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"Defining Traitor" - Part One
Friday, July 8, 2005

Part One of Four. As happy as Jo is to be back to Serenity, the crew's goal of discovering the truth complicates everything, especially the emotions of everyone aboard the ship.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1867    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Defining Traitor Sequel to Relativity.

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Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

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Acknowledgements and Scapegoats

Thank you to Joss Whedon for creating the magnificent stroke of creative genius that is Firefly, and thank you to the cast and crew for making it come alive for all of us Browncoats. Next, thank you to my cousin, Katrina, for all her support and proofreading. Her creative input and edits were invaluable. This story is also her fault. She was the one that made me put my ideas onto an actual typed document. This is not my fault, I only supplied the ideas and wrote the gorram thing. But actually, I couldn’t have written this without my cousin. A big thank you to my cousin, my favorite Browncoat, for helping me with every line of this story. She helped me perfect the story, caught my stupid typos, and gave me more encouragement than anyone could ever know what to do with. Thank you, Trina. (Wow, how lazy am I? Using the Acknowledgements from our last story? That’s low.)

---

Mal sighed as he walked into the cargo bay with Zoe and Jayne following him. The hatch to the ship closed, the ship lifting off as Mal, Zoe, and Jayne walked up the stairs.

“Sir, do you really think we should?” persisted Zoe. When the three made the delivery, they had heard talk that Badger needed some people to do jobs. It was true, the Serenity crew needed money, but they certainly didn’t jump for joy at the prospect of working for Badger.

---

In Persephone, Jo walked through the streets. She stopped as she passed the window of a deserted house, some boards on the window broken loose. A piece of clothing caught her eye, and she glanced around to see if anyone was watching her. No one looking her way. She smiled as she slipped inside the deserted house. She picked up the piece of clothing and shook it some to get dust off. She coughed as a cloud of dust billowed in her face. She shook her head and blinked her eyes, looking at the clothing and smiling. The brown coat she held in her hands was perfect. She took off her bag and set it on the ground so she could take off her black coat, replacing the brown coat on her shoulders.

“Shiny,” she mumbled to herself, taking the guns out of her old coat and putting them in her new brown coat. She felt the coat, hugging it. Now she could properly keep her parents with her. She smiled softly. Thinking of her parents and their roles in the war reminded her of Serenity and its own crew of Independents. Their leaders also wore Browncoats, a reminder of the bond that they shared with Jo's parents and the rest of those they lost in Serenity Valley. She looked around the musty room again and smirked, taking up a pair of black gloves without fingers. She slipped them on her hands, flexing her fingers before picking up her bag. She slipped out of the window of the house, ensemble now complete.

---

“Zoe, we need the money,” Mal replied to his first mate, the captain’s tone reluctant. Mal sent Jayne off to tell Wash the new route. Mal and Zoe walked through the ship and up to the dining room. Kaylee and River sat at the table, Kaylee apparently teaching River a card game. Simon and Book sat in the comfy chairs on the other side of the room, apparently having a discussion about a book. How typical.

The four in the dining room looked up as Mal and Zoe entered and sat down at the table. Zoe looked at the girls’ card game with a muted interest. Mal looked at the four with the announcement. “We’re going to go to Badger for the next job.”

Book looked rather unhappy about this. “Is that such a good idea?” he asked.

Mal gave another small sigh. “It’s the best job opportunity that’s come up.”

River, however, had a smile on her face as she looked at Mal. “Badger?” she asked happily.

The note in River’s voice gave Simon an expression of more than unease. “River, that’s not a good thing,” he reminded his little sister. Kaylee was looking confused as well.

River looked over at her brother. “Jo is with Badger. Time to see Jo.”

---

Jo landed on the ground outside the house and brushed off her coat a bit, trying to look casual. She didn’t even notice the man leaning against a building, watching her. Jo walked off down the street, easily merging with the people busy about the road. The man who had been secretly watching Jo shoved off the building and walked quietly after the young thief.

But Jo soon grew uneasy as she felt eyes on her. She slowed her pace and glanced behind her, seeing a man dressed all in black in her wake. She acted like she had an itch on her leg, using that cover as an excuse to reach into her boot. The dagger that always went with her was soon slipped confidentially into her hand. She turned to walk down an alley, the man following. Jo waited until they were a distance away from the street before spinning.

Quite a display was made as Jo shoved the man threateningly against a wall and pressed the dagger to his throat. “Why, hello there,” she said casually, looking at the dumbfounded man.

“W-wait!” stammered the frightened man, holding up his hands to indicate he was unarmed. “Don’t hurt me.”

While Jo was like her uncle in that she loved seeing other people beg, she kept her dagger pressed firmly against this man’s throat. “Why were you following me?” Jo asked roughly.

“Some guy paid me to follow you,” the man answered, fear in his tone. He reached inside his coat, only to cringe and put both his hands up again as the dagger was pressed harder to his flesh.

“Hands up, buddy,” threatened Jo.

“No, I wasn’t reaching for a weapon!” the man said pathetically. “The guy that paid me gave me a note to give you. See for yourself.”

Jo frowned before flipping the man’s coat open lightly, taking a piece of paper she saw protruding from a pocket. She opened the note and gave it a quick scan before looking at her follower. She removed her dagger from his skin, still keeping it up toward him. “Get outta here. Now.”

The man nodded and scrambled away from Jo, leaving Jo to replace her dagger in her boot. She looked at the note again, feeling very panicked. She shoved the panic aside, placing the letter in her coat as she walked back off toward her ship.

---

Kaylee looked at River, rolling the thought of Jo around in her own mind. A smile crept its way slowly across the mechanic’s lips.

Mal shook his head. “Not gonna happen.”

“Why?” Kaylee and River asked in chorus as they looked at Mal.

“Jo doesn’t live with Badger, she only does jobs for him. I’ll bet she won’t even be there.”

Kaylee frowned deeply, though River got a thoughtful look on her face. “Shouldn’t bet,” River told the captain before standing up and stepping swiftly out of the room. Kaylee and Simon exchanged a glance, Book watching as River left. Mal looked at Zoe, Zoe simply shrugging.

Everyone soon got over River’s comment, all thoroughly used to River’s confusing little phrases. All the people on Serenity were soon off to their own devices as the ship made its way toward the Eavesdown Docks.

---

Jo came into her little ship and shut the hatch. It was actually a shuttle she had bought off a ship dealer that didn’t need it. It was rather plain on the inside, though there were a few personal touches. For example, there was a blanket on the bed of the shuttle that had beautiful designs with lively colors such as red, blue, and purple embroidered into it. Jo had gotten the blanket as some of her payment when a settlement she worked for once didn’t have enough actual money to pay her. Jo sighed, taking the paper she had gotten from the man out of her coat, flopping down on her bed as she opened the note to read it again.

Jo –

A while ago, I came across some information that might interest you. I understand that your parents fought in the Unification War on the side of the Independents. Some evidence has surfaced that suggests that your parents may not have been who people thought they were. Have you ever considered that your parents were actually working for the Alliance and just putting on a Browncoat front? The fact is, you have no evidence either way. But I have proof that they were traitors. If you would like to see the evidence and find out the truth, meet me whenever you like at the coordinates I have attached. Hope to see you soon.

There was no name attached, just some coordinates. The feeling of panic was grasping Jo’s senses again. No. This couldn’t be true. Her parents weren’t traitors. But the person in the letter was right: she had no evidence either way. Jo folded the note back up and threw it on the floor. She closed her eyes and hugged her new brown coat. “Mom, Dad . . .” she whispered to her coat. “You couldn’t have . . . You were better than that . . .”

Jo needed something to take her mind off this matter. She made the decision to go get a job from Badger tomorrow. That would help. At least she would have something to do besides fret about her parents. She curled up on her bed and hugged her coat more tightly to her. She sighed softly, drifting off to sleep with so many thoughts sliding around in her mind.

---

Mal, Zoe, and Jayne stepped off of Serenity, Mal sighing softly. They all glanced at each other before heading wordlessly off toward Badger’s den.

Jo walked through the crowd in the streets of Persephone, en route to her uncle’s den. The letter from the mysterious stranger was still resting in her coat pocket. She hung her head thoughtfully as she walked toward the den.

“Hey, watch it!” Jo said it at the exact same time the person she had bumped into said it. She glared up, but the glare soon faded into a smile when she saw someone she instantly recognized: Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity. “You!” Mal and Jo said simultaneously, pointing to each other. Mal smirked a bit.

“Something’s different about you,” Mal said, as if he hadn’t seen it automatically.

Jo flipped the collar of her own brown coat a bit. “Give you three guesses.”

Zoe was the one that answered. “New coat, right?”

“Bingo,” Jo said with a smile. “So what brings you guys to Persephone?”

“Business with your uncle, actually,” Mal answered. “We need a job. Think you could come with us, put in a good word?”

“Actually, I want a job of my own, so – ” Jo stopped in the middle of her sentence when she remembered why she wanted a job. She reached in her coat and pulled out the letter. “Mal, you need to read this. Zoe, you need to read it, too.” She handed the letter over to Mal, who read it with Zoe looking over his shoulder.

Jayne glanced at the letter. “What about me?”

“Doesn’t concern you,” Jo answered, not looking at Jayne. Jayne looked rather confused, though he said nothing as Mal and Zoe read the letter.

“Who sent this to you?” Mal asked, looking at Jo.

Jo shook her head. “Don’t rightly know. Whoever sent it didn’t give it to me in person, they paid someone to give me the letter. No name attached, either. Just those coordinates . . . Mal, please, you gotta come with me.”

“You aren’t thinkin’ about going?” asked a rather shocked Zoe, looking at Jo.

Jo looked at Zoe. “I have to go, Zoe. I want the truth.”

“Truth is that your parents would have never been traitors,” Mal said with a small laugh.

“Prove it,” Jo returned. Mal and Zoe both looked at her while Jayne read the letter over Mal’s shoulder. Jo sighed. “Right: You can’t prove it. I just want to see what this guy has to say . . . but I don’t want to go alone.”

Mal shook his head. “If you want us to go, you’ll have to wait.” He handed the letter back to Jo, Jo taking it with a frown and replacing it in her coat. Jayne looked rather annoyed, being that he wasn’t the fastest reader and that he hadn’t finished reading the letter. “We need money right now, and that means we have to finish a job before we help you,” Mal explained. “It was nice seeing you, Jo, but we have a job to pry out of your uncle’s dirty little fingers.” With that, Mal led Zoe and Jayne off toward Badger’s den.

“I’ll pay you!” The three stopped and turned around to look at Jo, the one who had made the offer. She took out her money bag and threw it to Mal. “Take it, take it all. I just want to get the truth,” Jo said wearily.

Mal caught the money bag and looked inside it. Quite a bit of money was in the small pouch. He looked at Jo. “Jo, I can’t take this . . .”

“You can and you will. Consider this your next job.”

Mal looked at Zoe, who just looked back at the captain. Mal looked at Jo. “Well then, come on.” Mal, Zoe, and Jayne headed off back toward Serenity. It took a moment for it to register in Jo’s mind, though she broke out into a grin when she realized she would get to ride Serenity once more. Jo spun and raced after Mal.

---

Jo bounded onto Serenity at the first possible opportunity: as soon as the hatch was down. She stopped in the cargo bay to just look around. A grin slipped over her face as some familiar people walked in. At the top of the catwalk, Kaylee gasped and covered her smiling mouth with her hand. While Kaylee was surprised, River just smiled, Jo running up to meet the two girls. “Jo!” Kaylee greeted, giving Jo a big hug when the girl stopped in front of Kaylee and River. Mal, Jayne, and Zoe walked into the cargo bay and closed the hatch.

“Hi, Kaylee!” greeted Jo back, hugging Kaylee before letting go and hugging River.

“Missed you,” River said as she hugged Jo. Jo smiled and let go of River.

“Same to you guys. Good to be back on Serenity,” Jo agreed.

“But why are you here?” Kaylee asked Jo. Jo looked a bit confused. “No, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re here!” added Kaylee quickly. “But Cap’n told us you wouldn’t be in Persephone.”

Jo leaned over the railing of the catwalk so she could yell to Mal. “Did he now?”

Kaylee nodded. “Yeah, but River told us you were coming.”

Jo glanced over at River, who still had a little smile on her face. Jo smiled. “A psychic kid that’s my age. See, I don’t know how I handled being away from this ship for so long,” said Jo.

Mal rolled his eyes before radioing up to Wash, telling Wash that someone was coming up to share the new coordinates. Mal looked up at the three girls on the catwalk. “Jo, why don’t you go tell Wash the coordinates?”

Kaylee grinned her dimpled grin and looked at Jo. “You’re coming with us on the job?”

River clasped her hands in front of herself and tilted her head slightly. “She is the job.”

Jo looked at River. In truth, she didn’t mind River being psychic right now. It might save her some explaining. Jo looked at Kaylee. “Yeah, what she said. I’ll explain later!” she said before racing off toward the bridge.

River bent down and picked up Jo’s bag. Without a word, she turned and headed toward the passenger quarters. Kaylee watched River then smiled, running off to get a few things.

---

Wash listened to Mal, the pilot frowning at the news. Someone? Someone as in who, that’s what Wash wanted to know. He turned his chair so he could keep a wary eye on the door of the bridge. He frowned as he saw a brown coat and black pants bound into the hallway from the direction of the cargo bay. He saw the figure peek into the kitchen, apparently looking for no one in particular. The figure turned and walked toward the bridge, a smile on the person’s face. Wash let out a little laugh as he recognized the person. “Jo?” he asked, as if he even needed to ask.

“The one and only,” confirmed Jo as she stepped onto the bridge, a grin still planted on her face. She took a seat in the other chair.

“What brings you here?” Wash asked with a smile.

“Oh, I’m actually you guys’ next job,” Jo explained lightly. She linked her fingers behind her head and crossed her combat-booted feet on the controls, careful not to hit any buttons she shouldn’t hit. Wash arched an eyebrow at Jo’s feet, thinking it amusing that she felt so comfortable by the controls. Jo had, after all, only been up to the bridge once or twice. Jo shrugged. “What?” She looked at her feet then looked at Wash. “Combat boots.”

“Wait,” Wash said with his mind suddenly snapping to business at hand. “You’re the job?” he asked.

“Mm-hmm,” confirmed Jo. She separated her fingers so she could reach inside her coat and grab the letter. She tossed the letter to Wash, letting Wash read the letter while Jo linked her fingers together again.

Wash didn’t even begin to believe the letter, not after the way Jo had talked so highly of her parents. “This sounds like a joke Jayne would pull if he was feeling extra cruel,” he joked.

“If?” inquired Jo curiously.

Wash frowned. “Wait, you aren’t taking this seriously, are you?” he asked, looking at Jo.

“Wash, I don’t have any proof that they weren’t traitors,” Jo said with a sigh, removing her feet from the control board. She took her fingers from behind her head and separated them to rest her hands on her knees. She looked at Wash, who still looked skeptical.

“From what I’ve heard, your parents were good people!” Wash said.

Jo didn’t answer, just nodded in reply as she looked down. After a moment, she looked up. “I just want to hear what the guy has to say,” she explained calmly. Wash watched Jo and nodded, turning to the controls. Soon, Serenity was in flight and on her way out of atmo. Jo stayed silent in the co-pilot chair, watching through the glass as they entered the blackness of space. “So have you thought any more about our talk?” she asked Wash finally, not looking over at the pilot.

“Which talk?” Wash returned.

“About kids. Namely, kids that you and Zoe could have.”

“Oh, that talk,” Wash said as if it were nothing. He nodded. “Yeah, I thought about it. Been thinking about it – ” He flipped three switches above his head. “ – quite a bit, actually.”

“And?” asked Jo simply, knowing he would understand what she meant.

Wash sighed. “Jo, I want to have a baby, more than almost anything else I can think of, but . . .”

“But?” urged Jo, wanting to know why in the ‘verse this man was being so hesitant.

“I still don’t know what I’d have to offer as a dad, as a husband. I’m not exactly a pillar of stability, y’know. It’s not like I’m bringing home the money.” Wash looked over at Jo. “Zoe outranks me, you know.”

Jo laughed softly and shook her head. “Wash, we’ve gone over the whole ‘what you would offer’ thing.”

“And besides,” Wash went on, ignoring Jo’s reasoning, “I don’t even have any experience dealing with kids. It’s not like I’m around many. River’s the youngest person I’ve dealt with in a while, and she’s your age.”

“You callin’ me young?” Jo asked, sounding threatening. Wash got a rather frightened look on his face as he looked over at Jo. “Wash, I’m just kidding,” Jo said, smiling and waving a dismissing hand. Wash gave a sigh of relief, looking forward again. “So have you talked to Zoe about it?”

Wash shook his head. “Not yet.”

“You should,” Jo advised.

A sad sigh was breathed by Wash. “I know I should.”

“So just talk to her.”

Wash looked over at Jo. “Okay, I will.”

“Promise me,” Jo said sternly.

“I will, by the end of the trip,” promised Wash.

Jo held out her hand for a handshake. “Thief’s honor.” Wash arched an eyebrow. “Just shake my hand, Wash.”

Wash shrugged and shook Jo’s hand, vowing, “Thief’s honor.” Jo smiled and nodded, standing. She took her letter back before walking off the bridge. Wash shook his head and linked his fingers behind his neck, crossing his feet up by the controls. “That kid, I swear,” he told himself quietly.

---

River entered Jo’s old room and set Jo’s bag down in a certain place. After a little while of arranging, River stepped back and put her hands on her hips to admire her work. The room looked perfect: just as it had looked right before Jo had packed up to leave. Jo’s things were right where they had been the last day Jo had been a guest on the ship. River had even messed up the sheets on the bed to be as messy as Jo had left them.

River turned as the door opened, Kaylee stepping inside with an armful of something. Kaylee stopped in the doorway and looked at the room, mouth hanging open. “I thought Simon cleaned this room after Jo left?” she said, voice confused.

“He did,” answered River. “What are those?”

The mechanic grinned and showed River what was in her hands. A few pictures were in Kaylee’s arms, all nicely framed in wooden frames that had butterflies, flowers, and other little assorted decorations hand-painted on them. The pictures were of the crew, of the ship, of everything.

A large smile came over River’s face as she took a picture to study it. The picture was Jo, River, and Kaylee sitting around the dining hall. The three girls were smiling as they sat together. River smiled again and sat the picture by Jo’s bed. Kaylee was busy hanging a picture on the wall of Wash hugging Zoe. Kaylee and River spent some more time hanging pictures before the door was heard opening. Kaylee and River both turned and grinned.

Jo stood in the doorway, mouth hanging open as she looked around the room. “What in the ‘verse . . .?” she asked. Her room was exactly the way it had been before she had had to leave. And there were pictures!

“Surprise!” River and Kaylee cried together. Jo looked around for a bit more before laughing, smiling, and hugging River and Kaylee. After the three talked and caught up for a while, Kaylee and River left to let Jo get settled again. Jo walked around the room to look at the pictures.

In one picture, Jo and River juggled together. Jo laughed softly before turning to look at another photo. The scene in the frame depicted Simon and Kaylee hugging and smiling. Jo looked around at the other pictures. One picture showed the whole crew, a picture beside that one showed the ship from the outside, another picture showed Mal and Zoe standing together. Jo breathed a happy sigh and flopped down on the bed. It was good to be back on Serenity.

---

After a full day of greeting the crew and catching up with everyone, Jo was beat. She figured that the stress of the possibility of her parents being traitors was also weighing on her. Somehow, though, here on a ship that she felt almost as comfortable on as her own, and surrounded by a crew that was more of a family to her than she had experienced since she was a child, the possibility that her parents were traitors wasn't as crushing as it had been that morning. She was almost certain that when she was laying in one of Serenity's rooms, listening to the engine make comforting noises, she would get a good night's sleep, no matter what possibilities she had to face the next day.

Mal, being the gentleman that he was, offered to walk with Jo down to her room. After receiving a bone-crunching good night hug from Kaylee, Jo was beyond ready to crash. She walked next to Mal as they moseyed through the ship and toward Jo’s room.

After a while of walking in silence, Mal decided it was time to get to the nuts and bolts of this job. “Jo, you and I both know your parents weren’t traitors.”

Jo just glanced at Mal with sad eyes before looking ahead of her again. “Truth is, Mal, there is no way of knowing for sure. Unless you have some foolproof evidence for me, then – ”

“It doesn’t matter,” interrupted Mal. “That’s not what’s really important.” They walked in silence a while longer before Mal continued, “What do you remember your parents as being?”

There was no hesitancy in Jo’s response. “They were great people.”

“That’s what I thought you would say,” Mal said with a knowing nod. “So all those things you remember about your parents, all those things that made them great, they make you great, too. It’s not important what your parents were in the war, because the war is over. But what you choose to remember about them is the important part, what you choose to keep alive of them by living it in yourself.”

Jo looked over at Mal. She bit her lip and looked down as she mulled the statement over. “But it matters to me, Mal,” she said finally. “If my parents weren’t who they said they were in the war, how do I know that how they acted to me was real?”

“Did it seem real?” Mal asked simply. “Did you get the feeling they were just lying to you?”

Jo thought about this then shook her head. “No, I think they really did love me, and I still think they were good people. It’s just . . .” Jo didn’t know how to finish the sentence as she and Mal stopped in front of the door to Jo’s room.

“Then there you have your answer, kid,” Mal said with another nod. “After all, life is what you make of it. Dwelling in the past, in what you can’t determine, just results in not living at all. And the best way to honor your parents, to honor all of us Browncoats, is to keep living, to keep hope alive, that someday, somehow, the world will be a better place.”

Jo looked at Mal, a thoughtful look on her face. “That . . . I think I can do,” she said after a moment.

Mal gave a half-smile. “Good girl. Now get some sleep. I'm sure Kaylee will wake you up early just to hug you, make sure you're really here and it's not just one of her dreams.” Jo chuckled and nodded as she went inside her room. Before she closed the door, as the captain was walking away from the room, Jo heard Mal quietly add, “You have no idea how often Kaylee and River dream of having you back.”

Jo just stood there for a moment, a smile slowly creeping over her tired face before she closed the door behind herself. She took another look around her room, at the pictures scattered over the walls, before she fell right into her messy bed. As her head hit the pillow, she whispered to herself. “You know, Mal, maybe I do have an idea.” She didn’t even have time to listen to the engine, because she was asleep within seconds.

COMMENTS

Saturday, July 9, 2005 1:42 AM

AMDOBELL


Yep, really liking this. Loved the bit of advice from Mal to Jo at the end but was surprised he didn't give her a hug or she him. I do so love how River knew all along that they would be seeing Jo again and found it very touching how she made sure to mess up her room as if she had never left. And those pictures they hung on the wall of her bunk? I want copies, *dong ma*? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, July 10, 2005 7:04 PM

FREDIKAYLLOW


Yay!!!!! Jo's back on Serenity!! That makes me happy. Though I really hope her parents weren't traitors. I'm really enjoying this already, so keep it coming!!

No Power In The Verse
XOXOX-FREDIKAYLLOW-XOXOX


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