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Brave New World

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Jayne Cobb weren’t right sure what to make of Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Truth to tell, he’d only known the man all of a half hour or less, but Jayne did have a habit of sizing people up fast and taking a quick first impression. He come off as dumb, the mercenary turned bodyguard was all aware of that, but reading folk, deciding what side of the line they sat on, that he did pretty gorram well. Reynolds wasn’t quite so straight-forward to figure.

Sure’n the moment he heard that Mal fought in the war, Jayne knew he and his new family would be safe aboard this here Firefly. Wasn’t part of the fighting himself, but he knew all about it, the Battle of Serenity for which this ship was named. Mal had been a soldier, his second too, he reckoned from the way she was, her steady walk, her manner, her calling the Captain ‘sir’. Yeah, they fought that war together and suffered more than some.

‘Course, as much as Jayne was sure these folks was more Browncoats than Purple bellies, he still weren’t all too comfortable ‘bout the way he was being looked at. Wasn’t like he didn’t understand why folks thought him and the Tams made a weird bunch, but that didn’t ought to matter to a person he was paying coin to for a ride out to the rim.

“Not listening,” murmured River from beneath Jayne’s arm then. “Rules are important to the Captain,” she added with a look he was more used to seeing on a mother’s face.

Jayne rolled his eyes at her being so snippy. Ain’t got a reason to be that way, but she did it all the same. He couldn’t blame her. She was looking for a place to be safe and the little woman figured such a place was here. He trusted her intuition for that stuff more than his own, which was something of a big deal for a man like Jayne Cobb. He’d got by on his own instincts for years enough. Lettin’ some other person take over from time to time didn’t come natural. Somehow though, caring for River, loving her even, that come just as easy as breathing in and out.

“So now we got all that covered, you folks can go about your business, get yourselves settled in.” Mal almost smiled, though somehow it didn’t seem to come out right.

Simon noticed and frowned a little. He and Jayne were putting all their trust in this ship and its crew on a feeling his sister was getting. It hardly seemed sensible on the surface, and yet, the young doctor had no better way to judge right now. River did seem to have a good sense for danger and even betrayal since her time at the Academy. For all the damage done to her, that heightened sense was at least a useful silver lining in their situation.

The smile on his mei mei’s face gave Simon hope. If she could find even a moment’s happiness amongst the craziness of their current circumstances then he was glad of it. There was no telling how long it might last before the next wave of panic, danger, and horror came their way.

“He seems... reasonable,” said Simon after the Captain had walked away, leaving his four passengers behind.

“Yes, indeed,” agreed the Shepherd stood across the galley from him. “Just perhaps not a people person.” He smiled.

“She thinks he’ll be a good Daddy,” River said softly, turning further into Jayne’s embrace, even as he laughed at her words.

The Shepherd, whose name Simon recalled as Book, looked understandably confused.

“It’s, er... it’s an expression,” the young doctor lied badly, running a hand back through his hair. “We should really go and get settled into our rooms,” he added quickly, ushering his sister and her bodyguard-turned-lover out into the hallway.

Book watched them go, still frowning some. Those three were an odd bunch and no mistake. From what he had been told at their introduction, the younger man and the girl were brother and sister. Though the other man appeared to be easily old enough to have fathered the both, he was in fact River’s romantic partner. Of course, all manner of people made attachments, even married, far outside their usual or expected age range, outside their own class too. What really had Book puzzled was not so much the distinct opposites between River and Jayne, but moreover that Simon was here with them. He could hardly be considered chaperone or protector against such a bulk of a man as his sister’s lover, and must surely approve the union, but then, why be here?

A man such as Book knew it was not his place to judge. After all, he had his reasons for being out here in the black, on a ship bound for the middle of nowhere. He would hardly be willing to share his life’s story too easily, and therefore would not dream of questioning his fellow passengers for their own tale. Perhaps it was best if he kept himself to himself and afforded them the same courtesy.

Down the hall those self same folks were getting themselves acquainted with their new living quarters. Simon was unpacking his meagre possessions in one room, whilst across the hall, Jayne did the same. River was stood by the door peering out, when suddenly she spoke.

“Doesn’t like us,” she said softly, catching her lover’s attention.

“Who, the captain?” he checked, “Doesn’t matter none to me if’n he don’t.”

“No.” River shook her head, turning into the room to face him. “Man of God. Thinks we are strange, not to be trusted.”

Jayne weren’t altogether sure what to make of that. Seemed to him Shepherd Book weren’t gonna cause no trouble for ‘em, whether he approved of their being here or not. Preachers and such weren’t supposed to judge, and yet Jayne had often found some did so more than any other folks ever dared to. Maybe it didn’t sit right with the fella that he and River was sexin’ when they wasn’t wed nor nothin’. Maybe it was just that he was old enough to be her Daddy. Jayne weren’t much fussed about either thing, truth be known.

“Well, could be we all ain’t around here long, anyhow,” he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed and gesturing for River to come on over and join him.

“She doesn’t care.” His little woman sighed, gladly putting herself in his lap. “River, Jayne, and Simon. Everyone accounted for, present and correct.” She smiled. “Home is where we all are.”

“Got that right.” Her lover nodded once, glad enough to kiss her now her big brother was out of the way.

This trip got a might more complicated when River’s precious guh-guh decided to come along for the ride. Jayne didn’t mind the boy so much, but he was gonna be a gorram problem he didn’t learn to act like a normal person, ‘stead of the prissy piece of nothin’ he’d been back on Osiris. This here was the real world and he was gonna have to get tough or die. Jayne couldn’t always be watching his back as well as River’s and his own. ‘Course Simon was a ways away from Jayne’s mind right now as his little woman kissed away any worries he was having.

“There a lock on that door you was playing with before?” he asked her with a dirty grin.

River’s laughter carried all the way down the corridor, even after she got the door closed and secured. Jayne made her so happy, so safe, but he didn’t see as she did that their future was bound here. Jayne-man had not been amenable when she tried to make him see their own destiny together before he was well-prepared for it, she recalled. Besides, telling him would spoil the surprise, so River kept her silence for now. There was other fun to be had behind closed doors.

“You don’t think it a might strange?” asked Zoe as she followed Mal towards the bridge.

These new folks just didn’t sit right with her, or at least their situation didn’t. They were cagey at best about how they came to be out here in the black like this, a couple that hardly appeared suited, and the girl's nervous looking brother. Weren’t exactly normal.

“I surely do,” the Captain agreed with his second in her assessment. “But ain’t my place to question why folks live as they do,” he said, shrugging it off as no big deal. “They pay their coin, they take their trip. No harm, no foul to me.”

They had reached the bridge by now. Wash had just got done plugging in the co-ordinates to the nav computer to take them over to Whitefall. He didn’t exactly agree with the Captain’s plan when it came to dealing with Patience, the woman who shot him last time. Still, wasn’t a pilot’s place to argue, just to take the crew where they needed to go, along the route least likely to allow them to see any other living being, and then on to Beaumont to drop off all the fun and wacky passengers.

Wash turned around from his consoles when he heard his wife’s voice reply to Mal.

“Still find ‘em strange.” She shook her head. “The big guy’s crass and dumb as a back-birth, but the other two? They’re almost as fanciful as the folks Inara deals with.”

“Ooh, did we get a two for one on the passengers?” asked Wash with over-done child-like glee. “A fare for us and clients for our resident Ambassador all rolled into one?” he checked, making a rolling motion with his hands.

Mal looked sideways at him with his patented Captainy glare.
“That’s not how it works here,” he told the pilot what he was all aware he already knew. “Doesn’t matter to me if those folks are inbred sheep farmers nor the Royal family of all Londinium,” he told Zoe then. “Fact is they’re paying a fare and we’re taking them far, far away from Persephone. That’s all I care about.”

“Could I maybe add one other thing to the caring list?” asked Wash then, his eyes fixed on the console that flashed and buzzed too suddenly. “You might wanna give Kaylee a yell,” he said with just a hint of panic in his voice. “Something is not right here.”