TITLE: Twin Bands
DISCLAIMER: Not mine!
A/N: Another chapter, although I must admit I've had trouble with inspiration. Ah well, writers block is a universal bitch n'est pas? Love!
They'd made a name for themselves, that much was certain. Badger watched as Mal entered his office, along with his two gun hands and first mate. Looks can be deceiving. He's all too aware of how effective they are as a team, all eyes focused on the raw strength and exuding hostility of the large man, stoic calm and strength of the first mate, nobody ever suspecting the delicate girl to be the one worth more fear. But they kept her under wraps, and if Badger hadn't known better he'd have assumed she was just the moon brained niece Mal claimed her to be. But she wasn't.
He had to admit, even after finding out she was a psychic government assassin, even having been on the end of her gun before in less amicable situations, he still had a bit of a soft spot for the girl. It was hard not to, with her faking his accent so well the first time they met, all slim legs and tangled hair. He briefly let his mind wander to her legs, lean and strong despite their look of fragility, currently ensconced in a pair of skin tight pedal pushers. A sliver of the milky skin of her calves was revealed in the gap between her black pants and the clunky combat boots. One creamy shoulder was left bare by the black hooded tunic she wore; also tight enough that her slender curves were on display.
His mind drifted a moment too long, and two loud clicks echoed through the room. Mal and Jayne were known to get a mite protective of their little Reader, and the corner of Zoe's mouth twitched in amusement. Cobb in particular seemed to grow twitchy. Maybe the big man had a little crush. When his eyes met River's they were calm, something he was smart enough to detect as not being particularly reassuring. The mercenary looked scarier, eyes holding that slightly feral look in which this crew seemed to specialize. He turned his eyes back to Mal.
"Well then, Cap'n Reynolds, 'ow's ya crew goin'? All them li'le ones givin' ya touble? Yer up to five now, right?" He knew it irritated Mal no end that he knew about the youngest members of the crew, and was sure to remind the good Captain of that knowledge. He was yet to share it; largely due to a particularly terrifying conversation Jayne had initiated which had ended with him pissing himself. But it was still fun to stick it in the Captain's craw.
As far as he knew, and his sources were fairly accurate, there were five children on Serenity. He knew of Jason Washburne, had seen him in Persephone before, the little boy as stoic as his mother with his father's bright blue eyes. He'd glimpsed Safa Reynolds before, the little girl the spitting image of her mother with her father's temper. He knew there was another girl, he thought she was Cobb's, but he didn't know the mother and had never seen the little thing before. Given the father's penchant for whoring, it seemed unlikely he'd ever know about the mother. He'd also been told the mechanic had twins, but he'd no idea as to if this was entirely true and who the father was.
Mal's gaze sharpened. "Well enough thank ya kindly, but we ain't here ta discuss no kids. Whatcha got fer us today?" Badger smirked when Mal didn't refute the number, and made a mental note to find out more about the children of Serenity. Just in case.
He gestured for Mal to sit, Zoe standing just behind his right shoulder, the girl and the merc taking up positions around the door. Jayne leaned against a wall, the brim of his hat pulled low over his eyes, a cigar clenched between his teeth. Badger wasn't dumb enough to assume that meant he wasn't paying attention. The girl had moved behind him, giving him a strange feeling a discomfort, and putting her in the Captain's eye line. He'd figured out a long time ago that lying in the presence of Mal's Reader was a bad idea, so he just laid it out.
"Cargo, 'eaded for Boros. Easy job, decent pay, but the client is particularly worried 'bout the safety of his cargo. He wants insurance." Mal raised an eyebrow, turning his head to look at Zoe, who didn't betray a thought.
"Well now, an' what 'xactly does this fine gentleman request as insurance?" Badger heard the edge to Mal's voice, but the pay packet would be particularly lucrative to both of them, and he had to say this just right. He opened his mouth to reply when he was cut off.
"No." She rarely spoke, but her words always seemed to carry more weight than one would expect from someone so young. Mal raised one eye brow. "Somethin' wrong 'tross?"
"No. Will not leave progeny for insurance." Mal looked back to his first mate, who always seemed to figure out what the girl was saying before he could. Her face was still as always, but the stony set of her jaw and the fire in her eyes told him her thoughts quite eloquently. His merc was in the same position, silent and expression hidden by the hat. Badger tried to smile charmingly at the girl behind him.
"Now now luv, ain't no 'arm that'd come to 'em. Sides, why'd you care so much anyway, ain't like any o' 'em are yours." He studied her face, her expression calm and controlled, frustratingly blank of anything.
"Familial ties are not solely created through blood." It was a vague statement, deliberately blank in implication. Badger paused for a moment, and if he hadn't he would never have caught the movement. Mal's merc, the big man laden with firearms, had twitched his finger ever so slightly. It was enough to make Badger look more closely at his hands. The arms had more tattoos than he remembered, were now covered in sleeves of ink, and the fourth finger of his left hand had a single black band across it. He quickly turned his head, just catching the light bouncing off the ring on the fourth finger on the Reader's left hand. He smirked.
"Mal, you let Cobb take the girl? Shame on you, such a young'un at that. Thought you said she was like a daugh'er or summat, guess that sorta thing is easy ta trade." Mal's face froze, and Badger knew he'd overstepped his bounds. The mercenary had pushed himself off from the wall in a decidedly lazy way, walking slowly towards Badger.
His men quickly tried to draw arms, but Cobb didn't even flinch, not with Mal, Zoe and River simultaneously pointing two guns in every direction. The mercenary reached him and bent down low to his face, close enough that the cigar nearly burned Badger's cheek.
"Speak 'bout my wife that way again an' they won't be finding the pieces." He withdrew, moving back to his position on the wall, his words low enough that nobody apart from his crewmembers had heard him.
Badger cleared his throat, desperate to regain control of the situation long enough to finish the meeting. He was quick to offer an alternative. "He wants ta travel with ya then, make sure 'is cargo is safe, dong ma?" Mal nodded, the meeting proceeding calmly, guns slowly holstered. But Badger's mind remained on what he'd seen – River Tam was no more, River Cobb was all that was left. That band on her finger had shown him that much, and the mercenary was careful to keep her between himself and his Captain, blocking her slim body from view.
Badger waited for fifteen minutes after they left, wanting to be sure Mal's strange crew with their feral eyes was completely gone, before he excused his men. He deftly tapped names into the cortex, quickly finding the latest available pictures of the crew. There was one, a snapshot taken on Crawan, the crew out around the market. There was the girl, standing out slim and pale amongst a crowd of people, her tall husband just behind her. On his shoulders was a little girl, no older than four, pointing at something with a happy expression on her face. It was difficult to make out from the photo, but he thought Cobb looked particularly pleased with his situation.
Badger thought about a recent wave from a man called Niska, a man he'd been warned would only bring danger and turmoil. The wave had been regarding information on the crew of Serenity, and had been accompanied by a hefty reward. The focus had been on Reynolds, but was also accompanied by some old warrants for the Tam siblings, requests for their whereabouts and rewards for obtaining them. Badger thought about all that cash, how much more control he could buy with it. And he wondered how much little girls with long dark hair and the gift of Reading like their Mama's would fetch.
He looked back at the picture. Cobb definitely looked pleased with himself, his little wife tickling her daughter's toes, the pretty little girl a miniature version of her beautiful mother. Jason Washburne was visible, eyes trained to the tops of Cobb's shoulders with a look of longing at odds with his young face. Wash had one arm around his wife, talking to Book, who was watching the doctor try to handle his situation. Zoe and Kaylee walked side by side, the doctor bringing up the rear with two identical boys who had mischief in their eyes. Reynolds and the whore, something Serra, were off to one side, obviously engrossed in some kind of fight, their daughter laughing at the antics of the twins.
It was a decidedly domestic scene, and Badger felt a strange sense of longing in the pit of his stomach. All that cash Niska was offering, just for information. It would be enough to buy his own cargo ship, attract a pretty girl, maybe start a family of his own. Plus, more money.
He flicked to Niska's wave, the warrant files and contact information attached to it professionally, speaking of possibilities of future ventures with the wealthy man. And all for information on one lousy crew of misfits. He looked back to the picture, at the pleasure in Cobb's eyes, at the frazzled look of joy on the doctor's face, at the hand Zoe rested on her son's shoulder. Even Mal and Ms Serra looked to be enjoying their fight.
He thought about the wedding bands he'd seen today, one functional and permanent, the other suiting the delicate beauty of the wearer. Twin bands representing love and commitment, something he'd never found for himself. The right thing would be to delete the files from the cortex, to make sure nobody else could find the crew of Serenity. Course, when was he the kind of man to do the right thing?
The action on the cortex took all of three seconds. He turned away from the computer, satisfied and pleased with himself. He'd never been a fan of doing the right thing. He wasn't Reynolds, the upstanding man of justice; he was just a street dweller looking to get by. Doing the right thing didn't get you paid or laid.
So why did it feel so damn good?
A/N: Not sure where this came from or if it even makes sense. Twas obviously meant to be somewhat foreshadowing. Please let me know what you think, muchos love :) Symbol suggestions are always welcome!