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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal finds out Inara's missing. Jayne and Book confess what they know.
This chapter alludes to some pretty nasty violence although there's nothing graphic - just hints at it.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1700 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
If they ever get round to cloning humans, I think they should make an army of Joss Whedons so we can have more of his genius.
* * * * *
CHECK MATE: Desperado.
* * * * *
“My name,” Book says solemnly. “My real name.”
There's something so damn unsettling about the preacher's reply that for a moment no-one can think of anything to say. Instead they all stare at him, waiting for him to elaborate, but Book holds his tongue.
“Must be one hell of a name,” Zoe says eventually, the truth of the comment reverberating around the cargo bay even as she says it.
Book nods, just once, his eyes full of an emotion that sure ain't pride.
“Care to tell us what it is?” Zoe takes a step towards him. She's not exactly menacing, being all aware of how the preacher just got them off the Alliance hook, but she does want to apply a little pressure.
“Give a dog a bad name and hang him,” River interjects in a flat monotone.
“Let's not be mentionin' hangin',” Zoe says with a shudder. “So, Shepherd – why don't you introduce yourself?”
Book looks across to where Mal's still form lies on the trolley and bites his lip. He turns to Simon. “Have heard tell as how hearing's the last sense to go. And that folk often remember things said when they were unconscious. That right, Doctor?”
“Absolutely. There are many documented cases. In fact, in his case study of ...”
“Tell us yer gorram name, preacher!” Jayne demands, unwilling to listen to more of Simon's doctor-speak.
“Prefer to wait until the Captain regains consciousness. Story's a long one. Don't want the Captain only half-knowing it.” He pauses, remembering. “Besides, after my little adventure on Jianyin I made him a promise of sorts ...”
He's interrupted by a strange noise issuing from the back of Mal's throat. Simon looks anxious. “I really must run some checks on him now,” he says and pushes the trolley off towards the infirmary. Kaylee trails along behind, trying to smile bravely but she's absent-mindedly wringing her hands.
“So, with your permission...” Book says quietly to Zoe who seems fearful of letting Mal out of her sight, even though he's in Simon Tam's safe hands.
“OK, Shepherd,” she agrees. “We'll wait for the Cap'n.”
“Hell, I wanted to know,” Jayne complains as the preacher leaves for his bunk. “Ya had him on the back foot there – you shoulda nailed him,” he tells Zoe impatiently.
“Hammer,” River whispers to herself.
* * * * *
Saffron hurls the mallet to the ground furiously. She's used this technique many a time before and it's never failed. She glares at Inara with undisguised hatred. She will not be defeated by this tian sa de biao!
The case in front of her holds an awesome array of torture instruments, some of whose purpose is clear, others less so. It's one of the latter she selects – a spine-covered cylinder with a retractable crown of sharpened claws at one end. Saffron rolls it slowly between her hands, savouring the way the barbs sink into palms with an acid sting at the slightest pressure.
She turns back to her quarry, eyes glinting with determination, and lays the device on Inara's lap so that the Companion can compose her own nightmares about the injuries it will inflict.
“I told him nothing.” The words grate out. “You know ... you know I love him. Why would I endanger his life?”
“Tai kong suo you de xing qiu sai jin wo de pigu!” Saffron explodes. Because at last the penny drops and she realizes Inara has been telling the truth all along. Stupid piece of crap that she is, she's prepared to die to protect that pretentious, self-satisfied, holier-than-thou hun dan!
Frustrated, Saffron kicks Inara hard in the shin before recovering herself. She turns to Monty's henchmen who have been watching proceedings with a growing sense of anticipation mingled with the fear that their reward may not last long enough to be enjoyed.
“OK, boys.” There's that cooing, little-girl tone again. “She's all yours. If what they say is true, she's got skills you've never imagined - not even in your dirtiest fantasies. So, enjoy! I hear she's well worth taking advantage of...”
One of the benefits of being a doctor is that you always have something to do in an emergency. Whilst others are being tortured by raging emotion, you can concentrate on procedures and protocols and push aside the feelings that might tear you apart if there were nothing else to fill the void. No matter if clinical necessity makes you seem like a robot. Better that than give way to your feelings of terror and inadequacy..
There's comfort to be had in doing, in hiding behind the doing. Simon knows he's a lot like the Captain in that respect. Both would rather act than talk and neither is good at expressing their deepest feelings ... No wait, there are some feelings – like anger, frustration and vengefulness – that Mal has no trouble in expressing. Even if he does tend to so with his fists rather than words. So perhaps they aren't so much alike after all, Mal's volatility in stark contrast to his doctor's control.
Simon checks his patient's vitals yet again and punches the data into his log. Wonders if he should rearrange the pillows? Get another blanket? No. None of that is necessary. The Captain is comfortable. He's received first-rate surgery and arrived with more than enough high quality drugs to see him through this. He might even make it without Simon's medical expertise.
The thought that Mal might not need him there is more disconcerting than the medic would have expected. He fiddles with the dressing at the Captain's throat unnecessarily and tries to pretend it doesn't worry him.
Well, no more than anything else. Worry is the one constant in Simon's life. When he's not worrying about the ebb and flow of his sister's sanity, he's busy trying to second-guess the Captain. Constantly trying to keep the two of them from clashing and to avoid being caught in the middle when they do. So it's not really surprising he spends so much time thinking about how Mal might be feeling, how he might react to any given situation. It's not as if there's any more to it than that.
“Can I come in?” It's Kaylee. The anguish has left her face but she's still pale and serious. “Is he OK?”
Simon smiles. Dear Kaylee. He's never met anyone so full of unconditional love or who wears their heart on their sleeve quite so openly. He wishes he were more like that. “He's fine. Another day or two and he'll be up and about. And in a month he'll be back to yelling at us all again.”
Kaylee's frozen smile warms as it spreads from her mouth to her eyes. She goes over to the trolley and takes Mal's hand in hers. “Hear that, Cap'n? Simon's callin' you bossy!” she says lacing her fingers through his and holding on tight. How easily touching comes to her.
Then River appears and the centre of Simon's world shifts. She looks from her brother to Kaylee to Mal and then back to Simon. “It's not a triangle,” she tells him in a voice that implies it really ought to be obvious. “It's a square with a missing corner.”
* * * *
Simon has assured Zoe that given the circumstances the Captain's condition is better than satisfactory and with Mal still showing no signs of coming round, she decides it's time to retire and get some rest herself.
When she reaches the bottom of the ladder into their bunk, Wash leaps up and rushes over to her, dancing about as though he's trying to hide something. “Close your eyes, baobei,” he urges.
Zoe smiles indulgently and lowers her lids. “What's goin' on, sweet-cakes?” she asks in a throaty purr, assuming that his game is a prelude to love-making. She takes in a deep, contented breath and notices a luxurious though subtle scent filling the room.
“A little surprise – a welcome home,” Wash says, steering her across the room. “OK, you can open your eyes now.”
He's shuttered off a one corner with a bamboo screen and filled it with scented candles. Serenity's one half-shell bathing bowl holds a litre or two of water on which float pink and white petals. Zoe's smile broadens and the passionate love she feels for her husband glows brightly in her deep, dark eyes. She pulls Wash into her arms and slowly kisses him. “Thank you. How did you...?”
“Thought you might want to get clean of that planet's dust. Got the candles and flowers from Inara a while back. For use on a special occasion.” He pushes a stray curl back from her temple with gentle fingers. “Figured my wife coming home to me – my *pregnant* wife coming home to me - is about as special as it gets.”
Her arms tighten around him and she runs a hand down from his shoulder blade and past his waist to press him closer with a squeeze of his buttock. “Might wanna get dirtier first ...” she rumbles against his neck.
Wash pulls back with a regretful sigh. “Did I say that I made hot water specially? You should use it now before all you're left with is tepid.”
Not wanting to disappoint him, Zoe starts unfastening her waistcoat. “Don't think tepid's gonna be a problem tonight...” she says fixing him with a look that all but melts his spine as her fingers work their way down the buttons of her shirt which she then tosses aside. The warm light from the candles emphasizes the swell of her breasts and for a moment Wash is dumb-struck at how beautiful she is.
She pulls off her pants and underwear and positions herself carefully in the water. “You gonna stand there gawpin' all night or are you gonna scrub my back?” she chuckles at the way Wash is rooted to the spot.
He hurries over and picks up the sponge. “Ready and standing by for back-scrubbing duties, ma'am,” he declares, plunging the sponge into the bath and squeezing it out against the nape of her neck so that the water travels in golden candle-lit rivulets down the chocolate truffle skin of her back. “It is so good to have you home. For a while there...”
“Hush, now. Let's not...”
“But what if..? I'd have ... What was Mal...?” Damn it! He wasn't going to start in on the Mal thing. At least not yet, he wasn't.
“He ain't here,” Zoe says softly although her voice has a tight edge to it. “Let's jus' think about ....” Suddenly she's curling forward, fists clenched and groaning.
“Zoe! What is it?”
“Noth...” she starts to say when another wave of cramping pain flares through her abdomen, forcing the air from her lungs. She draws her knees up to her chest and grits her teeth against the pain.
Wash feels dread sieze him by the throat. He looks down and sees his wife's bath water turning red.
* * * *
At first it's like looking through glass smeared with grease but gradually his eyes start to focus. White panels, metal strips and harsh, bright lighting. The smell of disinfectant confirms Mal's assessment that he's in the infirmary. For a merciful second or two, he can't remember why. Then fragments of the Xenos job crowd his memory. Powell, crates of guns, a rope, Zoe's grief-stricken face ... Well, at least he ain't dead and that's not nothin'.
There's a pain in his throat, dulled some by drugs he's sure. Apart from that he doesn't feel too bad.
He lets his head roll to one side and is horrified to see Zoe laid out on the exam table. Her lips curve into a smile as his eyes meet hers. “Glad to have you back, Sir.”
He's frowning, eyes wide and questioning. “Why're you in here? What happened?” he tries to ask, all in a rush but nothing comes out other than a peculiar rasping whisper.
“Try not to talk, Sir. You suffered a bit of trauma to the neck. Had to cut into you my own self...” She grins at the face he pulls. “Thought you might wanna keep breathin' is all,” she explains. “Then the Alliance patched you up...”
“What?!!” Mal can't even to speak, let alone yell. “What?!” he asks again, mouthing the word precisely and gesturing wildly with his hands.
“Shepherd used his influence,” she confides darkly. “Said he'd explain about that when you came to.”
Mal's eyes are getting wider and wider and his mouth falls open. This don't make no sense at all. He turns his attention back to Zoe, directs a questioning finger at her and raises his eyebrows.
“Bit of a scare with the baby, Sir,” she tells him, then as his expression clouds over and he tries to push himself up from the trolley she hurries on, “but I'm fine. The baby's fine. Simon says it was probably the stress. Just have to rest up a bit.”
Wash is sliding the door open and enters. “Which means no more jobs, Sir,” he says emphatically and then, in response to the glare Mal is giving him, “Sorry, Mal, you'll just have to get used to the idea. I am putting my foot down.” A quick glance at Zoe. “ If that's all right with you, sweetie?”
Mal is clenching his fists with frustation and his eyes are burning with annoyance. He'd already come to the same decision himself and bitterly resents being pre-empted. “You” he mouths silently at Wash, wagging his finger aggressively at the pilot.
“What?” Wash asks, a mischievious twinkle in his eyes. “You got something to say, Mal? Well come on then, spit it out!”
... a day later ...
“And just where do we think we are going?” The prissy, pissy voice behind him is Simon's. Mal freezes, mid-step then decides to keep walking, pretending not to hear. “I know you can hear me.”
Mal spins round and favours his medic with a black scowl. Simon ignores it. Mal punches a hand sideways into the wall. Gorramit! No-one seems able to take him seriously since he's been reduced to whispering at them.
“You should be in bed,” Simon says, returning Mal's glare with a stern look of his own. “Don't make me force you.”
The laugh is out before Mal can worry about the pain it will cause him. And it does. He presses a hand to his throat, eyes watering with surprise at how much it hurts.
Simon takes his elbow and tries to propel him back towards his bunk but Mal resists. “What's so important that it can't wait a day or two?” Simon sighs.
The pain in Mal's eyes intensifies. How to say it? How to say it in the desperate, pleading little whisper that's all that's left of his voice without sounding utterly pathetic? “Inara.”
A wry, indulgent smile twitches over Simon's lips. “You want a visit from Inara?” he asks in a tone that might be amused. Or even sardonic.
Mal grinds his teeth together. No, he wants to yell, *I* want to go see *her*. Kick in her shuttle door and demand to know why she's been too busy to enquire after my health when I very nearly ruttin' well died!
Instead he just nods, a touch miserably.
Simon takes pity on him. “I'll make you a deal – you go back to your bunk and I'll ask Kaylee to speak to Inara.”
Mal blinks hard and gives an almost imperceptible defiant shake of the head. He flashes Simon a fake smile. All the while imagining the numerous ways he's going to make the doctor suffer for this once he's back to full fitness.
“She ain't there, Simon. Ain't been there for days, I'd reckon,” Kaylee wails. “It's like she's just vanished into the Black.”
Simon frowns. He has a bad feeling about this. Feels somewhat guilty too, because he really should have investigated Inara's failure to fret about Mal being unconscious earlier. He can't think of another time when the Captain's life was in danger that she wasn't there, getting in his way, emotions leaking out from behind the impassive Companion's mask she wears. To tell the truth, he preferred being alone with his patient. It enabled him to monitor his progress by paying careful attention to his skin colour and listing to the sound of his breathing. By laying two fingers on the inside of his wrist and feeling the pulse throb beneath them.
“What shall I tell the Cap'n?” Kaylee asks fearfully. “I'm worried, Simon. Really worried.”
“What you worryin' 'bout now, li'l Kaylee?” Jayne asks, loping into the commons and flopping down onto one of the sofas. “Lack of willin' menfolk? Cos, hell, I ain't doin' anythin' special....” He gives her a warm-hearted leer.
“Do you have to?” Simon asks, appalled.
“It's Inara, Jayne,” Kaylee confides. “The Cap'n wants to see her and she ain't in her shuttle.”
The leer vanishes and all the colour drains out of the mercenary's face. “Ai ya, wo men wan le!” he tells Books as the preacher steps down into the room.
“What you talkin' about?” Kaylee asks. “S'nothin' to do with you. It's Inara... Oh!”
Jayne nods grimly at her, then turns to the Preacher. “Least Mal's too weak to be wieldin' a monkey wrench,” he suggests with more than a touch of gallow's humour. “He'll only be able to kill one of us, tops.”
“The Captain won't be killing anyone, Jayne,” Book says calmly, the voice of reason. “Not when we explain.”
“Explain what?” Wash asks from the door way. “To who?”
“Plucked all the petals off the daisy,” River pipes up from her position on the kitchen counter where she sits, swinging her legs. “Chain's broken now.”
Simon wonders if he should be getting something for Mal's blood pressure. The Captain is madder than he's ever seen him, which makes for a pretty awesome sight. As soon as the words were out of Jayne's mouth, he slammed him into the nearest wall and now has his face inches from the mercenary's, looking for all the 'verse like he might tear the flesh off it with his teeth.
“I'm sorry, Mal. I di'n't know what else to do...” In these situations Jayne always forgets he physically much stronger than Mal. He seems to shrivel under the heat of the Captain's ire.
“Captain, if I might...” Book steps forward.
His placatory tone does nothing to assuage Mal's fury. “No!” At least he can still hiss.
“Think we should hear him out, Sir,” Zoe says, laying a firm hand on Mal's shoulder. “Seems the Shepherd's may have more'n one real interestin' tale to tell.”
Mal releases Jayne by digging the heels of his hands into his chest and shoving the big man hard backwards into the wall again, all the while fixing him with a furious glare. Then he spins round to confront the preacher. He folds his arms across his chest, his expression taut and challenging.
He listens in silence as Book defends Jayne's actions and how he supported him. When he gets to the bit about Inara trying to inject poison into Wash, the pilot gasps and Zoe mutters something about skinning the gorram whore alive.
“See?” Jayne pleads. “I knew this'd happen. I was tryin' to keep things uncomplicated. Smooth.”
There are so many questions rattling around in Mal's brain, he feels quite dizzy. Looks to his crew to anchor him. Zoe's face is expressionless but her eyes burn with a dangerous resolution. Wash looks stunned and more than a mite sick. Kaylee's in denial. She's trying to smile whilst she hunts for an explanation that will make everything OK but her brow is creased with worry. Jayne wipes the sweat from his forehead and shoots a grateful look at Book who's serious but calm. Simon's face conveys shock and disbelief.
But River's the one that worries Mal. Silent tears are running down her cheeks, dripping from her chin. Some instinct tells him it's more than the current row that's upsetting her and he don't like it. Don't like it at all.
“Should have told me, Jayne.” With effort he manages to force the words out, his voice hoarse with pain. “Wa'n't your decision to make ... even if you was tryin' to be helpful ...”
“No, Mal,” Jayne say apologetically, relieved that the threat of being spaced is receding.
“ ... but things ain't right between us. You find her. Then we'll see what's to be done.”
All of a sudden the effort and emotion become to much for him. He sways a little and falls back onto his bed. His eyes close involuntarily.
“The Captain is in serious need of some quiet,” Simon announces firmly. “I think everyone should leave.”
Mal's eyes snap open again. “Find her, Jayne.”
The sound of Saffron singing to herself as she approaches sends chills up Monty's spine.
“All done, hubby,” she tells him, throwing herself onto the couch and kicking off her shoes.
Monty feels queasy. Never had much of a stomach for this sort of thing. “And everything's ... ?”
“Cleared up and tidied away, silly!” she simpers. “Now, how's about opening a bottle of that counterfeit bubbly to celebrate?”
Friday, June 18, 2004 12:05 AM
Friday, June 18, 2004 2:35 AM
Friday, June 18, 2004 5:13 AM
Friday, June 18, 2004 5:37 AM
Saturday, June 19, 2004 7:56 AM
Saturday, June 19, 2004 10:42 AM
Monday, June 21, 2004 7:38 AM
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