Title: Yes, They Have the Money
Characters: Crew, Mal/Inara implied
Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss.
Summary: Mal's having a bad day.
A/N: Much thanks to my lovely beta noandwhere
"You should keep River out of sight, while we’re there and ‘til we’ve left." River was in her room, curled in a fetal position that way through a mixture of exhaustion and drugs to calm her with. Ever since Inara’s announcement this morning, he’d found River to be difficult, more so at least. She been crying, violently screaming; she had to feel the profound sadness over that which she’d considered home. Simon felt the heavy weight of it, there was no wonder that River with intuitive nature and tenuous emotions did too.
The tension was evident as the crew sat around the table?. Mal had only gone over scant details of the plan, seeing as he was going alone. Zoe was to stay with the ship and Jayne wouldn’t exactly blend with the local colour.
"Greenleaf’s in the wrong direction." Inara said.
"It’s right direction for the money." Mal looked up at Inara for the first time while they’d been gathered. "I promised I’ll get you gone as soon as I can."
"What’s it we’re picking up?" Jayne asked. "Hope it ain’t cattle, mess and stink they make."
"Ident cards, nothing outlandish. All you need know."
"You’re plenty dressed for it." Jayne said, earning a disbelieving look from Simon. Mal’s looked like he’d ransacked Book’s wardrobe, he didn’t feel comfortable about it. The fabric was itchy, well piety didn’t come easy.
"I’m not sure you’ll pass as a local." Simon said.
"Next time I need fashion advice I’ll holler, go get your sister in order." Simon got up, paused but seemed to lose his nerve to speak something against Mal. "Transaction’s to take place in a church, they’re supposed to offer sanctuary to the destitute, my clothes fit that mould so be it." Book cleared his throat and Mal looked at him sidways.
"Preacher I didn’t pick the spot. Churches give me the chills as it is, even if it’s to commit illegal dealings in them."
"I take it you’re not aware of what kinds of hands these cards are liable to fall into." Mal hadn’t given it consideration but he wasn’t about to hand that information over to the Shepherd, nor was he looking for Book‘s council on it.
"That’s one of those things that ain‘t my concern."
"What types of people?" Kaylee asked.
"Could be hardened criminals, slave traders, maybe murderers; people looking to inflict harm on the Alliance get a position of power and trust so they can take advantage."
"You got no guarantee that’s who’s gonna get them."
"They’ll go to the highest bidder, outside the Core worlds such items fetches a substantial amount of money, we’re talking a huge sum not likely to come through honest means." He tried to meet Mal’s eyes but Mal sat shaking his head.
"You’re working off a guess. Even saying you’re right, which I ain’t, I’m just a middle man is all, I am plenty replaceable; might as well get my pockets lined, instead of wishing I had."
"Captain, times a’ wasting with all this chit-chat." Jayne grumbled.
"Time is always wasting, it’s how the Lord tests us." Mal held his neatly pressed collar between finger and thumb. "It’s this get-up. Shepherd, did I ladle it on too thick? Like to get the professional opinion; I got a question about God, I go to a man of God, like I ask doc on a gut wound or Kaylee about engine trouble or Inara when I‘ve got a question on whoring," Mal said, letting his words lash out at both Book and Inara. His day was bad might as well let them in on it.
Inara knew she shouldn’t let him goad her, she‘d come to her shuttle to keep out of the way. She tried to convince herself that she wasn’t the cause of Mal’s behaviour. She couldn’t help what he thought, what lunacy he allied himself to, at some point he had to take responsibility for his actions.
A hand clasped her shoulder, and her heart let itself believe that Mal had come to apologies but it was Kaylee trying to comfort her.
"I’m fine, Kaylee."
Kaylee shook her head. "He’s just been anchorin’ to get tetchy," she sighed. "He knows where people got nerves to strike at but it’s mostly bluster." She’d expected Mal to strike out at her the way he did, but it still didn’t stop it from wounding her in a way that nobody had for a long time. "He made as to dumpin’ me off the ship, didn’t work so he pushed harder, that’s his way. And I know he’s hurt most of all that you’re leavin‘." Kaylee gave a short laugh, "Not that you’d believe it. He’s why you’re goin’ ain’t it." Kaylee looked down, composing herself but if there was something Kaylee did badly it was repress her feelings. Inara put her hand over Kaylee’s.
"No, I feel comfortable on this ship. I’ve felt more welcome here than anywhere else but that isn’t the life of a Companion."
"I could get everyone to be as mean as the Captain, if that’s what will make you stay."
"That wouldn’t help." She wished it would for Kaylee’s sake.
"I thought we were friends Inara."
"We always shall be."
Mal’s bladder woke a second before his consciousness, a dripping pipe the source of the disturbance. He slid off the bed and tripped along the floor looking for his boots. There was little in the way of light, natural or man made, which made it tricky.
He heard no firing going on at this uncivilised hour whichever side you were fighting on, so this was as close to an amicable cease fire as to be had; or at least a pause for reflection. A couple of them were awake chatting - sounded like Tracey and Cadao.
They’d taken shelter in an evacuated house. He wondered what happened to the family that lived here. He’s seen evidence that they’d been children, they didn’t start the war their parents had, couldn’t know any better on it, parent’s mightn’t either, political spin had it’s ways. He’d thought a little on it.
He searched the floor, populated by sleeping bodies, for his boots. Then he threw his body in motion towards the door.
"You should take your gun," Tracey said. " No telling if any of the those purpled vultures are stalking about."
Mal patted his holster. "They’re not going to catch me with my trousers down, least not figuratively."
Propping himself against the wall to pee Mal noticed a figure moving towards Alliance territory, the earth tones of an Independent. A noticeable limp, must have been Ulrich, who’d got shot in the leg a while back. He was suppose to be on watch, been posted to guard the northern sector of the city, he was going the wrong way to his patrol schedule.
Mal followed him to the edge of town. He ended up a few hundred meters away from where the Alliance was entrenched. Ulrich waved a flare through the air. There’d been a rumour circulating that someone was giving the Independent movements and strategies to the enemy.
<"Funny things you see when going for a piss."> Mal said.
He felt himself react, betrayal giving him strength to take down the other man.
Mal slung Ulrich to the ground. "You been feeding them our business?"
"Mal this, well it’s--."
"Don’t tell me it ain’t what it looks like." Mal said kicking the discarded flare out of his hand. Mal rammed dirt with his boot over the flare, killing the luminescence. "You better enlighten me, sell out that you are."
"I got a family to look to, to put food in their mouths." Ulrich couldn’t work out why he bothered asking, there was nothing he could say to satisfy Mal on the score.
"Everyone’s got their reason for whoring out their souls."
"You ain't got a family, not no more Mal, so it's easy to be righteous." Mal wasn’t going to have a debate with the man, his head was full with rage, a punch to the jaw was the best he could muster.
"Get up." Mal ordered, waved his gun in a circle, indicating he should turn. "Move." Mal jabbed him the back of the neck with the muzzle of his gun, slightest pressure on the trigger and he’d be rid of Ulrich. He wanted to spill his blood but he reined back the impulse, brought himself back to his senses.
Zoe was already awake when Mal shoved Ulrich through the door.
"Get something to tie him up with." Mal ordered, Zoe was the only one that moved.
"What’s going on Mal?" Cadao asked, the only one half awake to take the details in.
"Seems we got ourselves a traitor." The mood changed, Mal was known for his honesty.
Zoe looped a length of wire round Ulrich’s wrist, knowing Mal wouldn’t have asked if it weren’t necessary. Bound, nobody was as inclined to strike at Ulrich. She looked at Mal; he wanted him dead , they all did she, but killing a defenseless person no matter the situation was hard explaining to yourself.
"Stay... well you know Kaylee she‘s got it…" Mal sighed best to keep his trap fixed, nothing to be said that wouldn‘t make him look the fool.
He’d come into the infirmary for some thread and needle; and for the quiet too. Light was bright enough to see what he was doing. He stitched his secreted away pocket, in the inside of his fancy shirt.
Nobody to bother him as he worked. Doc been the only one to be in here. The rest of the crew seemed to know to leave him.
He wondered despite Simon’s words whether he looked like he belonged to the Alliance, play-acting at be a moneyed gentleman. If he was that kind of man, he’d have enough in his pockets, and he wouldn’t have to do questionable things to keep him and his crew going. They could pretend that there was more to it, cash helped you keep your head high brought you the right to choose your work and to say you had morals for it. Inara must think it, the Guild brought the profession that right.
He and Inara were too different. This wasn’t her life, not the life she wanted. She’d told him what she wanted and it wasn’t anything about staying on Serenity. She wanted to leave, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to make it easy on her while she remained. "Inara." Still he wouldn’t listen to his head. "I want you to stay--"
"Yeah, what he said." Jayne snuck up on him.
"Jayne!" Mal couldn’t find a peaceful spot, always someone bargain in where they weren’t welcome, then he was supposed to make nice and talk with civility.
They’d sent Jayne - obviously Zoe was still pissed off, probably ordered Jayne to fetch him. She could be pretty persuasive when she was in a rage. Jayne had just enough brains to know that his clumsy brute strength could be outweighed by Zoe’s fineness and precision.
"What’re you doin’?"
"Not listening to those pretty words of yours, just seeing if you werewas ready."
"Do I look ready?" A comical look flitted across Jayne’s mug but Mal wasn’t in the mood to be amused by anything.
"Well for church anyhow and since that where we plan to be, then yeah, Mal that makes you seem ready to me."
"Then I’m ready." Mal left, leaving Jayne to conjure a reason for Mal’s apparent madness but he was left pondering to it.
They stood in the cargo bay, everyone avoiding Mal, hoping to steer clear of his snapping jaws. They were waiting for the authorities to give the boat a gander, so they could be off to see to their smuggling.
"If you’re to be attacking everyone, sir, I’d like to know," Zoe said, quietly enough so only Mal was to catch it, as she walked over.
"Depends on how intent on pulling me down you are." His eyes flicked up at her, and they were flinty.
She shook her head. "I’d just like to know where you’ve moved your line to, if I’m to be defending it."
"It’s just a job." That was what she was worried on, Mal turning everything lifeless, switching whatever code he had left off. He was sure on his line of morality either, been so long since he’d given it a look over, he was sure had some lines left he wouldn’t cross.
"Like what we were to Ulrich?"
"I don’t betray those who I’ve sworn to protect, then stab then squarely in the back." He still had that over Ulrich.
"The only difference is you’re not getting people you know killed, just strangers. Did it make a difference? Because it’s loose cannons you’d be putting to the Alliance."
"Hell, there ain’t not a one more Alliance than Simon and I ain’t put him to slaughter."
"How long ’til you don’t, next we’re flat broke and there ain’t a job in sight, the reward keeps going upward?" To say he wouldn’t do such a thing seemed pointless, naïve. He folded his arms over his chest, and Zoe moved off saying she was going to check on Wash.