BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

DUPLICITY Series: 22. "What The Eye Does Not See"
Friday, August 8, 2008

"Badger and his mother come to an understanding realising that they must work together. The Captain undergoes the first operation while his crew fret about spending extended time on Osiris."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2184    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "WHAT THE EYE DOES NOT SEE" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "ACTS OF GRACE". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "Badger and his mother come to an understanding realising that they must work together. The Captain undergoes the first operation while his crew fret about spending extended time on Osiris." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.

"WHAT THE EYE DOES NOT SEE"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It was a wonder she actually stayed silent long enough to hear him out. Badger was impatient for her response, his nerves becoming more frayed as he waited. At last the flurry of conflicting emotions swirling like an angry tempest in her head coalesced into actual words. "I always knew you were not the brightest of people but you cannot possibly think such a ludicrous notion would work."

Badger frowned, his hands curling into tight fists as he struggled to keep his temper in check. "It's a plan."

"*Bushi*. It is suicide."

"Look, we're in a tight spot, see? Gotta do somethin' unexpected, darin' you could say."

"It certainly is unexpected but the idea of a plan Stephen is that it must have some chance of success."

"We can't stay here. Runnin', hidin'. Not knowin' where to go, who to trust."

She sighed. Had not meant to spend so much time with him but now, being here, seeing her son caught up in something too convoluted and dangerous for his understanding to make sense of she felt the full weight of responsibility for bringing him into the world. The pregnancy may have been unplanned but the result however pathetic was still a living breathing human being and she could not bring herself to actually regret that. Not that she would tell him of course. Mother and son might be estranged but they were still blood kin. She was old now, older than she looked, had been beyond the upper range of a safe age for giving birth when she had him but some remnants of her past life refused to allow her to take the easy way out. The syringe she kept hidden would not be used to terminate him though many times in a fit of frustration she cursed her own weakness. Now. Facing her only child it began to feel like one of the few things she had done right in this life.

"Stephen."

His head gave a short jerk of surprise, eyes meeting hers at the sudden softening of her tone.

"I can't stay, I've already been here too long but neither can I leave you."

Badger watched her scan the grubby little room with eyes that missed not a single mote of dust. Like he cared. For the moment they were out of the line of fire but he knew his luck would not last, it never did. "What d'you suggest?"

A deep slow sigh seemed to gather and force new breath into weary lungs. "We do the only thing we can do, Stephen."

"Oh yeah? An' what's that?"

Her eyes were steely and sharp. "We call in some favours."

He stared at her as if she had completely taken leave of her senses. Gradually his expression darkened, anger seeping through the remnants of his control. "Ain't you been listenin'? We can't trust no one. Alliance got spies every gorram where!"

To his consternation a thin smile etched its' way across his mother's stern face taking the tired lines with it and leaving her skin impossibly smooth in its' wake. Out of nowhere a stray thought made him wonder how many times she had paid for cosmetic surgery only the hoi poloi didn't call it that. Wasn't grand enough for their high and mighty sensibilities. "We can't stay here and we can't afford to be seen on the streets. The wrong pair of eyes, a careless word or two, and our lives won't mean a thing." "Maybe not mine but you..."

She interrupted him, sharp and full of censor. "*Gou le*! I know somewhere we can go but you have to promise me that you will do exactly as I say."

"An' if I don't?"

His mother shrugged as if it was of no consequence to her what he decided. As if she were simply giving him the option though Badger suspected differently. "Then all your previous efforts will have been in vain, Stephen." She paused and her expression took on a much more serious aspect. The unexpected appeal in her eyes robbed him of speech until he could do naught but listen. "Do not force me to bury my only son."

* * * * *

The first operation had been very successful. Simon was tired but bouyant, happy to pass on the latest update to the rest of the crew. Kaylee's smile threatened to split her entire face in half and the lessening of tension was palpable. Shepherd Book noticed that River seemed to be drifting again. Her attention would be sharp one moment then wander off to who knows where the next. With all that had happened to them it made Book pay more attention to her than he had in the past. Wash was smiling, anticipating an early return to the Black but Zoe did not share his optimism. She recalled that the doctors had stated the Captain would need a series of operations and this was only the first one.

"When will you operate again?"

Jayne scowled. Zoe and Simon ignored him. "Not for at least 48 hours."

"*Shenme*? Two days?"

Simon turned to Jayne with a sigh. "You can't rebuild kneecaps, muscle, sinew and bone mass overnight Jayne."

"So what ya gonna do? I hear tell the Core got some pretty fancy prosthetics."

"The Captain isn't going to have prosthetics. His condition has been stabilised and the first part of the reconstruction went well, better even than I could have hoped for. Fortunately, my father has been experimenting with muscular regeneration and growing skin cells and so on. We already have replacement patellas ready to attach when new bone growth is ready for grafting. The critical part will be ensuring that his body does not reject any of the donated material."

"*Wo bu dong*." Said Book in surprise. "Where did this material come from?"

Simon understood the Shepherd's concern but could see no reason for any queasiness. Within the heart of the Core such advanced procedures were almost commonplace. Providing you had the coin to fund it. The finance was the only part of the entire equation that disturbed him. When his father had said the Alliance gave him a generous pension package he had no idea it would run to such exotic heights. It made him uneasy in a way that didn't need communicating to Serenity's skittish crew. They were already nervous staying on Osiris long enough for the operations to be completed. Simon intended for the Captain's recovery to take place on Serenity, preferrably in the middle of the Black, far from the Alliance and any Blue Sun listening posts. He could not explain it but the better everything went the higher his level of anxiety. It was perverse but then River had taught him that instinct, however oblique, should never be ignored.

Just then his father joined them, he had changed out of his scrubs and had a smile on his face. "You did the correct thing coming to us for help, Simon."

His son nodded, not sure he could trust himself to speak. Simon was grateful, more than he could say, but a swirl of competing emotions dampened his initial elation. Glancing at his sister, River turned her head and locked eyes with him. Something in her look made him stiffen, wondering if she was about to have an episode. Silently he prayed she would hold it together until they were free of Osiris and safely in the Black. River shook her head.

"Safety is relative."

Everyone frowned. Mr Tam misunderstood. "*Fang xin*, River. We have the best security system. I can assure you no one can get into these grounds without us knowing."

Her look shifted and changed as she looked at her father. Simon held his breath. "The danger isn't always on the outside."

Jayne shared a glance with Zoe, both of them feeling their skin prickle. Shepherd Book looked thoughtful but didn't say anything. They were saved any further awkwardness with the arrival of Mrs Tam. Regan's face was a wreath of smiles. Quickly Gabriel brought her up to date and then the crew was ushered out of the facility to go back to the house for a meal. No one spoke as they took the short walk between the hospital building and the house. River looked back as if reluctant to go with them but when Simon was about to ask if she was alright she just shook her head and moved up to take her mother's arm. Seeing Simon frown, Kaylee took his hand in hers and gave him a sunny smile. Zoe would have loved to drag Simon to one side and quiz him but this was neither the time nor the place. And as well as things were going she was aware that every foot of the Tam estate appeared to be monitored by cameras.

* * * * *

Shocked. That's what he was. Badger stared open mouthed, about to speak when his mother cuffed him round the back of the head. Frowning he turned on her. "What was that for?"

Her eyes were hard as flint, every cell of her being tense. "*Bi zui*!"

Before he could protest a door opened, the girl giving his mother a respectful dip of the head. Badger's eyes went round, something clicking in his head as he put together the lush and fancy interior of the building and the beautiful carefully groomed and attired girl. "Mother, we have missed you." The girl smiled in pleasure. "Annalise has prepared a repast for you and your guest."

Badger blinked. A guest? He was a gorram guest now? He watched his mother easily slip into the role of House Mistress, her regal bearing adding weight to her position. "*Duibuqi*. This gentleman will be staying with us for a short while. His presence is to go unremarked and no one is to speak of it to anyone outside this House, *dong ma*?"

Although she was curious Mary-Clare knew better than to ask questions. "*Qu*."

Instead of leaving Mary-Clare hesitated. Mistress Barbette's eyes narrowed slightly. "Was there something else, child?"

Her eyes flicked briefly towards Badger then back to the House Mistress, reluctant to speak in front of a stranger. Especially when the news she had to impart might be anything but welcome. The girl decided to stick to a safer subject. "Will you be eating in the refectory, Mother, or do you wish food to be brought to your rooms?"

It took no effort for Badger's mother to devine the cause of the girl's reticence. She approved. It would not do for her son to be privy to the innermost workings of House Madrassa. "Our guest is tired and will be retiring for the night shortly. Please bring a meal and some wine for him to eat here. I will join you shortly."

Relieved, Mary-Clare bobbed then left closing the door behind her. Badger stared at his mother. "I don't gorram believe it! You're the ruttin' head o' this whore house."

The slap was sudden and sharp leaving a livid red handprint on the side of her son's face. Too stunned to react he just stared at her. Mistress Barbette had no trouble finding words. "You will keep a civil tongue in your head when you speak to me or I will have it cut out. And do not for one tiny moment think it an idle threat. I have already risked more than my position to help you, Stephen."

"*Duibuqi*, it was just a shock, see? No offence but I 'ad no idea."

Her eyes were still blazing but the fire was somewhat muted. "These rooms are for the use of myself and any guests I might have. You will eat here. Through that door behind you is a guest room, the one on the right has bathing facilities. It has already been prepared. You will bathe and change into the clothes I have laid out for you before eating then you will retire for the night, *ni dongle ma*?"

"*Wo dong*."

"If anyone speaks to you do not speak back, a nod or shake of the head will suffice."

His eyes widened. "*Shenme*? What if I got somethin' needs sayin'?"

"You will hold your tongue until you can speak to me. And only when we are quite alone."

"Why the cloak an' gorram dagger?"

"Mind your tongue."

"Far as I can see this is your place o' power. Ain't no call for you to tip-toe."

"That is not what I am doing." She hissed, frustrated that he was forcing her to spell everything out. His mother was not used to explaining herself to anyone let alone the unplanned issue of her body. A mistake she could neither undo nor abandon much as she might wish otherwise. "We need to plan where to go from here, Stephen."

"They won't give up lookin' for me."

She saw him try but fail to repress a shudder and realised that beneath his scruffy bravado he was terrified and knowing what she did it was only right he should be. But she didn't want her son so afraid that he was incapable of acting when the need arose. "*Wo zhidao* but they will not look here."

Badger gave her a long silent look then the truculence he had been harbouring towards her crumbled away. Looking weary and somewhat defeated he nodded. She did not like to see him despondent but it was better than the brash cocky minor crime lord she was used to. Perhaps this very close brush with death would actually do him some good.

* * * * *

When the Operative returned from his meeting Chairman Tsung was waiting. The Parliamentary Oversight Committee was concerned with the way things were going. Anxious for more progress and less delays. Not that Tsung intended that to be the tenor of their discussion. As Tsung closed the door he failed to notice one of the clerks pause in the corridor outside. China Rose was carrying a file to one of the Senators on the committee. Minutes of the last meeting. But her attention was not on the mundane workings of Parliament for China Rose had bigger fish to fry.

* * * * *

Dr Raymond Foss was torn. He knew what he was supposed to do but it did not sit well with his conscience. The Tams were good people if still somewhat naive and now that he had met Simon he could see that the son had grown into a man of principle. Not just a healer but a humanitarian. The daughter, River, was harder to read. Seemingly wary and withdrawn one minute, open and happy the next. It seemed inconceivable to him that they could be guilty of the things of which they were accused.

Not so his patient. Dr Foss studied the man lying on the surgical bed. A man whose story was well known to him and whose reputation had become almost legendary. So few Independents had walked out of Serenity Valley yet this man seemed to make a career out of near death experiences that would seal the fate of any other man. He was still unconscious and had yet to come round from anathesia. The surgeon was well aware that he had not been told the truth about how the Captain had come by his injuries. This was no shooting accident. Whoever had done this to Malcolm Reynolds had not intended to kill him but for him to spend the rest of his life as a cripple. Forced to depend upon other's good graces to tend to his simplest need. It spoke volumes about the kind of person who would do that to a man, the kind of vindictive act of spite that took pleasure in another's pain and suffering. That Simon and River Tam risked everything to put the Captain of Serenity back together intrigued him. He would love to know the real story behind such fierce unyielding loyalty knowing it would be a tale well worth hearing. And yet. It would probably best serve all concerned if he never heard it.

Dr Foss knew what he was supposed to do but he was a doctor and it was against every instinct to deliberately add to his patient's distress. He was supposed to slow down, delay the man's progress. Give the authorities time to move into place. For now the Alliance did not just want Simon and River Tam, they wanted Captain Reynolds and the crew of Serenity. All it would take was one coded wave and the net would tighten. When it did it would also close around Gabriel and Regan along with all the nurses and medical technicians in this facility. He could even envisage some trumped up charge to implicate himself for he had heard rumours. Knew that other forces were behind much of the Alliance's unrelenting pursuit of the siblings and whoever they came in contact with. Raymond Foss could not quite avoid the shudder of dread and distaste that ran though him. Blue Sun. He had a decision to make and gazing down at his all too vulnerable patient something stiffened in his sinews, back straightening, lips tightening. He was a doctor first and formost and that was what he would do. Mind made up he called for one of the technicians to ask Gabriel and his son to return to the surgery. *Mashang*. The sooner they got through the next phase and put this man back together the better.

* * * * *

Inara felt sick to her stomach but at least now she knew the truth. Punishing her former friend would avail her naught and who knew what pressures she had been under. All of a sudden she didn't want to dig any further. Her brother was alive. Safe. Her first instinct was to contact Serenity but first she needed to report back to the House Mistress though not before she saw her brother once more. Sendhil had asked her to return at Winter Fair but she couldn't wait that long. Allowing herself to focus on the one pleasurable thing on her immediate horizon, Inara Serra made her plans and prepared to visit the Abbey of St Peter and St Paul.

* * * * *

He stared at her, unable to form words to explain what he was seeing. Stared at the waxen threads that were unravelling along with the deep lines artfully etched into her face. With no sign of self consciousness she peeled back the artifice to reveal the fresh, young face that lived and breathed beneath. His chest hurt. Pressure compressed too quickly for breath to inflate shocked lungs, his eyes huge in a pale face. Stunned, it was easy to ignore the pain.

"W...what have you done?"

His wife's expression softened. Perhaps she should have warned him that she would be in disguise but he had been so upset at her leaving that discretion seemed the better part of valour. Now she knew she should have trusted him. Moving a chair so that she could face him, China Rose settled into it. Paul was still staring at the ruin of her face, the expensive wafter thin mask lying like a silent accusation on the small table between them. "Paul, look at me."

He looked wary and a little dazed. "Do I even know you?"

His whispered words cracked the walls of her heart. "*Fang xin, bao bei*. I would never hurt you."

Paul glanced at the ribbons of the mask. China deliberately rolled the pieces into a ball and crushed them, tossing what was left of her personna into a waste bin. He stared at her.

"Paul, listen to me. Listen to me as if your very life depended on it."

His heart ached, his body carrying the bruises of emotions encouraged then crushed. "Who are you?"

"You know who I am, *zhangfu*."

He snorted. How stupid did these people think he was? "Where's my wife?"

"I am your wife."

He shook his head and stared pointedly at the waste bin. Irritated, China put her hands either side of his face and turned his head so he had no choice but to look at her. She needed him whole, coherent. This was taking too long. "This is me, Paul. The mask was necessary that I might move freely, *ni dongle ma*?"

"I don't understand anything."

"Because I was in make up you didn't recognise me at first. Do you remember that?"

He thought about it then slowly nodded. "*Qu*." The insight surprised him. How had he not known that? What was wrong with his brain, his memory? Was he going mad?

Her voice turned gentle, one hand cradling his cheek as if she was holding something precious but it was the catch in her voice as she spoke that told him this image was genuine. "I searched for you so hard, Paul. At every turn the Alliance blocked us. I was becomin' frantic but Gillion made me slow down, take stock. Do nothin' in haste. That was when I came up with the plan to infiltrate the very halls of Parliament."

Alarmed, he could not believe what he was hearing. "*Shenme*? What were you thinkin'?"

"I was thinkin' of you, *ai ren*, only you."

Her tenderness brought tears to his eyes, but was it true? "Are you real?" He murmured.

Crying softly she engulfed him in her arms, gently hugging him to her heart. Paul stiffened then sagged, his struggle to stay strong falling to the wiles of the one woman he loved more than life itself. As she rocked him his fear seeped away, his mind a buzzing fog of memories racing to return to him but they did not come one by one but all at once. They were jumbled and out of order, no sequence or meaning providing signposts back to sanity. All he could do was cling to her and close his eyes. And hope. That when he opened them again this at least would be real.

* * * * *

Mistress Barbette was tired. It had been a long few days but for now her son was safe. She bathed quickly then left Badger to finish his meal alone. She would take hers in the refectory with the other Companions. The need to get back to a semblance of normalacy was strong and she needed that reminder to find the calm centre of her being that had been so sorely tried while they were in hiding. But it was not to be. Instead of facing a quiet repast she found all the Companions along with those in training waiting for her. True, there was food laid out on the table. The very best of the house wine to accompany it yet one look at their faces and her hunger left her.

"*Shenme shi*?"

Annalise shooed the others away though she knew they would not go far. For now crowding the House Mistress would only alarm her and she wanted to keep things as calm as possible. "You should eat while the food is still hot, Mother."

Sharp eyes raked the Companion's face as if the clues would be written in her skin. "What is it you are not telling me, Annalise?"

"At least sit while I tell you."

The nod was short, sharp. Impatient even. Annalise waited until Mistress Barbette was seated and carefully poured her a glass of wine from the crystal caraf. The House Mistress did not touch a drop. She was waiting. Annalise schooled herself to remain calm.

"A stranger came calling for you, Mother." A quick flash of alarm crossed her face before she could stop it. "*Moshengren*?"

"*Qu*. He says his name is Daniel James Hunt."

The House Mother's mind was reeling. Hunt. Hunt. Did she know a Hunt? She shook her head. "The name means nothing to me, child."

"He was on the verge of collapse, Mother." Mistress Barbette saw the compassion on Annalise's face and wondered at it. Annalise was also distressed but hiding it well. "He collapsed after insisting he must speak with you. We took him in and Mother, every part of his body has been injured. Some of the injuries are old. Bones knitting in ways the body was never meant to be formed. A foot that will never rest level upon the ground again, ribs showing where flesh should be." Annalise broke off to pull herself together. "Whoever he is I deem him no threat, Mother. He has come for our aid but until he wakes we can question him no further."

"When was this?"

"Yesterday."

She was about to demand why Annalise had not contacted her then remembered that she had secrets of her own. Slowly she picked at her meal without noticing what she was placing in her mouth. Her attempt at eating calmed Annalise. "How is he now?"

"Sleeping. We had to call the Hospitaller."

The House Mother's fork stopped between her plate and her mouth. Carefully she put the fork back on her plate, her expression unreadable. "Which one?"

Confused by the question Annalise nevertheless answered. "St Peter and St Paul."

"What did he say?"

"The boy will need professional help. He has promised to contact a doctor to attend as soon as may be practicable after making him comfortable." Seeing the House Mistress's expression Annalise rushed on to reassure her. "We could not contact you for guidance Mother and he was in such distress. We could not leave him on our doorstop to die."

Seeing that Annalise was getting upset the House Mother patted her hand. "You did the right thing, child. Which room is he in?"

"I was going to take you up to him once you had eaten."

Mistress Barbette pushed her chair back from the table and rose to her feet. "I find I have no appetite left, Annalise. Take me to him."

Annalise rose gracefully to her feet, assailed by guilt for not letting the House Mother eat her repast before giving her the news. But to delay in the telling would have incurred her truly dreadful wrath. "*Dang ran*."

They hurried upstairs to more guest quarters. Half way down the corridor Annalise stopped and opened a door, she entered quiet as a mouse, her footsteps as silent as if she were walking on cotton wool. A brief smile touched the House Mother's lips. Annalise was obviously fond of the boy and that was another mystery. Rarely did they take anyone in not recommended by the Guild. Strangers were a rare and much avoided complication. Yet here and now one rested within the walls of their House and seemingly her entire staff was enamoured of him. She could not wait to see who had spun this spell upon them, all the while thinking how quickly she could break it.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bushi* = not so *gou le* = enough! *shenme* = what *bi zui* = be quiet/shut up *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *duibuqi* = thanks *dong ma* = understand? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *ni dongle ma* = do you understand? *wo dong* = I understand *wo zhidao* = I know *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *ai ren* = sweetheart *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *moshengren* = stranger *dang ran* = of course

COMMENTS

Friday, August 8, 2008 4:43 AM

AMDOBELL


Apologies in the delay in getting this chapter posted. Real life and relatives descending from on high conspired against me. At least, that is my gorram story and I'm sticking to it! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, August 8, 2008 2:56 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Sooooo gooood. A bit worried on how Mal will recover, but he's a tough one. :)) As for Badger's mom, well, she is a piece of work.

Been missing you. :))

Friday, August 8, 2008 3:51 PM

SLUMMING


Intriguing, as always! Your work is always so intricately plotted and a real pleasure to read! Thanks for sharing!

Friday, August 8, 2008 3:51 PM

SLUMMING


Intriguing, as always! Your work is always so intricately plotted and a real pleasure to read! Thanks for sharing!

Monday, August 11, 2008 2:19 AM

JANE0904


So waiting for all the strands to come together. And Dr Foss? At least he's realised the truth of things now, and Mal will hopefully be on the mend.


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