Crazy things pop into your head sometimes. Not my characters.
WARNING: I have a talent for spawning entertaining crossovers that start off strong but take ages to update thereafter. I'm not saying this will happen, but it's likely.
Nine months after the Miranda affair, the crew of Serenity was still painstakingly building up their contact list after the loss of so many friends. They still had enough work to keep them flying, but they had precious little opportunity to find shelter anywhere to fix up the ship and lay low after a heist.
Mal never expected that Canton would be one of those places, but according to Inara's sworn testimony after she'd been waved, Boss Higgin's son and heir was as gaga over Jayne as the Mudders and would absolutely love to host them for a few weeks. Apparently in the time since the Magistrate died from a stroke, young Fess had increased the Mudder's wages, built a school with a decent teacher, and built a hospital with a real doctor and four good nurses.
The last was a matter of import, as unbeknownst to all when they had lost Wash, Zoe was with child. Mal had been in the mildly disturbing position of using River to supply both a fair amount of Wash's piloting and pretty much all of Zoe's fighting capacity – though Zoe was and would always be second-in-command no mater what state she was in. Simon had proven himself decent at baby delivering, but having already suffered so much loss in their ragtag family the prospect of a hospital with modern equipment was a reassurance.
Fess Higgins had given them a warm welcome, treated them to fine dining and generous lodgings, but Mal found himself in the tavern late into the night. Perhaps it was hearing Jayne's praises sung over and over (though Jayne himself had become much humbler in his accepting of their adoration), or, more like, it was the fact that Inara was servicing their host over the next several days. Though he realized how hypocritical this was it seemed so much worse when he somewhat knew the client, as a decent man no less.
He was alone as well. Jayne had his pick of the local gals. Zoe was stocking up on sleep (Lord knew she'd need it after the big day), and in any case she'd have little to do at a bar. Simon and Kaylee were…well, they had no interest in drinking. And River had gained access to the mansion library and was devouring books, possibly all night.
It was after the third Scotch – and he did appreciate the wider variety of drinks on tap this time 'round – that the cheerfully tipsy young woman sat beside him. "Ni hao!"
Mal was taken aback. She was a pretty girl, probably around twenty, with the blackest hair he'd seen and the strange accessory of charcoal smudges, making a curl around the bottom of one eye and blackening the eyelids. She also had a cross with a circle-top hung 'round her neck. "Hi…"
She had a beer in her hand. "I've never gotten drunk or done anything of the kind before, and I thought I should. To really get it. It's such an important thing for so many people, you know? Is it common to find yourself attracted to people more than usual?"
"Yes, that would be a fairly ordinary symptom."
"Call me Didi, if you like. And you look lonely."
Mal didn't remember much about what followed, except some vague crazy-talk to rival River's about how she was only mortal for today so she could understand the "bitter tang", and their ending up in his room, and that it turned out she was a virgin but found his embarrassment at the discovery amusing.
She was gone when he woke with a headache, and he thought all things considered it wasn't his finest hour but at least she acted like she had a good time.
Zoe's baby arrived a few days later and turned out to have cerebral palsy, condition that thankfully wouldn't kill him or prevent him from becoming a happy adult one day, but would require special care that the Firefly crew couldn't possibly give. After some thought and perhaps a private tear or two, Zoe decided to stay with Serenity and pay the childless schoolteacher and her husband a portion of her wages to care for him. The crew would visit when they could.
They were at dinner, back in the black, two weeks later when a most startling thing came about. "Pass the salt, please, Kaylee," Simon said.
River got that look of hers, like the world had been peeled open. "She's here."
"Hm?" Inara asked. She'd been eating with the crew more often lately.
"Sorry to drop in like this, but you folks move around a lot and I knew this would affect the whole group," the cool and amiable voice said from the bridge. Mal dropped his chopsticks when the woman entered the dining room. It was Didi, only much, much paler, and dressed all in black in slim pants and a fitted shirt, with big combat boots, and black lips and black eyeshadow and a much more delicate black curl under one eye. And her necklace was much shinier somehow.
"Mal…did you marry another girl by accident?" Zoe asked calmly.
"We're not married," the woman said with a smile.
"How…how…what…" Simon always was a champion for incoherency.
Jayne had stealthily (or so he thought) put a napkin over his lap.
"HOW ARE YOU HERE?" Mal cried.
River rose to her feet and gave the woman a deep bow. "The lady honors us. But please, not yet."
"Don't worry, dear, I'm not here to take anybody. I'm here with some news. May I sit?"
"HOW ARE YOU HERE?" Mal repeated.
She took a deep breath. "This is awkward, but, hi there, Malcom Reynolds, Zoe Washburne, Jayne Cobb, Kaywinnit Lee Frye, Simon Tam, River Tam, and Inara Serra. I'm Death. I can be here because I am everywhere, even now."
She knew their names. "Death ain't a person," Jayne said, through everyone's compounded shock.
"I'm a person and a force at the same time. I come from a family with seven siblings – Destiny, me, Dream, Destruction (though he's retired, long story), Desire, Despair, and Delirium. We're not actually allowed to be lovers of mortals, but there was this loophole…"
"Once a century, you live," River said with wonder. "Live for a day. Then you die. To know what it's like to die."
"Exactly. And something I'd never done in all these millennia of incarnating is get drunk. I thought I'd try that. And then, of course, it seemed like a good idea to try something else I'd never done as a mortal."
"Go-se," Mal whispered. He had a horrible premonition of where this was going.
"When I died, I found there was life inside me, and that it was not scheduled to die. So, um, Mal, I thought you deserved to know…"
Jayne's face was a contorted mess. "Zhen de ma? Mal, you ruttin' knocked up Death!"