Title: Just Like Old Times
Author: tafkar
Summary: Serenity's crew, five years later. The cue from ff_friday: Write something that takes place five years after Objects in Space.
Category: Drama, futurefic.
Spoilers: We'll say the entire series, just in case.
Rating: G
Archiving: Always welcome; just let me know you have done so.



Zoe squinted her eyes a little as she looked out from the front porch across the pasture. The landing field was empty now, but it wouldn't be for long.

"The most uncomfortable day of the year," Simon's voice said behind her. She turned around to see him leaning against the side of the doorway.

"It'll go okay so long as she don't scream and run away when her daddy shows up again."

Her tow-headed, dusky-skinned daughter toddled into the doorway. Simon bent down and picked her up, resting her on his hip. " Fang xin, baobei. Desdemona and I have exchanged certain words about that, haven't we?"

Desi looked up at him, her blue eyes enormous in her face. "Cookie," she said.

"Also, certain cookies," Simon nodded seriously, then smiled at Zoe.

They paused, and Zoe silently thanked him for not asking how she was feeling, or what he could do, giving her that comfortable distance that had drawn them together. A low roar could be heard overhead, moving toward the landing field. A shuttle took off from the wing of the Firefly just before the ship landed. "Here they come," Zoe said, taking a deep breath.

Simon handed Desi to Zoe. "You'd better take her." They smiled wryly at each other.

"Yeah, I know," Zoe said with a sigh. "You can show River around the new building."

Simon kissed the top of Desi's head quickly, then brushed a kiss over Zoe's lips. The whiskers of his goatee tickled against her cheek. "It may be several more years, but someday Wash won't be angry anymore."

She watched Simon race up the hillside, and as the ramp came down, saw River running over it, leaping down to the ground before it finished opening. She flung herself into Simon's arms, and he spun her around. She'd cut her hair again, shorter every year. As Mal walked past them, he gave Simon a pat on the shoulder, a promise of later conversation. Wash didn't look at the doctor.

"See that blond guy, Desi? That's your daddy. He's a…he loves you a lot." Zoe put her daughter down on the ground, and gave her a gentle shove. "Run and give him a hug. He'll be real happy to see you."

She didn't know if it was her own encouragement or the promise of cookies, but Desi ran out toward Wash, who picked up his step as soon as he saw her coming. He leaned down and snatched her up. "My girl's gotten so big!" He kissed her on the cheek. "I brought you some new toys; see if you like 'em." As he walked by Zoe, he nodded at her. "Zoe."

"Wash," she nodded back. There was no screaming this year, from Desi or Wash. She looked after them for a minute, until she heard Mal behind her. "I do believe this place has expanded since I was here last."

Zoe turned, smiling. "Captain." They clasped hands. "It's good to see you, sir."

"Good to be seen," Mal said. "How are things in the world?"

"We're busy. People out here need a doctor, and the clinic gets ships all the time. 'Nara was right - split those two up, no one ever susses out he's a wanted man."

"I thought maybe I could take you away for a few months in the black, maybe let Wash set a spell," he said, turning to her.

Zoe rested a hand on her belly.

"Oh." Mal spoke quietly. "That's the way of it then. Maybe in a few years."

"Sorry, Captain." She looked more closely at him. "Looks like you could use some of our services, yourself, sir."

Mal reached up and touched his face. His nose was flat and off kilter. "Now, this I lay squarely at the feet of Mr. Jayne Cobb."

At that moment, Jayne was under attack from all sides. "I'm hit! I'm goin' down. But," he said in his scariest growl as the kids pummeled at him, "I'm takin' y'all with me!" He grabbed Kyoko and Sela. Jamie and Kara held on to his legs. "I can't move! Somethin's got me!" he exclaimed, and let the children drag him down onto the ground. Kyoko stood up on his chest and shouted, "No power in the 'verse can stop me!" as she accidentally knocked the wind out of him with her foot.

"Easy there," Jayne coughed out, snatching her off his chest. "A man's gotta breathe, y'know."

"Always knew it'd take a li'l army to bring ya down," a familiar voice said.

He jumped to his feet, brushing grass out of his hair. "Kaylee," he said, grinning. "Where'd you come from?"

She nodded. "Shuttle's 'round back. I'm returnin' somethin' you lost," she said, as two teenagers, a boy and a girl with similar features, rounded the corner, looking mighty sheepish.

"I don't want 'em," Jayne growled. "Send 'em back." He grinned and patted one of them, Jason, on the shoulder. "Glad you're here. You can take over with the kids." The pair immediately gathered up the children and skulked inside, with no backtalk. Jayne turned back to Kaylee. "What'd they do? Jason shoot his mouth off again?"

"Nope, he was good most of the trip, and he's gonna be a great pilot. An' Tamsin's gonna be a great mechanic. An', y'know, when you say you're takin' a bunch of orphans out to learn a trade, the work just falls into your lap! On the right side of the law, even! It's like everyone thinks they're doin' a good deed, an'. . ."

"Out with it, mei mei," Jayne said.

Kaylee sighed. "Tamsin and Jason got it in their heads to see if they could change the grav one cabin at a time. For security, they said, 'cause if we ever got boarded it would throw people off."

"And?" Jayne asked.

"Well, y'see, they started with the Captain's cabin. While he were sleepin'."

"You mean Mal woke up…"

"An' he was flyin' through midair! I don't think his nose'll ever be right again. He cussed 'em up an' down, then said somethin' about you bein' next." The pair laughed for a long time.

"Cora's gonna have their hides."

"Hides? You talkin' all polite now?" Kaylee smiled.

"She'll beat the tar outta me if I cuss in front of the kids."

"How is Mrs. Cobb? And Book?"

"He's fine - schoolin' most of the kids right now. But Cora's a slave driver," he said, smiling happily. "Keeps me an' the kids workin' day an' night. 'Course, I do the punishin'."

Kaylee smiled. "Oh, come on now. They love you. On the ship, it was always Jayne this and Jayne that. You're the pa they never had, but better."

Jayne shrugged. "Listen, we're gonna get everyone together for dinner. Think Wash'll keep a civil tongue in his head if we have Zoe and the doc over?"

"He's startin' to get less mad," Kaylee nodded slowly. She smiled. "It'd be great to have everyone at dinner again. Just like old times. Only, y'know, with fifteen kids."


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