Disclaimer: The Firefly Serenity, her captain, and her crew and passengers all belong to Joss Whedon. Sure, Fox may hold the title and the paper, but they're Joss's. (Here's hoping for many more journeys with them...)

Spoilers: Through "Ariel".

Mal says we gotta re-figure the shares soon.

Most guys I worked for up to now, that usually means somebody's getting his brains blown out and everyone else gets to fight for who gets the share that's up for grabs. Not Mal. At least, not usually Mal.

Last time Mal said that was when I joined up; up 'til then he got a quarter cut of the take from any job that came in. He promised me ten percent off the top and he's been good with that ever since; the only times I ain't been paid, nobody got paid.

These days it's pretty simple. Mal gets twenty per cent, 'cause he's the captain, he bought and paid for the ship. Zoe gets fifteen 'cause she's been with Mal the longest, and if Mal gets his head blown off, she takes over. Wash gets ten for flyin' the ship, little Kaylee gets ten for keepin' it running.

I know, that don't add up to a hundred percent even when you add my ten. Took me a while to get it, too, but after we each get our cut, there's a ship's share that's everything else. Ship needs fuel, ship needs parts, food don't grow out in vacuum, and you can't pick ammo off trees. So when you figure it, me and Kaylee get more than the basic ten percent. The kid gets to dip into the ship's share for basic parts, and I get to draw on that for basic ammo. I want anything, ah, exotic, like armor-punchers, mushroom-slicers, explosive rounds like what Vera likes to shoot, I pay for it myself. I bitched about that the first time, but Mal was pretty clear on that point. Works the same for Kaylee; she can get basic parts with ship funds, but she's gotta break out her own wallet if she wants to buy something exotic, like a gold-plated junction box - don't laugh, she actually bought one of those, something about electronics working better with gold connections - anyway, it's the same rules. Mal don't play favorites when it comes to the cash.

'Course, not everyone works on the same rules. Inara's got her own arrangement, with the shuttle and the rent and everything. She pays her own way, and for what it costs to rent a shuttle these days, she's gotta be good at the whorin' - don't give me that gos se about how it's legal, respectable, honorable, they've got their own guild and everything, yak, yak, yak, what it comes down to is that she goes down on her back at night, collects her fee and walks away in the morning, and in every book I ever ran across, that's whorin'. It's even in the Bible. Just ask Shepherd Book.

Never you mind how I know it's in the Bible. It just is. And that ain't the point.

The point is that all of a sudden, ever since the hospital job, Mal's thinking we gotta add a share for the Doc. And the money runs thin around here at times even without the extra mouth. Couple of jobs, the ship's share didn't cover the cost of fuel and food, and Mal and Zoe had to cover the differences out of their own shares. So maybe Mal's gonna cut a bite out of his own share, same as he did when I came on. Or maybe we'll all end up taking cuts.

Or maybe the Wonder Doc will end up getting my share once I kick it.

That ain't so far off now. I mean, right now Mal's the only one who knows what happened, how the Feds twigged to Simon and his crazy sister, and he's already had a chance to kill me for it. He didn't, God alone knows why, and he even said I was gettin' my cut from the hospital job. Said too many people would be askin' questions if he didn't give me my cut, and if I wanted to keep living, I'd make like it never happened.

Now that's what makes Mal different from everyone else I ever worked for. Anyone else, they wouldn't have even talked to me, they'd have blown the top off my ruttin' head and left me in a trash 'cycler by the landing pad. Not Mal. "I'm a thief, not a crook," he once said by way of smacking down an idea I'd floated past him about how to chisel a client for a little extra, and I'm finally startin' to see what he meant. He'll give you a chance to play it straight with him, man to man, and you won't regret it. It's one thing for him to lift from the Alliance; he's got issues with the Feds, deep issues, and he don't strictly see them as people, but if he deals with you face-to-face, expect he'll play it right with you. Unless you cross him up.

If Mal changes his mind and figures I got death comin', I'll know it before it hits, at least.

The others, I don't know. If anyone else finds out ... well, if anyone else finds out, Doc Simon's gettin' my share, let's put it that way.

Zoe, she'd put a slug in my heart right through my spine. Loyalty's a lot simpler for her than it is for Mal. She finds out? Bang. Dead. Simple as that.

Wash finds out? He'll let it slip to Zoe. Doesn't matter if he wants to hold it close, she'll get it out of him. Bang. Dead. Simple as that.

Kaylee, well, she's sweet on the Doc, anyone can see that. Anyone tries to hurt him, she's ready to go in like a tomcat to protect him. If she finds out what I did? My money would be on a coolant line or something letting go above my bunk. Kill me dead before I ever wake up, and she'll act all teary and kid-like, like she should have been able to prevent it, but I think they'd know. And probably they wouldn't say a word.

Inara finds out? Well, she's got her own sense of honor. And there's tales about Companions who had to deal with rough clients. Hear the tales told, the whore came outta the bedroom beat up and bloody, and the client came outta the bedroom feet first under a sheet. Could Inara do that? No way to really know. But I wouldn't bet against it.

And the Shepherd is too much of one of those, whaddaya call 'em, enigmas. He puts on a show about being all peaceful and wrapped up in the way of the Word and all that, but he knows way too many interesting things to be on the up-and-up, and the Alliance respects him way too much. Hell, when we went beggin' to the Alliance to dig the slug outta him from that mess on Jiangyin, they didn't just doctor him up, they practically gave his boots a gorram spit-shine. So it ain't safe puttin' anything past the Shepherd, no, it ain't.

Then the Doc. You know what the irony is there? Right now, he's worshipping the ground I walk on, thinkin' I'm like this big gorram hero, and it's all 'cause I got double-crossed by the Feds. When we first ran into the Doc, he was ready to let little Kaylee die unless we gave him and the kid asylum; he'll bargain with lives, no question, and if he thinks I'm a threat to his sis - who am I kiddin? If he finds out I ruttin' sold out him and his sis, I'm dead. Something quiet, something in the food, in the drink, maybe a little paste on my door handle that stops the heart, something that won't raise eyebrows. He knows gorram well how to save lives, I've seen him in action, and someone told me that knowing how to save lives also means knowing how to end them. He finds out, he's gonna kill me, no question there.

And the sis? River? Psycho kid who laid me open with a butcher knife just because? God alone knows. She isn't together enough to do me herself, and the way she talks, she could be yammering about something that went down a thousand years ago on Earth-that-Was, but if Simon can put the pieces together, well, remember what I said about him before? Not that she's got enough together upstairs to even figure it out.


First meal we took after getting out of the world, Mal was acting like nothing had happened. Simon was gushin' over my thrilling heroics and I was just trying to play along, prayin' nothing let slip, and in the middle of passin' around drinks, River just looked at me. "I know," she said, quiet-like, and I don't know if it was Mal's talk in the cargo bay eatin' at me, but I got a bad feeling I knew exactly what she knew.

Mal says we gotta re-figure the shares soon.

And I don't know what that means anymore.