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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"The crew get ready to do the job not knowing Badger has planned a little bonus for them. Mal finds himself with a way to help Rose."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2341 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "ALL KINDS OF WRONG"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "COMPLICATIONS".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "The crew get ready to do the job not knowing that
Badger has planned a little bonus for them. Mal finds himself
with a way to help Rose."
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.
"ALL KINDS OF WRONG"
A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Inara was not sure why the wave worried her so much. It was after all a perfectly reasonable request. Carefully she hid her disquiet and nodded as she listened to Zoe. The image of the first mate explaining the plain fact of their unexpected lack of funds bringing home with a painful poignancy just how precarious their life in the Black often was. It made her feel annoyed at Mal but hot on the heels of that uncharitable thought was the fact that they had virtually ganged up on him to be given the freedom to make their own choices. Didn't matter a good gorram that Serenity was his ship and they were hired hands. Somewhere between signing on as crew and planning their little mutiny they had become a whole lot more than that. Friends. Family. Though Mal would never admit it she knew he was proud of each and every one of them and as possessive of their care as any man defending his own. So for him to go off and do his own thing while not in character was certainly understandable. Maybe it was time she cut him some slack.
"When do you expect to be back?"
Zoe thought for a moment, not wanting to cut the timing too close. "Should be back late tomorrow. Best arrange to meet up the mornin' after if that's okay with you?"
The Companion nodded. She had a session with another client but had a feeling Counsellor Tollan had not finished with her services yet. Certainly the amount she had been paid to service his friend had been more than generous. She could easily pay Serenity's expenses and still have enough coin for herself. But that was not the way it worked. There was an old saying from the philosophies of Earth-that-was, 'God always enters into equal partnerships'. She thought on it now and knew to offer more than her rent would insult Zoe. This way was better if inconvenient. The crew would not lose face and the Captain would never need to know how they had come to be in such straits. Ah. The Captain. There was the rub. "When is Mal due back?"
"He didn't say."
Inara frowned slightly. That didn't sound like the Captain. Usually he liked everything buttoned down, was as anxious as a mother hen about making sure the crew kept to a set schedule. Whatever faults the man had, and he had faults a-plenty, he had good instincts. "What did he say?"
Zoe hesitated. Not much but enough that Inara knew she was unhappy about it. "He said a few days, said he was takin' a holiday. A vacation. River called it a sabbatical."
The Companion's eyebrows rose. In all the time she had known their noble but stubborn Captain she had never known him take a holiday. At least, not without his crew. Before she could ask any more questions Zoe cut the conversation short.
"Have to go now Inara, have a deadline to meet. You sure you're alright with this?"
"*Yiding*, just don't let anyone do anthing *zhenzi, dong ma*?"
For the first time since the wave Zoe smiled. Inara did not mean anyone she meant Jayne. Trust the Companion to be polite even about the mercenary. Anyone else would have just made a pointed comment about him by name. "*Fang xin*, I'll keep an eye on Jayne."
"*Zhuni haoyun, zai-jian*
Zoe sat at the cortex screen for a minute after the screen faded to black collecting her thoughts. Wash returned just as she got up to go. He watched her intently. "*Wei*, everythin' alright?"
"Inara doesn't mind?"
"*Bu qu*, she wished us luck."
That raised an eyebrow but he did not comment on it, instead he nodded and settled back in his pilot's chair. Zoe put a hand on his shoulder. "Set a course for Delios, *zhangfu*. The sooner we do the job and get paid the happier I'll be."
There was a look of concern on his good natured face. "We don't have to do this if you're havin' second thoughts, *bao bei*."
She shook her head, inwardly cursing herself for alarming him but there was some small measure of comfort in sharing her uneasiness even if she could not put her finger on the why of it. In the end she put it down to having to make decisions without the Captain. It felt all manner of wrong. She had hoped Mal would reappear before the job was accepted but they had not seen hide nor hair of him. How would he react if he returned while they were gone? Would he think his crew had deserted him? Taken off with his ship without so much as a thank you or by your leave sir? She tried to shove the thoughts to the back of her mind. Giving Wash a kiss Zoe turned to go.
"Where you goin', *bao bei*?"
"I won't be but a minute Wash, somethin' I gotta do."
He raised his eyebrows in query but she was already half out of the door. He blinked and stared at the space where she had been then turned back to his console and got to work doing what he did best.
Mal woke in the hour before pre-dawn feeling rested and relaxed. Ached a little from the day's exertions but it was a good feeling, honest labour tired a man the way the weariness of the soul never could. Easily remedied by sleep while the soul could toss and turn every hour of slumber into nightmares that knew no rest. He felt good. Balanced. Whole. He also could also smell the dirt and sweat that had dried on him and quickly quit his bed to get washed and ready for the new day before the rest of the hands stirred. He liked the quiet moments, times when the whole 'verse was hushed as if listening for something only the heart could hear. Holding its' breath in mute anticipation of the new day. Gorrammit, what was it about this place that made him feel so poetical anyways? It was just a ball of mud and rock turning in the Black and trying like so many others to go unnoticed. No one with an ounce of sense wanted it any other way. Being noticed was not a crime but it most often led to Alliance entanglements and them as valued freedom and self determination were anxious to remain below the radar. Avoid the Devil that would rule them for as long as possible. Being a Rim world helped. Didn't make them invisible but they were as close to it as made no never mind.
The bunkhouse had its' own water pump just outside as well as water plumbed inside to a big old china sink in the corner next to the block of toilets. He chose to use the outside facility to save disturbing the sleeping beauties. Reckoned they needed the extra hour of shuteye more than he did. He had of course noticed on waking that someone had taken his day's clothing and set fresh threads out for him. He had frowned slightly in puzzlement until he looked them over with a more critical eye then a bemused smile tugged at his sombre lips and startled a soft chuckle which he quickly bit back before it could wake the others. They would rise soon enough, no need to shake their last dreams into premature waking. Once scrubbed clean and dried on the worn towels hanging outside he dressed and smiled again as the worn jeans hugged his limbre frame then strapped the leather chaps on and looked around for his gunbelt. Felt a mite foolish to be wearing it here but he felt all kinds of naked without it. Experience had taught him that trouble always arrived unexpected so he never took chances.
He squinted up at the sky, it was going to be one beautiful day. Already light was leaking through a low but stringy cloudbase. Not near thick nor heavy enough to produce much rain. Like as not it would be a dry day, good weather for fencing. He bit back a little grimace at one of his least favourite chores but was heartened that the doing of it would give his new found friends better and more robust boundaries. Not to keep other folk out so much as to keep their wandering stock in. *Shi* reckoned if they kept up the first day's pace they should have all the fencing chores finished inside a week. A week! It had been a long time since Mal could recall any labour lasting that long. He turned at a soft step approaching from behind and smiled at Hal Larkin. Wellspring Ranch was a handsome spread and no mistake, the well appointed main house blending in with the bunkhouse and outbuildings providing a pleasing balance to the eye. Hal was as much a part of that landscape as the sky and land beneath were part of Nature's cradle of life. Fit like a hand in a glove.
"You rise early."
Mal nodded. An ease to his body that he hadn't felt in a long time. It felt good.
"Couldn't sleep or rested enough?"
He laughed lightly and leaned on the hitching rail. Hal studied him openly, no sly cut of his eyes when the object of his scrutiny was unawares. Told Mal a wealth of information about the man that set well with him. "I don't usually rest so long or so peaceable." That raised an eyebrow but Hal did not pursue the opening. "An' you?"
"I always rise early, work out the chores for the day an' some such. You worked well yesterday, was wonderin' how you felt about that."
"The truth? It feels good. Body's a mite slow to settle back but another day or so an' it'll make no never mind. Been so long in the Black it's powerful good to be breathin' good clean air an' walking on solid ground. Makes me feel a *xingyun shishengzi*."
"Good to be breathin' full stop, *dui*?"
Mal's look sharpened some. Knew the Foreman was not talking about the Here and Now. "War's over." He said softly.
"Wasn't plannin' on gettin' it started again, Mal." Assured the Foreman gently, easing his wirey frame against the hitching rail next to Mal. "Just I see it in your eyes sometimes. I never fought in the war, not 'cause I didn't believe in anythin' but 'cause I'd got responsibilities that already claimed me. Never did think anyone stood a ghost of a chance against them *liumang* Alliance bullies but had me a powerful pride in them as tried."
A slow nod was all the acknowledgement Mal gave to that heartfelt sentiment. Larkin telling him in no uncertain terms exactly where he stood on that matter.
"But not all of us was on the Independent side of thinkin' 'bout the war. I reckon Rafe warned you not to go spoutin' or makin' obvious reference to them strife-filled days. We got some on our crew as were Alliance, sympathisers in the main but one or two fought for 'em too. How they feel about the present won't sit well with you I'm thinkin' but the past is past. They won an' got no call to any bitterness. Just don't need anyone rilin' anyone up over it, *dong ma*?"
"You'll get no argument from me, Hal. *Wo hen ganxie* for the heads-up but I best tell you if anyone starts somethin' with me I'm like to finish it."
The Foreman sighed softly and nodded. "Figured as much just try an' remember what I said. My pa always said the first man to lose his temper loses the argument. Best remember that." He paused and looked hard at Mal for a moment as if wanting to sear something deep into his brain. "I didn't fight in that war but my pa did, brothers too. Not a one of 'em came back."
Mal could feel his throat closing up on him, memories of their ranch on Shadow. Now burnt to the ground, his mother's ashes mixed with those of the building and them as had died with her. Nought but burnt cinders to show for a loving life well lived and cut short in the cruelest of ways. Gone to join them as had passed on before. It was his only comfort, cold and empty as it was. He was startled by the warm hand on his shoulder. Hal Larkin's weathered face tilted towards him, the eyes grazed with understanding and something approaching concern.
"Didn't mean to raise no unquiet ghosts, Mal. *Duibuqi* if any words of mine have caused you pain." Hal straightened and removed his hand, a little smile lightening the sombre moment as he changed the subject. "You made quite an impression on a certain young girl."
"Yep, an' now you get to pay for it."
Mal frowned in confusion. "*Shenme*?"
The Foreman's little smile spread, laughter flickering in his eyes. "Seems little Rose is quite taken with you. Wants to go with you up to the High Meadow. I don't have the words to tell you how rare that is."
Even though Mal did not know all the girl's history he realised this was something that had never happened before. "She does? Why the good gorram would she wanna do that? Fencin' can be a borin' job an' we'll be gone from dawn to dusk."
Hal Larkin seemed amused. "You'll be takin' a picnic with you so she can eat fine while you an' the boys work."
His eyes narrowed. "Just what the *diyu* you up to?"
The Foreman laughed outright and clapped Mal on the shoulder. "You may not know it but every soul on this spread has tried at one time or other to coax that little lady out of the house. She's been like a snail in a shell, not nothing nor nobody able to get her to leave the ruttin' thing behind. Ain't danced in the sun nor picked flowers nor any other kind of foolishness that kids do. Can't tell you how surprised an' happy I was to hear her wish."
Well. If a man could be dumbstruck he was that man. Chuckling, Hal Larkin left Mal to his thoughts and turned to make for the big house. Time to let Rafe know he had passed on his message. He usually rode with Todd, Mark and Ben to check the herd and brand the new arrivals but this was such an unusual event he didn't want to miss a second of it. He would be coming with Rose. Not so much to oversee the men at work but to take pleasure in watching a child that had lived too long in the shadows take her first steps into the light.
He had never married, had no wife nor children of his own but like the rest of Rafe's family he looked on the girl as one of his own. Seeing her happy would bring him all kinds of joy. He just hoped that whatever edges of darkness he had glimpsed in Malcolm Reynolds would remain under wraps. He liked the man, had the beginnings of a goodly respect for him, but if he in any way hurt that girl he wouldn't hesitate to end him. No matter what the *laoban* said.
It felt funny to Zoe opening that hatch, odd to descend the ladder into the Captain's bunk when he wasn't there. All kinds of wrong to be looking through his things, what for she did not know. Only some instinct told her she might find a clue as to what he was thinking, where he had gone. When he would come back. That was until she turned from the ladder and stopped short, her eyes fixed on the books laid out neatly on his desk, a scrap of paper placed on top of them. Heart in her mouth she moved slowly over to the desk, almost afraid to see what was written on the paper. Half suspecting what those books were. Her hand trembled as she picked up the note, saw the familiar looping hand detailing the contacts that would be safe for them to use and those she should steer clear of. Zoe sat on the chair before her legs failed her, eyes blurry as she gazed through the precious parchment for a moment unseeing yet understanding with a clarity that cut her deep. He wasn't coming back. No other thought penetrated heart or mind.
She had no notion of the passage of time. Rooted to the spot and numb with shock and sorrow. In the minutes she had been lost in reverie she had run the full gauntlet of angst-ridden emotions, her anger for a time overtaking the heart crushing grief at the thought of losing him. How could he? How dare he survive the battlefield and the horrors they had seen, shared and faced together to walk out on her now. Made no never mind that she was married, not tied to him with vows of one kind or another. He was her rock, the other half of her soul. The piece of the 'verse that made sense of her life. Without him she could only be half alive, half aware, half blessed. She blinked away the tears, carefully putting the note to one side and looked at the books. They were the Captain's ledgers, accounts of the doings of his boat. Everything she would need to know about the costings and running of a Firefly class transport along with the paying and maintenance of ship and crew. Two books. One for her, one for no one but God to see.
Forcing herself to concentrate Zoe made herself go through both books then did so a second time to be sure she understood his workings, his method. The differences were not so big, but subtle, careful and clever enough to fool even the most sharp eyed of Alliance book keepers. A sad smile dusted her lush but sombre lips, her right hand ghosting over the final pages of the book as if bidding farewell to an old and much loved friend. Didn't matter a good gorram that the words had never been spoken. Was terrified something would happen to him without her to watch his back. She bit back the threat of new tears, determined not to let another one fall until either he returned or they buried him. If praying could have made it so he would have materialised out of the ether then and there. Maybe Mal was right, there was no God. Or maybe, just maybe, God wore Alliance colours after all.
Badger was the happiest he had been in a good long while. Just wished he could be a fly on the wall to see what happened and how Serenity's crew coped with the fallout. Oh, this was too sweet, too perfect. Worth the coin it would cost him knowing he would be repaid a hundred times over when all the dust settled. He leaned back in his big black leather chair, a smug smile on his unshaven face. His tie askew, bowler hat pushed back, feet up on the desk. The girl had called him a 'sad little king' but he wasn't sad any more.
The bunkhouse was alive with movement. When Mal stuck his head inside he saw that everyone was not only up but also dressed, a lively banter flying back and forth as men jostled at the sink. So much was achingly familiar to him as well as new. He felt like a man with his foot in two camps, one rooted in the past the other in the present. He wondered what the rutting hell little Rose thought she would see in the High Meadow then realised with a sense of shock that it would all be new to her. Not just the meadow but the whole being out of doors thing. It made his heart ache to think of the shuttered life she had been leading. If anything he did or said could make a difference he would do it.
"Hey Mal, don't you sleep at all?" Called *Shi* with a grin.
"I slept, just didn't wanna miss the best part of the day with nothin' but your snorin' in my ear."
The banter continued light hearted and increasingly stupid as they jostled each other and filed into the kitchen area where Chung-li was serving up a hearty breakfast. Mal smiled at Chung-li and signed his thanks in Pinyin. Chung-li raised his eyebrows in surprised, his ladle pausing over Mal's plate, then with a grin he doled out another scoop of the spring broth and gave a little dip of his head in pleased acknowledgement. When he got to the table, Ricky Stable was looking sideways at him as Mal broke a piece off the huge flatbread in the middle of the table. Smiling down at the noodles in the soup he stirred it a time or two with his spoon before closing his eyes to savour his first mouthful. When he opened his eyes he found every eye around the table staring at him. He blinked, wondering what the *diyu* they were staring at. "*Shenme*? I just split my pants or what?"
They laughed. Ricky looked amused as he dipped in bread in the slimey but clear soup. "Nope, just by the look on your face you ain't ate well since last you touched solid ground."
Mal frowned a little. "It's not that exactly just in the Black we mostly live on protein cubes."
Groans of sympathy washed round the room. "No wonder this must taste like Heaven!"
Mal paused before speaking again, old memories surfacing. "Been a long time since I've tasted soup so fine."
"Yeah," Chimed in Desert Pete. "If it wasn't for the slimey stuff it would be just like my ma makes."
"Monosodium glutamate." Mumbled Mal without thinking, savouring another spoonful then dipping in his bread. Wishing the thin slithers of onion were chalottes.
"Mono-what?" Said Bill Peary with a kind of confused look on his face, his spoon stopped halfway between his bowl and his mouth.
Mal laughed, reminded for a moment of Jayne. Surprised by the unexpected prick of loss that touched him deep inside. Something of his change of mood seemed to rub off on the others and the subject was swiftly dropped, turning instead to discussion of the day's work. The splitting of the work teams and who would go with whom. Mal hardly listened, finishing his repast in silence. A kind of scrambled egg and sausage came next then they were queuing to clean their plates and rack them before stepping outside and heading for the coral. The Foreman nodded for Mal to follow him, Blade and Jaimie almost rubbing shoulders with him as they walked towards the big house. Hal stopped about ten feet short of the hitching rail and a moment later Rafe came out the front door with little Rose peeking nervously behind the back of his legs. Rafe was laughing in a quiet proud way and trying to hide it, doing a mighty poor job of it too. Made Mal chuckle lightly. When Rose spotted him she stepped out from behind her father and gave him a shy grin.
Mal started signing and speaking right away. "Okay Miss-I-wanna-see-everythin'-by-lunchtime, you got a horse you wanna ride or you wanna climb up behind me?"
Her eyes widened. Of course she had her own horse but had never ridden it. Her father would bring the mare up to the back window so Rose could look at her, and some days a tentative hand would reach out through the window to stroke the long velvet nose and gaze in awe at the gentle steed. Rafe answered before his daughter could fashion a response.
"It's okay Mal, Blade's gonna take a buggy along for Rose."
Mal had not taken his eyes off Rose, had noticed how her interest had perked up at the thought of riding though her reticence was beginning to reassert itself. He did not like the swift way she retreated back into the habits of the past and played a hunch instead. Ignoring everyone else he stepped up to her, hands so busy as he talked that the others only heard his words not realising his hands were telling her a whole other story. Her eyes widened as she caught on, amusement sparking in her cool green eyes. Out loud he was going along with what the others proposed. "Think I might just figure you for one of them spoilt ladies of leisure you ridin' in fine style instead of up on Storm's back."
His hands said, *Why don't we show these stuffy folk that you don't need wrappin' up in cotton wool? We'll go as fast or slow as you like or if you prefer the buggy then I guess we can do that. Your choice.*
She stared at him as if he had just offered her the sun, moon, and all the stars. It was exciting to be treated like a grown up, being spoken to as an equal, given the chance to make her own decisions even if she wanted to follow her father's line it would be on her say so not his. This she understood right from the get-go.
*Smart lady* Signed Mal.
Rose laughed quietly then signed so that her father and Hal could clearly see the hand shapes, not the shadowed ones she shared with Mal. Their secret abbreviations she kept to herself. She wanted to ride up on the back of Storm with Mal. Rafe shot them a worried look but Mal smiled gently at him.
"Bird can't fly with clipped wings." He said softly.
He thought Rafe was going to cry but the man just nodded and looked at Rose. "You sure that's what you want, *fengmi*?"
She nodded, face shining, then ran over to Mal and put her small hand in his as if the two had known each other for gorram ever. Rafe blinked. Hal thought he would choke with emotion and turned his head quickly away for a moment. Blade grinned so wide the whites of his teeth dazzled them all. Rafe slowly got his breath back. "Best be takin' the buggy along anyways just in case you wanna ride in style comin' back."
Rose let go of Mal's hand and darted back to her father. *Xie xie, ba ba*, she signed, then hugged him before running back to Mal. Rafe was tempted to go along with them but realised half the temptation for Rose was that she was doing this for her own self. If he went along he would fuss and worry over her so much that the joy of it would be squashed right out. Didn't hurt less to know it but it did make him a wiser man than most that he recognised his over protectiveness would only hold her back. Sometimes you just had to love enough to let go. The look he gave Mal needed no interpretation. Mal gave him a nod back, a promise set in stone then turned and led Rose over to the coral where one of the boys had already saddled Storm for them. Big, black and beautiful the animal was a striking sight. Rose looked up at Mal with absolute trust and he grinned back then lifted her up on his shoulders so she could look down upon that noble beast. Didn't hurt that it helped her in the confidence department too. Making the animal seem less daunting. Hal watched how the two interacted together and was pleased. When he looked back at Rafe the nod he gave reassured the *laoban* that he was doing the right thing.
Mark and Ben came out on to the porch in time to see them off, Molly had slipped away for a chance to see Todd and speak to him before he went with her brothers and father to check on the welfare of their scattered herd. Rafe squinted up at the sky then looked at his sons. "Gonna be a fine day, boys."
"Yes, sir." They chorused.
Everyone was in such a good light hearted mood that no one noticed Bill Peary and Harper Brooks leaning on the door jamb either side of the bunkhouse door. Harper's eyes narrowed to mean little slits though he kept the sourness of his thoughts masked from his face. "Just who the ruttin' *diyu* is this Mal Reynolds anyway?" He murmured.
Bill Peary spat out a plug of chewed tobacco. A dirty habit most other folk frowned on but he didn't care. Long as he didn't chew and spit in the house no one paid any mind to it. "Heard tell he's a Browncoat."
Harper's eyes narrowed even further, thoughts darkening as he watched the little procession head out for the high pasture. "That a fact?"
"Yeah, didn't ya notice what he was wearin' yesterday?"
"See he's changed clothes today."
"Once a gorram Brownie, always a Brownie." Said Bill in a low surly undertone.
Harper nodded, silent and thoughtful. Even on Glory one former Browncoat was one too many.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*yiding* = sure *zhenzi* = rash *dong ma* = understand *zhuni haoyun* = good luck
*fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *zai-jian* = goodbye/see you later *wei* = hey
*bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *zhangfu* = husband *bao bei* = precious/treasure *shi* = ten
*xingyun shishengzi* = lucky bastard (not as a swearword) *dui* = correct *duibuqi* = sorry
*liumang* = bastard/asshole/criminal/gangster *wo hen ganxie* = I'm grateful *shenme* = what
*diyu* = hell *laoban* = boss *fengmi* = honey *xie xie* = thanks *ba ba* = daddy
Monday, August 16, 2004 12:41 PM
Monday, August 16, 2004 3:37 PM
Monday, August 16, 2004 11:44 PM
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 6:24 AM
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 10:47 PM
Sunday, October 23, 2011 5:45 PM
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