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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal makes the pick-up on Keyser, and Jayne learns something about Hank. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1836 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Keyser Skyplex looked, sounded and - worst of all - smelled like all the others of its type they’d ever visited. Engine fumes and hot metal, food and incense, various unidentifiable odours, all mixed with the thousand bodies that went through its corridors every day.
Mal took a deep breath, suppressed the urge to cough, and looked around at the various stalls he could see from where he leaned on the wall.
“Sir, Dupont’s finally arrived.” Zoe materialised at his elbow.
“And there was the man going on because he thought we were going to be late.” He straightened his brown coat and smiled at her. “How long before we get the cargo?”
“An hour or so.“ Zoe looked as implacable as ever. “The goods’ll be checked in, then he’ll pay the tariff and we can pick up.”
“And we pay again.” Mal shook his head. “They get us coming and going, don’t they?”
“Not our money, sir. And it’s the way of places like this.” Zoe glanced at the barker in the corner calling everyone to see the boy who was half gorilla. “They’re mostly interchangeable.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Not sure why we’re picking up here at all,” Jayne said, strolling up behind them. “If’n we’d done this on some rock somewhere we’d’ve been on our way by now, without all this palaver.”
“Because this is legit, and the buyer wants it done right.” Mal stood straight. “Well, it seems we do have a little time after all. Good job Freya made Kaylee go shopping. But if you see them, tell ‘em they’ve got but an hour.”
Zoe looked doubtful. “I think I should stay here. Wait for Dupont.”
“I’ll be doing that.” Mal smiled. “Go. Have some fun. Don’t mind me.”
“Well, Ben needs some new socks and stuff.” She was still unsure.
“Zoe, go. Who knows, you might see your other half around.”
“Hank’s gone already?” She sounded surprised.
“Soon as I lowered the ramp.”
“Aw, hell, Zo,” Jayne sighed. “I got me a list of stuff for River, and I don’t know what half of it is. You help me, I’ll buy us a drink.”
“You’re asking me to go shopping with you?”
The big man didn’t quite blush, but he did suddenly find the floor of the skyplex incredibly interesting.. “Well, there’s some lacy underthingies she needs and I don’t know –“
Zoe took his arm. “Come on. Before you embarrass the captain.”
“Ain’t possible, is it?” Jayne murmured as she pulled him away into the concourse.
Dupont blew a perfect smoke ring from his evil-smelling cheroot into the superstructure of the cargo bay.
“Alex, do you have to?” Mal complained, waving his hand to disperse the odour.
“Thought you liked a good cigar.” Alexander Dupont grinned.
“I do. But that is not, in any way, shape or form, a good cigar.” He made a face. “What’s in it, old socks and engine scrapings?”
“Finest Achaeon,” Dupont insisted, looking at the offending article. “Paid a lot for these.”
“You were robbed.” He screwed his eyes up against the smoke. “I think you need to ask for your money back.”
“Well, they weren't exactly legal in the first place.”
Mal had to smile. “Alex, I have a contact might be able to help with the real thing. I’ll try and remember to ask, next time I see him.”
“Be grateful.” He puffed away happily, getting a good glow going.
“God, it stinks.”
“It’s good for you. Clears the sinuses.”
“I like my sinuses where they are, thanks.”
Dupont laughed. “You ain't changed. Still the same whiny jiao shu you always were.”
“And I love you too, Alex.”
His dry tone made Dupont laugh all the louder. “By the way, there was someone asking about you, couple of weeks back,” he added, watching as the station crew drove up in a bright, shiny mule, a large container connected to the back.
“Oh?” Mal raised one eyebrow. “And who’d that be?”
“Feller didn’t give his name. Just asked for Sergeant Reynolds.”
“Not a Sergeant. Not no more.”
“That’s what I told him.”
“Did he say what he wanted?”
“Something about a job. He wasn’t any more forthcoming so there’s no point in torturing me for information.” He blew another cloud of smoke.
“You’re the one doing the torturing,” Mal said, coughing.
“Oh, for the love of …” Dupont lifted his left boot and crushed the smouldering tip of the cigar against it, dusting the ash onto the floor. Now the bay smelled of burning rubber too.
“Thanks.” Mal watched him put the end back in its case. “So, this feller who wouldn’t give his name. Did he say how I could contact him?”
“Nope. Just that he’d catch you some time.”
A thread of unease slid down Mal’s spine. “Those words?”
Dupont laughed. “Why, Mal, you been up to something you shouldn’t?”
“Not … lately,” Mal said, his mind wandering back over the Ling Miao plaque. “When was this?”
“I told you, couple of weeks. No, I tell a lie. A month.”
So before Prater and his gang almost sold everyone as slaves. “What did he look like?”
“A feller. Medium height, brownish hair, about your age … a feller.” His eyes narrowed. “What’s got up your bonnet, Mal?”
“Just don’t like folks looking for me I don’t know about.”
“Well, he didn’t look fierce.” Dupont straightened his browncoat. “Seems like they’re ready to load you up, and that means it’s time for me to head on out.” They shook hands. “Next time we’ll have us a libation to fallen comrades. And it’s your turn to buy.”
“What? And have you drink all the profits like you did last time?”
“Just because you couldn’t keep up …”
Mal shook his head. “I swear you have a hollow leg.”
“Ain't that the truth.” He banged his cane on his right leg, the sound booming hollowly. “You know, you should really come work for me. I could use a good man.”
“You’d like to be ordering me around again, wouldn’t you? Had me enough of that during the war.” Mal tempered his words with a smile.
“And the worst sergeant I ever had the honour to serve with. More like you and we might not have lost.”
“Thought you were leaving?” Mal couldn’t take the compliment.
“I'm going, I'm going.” He moved quickly down the ramp, his stick taking only a little of his weight. “Think on it, Mal. You’ve got a family now. Can’t be a rogue forever.”
Mal laughed. “Why not? Someone has to.”
Dupont grinned. “You’re never gonna change. See you around, Mal.”
“See you, Alex.” He watched as Dupont limped quickly away. As he disappeared around the corner, Zoe came out of the shadows. “Okay, what’ve you done with Jayne?” he asked.
“He’s gone for a drink.” She climbed the ramp to halfway up, watching the men on the mule arguing over a clipboard. “I wasn't thirsty.”
“You still angry with him?” Mal asked his first mate.
She turned to look at him. “Jayne?”
“Whatever gave you that idea, sir?” she asked, noting the men finally beginning to unload.
“Oh, the way you’ve been standing there these last five minutes, waiting for him to leave.”
“He’s a traitor, sir.”
“A turncoat,” Mal corrected. “To our side, more’s the point. And there’s at least one other of that type on board this boat.” He tried to stop the smile that threatened. “It’s because he pinches you, isn’t it? A one-legged man and you still can’t get out of the way fast enough.”
She merely raised an eyebrow as she strode off to supervise the unloading.
Hank strolled through the stalls, picking up an item here and there, studying it, letting the seller use his best pitch, then shaking his head and putting it back. Everything seemed more expensive than their last landing, and most of it was crap anyway. Still, he’d managed to find something nice for Zoe, even if it was a little pricey.
As he approached Serenity’s docking point, he could see four or five men in yellow jumpsuits were carrying boxes on board.
“Hank, where’d you get to?” Zoe asked, straightening up from where she was examining one of the boxes.
“Just thought I’d get me a little drink.” He grinned. “Since someone else, for once, was doing all the humping.”
“Did you gamble?”
He allowed himself to look shocked. “As if I would.”
“Hank, I mean it. You promised.”
“And I kept that promise.” He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Just a drink, is all. And I didn‘t even get into trouble.”
“I didn’t know that was possible.”
He laughed and headed off towards the bridge, whistling as he went.
“Don’t you trust him?” Mal asked, watching one of the station crew out of the corner of his eye who he was convinced would walk off with anything not nailed down.
“He’s my husband.”
“You know, that ain't an answer,” Mal pointed out, then pounced on the man he’d been watching, dragging one of Kaylee’s best … thingies out of his pocket. “Gorramit, there’s thieves everywhere,” he complained.
“That there is, sir,” Zoe agreed.
Five minutes later, after the skyplex authorities had taken the would-be crook off and made profuse apologies, if not a refund, Jayne strode up the ramp.
“Enjoy your drink?” Mal asked, looking up at the large number of crates and boxes cluttering his bay.
“Was okay.” He didn’t seem in the mood to chat.
“What’s up? You look like your dog up and died.”
“It’s nothing,” the big man muttered, crossing between the boxes and heading up the stairs.
Mal shook his head. “Everyone was so all-fired happy about spending some money, and now they come back miserable as sin.” He looked at Zoe. “That seem right to you?”
Zoe glanced to where Kaylee and Freya had just appeared, arms round each other, laughing gaily, lots of bags in their hands. “Oh, I don’t think all of them, sir.”
Mal sighed heavily. “You think my wife’s left me with any money?”
“I doubt it, sir.”
“Neither do I, Zoe. Neither do I.”
“Hank.” Jayne crossed the threshold onto the bridge.
“Hey.” The pilot turned in his seat, stuffing a small paper bag into his pocket. “Had a good day?”
“Not so good as some.”
“Yeah? Who would –“
Jayne was suddenly in front of him, his arms on the back of the seat, penning him in place. “What the hell were you doing?”
Hank’s eyes widened. “Look, I know you’ve always had the hots for me, but this –“
“It ain't a joke.” The big man glared. “In that bar. Playing Cargo.”
A flash of guilt crossed Hank’s face, replaced by bluster. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure you do. Place called Emily’s. Big painting of said owner behind the bar. Big girl. Naked.”
Hank shook his head. “No. Don’t know it.” He pushed at Jayne’s arm, but it was immovable.
“So it was some other little runt with hair like a tornado’s hit it, was it?”
“Must have been.” Finally he ducked underneath.
Jayne stood up slowly. “You were gambling,” he said slowly.
“I saw, Hank. You might’n’t have seen me, but I saw you. Clear as day.”
“I don’t gamble anymore.”
“Well, you sure as hell weren't playing for chores.” Jayne cracked his knuckles audibly. “I've got half a mind to –“
“As much as that?” Hank interrupted.
Jayne took a step towards the pilot, who, to his credit, didn’t back up. They were nose to nose. “You got something you wanna say?” he growled.
“Yeah. How about, stay out of my business?”
“That it?“ Jayne glared at him, almost studying the untidy brown hair, the grey eyes of the man in front of him, as if he was a specimen under a microscope.
“What?” Hank demanded.
“Just wondering how a er bi like you could end up with a woman like Zoe, and still be stupid.”
“Yeah. And a liar too.”
“I'm not a liar.”
“Then how come I’m looking at one right now?”
The air on the bridge was thick with tension.
“Hank.” Mal’s voice sounded over the com. “Locking her up. Time to get gone.”
Neither man moved.
“Hank. You there? ‘Cause if you’re off dilly-dallying it’s coming out of your pay.”
Hank slowly reached up and pulled down the com, his eyes not leaving Jayne’s face. “I'm here, Mal. Where to?”
“No problem. Over or under?”
“Over. All legal and above board. But not too obvious. Let’s not ask for trouble.”
“Roger that.” He hung the com back up. “I have work to do,” he said quietly, his grey eyes becoming hooded. “If you don’t mind.” Slowly he turned back to the console, sitting down in the chair and beginning the start-up sequence.
“This ain't over,” Jayne said softly.
“Yes, it is.” The familiar whine of Serenity’s engines began to purr in the background.
Jayne glared at him a while longer, but without physically attacking the man there was little he could do. With a scowl he turned on his heel and stomped off the bridge, back to his shuttle.
River was waiting for him. “You can’t do anything,” she said, settling the blanket over Caleb as he slept.
Jayne collapsed onto the bed. “He’s fong luh.”
“Yes.” She turned to look at him. “But it’s an addiction.” She sighed. “And it isn’t our affair,” she added softly.
“But he promised.” Jayne shook his head. “He promised Zoe.”
“Haven’t you ever broken a promise?”
“Well, yeah, sure I have. But only when I didn’t mean it in the first place, and not to the woman I love.”
“He doesn’t think of it as gambling. He knows he’s going to win, so it’s just a game.”
“That ain't how Zoe’s gonna see it.”
“You can’t tell her.”
“Moonbrain, she’s gonna find out.”
“I know. But not from us.”
Jayne stared at her, then slumped back onto the bed. “He’s still fong luh.”
She slid next to him, her legs over his thighs. “It will come back and bite him.”
Her husband’s eyes narrowed. “You see that?”
“When Zoe finds out, she won’t be happy.”
A chuckle made its way up from Jayne’s belly to his throat. “Almost worth telling her just to see –“
River’s slim fingers stopped his lips. “Promise.”
“Promise me you won’t tell her.”
“Aw, River –“
Her dark eyes fixed his soul into place. “’Kay. I promise. But I still think someone oughtta know. Mal, maybe. Or Frey.”
“They will,” she said, settling her head against his shoulder. “They will.”
to be continued
Monday, April 21, 2008 12:49 PM
Monday, April 21, 2008 6:00 PM
Monday, April 21, 2008 11:57 PM
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 3:48 PM
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