Rewarding Behavior
Sunday, March 18, 2007

This is the promised STAND-ALONE piece that is to make up for the darkness I wrote in the "Borogoves" series...just meant to be cute and funny and possibly refreshing. :) All of it belongs to Joss.


It had been time, Mal decided, for some enforced vacation. His decision had absolutely nothing to do with the boots full of water. The mere fact that he felt confident enough to remove his own boots in his own bunk was obviously misplaced confidence, especially since when he got dressed the next morning, there had been several inches of water - and ice cubes - in his boots. His decision to take three whole days to get the crew off Serenity had no connection to the sugar incident. Jayne deserved to have eggs seasoned with pepper, chili sauce and sugar if he did not know that the salt shaker had been recently replaced with the sweet white crystals. And if he was foolish enough to waste good food like that, then he definitely deserved the order to eat it as was. Mal had felt rather pleased with his decision that day. But that was before the water-in-the-boots factor. The decision for a vacation had not been made because Wash's plastic dinosaurs had recently made surprise appearances in Inara's "unmentionables." The screech of surprise had been somewhat entertaining, actually, once it was discovered no one was in harm's way. And the fact that Kaylee's hair had mysteriously turned orange for two days while she fumed had been remedied with some help from the Companion. Wash hadn't minded that Zoë's wardrobe had been replaced with some of Inara's more revealing gowns, but Zoë did seem to have some difficulty with the concept. And that was, coincidentally, just after Kaylee's orange hair adventure. No, the decision had most definitely not been made just because the cabinets and drawers in the infirmary had been suspiciously screwed shut and - Mal did have to acknowledge the workmanship involved - the screws well-hidden. Simon had scraped his fingertips half a dozen times or so before he had figured it out. Luckily, of course, no one had actually needed medical help at that time, and Mal had stressed that fact when he reprimanded the crew that night. The decision had not been made because Book's Bible was mysteriously replaced with a flask-keeping hideaway. Even the Shepherd had found it amusing to an extent. Oddly enough, he got his real Bible back after Jayne had been forced to eat sugar on his eggs. And when Wash had discovered that all the chairs he usually sat in had been lowered significantly, he had been gracious enough to smile each time his chin came even with his knees. It had been especially charming to see it in the pilot's chair. Strangely enough, the chair was put back to its normal height by the next day. Mal was convinced that either no one had dared prank young River for fear she would already see it coming or that she would not recognize it as a prank...or that River was truly behind all of the pranks. Either way, Kaylee had offered to share the hair-dying shampoo...until Simon had ended that discussion. No, the decision for three days on Harvest had been made the night everyone drank some spiked tea at dinner. Kaylee had announced that she had made some sweet tea while she was serving dinner. Inara hadn't yet joined them yet, so Mal had tasted the tea was clean at that point. Then, there had been the proximity warning. Wash had gone to see to it...and some noise had made Kaylee hurry to the engine room...and River had cut her finger, causing Simon to lead her to the infirmary. Wash had called for Mal up on the bridge, Zoë had gone to check on Kaylee and Jayne had been just steps behind Mal...and Book had already stood to see if he could help Simon (River did throw quite the tantrum about visiting the infirmary). The proximity alert had gone off because of some loose wire that Wash couldn't get to alone. Jayne and Mal had needed to move some paneling so that Wash could get to the wire. When the three of them got back to the dining room, everyone else was there, waiting. The tea had tasted different, but not significantly enough to cause suspicion. Well, not until much later, when his crew was acting like a bunch of drunken reprobates. When Mal came to on the couch with Kaylee's foot on his shoulder as she snored against Simon, Mal decided then that they needed a vacation. Well, it might have been the sight of Inara and Zoë curled up on either side of Wash that pushed the decision into a Definite Yes, rather than a Maybe. Or the fact that Jayne's head was resting on Mal's thigh. That had certainly been a major factor in the decision. Book, of course, would not admit to where he had found himself when he woke only moments before Mal, but the coffee he provided had made up for it. And it had taken several hours' searching before the two had found River sleeping soundly underneath the table, holding the empty pitcher of the spiked tea. So it was with light hearts, clear heads and whoops of joy from more than one member of the crew that they opened the doors of Serenity to the lush green of Harvest's welcoming wooded glen. There was a sleepy little town nearby with brothels, markets and hotels for those who felt inclined to indulge in some off-ship and civilized activities. There was a cool lake teeming with fish and trees to climb and fresh air to breathe for those not inclined to leave the vicinity of the ship for too long. Mal was enjoying the sunset on the second day, leaning against a large, knotted tree while Simon, Kaylee and River splashed each other in the lake nearby when Inara's voice brought him out of the lazy nap he'd been casually courting. "Now, wasn't this worth sugared eggs and orange-haired mechanics?" she smiled warmly. Mal chuckled softly, inviting her to join him on the ground. "That perhaps, but I'm not so sure it was worth Zoë refusing to come out of her bunk till she got her clothes back or Wash having to fly standin' up," he sighed and leaned his head back against the tree once more, content to have no concerns just then. "Of course," he smiled, "Now everyone's gonna think they just have to play some fool tricks to get some planet-side time." "I wouldn't worry about it," Inara said softly. "I think I got it out of my system." Mal's eyes flew open and he sat forward again. "You?!" She laughed out loud, startling the trio in the lake. River waved before kicking more water at her brother and Kaylee. "You dyed Kaylee's hair and sugared Jayne's eggs and..." Mal listed every single prank again, coming back around to the spiked tea. "You did all that?" "I must give credit where it is due," Inara said modestly, nodding towards River. "She was not only my lookout, but discovered little ways to distract everyone." "The toys in your...your..." Mal gestured vaguely. Inara's eyes glinted with humor. "I couldn't have everyone noticing how I was spared," she grinned. "I thought the shriek a bit overplayed, but River confirmed everyone believed, whole-heartedly." "You...the tea, too?" "The tea, too," Inara nodded. "Please, Mal, being a Companion gives one all sorts of knowledge regarding uninhibiting people of all backgrounds." "You drank it, too," Mal argued. "Didn't you?" "Yes," she nodded again. "I couldn't have everyone looking at me oddly the next day, could I?" Mal leaned back against the tree, this new side of Inara requiring more thought. A quiet moment passed. "You're not angry, are you?" she asked softly. He smiled at her and shook his head. "Not overly," he admitted. "It feels too comfortable just now to be angry." Inara visibly relaxed. She watched Kaylee help River dunk her brother in the lake and laughed quietly. Mal enjoyed the time as dusk settled on them. "I just have one question," he began. Inara turned to him. "How did you fill my boots with ice water without wakin' me?" "Ice water?" Inara's look of confusion gave him a moment's pause. "You didn't...but you just admitted to the pranks," he said. She shook her head. "I did nothing to your boots, Mal," she said honestly. "And I don't think River did, either." "Then who...?" Mal asked, now curious. Before, he had assumed it was Jayne getting back at him for the eggs, or Kaylee - the only one who would dare - because he laughed at the orange hair. Now...he was back to square one. "Don't matter," he said, letting it rest. "I'm sure the culprit will show up sooner or later." *** It was the end of the final day of rest, and everyone was returning to the ship slowly. Mal was putting the last of the fresh fish he'd caught away and cleaning up the mess when Zoë came into the galley quietly. He looked up expectantly at his first mate. "Everyone aboard yet?" he asked, continuing to clean. "Almost," she said softly. "Jayne is just coming up now. He's the last." "Was there somethin' else, then?" Mal asked, all his attention on his first mate. He had never seen her fidget, but she looked dangerously close to it now. "Inara told me she confessed," Zoë mumbled. "Confessed?" Mal repeated. "And?" "River wanted to include you on the pranks, but Inara said you might not see it as a joke," Zoë explained. "So she came to me. I filled your boots with ice, Sir. They melted a bit before you put them on, long as you know who did all the pranks, you might as well know who did all the pranks." Mal stared at his first mate...his comrade in arms...his fellow veteran...his trusted Zoë. "You put the ice my boots," he said quietly. "Yes, Sir," she said, holding her head up proudly. "And I'd do it again if it meant you'd let the crew get off ship long enough to regain some sanity." "Don't let it happen again," Mal said, extending his hand. "It was well-played." "Thank you, Sir," Zoë said, accepting the handshake. "I..." She looked down at the fish guts that were now pressed against her palm, then back up at her Captain...her comrade in arms...her fellow veteran...Malcolm Reynolds. "Now we're even," Mal smiled, letting go of the disgusting mess. He whistled quietly to himself as he left. It felt good to come back after a vacation, he decided.


Sunday, March 18, 2007 2:29 PM



I am ded from the funny.

Sunday, March 18, 2007 2:37 PM


Very, very funny. I could absolutely see it happening during an episode.

Sunday, March 18, 2007 2:46 PM


Oh...oh...this was just too fricking funny for words, kacidilla! Especially finding out it was Inara behind all the pranks but Mal's boots;D


Sunday, March 18, 2007 3:23 PM


Love it.
And Inara laughing in the middle there-- don't know if that came from my challenge awhile back or not, but I'm glad to see it.
What this 'Verse needs is more humor.

Sunday, March 18, 2007 4:04 PM


Wonderful glimpse into the glue that holds the crew together.

Sunday, March 18, 2007 11:48 PM


The funniest bit was finding out Inara was the mastermind behind the pranks and Zoe putting ice water in Mal's boots? Somehow that is still hard to imagine. Still, at least now they all get to eat fresh fish (hopefully without sugar or orange hair) and those little annoying niggles on the ship have gone away. Just wondering if Inara hasn't set a dangerous precedent. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, March 18, 2007 11:51 PM


You are all kinds of wrong :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 5:26 PM


i'm so glad everyone liked it! and, while i may be "all kinds of wrong," you know you like it. ;)


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