The cargo is being loaded into Serenity's cargo hold when Mal looks over to see Jayne standing motionless, head cocked as if he's listening to something. "Jayne! Get a move on, we gotta get off this rock," he warns.
The gun hand frowns over at him. "Thought I heard somethin'."
"Well, you sure as hell ain't hearin' the sound of you gettin' any richer, what with the way you're not doing any work," Mal hints broadly.
The prospect of not getting paid works its own magic on the big man, who blinks in startlement and heaves two crates at once as if to make up for his idleness. Seconds later though, Jayne stops once more. "Gorrammit, I really did hear a noise this time, Mal! Somethin' ain't right with this job."
Mal glances over to Zoë, worried that they won't get the cargo hauled before Alliance comes sniffing around to catch them in the act of 'redistribution'. "You hear anything?"
She tilts her head to listen. "Nothing but the sound of increased pay for me since I'm doin' most of the work, Sir."
"That's what I thought," Mal smirks.
Jayne shakes his head in annoyance, appealing to Kaylee as he walks over to help her lift a box that's nearly as big as she is. "You hear anything, bao bei? I ain't crazy like…" he trails off at her glare and amends his comment. "…like some folk I could talk about but I ain't gonna."
"Nope, didn't hear a thing, wenshen. Dubuqui."
"Aw, hell." Jayne shakes his head and resumes loading, glaring around suspiciously before Wash threatens to leave him behind so that he's forced to run up the rapidly closing hatch. "Don't you be leavin' 'thout me!"
When they're back in the stars and just past the reach of the law's long arm, Serenity's crew sit down to dinner and Jayne is teased about hearing voices by, of all people, River. It takes nearly all Kaylee's cunning to cuddle him out of his bad mood, and he resists being lured back into happiness just because it feels so nice to have the little mechanic fussing over him. "If'n you said you heard somethin', you know I believe you," she assures him with an affectionate nuzzle.
The last of Jayne's petulance gives up the ghost when Kaylee starts to plant small kisses all over his face, tracing the line of his goatee with a playful finger that taps the end of his nose before she kisses him there, too. "Wanna go make out in the cargo bay?" he asks hopefully, sliding his arms around her tiny waist.
Kaylee tilts her head and pretends to consider her other options before melting against him. "Sounds shiny."
Hand in hand, they sneak off down to the darkened cargo bay and Jayne draws her into his arms for more kisses until a muffled sound makes him break away with an oath. "Didja hear that? I ain't crazy, xin gan. There's somethin' makin' noise and I'm gonna find it," he swears. It comes again, and this time Kaylee hears it as well.
"Sounded like it was comin' from over there," she whispers, pointing. They trace the increasingly loud sounds to their source and Jayne shifts the crates around until the one they're searching for is placed on the deck.
Jayne reaches for a crowbar and pries the top off, a horrible suspicion growing in his mind that is confirmed when the slats are pushed to one side and he looks down into the crate at…. "Wuo de ma! Kaylee, what the ever-lovin' di yu are two lil' babies doin' in here?"
"Babies?" echoes Kaylee, pushing him aside to peer down. At the intense scrutiny of the startled couple, the two tiny forms inside begin to cry. "Well, we gotta get 'em out of there – poor things are probably hungry as can be."
"Whoa!" Jayne holds his hands up defensively and steps back. "We don't need us no more folk hoppin' out of crates."
Kaylee shoots the big man a withering look. "They ain't gonna be hoppin' out of anything any time soon, Jayne. They're just babies, for Tien's sake!" Lifting a squalling bundle from the crate, she passes the first baby to Jayne and cuddles the second one close. "Wonder what they was doin' in there."
The tiny baby in Jayne's grip is crying in earnest and kicking its feet, making a look of helplessness settle over the merc's features. "Aw, hell. I ain't no good with little'uns, Kay!"
"Well, you're gonna drop her if'n you keep holdin' her that way." Kaylee's burden is already comfortably ensconced in the crook of an elbow, and has finally stopped crying as she walks up to instruct her lover on the proper care and handling of a baby. "Put her up close to ya, and make sure your arm is right here like this…."
Following her instructions, Jayne is soon awkwardly cradling the sobbing infant against his chest and looking as if he'd rather bunk in the airlock with the outer door cycled open. "She ain't gonna…do nothin' on me, is she?" he asks distrustfully, jiggling his arm in unconscious imitation of what Kaylee is doing. The first cooing sound makes him glance down in surprise. "Hey, she ain't cryin' no more!" An experimental jog of his elbow is rewarded by another tiny outburst of delight, and he beams with pride in his seemingly miraculous accomplishment.
After five minutes or so of admiring their stowaways, Kaylee decides that it's time to let Mal know about the new passengers; their captain is, predictably, less than thrilled. "What d'you mean, we got us a couple of babies? Babies, as in real live…babies?!?!?" He whirls towards Inara, who scarcely has time to wipe the signs of hilarity from her expression. "You hearin' this? About babies?"
The Companion, her face once more the serene mask she usually displays, simply inclines her head gracefully in acknowledgement. "I believe I am. Where are they, Kaylee?"
"Oh, Jayne took 'em down for Simon to have a look an' see if'n they're healthful and such," the mechanic smiles, then takes on a dreamy expression. "He'll make a real good Pa someday. Them two babies just took to him like rats to runnin' for scraps!"
Inara's composed features start to look a bit strained at this analogy, and she excuses herself hastily. "I think I might have left something on in my shuttle…"
Simon gives each child a clean bill of health and the crew convenes in the galley to decide whats to be done with their small passengers. "I told y'all I heard somethin'," Jayne says triumphantly, thrusting a wooden spoon into the air for emphasis.
"You know? I never thought I'd see the day when Jayne was actually proven right about something," Wash cracks. Jayne scowls at the pilot from where he's feeding one of the twin girls, and they all are amazed at how quickly the frown melts off his face as the big man returns to his task.
Zoë shakes her head, smiling. "If it makes you feel any better, Dear, I'd say that this will be the only time that happens."
"Hey! 'M sittin' right here!"
Kaylee soothes the merc's ruffled feathers with a kiss on the cheek, and goes to oversee River's attempts at feeding the other baby – the two are staring at each other as if in a contest. It's quickly decided that, although they can't turn back right away, they'll return their unexpected cargo as soon as the goods are delivered.
The run takes the same amount of time as it usually does, although Mal swears that it takes even longer due to the fuss that's being made over the two babies – each member of the crew has fallen under their spell and he's the last to resist. The one who has them all amazed is Jayne, who is rarely seen without a baby on his hip as he tromps past on his way to the cargo bay to work out or his bunk to put the twins down for a nap. Kaylee just watches him and beams with pride, and Mal nearly breaks down into tears of relief once Wash turns Serenity around so that they can bring the children back.
Just now, a cooing bundle is being bounced on a camouflage-covered knee while Jayne points a finger at Vera. "Awright, lil' bit: say, 'Buhnder'. Boooon-durrr," he enunciates. The baby gurgles nonsense and he looks up at a fondly watching Kaylee. "Ya hear that? She just spoke!" Her twin sister is snoring in the crook of his arm, and the merc shifts the baby up to his shoulder so he can show off his knives, next.
"I knew you'd be good with 'em," Kaylee reminds Jayne with a smile. "I'm sure their momma'll be real pleased at how careful you're bein'."
Jayne's face falls at the mention of having to return them. He's known all along that they would have to, but only a handful of days remain until they return to Persephone and try to locate the children's parents and he's grown extremely fond of the two tiny girls. "Their momma shoulda been with 'em, 'stead of leavin' 'em in the crates like that," he grumbles disapprovingly. "Ya can't just leave little'uns around wherever, y'know."
When they finally arrive at Persephone, Mal hastily contacts Badger and it is only two days before the twins' young mother is located. "Turns out she'd stashed 'em away where she thought they'd be safe when a market riot broke out," Kaylee marvels once she hears the whole story. "Then after all the mess was over with, she came back an' we'd already split with our cargo!"
"She shoulda stuck with 'em," Jayne maintains. "How good a Ma can she be if'n she just…"
The big man frowns down at his boots. "I know we can't keep 'em or nothin'. Just liked havin' 'em around is all, dong ma? They're cute as hell, an' better behaved than Moonbrain over there." He jerks his chin towards River, who scowls back as she picks up his thought. "Plus they spit up on Doc that one time."
Kaylee lays a small hand on Jayne's large bicep in a gesture of comfort. "They'll be better off with their momma, wenshen. But maybe we can come see 'em whenever we've got some spare time an' workin' a job for Badger?" she suggests, and her lover's face brightens slightly as he thinks of all the wisdom he could impart to the two girls as a surrogate big brother.
The mother of their stowaways shows up at the landing field as soon as Badger's cronies inform her of her children's arrival – for a small fee, of course – and bursts into tears as soon as she sees her babies. "I ain't never thought to see Laurie an' Nessa again," she sobs, holding out her arms for the twins. Zoë hands over the girl she's carrying, and Kaylee has to nudge Jayne sharply to relinquish the babbling bundle – Nessa - he's holding against his broad chest. "Did m'girls miss Momma?" the woman coos as she balances the children in her arms.
Her face falls slightly as Nessa begins to cry suddenly, her tiny hands waving towards Jayne in a clear plea to be retrieved. The merc heaves a sigh and folds his muscular arms across his chest, but Nessa's wails grow even louder as he makes to go back aboard Serenity. "I got things to check on," he mutters.
Kaylee looks at the twins' mother for permission, and takes Nessa back to Jayne. "Maybe you can say goodbye all proper so she won't keep cryin'," the mechanic suggests tenderly.
Nessa falls silent as soon as she's back snuggled against the big gunhand, and Jayne kisses the top of her head as he bounces her gently. Mal is tapping his foot, impatient to be gone, so Jayne reluctantly hands Nessa back to her mother reluctantly. The baby starts to whimper anew at the change off, and he touches his finger to the tip of her tiny nose. "I gotta go, lil' bit. Be a good girl for your momma, now." As Serenity's crew go back on the ship, Jayne rubs at his eyes irritably. "Gorram dust."
When they're out in the black again and things are back to normal, they gather in the galley for dinner. Comfortably full, Kaylee leans against Jayne's shoulder as soon as she's pushed her leftovers over to him and he starts shoveling the food into his mouth as if he hasn't eaten in a week. "Their momma promised to send us a capture of the girls," she tells him.
Jayne doesn't answer until his plate has been cleaned and he's had a mouthful of the beer they'd picked up in one of Persephone's markets. "I been thinkin' 'bout them babies," he starts.
Wash makes a joke about the dangers of thinking that Mal laughs at, but Kaylee just shakes her head at them. "Yeah?" she prompts.
"Little folk ain't so hard to take care of, really."
"Nah, they're sweet lil' things," Kaylee sighs fondly, thinking of how Jayne looked carrying around the two infants.
He clears his throat. "So, I was thinkin'…maybe we should have-"
Mal sits up straight at the other end of the table. "No!"