Chapter 8: Equilibrium

See Chapter 1 for disclaimers, etc.

Author's Note: Yeah... remember how I warned you guys updates were going to be slow? Still holds true. I apologize again, though!

Kaylee wasn't quite as worried about Jayne and River as the others seemed to be. Jayne could take care of himself, and River could handle a fight just fine, so she figured they'd just gone off somewhere so's Jayne could get drunk, hit people, and then maybe the two of them could tumble some and feel better.

The crew were putting the last section of hull in place, and Kaylee was in the cockpit checking the wiring, when Simon wandered in, still fretting. "It's morning. They didn't come back to the boarding-house or the ship. What if they've been kidnapped?"

"They ain't been kidnapped," Kaylee said soothingly, still wedged in under the console.

"How do you know?"

"'cause I've been checking the news-waves and ain't a word been said about explosions or massacres or skiff-chases or nothin'." She nudged his leg gently with her foot. "Just a big brawl in a bar last night in which every single person in the building got either knocked out or hurt real bad. So I'm thinkin' they went out for a quiet drink an' a little scuffle and some alone-time."

"A quiet drink and a little scuffle?" Simon said weakly.

"Sure. Jayne always does it when he's in a mood, and he sure was in a bad one this time. I hope he didn't kill nobody." Kaylee sighed. "I don't get why he doesn't like us sayin' nothin' nice, though. He's not near as bad as he liked to pretend he is. Why, even 'fore you and River showed up and everything got different, he was always lookin' out for me. He'd tease me a lot, 'specially if there was a nice-lookin' fellow around..." She grinned and poked Simon with her toe. "But it weren't nothin' any of my own brothers wouldn'ta said, when they're bein' jerks. And he run a couple guys off when they got too pushy, and he never even told the Cap'n."

Simon crouched down beside her, resting a hand on her leg. "Having had my mind wrenched open forcibly in the last eight months, I think Jayne grew up in a society as narrow as I did," he said quietly. "Good, God-fearing folk... did you see their faces when Mal let slip that Inara had been a Companion? I'm not saying that they're not good people, just... limited. And I know from experience that it's hard to leave a place like that without carrying some part of it with you, whether you want to or not."

Kaylee nodded. "Some folk can't see past their own noses, an' that's a fact." She'd known people like that back home, kind in their way but far too set on their own definitions of 'right' and 'wrong'. "Jayne's a lot like my Uncle Ben, I ever tell you that? Big an' ornery, heavy drinker, but he told the best stories. Used to growl like a bear when he had a hangover, too, but he was fun."

"You never told me that. Actually, you've never talked about your family, except for your Daddy." Simon was smiling, she could hear it in his voice. "If you're sure Jayne and River are all right - "

"I told you, Jayne just likes to go out and get in a good fight when he's in a mood. They'll be back as soon as they've had breakfast and a good - "


"You're such a prude."

"She's my sister." Simon prodded her hip with a fingertip. "Stop it. Anyway, if you're sure they're all right, maybe you could tell me a little about your family."

"Really?" She hunched around so she could look out, but she still couldn't see his face. "Ain't nothin' real interesting about 'em."

Simon sat down crosslegged, his knee bumping hers companionably. "Well, you know all about mine. I'd like to know something about yours."

"Well... sure." Kaylee found herself grinning real big. "I've told you some about my Daddy, he's a mechanic like me. My Uncle Ben was the oldest, he got the family farm..."

"It's good to be home," Wash said, leaning back wearily. "Oh, hello, bed. I missed you."

Before the fight started, Flynn and David Cobb had helped Zoe move the old bunk out of the guest quarters and attach the bigger bed that she and Wash had saved for when they first got married. There wasn't much room left in the cabin when the work was done, but it was their bed. She and Wash both needed it.

Now Wash lay back on it, giving her a weary smile. "Come here, wife."

She lay down beside him, on his good side, resting her head on his shoulder. "I missed you," she whispered.

"Oh, I missed you too." He kissed her temple, his arm going around her. "I just don't sleep well without you."

"I don't hardly sleep at all, when you're not around," Zoe admitted. She propped herself up, looking down at him. "How are you doing, husband? No jokes, this time."

Wash sighed, the lines on his face that his smiles usually hid a little deeper now. "I'll survive," he said quietly. "The leg I can live without. The memories... well, they'll be waking me up in a cold sweat for a while, but I'll have my warrior woman to chase them away." He touched her cheek, smiling up at her. "I feel... it's completely irrational, but I feel as if the worst is over. We did it. We survived."

"And we're going to be parents just as soon as we can," Zoe added, watching to see how he reacted to that.

Wash nodded. "I'm a lot less worried about that now. I mean, even if something did happen to us... well, Simon's got the potential to be a great mother."

Zoe snickered. "He does, don't he? Got the routine right down."

"Yeah. And if it wasn't him, it'd be Kaylee or Inara. River'd help, and Jayne would protect the kid from... well, everything." Wash shrugged, tucking his arm in under her and pulling her close. "We have a family, here. That's what worried me, before... what if I wasn't there? But if I'm not, then I know someone else will be. So we can risk it now. Does that make sense?"

"Yeah, it makes sense." Zoe leaned in to kiss him, then grinned suddenly. "I notice you didn't mention Mal in there."

"Mal doesn't like children. They scare him. If we die, I want Simon and Kaylee to look after it." Wash was giving her an impish look she hadn't seen since before Miranda. "I admire and respect Mal, Zoe, he's like a brother-in-law to me, but can you honestly see him changing a diaper? Or engaging in play-and-learn activities?"

Zoe laughed. "I... can't, no. Okay, you have a point about Simon and Kaylee. They're like to handle a baby way better than Mal."

"Exactly." Wash rubbed his hand gently up and down her back. "So, you gonna tell him about the kid?"

"I was planning to wait until it was an established fact." Zoe shook her head. "You know him. He'll just fret himself over the ifs and maybes if I tell him before it's settled. If I present him with something solid then he can have his fuss and get over it."

"Well, you're the expert." Wash nodded. "So... what've I missed?"

"Well, Jayne had a mighty big blow-up with his folks last night..."

"I just don't like eating cat. It feels like cannibalism." River averted her eyes from the stall they were passing. "I will not eat something that reads minds."

"Cats read minds?" Jayne sounded interested.

"Everyone knows that." River gnawed on the skewer that Jayne had bought for her breakfast. He'd said it was goat. River had never eaten goat before, but she had decided that she liked it. "Was the road-metaphor too obvious?"

"Nah - you were right, I understand things better if I see 'em all laid out solid." Jayne settled his arm around her shoulders and squeezed gently. "It helped, seein' how I pulled you up insteada down."

River nodded. He was easier, inside himself, than he had been in a long time. Lingering guilts had been purged instead of merely stifled. "Who'd protect the good folk from the bad, weren't for us in the middle?" she said, in a passable imitation of his own accent. "There's worse places we could be."

He laughed. "Yeah, guess there is at that." Then they reached the scrapyard, and the gate leading to Serenity's berth, and found Mattie leaning against it. Jayne's smile faded. "Hey," he said quietly, rippling uncertainly under her fingers.

Mattie smiled crookedly, one side higher than the other. "Well, you sure did raise a fuss, big brother."

"Guess I did." Jayne shifted uncomfortably. "Was true, what I said."

Mattie nodded. "For what little the invalid's opinion is worth," he said, bitterness lacing his tone like tea leaching into water, "you weren't wrong. They're set in their ways, our family. You're the wayward son who belongs back home, and I'm the burden God sent them to bear, and never these things will change." He straightened up, and River could see weariness dragging him down like weights hung from his shoulders. "I'd have gone too, if I could."

"Ain't that they don't care," Jayne said, telling himself as much as Mattie. "They do, they always have."

"That's what makes it so hard," Mattie agreed. "They love us and they want what they think is best, and if you tell them that ain't what you want then you feel ten kinds of low an' ungrateful." He shrugged, eyes flicking to River. "I think you did all right."

Jayne looked down at River, his anxious spikes softening. "Yeah, figure I did at that."

Mattie nodded. "Kaylee says you're a genius," he said to River. "Got any notion as to how I could escape this family that loves us so much and understands us not one bit?"

River cocked her head. "Lacking brawn, you must use brain," she said cheerfully. "You would make an excellent criminal mastermind."

Jayne twitched beside her and Mattie looked startled. "An excellent what?"

"Criminal mastermind. Planner of crime." River grinned. "Simon is good at it too."

"Crime?" Mattie's eyebrows were right up when he looked back at Jayne. "What happened to 'honest smuggler'?"

"Well, black-market medicines an' the like don't steal themselves," Jayne said, turning pink and silver inside with mingled embarrassment and pride. "But you gotta plan things right. Ain't no hand to it myself, and Mal's plans mostwise go straight to hell, but Simon an' Zoe are pretty good, and River's got potential."

"Criminal mastermind, huh?" Mattie still looked surprised, but intrigued as well.

"First must find trustworthy seconds," River said firmly. "Who will not turn on you and steal the take. Lou has potential in this area, as does Teague."

"River, Lou is thirteen and Teague is eleven. A mite young, ain't they? Not to mention what Sora would say if she found out I was leadin' her boy into a life of crime." Mattie looked nervous just thinking about it.

"I'm seventeen, and I can do it. A few years of practice at intrigue will help." Lou, the lost brother Tigh's only child, was as shrewd as her Uncle Jayne. No strategist, but an excellent tactician. Teague was as thick as a brick, but good-hearted, loyal, and already significantly bigger than River. He would make an excellent protector for the fragile Mattie, when he was older. "Family bonds strengthen loyalty. You will need your back watched."

Mattie shook his head, smiling his lopsided smile again. "Damned if I ain't actually considering it," he said quietly. "Something new to think on, anyway. Days get long, for me."

Jayne was a little horrified and a lot amused. "River, ain't I a bad enough influence without you tryin' to lead my baby brother into a life of wrongful crime as well?"

River shrugged. "He asked me."

"I did, at that." Mattie nodded. "They'll be showing up in a while, to say goodbyes and such. I should get back so's I can be hauled along properly feeble-like."

Jayne nodded, and offered his hand to his youngest brother. "Things are like to be a mite awkward then," he said seriously, as they shook hands. "F'r what it's worth, I'm glad we got a chance to get to know each other some. You write me now'n then, okay? Let me know how the criminal mastermind thing goes."

"I will." Mattie was more hopeful than he had been in a long time, River knew. If Jayne could escape and find his own niche in the wider 'verse, maybe Mattie could too.

If it got unbearable, Jayne would come and get him. Mattie was the only one of his family who understood him, and it mattered. But Jayne knew Mattie would rather escape himself than be a helpless invalid in need of rescue. So Jayne just nodded, clapping Mattie's shoulder gently and going through the gate.

River lingered for a minute. "One more thing..."


"Being a successful criminal mastermind is very appealing to girls," River told him, wanting to be encouraging. "Especially if he is a chivalrous one. Romantic, you see."

Mattie went brilliant red. "I... uh... thanks," he mumbled, and turned away. Hope had flared suddenly inside him, and he was embarrassed that she had known he needed it.

River let him go. She and Jayne had done their best... Mattie would have to find his own way from here. But sex and freedom would hopefully be adequate motivation.

The goodbyes were as awkward as Jayne had expected. He didn't even attempt to remember the names of all his nieces and nephews, although he gave Lou and Teague a quick look-over and liked what he saw. The two of them, with Mattie's brains behind them, could be a force to be reckoned with in a few years.

He hugged his ma, trying not to let her tears bother him. "I'll write," he promised.

"And you take care of yourself," she said, sniffing slightly. "You're always welcome, if'n you want to come home."

"I know." Maybe if he lived to get real old, the narrow streets and small sky wouldn't itch him no more. "I'll be fine. River watches out for me." Bess made a face, and Jayne grinned. "David had it comin', Ma, you know he did. Just you be glad I got a tough little zhan shi watching my back."

"David usually does have it comin'." Cailey butted in to get her share of the hugging, which he provided willingly. The others were hanging back some, still unsettled by knowing what Jayne had done with his mysterious life. "I'm glad you found someone, da ge. And if she's as wild an' trouble-makin' as you are, I guess that's to the good." She smiled at him, not understanding but glad that he was happy. "Write to me sometimes."

"I will." Reluctantly, Jayne moved on to Flynn, who was stone-faced and looking none too pleased with his oldest son. "I'm sorry I blew up at you," Jayne said, sticking to the thing he could honestly apologize for. "Just... it's been a rough few weeks. Had to face up to a lot of bad, mine and other folks'."

Flynn nodded, unbending enough to rest a hand on his son's shoulder for a moment. "Man's temper can get short, times like that. No excuse, but we understand." He nodded. "Don't rightly understand why anyone would choose the life you have, but you're our son. Always will be."

Jayne nodded. "You ever need me, write. Mal'll get me here if it's important," he said quietly.

"We will." Flynn nodded. "You take care."

There were a few more noises in that vein, and then they were up the ramp and it was closing behind them. A Bu Jing Chuan would take them to upper atmosphere, the scrapyard being too small for Serenity to take off from without causing damage, and then... home. The Black. Freedom.

"Glad that's over," Jayne said, feeling tension leak out of him when the ship jolted as the whale-chaser clamped on.

"Glad we're clear and ready to fly again." Mal nodded, seeming to relax more than a little himself. "Albatross, you come with me. Wash says you can fly my girl, and I believe him, but I'd still like to be there first time you try it."

"Fourth time," River said sweetly.

Mal did a damn funny double-take. "Fourth?"

Wash, lying propped up on the couch Simon had rigged for him with crates and cushions, looked guilty. "I let her take the helm a few times. Only when we were right out in the Black and it wouldn't do any harm, on her really good days."

"Don't fuss, Ba ba," River said, standing on tiptoe to kiss Mal's cheek. "Our home is well again. Be glad."

"You are the most aggravating minx a daddy ever had to put up with," Mal said, but he smiled at her. "Come on. Show me how good you can do it."

They headed up the stairs towards the cockpit. Zoe sat beside Wash, pulling a worn little book out of her pocket and offering it to him. Simon went for the infirmary, and Kaylee for the engine-room. Jayne went over to his weights, figuring to settle what was left of his itchy mood with a few sets, but when he sat down he found that Inara had drifted over to him. "Jayne, may I speak to you?"

"Sure, I guess." Jayne glanced over at Zoe and Wash. Wash was reading from the book in a low murmur. Jayne couldn't hear the words, but from the way Zoe was smiling it was something entertaining. They weren't listening, any road. "What about?"

"What I said, earlier. About you showing respect." She smiled at him. "You don't take compliments well."

Jayne shrugged. "Ain't no big deal."

"It is to me. Mal... as fond as I am of him, he's a little parochial. When he calls me a whore, he means it the way your family would. And did, when he told them after you left."

Jayne winced. "Mal never could keep his mouth shut."

"I don't imagine he'll be starting at this late date." Inara shook her head, making a cute rueful face. "Jayne... of everyone on this ship, only two have ever called me a whore. Mal, and you. Mal... it was a term of contempt, from him, and it bothered me. From you, it never did."

Jayne shrugged. "Figured it was 'cause you knew better'n to expect any manner of pretty talk from the likes of me."

"No." Inara shook her head. "It's because you think it's just a job. Despite being raised with nothing but contempt for women who do what I do - or did, before I retired - you've never treated me as if being a Companion... or a whore... made me less worthy of respect. It... matters."

Jayne looked away, but he nodded. "Yeah, it does." He of all people knew that. He'd had precious little respect in his life, 'cept what he'd beaten or frightened out of folk, and when he got it, it meant something. He'd walk through fire for Kaylee on that account, or Book... and he wouldn't be nearly as moon-brained over his River if she didn't think so well of him. "We all gotta make our way in the world. Don't see as I can look down on anyone else's trade, doing what I do. Bible has a whole lot more to say on killin' than it does on whorin', seems to me."

"You're right, it does." She reached out, putting a cool hand on his wrist for a moment. "I just wanted to thank you. For being better than you were taught to be, at least in this one thing."

He nodded, feeling embarrassed but not sick inside the way he had last night. River had said that he had good spots as well as bad. Sentimental, she'd called it. "Mal's an idiot."

Inara smiled. "He is. A charming idiot, but still an idiot. Ask River to sing you the song she made up about him."

Jayne grinned and started setting up his weights, humming 'The Captain Has His Head Up His Pigu' under his breath. He wasn't much at holding a tune, but Inara must have recognized it, because she was laughing as she strolled away.

Kaylee had cooked, and there'd been enough money for them to stock up on real food, so dinner was good that night. And it was the better for being eaten at their own table, with none but crew there.

Wash ate with them, propped up carefully at the end of the table. He was pale and he'd lost weight, but he ate hearty and seemed in good spirits. Mal watched him careful, and he thought Wash was doing pretty well. It'd take time, but there was worse things than losing a limb.

Mal waited until almost everyone had finished eating before he leaned back in his chair. "Some things came up after you left last night, Jayne," he said quietly, making eye-contact when Jayne looked up from his plate. "Words were said, and there's something I'd like for you to make clear for me. Won't push you to talk about it, because we've been through enough that not trustin' you now'd be plain stupid, but..." He looked along the table at Zoe, then back at Jayne. "Your brother was mentioned," he said quietly. "Tigh. You've always said you never fought in no war. I'm curious as to why you never mentioned your brother did."

Jayne shrugged, looking down at his plate again. "'Cause you're a Browncoat, Mal," he said flatly. "Didn't figure it'd endear me to you any, tellin' you my brother fought on the other side."

The table got quiet, and Mal made sure to keep his voice calm and casual. "I ain't so obsessed with the war that I'd hold a man responsible for a brother he hadn't even seen since that brother was twelve years old."

"Yeah?" There was a trace of the defiance Jayne had flung at his father the night before, when he looked at Mal again. "Tigh was a good soldier-boy, Mal. Shot a lot of your people, 'fore he met his end."

"And I shot a lot of his."

"An' I shot a lot of both," Jayne said baldly. "So we're all shootin' folk together, ain't that friendly?"

Before Mal could answer, River made an annoyed noise and - from the way Jayne jumped - kicked him under the table. "Stop it," she said sharply. "All family here, no need for defensive trouble-making. Stop raising your crest and be truthful."

Jayne looked away, a touch of guilt colouring his expression. "I was workin' for Blue Sun at the time," he said quietly. "Alliance would only guard the shipments for their own men. Anything going to civilians they'd swipe or sell. Browncoats was just as bad... they'd snatch up anything they saw going, 'cause they figured anything with a Blue Sun label had to be official Alliance goods. There was folk starving, so they started hiring mercs to guard the shipments."

Mal winced. "I remember," he said quietly. He'd never been in a position to hit one of those shipments, and when he heard about the starvation they'd caused, he'd been glad of it. He didn't like seeing his troops hungry, but he would have liked less to have to decide between his own men and women or the families on Jian Ying or Cobalt or one of a dozen others. Food being shipped from spaceports to settlements hadn't arrived half the time. Whole families had starved to death, on Cobalt. Jian Ying still hadn't recovered.

"Our orders was simple. Anyone tries to 'requisition' a shipment, shoot 'em. Anyone tries to steal it, shoot 'em. Anyone tries to destroy it, shoot 'em." Jayne shrugged. "Got deserters from both sides... and some as wasn't, when we got close to the fighting. Got so they all looked alike to me."

A part of Mal was raging at that, at Jayne's casual admission that he'd shot Mal's own as easily as he'd shot at Alliance troopers... but a much bigger and older and wiser part, the part that had made it through the nine years since Serenity Valley, understood all too well. While he'd been fighting for freedom, Jayne had been fighting his own small war on anyone who'd steal from those like himself and his kin. For pay, sure, but Jayne didn't take a job entailing that much personal danger lightly. He'd probably never admit it even to himself, but there was a part of Jayne Cobb that wanted to be something better than what it knew it was, and who still felt guiltily responsible for the family he'd left behind.

Mal cleared his throat. "Is that why you've been dodgin' talk of the war all this time? Figured I'd toss you off my boat if I found out you and your brother fought on sides weren't mine?"

"Pretty much." Jayne shrugged. "You're still carryin' the war with you, Mal. Figured I'd keep my mouth shut on anything might make you carry it to my door. I mean, sure I can take you, but then Zoe'd shoot me."

That made everyone laugh, and from the way Jayne smirked, he'd meant it to.

They'd come so far in so little time. Months of slow build, of coming together as part of a crew, and then in weeks they were family, tied together by blood shed, if not shared, and other ties stronger still. It struck Mal, all suddenlike, looking around at the table, that he wasn't captain of a crew any more, he was the head of a family.

A month ago, Jayne never would have come out with those things purely 'cause Mal had asked. And if he did, Mal wouldn't have been able to shake it off. There'd have been a fight, and like as not Jayne would have been off the ship at the next port. And that would've been a loss, as loathe as Mal was to admit it. Jayne still wasn't his favourite person, but he was crew. Family.

And if he threw the big merc off the boat, Mal's ni zi would be most unhappy with her daddy, and River tend to express her unhappiness real openly.

They'd been in the Black for a week when Inara came to the engine-room, smiling mysteriously. "Kaylee? Can you come to my shuttle for a minute?"

"Sure thing!" Kaylee wiped off her hands hastily and scrambled to her feet. "What's up, 'Nara?"

"A surprise, mei mei." Inara looked real happy, as happy as when Mal had finally pulled his head out of his butt and spoken his heart to her. "You'll see."

Kaylee followed, trying not to bounce excitedly. "What kinda surprise?"

"You'll see!" Inara led her into the shuttle, and made her sit down on the small, squashy couch that had replaced the long one. "This arrived for you this morning."

"Arrived for me? But..." Kaylee looked at the package that Inara had just set in her lap. It was smallish, a cube about the length of her hand on each side, and wrapped in snowy white paper. In handwriting as pretty as fancy print, it was addressed With a humble request for the intercession of the gracious Miss Serra, that this token may be presented to Miss Kaylee Frye.

"What is it?" Kaylee hardly dared touch it, it looked so fancy.

"It's a gift, silly." Inara was beaming. "Open it, but be careful not to tear the paper."

Kaylee wiped her hands again and turned the package over to find it was sealed up with wax instead of tape, with the imprint of a star pressed into it. Despite her best efforts the seal cracked across before she could get it open, but she got the paper off all in one piece, to find a pretty silver-coloured box inside. She took the top off with hands that were a mite unsteady, and lifted out a glass ball that by some magic had a delicate pink rose trapped inside it. She'd never seen anything so pretty, not ever, and she looked at it with eyes as round as the globe. "Oh, 'Nara..."

"Traditionally it should be fresh flowers, but I'm impressed that he was able to improvise something so close." Inara's smile was brighter than ever. "There'll be a note, too."

Kaylee hastily scrabbled for the note, unfolding more of that snowy paper to see more of the pretty writing. Please accept this small token of my admiration, with my humblest and most respectful wishes for your continued health and happiness. Simon's name was signed to it with an elegant flourish.

Kaylee looked at it for a moment, then up at Inara. "It's the prettiest thing I ever saw, and I don't understand it one bit," she said honestly. "If he was going to get me such a nice present, why wouldn't he just give it to me insteada having you do it?"

Inara sat down beside her, wrapping an arm around Kaylee's shoulders. "That wouldn't be proper. If he was in the room when you received his gift, you might feel pressure to accept it," she explained. "Under the rules of the Jing Ai, the first gift should be sent by courier to you or to a mother or older sister - in this case me. That way you won't be embarrassed if you find it necessary to refuse, and you'll have a female relative to advise you."

"Why would I refuse?" Kaylee frowned. "It's the nicest thing I ever had."

"Well, if you returned the gift opened, then it would indicate a positive refusal. If you rewrapped the gift and returned it unsealed, then you would be saying 'not just yet, but please ask again'. If you returned it rewrapped and sealed, you would be saying 'no, but perhaps you can convince me to change my mind'. And if you keep it..." Inara smiled, resting her cheek against Kaylee's and hugging her gently. "If you keep it and display it somewhere in your room, then it means that you're pleased by Simon's desire to court you, and that he may continue."

Kaylee's mouth fell open. "Court me? You mean like... walkin' out, and all?"

Inara nodded, hugging her again. "Simon is a very traditional and rather repressed young man who loves you very much," she said fondly. "The Jing Ai is one of the oldest and most romantic courtship rituals. It takes some time, and you can stop things or slow them down at any point, but this is Simon's way of saying that he wants to win your heart completely, and eventually propose marriage."

Kaylee pressed the globe to her heart, feeling so warm and tingly that she was dizzy. "That is the most romantic, most wonderful thing anyone has ever done for me, ever," she whispered.

"I'm happy for you, mei mei," Inara said, kissing her cheek gently. "And as your older sister, for the purposes of this conversation, I would advise you to accept the declaration of his intentions."

"Oh, I'm acceptin'. You couldn't pry this thing outta my hands," Kaylee said fervently. "I'm gonna put it right where it's real visible and then I'm gonna drag him down into my bunk and demonstrate just exactly how happy I am with him right now. We might be gone all day."

Inara laughed. "Well, traditionally you'd just casually invite him to your house and let him see it on display somewhere, but I think he's going to like your way better."

"Ain't had any complaints yet." Kaylee beamed. She couldn't remember ever being so purely happy. " You an' the Cap'n, and Jayne and River, and me and Simon, all together an' happy... and Zoe and Wash talking about having a baby... This is just like a story, is what, and this is the happy ending part."

"Happy, certainly, but hardly an ending." Inara smiled. "More of a beginning, I should think. And if you're going to go thank Simon for his thoughtfulness, I think we'd better get that grease off your nose."

"Simon likes me when I have a dirty nose," Kaylee said happily. "But since this is a special occasion, I guess I'll wash it. An' the rest of me, too. Can I have just a little drop of your jasmine perfume, please?"

"For such a special occasion, mei mei, you could have the whole bottle." Inara kissed her cheek again. "Come on, let's make you pretty for Simon."

dong ma - you understand?

Wu dong - I understand

Ba ba - daddy

Ju guei - giant tortoise

xiao teng - little dragon

Da Ge oldest brother

Bu Jing Chuan - whale-hunting vessel, whale-chaser

Bu Lai - good, fine

You Xiu Li - Excellent Repairs

Hui zhen - Poisonous filth (I think)

Yao guai - monsters, demons

luan qi ba zao - a huge mess.

d sha gua - fool, idiot, jerk, or 'big silly melon'. (I swear, that's what the translation said!)

mei mei - little sister

ge ge - older brother

Feng Guang - Scenic View, the POW camp where Wash was held during the war.

Bao tu - thug

Pigu - ass

Jing Ai - respectful love

Go se - dog excrement

Bao bei - beloved, sweetheart

Zhan shi - fighter, warrior

Ni zi - little girl