BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

ARTEMISPRIME

The Return of St. Christopher - Chapter 2
Thursday, July 27, 2006

The pieces are starting to come together, with a twist or two thrown in. Be sure to read "The Way", "Judas and Mercy" and "Redemption of the Broken Vessel" and the previous chapter to understand this fic.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1225    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer: all things Firefly/Serenity are the property of Whedon et al. I'm not making any money off this, just playing with the toys.

A/N: special thanks to hisgoodgirl for the reviewing and notes.

Mal jerked his head towards the rise and saw Jayne taking aim once more. Before he could yell, another shot nicked his jacket and two more came dangerously close to his chest. He dropped the crate and himself, pulling his gun. Zoe followed suit, her gun already aimed.

The warrior woman fired three shots in quick succession at the transport ship still parked. The two more from Jayne’s revolver ended the gunplay. She raised an eye to Mal. “I might have to agree with you on deals with Badger, Sir.” She holstered her weapon and looked to the crate. “We know what’s inside?”

Mal surveyed the surroundings with special emphasis on the ship and the men who had decided to double-cross them and regain their illegally bartered goods. “Informed it was seeds.”

Zoe lifted the lid and nodded. There were indeed seeds inside. Enough for a dozen families to farm on Verbana. She looked to Mal who was now storming to the transport, his pistol still out.

He kneeled at each of the guards until he found one still breathing. He hoisted the guard by his collar. “Who paid you?”

The man only gurgled.

“You got it in yer head t’just take back what we traded for nice like?”

“Parsons,” the dying man wheezed.

Mal’s eyes narrowed. “And he would be?”

“Me.” A shadow stepped from the hold of the transport, his rifle aimed very squarely at Mal’s chest. Rolling his eyes, Mal raised his arms and let his pistol drop. The shadow now stood in full view and it took all of Mal’s self-control to not burst out laughing.

The man was hideously dressed in some sort of colourful cape/robe and was a good foot shorter than Mal. His baby face was contorted into something that might have been menacing, but only came across as a child having a temper tantrum.

“Now, you’re going to turn around and walk away. And don’t-”

The barrel blast knocked the man flat. Mal looked behind to Zoe who only shook her head no. Glancing further back, he watched his hired gun amble across the field, his shotgun now resting on his right shoulder. Coming to the ship, now with Zoe at the Captain’s side, he spied the man bleeding on the cargo hold.

“Seems to me that my man gave you a piece a mercy,” Mal said. “Coulda killed you clean with that shot, but aimed only for your arm. I do suggest you scurry away, pray to your warm and fuzzy for the gift and never, ever come across my path again. Dong ma?”

The man nodded despite the pain and scrambled backwards further into the ship. Mal, Zoe and Jayne exited, heard the ramp close and the whine of engines beginning to warm. By the time they reached the mule with the cargo, the ship was airborne.

Zoe watched it a moment. “You feeling as old as I am, Sir?”

“Just a smidge,” he answered, jumping into the mule, grabbing the hook and tossing it back to Jayne who hooked it onto the crate. A minute later, it was securely stowed along with the remaining partners in crime.

They rode back to Serenity in silence, unloaded and hid the crate then stored the mule.

“Everything good to plan?” Kaylee bounced in, taking extra notice of Jayne.

Mal pulled her into his chest, an arm around her shoulders. “Peachy keen. Now let’s get off this gorram rock and off to finer pastures.” Releasing his mechanic, he went for the stairs, but paused. He watched as Kaylee stood near Jayne, scanning him for any wear or tear. Confident, she lightly punched him in the arm then swivelled up the opposite stairs. Mal’s eyes narrowed. This was not looking good.

Falling into the pilot’s seat, Mal huffed. “Soon come a time when a man won’t be able to do fair illegal business.” He flipped a couple of switches.

“Not today,” River grinned, in full control of the ship as she lifted it into the sky. “Today we get to feed the world.”

Mal cocked a grin. “That we will, li’l One.” He glanced to his co-pilot and watched her take the ship up, letting Serenity’s engines fill him with a deep rumble.



Before... The trip to Athens and the salvage was going to take the better part of four days, a route River deemed necessary due to solar flares and other astronomical reasoning that went far beyond the Captain’s understanding.

“This is best,” she had finally said with a little sigh of frustration.

River now sat at the kitchen table looking for all the world to be reading a book. Kaylee was washing up the evening meal’s dishes, Simon was helping and Zoe had left for her bunk. Inara strolled in to make some tea and observed with some interest Jayne staring at five rows of over turned cards, five in each row. He was deep in concentration.

“What’s going on?” Inara whispered to Kaylee.

“Huh?” She looked from her dishes. “Oh. It’s for Jayne. River thinks it’ll help some with his memory.”

“Is it working?”

Kaylee shrugged. “Don’t know. He ain’t done nothin’ yet.”

Jayne’s hand hovered a card then turned it over, revealing the image of a boy. He narrowed his eyes.

“He’s supposed to find the match,” Simon added.

The Companion nodded as she filled her tea pot with water. “Memory. A child’s game.”

Jayne stared hard at the rows, adamant to find the correct match. Finally flipping one over, he smacked it. A dog. He sat back and sulked.

“Again,” River said from behind her book.

He glared at her, but resumed his focus on the cards. After two more false turns, he found the other boy card and grinned up at Kaylee now wiping her hands and moving back to the table.

“You’re doin’ good, Jayne.”

“Horse.”

Jayne’s mouth twitched and contorted, but he did as told by River. Knew he’d seen the horse, a brown one. Lifting one over, he huffed. Stupid tree.

“It’s right...” Simon reached across the table to flip a card when Jayne’s hand came with terrific speed and grabbed his wrist. The Doctor was startled and a little afraid at seeing the narrowed eyes look at him. Jayne released his hold and Simon pulled his hand back.

“Doesn’t want help. Own two feet.” River turned a page in her book.

Inara finished preparing her tea and took the pot and two cups to the bridge. Simon went to his quarters leaving Kaylee to pull out some paper and a pen to write a letter home.

After another five agonising minutes, Jayne slammed his hand on the table and wiped the cards into disarray. He shoved his chair back with a loud screech and snorted. Kaylee looked up from her seat in the kitchen’s lounge and saw the frustration and anger on the mercenary’s face. Putting her pen down, she rose and went to him.

“C’mon, Jayne.” She grasped his hand. “I got just the thing t’make you feel better.” Tugging on the big man, she smiled when he followed along without any fuss.

River peered over her book to watch the pair head to the infirmary, the little grin hidden.



Kaylee led Jayne to the medical bed and instructed him to get up. Setting his crutch aside, he did as told. She began rooting through some cabinets until she found a bowl, cloth and soap.

“You don’t got to fret about that game, Jayne,” she said, filling the bowl with warm water. “We can all see ya improvin’ lots.” She dipped the cloth in the water, letting it become warm then wrung it out. She faced him. “You let me put this on yer face?”

Jayne swallowed, still unable to look Kaylee in the eye, but nodded his agreement.

She smiled and pushed him to lie back on the bed to allow the cloth to settle and warm his skin. “Was writin’ to my folks,” she continued, “tellin’ ‘em all the new and excitin’ stuff.” She laughed. “Well, not all mind you. Don’t need t’scare them.” She opened a drawer and found her searched for object. “It’s nice writin’, ya know? I miss ‘em some, ‘specially when we’re out in the Black for a long while. Should be ready.” She carefully lifted the cooled, but still warm cloth from Jayne’s face. “Scoot up, now and sit over the edge.”

Jayne did.

Pulling the bowl from the counter to the little table next to the bed, she dropped a bar of soap in. “Wavin’ is good when we’re in range, but I kinda like the old way. Can’t hold a wave like ya can a letter.” With soapy hands, she face Jayne. “You let me?”

He hesitated, but allowed the woman to soap his face. Swallowing hard at her touch, he kept his eyes down. Had been a long time since any woman had touched him and he felt a tension at it. Like it was his first time. He still didn’t care for her or anyone gettin’ close t’the ugliness drawn across his face.

“Relax, Jayne,” she soothed. Finishing, she rinsed her hands then brought over the razor.

The big man’s eyes widened at the metal and he gripped the bed with steel fingers. Other bits of metal assaulted his brain in memory and his eye flinched.

Kaylee stopped. “I done this before, you know,” she said with a low voice. “When you was out.” She shrugged. “I wanted t’help and that seemed ‘bout th’only thing I could do with how bad you was laid up.” She rested a hand on his knee. “Don’t aim to hurt you, Jayne, and if you don’t want it, we’ll just call it a night.”

Jayne felt a shiver. Kaylee’d given him a shave? Because she wanted to help him? He stared hard at her hand, soft and delicate with bits of grease worn into her fingers. He was feeling all manner of confused.

A drop of soap landed on his lap.

“Jayne?” she called.

Lifting his chin a little to the right, he opened himself up to her. He shut his eyes as her gentle stroke scraped the longish whiskers from his cheek. More strokes. Fingers angled his chin down, then over and up again. He found himself slightly dazed. She spoke of nothing important, just words to fill the space, but they were familiar to him. Her voice lulled him and gave him a sense of contentment he didn’t know he’d been missing. He felt himself under a spell he’d seen in some women and finally understood what they’d found so intoxicating about hair brushing.

Kaylee removed the last bits of soap and dabbed her finger on his nose with a laugh. Rinsing the wet cloth again with hot water, she pushed it onto his skin. The sensation was comforting and dulled the slight burning.

“Just like my daddy used t’do when he wanted a good clip,” she said, removing the cloth. “Now, for the chin and lip.” She pulled out a pair of fine scissors and cupped his jaw. “Don’t go movin’ on me, Jayne Cobb, or this won’t go pretty.”

While she concentrated intently on trimming his goatee, Jayne ventured a look to her eyes. They glittered and laughed, with the occasional frown at she increased her focus on a troublesome patch to cut. His eyes followed down her nose, to lips parted slightly, to a smooth neck, to the curves of her breasts. He felt blood cursing through to parts of him that might prove embarrassing. Shutting his eyes tight, he willed himself to gain control.

“Smooth,” she whispered, her breath tickling his nose.

Damn but if she didn’t caress his cheek that way! Made his control all manner of impossible. He opened his eyes to find her smiling at him, her hair covering her face a little. He tucked a piece behind her ear, letting his fingers linger on the softness.

The woman smiled and leaned in slightly to his hand for a brief moment.“Want to see?” She stepped back and reached for a mirror. “Pretty good job, don’tya think?” She lifted the mirror, but he smacked it away. Kaylee jumped at his reaction. “I...oh...” Her brows furrowed.

He stood up from the bed and immediately regretted it. His knee rebelled and he lost his balance until he could get a grip of the bed. He leaned heavily on it, with most of his weight on his right side.

Kaylee had stepped back when Jayne stood, but now was in close again. He could smell the strawberry shampoo and engine grease and nearly felt himself fall again. With his other hand, he reached over to grab his crutch.

She stopped him with a simple touch.

Grasping his hand, she held it between her own. “That was stupid a me, Jayne. I’m sorry. But I ain’t gonna apologise for bringin’ ya here. You need some feel good time an’ I know that ya ain’t been gettin’ any when we go planetside.” His expression made her laugh. “Seemed about time for ya t’feel some tender lovin’ care after all the mess an’ I’m pretty sure this fit the bill.”

She stepped closer, her leg rested against his. “You see these?” She exposed the left side of her neck. “Simon done a good job makin’ the scars not so bad, but I still don’t much care for ‘em. An’ here.” She lifted her shirt a little and pushed down her coveralls a bit. “This one I hate.” They both thought on the reason for it. “You think I’m ugly ‘cause a them?”

He shook his head, his expression showing confusion on how she could possibly think that about herself.

“Ain’t no different with you. I’m still Kaylee and you’re still Jayne.” She lightly smiled. “Thems just marks. Nothin’ more.”

Reluctantly pulling from her hold, he touched the healed wound, letting his fingers feel the small bump then laid his hand flat. He hadn’t realised that she had done the same to his cheek.



Zoe hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, hadn’t meant to watch Kaylee and Jayne share a tender ritual in the infirmary, but she had needed to pull out a box from storage in the guest quarters. She regarded the pair and the loving touches they shared. Touches she missed terribly.

Sitting on the steps, Zoe checked her breathing while resting her elbows on her knees. Unwilling to close her eyes lest the tears fall, she let her vision blur. Glancing through the window, she saw the smile playing across the mechanic and knew that she had to leave. Wouldn’t seem fitting to have the first mate sobbing in the dark and resenting the happiness others were finding.

Tapping into her military strength, she stood and went to find her missing box.



Later... Each of the crew shivered a little as the cargo bay door was lowered and the gust of wind swept into the hold. Mal had said that where they were landing on Verbana was likely to be in autumn so they had dressed appropriately. Kaylee was all grins as she tugged on her teddy bear jacket. Simon merely twisted his coat collar up and tucked his head.

“This doesn’t feel like autumn,” he said.

Mal shrugged after snapping the last of his coat’s buttons. “Welcome to stay on board, Doctor, and mind the ship.”

“No thank-you,” he replied. He’d been far too long in cramped quarters and welcomed any fresh air, no matter how chilly.

“Oh, come on, Simon,” Kaylee said playfully. “Maybe it’ll snow!” She hadn’t seen much of the white stuff in her life and the stories of children playing in it from Earth-That-Was made her a little giddy that snow would fall this trip. Might help erase the memory of her last snow and Tracey.

“Zoe, Jayne. You’re with me.” Mal climbed into the mule and waited for the other two. “Remember, Albatross, lock up the ship. Don’t need no strangers in secret places.” He looked down at the girl now standing alongside the hovering mule.

“I understand. Keep the secrets.” Her large eyes hinted at something more, something Mal knew quite well, but he said nothing.

The mule roared out and the remaining passengers disembarked.

Verbana was a rim world still getting on its feet. There were many places that were lush and mountainous, but the town of Vanspelt where Serenity had landed was on the sparse side. There were a few trees and bushes, but mostly grasses and scrub filled the region. That was okay for the mechanic. Meant more space for junkyards.

Simon watched Kaylee head to the local junk dealer and caught himself sighing.

“Don’t be jealous,” River said, standing next to her brother.

He faced her. “I’m not.”

She poked his nose. “Pinocchio.”

The Doctor huffed. Perhaps he was a little jealous at the attention Kaylee seemed to be throwing the man-ape’s way. Strike that. Jayne wasn’t a man-ape anymore. But it didn’t make him feel any better. He accepted, grudgingly, that Kaylee had been right about him. River was going to come first. And had even come to accept the mechanic as his friend rather than lover. But watching her gaze up to the mule, smile for Jayne and to see him smile back, was downright galling. This wasn’t Kaylee being friendly and helping Jayne recover. There was more.

“Don’t laugh at the pieces when you don’t know the puzzle picture.” River grabbed his hand and dragged him away from the ship. “Want an ice planet.”

“It’s freezing out and you want to eat an...” He held his tongue. She was trying to distract him from becoming mopey. “All right.”



Setting the mule down, Mal was greeted by a lanky man with unruly blond hair. “Lyle Caston. Pleased to finally see this come down.” He looked past Mal to the mule and the crate now carefully being lowered down.

“Happy to oblige,” Mal answered, shaking Lyle’s hand.

Once the crate had been inspected and stored away, Lyle directed the group into the local bar and ushered them to a table with drinks at the ready. They toasted.

“We are indebted to you, Captain Reynolds,” Lyle began. “We’ve been having some problems getting the crops to reproduce enough seed for the following season. That stock you sent might just be the right mix to fix the problem.”

Mal set his now empty glass onto the table. “That’s peachy. Now about the money.”

Lyle licked his lips and immediately began rubbing his hands nervously. “About that.” He jumped when Jayne leaned back in his chair causing it to creak loudly. Lyle swallowed and wondered how he was going to get out of this one. That big man looked able to rip your fingers clean off and use them as toothpicks.

Lyle coughed. “I know we told Mr. Badger one thousand, but...well...we just couldn’t raise that. Times are hard here, Captain. We did our best to scrimp up what we needed.” He stopped at the expressions facing him from Reynolds’ crew. He didn’t know who to fear more, the woman or scarred hulk.

“How much have you scrimped up?” Mal asked, letting his fingers fall to his gun-strapped thigh.

“Uh, eight hundred.”

Mal eyed the man suspiciously, letting him squirm some. “Jayne, make sure our friend here stays put. Zoe.” He stood and went to the bar, his first mate following.

“Reckon somethin’ amiss?”

Zoe nodded lightly. “Might be. Then again,” she surveyed the surroundings. Truly was a border planet with little cash. The bar was crudely constructed, the windows were small, the floor was rough and nothing adorned the walls. “Might be he’s telling the truth, Sir.”

Mal twisted a little to watch Lyle continue to fidget under Jayne’s menacing glare. Had to admit, even before the unpleasantness, Jayne had an intimidating pose. With the slash, he was downright threatening without even meaning. Just sat with his arms crossed and his hat low.

Mal also noted that Jayne was still nursing his drink, with barely a third gone. Something was happening to that man and maybe it weren’t all bad. So long as the merc stayed outta the drunk tank, Mal was grateful.

“Course, it’s also a tad interestin’ that Badger informed us on seven-hundred.” His eyes narrowed. Pissant was grabbing thirty percent. And lying on top of it.

“It is, Sir.”

With a quick look to Zoe, Mal returned to his seat. “You gathered eight hundred, ya said?”

Lyle nodded, grateful for the pair’s return to escape the mercenary’s glare.

Mal rubbed the side of his mouth with his thumb. “Mayhap be we can work on that.”

If Lyle’s eyes grew wider, they’d pop out of his head. “Oh, thank-you, Captain Reynolds. Thank-you. Thank-you!” He pumped Mal’s arm near off. “This is...it’s just wonderful!” He looked to the barman. “Another round.”

“Sir, you might want to be careful,” Zoe said. “Folks will start thinking you’re soft.” She smiled and that made Mal smile back. Good to see her being happy for a bit.



That night, the crew found themselves invited to be the guests of honour at the local hotel to thank them for bringing the much desired seeds. Mal balked, but Zoe and Kaylee convinced him to relent and have a little fun.

“Fine, but no drinkin’ from bowls and wearin’ laurels, dong ma?” he said. “And you, no drinkin’ period. Need my pilot sober for early lift off tomorrow.”

River pouted a little, but knew the logic was sound. The Captain didn’t want to wait any longer than he had to meet Inara. She had waved that she needed a few extra days and though Mal was peeved, it did allow him to get the goods to Verbana sooner before retrieving the Companion near Ariel.

The small squeal stopped everyone dead. They turned to Kaylee who was grinning madly behind her hands. They followed her gaze to see Jayne lumbering down the stairs, his ma’s hat on his head and some sort of matching scarf around his neck. He stopped and looked at his audience feeling jittery and uncomfortable.

“You like it!” Kaylee stepped up to him and tugged the end of the scarf. “Weren’t sure, but ya do!” Her eyes sparkled into his and he felt a tug at his lips.

Zoe lifted an eyebrow, River clapped, Simon rolled his eyes and Mal gawked. “You gave him that?” the Captain asked, no hidden hint of surprise in his voice.

“Didn’t just give it,” Kaylee turned around, proud as could be, “I done made it.” Her grin widened.

“It’s lovely, Kaylee,” Zoe said.

“It...uh, matches,” Simon offered. River poked him. “What?”

She just rolled her eyes in frustration at the boob. “Pieces fit.”

Mal was about to say something a little less than appreciative of Kaylee’s efforts when he noticed the small move of the merc’s hand to his holstered gun. He stared at the tableau before him, the small woman in a teddy bear jacket standing serenely in front of a hulking hired gun in a pom-pom hat and matching scarf. Comical wasn’t enough of a description. “Let’s go,” he finally said, hoping he could consume enough brain-cell killing liquid to erase that image from his head.

And the sooner the night ended, the quicker the morning came and the quicker he’d discover why Inara had been cryptic before leaving.

To be continued...

COMMENTS

Saturday, July 29, 2006 6:04 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Gotta love cryptic Inara...seemingly nothing new, but I think there's something big going down;)

BEB


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