CHECK MATE: Deep Blue. (16/22)
Monday, July 5, 2004

Sex and death. How very classical of me!


We all know Joss Whedon is a genius. This time let's hear it for the amazing cast of his glorious show.

* * * * * CHECK MATE: Deep Blue.

* * * * *

There are the moments before when he floats, weightless on the edge of the precipice. Pure spirit. With no past, only future. An infinite, inviting future studded with brillant stars. He hardly dares breathe, for in this glorious, painful state of anticipation, the slightest inhalation makes the crackling energy smouldering at his every nerve ending burst into searing heat.

He waits. Balanced, yet ready to fall.

And then her mouth is on him. Hot, greedy. Sucking, pushing, pulling, devouring. Her tongue swivels and slicks, hard and yielding by turns.

He tries to keep it all in. Resist the reflex to arch and thrust. Tries to just be. Let himself be in the now.

His hands clench against the sheets.

And then he is falling, heavy as a stone, plummeting into her. With her. Through time and space and beyond. Without and within everything is rushing. He can't breathe fast enough, move quickly enough, get deep enough.

A shudder and he bursts. Heat and light exploding into a 'verse of his own creation, filled with galaxies of new stars, each orbited by perfect worlds where no desire goes unfulfilled, no dream unrealized. Pleasure so intense he loses himself in it.

The coming back is a sadness but she smiles at him and he knows he is safe. He twists a dark curl around his finger.

“I thought I'd lost you. I didn't think you'd come back to me.”

“I will always come back to you. You're on my crew. And in my heart. I could never leave you.”


“Cross my heart and hope to die.”

... It's only a dream. But an undeniably shiny one. Mal stretches out luxuriously in his bed. He crosses his arms behind his head and smiles to himself.

Yup. It's gonna be a real good day.

* * * * *

“You wait here – keep a look out,” Mal says suddenly and before Zoe can ask why, he dives into a store. Her eyes slide up and down the street, looking for the hidden dangers. Cos there are always hidden dangers.

What seems like an age later, Mal emerges looking mighty pleased with himself. Saw a wooden carving of a mare and foal in the window - it reminded him of home, Momma, the ranch, of so much that was lost - and just had to buy it for Zoe and the baby. Then got a bit carried away and bought a couple of peace offerings for others on his crew.

“Been doin' a bit of shoppin' have we, Sir?”

He pats the pocket of his pants and nods. “An' with my own coin too.”

Zoe raises one eyebrow ever so slightly. “That strictly necessary, Sir? You did see how much stuff Kaylee an' the Shepherd came back with this mornin'?”

Mal grins. “Sure was a sight to see, wasn't it? We ain't never had so many supplies. Wash seemed pretty darned pleased with the amount of fuel we got too. One word from Book an' folks was fallin' over themselves to accommodate us. Mus' say – I'm feeling a mite better disposed towards the Shepherd today.”

“That's cos you're a whore, Sir. Easily bought.”

Mal laughs. Been a long time since Zoe's seen him so cheerful. “Oh come on, Zoe. You tellin' me this ain't fun? Robbin' the Alliance blind an' them not havin' a clue we're doin' it? Fair warms the cockles. This is the most fun I've had in ages.”

“That's cos you're comparin' it to bar fights and lynchin's, Sir,” she deadpans before giving him her Very Serious look. “What we gonna do about the preacher?”

“Nothin'. Leastways, nothin' yet.” Mal says firmly, dismissing the arguments forming in Zoe's mind before she has time to raise them.

“Since when you did you get so forgivin'?” she asks.

“Oh, I ain't particularly forgivin'. Just practical. Besides, he's an old man and, dumb as it sounds, he believes in his God. Makes sense he'd be tryin' to make amends before havin' to go meet Him. Don't think he'll give us any trouble. An' you can't deny it – he is useful.”

Zoe says nothing and for a while they walk along in silence for a while, enjoying the warmth of the sun on their backs. “Think it's the coats? The not wearing the coats? You notice how nobody's payin' us no mind?” Mal asks. “S'almost like bein' invisible.”

“Oi! Captain Reynolds. I need a word with you!” The voice is unmistakeable. Nobody chews a vowel and tries to force it down his nose quite like Badger.

Zoe's hand moves quickly to her gun and Mal, swings round, thumbs hooked into his suspenders, braced for a confrontation. But there's no need. One minute Badger is scurrying towards them, the next two federal officers heading in the opposite direction seize one arm each, lifting him up from the ground. Then he's being carried off, legs cycling uselessly through the air and his protests fading into the distance.

Mal and Zoe exchange a baffled look. Then Mal sighs contentedly. “I love it when things go smooth,” he tells her.

She's unconvinced. “An' jus' when did anythin' ever go smooth?”

* * * * *

When they get back to the ship, the cargo bay is a bustle of activity. Wash and Book are hauling the larger crates for storing in the hold whilst River, Kaylee and Simon are unpacking goods to take up to the living quarters.

“Well look a-here, Zoe!” Mal shouts loud enough for them all to hear. And bein' able to shout ain't nothin' neither. “Seems this lazy crew is capable of hard work after all.”

“Cap'n!” Kaylee cries running over to him for a hug. “You should see what we got ... spare coils, new g-lines, boxes of pin-locks, even a coupla press regulators....”

“That's jus' dandy, li'l Kaylee.” Mal gives her a squeeze and drops a kiss onto the top of her head. “But don't mean a damn thing to me. Still, long as you're happy...”

“Where's Jayne,” Kaylee asks, looking out through the open door for a sign of the big man.

“Oh, he'll be back soon enough. Think he might be takin' full advantage of the fact folks with information is likely to be in bars.” A big, indulgent smile. Mal raises his eyes up to see Simon looking at him intently, at the way he's holding Kaylee. The boy's jealous! Good. Might spur him into action before Kaylee loses all hope. He gives his mechanic an exaggerated wink. “Why don't you an' Simon get dinner started? Me an' Zoe'll finish off down here.”

The hint is not lost on Kaylee. “Aye, aye Cap'n!” Then, softer, ”Hope Jayne gets some news on Inara.”

“Sure he will. I've got a good feelin' about this.”

* * * *

The dining table is groaning under the weight of food. Mal pulls a face at Kaylee as he takes his seat. “You cook every gorram thing we got? They call 'em 'rations' cos you're s'posed to 'ration' them out,” he explains, speaking slowly as if her grasp of English were less than comprehensive. “We ain't all got your prodigious appetite. Ever see her in front of a buffet table, Doc?” he asks, shaking his head sadly. “Like a Reaver!”

She admonishes his teasing with a swat to the side of his head as she puts a plate of – shen sheng de gao wan, is this steak? - in front of him. “Bizui, Cap'n. Or you ain't gettin' any.”

He catches her hand and presses something into it. “Not even if I got you a present?”

“Oh!” She looks down at the carefully wrapped package, all wide-eyed surprise.

“Got somethin' for you too, Doc,” he announces, digging around in his pocket. “Here.”

The look on Simon's face is priceless. Embarassed, confused, pleased and distrustful all at the same time. He lifts the package from Mal's hand carefully, like it might explode in his face.

Mal huffs out a breath. He's not really the apologizing type. “Figured ... wanted to say ... well, I know I've been a mean old man of late.. specially to you two.”

“You're not mean!” Kaylee exclaims.

“And you're not exactly old...” Simon adds.

“Well, go on. Open 'em.”

Kaylee rips the layers of tissue from her gift excitedly to reveal a heart-shaped ceramic box, decorated with flowers in pastels shades. Utterly girlish. Exactly what she would have chosen herself. Mal looks awful smug at how well received it is.

Kaylee wraps her arms around him and kisses his cheek warmly. “I love my Captain.”

Then Simon scratches a nail against the tape securing the wrapping round his package and pulls it away to reveal a pair of sunglasses, almost exactly the same as the ones he was wearing the day he first came aboard Serenity.

The doctor is totally nonplussed. Because Mal clearly put some thought into this purchase. The idea that Mal might think about him more than he absolutely has to is amazing. In a not unpleasant way.

“Noticed how you screw your eyes up every time we're somewhere sunny. Don't want our one an' only doctor goin' blind because his crazy sister took against his eyewear that one time..”

Noticed him screwing up his eyes? Noticed?! “Thankyou, it's very ...” He puts out a hand to touch Mal's arm but self-consciously pulls it back again. “Thoughtful. I don't how to ...”

“You'll think of somethin'.” Mal sees Kaylee grinning at him approvingly. She don't ask much. Just that they all get along. He turns back to Simon. “So long as you ain't thinkin' of kissin' me too!”

“Somethin' about that is gorram unsettlin',” Jayne remarks as he enters the room.

“Don't sully a beautiful moment, Jayne,” Zoe scolds, straight-faced.

Mal tenses visibly. “She here?” he asks Jayne, trying not to sound too eager.

“Nope. Took a ship out to Three Hill first chance she got.”

“Three Hills?” Mal frowns. “Where in the kuang de tian xia is that?”

“Ass-end of the galaxy,” Jayne tells him, heaping food onto his plate. “Dirt poor. Worked there a while back.”

“Point of interest. It used to be quite a properous place – in a Rim world kind of way,” Wash interrupts, revelling in his superior knowledge. “Suffered heavy aerial bombardment during the war. Then the rebels used it as a stronghold for a while.”

Zoe's nostrils flicker like she's got the scent of something that might be a threat. She shoots her husband a sideways look. “Rebels?” she asks mildly, her eyes fixed on the plate in front of her.

“Browncoats, mainly. A few from other factions,” Wash elaborates. “They were driven out, of course, but some claim they went back.

Zoe can feel Book's eyes on her. Knows he too is trying to work out how this exchange and her husband fit together. She clasps her hands protectively over the still barely noticeable swell of her belly.

* * * * *

Even Mal notices the way every woman in this gorram town is staring at them. Or rather, at Jayne. From blushing young girls to stout matrons in floral bonnets, every one of 'em is casting coy, admiring looks in Jayne's direction. Might have left this sorry-ass rock years back but seems the mercenary's legend lives on.

“I ain't gonna turn a corner an' find another statue wearin' your ugly face, am I?” Mal asks out of the corner of his mouth as a particularly pretty girl gives Jayne an exaggerated wink.

“Wa'n't my face they was interested in!” Jayne tells him with a leer that makes Mal rolls his eyes in disbelief.

It being mid-morning, the saloon is almost empty when they walk in. An old fella is wiping down tables with a grubby cloth and a statuesque brunette is stacking shelves with bottled beers. She glances over her shoulder as the door creaks shut behind them, does a double-take and slaps her hands to her cheeks.

“Jayne Cobb! As I live an' breathe! What you doin' here again, you ol' rogue?” She rushes over to throw her arms around him.

“Lucinda May!” Jayne exclaims, thankful to remember her name. “What you doin' in town? Thought you'd still be workin' your momma's ranch.”

“Aw, momma died a couple of years back. Came here lookin' for work...” A throaty laugh. “.. an' a man with your kind of talents, Jayne Cobb. Don't need to tell you there ain't many of them!” If she's aware of Mal's presence it doesn't show. “You lookin' for work? Cos me and my sisters still got the ranch.”

“No, I got a job already. Flyin' on a transport ship.”

“You got a ship?!” Lucinda looks amazed before a calculating light goes on behind her eyes. “Ain't goin' anywhere near Londinium are you?”

“No!” Mal exclaims. Set foot on that shiny core world crawling with feds? Not ruttin' likely!

Lucinda frowns and jerks her head towards Mal. “He one of your men?”

Mal bristles a bit at the suggestion. “In a manner of speakin',” he informs her. “Anyhow, we're lookin' for someone. A registered companion name of Inara Serra. You wou'n't have seen her, would you?”

Her reaction to the word companion tells Mal the woman certainly has seen her but it's clear Lucinda would rather deal with Jayne. “The boss needs to find her,” he adds, indicating Jayne with a tilt of his head.

“Uh, yeah,” Jayne agrees uneasily. “Need to find her real bad.”

Lucinda smiles and walks her fingers slowly up the front of the big man's shirt. “Then I think we can do business. I tell you what I know about this companion ...” She lays a forefinger on Jayne's lips. “... an' you can help me move somethin' off-world. Now, let's go discuss it somewhere more private. Your man can wait down here...”

And then she's dragging Jayne towards the staircase that leads up from the saloon to rooms above. He shoots Mal a questioning look and receives a resigned nod of permission in reply.

They're gone for half an hour. The saloon is quiet and Mal can't help but hear the giggling, grunting, banging and knocking that follows. He chews on the skin around his nails and tries to concentrate on the view out of the window.

Finally Jayne and the woman reappear, him grinning from ear to ear and her smoothing down her hair and fastening buttons. Mal raises his eyebrows expectantly.

“Sounds like 'Nara was here, Mal. Hired a horse to ride out to the lake 'bout seven miles away. Never came back. Lucinda May's got a coupla mounts we can have to get out there. See what we can find...”

Mal's already out of his seat and heading for the door. “Well, come on then!”

Lucinda May helps them saddle up their rides and waves them off. “Don't forget our deal, Jayne Cobb!” she yells after them as they urge their horses into a gallop along the dust track that leads out from the town.

“None of my business,” Mal says holding up a silencing hand as Jayne starts to speak. “Don't need the details.”

Jayne grunts. “'Fraid you do, Mal. Wou'n't tell me a damn thing till I'd agreed we'd take half a dozen horses to Londinium for her.”

* * * * *

His discovery that the shuttle door is locked elicits a minor blasphemy from Book. Oh well, one more sin isn't going to sway the Lord's opinion of him much. But – damn it! - if he had gained entry to Inara's rooms he might have discovered something to earn him a little credit with Mal. He finds he wants the Captain's good opinion surprisingly badly – and not just because his life may depend on it. Malcolm Reynolds may well be one of the best men he has ever met. Kind of man who does the right thing by instinct. Strange that a man with so little faith of his own inspires it in such adundance in those around him.

“It's locked.” Zoe's voice makes the Shepherd start and he flinches under the accusation in her eyes. There is so much he would like to say to her but knows Zoe sets little store by mere words. Her good opinion is won with actions.

“Yes. I worked that out.” His attempt at humour meets a flinty stare. He changes his approach. “Has anyone searched Inara's shuttle? Might learn what her intent was regarding your husband.”

Zoe's expression doesn't change. Only the slight jut of her chin betrays how much she would like to punch the preacher.

“No. Cap'n don't take kindly to people's privacy bein' invaded.”

“Unless he's doing it himself,” Book points out.

“Unless he's doin' it himself,” Zoe agrees. “But he's the Cap'n. Gives him the right.”

“Think they'll find her?”

Zoe's eyes fill with concern for Mal and something more dangerous. “Might be better if they didn't.”

“I'm a fair judge of character,” Books says quietly. “I believe Inara is a good person. That whatever Jayne thinks he saw, she wasn't trying to harm Wash.”

Zoe stiffens. “Think you and me might have a different notion of goodness, preacher.”

* * * * *

The sun is beating down, bouncing a shimmering haze up from the sand. Mal reins in his horse and feels the sweat trickle between his shoulder blades. It don't make sense. Inara – out here? Why'd she wanna come to a deserted spot like this? Despite the heat, Mal shivers.

Ahead of him Jayne swings down from the saddle and bends to examine tracks in the dust. Above them the blue, blue sky stretches out silently to the distant horizons.

In the moments before Mal waits, poised on a sharp edge of hope.

He hardly dares breathe. As if the slightest inhalation could make this real. Set it in stone.

Jayne disappears behind the rocky outcrop and he waits. Balanced, thinking he's prepared if he has to fall.

Jayne reappears. He has removed his hat and for a moment stands looking down at his feet, shaking his head. Then his mouth is moving. Words are coming out. Shouting, yelling, cursing, raging. Mal's tongue goes dry and he can't swallow.

He tries to keep it all in. Resist the urge to run and scream. Tries to just let it be. Let himself face it.

His hands clench at his side.

Jayne disappears behind the rocks again and when he re-emerges he's carrying her like a child in his arms. Her head lolls unnaturally backwards and bounces slightly with each step the mercenary takes. The soft fabric of her skirt flutters against limp limbs.

And then Mal is falling, heavy as a stone. Too late to save her, too late to save himself. From the past, from this place. Without and within everything is rushing. He can't breathe. Can't move. In too deep.

A shudder and he implodes. All the warmth and light drains from him as he spirals downward into the black hole. Into the nothing that wants him back. Into pain so intense he loses himself to it.

* * * * *


Tuesday, July 6, 2004 1:27 AM


hope we get to see the next chapter soon!

Tuesday, July 6, 2004 9:14 AM


From the heights of joy to the depths of anguish, all in one chapter. And those were some fine heights, too. Good storytelling!

Tuesday, July 6, 2004 12:27 PM


Wow, please don't let Inara be dead - I couldn't bear to see the Cappy that unhappy after all that sunshine and laughter to have his joy squashed out of him so brutally would be very cruel. This was so well written and I can't wait for the next part but am holding my breath too, hoping Simon can work some magic on what looks like a pretty sad tableau. It certainly would be the shiniest way for him to repay Mal's little gift. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, July 6, 2004 11:34 PM


Speaking of evil mastermind... ;-) Inara and the captain, wanting them all well and back together, but waiting on Zoe and her reaction to Inara. Delightfuly conplex and conflicted!

Golly, but you play them well. I am totally in to Zoe's edges of suspicions about Wash.


You must log in to post comments.



HOLDING ON: Ch 2 - Tangential
Much to his annoyance, Sanzo's urgent quest to find Goku gets diverted. Meanwhile Mal meets someone from Inara's past. WARNING - slashy but not graphic

The Wheel Never Stops Turning
Mal meets a blonde in a bar. Violence ensues. And Mal discovers religion has its uses.

This is primariy a <i>Firefly</i> fic, but the character Mal ends up doing a job for is from the manga/anime <i>Saiyuki</i>. It's also <b>PG-13 nothing-explicit SLASH</b>. Because that's who I am!

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 7: 'til the day you die.
Inara leaves Serenity for a new life. Mal gets a job with a couple of new employers, but sinks further into despair.
Slash so lite you'll probably scarcely notice it.

MAKE ME A STONE: Chapter 6: You just learn to live there.
Another job goes less than smoothly. Meanwhile River takes matters into her own hands and Mal has a brainwave.

SLASHFIC. SPOILERS for the comics, novelization and movie.

Make Me A Stone: Chapter 5: Chickens come home to roost.
Mal has to accept Badger's offer of a job. Meanwhile old enemies seek to take advantge.
Spoilers for the comics. Very light slash.

Make Me A Stone: Chapter 4. Some residual heat.
SPOILERS for the comics/BDM. Mal has to accept Badger's job offer. Not much else in his life is going right either.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 3: It's complicated.
Mal decides to pull a job of his own. Simon offers to help. It doesn't go smooth - but that's not entirely Simon's fault.

Non-graphic SLASH.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 2: And who exactly could fix you?
Simon'a altruism leads to a job going wrong. Mal's not happy.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 1: Pray there ain't any more surprises.
Warning: SLASH, but not graphic. Mal and Simon both find that the other has hidden talents. It kinda piques their interest ... *g*

TRAUMA MEDICINE: Chapter 23. Two by two.
Four years have past since Mal was forced to blow up Serenity and Simon disappeared with River and Book. A lot has changed since then. But a lot has stayed the same. The CONCLUSION to this series.