Still Flying - Part II
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Next in the Keeping On 'Verse. Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. Part II: The crew makes the drop, a bar fight is had, and things get a little too intense while flying to Persephone.


Still Flying - Part II

Disclaimer: Firefly, Serenity, and all related characters are copyright 2002-2005 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. This is a work of fanfiction. No copyright infringement is intended.


Lilah set Serenity down a few miles away from the town where the Mendel boys had specified. Mal had said that the Mendel boys would be at the drop point to unload their cargo. He didn’t expect any trouble from them; he’d done business with them before, he said. He also mentioned that he, Zoe, and Jayne would be going into the town with the Mendel boys afterwards for a drink. Apparently that was how jobs for them always went: delivering cargo, then town for a drink.

“We’re good to go, Captain.”

“Thank you Lilah. Now we play the waiting game.” Mal’s voice echoed through the com.

She reclined back into the chair, yawning, before turning and reaching down next to the chair, pulling a large bulk of a deep blue yarn and needles out of the bag she always brought with her to the bridge. Clearing her mind, she picked up where she had left off, working the rows until Mal commed to tell her that she was needed in the cargo bay.


The Mendel boys arrived on schedule, as they were wont to do. One tall and one short, the Mendel boys were good to do business with. Kyle and Lyle were simple folk and lived simple lives and wanted to get along in their world with as little trouble as possible. They treated their contacts well and passed along a good word for them as did good work and a less-than-good word for them as skimped and slacked off. They were simple – not stupid.

They liked doing business with Malcolm Reynolds and his crew. Mal and his people amused them to an extent and they respected anyone who could keep a crew together for as long as he had. And seeing the pretty first mate and pretty mechanic and the pretty Companion was a plus as well.

They called their greeting to Mal and his crew who were waiting in the cargo bay with the doors wide open – a sign of welcome and trust they’d come to recognize in their years of doing business with all kinds of transport crews.

“Nice to see you show up on time, Captain Reynolds,” Kyle said, holding out his hand, which Mal shook with a smile.

“I’m always on time for you boys,” Mal replied jovially, shaking Lyle’s hand as well.

“It’s one of the reasons why we keep you around, Captain.” Lyle said. “And I see the pretty ladies are here too…and a new pretty lady!” He winked outrageously at Lilah and she rolled her eyes in return. He sighed. “I don’t suppose any of the others have fallen madly in love with me yet?” He said, giving them all a hopeful look.

“Not a one. And our mechanic just up and got herself engaged to our doctor.” Mal said, rolling his eyes. He and Lyle went through this little joke every time.

“I think my heart just broke.” Lyle said, clutching at his chest.

“I’m glad to hear at least one is off the market, not that women should be a market. That’d just be…wrong.” Kyle said. “Lyle, I think Martha would beat you senseless if she heard you was eying other women.”

A goofy and dreamy look went over Lyle’s face.

“I love my wife.”

Everyone laughed at that and then went to work, loading the large and heavy metal crates onto the large bed of the mule trailer. A special creation of theirs, the men had said the first time the crew gawked at it. It looked ridiculous, but they said it got the job done.

A half an hour later, when all was finished, Kyle gave his usual invitation to Mal for drinks, including the crew, though Zoe and Jayne were the only ones who ever joined them.

Surprisingly to everyone, River said that she would like to go as well. Mal looked startled and Simon looked ready to protest until he apparently thought better of it and said nothing.

“I suppose that’d be alright, River. Who knows, maybe even you’ll find some cute little sap who’ll make moon-eyes at ya and I’ll get to beat him up.” Mal said, cheerily.

River blushed, and after asking them to wait a few minutes so she could take care of something, rushed back to her room.


River had gone to her room to retrieve her gun, a piece that she had bought, albeit with Jayne’s help, a few months after the ordeal with Miranda. She kept it on her person when going planet-side and decided it would be prudent to keep it with her in the bar.

The drinks were okay enough. River found she didn’t care for strong spirits and instead settled on what Jayne openly mocked as a ‘sissy drink’ because she liked the fruity taste better. Relaxing, she opened her mind to those around her a bit and was pleasantly surprised.

Two teenage boys back by the pool table thought she was real pretty and more than a few of the older men did as well – and she picked up quite a few lustful thoughts towards Zoe. She smiled at that; warrior women seemed to be the favorite type for men on this moon. She also smiled knowing that Zoe would most likely roll her eyes if she knew what the men were thinking about her.

Then she heard one thought that troubled her and concentrated more, before brushing it off as the musings of a pervert and turning back to her drink and the conversation at hand, which had something to do with a crew mixing up a delivery and giving Kyle and Lyle crates full of women’s clothing, rather than the cattle feed they had ordered.

She excused herself from the table to visit the ladies room, drawing concerned looks from Mal, Zoe, Kyle, and Lyle, and an irritated look from Jayne.

“I’m okay,” she insisted, frowning when she heard Jayne’s very audible snort of derision.

She walked off and had almost made it past the bar to the hallway when someone who wasn’t family grabbed her.

River’s reaction was instantaneous. She swung around and brought her other arm up to elbow the offender in the face, and he stumbled back while clutching at his nose which was bleeding profusely. Two of his buddies decided to join in and River was surprised when it was Zoe who joined River’s side and took out a man by clubbing him with her mare’s leg.

Half of the bar got in on the fight, while the other half stood back in fear and awe of the two women who were whipping the men handily.

Finally the barkeep had had enough and fired his shotgun into the air, drawing everyone’s attention.

The men who had bothered River slunk out in disgrace and the rest cut Zoe and River a wide berth as they made their way back to the table where the others were sitting and trying to look nonchalant about the entire ordeal.

“Feel better, you two?” Mal asked conversationally.

“Much.” Zoe replied, taking a long hard swig of her drink.

“I suppose.” River said with a shrug.

“This ain’t gonna cause trouble for you two, is it?” Mal asked of the brothers who were sitting quietly.

“Nah,” Kyle smiled. “People have been getting fed up with those scum for months now. They try to act like they own the town when in reality they ain’t got two credits to rub together between the lot of them. Hell, we just may erect statues in your honor.”

Lyle snickered.

“Please don’t,” Mal and Zoe said together, with a vigorous nod from Jayne, who added

“Statues don’t cause nothin’ but trouble.”

They sat a while longer telling jokes and being companionable before Mal and Zoe decided it was time to start walking back to Serenity.

“Might wanna be careful walking back,” Kyle warned them. “Those men are scum but they’re damn prideful and it’d probably be good to keep your wits about ya.”

“Thanks for the advice.” Mal said sincerely. “Wave us anytime you need work done.”

“We will, Captain Reynolds.” Kyle assured them.


The trip back to the ship was thankfully event free and once back onboard, Mal went up to the bridge to tell Lilah to set a course for Persephone. He noticed that she had been knitting, which surprised him.

“Might as well find out what Badger wants.” Mal said, heaving a sigh. Lilah could tell that Badger was not his favorite person ever. Hell, she hadn’t even met him and he wasn’t her favorite person ever.

“He fancies himself the boss of you, I could tell.” Lilah said. “He probably fancies himself the boss of everyone, come to that.”

“You ain’t wrong.” He cleared his throat. “You uh, are you doin’ okay? With the job and all? You ain’t plannin’ on up and leaving are you?”

Lilah looked up at Mal as she finished setting course for Persephone.

“I’m alright. If the crew could go a few weeks without giving me a shiner I suppose this could work out. Besides, I’d have to take Penny with me,” she pointed to the ridiculous green plastic dinosaur that she had added to Wash’s old collection. “And then he and all his friends would be sad.”

“Well, you know, if it would make Penny sad...” Mal said, wondering what the hell was up with his pilots being not-so-normal.

“No promise on the not-punching then?”

“Thing about this crew is, is that when one of them takes an idea into his or her head, that person don’t let go of it easily. It makes it damn hard for a captain to keep them in line.”

“Fair enough.” Lilah conceded.

“What were you making?” Mal asked, sitting down and pointing at the mess of blue yarn on her lap. “Before I came up?”

“Oh…it’s just something to keep my hands busy.” She hurriedly stuffed her work back into its bag, blushing.

“I wouldn’t have pegged you as a knitter. Or a good cook, for that matter. You keep this up and I’mma start thinking you’re downright domestic.” Mal joked.

“I had to learn to keep my hands occupied.” Lilah said quietly, not meeting Mal’s eyes.


“After the War, about a few months after it ended, Wendell and I both started having…episodes, I guess. We’d have nightmares and our hands would shake and we’d have panic attacks.” She looked up at him, expression sad. “Finding hobbies was something a therapist suggested. The more we kept our hands busy, the easier the episodes became, until they trickled off and we were able to put most of the stuff we’d went through behind us. Knitting, cooking, gardening…it was a way to deal.” She gave a harsh laugh that didn’t sound right coming from her.

“Did your husband take up knitting too?” Mal asked, hoping to lighten the mood.

It worked and he could see Lilah visibly brighten.

“Carpentry, actually. He replaced just about every piece of furniture we had that first year we were married.” She smiled saucily. “He was good with his hands.”

“Didn’t really need to hear that last bit, but I get where you’re coming from.” He looked at her, curious. “Do you just do it mindlessly or were you actually making something? With the yarn?”

“I’m making socks for River.” She lowered her voice as if confiding in him. “Truthfully, I think it’s mostly because I get cold chills just looking at her walk around all bare-foot.”

Mal smiled at that and made to leave. He was at the doorway when she couldn’t help but ask

“What do you do?”

“Beg your pardon?”

“What do you do, to deal with it? With the War?”

He looked at her and gave a humorless smile.

“You’re living it right now, Lilah. You’re living it.”

He left.


Jayne was killing time by lifting weights. He was relieved that they’d be setting down on Persephone for a bit. He was pretty sure that he would be paying a visit to his favorite cathouse there if there was enough time. He couldn’t figure out why he’d been wound so tight lately, but he was hoping that a good, hard, long night of sex would take care of it.

He finished his reps and then placed the bar and weights back on its stand. He missed having Shepherd Book around to spot him. They didn’t always agree on everything, but it had been sort of nice, talking with Book and sharing the few odd stories. It brought back memories of times he’d used to share with his brother Jules while he was home on break from the abbey where he was studying to take his orders as a Shepherd.

Jayne stiffened as he heard an unfamiliar gait up on the catwalks. It wasn’t Lilah; he’d learned to recognize her walking patterns in a few days. He looked up; it was River, once again going into Inara’s shuttle. He focused on her feet…it was the shoes that was throwing him off. She almost never wore shoes and when she did, it was combat boots. Her new shoes and boots, however, he was having a hard time pinning those sounds down, which bugged him. He didn’t like unfamiliar noise on Serenity; it usually meant trouble.

He briefly wondered why she was so bent on locking herself away with Inara. She’d been spending a great deal of her time with the Companion and neither River nor Inara mentioned their visits or what went on during them. He had a brief image of the pair naked on that pretty bed of hers before he pushed it away. There wasn’t a need for that kind of thinking; he’d be in the cathouse on Persephone soon enough.

’Sides, unlike ‘Nara, there ain’t a thing about Crazy that’d make her a stiffener. He thought derisively.


The trip to Persephone was mostly uneventful. Simon and Kaylee were reveling in the newness of their engagement. No one had warned Lilah about their activities in the engine room and she ended up catching and eyeful one day when she went to ask Kaylee for help with one of the screens on the bridge. She avoided the pair for the rest of that day before pulling Kaylee aside before bed and congratulating her on Simon’s assets.

Zoe was still shutting herself off in her room and only came out at meal times. Mal was particularly troubled by Zoe’s actions; she hadn’t been so wooden since the first few weeks after Wash’s death. And before that, it hadn’t been since Serenity Valley fell to the Alliance. Zoe had finally started to come to terms with her husband’s death, and now it was as if she was back at square one. Mal ached for his best friend. His mind feel back on a tried-and-true method of helping Zoe deal…keeping her busy.

Calling for a game of space-ball was a welcome distraction for everyone. Mal had to actually order Zoe into the game and he managed to stand his ground when she gave him the evil eye. The crew gathered, even Inara and Simon. He was distracted by the sight of Inara in loose pants and a slight top that showed off her flawless stomach. She’d pulled her hair back like the other women had and Mal took in the sight of her long and slender neck and the perfection of her skin. He shook his head to clear his mind and was relieved when he ended up on Inara’s side, because otherwise he’d have been distracted…more.

Mal, Inara, Jayne, and Lilah faced off against Zoe, Simon, River, and Kaylee. The game started off fair enough. Zoe had a formidable team and they scored several times in quick succession. Jayne and Lilah put their heads together and ended up arguing. It was a good strategy. Zoe’s side was distracted by the argument, allowing both Mal and Inara to score.

The game started to get dirty soon after. Lilah and Zoe ended up fouling each other often, but not nearly as often as Jayne and River. Simon tripped Mal and Kaylee and Inara squared off. Shots were taken, both at the hanging hoop and at each other. Mal finally called the game off when Jayne and River took things too far.

The pair got into a rough grudge match. River kicked Jayne in the bottom and then Jayne pushed River roughly to the floor, and the second she was back on her feet she gave a little jump and punched Jayne in the face. He slugged her back and then, as Mal had heard it said, it was on. Kicks flew and punches were thrown. River clawed at Jayne’s arm and he backhanded her viciously, splitting her lip. Finally Mal and Zoe were able to pull River away from Jayne and Simon immediately went to Jayne’s side, in full doctor mode.

Both Jayne and River were panting harshly and eyeing each other with great dislike. Mal grimaced as he realized that the temporary truce that seemed to be between Jayne and River was most likely gone. He tried not to be too disappointed; he never did think that it would last too long. Still, he didn’t like his crew to be agitated and fighting with one another.

Simon ordered Jayne to the infirmary and Mal told River to go to her room. She stormed away and Jayne gave her one last vicious glare before following Simon.

“So…does that mean that anyone who didn’t get backhanded or clawed wins?” Lilah asked. Zoe snorted and actually gave a laugh. Inara rolled her eyes, something Lilah didn’t miss. Mal smirked and started pulling the hoop back up into its resting place before leaving for the infirmary.

“Kaylee?” Lilah asked.

“Yeah?” Kaylee was redoing her ponytail and making to leave.

“Simon went to Jayne. I would have thought he’d have gone to River first. I mean, she’s his sister.”

“Believe me Lilah, Simon was going to the one who was worse off. River can hurt Jayne far more than he can hurt her.” Kaylee said. “It’s not the first time the two of them have gotten into a tussle.”


Meanwhile, in the infirmary, Mal was having words with Jayne while Simon disinfected the scratches on Jayne’s arm.

“What the hell did I just see in the cargo bay?”

Jayne snorted. “Would’ve thought that was obvious.”

“I don’t know what in the spinning ‘Verse has gotten into the pair of you two, but you’d better get it sorted out.”

“She’s the one who ruttin’ started it!” Jayne said.

“I know that. But I don’t rightly care who started it. I ain’t havin’ this on my boat, Jayne.” Mal said.

“Fine. Come and yell at me while Captain’s little girl gets off scott free.” Jayne muttered petulantly.

“Oh, she and I will be having words, you can trust me on that.”


Have words they did.

River nearly didn’t come to dinner that night. Inara finally managed to coax her out of her room, promising her that everything would be okay. River was still upset after her talk with Mal. He’d been harsh with her, far, far harsher than either of them had expected. But Inara spoke calmly to her and River finally cracked a smile.

“Besides,” Inara had said. “Kaylee is cooking and you don’t want to make her feel bad, do you?”

River shook her head and then let Inara into her room. Inara brushed and pulled her hair back and River smiled gratefully. Inara pulled River into a one-armed hug and kissed her forehead.

“Things will be okay Mei mei. Fights can happen in cramped spaces with no chance to get away.”

“He makes me so upset.” River said quietly. “We start getting along, and then he goes and says something and all the trust falls away.”

“Jayne isn’t known for his tact. Perhaps you two should just stay away from each other for a while. That might be best for all of us.”

But when River finally trailed into the mess, the only available seat was right next to Jayne. She quietly sat down, flinching when he scooted his chair away from her. Dinner was stilted and River fled as soon as she was done eating, intent on finding someplace to hide. It was like that for the rest of the week.


Arriving on Persephone was a relief for everyone. What no one was expecting was River to be the first one off of the ship. Jayne caught a glimpse of her all dressed up and leaving the ship before anyone could stop her.

“Hey! Crazy! Get back here!” He called after her, to no avail. He ran down the rest of the stairs to go after her, but she had already lost herself in the crowd. He went to the com and yelled. “Mal! Doc’s sis just ran off!”


“Got herself all gussied up and took off just now! Lost herself in the crowd!”

The crew assembled down in the cargo bay. Mal looked very tired.

“What’s the plan, Sir?” Zoe asked.

“You, me, and Jayne are going to see Badger. Inara, Lilah, Kaylee, and Simon are going to search the docks for her.” He looked at Inara’s little group. “You all would probably have a better idea where she’d be going than I would. Now, hopefully before this day is out we’ll be eight again.”

The crew locked up the ship and left, parting ways.

Jayne was grumbling all the way to Badger’s little den and Zoe and Mal both told him to be quiet.

“We’ll find her soon enough.” Zoe said.

She was very right, it turned out.

When the trio arrived at Badger’s, River was already there, looking very fine and pretty, sitting on Badger’s desk, and eating a shiny red apple.


I hope you enjoy! Questions, comments, and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated!



Friday, June 12, 2009 4:28 PM


Oh, growing-up River's bound to be trouble. And Jayne can't see a good thing when it's before his nose!


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