the wrapping and the plastic top. “I just feel that whenever I take you someplace it’s a cheap date and waste of money.” He removed the plastic stopper from the center of the cap. “I’m saying this about the cost. You deserve the best Kaylee. You should be taken to fancy restaurants and parties. You deserve to view operas and be taken to the annual engine show on Isis.”

“Last year they unveiled the new 2500X accelerators.” Kaylee peeled off the covering of her drink. “I hope we will be near Isis when they have the show this year.”

“I hope I will be able to buy tickets.” He pressed the plastic pin down on top of the clear marble until he loosened it.

“I like the cards,” River said. “I knew it wasn’t real, it never is, more fun to not think, be amazed with what they do. It was a show, art.”

“You see?” Kaylee pointed at River. “She enjoyed the show.”

“I never tried to look at it in that sort of way.” He brought the bottle to his mouth and took a sip. It was lychee nut flavor, his favorite.

“I want to go ther.,” River pointed at the hobby shop on the other side of the street. “I want to get him a gift.”

“Get who a gift, sweetie?” Kaylee asked. “The captain?”

“Not him,” River discarded the cap and the wrapping in a nearby waste bin before she crossed the street.

“River.” Simon dropped his trash into the same can before he followed her. “Wait.”

The hobby shop was different from the collection store. There were a few books and binders for coins and stamps and more cards, but there were also several packs of playing cards, boxes of puzzles, craft kits, model kits, paint brushes and various kinds of paints, knitting, crotchet, sewing, and embroidery supplies, and several more books.

“Maybe she wants to practice some magic of her own.” Kaylee pointed at the display of magic kits.

“She would be standing here.” Simon walked down the aisles trying to find his sister. “River?”

“I am here.” River was standing in the next aisle over.

“Mei mei, you should wait for me.” Simon stepped around the corner.

“I’m not a child,” River held a deck of playing cards in her hand and was staring up at model kits of boats and ships. “You need to focus on you and Kaylee, let me be on my own.”

“You remember the last time you wandered off.” Simon stared at the boxes. The ships were inside large glass bottles.

“I had to leave. I was supposed to meet him. James and I became friends, he listened to the good voice and came with us.”

“I know. I just worry.”

“You don’t have to worry anymore.” She pointed to one of the ships in the bottles. “This one.”

“You want both the kit and the cards?”

“The cards are for me. The ship is for him.” She pointed to the name of the ship. “It’s the Dauntless. It is his ship.”

“I can try to buy it for you, but we also need to get some medical supplies.”

“My money. I just need you to carry it.”

Simon watched his sister as she walked way before he carefully pulled down the box. “Try to find Kaylee.”
-
Malcolm had enough of the aquarium. After seeing one too many underwater critters that resembled Davy Jones and his crew he had to get out of there. He was surprised he was still able to eat his sesame chicken on a stick.

“Hey Mal,” Jayne said as he ran after him. A stuffed sea turtle was under his arm. “Did you see the mouth on that one fish?"

“That I did.” Mal took another bite from treat. “Why do you think I left so fast?”

“Are you saying it scared you?” Jayne smirked.

“Unsettled,” Mal said and stared at his holowatch. There was still about a half hour left. “It unsettled me.”

“I agree with him,” Zoe said after she had caught up with the two of them. “That things mouth was half the size of its body.”

“Yeah, that’s what makes it so funny.” Jayne held up his new toy. “You thought it was funny.”

“Funny?” Mal blinked. He couldn’t understand his hired gun half, well actually, all the time. “I think it’s about time we head back.”

“I agree sir.” Zoe closed the lid on her half eaten box of fried curly carrots. “I have seen enough trick lassoing and had enough food on a stick to last me a while.”

“Got a half hour left,” Mal said as they headed back to where Serenity made port. The three of them didn’t wonder too far off from Byron’s shop. They even stayed on the same level.

“How come you didn’t think that fish was funny looking?” Jayne asked.

Mal stiffened his back. “I’m not in the mood.”

“We are still pretty fazed about fighting against fish men.”

“I fought against them too ya know, you don’t see me getting all skittish around goldfish.”

“Bi zui,” Mal commanded. “We’ll get back to the ship and wait for the others unless they are all ready there. The girl and I’ll start the course for Santo. The rest of you all can help the commodore get his new threads packed away.”

“Does he need all of us?” Jayne asked.

“No he doesn’t,” Mal tapped his chin. “Come to think of it, the cargo floor could use a good mopping.”

“Whose turn is it to cook dinner?” Zoe asked.

“I don’t know about you both, but I’m kinda stuffed.” Mal gave his stomach a light pat. “We might have to fend for ourselves for tonight.”

“Snack raids?” Jayne asked.

“Something like that.”

They had returned to Serenity with fifteen minutes to spare. Mal gave Zoe the money to pay for the people who refueled his ship while he waited for the others.
He did not have to wait long before he heard the excited chatter from his mechanic. She was talking about her latest wedding plans. Mal had lost count of how many times she changed it.

“I was thinking we each would hold a bird,” Kaylee did not remove her gaze from Simon. She was carrying Norrington’s clear plastic covered coat in her hands. “It doesn’t have to be doves. They could be robins, or blue jays, or sparrows-“ she paused. “Maybe not sparrows.”

“You still like the idea of the horse drawn carriage?” Simon was carrying a small wooden crate full of what appeared to be peaches.

“I love the idea.” Kaylee turned to face Serenity. “Hi Cap’n. Have you been waiting long?”

“Not long at all,” Mal let his eyes linger on the peaches. “Where did you get the fruit?”

“James bought us all peaches.” Kaylee pointed behind her where James and Inara were trailing behind them. Both had their arms laden with several different bags. “Isn’t that sweet?”

“It sure is,” Mal said. His eyes wandered over to River and the purchases she was carrying. “What have you got darling?”

“Cards,” River said. “For myself. I also bought a boat.”

“A boat?” Mal blinked. He had been on enough actual boats. Where the heck would the put such a craft?

“It’s one of those kits,” Kaylee explained. “You build a little ship in a bottle.”

“Not for me,” River looked over his shoulder. “For James.”

“You are getting a lot of stuff today,” Inara said , looking at the former commodore. “New clothes, a flag and now this.”

“I appreciate the gift,” James glanced at the ground. “I feel a bit troubled I didn’t buy anything else besides the fruit.”

“We will enjoy the fruit.” Mal already pictured his knife slicing through the fuzzy surface and the golden flesh. He could almost taste the sweetness of the fruit already. “What do you mean by flag?” He pointed to the bags.

“There was a store that sold flags of the different countries from Earth that Was,” Inara said.

“I found an English flag,” James said proudly.

“Good,” Mal said, catching view of Zoe. “Get your knife ready, Zoe. We have some fruit.”

“This part of fending for ourselves?” Zoe asked.

“Pretty much,” Mal lead everyone back onto the ship

_

Malcolm waited until everyone was in the dining area before he addressed his crew. “I know you all are ready to sink your choppers into those peaches.” Mal pointed at the crate on the table. “But we got some chores to do first. River and I will be launching us, Kaylee you know you will be in the engine room. Jayne I have already given you, your orders. The rest can help the commodore put his things away.”

“I don’t really need their help.”

“Maybe Inara won’t mind helping you,” Mal folded his arms. “Zoe, you can clean the dishes and doc, you have some new supplies to organize.”

“Can’t we all just have one peach now?” Jayne asked. “We can starting eating and working at the same time.”

“You want to.” River was about to grab one peach when Kaylee blocked her with her hand.

“You want that one?” Kaylee pointed to the fruit River was about to grab.

“Yes.” River grabbed onto it. Her eyes were locked with Kaylee’s.

“Lets see how bad you want it.” Kaylee took it from River’s hand and ran off.

River blinked. “Girl took my peach.” She ran after the mechanic.

“Great,” Mal sighed. “Now we are stuck.” In truth he did want to snack on a peach before taking off. “Might as well have a nibble now.” He grabbed another peach.

“Don’t need an invitation.” Jayne grabbed onto another.

“You can’t catch me,” Kaylee sang out as she ran past the table again with River in pursuit.

“I should yell at them,” Mal said before he stared at the bemused expressions of his crew. “I hardly ever seen you smile, Commodore.”

“It’s just seeing River this happy,” James explained. “After what she has been through.”

“It brings a smile to all our faces,” Simon said.

“Might as well pull out a few chairs,” Mal grabbed a knife before he sat down. He didn’t wait to see if the others had taken a peach or two. He sliced a small section of his fruit, careful as to not allow the juice drip onto the table before he brought the piece to his mouth. Instead of just popping it in he bit down, squeezing more of the juices into his mouth. He closed his eyes as he savored the treat.. The only sounds he focused on were the crew’s teeth tearing into the fruit and drumming beat of combat boots followed by a triumphant squeal from River.