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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Only because it's the weekend coming up do you get a double hit! The rescue's on, and the crew prepare ... Feedback, please!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1623 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal was trying to think, studying the plans they‘d gotten off the Cortex of the mines, trying to figure the easiest and safest way in. He’d been staring at them so much his eyes were aching, and he sat back in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose. Movement to his left got his attention, and he looked down the corridor towards the bunks. Freya was just climbing out of Jayne’s quarters, and Mal wondered what the hell she’d been doing down there.
“Mal, I’ve been thinking,” Hank said, stepping down into the dining area from the engine room behind him.
“Your feelings for Zoe’re your concern, so unless it’s got something to do with Tetris, I ain’t exactly in a sharing mood, Hank,” Mal said, not looking around, just watching as Freya turned the corner to go down into the cargo bay.
“It is.” Hank sat down next to him. “I think I know how we can get to land.”
“Well, that ain’t difficult,” Mal said, looking into his pilot’s eager face. “I was figuring on taking a shuttle in, parking her same place as before.”
“I think we can land Serenity at the dock,” Hank said quickly.
“I stayed on the Cortex after downloading those plans,” Hank went on, “checking a few things out. There’s a regular freight run to the mines every two weeks, but once in a while a ship lands on spec, selling luxuries. There’s a thriving town down there, and people like a few niceties occasionally. If we could pick up some goods, make like we’re wanting to do business …” Hank looked at his captain, willing him to see the advantages.
Mal smiled. “It’s a good idea,” he conceded. “What did you have in mind to sell?”
“Well it did cross my mind to offer the girls, but since I figured you’d actually need me alive to come on this job I kinda rejected that idea.”
“Probably for the best,” Mal agreed dryly.
“So I was thinking … we’re passing Beylix. Could pick up a few goodies there, just for window dressing.”
“And it ain’t out of our way. An hour or two won’t make that much difference.” Mal nodded. “Good work,” he said, and Hank grinned.
“Mal?” Jayne said, standing in the doorway.
He looked up. “Yeah?”
“I’ll be coming with ya.”
Mal glanced at Hank, then back at the big mercenary. “What changed your mind?”
“Nothing,” Jayne said. “Just changed it.”
Jayne nodded and went back to his bunk.
“What was all that about?” Hank asked.
“I’ve never yet understood what goes on in that man’s mind,” Mal admitted, but a twitch of his lips suggested he had an idea. “Still, I’ll be glad to have him around if it gets a mite sticky down there.”
“You thinking it could?”
“Ain’t planning on it, Hank, but sometimes plans don’t exactly …”
“Go to plan?”
They arranged the goods they’d bought in the cargo bay, and Inara had brought some of her older clothes and a few other bits and bobs down too, hanging them up from the cages to make it look almost festive.
“What if someone wants to buy?” Kaylee asked, fingering one of the dresses.
“Then sell,” Inara said, smiling. “I’ve got so many clothes, I can’t wear them all. And these aren’t my favourites.”
“Pretty,” River said, lifting down one of the gauzy coats, spinning so that the fabric swirled out around her.
“If you want it, keep it,” Inara said. “That colour goes well with your eyes.”
River stopped. “No. It isn’t mine.” She hung it back up, glancing across at Vinnie who was lounging in the doorway to the infirmary, grinning at her. “Too much pretence,” she added quietly.
Inara smiled. “Well, if Mal doesn’t sell it, I’ll put it away for when you want it. Okay?”
River flashed a smile then ran up the stairs, passing Mal on his way down.
“Hey, you run and fall, I ain’t cleaning it up!” he said, looking up at her.
“I never fall!” River shouted, spinning around one of the support posts before running full pelt for the galley.
“She never does,” Inara said, smiling at him as he reached the floor.
“First time for everything,” Mal said, looking around at the goods on display. “You know, I think we might actually make a profit on this,” he added, picking up a small jewelled mirror.
“And that’s never a bad thing,” Freya put in, coming around the corner of a stack of crates with a heavy blanket in her arms that she arranged on a box.
“Never is,” Mal agreed. “We’ll be landing in about twenty minutes. Hank’s been polite to them and they’re letting us set down at the dock, even said they’ll put the word out about our goods.”
“That’s real friendly of them.”
“Mmn.” Mal looked at Kaylee who was still admiring Inara’s dresses. “You got that little gizmo working, mei-mei?” he asked.
“All done,” the young mechanic agreed. “Managed to fix up a couple, so you can take one each.”
“Good girl,” Mal said approvingly, smiling, and she grinned back. “Serenity all ready?”
“Yes, sir, Captain,” Kaylee nodded. “Soon as you’re back we’ll be set to get going.”
Mal pulled her into his arms and turned her around so her back was against his chest. “Good enough,” he said. “Always knew you’d come in handy some day.” She laughed.
Simon appeared in the infirmary doorway, tapping Vinnie on his shoulder. “You need your dressings changed again before we start,” he said.
“Sure, doc,” Vinnie said, tearing his eyes away from the almost familial scene in front of him. He turned on his heel and went towards the back.
Simon stood for a moment, watching Kaylee, then went to join him.
Mal had seen the look on Simon’s face. “Kaylee, can you go check with Hank we‘ve got enough fuel if we need to make a quick getaway? Might need to fill her up here otherwise.”
“Sure thing, Cap’n,” she said brightly, hurrying up the stairs as fast as her increasing bulk would let her.
Mal waited until she had disappeared, then turned to the two ladies still arranging goods. “So, what’s the problem?”
Freya looked at him in surprise. “Problem? Is there a problem?” She glanced at Inara who shook her head. “Oh, you mean apart from the fact that you’re still crazy?” She went to smile but the look on his face stalled her.
“With Kaylee. More specifically, with her baby.” Freya and Inara exchanged a different look entirely. “So I ain’t as crazy as all that,” he added.
“Simon’s worried,” Inara said finally. “He won’t talk about it – and we’ve both tried – but he’s concerned about the child.”
“I figured as much.” Mal sat down on a crate. “Because of the mines?”
Freya nodded. “He’s a doctor, Mal. More than any of us he knows the kind of things that can go wrong, and Hank’s said he’s been spending a lot of time on the Cortex doing research.”
“Hank knows about this?” Mal was getting annoyed. “How come I’m the last to find out?”
“Because there may not be anything to know about,” Inara said soothingly. “We didn’t want Kaylee to get word, and you’re not the best at hiding your feelings when it comes to her.”
“’Nara, not only am I not crazy, but Kaylee ain’t stupid either. She knows Simon’s worried.” Mal shook his head. “You know, half the troubles on this boat could be solved by people talking to each other.” He looked at Freya. “She’s convinced he told you.”
“Oh, believe me, I’ve tried,” Freya affirmed. “I gather she spoke to you?”
“For better or worse, I’m still captain.” His face softened. “You think there’s something to it?”
Freya shrugged, but Inara said, “No. I don’t think there is.”
“You can be sure of that, can you?” Mal asked.
“No. But I have to believe it.”
Mal glanced at Freya who nodded. “I guess we do,” he said quietly.
Kaylee appeared at the top of the catwalk. “Hank says we’ve got enough fuel to burn us all the way to Earth-that-was, if you wanted.”
He forced himself to relax and smiled up at her. “No profit in that, mei-mei.”
Serenity had settled into her allocated spot and the glow from her engine sunk to a mere whisper.
“We ready for the big rush?” Hank asked, rubbing his hands together.
“You think there’s gonna be that many people want the crap we’ve brought?” Zoe asked, turning over a knitted alligator with a bemused look on her face.
“It’s not crap!” Hank insisted. “I used my very best negotiating skills to purchase a wide and interesting variety of items for our customers’ delectation and delight.”
“Did you ever sell snake oil in a previous life?”
“I’ve done lots of things. Come to my cabin one night and I shall regale you with tales of my derring do, my stands against injustice, my –”
“Inability to control your mouth?”
Hank grinned. “That too.” He laughed. “Funny, but that seems to have gotten me into more trouble than you could imagine.”
“Believe me, Hank, I can imagine quite a bit.”
“You are so wounding,” Hank said, not a bit concerned. “I may have to take all I have to offer and try elsewhere if you’re not nicer to me.”
Hank glared at her, then stuck his tongue out. Zoe did not smile.
“We ready?” Mal called from the catwalk.
Zoe gave Hank a last long glare then looked up. “All ready, sir.”
“Good. You and Inara do what you can, keep up our cover. Hank, get some sleep. Jayne’s already in his bunk, and Simon’s … well, doing whatever he does with Kaylee.” Mal coloured a little but went on, “So get to your bed.”
“I ain’t tired, Mal,” Hank said.
“That don’t matter. I don’t want anyone who was here before being seen. Could jeopardise everything if one of us is recognised before we even get to starting. And it may be a long night so best get what rest you can.”
Hank shrugged. “If you say so.” He headed for the stairs. “’Course, I’d sleep better if I had someone to cuddle up to.”
“Hank,” Zoe called.
He turned, his face lighting up with hope and optimism. “Yes?”
“Here.” She tossed him the stuffed knitted alligator. “Cuddle up to this.”
“It will always remind me of you,” he said, hugging it close. “Something about the smile …“ Then he legged it up the stairs before she could get to him and past Mal, a wide grin on his face.
Mal tried to hide his own smile that threatened to appear.
“One day, sir …” Zoe said.
“Well, not today. ‘Sides, if he weren‘t around, who‘d you have to beat up on?” He looked around. “Where is Inara?”
“I’m here,” the lady in question said, stepping close to him.
“Inara?” He looked her up and down, and couldn’t help but let his jaw drop.
“You like? Freya loaned them to me.” She did a twirl, showing off the tightish pants and cotton shirt she was wearing, her hair pulled back into a loose pony-tail.
“You look … different.”
Inara laughed. “That was the idea. I don’t want to look like a Companion, so we decided this was the best option.”
Mal looked down at her feet. She was still wearing her jewelled slippers. “And those?” he asked.
Inara shrugged gracefully. “Her boots didn’t fit me.”
Mal shook his head. “Well, I have to say you don’t fill them out as well as Freya, but you look … interesting.”
“I think I’ll take that as a compliment, otherwise I might push you off this catwalk.” Inara looked down at Zoe. “We ready?”
“Just waiting on you.”
“Then let’s get selling.” She looked at Mal. “This could be fun – I’ve never sold anything before. Except myself,” she added pointedly.
“Hey, I didn’t say a word.”
“No, I thought I would before you did.” Inara stood on her toes and put a soft kiss on his cheek. “Go on, go back to your bunk. I think Freya’s waiting for you.”
Mal stared at her, then nodded, turning on his heel and going towards the upper level.
Zoe watched him go then pressed the button to open the cargo bay doors. “Show time,” she said.
“Hey,” Mal said, stepping down the ladder into their bunk. “’Nara said you were waiting for me.”
“I am,” Freya said, wearing her silk robe and standing looking into the small mirror.
“You gonna try and talk me out of this again?” he asked, gaining the floor.
“No.” She turned to him. “I just want you to know what you’ll be missing if you get yourself killed.” She slid the robe off to stand in front of him, her skin glowing in the artificial light. “Just make sure you come back to me, Mal.”
He stood stock still, just staring at her, the way her body was soft and muscular at the same time, the look on her face that was reserved for him alone, the very slight curve to her belly that spoke of his child inside her, and he felt his heart thudding in his chest.
“I ain’t gonna leave you, Frey,” he said, crossing the room to take her in his arms.
Kaylee leaned against Simon’s bare chest, her face pressed into his shoulder. “I can’t help it, Simon.”
“I know,” he said, kissing the top of her head. “But you understand why I have to go with Mal.”
“I do. It’s just …”
She looked up into his eyes. “it’s this place. Simon, I know you’re worried about the baby. ‘Bout our daughter.” She felt his embrace tighten a little and knew she was right. “From when we were here before, ain't it?”
“Kaylee, I –”
“You should know me well enough by now to know that you can tell me these things. You think I ain’t concerned too? That our little girl might have problems?” She swallowed, still gazing into his dark eyes, but went on, “She won’t. She’ll be perfect. And even if she isn’t … Simon, she’s our daughter. Yours and mine. Whatever … we’ll love her. Can’t help it – I love her already and she ain’t even born yet. And I know you do too.”
Simon stared into her face, amazed all over again at her strength. “Bao bei,” he whispered. “How was I ever so lucky as to find someone like you?”
“Not just someone like me,” she said. “And I can’t even help you tonight.”
He smiled a little. “Kaylee, my darling, beloved Kaylee, I have to go down there again. But the very fact that I know you’re safe up here is the only reason I can go. You and our daughter.” He put his hand on her belly, stroking the warm skin protecting the child within.
“Just come back.”
“I will.” He leaned over and kissed her lips, feeling them part beneath his, welcoming him in as she always had.
Jayne had a selection of guns laid out on his bunk, making sure they were all clean and ready to go. He wasn’t going to have them jam on him again, that was for sure.
“Are you taking grenades?” River said behind him.
For once he didn’t jump, but only because he was concentrating so hard on not doing so. “I thought I locked my door,” he said gruffly.
“You did.” She moved past him and looked down at the weapons lying on the bed. “You need grenades. More weight.”
He looked into her face, all pale and interesting, and shook himself mentally. Wasn’t gonna go there. “Taking ‘em. Mal prob’ly ain’t gonna be pleased, but I don’t do no job anymore without ‘em.”
“Better to be safe than sorry.” She looked at him and smiled.
Damn, but she was pretty sometimes, he thought, then almost bit his tongue. Ain't gonna happen, he added. She’d as likely wake up in the night from a bad dream and do some real damage ‘fore he could stop her. “Best rule in life, moonbrain,” he said instead.
“You don’t live by it,” she said, and laughed.
“Hell, never lived by any rules,” he agreed and grinned. “Don’t see the point. Only meant to tie a man down, stop him from doing what he wants.”
“And what does Jayne want?” River asked, moving closer.
Jayne pulled back. “What the hell’re you doing?” he asked, picking up Vera as a shield.
“Everyone’s with someone,” the young psychic said. “All passion and hope.”
He squinted at her. “Girl, you ain’t interested in me. And I sure as hell ain't interested in you.”
She sighed. “Everyone’s a couple. And I feel left out.”
“A couple? How’d you figure that?” He squirmed a little further back on the bed hoping he hadn’t made it too obvious.
“The captain and Freya are …” Her eyes unfocused and she smiled. “And Simon and Kaylee, although they’re just snuggling at the moment.”
“You wanna snuggle?”
“Zoe and Hank are thinking about each other –“
“You’re kidding me!”
“ – although not the same thing.”
“What ‘bout Inara?” Jayne asked, despite himself. “She ain’t a couple.”
“She has coupled with thousands, so I think that counts.”
Jayne felt a little warm under the collar. “What’re you saying?” He really didn’t want to know the answer but couldn’t stop himself. “What do you want from me?”
She smiled, and looked like a young woman, not a girl. “Keep your promise, Jayne. She’ll never forgive you otherwise. Even if you die trying.”
“You’re talking mush, girl.”
“Am I?” She leaned forward, her lips very close to his. “And you’re right – I don’t want you.” She laughed and moved quickly away from him, up the ladder and out of his bunk like a ghost.
“Xiong can wang ba dan de biao zi,” he muttered, and from the tightness of his pants felt really glad he didn’t have to stand up any time soon.
By the time dusk had fallen, they were ready to go. The few items that hadn’t been sold had been packed away, and the five men were standing patiently in the cargo bay.
“Coms won’t work down the mine,” Mal said, adjusting his gun belt and the bag on his back. “So we all have to know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing, dong mah?” He surveyed the small group.
“Got it covered, Mal,” Jayne said, hefting Vera onto his shoulder. He wondered if Mal would say anything about the fact that he was wearing a full set of grenades, but there was no comment. “I know where I’m going.”
“Doc?” Mal asked. “You clear on your responsibilities?”
“Yes, Mal.” He too wore a gun belt, looking somewhat uncomfortable over it, but he also carried his medical kit.
“No knowing what state Harry’ll be in,” Vinnie said. “So you stay close to me and Mal.”
Simon nodded, gripping his medbag tightly.
Hank, in addition to a handgun, also toted one of the rifles and a backpack. “Are we gonna just talk or are we actually gonna do this?” he asked, his voice betraying him with a slight tremor.
Mal looked at him, then glanced up at the catwalk above, where Freya, Zoe and Inara were standing watching, River sitting on the metal of the gangway itself, her bare feet over the edge. “Come on, then,” he said, and walked out of the cargo bay into the night.
Freya checked the onboard timepiece for the seventeenth time since they’d left, then sighed. She hated to think what her blood pressure was likely to be, and she was sure whatever it was wasn’t good for the baby. She looked out into the dark, seeing the lights of the town just a short distance away, wondering whether Mal would get mad if she just took a walk, just to see if there wasn’t something she could do, something she could maybe … A light flashing on the console took her attention.
“Zoe,” she called softly.
Serenity’s first-mate hurried onto the bridge. “What is it, Frey?”
“Inara’s just gone onto the Cortex.”
“Who’s she speaking to?”
“A ship, not too far from here.”
“Can you tell which one?”
“No. The transponder’s scrambled.”
Zoe felt a tightening in her gut. “Alliance?“
Freya looked up at Zoe. “I don’t think so. Zo …”
“Stay here. I’ll find out.” Zoe strode off the bridge and down the stairs, her footsteps along the catwalk echoing through the empty cargo bay. As she entered shuttle one, she heard Inara’s voice.
“At least consider it, Leon. That’s all I’m asking.”
“Maybe, Inara. I’ll be back in contact soon.”
Zoe ducked under the awning as the vid screen went to static. “Who’s Leon?” she asked.
Inara span on her seat, her face white. “Zoe …”
“Who’s Leon?” Zoe repeated.
Inara dropped her head. “His name’s Leon Grant. He owns … things, people. He’s a client.”
“You’re taking clients at a time like this?” Zoe was scandalised.
“No!” Inara insisted. “But –”
“You have to make a living, right?” Zoe sounded as disgusted as she ever had with Inara’s profession.
“It’s not like that!”
“Then what it is?”
“Dammit, Zoe, I’m trying to save Mal’s life here!”
Zoe stared at her. “Inara, what are you talking about?”
“He … he owns the mines.”
“He owns the mines. The town. The whole damn moon. I wanted to talk to him, ask him to –”
“What did he say?”
“He’s coming here.” Inara rubbed her hands together as if she were cold. “He was anyway, when he got the word.”
“What word?” Zoe was feeling exasperation building up like water behind a dam. “Inara, you’re talking in riddles!”
“Word that his mole had got Mal back to Tetris.”
“His … Inara … what mole?”
“Vinnie,” said River, hiding in a corner of the room. “It’s Vinnie.”
to be continued
Friday, October 27, 2006 7:26 AM
Friday, October 27, 2006 7:39 AM
Saturday, October 28, 2006 1:28 PM
Saturday, October 28, 2006 5:26 PM
Saturday, January 19, 2008 4:21 PM
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