A/N: All of this belongs to Joss, I'm just playing in his sandbox.
Mal walked into Badger's den, followed by Zoe, and stopped short. Zoe nearly bumped into his back.
"Sir?" she inquired as she looked over his shoulder to see what made him stop so abruptly. At first glance, everything was normal. Then she saw Badger. He was standing there, arms folded across his chest, leaning up against his desk. His hat was off and placed on the desk behind him. But that wasn't what had Mal shocked. It was the look on Badger's face.
Badger stood there, lost in thought and smiling. It wasn't a devious smile. It wasn't an evil grin. It was a full blown, lost-in-a-happy-memory smile. Badger hadn't yet noticed them enter the room. He was too lost in thought. And smiling. Mal cleared his throat.
"Uh, Badger?" he said. Badger looked up, annoyed at having his thoughts interrupted.
"Hey, cap'n. How you doin?" Mal looked at him in suspicion. He couldn't figure out what made Badger so happy.
"Um, I'm doing fine, Badger." He paused slightly, then asked "You ok?" Badger nodded.
"Yeah, why wouldn't I be fine?" He shrugged then sat down at his desk. "Well, let's get down to business, then." Mal looked at Zoe, who was also perplexed at Badger's unusual behavior. He hadn't made one crude comment toward her since they walked in. Mal nodded slowly, and sat down across from the unusual little man. They discussed Badger's latest business proposition and drop off, eventually coming to an amiable deal that worked for all parties involved. In all his years dealing with Badger, working out a deal had never been so easy. They stood and shook hands.
"Pleasure doing business with you, Badger," said Mal as he and Zoe turned to leave.
"Always cap'n," Badger replied. "Oh, by the by, Malcolm, how's the l'il flower petal o' yours doin?" Mal turned and cocked and eyebrow as he looked at him.
"Kaylee?" He asked. "She's doin fine." Badger chuckled and shook his head.
"Not that flower petal. The other one," he said. "The one with he big eyes that follow you everywhere." Seeing that he was getting nowhere with Mal, Badger decided to be more specific.
"Li'l River," he said.
"Doin fine, I spect," was Mal's reply. He didn't really like where this conversation was headed and didn't want to give Badger any more information than necessary. How did Badger know River anyway? He couldn't recall ever introducing them. He'd have to ask Zoe about it later.
"Well," said Badger, as he peeled an apple slowly. "When you see her, tell her ole Badger says hello." He winked at Zoe then took a bite of his apple and walked off, leaving behind a very confused Mal.