After dinner, Mal announced that they had a new job
-We’re going to Osiris.
-Calm yerself, Tross. You’ll be on the boat not dirtside,and Jayne will be with you all the time for your protection.
-Hands of blue. Hands of blue.- Her hair swung forward to the floor as she crouched into fetal position.
-Doc. Can you help lil sis?This is your caper after all.
-Simon? -River’s head shot up and she glared at her brother.
-Shh, mei mei. We can leave you with Kaylee’s family if you don’t want to come to the Core with us. Jayne would be with you there too, just in case. But we’re not outlaws anymore. We can show our faces. We can even visit Mother and Father.
-No. No. They’ll turn us in. They’ll send me back.
-Well. This plan is already not goin smooth. Riv. River. I’m makin a command decision. You ain’t goin to Osiris. We’ll stop and leave you with Kaylee’ folks. I got something to talk to Mr. Frye about anyways. You’ll be safe there. Jayne, you fine with bodyguardin our Riv?
-Sure, Mal. Long’s I get ta go inta town from time to time.
-We won’t be gone long. So. That’s settled.
-Why are we goin to Osiris in the first place, sir?
-We’re takin a customer who owes us money to get that money.
-And that would be me. It should have been apparent to me before, but when those warrants for River and I were disappeared by the Operative, my bank accounts were unfrozen. I am, or will be, surprisingly rich. But I have to go to Osiris to clear up any questions of identity.I also want my parents to know that I am not actually dead or imprisoned. If I wanted to be very cold about it, I want to make sure I am back in the will
-Old saying, Kaylee, I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.
-So you’ll be leaving us? Asked Zoe – What about River’s future?
-No, having my money will make it easier to care for her. I hope to continue to travel with you. I even have some ideas about that.
The Fryes were happy to have their girl back for a visit. And Mal’s talk with Mr. Frye seemed to be successful, since they were seen sharing some of Mr. Frye’s finest vintages
“Last Tuesday month! Smooth!’ cracked Zoe.
Mrs. Frye was tearful when it came time for the crew to leave. River and Jayne, as arranged, were to stop until the crew returned.
-River can help me with the sewing. You can sew, can’t you, sweetie?”
-I can knit.
Mr. Frye suggested that Jayne and he might find time to visit a few customers who had outstanding invoices. Jayne gave his most terrifying grin and flexed intimidatingly.
-It will be nice to have young people around the house again” said Mrs. Frye.
-Mummy. Jayne is the same age as Daddy!
-Well, then, houseguests. New people, with new stories.
-I’m beginning to understand where you come from, bao bei- grinned Mal
And now, Osiris.
Inara had been almost giddy at the prospect of visiting a Core world and making some serious money. She had made her availability known and between her previous clients and the whisper of the exotic that her travels to the Rim gave her, now had a busy schedule of appointments.
-All short.- she complained to Zoe and Kaylee.- I won’t have much time to get to understand my clients. Well, needs must.
-Are they nice men?
-Kaylee, dear, I do get to choose my clients. So of course, they are all gentlemen. Well, actually, not all are men. I have booked a couple of women as well.
-Do any of them make you laugh?
-Some are amusing, Zoe. Even witty. But…not many are like your Wash. I… we…- Inara’s eyes brimmed. She shook herself.- You’re going to a ob-gyn while you’re here?
-Simon hasn’t much experience with birthin. Petaline’s baby was the first he’d done his own self. So Zoe’s getting checked out while we’re here.
-What are your plans, Kaylee?
-I’ll go with Zoe as sister support And goin shoppin at the junkyards for parts, o’course. Pickin’s should be real good. And … And Mal is takin me around too.
-Has Mal ever been to Osiris?
-We were mustered out here. Can’t think what Mal would have to show you though. We got out of the ship that brung us, processed and left for Persephone . Wham bam thank you mam.
Kaylee blushed under the scrutiny of her friends. –Well, he just said he wanted to take me around.
Inara smiled. -Would you like to borrow a dress for this excursion? I have a green that would look much better with your colouring than mine.
-I’d feel like a dope if it was too fancy.
-No. Just a day dress. Simple, classic. Just right for a young woman visitor.
Zoe kept her own counsel.
Simon had called his parents from Inara’s shuttle, using her Guild account. The Cortex connection from the Black was weak, chosen especially with advice from Inara, who instituted more waves than any other crew member. She was fairly sure the wave would be difficult to trace back to Serenity.
In the event, his parents were welcoming. At any rate, they wanted to meet him as soon as possible.
They met, not at the family estate, but at an elegant restaurant near Gabriel Tam’s offices. Simon, dressed as formally as when he had boarded Serenity three years before, felt awkward and out of place, although he had often taken suitable young women there to dine and dance when he was a rising young doctor.
His father was stiff. His mother in tears. Simon was unsure if either response was real.
-You look so old, his mother whispered. – There are lines around your eyes. And your clothes are so worn.
Simon kissed his mother’s cheek. –We were on the run, Mother. We were in danger every day, travelling with a rough bunch of Browncoats, mercenaries, a mad pilot, a mysterious Shepherd and a sweet girl mechanic who stole everybody’s heart.
-Your heart, Simon? asked his father. Are you here to tell us that you have a wife and a litter of Rimrat brats to present to us?
Simon grimaced.- The crew wondered where I got my talent for saying the wrong thing. No. I might have married her, but luckily for her, I fell in love with the Captain.
-Well. That’s a surprise.- Do we get to meet him? I presume this captain is “him”.
-Yes, definitely male. He turned me down, not being sly. But nicely. Perhaps you’ll meet. We’re friends, better friends than we were when I met up with them all.
But I’m here on business, not to discuss my personal life. I want to reclaim what was seized from me when those warrants were published. I hope you will stand with me as identification at the bank, my broker. I want to sell my apartment, too. Most important, I need to get my medical license cleared up so I can practice legitimately. It was dangerous for us, for all the crew, for me to have anything that could help trace me. Everything I have is forged.
-Right. I’ll have my admin set up the appointments. I assume today is best? The apartment has a good tenant; are you sure you want to sell an income producing property like that?
-Yes. If possible.
-Simon, darling. Are you going to come home with us? I want to have a big party to celebrate the return of the prodigal.
-Mother. I…no. I really don’t want that. Those are your friends, not mine. I’ll be calling a few of my old Medac friends, if they will talk to me and if their wave addresses are still valid. And the first mate is pregnant, so I need to get up to speed on midwifery. Especially since she could kill me with her pinkie if I don’t deal with her to her satisfaction.
-What awful people!
-No they are really wonderful. They are a family with many mothers. But they stand together whatever adversity they face. We’ve had adventures…
As the meal arrived, and Simon ecstatically ate the skillfully prepared fresh natural food, he regaled them with tales of those adventures, tidying up parts that might disturb them. The fate of Petaline’s baby’s father went unmentioned. The crew ran a transport ship, with no mention of smuggling. Even the shipment of cattle became a funny story, without any arrests, kidnapping, wounded Shepherds or witch burning. Simon unbent enough to sing the Ballad of Jayne Cobb, sotto voce, to the amusement of his mother.
And though the lunch lasted for two hours, and Gabriel spent another five with his son re-establishing his credit with their various financial institutions, the name ‘River” went unmentioned.
Having Simon decide that his normal was to prefer men, although he does love Kaylee for her joie de vivre, would allow Mal to restart their relationship and the departure of Inara, a relationship that remains unfulfilled, would let him see that Kaylee is his natural mate.