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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Zoe and Badger have a meeting, Inara joins Grayson, and Mal begins physical therapy.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 691 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Badger scowled at Zoe with more than a little irritation. As always when he was angry, his accent thickened into an almost incomprehensible brogue. “Whaddya’ mean the good Sargeant Reynolds idn’t comin’?” he asked. “Thinks ‘e’s too right and proper to be dealin’ wif me direct, is it?”
Zoe blinked slowly, fingering the Mare’s leg at her side. “We’re here to do the job, Badger. Don’t see how it’s any of your concern where the Captain is, long as you get what you want.”
“Well, it isn’t my style to deal with the underlings, love,” Badger said. “’Specially with a delicate li’l job like this.”
“Fine,” Zoe said flatly. “Then we’ll just be on our merry, and you can find some other ship to deliver your cargo.” She turned to go, Jayne and Jim flanking her on either side.
“Don’t get your knickers in a bunch, li’l girl,” Badger said, totally unaware of how very dangerous Zoe could be. “I’ll deal wif you, but tell the good Captain I’ll be expectin’ ‘im to show ‘is sorry mug when you come back.”
Zoe smiled thinly. “I’ll tell him,” she said. “I’m sure he’ll give it all the consideration it deserves.”
Badger gritted his teeth, not liking the warrior woman even a little. He preferred his women on the docile side, whimpering and trembling under his demands. Would be an interesting thing to see someday what would make this woman cower under him, he thought with a sadistic little smile. Wouldn’t be good for business, but it would be very good indeed for pleasure.
Putting those thoughts on hold for a more convenient time, he went over the plan with Reynolds’ crew. They nodded, having heard the same information several times from their Captain. Motioning to one of his men to take them to the warehouse where the goods were stored, he sat back in his desk chair, idly fingering the papers there. Assuming they managed to deliver the goods to his cousin on Ezra and get back with the cargo his cousin was sending in exchange without getting shot to bits or arrested for carrying contraband, he should be able to make a sizable profit on this deal. Enough of a profit, in fact, to overlook Reynolds’ slight by not coming himself, just this once.
Jim walked along beside Zoe through the crowded Eavesdown docks, feeling greasy just by association with the little weasel called Badger. He’d seen the way Badger had eyed Zoe up and down, and he had a strong desire to end the little man where he stood. Zoe, of course, was unaffected by such a perusal, knowing with absolute certainty Badger’s twisted little fantasies would never be seeing the light of day. But Jim, although he knew she could take care of herself, had an itch to shelter her from such things. Shaking his head slightly at his own foolishness, he said, “So, whaddya think’s in the crates?”
“It’d be my preference not to know,” Zoe replied, watching Jayne hoist up the first one onto the mule.
“I imagine you’re right,” Jim said, picking up his own crate and stacking it in next to Jayne’s. The three worked silently for the next half hour, until the mule and trailer were fully loaded.
“Looks like one more trip will do it,” Jayne said, sweat dropping into his eyes. “Gorram things are heavy as lead.”
Zoe nodded, and they climbed up into the mule. Weaving through the narrow throughways, they reached Serenity without incident. Mal was sitting in the cargo bay waiting for them. “What took you so long?” he asked anxiously.
Zoe sighed. “Badger felt the need for a palaver first, sir,” she said. “Seems his dignity was offended when you didn’t come to see him in person.”
“Yeah,” Jayne said, grinning. “Almost like he was sorta sweet on you. Course, he had no idea he was lookin’ at your husband there.” He turned to leer at Jim.
Mal rolled his eyes. “We ever gonna stop talkin’ about that on this boat?” he asked crankily.
“Well, sir, you have to admit it was real touchin’,” Zoe deadpanned.
Standing behind her, Jim grinned. “Ah, but it was just a fleeting moment of beauty…”
“Bi zhuai,” Mal said. “Enough. There’s work needs doin’.” He wheeled out of the cargo bay in a huff, the sound of laughter following him into the lift Jayne had installed for him. Gorram crew wouldn’t have time to idle around discussing such as that, once he got his legs under him again, he thought, not really seeing the humor in it at all.
Inara’s shuttle set down on Lemuel Grayson’s landing pad, and she stepped out into Persephone’s bright sun. Shading her eyes, she sought out Grayson. He stood under the shelter of a gazebo, his bearing just as proud and erect as the last time she’d seen him. She marveled that a man of his age could still be so attractive, so regal in his demeanor. She walked toward him, gathering her skirts about her to avoid soiling them in the grass. As he walked to meet her, she smiled up at him with genuine pleasure. “Lemuel, it’s so lovely to see you. It’s been too long.”
Grayson smiled, extending his arm. “And you’re still as beautiful as ever, Inara,” he said, his deep voice just as melodious as she remembered it.
“You’re kind to say so,” she replied lightly as they walked up the gazebo steps. They stood for a long moment, admiring the view. Persephone’s capital city lay to the west, much more beautiful at this distance than it was closer in. To the east lay the sea, a cerulean blue in the midday sun. “It’s so beautiful here,” Inara said, almost wistfully. “So peaceful and calm.”
Grayson observed her lovely profile, noting the small lines that had appeared around her eyes since the last time they’d been together. He found them infinitely more satisfying than he would have imagined, speaking to him as they did of a life lived more fully than he would have thought her capable of when he’d first contracted with her fresh out of the Training House. She had been so young then, but even at that tender age, so controlled and sleek, like a pampered cat on a sun-warmed window seat. The thought of seeing that control slip for just a moment had been enough to bring him back to her again and again over the years. And now, those fine lines made him even more eager for the companionship she offered.
Clearing his throat, he gestured to the table by his side, where a small feast had been arranged. “I wasn’t sure whether you would have eaten lunch,” he said. “I haven’t had mine yet. Too filled with anticipation of your arrival to eat, I suppose.” He smiled warmly. “Won’t you join me?”
Inara sat gracefully in the chair he pulled out for her, the thought crossing her mind that for the cost of the food laid so casually on this table, Serenity’s crew could eat for a month in the Black. Long ago, such thoughts would never have even occurred to her, but now they seemed glaringly obvious. She fought down that treacherous train of thought, and focused instead on simply enjoying the pleasure of Lemuel’s company and the luxury in which he lived.
When they had eaten their fill and the servants had removed all vestiges of their repast, Grayson and Inara sat companionably at the table, turning their chairs to face the sea. Grayson told her about the things that had occurred in his life since last they’d spent time together, and Inara listened with interest, genuinely fond of him and eager to hear about something other than the hardscrabble life of Serenity’s crew. She felt herself relaxing in the warm sea breeze, the recent troubles of her own life seeming distant in this bewitching place.
Grayson turned to catch her smiling, looking out at the sea. “And what has happened in your life since last we were together?” he asked.
Inara sighed quietly, determined not to reveal the horrors she’d endured to this kind and gentle man. She graced him with a calm smile. “Not anything nearly as interesting as your stories,” she said lightly, knowing he would not press her for more.
Grayson observed her carefully, noting the slight tightening around her mouth at the question. There was a story there that he wished to hear, he thought for a moment. And by the end of the week, he was fairly certain he could discover what it was. He easily steered the conversation in another direction, and Inara relaxed back into her chair with a great sense of relief.
Mal’s legs trembled beneath him as he stood in the cargo bay with the help of Inara’s canes. He looked down at Jayne’s weight bench with a measure of trepidation. Mal had never been a man to exercise for the fun of it, preferring instead to let the hard work he was accustomed to doing keep his body lean and fit. So, though he had observed Jayne on any number of occasions at work on the bench, and even spotted him a time or two, Mal had never used the equipment himself.
Simon stood beside him, ready to steady him should he require it. “Um…I think it would be best to sit down while I get the weights ready,” he suggested.
Mal nodded, easing down gingerly onto the edge of the bench. Lying his canes to the side, he watched as Simon bent to his task. “The idea,” Simon began, “is to gradually build the muscles of your legs back up so that they can more easily support your weight. I don’t anticipate that it will take all that long to achieve measurable results. We’ll start with the smallest weights, and work our way up.” As he spoke, he attached a small weight to each of Mal’s ankles with strips of cotton. Leaning back on his heels to survey his work, he said, “All right then. Let’s give them a try. Raise your right leg as far as you comfortably can.”
“How far are we aimin’ at?” Mal asked.
“Well eventually, the goal will be for you to be able to straighten it completely, and bend it back into a ninety-degree angle with no problem,” Simon answered.
Mal nodded, thinking that such a goal sounded easily attainable. He raised his leg carefully. “Gorram it, Simon,” he said, when he’d managed to lift it about three inches from the deck plating. “How much weight did you put on it?” Sweat popped out on his brow.
“It’s five pounds,” Simon said, hating to have to tell him. Seeing Mal’s look of utter dismay, he added hastily, “It’s perfectly all right. Perhaps we should start on simple range of motion exercises instead. The weights can wait until later.”
Mal dropped his foot to the floor, and Simon removed the weights quickly. Rummaging through Jayne’s equipment, he found a mat, and laid it out on the deck. “Okay,” he said with a doctor’s professional detachment. “Lie on the mat, and we’ll go through the basic routine until you’re comfortable with it. You’ll have to do this with someone everyday. Perhaps you’d like me to call River to sit in this time, and learn what needs to be done.”
Mal maneuvered himself onto the mat. “If it’s all the same to you, doc, I’d like to do it without River first,… you know, to see what’s involved. She’s…well, she doesn’t need to have to worry about me right now.”
Simon looked up at him in concern. “Is there something going on with River I need to know about?”
Mal paused for a moment, wondering if he should mention River’s situation. “Well, seems she’s havin’ a little trouble with the readin’ thing,” he said reluctantly.
“What do you mean?” Simon’s eyes narrowed in worried concentration.
“She says things are not clear. ‘Fuzzy’ was the term she used,” Mal said.
“For how long?” Simon asked.
“She just mentioned it to me this morning,” Mal said. “But I think it’s been botherin’ her for a few days, at least.”
Simon frowned. “It’s probably just the baby,” he said. “When she was carrying Adam, you remember how distracted she became.”
“I most certainly do,” Mal said. “And that’s what she thinks it is too. But she didn’t get so distracted so soon with Adam, best as I recall. I wouldn’t object to you checkin’ everything out just to be sure.”
“Of course,” Simon said, having fully intended to do just that anyway. “But you do realize that she’s been through quite a bit of stress recently, what with the accident and major surgery for you and Adam, and reuniting with our parents, and…”
Mal held up his hand. “Yeah, I realize,” he said dryly. “That’s why I want to do this without bothering her, if I can.”
“So, this would have nothing to do with you not wanting her to see you struggle with this?” Simon asked blandly, as he bent Mal’s knee in a ninety degree angle.
Mal let out a low hiss as Simon continued to manipulate his lower limbs. “Mind your doctorin’ and get out of my head, Simon,” he warned peevishly.
Simon smiled. “Yes sir, Captain sir,” he answered blandly. After several more minutes of work, he extended his hand to help Mal up from the mat. “But I think it would be good for both of you if River could contribute to your recovery. And this is something she could do with minimal effort. All the real effort would be coming from you.”
“I’ll think on it, doc,” Mal replied, steadying himself with the canes. “Maybehaps after a day or two….” His words trailed off.
Simon nodded, figuring that was more than he could have hoped to achieve with the stubborn man on the first day of therapy anyway.
To be continued
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