"Little Surprises"

Summary: A young stowaway holds an interesting secret…and it concerns Mal in a BIG way.

Author's Note: Takes place after my first story, "Little Adjustments". Picks up where that one left off.

Warning: Spanking in this story. If this bothers you, DO NOT READ THIS STORY OR REVIEW IT.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or this concept. I'm just borrowing them for entertainment purposes.

Chapter 1: Home Sweet Home

The planet Shadow was one of the farthest planets from the Core that one could get, but for Malcolm Reynolds it would always be 'home sweet home'.

"There she is," he told his crew, who had gathered on the bridge of their Firefly-class transport ship per his summons, as they gazed at the world their captain had grown up on.

"It's rather…unique," Inara Sara, a former Companion and Mal's fiancé, told her soon-to-be husband, hesitantly.

Mal snorted. "I know it ain't much," he said, "but she's got it where it counts, I reckon."

"Any chance of us gettin' a job?" Jayne, the ship's resident mercenary and general loud mouth, asked gruffly.

Mal gave him a withering look. "We're here for a relaxin', Jayne," he reminded the merc. "We'll worry about a job afterwards."

"We also need to find a mechanic, Sir," Zoe, the ship's first mate, reminded him gently.

Everyone grew somber at this reminder, as it had only been a couple of weeks since they had buried their beloved mechanic, Kaylee.

The young girl, made even younger due to an age-regression serum, had been shot and killed during a kidnapping attempt by Gabriel Tam, the biological father of Simon and River Tam.

The Tams had been aboard Serenity now for a full year, and had become an intricate part of the crew…especially since they too had been given the age-regression serum the same as Kaylee.

Simon was the ship's doctor, and though he now appeared and occasionally acted like a twelve year old boy, he had retained his medical knowledge and skills therefore he remained their medico.

His sister River was…unique. The girl was a Reader, able to read the thoughts of others, sense danger before it occurred, and see possible future events, but she was also more than that.

Thanks to brain-tampering 'doctors' at an Alliance funded 'academy', River had become a living weapon. The girl had been proven this by taking out an entire bar of outlaws single-handedly, as well as a pack of crazed Reavers.

She had also proven to be adept at flying, and had taken their fallen pilot's—Wash—place at the helm, though Mal and Zoe each took a term at the wheel, too.

"I know, Zoe," Mal told her, "and we'll look around while we're here. I have a few old buddies who were pretty good with wrench…"

Inara smiled. "Should we be worried?" she asked him, teasing.

Mal smirked. "You sayin' I don't know what I'm doin'?" he asked.

"Well…" Inara said, smirking, "there was that time…"

Mal snorted. "Everybody's a critic," he grumbled, shaking his head.

The other's smiled, knowing he wasn't really angry.

"Maybe you should take a break, Sir," Zoe suggested, patting him on the shoulder, "and let me take her down. You've been at the wheel a good while already."

Mal did feel a bit cramped. He nodded. "Sure thing," he said, standing up. "Jayne, why don't you go start getting' the mule prepped."

The merc grumbled. "Ain't you gonna help?" he asked, sourly. "Why do I gotta do all the work now?"

"Because I said so," Mal told him, firmly, "less a'course, you'd like a repeat of our chat on Ariel…"

Jayne's eyes widened and he quickly shook his head. "I'm goin', I'm goin'," he said, and turned to hightail it down to the cargo hold.

Mal chuckled, wrapping an arm around Inara as they made their way towards the galley.

Inara smiled. "You're never going to let him forget that, are you?" she asked, knowingly.

"Nope," he told her, smirking. "Where are the young'uns?" He was referring to Simon and River.

"Simon was in the infirmary the last time I checked," Inara told him, "and River was…"

The sound of a crash was heard, followed by a rather loud, "RIVER! I'm gonna kill you!"

"In there with him," Mal guessed, sighing. They both headed for the infirmary, only to be nearly plowed over by a very fast moving little girl.

River was a small little thing, she had been at seventeen and was even more so at twelve, but she was faster than the wind when she needed to be.

She quickly darted behind them, grinning.

"Where's the fire, Lil' Abatross?" Mal asked her, curiously. "What was that crash?"

She giggled. "You'll see," she said, pointing.

They both followed her finger to where her brother was running up the stairs…

He was covered in what appeared to be green paint and he didn't look too happy about it, either.

"Where it she?" he growled, spotting his sister behind their pseudo-parents. "I'm gonna…"

He lunged at them, trying to get at his sister.

"Whoa there," Mal said, halting him, "I think someone needs a shower…"

"Someone needs something all right," Simon growled, "but it's a slap upside the head! Look what she did to me!"

He gestured to his green painted body, which was quite green indeed.

Mal looked at River. "You do that, lil'one?" he asked, raising an eyebrow and nodding at her brother.

She nodded. "Yes," she told him, smiling.

"Why?" he asked, crossing his arms.

She shrugged. "I was bored," she said, "and he wouldn't play with me."

"Ah," Mal said, exchanging an amused look with Inara, "well then…why don't you and Inara go rustle us up some grub so that you'll have somethin' to do."

River seemed to think about this a moment. "Okay," she said, latching onto Inara's hand and began pulling her toward the galley.

"What!?" Simon exclaimed, indignant. "That's it!? That's all you're going to say or do!?"

Mal sighed. "C'mon, Simon," he told him. "Ya know yer sister don't think like a normal person…"

"So that excuses this!?" Simon asked, gesturing again to his painted self.

"Now, no," Mal said, "but you ain't really hurt any, are you?"

"Well, no," Simon said, reluctantly, "but…" He again gestured to the paint covering him.

"That's nothin' a little soap and water won't get rid of," Mal said, steering him toward the crew quarters.

"This is a double standard," Simon said, annoyed. "You spank me, but…"

"Now hold it right there," Mal told him, sternly, "if River had done something really hurtful or spiteful or mean, or just plain dangerous you can bet she'd be getting' a lickin' the same as you, but c'mon, this was just a harmless prank, right?"

Simon sighed. "I guess so," he said, knowing his sister really wasn't trying to be mean. "She just wanted my attention…"

Mal nodded, knowingly. "That's right," he said, "and I'm guessin' she's been tryin' to get it for a while now, huh?"

Again, Simon sighed. "I guess so," he said, "but I haven't felt like…playing…since…"

He trailed off, unable to say since they'd lost Kaylee.

"Ah, Simon," Mal said, feeling his own grief rise to the surface, "River misses her just like you do. She wants attention because she's hurtin' inside, the same as all of us. Don't go shuttin' her out, son…"

Simon nodded. "You're right," he said, "I'll play with her the next time she asks."

Mal smirked. "Thatta boy," he said, and started to pat him on the back but stopped just in time. "Now, go take a shower."

Simon grinned. "Yes, Pa," he said, cheekily.

Mal chuckled. "Simon," he called after him.

The boy turned to regard him. "Yes?"

Mal looked at him seriously. "Don't go shutin' the rest of us out, either," he said, quietly.

Simon nodded. "I won't," he told him. "I promise." He then turned and headed for the showers.

Mal grinned, and then turned to head for the galley to see just what kind of 'grub' his soon-to-be-wife and pseudo-daughter was cookin' up.

Shadow may be my home planet, he thought to himself, but it's not really my home.

Serenity and her crew was all the home and family he would ever need.

Little did he know, but his family was soon to grow…in a very unexpected way.