Disclaimer ; Not mine. Just playing. Don't sue. Joss is Boss.
Canon, post BDM, so spoilers. Chapter 1 Amended and Extended.
In the man's own words - " Sex. Muscles. Humour. Thuggery." Some people like the new Han Solo, some people like the wookiee...
1. Another Girl, Another Planet
Set down in Eavesdown Docks, again, near enough a year since Mal got himself in a swordfight there. And in similar fashion to that occasion, Badger had seen fit to 'invite' Mal and Jayne to discuss a little business. This consisted of the cocky little pissant informing Mal that he had already sent a cargo and its owner to Serenity with the assurance that Mal would provide transport out to a dirt-ass little moon he'd never heard of. Having folk wished in upon him by Badger not being at all to Mal's liking, particularly in view of their more recent history, he and Jayne were striding back to the ship.
"Last job we had off that hun dan went bad, Cap'n."
"An' we left him sitting in the desert for it. Shoulda killed him, an' we didn't, so he owes us. Said as much - this deal's an apology."
"Paying us back got more'n one meaning, Mal. I don't trust the little turd."
"No more do I. I ain't traipsing one of Badger's chou cronies across the quadrant just to deliver crates of bent engine parts or whatever gorram deal he's got going this time. Even his favours have a bad stench."
"I remember the smell of them cows. Took me weeks to get the crap off my boots."
By the time they get back to Serenity, Mal is hot, dusty and has a full mad on. There's a deal of crates already carried up the gangway. Their owner turns and offers him a hand before he can really get shouting.
"Captain Reynolds? Pleased to meet you. I'm Ilargia Donovan."
Accent rather like Badger's, only classier. Small, clean woman, maybe Mal's age. Long overcoat, wide brimmed hat, neat little boots. Not at all what he is expecting, and he's shaking hands before his mind catches up with him.
Jayne barrels up behind him.
"So, we throwing this gorram pest off...woah."
Catches sight of her. She catches sight of him. Looks him up and down, then surprisingly, she grins.
"I'm sure you could throw me quite a long way, but that would be unkind." Tilts a glance at Mal. "Do I take it we have a problem doing business, Captain?"
"Don't like being surprised, is all."
"No more do I. Paid for my passage in good faith." Amused look is beginning to fade into something more steely.
Kaylee holds up a roll of bills. That always makes Mal feel more kindly disposed.
"I think we can talk terms."
"I assumed you had talked terms with Mr Badger. Transport of myself and cargo to Hecate, on payment of the given sum. Do you want to check my manifest?"
Jayne snorts. She gives him a cool glance, and his coarse grin fades. Mal takes the paperwork. Amusing as it might be to throw her off, and watch her go tear Badger a new one for it, which he don't doubt that she would do, business is business. And since Miranda, business ain't been too plentiful.
"Seems to be in order. Kaylee, would you escort Ms Donovan to a cabin?"
"Oh, sure, Captain."
Ilargia tips the brim of her hat with two fingers, walks up the stair after Kaylee. Jayne scowls after her.
"Since when do we run a shuttle service for stroppy little harpies?"
"Since they pay us good money to do so." Mal looks at the list again, eyebrows rising. "Seems we're transporting soft toilet paper and soap."
Response to that would need more than soap to make it clean.
Zoe pulls the skiff into the hold. She's been supply shopping. Eyes the crates; Jayne is lashing them into place, and cussing in a sullen mumble.
"We got a cargo, Captain?"
"We got a cargo, courtesy of Badger."
"Hmm." Looks at the boxes. Sniffs. "Smells better than some of them. Physically speaking. What's the hitch?"
"Wait'll you meet the owner." Jayne tightens the cargo webbing viciously.
"Just mad because she's not scared of you." River leans over the rail. Mal looks up at her.
"You stay clear until we know if she's trouble."
"Not to me." Grin. "Doesn't know me from a bar of soap."
"She?" Zoe raises her other eyebrow.
"Oh, she's real nice." Kaylee's rooting in the boxes for the kitchen supplies.
"Looks like a gorram Sunday School teacher." Everyone looks at Jayne. "What?"
"Concept of you and Sunday School." Simon shakes his head, takes the box from Kaylee. Mal ignores them.
"She's odd company for Badger, right enough. But we got paid in advance, so we got other places to be. You all got your jobs. Let's get gone."
Ilargia likes the feel of this ship. She's ridden a few scows in her time, and a few craft somewhat higher up the line, but this place feels solid. Feels like a home. Young woman - Kaylee - who showed her to the cabin, is so obviously proud of it. Despite the age of it, no grind from the engines, and their sky-jockey doesn't try to drive them through the deck plates on take-off.
Cabin is small, but clean, and the bed is comfy. She's taken her hat and coat off, and is sliding off her boots, when Mal knocks at the door.
"Came to see you had all you needed." When he's not scowling, Captain's got a pleasant face. "Crew will be taking a meal in a while, you'd care to join us?"
"Well, thank you. Actually, I was planning on an early night." She smiles, though. "Usual drill on board? Cabin and communal areas only, and hand in my weapons?" Smile becomes an outright grin at his expression. "I don't care for guns myself. And I don't aim to be a bother."
"I'm sure you don't." How in the 'verse did this woman end up doing business with Badger? Unless Mal misses a guess, that's not a Rim accent. Still, River doesn't feel a threat from her. "You done a bit of ship travel, then?"
"A fair amount. Mostly mid-bulk transporters in the way of business. Shipped out with a Captain Tanaka last year. Nice man, shame about his pilot."
"I always thought Petchko was a decent sort."
"I always pay my passage cash only, Captain."
Takes him a moment to realise, and then he's shocked.
"Gorramit, there's none of that on this ship."
"So Mr Badger assured me. He spoke well of you."
Now that don't quite ring true. Unless there's something else playing out here. Wishes Inara were here to tell him if she was gulling him. (Wishes Inara were here, full stop, 'stead of flitting about teaching other women how to break a man's heart and spirit.)
"Well, I'll wish you a good night, Ms Donovan. Maybe I'll see you at breakfast."
"Good night to you, Captain." Now, that man does have a truly charming smile. So Mr Badger was right. Despite the initial impression, Captain Reynolds is a gentleman.
Other one doesn't look like one, though. Not one (large, muscular) bit.