TITLE: Tattoos

DISCLAIMER: Not mine.

A/N: Due to the intense and powerful awesomeness of my reviewers, I have decided to write this sequel to Occasions. This will largely be snapshots of moments throughout the lives of the crew post Occasions. It is likely to be intensely flufftastic, so please bring along a toothbrush and some floss. And off we go!

TATTOOS

Jason Washburne was a solemn looking little fellow even at five years of age. Being the oldest of a group of five kids all stuck on a boat meant that he often had to be the responsible one. Not that he usually minded, especially not with the girls, but the Tam twins often tested the little man's patience. At only three they were complete and utter terrors, eager to get into any and all trouble that they could find for themselves and their fellow playmates.

It didn't help that Uncle Simon, although excellent with teaching, was not particularly good at discipline. He would melt at their big puppy dog eyes (which Jason suspected they'd learned from Auntie River), and it was something that exasperated Auntie Kaylee to no end. Jason didn't know why, but Auntie Kaylee found it hard to control them also. It probably just wasn't in her sunny nature. Daddy had once told him that nothin' in the 'verse was enough to destroy Auntie Kaylee's smile, and whilst Jason was normally grateful for this, it drove him mad when neither parent would tell off their naughty boys.

Still, at least they were fairly consistent in their mischief making. Which meant he was actually fairly surprised to hear Uncle Jayne was yelling at Safa, not Michael and Kayne. He snuck into the galley and stood next to his Ma, her hand immediately falling to his shoulder in a comforting gesture. Like him, his Ma never said much, but saw everything. Pa was always laughing and talking, and it made Jason happy to have two parents to learn different things from. The value of silence and dinosaur voices were important lessons.

Uncle Jayne had Rayne up in his arms, and the little girl was bravely trying to control her tears. Rayne never bawled or sulked like Safa or the boys, it wasn't in her sweet natured temperament. But Safa could throw a tantrum like nobody's business, and even with Uncle Mal in the room, Uncle Jayne wasn't having a bar of it.

"You know them crayons was a present fer her birthday. Ya got yer own presents, don't think it's ok ta be stealin' hers." Safa turned dark, angry eyes to her Ma, who just stood silently like a regal queen surveying the scenery. She then turned to her Pa, whose stern eyes offered no sympathy. Mal may acquiesce to every little thing his daughter usually asked him for, but he wouldn't let her think stealing was acceptable. At least, not from other crewmembers.

It was strange; Safa and Rayne were usually the best of friends. The loud, fiery Safa would come up with grand stories and imaginative scenes, and the quiet, small Rayne would happily act out anything the bigger girl wanted. They even shared a birthday, and neither had ever begrudged the other her gifts. Except lately Safa seemed to be growing jealous. Uncle Jayne, who she had somewhat of a childish crush on, was always doting on his baby girl. She was so smart, so special, so like her Ma. And even if the quiet little girl was the smartest four-year-old in the 'verse, Safa would sometimes get jealous of the attention. Uncle Jayne usually made the effort to spoil both of them, but after Rayne had drawn him that big picture of Vera he'd decided to get her an extra birthday present, the special box of crayons.

After seeing no support from her parents, and feeling hurt and angry at the admonishment from her beloved Uncle, she turned furious eyes back at him. "It ain't fair, you love her more than the rest of us. I hate you!" And with that she had turned and ran out of the room, tears in her eyes.

Jason looked up to his Ma, who nodded at his unspoken request. He slipped out of the room down to the cargo bay, where he could see his Auntie River move silently across the floor. Auntie River was so pretty and delicate looking, people said Rayne looked just like her, and Jason didn't think that was a bad thing. The five-year-old thought she was the prettiest lady in all the 'verse.

She snuck behind a crate where Jason saw Safa sitting and crying. The little girl refused to meet her eyes, still jealous of the way Uncle Jayne doted on his wife and daughter, still jealous of how smart everybody thought Rayne was. Auntie River smiled.

"No tears, little one. There are questions you should ask." As used to her strange way of speaking as everybody else, Safa raised her head. Daddy had once told her that she should always listen to Auntie River, that there weren't nobody in the 'verse who knew things like Auntie River did.

"What I gotta ask?" River smiled at the little girl. "Pictures on biceps, ink drawings. Ask origins." Safa scrunched up her nose, confused as to what she was hearing. Auntie River slipped back out of the cargo bay, disappearing. Jason decided enough looking for one day, and went to find his Ma and some lunch.

Safa sat for a moment, before going up to find her Ma. Mama was the most beautiful woman in the whole 'verse, and Safa was always delighted when people said she looked like her. She was currently sitting in the now empty galley, sipping at tea and flipping through a book. She looked up at her daughter, wanting desperately to smile but knowing she was still in trouble.

"Yes?" Safa walked up and sat by her, little hands resting in her lap. "Mama, whassa bicep?" Inara raised an eyebrow at her daughter. "It means arm." Safa nodded, pausing for a moment. "And whassa onigin?" Inara smiled. "Do you mean origin?" Safa nodded. "It means where something came from."

Safa thought about the long lines of ink all over Uncle Jayne's arms. She knew they used to be less, his skin used to be barer, but now it was covered in words and numbers and pictures, all in thick black ink. Daddy told her once they were called tattoos, and that she wasn't allowed to have one until she was a million years old. She thought that was a little unfair.

She nodded at her Mama solemnly, leaving the confused woman and going in search of her Uncle. He was down in the cargo bay, pushing up that heavy bar like he did when Auntie River got hurt or he was angry at something. She figured it was probably the latter. She sat down on the floor cross legged, knowing Uncle Jayne could always smell if someone was nearby.

She looked at his arms as she waited for him to acknowledge her. They were covered in designs of animals and other things. They looked beautiful, like the drawings Auntie River sometimes did, all detailed and dark on his thick arms.

"Whaddya want, little one?" His voice was angry but he still used his nickname for her. "Uncle Jayne, where d'you get dose tattoos?" He stopped pushing up the bar, sitting up and wiping himself off with a towel.

"Bout six months ago, but yer Auntie's been workin' on the design for 'bout a year 'fore she got it jus' right." Safa thought for a moment. Her tiny brain may not be as fast as Rayne's, but she had a feeling there was more she was meant to ask. She looked back up at him.

"Whatta dey mean?" Uncle Jayne raised an eyebrow at her, noticing River standing at the top of the stairs with Inara, both women looking down and listening, unseen by Safa.

"K, well the numbers is all yer birthdays. Yer here, the boys are all there, Rayne is here. The pictures she drew fer each of ya. The two whirlwinds on either forearm is fer Kayne and Michael, Rayne is the kitten, Jason is the wolf, and yer that flame on my bicep. The words is bits o' a poem yer Auntie River said I should have." She looked at him expectantly. He sighed. "Somethin' 'bout takin' my love an' my land an' not takin' the sky, she said it was important."

She stared at all the pictures decorating her uncle's arms. "What 'bout on da back?" He grinned in that private way he always did when he thought about Auntie River. He didn't know how to explain the crossed Reaver blades that lay across the full expanse of his back.

"That's fer yer Auntie River."

She looked at him intensely, little mind knowing she was still missing something. So she asked what Uncle Simon said was the most important question in the whole 'verse. "Why?" Uncle Jayne looked embarrassed for a moment.

"So's I can keep ya wit' me all the time."

Safa blinked. Uncle Jayne wanted them all on him always. 'Cuz he loved them. She stood up and her little legs took her over to him, where she immediately threw her arms around his neck and sobbed.

"I'm sorry U'cle Jayne, I didn' mean ta break her crayons, I'm sorry I yelled." He hugged her, patting her back affectionately. "S'ok little one, I know ya didn' mean it. Jus' remember I love you too." And he sent her up to apologise to her friend.

He looked up at where River and Inara stood, now joined by Mal and Wash. The latter two were smirking at the uncharacteristic display of emotion from the big mercenary. River floated down and smiled at him in that special way she did when he got something right. She gave him a sound kiss on the lips, taking his hand and pulling him up the stairs.

"Oh Jaynie, when do I get a pretty bit o' ink on yer body?" He glared at the pilot. "Shut up little man," following his pretty wife as Mal and Wash chuckled.

Thank god they hadn't seen the rest o' them.

He'd never hear the end of it.

A/N: How are we travelling gentle readers? As always, suggestions of things you might want to see are welcome! Please review.