BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Tall Ship - Part IV
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne is on the hunt for the would-be murderer, and Mal meets his rescuers. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2009    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“A room?” Francine, a somewhat blousy, smallish woman in her mid-forties, looked the big man in front of her up and down, and apparently liked what she saw. She smiled, the thick make-up on her face threatening to crack. “Sure, we can do you that. You wanting company too?”

“No. Just the room.” Jayne looked around at the whores in various states of undress, some already plying customers with alcohol, others sitting around waiting for business.

“You sly? ‘Cause there’s a coupla boys I know wouldn’t mind showing you a trick or –“

“Not sly. Got me a woman of my own.” He shifted the bag on his shoulder slightly.

“She with you?”

“Nope.”

“Then she won’t know.” Francine patted his arm.

“She’d know. And much as your girls look good and clean, I don’t do that kinda thing no more.”

She laughed. “No more? Figured as much. You used to though, didn’t you?”

He grinned at her. “I did. Kept more’n one in business, all the coin I used to spend. And I’d’a used your place if’n I’d known it was here. But right now I just need somewhere to put my stuff that ain't gonna get robbed, and a bed to fall into when I can’t stay awake no longer.”

“Then you can have number 15, on the top floor. Got a good lock on the door, and the bed ain't been beaten into submission too often.”

“Sounds shiny.”

“So what’s your name?”

“Cobb. Jayne Cobb.”

“Interesting. There a story behind it?”

“If there is, I don’t know it.”

She held out a hand, and the young man behind the counter put a key into her fingers. “Well, if you’d care to make one up you can join me for a drink later.”

“Miss Francine, that’d be my pleasure.” He grinned wider – even if he wasn't partaking of the pretties on display, didn’t mean he couldn’t be friendly. He hefted his bag of weaponry a little higher, and the sweet smell of gunoil filtered out.

The whorehouse Madam noticed and her eyes narrowed a little. “By the by, you here on business?”

“Could say that.”

“Mind if I ask what kind?” She tapped the key on her chin. “Only if it ain't legal, the sheriff’s next door.”

“Yeah, saw that.” He looked down into her eyes, some distance below him. “Odd place for a whorehouse.”

“Not really. He’s part owner.”

Now Jayne growled a laugh. “And he likes to keep an eye on things?”

“Surely does.” She poked him gently with her forefinger. “And you ain't answered. Legal or no?”

“Depends.”

“That ain't an answer.”

“Looking for someone. That ain’t illegal. But what I do with him after I’ve found him might be.”

“He hurt you?”

“Not me. Friend of mine.”

“So you’re after revenge.”

“Kinda.”

Francine eyed him shrewdly. “You likely to be making a ruckus in my house?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Good. ‘Cause we deal with things like that ourselves, and we don’t take kindly to folks who bust up the place.” It was more of a promise than a warning.

“Ain't planning on it.”

“Fine.” She stood up straight, still not even reaching his shoulder. “Come on, then. Let’s get you settled in.”

---

He woke up, but lay still, his eyes closed. Memories of pain when he moved kept him from trying again, apart from the ache in his head, so he just listened. There was someone else in the room, that he was sure of. More than just a single someone, too.

“I think he’s awake.” A child’s voice, a boy.

“No he ain’t.” This time a girl, not too old, either. “’Cause his eyes is closed.”

“Breathing’s different. And he moved a bit.” The sound of a door opening was followed by a chill draught across his face. “Ma!” the boy shouted. “He’s awake!”

After a moment the draught stopped and the door slammed closed.

“You sure?” A woman’s voice.

“Pretty much.”

He opened his eyes. “Hate people talking about me when I ain't able to answer,” he muttered, his voice sounding croaky even to his own ears.

A woman came into view, long brown hair caught up in the nape of her neck in a low bun, a heavy overcoat covering her dress, dusted with snowflakes that were rapidly melting.

“Hey, there.” She smiled down at him, touching his forehead. “How’re you feeling?”

“Not sure. Am I dead?”

“Don’t think so. ‘Less I'm an angel, and there’d be arguments over that.” The bed moved slightly as she sat down. “My name’s Hannah. Do you remember?”

“Hannah. Yeah, I think …” His eyes widened. “Did you sleep with me?”

Now she laughed. “Kept you warm, that was all. I don’t think anything more would have been on the agenda. But a body next to you is the best way to beat the cold.”

“Then … thanks. And yes, I do remember you.” A name surfaced from the grey sludge in his mind. “Hannah Tebril, wasn't it?”

“That’s me.” She glanced over her shoulder. “And those are my children. Jonah and Rachel.”

He lifted his head enough to see a boy of about eight and a girl, probably no more than six, the latter hiding a little behind her brother. “Hi,” he said, trying out a smile.

“Hi.” Jonah nodded, but Rachel didn’t speak.

“Come on, Rachel,” her mother said. “He ain't gonna bite.”

The little girl hid even more.

“It’s okay,” he said, laying his head back. “Hard enough seeing a strange man in your Momma’s bed, I guess.”

“You sound like you have kids.”

He tried to remember but it was like a fog was sitting just this side of his memory. Like cotton-candy, he heard a voice almost say… but it vanished as he tried to pull it forward. “I don’t know,” he admitted, his forehead screwing up.

“It’ll come back,” Hannah assured him. “Now, feeling hungry? We’ve got some soup on the go.”

He pondered for a moment, thinking past the ache in his chest to an emptiness in the region of his belly. “I think maybe I am.”

Hannah smiled. “Good.” She stood up and walked to the stove, shucking off her coat as she went.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I musta made a helluva racket with my screaming.”

“You didn’t,” she assured him, spooning soup into a bowl. “Not one sound, the whole time since we found you.”

“But I remember …”

“We thought you were dead a couple of times, you were so quiet.”

“Could’ve sworn …” There were screams in the night, he was sure of it.

She came back, pulling a chair closer to the bed to sit on. “Not a peep. Not even while I was digging in your belly for the bullet.”

He winced at the thought. “You do that a lot?”

“I used to be a nurse. Not trained, a’course, but my husband was the doctor in town. He showed me a lot so I could help him out, and I assisted at any number of bullet removals. Amazing how folks keep getting shot around here.”

He smiled shakily. “I guess.”

“So I knew what I was doing. Don’t want you to think just anyone went rummaging around your insides.”

“I'm grateful.”

“And I dosed you up with some of the stuff I had left. Should heal well, and fast too. Didn’t have no painkillers left, though, so that’s why I had to wait ‘til it got light to get the bark I needed.” She half turned. “Rachel, get me a cloth.”

“Yes, Ma.” The little girl ran to a box by the fire, and came back holding a ragged piece of gingham. She gave the man in the bed a shy smile, then hurried back to her brother.

“Time for you to eat,” Hannah instructed. “Then we’ll talk some more.”

“Can’t we do both at the same time?”

She laughed. “You think you can?”

“Try me.”

“Okay. Only since you don’t know who you are, I figure I’ll be the one doing all the talking.” She lifted a spoonful of broth and put it to his lips. “And the feeding.”

He swallowed it, feeling the welcome warmth spread through him. “Don’t mind that.”

“But I need to be able to call you something.” She fed him another spoonful and thought for a moment. “How about Ben?”

He considered it. Somehow it sounded familiar, but there was … “I don’t know.”

“It was my husband’s name. Just thought it’d be easy to remember. Rather than just saying ‘hey you’.”

“I think I’d probably answer to that too.” He smiled again, and her heart missed a beat. It had been an age since anyone smiled like that at her.

She quickly fed him more soup, using the rag to clean his chin where it ran down a little. “You know, someone must be looking for you,” she said, concentrating on her task. “Only we’ve not got a Cortex link here, and the snow the last coupla nights blocked the only track into town. It’ll be a while before we can let the sheriff know we found you.”

“I guess.”

“I mean, man like you ain't likely to be travelling alone.” She was very carefully not looking into his eyes.

“A man like me?”

“Good looking. Sure to have a whole bevy of young women chasing you.”

He laughed, even though it hurt. “I doubt it.”

She glared at him, pulling the spoon back. “You seen yourself lately?”

“No.”

She closed her mouth. “No, of course you haven’t.” She put the bowl on the small nightstand and got to her feet, hurrying to the sideboard and pulling a hand mirror from the drawer. “Here.”

He lifted a hand but winced. “Uh …”

“Oh, sorry.” Sitting down on the edge of the bed she held it for him. “Just tell me when I’ve got it in the right place.”

“Down a little, no, too much, left … hold it.” He stared at the face in the glass. Brown hair, somewhat greasy from all the sweating he’d been doing, but it looked thick, despite the bandage wrapped around his head. An old scar sat above his left eyebrow (sounds of heavy weapons fire seemed to reverberate through his skull for a moment, but were gone before he could get hold of them), and a somewhat largish nose. A strong chin, too, with more than a hint of beard growing, and mobile lips. And blue eyes. Very blue eyes, with long eyelashes. He blinked, and his reflection blinked back at him. “You think this is good looking?” he asked.

She blushed slightly and stood up, putting the mirror away again. “Maybe a little cleaner. And shaved.”

He would have chuckled, but it hurt too much. “Might be a better picture.”

“But first you finish your soup,” she ordered, sitting down again and picking up the bowl.

“Yes, ma’am.”

---

Jayne walked back into the saloon he and Mal had frequented, and wondered at how it seemed like half a lifetime ago, not just a day. The place looked the same, smelled the same, and even the people drinking didn’t seem to have moved, yet somehow it should’ve been different. Shaking himself mentally, he went up to the bar.

“Beer,” he ordered.

“Coming up.” The barkeep pulled a frothing mug and set it down on the wooden counter. “You paying now, or running a tab?”

“Depends.”

“On what?”

“What information you can give me.”

“You the law?”

Jayne glanced down at his camo jacket. “Do I look like it?”

“Well, no, but –“

“I was here yesterday, with a pal of mine. Tall, brown hair.”

“Mister, there’s a lot of men come in here, and half of ‘em are tall with brown hair.” He picked up a glass and started to polish it in the action of barkeeps the ‘verse over.

“He wore a gun strapped to his hip, and a long brown coat.”

The barkeep paused. “Drank sake.”

“Wouldn’t know.” He hesitated, suddenly remembering the clear liquid in the Captain’s glass.

“Only there was a feller in here sounds like that, and there was nearly trouble.”

Jayne sighed. “Yeah, sounds like him.”

“Someone was making a nuisance of himself with one of the girls, and your pal stopped him. Thought there was gonna be gunplay, but it didn’t fall to that.”

“So what did happen?”

“Nothing. The guy walked out, your pal finished his drink and left.”

Jayne’s imagination filled in the rest, mainly with an ambush of sorts. Mal’d never let himself be taken any other way. “You know who he was? The guy making the hassle.”

“Nope. Seen him around a coupla times, but never got to hear his name. Lily seemed to know him better, though.”

“Lily?”

“The girl.”

“She around?”

“Ain't seen her since. Heard one of the other girls say she’d gone home for a spell, but it’s just as likely she’s taken off with a guy for a bit of private play, if you know what I mean.”

Jayne nodded. “Yeah, figure I do. She gonna be back?”

“Probably. When the money runs out. She usually is.”

“What did the other guy look like? The troublemaker.”

The barkeep shrugged. “Just a guy. Middling height, dark hair, kinda angry looking.”

“Lots of ‘em about.”

“Surely are.” The man’s attention was caught by someone at the other end of the counter wanting a refill, and he walked away.

Jayne lifted his mug and drained half the bitter liquid, feeling it slide down his throat. Turning, he looked out at the bar, at the tables where card games were being played, at the girls who were hanging draped around various patrons’ shoulders, and figured there was time. Time to find out who’d done it. Time to get that revenge for Freya.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 4:01 AM

COLT999


Hope Jayne can find Mal/Ben before he's married with two more kids.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 6:20 AM

SLUMMING


Colt999, you have an evil sense of humor! LOL Very interesting progression here, Jane0904. Looking forward to more!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 10:17 AM

AMDOBELL


I like the notion of Jayne hunting down the bad guy, just hope it doesn't turn out to be the gorram sheriff. Seems as if the local lawman isn't up to much reputation wise. I really like Hannah and the banter with an amnesiatic Mal is really in character. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 4:21 PM

KATESFRIEND


Quite a pot of trouble you're brewing here. Great job - need more soon!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 5:17 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


I just hope Jayne finds Mal before the poy of trouble boils over.


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