Title: Yes, They Have the Money
Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss.
A/N: Much thanks to my lovely beta noandwhere for putting a filter on my dyslexic brain-pan and getting me to write this.
(Words like this are when Chinese is being used.)
Malcolm Reynolds didn't feel refreshed after his night's rest. It had been a light sleep of no real substance, that on several occasions had been interrupted by a terrible din coming from the engine-room. He'd had a mind to go look, but had heard Kaylee leave her quarters to go see to it. Her ears were more attune to it than even his own, like a mother to its mewling infant.
Mal went toward the dining room, led by a gnawing in his stomach. It was going to have to be last night's left over dumplings, food stock was dwindling and it wasn't getting replenished. Money was a boon that couldn't be frittered away, he fuelled the ship before his own belly.
Inara was sitting at the table, thoughtfully drinking coffee instead of her usual tea, the time was earlier than he reckoned to see her up and about. She still looked her usual presentable way, never did seem to find too many homely Companions.
"There's coffee if you'd like," she told him. He moved toward the scent of fresh coffee and pored himself a mug full before her words took, his eyes narrowed to thought.
"You're up awful early, didn't think this was your time. Hadn't it been mentioned to you these are uncivilised hours?" Mal sat at the table, putting his drink down.
"Aren't all your hours uncivilised?"
"Whereby yours are at a pricey rate. Money the way it is, I'm thinking of going on the game my own self, there's a corner in the market I think I can cater to."
"I'd advice you to stick to thievery." He gave her a tight-lipped grin. "I actually wanted to talk to you."
"I knew you were angling towards something, glad to know my senses aren't off."
"It's not an elaborate scheme." Inara said. Mal was the most defensive person she'd ever met, he could rapidly turn from jovial to impertinent.
"Fine, say your piece," he said calmly, putting her off guard, muddling her. She wondered why she'd decided to leave the ship, maybe she had been too rash about it. She knew that she had to leave, because she didn't want to, but one day she'd have to. It was best to be done with it quickly.
"I've--. I'm telling the crew that I have decided to leave." She was worried about how the crew would take the news, Mal had wanted her to get it out in the open for a long time now.
"So you made your mind up on where you're wanting to be off to."
"Yes, I've been offered a position at a Companion Training House on one of the far Border Moons. I've agreed to take it." She spoken to Sheydra the night before on the cortex; the situation wasn't ideal but it seemed the wisest place for her to be.
"Out of the way some, not got the fuel or the money for fuel to get there, gonna have to fence up some jobs to do it. If all goes well it might still be a month before I can get you there."
"Will you be screening for a new tenant?"
"That's set to go fine with River and Simon aboard, might be a bit difficult to keep them out of sight. And I don't think Doc and little sis will take to kindly to being hid in the hold, from prying eyes or not."
"Mal I'm sorry--."
"If that's all, I got my ship to see to." Mal said cutting her off, apparently he had decided that was the end of their conversation.
"I won't detain you any further." Inara couldn't say that things had gone well, but considering some of their past disagreements that had been tame. She wondered if she'd have the same luck with the rest of the crew.
Kaylee couldn't believe Inara had decided to leave. She called a meeting with the whole crew, Kaylee'd thought of the oddness of it at the time, Mal not being there. Everyone had been troubled at the news, even Jayne, the whole boat was weighted with a sadness about it.
She suspected Mal had something to do with Inara's announcement.
"Kaylee, you got word on what was making the clanking sound in the engine, kept me up half the night?" Mal said striding in, bad mood about him, no fun to be had.
"I got to fixing the problem, a piece come loose, soldering got worn down." Mal waited for her to continue.
"Oh, I fixed it, before it could carve out any real damage." Kaylee patted the engine.
"Not that she couldn't do with some real sprucing up." It be nice if Kaylee could get a new grav boot, it would help when someone was trying to chase them down. "I'm gonna have to replace some parts soon and the entry coupling needs some overseeing, might not hold together much longer, maybe a week, best."
"You do what you can, got no money for frippery or otherwise. See what you can scratch out for no money." He didn't seem to see the danger of letting the ship drop to pieces. He made as to leave and Kaylee struggled not to bring up the matter of Inara. Kaylee's daddy had told her long ago she never could keep her mouth shut, even when it been the best thing to do. He'd been right.
"I can't believe you ain't fighting for her to stay." Kaylee said trying not to let her voice shake.
He scratched the back of his neck, looked about himself for a speedy exit. He tried to side step her but she had him trapped.
"Kaylee," He warned, his face set grim. "Inara's made it crystal she's her own woman and as my own man I ain't begging her to stay on my boat. And you ever think now's the time she'd best be off."
"Cap'n me all you want, it don't get tired. And as your captain I'm more than telling you to mind you're own business. I'm also implying that if you don't follow my direct orders there's plenty of others who'll keep us in the sky." She didn't believe Mal but it gave her pause enough that he slipped past her.
"But she's family." Kaylee shouted speeding up, to catch him on his way to the bridge.
"You could say something." Kaylee used a pleading tone on Mal as they came up on the bridge.
Wash looked up from his dinosaurs, imagined pre-historic carnage forgotten. He decided to listen to them, it was not a private conversation by the volume of it. Mal had run out of space to go, so stopped by Wash's seat.
"I can't tell her what to do."
"Sure you can," Wash said. Mal was not at all pleased, he glared at Wash to make him understand that fact. "You tell people what to do all the time, it's what you do." It was the best way he knew to stick up for Kaylee, spare her a tongue lashing from Mal.
"You're against it's, are no good and your lying ain't shiny," Kaylee told Mal. "Threatening to turf me off the boat, never believed it, not a jot."
"All right, Kaylee, I'm gonna say it, and best be quiet if you don't want it said again, might not throw you off but there's an enigmatic doctor and a governmentally trained and tortured girl who has a proficiency in out smarting crazy, philosophical waxing bounty hunters; those types I might throw off. Probably come a day I will but you might push it to the forefront of my mind and that day will be today. " Mal meant it enough, that it got Kaylee to quiet down.
"See, telling people what to do."
"You brought your issues in here, I thought I'd be a third party; subjective mocking is what I do, it was on my CV, next to shadow puppets."
"Shadow puppets?" Kaylee asked crinkling her brow.
"Yeah it was--."
"I don't need an account on your colourful past." Mal said and turned back to Kaylee. "And I don't need you trying to fix things up with me and Inara, she's leaving and that's how it's set." Mal left muttering under his breath. "All kinds of flappy mouthed idlers inhabiting my boat."
"So the number one rule to shadow puppets, is never leave a candle unattended, not even for a moment." He shook his head. "I lost a whole cast that way, some of the finest puppets ever made... hard times." Kaylee smiled.
It was the first time Mal had been travelling away from Shadow. When he left, his mother had wept for the first and last time he was aware of. She had understood his reasons, that going off to fight in the war was something he had a design on doing.
He'd learnt that travel suited him, everything except the food; he missed the allotted meal times, the spices and herbs of his home. The stale and bland taste of ships food was something he couldn't get accustomed to, a flavour he associated with the Alliance's vision of all worlds a' spinning being as uniform as possible.
The last few months of traipsing across space, planet to planet, he found it pleasing getting acquainted with whatever locals he bumped into. He liked picking out the local traditions; all had their own tailored legend of earth that was, he got to eye the lay of new landscapes, mountains that scraped the skies, trees that bowed to deep flowing rivers. If he had any say so, the Alliance wouldn't rob the spice from any souls across the 'verse.
Mal was coming to the end of his travels. He'd miss it, the hum of the engine turbines and the blanket of night and stars. He'd had his fancy to ships as a boy, got conversing with many that lived their lives aboard flighty vessels. They used to drop herds of beef or take them at a haggled down price from his mother's ranch. Well, Alliance had put a boot to the business, got 'tween buyer and seller so to make a cut on it and squandered the use of her land.
He sat in the hold with many folk, a common area where folks in the lower class mingled. He sat talking with Ulrich James, who'd trained to be a Shepherd, beholden to his brother's widow and three children gave loss to that path, married her himself. He'd give prayer to all in want, didn't sway any off whatever denomination they were.
He spoke of his family with such love it blew Mal away, he was disposed to melancholy because of it but he was going to send money back to them; place he came from sky was smogged up and land was all at ill. He likes to hear Mal talk of Shadow.
"After we win this war I'm gonna get my wife and kids the life they should have and my folks and hers."
"Prosperous are those sat plotting, not those out fighting."
"I can get enough saved to do as I'd like, give the weight of my soul to see them grow on a nice ranch."
"I plan on that life eventual too, got that to fight on." Mal nodded.
"I hear Shadow's place to do it, like to call you neighbour one day." Mal shook his hand. He said goodnight to Mal, he'd had an early start, only boarding that morning but Mal already felt he'd earned a friend out of him.
"Night." He moved off towards his quarter, Mal stopped him with a grin.
"Take this, it'll warm you." Mal put his cross round Ulrich's neck. He thanked Mal on his kindness.
"It's nothing, if you can't share the Lord, what can you?"
Wash had called Mal onto the bridge. He'd not expected the call to be from Ulrich.
"It's light work enough." Ulrich explained to Mal. "Pay's not too bad either."
Mal had not seen him since the war; Ulrich hadn't fought on Serenity Valley with him and Zoe, last he'd seen Ulrich in combat was on Du-Kang. He'd never expected to see him again, he'd never got news as to what happened to him. But he turned into an honest smuggler like most of the Independents finished up being, difficult for any ex-Independent to get a real job.
"What's the cargo?" Mal asked.
"Ident cards, forged ones." Plenty a core world wouldn't let you step foot on land with out one, those born on the rim had no way of getting one.
"Wouldn't be a job if it were legit."
"Pick up's on Greenleaf, is what puts it at a difficulty; they got tight security, not to mention there's a warrant to my name and my ships flagged. Need them quick. Sound like something you'd be interested in." Ulrich said.
"It's work enough."
"I'll take it as a yes," Ulrich smiled awkwardly. "I'll be sending you the details through."
The screen went to static, and he waited for Zoe or Wash to chime in.
"I don't like this." Zoe said, anger simmering, under the surface of her cool features.
"What honey? You didn't hear the part with the financial recompense? Or did I just imagine that all those zeros weren't attached to a minus signs, owed to burly men who give ears as change?" Mal felt his ear twitch but he ignored what else Wash said. Zoe was going to go against him on this but he had to make plain that this plan was what they'd be going toward.
"I ain't got call or wealth to be picking on who I'm to deal with. If you haven't noticed we tend not to deal with scrupulous folk and we ain't exactly ones to throw names about."
"I'm just saying he's a bastard, better off dead."
"This another army story?" Wash said, but was left unanswered. "Wacky army buddies, never get enough of those."
"We should have killed him, what he did." He understood where Zoe was coming from but he didn't have the luxury of his very own soap box. He wasn't about to tell Zoe he was the one that let him live, the one that stepped in when trouble started. She wouldn't understand, he couldn't make her because he had no clue himself.