This story follows from my other fanfic, Seeing is Believing, but you don't need to have read it to enjoy this one.
The nice thing about this job, thought Malcolm Reynolds as he piloted Serenity to a landing on Higgins' Moon, is there's no need for secrecy. No reason to hide and sneak into town. This was one cargo haul job where he'd be welcomed by the inhabitants with open arms.
He should have known better. Not that the cargo wouldn't be welcome, or that he would be unwelcome. He should have known that he wouldn't get any credit for its delivery. Not here.
After setting down on the outskirts of town, Mal and Jayne loaded the medical supplies onto a trolley and signaled for River to open the cargo bay door.
They weren't expecting the applause. Mal and Jayne turned to see that hundreds of people had gathered outside, cheering and clapping. "Jayne's back!" someone cried. "He's come to save us!" called out another. Then they started chanting, "Jayne! Jayne! Jayne!"
Mal rolled his eyes and with a sigh sat down on a crate. Jayne, his face beaming, approached the crowd, hailing them with both arms high in the air. This drove the people to an even greater frenzy as they chanted his name louder and louder.
That's when Jayne noticed what they were wearing on their heads. Hats. Identical hats. And they were the same hat that his mother had knit for him, so he wouldn't get cold in space.
Suddenly, the cheering died down, and Jayne heard a new voice. "Cease!" it called out. "You must cease and desist!"
Jayne raised himself up to see over the crowd. "Just a gorram minute! Who are you?" Jayne called out.
"He's Mayor Fox," one of the settlers whispered to Jayne. "He's forbidden us from wearing this hat. Says its disrespectful. To your memory."
"Disrespectful?" Jayne repeated.
Jayne started walking towards the mayor and the crowd parted, making way for him.
Mayor Fox was short, about five foot three, and almost as wide as he was short. He had a fat, round face with ruddy cheeks, a red nose, and a thick, white mustache.
Standing before him, looking down sharply, Jayne asked, "What's the problem, Mayor?"
The mayor cleared his throat. "We are naturally thrilled that you have returned, Jayne, and that you have brought such valuable supplies to the people who love you. Unfortunately, certain unruly elements have defied our laws today and have worn certain apparel that is, well, outlawed."
"Outlawed," Jayne repeated. "You telling me you got something against my hat? That my Mother knit?"
The mayor withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow. "Ahem, no, naturally not. It's just that, you see of course, it's necessary that since, this being your hat, that it's, in order to show proper respect, not proper for anyone but you to wear it. This hat."
Jayne had to process this for a moment. He turned and looked back at the crowd. They had taken off their hats and were looking at him expectantly. Hopefully.
Jayne grabbed the hat from the nearest man and put it on his head. "My hat," said Jayne. "My rules. Not your rules. Got it?" As he spoke, Jayne jabbed his index finger into the mayor's chest. "And my rule is, anyone wants to wear this hat, well he can go right ahead. My Mother'd be proud. And I'm even prouder."
Sweating even more profusely, the mayor blushed, bowed, and made a discreet exit. Meanwhile, the crowd cheered and donned their hats again. They raised Jayne up in the air, leading him away like a conquering hero, calling out, "Jayne! Jayne! Jayne!"
Sometime later, after she had delivered the medical supplies with Mal, River found Jayne in the bar, bleary-eyed and grinning. She was wearing Jayne's hat. With surprising strength, she grabbed Jayne by the shirt collar and hoisted him to his feet. Then, stretching up on her toes, she planted a kiss full on Jayne's lips. Jayne's eyes widened with surprise, and for a moment he struggled against the thin arms that held him in such a steely embrace. Then he relaxed.
Stepping away from him, River smiled coyly. "I like what you did," she said.
Jayne replied shakily, "Gorram, girl. You should be careful. Behavin' like that could get a man all excited-like."
River turned and started walking back towards Serenity, her hips swaying gently. As she walked, she turned her head back towards Jayne. "And what would he do about that?" she wondered out loud.