BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

The DUPLICITY Series: 55. "The Apple and the Tree"
Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Badger questions his mother about what she is really up to. Simon starts the Captain on physiotherapy. Inara oversteps the mark and River has some information she needs to share. Meanwhile Captain Foster has a decision to make."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1774    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "THE APPLE AND THE TREE" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "Badger questions his mother about what she is really up to. Simon starts the Captain on physiotherapy. Inara oversteps the mark and River has some information she needs to share. Meanwhile, Captain Foster has a deicion to make." 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.

"THE APPLE AND THE TREE"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

New Dresden wasn't a bad little world if you didn't aspire to more than working on the land. Badger had to say it was a lot more pleasing to look at than Drayton Colony had been. All them green lush fields, soaring majestic trees and honest to gorram *Shangdi* hedgerows. Mind, the fields were rutting massive, some had fencing but most were relying on these spikey hedges. Big gorram thorns in 'em too. What wasn't so shiny was the company.

Mistress Barbette was still seething. Badger had been annoyed his own self but not in being dropped off. No. That, he knew he had coming. It was being lumbered with his gorram *pofu* of a mother. He had been relieved to find himself not on an Alliance world, but she had been furious. Not even a rutting Companion House and wasn't that amusing. He watched her warily, seeing the tension and anger as she paced. The wooden shack was not so much a boarding house as someone's shed but it had a roof that didn't leak and rooms to rent. Now that he had been planetside for a few days Badger had been sifting through everything that had happened to him since the whole gorram circus had started. His mother thankfully left him to his ruminations and that was his biggest problem. His mother. Might be tied by blood but he was thinking it was more of a noose. Why'd she get in touch with him so much these last few months? More than the rest of his whole life put together.

Something made him look up from where he was sitting at the end of the bed. Cyan Barbette had stopped pacing and stood staring at the wall. She was still for so long it made Badger nervous. "*Shenme shi*?" She didn't answer but took a half step forward, one hand coming up to clutch her chest as another fumbled in her pocket. He watched in curious silence and wondered what was going on. Then her hand began to pull a small ornate box out of her pocket, the fingers shaking too much to hold it steady. The little silver box tumbled out of her hand, her expression bordering on panic, eyes wide and staring at the pill box. "Stephen!"

"Remember my name now you want somethin'?"

Cyan didn't waste energy snapping at him. "My pills."

Badger got up and retrieved the little box, turning it over in his hands and noting how fancy it was. Looking into his mother's face he noticed how drawn she looked, suddenly old, fragile. No longer holding the whip hand. He realised that suddenly he was the one in a position of power, not her. This was his moment if ever there was one. The only chance he would get to find out just what the *diyu* was going on. "Think you'd best sit."

One hand reached, the fingers clawing at the air between them, her eyes beseeching. "My pills..."

He guided her to the bed and watched her sit, the hand clutching her chest tightening. "*Qing*, Stephen..."

"Not my name any more, it's Badger." He said quietly, voice firm.

"Badger." She almost stumbled over the name. He imagined how much it offended her sensibilities that any son of hers would choose an animal's name in preference to the one she had given him.

"Now, seems to me you got some explainin' to do."

"Steph..." She cut herself off, throat working. "Badger, *qing*."

"What're you really up to? An' I want the truth now, no lies."

He could see that she wanted to shake her head, refuse him, but the strength wasn't there.

Badger opened the box and peered inside. "I'm thinkin' these little white pills are for your heart, *dui*?" Her nod was stilted, her wide eyes shadowed with hate. He closed the box with a little snap. "Why d'you really look me up, *muqin*?"

Cyan shivered but didn't break eye contact. Somewhere in their little battle of wills she realised the game was up but that didn't mean Badger would win, only that she would lose. "Call the Alliance," she had to pause to get a full deep breath pushed practically manually into her lungs by force of will alone "the Tams... worth a lot of coin."

"You know it won't stop there. Alliance are like to take 'em all into custody. The whole gorram boat load."

There was a flash of angry defiance, the old Cyan flaring then fading as the heat of her anger bled away in pain. He noticed her knuckles were now white.

"They saved us, *ni zhidao*. Didn't have to, me 'specially. An' their doc, Simon? If not for him I'd'a been a dead man. Wonder whose fault that would have been?"

He watched her flag. Breathing short truncated breaths, her colour not so good. "The coin..."

He shook his head, slowly, affecting an air of sadness. "I may get mad as *diyu* at Reynolds, lookin' down on me, thinkin' he's better than, but you know what the gorram twist is? What ruttin' rattles me the most?" When she didn't answer he hunkered down in front of her but not too close. Didn't want her catching him off guard and snatching the box from him before he was finished. "He's right. Not that I'll ever admit it to the *shenjingbing hundan*. An' I owe 'im, not the other way around - see? So, sellin' 'em out to the feds? Not high on my list."

Her mouth opened and shut but no sound came out. Badger much preferred her this way. Less devious and threatening.

"Best talk quick," he said mildly, slowly turning the box over in his hands so she could get a clear look at it "you get the box when you talk, *dong ma*?"

* * * * *

The groan of pain was long, low and heartfelt but Simon didn't falter. Shepherd Book paused at the infirmary door then stepped inside, surprised to find no sign of Inara. Another muffled moan of pain drew him into the room. Simon was slowly extending then bending the Captain's right leg. Perspiration ran down the Captain's face but there was also a level of determination there that Book was glad to see returning.

"How are things going?"

Simon smiled but continued working first one leg then the other. The Captain grimaced and managed to find enough breath to reply before the doctor could. "Seems Simon's found a new kind of torture."

"You're looking better, Captain, if a little.. out of breath." Said Book, his deep rich voice warm and mildly teasing.

"Ha, ha, *zhen you yisi*. You sure you're a Preacher?"

"Don't mind the Captain he's been snippy all morning. Anyone would think he wanted to spend the rest of his life flat on his back."

Book smiled at the doctor.

"*Wei*! Ain't fair to mock a man when he's in pain."

A small frown appeared on Simon's face, hands pausing. "*Nar teng*?"

The Captain's face was creased and he took a minute to catch his breath, his face relaxing. "When you stop? Not so much."

"All joking aside Mal, this isn't intended to hurt. It's intended to get you moving again so the muscles don't atrophy. I need you to tell me truthfully *ni juede zenme yang le*?"

It was on the tip of his tongue to say better but one look at Simon's face and he couldn't do it. The doctor was only trying to help him after all which meant as much as it irked him he would have to co-operate. "*Wo lei le*. On'y hurts when you bend the knee."

Book watched the two men converse for a moment or two before stepping up to the bed. "Perhaps I can help?"

They both looked at him with such comical expressions on their faces that the Shepherd almost laughed.

"Don't take this the wrong way Book, but I start needin' you? Ain't gonna be worryin' about pain."

"I don't think that is what the Shepherd meant."

He smiled. Many times Book wondered what it was that drew him to these people. Yet he felt a connection, an underlying warmth that gave him hope that here at least, in amongst this little rag-tag group of people just struggling to get by on the edges of what passed for civilisation he might be able to make a difference. Not that the Captain would ever admit to needing God's grace in his life but neither had he outright rejected Him as much as he liked to think. "No. I was thinking more of a massage, unless you've already done that?"

Simon shook his head. "No, not yet."

"Then perhaps I might...?"

The doctor nodded and was surprised when the Shepherd took a small glass bottle out of his pocket. The Captain raised his eyebrows and tried to sit up but he didn't seem to have enough strength in his arms. "What the good gorram is that?"

Book smiled. "It's a carrier oil."

"A what?"

"It's used in aromatherapy and as a base for massage oils. You add your chosen scent to the carrier oil then massage it into the muscles."

"I ain't gonna smell like no whore house?"

The Shepherd's eyes narrowed. "I can always withdraw the offer."

Not wanting to offend Book the Captain hurried to reassure him. "No, no. Just..." He waved a hand in the air as if he could pluck the right words out of the ether. "Just don't make me smell like no rose garden."

Book laughed. Simon got the pressure cuff around the Captain's arm to check his blood pressure. Only when he was sure that his patient was stable and not in any distress did he give the Shepherd a nod to go ahead. Satisfied that the Captain was in good hands for the moment, Simon excused himself and left the two men alone to go and get something to eat. As he walked towards the commons room Kaylee came hurrying after him. "Simon! Ya got a minute?"

He paused, something in Kaylee's demeanour setting off alarm bells though he had no idea what she could be agitated about. "I'm just going to get something to eat."

The mechanic nodded but didn't smile. "Shiny, I'll come with you."

* * * * *

Up on the bridge Zoe stared at Wash until he squirmed. "This *friend* gotta name?"

"*Bao bei*, I promised!"

She crossed her arms. "Seem to recall you makin' a promise to me, *zhangfu*. Love, honour an' obey."

Wash paled. That was just downright sneaky and underhand but in the end he never could hold out against Zoe. "He goes by the name of Mr Universe." Her eyebrow rose but Wash didn't elaborate. She wanted a name, he gave her one. Not his fault that it was as false as the smile he plastered on his face.

"How do you know him?"

On safer ground now, Wash let himself relax just a little. "It was while I was in flight school."

"He's a pilot?"

"No, no! Nothin' like that." At his wife's frown he hurried on to explain. "We just used to hang out together, in the bar, at the end of a day's trainin'."

"What was he training to do?"

A genuine grin spread across Wash's face. "He's a genius with anything to do with computers. Did I tell you that?" She shook her head and Wash launched into a dozen tales of derring do that he and his friend had gotten up to when the brass weren't looking.

"Sounds like the man's more trouble than he's worth."

"*Bushi*. We got each other out of trouble more times than I can count, *bao bei*."

Her eyes narrowed knowingly. "An' got you into trouble just as often."

"What I'm sayin' Zoe is that we can trust him."

"Okay. Let's suppose I believe that Jordan is gonna betray us to the Alliance, how does your friend know?"

Wash remembered Mr Universe telling him he *knew* everything and while that was a blatant exaggeration it wasn't that far from the truth either. "*Wo bu zhidao*, not exactly, but if he says Jordan can't be trusted then I believe him."

She closed her eyes, a stab of pain in her head telling her that the headache that had been threatening all day was about to make itself known with a vengeance. When she opened her eyes again she felt as if she had aged a hundred years. "We have to tell the others."

"What do you think he'll do?"

"Apart from rat us out to the Alliance, have Simon an' River dragged away an' the rest of us thrown into the deepest darkest *jianyu* in the 'verse?" Wash nodded. "*Wo bu zhidao*, but I have to tell you I was expectin' this from Badger not Jordan."

"You trust him?"

Zoe paused, not quite sure how to explain it. "This is gonna sound *shenjingbing* but I really thought Jordan was on our side."

"*Weishenme*? He already confessed to bein' an artificial intelligence, *bao bei*. Maybe this was what he was programmed for."

Frowning, Zoe slowly shook her head. "I don't think so. Don't ask me to explain but if he was really intending to do as your friend says I think River would have warned us."

"Not to sound a depressin' note but River isn't always reliable. Don't get me wrong, I like her - a lot - but when they cut into her brain some of the common sense fell out."

"I'd rather give River the benefit of the doubt than Jordan but it's still hard to believe he would sell us out."

"I don't think he'd do it for money."

"He wouldn't do it at all."

They both turned to see River stepping in through the door, her bare feet making no sound. A hurt, betrayed look in her dark eyes. Wash felt guilty, the scum of the 'verse, but he hadn't meant to hurt River. Far from it. His only concern was the safety of his friends. Zoe was giving River an intent look, no sign of discomfort at having been caught out discussing Jordan's loyalty.

"You sound pretty certain that he won't turn on us, little one."

"He won't. Can hear him, feel him. Has a plan."

Zoe and Wash exchanged a look, neither too happy with what they were hearing. "What plan?"

River began turning to leave but paused to look back over the shoulder. "Captain daddy needs to know."

"River?"

She shook her head. "You can come too but no quarrelling. Still healing."

Before Zoe could question her further the girl waltzed off the bridge. Zoe gave her husband a troubled look. "Do you think...?"

Wash was way ahead of her, his hands flashing quickly over the console and putting Serenity on auto-pilot. "I think we should hear what she has to say."

* * * * *

In the commons room Simon had completely lost his appetite. He stared wide eyed at Kaylee as the young mechanic tore him off a strip for upsetting Inara. "How could you do that? I thought 'nara was your friend?"

"So did I."

Kaylee began to rant again, tears shining bright and on the verge of falling from her eyes but Simon was not going through this again.

"Kaylee!"

The sharpness of her name on his lips silenced her, mouth dropping open in shook.

"Listen to me, okay?" He waited for her reluctant nod, the mechanic unhappy but willing to at least hear him out for which he was grateful. Simon didn't want to fall out with Kaylee but neither was he willing to play villain to Inara's poor misunderstood victim. "Do you remember when Inara thought the Captain had murdered her brother? She was going to do everything in her power to destroy him."

"Inara explained..."

Simon held up his hand and the words trailed off in Kaylee's mouth, turning bitter and unfulfilled on her tongue. "You begged me, *jidi*, to let Inara talk to the Captain on the cortex link even though he was in a bad way. Do you remember what happened?"

"That weren't 'Nara's fault."

"Kaylee, I love the way your loyalty to those you love is no holds barred but you leap to her defence automatically without even entertaining the possibility that she might not always be in the right. In fact I've seen you do it for all of us at one time or another but don't you see, that blinds you to what is actually happening."

"I ain't *ben dan*, Simon."

"I never said you were, *xin gan*."

The use of the endearment seemed to soften her for just a moment before remembering that Simon was attacking Inara.

"We nearly lost the Captain that time, Kaylee. Then when it was discovered that Sendhil wasn't dead after all and that the footage Inara had been sent was manipulated to implicate the Captain in something that had never happened we all thought that was the end of it. The Captain forgave Inara and I was willing to believe that it was all just a terrible mistake."

Her eyes narrowed. "What ya sayin'?"

Simon sighed. He hated this but he was a fundamentally truthful man. "Yesterday, Inara was again sitting with the Captain. They really seemed to be getting on well, *bao bei*. For the first time in a long while I began to think there might be some hope for them." He paused as if uncertain how to continue, the flicker of hope in Kaylee's eyes somewhat distracting. He did not want to be the one to extinguish it. "Inara waited until I left to get a mug of tea, whether she wasn't expecting me to come right back or not I don't know, but when I stepped back into the infirmary I tried to just quietly go about my business, give them some illusion of privacy. I heard her tell Mal that Cyan was a spy. That when he had been growing up on Shadow she was not there to simply teach the children their sums. Inara said that even back then Cyan was working for the Alliance, gathering intelligence on planets sympathetic to the independents in preparation for an all out war." Kaylee's eyes went round as saucers in shock, her hand going up to cover her mouth. Simon pressed on. Wanting this over and done with as soon as possible. When he finished, he noticed that Kaylee was trembling.

"*Bao bei*..."

Kaylee took a step back. "Don't *bao bei* me, Simon Tam!"

He closed his eyes. Yep. Worst case scenarios seemed to be his stock in trade when it came to getting Kaylee to see things she did not want to. Simon opened his eyes and looked sadly at the little mechanic he had fallen head over heels in love with. It didn't matter that they were from vastly different backgrounds but it did matter that she didn't trust his word when it came to Inara. "Kaylee, she told him that Cyan was responsible for what happened to Shadow."

"That ain't 'nara's fault."

"No, it's not, but nearly givin' the Captain a heart attack was. I had to medicate him to stabilise his condition, Kaylee. Whatever you want to believe, if I hadn't been there we could have lost him."

"She wouldn't..." Kaylee trailed off, unable to complete the sentence.

Simon felt wearier than he had in a long time. "Kaylee, I don't want to fight with you over this. Either you believe me or you don't, that's up to you."

"What're ya sayin'?"

"Just this. If you don't know me well enough to believe that I'm telling you the truth then I can't see any future for us."

A big fat tear rolled down her face. "Are you breakin' up with me, Simon?"

"That's rather up to you, isn't it?"

For several minutes Kaylee stared after him as Simon left. Feeling all kinds of hurt and confused, she sat on the nearest chair. She didn't know what to believe any more, the only thing she was sure of was that intentionally or not, everything she loved most in the 'verse was falling to pieces before her very eyes. She and Simon had been getting real close and she had such high hopes that they would be able to make a go of it, and now? Looked like that little dream was destined to remain a fantasy. And Inara? Was her friend really that duplicitous? Was she really so blind that whenever Inara spoke she would ignore everything and everyone else to fly to her defence? Kaylee was truthsome enough to know that was exactly what she did do but was she wrong? Putting her face in her hands she cried, not knowing how to put things right or where the blame really lay only that she had messed things up even worse than before and she didn't know how to fix it.

* * * * *

When he finally arrived home, Captain Foster was subdued and upset. His wife took one look at his face and sent the children out to play. Taking her husband's arm she guided him into the sanctuary of a large homely kitchen. A big old fashioned range took up most of one wall. It had been salvaged from a scrap yard and lovingly restored much to her husband's amused exasperation. They could afford one of the latest top of the line transfer heat systems but Mary wouldn't even give them a second look. She wanted the heavy old fashioned iron range and had used her allowance to pay for the specially commissioned gas supply to run it. An extravagance unheard of in the modern 'verse. Since giving in, John Foster had come to appreciate his wife's insistence. The range was warm and reassuring, the food cooked in and on it tasted finer than any of the instant induction methods that were all the rage. Out on the Rim worlds he was sure every self respecting homestead still had a working model and probably still ran them on fossil fuels. But still. This was heart warming. Low tech and more honest. It comforted him.

As the cup of tea was handed to him, Foster looked up, surprised to find that he was sitting at the table. Mary sat beside him, her eyes concerned and ever loving. The one true constant in a 'verse he was not sure he recognised any more. "What happened, John?"

He swallowed hard, words sticking together in his throat like lumps of toffee. Mary nudged his hand and he dutifully took a sip of tea, clearing the blockage of tangled feelings. "Niyan is dead."

Mary was not shocked but saddened because her husband had already waved her with the information when he told her he would be delayed another day. Her husband had been very close to the Commandant. Softening her voice in both tone and volume she tried to coax the story from him. "What happened, *ai ren*?"

"The Minister said it was a heart attack."

Mary frowned. Minister? What did this have to do with parliament?

"I was asked to go and see his family, inform his wife." Foster paused and held back the threat of tears. Niyan had been his mentor as well as his friend. When he looked into his wife's eyes she was shocked to see the emotion so raw, eyes almost pleading. "She asked me who had killed him."

His wife gasped, hand rising to her throat. "*Shenme*? He was murdered?"

Captain Foster shook his head then stopped himself. The truth was he didn't know and that troubled him most of all. "I was told it was a heart attack, Mary."

"Do you believe that?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*. I was in such shock when Minister Rosenbaum told me that I never thought to ask to see the body." Her eyebrows went up at that little admission but Mary didn't say anything. All the while John would talk she would listen. "It was when I went to see the family that it hit me, I should have asked."

"And if they had said no?"

He stared at her then blinked. "*Shenme*? Why would they do that?"

Mary put a hand on his arm. "*Bao bei*, Mrs Shair asked you who killed her husband. What does that tell you?"

"That she's in denial?"

"*Zhangfu*, his wife would know better than anyone if Niyan had a heart condition, *dui*? Maybe she knows other things too."

Foster frowned. "What are you saying?"

His wife patted his arm. "I'm not saying anything, just this. If Mrs Shair is suspicious keep that information close. Be careful and wary, *ai ren*. You don't know who may be watching or listening."

"You speak as if I might be in danger." He meant it as a joke but Mary wasn't laughing. "You think I'm in danger?"

"I think Niyan either knew or did something that someone very powerful didn't like and that this is their way of covering it up." Mary gave a little shrug. "I may be wrong but that doesn't mean Mrs Shair is. Trust the people you know, John, and be polite and wary of the rest."

Looking into his wife's eyes John Foster knew she was correct. He didn't know what the truth was but someone did and that trail started at Minister Rosenbaum's door. Yet what could he do? He had no evidence, no reason to go prying and snooping around even if he could get the necessary clearance but if Commandant Shair had been murdered he needed to know why and not simply to give his family some small measure of justice. It was imperative he find out who else was involved and if anyone else was at risk. Foster didn't like it, wanted no part in this unseemly business, but if he didn't look into it no one else would and he owed it to Niyan, his family and himself to surreptitiously get his metaphorical shovel out and start digging. Before he did that though there was one thing he to do.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*pofu* = bitch *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *qing* = please *muqin* = mother *dui* = correct *ni zhidao* = you know *diyu* = hell *shenjingbing hundan* = crazy bastard *dong ma* = understand? *zhen you yisi* = very funny *wei* = hey! *nar teng* = where does it hurt? *ni juede zenme yang le* = how are you feeling? *wo lei le* = I'm tired *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *bushi* = not so *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *jianyu* = prison *shenjingbing* = crazy *weishenme* = why? *jide* = remember *ben dan* = stupid (lit. stupid egg) *xin gan*/*ai ren* = sweetheart *shenme* = what *Shangdi* = God

COMMENTS

Sunday, March 22, 2009 12:24 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Oh, you can tell who old Badger got his personality from. And what does Foster gots to do, I wonder...

As always, you are keeping me guessing and wondering where yoa re going with this one. Great work, my dear!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009 10:45 PM

JANE0904


I love the title of this section - truly, the apple doesn't fall far from this particular tree! Although Badger withholding his mother's medicine might very well come back to bite him in the metaphorical ass. I also loved his admission that *he* thinks Mal is better than him, too. I agree, and I think it's what makes Badger an interesting character to write. There's just a hint of jealousy in his attitude towards Mal ...

As for the rest, this tapestry's not finished yet, so there are more threads to gather, and we'll all be along for the ride!

Monday, March 23, 2009 2:08 AM

AMDOBELL


Yes, Angellemarcs, Badger and his conniving mother are cut from the same cloth. And I agree Jane0904 that there is a hint of jealousy in Badger's attitude towards Mal. I think that is what makes him spiteful. Thanks for the shiny comments! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, March 28, 2009 7:07 PM

SLUMMING


Beautifully done, as always. Enjoyed very much the Mal and Book moments. I miss the Shepherd.....after all, he was crew.


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