Another Girl Another Planet Ch. 6
Saturday, May 13, 2006

The secret is out, and Jayne is still being bothered by their passenger.


6. I’d Just Be Fool Enough (To Fall)

Mal’s on the rota for cooking. Frowns at it a while. Then grins. Keeps a pilot to fly, an engineer to do engine things, and no sense him dishing out slop when there’s someone much more capable to hand. Can’t give orders to non-crew. Can try looking helpless, though. And it actually works.

Sort of. Finds himself being bullied in his own kitchen. It’s kinda fun.

“Taste this. What does it need? No, not more salt, that’s the refuge of the hopeless...oh, I forgot...” Grins at him. He grins back.

“Where did you learn to cook?”

It’s an idle enquiry, though Mal is curious. What he’s gathered, Core folks buy most of their meals ready prepped, so they don’t have to know if it had eyes and such.

“Lived quite a few places, and not all of them had grocery stores.” Ilargia takes the spoon off him, adds a dash of pepper. “Lived station side for a while, and you learn how to put taste into basic rations, or you’d chew your own leg off with the boredom. Now, got anything tastes of mushroom in stock?”

Jayne loafs hopefully into the kitchen. She’s there, and it’s Mal she’s talking to, laughing with. Seems the Captain’s got over himself now, back to his usual snake-charming self. Jayne don’t feel this is fair; when he thought she was some kinda trouble, it was fine to let Jayne talk to her. Now, he’s being shouldered out. Well, Mal can’t have her. Crowds up on them. Mal gives him a look.

“Don’t remember invitin’ you in.”

“Don’t need invitin’.”

“Do you two always bicker like married folks, or is it just for company?”

Ilargia’s not stupid. She knows why the Captain is displaying that charming grin again. It is definitely causing some interesting territorial growlings from elsewhere. She smiles up at him.

“Quit looming. Captain hasn’t finished cooking yet.”

“Captain?” Jayne snorts. “Mal can burn water.”

Her small hand pushes into his chest, and she feels his heartbeat, hard and strong. (Wonders if hers is going that fast, too.)

“Go and lay the table or something.”

And the man actually does. Mal hitches his jaw shut. He’s starting to seriously reckon the notion of kidnapping the woman. Not just for her cooking, though that is something powerful in her favour, but seeing Jayne all meek and polite-like is balm to a man’s soul.


Jayne slaps the last plate down, sits at the table, eyes Mal balefully.

Mal is not exactly blind to the glaring. Takes a casual stroll over to where he don’t feel like he’s gonna die.

“You got a problem this evening, Jayne?”

“Nope. Got a pretty woman cooking my dinner, suits me fine.”

“Pretty?” Mal’s surprised. So’s Jayne.

“You got eyes?” His go back to the woman flitting about the kitchen. “She’s a peach, Mal.”

Not his usual lechery. Tone’s almost wistful. Mal can’t resist the impulse.

“Don’t seem like your usual pickings.”

“Woman like that ain’t pickings, Mal. You keep a civil tongue.”

Too many people coming in for it to turn into a proper row. Jayne don’t want to discuss ‘Larji with him. She ain’t that sort of woman. It’s Zoe sits down between them, deliberately breaks the tension.

“Are you going to dish this up, or have you abdicated responsibility for it?” Ilargia calls. Mal gives Jayne a benevolent smirk, and strolls back.

Zoe has noted the scowling. Mal’s going to go too far, if he teases Jayne like this. Ilargia will cut him off at the knees, true. But every man’s got a limit. Quite casually, she moves one chair up, nods Kaylee to her left. Kaylee gets it, steers Simon across from her. River doesn’t need a prompt, slides into another chair...Mal’s taken his usual seat at the head of the table, before he realises the change, and that the only spare seat is next to Jayne. Zoe’s expression is blandly unhelpful.

Ilargia gives them all a narrow look, grins slightly, and sits placidly down.


Mal picks up the conversation again as they eat.

“So which station did you live on?”

“Bernadette. Grim little rock that it is.”

“Still a ways out - spreading the light of civilization?”

“Processing supply dockets. I drive a mean desk.”

It’s Simon asks the thing everyone else has avoided.

“What made you leave Londinium?”

It’s a loaded question. More than one fork pauses.

“There’s folks might not like answering that sort of thing.” says Mal significantly. Simon flushes. Ilargia sighs.

“It’s a boring little story, involving none of the death-defying.”

“Gonna have to tell it now.” Jayne wants to know. They all do.

“Well, I told you I was destined for government service,” Looks at Simon, “I think you might know how this goes - parental expectations?”

“You failed?”

“Oh, no. I succeeded. Got good grades, got a good post, married my college sweetheart. A good little cog in the machine.”

Mal’s trying to picture her in a drab uniform, in a sterile office. It’s not an easy conjure. She’s got a sharp mind and a smart mouth, and he can’t see that sitting well with Alliance.

“So what went wrong?” asks Zoe.

“I couldn’t make the pieces fit.” A wry smile. “My psych profile says ‘non-conformist’, which means squat out here, but it closes a lot of doors back there.”

“Everybody’s dreams but your own. Tried hard, but the Devil shouted in your ear.” River shakes her head. “Wound the spring too tight...”

“That’s a poetic way of putting it, sweetie. One day, I couldn’t face being where I was, who I was, so I left.” Fingers mime a small explosion. “Took a job - station admin on Bernadette. And then husband crashed my account.”

“He stranded you?” Kaylee’s all indignant horror.

“I hurt his pride.” Ilargia’s folded her arms tightly around herself. (Jayne wants to be doing that.) “It’s a very boring, very ordinary story.” Eyes are haunted. Then they see her shutting everything away again, hitching that crooked little smile back up. “Wish I’d met you folks a while back. Jayne would have been so much easier than a divorce lawyer.”

“Cheaper, too.” Jayne growls. He’ll shoot ‘Larji’s ex-husband for free, he ever comes across the fei fei cao de hun dan.

“Anyhow, I didn’t go back. I sent him divorce papers and lit out for the Rim. Found a planet I liked the sound of, took a settlement grant. Carved myself a piece of the frontier.”

Echo in this makes Mal ask,

“You ever play the dulcimer?”

She gives him an odd look. (She’s not the only one.)

“Bit high-class for me. And I have the musical talent of a house brick.” Gets a wistful look to her. “Could do with some music, though, evening like this.”

“Jayne’s got a guitar.” says Kaylee, all helpful like. Jayne nods, suddenly a bit shy. Not something gets called upon a whole lot. But no man could resist eyes lookin’ at him like he’s some kind of god, ‘stead of a beat-up bad guy. Puts a hand on his arm, says ‘please’, and pulls the heart out of him, just that easy.

Hasn’t picked the thing up since Haven. Hasn’t had the heart to. Takes a moment to tune it. Old tune comes to mind, some strange reason. His voice perfect for it.

“I was a highwayman/ along the coach roads I did ride...”

One of the many things Mal never thought to see (nor wanted to) is Jayne Cobb serenadin’. Even scarier, is the look Ilargia Donovan is giving him back. Grumbles to Zoe.

“Makin’ eyes at’s tormenting dumb animals, is what it is.”

Zoe’s smile, a pale ghost of what it once was, and still shadows in her eyes, but a smile, all the same.

“Women get strange fancies at times, Captain. I remember a pilot you once hired...”

No answer to that. Mal’s just glad they are making planetfall next day. He had found the concept of Jayne as a folk hero hard to stomach. To be presented with the idea of him as a...plaything is downright upsetting.

“Going to hit the dirt running.” River shakes her head, looks up at Mal. “Never even in the race, Captain. Dark horses only.”


It’s the guitar that does it. Tells herself she could have walked away at any time, up until then. After that, she was a lost cause.

Big and sexy is one thing. Big, sexy’s sad, it’s cliched, but it doesn’t alter the fact - she cannot resist the combination. Muscles, the wicked gleam in his blue eyes, voice like gravel and honey. Little frown of concentration as he plays, slight melancholy look. His emotional literacy might be written in crayon, but she’ll bet hard cash there are certain things he’s very good at.

He’s a mercenary. He kills people for a living. He names his guns. He is a Professional Bad Man.

She still wants him. This is not good.


Ilargia Donovan. ‘Larji. Class and education, not quite as tough as she thinks she is, but plenty spirited. More than the idea of wrestlin’ with her, he likes her smile. Treats him like he’s worth something. He knows he’s not an educated man, but she don’t make him feel dumb as dirt.

Ain’t a man alive could resist those eyes looking at him like that. Ain’t a man alive wouldn’t want to let her hair loose, bury his face in it. Wants to hear her say his name with that look in her eye, promising him the moon. Wants to hear her calling his name, soft skin and hard muscles...

Wrestlin’ with her would be just fine. Get this fever out of his blood.


Kaylee’s wishing Simon would sing to her, or something. He’s sweet and thoughtful, but she still has to do the running, ‘cos he acts so polite. She sighs.

It had taken her a while to reckon why Jayne was so mean to Simon come the beginning. Hadn’t realised what was in his eyes ‘til it weren’t there no more. But it was there when he looks at Ilargia. If the Cap’n weren’t watching them, and scowling like Lei Kung, those two’d be off getting acquainted by now.

Can get awful lonely in the black. Sometimes a woman wants warmth and strength and somethin’ more than batteries in her bed. An’ when a man plays guitar to you, lookin’ at you like that...

“He’s quite good.” Simon whispers in her ear. He sounds surprised. “Shall we ask him to play ‘Hero of Canton’?”

“Don’t you dare, Simon Tam.” She glares at him. “You leave them be. Makes him feel bad, anyone brings that up, an’ you know it.”

“I...” He’s blown it again, and he doesn’t know why. (Again.) “I always say the wrong thing, don’t I?”

“Mostly.” Turns her back on him. “Sha gua.”

Gently daring, he puts his arms round her waist, rests his chin on her shoulder.

“I’m sorry. For...whatever.”

She relaxes a little, says wistfully,

“It’s just...the serenadin’ an’ all.”

“Oh.” Pause. “I’m...really not that good a singer.” Inspiration. “I could maybe recite some poetry. Or...there’s footrubs. I’m good at footrubs.”

“You are.” Relaxes properly, becomes his loving Kaylee again. “Reckon we could sneak away now?”

“Captain is doing an excellent impression of my high school principal at the Prom.” Backing towards the door, hand in hand. “We might...”

“Where d’you think you’re going?” demands Mal, on cue.

“Medical appointment.” says Kaylee cheekily, and they flee.


“My whole gorram ship is becoming one great...hormone hell.”

“Captain of the love-boat.” River smiles at him. Zoe gives a little snort.

“I’m going to take first watch.” Hurts her a touch to see them, but not so bad that she’s gonna sit there and snarl, like Mal. And she likes to sit on the bridge, sometimes, and remember.

River curls up to listen to the music. Captain is being an idiot, again. She wonders if it is a chromosome linked characteristic. It isn’t up to the Captain what happens. Or up to the thug, either. Ilargia will choose her own time and place.


Mal is woken up by a boot to the chairleg makes him jump and scrabble for his (absent) gun.

“Don’t get your panties bunched. Only me.” Jayne.

“Strangely, that don’t reassure.” Looks about him, dazed. “Where...”

“Everyone else has...bunked up.”

“You got a reason for bein’ about?”

“Yeah. You put me on watch.” He slouches towards the door. “Carried River down to her bed some while back, but you’re too heavy.”

“An’ where’s Ms Donovan?”

“Her private business ain’t none of your’n.” Jayne gives him a really filthy look. “But ’Larji was settling the crazy last I saw.”

Jayne don’t say nothing about the good-night kiss. Can still feel it, her lips under his jaw, quick and warm. If they hadn’t had a small, sleepy chaperone rolling her eyes...Makes him grin to think on it, something to keep him warm on watch.

‘Cos tomorrow, they’re gonna land. And then she ain’t a passenger no more.


~Lyrics are J Cash ‘Highwayman’ - check out the last verse...


Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:16 AM


I'm really enjoying this. I love your River, and the characterizations as a whole are a lot of fun. I guess I like this mostly because you and I have a similar writing style. Some people may say we're not descriptive enough, but I like how it can keep folks a bit off balance. Makes 'em use their imagination a bit more. ;)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 5:17 AM


Jayne is perfect for highwayman songs, not only for singin' but being in the as well!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 9:22 AM


<“Anyhow, I didn’t go back. I sent him divorce papers and lit out for the Rim. Found a planet I liked the sound of, took a settlement grant. Carved myself a piece of the frontier.”

Echo in this makes Mal ask,

“You ever play the dulcimer?”

She gives him an odd look. (She’s not the only one.)>


Saturday, September 16, 2006 4:03 PM


You nailed River. You nailed Jayne. You've got it down. This is (almost) as good as watching the show. As for descriptive passages, I like to use my own imagination and visualize the actors interpreting the lines.


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