Thanks to sf fan for planting the idea and freeyourmind and skripka2 at TwoP getting me to write this. Slight spoilers from Heart of Gold, unaired episode.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I don't own any of this. The glory that is Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy do. If I did, it would still be on under an iron-clad, 5 year contract with syndication rights and not on "hiatus". Pfffft. Hiatus! What kind off crap is that anyway?!

The crew of Serenity stumbles across some very odd information about them on the Cortex.

The Power of the Pen

Everyone is gathered around the table in the mess. In the center of the table is a large stack of papers, at least an inch and a half thick. Mal sits at the head of the table, agitated but very confused, papers spread out in from him. To his left is Zoë, looking placid yet radiating irritation. She quickly balls up a paper and aims for the wastebasket, getting the shot as Wash sits next her, stroking her arm in an attempt calm her down. Despite this, he has a slight, cocky grin on his face as he peruses his papers, every so often folding one up and stuffing it in his pockets. Simon is next to him, red faced, eyes glazed over, staring into space, muttering to himself, clearly not listening to the others as his fingers nervously tap his stack of papers.  Kaylee, next Simon, is obviously amused at what she's reading, trying to hold in her laughter. Across from Kaylee sits River, reading something off the Cortex using a little hand-held Palm Pilot like device. It's one of her calmer days, helped along by her meds, so she's acting relatively normal, grinning bemusedly. Inara sits reading, next to River, arching an eyebrow every so often, face calm yet radiating irritation which River can feel even without using her intuition. Book is next to Inara, with a confused, slightly stony expression, reading over his papers while Jayne, in between Book and Mal, nonchalantly cleans one of his guns, parts of the weapon laid out on the papers, a wicked grin on his face.

Mal: So you're telling me…that…they were…just…there? For everyone…to…see…

Simon: (muttering) How…how…did they…know?…

River: I told you this already, cap'n! I printed them out to show you. I'm not crazy…

Jayne: Sure, not today. But what about tomorrow?

Mal: (giving Jayne a look that could freeze ice. Jayne quickly drops his head, focusing on cleaning his gun, though he's still smirking. Mal sighs at River). I know ya did hon…but…I mean…just anyone can…read these…?

River: (nodding vigorously) apparently.

Mal: But a lotta of 'em are so…dirty…

Wash: (holding up his page, pointing to highlighted "NC-17" text) That's why they come with ratings.

Jayne: Makes finding the better ones to read a hell of a lot easier.

Book: Keeps them out of the hands of impressionable children.

Wash: (to Jayne) Whoah! You're literate? Ladies and gents, miracles do happen!

Jayne: Little Man, I'm cleaning a gun here…

Zoë: Back off.

Wash: (laughing) it's okay lamby-toes. Everybody knows we get it on. Heck, I know it and that's all that matters (kisses Zoë on the cheek).

Jayne: Yeah but apparently no one wants to read about it, see? Or hear about it for that matter.

Wash: (tucking another folded up paper into his pocket) Their loss.

Zoë: How come everyone else gets to all sorts of crazy stuff?! In the bathtub, in the shower, on the table, on the couch, in the pilot's chair, on the catwalks, on the workout bench, with the chocolate, ropes, silk ties, handcuffs, blindfolds, feather dusters, rulers, hot wax, fruit, leather ties, honey, ice…

Wash: (producing a pen from out of nowhere and writing quickly) Go on…

Jayne: Heh. Sounds nice 'n messy. All dirty like…

Simon: (muttering) I mean…silk?! Silk?! I can get more inventive than that!

Kaylee: Don't forget to make me a copy that Wash, will ya?

Wash: Done…now hon, you stopped at 'blindfold'…

Zoë: We're married! We've got constant options! (Looking at Mal) And I certainly wouldn't do it with you, sir.

Mal: Point taken.

Zoë: I mean, lao-shen ne hu dah! (everyone looks at her, shocked at her language) What?! See, I have emotions folks! I'm not stone faced all the time! I don't go around randomly kicking people's pee-goos for fun!

Everyone: You don't?

Simon: (still muttering) Maybe…it was the…running…I can't help it if I run like a girl! Arm flailing is hard to control!

Zoë: Unless they deserve it (everyone's still staring at her. She shrugs). I can't help it if it looks random…

Everyone: You can't?

Zoë: Okay, all of you are dangerously close to an ass-kicking!

Wash: (smiling slyly) Oh she does do that…real well in fact…

Jayne: (drawling suggestively) Well she can kick my pee-goo anytime she feels necessary…

Wash: That's my wife you're talking about!

Jayne: Don't change a thing…

Zoë: Also don't change me killing you…

Kaylee: See?! See?! She just threatened you! Like she does here in this one during the showdown between Trusan's team and Zoë, Jayne and the Cap'n!

Mal: Who in ha-me da is Trusan?

Simon: …I'm…a doctor! I…save lives! I…perform well under pressure! That's…manly!

Kaylee: It's the guy who threatens to kill you all until Jayne takes him out (Jayne smiles with satisfaction as she continues reading down the page quickly). And that…makes you scared…so you go crying…

Mal: I do not cry!

Kaylee:…to…Inara…but you find her dead…in her shuttle…because Trusan killed her before you knew…

Inara: That's the 30th time I've been killed! I most certainly am not some cold hearted bitch! This is my job! It requires training!

Mal: What in the name of the 'verse are you talking about Kaylee?!

Kaylee:...so you come to me…and we have…all of the sex…

Mal: Oh. My. God…

Kaylee:…apparently you didn't bother to bury Inara…before that…(wrinkles her nose in slight disgust) wouldn't that get to smelling after a while? I mean dead bodies just laying 'round? (Looks at Mal appraisingly and giggles) And I mean cap'n, you're a good looking sorta guy, and the pants ain't hurting, but I wouldn't sleep you now. You're like a brother to me now.

Inara: I do not treat you like go-su all the time Mal!

Book: No you don't Inara. You are one of the kindest people I know. Ignore them.

Jayne: Damn near hottest too 'Nara…

Inara: (ignoring them both) Do I treat you like that, Mal?!

Mal: (clearly uncomfortable) No.

Inara: Then why am I always killed off, huh?! Why do I get shot in a gunfight, or die of some mysterious disease, or get killed by a crazed client, or have the Alliance blow up my shuttle, or have you 'accidentally' shoot me? Why do I always have to leave and disappear?!

Mal: No idea…

Inara: And then, when we finally get it on, you freak out!

Mal:  Look, I'm sorry darlin'. You know I lo…

Inara: Sex does not lead to death!

Mal: Well, there was that Nandi thing…

Inara:  I have feelings too!

Jayne: And you're hot. Hot people don't die.

Inara: Jesus. Who are these people?!

River: Mysterious. They control all. With pens. And papers. And word processors.

Book: Word processors? Didn't those die out about 400 years ago? How can this be in the Cortex?

Simon: …I mean…so what I'm pale and pretty! It's not my fault I have good genes!…

River: (shrugging at Book) Don't look at me. Break in the space-time continuum?

Book: Impossible!

River: Not really. (brings out a pen and begins writing complex equations) See, if this plane of their existence were to collide into our line of existence…

Book: (holding up hands in resignation) Forget I even asked.

River: (pouting) Hmph. (stops to read more off the Cortex). Oh…my…that's just…he's my brother for god sakes! (violently tosses the Cortex computer away, startling everyone to silence).

Kaylee: River? Honey?…Everything fine? (cautiously takes computer from middle of table and begins reading) Oh…my…just…wow…

Jayne: (looking down at the weapon he's cleaning) Would you control her, doc?! (looks up Simon when he gets no response, noticing the doctor is muttering to himself and then looks around) What's his deal?

Simon: Like I would…sleep with…that ape. Nothing but a…walking venereal disease!

Kaylee: (tossing the computer away to the middle of the table) She's not crazy. (River smiles at her in response) It's just that…well that one…has her with…Simon.

Everyone: WHAT?!

Kaylee: (nodding) I know…wrong…

Jayne: On so many levels! Jesus…

River: (clawing at herself frantically) Need...shower…must…get…clean…(looks pointedly at Jayne) And no, I am not crazy…

Jayne: Ain't crazy right now girl. Hell, I need a shower after that.

River: See? Even the big one feels dirty. That's just filthy.

Book: These people just need…guidance…

Jayne: They need more 'n that!

Mal: (reading. Looks up at Jayne, then across to Simon, then back at Jayne). Huh. Anything you two wanna tell me about?

Jayne: (nervously) What, cap'n?

Simon:…

Mal: Well…apparently y'all have been sleepin' around behind my back and surreptitiously stealing glances at my ass…that is, when you're not sleeping with me.

(Jayne arches an eyebrow, amused as Simon sputters)

Jayne: I always said that boy had a pretty mouth…

Mal: (staring off into space) Knows how to use it too…

Jayne: Nice skin too. I think he moisturizes…

Mal: No, no, no. It's a special soap…

Simon: Okay, okay! I admit it! I AM BI! AND PROUD OF IT!

Everyone: (nonplussed) We know.

Mal: You're always babbling about Kaylee

Jayne: Those shiny-ass shoes 'o yours…

Mal: Vest, man. Vests. V-E-S-T-S!

Jayne: It's gorram obvious if ya ask me…

Simon: I mean…Kaylee…beautiful…beautiful girl…

Kaylee: Honey I knew ya liked it both ways. I ain't blind you know. Ain't nothin' wrong with that. In fact, back when I was home, there was this girl…what was her name…Adrianne? Adrianna? Anyways, she was great…(seeing Book giving her a look) but apparently, we ain't got time for this right now. Go on cap'n.

Jayne: (staring at Kaylee, disappointed) Whadaya mean we ain't got time?! We're just sittin' here!

Mal: Jayne…

Simon: (out loud) Maybe it…was the…vests…I knew I shouldn't have coordinated them with the pants! (starts hitting his head with his hand repeatedly) Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!…

Kaylee: (grabbing Simon's hand) Honey, no! It's okay. They're advantages to both of 'em. Ya see, men are all muscle, all strong and warm 'n such, nice arms, and they smell good. Women are different and all, softer, with nice skin, soft lips…

Mal: I'm not hearing this right now!

Jayne: Hell, I am! Now ya were on the lips Kaylee…

Mal: Jayne! I'll be sendin' you to your bunk if ya don't quit…

Jayne: (in the process of standing) With pleasure…

Zoë: (firmly) Sit, Jayne. (Jayne sits, giving a Kaylee a lewd wink)

Kaylee: (She winks back, giggling at the joke) Apparently, you 'n me are the ship sluts, Jayne.

Jayne: Ain't nothing wrong with that.

Kaylee: Let's see…I've been with everyone on the ship 'cept Book…

Book: Vows!

Kaylee: And Zoë and Wash…

Zoë: Married…

Wash: To the Stony Ass-Kicker…(Zoë smacks him on the back of the head but smiles).

Jayne: So how many notches I got on my bedpost?

Kaylee: (perusing the papers). Same. Everyone but Book…

Book: Vows!

Kaylee: And Zoë and Wash.

Jayne: Gorram! (winking at Zoë) Sorry to pass ya up, Zoë…

Zoë: Don't make me kick your ass…

Wash: Randomly and stonily…(he ducks out of the path of Zoë's hand to plant a kiss on her cheek, making her smile)

Jayne: Even with her? (pointing at River)

River: Yes, (giving him a wink) even with a crazy girl like me. I'm a lot of things (gives him a purposeful once over), but I'm not blind.

Jayne: Well, well, well, wouldja look at that? (winks at River) Seems like good looks run in the family…

Mal: Jayne…hurt her and you're out the air…

Simon: I'll kill yo…

Jayne: I'm a lotta things' Mal, but I don't go around doin' that. I don't need to take nothin' of that sort.

Book: (clearing throat) Well, this was…interesting. It's getting late, so I have to be off…goodnight. (leaves)

Wash: Me and the ass-kicking missus have to try out some these tips…I mean go to our bunk…(drags up Zoë and leaves. Wash talking as he walks away) Would you happen to have any chocolate hon? Or rope…hey I'll bet Jayne has some rope!…

Simon: I need to go to bed…

Kaylee: (jumping up) so do I…

Jayne: (eying them) so do I…(Kaylee gives Jayne a significant look. As she brushes past him, he grins at her) He's yours…for tonight (she gives him a warm smile, squeezes his arm, and walks out).

Inara: Well…I'll be in my shuttle…

Mal: Have you paid the rent yet?…'cause I think I'll have…to see your shuttle…rent…and…stuff (they walk out leaving River and Jayne sitting at the table, silent)

River: So…?

Jayne: What, girl?

River: I'm pretty, huh?

Jayne: Your ears must be failing you 'cause I didn't say no such thing girl. But…I ain't…blind…

She stands up, dress rustling, and gracefully walks over to where Jayne's sitting, stopping so that she's standing in between his legs. Studying his face, she lightly places a hand on his forearm and then closes her eyes. Too startled at her action to move, he sits there, entranced. Finally, he grabs her wrist lightly so he doesn't break anything, surprising himself with the somewhat gentle grasp he has on her.

Jayne: (gruffly) Don't you go reading my mind. Don't need anybody in there but me, dong-ma?

River: (wiggles her way out of Jayne's grasp with surprising deftness. Staring at him for a bit, she then leans over and brushes her lips on his forehead, across one cheek, and then the other. Placing a finger lightly on his lips, she smirks as Jayne stares at her, too shocked to do anything) You don't kiss on the mouth. But…you still think I'm pretty…Jayne…

Turning around on one foot, she makes her way silently out of the galley, whistling a random tune. Jayne looks after her, still shocked for a few moments until an easy grin comes to his face. Getting up and shutting off the lights, he makes his way out of the mess whistling the same tune, smiling all the way to his bunk.