ONE FOR THE ROAD
River closed one bloodshot eye to focus her attention on just one of the fuzzy Loan’s sitting across the galley table from her. She gave her friend a sloppy smile.
“Mal means bad in Latin,” River announced, her tone more serious than it needed to be.
“Really?” Loan slurred. She blinked and thought a moment. It didn’t help that the half bottle of the captain’s brandy she and River had chugged seemed to have slowed down her brain and therefore her ability to speak coherently. “So...Jayne in Latin must mean…big ugly dumbass?”
Both girls broke into gales of hysterical laughter almost falling out of their seats. Loan recovered first, her blurry eyes trying to focus on the pair of Rivers across the table from her. “Hey...um...hey…what were we just laughing at?” she pondered, then snorted, unable to keep from giggling at River who was wobbling unsteadily in her chair, scratching her head as if in deep thought.
River and Loan started at the male voice that suddenly intruded on their little drinking party.
“That my bottle of brandy?” Mal angrily questioned
He’d been drawn to the galley of Serenity by the high-pitched shrieks of laughter and now stood, darkly eyeing the almost empty bottle of liquor with an ominous frown.
Inara, who had been directly behind the captain, came around him and blinked in surprise at the scene taking place. “Mal, what’s going on?” she questioned, not wanting to believe what her eyes were telling her. No. They wouldn’t dare, Inara thought in growing alarm.
Loan and River drunkenly gazed up at Mal and then down at the empty bottle between them on the table. Loan snorted first but was quickly followed by River and then the giggles grew into full blown laughter and hands slapping against the table in earnest as they tried to catch their breath.
“Renzi de fotzu (merciful Buddha),” Inara swore under her breath. “Mal, these two are three sheets to the wind!” She leaned in close to Loan then quickly drew back as the alcohol fumes hit her. “Agh! She smells like a distillery!”
Mal hadn’t said a word. He stood, his mouth set in a tight grim line, watching River and Loan as they tried to staunch the flood of helpless giggles coming from their mouths while gripping the table’s edge to keep from tottering over.
Stalking over to the com, Mal slapped the on button, his temper lending a harsh edge to his voice. “Jayne! Get up to the galley!” he shouted unnecessarily as Jayne appeared from the forward hallway, knife and whetstone in hand.
“Ya don’t gotta yell, Mal, I’m right here,” Jayne commented off-handedly.
He hawked up a gob of saliva to spit onto the whetstone in his left hand and then glanced up absently at the scene in front of him. He ended up swallowing his spit in surprise.
“Zen me le? (what’s going on?)” he gawped.
Mal pointed to River and Loan. “They’re drunk, that’s what’s going on!”
Mal reached over to grab River’s shoulder as she began to list sideways off her chair, her eyelids drooping at half mast.
He sighed angrily. “Gorramit! That was my good brandy too!”
He looked between the two girls, a grim set to his jaw. “I know a couple of misbehavin’ little girls that ain’t gonna be sittin’ too easy,” he announced as he hauled River up from the table, throwing an arm around her shoulder to keep her upright on her rubbery legs. “Jayne, help me get these two down to the med-bay,” he ordered.
With a grumble of dissension, Jayne dropped his knife and whetstone onto the table and bent down, reaching for Loan, who had fallen asleep in her seat. He grabbed at her midsection, lifting up until Loan was slung neatly over his shoulder, looking for all the world like a limp sack of potatoes.
The rough jostling woke Loan up enough to realize she was no longer sitting at the table but was now being carried by someone down the rear hallway of the ship. She reached down to smack the butt of the person carrying her in order to get their attention.
“Hey, hey! You know what? Know what I learned? Jayne in Latin means big dumb ass!” Loan snorted with drunken glee, slapping Jayne’s back several times, rather pleased at her joke. “Hey, but don’t tell Jayne I said that,” she slurred and then promptly passed out, going limp once more over the merc’s broad shoulder.
“Yeah, I’ll make sure not to tell him that,” Jayne dryly shot over his shoulder at the girl. He turned towards Mal, who was having his own trouble maneuvering a stumbling, inebriated River down the hall. Jayne nodded at Loan. “When she sobers up, can I thrash her?” Jayne asked him.
“That’s my job, Jayne,” Mal tiredly shot back.
Jayne thought a moment. “Well, then, can I watch?”
Mal pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. “Just get her to the med-bay,” he tiredly ordered, wondering what he’d done to deserve this latest bu fen da ma fan (piece of trouble).
Jayne complied, but gave Loan a rough shake, rolling his eyes in disgust. “Oughtta drop your boozey ass right here and make ya crawl the rest of the way to the med-bay,” he sullenly muttered. “But I’m kinda hoping Doc gives ya something to sober you up quick-like, so’s I can watch while Mal wallops the pants offa you.” Jayne smiled grimly. “Maybe if I ask nice, he’ll let me do it for him. Wouldn’t mind gettin’ in a few licks on you, little girl. Teach you to call me a dumbass – drunk or no.”
Loan woke up a few hours later in the infirmary, her head pounding and her mouth dry as cotton. She sat up, blinking, and raised a hand up to shield her sensitive eyes from the glare of the doc’s bright exam lights.
“Where’m I?” she moaned. “Wha happened? River?”
“River’s already had a talkin’ to and been put to bed,” Mal announced loudly, causing Loan to wince in pain.
“Not s’loud!” she groused. “Aiya! Huai le! (Damn! Shit on my head). My head is throbbing to beat the band.”
Mal offered the teenager a dark smile as he closed the distance between them. “Well now, looks to me like your backside’ll be joining that little orchestra in a minute,” he observed.
Loan stopped rubbing her temples. “Huh?” She asked carefully, even though she had a pretty good idea what Mal meant.
Mal wrapped his fingers in a firm grip around one of Loan’s arms, hauling her off the exam table. She stumbled forward, and Mal used the momentum to pull Loan down over his lap as he took a seat on the little stool next to the table. Without preamble, Mal brought his hand down hard, relishing the crisp smacking sound it made when the hand connected with Loan’s presented bottom.
Loan yelped, eyes going wide. Mal lit into her in earnest then, his arm a blur for the next several minutes as Loan howled and thrashed, trying to remove her butt from the line of fire.
“Cap’n, please!” Loan bawled, eyes tearing from the intense heat building across her scorched bottom, “I’ll get ya another bottle! I swear!”
Mal chuckled, amused at his young pilot’s offer.
“I can get my own liquor just fine, tao shen (naughty child),” he replied, and applied a volley of solid swats to Loan’s sit spot, eliciting a torrent of broken curses and sobs from the girl. “What I can’t get and don’t want is a drunk pilot who’s too young to be imbibing in the first place! Dong le ma? (you understand me?)”
Loan howled her agreement, wincing and jerking with every slap of Mal’s hand across her blazing rear. She mentally kicked herself for ever thinking a drop or two of that vile brandy would be fun to try, as Mal continued to warm the seat of her pants with his callused hand, lecturing his youngest crew member on the evils of alcohol.