BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

The DUPLICITY Series: 35. "Strange Bedfellows"
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Badger and the Captain come to an understanding. The Hands of Blue investigate what happened to the device while Paul is hidden and tended through his recovery."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1842    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "STRANGE BEDFELLOWS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara. RATING: R. For violence/adult situation. STATUS: Sequel to "FRIENDS AND OTHER ENEMIES". 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 the Captain come to an understanding. The Hands of Blue investigate what happened to the device while Paul is hidden and tended through his recovery." 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.

"STRANGE BEDFELLOWS"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Badger hated this, hanging on the word of a man he despised even as a faint distant part of him respected the *hundan*. It was that spark of respect he tried to squash, grind into nothing time and again. Then Reynolds would say or do something to reignite that annoying little spark. Would have been easier to accept if the gorram man would wipe the rutting smirk off his lips or the teasing mockery from his mouth. Always looking down at him like he was better than. Well now he wasn't. Sitting up on the infirmary bed only because an army of pillows propped him up should have made Badger feel like the bigger man only it didn't. A sourness turned in his belly, an awkwardness seeped into every pore made worse by having a gorram audience. Even standing back to give him room to speak to the Captain, his mother's presence was like a black cloud looming ready to rain on him if he said or did anything of which she did not approve. He resented it. Almost as much as having to have this conversation in the first place. If the man had any decency he should have slipped into a gorram coma and stayed there. The Captain's lips twitched and Badger's eyes narrowed. Suspicious that somehow the man had a inkling of what he was thinking.

"Heard you were wantin' to speak to me."

The honey coated flow of words did nothing to smooth Badger's ruffled feathers. "Yeah, seems I over reacted. Thought you was cheatin' me, *dong ma*?"

The Captain gave him a sharp intent look. Realised just how hard this was for the man and glanced past him to Mistress Barbette. "I'd take it as a kindness if you'd give us a minute or two, Cyan."

She raised her eyebrows and Badger waited for her to refuse. Instead she flicked her eyes to his as if assessing then looked back at the Captain and gave a short nod. He should have felt better, relieved the moment she left closing the infirmary door behind her, but instead his level of anxiety actually rose. How rutting contrary was that? Didn't make no sense.

"You were sayin'?" Badger opened his mouth to snap at him and noticed the Captain didn't look so good. Was a mite peaky if he was inclined to notice. His resentment put aside Badger knew he was the one in the wrong. "Gotta apologise." He waved an awkward hand at the Captain. "Like I said, thought you was cheatin' me, see? Made me so *shenjingbing* couldn't think straight. Wanted to teach you a lesson." "An' now?"

The little man huffed, his outgoing breath deflating him. "Got it wrong."

"Why not just kill me?"

Badger stared.

"Or was that the point?"

He tried not to squirm. "Don't know what you mean."

"An' I'm thinkin' you do. Just couldn't resist bein' mean an' twisted about it, could you Badger? Not enough to put me in the ground, you wanted to gloat, *dui*?" He was going to deny it but *diyu* why should he? "Yeah, was fed up of you lookin' down at me, see? Figured if you had to crawl I'd be the one lookin' down."

Mal sounded weary now. Lying back into the pillows as if everything pained him. 'Spect you feel a big man now." Only Badger didn't. He felt small and petty and didn't like the feeling. And if he was being completely truthsome he didn't really hate Reynolds. Was more that the man was a constant irritant. Or maybehaps that was just his distorted vision of things. He wasn't sure what he knew any more. "*Duibuqi*, Reynolds, an' I mean it now *dong ma*?"

The Captain looked at him for a long steady moment then nodded. "*Hen hao*."

Startled, Badger stared at him. "That's it? No threats to have your trained ape skin me alive with his knife? Or Zoe tear me limb from limb?"

"*Bu qu*. Not sayin' I ain't mad as *diyu* at you even now. Called you all the names in the 'verse I could think of an' some not yet invented but no - not got the energy an' knowin' you the temptation to strike out was too much."

Without thinking Badger pulled up a chair and sat down next to the Captain's bed. They were pretty much eye level now though neither man was concerned about that. Something else seemed to be on the little King pin's mind and he was having trouble spitting it out. Even bone weary Mal picked up on it.

"*Shenme shi*?"

The little man shrugged self consciously. Mal thought he looked a mite odd without his bowler hat but somehow it made the man a bit more human. "Tell the truth there's somethin' been mystifyin' me. How'd you know my mother, Mal? The two of you're thick as thieves."

A little smile flickered over Mal's face. "An' let me guess, you don't like it?"

A flash of anger sparked like lightening bolts in Badger's eyes. "*Dang ran*! Ain't natural." "Badger," the Captain paused "or should I call you Stephen?"

The little man jumped to his feet, face reddening with a fair mix of rage and embarrassment. "Don't call me that! Name's Badger."

The Captain was about to tease him further then stopped. He felt too tired to string this out and maybe it was time they forgot their gorram differences just this once. "Your mama was friends with mine. Long time ago. She wasn't a Companion then."

Startled, Badger retook his seat and tugged it closer, leaning forward with his eyes fixed on the Captain. There were so many things he didn't know about his mother that any opportunity to find out more was something he couldn't pass up. "That ain't so."

"It surely is."

The little man blinked taking a moment to let that sink in. "What was my gorram mother doin' on a backwater wastehole like Shadow?"

The Captain's face darkened for a moment but he let it pass. Not that the slur would be forgotten but for now he needed to level with this man. If only out of respect for the House Mistress. "She was a teacher."

Badger stared at him for a moment then threw back his head and laughed. Ignoring the Captain's glare he couldn't seem to stop, not until he had to lean forward and take gulps of air into flagging lungs, the moisture squeezing from closed eyelids as he fought to control himself.

"Ain't funny."

"She teach you sexin' too?" If the Captain had been on his feet he would have knocked the *goushi* out of Badger. "Do you know anythin' about your mother?"

The little man straightened and wiped his eyes. "Not much. Hardly ever saw her, point of fact."

Mal's eyes narrowed in disbelief.

"It's true. Wish to *diyu* it weren't but what can I say? I was given to strangers to raise, on'y knew my mother in fleetin' visits leastways 'til recently. Now I can't seem to get rid of her."

A deadly silence fell between them. After a minute or two Badger spoke. "What did she teach then?"

For a moment it looked as if the Captain's patience with him had evaporated but Mal took a deep breath and calmed himself. After all, Badger couldn't help being Badger. "Maths, English an' literature mostly."

"*Shenme*?"

The Captain's smile was small, his look a little distant as if remembering something that was precious to him. Badger felt a spike of jealously and resentment. That was *his* mother. She should have been teaching *him* maths, English and literature. What the *guai* had she been doing on Shadow? Why look to other kids when she had one of her own?

"My family were ranchers. Mama ran the ranch after my daddy died. Uncle Frank helped out most days but young as I was it was up to me to be out an' about seein' to the runnin' of things as I grew older. Mama taught me to shoot a gun, ride a horse an' such, but the ranch hands did the rest. Busy as we were mama wouldn't let me be raised with no book learnin' so she hired your ma to run classes in the bunkroom. At first it was just me then some of the neighbours dragged their young uns along an' 'fore you knew it we had a gorram school house."

The look of surprise on the Captain's face fit well with how Badger was feeling though he wasn't sure he would ever recover from the shock of it all.

"So you see I knew your mother way back when an' she was right kindly to my mama an' the other folks on Shadow. We didn't have much even when times were good but it was always enough. Folks over Denver way had regular farms, grew more crops than we rightly needed, so we paid in beef on the hoof an' a little cashy money an' the others in fruits an' vegetables an' such. Mrs Lancy was good with the stitchin' an' sewin' an' made clothes an' beddin' an so on. 'Tween us all we paid your mother best we could an' she helped teach us enough to be able to read an' write an' get some education."

Badger sat silent for a long time. The Captain was beginning to doze off, his eyes heavy and his limbs sinking into the thin mattress. "Why didn't she tell me?" The soft anguished words roused the Captain. He blinked then looked at the small hunched figure beside his bed. For the first time ever, Mal actually felt sorry for the little man. "Can't speak to that," he said mildly "best you ask her your ownself."

"Like she'd tell me!" He blurted.

Mal stared at him, surprised at the bitterness and vehemence in Badger's voice. "You sayin' you don't get on?"

The little man huffed, sounding more hurt than angry. "She gave me away Mal, what does that tell you?"

"Maybe she didn't have no choice." He said quietly.

"No choice? Her own kith an' kin?"

"Badger, ask yourself this. If she didn't care why'd she look in on you? Why come back into your life now when things are so ruttin' bad? She could'a had a life of ease an' comfort without walkin' into danger an' who knows what."

"Yeah. Didn't think of that."

"Then best you do."

Badger stared at him. "You tellin' me what to bloody do, you *tamade hundan*?"

The Captain's eyes were starting to close again. The lure of sleep too insistent to ignore much longer though he tried to fight it. "Not tellin', Badger. I'm thinkin' it's time you got to know her is all. Find out the real reason she had to give you up an' more importantly, why she cared enough to come back for you, *dong ma*?"

Badger opened his mouth to yell that his mother didn't care about him then snapped his mouth shut because that wasn't really true, was it? He was lost in thought for a minute or two and when he looked up noticed the Captain was asleep. For a long moment he stared at the man, noticing how drawn and pale his face was, and thought long and hard about what he had done. Malcolm Reynolds was right. It was time to bury the anger and resentment and face the truth, whatever that turned out to be. Getting to his feet he realised he was feeling a mite stiff. How long had he been here? As if his movement was some kind of signal the infirmary door opened and Simon stepped through, behind him Zoe stood with his mother and waited just inside the door, both of them giving him different looks and each creeping him out in their own way. He tried to ignore them but was halted as he went to brush passed Zoe.

"You an' me need to talk."

He opened his mouth to argue then caught the stern set of his mother's lips and felt himself sag. "Feed me an' I'll think about it."

Zoe didn't speak, she just stared. In the end he had to drop his eyes and nodded. Didn't have no fight left in him anyhow. As he mutely followed Zoe he missed the look of satisfaction sliding across his mother's face as she shut the door behind them. First she needed to ask Simon about the Captain's progress, then she would join the others. As Mal would say, time was a-wastin' and she had a feeling they didn't have so much of it that they could afford to squander any.

* * * * *

He didn't know where he was or why, after everything that had happened, he felt safe. Every instinct should have been screaming at him to flee but he couldn't do it. Not only would his body not obey him but the will wasn't there. Instead he was taking the respite his impromptu and unique rescue afforded him. Paul had to admit that whatever they were giving him for the pain had a great side effect on his current mood. Fading in and out of consciousness all he had was images, fleeting impressions and disjointed voices wafting over him like a soothing balm. What they said he did not know but if they had meant him harm they wouldn't be looking after him like he was the most precious thing in the 'verse.

* * * * *

The Operative didn't need to check his instruments or the scanners. He was in the right place. Below him the wastehole that was Astra lay barren and wind ravaged. There were particles in the air that could scour the skin off a man while searing the moisture from his lungs. In the atmo metallic fragments spun in an endless outward going spiral, none of them bigger than his fingernail. It was all that was left of a ship. Pressing his lips together the Operative knew they would not find anything else but look he would, if only to satisfy the perfectionist in him and satisfy his naturally suspicious nature.

He landed then went to brief the elite troops making sure that each and every one of them suited up and took the hand scanners Blue Sun had provided. Not only was the planet being buffeted by scouring winds it was also bathed in radiation. It was doubtful that even if someone had made it to the planet surface they could have survived but the Operative dealt in certainties not assumptions. They would search this no-count world from one rocky sand blasted end to the other. Only then would he accept that there was nothing left to find. Perhaps it was just as well that whoever had activated the device had perished along with it. It would be preferrable to what Blue Sun would do if that person fell into their hands.

* * * * *

The crew crowded into the commons room to go over the final details. The Captain having given his approval they left him to sleep now. It wasn't like Mal could add anything further or even come with them. Simon listened in silence. He would stay with the Captain at a place called Burnt Cross. It was a settlement tucked into a mountain range on a planet called Mercy. At first he thought they were kidding but no, Shepherd Book told them the story of the mid-rim world and how, during the Unification War, the Alliance had 'clensed' the world of troublemakers then tried to resettle it. For some reason every attempt failed. It wasn't so much the poor quality of the soil, the coarse rough barely edible grasses or even the fact that it was a winter planet. Something else was putting folk off and though the Alliance had sought answers they had finally given up and stopped sending people to Mercy. They had neither the will nor the patience to spare on a project seemingly doomed to failure.

Unbeknownst to the Alliance the planet did not remain uninhabited. Nor was Mercy as unforgiving and worthless as they imagined. It became a perfect hideaway for those that had fled homeworlds destroyed by the Alliance. Honest hard working folk, many of them kindly and God-fearing and included those that were badly wounded or dispossessed. Those who had nothing but a desire to live free had gravitated by some miracle of word-of-mouth to the one place their enemy would never trouble to visit again. But they stayed away from the old settlements and took their people and what skills and supplies they had up into the mountains. Gradually, a community built up and by divers means new skills were brought among them and homes created inside the larger caverns, connecting tunnels cut into the rock by pickaxe. Slow laborious work undertaken by willing hands and glad hearts. Waters from the snows above channeled and treated to be fit for drinking. Partway up the mountain range were plateaus, the thin soil enriched by supplies brought off-world and transported beneath the Alliance radar. Seeds smuggled in to grow crops that could profligate in colder climes while some of the larger cave systems had been steadily fitted out with enriched soil, a water source and tended to produce crops year long. Slowly Mercy fulfilled its' promise and Burnt Cross renewed the hope of hundreds of people the 'verse had forgotten.

Zoe pursed her lips in thought. "What I want to know is how come a place halfway up a mountain got the name Burnt Cross?"

Mistress Barbette smiled. "After the Alliance gave up on settling the planet and left missionaries came. They needed to find somewhere away from both sides of the conflict to create a sanctuary. A safe place for the wounded of either side and a place of safety for those who had lost everything but the skin on their backs. A place to heal and set down new roots. The monastery was small and not easily found even when you knew where to look. To help travellers find them a crude cross was created out of an old fire ravaged tree. It didn't have much in the way of branches but by carefully removing all but the last couple it formed the rough shape of a cross, hence the name the community adopted."

"Why go there?" Wash asked. "I mean, droppin' the Cap'n an' Simon off they may be safe enough but do they even have medical supplies?"

"*Fang xin*. They have a mix of trades, doctors and nurses among them, but no one I would imagine of Simon's expertise which is why he will be going with the Captain."

"An' equipment? I mean, up a mountain it ain't like they can plug in monitors or anythin'." Said Kaylee. "Maybe we could get a generator of some kind so's they'd have power an'..." The House Mistress cut her off. "They have power and supplies, Kaylee. Trust me I would not be suggesting this if it weren't the best solution."

Inara didn't like the thought of being parted from the Captain, wasn't even sure whether there would be a role for her to play in the House Mistress's plan, but she knew Cyan Barbette was nothing if not an astute and formidable woman. The fact she was only making arrangements for two of the crew to stay at Burnt Cross meant she had considered the others necessary to execute the plan. Shepherd Book seemed deep in thought but said nothing. It made Inara wonder what he knew of this place, whether he had suggested it to the House Mother. Yet there was no indication the two had even met before unlike the Captain and Cyan. And wasn't that a shock to the system?

* * * * *

The Minister of Planterary Affairs scowled over the cortex link. "*Yiwusuoyou*?"

"The ship was completely destroyed, Minister."

Minister Rousou sucked his bottom lip. Instead of making him look thoughtul he just appeared sulky. "And you say you found nothing on the planet either?"

The Operative nodded. "Apart from savage winds and skin burning heat Astra is now highly radiated. If anyone had got as far as the planet surface we would have been picking up their bones."

Rousou nodded, his features settling into a calm mask. "What about the command half of the device?"

"It has not been located nor is it transmitting."

"When do you expect to be back?"

"Three days, Minister."

"*Hen hao*. I will notify the Parliamentary Oversight Committee."

When the connection ended the Minister turned to speak to his two visitors. "It seems the rest of the device cannot be located but is lost to us."

"Not lost." Said Mr Morgan his right hand slipping into his pocket.

The Minister raised his eyebrows. "*Ni zhide shi shenme*?"

Mr Brown moved to stand beside Minister Rousou. "What is lost can be found."

"It can?"

Thus distracted, Rousou did not see Mr Morgan remove his hand and flick a switch, the short slim rod extending at each end. Suddenly his thoughts became a murky muddy mire, sight clouding, head ringing with pain thickening and pounding as something trickled wet and warm from his ears, nose and eyes. His mouth sagged open in a silent cry, the message to his brain melted before it could be transmitted, his body crumpling as death claimed him. Mr Brown did not glance at the body at his feet. His eyes connecting with his counterpart. Without a word they turned as one and filed out of the room.

* * * * *

"Who are you?"

The gentle smiling face did not reply. A cool wet cloth was laid across his heated brow. Paul closed his eyes to relish the momentary relief. The pain meds were obviously wearing off and slowly his sluggish mind was regaining its' senses.

"Where am I?"

The questions seemed to hang in the air, unanswered. He was getting frustrated now, his initial gratitude at being saved lessening in direct proportion to his frustration as the silence lengthened.

"What's wrong with you people? Don't think I'm not grateful for you savin' my life, I am, it's just I have so many questions. Why won't you answer?"

"Because they cannot."

Paul turned his head away from the women playing nurse and found himself looking at a man in his mid fifties. It was hard to be accurate about his age, he could have been older, his fitness and full head of hair giving him a more youthful appearance. Tall and stocky the man had dark brown hair and a bushy moustache. The eyes were bright and sharp as tacks.

"They can't talk because their tongues have been removed."

A chill shuddered through Paul's body. Oh God, oh God, who were these people? His reaction brought the ghost of a smile to the man's lips.

"You are lucky we found you."

"Who are you?"

"Protectors."

He frowned. More confused than ever. "Of what?"

"For now, you."

"Me?"

The man nodded.

"Do you have a name?"

"Names can be changed. Altered. Constructions to hide behind. Isn't that true, Tobin?"

All of a sudden Paul wished he hadn't opened his mouth. What was that old saying? 'Not everyone who offers their hand is your friend, not everyone who turns their back on you is an enemy'. Which group did these people fall into and what in the nine hells did they want?

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*hundan* = bastard *dong ma* = understand? *shenjingbing* = crazy *dui* = correct *diyu* = hell *duibuqi* = sorry *hen hao* = very good *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *dang ran* = of course *goushi* = crap/dog shit *shenme* = what *guai* = devil/ghost *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *yiwusouyou* = nothing *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean?

COMMENTS

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 11:44 AM

KATESFRIEND


More answers and more questions appear. Very interesting history on Mistress Barbette - nice back story. Poor Paul, hope he didn't go from the frying pan to the fire.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 4:07 PM

SLUMMING


Interesting, as usual. And I am quite intrigued by the description of Burnt Cross and its history. Looking forward to more!

Thursday, October 30, 2008 6:18 AM

JANE0904


Oh, I'd really hoped for something more personal and family between Mal and Mistress Barbette. Although I still wonder about Badger's parentage ... Still, if the Mistress was a teacher, on Shadow, would that give her enough time to become who she is? Or was she taking a sabbatical from being a Companion? Intruiging!


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