Another Girl Another Planet Ch.4
Saturday, May 13, 2006

These are the continuing voyages...oh, wait, wrong 'verse...


4. Policy of Truth

Mal’s still looking up the stairs, when Jayne brings an odour of more than good cheer to the conversation.

“How ‘bout that? Talked them purplebellies off our boat. Ain‘t she something?”

“Last passenger we had could do that was the Shepherd.” Zoe lets that hang for a moment.

“And what she is, we still ain’t quite sure of.”

“Oh, c’mon. She ain’t a player, Mal.” Jayne shakes his head. “Not like that tricky piece you got yourself hitched to.”

“You wanted to swap Vera for her.” Mal reminds him. Jayne shrugs.

“Yeah, well, rainstick turned out a lot safer.” Folds his arms. “Ms Donovan ain’t nothing ‘cept a nice little woman heading home with cargo to trade.”

“Well, you ain’t thinkin’ with your brain...”

Zoe interrupts what looks set to become another pissing contest.

“Nothing on the Cortex with her name on it. Whatever kind of trouble she is, isn’t anything with a flag.”

“An’ River ain’t any more tweaked that she normally is.” Jayne points out. “Why don’t you go ask her?”

“I might just be doing that.” Mal sniffs at him, smirks. “Don’t think Ms Donovan’s gonna like your new aftershave.”


When Jayne gets back to his bunk, there’s a bar of soap outside the door. He’s about to sling it up at Mal’s head, but smell catches him. Sharp scent, like early morning in the mountains, back when he was learning to hunt. Pine trees.

Smells clean, like her. ‘Cept for the smudge of engine grease. Scutter of tiny combat boots on the edge of hearing.

Ship’s full of devil women. He grins.


Knows that Kaylee and River are nudging each other when he swaggers in. Zoe eyes him up and down.

“Have you...washed?”

“Man gets dirty, he should get himself clean.” Had a bit of a shave, too.

Zoe keeps staring at him; this is the man who doesn’t change his shirt for a week. He’s a skin tone lighter.

Ilargia is having a graphic thought involving Jayne and a sponge bath. River leans away slightly; a side effect they should have foreseen.

“River, are you okay?” Kaylee’s concerned. Girl’s gone cross-eyed.

“I’ in my bunk.” Drown in the sea if you stand on the shore too long.


Mal’s hoping they don’t run into any more of Ilargia’s friends. He don’t think he can take the excitement.

But the rest of the day passes without incident. Quiet enough that he and Simon are well into a game of chess, when Jayne wanders by. Looks at the board, grunts,

“Mate in three.”

“You good at chess?” Ilargia asks him. She’s leafing through the old journals.

“No.” Horrible grin. “But it’s gonna bug Mal and the doc trying to figure if’m right.”

River drifts in, observes in passing.

“Mate in three.”

“Gorram...I was right?”

“No.” Pure little brat sister in her smile. “But now my brother is really confused.” Leans up to him, whispers, “New queen on the board. Black knight‘s her champion, not the white king.”

Jayne leans back. Girl still worries him, ‘specially when she gets near anything sharp in the kitchen. Clutching something to her chest, an’ he eyes her warily. He don’t like her near Ilargia.

Ilargia hasn’t noticed, is still poking about. Asks plaintively,

“Has anyone got anything to read on board?”

“Jayne has some magazines...” Mal offers, which stops Jayne’s grinning dead.

“I’ll bet he has. I was thinking of something a little less...graphic.” Smiles sweetly. “If you have anything you haven’t coloured in yet, Captain...”

Zoe turns her snort into a cough. Mal don’t want to get into a verbal with this woman; he ain’t equipped for the fight.

River puts what she’s carrying down on the table. A proper book, leather cover gone soft from use. Ilargia pounces with the glee of a book-fiend.

“Moonward Ho! It’s years since I read this. I always had a weakness for space-pirates.” She‘s already curling into a chair. “Thanks, sweetie. I‘ll take good care of it.”

Jayne settles in to clean some of his smaller guns at the table, where he can watch her reading.

It don’t matter to him if she don’t want to talk right now. He just likes being near her. Ain’t just looking at that curvy little bottom, and imagining how soft her skin might feel. No, he likes that she has a way of smiling at a man, makes him feel worth something. He’s used to wanting a woman. Been a few wanted him back, over the years, but mostly working girls. Life he leads, doesn’t meet any kind of class that often.

He figures he’s like most men - he’ll take what’s on offer. But what he likes - is feisty women, not so tough they lose their softness, but smart with it. No use for wilting flowers. She feels his eyes on her, glances over with a smile. He busies himself over his cleaning.

Smile stays with her as she reads on. And they both keep looking when they think no-one else is.

Kaylee peers out from where she’s cooking.

“They are kinda sweet, aren’t they?”

Simon shudders.

“Did we pass through some dimensional rip? Because I don’t think anyone in the ‘verse could think he was sweet. Even his mother.”

“Grendel had a mother.” River reminds him. Hands Kaylee the salt before she reaches for it.

“Jayne just wants to...I don‘t even want to think it.”

“So does she. Don’t make ‘em any less sweet. He had a wash for her, an’ all.”

Simon, having recently found his last clean towel mysteriously filthy, frowns.


Ilargia surfaces long enough to eat dinner. Afterwards, crew are playing a card game she doesn’t know, and rather than hold the game up learning, she tucks away with the book. Doubts they’ll miss her.

(She’s wrong. Everyone teases Jayne, until he stomps off to sulk on the bridge.)

Realises that it’s very late when she finishes it. Looks at the cover thoughtfully. Spends a while staring up into the dark. She never sleeps well on board ships, until her body adjusts; strange bed, strange noises.

Serenity. Interesting choice of name. She knows the history behind it. Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds, Corporal Zoe Alleyne. Can’t even imagine what they went through then. What they’ve been through since. Kaylee’s face gone sad as she explains why Zoe doesn’t smile too often any more, why they have a pilot should be in school. She didn’t ask how he died; this is the life out here. Can’t imagine what it’s like to miss a husband, instead of...pushes that thought away.

Kaylee is a sweetie, a cheerful little soul who keeps all her worry stashed away behind her eyes. Keeping the lid on things, picking her way through the words, doesn’t come naturally. The doctor is so very young to have that much on his shoulders.

Thoughts keep coming back to him, though. Big hands over hers, deep rumble of his voice.

He’s not the first mercenary she’s met. But he’s the first she’s felt inclined to stay within any distance of. Manners are rough, but oddly endearing, and he tells a story well. Been to so many different places (probably to rob them), met a lot of folk (and probably killed them, Ilargia.)

Dammit, an educated and empowered woman from a politically correct and socially enlightened culture is not supposed to go lusting after an unreconstructed brute.

Treacherous inner voice (sounds a lot like Kaylee) says, ‘could be all kinds of fun, though.’ And it isn’t like she’s planning to leap on him once they’re planet side...

Of course, if he should feel inclined to do any leaping, life could get all kinds of interesting.

And her dreams are her own damn business.


In the cargo bay again. There’s been debate on whether to put the hoop out, but that involves finding the ball, and it just seems much easier to sprawl out and chat. Jayne’s doing pull-ups today. Muscles have to move out of the way of other muscles when he does; Ilargia notices that sort of thing, strangely enough.

“You gonna beat up on the doc some more today?”

“I think I hurt something doing that.”

“Try this out.”

He nearly has a fit when River appears behind Ilargia. So busy watching her, he wasn’t paying no mind to the crazy, and who knows what she sees as a threat? But girl just climbs up the crates, cat-footing about with a nosy look.

“Don’t think it’s safe up there for you, honey.”

Ilargia has worry in her eyes; Jayne don’t think River’s gonna fall, though. Crazy just lays herself down, comfortable-like.

“Every box has a story.”

“She’s...not quite right, sometimes, is she?”

“She’s gorram moon-brained half the time, and nuts the rest.” Raises his voice. “Get off the rutting soap, girl.”

“Thinks I’m a rain girl.” Smiles. “I won’t burst any bubbles.”

“Oh, leave her be, if she’s settled.” Worry in her eyes, pushed away.

River shuts her eyes, still smiling. A good secret. She’s going to keep this one locked up safely, where it can keep the bad secrets shut out.

Jayne don’t want her fussing about River.

“C’mon. Try this out.”

She’s laughing up at him.

“I can’t even reach the damn straps.”

“No problem.” Two hands on her waist, and lifts. Tiny waist - his fingers nearly meet round her - but not feather light, curvy little hips. (He don’t go for scrawny women - like cuddling a coat rack.) She manages a couple of pulls, before she falls off, giggling, and for one happy minute, steadies herself against him.

Kaylee shakes her head.

“Captain catches him, he’s gonna put Jayne in the airlock.”

“He’s got his reasons.”

“He just don’t like seeing people happy, not since ‘Nara...” Kaylee trails off under Zoe’s stony gaze. Then the other woman sighs.

“Not saying they’re good reasons.”

They both remember the fuss Mal made when Zoe and Wash started keeping company. And he’s not been too cheered about Kaylee and Simon, neither. Zoe lifts a shoulder.

“Ah, well, it’s only for a couple of days. Can’t do no harm.” Raises her voice. “You gonna let me embarrass your sorry ass, Jayne? Got five credits says I can pull more than you in a minute.”

“Bring it on, girlie.”

“Don’t allow no betting on this ship...” Mal comes down the stairs. “Not without I get to take part.”

“You beat him out then, Sir.”

Which weren’t what he had in mind. And he resolves to come down, use Jayne’s kit more often, ‘cos he is in a sad, sorry state come one minute. Basic training too long and too far away.

Even Simon has to have a go, ‘cos Kaylee wants to see him all sweaty. An’ Jayne collects a nice handful of credits out of it.


Simon’s looking for a clean shirt to change into, when Ilargia knocks on the door frame.

“...Dr Tam?”

It takes a moment. Then he’s cold, sick, terrified.

“Next time your sister lends a book, you might want to check the bookplate.”

One of River’s favourite childhood books. Her neat copperplate italics. Makes some response to her through numb lips, but she’s already walked away.


Simon is wondering if they could just leave Ilargia on a rock somewhere. River sighs inwardly; if he voices that thought, Jayne will put it back down his throat with a fist.

“Secret for a secret. Fair swap. Not going to hurt us, Simon.”

“We don’t know her...” Sometimes she’s just a child. Trails off under her Look. “Can we trust her?”

“Trust is fragile. Like soap...bubbles.”

He’ll have to assume that’s a yes. The Captain is not going to like this.


Mal figures that River usually has a reason for doing what she does. Whether it’s a reason makes sense to normal folk may be open to debate. But ratting herself out to a stranger is a whole new type of crazy.

“You meant her to find out, didn’t you?”

“Not sideways. Forward is the only way.”

“You like her.”

River nods.

“Sees the girl.” Fingers touch a dinosaur. “Likes Serenity and all who sail in her. Fellow traveller.” Dark eyes are amused, clear. “Ask her.”

“Ask her what?”

“Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie. Watch the wall.”

“You could try being a bit less cryptic, darlin’.”

“Can’t tell a secret. Have to show it.”

Mal’s thinking hard. River don’t think she’s a threat. But she’s a woman with a secret. And he don’t like secrets on his ship. Has a last worrying thought.

“I ain’t gonna find bits of her ex-husband in there or nothing?”

“No bodies. Only lives.”


Mal has a crate open, racks of soap round his feet, and frustration all over his face. Likes to think its inspiration, not temper, makes him fling a bar at the wall.

Soap splits clean down the middle. There’s a small vial of liquid nestled in the centre, like the stone in a peach.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006 4:51 AM


<<Ship’s full of devil women. He grins.>>
Made me laugh!
<<Soap splits clean down the middle. There’s a small vial of liquid nestled in the centre, like the stone in a peach.>>
Very clever!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 9:06 AM


Ain't gettin' a gorram thing done, and I don't care! This is great stuff!


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