Shepard crossed his arms, leaning back as he sized up the other captain. ”Look, I’m just sayin’,” said Mal, “Your ship is top of the line and not falling apart every time you hit atmo. I have to be a little tougher on my engineer than you do, is all.”
"I’m not just talking about how hard you run your engineer," replied Shepard. "What about that mercenary thug of yours? Cobb? He’s only there because you’re paying him more than the other guys, and you hit him in the face with a wrench. That’s a good way to inspire some divided loyalties when push comes to shove." Mal just shook his head. "You’re military, Shepard. You say frog, and everybody jumps, because it’s been bred into them through years of training. Only one on my boat with those kind of instincts is Zoe. In my world, it isn’t as easy as just giving orders and expecting them to be obeyed. You’ve got to reach a guy like Jayne a different way." Shepard scratched the back of his head. "By… hitting him with a wrench?" "Well," said Mal, shuffling his feet awkwardly, "Yeah, sometimes. It’s an alpha male thing. Wouldn’t expect a guy like you to understand."
A conspiratorial grin spread across Shepard’s face. ”I don’t know about wrenches, but I did punch a reporter once. Or… three times. Well, the last one was a headbutt. But the principle is the same, right?” Mal blinked twice. ”Uh… yeah. Ok. That’s sort of the same, I guess.” He took a prudent step back. Marines. It was like talking to a box of rocks. If the rocks had guns. ”Close enough.”