Malachi Harbatkin stopped digging a posthole for his new fence to wipe his brow, and as he did, caught sight of Sarai Wong cresting the hill toward his homestead. He gave a slight wave, and stuck his pocket for one of those fiddly handkerchiefs that his wife had made him, embroidered with tiny, immaculate stitches that would have made his old eyes go crossways. "Afternoon, Sarai."
Sarai smiled, a slightly gap-toothed and yellowed smile. "Afternoon, Mal." She replied with a little wave. "Is Faith home?"
"She should be." He replied with a grin. "Seemed to be in a good enough humor this mornin'." He held out his hand to take the basket from the heavily pregnant Sarai. "Here, let me get that for you."
"Now, you don't have to do that!" Sarai said, even as she gave up the basket. "What about your fence? Won't your stock get out? What about poachers? I heard rumors there are cattle thieves about."
"It'll be fine." Malachi said with a slight shake of his head. "This is the last three panels, I can whack it up before evening and still carry your sundries in, Mrs. Wong."
"Such a fine young man." Sarai said, despite the fact that she was actually younger than the 'young man.' She allowed Malachi to lead her into the house, which was big for this side of Highgate.
"Faith?" Mal called, as he pulled out a chair for Mrs. Wong to sit down. "Mrs. Wong's come to visit, darlin'."
There was a slight scurrying noise, and from the backdoor the brown-haired woman danced more than walked, or maybe floated. She had obviously been doing laundry, from the redness of her hands. "Sarai!" Faith Harbatkin murmured happily. "I prepared some muffins for you, you need all the nutrition you can get with the little one on the way."
Sarai shook her head, smiling to herself as the young woman fluttered to her stove, where she opened the oven to pull out a tin of muffins with her bare hands, and immediately winced. She was pretty enough and sweet-tempered, but Sarai was certain she was a bit touched in the head. She was always doing fool things like that, forgetting something like a simple potholder. Most of the town was sure the girl had bewitched the rancher, who had arrived only six months before her, but Sarai knew better. They were sweethearts, anyone with half a brain could see.
Simon Tam had endured quite a bit he had never imagined since paying his way on Serenity. He was, however, reaching the end of his tether, as another sweep of another planet showed no sign of his baby sister. "She could be dead!" He said in frustration. "And what are we doing?"
Zoe gave the doctor a wry look. "We're doing everything we can, Simon. River's taken down Reavers, she can take care of herself."
"I wish I could be as certain of that as you are!" Simon said, working himself further into a lather. "She's improved greatly since Miranda, but stealing a shuttle and going after the missing captain isn't what I'd call a wise move." This conversation had occurred several times in many variations since River had disappeared, five months after the captain had disappeared.
Apparently, for once, Jayne had something to change the usual script up a bit. "Mebbe she thought we'd slow her down." he offered. "Or maybe she thought she couldn't risk the rest of us. Crazy was right torn up about her part in Haven an' all that nastiness." He gave a shrug. "I could dead drop Meishan, see if she's heard of anything."
"I really doubt your terrorist girlfriend will be much help, Jayne." Inara remarked from the pilot's seat, a little tiredly.
"Hey! Don't talk on her like that!" Jayne complained.
Zoe gave Jayne a strange look. "As much as I love Meishan myself, Jayne, she's definitely a terrorist."
Jayne rolled his eyes. "Aw, hell, Zoe. I know that. I meant the bit about her being my girlfriend. We just have an arrangement is all."
Inara pursed her lips prettily, in an obvious attempt not to laugh. "Jayne, when was the last time you went to a brothel?"
Jayne started to answer, and then made a face. "That don't mean nothin, 'Nara."
Zoe clapped Jayne on the shoulder. "All right, we'll prepare something to dead drop, it can't hurt, and I think we all feel like we're flying blinder than normal." She felt more tired for the weight of command on her, but it wasn't like they had another option. Still, she paused before leaving the bridge completely. "And Jayne? You have a girlfriend."