BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

HERMITSREST

Be Careful What You Wish For - Part Two
Thursday, June 14, 2007

Serenity comes to the rescue, but to whom? 10th fanfic featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Grateful thanks to BluedEyedBrigadier for the beta. Having feedback is like charging my battery, please comment. Part 2 of 2.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1358    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mal sat in the Med Bay, not really knowing why he was there. Jayne was still doped up and unconscious. At least he was breathing normally again and not through the neck. The doc and everyone else were in the galley. He looked at him again, the man had changed so much since he had first come on board. He had gone from a self-serving mercenary to what he was now, a man who would lay down his life for another without thought for his own. Mal knew it was not his doing, it was Serenity and everyone else on board that made him into the kind of man his momma would be proud of. Everyone had changed, except maybe him and Zoe. “Somethin’ on yer mind, Mal?” slurred Jayne. Mal raised his head and then stood up. “How you feelin’?” he asked. Jayne shook his head, he did not want to answer that question at the moment, he wanted something else to concentrate on. Mal made sure he was in the man’s view so he did not have to move too much. “Got somethin’ to tell you.” “To do with the fact that Karl ain’t bin in here to see me?” Mal’s eyebrows shot up and Jayne tried to smile and failed. “Doc’s a poor liar.” Mal took a breath and told Jayne, keeping to the point as he still looked groggy. “Karl stayed on Greenleaf to look for Bane. Our cargo was Thornberg’s daughter. We’ve just dropped her off at Boros. We were going to head straight back to Greenleaf, but Inara needs rescuing – she’s been expelled from the Guild and has lost everything. The distance to Sihnon is the same as the distance to Greenleaf.” He paused long enough for Jayne to but in. “You wanna know who to choose?” Mal shrugged one shoulder, but said nothing else. Jayne broke his gaze and starred at the ceiling awhile. “Can’t make Captain-y decisions for yer, Mal, but I reckon Inara’s a sight more vulnerable then Karl and Bane.” “That’s what Zoe said.” “Then why’d you not listen to her?” asked Jayne, annoyed. “I did,” Mal said, smiling a little. “I jus’ needed to know that you were okay with it too.” Jayne rolled his eyes, he could not think of an appropriate curse. “Why’d you ask me my opinion?” “Because I know you’re close with those two. They’d be a chance we won’t see ‘em for a while.” Jayne’s eyes flickered with remorse and Mal was quick to respond. “It wasn’t your fault she got pinched, Jayne. She was recognised the day before. Looked like it was all planned.” Mal saw Jayne’s relief and then came a brief smile. “Should have seen her, Mal. It was like watchin’ a tornado. She ain’t much good in a fist fight, but she’s very difficult to hold on to. Reckon she might be causing a whole mountain of trouble to those who have her.” Mal placed his hand on Jayne’s shoulder. It was a brief gesture of comfort, but one that meant a lot to Jayne. “Wave comin’ through, Cap’n,” came Zoe’s voice on the com. Mal left the Med Bay and headed up to the cockpit. Jayne was relieved Mal had gone, he was feeling more than a little helpless and emotional at the moment, and it sat no more comfortably on him than a blanket of pins. He was glad to know that it had not been his fault about Bane’s kidnapping and vowed to teach her how to fight better when she came back on board. “Who is it?” asked Mal. Zoe stood aside, it was Monty. Mal sighed with relief. “Got problems, cousin?” asked Monty expectantly, scratching his beard. “Bane was kidnapped on Greenleaf. They wanted her for her munitions skills an’ I thought you might be the one in that world who can find out who has her.” “Won’t be easy, we’re a pretty antisocial bunch.” “Thing is I gotta go to Sihnon fast. I lost Karl too, he refused to get back on at Greenleaf – wanted to stay and look for Bane. He’s in Oaktown.” “Your gettin’ pretty careless, Mal,” he replied seriously, “I’m only a day out of Greenleaf - I’ll fetch him and keep my ears open. Might be a while afore I’m in touch again.” Monty knew who lived on Sihnon, but it was not his place to interfere in Mal’s priorities. “Whatever you can do I would appreciate it, Monty.” Mal cut the wave and leaned back in the chair. “Feel better, sir?” asked Zoe. “A little,” he said, “I only hope Inara’s simpler to find.” * * * * * * “But Inara, you can’t go yet!” pleaded Sheydra. “I waved Captain Reynolds. I’m sure he’s on his way to come and pick you up.” “You what!” she said angrily, feeling betrayed. “I told you not to do that. I will deal with this my own way.” “I thought you loved him,” snapped her friend angrily. Inara closed the second bag, but declined to answer that statement. All her other possessions had been confiscated. A life’s work disintegrated into two small bags. She looked back at Sheydra. “I will get myself established again and then I will contact him.” “You’re running away. If I had someone like that I wouldn’t hesitate.” “I’m not you, and I’m not running away. I haven’t done anything wrong.” “Where are you going?” Inara looked at her friend kindly but shook her head. “It’s best I don’t tell you as the Guild will want to know. I will be in touch once I’m settled, I promise.” Sheydra also felt betrayed. She left Inara’s room before the tears came. Inara steadied her emotions and picked up her bags. She took the next transport to the docks without a backward glance to the place she had called home for so long. Sheydra was not put off so easily. She could not understand her friend’s motives, but she knew that Reynolds would be coming to pick her up. Why was Inara so keen on staying away from the man she loved? The only reasons would be she either did not love him, or she was protecting him, and she did not believe the former. She went to her com and started keying in codes – using some techniques she had learned when serving on her own disreputable vessel. She accessed Inara’s wave logs for the last couple of days, before she had announced she was leaving the planet. She could not play the wave itself as it was encrypted, but she found the one she was looking for, and where it had come from; Persephone. ~ * ~ “Good to see you, bao bei. Bin a while since the weddin’ – thought you’d forgotten ‘bout me.” River smiled sweetly, knowing he was lying about thinking she would forget him, but not minding one little bit. She had come to understand that men sometimes needed to be coy about expressing their feelings. Stan was no different. “I didn’t forget. Not sure when I’ll be able to see you again – we’re kind of busy.” “We ain’t stopped either. I think Tony’s trying for a record.” “He wants to get as much done before the baby’s born,” answered River. Stan tensed and looked behind him quickly, then relaxed. “You sending this wave without permission?” she asked. Stan nodded and grinned. “Your Cap’n know you’re speaking to me?” River shook her head. Mal would have a fit if he found out. Fortunately everyone was in asleep. Despite the awkwardness of not being able to touch him, River found it easy to talk to Stan. He kept her laughing, he was always so cheerful and she liked that about him. “We missed you by a few days on Deutschland – the mayor of München said you got yourselves arrested when you first arrived.” River laughed and told him the story. “I dint tell Simon that he was getting all sorts of insulting remarks from the ladies of Hannover.” “We dint go there this time, but we’ve bin there before. München’s mayor seem’d to have quite a crush on Zoe though – kept calling her his laughing warrior goddess.” River did not enlighten Stan, it was not her place, but it did explain why Zoe had been all shiny and happy lately. “I like your hair like that,” he said. River giggled. She had not done anything special to it, just brushed it. “It’s nice to see you without your hat,” she replied, wishing she could be there with him, instead of separated by thousands of light years. Stan was thinking the same thing. “How’s Bane?” he asked, changing the subject. “River!” shouted Mal, walking into the cockpit. She jumped and cut the comlink, more surprised that she had not felt him coming than at being caught. “What the gorram hell do you think you’re doing?” “Nothin’,” she replied guiltily. “Talkin’ to Stan Togashi don’t look like nothin’ to me. I told you no contact with the Rosalyn ‘til we know more about where Bane is. Last thing I need is her brother on my back.” “I wasn’t gonna tell him anything. We were just talking,” she defended. “I don’t care. You will do -“ “I care!” uncharacteristically shouting back at him, “Why is it everyone gets to have some lovin’ on this ship but me? I’m grown, I want sex!” Mal was horrified. “Suo-yo duh doh dhr-dang! I can’t know that!” he blurted, but River kept yelling the word over and over. Mal covered his ears. “I’m not listening, la la la ...” he carried on until he saw her mouth close. When it was safe he removed his hands tentatively from his ears. “Does your brother know about Stan?” River looked at him, still very annoyed. “Why would I tell my brother I wanted to have sex?” “Why would you tell me!” growled Mal, still annoyed that she kept using that word in front of him. “’Cuz you know what it’s like to wait for someone.” Mal was not willing to go down this road with River. “Off you go, Albatross,” he ordered. “And no more talking to the Rosalyn without my permission.” “Yes, Cap’n,” said answered automatically, giving no conviction to her voice. Mal sighed heavily as she left the room. That was one conversation he could not wish away easily. ~ * ~ Mal made everyone stay on the ship bar him when they arrived at Sihnon. Sheydra had arranged to meet him at the docks, instead of the Training House. Mal felt underdressed as he walked into the smart café that she had suggested. He was wearing his usual brown pants, shirt and overcoat, whereas Sheydra, when he saw her, was immaculately presented in a dark blue and gold sari. He could appreciate that she was an extraordinarily attractive woman, but to him Inara could still outshine any other Companion. Sheydra stood up when she saw him and hugged him warmly, uncaring of the astonished looks by the other patrons. When they both sat down Mal noticed a walking stick hung on the back of her chair. “How’s your leg?” he asked. “It will heal in time, but it’s slow. The doctors on Delaware said that they wouldn’t have been able to do a better job at patching me up than Simon did.” “You sound surprised?” Sheydra smiled thinly and a little guiltily. “I thought he was just a frontier quack, I have to confess, not some genius surgeon. Seems the bones were almost shattered and I’m likely to have a limp for the rest of my life.” Mal was keen to get on to the subject of their meeting. “Where’s Inara?” Sheydra gave him the bad news. “I think she’s gone to Persephone. I’m not sure – it was all the information I could get from her wave logs. She left four days ago.” “Why didn’t she wait - you told her I was coming, didn’t ya?” “Practically beat her over the head with it. She just kept saying that she would contact you once she had settled.” Mal could not understand and said so. “I agree with you. I don’t know why either.” Mal’s mind settled on one thought - maybe she had taken Atherton Wing up on his offer. He brushed it out of his head, as he knew she would not be that stupid. “What will you do now?” Mal thought for a few moments. “I’m down two crew members on account of coming here to find her. Now I discover she don’t want to be found.” “I think she’s in trouble,” said Sheydra, concerned. Mal looked torn and she added. “She does love you, you know.” Mal raised an eyebrow. “She’s got a funny way of showing it,” he grumbled. Sheydra shrugged, not something Companions did, but it was a habit she had picked up during her time in the Black. “Takes one to know one,” she retorted, getting frustrated. “Honestly, you two have been dancing this one for more than two years now. What are you both afraid of? The ‘Verse won’t end if you decide to admit your feelings for one another.” Mal starred at Sheydra, surprised by the outburst. “I asked her to marry me,” he said quietly. Sheydra did not know that and blinked at him in shock. “What did she say?” “She still hasn’t given me an answer.” Sheydra sighed. “Seems to me you’re both as stubborn as each other.” Mal got up from the table as there seemed little point in staying. There was one last thing he wanted to say. “Thank you for persuading your father to defend Bane.” Sheydra nodded gracefully. “It was nothing - the least I could do. He wasn’t happy about it - said it would be a conflict of interest - but the aftermath of publicity hasn’t hurt his career none and that’s all he cares really about.” “And you,” suggested Mal. Sheydra smiled ruefully. “My father doesn’t like to owe people, Captain. He owed you for my life and if payback wouldn’t have been in the form of defending Bane, then he would have found another way.” “Even though he thought she was scum?” “He said that?” she asked, shocked. Mal nodded. “Then I apologise on his behalf. I am not my father and you must believe me when I say I do not share the same view.” “No one who’s lived in the Black would, Sheydra,” Mal said kindly. “I wish I had the courage to return to that life,” she said, getting a little emotional. Mal took his leave, his mind awash with disconcerting thoughts about Inara. He had a few last words for Sheydra. “Wave me if you ever do and I’ll find you a place.” ~ * ~ Leaving the café and heading straight to a bar was probably not the best idea Mal had, but it seemed the most appropriate. Why was Inara so intent on avoiding him? If she did not want to be with him anymore why did she just not say so, instead of leaving him hanging like this. The questions without answers kept whirling around his head even after the fifth shot of saki. Gorram it, why did he have to have the most complicated relationships in the ‘Verse. In the last four years since he had met Inara; he had been laid out by a no good conniving witch, bedded a brave former Companion who was shot the next day, and finally admitted his feelings for the love of his life, the self-same love who now wanted to be nowhere near him. Why could it not be simple? The bartender filled up his glass for the eighth time. All around him his crew were forming up relationships - simple and easy. In fact, the more he drank, the simpler it seemed, Mal distorted the facts in his head. He had lost count of the shots he was drinking. He slammed down the empty glass - his twentieth by the bartender’s reckoning - and stumbled out of the bar. Gorram the woman, if she did not want to be found then he would leave her to it. She could lie in Atherton’s bed and face the consequences. He would go to Greenleaf and pick up his crew and carry on with his life. Zoe and Simon watched as Mal lurched into the cargo bay. “Inara’sh in Persephone,” he slurred before passing out, his head hitting the floor with a resounding thud. * * * * * * With the Captain incapacitated and sleeping off a bucket full of saki, concussion and general exhaustion through worry, Zoe ordered River to plot a course for Persephone. She anticipated that Mal, when he sobered up, would have some idea of where she was when they got there. There was no sense staying on Sihnon until he came to. It was awfully quiet on the ship lately, fortunately Jayne could walk about some, but was still unable to make the ladder down to his bunk, so he was sleeping in one of the guest quarters. Zoe thought it would be good to have Inara back … good for Mal. Once they had picked her up it would be time for them to be looking for work again. She knew that Monty was the only one who would be able to locate Bane now after this many weeks. They would just be chasing their tails otherwise. Zoe went from the cockpit to the galley to make something to eat. She had been snacking all day, but that was probably because she had very little the day before, on account of feeling sick. Jayne was there, sitting uncomfortably in one of the chairs looking at his bruises. He looked lonely. “You miss ‘em?” she said. Jayne gave her half a smile as a reward for her sharpness. “Keep tellin’ myself I’m bein’ moonbrain ter do so.” “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with missin’ your friends. I miss ‘em too. They’re part of Serenity now, jus’ like you an’ me.” A couple of years ago that would have sounded sarcastic to Jayne's ears, but now it was all kinds of pleasing. “Bet you don’t miss Bane stamping about the place late at night in them big boots?” he suggested in an attempt at cheerfulness. “Or Karl’s loud belching at meals?” added Zoe. “Or finding a way to interrupt them whenever they got cosy together?” chuckled Jayne wickedly. “You didn’t?” said Zoe, giving a shocked laugh. Jayne grinned. “Cost me a few night’s sleep, but they ain’t suffered for it. Seems to have made it all the sweeter.” Zoe thought for a moment. “So that time you told me that Bane really needed to talk to me and she was all flustered when I got there – being with Karl – that was you trying to mess them up?” Jayne nodded. Zoe looked at Jayne in a new light. “Don’t tell me you’re a romantic?” Jayne pulled a face. “Hell no.” Zoe placed a cup of cider in front of him and he drank gratefully. “I jus’ like messin’ with ‘em.” Zoe did not quite believe him. “No designs on Bane yourself?” Jayne would not normally admitted anything to Zoe, but he was feeling lonely and had a hankering to talk. “Won’t say I ain’t attracted to her - she is a woman after all. Won’t say that pole dancin’ dint make me want to fight Karl for her there and then,” he continued. “I had me plenty of talented an’ acrobatic women in my time …” Zoe did not want to hear the details on that history. “… but I ain’t had me but a few friends - not since I left home.” Zoe could hear his voice cracking. “We’ll get them back,” she assured him. “I know it. I still like messin’ with them though,” he chuckled, back to full humour. “You know the first time I interrupted them, I dint even know it …” he told Zoe his version of the Bane and Karl sexing saga - as he saw it. Which meant it was embellished and bluer than what had actually happened. ~ * ~ Mal felt rougher than the underside of a thirty year old saddle. He unstuck his tongue from the roof of his mouth and tried to open his eyes. When they focussed he realised he was in the Med Bay alone. He sat up, too suddenly. “Liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze fuh ur-tze,” he exclaimed, holding his head. Never again. Nope. No more saki for him. Then he remembered why he had been drinking it. Because Inara had left him – for Atherton Wing. No, that was not right. She had gone to Persephone but he did not know where for sure. It was his own sick sense of justice – and saki – that presumed it would be him she would go to. Well, she made her bed, she can lie in it. He swung his legs over and gingerly stood up. The room swayed nauseously, but he swallowed down the bile. It was time to wave Monty and find out if he had any news on Bane. Then business as usual. Mal just about made it to the bathroom to be sick. Simon heard Mal from his quarters and followed him in. It was not a pretty sound. When he thought Mal had finished he ran some water and filled up a cup, handing it to him. Mal still looked green. “You should get back to the Med Bay – or your quarters.” “It’s just a hangover, doc,” said Mal feebly, “Had me plenty of those in my time.” Simon looked at him without sympathy. “Combined with concussion and exhaustion,” he added. “When you got back to the ship you passed out and hit your head rather hard. You also, by most people’s accounts, hadn’t slept well in some time.” Mal frowned. “How long’ve I bin out?” “Three days,” answered Simon and smirked at Mal’s eyebrows raised. “I was given a lecture on the evils of saki once – you a mind to listen?” Mal was listening, but not to Simon, to the sound of the Serenity. “She’s underway – where are we headin’?” Simon looked at him strangely. “Why to Persephone of course. That was all you managed to say before you passed out – that Inara was on Persephone.” “What!” Mal shoved the glass back into Simon’s hand, spilling some over his shirt. He staggered up to the cockpit where River was in lively conversation with Zoe. They both fell silent on his entrance. “Why are we on our way to Persephone?” Zoe looked at Mal, puzzled. “That’s where you said Inara was.” “Don’t mean I wanna go there,” Mal retorted angrily and then swallowed as a wave of nausea assaulted him. “Cap’n Drunkard should be more specific next time,” piped in River. Mal ignored her. “Turn us around.” “But we’re only a day away, sir,” argued Zoe. “And we’ve spent over a week trying to look for her – least we can do is finish it.” “Not your call, Zoe,” he replied and turned to River again, “Set a course for Greenleaf.” “No,” said River. Mal opened his mouth in shock. He looked to Zoe to help him. “Finish it, sir,” repeated Zoe. “Leastways you’ll know for sure she’s safe.” Zoe did not move from the other seat even though she could see Mal wanted to take the controls and there was no way he would physically force her out of the chair. Mal gave a frustrated growl and went to his quarters. “He’ll thank us when we get there,” said River confidently. “Not sure about that,” mumbled Zoe. ~ * ~ Mal was feeling all kinds of vulnerable without the others there. The days when it had been just him and Zoe had been dangerous enough and not something he would go back to willingly. He had got comfortable with the team, the family. It had been bad enough losing Wash, he did not want to lose anyone else. But Inara had chosen to leave, she always chose to leave, even though he knew she loved the ship. It must be him then. They were from different worlds, granted. He thought that had changed at Christmas. Why did it seem so easy for everyone else and not him? That question, which had seemed so true after he saw Sheydra, was just him feeling sorry for himself. In truth it had not been easy for any of the other crew either. Zoe had lost Wash after too few years of marriage. Simon and Kaylee had to live with the knowledge of his bounty over their heads. And Bane was looking at her first normal relationship since she had been part of the ‘Verse’s human trafficking system. The truth was they were all seizing the moment and Mal was being left behind – stuck in this limbo that he had created by falling in love with the wrong woman. “It’s a big place, Cap’n. How’d you plan to find out where she is?” asked Zoe, interrupting his musings. Mal looked a lot better than he had a day ago. He would not admit that he felt any better but he knew he just had to know, and running away from that would not change that. “Was gonna wave Badger, ask him to make enquiries.” “Badger’s likely to want something in return.” Mal smiled ruefully, she was right and there was not a whole lot he could offer Badger at the moment. “It’s the way of things, Zo’ – put in a link.” “There’s someone else to try first,” she suggested and Mal looked at her blankly, waiting for Zoe to continue. “The man whose cattle we took to Jianyin – and who acted as your second in that duel.” Mal remembered, Sir Warwick Harrow. It was a good call and definitely more on Inara’s social wavelength. “Patch it to my quarters when it comes through.” ~ * ~ Mal had not expected it to be so easy. Harrow had told him that Inara contacted him and he had arranged for her to work for a friend of his, as tutor/governess to his three daughters in Takoma. Mal was more than relieved that it had nothing to do with Atherton Wing. Harrow had been the one Inara had called from Sihnon, not him. Harrow did want something in return, more cattle shifted, and Mal agreed to do that as soon as he had talked to Inara. Harrow was more accommodating by telling Mal that there was a major musical recital being held at the museum in Takoma and that Inara would be there with her charges. He explained this to the others as they sat in the galley. “Don’t forget to tell her ‘bout me an’ Simon,” insisted Kaylee, who truly believed that Mal and Inara would work things out. They had to because they were meant to be together. “I’ll try,” placated Mal. “But in the meantime I don’t want no one else leaving the ship – for any reason,” he looked pointedly at River. “If any of the Pyes come around tell ‘em Bane’s on a job with Monty. Don’t go sayin’ anything ‘bout her kidnap.” “But why?” said Simon. “They have a right to know.” Zoe backed Mal up. “Cap’n’s right. Until we get some word from Monty no one’s to say anything.” “Don’t see any problem with that,” agreed Jayne. “Will just cause unnecessary worry is all.” Mal and Zoe blinked at Jayne, surprised that he would come up with that kind of statement. Although he still looked all kinds of beat up, Jayne was now well enough to return to his own quarters. He was unable to spend a lot of time there, preferring to sit in the galley and talk to anyone passing through. ~ * ~ “Are you going to come in or do you want me to come out there?” Simon said. Zoe sighed and stepped into the Med Bay. She had been hovering around the area ever since Mal had left the ship, and she had made sure the others were elsewhere on the ship. Simon was concerned as Zoe was an extremely private person and rarely came to see him for anything other than when she had been injured on a job. There had been no jobs, so it must be something else. He waited for her to speak but she did not. Finally he tried humour, although in Simon’s mouth it sounded flippant and sarcastic. “Do you want me to get River? She could translate for me.” It did not go down well. Zoe looked at Simon like he was an inch tall. “Need you to test me, doc,” she said quietly. “Test for what?” “To see if I’m pregnant.” Whatever Simon had expected it was not that. “When? How?” he began. Zoe regarded him shrewdly. “The whens and the hows are not your concern. Just the yeses or the nos.” Simon pulled himself together. “Right, then. No problem,” he jabbered, severely embarrassed. “It’s very simple really. I just take a sample of blood and can let you know pretty much straight away.” Zoe watched him silently as he moved around the suite. The man was a complete idiot when it came to conversing, but medically there was none better and she had never had a problem trusting her life to him. During all the sickness she had recently it had finally occurred to her what the problem could be and it had caused her no little amount of anguish. Having a child was something that she and Wash had finally come around to the same way of thinking, then he was ripped away from her. They had been trying for a child, that was part of the anguish she now felt. Until she knew for sure, she did not want to contemplate what she would do about it. Simon took the blood sample to the bench and added the necessary chemicals. He glanced around at Zoe. She looked like she was coiled and ready to spring into action and the tension in the room from her was almost palpable. With things on the ship usually so open to gossip and speculation he could not recall Zoe even having the opportunity for getting herself potentially in the family way. Unless, he thought with some horror, it was someone on the ship. He shuddered at the thought of it being Jayne. The thought was less horrific with Mal or Karl, but even then it still kind of freaked him out. He shook the small testing vial and the chemical turned a lovely shade of green. “What’s the verdict, doc?” said Zoe at his shoulder. Simon jumped and very nearly dropped it. “You’re pregnant. No doubt about it.” Zoe sighed with relief and then realised that she really did want this child. “As your doctor, and presumably if you want to keep this baby, you’ll need to have regular check-ups – starting today.” Zoe nodded mutely, keeping all her emotions firmly in check. “You’ll also have to take care on certain jobs where – how shall I say – there’s the potential for gunfire.” “I have no problem with that, doc. I’d appreciate it if you’ll let me tell people in my own way afore announcin’ it to Kaylee.” Simon was offended. “I would never breach –“ “Ease it, doc,” soothed Zoe. “I know you’re professional. I just wanted to tell Mal first is all. He may have an angle on things.” Simon relaxed, but was still a little miffed that she had even suggested it. “If I’m to help you through this I’ll need to know when – when this event happened, or as near as you can estimate. Helps with working out the other end of things,” he said, finding it difficult all of a sudden to talk in medical jargon with Zoe’s stern face looking at him. She held out her arm so that Simon could take her blood pressure. “Deutschland, the first of April,” she replied. Simon nodded and continued with the examination. Zoe had some thinking to do now she knew for sure. Despite their brief encounter, Hans deserved to know he was going to be a father. He was as good a man as Wash had been and she knew once she did tell him that things would change. This baby was hers and for as long as she carried it and gave birth to it, that would never change. She wanted to have her baby on Serenity and could think of no other place. It was fitting. But that event was still a ‘Verse away and a whole lot of things could happen before then, if Mal let her stay on board. ~ * ~ Inara got off the transport and walked with the girls towards the museum. She had enjoyed the last week of getting to know them, they were all so vivacious and eager to learn. The eldest was Sarah who was fifteen, then Eliot at twelve and finally Masanne at seven. The tutoring she did now had nothing to do with training them to be Companions, but more preparing them for the life they were born to; rich heiresses. She was lost in thoughts of lesson plans and teaching methods as they approached the museum. “Inara,” came a familiar voice. She stopped and starred at Mal. Why is it he always looked larger than life, even in a street full of people? For a moment Mal saw the unguarded look of love on her face before it was quickly masked. “Mal! What are you doing here?” she said anxiously looking around. Mal looked the girls with her whose eyes were agog with curiosity. “Ladies,” he bowed courteously. Only the eldest one managed to remember her manners and curtsey back. Inara seethed but remained composed. She turned back to the girls. “Sarah, take your sisters and wait over there.” Sarah opened her mouth to say something and then obeyed, taking her sisters to a place almost out of earshot. Once they were away Inara continued. “Mal, what are you doing here? How did you find me?” Mal smiled. “Those questions are redundant now that I’m actually here and I did find you – easier than I thought, I might add.” He grew serious. “Why exactly do you have a problem with me finding you?” Inara felt like she was fighting a battle of words, and losing at the moment. “We’ve all got to earn our way in this ‘Verse. Me, just as much as you.” “What’s stoppin’ you earnin’ on Serenity?” “And how would I go about that exactly? I’m not a Companion anymore – I have lost my connections.” Mal nodded towards the girls. “Whoring’s not the only thing you know how to do.” “And what else am I exactly trained to do that you can use on your ship besides whoring?” “Don’t have to be trained at anythin’,” Mal argued. “Jus’ come back. I don’t care that you’re not a Companion no more. Makes it better some.” Inara ached when she heard the subtle pleading to his voice. She wished she could give in to him, but things were never that simple. She had commitments, things to sort out. “Why are you here, Mal?” Mal frowned. He had left two of his crew behind to come and see her and this was not the way he had imagined things going. “Sheydra said you might be in trouble…” Mal began, but was then cut off from continuing. “So that’s why you came? I wish you’d understand, Mal, I don’t need rescuing. I can look to myself. You’re not my knight in shining armour.” “Just a petty thief,” he spat back, finally snapping. Before Inara could speak again, he beat her to it. “No, that’s fine and fluffy. I get it. What we had at Christmas was jus’ your own special and sparkly way of sayin’ thank you for the time I did actually rescue you.” “Mal! No –“ “It’s fine, Inara. But for future reference, I would have preferred a bowl of fruit by way of a thank you. It may not last as long, but at least I know when it’s finished.’” Inara flinched as if he had slapped her. She was clearly upset, but held her emotions in check, it was all she had left. She could not hide the look in her eyes, or prevent them watering. “Don’t be like that, Mal. Just give me some time. Then I’ll –“ “Time!” Mal blurted incredulously. “Inara, we’ve known each other for going on three years now, an’ you still want more time? What the good gorram are you waitin’ for – hell to freeze over? I wanted to marry you,” his last sentence was filled full of hurt as well as anger. Inara wavered, it really was that simple for him. She looked around at the three girls waiting obediently by the side of the museum entrance. She had made a commitment to them too. When she did not answer, Mal perceived that was the end of it. “Goodbye, Inara,” he said finally and turned away. Inara reached out, but all she got was a wisp of coat tail that raced over her fingers too fast for her to grasp. “Please, Mal,” she begged softly as he faded into the crowded street. “I just need more time,” she said to herself. Inara let the tears flow and found Sarah at her side with the other girls hovering nearby. “Did that man hurt you, Inara?” she asked, fearful and concerned. Inara sniffed and attempted a smile. “No. I hurt him, bao bei.” She held her head up higher, fighting the emotions. “Come on, let’s go inside.” ~ * ~ “Mal, I gotta have a word.” Mal had been about to tell Zoe to leave him alone until he realised that he had used his name, not called him ‘sir’. He braced himself for more bad news, which is all it could be after the day he had just had. The only thing that had gone right was the delivery of Harrow’s cattle. Zoe looked at Mal with some sympathy. “I’m going to have a baby.” Mal starred at her – this was the one last thing he would never have expected, even after having time to make a long list of things that would he would never have expected. Zoe waited patiently for a few moments and then continued. She had been practising what she would say. “It wasn’t planned, but now it’s happened I ain’t gonna do nothing to stop it. It’s something I want more than anything.” “And what does the father have to say about it?” replied Mal quietly. “He doesn’t know yet.” “Do you wanna go to Deutschland and tell him?” he said and then saw Zoe’s look. “Come on, Zo’, you must think I was born yesterday if I dint see how happy you were then. And the fact you went missing for almost an entire day. You ain’t been outta my sight for that long since Wash died.” Zoe made no move to deny it. “It’s still my business – and I will tell Hans when I’m ready.” “You sayin’ you’re plannin’ to have this baby on your own?” Zoe gave half an amused smile. “That’s the way of it for most women, Mal.” “On Serenity?” “On Serenity,” she confirmed. “Gorram it, Zoe – you can’t bring a baby into this life. You know how we live.” Zoe’s expression tightened. “Wash used the same reasonin’, Cap’n, and it’s still full of pì huà. I can’t think of a better place to bring a child. I’m home and among friends an’ we have just about the best doc the ‘Verse could want.” “If that’s your decision, why bother to come to me?” he said angrily. As usual, Zoe was unperturbed by his outburst. “Because you’re the Captain and I’m your crew. The further along I get, the less useful I’m likely to be in a fight. You have the power to tell me to pack my bags and leave.” Mal smiled, but it was without humour. Leave, just like everyone else lately. Zoe was right though, this was her home as well as his and he would not be the one to kick her out. “We’re spread mighty thin at the moment. Last thing I want to be doin’ is reducing our numbers further.” He said nothing else and Zoe had to content herself with that. Now, because of their depleted numbers, and Jayne still not up to full health, they would have to resort to just transporting passengers, or cattle, from one end of the ‘Verse to the other. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Author’s Note: Edited in September 2007 (Always looking to improve!).

COMMENTS

Thursday, June 14, 2007 5:19 AM

HERMITSREST


Please please post your thoughts as (good or bad) it inspires me to keep writing.
For a quick synopsis of crew members Bane Pye and Karl Jacobsson, see my log.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 6:46 AM

HOPERULES


I look forward to seeing where this is going. I love Mal's line about the fruit bowl.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 7:51 AM

HERMITSREST


Gotta keep you in suspense - beat me, torture me, you ain't getting it outta me. But you can weedle from me the fact that this is not the last time they'll meet.

Monday, June 18, 2007 4:36 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Is it so hard to say "I've got a job here, and I can't just leave at a moment's notice like I did with the Training House"? Cuz it would have hopefully delayed the inevitable result long enough to have maybe left them on better terms:(

Still...all kinds of props for giving Mal the intelligence to know when Zoe got pregnant without her needing to say something specific. Though I would hope he could be happier:(

BEB


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