BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Old Habits - Part XIII
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal has a 'chat' with Badger, and Becca steals a ride. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2053    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mal, Jayne and Zoe walked through the busy docks without saying a word, although the latter two exchanged glances every now and then, even as they scanned the crowds for signs of trouble. There certainly seemed to be a lot of Alliance around, their purple armour shining in the sunlight. As they reached Badger’s den, and after the eleventh pair of armed soldiers they’d passed, Jayne leaned in.

“You think there’s something going here we don’t know about?” he whispered.

“Hank checked the posted alerts,” Zoe replied quietly. “Nothing on ‘em.”

“It’s the rumours,” Mal said unexpectedly, ducking in between a stack of containers. “Another war brewing. They’re just keeping an eye on things, make sure it don’t happen here.”

“Do you think it’s likely to, sir?”

“Wouldn’t like to say.”

“Only you and Burt were talking close before Road Runner disengaged.”

Mal didn’t respond, just turned into Badger’s office and strode to the desk, lifting the little man out of his chair and pinning him to the wall. “Afternoon,” he said, almost cheerily.

Three men erupted from the other room, but Jayne stonewalled one, kicked another in the crotch and held his gun on the third. Zoe already had the man who was supposed to be on guard at the front down on the ground, the heel of her boot in his throat, her Mare’s Leg cocked and ready in his face.

Badger tried to swallow but found he couldn’t do it for Mal’s hand wrapped around his neck, his pistol thrust under his chin. He squawked a little.

Mal released the pressure somewhat, allowing the weasel at least to breathe. “You and me are gonna have a talk, Badger.”

“Ya think?” The little man sneered, his voice strained. “This ain't the first time you’ve blown in and laid ‘ands on me in my own gaffe, and I don’t like it.”

“Sorry about that.”

“You’d be sorrier if those bu zhong yong bits of shit’d do their jobs proper.” He glared at the remnants of his security.

“Now, now, that ain't the way to be talking about the people as work for you,” Mal chided, almost appearing to be in good humour. “They might get pissed. Might decide to do you a whole lot of damage. Particularly if they’ve been blown up.” Oh, definitely only appearing to be.

Badger could see, from close perusal, that Mal’s eyes were chips of blue ice, no matter how he sounded. “Blown up?” he squeaked.

“Mmn. And good friends of mine, too.”

“You mean Road Runner?”

Mal stared into Badger’s face, looking past the scrappy beard, the thinning hair, the greasy suit, and into the man’s soul. Slowly, his other hand still holding his gun, he let Badger slide down the wall until his feet were on the floor. “Yeah, Road Runner.”

“She’s gone?”

“Exploded. In about a million pieces, if’n you wanna go check.”

“And my cargo?”

Mal’s finger tightened on the trigger, but he forced himself to relax. “Part of those million pieces, Badger.”

Cao.”

“I take it you didn’t have a hand in blowing her up?”

Badger managed to look innocent, something of a feat for him. “Why’d I do that? Lost me good coin, that did.”

“Lost my friends.”

“That too.” His eyes flickered from Mal to Jayne to Zoe and back again. “Look, if you ain't gonna shoot me, can I sit down?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t decided.”

“Look, if somethin’ happened to Wyatt and the Runner, it ain't nothing to do with me. ‘E was a good bloke, did ‘is job and didn’t ask too many questions. ‘Sides, I don’t wanna cross Kendrick neither.”

Mal leaned in closer, his hand on Badger’s chest pressing just a little harder. “Which brings me to my second question. Who knew, Badger? Who knew the cargo was for Kendrick?”

“No-one.”

“The bomb was in the cargo. Cargo I’ve had sitting in my hold nigh on two weeks, a full seven days longer’n planned. We’d just transferred it. So, since I doubt someone’d go to all the trouble of rendering me into my constituent particles only they miscalculated and got Wyatt instead, I’m thinking it wasn’t meant for either of us.”

Badger went pale under his layer of grime. “Kendrick.”

“Now you’re getting it.” He smiled coldly. “Not a man I’d cross willingly.”

“Gawd, no,” Badger agreed fervently.

“So, who else knew?”

“Look, a’course there were some knew. The people ‘e ordered from, for a start. But no-one from my side, saves me, you and Wyatt. And I didn’t tell no-one.”

Mal sighed and shook his head. “I know it wasn't Burt or me. So, Badger, that kinda leaves you, since I don’t believe in coincidences. So why don’t you tell me what you’re not saying?” The sound of the safety on his gun being clicked off was very loud.

Badger swallowed quickly. “Well, since you put it like that … there might be somethin’ else,” he began, somewhat hesitantly.

“And I’m thinking I should’ve shot you anyway.”

“Now, Mal, I’m givin’ you information free and gratis now, ain't I?”

“Go on then.”

“Someone was pretty keen on me makin’ sure you was the one ‘ad the job.”

“Kendrick’s goods?”

“Yeah.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know.” He held up his hands when he saw Mal about to argue. “God’s honest truth. It came through an intermediary, from someone else, and I don’t know who pushed it first. Just came to me that I’d be compensated if I made sure it was you did the job.”

Mal studied him some more. “And the delay? Was that arranged too?”

Badger squirmed a little. “Well …”

“The truth, now.”

“Kinda. Kendrick was never gonna be ‘ere to deliver to that early. Using the Runner was always part of the plan, but it was only s’posed be a coupla days, not a week.” He grimaced. “I didn’t know I was gonna ‘ave cashflow problems, did I? You were supposed to hand over the goods to me, I’d get Wyatt to take ‘em out.”

“But you were always gonna offer us the Claymore job.”

“That was part of it, yeah. And I was supposed to make it worth your while to take it. Not that that’d be ‘ard, considering the sorry state you’re usually in. But Kendrick had engine trouble, you were uppity, and the handover got delayed.”

Mal moved back until he could perch on the edge of the desk, although his gun didn’t waver. “But Serenity’s involvement wasn’t by chance.”

Badger adjusted his disreputable jacket and picked up his hat, which had fallen to the floor in the first rush. “Not a bit.” He shrugged as he placed it back on his head, feeling more himself wearing it. “Sorry.” He couldn’t have sounded less sincere.

Mal ignored him, and seemed to be speaking more to himself than the others. “So the bomb was meant for Kendrick, but the delay in handing over the cargo meant Road Runner went up instead.”

“Looks like.” The little man sat down at his desk, twisting back and forwards a little. “And speakin’ o’ which, you got my other piece?”

Mal looked down at him, his eyebrows raised. “The box?”

“Yeah. Did you get it?”

There was a pause while Mal contemplated him like a bug under a microscope, then he said, “Zoe.”

“Sir.” She holstered her Mare’s Leg and slid the bag off her shoulder. The man under her foot tried to get up, but she pushed him back. “Stay,” she ordered, pressing just a little harder on his windpipe.

The gunman considered his options and decided discretion was the better part of still being able to breathe.

Badger was disgusted. “Can’t get men like I used ta, you know?” he said to Mal.

“I feel for you.” Mal nodded to Zoe, who tossed him the sack, and Badger winced visibly.

“Hey, be careful!”

“Since you haven’t paid me for this yet, it’s still mine,” Mal pointed out, removing the wooden box from inside. The light hit the angel, making it seem to stand out. “So what’s inside?” He turned it so he could see the edges.

“I don’t know!” Badger was getting worried. “And I don’t wanna know. I’m just gonna deliver it to –“ He stopped, jamming his mouth shut.

“To Kendrick,” Mal supplied.

“I didn’t say that.”

“Nope. But since it’s all linked, I’d bet a fair amount of coin this is for him too.” He tickled Badger under the chin with the muzzle of his gun. “Is it?”

“Gorram it, you ain't never gonna get work from me again!” Badger spat the words out.

“Tell me where Kendrick is, and this will all go away.” Mal leaned forward. “And you know I’m truthful.”

“Yeah, but you’re a pain in the pi gu.”

“That too.”

Suddenly Badger collapsed back in his chair. “Yeah. It’s for Kendrick. He’s landing out in the mountains, and I was gonna take it to him, get paid.”

“So what’s inside?”

“I said, I don’t know!” He sighed heavily. “Whatever it is, it’s important. Kendrick didn’t want it delivered with the goods in the normal way. Prob’ly didn’t trust anyone but me.”

“You?” Jayne scoffed.

“Yeah, me. I'm a respectable businessman.” Badger pulled on his lapels, the legs of the small pink flamingo brooch trembling.

“Coordinates.” Mal thrust the box back in the bag.

“Hey, no, wait –“

“Where’s Kendrick?”

“If you think I’m gonna –“

“I think you are.”

“Aw, hell, Mal, why don’t ya let me cut on him a while?” Jayne offered. “I’d do it good. You know that.”

For a long moment, thick with the imminent possibility of indescribable pain for Badger, Mal seriously seemed to be considering it, but then he shook his head. “Nah. I think he’s gonna be sensible. Ain't you?”

Badger glared at him, at the almost pleasant look on his face, at the cold fire in his blue eyes, at the gun still out of its holster, held gently against one thigh … and gave in. “You tell anyone I gave you this and I’ll see to it you never work in this sector again,” he said, pulling a sheet of paper from the drawer in his desk and scrawling on it with an antique pen.

Mal flicked it out from under his hand as soon as he stopped writing. “Yes, but just think. You do that and you’d miss me. And who knows, maybe the next time I get set up, it’ll actually work.”

“Nah,” Badger said morosely. “I just ain't that lucky.”

---

“So?” Hank was waiting in the cargo bay as they walked back inside, his gunbelt around his hips, the rifle ready in his hands.

“Got it,” Mal said, striding straight past him and heading up the stairs.

“Got what?” Hank watched as his captain disappeared through the top doorway, then turned to Zoe. “Got what?”

“Kendrick’s location,” his wife said. “Well, where he’ll be tomorrow, anyway.”

“And that’s good … how?”

“It’s what we went for.”

“I know that, but I'm still trying to see the positives in all this.”

“I don’t think there are any.”

“Then why –“

Zoe stopped him with a hand on his lips. “The Captain knows what he’s doing.”

“Yeah?” Jayne said, closing the airlock door behind them. “Ain't had too much evidence of that so far.”

“We have to trust him.”

“Long as it don’t get us killed.” He stomped up the stairs and disappeared into the darkness of shuttle two.

“He’s right,” Hank said softly. “This could end really badly.”

“I know.” Zoe slipped her arm around his waist. “But like I said, we have to trust him.”

“But what if –“

“Then trust me.”

He looked into her beautiful face, into those dark eyes he just wanted to get lost in sometimes, and found himself nodding slightly. “Trust you, then,” he agreed, pulling her closer so he could kiss her lips.

Becca watched from the common area, feeling her stomach rolling a little at the exhibition going on in front of her, but there was a smile tugging at her lips.

---

Mal unbuckled his gunbelt from around his hips and hung it on its hook, then glanced around his bunk. She hadn’t taken much, just enough for a couple of nights for her and the children, but it already felt as if it was empty. The pictures on the walls, her towel on the rail, even the toy pistol Jayne had bought Ethan … they were still there, but he didn’t see any of it, just bare metal and stripped shelves.

He could remember all the times she’d been gone, how he’d craved for her to come back, to light that damn incense and sit naked on the floor, mumbling those same words over and over, and making his ship smell like a cheap bordello. Only right now he’d give anything to see her tattoo burning, to watch the smoke twist around her, its shadowy fingers touching every inch of her skin …

“It’s the hidden truths that hurt,” River said quietly.

“Albatross?” He looked up, found her hanging upside down through the hatch. “What was that?”

“So many secrets.”

Mal sighed. River hadn’t had a bad day in months, not since Caleb was born, but this sounded too much like the old version to be comfortable. He took a step towards her. “Can you be a little more specific, xiao nu? ‘Cause the truth is, I don’t know if I can carry this out.”

The young woman twisted somehow, her legs dropping behind her until she let go of her hands and stood up. “Have to. Have to make this end.”

“River, what Frey said, what I did … it’s not what you think.”

“I know. And it’s not you.”

“Then who?”

She took his hand and pulled him to sit down next to her on the bed. “I have a tale to tell, a dream that‘s been plaguing me for several nights,” she began. “And now I’ve worked it out. Once upon a time …”

---

“I want to come,” Zoe said, watching Mal prepare the shuttle for launch the next morning.

“Nope. You’re staying put. I’m not taking anyone with me to get killed.”

“But you’re willing to go and get yourself dead.”

“Not planning on it.” He flicked the switches above his head and the small engine hummed into life.

“Then let one of us come with you. If you don’t want me, take Jayne. Hell, take Hank, and he ain't no more good in a gunfight than an ice-planet in a furnace.”

He glanced up at her, smiling slightly. “That’s your husband you’re talking about, Zoe.”

“I know. It’s still true.”

“Nothing’s gonna happen to me. I just intend to have a quiet word with Kendrick, find out who his enemies are, and come home. That’s it.”

Zoe crossed her arms. “That’s it.”

“Exactly.” He half-turned in his seat. “I don’t intend on getting shot, knifed, gassed, burned or any of the other fun ways there are to die. And I ain't putting anyone else in the way of not getting shot, gassed or burned.”

“You missed out knifed.”

“Well, that goes double.” He sighed. “Zo, I need you here. Keeping an eye on things. Making sure no-one does anything stupid.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Sir?”

“Okay, okay. No-one else does anything stupid. But I gotta do this. Lay the ghosts.”

“If you get shot, gassed or burned –“

“Or knifed. Don’t forget knifed.”

“Or knifed … don’t come running to me to make it better.”

“I won’t.” He pointed towards the shuttle doorway. “Time for you to leave.”

She glared at him, and for a moment he wondered why he didn’t burst into flames, then she nodded. “Come back,” she said softly.

“I will.”

Turning on her heel, she walked out without a backward glance, closing the door firmly behind her.

Mal twisted his seat back to the front and lifted down the comlink. “Hank, you there?”

“And where else would I be?” came his pilot’s disembodied voice.

“Ready for separation.”

“Zoe didn’t talk you out of it then?”

“Nope.”

“Well, you get yourself hurt don’t you –“

“Come crying to you, yeah, I got the message.”

Hank’s grumpiness seemed to flow out of the speaker. “I'm sure you did.”

Mal input a certain sequence and the daylight grew as the shuttle moved away from the body of the Firefly. “Disengaging in three … two … one …” He felt the engines surge and the horizon tilted crazily in the window as the small vehicle lifted away.

“You don’t get any better at that,” Hank commented.

“Shut up or I’ll come back and haunt you.”

“Shutting up.” The link went dead.

Mal hung up the handset and turned the shuttle towards the mountains sitting like a smudge of blue along the horizon. “You might as well come out,” he said conversationally. “Unless you’re planning to stay there ‘til I get back.”

There was movement behind a small stack of crates and Becca stood up, straightening the gunbelt around her waist. “How long did you know I was there?” she asked.

“Since you snuck on board while I was talking to Zoe.” He adjusted their attitude slightly, but didn’t turn.

“And you didn’t tell her?”

“Would it have done any good?”

“She’s right, you know,” Becca said, moving forward through the body of the shuttle to the tiny bridge. “You need someone at your back.”

“And you think that should be you?”

“As good as any.”

“And the fact that you hate Kendrick doesn’t figure into the equation even a little bit.”

“It was our home, Mal. Of course I hate him.”

He finally looked at her, noting her long blonde hair had been caught back in a neat plait. “You try and kill him, I’ll drop you.”

She smiled softly. “Always figured you would, Mal.”

“Yeah, well …” He gazed back outside. “Be a little while, so you might as well make yourself comfy.”

“Aye aye, captain,” she said, her tone only gently mocking as she sat down on the long bench, stretching her legs out in front of her.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 8:39 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Ummm..not sure I'm wanting Becca on board with Mal, but hey, more the merrier I guess.

Loved the 'knifed' part. Made me laugh and I could see it played out in my head perfectly. Very good as always!!!

Not sure I would want to be Kendrick. LOL

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 12:24 PM

AMDOBELL


I would actually trust Kendrick before I'd trust Becca and I'm guessing Mal maybe feels the same way. What is that saying? Oh yeah, 'keep your friends close but your enemies closr'. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when River told Mal that little story in his bunk, though I would have shut and locked his hatch first. And one of the things I love most about Zoe is her absolute loyalty to Mal. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 2:59 PM

WYTCHCROFT


great hard opening then a little badger fun - a little evrything in fact! oh and checking the posted notes? how we chuckle:)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 3:37 PM

SLUMMING


Great work as always! Love how you write Badger, and he's fairly hard to write! :D

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 3:47 PM

KATESFRIEND


You did a great job of describing intense Mal. Great job on the backstory to remind everybody how desperate Mal used to be. Not sure where you're taking Becca in this, but I'm sure it will be interesting.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 4:59 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Becc is really a piece of work! And I could see everything with Badger playing out on the screen in my mind.


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