A/N: Right, I'm in the middle of finishing up my Star Trek fic Half and Half, and sort of needed some time away from it, and a new project so I don't freak out about finishing the last one. Not sure about this one, I just really wanted to do Firefly. I have some more creative ideas for where this is gonna go, just in case it all sounds too much like been there, done that.
Anyways, I'm one of those sad people who still bemoan the fact that the show was cancelled. Every time I watch it on DVD, I end up pointing at the screen moaning "Why? Oh, why?" (Never saw it on TV in the first place, like so many people, it was all word of mouth)
OK, back to business: This is set two years post BDM. It's Rayne, but not just. I didn't mess with people's ages (so River is 19 and Jayne is between 40 and 42, … I know, I know, but hey, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.)
Not sure if Greenleaf is really on the outer rim, if not, let me know.
Reviews are massively appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Firefly or any of its characters. (I will introduce an important OC at a later point, so be forewarned.)
"Gorramn pansy assed Doc and his gorramn stupid 'mergency meeting." Jayne grumbled under his breath as he made it through the hatch of the mess, where the rest of the crew was seated around the table. Mal and Zoe looked politely bored already, Inara attentive and gorgeous as usual, Kaylee had that goofy grin on her face as she watched the Doc, who was standing just outside the kitchen, his hands clasped behind his back, looking like he fancied whatever the heck he was gonna tell them would be mighty important, and River just sat there smiling that creepefying smile she donned when she knew something you didn't. Jayne let himself fall into his chair next to hers with a loud groan he intended to show his annoyance and general displeasure. An odd look of pain crossed the Doc's face just then, but he seemed to squash whatever bothered him back down as he stood up that much straighter and announced:
"As you may be aware, I have had some tentative contact with River and my parents over the last year and a half." The Doc started, as if he was taking up a speech he'd begun a while back.
As a matter of fact, Jayne hadn't been aware, but didn't really give a monkey's rear end.
So pansy ass-doc had been chatting on the cortex with his pansy-ass ma and pa, big whoopdy doo.
"I have made a clear point to the effect that neither River nor I wish them to return to our lives in anything but the most ephemeral fashion…"
Whatever the hell that meant.
"'Means corporal presence is undesired, emotional and cognitive consideration are likewise unwelcome." River leaned into his personal space and whispered into his ear.
"Oh, I see…" He gave her his best sardonic grin, rolled his eyes, and then shoved her back into her seat. "You ain't helping, Crazy, and get the hell outta ma head."
"…However, it appears that they have somehow conceived the notion that our sporadic contact and the removal of both River and I from the Alliance's list of fugitives, has returned both of us to the lap of the family, with all the obligations this entails."
"Say what now?" Mal raised an eyebrow and leaned forward.
"'Means they have perceived their chance to benefit from a long term investment they thought long lost. The cow is fat when they had thought it dead." River tilted her head to the side, and gave the Capn' a little benevolent smile. Jayne rolled his eyes again and made a small noise in the back of his throat.
Mal looked somewhat puzzled, his mouth open like he were trying to catch flies, then he simply shrugged and repeated in the Doc's direction:
"Say what now?"
"I have been informed that my parents have made arrangements for a socially and economically beneficial match for River." And for once having the good grace to simplify his big talk, he added: "They intend to marry River off for their own gain."
There was a sharp noise of chairs scraping as everyone turned to face River rather more energetically than would be considered the norm, and stared at her. She still wore that small smile, unconcerned and looking almost happy.
"'You not upset about this, sweetie? Ain't ya worried?" Kaylee broke the stunned silence.
"No reason. Captain Daddy, and Simon, and Papa Bear, and Zoe won't allow it."
Damn right they weren't gonna.
Looking at her sitting there, her feet tugged under her, mostly covered by that frilly dress she wore over some dark trousers, combat boots peaking out, her upper half completely hidden by one of Mal's old jumpers at least five sizes too big for her, and Jayne's orange and yellow woolly hat on her head, hair poking out at odd angles, she looked like a paedophile's hottest fantasy. And then there was still that whole ass crazy trained assassin thing. What sick hun dan would want to marry that.
Now, he'd gotten mighty close to the crazy girl over the last two years, heck, she was the closest he'd ever gotten to havin' a real partner. Wouldn't even chuck her out a ship 30 feet off the ground or nothin'. Not that it would help none, anyways, the girl weighed less than a decent sized cat. And she'd saved his ass plenty of times. And he liked having another hired gun on the ship, even if 'ficially she were the pilot. And he liked having someone to train with. And the fact that if you knew what she was gonna say before she said it, she kinda made sense now, made him feel all smart like. But weren't no one but some sorry ass pervert gonna try and sex her.
"Precisely." Simon said with emphasis, somewhat startling Jayne.
"We are most certainly not going to let this happen."
"So I have worked out a plan. I have been unable to convince my parents not to proceed with the preparations, and while I would love to simply turn my back on them, I fear that that would lead to complications. My father can be a very persistent man, when the mood strikes him. Particularly given the fact that he sees nothing wrong with what he is doing, quite the opposite, in fact. The much more prudent approach is to deal with this problem now and be rid of it."
There were some grumbled noises of agreement, and Mal noted:
"Sounds feasible enough, an how'd we do that? Bearing in mind that I don't much care for loosing money while we waste time to persuade some core bred idiot not to marry our little witch."
"I have arranged for a meeting with my parents and my sister's prospective husband during our next visit to Greenleaf, no unscheduled detours, Captain."
"You're getting them to meet us in the outer rim, well that sounds promising." Zoe raised an eyebrow and smiled with amusement.
"Exactly." Simon looked almost smug.
"I want them to fully understand how little both River and I fit into their world."
"Don't get me wrong here, Simon, but you're still pretty fancy when you wanna be, and lil' Albatross her, well…, she ain't exactly gonna fit in anywhere… 'xept here, of course." Mal gave River an affectionate smile to indicate he had not meant to exclude her. She smiled back sweetly.
"That's why we're going to act." Simon clarified. "After all, we are professional con artists when the situation calls for it, are we not?"
A wide grin spread across Inara's face, it would almost have been worrying had they not all known how much she loved all that pretending go se.
"Now, we have another two weeks until we get to Greenleaf; until then, I suggest we work out exactly who you are all going to be when we meet my parents…. Um, Jayne, you don't need to worry about that bit, you can just be yourself."
"Why do I get a feelin' you're insultin' me, doc?"
Simon just gave him a mildly apologetic smile.
"An' what about all that fine pretindin' and stuff is gonna make us any money?"
"It somewhat pains me to say it, Doc, but Jayne's got a point. Can't much afford to waste time in these hard times, need to keep my girl in the sky." Mal crossed his arms in front of his chest and gave Simon a stern look.
Before Simon had a chance to reply, River giggled quietly.
"Liar, liar, pants on fire. Captain Daddy needs monetary compensation, but he will not insist upon it."
"Fair enough, lil witch, but it would still be mighty fine to see some recompense." Mal's mouth had set in a grim line, clearly a might irritated that Crazy had outed his soft centre.
"Not to worry, Captain, I have taken our financial situation into account. It is customary for the prospective groom to bring the full dowry to every official marriage meeting. I believe the sum agreed upon is more than enough to excuse a small reevaluation of our schedule." There was that smug smile again.
"Hang on a minute. He's bringin' cashy money to buy yer sister with? Ain't that a little… ahm,… distasteful." A whole table worth of disbelieving faces turned towards Jayne.
"Heck, don't loot at me like that, ya all know what I mean. Ain't nothing wrong with paying fer some trim ifn the girl is willin', but payin' fer a whole girl, and her not havin' much of a say in it, that ain't the same thing."
River invaded his personal space once again as her index finger moved slowly and deliberately across his brow, weirding him out something fierce.
"Papa Bear too is all mushy on the inside, soft tissue, and organs, and blood." He gave her a small growl and a disgusted quirk of his lips, but she simply smiled serenely.
Trust her to make her version of "Awww" sound like she were about to cut him open again.
"Ain't I done told you a million times not to call me that. Ifn Mal likes being Captain Daddy, that don't mean I like being Papa Bear, dong ma?" She merely stared off into the middle distance in that infuriating way she had of ignoring people when it pleased her. He was damn sure she just used the crazy sometimes.
"Well, if I catch the good doctor's gist here, he ain't gonna pay for the whole girl, he's gonna have his dowry stolen right form under his nose, ain't that right?" Mal's mood had improved noticeably.
"My plan exactly, Captain." Simon nodded.
"So, about that pretindin' thin', who exactly are we 'spposed to be, anyways?" Jayne was still trying to work out the Doc's earlier slight, and hoped that his question would give him some pointers. As if on cue, there was that pained look from before.
"Well, Jayne…. Ahm, while I don't require you to change your personality for this little performance, I will still need some type of acting." That odd look hadn't left his face. Everyone else seemed to notice too, and Mal stood up and clamped a hand on the Doc's shoulder.
"Now, why am I gettin' the feeling I ain't gonna like this much?"
"Well, you see, there are two types of arranged marriages on Osiris. In more prestigious circles, and I need to add that our family would be included here, under normal circumstances, the daughters of the household would receive some elementary training from a registered companion." Here the Doc looked at Inara briefly and gave her a slightly embarrassed grin. "So for our intents and purposes, Inara has to pose as anything but a companion. River has had no training and it would look odd if we had a companion readily available." He took a deep breath and continued: "The other, far less impressive condition for a bride to be, is that of being a virgin. You must understand that even the young women trained by companions would have no other exposure to physical intimacy than what is effectively part of their training. Unfortunately, my father has had access to River's medical files and is aware that she fulfils at least the less glamorous condition of eligibility." There was a much less noticeable shift in the crew, as once again all faces turned towards River. She still had that far away look in her eyes, but as she noticed the somewhat uncertain glances of the rest of the crew, she gave them an encouraging smile.
"So where does that leave us? I'm to be what, seeing as I'm not a companion?" Inara looked a little confused.
"Anything you want, as long as it isn't respectable, educated or core-bred." Simon noted.
"I think I'm starting to see where the doc is goin' with this, Sir." Zoe's eyes had gone wide and that amused little smile was on her face once again. As much as it made Jayne feel just a might uncomfortable, it was nice to see Zoe smile, it didn't happen too often these days.
"We'll be playing up the crude, rim-scum, criminal angle, I take it?" Mal didn't seem to expect a long-winded answer, his question had been more of a deduction.
"I don't rightly see how that's gonna get Crazy away form that idiot what wants to marry her… Or us near his cashy money, for that matter." Jayne had his large arms folded over his chest and gave the Doc his best sneer.
"As a matter of fact, Jayne, you have a rather large part to play in both." Simon assured him, that strange expression on his face again.
"Firstly, we have to make River undesirable as a match, and while the company of a bunch of ruffians will do some damage to her reputation, it won't be enough to dissuade the man if my father has offered sufficient social incentive – which I have no doubt in my mind, he has."
There was an odd little squeak from Inara, immediately followed by a soft chuckle from Zoe.
"Huh? What the gorramn hell is so funny?"
Not answering his question, but rather pressing on as if he couldn't get the words out of his mouth quickly enough, Simon continued:
"And secondly, we'll require a distraction, I believe a large-scale brawl will suffice. We will select the venue for the meeting accordingly."
Jayne noticeably perked up at this, a smirk spreading across his face.
"Now, I like the sound of that, an' I'd be more 'an glad to help you with that… 'Still don't explain how you're gonna make the moonbrain less appealin' to the sick hun dan what wants her."
This earned him a number of sympathetic looks from the woman-folk. Mal looked a little mystified himself, but the Doc had just put one hand over his eyes and seemed less than happy to go on.
"I can't say it. Would someone else please enlighten him?"
"With pleasure, Doc."
He took back what he'd said 'bout Zoe smilin'.
She cocked her head to her side and gave him a positively evil grin.
"If you were expecting a vulnerable, young, virginal bride, what would be the worst thing you could get instead?"
"A dude?" Jayne ventured with little hope of success. Oh, well, at least he got a giggle from Kaylee for that one.
"Ok, apart from that?"
"Aw, heck, Zoe, I dunno, but yer clearly dyin' to tell me, so have at it."
"Well, I reckon a crazy, tiny slip of a girl being on the arm of the meanest looking, largest mercenary between here and the core, and all the rather distasteful sexin' that would imply, should just about do the trick."
Jayne just gaped at here, then opened and closed his mouth a few times, before sputtering and finally forcing out:
"Have you all gone and done lost yer marbles? I ain't sexin' Crazy… Now, I've gone and done some more adventurous things with some of the whores I've been with… don't much pride myself on some… never done the sly thing, but I ain't averse to some of the more unusual practices… that ain't the point here. I ain't never once looked at a little girl twice… that ain't my thing… that shouln't be anyone's thing, dong ma? Ain't sexing up som chit of a girl what ain't even a woman." He had been absolutely frantic in his delivery, completely ignoring the numerous attempts by the crew to interrupt him. When he had finally finished, the first person to get a word in edgeways was River, who looked up at him rather dolefully, small pout in place:
"She is anatomically correct and physically mature."
"Yea, well, ya ain't 'natomically ample, now, are ya." He practically glared down at her, his outrage easily translated into irritation.
"Jayne, not to ruin your fine rant on morals, here, and I'm not liking this one bit either, but ya seem ta have missed the operative word her, which is 'pretendin'" Mal looked decidedly uncomfortable but there was a determined set to his mouth.
"Oh… right." Jayne noted somewhat sheepishly.