But It's Just Another Day...
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The Captain doesn't understand what all the fuss is about...


Special thanks to Hotpoint for help with this. It's just a fic-lette, for your amusement. Let me know what you think... ~~ ~~~~~

They were planning something. He just knew it. For the past few weeks, he'd seen them, heads together, conspiring, whispering, giggling even. Sometimes it was Kaylee and River, sometimes Wash and River, sometimes all three of them. Jayne was even in on one of the conferences. They'd stop abruptly and disperse whenever he approached. It was unnerving him something fierce.

He hated his birthday...almost as much as Unification Day.

Now, the dreaded day was here. He lay in his bed, imagining all the hoopla they had prepared for him. He had begged Zoe to try to curb it but she just shrugged, smirking, " Sir, you know they just want to show their regards."

" Yeah, but why do they have to make such a fuss? Why can't they just do a cake or some such and leave it at that?" Mal said, pleading.

" Well, sir, I think they got you something special this year. " she said, eyes twinkling. Mal's eyebrows shot up. " Zoe, if you've any notion of what's up, you'd better let fly with the facts." he said, feigning anger.

"Sir, I only know that they said you'll like it...well, no, actually, they said you'll appreciate it." she said, grinning, and walked away. That just filled him with all manner of apprehension. * * * * *

Standing outside the doorway to the kitchen he had to mentally brace himself for the inevitable chorus of 'Happy Birthday, Captain'. When he finally turned the corner and came down the steps he was met with... silence. No one even paid him any mind. They went about, making their tea, something for breakfast, chattering about where they were headed next, what they were planning to do planetside. Jayne and Wash were arguing about who had dish duty. It looked as though it could come to blows.

" Mornin', Cap'n." Kaylee said as she looked up.

" Mornin', Kaylee." he said, somewhat puzzled. Maybe Zoe did get them to stow their usual boisterous birthday fanfare. Can't say he minded the quiet but he was surprised at the seeming indifference.

" Cap, when we land on New Edmunton can I go into town and see what they have by way of fresh fruit and such? We're about fed up with the protein supplements." Kaylee pleaded.

" Sure, fine, " he said absently. Looking around he noticed everyone was still going about their business as usual. He thought at least one of'em would say Happy Birthday. Oh well, he figured it'd be best to get on with what's to be done.

" Kaylee, Wash and myself'll be going into town to get that part and some supplies. Anyone else feel the need ?" he said to all of them in the kitchen.

" Uh, Captain, if it's all the same could Jayne maybe go instead of me ? I've got some things I need to do." Wash said with raised eyebrows, peering at the Captain.

Mal looked over at Jayne, " OK, Jayne, you're with us."

" Sure, Cap," Jayne said throwing a menacing glare at Wash, who had to surpress a smirk. As the Captain turned away, Wash held up a hand, showing four fingers to Jayne. The large man just rolled his eyes and nodded.

When they left the kitchen, River came in, stood on the steps and gave Wash a little nod. The pilot acknowledged and got up to follow her out. * * * * *

In the seldom used room off the port side of the cargo bay, Wash and River worked furiously. They knew they had very little time to get things ready for the captain's return. They were concentrating so intently on the task at hand that they didn't even notice Simon peeking in the doorway.

" River, what the...when did you...where did all this..." he said, stammering.

"Simon, " she said, in the tone she used for him when he was caught completely off guard...which was often where River was concerned, " This is for the Captain, for his birthday. I've been working on it for weeks, with Kaylee, Wash and Jayne. I'm sorry I didn't include you, but you never could keep a secret."

" But there's so much of it !" he said, eyes wide in amazement.

" The Captain needs a place he can go, to be by himself that isn't so vacant as the bridge and that isn't his bunk," Wash interjected. Simon just looked around the room slowly, taking it all in. He stopped when he saw something in the corner.

" that a... ?" he said, looking at River. She flashed him one of her platinum smiles and silently nodded.

* * * * * Mal, Kaylee and Jayne drove up the cargo bay ramp, the mule squealing to a halt. Kaylee and Jayne quickly looked around the cargo bay for any sign from Wash or River and exchanged glances .

" Let's get everything unloaded and stowed away," the captain said. He had forgotten all about the lack of ceremony the crew had displayed for this day and was business as usual. He headed for the bridge to check with Wash about their next pick up. He didn't even notice Simon standing on the landing, looking every bit like the cat that swallowed the canary.

That night Mal was more relaxed than he had been in a while. The dinner was a feast, to be sure. Kaylee had managed to acquire some real potatoes and even some butter. How she snuck them onto the mule without him noticing was confounding. He looked around the table and felt contentment creeping into his soul. They were all there, healthy, laughing and trading barbs like they always did. He turned to Inara on his right who gave him a grin he couldn't quite read. At a lull in the various conversations, Kaylee had slipped into the kitchen and brought out a cake. Mal couldn't believe it...real chocolate, real cake...not carob, not protein or that Blue Sun synthetic go se. Now everyone broke into a rousing rendition of 'Happy Birthday' with River adding a lovely harmony to the others less than pitch-perfect voices. What they lacked in melody they more than made up for in enthusiasm.

" Hey, thanks," he said, grinning at everyone around the table. Kaylee handed him a knife and he began to slice.

" Now don't go getting stingy with those pieces, Cap, " Jayne said, watching him dissect the cake. He motioned with his hand as to the size of the piece he'd like. The Captain made a little frown but accommodated the mercenary. When everyone had a slice and was just about finished eating Kaylee announced,

" OK, time for your presents." Mal visibly blanched. From what Zoe had told him all manner of things had been running through his head.

" Now y'all shouldn't be spendin' your money on me." He said cautiously.

" Oh, we made something for you, Captain," Kaylee said, just about to burst out of her skin. He swore that girl's smile could shame a supernova.

" Well, I didn't make mine," Simon interjected, and handed the Captain a box. Before Mal could wrap his head around what Kaylee had just revealed, he looked down at the box. Then he looked at Simon. Then he looked back at the box.

" Hell, Cap, if you don't wanna tear into it, I'll do it for ya," Jayne said, nodding, eyes open wide with expectation.

" No, No, thanks,Jayne, I think I can handle this one," Mal said as he tore the paper. Inside was a shirt, dark, warm brown, in the style he liked and always wore.

" Thank you, Simon, you know I had been puttin' a few holes in the one's I got , I appreciate it," Mal said, genuinely touched, smiling up at Simon.

" You're very welcome, Captain," Simon replied. Now they were all standing around the head of the table, looking at him.

" OK, Cap, " Jayne announced, " We gotta blindfold ya now."

Mal froze. The last time he was blindfolded was in Niska's clutches and it made him all manner of uncomfortable just recalling it.

" Whaddya mean, I gotta be blindfolded...why ?" Mal asked quietly.

" No he don't, Jayne, not yet, not till we get him down to the cargo bay ," Kaylee said to him, as she took the Captain's arm and pulled him up from his chair. The big mercenary grinned at her, obviously enjoying the Captain's discomfort. Mal looked at them, from one to the next, seeing a barely contained excitement there that he couldn't fathom. The cargo bay ? He was going over it in his mind, knew every inch of that bay, hadn't seen anything out of place or unexpected.

" Come on, Cap, " Kaylee said, motioning with her hand. Inara had slipped her arm in his and was walking with him. The rest trailed after him, except River, she wasn't anywhere to be seen.

When they got to the cargo bay, Zoe could see Mal's wariness. Deciding this shouldn't be drawn out any longer she said, " Kaylee, don't you think the Captain could just close his eyes ?"

" Well, yeah, if he don't peek, I guess he could." Kaylee said slowly, looking up at Mal.

" Hell, no, I won't peek if it means I ain't gotta be blinfolded," he stated enthusiastically.

" You promise, Captain ?" she said, teasing. He gave her that look, the one they all knew, when he was about at the limit of his patience. She knew they better get on with it.

" Allright, you just keep'em closed and we'll lead you to your present, OK, sir ?" Kaylee said, squinting up into his face, trying to determine if he could see her or not. She took his elbow and led him cautiously forward, to the far port side of the cargo bay. The door to the secluded room swung open at their approach. Mal faltered for a moment. There was a smell he couldn't quite place. It was familiar and for a moment he thought it smelled like... Shadow. They led him a few more steps and then Kaylee said in a strangely hushed tone, " OK, Cap, you can open your eyes now."

He stood there, dumbfounded. He let his eyes slowly roam over every inch of the room,back and forth, into the corners. The crew had held back but now, led by River, they surged forward to gently push him all the way into the room.

It was as if he had stepped into an arbor from the ranch. Even though the room was small, it had a feeling of a large open space. Large trees in two of the corners reached up to the ceiling, creating a canopy. There were plants everywhere, everywhere he looked he saw foliage or blooms, something green and vibrant and alive. The light had that golden hue of sunlight. When he looked up it was like looking into a small sun. There was a carved chair to one side that looked old but he knew wasn't. The air was moist and clean and fresh...and delicious.

" How...when did you ..." Mal couldn't form the questions that were racing through his mind. His brow was furrowed but a look of wonder hung in his eyes.He couldn't grasp the fact that something like this had been built without his knowledge.

" We acquired the plants at our last few drops,Captain, " River started, " Most of the species are hydrophobic or non-rhizogenic. If I had a fluxgraph I could determine if the engine's coils are emitting a detrimental EM field but I think they'll be sufficiently protected back here. "

Mal turned to look down at her...staring. " They don't need soil and very little water, Captain," she said leaning in closely to whisper.

"The light you see is full-spectrum to emulate sunlight and we put it on a timed rheostat to mimic the cycle of a 24 hour day...the light will gradually fade and brighten, just like a planet has a sunrise and sunset. " River's voice was pitched as though she were conducting a tour. Mal continued to look around the verdant room, eyes pausing here and there on a familiar plant, peering through branches, touching the living, breathing walls.

River began to recite the names of the species. " There's Myristica Fragrans, Pinus Temeculatus, Rosmarinus Officinalis, Ficus Vedra..."

" Ah, Latin," Wash interrupted, " Such a dead language and yet so...dead." Zoe elbowed him and gave him a look that said 'Proceed at your own peril'.

Mal had stopped moving and was focusing all his attention on something in a wall mounted box in the corner. He brought his head up slowly and turned to River. " Is that what I think it is? " He asked quietly.

She nodded her head vigorously, beaming a million-watt smile. " Yes, Captain, I hybridized it to bear fruit, year round. It's the only one of it's's Lycopersicon Serenitas...the 'Serenity Tomato'. " Mal bent down to touch the healthy, thriving plant. There was a small, ripened fruit on the stalk by his hand...he picked it, closed his eyes and popped it into his mouth. It was like candy.

" Hey, Cap, give that chair a try...Shepherd made it for ya," Jayne ordered. Mal turned and went to the chair. He could see it was made with care and no small measure of skill. He eased himself down into it and marvelled at its comfort. The back easily but firmly supported his full height and the seat was long enough for his legs. When Shepherd brought out a matching stool, Mal leaned back to put his feet up and felt the chair bevel ever so slightly to an almost reclining position.

" So, Captain, do.. you like it? " Kaylee asked in a small voice. Mal stood up and looked at her, at all of them. He grabbed Kaylee and gave her a hug, the ones he reserved just for her.These people meant more to him than anyone in the 'verse. It was all he could do to nod, knowing it would take him a moment to get his voice.

" I can't believe y'all went to so much trouble on my account." he finally said, in a voice low with emotion. They responded, all saying " Happy Birthday, Captain" each in turn. As they started to turn and leave, Mal said, " Thank you, all of you."

When Mal was alone in his room, he sat again in his chair. Looking around he could feel himself relax and after a very short while, he dozed off. Inara came to check on him a few hours later and, watching him there, sleeping, she knew she had never seen him more at peace than at this moment.


Tuesday, March 23, 2004 5:37 PM


Super shiny! You really hit on the characters...

Tuesday, March 23, 2004 7:47 PM


Oh wow, this is awesome. I love when River switches from being very technical in discribing the plants to Mal to Captain dummy speak...LOL

Wednesday, March 24, 2004 3:47 AM


Oh wow, this was so very shiny and touching. I gorram *loved it* to pieces. Yep, no better way for the crew to show how much they think of their shiny Captain. Rutting hell, do you think they'd build me one? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, March 24, 2004 5:07 AM


You've had me wondering intensely about your Fic ever since you talked about horticulture on the Chat MalsDoxy

Very sweet and shiny. Well done!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004 9:47 AM


Had me thinking that one of the episodes should have had this subplot in it. And that if it had, it would have been just like this. Thank you!

Monday, September 13, 2004 6:46 PM


I really enjoyed your work. Very character driven.

Thursday, February 24, 2005 2:15 PM


That was beautiful! It'd be sweet if Serenity had a 'secret garden' like this, and we never did get to see what was behind some of those doors.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005 8:01 AM


I KNEW IT!!! jayne's just a little boy at heart, whether it's his birthday or anyone else's...hmmm, jayne's birthday *hint hint*

Monday, October 9, 2006 8:50 AM


Excellent work!


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