A/N: I was a little worried about this story, getting the voices right and writing a plausible Firefly storyline. Seems like I wrote a good beginning anyway since I got positive reviews - thanx for those! Hope this chater lives up to expectations :-)
(For disclaimer, etc. - see chapter 1)
"Tsai boo shr!" Wash gasped as the small boy clamped tight onto Jayne's leg and refused to let go.
"Jayne, you better get to tellin' me just what in the 'verse is goin' on here" Mal said dangerously as he eyed his merc and the child attached to his leg.
"I wish I knew Mal" Jayne said looking almost afraid, an odd look for a man such as himself, "I ain't got no kids, I…"
"I'm not so sure you would be aware that you had" the Shepherd told him with a look, "Those that fornicate outside of wedlock have a habit of leaving a trail behind them" he said pointedly and Jayne narrowed his eyes.
"He ain't my kid, Preacher" he said firmly, trying unsuccessfully to prise the child off his leg without harming the brat, after all it's not like he'd done anything wrong as such, he perhaps hadn't even wanted to be brought here.
"Not wanting to get my head blown off" Wash said carefully with his hands half-way raised in surrender before he even began, "But how would you know if you fathered a child? You do like your womenfolk, Jayne" he shrugged, since the whole crew knew how true that statement was.
Jayne Cobb had had more than the average man's share of liaisons on many a planet or moon. Mal dreaded to think how many children his muscle man might have throughout the verse.
"Well, then would you mind tellin' us why this little one thinks he needs to cling onto to you like some kind of barnacle?!" the Captain asked.
"And exactly how many more cryo pods should we be expecting, Jayne?" Zoe added, knowing just as her Captain did that their crewmate could've produced no end of offspring all over the 'verse by now.
"I don't even know where this 'un came from!" Jayne yelled, "How many women you think I been with who knows about this fancy science stuff? Not a one, I'll tell ya" he declared, though at the same time he was wracking his brains, trying to remember if his statement were true.
He got awful drunk on planet leave or when the crew stopped off at any party or a bar. The women he went with were willing and able, and though he had to pay for it at times, mostly he did alright on his charms, such as they were.
Fact of it was he could've had a scientist or a genius whilst he was under the influence, and he wouldn't have a clue. If she had the body and the moves, it was all he ever remembered in the morning – if he even remembered that. Names and details were fuzzy or moreover non existent, and as a matter of course he didn't share any information that would make him identifiable later, just in case.
"I do believe that no woman with smarts would sleep with him" Wash said in a low voice to his wife who couldn't help but agree.
"Damn it, kid, will you get your greasy little hands off me?" Jayne said angrily, kicking out with his leg til the little boy was forced to let go, for fear of flying half way across the cargo bay if he did not.
"Jayne!" Kaylee snapped at him, as the little boy stood back and stared with obvious tears forming in his eyes.
"What'd I do now?" the merc said in protest to her tone and the look she gave him.
"Chur ni-duh, hwun dan" the mechanic muttered in his general direction as she crouched down in from of the boy, "Hey sweetie" she said gently with a smile, "You wanna come with me and find somethin' good to eat?"
The nameless and apparently silent boy turned his eyes to Jayne who would barely look at him now.
"Jayne won't mind none if you come with me" Kaylee explained, since the look on the boy's face suggested that was what bothered him, "I'm your Aunt Kaylee" she said with a grin, as the boy seemed happy to believe and go with her, taking the hand she offered and allowing himself to be led away.
To the very last moment, he kept his eyes on Jayne, practically wrenching his own head clean off as he forced his neck too much just to see him a little longer. Heaven only knew what the connection was between the sweet little child that had escaped from the cryo pod and the great oaf of a man that stood now in the cargo bay, trying to wrap his had around the concept that he may just have a child of his own. If anybody was going to get to the bottom of this matter it was Captain Reynolds.
"Okay, we're gonna start this whole thing again from the beginning" he said slowly, gesturing at Jayne with his gun that the merc was all too well aware could be aimed at his head and on purpose yet, "Now that boy, gotta be eight years of age if he's a day" he said with a shake of his head, "And since I known you no more than six years together, leaves me wonderin' where you was when that child was getting made"
"Eight?" Jayne frowned, scratching his stubbly chin, "Well, Mal that don't make any sense"
"I wasn't thinking any part of this did yet" Zoe commented as all eyes were on Jayne, awaiting some kind of explanation, though none in particular came for a good long while.
"Mal, you know where I was 'fore I came here" he shook his head eventually, slowly moving to sit down on a pile of crates behind himself, "Sharing a bunk, working like a dog for that idiot... barely got any time for anythin', got even less cash"
"Get to the point, Jayne, cos my trigger fingers gettin' mighty bored and this story's gettin' damn tiresome" the Captain complained, and Jayne soon elaborated, albeit with somewhat of an angry tone.
"I wasn't gettin' any back then!" he declared, "Livin' like your damn preacher man, more or less" he gestured towards Book who would rather not have been dragged into this right now, "No time for it, no cash for it, and didn't hardly go nowhere decent enough womenfolk were" he explained.
Mal frowned as he turned to look at Zoe and she nodded her head, proving that as far as she could tell Jayne was telling the truth. The two of them were pretty good at spotting liars, they'd had plenty of practise at it, and besides, it takes one to know one with these kinds of things. Top class criminals that they were, forced Mal and his crew to be mighty fine liars, and yet he was pretty sure he'd know it if one of his crew was trying to double-cross him.
"Right then" Mal nodded once, striding away.
"Er, Captain" the Shepherd called after him, "May I ask where you're going?"
"Can't get answers from Daddy Dearest, gonna give it a try with the boy wonder" Mal explained to the preacher, though he looked quite annoyed that he'd been asked to.
"Might I suggest" Shepherd Book went on, "That you leave the weapon here?" he said gently, "Don't want to scare the boy any more than he already is, do you?" he smiled and Mal looked at the oversized gun that rested in his hand and over his shoulder.
With a sigh, he tossed the thing across to Zoe who easily caught it and went to put it and her own weapon away, since it seemed they wouldn't be needed right now. Wash went with her, trying to hide his laughter, it seemed, as he passed by Jayne. It had to be said, it was quite amusing, the idea of Jayne being a father, that and kind of scary too!
Alone in the Cargo Bay, Shepherd Book stared hard at Jayne who wriggled uncomfortably under said gaze.
"Don't be givin' me those looks o' hell and damnation, preacher!" he said, scrambling to his feet and pointing an angry finger, "I ain't got no kid! He ain't mine!"
"Who are you trying to convince, Jayne?" Book smiled slightly, "Me? God? Or perhaps, just yourself?" he said, as he too turned and walked up the staircase and away.
Left by himself, with nothing but his own scrambled thoughts for company, Jayne still couldn't make any sense of what he was being told. It seemed as though the child from the box knew him, that it could indeed be his kid, and yet he hadn't lied before. Back then he hardly if ever got himself a decent lay, and certainly not with anyone so fancy as to know about cryo pods and the like.
Before he arrived on Serenity, well, life wasn't exactly easy now but it was damn hard back then. Nobody cared, not even a little bit, and whilst Jayne could live with that before, he'd sooner not be turned out of his little family-type thing here on the Firefly class ship he'd so long called home. Seemed that might just happen, if Mal found out this kid was some kind of danger, even if he knew for sure the brat really did belong to Jayne. Weren't exactly a place for a little one like that, not on a ship with a crew that went smuggling and pilfering all the live long day!
Jayne would be sent back to a life of filth and destitution, getting less than his share, cohabiting with men worse than he himself had ever been. The merc remembered all the things he'd done for money, and most of the worse had been long before Mal and Zoe brought him aboard the Serenity. Hell, at one point he'd even made money out of...
One broken thought, one memory from way back, and suddenly Jayne's eyes were wide as a full moon. His head shot up to look around his empty surroundings, and everything got just a little clearer. He understood now where this kid could've come from, but he didn't exactly love the idea of explaining it to the crew.
* * * * *
"Cap'n, go easy" Kaylee urged him, as he came at the little boy looking overly fierce, sending the poor child cowering behind the mechanics legs.
"I am easy" Mal said, sounding more annoyed than anything else.
He didn't much know how to deal with children, hadn't had to since he was one himself and that innocent time was long gone and forgotten. The nearest he had to little folk on his ship were Kaylee and River, and thems two reminded him all too often that they were full-grown womenfolk with the things they said and occasionally things they wore. Little boys running round the galley wasn't something Captain Reynolds had ever had to deal with before, and he wasn't exactly enjoying it now!
"C'mon now, nyen ching-duh" he said, reaching out for the boy who seemed less than impressed, "Just wanna talk to ya, ain't a one of us wants to do you no harm"
"He don't talk, Cap'n" Kaylee shook her head, "I mean, I been tryin' since we came through here. He understands and all, he nods and shakes his head, and he smiled right sweet at me" she grinned as she explained to Mal, "but I'm thinkin' maybe he just don't talk"
"Well, that ain't hardly helpful to me, little Kaylee" her Captain told her with a sigh, wondering what they were ever supposed to do with this child.
Mal almost wished Inara were here, he figured with all her training and such, she'd likely be most able to handle children. Then there was Simon, for all he was, Mal had an idea he might be okay talking to little folk, after all he'd been trained in doctoring, had to know how to look after the little ones just at the same as everybody else.
As crazy as it sounded in his own head, Mal had an idea even River might be better in this situation than he was. She did a good line in morbid and creepifying, but she understood what folk were thinking and feeling better than anyone he ever did encounter in the whole of the 'verse. She could probably have the boy in full conversation via her mind or somethin' before the day was done, and yet, Mal had an idea he'd be lucky if he even got the child to look at him in that time.
A crackle at the comm caught the Captain's attention and he moved to answer it.
"Mal, Inara just sent a wave, wanting to come back aboard since River's getting a little crazy stuck in the shuttle" Wash explained, "Since all we have to deal with is one little boy I let them re-attach"
"Shi" Mal replied before turning back to Kaylee and her small charge, who she was trying to encourage out from behind her.
"C'mon now, sweetie, Captain doesn't mean you no harm" she told the boy, "He just seems all big and brutish" she explained, shooting a playful grin at Mal, "but honest as the Suns shine, he wouldn't ever hurt you, not at all" she explained.
At that, the boy peered out around Kaylee's left leg, looking as if he might be coming around to the idea of co-operating. Mal smiled at the progress Kaylee had made and was just about to speak to the child when he bolted.
"Ta ma de" Mal cursed as he ran off after the kid, with Kaylee in hot pursuit.
Jayne, who had been coming to tell the Captain where he thought the kid might have appeared from, soon joined the chase, as the boy flew past him, and Mal and Kaylee followed at a rate of knots.
The child came to an abrupt halt just a few feet before the door to Inara's shuttle, almost causing a pile up of bodies behind him as Mal, Kaylee, and Jayne came to a similarly sudden stop one behind the other.
As the shuttle door opened, and Inara stepped out, the boy suddenly dived in and disappeared from view.
"What in the worlds...?" the Companion gasped as the child shot by her, but her attention was soon caught more by the happenings within her shuttle, than those that had come running towards it.
Mal moved to see what Inara could see, and Kaylee soon followed suit along with Jayne. Their mouths all dropped open one after the other as they spotted the child now clinging onto River just as he had with Jayne.
"Well, would you look at that?" Kaylee half-smiled at the image of the child clinging to River, and the girl hugging him close, one hand stroking his hair.
"Er, what is going on?" Simon asked, looking entirely bemused as his eyes flitted between the crew members beyond the door, his sister, and the child she held against her.
"Simon" River smiled at him, "He's here, my special boy" she grinned, looking down at the child, "I've been waiting for you"
To Be Continued...