Title: An Understanding

Warnings: An occasional instance of Mal's mouth

Disclaimer: Firefly does not belong to me... But I'd take it, y'know, if you wanted to give it to me...

Notes: This is my first Firefly fic. It isn't much, just a little thing I thought up. I hope you enjoy it!

If there was one thing Malcolm Reynolds had gotten good at, it was lying.

Lying to the clients, lying to the feds- didn't much matter, so long as he got away clean.

The only ones he wouldn't lie to were his crew.

Which was why, when they questioned his decision to keep Simon and River Tam, he simply dodged the subject.

Wasn't too hard a thing to do. The only one who put up a fight about it was Jayne, and Mal could shut him down with an insult and a reminder of who was boss.

That left him with himself to lie to, and he had plenty of practice there. He was already damn near convinced that he didn't know why he'd let them stay. That girl wasn't right, after all, and that gorram doc was probably only a step from falling off the crazy cliff, too.

Fact was, they were a danger to the crew.

Mal knew he couldn't have that... Just needed to silence that nagging feeling of sympathy he got whenever he looked at them.

So he lied again. Claimed not to understand River one bit. Trouble was, she still understood him- too well for his liking.

"Got broken," she'd said one morning. "Broken into pieces. Couldn't find them all. Couldn't put them all back."

The others figured she was rambling about herself again, but Mal had looked her square in the eye, and she'd stared right back. Because he was broken, and so was she, and they'd both been patched back together- pieces of what they used to be.

He'd made some cutting remark, and told the doc to take her away. They'd exchanged sharp words, then, as he recalled.

Do your gorram job, boy... Keep your crazy sister quiet...

Truth was, Mal couldn't say he didn't respect Simon. He could call him weak, and snively, and damn stupid for a genius. But he couldn't deny the boy had been brave.

Mal didn't understand science, and medicine, and slicing into peoples' brains, but he understood caring enough about a thing to give up everything else to keep it. He knew that folks were supposed to protect what they loved.

That was how he treated his crew. He'd do anything to protect them- they all knew that.

But he kept the Tams aboard anyhow.

So, when it came time for him to quit lying, he supposed that meant they were part of his crew, too.

And he'd protect them.