Title: PROSPERO

Author: Michmak

Characters: Jayne, Mal, Zoe, Simon, River
Pairings: Jayne/River
Disclaimers: Don't own 'a one 'a them. Dagnabbit.

Summary: "If there's a big statue of you here any where on this gorram planet, I'd kinda like to know about it 'afore hand," the Captain states.

A/N: Haven't been able to post this, as was not letting me for some unknown reason. What this means is that is now behind so, in order to catch up, I am posting a two-parter. Wheee! Hope you all like it.

Remember, this is number twenty-five and the next part is number twenty-six. All the rest of the stories can be found here (click my name and it will pull them all up) but to make it easier, you can also find them (linked) at my LJ writwritewrote.

This follows Skin.

Reviews are like Godiva chocolate. The more I get, the more I want. LOL.


Prospero

"Prospero?" Mal looks like he's tryin' ta remember somethin'. "Did you say Prospero?"

Badger smirks, "I surely did, and never a bigger dust-bowl of a planet has ever existed. But the job's a good one, mate, and the cut is larger than normal and everything is legal. It's yours, if you want it."

"Why do I got a funny feeling about this?" the Captain mutters.

Behind him, Zoe shrugs. "You saying we shouldn't take it, Sir?"

"Got plenty of other people who will, if you're not interested," Badger states smugly. "I'm doing you a favor by offering it to you and your crew first."

"Which is why I got a funny feeling about it," Mal grunts. After a few moments silence, he sighs. "We'll take it, 'cause we need the work – but you better not be forgetting to tell me something."

"Mal! Have I ever lied to you?"

"Have you ever not, is the better question," Mal retorts as he slides ta his feet. He rolls his eyes when the smaller man pretends ta be wounded by that before turnin' ta look at his first in command. "We ever been to Prospero before, Zoe?"

"Don't believe we have, Sir."

"Then why does it sound so gorram familiar?"

Jayne, standin' a little behind Zoe ta the left, just keeps his mouth shut. He ain't sayin' a word.

0-0-0-0-0

River is tryin' ta wash Junior when the get back ta the ship. The cats infernal yowlin' is echoin' strangely around the cargo hold.

"You trying to kill that thing?" Mal snaps at her, as he, Jayne and Simon start loadin' their most recent acquistions. Zoe had stayed in town ta purchase some much needed items.

"Junior needs to look good for family," the girl states calmly. "Tongue-baths are not conducive to proper grooming."

"I can think 'a some situations tongue-baths are very…" Jayne begins, before his brain catches up with his mouth. "Sorry, won't finish that thought."

"Thank you, god," Doc says, sincerely.

"That's right civilized of you, Jayne," the Captain smirks. "Seems our little albatross is teaching you some manners."

The large Merc winces when Junior screetches again. "Damn Crazy-girl," he mutters. "Ain't no one done tol' you before cats and water don' mix? Even I know that and I ain't the gorram genius."

"You're the gorram genius who gave her the cat," Mal interjects, scowlin' at him. "Listen, little albatross, I don't think whatever you're doing is gonna work. You know the minute you're done, Junior will just get dirty again – can't be helped, on this boat. 'Sides, you don't need to prettify her for us – we already know she's a furball."

River keeps tryin' ta bathe the cat anyway. After a while, the three men get back ta stackin' boxes, their grunts and occasional curses embellished by the angry protests 'a Junior.

0-0-0-0-0

"Look at those arms 'a yours, little butterfly," Jayne grunts. He's holdin' her wrists in his hand and inspectin' all the little scratches marrin' her skin. "I think you should get your brother ta make sure these ain't gonna get infected."

"Juniors needles are clean," River retorts. "Serves me right, anyway. Like Jayne-bird says, 'cats and water don' mix'."

Jayne just looks at her, as if he don't believe what he just heard. "Whadidja just say?"

"Cats and water don' mix?"

"No, 'afore that."

"Juniors needles are clean?"

"No, after that."

"Serves her right, anyway?"

"Oh. That's what I thought ya said," he sighs. "Go ask Doc ta bandage up those bigger scratches, will ya?"

"Jayne-bird could kiss them better?" It's a question more than a statement. His little Crazy-girl leans inta him, all hopeful-like.

Jayne smirks and brings her wrists ta his mouth, kissin' on the inside 'a each before findin' each scratch and ministerin' ta them as well. "There, Crazy-girl. No more bathin' Junior. And I still wantcha ta get Doc ta look at these."

0-0-0-0-0

"What?" Everyone is lookin' at Jayne like he's sprouted two-heads. The big man hunches over uncomfortably and pulls the collar 'a his jacket a little tighter around his neck.

"There something you ain't told us, Jayne?" Mal enquires dryly.

"Uhhh…no. Why?"

"'Cause the last time we seen you so dressed up, we was on Canton," Kaylee answers for him.

"If there's a big statue of you here any where on this gorram planet, I'd kinda like to know about it 'afore hand," the Captain states, before turnin' ta look at Zoe. "I'm feeling the need for extra ammunition."

0-0-0-0-0

"This place is the worst gorram planet we've ever been on," the Captain mutters, chokin' on the grit that's bein' picked up by the unholy wind, whippin' around them and hittin' them like little shards 'a glass. The wind is so strong, it's almost blowin' them over and the dirt in the air is so thick if'n you didn't know it was the middle 'a the day you'd swear it was midnight.

"Badger told us the place was a dust-bowl, Sir." Zoe's voice barely carries over the sound 'a the wind.

"How do people live in this?" Mal gripes.

"If'n you pulled somethin' over your mouth, and protected your eyes some it wouldn't be so bad," Jayne growls, fightin' his way ta the Captain's side. He reaches inta one 'a the pockets on his cargo pants and pulls out two bandanas, handin' one ta Mal before makin' his way ta Zoe. He can feel the Captain eyein' him suspiciously.

"And how would you know that?"

Jayne shrugs and doesn't say anythin'. Zoe takes the bandana gratefully and ties it over her face. "You reckon that's the place, Sir?" She is pointin' ta the vague outline of a little shack about ten feet ta the left.

"It better be," Mal replies, "'cause I ain't moving another step. 'Sides, how the hell am I supposed to know where I am when I can't even see where I'm going?" After a couple 'a minutes he adds, "Think Kaylee will be able to fix the Mule?"

"Think we'll even be able ta find the Mule?" Jayne mutters. "It's darker than a witches cunt out here."

"Nice," the Captain snaps. "You kiss our little albatross with that mouth?"

"Do more'n kiss her," the big Merc replies testily.

"Not the way Simon tells it, ya don't."

"That little hun dan! Remind me ta have a talk with him when we get back, huh?"

"I think it's sweet, Jayne," Zoe remarks stoically. "And, if you last another few months, you could probably become a Shepherd."

"That's not even somethin' ta joke about," Jayne snorts. "Wo de ma, when did ya get so mean, Zoe?"

They are at the door 'a the shack now and Mal is poundin' on it. The wind is gettin' worse and Jayne feels like someone has taken some extra gritty sandpaper and rubbed him down with it. He's almost relieved when the door opens and he steps inside.

The shack is dark, like he knew it would be. The man who has opened the door for them is dressed in a ratty leather duster which covers most 'a his body, with a thin cotton scarf and large goggles coverin' his head. He's very short. "You Reynolds?" he demands, yellin' against the wind.

"Last time I checked," the Captain responds. "You Pichonet?"

"Nah, he's down in the tunnels," the little man replies. "Broke his leg a few days ago and ain't maneuverin' too good. Name's McAllistar – Mac, for short. C'mon." Mac steps back ta let the three 'a them enter. They are standin' on a wooden floor and through the slats a dim light appears ta be shinin'. When the door slams shut behind Jayne, the little man indicates the rope pulley ta his side.

"Hang on," he says. "The lever system is out, so we're doing this all by hand right now. The 'vator can get a little jerky." He looks at Jayne and grins, "You're a big 'un, son. Think you can give me a hand with this?" He releases the ropes and hands one ta Jayne. "Just brace yourself and don't let 'er slide too fast, or we'll have a mighty unpleasant run ta the bottom."

"The bottom?" The Captain is not happy. "The bottom of where?"

Mac doesn't respond right away, instead he starts workin' the pulley. It lurches ta the side a bit and he glares at Jayne until they're leveled out. Hand over hand, they sink down, past walls 'a gray rock. Mal has his coat pulled open and slightly ta the side, hand restin' just a mite too casually on his gun.

The further down they slide, the brighter the light gets through the slats 'a the elevator floor, until the lift is suddenly free 'a the rock walls and lowerin' through an open cavern. Mal and Zoe look around, stunned.

There are several people watchin' them as they descend the last twenty or so feet, includin' several children. They are all filthy. Most 'a them are starin' at the three strangers in the 'vator with suspicion.

A man with a large make-shift cast on his leg is waitin' for them when they stop. He's not much larger than Mac is – maybe a few inches over five feet.

"Where's our stuff?" he demands, before the 'vator gate is even open.

"On our Mule," Mal replies shortly. "Blew out the engine drive in all that dirt. Boxes were too heavy to lift, so we left 'em. Conjured we could get some men to help us retrieve them later."

"If they ain't buried in the sand. Gorram idjut, din't no one tell ya about the dirt? Ya cain't fly a Mule around like this is some pleasure cruise and you're goin' on a Sunday drive with the Missus." The man pauses for a minute, before frownin' at Mal. "I don't suppose ya knowed enough ta keep the thrusters on your ship blowin' in reverse, ta keep the sand outta the inner workin's? 'Cause if'n ya din't, you're gonna be in trouble when ya try ta leave."

"I'm gonna kill Badger the next time I see him," the Captain scowls angrily, turnin' ta Zoe. "Remind me to kill him slowly."

Pichonet laughs at that. "He'll probably be long dead 'afore ya get off this rock. If you're engines are fried, ain't nothin' here ya can fix 'em with. All the parts and stuff we need ta get our own ships and mules up and workin' was in them boxes. Probably under five feet of sand by now, I reckon."

The man turns his gaze ta rest on Zoe, before it drifts on over ta Jayne, who is leanin' miserably against the side railin' 'a the lift. The big Merc can feel Pichonet lookin' at him, studyin' him intently. He swears he can feel the moment everythin' clicks inta place for the man.

"Jayne Cobb?" Pichonet exclaims. Mal and Zoe look at him with surprise. "That you, boy? My, oh my, won't you're Ma be some glad ta see ya."