BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Old Habits - Part IX
Monday, June 9, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. The crew make reacquaintance with the Firefly known as Road Runner, but there's tragedy on the horizon. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2260    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“Burton!” River was almost bouncing in her seat with joy as the captain of the Firefly Road Runner materialised on the screen.

“Young Miss River, you sure are a sight for sore eyes, and prettier than ever.” The owner of the gruff and grizzled voice was just as he should be, except that a wide grin split his face under the thick grey moustache.

“It’s young Mrs Cobb now, Burton,” she corrected, waggling her tattooed ring finger in front of the screen.

“You finally got that poor mountain of a man to marry you?”

“I finally said yes.”

“Now, that ain’t fair. You know I was just waiting for you to come around to the idea that I was the one you wanted all along.”

River was beaming. “And how would Yuki feel about that?”

“She knows ours’d be a fleeting affair. My heart belongs to that can bao of a woman.” He laughed. “So? Where is the old kuh-ooh duh lao nao-jurn?”

“Less of the old,” Mal said, moving into range of the screen.

“So I can still call you a curmudgeon?”

“Depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether, once Frey’s explained exactly what you mean by that, I decide to take offence and shoot you.”

Burton Wyatt hooted with laughter. “You ain’t changed, you old -”

Mal interrupted. “You might wanna reconsider whatever term of endearment you were about to come out with, Burt. Got sensitive ears here.”

“Who, you?”

“No. Caleb.” River picked up her sleeping son and turned him so Wyatt could see.

“Looks just like ya, Mal,” the older man observed.

“You keep those kinda thoughts to yourself, Burt,” Mal advised. “Jayne’s got something of a jealous streak.”

“He got anything to be jealous over?”

Mal smiled and shook his head. “You ain’t changed.”

“Why should I? Everyone loves me the way I am.”

“That’s a matter of opinion.” Mal gestured to the main bridge window where he could see the other ship approaching, her retros firing silently. “You okay to dock?”

“Sure thing. Give me a few minutes and you can insult me in person.”

---

Mal opened the outer airlock door and leaned on the wall.

“Knock knock,” Burton Wyatt said from the other side.

“I don’t know. Get all kinds of folk coming around, demanding to waste your time.” Mal shook his head. “S’pose you wanna come in?”

“Well, we could do our business here.” Wyatt looked around his own airlock. “Be a mite cramped, though, don’t you think?”

“I s’pose.”

Wyatt drew himself up to his full height, stroking his moustache. “Permission to come aboard, Captain Reynolds?”

“You know, that lip ferret of yours ain’t nowhere near as impressive as Monty’s,” Mal said conversationally, not moving out of the way.

“Just ‘cause you can’t grow one.”

“And spoil my good looks?”

“Hide ‘em, be better.” He hitched his thumbs into his pants pockets. “You gonna open up or what?”

Mal’s lips twitched. “Come on then.” He moved back into his ship, letting Wyatt join him in the cargo bay.

They’d known each other a long time, and their sparring was born of common respect and, if forced to admit it by threat of torture, true affection. Wyatt hadn’t fought in the war as such, having been recruited under duress to work as engineer on a liner ferrying soldiers to and from the active zone, but as soon as arms were laid down he’d handed in his papers and got his ship back out of mothballs.

Road Runner was a newer Firefly than Serenity by more than a few years, a 05, and Wyatt used what was left of his family money to get her all the upgrades he could afford. He was also more successful, using his charm to get work ex-Browncoats couldn’t. They’d met on one such an occasion, shortly after Mal had bought Serenity, when the new captain’s wit had deserted him and he was about to have to shelve his ideas of being free forever. Wyatt had bailed him out, sub-contracted as it were, and Mal was able to keep flying a little longer until things got better.

“The old girl don’t look too bad, Mal,” Wyatt said, peering around approvingly. “We need to keep as many of ‘em in the sky as possible.”

“Kaylee’s the one works wonders. I just give the orders.”

“And you do it so well,” came a voice from the catwalk.

Wyatt looked up. “Hey, there, Freya. How’s things?”

She smiled warmly at him. “Okay. You? Everyone all right?”

He grinned as she came down the stairs. “We’re all shiny, just like I was telling your other half.” He studied her face. “You look tired, girl.”

“A little,” she conceded.

Wyatt slapped Mal on the back. “You gotta make her rest more,” he said. “’Though I figure keeping up with you ain’t all that easy.”

“No, you’re right about that,” Mal said, waiting for the stinging sensation between his shoulder blades to die down a little.

“Burt!” Kaylee ran out of the common area, River close behind. “Cap, you didn’t tell us!” She looked reproachfully at Mal as she hugged Wyatt.

“Wanted it to be a surprise, mei-mei,” Mal explained. “Road Runner’s picking up our cargo.”

“Hmmn.” She wasn‘t mollified, but turned her smile on the other man instead. “Yuki on board?”

“Course. Where else do you think my wife’d be?” He laughed. “Go on, the pair of you. She’s waiting.”

Kaylee squealed and ran through the airlock.

“Burton.” River kissed the older man’s cheek, his whiskers tickling her skin, then followed her best friend.

“You know she’s the only one, after my Ma, ever calls me by my full name. Not even Yuki does that,” Wyatt said, smiling after her.

“River’s a law unto herself,” Mal gave as his opinion.

Jayne ambled down the stairs. “Hey there, Burt. You plannin’ on runnin’ off with my wife?”

“If only she’d let me.”

“She’d break you in half ‘fore the week was out.”

“But what a way to go.”

Jayne chuckled as Hank and Simon stepped into the bay from the direction of the infirmary. “Were you intending on keeping our visitors all to yourself?” the pilot asked, hurrying across and shaking hands with Wyatt.

“I just had Kaylee telling me off ‘cause I didn’t make an announcement,” Mal complained. “Ain’t having you doing it too. For that you and Jayne can unload.”

“What about the doc?” Hank looked at the young man. “He’s here too.”

“And he’s being conspicuously silent. ‘Sides, can’t risk his hands. Might need him to dig a bullet outta someone.” Mal glanced at Freya, seeing her trying to keep a straight face.

“Anyway, Brogan’s waiting for him,” Wyatt put in. “We got a new analyser he’s just aching to show off.”

Simon brightened up. “The new Giggenheim?”

“Wouldn’t know, doc. That’s why I keep my own medic. Means I don’t have to wag myself.”

“What?”

“Ignore him,” Mad advised. “The man’s plumb space loco from all the years in the black.”

“It seems to be catching,” Simon said dryly, eyeing his captain as he walked through into Road Runner.

“I can still change my mind and make you hump cargo,” Mal called.

“Come on,” Freya said, a snigger in her voice. “I for one need a drink, and I think Zoe’s waiting in the galley to find out why you didn’t tell everyone too.”

“Neither did you,” her husband pointed out.

“You’re captain. It’s not up to me.”

Wyatt guffawed. “I just love hearing other married couples argue. Makes me feel Yuki and me are normal.” He hooked his arm through Freya’s. “You think maybe I could talk you into running away with me instead of young River?”

“You might.” She glared at Mal over her shoulder. “I think maybe I could do with a change.”

Laughter rang through Serenity’s superstructure as they made their way upstairs.

---

“Can I help?” Becca asked, watching Jayne handing a crate to Hank, who passed it through to someone on the other side.

“We got this,” the big man said. “Ain’t gonna take long.”

“Why don’t you go find Kaylee?” Hank suggested, wiping at the sweat on his forehead. There hadn’t seemed to be nearly as many boxes when the stuff had been loaded. “She’s talking to Wyatt’s wife somewhere. Prob’ly the engine room.” He smiled.

“Okay. As long as you don’t think I can help.”

“No. You go find the other girls.” Hank stood to one side so that Becca could pass him into the other Firefly.

“You think that’s a good idea?” Jayne asked, eyeing the departing woman.

“You want her here? Asking more questions?”

“Guess not.” He flexed his shoulders. “Just can’t help feeling like someone’s got me in their cross-hairs, you know?”

“Never having been in anyone’s cross-hairs that I’m aware of …” Hank stopped. “But I know what you mean. Still, just a few more hours and she’s history.”

“Yeah.” Jayne still didn’t sound convinced.

“Come on. Sooner we get this done, sooner we get ourselves a drink.”

The big man stared at him, then nodded, picking up another crate.

---

Mal poured another slug into each of their mugs, then said, “So you heading to Persephone?”

Wyatt shook his head. “Nope. The client wants the transfer to take place in space, so we’re headed off to co-ordinates just this side of the Dromor Cluster.” The place he was referring to was a group of asteroids, the remains of a small moon that didn’t take kindly to being terraformed. Internal forces had torn it apart, but the integral gravimetric force had kept the assemblage orbiting as a cloud of debris.

“We can travel aways together, though.”

“Not that long. He’s got the hots for the cargo. Soon as we’re loaded we’re gonna have to get gone.”

“Better drink up, then.” Mal raised his mug. “To good women,” he said sincerely, nodding at Freya and Zoe. “And bad whisky.”

“I always thought it’d be better the other way around.” Wyatt laughed and took a mouthful.

“Hey, you started without us!” Hank complained, stepping down into the galley, Jayne following behind.

“Not my fault,” Wyatt insisted. “Your captain here is attempting to ply me with alcohol so’s I won’t know just exactly how much money I’m handing over.”

“Talking of which …” Mal held out his hand.

“You’re a hard man, Reynolds.” Wyatt took any sting out of his words with a grin, his gold teeth flashing in the warm light. Reaching into his pocket he withdrew a money pouch, tossing it across.

Mal smiled. “Thank you.” He passed it to Zoe then looked at Jayne, even now pouring generous helpings for himself and Hank. “We all done?”

Jayne swallowed half of his mug in one mouthful. “Done. Terry’s strapping it all down in Road Runner’s hold.”

“Good. Glad to see the back of it, truth be told.” He glanced at Wyatt. “So how come you’re working for Badger now?”

“Could ask you the same thing.”

“Necessity,” Zoe put in. “We take jobs as we can find them.”

“Yeah, but Badger.”

“Everyone’s making a fuss,” Mal muttered. “Long as we get paid, I don’t much care who we work for.”

Wyatt grinned. “Now, Mal, you know that ain’t the truth. You’ve got morals longer’n most people have legs, and you know you wouldn’t work for a weasel like that if you could choose.”

“Then you’re pretty much answered your own question.” He smiled lazily and lifted his mug in salute.

“’Spose I have.” Wyatt looked around the table. “Must be bad, then.”

“It’s not good,” Zoe admitted. “There’s less and less work out there, honest or not.”

“I know what you mean. I guess it’s the same reason we’re working for that mao shi.” Wyatt exhaled heavily. “Seems like there’s too much talk of something brewing, and people’re battening down the hatches.”

“Any idea what kind of something that might be?” Mal asked.

“Nope. Don’t listen to rumour, painted full of tongues or not.” He grinned at the confused look on Mal’s face. “Shakespeare,” he explained.

“Henry the Fourth,” Freya added.

“Who?” Jayne shook his head.

“I know it’s Shakespeare,” Mal said. “Not that uneducated.”

“Never said you were,” Wyatt mollified. “But like I said, I don’t listen. If I did I’d probably find some little moon somewhere, land, and pull in the dirt over me.” He drained his mug. “But maybe I’ll keep an ear out for you, if you like. Might hear things you don’t, seeing as you’re one of the scum of the ‘verse, and a Browncoat to boot.”

Mal didn’t take offence. “That’s rich, coming from an Alliance stooge.”

“Wasn't my idea.” Wyatt grinned. “Damn, Mal, I’ve missed insulting you.”

“Me too, Burt.”

Something buzzed, and Wyatt pulled a new-looking comlink out of his pocket. “Yeah?”

“All ready to go, sir.”

“My wife let those young’uns up for air yet?”

“Sending them back now with the doc.”

“Then fire her up, and we’ll be going.” He clicked the unit off and stood up, the others following. “Next time we’re gonna have to make sure we get a decent session in, with food and wild women as well.”

Mal laughed. “Well, two outta three’s not bad.”

“Hey, I'm sure we can be wild for you if you like,” Freya offered, winking at Wyatt.

“I don’t doubt it.” He lifted her hand to his lips, tickling her skin with his moustache. “Any time you wanna leave this chu ju, you let me know.” His eyebrows twitched in his amusement.

“I ain't a daisy!” Mal said in reproach, adding quickly, “And you take your hands off my wife.”

“Fancy swapping?”

“No.”

“Pity.”

---

Ten minutes later Road Runner disengaged her airlock from Serenity, and the two ships parted company.

“You tell Badger I paid you, won’t you?” Wyatt said, his face once more on the vid screen.

Ma nodded. “No problem. At least some folks are trustworthy.”

“You making disparaging remarks to me again?”

“Not gonna change the habit of a lifetime.” Mal suddenly grinned, the smile lighting his whole face. “Better not be as long ‘fore we do that session, Burt.”

“If you’re gonna be around a few days, might be able to do it sooner rather than later.”

“Well, my plans are pretty fluid,” Mal admitted, watching Road Runner move backwards away from them.

“Then I’ll wave soon as we’ve delivered. See if you’re close.”

“Sounds good. And tell Yuki I intend for her to cook some of that noodle stew she does.”

“I will.” Wyatt glanced out of view, nodding to someone else. “Time for us to go.”

“Me too. Want to have a chat with Badger, for a start.”

Wyatt laughed. “Almost wish I was gonna be a fly on the wall for that little conversation.” He leaned forward. “See you in the –“ The screen went to static at the same moment as the bridge was washed in light.

Fragments of something began to hit Serenity, bouncing off the windows into a new trajectory, at the same time as a pressure wave pushed at the hull. Hank immediately fired the retros, turning the Firefly’s stronger underbelly into the rain of debris.

“What the diyu …” Mal held onto the back of the pilot’s chair as the sudden movement overcame artificial gravity for a moment.

Hank frantically pushed buttons, then his hands stilled. “Mal.”

“What? What’s going on?”

“It’s Road Runner. She’s gone.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Monday, June 9, 2008 6:45 AM

SLUMMING


Oh no! And you had painted them so vivdly! I miss the Road Runner already! Great stuff!

Monday, June 9, 2008 6:48 AM

KATESFRIEND


So what DID Becca do? I miss Wyatt already - he was one of your best OC's ever. Sigh. Life isn't very fair sometimes.

Monday, June 9, 2008 7:20 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Oh no!!! I liked the Road Runner. Well, I guess it be water under the bridge. Becca is sure a spitfire of a woman. Hopefully, Mal can figure it out before it's Serenity at the stake.

Monday, June 9, 2008 11:09 AM

NCBROWNCOAT


I liked Burton too. I didn't see that coming either....You really know how to go from OK to angst in a second.

Monday, June 9, 2008 1:56 PM

AMDOBELL


Why the *diyu* did Becca set the cargo up to explode? Did she know Burton would be taking the cargo off Mal or was it good luck on Mal's part that it was passed off before exploding? I really hate that nasty piece of work and hope she comes to a very painful and horrible end her own self. Burton and his crew sounded so very shiny and I was really getting very fond of them and looking forward to seeing more of them, now it seems as if none of that will happen. Sigh. I much prefer it when the horrible characters get bumped off. I don't suppose Becca was on the Road Runner when it went up, hope, hope? Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 2:33 PM

JOLY


Heart in throat... I really like Burt. Becca... Evil.


Can't wait for the next chapter, going now!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 11:23 PM

WYTCHCROFT


this was just a brilliant chapter.


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