When faced with difficult situations, many a man has suffered through terrible indignities in order to survive. Eating his own shoes for sustenance, or being stranded in the desert naked, or being in public naked, or lying uncomfortably close to another man while both are naked.
(A good number of indignities involve nudity.)
In his time, Malcom Reynolds had experienced a few indignities of his own, only a small number of which involved nudity, and even fewer of which had the potential to be lethal.
Well, unless one counts "dying of embarrassment" as an authentic cause of death, in which case Mal would have to admit that just about all of the indignities he has suffered were potentially lethal, in one way or another.
Today had started out promisingly safe, but it was quickly becoming apparent that Mal would have to suffer an indignity or two before the day was over.
"What is that?" Wash asked, staring at the generous accommodations Mal had acquired.
"Our accommodations for the night," Mal said.
"Accommodations?" Wash repeated, openly staring at the house. "That doesn't look like any accommodations I've ever seen before."
"Well, it is."
"Kind of looks like a hut. Wouldn't you say, dear?" Wash craned his neck to look up at his wife, whose face was perfectly blank.
"It's not a hut!" Mal said, only a little bit of an indignant whine in his voice. "Tell him, Zoe."
Her face still blank, she said, "Looks like a hut to me, sir."
Mal threw his hands up in the air. "You're all against me."
"Yes, sir, Captain sir," Wash said happily. Zoe smiled.
"Well, too bad," Mal continued. "This is where we're staying, hut-like or not, and you're just going to have to get used to them." Walking up to the small house, he tugged on the doorknob. When it didn't budge, he tugged harder. After a bit of struggle, the door fell open. If by "open" one means "on top of Mal", that is.
Lying underneath the not insignificant weight of the wooden door, Mal coughed around the dust the impact had flung into the air.
"You need some help there, sir?"
"I'm fine, Zoe," Mal said, his voice only slightly muffled. Shifting around and shoving at the door, Mal managed to push the piece of wood off, and sat up. He was covered in splinters from the wood that had refused to move until it broke and dirt from the dry, dusty ground. Standing up, he turned around slowly.
"Not a word."
Wash smiled. "Wasn't going to say a thing," he said, pulling an imaginary zipper across his lips. Brushing off the dust, Mal grunted in mildly suspicious agreement. He turned, still wiping off the seat of his pants, at the sound of the MULE coming over the hill, the remainder of the crew (sans Kaylee and Inara) aboard.
"Are we still staying here, Captain?" Zoe asked, standing in the doorway. She peeked inside as Wash wheeled past her, looking around curiously. "Seems mighty unsafe, living in a hut with no door."
"Actually, huts don't typically have doors," Simon said, climbing off the MULE. "Makes them easier to build quickly."
"See?" Mal said triumphantly. "Not a hut."
"However," Simon started, looking up at the dwelling.
"Rondavel," River said, staring at the roof wide-eyed. After a moment spent staring at his sister, Simon nodded slowly.
"Ah, right. Some types of tribal huts built on Earth-That-Was had doors, and round thatched roofs." He cast a glance up at the straw-like covering on the round roof.
"Walls made of go se," River added, drifting slowly inside, one hand brushing against a wall.
Jayne wrinkled his nose. "Go se? Mal, I'm not sleeping in no hut made of shit."
Mal was getting a bit upset. "Alright, first off? This is not a hut. Second off, it's not made of shit, and third off: Jayne, you'll sleep where I tell you to and you'll like it."
Grumbling under his breath, Jayne walked inside. There was a low thump, and he swore. "Mal, your gorram hut's too small, I can't stand up straight!"
"Then don't!" Mal called after him. He turned back to Simon. "Any news from Kaylee?"
Simon frowned. "She says there's no way to fix the oh-two converter we've got, and she's still looking for a replacement. If she can't find one in town, she's going to have to order one from a parts supplier she knows on the other side of the planet."
Which didn't tell Mal much. "How long?"
"If a shuttle is coming our way at the right time - a few days?"
"And if not?" Zoe asked.
"Ta ma de," Mal muttered, running a hand through his hair. "We don't have that kind of time!"
"I'm well aware of that, Captain," Simon shot back. "As it's my sister who needs to keep moving."
"Then what do you suggest we do about it, doc?" Mal asked, voice low and more than a little angry.
"At the moment? I don't know," Simon snapped. "But you complaining isn't going to help."
"Well..." Mal faltered momentarily. "Neither is you arguing with me!"
Rolling his eyes, Simon walked into the hut. Zoe raised an eyebrow at Mal. "Well done, sir."
"Bi zui," Mal said sharply, following Simon inside. Standing in the hut, looking at the rest of his crew standing in the hut, his anger escaped him, leaving plenty of room for good old-fashioned embarrassment. "Ah, Zoe?"
"Yes, sir?" she asked, looking in expectantly.
"We may have a bit of a problem here."
"You don't say."
The hut was possibly a bit smaller than Mal had expected. Between Jayne sitting on the floor, refusing to get near any of the walls or ceiling, Wash's chair making it difficult for him to maneuver on the uneven muddy surface, and River, Simon, and Mal standing where they could, there was only enough room for Zoe to step into the hut and stare at Mal, which she did. Once she was inside, there was hardly room to stand, let alone sleep.
"I don't suppose we could find ourselves a better hut?" Zoe asked wryly.
"Not if the oh-two converter's going to cost us as much as Kaylee estimated." Mal turned, elbows alternately bumping into the wall and Zoe's side. "Unless somebody's holding out, this was the best place we can afford."
Muttering something unpleasant about the residence, Jayne shifted slightly where he sat.
With a reluctant sigh, he stood up to protests from everyone around him as they moved away from his very large, space-taking-up body. While they moved, and Zoe was nearly shoved back out the empty door, Jayne pulled a coin purse from a mysterious place on his person and tossed it at Mal. It hit him squarely on the forehead, and from there fell neatly into his hands.
Blinking several times to clear his vision, Mal looked down at the purse and examined its contents. Sighing, he said, "We couldn't buy enough room for Kaylee and Inara to stand with this, Jayne."
Jayne shrugged. "It's what I've got. If you ain't using it, hand it back over."
Mal tossed it back, and was a little disappointed when Jayne easily caught it, shoved it back wherever he'd kept it, and sat back down without any trouble.
"What now?" Simon asked petulantly. "Do you seriously expect us to sleep in this thing?"
"Yes," Mal said. "Unless you've got a better idea, in which case I'm all ears."
"Serenity breathes," River said suddenly, shoving past Jayne and Simon to get to the doorway.
Exchanging a glance with Zoe and ignoring Jayne's new complaints, Mal followed River outside. She was waving at Kaylee, who was running towards them, waving back and grinning widely.
"I found one!" she was saying again and again.
"Found one what?" Mal asked when she reached a normal speaking distance.
"Oh, Captain, just look at it!" Kaylee gushed, holding out her hand. "Isn't it the shiniest oh-two converter you've ever seen? It's as clean and perfect as the day it was made."
Mal looked at her hand, only seeing her hand. "And... where is this shiny wonder of yours?"
"Right here," she said, holding out the tiniest little piece of equipment Mal had ever seen. Mal took it from her and squinted at it, holding it at different angles.
"Does this mean we don't have to stay in this hut?" Simon asked, having finally gotten out of the hut.
"If I can get some help putting the converter in, we can have Serenity breathable in an hour," Kaylee said. She watched as her words brought Wash, Zoe, and Jayne out of the hut, and laughed. "Wow, it's like one of those old clown cars, where you think they can't fit any more people inside, but more keep coming out. How did you all fit in there?"
"Magic," Mal said shortly, frowning. "Does this mean I rented this place for nothing?"
Zoe nodded slowly. "Looks like it, sir."
"Chui niu," he snapped. "I paid for this place, so somebody's gonna use it!" He looked around at the crew expectantly.
Kaylee held up her oh-two converter, looking a little confused. "I have to install this in Serenity ASAP, Captain."
Simon pulled River to his side. "I need to get to my supplies, for River's next treatment."
Jayne snorted. "Hell no. You'd have to pay me to get me back in there."
Wash pondered the thought carefully. "While an evening spent on hard, uncomfortable rock sounds very tempting, sir, I think I'd prefer to sleep in my soft, accommodating bunk tonight." He grabbed Zoe's hand and squeezed. "More preferably with my lovely wife in our soft, accommodating bunk?"
Zoe glanced apologetically at Mal before squeezing back. "It is a very nice bunk, sir."
Mal's last hope wrinkled her nose childishly. "Smells like go se."
Faced with betrayal on all sides (and well-logicked betrayal, at that), Mal found himself with no choice.
"Fine," he said. "Fine. I'll take the hut for myself, while you all go fix up Serenity. Go on," he added when they didn't start moving. "Shoo!"
Within a matter of moments, they had climbed back on the MULE and started off, Wash's chair attached to the back of the cargo hauler. He waved cheerfully at Mal as they vanished over the hill, who waved back less enthusiastically, a sneer on his face.
Making himself comfortable for the night, Mal reflected on the unfortunate indignities of his past. How many of them, he asked himself, were born of this same stubbornness? Upon further reflection, he found that a very high number were in fact completely avoidable, if not for his stubborn refusal to not go through with it.
He might want to rectify that in the future, considering how distinctly unpleasant indignities often turned out to be.
(The worst indignity of the day, as it happened, did not occur until the next day, when Inara came out to pick him up and sarcastically complimented him on his fine choice of accommodations for the night.)