Little Affections

Summary: He's protective over his whole crew, that's for sure, but Kaylee most of all. A look into Mal and Kaylee's friendship.

Everyone knows he's protective over his whole crew, there ain't no question there. He's their captain and they've put faith and trust in him, and he won't squander that, no way, no how. He'll take care of them to the best of his abilities, and even though Jayne would most likely sell him out in a heartbeat, he'll watch out for him, too. Because he's a crew member, and that means something to Mal. He promises himself that he will do his very best to keep them all safe and flying s'long as he's still breathing.

But Kaylee? There ain't no denying she's always been special to him in some ways.

She's a young one, and that's not something he takes lightly. Out of everyone, she's got the most life left to lose. And a good life at that, seeing the world the way she does, where everything's shiny and new. Sometimes, Mal thinks her smile is the only thing that keeps Serenity flying, lighting it up like the sun and giving it power.

And he knows, has always known, what she'd left behind to join him. Unlike most of the rest of the crew, she's got family still alive to miss her. He's heard enough about them to know that, though times could be tough, they were a family full of love. Her pa treated her like a princess, as well he should have. Her mother adored her, and they both gave her the best they had to offer.

Mal ain't stupid. He knows what it's like to leave, and though he's never had kids, he can only imagine what it'd be like to let one go. It's dangerous work, they all know it, but gorram it all to hell if he can't keep their daughter safe.

Something about the way Little Kaylee lives her life, so sure of right and wrong and seeking only to be happy, gets to him.

It brings out the best in him, the protective, the compassionate.

She's just a kid, and life is hard without family, so she makes the crew substitutes for the real thing. He doesn't think she even realizes she's doing it, stepping over boundaries of professional and into territory of kin.

And he's never been an overly affectionate man, but the first time she goes to hug him, he don't pull away. He tells himself it's because she's young and needs it, but he ignores the idea that maybe he needs it too.

She'll do things like butter him up to get her way, kiss his cheek and say things like I love my captain, and his heart will soften slightly at this little display of affection out in the harsh Black. God knows it's a rarity.

Mal don't like to let himself think about it, because feelings can be a dangerous thing in this type of life, but he considers Kaylee a mixture of a sister and daughter. So when a job goes well and they celebrate, it feels just well and natural to hug her and give her a kiss on the head. Words like that's my girl make her smile, and it's somethin' he just loves to see.

When he hears that she's ashamed of not being able to take a life when theirs were in jeopardy, he reassures her. He don't want Kaylee knowing what killin' is like, anyhow. Nothing should dim those eyes or that smile, and he knows that the guilt, however undeserved, would steal her shine.

And when she starts crushin' on the doc, Mal realizes that if Simon breaks her heart, it's gonna take a lot of effort to not break his ruttin' legs.

She really does bring out the best in him, and sometimes, Mal can't help but think that Little Kaylee is the only thing keepin' him human. He assures her that he's a bad man, a hardened criminal, mean, cruel, but she don't believe it for a second. So many times over, he tries to convince her. But she just rolls her eyes and gives him that soft look of hers and says, No you ain't, Cap'n. You try real hard to be, but you got too much good in you for that.

Something about her sincerity always keeps him believing that it just might be true.

A/N: I love sweet Kaylee and the soft side she brings out in Mal. Reviews greatly appreciated!