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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
(Previously called The Courtship Dance) Post-BDM S/K, M/I: Mal gets some answers, Jayne's perspective is enlightened, and River is found.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1161 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Simon had never treated a non-human before.
That, coupled with the fact that River was nowhere to be seen, was making his surgery on an eight month old cattle dog difficult. He had given Chester a small dose of sedative, hooked him to an IV line and placed him on a sheet atop the kitchen table. After rigging a cup as an oxygen mask for the dog's snout and shearing back some fur; he used the handheld scanner, scalpel and an extractor to take out all of the shot. Finished patching the dog's lung, he ran a scan one more time to make sure there was no other perforated organs. Satisfied, he steadily began to suture up the dog.
He heard Inara and Kaylee outside shouting for River.
It made his normally precise hands tremble, and he had to steady himself.
Perhaps it was the fact that he felt as if he hadn't been paying attention to River. His days had been consumed with work, and nights with Kaylee, rarely had he been spending any time with her. Simon had had little concern over his sister, because after Miranda she hadn't done anything to cause alarm. Curious and full of life was the new River, as she had simply been taking time to learn about life, but never had she shown signs of deterioration. Then again, perhaps he hadn't been around her enough to properly see the signs if something was wrong. Working through his guilt, he tied off the sutures, placed some gauze over the site, and wrapped a clothe bandage around to hold it in place. Taking the dog off of oxygen, he pulled off his gloves and picked Chester up to set him down in the laundry basket Kaylee had lined with a blanket. Hanging the IV on a chair, he covered the dog with a second blanket and turned his attention to the mess. Swiftly cleaning up he grabbed his hat and coat, as it was frosty outside after the hard rain, and went out to see a pinking sky that brought forth morning.
Mal pulled the branding iron out of the fire.
His Ma had collected them as a hobby, and he decided on using her favorite, the old XD ranch brand. Taking a stride over to the captives with the XD red hot, he grabbed the hem of the skinny man's britches and yanked them down to see some rather dirty, urine soaked boxers. Zoe was next to him, not too shiny looking as she was still mussed from the rain. Yet had her gun barrel poised and she had a look that might have scared the fur off of a mountain cat. "Now, I wanna name or else you better kiss your special place goodbye."
"Yutaka!" He yelped, cringing as the smell of hot iron stunk the cold morning air. "Yutaka!"
"Who is he."
"Dunno..... jus... git paid...." The man, looking like a sack of bones wrapped in hide, yelped as his partner in crime kicked him.
Zoe trained her piece on the larger man who was sweating a lake. "You best stop twitchin', son."
The smaller of the two looked at the kicker with frightened eyes. "It ain't worth it Gus. All the gorram moneys 'n th' world ain't worth mys pecker..."
"Beautiful sentiment." Mal absently twirled the iron some. "Now Slim, since Gus here thinks that he can get a mail-order replacement, how's about you be the good u'n and tell me where this Yutaka feller pays ya and gives ya directions."
"Was 'n 'orus.... not... not 'im... jus sum big feller corner'd us 'n a cafe 'n told us he'd pay us some ta steal ponies n' cows out here for his boss... Slipped the name Yutaka. Gave direcshuns 'n 'bout 'n hour later we's boarded a tran-sport." His lower lip quivered.
"Man's name was Eugene." Gus blurted, as he had come to the conclusion that his unit just wasn't worth the job paid. "Face looked like someone chewed it up 'n spit it out."
"Glad you joined the party. Now is there anything else you two remember?"
"F-first time I ever filched... Mr. Pirate Sir. " The skinny one muttered with the syrup tick drawl of East Shadow refugee. "Just... war wiped out mah home.... dun fell on ruf times...."
"He shot yer dog tho!" Gus accused.
"Mai bu-zai zhu!"
"Well you did and I ain't gonna git that vengance fer it!"
Mal furrowed his brows as suddenly the crooks began to squabble about who was the bigger sell out. He was somewhat amused, but mostly annoyed as he twisted his wrist and clobbered the little one over the head with the cold end of the iron, then did the same to the big one. They slumped, and he exhaled.
"Couldn't brand 'em sir?"
"War messed plenty folk up on this rock." He voice with a sincerity before turning on a dime to quip. "That and I don't wanna make my day worse by seeing what lies beneath those filthy drawers." Turning, Malcolm set the brand down, retrieved his coat and headed out of the barn. "Let's go find ourselves a wayward reader." Pushing the barn doors open, he found the air pure from the rain, and the sky a watercolor of pinks, oranges and yellows as the new day kissed the plains. "Kaylee!" He barked, the muddy ground not even breaking his stride as the others could be heard looking for the missing teen. As soon as she popped up, Mal pointed to the barn. "You go get my mule keyed up, pack some ropes, a halter, horse blanket, and some feed...."
Kaylee had worried eyes that could make angels weep. "But River...."
"When I find that garden-variety clairvoyant I'm gonna ask her where my horse is and I'm gonna fetch it. So get the mule running, shuang-chong shi-hou."
"Hey Mal." Jayne's bold voice came through the com.
Putting the cube to his mouth he pressed on the button. "What's going on out there?"
"Bison plowed through the fence, few cattle scattered." The merc turned cowboy reported. "Nothin' I can't fix."
"Fence wasn't tampered?" He asked warily, keen eyes looking over the farm yard lest anything was out of place or indication where River had gone.
"Lookin' at it right now, don't see anything of the human sort that would have taken it out."
"Fine, round up the strays and then patch it. Careful with that hot wire, just rained you're likely ta get zapped."
Jayne enjoyed his new life.
It wasn't the lifestyle he had originally wanted. Long gone were the bar room brawls, finding trim at every port like a lonely sailor, and shootin' folk as if he was at some carnival playing for a stuffed prize. The first couple of months he hadn't been too keen on it, but then Mal dropped him off at the far end of the pasture with a few essentials, and he became an outpost cowboy. He wasn't a deeply sensitive man, but there was something paradisal about his little parcel. Somethin' about the way the sky was blue like mason jar glass, the grass was green like that emerald necklace he once pinched off a rich sly fella, and the air was honey sweet. That, and he didn't have to take many orders. He had to watch the cows, watch the fences, and listen to Mal when he rarely made contact. It sorta made him his own boss, so that was perk. Plus, there was no half-ass wannabe cowboy the Doc was, nor was there his moon-brained sister to annoy him, nor was there a too terse Zoe, so things were peaceful. Jayne got got his fill of shooting in when he had to pick off wolves, cats or bears when the predators went for the stock, and he also shot whenever he fancied wild game for dinner. His cabin wasn't too bad on top of that list. About a week after he had moved in he found he was a thirty minute ride to Pryor, and every Friday there was a poker game at the Po An Saloon with some of the worst poker players he ever had the pleasure of wiping the floor with. A few weeks after that, he had won a horse, gave Mal back the sissy ass one he had been given to work with, and settled further into his life as a big, tough cowpoke the local ladies swooned over. Silence, the wonder of the beauty God had saddled a speck of the crap hill 'verse with, the ability to walk around the cabin in his birthday suit with no one to hold him back from doing so, no boss, plenty of liquor, plenty of card suckers and plenty of trim. Wasn't a bad life at all. Plus he lied about all of the money he won to Mal, used a bit to buy some stuff, sent the most to his Ma.
Regardless of the peace, Jayne howled when he got zapped.
"Ha hun-dan!" He jammed his fingers into his mouth, as he had not been careful with the hot wire. The cattle were back in the pasture, and he had just started fixing the fence.
Without warning, something grabbed his hat.
He was layered up 'cause it was mighty cold so late in fall. Jayne had himself in long johns that rested under his cargo pants and thick flannel shirt. Over the shirt was his wool coat, which was under his long coat. Wool socks beneath his boots, and his flat brimmed stetson had been over the cap his ma had made him, the orange flaps smartly showing at the bottom. However his stetson got snatched, and Jayne could feel the heat leave his head while he wiped around to see the guilty party.
His horse nickered and chomped on the brim.
Jayne's face, which had been pale from the cold, turned red. "Gorramit, give it ba...." He reached to snatch the hat back, but the brute of the horse jumped over the broken fence and turned to Jayne to snort and shake it's head. Standing up, he narrowed his eyes at his ride.
The equine flicked an ear.
The merc liked his horse he had won playing cards. Maybe it was because Donner was the biggest damn horse he had ever seen, maybe it was because the horse was solid black which made him look intimidating, but he wanted the Jack Draft, and he got him in that bet. Due to the specifications of his breed he was monster of an equine, and because he was so large, he made the Hero of Canton look mighty cunning up on his back. Jayne'd had plenty of horses on his home planet, but back there they didn't regard nor produce horses like they did on Shadow. Shadow hadn't been just known for cattle, but known for the fine horse breeding. The rancher he had won ol' Donner off of had drunkenly told him how before the war there had once been a horse ranch for every beef ranch, and the horsemen took pride in their sturdy stock whether they were Jack Drafts, Shadow Prairie Wranglers or any other breed kept. Horses were a way of life, and Shadow folk loved their horses. Jayne could see why, spending his lonesome out working the back acres, he had grown fond of the godzilla horse and his similarly acquired dog that was back at the cabin.
At the moment though, he wanted to shoot Donner.
"You Glue Bottle, come back here!" Lunging, half fingered gloves grabbed the hat and yanking it out of the mouth of his horse. Stuffing it back on his head, the brim askew and covered with a film of equine drool, he grabbed his horse's reins as it snorted. "Now I know yer pissy cause you had ta run 'n the rain, but so am I and ya can bite Mal fer it." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out some dehydrated fruit bits and gave them to his ornery partner, patting the big black snout. Like himself, the massive horse loved two things; food and nickering at mares.
Then Jayne saw something.
Letting Donner polish off the fruity bits, he wiped a slimy hand on his chaps and grabbed the saddle horn. Swinging himself up into his rig, he gently spurred and went out into the prairie. The government officials up in Horus owned the land that butted up against theirs, which meant no one else was supposed to be that far out. Nonetheless Jayne's tracker eye had spotted something, and regardless he wanted to go back, fix the fence and take himself to his cabin to warm up, he felt obligated to check it out. The enormous hooves made suction noises as they worked through the mud, wet sediment kicking up and dirtying the tank of a horse as it headed further out. Just beyond the spot where Jayne had rounded up the last cow, he got off and crouched.
He found horse hooves. Years of experience meant Jayne knew what they looked like, the prints couldn't be confused with any other animal, particularly the way the impression was deeper where the shoe had been. The only way he had taken notice was the bends in the grass, the manner it snapped and sagged after a large animal moved through. Jayne inspected the ground, plucking a clump of the broken grass. the merc took the time to finger it, smell it, taste it, which looked ridiculous if anyone had seen yet it had its purpose. Scrunching his nose, he rooted through the grass.
Jayne found a hand rolled cigarette.
He furrowed his brows and sniffed it. Folling that by wiping it off some, taking out his lighter and lighting it up. Taking a drag. it was obviously premium tobacco, something not too many around his parts could afford.
As he pondered his find, Donner stole his hat.
Mal had checked everywhere.
The rain had washed away River's footprints after it had created a small lake in the middle of the yard. In the house, the only thing left was one of her cats, the big one which was sleeping next to the laundry basketed cow dog. He had Kaylee and Simon take the prepped mule out to check the pasture and surrounding area, having a hunch that when she wanted to be found, she would let it be. During his second sweep of the abode, he noticed something.
A dinosaur was missing.
Putting the pieces together, he told Zoe and Inara to simply ignore the crisis and start the day by making breakfast and coffee before he left.
It was cold, but he didn't realize it as his mind was reeling from the events of the early morning already. Mal had someone trying to steal livestock and horses, he had a horse missing, and he had a reader that was possibly in the throws of a breakdown. God just kept on throwing go-se his way, especially the missing horse. They could barely work with three horses, now one was off possibly dead or injured, and he hadn't the money to replace it. To top it off, it was the mare of his set, and he had been hoping she would produce foal next summer. A rancher was as only as good as his horses, and here he was with only one he rightfully owned in his possession. It didn't look well for him if he didn't find Jai in decent shape.
As multiple worst case scenarios hit him like hailstones, he opened the door to Serenity, a place Kaylee, Simon and Inara had checked every cranny, and entered the cargo bay.
"River." He called. "Just me Lil' One." Carefully moving through, he didn't even check the downstairs, he went up and slowly made his way to the helm.
And he found her.
She was curled up in Wash's seat, the triceratops in his rightful place, and York in her arms taking his cathartic place. River peered over her shoulder, seeing the one person she wanted to discover her. It was followed by releasing out a sigh that was a cocktail of sorrow, embarrassment, and pure exhaustion.
"I presume you don't wanna talk to anyone else." Non-chalantly, he took a seat in the co-pilot's chair. "Seeing as they checked Serenity half a dozen times and couldn't find you."
"Sorry." She whispered, curling up and resting her head on knees, thus forcing the cross eyed cat to wriggle free and settle for the console.
"For what." Mal leaned back, watching how she refused eye contact.
"Did this. Regression, disappearing through my window to cloister myself away from the rest of the kindred, thus creating panic. Most notably my brother... holds himself accountable..." Her eyes shut, and she gleaned the knowledge around her, specifically Simon "Afraid now of getting further involved with Kaywinnet Lee."
Mal scoffed. "Further involved? How much further can those two love struck dunderheads get involved?"
River's eyes snapped open, giving him a rather specific look that made him feel downright ignorant. "Long term commitment, procreation. Doesn't know if it's safe to marry but wants to be with her if she'll have him."
"He is far more serious in his musings and intentions than his other half." She reported phlegmatically, black locks falling into her face to shade the all knowing brown orbs. "Worried though, rethinking his priorities... always puts me first. Fu jian."
"You wanna tell me why you've spooked him back into being all stiff?" Crossing one leg over another, his mouth pulled down when her large eyes flooded with tears.
"Wasn't intentional. Like him happy... Kaylee makes him happy.... Jin-guan na le-qu shi ta chi." She wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater.
Mal chuckled at her comment.
"Can't talk to him though, doesn't understand, too linear with his rumination. Always medical never organic. Never essential." She rattled sullenly, for she did love Simon. The little psychic cared for him as much as he for her. But because of her condition, they had a barrier when it came to comprehension.
"So I am?" He furrowed his brows.
"Not of chrome and opulence. From the soil. Thinks outside the box."
"Well... thanks." He tried to steer her back to confessing. "But darlin' I think I need to know what's got you so woebegone. You've been happy here, we all thought. Got those fuzzballs follow you everywhere, crack jokes, do chores, be a downright ornery youngin' even. All of a sudden you go into a tizzy that I got a conjecture for, but you haveta talk."
She eyed him dubiously, for she was wary of confession.
"C'mon, thought you wanted a tell all. I'm of the soil." He enticed. "Corn fed 100% organic, mind outta the box and 'n the clouds. Been told I'm cuddlesome too when the moon's just right."
"Dancing." River confessed.
"Series of movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music. Makes me forget, blocks everything out. Feel a state of euphoria and normalcy." River's voice cracked as she felt saddened whilst remembering her break down. "When the movement ceases, it all comes back." She explained, her voice almost dancing itself. "Pattern, from the feet to common area to the helm. Pattern always the same, where the feet are, radiate out." River's lip quivered as she gulped air into her lungs. "Pattern wasn't the same. Wasn't the common area.... didn't find the helm. Metal replaced with wood, mechanical heartbeat substituted with a lifeless vessel. Wasn't. The. Pattern. Wasn't home."
Mal suddenly understood. Her re-immersion back to the 'verse had thrown her because it hadn't been Serenity. "Home ain't where you rest your head. Home is the people 'round you." Voice genuine as he gave a warm smile.
Piercing his eyes with her own, River scowled. "You don't believe that. Parable is property of Zoe."
"Yeah... well I thought it... sounded nice."
River ignored his caught-red-handed demeanor and reached out, taking the yolk that steered her favorite ship in her hands, then stretching out and laying her face down on it. "This is home." She further caressed the console, as if getting re-aquianted with an old lover. Eyes shut, face one of bliss. "Love keeps her in the air. Still plenty of love. Needs to be up there."
"You know I'm the first one ta agree, Lil' Albatross. But fuel and jobs play factors inta keeping her up in the cosmos...."
"Not disagreeing. Captain did the right thing. Took care of his kin, kept them warm and fed, new hope. Just miss home more than expected." She stroked the switches and buttons, ear pressed to the yolk as if she was searching for the humming heartbeat.
"That's why you feel embarassed?"
"Didn't like the feeling." She clarified sheepishly. "Old tendancies, old wounds. Progressed beyond that, supposed to be better."
"You heard that Kaylee got Serenity a job?" He probed, hoping to give her some light.
"Heard that thought. Be nice to fly. She'll be happy." River kissed the yolk. "Happy doing what she was built for." Lifting her head up, she turned to study Malcolm, knitting her brows and becoming rather vexed. "No, not crazy. Better now, whimsical."
"Glad to here that." He rose up out of the chair. "You know, regardless of the fact you feel best in space, perhaps ya should try explorin' the wonders of Shadow. Never seen ya go farther than the barn."
"Asinine love struck sibling fears me wandering."
"And when did his consternation ever git in your way?"
River, feeling much better after getting it all off of her chest, bounced up and skipped over. "Magnificent point Captain Pirate Cowboy." The words were elicited with a sarcastic smile, having perked up.
"You heard that? And you didn't sound the alarm that we had robbers?" He put his hand on her little nothing of a shoulder, observing how she pursed to the accusation.
"Couldn't hear. Raindrops, each a singular noise. Pebble dropping from havens." She stated a matter of factly, miffed at from such an assumption. "That was coupled with my fall from grace, and Kaylee was dreaming loudly. Primary colors like a box of crayons. Marshmallow fluff clouds, poofy dress, evil suitor, Simon was a samurai prince while upon a white steed. Smote the villain, fornication ensued."
"Um... don't think I needed that visual."
Mai bu-zai zhu!: Sell out pig!
shuang-chong shi-hou: Double time
Po An: Broken Saddle
Ha hun-dan!: Frog bastard!
Fu jian: Not healthy
Jin-guan na le-qu shi ta chi: Despite that joy makes him imbecilic
*As always, comments whether praise, suggestions or critism are always valued by the writer*
Friday, January 04, 2008 3:27 AM
Saturday, January 05, 2008 7:22 PM
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