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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Co-authored by Midnight Obsidian. The two crews get their first look at the Persephone Queen.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 574 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal stood at Serenity’s ramp beside River, watching the others climbing into the hovercraft. “Easy spared no expense with that contraption,” he observed.
River nodded. “Had to be big enough for all of you to ride,” she said.
Mal looked at her sharply. “You got no problem with sittin’ this one out, right? I mean, I need you to be here to see to our getaway, but I guess it didn’t occur to me that you might like to get prettied up and go on the Persephone Queen.”
“It’s all right,” River said, smiling slightly. “I would have had to wear shoes.”
Mal looked down at her wiggling toes and realized she genuinely did not mind being left to handle the children and the ship. “Still,” he said, brushing his lips against her ear. “I woulda’ liked to have seen you in one of them slinky dresses.”
“Then come back safely, and I’ll see what I can do,” River replied, her breath blowing softly across his skin.
“I’ll hold you to that,” Mal replied, shivering a bit at the thought.
River reached to straighten his tie. “You look marvelous, ai ren,” she said. “Stunning, even.”
“Was aiming at stunning, truth to tell,” Mal said, grinning as he headed down the ramp toward the waiting hovercraft. “Keep Serenity warm for me.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” River replied.
Marcus had a serious need to loosen his tie. Though the hovercraft was spacious for a conveyance of its type, he found himself in the position of being side by side with Dr. Striker. There was a quite distracting slit in the side of her dress, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of a milky thigh sheathed in sheer silk stockings. That thigh, so very difficult for him to ignore, was currently pressed again his own as she slid further across the seat to allow Mal to sit.
He cleared his throat a little nervously and moved as far toward the other side of the seat as he could. Elizabeth, unaware of his discomfiture, slid as well, narrowing the distance between them again as Mal arranged himself on the other side. Marcus breathed in deeply through his nose, trying to calm his pulse rate.
Elizabeth turned at the slight sound. Suddenly acutely aware of her thigh pressed against his, she shifted away, a slight blush rising to her cheeks. “Sorry about that, Captain,” she said. “Close quarters, I’m afraid.”
“Not a problem,” Marcus said casually. “Better you than Murdocke sitting so close, to my way of thinking.”
Elizabeth smiled crookedly. “Glad to hear it,” she said so low that only he could hear, setting Marcus’ pulse to pounding once more.
On the other side of the hovercraft, Jayne grumbled under his breath. “Can’t believe I’m gonna show my face in public lookin’ like this,” he said, looking down at his ruffled shirt in disgust.
“Well now, you wouldn’t want the Captain of the Persephone Queen to recognize you, would you?” Inara asked in those honeyed tones that he had come to know signaled all manner of trouble.
“No,” he replied, gritting his teeth. “But I coulda’ stayed on the ship this time.”
“Rather babysit than do crime?” Bear asked, raising an eyebrow. “You’re slipping, my friend.”
“Easy for you to say,” Jayne growled. “Bein’ as how you ain’t dressed up like a gorram doll.”
“Just wouldn’t go with my manly physique,” Bear replied, grinning.
“Don’t imagine they even make those ruffled shirts big enough to go around you, Bear,” Murdocke said.
“All right, that’s enough,” Marcus and Mal said at the same time. Marcus added, “This hovercraft ain’t big enough for a fight. And none of us has a change of clothes if we get blood all over ‘em. Dong ma?”
“That was downright eloquent, Captain,” Pierre said, smiling beneath his mask.
“Had a kinda’ poetry to it,” Zoe added blandly.
Rolling his eyes, Marcus looked out the hovercraft transparency. “Look sharp,” he said, putting the current conversation behind him. “We’re coming up on the Queen now.”
Everyone leaned toward the transparencies to get a glimpse of the regal ship. “Ain’t she shiny?” Kaylee said, wide-eyed wonder on her face.
“She is that,” Mal replied. Though he would never admit it openly, the sight of the ship nearly took his breath away. Lit up like a jewel in the Black, she looked proud and powerful.
“Would you look at that?” Marcus said, barely breathing as the hovercraft followed the line of bright lights into the docking bay of the ship.
Elizabeth leaned over his shoulder, her own eyes bright with reflected light. “I’ve always heard about it, but never imagined it would look like this,” she said.
“Just wait ‘til you see the inside,” Jayne said, forgetting his earlier annoyance. “Looks like the fanciest whorehouse you’d ever want to see.”
Everyone turned to glare at him. “What?” he asked. “Just sayin’, is all.”
“Perhaps you’d best start thinking about getting into character for this little performance,” Inara said. “Percival.”
Jayne winced. “Mal, can’t we use some other name for me?”
“I think Percival is just the right name,” Mal said merrily. “Suits you just fine.”
Jayne’s reply was cut off by Kaylee’s squeal of delight. “Look,” she said as the hover landed gently on the deck. “Look at all those people in the pretty fits.”
“Those are just the greeters,” Marcus said, grinning. “Come to welcome all the esteemed guests to their establishment. Everybody ready?”
The hovercraft doors were opened by smiling greeters, who offered their immediate assistance as the group disembarked. Herding them toward the identification scanners in the mildest of ways, the greeters fell back as the group walked into the cavernous main deck of the ship.
Mal glanced above him, looking at the floating chandeliers which Persephone’s high society seemed to favor. “Still don’t get the point of that,” he murmured to Inara.
Inara resisted rolling her eyes. “The point is beauty, Mal,” she said. “Simple beauty.”
“Ain’t nothin’ simple about that whole arrangement,” Mal said out of the corner of his mouth as they walked further into the room. Looking around, he realized that the others were unconsciously still clumped together, their eyes wide with the sights before them. Clearing his throat, he said, “’Bout time to break it up and mingle a mite, don’t you think?”
Looking vaguely sheepish to have been caught out at their admiration of the finery before them, the crews dispersed, drifting about in different directions to give at least the appearance of mingling with the other guests.
Kaylee squeezed Simon’s arm excitedly. “Look at all the pretty dresses,” she said dreamily. “There’s more silk here than on all of Harvest put together.”
“And more hypocrisy to go with it, I’ll wager,” Simon replied in an amused tone. “Though I have to say this is even more opulent than I had imagined it would be.”
Drifting back into Inara’s orbit, Kaylee asked, “Are a lot of them Companions, do you think?”
Inara looked around discreetly. “I see a handful of them,” she said. “Perhaps there will be more in evidence tomorrow, as the gambling begins. A lot of clients prefer to have a Companion on their arm when they arrive at the tables.”
Mal snorted. “Ain’t ever noticed having a Companion on my arm brought me any luck.” Inara pinched his arm hard, causing him to wince and Jayne to chuckle. “Hey now,” Mal protested. “No need for the hands-on. We ain’t even in position yet.”
On the other side of the room, Jim asked Zoe, “What exactly is holding that woman’s dress up?”
Zoe followed his line of vision and raised an eyebrow. “Ain’t sure I want to even contemplate it,” she replied. “But I’m fair certain it involves pulleys of some kind.”
Jim chuckled. “Most probably,” he agreed. “You do know that you’re the most stunning woman in this room, right?”
Zoe gave him a radiant smile. “Talk like that will get you most anywhere you want to go, mister.”
Jim grinned, thanking heaven that he had regained his power of speech. Coming up behind them, Murdocke, as usual, ruined the moment. “Don’t see why we gotta go through all this before the job,” he said.
Pierre joined them with the fluid grace of a dancer. “Because,” he said patiently. ‘We want all these lovely people to have time to board the ship and deposit their valuables with the purser’s office.”
Murdocke looked at him, still unused to the face he had donned to blend in more readily with the crowd. “Why is it you don’t wear one of those plastic faces all the time?” he asked.
Pierre sighed. “Too itchy. The mask is much more comfortable, and fits in with my general romantic thief demeanor. But for this crowd, I thought a prosthetic face would be more….appropriate.”
“In other words, he don’t want to stand out,” Jayne said.
“In those precise words,” Pierre replied blandly. “And speaking of standing out….”
Jayne scowled. “Don’t even say nothin’,” he warned.
Pierre snorted. “I would never say a thing, Percival.”
Marcus sauntered slowly up to the group, Elizabeth hanging on his arm as if she’d always been there. “Remember the part about mingling?” he asked. “You know, with other people?”
Pierre nodded, peeling off from the rest of the group and heading toward a very pretty lady in the far corner of the room. Jim and Zoe headed toward the large buffet table to sample some of Persephone’s finest cuisine, leaving Jayne and Murdocke standing alone.
Jayne shifted uncomfortably. “Best I be gettin’ back,” he said. “Can’t play act at being Inara’s lap dog if’n I ain’t followin’ her around.”
“Yeah well, good luck with that,” Murdocke said, tugging at his dinner jacket. “Guess I’ll just see what there is to see.”
Marcus and Elizabeth watched them from a discreet distance. “You sure it was a good idea to set them loose like that?” Elizabeth asked softly.
“Not in the least,” Marcus said, grinning.
Mal sipped champagne from an impossibly expensive piece of crystal. “Like it?” Inara asked.
“Would prefer some of Kaylee’s brew, to tell you the truth,” Mal said. “This stuff’s too sweet by a good bit.”
“Surprisingly enough, I would agree,” Inara replied, daintily sipping from her own glass. “I suppose years in the Black have blunted my taste for such things.”
Mal smiled easily. “Not such a bad thing, when you think on it,” he said.
“Not at all,” Inara agreed. “Everything here seems almost…antiseptic, after awhile in the Black,” she said. “Funny that I never noticed it until I rented your shuttle.”
“Seems like that happened about a million and one years ago now,” Mal replied, wondering if the bubbly was making him maudlin.
“And then sometimes like just yesterday,” Inara replied. Thinking about the last time she’d been in Persephone’s high society with Mal, her face fell slightly.
Sensing the turn the conversation was taking, Mal cleared his throat. “Least I ain’t steppin’ on your toes in a dance this time,” he said.
“Or dueling for my honor,” Inara said, smiling a bit sadly.
“Nah, I’m well over that stage,” Mal said, seeing Jayne headed their way. “Think I’ll leave all that to Percival.”
Her heart suddenly lightened at the sight of Jayne dressed so ridiculously, she smiled genuinely at Mal. “I think that’s a lovely idea.”
Mal looked at his chronometer. “Looks like they’ll be rolling up the red carpet soon. Guess we’d best get to our cabins. Long day ahead of us tomorrow.” And casually gathering up the rest of the crew, he headed to the guest cabins for the night.
To be continued
Monday, August 11, 2008 2:21 AM
Monday, August 11, 2008 8:36 AM
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