Sign Up | Log In
BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal makes an appointment with Saffron. Kaylee finally gets her man. Wash overhears some interesting stuff. Oh and there's Reavers.
You might not want to read this if dark themes trouble you.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1897 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
22nd April 2005 can't come soon enough for me, which is when the next helping of real Joss Whedon-quality Firefly (not my pale imitation) will become available.
* * * * *
CHECK MATE: Counterplay.
* * * * *
Zoe breathes a sigh of relief as the mule's engine starts to turn. She'd calcuated that with a bit of covering fire from Rudi and Brandy, she and Mal stood a better than even chance of escaping from Monty's indifferent band of hired men, but she's glad they didn't have to put the math to the test.
As she goes up through the gears, she remarks almost conversationally, “Had me convinced you were really gonna do it for a while back there, Sir. Kill Monty.”
Mal grunts. “Had my own self convinced, Zoe.”
She knew it. Saw the darkness rise up in those angelic blue eyes of his till he looked like the devil incarnate. Then saw it ebb slowly back, sucking the murderous rage back down like sea-water through shingle. Trouble is, ain't no holdin' back the tide – wave has to break eventually.
“Shame the Shepherd wa'n't there to witness the other cheek-turnin'. Would've made his day. Seems to think soul-savin's a two-for-one deal. Plannin' to slip through the Pearly Gates on your coat-tails. Claim the credit for bringing you back to the Lord.”
“Only place he's goin' with me is Hell,” Mal replies coldly, staring dead ahead. “I ain't turned no cheek. Jus' wanna visit justice on the right person.”
“Seems to me it's lookin' for payback's what got us here in the first place,” Zoe says quietly, almost as if she's talking to herself.
They drive the rest of the way in silence, Mal biting the inside of his cheek as he goes over the many ways of inflicting pain life has taught him whilst Zoe wonders how she's going to drag him back from the abyss this time.
When Serenity's familiar outline appears in the distance Mal says suddenly, “Talkin' of payback - that husband of yours is gonna make my life a misery once he knows he was a gorram war hero. Can't promise you I won't space him if he starts with stories of his own.”
A smile twitches at the corner of Zoe's mouth. “Cou'n't say I'd blame you, Sir.” Then more seriously, “I ain't plannin' on tellin' him yet.”
“Well, I'd sure take that as a kindness, but don't think Wash'd agree. Anyway, ain't married folk s'posed to be truthsome with each other?” Mal smart-asses, never able resist the urge to point out the flaws in other people's relationships. “What about trust an' honesty an' ...?”
“Not sure I know what the truth of this is my own self yet, Sir,” Zoe interrupts him coolly. “If Wash was such a big hero – kind as could lead an insurrection - don't you think we'd've heard of him? Think Monty cut us a slice of the truth an' kept the rest to himself.”
Yeah. She thought that'd shut him up.
“All right, all right, Parkin!” Rantoong holds up his hands in mock surrender. “I'll grant you that things have gone somewhat pear-shaped. The trick is to impose some kind of order on the chaos. Shape it to our own ends.”
“Reynolds came close to shooting my 'tame Browncoat' as you call him, the prospect has taken off on her own and our Londinium massacre is looking increasingly unlikely. On top of that Gordon blabbed about what the serum does and now we have eight more people with information which – if it got out – could be immensely damaging to the Corporation, to us. Shape me some order out of that!”
If looks could kill, Parkin would be sliding off that leather chair into a pile of his own entrails, instead of deriding his superior's competence. It takes Rantoong several seconds to regain his composure.
“Gordon is your responsibility,” he counters, boucing the criticism right back..
“I have terminated my relationship with Lieutenant Gordon,” Parkin replies with no small degree of satisfaction. “I like to keep things simple. My people either live up to expectations or they don't live at all. Order out of chaos.” And he gives a flourish of the hands like a magician after a successful trick.
“I see. Well, that is good. Pour encourager les autres, amongst other things. As for the prospect, she's heading for Newhall. Doubtless with Captain Reynolds in hot pursuit. Newhall,” his eyes take on a farway look, “Newhall is in such an interesting quadrant. What you might call a frontier zone, inhabited by true pioneers prepared to live with the ever-present danger of ....” He's almost purring as his glance slides sideways to meet Parkin's. “Time to give chaos a try perhaps?”
Parkin pulls a skeptical face.
“They've not performing dogs. You can't crack a whip and expect them to jump through hoops for you. They're savage, lawless animals now. Spreading unholy dread throughout the verse.” A pause. “That's what they were created them for, after all.”
“I had a subtler approach in mind. In general predators prefer to pick off the sick and the weak. The scent of blood from a wounded animal excites them. All we need do is bait the trail. Make them think Reynolds is bleeding.”
Lou-Anne Chuck has tight greying curls and seen-it-all eyes. Came to Newhall but a year back, just after a settler's chance discovery turned this rock – which the Alliance had meant to be a basic farming planet – into a bustling mining world. Since then it seems a fair portion of the 'verse's flotsam and jetsom have fetched up here, all looking to make coin fast.
Mining is in Lou-Anne's blood. A fifth generation miner herself, at the age of fifty-three she was promoted to her present position as Chief Overseer of the Blue Sun Corp's Platinum and Chromite Mine on Newhall.
She takes a final drag on her cigarette and stubs it out in the leftovers of her canteen lunch. The fat sizzles momentarily releasing an unappetizing bouquet of recycled oil and ash. Through the glass panel in the door she can see them waiting for her. Gubby Stewart – a leather-faced middle aged man and a real miner - nursing what looks like a broken nose and the new girl she thinks of as Ginger. Ha'n't had time to learn her name yet an' now there's no point. Ginger's been here less than a week and is about to get her marching orders. Whatever tale she spins, Lou-Anne knows it will be nothing but a pack of lies. Would never have hired her herself – girl has charlatan, cut-purse and worse written all over her.
As soon as Lou-Anne emerges from her office, Ginger launches into the role of brave victim. Dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief, bites back a sob. Lou-Anne's unruly brows knit impatiently together. She plants her feet slightly apart and stands with hands on broad hips.
“OK, missy. Let's hear your side of it.”
Sniff. Eyelash flutter. Quivering bosom. “He .. he tried to force himself on me. I was scared. Lived my whole life in the maiden's house before comin' here in search of work. I di'n't know what else to do ... I was only tryin' to protect my honour.” Pleading glance.
“Gou shi!” Gubby exclaims, breaking off from trying to staunch the flow of blood from his nostrils. “She tricked me into her bed and then tried to steal my wallet whilst I was sleepin'. But I ain't such an old fool as to close my eyes on a young thing as'd sleep with the likes of me. Caught her going through my pockets. Gorram bitch kicked me in the face when I tried to stop her.
Lou-Anne grunts. “Now that story has the ring of truth to it.”
Ginger abruptly stops playing for sympathy and lifts her chin defiantly. She smiles nastily at the overseer. “OK, hon. You win. You sussed me out. But there ain't a damn thing you can do about it. My word against his.”
“I can fire you.”
“No you can't. I quit. There are other jobs. Better jobs.”
Lou-Anne looks her up and down. Takes in the pale skin, blue eyes and red hair. The unnaturally full curve of breasts and hips on such a delicate frame. The angry confidence of a woman accustomed to inspiring love but unable to feel it.
“Best stick to what you know. Newhall City's whorehouse's always looking for new girls.”
“Mal? You in there?” Both hands on the door frame, Zoe leans into Inara's shuttle and peers around. It's dark and there's no answer. He's got to be in here; she's looked every other damn place. Unless he's thrown himself out the airlock ... No, he ain't gonna do that. Not whilst he's still got a score to settle. A score she can help him with. Because according to the database Wash and Kaylee got into, a Magpie shuttle recently docked with a transport vessel en route for Newhall. “Mal!”
Still no answer, so she steps through the doorway. Jayne's right – it does smell funny in here. Well, different from the rest of Serenity anyway. Of flowers and spices, woods and oils. But mostly of Inara.
Mal is sitting on the long red couch, bent almost double, his face buried deep in one of Inara's cushions, shoulders shaking. Zoe feels dirty. She shouldn't be here. She's been to hell and back with this man – would do it all again if he asked – but she can't walk this path with him. This he has to do alone.
She takes a couple of stealthy paces backwards and then makes her escape. She has no idea if he even knew she was there.
Simon is quietly confident about his latest cocktail of drugs. Oh, he knows it's not perfect and that its effects won't last, but slowly, slowly he's working his way towards the right mix of sedatives, stimulants, antipsychotics and antidepressants that will release River's mind from the cage the Alliance has trapped it in. One day, he will get it right and his sister will return to him, her maddening, delightful brilliant old self.
Wash, who's just had to have stitches to a head wound inflicted by one of the mares taking exception to the quality of her lunch ration, watches with slightly horrified fascination as Simon draws the mixture up into a hypodermic syringe and taps it carefully to remove any air bubbles. He shudders at the thought that an air bubble can be a lethal as poison.
“Always hated needles. Even as a kid. Hate 'em even more now.”
Simon gives him a sympathetic smile. “A necessary evil, I'm afraid. And injections don't have to hurt if you follow the correct procedure.”
“If you say so, Doc. Still don't like the idea of being stuck in the veins with a pointy bit of metal. Gotta feel sorry for River, number of shots she gets.”
“The trick is to find a good vein,” Simon tells him. “Making a fist and releasing it repeatedly usually brings up a perfectly adequate injection site on the lower arm.”
“Now I'm feeling faint,” Wash complains. “Keep wonderin' what would've happened if Inara ... you know ... got the poison into me. D'you think it would it have been quick? I think it would've been. I mean, we got along okay. Don't think she'd've wanted me to suffer ...” Morbid curiosity gets the better of him.
Simon's brow lift in surprise. “So Mal hasn't told you his theory?”
“Well, actually it was River's. He just picked up on it. They think the serum wasn't a poison after all, but an antidote of some kind. My opinion obviously counts for nothing. I'm only a qualified physician.” Is Simon sulking? He surely is. Now that is funny! Wash can't wait to tell Zoe about this ... Then again, maybe she already knows. She and Mal have probably teased out all the implications of the serum being an antidote, evaluated all their options and come to a decision on how to proceed. Only neither of them has seen fit to tell him. Fine! It's only his life. He's only the husband.
“I'd prefer you to wait a while before getting up,” Simon says as Wash gets to his feet. “You're not looking great. Don't want you passing out.”
“Don't worry about me, Doc. I'm not important.” And he's gone. Simon rolls his eyes in exasperation. No need to take his advice. No need at all. He sighs. The syringe is ready. Time to find River.
She's sitting on the edge of her bed, face pressed into a pillow and rocking backwards and forwards.
“River, mei-mei, time for your medicine,” he says gently prising the pillow from her grip. Her eyes are bloodshot and her nose is red. She's been crying. “There, there. You'll feel better soon.”
“Daddy's sad,” she tells him in an agonized whisper. “Missing his girl.”
Simon resists the temptation to voice his doubts about their father's ability to feel anything, let alone sadness at the loss of his daughter. In Simon's opinion, Gabriel Tam is probably very much relieved to have seen the last of his troublesome offspring.
“Waited too long to eat the cake and now the candles have all blown out,” River says, shaking his hand in hers as if trying to impress the importance of what she's saying on him.
“He can afford a new one,” is his bitter reply as he scans her inner elbow for a vein. He slides the needle in quickly and looks her in the eye. “Try not to think about home, River. This is our home now. And this crew is our family. Even Jayne, God help us. At least his betrayal made a kind of sense...”
“Boob.” A tear squeezes out through her lashes as she closes her eyes. “Thought you loved him.”
“I did. I do. I just don't respect him or expect anything from him any more.”
River frowns in confusion and slaps away the hand he tries to stroke her cheek with. Then the door slides open and Mal is standing there. He looks from brother to sister, instinctively aware of the tension in the room. But River is perfectly calm now and her eyes twinkle knowingly as if she's keeping a delicious secret.
“Need some information, Doc. If you're not busy.” Simon looks at his sister who dismisses his concern with an impatient huff. He stands up.
“Want a list of Inara's injuries.”
Simon flinches visibly at the request, not at all sure this is a good idea. “It might be easier not knowing,” he suggests gently but is answered with a hard resolute stare.
“You let me worry about that,” Mal says coldly. “I know you got your hypocritic oath to abide by,” - the malapropism is surely deliberate - “but I'm in need of some old-fashioned justice right now. An eye for an eye.”
Simon knows there's no point in arguing. And he can't work up much compassion for Saffron. But he feels Mal's pain like a knife to his own heart and fears for the Captain's sanity.
“Poor Daddy,” River repeats over and over again once they have left the room.
Behind the locked door of shuttle two, Zoe sits before the Cortex screen steadily, patiently going through the numerous pages listing the Alliance's Most Wanted. Wash is not amongst them. Halfway through she realized he might have been given an alias, so she went back and rechecked photographs and physical descriptions. Nothing.
Which would seem to confirm her very worst fears.
Jayne's confused. Plus his feelings have been hurt. 'Cos that one time – when he was tryin' to do Mal a favour by sortin' his 'fugee problem for him – he, Jayne, ended up on the wrong end of a wrench and on the wrong side the airlock door. Hell, he di'n't kill no-one. Monty murders 'Nara and gets off with a punchin'. He shakes his head. Workin's of Mal's mind're beyond him.
“Think it's a good sign myself,” Book is saying as he prepares the last of their fresh vegetables for dinner. “Forgiveness is the mark of a great man.”
“Cap'n left forgiveness behind a long time ago,” Zoe informs him dispassionately as she enters the mess.
Jayne raises a hand in contradiction. “So how come Monty ain't dead?”
“Because,” Zoe explains, “we're goin' after Saffron instead. Wash's jus' set a course for Newhall.” She turns to Book whose disappointment at the news is evident. “Think that's a good sign do you, Shepherd?” she asks, twisting the knife for the sheer hell of it.
“Newhall? Ain't that Reaver territory?” Jayne asks, his eyes widening with expectant dread like a dog that's just unearthed a procupine. “Don't wanna be goin' any place as got Reavers.”
Simon steers River into the room. She's very agitated and is pulling violently at her hair, cursing loudly in Chinese with every tug.
“Cap'n says Reavers don't stay long in one place,” Kaylee puts in optimistically as she too appears, looking for dinner. “They was out in that quadrant coupla years back. Lightnin' don't strike twice in the same place. That's a scientific fact, ain't it Simon?” She's asking him in part because she's in awe of his learning and in part because flattery in one of her wide range of seduction techniques. And the doctor is proving a difficult man to seduce. She's more'n a mite disappointed he ain't made a return visit to her bunk.
Simon is shaking his head mumbling, “I really don't know. I'm a medic, not a meteorologist,” when River pipes up, “On Earth-that-was a park ranger was struck by lightning thirteen times. Thirteen. Prime number. Unlucky for some.”
Jayne glares at her for snatching away the straw of denial Kaylee was offering from right under his nose. “Unlucky for him, I'd say. An' more reason for keepin' well away from Newhall.”
“You can always stay in your bunk,” Zoe points out with unmasked disdain.
“No. No he can't.” Book's intervention takes everyone by surprise. “I'm thinkin' the Captain'll need support in this venture. An' you and I are the best ones to provide it, Jayne.” There's a quiet authority in his voice that the mercenary can't argue against. Instead he harrumphs and spits on the floor. A petulant, futile gesture from someone who's just been over-ruled.
“Not sure how you figure that, Preacher,” Zoe objects. “Your loyalty ain't exactly beyond question. An' Jayne ... well ...”
“Which is precisely why it should be us as goes with him,” Book says, undaunted by her critical stare. “Both of us got somethin' to prove. To him. To you. But most of all to ourselves.”
Zoe holds his gaze for a long time, her eyes all but boring into his soul. At last she gives a curt nod. “That you do.”
“What you doin' hidin' in here, Zoe?” Mal asks having finally tracked her down.. “Been fightin' with that husband of yours again?”
Zoe narrows her eyes at him. A little warning, well understood between the two of them. “Tryin' to avoid a fight actually, Sir” she says, returning her attention to the screen.
He takes a seat beside her and stares at it too. “Wanted by the Alliance,” he reads aloud. “War criminals still at large.” He glances sideways at Zoe's serious face. “Looks like you're spoilin' for trouble from where I'm sittin'.”
“There's hundreds of Independents listed here, Mal. Most of 'em MIA. But Wash ain't amongst 'em.”
Mal frowns. “If what Monty said was true an' they changed his memories, seems more'n likely they'd change his name too.”
“Thought of that. Searched for a physical match.” She turns to look at Mal and there's something like fear in her eyes. “He ain't on the list.”
Mal stares at her, trying to read her thoughts. “Monty might've been lyin' ...”
“You don't believe that, an' neither do I. Besides, Wash's been sayin' all manner of strange things.” Her voice trails off, as her eyes beg Mal to come up with another explanation. Anything other than what she's thinking. Instead he simply waits for her to give voice to her dread.
“What if it wa'n't an experiment, Mal? What if those tamade hun dans knew damn well what they were doin'?”
Mal's mouth fall open. “But that would mean .... Why go to that kind of trouble for an Independent? ... Oh! Zao cao!”
“Think we should tell him?”
“Oh don't you go draggin' me into this. Ain't no 'we'. It's up to you. He's your husband.”
“OK, Sir. Think I shoud tell him?”
“Like I jus' made note of – it's your decision.”
“Would you want to know?”
“I ain't him.”
“Thanks, Sir, You've been a great help.”
“I live to serve.”
She should be used to this. Mal's infuriating habit of handin' out unwanted advice but withholdin' his opinion when she most needs it. She gives him a withering look but his smirk remains.
“Picked up a distress call.” Wash is standing in the doorway. Mal and Zoe couldn't look guiltier if he'd just caught them in bed together. How long has he been there? Did he overhear? Should they say anything? “What? What's the matter?” His display of confusion reassures them.
“Nothin'. Jus' pullin' up maps of Newhall,” Zoe attempts to cover their tracks as she flicks the screen off.
“Distress call from where?” Mal asks briskly. Nothin' like an emergency for divertin' attention.
“Well, here's a wacky coincidence. It's from a Firefly. Seems to be carrying about ten crew. Life support on the blink.”
Gau sang jeong zi gou zoeng. Gim caa jeong hei gung jing. Life support failure. Check oxygen levels at once.. Gorramit! He can't ignore it. Been in that desperate position himself.
“Where are they?”
“Well, again with the wacky coincidence. Heading for Newhall.”
Simon takes advantage of Zoe's routine examination to unload his concerns about Mal.
“Anger is a natural response. It's one of the stages of grief. But it's important to work through it. Talk it out ...”
“Talkin' ain't his strong suit. More for the doin'.”
“But what he's planning ... Dragging us after Saffron deep into Reaver territory ... well, it looks like the action of a man who's going mad.”
Zoe tilts her head to one side, astonished that someone as clever as Simon could fail to understand. “You're wrong. It's the opposite. It's the action of a man who's trying to prevent himself from goin' mad. It's not even about love ... well, not that kind of love. It's about family. This crew is the only family Mal's got and he'll do whatever he has to to protect it. Endin' Saffron's the last thing he can do for Inara. Plus it'll serve as a warnin' to others. Keepin' his crew safe is the most important thing in the 'verse to him now. A fact you've got plenty to be grateful for. Think about that when you're worring about what's sanity and what's madness.” She pauses as a thought strikes her. “Some might say what you did to rescue River was madness.”
“But at least she was alive!” Simon protests, trying to deny the similarities between himself and the Captain even as the thought warms him. “Inara's dead. This won't bring her back.”
Zoe pats his shoulder as if he were a rather simple child. “No, but it'll bring him back.”
A gentle tap on the door of his bunk arouses Simon from a frankly unsettling dream in which he was riding a stampeding bull through a thunderstorm, clinging onto the horns and being bounced painfully ever which way.
He pads barefoot over to the door.
“Kaylee!” He glances over to the chronometer by his bed. “It's late. Is something wrong? Is it River.”
“No. River's fine,” she says, entering the room uninvited.
Aware of Kaylee's eyes on his chest, Simon quickly pulls on a vest. “Is it Mal ... the Captain, I mean?”
Kaylee twists her hands in her lap and tears begin to well in her eyes. “I'm so worried about him, Simon,” she confides. “You think he's really gonna kill Saffron?”
Simon is silent. Knows she doesn't want to hear his answer that yes, he does think Mal will kill her. Eventually. He shudders, uncomfortable on many levels. His rational, civilized side is repelled, sickened, by the brutality of what Mal is planning. But part of him is fascinated by – and yes, a little in awe of – the man's passionate intensity, his focus and determination. Unexpectedly he recalls that night when Mal came striding out of the darkness that night to save him and River from being burnt at the stake. He smiles to himself. Being on Mal's crew has its disadvantages but in some ways he's never felt so safe. Nor so cared for.
“You laughin' at me?” Kaylee asks, her lip quivering.
“No. No. I would never ... “ he exclaims with utter sincerity.
She accept the denial with a wan little smile. “Hold me. Please.”
He takes a step forward and puts one arm, then the other round her, pulls her in close. She sighs deeply and lets her head drop against his chest. She's so soft and warm and vulnerable like this. Nothing to feel intimidated by, inadequate beside. His hand moves up to stroke her hair, which is surprisingly silky to the touch. He's looking down tenderly at her when she suddenly raises her chin and sees the look in his eyes.
Does he kiss her or does she kiss him? It's hard to be sure. Because at first there's the lightest brush of lip against lip, then the firmer contact of mouth on mouth. Before he has time to think, his tongue is in her mouth, caressing hers and she's pressing her body hard against him.
It only takes a little step backwards to reach the bed.
“You sure no-one recognized you?” Mal asks Jayne, with a look that warns him against even thinking of lying.
Jayne recoils at the affront to his skills. “'Course not! I was in disguise. Wore my orange hat.”
“Oh good. You'll have been real inconspicuous in that.” Mal's sarcasm is not lost on Book but Jayne is oblivious.
“I could come in with you, Mal ... Watch your back,” he continues, trying not to sound too eager, as they come to a halt outside Catrina's Cathouse and Bar.
“That's mighty generous of you, Jayne,” Mal replies, straight-faced. “But you had your turn in there already. Not that I ain't grateful to you for findin' the gou de ma. No, I need you out here with the horses, ready for a quick getaway.” A shadow passes behind his eyes. “Afterwards.”
“Hell, the Preacher can handle three mares for half an hour!”
“Ain't in the mood to argue this, Jayne. Anyway, your job's to keep in contact with the ship. In case there's any news on that Firefly. Now – think you can stick to the plan?”
“I was only ...”
“Know full well what you 'was only'. Don't need to be a mind-readin' genius for that.”
The corners of Jayne's mouth turn down and he drops his gaze to his boots. Meanwhile Mal stuffs his hands deep into his pockets where his fingers find the tools he took from Kaylee's repair kit last night. The cold hard metal is a solid and very real presence that reminds him he's on the threshhold of turning his desire for vengeance into harsh, bloody reality. If he's having any doubts about going through with this, his companions don't see it. He clenches his jaw, grinding molar against molar and takes his first step on the road to perdition.
“God go with you, son.”
He spins round, dazzling the Shepherd with a bright, defiant smile. “That ain't hardly likely, Preacher.”
“Oh, you'd be surprised.”
“Should warn you,” Mal drawls as he peels two fifty-square bills from the wad in his hand and presses them into the upturned palm of Madame Catrina herself, “I ain't much for the regular flavour.”
“Not many of our customers is,” the old woman replies, unsurprised.
“Prefer a bit of a struggle, pretence at unwillingness. Might be a bit of screamin' an' yellin'.”
Catrina nods again. That explains what a fine-looking fella like this one is doing paying for his play. Don't seem likely in the normal run of things that he'd meet up with many girls able to put on a convincing show of reluctance. “No problem. Usually jus' turn up the music if things upstairs get a bit lively. Now, if you wanna follow me, I'll show you the room.”
“You get me the girl I asked for?” Mal asks as he follows her up the open staircase that leads into a dark, wood-panelled corridor.
Saffron has arranged herself in an alluring pose, back to the door. She waits to hear it swing closed before rolling languidly over. Her eyes are demurely downcast so the first thing they fall on is a familiar boot. In horror they travel upwards, over the canvas pants, past the belt and up the coarse cotton shirt to meet an impressively flinty stare. Ever the quick thinker, she gets to her feet and rushes over to Mal, flinging her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. “Oh, thank God you're here! Mal, you gotta help me. Monty sold me ...”
“Bizui,” he growls, shoving her forcefully away. He strikes her across the cheek with the back of his hand, making her reel backwards. “Don't lie to me.”
Swiftly changing tactics, she spins back round, bringing an elbow up into the base of his nose, making him see stars. “So, Malcolm Reynolds. You've come to get your revenge, have you? You really are a gullible fool. She never loved you, you realize that, don't you?” She punctuates the jibe with a kick to his groin that takes his breath away.
He shoots out a hand and grabs her hair. “Don't matter whether she did or not. I ...” A tug upwards and he pulls her off-balance. She falls to the floor where she promptly sinks her teeth into his ankle.. Taking advantage of the suprise that makes him yelp, she scrabbles towards the window, but he throws himself down on her heavily, preventing her from reaching it.
Pinning her down with his weight, he reaches for her wrist and twists the arm up behind her back.
“I'll scream,” she hisses.
He leans in towards her ear. “Bonus,” he whispers darkly, lips skimming the lobe. He sits back up and takes hold of her little finger. “This what you did to her?” A pull, a jerk, a quiet snap and a gasp of amazement. He moves on to the next finger. This time Saffron's gasp has an unnervingly pleasured sound to it.
“That's it, hubby,” she breathes seductively. “Always thought you were as tweaked as me underneath.” He knows she's trying to psych him out, but the knowledge don't make this any the less creepifyin'. “Monty's boys had her in the end. You gonna go that far?”
To his horror, Mal feels his stomach churn. Fears he might be sick. He battles the weakness, ignores her taunting and yanks her middle finger backwards. She screams.
“Here, son, let me get that weight for you.” If Mal hears the words by the time he comes round the mild concussion caused by the blow to the back of his head will have eased them from his memory. He keels sideways, rolling away from Saffron.
For a moment she stays where she is, fearing a trick. Then she turns her head to look over her shoulder. And up into the face of The Malleus.
When her eyes meet his, Book goes pale. The similarity is uncanny. The face of his last victim – dead all these years - is staring up at him.
Saffron gets to her feet, sneering. She looks at the gun in his hand, now trained on her and gives a harsh laugh. “Gettin' dull in your old age, huh? Lost your torturer's fire? You sad, sad old man.”
Book's mouth is hanging open. “You're ... you're the child ...”
“Bravo, you piece of crap. Figured it out at last have you? I knew you the minute I laid eyes on you.” She's advancing towards him, all but daring him to pull the trigger. “Since then I've been workin' on ways to get even with you. Inara fallin' into my lap was a gift. Used all your old techniques on her. Knew, if the outfit you wear's for real, you' have to unburden your conscience once you recognized what had been done to her. Was hopin' Mal would kill you. But he's so full of shit!” She spits on his unconscious body. “Guess I'll have to do it myself.” And suddenly she spins round on the ball of one foot and brings the other up into his gut. The Shepherd staggers and drops his weapon. Saffron stoops down and picks it up. “Got a prayer handy?” she jeers, aiming for his heart.
It's only fitting. Divine justice with more'n a touch of poetry to it. Book always suspected the Lord had a wicked sense of humour. He closes his eyes and waits.
The explosion is deafening. It splits the air into a million shards of pain and light. Something hot and wet hits Book's face. It trickles down into his mouth. He tastes blood. Disbelieving, he opens his eyes. On the floor, beside Mal's prone body, lies Saffron oozing blood from a neat round hole in the middle of her forehead.
A large, powerful hand slaps down between the Shepherd's shoulder blades. “How many times I got to tell you, Preacher? You need someone to spot you!”
“Wha' ...? Where ...?” The room is fuzzy and unexpected. What in the diyu is he doing here? An' more importantly, does the vixen live?
“Back on the ship, Sir. Thanks to the Shepherd and Jayne,” Zoe says, the ghost of a smile playing round her mouth threatening to blossom into a full-on grin.
“Huh? Good. Tha's good. Why does my head hurt?”
“That would be down to me, Captain,” Book confesses, adding quickly, “I had my reasons” under Mal's fearsome glare.
“She dead?” Mal asks him hopefully.
“Yes. But that would be down to Jayne,” the Shepherd tells him with a wry smile.
Mal's eyes shoot up. “He ignore a direct order and go into that whorehouse?” he demands.
“That he did,” Book replies. “Saved both our lives.”
Mal's eyes are slithering suspiciously from Preacher to grinning mercenary when Wash comes bursting into the infirmary.
“Uh, don't want to worry anyone but we're bein' followed. Got a Magpie on our tail.”
Zoe raises an eyebrow. “Monty followed us?”
Wash shakes his head. “Not unless he ain't worried about core containment.”
Wife and husband stare in horror at each other. Mal springs up from the exam table and rushes up to the bridge.
“OK, we got ourselves a situation here,” Mal says grimly. “Seems what we thought was a Firefly in trouble was nothin' but a lure. Unfortunately, we wa'n't the only ones picked up the distress call. Looks like Reavers homed in on it an' now they're lookin' to take down the ship that sent it. We match the profile.”
Kaylee feels like her knees are going to give way.
“We get boarded – Zoe, the Preacher, Jayne and me might make a fight of it. Then again, we might not. Which is why you ..” his eyes go to Wash, Kaylee, River and Simon in turn ..”gotta have a weapon.”
Zoe steps up and hands a small firearm to each of them.
“I don't know if...” Simon begins.
Kaylee looks at the gun in her hand. “Di'n't make much account of myself with a gun las' time,” she says. “Not sure I'll be much use to you, Cap'n.”
“Not askin' you to fight li'l Kaylee,” Mal tells her sadly, squeezing her arm gently.
She shakes her head, uncomprehending.
River leans her own head on the mechanic's shoulder. “Only one bullet,” she states with a reassuring smile. “Not for the Reavers. For you.”
Thursday, August 12, 2004 8:16 AM
Thursday, August 12, 2004 8:31 AM
Thursday, August 12, 2004 9:23 AM
Thursday, August 12, 2004 1:30 PM
Thursday, August 12, 2004 3:21 PM
Thursday, August 12, 2004 11:47 PM
Friday, August 13, 2004 9:49 PM
Sunday, August 22, 2004 2:17 PM
You must log in to post comments.
OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR
All FIREFLY graphics and photos on this page are copyright 2002-2012 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.
All other graphics and texts are copyright of the contributors to this website.
This website IS NOT affiliated with the Official Firefly Site, Mutant Enemy, Inc., or 20th Century Fox.