It was funny. No matter how close you got to the stars, they were still distant. You could bare yourself down to the bone and they'd never be really reached.
At least until they swallowed you whole in heat and pain.
Jubal Early sighed and settled himself back. The stars blinked and ever so slowly rotated in front of him as he drummed his fingers impatiently at his thigh.
It did give a man pause to think though.
And it seemed there was only one thing that his thoughts seemed to be wanting to return to.
"You're not well," she'd said.
Now, honestly. He was a grown man. Too old to be scared by a thin high voice and a knowing tone. He'd seen. . . well, he'd seen a lot of things.
She wasn't the first to say he wasn't well. Perhaps in so many words, yes, but not the first to really mean it. But she was the first to seem to be so confident about it.
That bothered him.
Because he was just fine. He was a reasonable man. Reasonable! He'd had that whole ship in his hands as well as the life of every single solitary crew member.
With the exception of one. The one he needed to have in his hands. . .
But he'd not hurt any of them. He'd listened in, gotten their measure. They seemed to be having second thoughts about the girl they'd brought along anyway. Hell, they'd probably welcome her leaving. All except the brother and it seemed like the boy needed to start thinking less of his sister and more of that little engineer girl.
Wasn't healthy a boy fixating on his sister so much, truly.
So he'd locked them away. Except for a few punches, he'd not touched a soul. Well, he'd touched that little engineer girl's soul. Scared her deeply and purely. However, it was still just a scare. He'd had her in the palm of his hands and hadn't even knocked her out to tie her up.
Just felt her trembling and moved on.
There was so much that he could have done, if he were truly the bad man that Ser...River had been saying. He could have rigged the ship to explode. He could have blown that boy's brains out and then dragged Kaylee up to the bridge and threatened to do the same to her. So many things. . .
And, yes, he took the job for certain reasons. Everyone took their jobs for certain reasons. But being a Bounty Hunter, while not generally a respectable job, wasn't all darkness.
He only took the bounties that were high enough to be worth his while. He was good. He didn't need to be a bread and butter assassin. Those high bounties were the Alliance offered Bounties, of course. No one else could offer higher.
And that meant they were legal. These people were criminals and needed to be brought in. Just like that little arsonist.
Of course, he was honest enough with himself to say that if a bounty was put on a respectable citizen at a high enough price..
He'd have to consider taking it. He had expenses to meet after all.
He'd been all willing to leave that ship, crew mostly untouched and vessel undamaged. And then that Captain had to go and slug him, all more than willing to leave him spinning out in space until he died, alone.
That didn't seem fair.
And, the neighbor's dog? It had never liked him. It had always sniffed at him like he was something. . . something too strange to be real. And the other children had laughed, calling him a bastard just because his daddy wasn't around. Momma said he'd of come home if he could, but. . . He hadn't.
So he had hurt the dog. But it wasn't like he'd done what he had really wanted - kill those fucking little kids with their jeering voices and painful fists and sharp kicks and cruel tricks and. . .
Just the dog. And he'd cleaned it up, too.
There was no rumble, nothing that could be felt. However the lights above him brightened. Jubal looked up to see the Firefly bringing its engines up and moving to pull off. He watched it intently, eyes never wavering from its hull as it disappeared from view.
It took a while for that to happen.
His eyes then narrowed and he looked up to his own ship, left to drift. At least they hadn't taken it in for salvage. He supposed that was one good thing.
He was not a bad man. And even if he was 'not well' he was certainly doing the best he could. Being a Bounty Hunter gave him a life.
Because some of them. . . some of them fought back. And it was then that he could smile and, yes. Feel the power. Feel that control. It was a rush and he could have it. Even if they didn't fight back, even if he didn't get to kill them for crossing the line of interfering, he was in control.
He'd always had that.
He continued to spin, ever so gently.
Jubal Early shook his head. He reached for the belt of his suit and the transmitter there. A single press and the customized suit sent out a signal to his ship to bring it to him and open the airlock door. It had been a good investment, so it seemed, and a very necessarily addition for a man who would intended to be walking around in space without a tether.
Plus he'd liked the red.
Not bad. He wasn't.
But little River thought that he was. And . . . she'd sounded so very certain.
He waited patiently for his ship to arrive and found himself laughing a single breath. Inhaled, and then exhaled into the silence that followed his thoughts.
He supposed it would be wrong to disappoint her, then.