A/N: Thanks for all the feedback! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update, all my English courses are kicking my arse.
Take a Bow and Turn a Corner
She peered nervously at the offending objects. Rationally she understood the purpose, could even surmise the benefits. But it wasn't just what they were; it was a change, a final step. Lifting her dress over her head, she smoothed the soft blue cloth and folded it gently. Each tiny stitch held a part of her, it remembered who she was then and accepted who she was now. No judgments for dancing with the dark.
She slipped on the shorts, sturdy but soft. Next came the shirt, a sleeveless dark brown made of buttery leather. This was who she had to be, for Simon, for Mal, for Serenity. Pulling her boots back on, she slipped a knife into her right boot and took a deep breath. Would they accept it, accept her? They feared her still and she had hid behind the little girl façade for as long as she could. Would they still see her as crew without the mask?
Gripping the cool metal ladder she climbed out of her bunk and treaded softly to the bridge. Zoe stopped in front of her on her way out, a trace of amusement still lingering in her smile. She usually looked like that after spending quality time with Wash in the bridge. She scanned River once, from her free flowing hair down to her combat boots. She was no longer the little girl that everyone would dismiss as harmless or try to take advantage of, she looked grown, and a bit dangerous. Zoe didn't know if this was good or bad, she respected River for her fighting ability, even liked her a bit, but she brought a whole lot more attention to Mal's crew than she liked. But captain's mind was made and that's all she needed to accept her. Giving her a small, sharp nod in greeting, she continued past her.
River ran lightly up the steps and into Wash's domain. Wash looked up knowing it would be her. Having his back to the entry point made him very keen to learn everyone's tread. They all had very distinctive footfalls with musical patterns to them. Maybe he could do a little drumbeat every time one of them entered to see if they would figure out it was them. Or he could find songs that matched their step and blast it every time they came in, a theme for each person announcing their presence. But who would blast his presence? How could he be announced if he was always present? He struggled to untie himself from his logic knot and noticed that River was still standing there not saying anything.
"Riv? Is everything alright?"
"You're the one sitting there with a goofy grin, chasing god knows what thought tangent." River replied sarcastically stepping further in.
"Don't you know the tangent?"
"Trying to be polite and not swim in your stream."
"Hrm…ok." He was already distracted by another thought when he suddenly announced, "Hey! How bout I teach you the finer points of our fine girl here."
She threw herself in the co-pilot seat deciding to humor him. She knew Serenity backwards and forwards, the only thing he could teach her was in the sky and they were currently landlocked.
"I'm going to show you the absolute, most important thing on my control panel." He solemnly lectured as he reached across the dashboard.
"May I introduce, the T-Rex. Yes he is feared but he's working on suppressing his carnivorous, murderistic nature and we are trying to nurture that." Looking properly awed, she held out her hand so Wash could gravely set the reformed killer on her flat palm.
"You're wasting your time Red, he likes them young and you look to be bout ten years older than what stirs him." The besmirched man whipped his head around the figure of Red to see who was speaking.
"Riddick. Here I am trying to have a nice quiet conversation with a lovely lady and you go spouting your filth around, does that seem right to you?"
"Did he tell you the part where after he talks you into going somewhere with him, he ties you up and carves you to shreds 'til you're begging him for the kill?" Riddick crooned to Red as he took another mouthful of corn whiskey, tasted like shit but it burned so good. Red immediately became flustered and very nervous, she stumbled, half-running out of the bar. It was a shame, she cut a fine form in her tight purple dress, but he liked 'em a bit less squeamish.
"You know I had put a solid fifteen minutes of polite conversation into that. Now I have to start all over. Didn't your mother teach you any manners?"
"Yea I see how well that worked out for you." He stood up, encouraging him to get closer, just a couple of feet and he would be ended quickly and soundlessly.
"I know your tricks and your penchant for knives, I won't be falling for that again." He fingered a ridge of scar tissue along his eyebrow. Nodding to some men in the corner he stepped back a few feet and drew his gun. The shadowy men stepped forward, guns drawn and leveled at Riddick.
"See I learned a few things since the last time we ran into each other. Every man has a price, and if that price is that safety and security of their loved ones than so be it. I don't go anywhere anymore without making a few pay that price. Now, I believe we have a score to settle."
"Did someone say score to settle? How 'bout we even up the odds." Mal smirked from the doorway, his gun drawn and Jayne right behind him with his shotgun peeking out over Mal's shoulder.
"It's funny that you say that Jubal Early, considering we have some unbalanced accounts of our own." Mal stepped further into the bar, shaking his head as the nameless men with guns tightened their grip on their triggers.
"I give you gents one chance to walk away, I swear this man will not live to harm any one of you."
One man who's hand was shaky looked at a burly beast of a man in the lead. The lead man considered for a moment, but he had higher stakes than the young nervous colt and with the picture of his little girl and boy in his head and images of what Early promised to do to them if he didn't provide his gun hand, he shifted his aim from Riddick to Mal, his mind decided.
"Okay then." Mal dived to a table, firing off a shot that lodged true into the throat of the lead man and yanked the table over for cover. Jayne shot a blast that took out the shaky one and injured a second that was standing too close to him. Early shot his gun as Riddick made his move, before he could fire another, Riddick was twisting his gun hand, crippling it and moving behind him. Jayne hastily moved to Mal's cover as he reloaded. The two men left fired carelessly at them, backing away from the conflict. On Mal's nod, Jayne rolled left and Mal rolled right taking one shot a piece at the two foolish men not smart enough to walk away when it was offered.
Riddick was not all concerned at the fireworks going off around him. He was busy enjoying the sensation of his shiv, digging slowly into Early's spine. Mal and Jayne approached the pair.
"Hate to interrupt but I do have one quick question. How in the gorram hell did you find your way out of the freefall burial that I gave you."
Early smiled, knowing he had no chance. He always knew he'd go out like this, his sins had to be paid somehow.
"Ask your crew. General Book is the one that implemented the procedure, he taught me well. A brilliant man, he could mitigate any scenario and yet I knocked him out without him even knowing it was coming, does that seem right to you? Speaking of crew, where's the girl?" A feverish glint entered his eyes as he looked about.
Mal drew his pistol to Early's face. "Book is and always will be Sheppard." He squeezed the trigger, making a fine mess of his face, ensuring there was no way he would find a way out of this scenerio. "And no one will ever say different." Mal walked away, calling to Riddick that they would be in the sky in ten.
Riddick kneeled over Early's slumped form and patted his pockets. His attention caught on a glint of silver round his neck. Smiling he grasped the metal chain and yanked it off the dead form.
"Girl is turning out mighty useful." He said to himself, pocketing the chain with shiny metal object dangling off of it, an object he'd spent the better part of a year trying to track down. He stood up and surveyed the fallen locals that had been forced into Early's service, but he remembered, he should not pity them.