Episode 3: Shindig

Earth got used up, so we terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths, some rich and flush with the new technologies, some not so much. Central Planets, them was formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule; a few idiots tried to fight it, among them myself. I'm Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity. Got a good crew: fighters, pilot, mechanic. We even picked up a mercenary, and a bona fide companion. There's a doctor, too, took his genius sister out of some Alliance camp, so they're keeping a low profile. You got a job, we can do it, don't much care what it is.

Sara, Jayne, Mal, and Inara were currently in a bar and Inara was watching the three of them play pool with some guy who calls himself Wright. There was the noise of people talking throughout the bar, but all four of the Serenity crew members ignored them pretty much and stayed focused on the game of pool. Inara glanced to her right as Jayne bought himself some more whatever he was drinking right before heading back to the pool table.

"Didn't hardly have to convert the ship even," Wright was saying as Jayne returned to standing against the wall next to Mal and Sara, "Six in the corner. Stronger locks, thicker doors, keep everybody where they're supposed to be. Don't even need more rations."

Wright prepared to hit the ball with the cue stick, but suddenly the balls flickered preventing him from doing so.

"Wēi!" exclaimed Wright.

"Come on!" the other pool players exclaimed as they looked at the barkeep.

The barkeep merely gestured to a sign behind him that reads: MANAGEMENT NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BALL FAILURE. They returned to their game in irritation at management, but that was as much as they could do. Wright managed to hit the white ball this time and held up his fist in irritation as he missed entirely.

"You made money, huh?" Jayne asked as he stuck a cigar in between his teeth.

"Hand over fist, my friend," Wright replied as Mal moved the ball closer to him, "Water planets need labor, terraforming crews got a prodigious death rate."

"Labor," Mal guessed as he hit the ball, "you mean, uh… slaves"

"Well it wasn't volunteers," Wright replied as Mal managed to get a ball into a hole, "for damn sure."

"That why you didn't have to lay in more rations?" Mal asked as he hit the ball again, but this time it just bounced off of the edge of the table.

"I didn't hear no complaints," Wright said smugly as Mal leaned back from the table.

"How much money," Jayne asked as Mal walked over to Inara, "lots?"

"There's a chance you might want to head back to the ship," Mal said quietly as he leaned next to Inara.

"Oh, I'm alright," Inara said not understanding as she sipped on a pink drink, "This is entertaining, actually."

"Yeah?" Mal asked intrigued, "What's entertaining?"

"I like watching the game," Inara explained as Jayne hit a ball into a hole, "As with other situations, the key seems to be giving Jayne a heavy stick and standing back."

"True," Mal said, "Could say the same for Sara as well. Is it me, or is she wearing leggings more and more frequently as of late?"

"I hadn't noticed," Inara lied, "You shouldn't either. Very rude and un-gentlemen-like."

"Still," Mal said changing the topic as he turned to look at Inara, "might ought to clear out before too much longer. Seems there's a thief about."

"A thief?" Inara asked.

"Took this right off him," Mal replied as he pulled out a wad of cash.

"Now they earned that with the sweat of their slave-trading brows," Mal continued as Inara took it from his hands.

"Mal…" Inara said quietly and shocked as she put the money down her shirt.

"Aw, terrible shame," Mal said innocently before becoming serious again, "Course they won't discover it till they go order their next round of drinks."

"Wei," Wright said as he placed his hand on Mal's shoulder when he came up behind him.

"Good drinker," Mal remarked honestly surprised, "that one."

He then turned around and delivered a strong right hook into Wright's face knocking him to the side. Jayne grabbed a pool cue and kicked his attacker back. Mal turned smile at Inara as she spun away right before Wright kicked Mal's legs out from under him. Wright was about to pull out his gun and shoot Mal, but suddenly a throwing knife was jutting out from his forehead causing him to drop the gun before he fell to his knees and then onto his side. Mal looked to see who threw the knife and saw that Sara was quickly pulling her leggings back up. She then turned around and delivered a roundhouse kick to an attacker in the process.

"Okay," Mal muttered to himself as he got up, "Sara keeps throwing knives under her leggings. Who am I to judge? Must be uncomfortable and tedious putting the leggings on though."

Sara and Jayne both punched out a guy who swung a pool cue at them at the same time. They smirked at each other before running towards a couple of attackers. Jayne tackled into one while Sara jumped off a pool cue and wrapped her legs around the guy's neck. She then spun around him and sent him flying as she landed on the ground with her right leg to one side, her left leg in a crouch, right hand on the ground and her left arm in the air behind her. She then rolled forward just as a guy swung a pool cue down towards her. Sara then drew her Taurus 38 and blasted the guy point blank before he could do anything.

"Lovely place," Inara said as Mal grabbed her and hustled her out of the bar, "I'll tell my friends."

*intro begins*

Firefly

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me.

Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me.

Leave the men where they lay
They'll never see another day
Lost my soul, lost my dream
You can't take the sky from me.

I feel the black reaching out
I hear its song without a doubt
I still hear and I still see
That you can't take the sky from me.

Lost my love, lost my land
Lost the last place I could stand
There's no place I can be
Since I've found Serenity

And you can't take the sky from me.

*intro ends*

On the bridge of Serenity, Wash was flying the ship towards a particular planet with Zoe sitting on a console right next to him with her hands on him.

"Seem to you we cleared out of Santo in a hurry?" Wash asked as he activated the autopilot.

"Seems we do that a lot," Zoe replied, "Heard tell though, we're going to stay awhile on Persephone."

"Shiny," Wash said with his foot on the chair and his hand on his knee.

"Yeah?" Zoe said, "Thought you'd get land crazy that long in port."

"Probably," Wash agreed, "but I've been sane a long while now, and change is good."

"Well, ain't that a joyful sight?" Mal said as he walked onto the bridge no longer wearing his brown coat and looked at the sunset.

"Gotta love a sunset," Wash agreed.

"Starting to get familiar too," Zoe said, "like a second home."

"Persephone ain't home," Mal reminded them, "Too many people we got to avoid. Re-supply, look for work, move along. Sniff the air, we don't kiss the dirt."

"Wasn't planning on the dirt-kissing, sir," Zoe said slyly.

"Besides," Wash said, "I wouldn't stand for it anyway, Captain, jealous man like me."

Suddenly the alarm started blaring prompting him to sit normally in his seat and closer to the controls.

"Closing in," Wash said with his pilot voice as he deactivated the autopilot so he could control the ship manually.

"Planet's coming up a mite fast," Zoe said with concern.

"That's just 'cause I'm going down too quick," Wash explained feeling like an idiot, "Likely crash and kill us all."

"Well, that happens," Mal said as he headed to the bridge's exit, "let me know."

"Okay," Wash said nervously, "Whoa. No, we're good, we're good. It's okay."

In Inara's shuttle…

Inara was busy looking through Persephone Responses on her touch-screen computer as she was trying to find a client down on the planet. However, none of the ones she found appealed to her… except for one. One she would regret immensely.

"Now there's the smile made of sunlight," said a smiling man with a British accent.

"Atherton," Inara smiled, "how wonderful to see you."

"Did you get my message?" Atherton asked hopeful, "I was extra appealing."

"What a flattering invitation," Inara smiled, "I had no idea I was arriving in time for the social event of the season."

"So, you'll accompany me?" Atherton said still hopeful, "I ask heart in my throat. There's a certain offer I'm still waiting to hear about."

"Yes," Inara smiled as Mal knocked on her door, "I imagine there is. I'm delighted to say I'll be there. Now, I'm sorry Atherton, but I have to run."

"No, please," Atherton complied, "I understand. I'll see you soon, bǎobèi."

The call ended just before Mal walked in as Inara turned to look at him.

"Good afternoon," Inara greeted pleased that Mal knocked, "Captain."

"Morning," Mal said as he walked forwards, "We're downing, and in case Wash don't kill us all, local time's going to be in the a.m, 10 or so."

"Yes," Inara agreed, "I saw that."

"Making plans?" Mal said as he looked over Inara's shoulder at the screen which prompted Inara to cover it with a drape, "'Atherton Wing'. He's a regular, ain't he?"

"I've seen him before," Inara confirmed.

"Oh, I never did," Mal said with an amused smile, "Not what I pictured, young. Must be rich too, to afford your rates."

"I suppose," Inara said, "He has engaged me for several days."

"Days!?" Mal said surprised, "Boy must have stamina."

"He does," Inara confirmed as she walked over to her couch.

"Well…" Mal said as he turned to look at her while she sat down, "fine. Is he letting you out at all?"

"Actually, we're attending a ball tomorrow night," Inara informed.

"Tell me," Mal said confused and a tiny bit annoyed, "do all the men there pay for their dates or just the young rich ones with stamina?"

"Most of the women in there will not be Companions," Inara said, "if that's what you're asking. Perhaps the other men couldn't attract one."

"Hmm," Mal smiled, "It sounds like the finest party I can imagine getting paid to go to."

"I don't suppose you'd find it up to standards of your outings," Inara smirked as she got up from the couch, "More conversation and somewhat less petty theft and getting hit with pool cues. Less murder too."

Mal just chuckled a bit at that.

"I understand if you need to go prepare for that 'It's 10 in the morning' issue," Inara continued as she walked up to Mal hinting that he should leave.

"Yeah. Better go do that," Mal agreed as he walked out the door, "'Cause I think this is more of an evening look."

Later, on the streets of Persephone…

Kaylee led the crew of Serenity down the streets, and she and Wash carried a yellow bag of some kind. Jayne had some sort of case held at his shoulder, and Mal had a bag slung over his back. They wore their usual outfits, except this time Mal left his brown coat behind and Sara was wearing her leather jacket, white t-shirt, tight blue jeans, and black combat boots. She also had her ray bans on. She also left behind her Taurus .38. However, she had a few knives hidden in her jacket. Sara also had her blonde hair in a ponytail. Eventually, they stopped once they reached a section of the street with glass. Inside were women showing off clothes.

"Look at the pretties!" Kaylee said with a smile. Zoe and Sara also smiled in agreement.

"What am I looking at?" Wash asked his wife who was right next to him, "the girls or the clothes?"

"The girls?" Jayne suggested which everyone ignored.

"The clothes please," Zoe said with a smile as Kaylee continued looking around at the clothing being shown. She then walked towards a particular one which attracted her immediately.

"Say!" Kaylee said happily, "Look at the fluffy one!"

"Too much foofaraw," Zoe said not as interested as Kaylee was, "If I'm going to wear a dress, I'd want something with some slink."

"You want a slinky dress?" Wash said eagerly, "I can buy you a slinky dress."

"Captain," Wash said looking at Mal making Zoe laugh, "can I have money for a slinky dress?"

"I'll chip in," Jayne offered as Mal looked up at the dress confused as to why Kaylee was so in love with it.

"I can hurt you," Zoe reminded Jayne.

"I can too," Sara put in, "I eat mercenaries like you for breakfast."

Jayne finally did the smart thing and didn't reply… mostly because he couldn't think of anything to say.

"The only place I seen somethin' so nice is some of the things Inara has," Kaylee spoke up.

"I've worn better," Sara said, "and I've worn worse."

"Really?" Kaylee asked looking at Sara, "Do you still have them?!"

"No," Sara shook her head, "I traded them in for pants and a gun the day I left my family."

"Well," Mal said deciding that they had stuck around long enough, "we best be movin'."

"I guess Inara needs all that stuff," Zoe said to Kaylee ignoring Mal, "the life she leads."

"Well, sure," Kaylee agreed, "Sometimes the customers buy her things. Some real rich men."

"Come on!" Mal said impatiently, "These ain't feathers I'm toting here, ya know?"

"I like the ruffles," Kaylee said as she pointed at the dress, "Inara gets to wear whatever she wants."

"What are you going to do in that rig?" Mal said irritated, "Flounce around the engine room? Be like a sheep walking on its hind legs."

Jayne barked out a laugh while Kaylee's expression turned from happy to hurt. She then began heading back towards the ship, and Mal opened his mouth to speak but couldn't think of anything to say. Sara and Zoe both glared at Mal angrily.

"See you on the ship Reynolds," Sara said as she, Zoe, and Wash left him and Jayne behind.

I must have done something wrong. Sara only ever called me Reynolds when she was angry at me. Mal thought as he sighed while watching Sara, Zoe, Kaylee, and Wash get on a quad-runner type vehicle to leave.

"Is she mad or something?" Jayne asked completely confused. Mal turned to look at him as if Jayne was joking. When Jayne shrugged his shoulders, Mal turned back to watch them leave. Suddenly, the sound of futuristic guns cocking could be heard behind him and Jayne. Mal turned to see a dreadlocked man holding a rifle on him. There was at least one more thug with a rifle at the ready. Then, a small man in a derby approached from the side.

"Badger," Mal said not very thrilled to see the low-life again.

"Captain Reynolds," Badger said with a cockney accent, "Heard you was in town. Thought we might have a bit of a sit-down."

"Prefer a bit of a piss-off," Mal said trying his best to prevent himself from breaking Badger's nose.

"I'm very sorry," Badger asked sarcastically, "Did I give you the impression I was asking?"

Later, in Badger's office…

Mal and Jayne were now sitting down at a table as Badger poured them drinks. It was lit, but the closest light came through the cloth above them.

"Seems to me the last time there was a chance for a little palaver we were all manner of unwelcome," Mal said as he followed Badger's movements around the table. Jayne, on the other hand, decided to taste the drink.

"This ain't bad," Jayne admitted after taking a sip.

"There's a trick to it," Badger explained with a smile as he poured himself a cup, "wood-alcohol."

"Now we're favored, guests…" Mal said even more cautious as to what Badger's motives were, "treated to the finest in beverages that make you blind."

"So what is it you need?" Mal asked as Jayne grabbed a sandwich from a plate on the table.

"Mmm," Jayne said with a full mouth as he reached for more sandwiches, "s'cuse me."

"There's a local," Badger explained as he sat down, by the name of Warrick Harrow. Got some property he wants to sell off-planet… fetch a high price."

"The local powers won't let him sell off-world," Mal countered.

"It's a conundrum," Badger agreed, "What my man Harrow needs himself is a smuggler. Willing to cut you in on it."

"Why me?" Mal said not sure if he wants to deal with Badger again after last time, "You have access to ships. You could do it yourself."

"He won't deal with me direct," Badger admitted, "He's taken an irrational dislike."

"What happened? He see your face?" Jayne asked with a mouthful of food. That gained an annoyed look from Badger while Mal smiled amused.

"He's a quality gent," Badger continued as if Jayne hadn't spoken, "Nose in the air like he never wun gwo pee. Don't find me respectable. But you, now I figure you got a chance."

"You backed out of a deal last time," Mal said still unsure if he's willing to take the job, "Left us hanging."

"Hurt our feelings," Jayne put in.

"You recall why that took place?" Mal finished.

"Had a problem with your attitude is why," Badger lied, "Felt you was… what's the word?"

"Pretentious?" Jayne offered.

At that, Mal looked at Jayne with surprise at the fact that Jayne knows a word with that many syllables.

"Exactly!" Badger said, "You think you're better than other people."

"Just the ones I'm better than," Mal corrected, "And that very quality is the one I think you're placing value on today."

"I'm placing value on the fact that stick up your pee goo is about as large as the one Harrow's got," Badger said.

"How would you set up a meet, man that won't deal with you?" Mal asked skeptically.

"I know a place he'll be," Badger explained, "Safe place. Using some new-tech gun scans. High-class too. Wouldn't let me in there. You might slip in. Course you couldn't buy an invite with a diamond the size of a testicle, but I got my hands on a couple."

Mal and Jayne glanced at each other, snickering like little boys. Badger quickly realized what they were laughing about and widened his eyes as he looked between the two.

"Of invites!" Badger quickly added, "You want this meeting or not?"

Meanwhile, with Sara and Kaylee…

Kaylee was fuming because of Mal's mean remarks and Sara wasn't too happy either. However, she wasn't as mad as Kaylee because she knows that Mal was just showing his impatience. In any case, Kaylee was currently messing up with her wrench due to using too much force and that's why Sara decided to help her out on performing repairs. Sara was currently wearing a grey t-shirt, cargo shorts, hiking boots, safety glasses, and had her hair in a bun to prevent her hair from getting caught on something. Kaylee was just wearing her usual attire.

"Kaylee," Sara said as she reached for a tool, "would you hand me the 1⁄8 inch micrometer torque wrench?"

"Sure," Kaylee said in a tone that wasn't chipper but wasn't angry either. She then grabbed one and handed it to Sara.

"Thanks," Sara said as she began replacing a screw that looked to have been deforming due to age.

"No, thank you," Kaylee countered as she worked on replacing old wires with spare ones, "I wouldn't have been able to get all this done on my own before we had to leave the planet."

"You're welcome," Sara smiled even though Kaylee couldn't see it.

"I think I can finish up here," Kaylee said, "you can go do somethin' else if you want."

"You sure?" Sara asked as she tightened some more screws into their place.

"Yeah," Kaylee said, "besides I need some alone time anyway."

"Okay then," Sara said as she slowly pulled herself out. However, as she did so she accidentally placed her greasy bare hand onto the screws she removed. Unfortunately, they were sharp sides up which penetrated her… not in a fun way either. Fortunately, they weren't too deep inside her hand so it wouldn't do too much damage when removing them.

"Wángbā dàn!" Sara cried out in pain as she stood up.

"Oh oh oh," Kaylee said hurrying to her feet when she saw Sara's hand, "ouch. Looks like you best go visit Simon."

"Ya think?" Sara asked sarcastically as she held her right hand which was bleeding even though the screws kept most of it in.

"Great just great…" Sara muttered to herself as she walked out of the engine room towards the medical room, "ain't gonna be much use in a fight without my shootin' hand."

Later, with Kaylee…

Kaylee was now using a device to test electrical currents in the engine room to put some finishing touches on the repairs. She was so busy in what she was doing that she didn't notice as Mal came walking down towards the engine room.

"Kaylee?" Mal called to her, "Kaylee!"

"I'm not speaking to you, Captain," Kaylee said back to being grouchy, "go speak to Sara if you need something."

"Okay then," Mal said frowning a bit, "but whenever you get back to your room… I don't expect to be hearin' any squealing ya hear?"

Kaylee didn't even respond as she tried to determine what Mal was talking about and well… she was still mad at the scruffy-looking Nerf herder.

With Sara in the dining area…

Sara was now staring at her bandaged hand that Simon had removed the screws from. Unlike last time, she didn't heal. That probably meant that the healing was a one time deal… either that or it only works when one is actually in danger of dying. She frowned as she was unable to close her hand due to how tight the bandage was. With a sigh, she just placed her hand onto the table and opened up her book that was titled Department Nineteen which was written by Will hill. It was one of the few books that made it into digital form… specifically the modern version of digital. She had barely gotten to the halfway point of chapter one when she noticed Mal enter the room with her peripheral vision.

"What do you want, Reynolds?" Sara asked still unhappy with him.

"I have a job for you," Mal said before he noticed her right hand.

"You alright?" Mal asked, "What happened?"

"I screwed myself," Sara said as she put down the book, "what kind of job?"

"Put on something fancy," Mal said with an expression of him trying to determine what she meant, "I'll tell you on the way."

He then left the dining area to get himself dressed all fancy-like while Sara sat there. After a few seconds, Sara sighed and got up from the table to head to her room. When she arrived at her room she began looking for one of her dresses that weren't slutty but wasn't too prudish. Eventually, she settled on her black sparkly dress that has a v-neck which shows off her cleavage. The only problem was… she'll have a difficult time putting it on without help due to her hand.

"River would like to help," said a familiar voice from behind Sara.

Sara turned around and smiled because she was grateful this time for River's random sudden appearances.

"That would be nice," Sara said kindly.

River then entered the room and closed the door behind her, and walked over to Sara. When River began helping Sara get undressed to get into her dress she felt her area in between her legs get heated a bit as her hand accidentally caressed Sara's skin.

Later, at the ballroom…

People danced to music that sounded fit for nobility and not for an action scene. The dancing was a combo of slow and fast which was ideal for the number of people that were in the room. There were also people standing around talking, eating, or just watching things happen. However, what they all shared in common was that their attire was very fancy.

"I'm trying to offer you something you know," said Atherton Wing to Inara as they danced, "A life. If you want it."

Atherton wing wore a grey outfit that looked like it could be military-based while Inara wore a not-so-shiny golden dress that had a Greek-like appearance to it as well as remaining modern.

"Atherton…" Inara said with a smile after she spun around under his arm.

"You can live here on Persephone," Atherton continued, "as my personal companion."

"You are a generous man," Inara replied.

"That is not a 'yes'," Atherton said displeased.

"It's not a 'no'," Inara reassured, "either."

"You look gorgeous," Inara complimented a nearby woman she saw while they danced, "dear."

"You belong here," Atherton pressed not reassured as they stopped dancing since he had grabbed a drink, "Inara, not on that flying piece of go se. You see that don't you?"

"Atherton," Inara scolded, "language."

"What? Piece of go se?" Atherton asked making Inara's smile falter, "but it is a piece of go se."

"Miss Sara MacLeod and Escort," said the porter from the entryway attracting Inara's attention.

"Sara?" Inara said as she turned around towards where the voice came from.

Inara then saw Sara walking into the room and she could barely hold in her gasp because of Sara's beauty. Sara had not only put on her black dress that had a v-neck which showed off her cleavage, but she was wearing make-up as well which is rare for Sara. Only some eyeshadows and red lipstick, but that was enough. She also had her hair up in a bun along with two chopsticks stuck in her hair. She wore black gloves long enough to reach her biceps. She was beautiful enough to be on par with a Companion, and those women are rare. Atherton noticed how Inara looked at Sara, and immediately grew to hate the newcomer.

"Oh, go se," Inara said attracting Atherton's attention again as she Mal walk out and take Sara's hand.

With Sara and Mal…

They walked forward past people standing near the hallway and what looked like maybe a Buddhist fountain? They stared at the people dancing and other people that were just standing there talking. They then stopped just before they could enter the room people were dancing in.

"Does…" Mal asked as he turned to look at Sara as he gestured to his pants, "um… does this seem kind of tight?"

"Shows off your backside," Sara nodded.

"Thought you didn't like men?" Mal asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I don't," Sara said with a wink, "doesn't mean I can't appreciate their rears."

"So that's what it feels like," Mal muttered to himself.

"I like their chandelier," Sara said changing the topic, "Never seen one hover before. Parents were cheap with their money."

"What's the point of that, I wonder?" Mal said as they continued their way as he glanced upward a few times, "I mean, I see how they did it. I just ain't getting the why."

"So," Sara said bringing them to business as they came to a stop again, "why'd you bring me on?"

"You're supposed to make me look respectable," Mal replied, "so I can do what I'm here to do."

"What are you here to do anyway?" Sara asked.

"Here to look for a guy named Harrow," Mal said as he looked around.

"Inara too?" Sara asked with an unintentional hopeful tone as they began moving again.

"If we see her," Mal nodded, "I think she's wearing gold."

"Okay," Mal said as they stopped again, "help me find our man. He's supposed to be old, kinda stocky, wears a red sash crossways."

"Don't forget to put sir in front of his name," Sara said as she noticed a buffet table, "I'm going to go have some of the food. Haven't eaten all day.

"Why call him sir?" Mal asked Sara before she could move.

"He's been knighted," Sara replied, "either that or he was born into nobility like I was."

"You're of nobility?" Mal asked.

"Yeah," Sara nodded, "only us noble girls get 'lady' in front of our names instead of 'sir'. Feels a bit sexist to me, but that's how this gorram 'verse works currently."

"Right," Mal nodded, "well, don't get sick."

"Yes, sir, Captain Tightpants," Sara said as she walked off towards the buffet table.

Later…

Sara stood by the wall as she watched the dancers… well… dance. Part of her envied them, but the other part… was glad she wasn't dancing. Too many ways to stealthily kill someone, and there's a high chance someone she had crossed was at this Ball. She was honestly surprised that nobody had come towards her already. With a bored expression, she walked over to where she saw the lord Mal was looking for.

"Beg your pardon," Sara said with a smile.

"Hello there ma'am," the man said with a smile, "Do you need something?"

"No, sir…" Sara trailed off.

"I'm Sir Warwick Harrow," the man introduced himself, "and you are?"

"I am Sara MacLeod," Sara replied.

"Of Scottish descent," Warwick said surprised, "I thought all of the MacLeods died centuries ago."

"We're a resilient bunch," Sara said.

"I see," Warwick said, "so, you going to answer my question?"

"My captain is hoping to speak to you," Sara replied as she looked around.

"You in the military?" Warwick asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Nope," Sara replied popping the "p."

"What's he the captain of then?" Warwick asked.

Sara was about to reply, but before she could a familiar voice attracted her attention.

"That would be a cargo ship," said Mal as he walked up.

"I was told you were hoping to speak to me," Warwick said as he fixed his gaze on Mal.

"That'd be true," Mal nodded.

"What's your name, son?" Warwick asked.

"Sir, my name is Malcolm Reynolds," Mal replied, "As you know, I captain a ship. Its name is Serenity. I mention this because I've been led to believe you want to move some property off-world."

"Some property you want to move off-world discreetly," Mal added as he turned to see Inara dressed in a silvery dress and dancing with Atherton Wing.

"You're mistaken, sir. I'm an honest man," Warwick said curtly.

"It seems to me there's nothing dishonest to getting your goods to people what need them," Mal said honestly.

"Whom do you represent?" Warwick asked finally willing to talk business with Mal.

"Represent isn't exactly the-" began Mal.

"Don't waste my time," Warwick interrupted.

"Fellow called Badger," Mal admitted.

"I know him," Warwick said sourly, "and I think he's a psychotic low-life."

"And I think calling him that is an insult to the psychotic low-life community," Mal said, "But the deal is solid."

Sara noticed something in the corner of her eye and looked to see a man in a grey outfit appear with Inara's arm in his hand. Sara immediately didn't like the man. The man had an air of pompousness and she could see the evil in his eyes even if Inara couldn't. Inara wasn't smiling at all, and Sara guessed it was 'cause of Mal.

"Sorry to interrupt," said the man, "Sir Harrow. I know you from the club, I believe."

Harrow nodded once, and Sara could tell that Harrow despised the man in the grey outfit.

"Captain, Sara," Inara said to both Mal and Sara, "this is Atherton Wing. Atherton. Captain Mal Reynolds and my good friend, Sara MacLeod."

Atherton and Mal immediately shook the other's hand as they sized each other up.

"Pleased to meetcha," Mal said with a smile.

"Any friend of Inara's is a pleasure to meet," Atherton said as he took Sara's hand and kissed it while staring at her breasts. Sara felt like drop-kicking the perverted fuck right then and there but instead forced a small smile.

"Inara," Mal said once he saw how Sara was staring at the man, "I didn't realize you were going to this party."

"It's the only party," Inara said icily.

"And I can see why," Mal said ignoring the tone, "How 'bout that floating chandelier? Almost outshines our girls here."

Atherton immediately grasped Inara's arm in a way that was both affectionate and possessive. Sara and Mal both noticed that. Inara did too.

"Ath. Can I call you Ath?" Mal said as he looked between them with a smile, "Inara has spoken of you to me. She made a point of your generosity. Given that, I'm sure you won't mind if-"

Mal then noticed Sara's expression and was confused as she was looking between Mal and Inara with an expression Mal had never seen on her face before. Jealousy… it was jealousy. In actuality, it was an emotion similar to that as Mal had no interest in Inara besides as a crew-member which makes her his family.

"My friend here asks Inara the favor of a dance?" Mal finished as he gestured to Sara who immediately went a little red in the cheeks.

Atherton stared at Mal and Sara coldly and smiled fakely, nonetheless, he acquiesced Mal's request.

"Of course," Atherton said.

"Have fun you two," Mal said with a smile to Sara and Inara as they walked off into the dance floor. The former still red in the face and the latter with an expression of shock.

"You're a brave man," Harrow said to Atherton.

"I know what's mine," Atherton said calmly. Mal immediately frowned at that, and like Sara, he had to hold himself back. Harrow's expression was similar to Mal's upon hearing that.

On the dance floor…

Sara and Inara made it to the dance floor and the former glanced back to see the three men watching them. Atherton was the only one that looked like he was about to commit murder.

"I wish they were doing the Tango," Sara said as both Inara and Sara stared at each other.

"Don't get me wrong," Inara said as they began dancing, "I enjoy your company, but why are you here? Is it to seduce me?"

"Helping Mal with business," Sara replied, "I know about the customs of this type of people."

"Okay," Inara nodded, "I understand that but why that dress?"

"I like black," Sara shrugged, "and it was the only one I could find that was neither prudish nor sluttly."

"What is Mal's business here?" Inara asked, "It isn't to keep an eye on me, is it?"

"No," Sara shook her head, "It's about a smuggling job from what I could tell of the conversation he had with Sir Harrow."

"Hope its not another train job," Inara said, "especially after the last one."

"Dealing with Niska… never goes well," Sara said darkly, "Can't ever trust that Russian psychopath."

"You know him?" Inara asked surprised.

"What do you really know of Atherton?" Sara asked to change the subject. Inara saw that, and she could tell that Niska was a sore subject for her. However, she didn't want to talk about Atherton right now.

"Why do you care?" Inara asked unintentionally rudely.

"He's parading you on his arm as if he actually won you," Sara said sourly, "as if he loves you, and everyone going along with it. How can that not bother you?"

"These people like me, and I like them," Inara said defending them, "I like Atherton too, by the way."

"I just get a bad vibe whenever I look at him," Sara said, "I can't shake it. You have no idea how hard it was not to knee him in the testicles right then and there."

"Well, I'm glad you stopped yourself," Inara said ignoring the vulgarity, "It just shows how mature you are in polite society."

Later on in the dance…

Sara and Inara came to a stop as they laughed which prompted Atherton to storm over.

"I'm surprised I actually got this far," Sara chuckled, "The tango's more my style."

"I'd like to see some proof of that," Inara chuckled in return.

Suddenly, Atherton is by their side and grabs Inara's arm. He proceeds to walk off dragging Inara behind him roughly which soured Sara's mood immensely.

"Hey!" Sara said stopping Atherton, "There was no need to snatch her away."

"Excuse me, she's not here with you," Atherton said rudely, "A dyke whore like yourself can go to the slums if you'd like to dance with any woman. Just not mine."

"Yours," Sara said coldly, "She don't belong to nobody."

Atherton immediately took a few steps towards Sara with anger.

"Money changed hands which makes her mine tonight," Atherton said as Sara's expression grew angrier, "No matter how you dress her up, she's still-"

Suddenly, Atherton collapsed to the ground with his hands grasping his junk as Sara's right foot returned to the ground. That caused the music to stop and for everyone to stare at them.

"I've been wanting to do that since the first time I saw him," Sara grinned.

"Oh, Sara," Inara said.

"What?" Sara asked as Atherton stumbled to his feet, "Man was out of line-"

"I accept," Atherton said with seething rage as he stared at Sara.

"Accept what?" Sara asked rudely, "Accept that you're a slimy piece of go-se?"

"There has been a challenge," announced a man with a nicely done beard not far behind Atherton.

"I hope you're prepared, you little bitch," Atherton said,

"Oh, I am," Sara said coldly, "in fact, you're the one who needs to prepare. I'm taking you down, hundan."

"The dual will be met tomorrow morning, on Cadrie Hill," announced the bearded guy from before.

"What's going on?" Mal asked Harrow once the people had gone about their business.

"Well," Harrow explained, "first off, your friend will be put up in lodgings for the night, so she doesn't disappear. I wouldn't blame her, incidentally. Wing may be a spoiled dandy, but he's an expert swordsman. He's killed a dozen people with a long-blade and she's the only one gave him a reason."

"This is a joke," Mal said in disbelief.

"She'll need a second," Inara said to Harrow.

"What's that?" Mal asked.

"I'll take on the job," Harrow offered.

"He fights if Sara refuses-" Inara explained.

Sara would've taken part in the conversation but she was busy mentally preparing herself for the morning.

"Inara!" Atherton yelled from a few feet away. Inara hesitated as she glanced at him.

"Come with me please," Atherton persisted.

"You takin' this on, being Sara's second," Mal asked Harrow, "Does this mean we're in business?"

Harrow chuckled at that.

"It means she's in mortal danger," Harrow replied, "But she mussed up Atherton's groin and that has endeared me to her somewhat and, by extension, you. She might even give him a fight before he guts her."

Inara tore herself away from them and walked over to Atherton as she glanced at Sara with worry.

Later, on Serenity…

Jayne was busy doing pull-ups on two bars in the cargo hold of the ship when he could hear knocking on the airlock's door. Jayne dropped to the floor and turned towards the door, and picked up a shotgun before he headed towards the said door. He leaned on the door and looked through a window in it before he rolled his eyes and stood up to open the door. As soon as the door was open, Badger walked into the cargo hold and looked around before he handed Jayne something.

"Captain's gone and gotten one of his crew in trouble," Badger said without looking at the merc.

A little later, once everyone had gathered…

Badger was in the process of explaining what was going down with Mal and Sara, but a few of them weren't getting it.

"A duel?" Kaylee asked confused.

"With swords?" Wash asked.

"Sara's a good fighter," said Simon unsure, "she must know how to handle a sword."

"I think she knows which end to hold," Zoe nodded.

"Alright," Simon said, "so we just need to figure out how to get them out of there."

"We have until the morning, correct?" Wash asked Badger who was smiling, "do you know what lodging they're in."

"Oh," Badger said amused, "This is embarrassing. Some of you seem to be misunderstandin' my purpose in bein' here."

"You're here to make sure we don't do what these men are keen on doing," Zoe realized as she stepped towards Badger.

"Penny for the smart lady," Badger grinned as he gestured with a finger.

"Persephone's my home," Badger said, "I gotta do business with the people here. I don't want it known I brought someone and caused this kind of ruckus."

"We'll just settle in till this blows over," Badger added, "one way or the other."

Suddenly, the sound of a shotgun cocking could be heard from the catwalks above which attracted their attention. Jayne had a shotgun aimed at Badger. As to how he planned to hit Badger from that range, was anybody's guess.

"Jayne," Zoe smiled, "I wouldn't."

"Why not?" Jayne asked.

Zoe then gestured towards herself, Wash, Kaylee, and Simon.

"At that range," Zoe said with a raised eyebrow, "You're bound to hit everyone but Badger. Also…"

Zoe then gestured towards the airlock door where some of Badger's thugs had shown up.

"Hi," said Mal with a wave.

Meanwhile, with Inara…

Inara walked down a hallway with a shifty gaze as if she was worried she was being watched and/or followed. Eventually, she reached a door where she placed a futuristic doorknob that was a key. The area around the knob on the door glowed opened followed by Inara walking into the room. She was just in time to see Sara with a sword in her hand using some complex sword skills with her left hand. However, they were sloppy and wild. Inara looked up and down Sara and saw that Sara was just in some red lace panties, and a red lace bra with her hair up in a bun.

"Whoa!" Sara exclaimed when she spun around swinging the sword. She nearly sliced Inara's nose.

"What are you doing here?" Sara asked as she lowered the sword, "Also, you should announce yourself next time. I didn't even hear you enter."

"Atherton's a heavy sleeper before a big day," Inara explained as she took a step back to avoid being cut, "You know, he's got the 'kill you in the morning and then a haircut later'."

"Such a comfort having friends," Sara said as she turned around to place her sword down, "visit. Time like this."

"I knew the accommodations would be nice," Inara said as she took in the room's appearance, "Atherton doesn't skimp."

"I've been in better," Sara shrugged as she picked up a bathrobe and wrapped herself in it.

"What makes you say that?" Inara asked.

"I suppose I don't like being kept by him like others do," Sara said as she turned back to Inara, "Why you still attached to him anyway?"

"Because it's my decision, not yours," Inara replied bluntly.

"Ya know," Sara said with a frown, "he made it pretty clear he cares little for you except where sex is concerned."

"You did manage to push him into saying something, yes," Inara conceded, "Made a nice justification for kicking him in the balls."

"I didn't care when he insulted me, but when he insulted you," Sara said, "I hit him."

"Seemed like the thing to do," Sara continued as Inara shook her head.

"Well, I am grateful for your attempt at defending my honor," Inara said, "even if you took the wrong action. As a reward, you should know that there's a backdoor. The desk clerk is on alert. He'll let us out."

"Thanks for the thought," Sara smiled as she sat down, "but I'm not running. I never run from a fight."

"You'll die," Inara said with an urgent tone.

"Then it'll be something worth fighting for," Sara said calmly

"How will your death help out my honor?" Inara tried.

"With that thought in mind," Sara said as she stood up, "I could use some help with using my left hand. I can't even hold a gun in my right hand right now, so…"

"You trained with only your right hand?" Inara asked incredulously.

"I was on a deadline," Sara shrugged as she picked up a sword and tossed it to Inara, "just like I am now. I am a fast learner with swords."

"How long did it originally take to teach you?" Inara asked as she hefted the blade.

"About a week," Sara replied as she picked up another sword.

"I hope you've become an even quicker learner, then," Inara said as she got into a stance.

The next day…

On a grassy hillside at dawn stood about fifteen spectators. Both men and women. They had clustered around the selected dueling area. Among them is a couple of Badger's goon as it was the only way for him to stay apprised of the situation. The crowd shifted and talked excitedly with anticipation. Atherton had a cocky expression on his face as he got himself ready for his duel before he took the rapier held by one of his cohorts. He turned to look at Sara and slashed his sword through the air twice to show off. Sara stood next to Sir Warwick Harrow in some blue jeans and a white muscle shirt. Sara and Inara looked at each other in the eyes and continued to do so for a few seconds. Sara's right hand was still bandaged as it was during the ball, and that seemed to give Atherton the wrong impression that Sara would be easy to take down.

Sara and Atherton walk up to each other with their rapiers in their left hands respectively. Atherton held his sword up in a salute while Sara merely scratched her nose with her right hand. Atherton suddenly took a step back before lunging towards Sara. However, Sara was quickly able to parry the attack. Before Sara could deliver an attack of her own, Atherton quickly delivered a flurry of slashes which Sara was barely able to block due to her still being unused to left-handed dueling. Atherton smiled cockily as he backed up to give them both some breathing room. This time he went for an overhead strike followed by a slash to the right. Both were blocked by Sara. Sara immediately followed with a slash of her own, but Atherton dodged just in time to prevent himself from getting his stomach sliced open. His shirt had been cut, though.

He's toying with me, Sara thought grimly before she and Atherton swung at each other and grabbed onto each other. They spun each other around, and Sara was able to throw him onto the floor. However, Sara felt that Atherton had allowed himself to be thrown. Atherton quickly slashed, but Sara blocked. That allowed Atherton some time to get to his feet. Sara slashed at him, but Atherton dodged and delivered a slash of his own. This time Sara was cut, but unlike when she cut Atherton… she bled. The cut was delivered to her left arm. Sara delivered a flurry of slashes of her own, but Atherton blocked each one before kicking her away from him. She stumbled backward and onto her but, but used the momentum to roll to a kneel. As Sara stood up, Atherton moved his sword behind his back.

"What's he doing?" Sir Warwick Harrow asked as he looked between Sara and Atherton.

"Don't fall for that!" Inara tried to warn Sara, but Sara didn't hear her and sprinted towards Atherton. Atherton spun away as Sara got close and stabbed her in her left side, and fluidly pulled his sword out as he completed his spin.

Sara came to a stop as she looked down at her left side and touched it with her right hand. When she moved her hand away from the wound, she saw blood on her hands. She looked up angrily at Atherton who had a cocky and bloodthirsty expression.

"That was a dirty-" began Sara before she had to suddenly parry a blow Atherton delivered. He didn't even give her time to respite as he slashed over and over in quick succession. When he did stop, Sara took the time to back up and get some distance between them. Sara wasn't even thinking as she had too much rage and was losing blood. In which case, her strikes became much more powerful but wilder and slower.

"We're coming up on the end, Miss," Sir Warwick Harrow said to Inara who was watching the fight with horror, "you might not want to watch."

Not long after he said that Atherton had broken Sara's sword and had his sword's point aimed at her neck.

"Atherton, wait!" Inara quickly said as she took a couple of steps forward, "I-I'll stay here. Exclusive to you. Just let her live."

As soon as Atherton looked away, Sara swatted the sword away to the side with her right hand and delivered a left hook. That caused Atherton to bend over from the pain he wasn't ready to receive. Sara immediately put her foot under the blade that was on her sword's hilt and sent it into the air. She grabbed it and threw it at Atherton stabbing him in his left shoulder. Sara then hit him on the head with the hilt that was still in her left hand. That knocked him to the floor as Sara picked up his rapier and pointed it at him.

"He's down!" shouted one of the spectators.

"You have to finish it, lass," Sir Warwick Harrow said as he walked up to Sara.

"You have to finish it," Harrow pressed when Sara hesitated, "For a man to lay beaten and yet breathing? It makes him a coward."

"It's humiliation," Inara put in as she walked up.

"Sure," Sara agreed, "It would be humiliating. Having to lie there while the better person refuses to spare your blood."

"Mercy is the mark of a great person," Sara continued as Atherton began to panic in belief Sara would kill him.

Suddenly, she flicked her wrist and Atherton cried out in pain as blood spurted from his groin.

"Guess I'm a monster," Sara said as she tossed her sword onto the ground and turned away from the now literal dickless and ball-less Atherton Wing. As she turned, she nearly fell, but Inara caught her.

"Inara," Atherton called out with immense pain in his voice. However, Inara and Sara kept walking.

"Inara!" Atherton shouted.

"You've lost her, lad," Harrow advised, "be gracious."

"You set this up, whore," Atherton spat which caused Sara and Inara to stop and turn towards him.

"After I bought and paid for you," Atherton continued with his hands covering his groin, "I should've uglied you up so no one else would want you."

"Get ready to starve!" Atherton said angrily, "I'll see to it you never work again."

"Actually," Inara said as she temporarily left Sara's side, "That's not how it works. You see, you earned yourself a black mark in the client registry. No companion is going to contract with you EVER again."

"You'll have to rely on your winning personality to get women," Harrow said with a grin in his tone, "God help you. Especially, now that you're missing something vital for a man."

As Sara and Inara slowly turned around and resumed walking, Harrow walked up and put his hand on Sara's shoulder.

"You didn't have to castrate that man," Harrow said.

"Yeah, I know," Sara said pained, "I was just lashing out because of what a man like him did to me."

"You and your captain willing to fight that hard to protect my property," Harrow said after a few seconds as they came to a stop, "I'll have it in your hold before midnight."

Harrow and Sara then shook hands. Sara wasn't feeling like smiling, but she was pleased with the outcome. At least now, Mal won't get too angry with her for kicking that asshole in the balls.

"Don't tell the guys about the castration bit," Sara said as she turned to look at Inara, "Don't want to scare them after all."

"Yeah, we're going to have a talk about that," Inara said as they resumed their trek, "but after you've been patched up."

Later, at Serenity…

When Sara and Inara had returned to the ship, they saw the door was empty and immediately walked through. When they did, they saw that the entire crew were just sitting down playing cards. Some random goons were walking around with guns as well, and there was a guy in a bowler hat as well.

"What's all this?" Sara asked in mock offense acquiring their attention, "You decided to play cards instead of attempting a rescue?"

"Sara!" Kaylee exclaimed.

"You're hurt," Simon said as he stood up.

"So," Badger said as he stood up, "Does this mean we got a deal?"

"Indeed," Sara said as she looked at Mal.

"Now get off my ship, Badger," Mal said as he walked up.

"Ta very much for a lovely night, then," Badger said as he spun his hat before putting it on his head. He then whistled and gestured for his goons to leave before he headed towards the exit. As Badger and his goons left, Inara walked Sara forward and sat her down on the chair Badger had been sitting.

"Are you badly hurt?" Zoe asked as she knelt in front of Sara.

Sara merely nodded as Simon began looking at her wounds.

"Tell us all about what happened once you're all patched up," Mal said before he headed towards the stares, "Wash, and everyone except Simon and Inara prepare for Sir Warwick Harrow's cargo."

Later, in the infirmary…

Sara lay on the bed as she healed from the stab-wound Atherton had inflicted on her, and she just stared at the ceiling till Mal walked in.

"So," Mal said as he sat down, "Doc patch you up nice? Also, how come that healing power of yours doesn't seem to work all the time?"

"I have no clue," shrugged Sara before she winced due to the pain, "and yes. As long as I don't move much."

"Well then," Mal said, "I'd say it's time for you to tell me all about this mighty fine shindig of yours."

Once Sara finished her recount, minus the castration bit, Mal stayed silent for a few seconds.

"Sorry I missed it," Mal said genuinely, "I'd have loved to see that smug hundan get his ass whooped."

"Well," Mal said as he stood up, "get better. Might need you to help deliver the cargo."

"What' is the-" began Sara before she heard several nervous moos.

"Cows… cows are the cargo," Sara said as she blinked twice.

"Came as a shock for me too," Mal smiled before he left the infirmary, "I think my jaw might've dropped a bit."


I apologize for the castration scene, but don't forget. Sara still hasn't recovered from the ordeal that caused her to get on board Serenity. As she said, she lashed out. Also, she isn't as emotionally stable as Mal. She still has to reach that point. in any case, don't expect constant uploads. do the usual if you enjoyed this chapter with the exclusion of the castration scene.