BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GORRAMITGIRL

Keeping On: Part 6 - Captains and Crew
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A year after the Miranda broadcast, Mal and Zoe struggle to keep their family together and keep flying as situations begin to build on Serenity. Captains and Crew: Mal and Zoe meet their potential new pilot. Later, Mal and Monty each have words with a member of their crew.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1830    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Keeping On: Part 6 - Captains and Crew

Disclaimer: Firefly, Serenity, and all related characters are copyright 2002-2005 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. This is a work of fanfiction. No copyright infringement is intended.

***

Mal and Zoe waited patiently in the bar, amusing themselves with the game of Chinese checkers. Zoe, as always, beat Mal soundly. Apparently the man could plan heists, outwit foes, and command a majority of the Independent soldiers, but couldn’t find a good enough strategy to outwit Zoe.

“I didn’t know better, Zo, I’d say you’re a reader.” Mal said, annoyed.

“Only have one of those on board, Mal, and it ain’t me.” Zoe replied, smiling widely as she beat Mal for the third time.

“Aw hell, Mal, she whip yer pi gu again? You’re kinda useless sometimes.” Said a good-natured voice.

Mal and Zoe looked up.

Monty stood there, grinning, shaking his head at Mal’s horrific luck at checkers.

And standing there with him was a dark-haired woman, no older than Zoe, it looked like. She was medium complexioned and had very dark almond-shaped eyes. Her hair was long and wavy – almost unruly, and she couldn’t have been any taller than Kaylee. She had a vaguely amused expression and Mal noticed the gun hanging at her hip, almost hidden by a dark jacket.

Mal smiled.

“Miss Linn, I believe?” He asked, standing and giving the charming smile he liked to give when starting to negotiate business.

“Ms. Linn,” she corrected, softly but firmly. “Ms. Lilah Linn.” Her posture was straight and she was looking him in the eye. She was definitely some kind of a soldier. He thought.

“Well then, Ms. Linn, I’m Captain Malcolm Reynolds. This here with me is Zoe Washburne. She’s first mate onboard Serenity. Care to sit?” He gestured to the two empty chairs.

She sat down, and after a second’s hesitation, Monty did as well.

“Monty here tells us that you’re lookin’ for work. Pilot job, if you can get it.”

“Yes, I am.” She said, accepting one of the four drinks that the barmaid had brought over.

“He also said you flew in the War.” Zoe said, finally speaking up.

“I flew a bit, yeah.” Lilah answered, taking a drink and grimacing slightly.

“Can you tell us a bit about that?” Mal prompted.

“There’s really not a whole lot to tell, Captain. I went to flight school after college and became a commercial pilot. Then I decided to be a good little Independent and enter military flight school. I trained in a squadron, flew a few missions, and got discharged a few months before the War ended.”

“And after the War? Did you go back to piloting in a non-killing manner?”

“Actually I got married and settled on Paquin.” Lilah said.

“You never said you had a husband.” Monty piped up, looking confused.

“That’s because I don’t. He died about a half a year back. I prefer not to talk about it.” Lilah said shortly, taking another drink.

“Can’t say as I blame you.” Zoe felt a sharp pang of grief and sympathy run through her.

“Would you mind telling us how he died?” Mal asked, genuinely curious.

“I would mind, actually.” Lilah said, not unkindly.

“Fair enough.” Mal admitted. “What kind of vessels are you used to flyin’?”

“I flew a jackrabbit in the War. I can fly your standard short-range and mid-range shuttles, transport ships like yours and Monty’s; anything, really. I don’t want to sound snotty or nothin’, but I’ve yet to meet the ship I can’t fly. It may take me an hour or two to learn the more intricate details, but I’m a good pilot. I graduated third in my class.”

“Third?” Zoe questioned.

“Out of two hundred. I rather take that as a win. The guy who was first was born vesselside and had been flying since he was a little boy. The other had never flown before…he was kind of a savant, I guess, had fantastic natural talent. Me? I’d flown hover mules and cars before, so it was an easy transition.” She smiled and the effect was quite pleasing.

Zoe smiled.

“Got any other skills we should know about?” Mal asked.

“I worked as a welder on Paquin, as well as before I entered flight school. I might be able to help you out if you ever need a blow torch handled. And I’m handy enough with a gun, but I’m not a genius at it.”

“Do you have any questions, Ms. Linn?” Mal asked. Monty was just sitting and drinking, still looking very pleased with himself.

“If you’d be so kind as to oblige me?”

“Shoot. Only, not literally. I hate getting shot.” Mal said.

“Does it happen often? Your getting shot?” She asked.

“Ah…well…you know, that is a very personal question!” Mal said, blustering. Monty snorted.

“As opposed to asking me to explain my husband’s death after I’d mentioned that I didn’t like to talk about it?” Lilah countered, an eyebrow raised. “I’m pretty damn adept at tellin’ what’s go se and what ain’t, Captain.” Zoe couldn’t help but smile at that.

“Well…I might have had my share of bullets.” He muttered, not seeing the smirk that was shared by Monty, Lilah, and Zoe.

“How big is the crew?”

“There’s myself, Mal and four others. Five, if you count our ambassador.” Zoe answered. “They’re good crew.”

“That they are.” Monty piped up. “Won’t ever meet another crew like ‘em. Mechanic they got is a damn miracle worker and the Doc is kind of fussy and prissy but he can pull a body through just about anything. Hired gun is kind of horrific, but he’s an alright sort. And the…well, River’s in a league all her own.”

“Cut of the jobs is ten percent, straight off the top. You get run of the kitchen and your own bunk. We all take turns on the cooking rotation and with chores about the ship.” Mal said. He suddenly smiled, looking hopeful “You any good at cookin’?”

“I suppose I do well enough.” She said with a shrug. “Your ship, Captain, it’s a Firefly, right?”

“That she is. She’s a good ship; be with ya ‘till the day you die.” He smiled, a loving look in his eyes that Lilah could only assume was for his ship.

“I just have two more questions, if you don’t mind.”

“By all means.”

“What happened to the old pilot?”

There was a dead silence at the table as Lilah waited expectantly for an answer. Monty stared very intently at his drink, not saying a word. Mal’s expression was unfathomable as he sussed out how to answer. Zoe’s face was stoic, and it was she who broke the silence.

“He died last year.”

“I see.” Lilah said, getting the feeling that there was much, much more to the story than what they were willing to tell her. “Who has been flying the ship since then?”

“The girl Monty done mentioned – River.” Mal said.

“And how does she feel about potentially being replaced?”

Again, there was uncomfortable silence.

“Have you even talked about this with her?” Lilah asked incredulously. There was still, more silence. “Or were you just going to show up with a new pilot and say ‘we have a new pilot – be on your merry way now’?”

“It ain’t like that at all, Ms. Linn.” Mal said, taking a drink and then focusing very hard on what was in his mug.

“Is it a frequent habit of yours, Captain, replacing crew members without their knowledge?” Lilah sat back, crossing her arms, studying Mal intently.

“She ain’t happy.” Mal said quietly, and Lilah was about to lay into him again. Disloyalty wasn’t something she took lightly.

But then he raised his head and there was something in his eyes that Lilah couldn’t quite place. “She ain’t happy flyin Serenity. She won’t say nothin’, but I can tell she is. That girl is dear to me and the last thing I ever want for her is for her to be unhappy. If she was right as rain and throwing herself into the job like someone meant for it does, we wouldn’t be sitting at this table, having this here conversation.” He sighed heavily.

“It don’t matter a lick how good someone is at somethin’ if they don’t like doin’ it. There’s an awful lot of unhappiness in this world and I don’t like to see me and mine unhappy. Girl deserves the chance to spread her wings a bit, find her place and do what it is that she loves. She can’t do that if she’s tied to a job on the ship she don’t like. She’s a damn good pilot, Ms. Linn, one of the better I’ve come across, but her heart ain’t in it and I aim to see her doing something that her heart is into.

“There’s a position available and I mean to offer it to you. It just might be a day or so before you can come on-board. I was planning on speaking with River tonight. I just…I didn’t want to say anything until I knew that it was a done deal.

“I don’t expect an answer from you right away. Reckon it’s a lot to take in. If you’re at our ship’s berth tomorrow at 1200, welcome aboard. If not, no harm, no foul and we wish you the best.”

Lilah sat very quietly, mulling over his words. Captain Reynolds and Zoe seemed to be decent folk, and she had gotten to know Monty well enough to know that any friends of his would have to be good and decent people – even if their work was less than legal. She wondered what it would be like to get on the ship, meet the crew, and try it out for a span of time.

“You’ve given me a lot to think about, Captain Reynolds.” Lilah said. “I appreciate the job offer and your being upfront. I do have the feeling that you’re not telling me everything and I can’t really blame you, but your offer is more than generous.”

“Glad to hear it. So, I’m guessing come 1200 tomorrow we’ll all have our answer.” Mal smiled.

“I suspect we will.” Lilah said.

“I reckon we oughta be headin’ back, Zoe.” Mal said, turning to his first mate.

“I reckon so, Sir.” The foursome stood up and Zoe surprised Lilah by shaking her hand. “Always good to meet another Browncoat. Monty.”

“It’s always good to meet up with you useless lot every now and again.” Monty said, chuckling.

The group left the bar and headed off their separate ways, Mal and Zoe rather hoping that Lilah would accept, and Monty thinking up ways to make sure that she did.

***

“You think she’ll take the job, Zoe?” Mal asked as they walked back to Serenity.

“I reckon she might. Not a complete guarantee, but I think she’ll be here tomorrow.” Zoe nearly sighed. It was the fourth time Mal had asked since they had split from Monty and Ms. Linn.

“But she had a “yes I’ll take it-ness” about her, didn’t she?” Mal insisted. “I mean, it ain’t like she’s gonna get a better offer, right Zoe?”

“You were more than fair to her, Sir.” Zoe answered.

“We could make this work, Zoe. She could be just what we’re needin’.”

“She could also be a ragin’ murderess who will crash the ship and kill us all.” Zoe answered.

“But Zoe-” Mal was cut off.

“If she takes the job, she takes it, Sir.” Zoe said, with finality. Sometimes a firm hand was needed with Mal.

“Guess this means I need to have a little chat with our resident genius.” Mal said.

“You really do.”

***

“So, think you’ll take the job?” Monty asked Lilah, as they sat up on the bridge of Dorothy.

“I’m strongly considering it.” Lilah answered.

“Mal’s a good man and he’s honest for what he does. He’s got a good crew as well.” Monty said. “What do you think about him?”

“Frankly, Monty, I think he’s kind of an idiot.” Lilah said. “Does he really get shot all that often?”

“Eh, sometimes he gets stabbed instead.” Monty said, good-naturedly. “And he’s smarter than he lets on. Man commanded every Independent soldier at the Battle of Serenity Valley and held the valley against the Alliance with an iron will.”

“That was him?” Lilah asked, amazed. There wasn't a Browncoat standing who didn't know about the Battle of Serenity Valley.

“The very same. So, do you want the job or don’t you?”

Lilah hesitated, staring out at the docks very intently. At first she wanted nothing more, and now…

“I- I’m…”

“You’re scared. It would be a new job, a new life, and there would be the chance that you might actually be happy.” Monty said gently.

“Right, because making myself miserable is my aim in life.” Lilah said sarcastically.

“You’re bitter, Lilah. You try and hide it, and sometimes you do a gorram fine job of it, but you’re bitter. And you try to keep it that way. And now I figure that it’s because otherwise you’d actually let yourself start to let go of what happened.” He looked at her kindly.

“This’d be good for you, Lilah. You need to move on and let yourself live again. If you don’t like it, then you know you always have a place here. But you need to give it a shot and actually try to make it work. You’re hurting, and no one’s going to grudge you that, but it’s not wrong to try and be happy.”

“You’re pretty ruttin’ wise for an old sasquatch.” Lilah said. She heaved a great sigh. “Fine, I’ll take the job. Worst that can happen is it doesn’t work out and I come back here.” She smiled, though it was forced.

“You’ll do great, Lilah. You’re to gorram stubborn to not do a good job. You better go and pack your things.” Monty said. “And then you need to have your last meal with this crew.”

“Oh, and here I was going to spend some quality time with Lesley. He’s going to miss me so much.” Lilah said with a wicked smirk.

“Go!” He ordered.

She gave a mock salute and went to her bunk.

***

River was sitting on the bridge, reading quietly when Mal approached.

“Come on in, Captain.” She said quietly.

“Can’t ever sneak up on ya, it seems.” Mal said, in an attempt at humor.

“You wish to speak with me?” River asked, looking at him while placing her marker back in the book.

Mal sighed and sat down in the main pilot chair. He fiddled with one of Wash’s guardian dinos for a moment before looking at her.

“You and I both know that things here haven’t quite been on the level. I blame myself for not noticin’ it sooner and sayin’ something. And I blame myself for your feeling like you speaking up about it would be ungrateful.” He said. “River, you ain’t really happy flying our girl here, are ya?”

River hesitated, looking very sad and sorry before shaking her head, her face down so that she wouldn’t have to meet his eyes.

“No.”

“And that’s just fine with me, River.” Mal said very gently. “I ain’t got a problem with you not wantin’ to pilot.”

She looked up at him, curious.

“The truth is, River, is that I don’t like seein’ my crew unhappy, not if it’s in my power to change it. You’ve been through enough pain in your young life and you deserve and need the chance to figure out what it is that you should be doing. Just because you don’t want to be the pilot don’t mean you don’t got a place on this here boat. You got a place here and you’re always going to have a place here as long as you want one. You deserve the chance to be happy, River.

“I ain’t claiming to know what you’re thinking, but I suspect that you’ve felt the need to “prove yourself” to me and to the crew, and you’ve done that several times over. You ain’t got to keep doing that, River.”

River smiled, somewhat embarrassed.

“Thank you, Captain.”

“So…here’s what’s gonna happen, I think. Zoe and I met with Monty and he introduced us to this pilot. She seems a good sort, if a bit streaky sometimes, and I offered her a job. Zoe and I both think she’ll take it. If she does, then you’re free to figure out whatever it is you want to do. Hell, I’ll help you with it, if ya want. If she don’t take the job, then we keep going until we find a pilot who will, and then we’ll make with the figuring out for you.” He smiled fondly at her. “You ain’t gotta worry that you don’t have a place here River. That sound fair?”

“Captain is being more than fair. Captain is a nice man.”

Gorramit, that’s twice in the past month or so that someone’s called me “good” or “nice.” What’s a man gotta do ta keep his reputation as a heartless petty criminal?”

River laughed.

“Captain is very mean and a heartless petty criminal.” She said. “The possible new pilot is streaky?” She asked, curious.

“Woman took me to task for asking too personal of a question and then later for not bringing this up with you sooner.”

“A woman who could keep Captain in his place...” River said, pondering.

“I’m still the gorram Captain, little missy, dong ma?”

Wu dong. Captain is still the captain. But you should not forget the saying that the power often lies behind the throne.” She giggled, the effect of which was quite pleasant when she wasn’t trying to creep a body out.

“And just who is the power behind the throne, River?” Mal asked, suddenly feeling playful. He vaguely wondered if this was what fatherhood could be like – spending time with his children and helping and being there for them and playing with them.

“The Amazon Queen.” River said.

“Zoe. That she is,” Mal agreed, smiling. “She’s just about the strongest woman I ever done met.”

“You’re Serenity’s father and Zoe is her mother.” River said. “You both look after all of us and keep us going.”

“We try.” Mal said, feeling oddly sentimental. “It’s about time for dinner. Who’s on the cookin’ rotation tonight?”

“Kaylee.”

“She’s one of the better cooks onboard.”

“Simon has been helping her.”

“Oh, go se.” Mal grimaced.

“Inara returned from the market and brought real food, and Kaylee will not let Simon ruin tonight’s repast.” River reassured him.

“If I still believed in miracles, I’d say your brother’s a miracle worker, what with the surgeoning and all, but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for the food poisoning.”

“He takes so much looking after.” River said.

“Well, we got real food, so we better go and eat before Jayne wolfs it all down.” Mal smiled, feeling rather lifted, as if a great burden around his shoulders had been carried away.

“Yes, we should eat.”

***

It was during dinner when Mal made the announcement.

“Zoe and I thought you all need to be aware that we’ve started searching for a new pilot. We found one today, and we think she’ll take the job, but there’s no guarantee. She don’t, then we keep searching.”

“She good-lookin’?” Jayne asked, clearly interested that a new woman could be onboard.

“She’s alright, and prone to breaking the fingers of those who try and come on to her without her wantin’ it, according to Monty.” Mal said with a smile.

“Point is, is that we’re going to have a new crew member sooner or later and adjustments are gonna have to be made.” Zoe added.

“The warrants on River and myself have been lifted-” Simon started to say, looking worried.

“Ain’t gonna bring a body on this boat that’d turn on ya, not on purpose. This gal’s a Browncoat and should do well enough. If she ain’t the one, then she ain’t the one. But you and your sister are safe on Serenity, and it’s gonna stay that way.” Mal said.

“I think it’s shiny and all, takin’ on new crew, but what about River? She’s the pilot.” Kaylee asked. Mal could see that she was starting to get upset.

“River and I done talked it over and settled it. We’re shiny on the subject, Little Kaylee. River ain’t goin’ anywhere.” He looked over at River. “You ain’t, right?”

River beamed at him and nodded. “My place is here.”

“Inara, what are your thoughts? You’re crew just as much as any of us petty crooks.” Mal said.

“It will certainly be interesting.” She smiled warmly. “I remember what happened the last time we picked up crew and wonder if this can live up to it.”

“I do recall some Feds and some bullets.” Mal agreed.

“Who knows? You may not even get shot this time.” She said.

“I could go for not getting shot either.” Kaylee piped up.

Simon stilled until Kaylee reached over and took his hand, reassuring.

“Hell, things was getting’ kinda stale around here anyways.” Jayne said.

“Well, we all better start winding down. Whether this gal joins us or not, we got a busy day ahead of us.”

“I imagine that’s so, Sir.” Zoe said.

They all said their various good nights as they went about putting the ship to night cycle. Hatches were shut and locked and one by one the crew fell asleep, until River, the last one awake, lay in her bed.

Thinking back on Mal’s words, she smiled, feeling very hopeful. She drifted off to sleep, lulled into dreams by the sound of Serenity.

***

I hope you enjoy! Questions, comments, and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated!

GG

COMMENTS

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:01 PM

NUTLUCK


Still interesting.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 3:33 AM

AMDOBELL


I think the new pilot could be something of a revelation. Not sure what River really wants to do though. In the series River actually loved flying, loved the ship and was so in tune and intuitive that she was a natural so it is interesting seeing you have her a reluctant pilot. I'm guessing you did that in order to have a reason to bring Lilah on board. And I like it that Monty has fatherly feelings towards Lilah, wanting to do the best for the girl as well as help his friends on Serenity get a shiny new pilot. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 10:27 AM

GORRAMITGIRL


@Amdobell, I never really got the impression that it was something she loved, considering that River only flew in the very last minutes of <i>Serenity</i>. She's damn good at it, I believe, but I can't really say that she loved it given that it was at the end of the movie and we have no post-Serenity canon from Joss.

More than anything I saw that scene in the movie as a nice bonding moment between River and Mal, as well as a way to show that River was indeed better than she'd been since the pilot of Firefly and that River loves <i>Serenity</i> and thinks of the ship as home. River does love the ship and does want to stay and help, which she will.

As for Monty, he loves picking up strays. (And at least she didn't turn out to be a woman who'd make him shave his whiskers like that last woman he picked up. ;D) He's also a good friend to the crew in this story, and he comes back in the stories I have planned after this one is finished. :D

Thanks for the comment - you always leave such nice ones. They're very much appreciated!

@Nutluck, I'm hoping that it's a good interesting. :D

Thanks for reviewing!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 10:27 AM

GORRAMITGIRL


@Amdobell, I never really got the impression that it was something she loved, considering that River only flew in the very last minutes of <i>Serenity</i>. She's damn good at it, I believe, but I can't really say that she loved it given that it was at the end of the movie and we have no post-Serenity canon from Joss.

More than anything I saw that scene in the movie as a nice bonding moment between River and Mal, as well as a way to show that River was indeed better than she'd been since the pilot of Firefly and that River loves <i>Serenity</i> and thinks of the ship as home. River does love the ship and does want to stay and help, which she will.

As for Monty, he loves picking up strays. (And at least she didn't turn out to be a woman who'd make him shave his whiskers like that last woman he picked up. ;D) He's also a good friend to the crew in this story, and he comes back in the stories I have planned after this one is finished. :D

Thanks for the comment - you always leave such nice ones. They're very much appreciated!

@Nutluck, I'm hoping that it's a good interesting. :D

Thanks for reviewing!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 6:36 PM

KATESFRIEND


I really liked the way you introduced the character and am wondering what mysteries she is bringing with her. She seems the perceptive sort, but why does she consider Mal an idiot?

Sunday, March 8, 2009 1:24 PM

GORRAMITGIRL


@Katesfriend - Lilah doesn't get Mal and his quirks, and underestimates him. It's a callback to Patience in the pilot of Serenity; she declared him 'not very bright' and was later very surprised.


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