“This is acting captain Zoe Washburne speaking. I’ve just been informed we’ve got Reavers in our space.”
The crew had started sniping at each other again, but at the mention of Reavers immediately fell silent. Only River continued to mumble, her jumbled warning suddenly making sense. Run and hide. Death flies near.
“Looks as though they ain’t seen us. But they did see the planet. And it looks like maybe they’re touchin down there. This.. this ain’t an everyday occurrence for us. But ain’t nothin we can do. If the reavers are on the planet, then them’s that are there are good as dead. We’ve sent an encoded distress signal to the nearest skyplex. Done all we can. Now we’re gonna go to blackout. And maybe, just maybe luck is with our little ship today. And if that’s the case, we won’t be seen or them reaver’s will have their fill and leave us be. Captain out.”
As the com went quiet, no one else could get past the words choking in their throat. Suddenly, it seemed to dawn on Simon what Zoe was saying.
“We send a signal and that’s it?! That’s all we can do?!”“More n’ I woulda done. Risky that, sending off a distress call.” Jayne murmured but even he seemed on edge about the decision.
“There’s gotta be at least some people we could save. This is a big ship-”
“Simon..” Kaylee began but he shook his head vehemently.
“No! I’m a doctor, I save lives, it’s what I’m supposed to do. Are you really all so heartless that you’d rather save your own skin then do what’s right?”Shepard sighed.
“Believe me, I know it’s a hard pill to swallow but those people on the planet-”
“That’s right. People. Men and women and children who need saving. And maybe we can’t get em all but we could at least try to save some! Shepard, you’re a man of god. So what would god ask us to do?”
At that, he was silent. And Simon smiled bitterly, past even trying to reassure River.
“You’re unbelievable. All of you. Long as we’re here and safe, no reason to mind anyone else’s suffering! Hey, we’ve got cosy beds and food, we just stocked up on goods so why should we care people are being raped and eaten and killed?! Let’s just let the monsters do their thing while we find our next job. That’s a great plan! And for whom? For yourselves? For an inanimate ship?! Huh?”
None could answer and Simon was exhausted from his rant. From the rant, from arguing and from everything in the whole ’verse.
“Mei mei? You.. you won’t let the monsters get me, right?”
Mal’s frightened and shaking little voice broke into the quiet like a tidal wave slamming against the rocks. Kaylee’s eyes filled and she kneeled down, holding her arms open for a hug.
“No why would I go an do that? Hmm?”“I was.. I got mad cause you and Zoe was mean to me an all so.. so I went and messed with y’alls things. I’m sorry! Please don’t let the reaver monsters get me Kaylee!” He hid his face in her neck, sniffling and his tiny frame shaking in terror. She looked up at the other adults who seemed equally speechless. And then Jayne, of all people, sat down beside them.
“You know.. them magazines were real old anyhow. Could always get the latest ones next time we touch down on one of them fancy rocks, right?”
Mal sniffed and peeked out cautiously.
“M’ sorry Jayne.”
“Me too. Shouldn’t be yellin like that round little ears like yours.”
They shared a smile while the other crew members settled in. The air was still tense but now, it was towards one cause: Waiting out the threat that turned them all to children on the inside.
“Kaylee I’m.. about what I said-”
“It’s alright. An you do smell but.. but I could probably help come up with somethin to get the stink out of your clothes at least.” She smiled shyly and rocked their toddler captain in her lap. Shepard murmured a prayer and Inara sighed.
“Funny, isn’t it?”
Simon looked up at the young woman who seemed worried but was managing a smile all the same.
“Even when he’s like this.. Mal still brings us all together.”
There wasn’t really much cause for a response when they all knew they agreed with the sentiment. No matter what form he took, Malcolm Reynolds was the captain of Serenity. And his crew was with him till the end.
Eventually, Serenity was able to fire up and ship out. Despite a few more mishaps, (getting Mal to take a bath was a task when he was an adult but as a little boy? Near impossible and a very wet job to boot) Mal mostly behaved himself and the crew grew accustomed to taking turns playing with the toddler or keeping an eye on him. They also removed the dead fish from Zoe and Wash’s bunk (the source of the dead smell) and cleaned up Kaylee’s coveralls.
After another couple of days, ( and one attempt at repainting a wall of the ship by Mal and river) Simon was finally able to identify the foreign agent that had triggered this “youth holiday” and create a serum to bring their captain back to his normal self. Surprisingly there was an absence felt by all (even Jayne) and it actually took some getting used to before everyone was able to hold a normal conversation with the man.
Of course, Malcolm never admitted to breaking the vial in the original case, despite Inara’s adamant declaration that he must have. In fact, it mattered little because the effects were only temporary without the proper solvent added. Even if Simon had been at a loss, Mal would have eventually returned to his natural body and mindset.
“So what’s done is done.” Simon summed up, washing his hands. Malcolm stretched, luxuriating in being back in his own skin.
“Was I really so bad?”
“Only a little. Course I still say you were the cutest little rascal I ever did see Captain.” Kaylee teased. He squeezed her hand, faking shock.
“Why little Kaylee, you silver tongued devil.”
“I do my best sir.”
“Well for taking such good care of me… tada!” He uncovered the box he’d been hiding with a flourish and grinned and Kaylee’s mouth dropped.
“Don’t just stand there a-starin. Open it up.”
She beamed when the removing the top revealed chocolate covered strawberries.
“Still the cutest rascal I know.” She kissed his cheek and he smiled back, heading out.
“Oh.. by the way. There’s enough to share. Just puttin that out there.” He informed her, casual like. She glanced at Simon coyly and smiled back.
“I’ll keep that in mind.. you headed to your bunk captain? I could tell the others not to bug atcha.”
“Sleep? Oh no, I need to see River.”
Simon frowned, coming to stand beside Kaylee.
“What do you need River for? Has she done something?”
“Not yet. But we aim to misbehave.”