it's all about the butterflies

That evening, I genuinely felt like I had been accepted as part of the family, not just the crew, as River had said. Jayne became much more friendly when he realised I was on the level, and to be fair, I realised that I liked the guy. He may be as blunt as a stick to the face, but, he will ask the questions that others are too polite to voice. Soon, one by one, the table emptied, until it was Mal, Zoe and myself, talking into the early hours, about places we had fought in, and that we didn’t know we shared.
By the time I fell into my bed, we were smashed off the bottle of New Canaan Brandy that Mal’d brought from his bunk. Zoe had to be helped to their room by Wash, and Mal had fallen asleep on one of the chairs in the lounge area in the kitchen. All in all, I think it was a good evening, to be fair.

When we’d been at the Bazzar, Mal’d gotten a couple of waves, one from the Companion, Inara, and the other from Badger, a self proclaimed crime lord who operated out of the Eavesdown Docks on Persephone.
Inara had been the renter of one of Serenity’s shuttles for nearly two years, and when Serenity wasn’t skirting the inner border worlds, she would make her own arrangements to see clients. Then, at a later date, meet back up with the crew and then travel to another part of the ‘Verse.
Badger…well, Badger was the kind of person you never really wanted to be associated with. I had worked with him before, back on Monty’s crew. If he told you a job would last a week and be easy, involving no trouble, then you prepared for a fire-fight and a two week trip. And then, at the very end, he’d try and sell you short on what he owed you for the job. A small man born and raised on the ex-convict inhabited Dyton, he liked to think that as he’d moved from the slums of his youth, to the slums on the Core planet Persephone, that he’d ‘moved up’ in the world and bettered himself. A slum is still a slum, no matter how pretty the sky over it. Still, he was usually able to find work for a ship and her crew, if you didn’t ask questions.

It was roughly a 3 week burn from the Bazzar to Persephone. And in those 3 weeks, any doubts I’d had about not being accepted vanished.

There was now an understanding and bond between Mal, Zoe and myself. Jayne would either want to discuss guns, or talk about tussles we had been in. I was surprised to find that he, Book and myself could sometimes be found around the weights bench in the hold working out and just generally shooting the breeze together. Book himself proved to have a very laconic sense of humour, full of a wit that a lot of time Jayne wasn’t aware of. Simon seemed to enjoy my company, due to the fact that I’d a lot of experience dealing with combat wounds, and asked a lot of very technical questions about procedures that were of interest to me. Kaylee was a mechanic so far in excess of my abilities, I felt like I should’ve been making notes when I helped her do maintenance on the ship. She never had a bad word to say about anyone, and would blush crimson at the mention of Simon… When I would sit up in the cockpit with Wash, and be shown the handling characteristics of Serenity, I would normally end up hurting from laughing at the strange stories he would tell and the wisecracks he would make.
And then there was River. Her and Simon had been on board almost a year or so, and in that time, so I was told, she was more than a handful… On her good days, she would be normal, if normal was a teenage girl being able to recite every word of the ships manual to you, or decide that she wanted to correct Book on the inconsistencies in his ’good book’. On her bad days…well, Jayne still has the scar across his chest to vouch that her bad days were very bad. Simon had been adjusting her med’ dosages, trying to find a balance that wouldn’t make her ill, but would allow her to ‘behave’ without endangering the crew.
In the evenings, when I would make the food for the crew, she would always be the first to volunteer to help. It was only when Wash told me about the attack on Jayne did I realise why everybody had been so nervous and wary of her when I would let her dice vegetables for me for the stews. Around me though, she seemed as relaxed and happy as I would expect anyone to be. To me, when she would say that potatoes are actually called ‘apples of the earth’ and then begin to eat one like an apple as if it was the most normal thing in the world, I didn’t see it as bizarre, just quirky behaviour. After dinner, when everyone would sit around and relax, I noticed that River was usually to be found sat next to me. Either playing cards or board games, or even just lounging on the comfortable sofas in the kitchen or common area down below talking, it soon became accepted that River and me would probably be found together.

At first, I wasn’t sure if Simon would like the fact that I spent so much spare time with her, being as there was a 10 year age gap, and also seeing as she was his ‘special’ little sister as well as his number one patient. When he took me to one side 'for a chat', I was expecting the worst. Instead, he thanked me, as he’d noticed that since I had befriended her, her ‘episodes’ had become less and less, and that she seemed more and more like the sister he knew. Everyone else had spotted it too. One evening, when I was sat on the bridge so that Wash could have the evening off, Mal told me that taking Monty at his word and finding me a space on the crew could very well have been a fortuitous move. If the deal with Marlow proved solid, then we would have a good pay day from that. If after that, the expedition for The Kalahari were to come solid too, then all the better. If nothing else, then at least the crew could sleep easier with the thought that River was getting better.

“This time tomorrow, we’ll be at the Eavesdown Docks. Inara’s due to meet us ‘bout an hour after we land. Kaylee, make a list of anything’ you need, we might’nt be back this way for a while. When the refuellin’s done, then you an’ Wash are to get what you need. Simon, you an’ River stay onboard, Inara’ll be here then, so you wont get lonesome. If you need anything‘, I’m sure Shepherd wont mind stretchin’ his legs for you, will you Shepherd?
That leaves us four to find out what bit of dishonesty Badger has for us. I don’t think he knows you’re on my crew yet Taylor, so it might be an idea for you to wander ‘round a bit, and see what you can see. I don’t expect to be more’n an hour with Badger, he aint one for small talk, which is a mercy.
We’re due to land in the A.M., around 11ish I think, so I wana be off world by ‘bout 5, no longer than 6 on the clock. After we’re done with Badger, Taylor, you need to go find some fresh supplies…”
“Hell yeah, I don’t know half of what you bought back at the Bazzar was, but it sure as hell tasted better’n anythin’ I ate on this boat before. No offence Shepherd, but you’re a better preacher than you are a cook! Ohhh, kin you get some of those little frosted cakes? The ones that’re all different colours?”
“An' maybe some balloons too…Jayne, how old are you? Is your birthday comin’ up? If I can't find you somethin’ to shoot, would a colourin’ book be ok?”
“…’t’aint my birthday Wash, I just like them cakes’s all! But, if you do wana buy me a gift, I know for a whorehouse in the Docks where you can grapple 2 for the price of 1!”
“Jayne! Kwai chur hun rien duh di fahng! My Wash aint gonna be spendin' any of our hard earned so you can go get your jollies. How ‘bout we all chip in and buy you a blow up doll, provided you don’t burst her, first date you have?!”

By the time we all stopped laughing, the food was being dished up by my assistants in the kitchen, River and Kaylee. I’d used up the last of a lot of foodstuffs making the meal, and mentally listed what I would need to buy. After the food was eaten, and Jayne and Wash had argued over who was to get the leftovers, volunteers did the dishes while the cook relaxed.

I returned from having a shower, to find a conversation in full swing around the table. Jayne was saying that to be married to someone aint ‘right’, Book was saying that it’s a beautiful thing when two people in love get married. Everyone laughed when Mal said that he wished someone would tell that to Elder Gomman back on Triumph.
“How'd you two meet?” I ask, waving my hand in the direction of Wash and Zoe.

She turned to me, and smiled.
“On Serenity. Not the Valley, the ship. Captain needed a pilot, I found a husband.”
“Not that it was all sweetness an' sparks to begin with. Ok, there were sparks, but that was only cos of a weldin' torch which set fire to her bunk, but after that, you could say she warmed to me…”

“So was it ‘love at first sight’ for you then?”

“Oh hell no, first time I saw him, he had this stupid moustache, made him look a real hoe tze duh pee goo…”
“Hey!!, I liked that ‘tache, I felt it gave me ’character’.”
“Yes dear, which is why ‘though you do the flying, I tell you where to fly…but you know I love you now.”

“Love is just a word. It’s used to described the chemical signals that are used by the brain to heighten the senses. Touch. Smell. Taste. People say that they can ‘see’ love, but it’s just the bodies reaction to stimuli. You blush because your heart beats faster, your heart beats faster so that blood can reach the sex organs quicker. The capillaries in your skin become full of oxygenated blood, making you look redder. The blood has become oxygenated in preparation for the act of sex, as it will prove to be strenuous, it’s the same as a person who exercises. There are chemicals that can duplicate the sensations, tricking the brain into releasing endorphin into the bloodstream, which makes a person feel ‘happy’ and ‘relaxed’. It’s the bodies natural painkiller. It’s why people feel sleepy after an orgasm.”

“I thought it’s cos I just felt tired afterward…”

There was a chorus of ‘Jayne!’ from around the table, after his reply to River’s rather analytical assessment of what ‘love’ really is.

I sat down opposite River, and cleared my throat.
“River hun, love’s more’n a word, it’s a feelin’ you have. You first know it’s there when it’s real small. It feels like there’re butterflies in your belly, you get nervous ‘round a certain ‘someone’. If you see them, then yeah, you blush, but I’d like to think that it’s more’n just a clinical chemical reaction. You’d get the same feelin’ in your belly if you think of them, or if you hear their voice. When you miss them, your heart aches. You could spend an hour with the person you love, an’ it’d feel like a minute. But if you spend a minute apart from them, it’d feel like an hour. Over time, the need to want to be around them’ll grow from just a physical want for their touch, to the need to just ‘be’ there with them.
When you meet that person, you’ll find any excuse to be with them, any reason to be close, because that feelin’ that the butterflies in your belly gives you, feels amazin‘, an’ that’s just the start.”

For a second, there was nothing but the sounds of the ship, the little ‘clicks’ as the cooker behind me cools under the kettle.

“That, has to be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. It’s like you read it from a book, or somesuch.”

I looked at Jayne, and saw him wiping his cuff across his eye.
“It’s grit is all, got some in my eye. Stop lookin’ at me like that. Mal, tell ‘em to stop lookin’ at me like I’ve gone all sly or somethin’ will you!”
“Well, I dunno Jayne, maybe tomorrow, I may just have to buy you a book of poems…”
Tsway niou! I’m goin’ to that whorehouse an’ gettin’ me a special deal tomorrow, an’ that’s that! I don’t care if I fall asleep afterwards or not!”

River had sat there, silent, looking at me while I spoke, and then again while I laughed at the bickering between Mal and Jayne.

“So, what you are trying to say then Taylor, is that you need to get ‘butterflies’ for you to love someone?”

“That’s the start of it I guess, yeah.”

Without another word, she stood and left the table, headed off down the stairs in the back hallway to the passenger dorms. Simon followed her a few minutes later, and like an unspoken signal, one by one, we headed off to our bunks.

The End

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