Title: Almost Normal
Rating: PG -13
Synopsis: After Miranda, River is doing better and has returned to being the bratty sister she had been before she'd gone to the Academy.
Timeframe: Takes place a few months after the movie, Serenity.
Disclaimer: This story is not meant to infringe on the copyright of any person or company related to the trademarked characters and situations depicted in the Serenity movie or Firefly series. I make no money from this. OnIy done for fun - and a desperate craving to have more stories told about this wonderful 'verse Joss Whedon created.
For the first time since the deaths of Book and Wash, the crew of Serenity sat in the common room, laughing and joking, telling stories of those they had left behind.
Even Zoe broke a smile as Mal, drunk though he may have been, told most of the stories of how Zoe had hated Wash from the moment he'd set foot on board. That he slurred his words and tried to act all indignant when he talked about how Wash and Zoe had been married without his permission, only made the telling more amusing to the rest of the crew.
Wash's dino's lined the table, posed into different positions by an excited River who acted out some of their former owners more daring exploits. She was the only one not drinking. Overprotective big brother had put his foot down on her parade. She wasn't of legal age yet. She wasn't allowed to drink. But she'd gotten over her annoyance. She'd get Simon back – in her own amusing way.
Jayne guffawed and took another swig of – whatever it is they were drinking. He was far more intoxicated than anyone else but he didn't care and neither did anyone else. It was good and there was a lot of it. He even laughed right along with everyone else, much to Simon's clear annoyance, when the story of Canton was repeated for the benefit of those who had not been there to see the good doctor's first fumbled attempts at living the life of a criminal. Lucky his pretty fits had made him look the part of a wealthy buyer, 'cause his mouth coulda and shoulda, given them all away. Of course, when Jayne had begun his song, everyone winced and took many more sips of their alcohol to drown out the disturbing sound. River had been re-filling mugs all evening, Jayne's moreso than anyone else's.
Kaylee leaned heavily back against Simon's chest, taking another drink from her mug with two hands, not trusting herself. If she spilled it all over Simon's pretty clothes, there'd be hell to pay. But they were both drunk, unlikely that he'd remember it in the morning anyway. And – she had her ways of making him forget the bad things.
Mal sat on the floor, Inara perched like a delicate queen in the chair beside him. She was less inebriated and so was Mal, truth be told. He shot Inara a when did this happen glance at Simon and Kaylee as the young mechanic laughed at something River had done with the dino's and then leaned heavily against Simon.
Inara's eyes sparkled but she didn't answer. She'd known exactly when the younger couple had finally taken the next step toward being more than friends. Even if Kaylee hadn't come to talk to her about it, she'd have known by the excited look in the young mechanic's eyes, the subtle changes in how the couple interacted with one another. Inara knew Mal had been busy, burying himself in work while trying to get Serenity back into the air, but she doubted he'd missed the not so subtle clues in the change in Simon and Kaylee's relationship. Inara mused with a slight chuckle that the Captain just didn't want to see what was going on right before his eyes.
When some of Jayne's drink sloshed out of his mug and wet his shirt, Zoe stood, glancing down at him with a raised eyebrow. "On that note, I think its time I turned in, Sir. I don't want to be here when that," she glanced down at Jayne, chuckling into his mug, "comes back up."
Simon made a face and slurred, "that was an image I didn't need."
Kaylee lolled her head back onto his shoulder and kissed his neck, causing his booze addled mind forget all about that disgusting image.
"I ain't cleanin' up after 'em." Mal stared at Jayne, carefully avoiding the sight of the increasingly amorous Kaylee.
"Wa?" Jayne rolled his head, bloodshot eyes and all, toward Mal. "Jus' savin' some for later's all." He took another swig and a wide satisfied smile passed across his face. "Why is almost as good as sex."
Simon choked on his drink and rolled his eyes, not going to be the one to verbally disagree.
But Kaylee giggled madly, grabbed Simon's free arm and wrapped it tightly around her waist. "Not even close, Jayne!"
Jayne humpfed into his mug. "So says someone who's getting' it regular-like."
"Too regular," River muttered, her voice nearly inaudible.
"Yes," Zoe glanced around the room, holding back an amused smile. "Good time for bed."
River glanced up at her and gestured to the dinosaurs. "I'll take good care of them and put them back."
After Zoe had made her quick getaway, Kaylee stood, swaying dangerously over the big bottle of alcohol still left on the table. "I agree is time for bed!" She bent over, carefully concentrating on holding her mug between two unsteady hands, and deposited it onto the table without so much as a tiny spill. "See, I'm not drunk!" she exclaimed excitedly as she stared down at Simon, who appeared on the verge of reaching out to steady her. Instead, she grasped at his closest hand and tried to pull him to his feet. "An I needs some help."
Jayne laughed. "He ain't gonna be any help to ya t'night, lil Kaylee. Get him in bed, he'll be face down unconscious."
Simon stared at Jayne with an amused eyebrow and said, with remarkably few slurred words. "So says the man-ape who can't even manage to sit upright." Simon allowed Kaylee to pull him to his feet after he'd set his own mug onto the table.
"To bed then!" Kaylee squealed a little too excitedly. "Night River, Cap'n, 'Nara."
"Hey!" Jayne looked up from his mug, his head swaying. "Wa 'bout me?"
"Night Jayne," Simon said with a smirk and a wink which just made Jayne groan loudly and take another swig out of his nearly empty mug.
Kaylee dragged Simon off toward the passenger bunks, carefully, Inara noticed, avoiding Mal's stares. She reached down and patted his head, attempting not to be overly excited about the feel of his soft hair against her fingers.
"When'd they happen?" he finally asked after Simon and Kaylee had disappeared.
Inara laughed. "Seriously, Mal. You have a blind spot where those two are concerned."
"Two weeks, three days, ten hours, twenty-two minutes," River said, still amusing herself with Wash's dinosaurs.
Jayne stared cross-eyed at the girl and even Inara raised an amused eyebrow at River's apparent knowledge of all things concerning her brother's relationship with Kaylee. River simply smiled and re-filled Jayne's mug.
"Why, thank you. I wanted to know exactly when!" Mal shook his head before he tried to think back to exactly where they'd been at that time.
"You did ask," River said calmly, a hint of a smile on her lips.
"I didn't really need to know!"
"Yes you did."
"I agree," Inara added with a decidedly un-Companion-like giggle.
Mal stared at River. "Not surprised you know." He turned to Inara, swaying slightly. "And you knew?"
"Don't forget me," Jayne called from his place on the floor, where he was currently looking for a dino that River had purposely knocked off the table. It was right in front of his face, but as drunk as he was, kept reaching for the fifth one he saw, instead of the first. "Ah ha!" he crowed proudly when he grasped the dino and slammed it feet first onto the table. He turned to Mal. "How could ya not know those two been ruttin' like monkey's in –"
"Young, impressionable girl not even old enough to drink, sitting here," River droned, amusing herself by tossing another plastic toy off the table to see if Jayne would attempt to fetch it.
Mal detected a hint of bitterness in his lil' albatross' voice. He'd been there for Simon's declaration about River not being allowed to drink tonight. But the image Jayne's words had conjured in his mind was too much to ignore and he groaned in disgust. "Permanently seared that image into my brain, thank you, Jayne."
"Welcome." Jayne reached for the elusive triceratops and fell face first onto the floor.
River cocked her head and regarded him with amusement. "Took long enough."
"You're evil, River." Inara stood, her eyes dancing. "You've been working on getting him to pass out all evening."
"No." River stood and began gathering up all of the half-filled mugs. She placed them in precarious positions all over Jayne's body. She even included Wash's dinosaurs, one floating in a half-filled mug only its head visible over the rim, two right in front of Jayne's face, so he'd see them when he first opened his eyes. When she stood back to survey her work, she grinned at Inara. "This is evil."
Inara laughed, her delighted voice carrying through the ship.
After hearing the beautiful sound, Mal had to struggle to look annoyed. "I am not cleaning up the mess he makes when he wakes up and those spill all over him!"
"Zoe may never forgive you for tainting Wash's toys."
"Wash would have done the same. Am keeping his memory alive." River smiled down her creation then glanced toward the passenger bunks. "Now, for annoying brother."
Inara's eyes widened as River stalked off toward the passenger dorms. "Oh, River, I don't think that's a good –"
River turned around and stated matter-of-factly, "they're done. Sleeping now."
Mal choked as he pushed himself to his fee, torn between stopping the crazy girl and wanting to watch what she was going to do to her uptight brother.
Inara and Mal followed quietly, watching with great interest as River slid open the door Simon had forgotten to lock. They stood far enough out of the way, but could easily see into the room as River gathered every bit of their haphazardly discarded clothes and deposited them into Simon's suitcase.
Inara stifled a giggle as River then gathered ever piece of clothing Simon owned, including wash towels resting in a small cupboard under the sink, and stuffed them all into the suitcase.
Mal stared at his sleeping medic and mechanic, still confused, or denying, as to how he'd missed this rather large change in their relationship.
Inara's gaze shot back and forth between River and Mal and she smiled when she noticed him watching the sleeping couple with a look she would consider akin to envy. Simon's arms were wrapped protectively around Kaylee, and his face was buried in her neck. A loving embrace if she'd ever seen one.
Mal and Inara's attention was drawn to River when she stood over the bed, clearly contemplating how to remove the covers without waking them. They saw her frown and then turn away, bringing the suitcase outside with her. She set it down and slid the door shut, a devious smile on her lips.
"Won't tell me I can't do something next time," River whispered and proceeded to take the suitcase away where Simon wouldn't easily be able to locate it.
"Remind me never to get on her bad side," Mal said quietly as they stared after the determined girl.
Inara agreed as she moved to the bunk next to Simon's. At Mal's questioning look, she grinned. "I don't plan to miss any of the excitement tomorrow."
Mal glanced at Simon's door, down the hall that led to the common room, and at the bunk Inara had chosen to spend the night. "I do believe I agree." He moved to the other unused bunk and slid open the door. "Goodnight, Inara."
Inara's eyes twinkled as she stepped into the room, "Goodnight Mal."