Just a quiet evening in the Black.
Having filled the dishwasher, Kaylee leaned back against the kitchen counter and
surveyed her family.
After dinner, Jayne had taken over part of the dining table to make bullets, while Zoe at
the other end tried to make the books balance, a job that had become more important
now that most of their cargoes were legal and their jobs were paid by bank transfers
instead of cashy money. No one trusted Mal’s erratic arithmetic to keep them out of the
hands of the Alliance Revenue, not while suspicious eyes remembered their past.
It was Kaylee’s turn on kitchen chores and the breadmaker was filled and working on
a fresh loaf for morning, if it made it past River’s ravenous appetite when it came out
of the machine just as River’s shift on the bridge ended. The tiny pilot burned through
almost as many calories as Jayne, and never gained a kilo, Kaylee mused, thinking of
her own waistline, which was being slow to get back to her pre-pregnancy state, even
though the baby was eight months old.
Simon was working with Hope on Botany study for her Federal Twelve courses.
Botany was one of the hardest courses for ship kids, since they so rarely saw growing
plants either in the Black or in the urban docks they landed at. The basic plant groups became
either “green” and “edible” for spacer families, and the importance of plant life to an
ecosystem was hard even for Hope’s quick mind to visualize. Simon was considering
turning one of the passenger suites into a hydroponic plant, just to help Hope and later
Derry and his little sister with the concepts. He was thinking that a garden would provide
fresh foods, clean the air, and give the children an important set of chores for the benefit
of the whole crew.
But six year old Derry was in boy heaven, curled up with his Captain in the lounge,
reading aloud a vigorous tale of derring-do and adventure, set on Earth-that-was, with
time travellers and dinosaurs. Derry considered this much more interesting than his
own dull life, cooped up flying from world to world in a spaceship, trading (and, he was beginning
to be aware, often smuggling) cargoes of spices, precious medicines, bobbleheads, rare earths,
ironware and cheap tin trays.
The Captain was in daddy heaven. Mal appreciated cuddle time with his growing son,
though neither would ever have called it that. Reading was as much an excuse to have
the boy on his lap and leaning against his chest while they took turns, page by page,
reading to each other from Derry’s bookpad, as it was Mal’s teaching chore. And if his
lips brushed the boy’s hair or cheek from time to time, there was nothing unmanly about
that. Beside the Reynolds men on the chesterfield, the baby slept cozily swaddled in a
blanket her godmother had knit.
Kaylee came over and picked her up, kissing the red blonde fuzz on her sweet smelling head, leaning against Mal’s side. Just a quiet family evening in the Black.