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FAITH SERIES: 3. "Future Tense"
Tuesday, June 6, 2006

"An increasingly frustrated Jayne gives the Captain an ultimatum. Another job goes anything but smooth and Inara gets increasingly frustrated. Kaylee doesn't feel so good."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2294    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "FUTURE TENSE" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: G. STATUS: SEQUEL to "COPING MECHANISM" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "An increasingly frustrated Jayne gives the Captain an ultimatum. Another job goes anything but smooth and Inara gets increasingly frustrated. Kaylee doesn't feel so good." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.

"FUTURE TENSE"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb was scowling. Ever since Zoe's boy had been born the Captain had gone all out to take what the mercenary thought of as 'soft' jobs, ones where there weren't no danger involved. Or as little as made no never mind. Work might be safer but it paid a pauper's pittance and Jayne was not a happy man. It was no fun when you had to pay for your rutting and lacked the coin to do so and it was making him all kinds of mean, mainly towards the Captain.

"Jayne, how many times I gotta say this?"

"We need a decent job, Mal, an' I ain't talkin' about the weak tea you been shovin' down our throats."

Something dark glinted in Malcolm Reynolds' eyes. "Shovin' down your throat, Jayne? You sure them's the words you wanna use?"

The low deadly tone began to penetrate through Jayne's anger and frustration but the time it took the dime to register was several seconds too late to stop his tongue. "I'm in it for the money, Mal. Told ya that first off an' these *lese* jobs just ain't payin'."

"Well now," The Captain drawled in a deceptively mild tone. "Guess you got a decision to be makin'."

The big man frowned. "Decision?"

Mal shrugged. "If you ain't happy on Serenity I got no call to keep you."

Jayne blinked. Slowly. Using the moment to gather his thoughts, realising the Captain was deadly serious. "Don't think I won't go." He threatened darkly, expecting the Captain to get all conciliatory and regretful. It wasn't happening.

"Do what you have to do, Jayne, but either way this conversation's over."

He hadn't meant to make a grab at the Captain but was spun so quick he hardly had time to explain he wasn't fixing to start a fight. Sensing everything was about to go to *diyu* Zoe approached from the bridge and without breaking step drew and flicked the safety off her gun in one fluid movement. The barrel aimed right at the mercenary's face. The look in her unblinking eyes promising all kinds of deadly if Jayne didn't back down. "Cap'n told you the conversation's over."

"It ain't fair! You're turnin' this to be all my fault but it ain't, Mal! It ain't."

The Captain let go of Jayne and shook himself free of tension, the rest of the crew by now surfacing until a little wary sea of anxious faces waited to see what would happen next. "Best you get your things together, Jayne."

Jayne blinked at the Captain, his anger and resentment taking a backseat as the words sank in. It was odd how hollow he felt at the thought of leaving the ship. Not nowhere had ever been home to him before. Not like this. "Gorrammit Mal, I just want us to get a decent job."

"An' I'm tired of your whinin'. Can't risk havin' you go off half cocked like that again." The Captain took a couple steps closer, crowding in to Jayne's personal space.

Kaylee eased her way alongside Simon, the doctor preventing her from pushing passed him, though what he would do if Jayne really let fly was unclear. That he would do anything to protect Kaylee was not in question.

"Ya tellin' me to leave?"

"You need askin'?"

There was a long heavy beat. The weight of untold universes collapsing into the silence until the thought of breaking it became painful. It was Zoe who broke the deadlock, deliberately clicking the safety back on her gun and reholstering it. "Got a wave, Cap'n."

Mal was torn between kicking Jayne's ass off his boat and answering the wave. He didn't really want to lose Jayne but neither did he want to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder in case he pissed the big man off. He cut a sideways look at his second. "That our contact?"

"*Qu*."

Jayne's sullen aspect brightened a speck. "We got a job?"

The Captain paused as he turned to follow Zoe. "That depends on if you're still crew."

Then the Captain was gone and Jayne was left staring at him wondering what the good gorram that meant. Simon couldn't understand how someone with a barely functioning mental capacity was still able to draw breath. Kaylee squeezed his hand impatiently. She was getting hungry again. With a shake of his head Simon let Kaylee lead him to the commons area, Inara lingering long enough to gift Jayne with a few words of wisdom.

"If you really want to remain on this ship I offer you two pieces of advice."

Jayne looked at her, confusion writ large upon his face. "Huh?"

"First, go and get Vera."

His face cleared. That he could do. Before he could disappear Inara gave him the second piece. For free. "And stop arguing with the Captain. You won't win and we don't need the disruption on the ship. If you don't want to think of yourself think of Kaylee."

The mercenary blinked. Kaylee? What the good gorram did him getting ansty with the Captain have to do with their mechanic? *Wode ma*, as if he'd take advice from a whore. Didn't care how fine and fancy she was. "Don't take orders from ya."

Inara gracefully walked passed him. They were crazy, every last one of them. At the tug on his trouser leg Jayne found himself staring down at two bright blue eyes. The look of not happy boring into his brain. A mite unsettling seeing how the look was coming from a five year old. Joshua frowned up at him with barely-there eyebrows.

"*Sagua*."

Jayne's confusion switched to anger without even missing a beat. But Joshua's next words cut through the building storm and left Jayne feeling weightless.

"He needs you. Won't tell you 'cause that would be weak. Won't back down 'cause you wouldn't respect that an' he needs to know he can trust you."

"What d'ya mean short stuff?"

"I've got a name."

Jayne sneered but it didn't intimidate the indignant boy. For someone who was growing up looking more and more like Wash every day, the bedrock of steel in the child was more than a mite disconcerting. Jayne wondered if some of the Captain was rubbing off on the child. The notion put a shiver down his back. "Okay - Joshua."

His point made the boy relaxed, his voice sounding childlike again. Jayne found the boy by turns affectionate and unnerving. "You stayin', Jayne?"

The mercenary looked suspicious. "*Weishenme*? You want me to?"

"Depends."

"On what?"

"Whether you wanna be crew an' family or ballast."

It took a minute or two after Joshua had gone before Jayne realised he had just been likened to a sack of grit. Through the momentary flash of irritation, Jayne could not prevent the grin spreading over his face. Boy weren't weak and that weren't nothing. The mercenary liked it that Joshua wasn't afraid to speak his mind. Made him feel all kinds of proud, not that he would tell the boy. Jayne had no intention of leaving Serenity, he had just been blowing off steam was all. Then he remembered the look on the Captain's face. Course, Mal knew that, right?

* * * * *

Daniel Donnelly was a tall gangling man of extended proportions. He looked like he had been tied to a gorram rack then stretched six inches beyond his normal growth, and him being a tall thin man to begin with. His long sallow face had that hound dog look beloved of losers the 'verse over. Malcolm Reynolds could feel his hope slip a little further the longer he gazed at their new prospective employer. Deliberately he made sure not to catch Zoe's eye. He was not sure he would be able to take the surpressed laughter shining back at him. Gorrammit, didn't she know he wanted smooth? How could you bring babes into the 'verse when all you got to trade with was thieves, fools and murderers? Now to that impressive tally could be added the criminally insane. Inwardly he sighed, could his day get any worse?

"*Duibuqi*, Mr Donnelly, but I think you're confusin' us with another ship. We take legitimate cargo, *dong ma*?"

Donnelly's eyes flashed with something too close to madness to call. "It *will* be legitimate cargo, Cap'n."

"No offence but how do you conjure that with Alliance imprintin' all over the goods?"

The man smiled. "Don't tell me you haven't handled imprinted goods before, Cap'n, 'cause I'd have to call you a liar."

Mal felt Zoe stiffen, knew her fingers would be itching to squeeze the trigger. Behind him Jayne was silent, a relief and a worry rolled into one. The Captain liked it best when he could see and hear his mercenary but someone had to watch his back and he needed Zoe out front where the two of them could effectively set up a nice little cross fire if the job went south as seemed likely. "Seems to me," Said Mal mildly. "If you're wantin' someone to tote your sundries it wouldn't be smart to be insultin' them."

"Cap'n Reynolds, nothin' is certain in the 'verse. All wanna eat, all wanna live. I say let 'em. We all gotta die sometime, worryin' about it don't make you bullet proof so that really leaves just one question. You wanna die with a full belly or an empty one?"

"Just so long as it ain't full o' lead." Jayne murmured darkly.

The Captain took his time responding, his eyes locked on Donnelly. "Don't wanna die at all."

* * * * *

"Don't like it, sir."

They were striding back up Serenity's ramp, the thin sun beating down half heartedly. The Captain paused just inside the door and waited until Jayne was on before closing the ship up. "I don't like it either but we need fuel, supplies..."

"Just don't think this is the way to go is all."

He had no words to say to that. Mal watched Zoe go on up to retrieve her son from Inara's shuttle. Jayne was looking at him all steady-like from under the rim of his broad brim hat. "Spit it out whatever it is Jayne before it chokes you."

"Money's good."

The Captain blinked, feeling a little disappointed. So. It always came down to the money after all. Then he saw Jayne's expression twist.

"Just ain't good enough."

Another blink and the mercenary was gone. Mal turned over those last words and slowly smiled, feeling something inside begin to relax. He had told Donnelly he would give him his answer in the morning, resisting all the man's efforts to get him to agree there and then. Now he was glad for the breathing space. Would give them time to hit atmo before sending back the "thanks but no thanks" wave that he just knew would turn the town behind them real ugly. This was one time when he would be happy to listen to his mercenary.

* * * * *

Kaylee couldn't help it, every time she thought about food she threw up. Luckily with Simon being a doctor and all he was able to give her something for the nausea but nothing for what ailed her. Inara's voice intruded on Kaylee's gloomy introspection, her presence cheering the mechanic. Not even morning sickness could keep the girl down for long.

"Hey you, how are you feeling?"

Kaylee managed to get her breathing back under control. She lifted her head and looked at Inara over the swell of her belly. "*Hen hao*, it's just - I didn't see Zoe havin' all this trouble with the heavin' an' such."

Simon looked over the pressure cuff as he removed it and methodically began to put it away. Neat and tidy. Everything in its' place. The only thing he couldn't tuck away was the little smile on his face. Idly Inara wondered if he would be as meticulous with the baby's toys. "Everyone is different, Kaylee."

"Figures," Kaylee huffed good naturedly. "I have to get the sick an' complainin' one."

"Hey," Inara chided softly. "Anyone can get travel sick, Kaylee." "That ain't it, 'Nara, baby's been makin' me throw up even on the ground."

Not having anything comforting to say about that, Inara brushed Kaylee's sweat dampened hair from her face and smiled at her friend. Simon stepping up on the other side of the infirmary bed to take Kaylee's hand. Silently Inara marvelled at how relaxed the man was. So different from the nervous untrusting boy he had been when they had first met. Again they had been talking over Kaylee only that time the girl had been gut shot and Simon had been bargaining with his medical skills to get the ship turned around. How much things had changed.

"If you ask me," Said Simon with a smile. "I'd say the baby is taking after you. Just too impatient to be born."

Kaylee was about to protest then smiled instead. Yeah. Baby couldn't wait to be born, well how about that? Shiny.

* * * * *

Up on the bridge Zoe sat in the pilot's seat, little Joshua sitting in her lap, his eyes bright and dancing between the dinosaurs guarding the console and his mother's smiling face. In the co-pilot's chair River watched. The Captain's voice came over the com and gave the order to take off. Zoe let a smile of satisfaction curve her lips.

"Won't do any good." They had just lifted off and Zoe was concentrating on the small amount of traffic landing and taking off. Joshua was watching her hands with fearful fascination as if having to stop himself from snatching the controls from her hands and doing it himself. It was all kinds of amusing to his mother but River knew. Once they were no longer planet bound and safely headed for the Black Zoe turned to look at River. "What do you mean?"

"They won't have to follow if they know where we're going."

"Well that's a neat trick have to gorram say," Said the Captain as he stepped on to the bridge. "Seein's as I dont' know where we're goin' my own self."

River looked at him, all grave and serious. Not a lick of humour on her face. "You can't trust them."

"That would be why we just took off, little albatross. Don't need work that badly."

"Yes, you do but some won't take no for an answer."

"*Fang xin*, ain't nobody gonna follow our gorram trail."

For a moment no one spoke. Zoe was getting a bad feeling. Joshua snuggled closer and she drew comfort from his presence in her arms. The Captain appeared to be waiting for something from River. Their very own Oracle. Only they didn't always understand what the good gorram she was saying until it was too obvious to do them good. Still, mayhap a little patience would pay dividends.

"We need somewhere to block out the signal."

The Captain blinked. "Signal?"

River just stared at him. As her meaning sank in a string of virulent Chinese curses spewed out of the Captain's mouth. Zoe was about to say something about not swearing in front of the child when he turned and she caught a good look at his face. He glanced back at River, all the happy drained out of him. "You sayin' we been tagged?"

A nod was all it took.

The Captain's expression grew grim, jaw tightening with deadly resolve. "You find us that deep dark place, little albatross. Then once we find that ruttin' bug I've a mind to squash them as set us up."

"Mistake."

His look sharpened on her face. "*Weishenme*?"

"His boss won't be happy. Let him reap the bounty he has sown."

"Huh?"

"I think River means Donnelly won't be makin' old bones, sir. No need for us to dirty our hands."

The Captain didn't respond. If he was honest it had a kind of symetry to it but burning in his veins was the desire to find out his own self who was paying Donnelly. The uncomfortable notion settling in his gut that whoever had paid Donnelly might find another body willing to do the same. Someone they might not see coming next time. He couldn't help the worry multiplying inside him, especially with one babe on board and another soon to follow. His boat so full of precious that he was all manner of deadly about protecting them. Not nobody came between Malcolm Reynolds and those he cherished.

* * * * *

It felt good to feel the heft of coins in his hand, the drawstring bag good and heavy. The dull clink music to his ears. Even better when it had cost him so little effort to earn it.

"They had better not find the transmitter."

Donnelly smirked. If there was one thing he excelled at it was being sneaky. "They won't."

"Did the Captain say where they were heading?"

"*Bu qu* but with that canary singing all you have to do is follow the song."

A tall sallow man stepped into the grubby little room. Donnelly was still smirking when the man took a pencil thin rod from his pocket, vaguely wondering why the man was wearing thin surgical gloves. "Have you heard this tune?"

Stepping forward Donnelly watched the little rod, waiting for the music to start. A pinch of pain pricked his nose. Raising the hand that was not holding the money he touched his nose, stunned when his fingers came away slick with blood. "What the...?"

He never finished the sentence. Nerveless fingers sprung open as he collapsed dead on the floor, the dull tinkle of coins rolling just out of reach of his twitching hand. Little spasms jerked through the body then all was still. A few feet away the man who had paid him lay in a graceless sprawl, eyes frozen open in shock, thin trickles of blood running from his nose and ears. The blue handed man deactivated the rod and replaced it in his pocket then, without another glance at the dead men, turned and left the room. Once through the door his colleague fell into step. Not a word needing to pass between them. Like conjoined twins only one thought was uppermost in their minds. Serenity. They would have the ship soon and when they did River Tam's days of freedom would be at an end and everybody who had ever had any contact with her would be wiped off the face of the 'verse.

* * * * *

Inara Serra was getting frustrated and more than a little impatient. Why couldn't the stiff necked *baichi* of a Captain unbend a little? Would it kill him to admit that he had feelings too? Why did he always expect her to be the one making concessions? Why was her work less important than his own? But she knew the reason. Understood that in his own macho way it hurt him every time she took a client. Not seeing it as her profession. Just a job. Not able to divorce the sexual act from the heart's attachment. Inara had known it would be difficult for Malcolm Reynolds was nothing if not a complicated man in many ways but stubbornly straight forward in others. He could never see that loving him had nothing to do with sex. In his eyes, every time Inara laid with someone else she betrayed him. Snorting softly to herself Inara banged about in the kitchen making some tea for herself and Kaylee while she tried to calm down. Simon had mentioned that it might ease the mechanic's queasy stomach though Inara was less convinced. But Simon was the doctor so who was she to argue?

Trying to keep her mind off the Captain, she set a tray and carried three mugs of tea to the infirmary. On the way she passed Jayne. The mercenary shot her a grateful grin and grabbed a mug. "*Xie xie*, 'nara."

Before she could berate him Jayne had gone. Inara's mood was steadily getting darker, her temper not dissipating as she had hoped. She paused a moment outside the infirmary and took a couple of deep breaths then entered the room with a bright smile painted on her face like some exotic mask. "Hey you, thought you could use some tea."

Kaylee was propped up by a mountain of pillows, her cheeks red and puffed out but a huge smile on her face at the sight of her friend. "Aw 'Nara that's thoughtful, ain't it thoughtful Simon?"

The doctor nodded. "It is, *xie xie ni*."

"It's nothing." Inara put the tray on the table nearest Kaylee. Kaylee got a whiff of the scented tea and began to gag. Quickly Simon whisked the tray out of the way just as Kaylee threw up, her face turning ashen as the bile in her stomach ran down the front of Inara's silk dress.

"Oh 'Nara, *duibuqi*!" Kaylee looked mortified and close to tears.

"Sssh, Kaylee, sweetie, it's alright. *Fang xin*, the dress needed washing anyway."

Kaylee's eyes filled with tears, Simon reaching for her hand to reassure her as Inara got a cloth to clean both herself and Kaylee. It was at that moment that the Captain's voice came over the com informing them that they needed to find a place to lie low. Kaylee leaned back on the pillows and closed her eyes, her sweat soaked face twisted up in concentration as she panted, too busy trying to control her breathing as contractions wracked her body. Inara and Simon looked at each other, both of them wondering what in the nine hells their good and glorious Captain had got them into now.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*lese* = crappy *diyu* = hell *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wode ma* = mother of God *sagua*/*baichi* = idiot *weishenme* = why *duibuqi* = sorry *dong ma* = understand? *hen hao* = very good *xie xie* = thanks *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *xie xie ni* = thank you *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)

COMMENTS

Tuesday, June 6, 2006 2:41 PM

LEIGHKOHL


That is one horrible pregnancy for Kaylee, I agree, poor thing! And I liked the conversation between Jayne and Joshua. Inara's irritation was great, and I loved her thoughts on Mal. Jayne stealing the mug of teas great! Nice Job!

Tuesday, June 6, 2006 10:05 PM

BRITCHICK


Dontcha just love them all?

You write so well Ali, as usual when I read this, I'm actually seeing our BDH's playing this out.

Thanks for sharing

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 4:59 AM

LEIASKY


Aww, poor Kaylee. Would like to see Simon better be extra sensitive to her needs. He seems a bit - well, like he was in the series - stiff! And not THAT kind. :)

> Idly Inara wondered if he would be as meticulous with the baby's toys.

I loved Inara's little observations!

>Why couldn't the stiff necked *baichi* of a Captain unbend a little?

Ahh, Inara. Maybe she should just slap him to get him to open his eyes?

And now, ending it on a little cliffhanger. . . that's mean! :)

Thursday, June 8, 2006 10:27 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Definitely poor Kaylee...not fun I presume to be pretty much laid up with pregnany-induced nausea:(

And I am not sure if I really pity Inara right now. Yeah...Mal can be an ass and close-minded about things, but I really think that she need to be a little more open to the hard choices Mal has to make about the crew's wellbeing.

Still..great stuff, Alison:D

BEB

Friday, June 9, 2006 3:24 AM

KISPEXI2


And the plot thickens!

You had me very worried about Jayne leaving for a while! Really liked the way he showed what was important to him. Little Joshua is a scream! I look forward to more of his wit and wisdom. Finally - ooh, poor Kaylee!

Saturday, November 5, 2011 5:51 PM

SHINYZOEKAYLEE


Shinyyy!


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