Scenes from a Firefly
Authors: justslummin & Midnight Obsidian
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Just playin' in Joss' sandbox.
Summary: This is the first in a short series of one-shots in the lives of the crews of Serenity and the Hit or Miss.
Part One—Bedtime Stories
Jayne scrubbed his large hands over his face, none too pleased with the whole idea of entertaining the children while the others went on an overnight job. Shouldn't be too bad, he figured, considering eight outta ten of the hours the children should be sleeping anyway.
There had been a major negotiation going on for quite some time now, and Jayne sat down heavily on Adam's bed. Was fair amazing to him how young'uns could fight over the least little things like where to have their bedtime story told. Far as he was concerned, they coulda' skipped the whole tradition, but apparently that hadn't set too well with the little ones.
Leaning back against Adam's headboard, Jayne braced himself for the onslaught of Adam and Daniel, who seemed to think he was a jungle gym of some sort or another. Jayne made sure to cover areas he most particularly wanted protected, as elbows and knees unerringly tended to find his most tender regions.
With the boys hanging on him in various stages of glee, Jayne smiled weakly up at Anya. The young girl was sitting on the edge of Adam's bed, cross-legged and with the gurgling Hannah in her lap.
"You want I should hold the baby?" Jayne asked.
Anya smiled, knowing quite well that Hannah held a particularly tender spot in the mercenary's heart. "Okay," she said, depositing Hannah into Jayne's lap, where the baby began to squirm and wiggle in earnest. Eyeing the situation, Anya said, "Might be a good idea to tell us a story now, before things go pear-shaped."
"Stowy," Daniel said, bouncing up and down slightly, thereby jiggling everyone on the bed.
"All right, all right," Jayne said, holding up one large hand to calm them down. "Deal is, I tell the story, then you go to bed. Dong ma?"
Adam rolled his eyes, looking at that moment very much like his moon-brained mother to Jayne's way of thinking. "'Course," he agreed.
Jayne, through years of following his instinct, knew that the children would more than likely not capitulate so easily when the story was done. Nothing for it but to get the story told and find out, he thought.
Drawing a deep breath and looking around at his wide-eyed audience, he began. "Once upon a time there was a princess who lived up in a …." He paused for a moment, trying to remember the word. "A tower," he finished triumphantly.
"Aw," Adam said, wrinkling up his brow. "Don't wanna hear a story about an old princess. Tell us a good story."
Jayne sighed. "What kinda' story?" he asked.
Adam continued to frown for a moment, considering his options. "How's about a story 'bout Reavers?" he asked hopefully.
"No," Jayne said, swallowing convulsively and hiding an embarrassing shudder. "Ain't gonna talk 'bout that."
"Pirates," Adam suggested.
Anya sighed. "I don't want to hear another pirate story."
"Ghosts," Adam said, pleased to have thought of it.
"And monstews," Daniel said, wide-eyed.
"Don't know as that's a good idea," Jayne said hesitantly, remembering a night spent with a much smaller Anya wrapped around him after a particularly vivid account about vampires.
"Come on, Mr. Jayne," Adam wheedled in that way that only small children could. "Ghosts and monsters'd be shiny."
Jayne rubbed his goatee thoughtfully. "Well, there might be one as I could tell," he relented. "If'n I can remember it proper-like."
The children leaned forward, each eager to hear the tale, and Jayne began. "Once upon a time there was an old farmhouse….."
Mal lowered the ramp and walked up into the cargo bay, the others following behind. He stopped, drawing his gun from its holster in the darkened bay. "You hear that?" he whispered to River, who stood a scant foot behind him.
River stood motionless, listening with her entire being. Then slowly reaching to lower Mal's gun hand, she said, "Don't shoot our son."
Mal squinted into the dim recesses of the cargo bay and saw Adam huddled behind some crates. His hackles rising, Mal rushed to his son's hiding place. "Adam, what's the matter? What happened?"
Adam looked up at his father with wide, terrified eyes. "Had to hide, Daddy," he whispered.
"From what?" Mal asked, fear running down his own spine now.
"Old Man McGregor," Adam replied.
"Who?" Mal asked.
Adam took a long, shuddering breath. "Old Man McGregor, who lived in the farmhouse on Three Hills," he whispered.
Mal pulled his son out of the small space. "Somebody turn on the gorram lights," he said.
Adam clung to his father's shirt. "Shhh, Daddy," he said urgently. "He hunts at night."
Getting an inkling about what was going on, Mal asked gently, "Where are the others?"
"Me and Anya got 'em all hid in the places you showed us," he said, a little proudly.
"Uh huh," Mal said. "And Mr. Jayne. Where is he?"
Adam looked down at the floor. "Gone, I think," he said sadly. "Ain't nothin' left in there but Old Mr. McGregor."
Looking at River over Adam's head, Mal said, "Best your mother and I go see to this McGregor fella'. Wherebouts is he?"
"In my room, less'n he got away," Adam said.
Mal nodded soberly. "Good job, son," he said. "You stay here with Miss Zoe and Mr. Jim and tell 'em exactly where the little ones are. We'll go see to everything else."
"Okay, Daddy," Adam said. "But….be careful."
"We will," Mal said, smiling reassuringly as he and River headed toward the children's rooms.
"Gorram it, turn off that bright light," Jayne thundered as Mal and River looked at him from the doorway of Adam's room.
Fighting back a guffaw, Mal obediently turned the light back to a dimmer setting. "Just wanted to be sure I could see Old Man McGregor," he said, humor tickling the edges of his speech.
"Gorram young'uns," Jayne grumbled, shifting uneasily in the bed. "You oughta' look to trainin' 'em better."
"Looks to me like I'm doing a fine job," Mal said, noting the expertise with which the knots holding Jayne's arms to the bedpost were tied. "Couldn'ta' done a better job myownself."
"You gonna just stand there, or are you gonna untie me?" Jayne asked, his scowl reaching epic proportions.
Mal exchanged a quick glance with River. "Ain't rightly sure," he said, his lips sliding into a full-blown grin. "Seems Adam is a mite concerned that you've been possessed of the ghost of a farmer from Three Hills."
"Knew I shoulda' tole 'em that story," Jayne muttered darkly, tugging unsuccessfully at the ropes.
"And just how is it that those small children managed to overpower our resident mercenary?" River asked, merriment twinkling in her eyes.
Jayne had the grace to look sheepish. "Mighta' got a little too comfortable whilst I was tellin' the story," he said.
"So, you're saying that you fell asleep when I left you specific instructions to look after the children," Mal said.
"Coulda' been but a minute or two," Jayne protested. "'Parently they're quick as lightnin'."
"So they are," Mal said, laughing. He withdrew a small knife and laid it almost gently on Jayne's belly.
"See you in the morning," he said, reaching for River's hand and turning off the light.
"Malllll," Jayne's voice faded into the distance as Mal and River headed back up to the bridge.