BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE REFLECTION SERIES: 3. "Paying Dues"
Saturday, August 7, 2004

"As Mal settles into his new life his former crew gradually gravitate back to Serenity. Slowly coming to the realisation that everything has changed."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2624    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "PAYING DUES" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: JAYNE/Other. RATING: NC-17. STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "A NEW DREAM". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "As Mal settles into his new life his former crew gradually gravitate back to Serenity. Slowly coming to the realisation that everything has changed." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.

"PAYING DUES"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The water was freezing cold but he didn't care. Just wanted to wash the dirt and stench off him. Rafe brought out a bar of carbolic soap and some towels. Wanted to burn Mal's clothes there and then but the look on his face stopped him. "They'd be best in ashes." The rancher explained apologetically.

Mal shook his head, naked and dripping wet as he shivered and rubbed himself down with the larger of the two towels. "I'll wash 'em through. Let the good air dry 'em."

"Son, there ain't enough clean air in the 'verse to take that kind'a taint off them clothes."

The two men stared at each other. Mal shivered harder this time and that prompted him to quickly finish drying off so he could put his spare set of clothes on. Reluctantly he gave a nod and watched poker faced as Rafe used a pair of washerwoman's tongs to pick up the set he had been wearing.

"Believe me Mal some day you'll thank me."

He couldn't speak so he nodded, missing the little drift of amusement in the other man's eyes. A few minutes later Rafe returned and gave Mal a satisfied nod, happy to see a much shinier face looking back at him. The former Captain cleaned up good. "Somethin' amuse you?"

Rafe chuckled. "Just waitin' on you to finish so's we can go inside. Have to say my family's mighty curious about you."

Mal raised his eyebrows. "What you tell 'em?"

That raised a smile. "The truth."

When he did not elaborate Mal resumed rubbing his hair vigorously with the hand towel then picked up the larger discarded one. He followed Rafe towards the house falling into step beside him a natural camaraderie between them like old friends reunited though neither had ever set eyes on the other before. A curious thing but sometimes folk were like that. Some deep resonance inside a man recognising another of his ilk. Not that either would ever voice such fanciful thoughts.

* * * * *

Inside the house Molly Connor was grinning fit to bust. Her older brother Mark scowled at her. "What you doin' hangin' on that curtain?"

She quickly shut it, turned and smiled brightly at him. "Nothin'. Just curious is all."

He took a step towards her when Ben came in from the kitchen. Both boys were big and burly. Mark had turned 25 last week and topped six foot, then came Molly at 22, Ben just 18 then little Rose at 7. The boys looked like their father but stood a good half head taller, Molly was the spit of their belated mother. Little Rose was the echo of an angel and a goodly mix of both parents. A happy but solemn child, their mama had died in childbirth. When the breath left Laura Connor's body it had taken the child's voice with it. Not once since that fateful day had little Rose uttered a single word. It was all kinds of tragic but such was her nature that they just loved her the more. Not nobody ever would harm a hair on that girl's head. They each swore as much with every beat of their hearts even if the sentiment never got spoken. They were a strong family. Tight knit, loving and loyal. And little Rose was like their mama's last gift to them. All kinds of precious.

* * * * *

Zoe couldn't understand it. Her increasingly energetic actions roused her sleepy eyed husband from his well earned slumber. "Zoe?" He mumbled, turning on the double bed to cast a bleary eye for his wife. "What're you doin', *bao bei*?"

She straightened, hands on hips, a frown settling on her face. Their things in disarray where she had gone through every pocket they had between them. "It's not there."

Wash sat up, hair sticking out in all directions. He looked as blurry as he felt but Zoe's tone was waking him fast. "What's not there?"

"The rest of the money."

"What the good gorram do you mean it isn't there? Where else could it be?"

She flashed him a warning. "It was in the pouch in my front pocket. The money for fuel and such."

Fully awake now, Wash ran a troubled hand through his hair. Slapping his brain about, trying to think. "What do you think happened?"

"Somebody stole it."

He blinked. "*Wode ma*, there's no one here but us. How could anyone steal it? It must have fallen out of your pocket."

She shook her head. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she was. "*Bu qu*, we had the money when we paid for this chalet Wash. Which means somebody snuck in here while we were... out on the beach."

Wash's face darkened. "Why that *liou coe shuai du biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze*, he cheated us! *Women qu biede difang, hao ma*?"

Zoe paced back and forth a few times then sat on the bed next to him, huffing with disgust. "Can't do that, *zhangfu*. That was all the money we had. Even if we wanted to go somewhere else we got no way to pay for it now."

A warm hand brushed her shoulder. "We could take it out of his *choulou* hide."

She shook her head and stiffened slightly. "Have to catch him first. Besides, I don't want to stay here any longer."

Alarmed, Wash stared as Zoe began to dress. Her movements rapid, efficient. All trace of romance gone. "But we still have another day sweetie - all paid for. Another day of sand an' sea..."

"Wash, you can stay if you want but I have someone I want to track down an' talk to."

He swallowed slowly watching her check her gun before setting it in her holster. Knowing she didn't want to talk to the *zei* at all. String him up and rip out his innards yes, talk? No. Sometimes his beautiful wife scared him half to death. Not that he would ever tell her that. Biting back a sigh he shoved back the covers and eased himself upright. It had been good while it lasted. Not even the mean old hand of destiny could deny them that.

* * * * *

Simon was laughing. Kaylee finished her story and popped another strawberry in his mouth. It was getting late now and they had been on every gorram ride at least twice. He was feeling tired and ready to get back to Serenity and a nice hot meal. River poked his stomach. "Roaring now, needs feeding."

He smiled, Kaylee grinned and nodded. "Okay, we'll go back an' I'll..."

"We still have some money left don't we?" Asked the Preacher.

They looked at each other, Kaylee did some mental calculations then nodded. "Uh huh. *Weishenme*? What ya got in mind?"

"I was remembering that market we passed on the way here, where you got those strawberries. They had some mighty fine food for sale. Wouldn't hurt to pick up some fresh vegetables and such. A good meal might even improve the Captain's humour."

Kaylee looked at him in surprise. "Ain't nothin' wrong with the Cap'n."

Simon wanted to change the subject, pushing back a growing feeling of guilt. "What did you have in mind?"

"Don't think we can stretch to fresh meat but I'm sure I saw some soya and with fresh herbs, vegetables and a good thick gravy we can have quite a tasty feast."

"Sounds good to me." Said Simon. Anything to get away from the fair. All those spinning rides were beginning to make him feel dizzy.

River glanced back once, a thoughtful look on her face. She could have told them but they were happy. And everyone knew that bad news just ruined your appetite.

* * * * *

The apartment was sumpteous even by Core standards. Inara Serra stood for a moment in stunned silence. Her escort could not quite hide a smile of satisfaction. It was not often that something he did took a Companion's breath away. Counsellor Tollan opened the oversized door for her, the special counterbalanced sections swinging open with hardly a whisper of sound. Everything she saw bespoke money and lots of it. Her eyes took in luxury and privilege to a level that was fast approaching obscene. Seeing the way her look began to alter from awe to a vague unease at the embarrassment of wealth on display he was quick to disabuse her of any negative thoughts.

"Thomas earnt his money, Inara. All his life he has spent in service to others. Then cruel fate stepped in and all but crushed the life out of him in an accident that should never have happened. He was trying to save the children, it was why he went back inside even though the whole place was going up in flames. It was the last trip back inside that caught him, a blast so violent the tiles melted on the schoolhouse roof. Penny pinching and patching were to blame. The inquest was vitriolic in its' condemnation of the Alliance for allowing it to happen through their neglect and deliberate underfunding on repairs. Thomas was awarded a massive payout in compensation but all the coin in the 'verse couldn't give him back his legs."

"Are you saying...?"

"Thomas was a teacher."

She paused and turned to him. "But surely they could have given him artificial limbs? The technology has advanced so far, he could walk again. Do almost anything he had done before the accident."

"Inara," Said Tollan gently. "Do you know what Thomas's speciality was?"

Puzzled she shook her head. "The education of the forgotten. Those who had by accident or birth fallen to the bottom of the food chain, disabled by incorrect medical procedures, drugs, accidents, desease - you name it, Thomas catered for them. Paraplegics praised him as the only able bodied man with a grasp on the world in which they were trapped, third class citizens, the flotsam and jetsom of the shiny new Alliance of Planets. The Alliance didn't want to parade anyone who wasn't physically perfect, it would spoil the image of the 'verse they promoted. The ugly side of the coin was alright for the poor, the dispossessed, those who had mistakenly stood against the Alliance in the war. It would have been political suicide to acknowledge those people now."

"What happened?"

"He shunned all the elitest trappings though his lawyers fought and fought hard to get the funds and between them and his family this place was built."

She blinked, trying to take in everything he had said.

"Thomas hates it." Tollan confessed softly.

Inara looked at him in surprise. True it was not her taste, far too elaborate and expensive even for a Companion. So luxurious it was tacky. "*Wo bu dong*."

"His family chose the decor, the colours, the amenities they insisted no Core bred gentleman could do without." He paused on an elongated sigh. "He is as trapped in this nightmare as those he cared for were trapped in theirs. Different chains but even made of gold they are still chains." Counsellor Tollan paused and had to swallow carefully before he could bring himself to continue. Unshed tears glittering in his eyes like stars. "He became the thing he hated."

* * * * *

Rafe Connor would long savour the looks on his children's faces. He had a sneaking feeling that Molly must have been spying on their guest while he was washing down naked in the rear yard. The look on her face gave her away only too clearly to his practised eye. The boys were curious but cautious. Seeing how their father treated the newcomer they took their cue from him. But it was Rose that stunned them all. Little, much adored Rose, the apple of her father's eye and the centre of their 'verse. Trapped in a world of silence. Too shy and withdrawn to go beyond the sill of their front door. God knows they had all tried to coax her. When visitors called she retired to her room, occasionally standing by the bedroom door, her ear pressed against the door jam as she listened in on lives that would never touch her own.

With his breath held he watched eyes wide in stunned silence as Rose did not retreat but edged closer while Mal dutifully answered the flurry of questions from her brothers and sister. At first the others did not notice Rose and Rafe would have given every bone in his body to keep it that way, to let her take that first stumbling step into the orbit of another living and breathing human being. The spotlight currently had fallen on Molly, her great big hazel eyes shining as she related the various escapades of her brothers while they chipped in with equally embarrassing stories about her. Rafe bit back tears and sat quietly, eyes watchful and flicking from one firelit face to another as his little girl inched forward from obscurity into light.

Something must have alerted Mal that he was being watched but though he caught the girl's eye some instinct stopped him from making any fuss. A smile danced in his eyes, twitched a solemn lip with unwritten humour. He carried on talking. Rose liked the sound of his voice, a soothing quality that was all kinds of hypnotic to her. Just because she couldn't speak people tended to assume she was deaf and dumb. Deaf so they could say anything in her hearing and it made no never mind. Dumb in the sense of her being simple not silent. On all accounts they were wrong, victims of their own ignorance and prejudice. Malcolm Reynolds assumed nothing. Knew right away the girl was shy, was all kinds of amused by her curiosity. Letting her creep closer while doing nothing to scare her away.

Mark was asking him questions about cattle, branding and some such. Ben kept interrupting, wanting to know what Mal knew about horses. But Molly cut through all the bullshit with her usual aplomb. "So are you married?" Every eye turned to her. Too carried away in her thoughts for a moment to be embarrassed she stared at them and wondered why they had all stopped talking. Mal was about to answer when he caught the laughter on Rose's face and exchanged a secretive smile with her. "No, ma'am, ain't hog tied to no apron strings."

He watched her face darken as if he were deliberately provoking her then she laughed realising she was being teased. "You must think me very forward..."

"Nope, truth to tell it's refreshin' to meet folks who say what they think, please or offend."

That was when they spotted Rose. Mark's mouth fell open, Ben looked like he wanted to wrap her up in his arms and hug the life out of her. Molly stared and took a step towards her. To their surprise Mal's voice interjected to halt their good intentions. Soft and low his voice had a hint of coaxing command in it. "Easy now, no need to fuss *dong ma*?"

Molly flicked a glance his way but he was not looking at them. His eyes fixed on the girl, a little smile playing on his lips, his voice like coated honey drawling a gentle caress for the girl's ears. She was all kinds of fascinated now. The two of them blinked at each other. "I'm takin' it you're wantin' a story, *dui*?"

To their surprise Rose nodded then as natural as you please began to sign to him. Mal hid his surprise, had known there was something wrong with the girl but not what. He chuckled softly. "Now hold there you chatterbox, I can't keep up less you slow down. Say that again."

Rose gave a shy smile then signed slower. Mal watched, smiled and began to sign back. If ever a single act could disolve hearts of stone it was that one. In that moment, Malcolm Reynolds, knowingly or not had won each and every one of them. But the war-weary Captain of Serenity had eyes only for little Rose. His eyes fastened on her heart shaped face. "Well now," His voice coaxed softly, going all conspirational and homely. "Best you come closer an' I'll tell you but you breathe a word to another livin' soul an' not nobody's gonna get another story outta me, *dong ma*?"

Her mouth hung open in a silent laugh. Then natural as you please she got up and ran over to where Mal sat next to Ben on the couch. Mal moved along to make room and waited for her to get settled and tell him what she wanted. Her plea was so simple, such a little wish. It made him feel all kinds of happy that he could grant it for her. Dipping his head he looked into her eyes, his words accompanying the smooth slow movement of practised hands. Speaking and signing in unison to put her at her ease. To tell her that her silent world was silent no longer. That she had a friend.

* * * * *

It was well passed mid-day by the time Jayne Cobb stirred. The woman draped over him was snoring softly. With a shove he pushed her off him and on to her back. He needed to ease his bladder then wanted to wash the dust from his throat. The woman hardly twitched. Jayne grinned and fondled an ample breast, flicking the nipple with his nail until it stood firm and proud at the top of the mammary pyramid. He wanted to tease and suckle at that breast and let his hands roam the well travelled road before sinking himself into the warm heat of her and rutting them both into a delicious sleepy coma. He groaned with sudden frustration. His bladder taking the decision away from him. By the time he had finished his ablutions the whore was wide awake and spreading herself for him with a knowing glint in her eye. Jayne paused to watch her, his grin lighting up his face with hunger. His breath quickening as she began to play with herself, his eyes fixed on the movement of her deft digits stroking liquid heat, a groan of want and need building up inside him until he could take being a spectator no more.

Her laughter was lusty as he tumbled impatiently onto the bed and framed her body with his own. Maybe he wouldn't go just yet. Her hands were on him in a second squeezing, pumping and caressing him until he plunged with joyful abandon deep into her hot core. Their lusty cries falling into the erratic rythym of the headboard ramming up against the wall of the whorehouse in time to their energetic thrusts. The part of Jayne still capable of thought never wanted to leave Minerva.

* * * * *

He was not what she had expected. The thick heavy seals of warped skin were painful to look on. The thick ugly folds ran down his face and body like melted wax. He could have had the best surgery in the Core, had his features resculpted into the fashion of any face he wanted including his own but Thomas Charles McCardy was not simply a principled man he was also a gorram stubborn one. He wore the thick seals of ruined flesh like battle honours, the look in his eye defying anyone to comment on the nature of his deformity. Bright intelligence burned in eyes the colour of aquamarine. Gentle knowing eyes trapped in hideous flesh. Almost he clung to his infirmity like a sinner to the lash. Bound in his misery by the mistaken belief he deserved nothing less. As if his greatest crime had been to survive while others perished.

"Thomas," Said Tollan gently. "This is Inara Serra. Inara, this is my good friend Thomas Charles McCardy."

Inara smiled at him and took the proferred hand without flinching. The man must have suffered third degree burns to most of his body. "I am pleased to meet you, Mr McCardy. Tollan has told me so much about you."

He widened his eyes in mild disbelief but his look was kindly not confrontational. He knew a gentle lie when he heard it. "And Peter has told me nothing of you, gentle lady."

Tollan flushed and Inara got the feeling that contrary to what the Counseller had told her, Thomas knew exactly what his friend's feelings towards him were. It made her curious. As her head turned back towards her client she caught a look in his eye that told her this night was going to be more illuminating than she had expected. What was this game they were playing and just who was manipulating who?

* * * * *

Kaylee was laughing, so happy and so carefree. They had enjoyed a wonderful time. Their second day on Minerva slipping by so fast that it felt as if they had hardly set foot on the planet more than a few hours. But she knew that wasn't true. The memories they had made these last two days were among the most fun filled she could remember. Always they seemed to be running from one rutting crisis to another. It was something of a pleasure and a relief for things to go smooth. She was therefore surprised to find Zoe and Wash on board when they got back. Sure she had heard Zoe say they would be gone for three days.

The Preacher raised an eyebrow as Simon helped him carry their purchases aboard. "I take it the nude bathing was inadequate?"

Zoe did not so much as crack a smile. Kaylee felt her heart lurch. Had she just been thinking everything was going smooth? Gorrammit had she jinxed things already? River touched her hand and gave it a light squeeze, her expression reassuring. Her words, not so much. "Sometimes you don't get what you pay for."

Simon looked at River but she did not elaborate then Wash was talking. Or rather, ranting louder and louder as he paced back and forth. Simon blinked, his mind scrambling to make head or tail of what he was hearing. "Robbed?"

"Not robbed," Correctly River in a distant voice like some farway judge quoting the letter of the law. "Robbery involves violence or the threat of violence."

"Okay," Snapped Wash. "But our money was taken, stolen. Out of our chalet!"

All of them had made their way to the kitchen area where Book and Simon divested themselves of their purchases while listening to the whole sad sorry tale. Kaylee bit her lip in an effort not to laugh. "Are you sayin' you an' Zoe were too *busy* havin' naked sex to notice there was a thief about?"

Wash glared at her. Zoe saw no reason to tip toe round it. "Just havin' a lovin' moment or two, no need to sully it. But it's not just our money."

The Shepherd paused, his hands hovering above the sweet potatoes. "They took something else?"

Now Zoe looked uncomfortable. "I had the money for Serenity." She flinched at the crestfallen look on Kaylee's face. "Mal gave me the money for the fuel and some such. Never thought we'd be the target for thieves."

"Perhaps we should report this to the local law." Suggested Book, his expression grave. Simon shook his head, eyes wide. "No! I mean, Inara said the Alliance hardly ever come here but they do come. I don't think it's wise to draw any more attention to ourselves than necessary."

Book considered that and gave a tentative nod then looked at Wash. "How much fuel do we have?"

"Enough to take off but not enough to make the next planetfall. We're pretty much needin' to refuel before we go anywhere else."

A depressed silence fell. Book began cleaning the sweet potatoes and preparing vegetables, his mind searching for some way to turn this calamity to their advantage or at least to lessen its' negative impact. So far he could not see any silver lining.

"What do we do?" Asked Kaylee in a small worried voice. "We gotta have fuel an' we need some parts for Serenity as well as medicine for Simon." Simon waved off any concerns on that score. "I can wait until we make our next stopover, I have enough medication for River and the other supplies while low are not critical."

Kaylee looked at the Shepherd. "So much for hopin' this meal would cheer up the Cap'n."

"What do you mean?" Said Zoe.

Kaylee repeated what Book had said. Zoe felt an uneasy stir in her gut. She tried to ignore it. "Cap'n's shiny." Said Zoe.

"That's what I said." Kaylee agreed but somehow when she looked at the first mate it didn't sound quite as convincing as it had before.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = precious/treasure *wode ma* = mother of God *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *liou coe shuai du biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze* = salivating son of a bitch and monkey *women qu biede difang, hao ma* = shall we go somewhere else? *zhangfu* = husband *choulou* = ugly *zei* = thief *weishenme* = why *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *dong ma* = understand *dui* = correct

COMMENTS

Saturday, August 7, 2004 4:03 PM

CHANNAIN


More please! Your cliffhangers are jsut a little bit more evil than mine - well done!

Saturday, August 7, 2004 9:59 PM

GUILDSISTER


Nice. I'm enjoying the relaxed pacing with the problems building in a gradual sort of way.

Mal's new--ahem!--'family' seems nice. Too nice... Not in the 'they're ominous' way, but in the they're seducing him away from his other, more troublesome clan.

Very much enjoying this one thus far and looking forward to more.

Sunday, August 8, 2004 2:46 AM

ARTSHIPS


After a hundred chapters of long-suffering-Mal, it's been nice to see Mal slip into a relaxing, happy place ('sides River). It's such a wonderful family he's found, now, but I wonder if he'll come to miss his old, eccentric one. As for the rest of our heroes, it was funny to hear Zoe refer to her strength as "Captain" again, instead of the "Mal" he last insisted on.

Saturday, August 14, 2004 2:18 AM

KISPEXI2


OK, my brain shorted out with the opening Nekkid!Mal scene ...

Tantalizing hints at trouble to come, leaving me hungry for more.

BTW, I love the way you depict Mal's affinity with children. It highlights what I see as his essential innocence despite the grim life he's led.


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