I outlined my idea. It was only a germ of an idea, but a start nonetheless.
“Why try to outrun, or hide, or maybe outgun him? Why not hand over what he wants?…”
I saw Sir Warrick’s face cloud over, as at the same time Mal, Zoe and Jayne looked at me like I'd gone mad…
“…All he knows, is that we’re goin’ to be carryin’ a case, and that he’s to take it to Harwoods & Morris after takin’ it from us. He doesn’t know what the case looks like, so why give him the real one?…”
“You’re talkin’ about pullin’ a switch?”
“Yeah Cap‘n. All we need do is make it convincin’ enough for him. A case of similar size and colour, just in case he knows what to look for. Jimmy aint the brightest, but he is thorough…”
The idea and plan took shape, Mal and Zoe in discussion with Sir Warrick. As they talked, I wandered the room with Jayne in tow. While I looked at the pictures, I got the feeling Jayne was looking for anything small enough to slip into his pocket.
“…Can you believe that? Nearly a quarter of a million credits, for some bull’s fun juice?? Don’t seem right to me people willin’ to pay that much. An’ him saying ’bout that company wants to get their hands on it. I nearly wet myself at the thought of them getting that all over them. I wonder how much mine would be worth?…”
“Guay Jayne! Do you have to?”
“I was jus’ sayin’ s’all! I wonder what it looks like….an’ how much does a bull ‘make’? Now that’d be a job you don’t want people to know you do. Imagine explainin’ that…’oh yes, my job is great, I catch and measure it when a bull…’, hey, where’r ya goin’?!?”
While I'd listened to Jayne, a picture on the wall had caught my eye. At first I'd thought it was a trick photograph, but the explanation beside it, and Jayne’s mumblings, suddenly made my earlier idea of a switch seem all the more do-able. Ignoring Jayne, I called Sir Warrick, and within minutes, the full plan had been thought through.
An hour later, we returned to the ship. We brought not one, but two cases. Mal spoke to Simon, who at first didn't look too pleased with his part of the plan, but then, nodded in agreement when he heared the full story. As Jayne stowed the second case into one of the cubby holes in the hold that was used for smuggling, we readied the ship for take off. Kaylee and River were the last to board. When we had been with Sir Warrick, they had gone for a wander in the woodland close to where we landed.
As they walked up the boarding ramp, Kaylee gave me a smile and touched me on the arm. It was unusual in that she’d never done it before. River followed her, carrying something in her cupped hands. For the first time in days, she didn't avoid me.
“These are for you. You give them to me, and now, I want to give them to you too…”
She held out her hands, and I did likewise. As I cupped my hands around hers, I couldn't help but notice how cool her skin was to my touch. She pulled her hands from mine, making sure I didn't drop what felt like the leaves the she had just put there. As I stood there, slightly confused, she stood on tip-toe, and kissed me on the cheek, then ran off to join a giggling Kaylee who was stood by the hatch at the back of the cargo bay watching the scene unfold.
“Are you going to look and see what it is she gave you lad? Or are you afraid it may be something bad?”
I turned at the sound of Shepherds voice, and shrugged. Whatever was in my hand felt like it was moving…
“If this bites me, Book, make sure you get me to the Doc straightaway?”
I opened my hands, and 2 beautiful butterflies sat there for a second on my palm, before opening their wings and flying around me. They brushed past my head, their multicoloured wings looking like miniature rainbows in the sunlight that came through the open bay doors. When they realised that they were free, they headed off out through the doorway, and disappeared.
“…I don’t get it? Butterflies?…”
The smile that appeared on Shepherds face was not what almost floored me, but the words he said next did…”
“Don’t you recall saying that before you can have ‘feelings’ for someone, then they need to give you butterflies…I think River may have thought you mean literally, not figuratively…”
Her words bounded into my head.
“…You give them to me, and now, I want to give them to you too…”
Hard as I tried, I couldn't hide the grin that exploded on my face. So, I gave River butterflies? Well, wasn't that a fact. I wondered why, despite her ability to see into things, and apparently how she knew what she shouldn’t, she hadn’t seen that she had been giving me butterflies from almost the first moment I saw her?!
“Here’s the plan. We’ve on board almost a quarter of a million credits worth of Sir Warrick Harrow’s prize bull…semen. At some point ‘tween here an’ his business partners ranch on Beaumonde, we’ll be hijacked by Taylor’s old shipmate Jimmy Abraham. From what we know, his plan of attack is to hit us with an EMP. Kaylee, can you rig Serenity so that she’ll look like she’s dead in space, but as soon as we’re clear, we can power back up?…”
“Should’nt be a problem Cap’n. I can run her electrics through a secondary power grid. That way, when the EMP hits, it’ll knock out that power relay only, everythin’ else will be fine when I reconnect her…”
“…Shiny. Taylor has come up with a real devious idea, one that will not only confound Badger and sow bad feelin‘ twixt him and Abraham, but will leave him out of pocket too.
Now, Simon is bein’ kind enough to allow us to store the real cargo in his chilled medical cabinet. There’d be no reason for any of Abraham’s men to go into the infirmary, but even if they did, Simon has the vials well hidden amongst all his other stuff.
Now, when they come on board, I imagine that there’ll be a little bit of tusslin‘. They wont expect us to hand over the goods straight away, so chances are, there’ll be a little blood shed, and I’m banking on that being mine.
As soon as they’ve what they came for, an’ are heading off into the black, we power up, continue on our way, an’ make the drop off.
To make the plan seem like it’s all gone Badger’s way, we'll wait an hour 'fore we wave him, to tell him we lost the cargo.
Kaylee, go do what you need to do, we leave atmo’ in 30 minutes, an’ its about a days burn to Beaumonde.
Everyone, get some rest.
Taylor, come see me in shuttle 2 will you?”
I was expecting a discussion about tactics, or possible alternate outcomes of what was to happen, or even an insight into Jimmy Abraham as a person. Instead, Mal took me completely by surprise.
“What're your intentions with River?”
The conversation was as awkward as it was short. Satisfied with my explanation that even though I was attracted to River, I would not allow it to affect the running of the ship or my duties in the crew, and that I wouldn’t do anything to hurt River either, Mal gave a gruff acknowledgement that I was doing the right thing. As he left , over his shoulder he told me that it was good that she had found someone, as it meant she was acting more normal than ever.
As I headed along the walkway, Simon suddenly appeared from nowhere.
“We need to have a discussion…”
Sat in the infirmary, I listened to some very good reasons why I shouldn’t think of River as anything more than a troubled young girl. Again I found myself defending my feelings for her. Only this time, I wasn't just talking to her brother, but also her doctor too.
After almost an hour, Simon finally saw that I wouldn’t hurt River, and after conceding that he was taking things a little too far, seeing as all that had happened so far was a kiss on the cheek, and the apparent acceptance that we had feelings for each other, he agreed to allow his younger sister to ‘date’ me if she so wished…
After two discussions, about whether or not I should even talk to River, I felt the need for a strong coffee. As soon as I walked into the dining area though, I realised that a quiet coffee was easier said than done. Both Shepherd and Zoe were sat there, and yes, they too had opinions on my feelings for River.
3 pots of coffee later, and Shepherd Book, and Zoe, both finally saw that I wouldn't hurt River. Why I needed to be defending myself to the crew, was a reflection that everyone saw River as someone who needs protecting.
I made my escape, and headed to the engine room, looking for peace and quiet.
“Hey Kaylee, I brought you coffee. You don’t mind if I hide in here a’while do you?”
Little Kaylee is possibly the sweetest woman in the 'Verse. Hardly ever without a smile, she is one person guaranteed to cheer you up. She sat down on the edge of one of the bulkheads next to me, and wiped her grease covered hands on her trouser legs.
“I guess that everyone has been talkin’ at you ‘bout River, huh?”
I nodded. I didn't have the energy to think any more. The steady thrumming of the engine was a welcome anaesthetic to my bemused brain. I looked at Kaylee, and enjoyed the smile I received.
“Why doesn’t anyone believe me, when I say that I like River for real? For the first time in years, ever possibly, I don’t need to hide anythin’ from someone. When I’ve been talkin’ to her before, I don’t see her as this troubled patient that ‘Doctor Tam’ is worried about protectin‘, an’ I don’t see the young girl he thinks is still his little sister either. I see a beautiful young woman, who’s quirky, funny, kind, an' who I don’t need to hide anythin’ from. I’ve had ‘chats’ with Mal, Simon, Shepherd and Zoe. God knows what Jayne will try and say…”
“D’ya wana know what I think?”
“I think you two are perfect for each other. I’ve seen you look at her, when you think no-ones lookin’. An’ I’ve seen her lookin’ at you too, when you don’t realise she is. She made me promise, t’other day, not to tell you about her ‘butterflies’ idea. After you had said ‘bout wantin' to feel the butterflies, the next day she asked me if that’s how I feel about Simon. When I told her it was, she said at first, she’d thought that she was allergic to you, ‘cause every time you were with her, she’d notice her heart'd race, an’ that she’d have a funny feelin' in her belly. When you said the whole ‘butterflies in the belly’ thing, she realised that’s what she’d been feeling, and was afraid you didn’t feel it too. That’s why she avoided you the last few days. I tried to tell her she was being silly, an' that I was sure you do like her too, but, she wanted to make sure, so we went butterfly huntin’ for you earlier.”
I sat with a big smile on my face.
“Only one problem as far as I see it Kaylee. Where does a guy take a girl on a first date, on a Firefly transport?”