A brief coda to "Ariel."
No dough, no foul.
Kaylee spun around on the catwalk, but saw no one.
"Da jia," she heard. It sounded like the intercom, but all staticky-like. Kaylee swung around the catwalk and down a flight to the landing right over the airlock controls. Hanging over the railing, she couldn't see any red lights. If she was hearing things, maybe she should see the doc.
"Down here." Not da jia, after all.
Light must be out on the intercom. She ran down the last flight of steps and swung around the controls to the wall panel.
"Kaylee, over here."
That was not the intercom. She'd heard of ghosts in the static---just campfire stories, but it took her a moment to steel herself to face whatever it was that knew her name.
She saw the radio first, black and square sitting in the airlock window. Then the familiar face behind it. She breathed a sigh of relief. "Jayne, what you done got yourself into?"
Jayne pointed at the radio. Aha! She clicked the walkie-talkie button and repeated her question.
He clicked his end. "The airlock."
"I see that. Hiding from River?"
"Yeah, that's it." He answered too quick, like a drowning man jumping on a life preserver.
"River's locked in her room, Jayne."
"'Cause she sliced me open."
"So what're you doing in the airlock?" She let go of the button and crossed her arms, waiting for a straight answer.
Jayne stared back, no longer quite so drowning, considering his response.
Kaylee tapped her foot on the deck.
"The captain and me, we had a little disagreement about my cut."
Kaylee laughed and pushed the button. "He keelhauled you for backtalking!"
Jayne frowned. "What's keelhaul mean, anyhow?"
Kaylee smiled. "You tie the naughty sailor to a rope and drag him under the keel, underwater. Should be nice and barnacle-y, to scrape the guy up."
"Fei-fei duh piyan," Jayne said. "I guess it could've been worse. So you gonna let me in now?"
She reached for the switch, then stopped. "What's in it for me?"
"Anything." Drowning again. She doubted his story was straight, but he was too dumb to do any harm.
"How about you buy me some fruit."
"How about you buy everybody some fruit?"
Slower this time, "Sure."
"And you forgive River." The real story probably had him whinging about the passengers, again.
"Yeah, yeah, I forgive River. Just let me in."
She hit the button, and Jayne squeezed through the crack before the door was halfway open.
"Thanks, Kaylee, I owe you."
"Next planet, I promise." And he was up the stairs like a shot.
Kaylee closed the airlock and stowed the radios. She walked up the stairs slowly, wondering what Shepherd Book would say about buying forgiveness.
As she walked by, she noticed Inara's door was open, but the curtains were closed. Kaylee stepped closer.
The curtains parted around her pretty head.
"How long you been standing there listening?"
"The whole time," Inara replied. Terse, for Inara. Did she mean---?
"So what's the real story?"
"Jayne wanted a bigger cut." Inara looked, not away, but somewhere inside herself, like Shepherd Book sometimes did.
Kaylee shook her head. "Mal must have been pretty mad to leave him out there."
"Zhen mei naixing deh fo-tzu."
Inara withdrew into her shuttle without answering.
"That bad," Kaylee said to herself. She whistled on her way back to her engines, thinking of how to rig a line and really keelhaul someone, next time.