Title: Fresh Out Of The Package (Hot Bunk: The Captain's Remix)
Author: M. Scott Eiland
Rating: T, for language and themes.
Title of Remixed Story: "Hot Bunk."
Original Author: Hossgal.
Summary: Mal notices something about the new guy and decides to take advantage of it.
Time Frame: Just following the first meeting between Jayne, Mal, and Zoe as portrayed in "Out of Gas." (possible spoilers for all of that episode)
Disclaimer: These folks belong to Joss too≈I've just never played with them before.
My thanks to Hossgal for providing a lovely story for me to remix.
FRESH OUT OF THE PACKAGE
Mal watched as his new tracker and hired gun applied his weight to the dorm hatch, overcoming its resistance. He grimaced as the lights flickered a couple of seconds after Jayne went down the ladder, and he turned quickly, smacking the wall unit as he called out: "Still a few--" (SMACK) "--bugs in the system. But not to worry. I'll get our engineer up and she'll set it to rights." To his relief, the lights came on and stayed on as he finished speaking.
Jayne did not reply, and Mal took a moment to look down at Jayne from an angle that would be difficult to spot him from below. The mercenary seemed to be carefully studying his new quarters≈his eyes fell on the single bunk frame resting against the forward wall and stayed there for a long moment≈but it was a glance at the rear wall that had Mal ducking back quickly as Jayne looked up at the hatch and called out, "Hey!"
Mal thought about making him wait a moment, but decided against it≈in any event he was curious as to what had attracted the mercenary's attention. He leaned through the hatch and replied noncommittally, "Yes?"
Jayne gestured at the back wall, clearly indicating the markings that made it clear that the room had once held two bunks, and asked in a mildly anxious tone: "All this is mine, right? I ain't got to share this with anyone≈that was the deal, like you said."
Mal allowed his amusement at the question to briefly and intermittently reach his expression. Interesting development≈now let's set this up right. He nodded, the amusement still flickering across his face, and replied, "Yeah, that was the deal. What's the matter≈something not to your liking?" He let his features drop into a mask of cold menace and continued in a tone that was equally icy as his hand drifted slowly in the direction of his sidearm: "'Cause we can always renegotiate."
Mal gave Jayne points for nerve--Mal had position on him and could easily shoot him down where he stood-- but the big man only sounded mildly nervous as he moved carefully away from the ladder and called out, "Just hold up, no need to start changing things already. I was just looking around." He started pacing off the room, getting its dimensions and studying its features.
Mal watched for a few moments, noting the surprised expression on the mercenary's face and the thoughtful set of his jaw as he bent over slightly≈apparently measuring the area where the bunk would be. He was about to call down when he heard a familiar step behind him. He turned and headed back to where Zoe was waiting with a grim expression. He nodded to her and asked, "Everything ready for departure?"
"Wash says she's ready to fly. Bester says. . .well, a lot of things that amount to saying she's ready to fly." Mal snorted≈the choice of Bester as their mechanic had not been a felicitous one, but they were stuck with him for the foreseeable future. Zoe nodded, then inclined her head at the open hatchway and added simply, "I don't trust him, sir."
Mal chuckled. "Zoe, he was holding a gun on us waiting for an excuse to kill us three hours ago. If you did trust him I'd be inclined to boot you off this ship at next planetfall." Zoe quirked a very slight smile at him to acknowledge the point, and Mal added, "You know, the last time you felt the need to tell me you didn't feel right about someone joining this crew, he ended up in your bed not long after. . .maybe I should warn Wash--" Zoe's expression didn't change an iota, but Mal saw an indefinable something flicker in her eyes, and he decided that even ironclad loyalty had its limits and smoothly changed gears: "--or not. I was just watching him look at his quarters≈he's acting like a kid with a new toy: he can't believe it's all his."
"Folks who hire mercenaries aren't exactly inclined to pay extra to give them comfort they didn't contract to be having." Zoe looked over at the hatch herself, and her tone was contemplative as she continued, "That dorm probably looks like a palace to him≈but he turned on his last boss when we offered him a better deal. He might do the same thing tomorrow if someone offers him enough."
"He might at that," Mal allowed, frowning as he considered the situation. "Man's used to going from job to job. . .no loyalty, no home. If that's all he really wanted, a bigger room wouldn't have him all bothered. If we could give him--" Mal paused, then looked towards a nearby stack of crates that contained supplies that they had picked up only hours before Jayne's former employers had captured them. He popped open a crate and pulled out a bundle. Zoe's eyes widened in recognition and she was opening her mouth to ask a question when Mal put a finger to his mouth in a shushing motion and walked over to the hatch, dropping the bundle down the opening.
A startled grunt came from below, and Mal looked down to see that Jayne had apparently been about to climb the ladder when the bundle struck him. He assumed an apologetic expression and called down, "Oh, sorry about that≈didn't see you standing there."
Jayne looked annoyed, but he sounded perplexed: "I wasn't." He gestured at the bundle and asked, "What's this?"
Mal looked at him with an expression that suggested that Jayne had just asked him to explain how to use a doorknob. "Bedpad, for the bunk."
Jayne looked down at the bedpad, and his expression twisted with confusion tinged with frustration: "This is brand new≈you think I'm made of money? I can't afford this≈you ain't even paid me yet."
Mal turned back to Zoe and smirked briefly before turning back and replying in a hard voice: "Bedpad comes with the bunk. With the linens, too. Got no cleaning staff≈you'll need to take care of that yourself along with your laundry. We're not running a hospital ship here, but I expect my crew to keep things tidy≈and washed." Zoe called from behind him, and he turned to acknowledge her. "All right, tell them I'm on my way. Jayne -" He turned back and saw Jayne look up from studying the faded store tag on the bed pad in response to his comment. Mal smiled inwardly and concluded, "You just take your time, get settled in. We'll be stopping to re-supply in a day or two, you can get anything you're missing then. Holler if you need anything." Mal held Jayne's gaze long enough to see the mercenary nod in acknowledgment before he withdrew from the hatch and walked back to Zoe.
They walked back to the cargo hold in silence, with Mal silently indicating that questions should wait every time that Zoe began to open her mouth. When they reached their destination Zoe turned and burst out, "You bought that bedpad for yourself≈the one you have is falling apart."
"Mmhm≈had it for five years now. It's seen better days." Mal replied quietly, leaning back against a bulkhead. "But I can survive until next planetfall before I get another new one≈we ended up doing well this trip. I'll get better use out of that bedpad giving it to Jayne than I would have using it for the next few days."
"So why not just tell him that you're giving him your bedpad if you're trying to sweeten the pot?" Zoe asked, leaning back against a stack of crates as she frowned in mild confusion. "He thinks that everyone here gets this treatment now."
Mal nodded. "Exactly." Zoe blinked, and Mal elaborated, "I don't want him thinking we're soft, or that things are going to be easy≈ we're not soft, and he's going to learn that things won't be easy right quick if things go like they have been. I want him thinking that this is an operation where he can count on us being straight with him. . .and maybe he'll think twice if someone makes him an offer better than the one we made him today."
"That's a lot to expect from a bedpad and some straight talk, sir." Zoe sounded skeptical.
Mal nodded absently, his mind already going to the final list of preparations needed before next planetfall. His eyes turned to the hallway they had just left, and in the direction of the man who was busily moving into his new home, and he turned back to his second in command and shrugged.
"It's a start."
As always, comments are welcomed and desired.