BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

The DUPLICITY Series: 58. "The Leopard's Spots"
Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Badger needs a favour. Simon intensifies the Captain's physiotherapy while trying to avoid some unpleasant questions from his sister. Captain Foster makes his request to see Niyan Shair's body and Book gets a wave."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1786    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "THE LEOPARD'S SPOTS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "THE DOMINANT GENE". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "Badger needs a favour. Simon intensifies the Captain's physiotherapy while trying to avoid some unpleasant questions from his sister. Captain Foster makes his request to see Niyan Shair's body and Book gets a wave." 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 LEOPARD'S SPOTS"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"Funny thing is, days after I told the gorram Guild that Cyan was dead the Alliance lifted the bounty on me." Badger paused. "I'm a free man."

"Could be a coincidence."

Badger glared at the man on his screen. Like and not alike. The scarred face had a twist to it that had nothing to do with deformity and everything to do with disposition. "A coincidence is when the bloody chair squeaks just as you pass wind! Nah, I reckon the two's connected. Not sure how or why but I'll figure it out."

The other man leant closer to the screen. "Not sure I like you bringin' attention to me."

"Who else was I gonna call?"

The sneer gave the twisted face a tormented look. "How about one o' your criminal friends? Must be more in that sewer you grew up in."

Flushing with anger it took every ounce of control for Badger to speak. "Now you listen here. Weren't my fault we got parted, see? You in the lap o' luxury, me in a viper's gorram den but when it comes down to it we're all we got."

The other man laughed, a bitter grating sound that made Badger wonder if he hadn't made the biggest mistake of his misbegotten life. "Still don't get it do you, Steph? I ain't carin' what happens to you one way or t'other just so long as you don't leave your trail of ruttin' slime all the way to my door."

Badger wanted to tell him to go hang himself but couldn't. Wasn't like he had anyone left around him likely to help even if they could. What friends he had were either dead or in hiding and most of his contacts would never make coin for him ever again. "Look Liam I need your help, simple as that."

Liam stared back at him like a badly distorted mirror for what seemed like minutes though barely a second passed. Something indefinable flickered on his face before settling into a rumpled scowl. Badger liked to think it was not as angry or unaccommodating as it had been a second ago but couldn't be sure. "What do I get out of it?" He wanted to laugh, really he did, but humour was in as short supply as coin. "Half of what I do."

The eyes were small, dark and held a fell glitter just a touch divorced from malice. "An' that would be what?" When Badger didn't reply straight away, Liam began to lean away from the screen. "That's what I thought. Half o' nothin' is still nothin'."

"*Deng!" Badger licked his lips quickly, not quite able to hide his desperation. "I got a plan, see? Easy money."

Liam laughed but at least he was listening.

"Know where there's a bounty just waitin' to be cashed."

"If it's so easy how come you ain't collected?"

"I was wanted, couldn't move a finger or toe without riskin' bein' thrown in *jianyu*."

"You say you're free? Not wanted no more?"

Badger nodded. A look of suspicion slowly darkened Liam's face.

"Then why'd you need me?"

Relaxing for the first time since their conversation had started Badger began to grin. It was mean, ugly and as smug as *diyu*.

* * * * *

Captain John Foster managed not to present anything other than a facade of weary sad resignation, even allowing his ramrod straight posture to slump just a touch. The General's eyes narrowed on him, raking over every detail before giving a heavy sigh and stepping back. "The Minister said you would be coming."

Foster heard the unspoken question - why? - but acted as if he hadn't. Stepping into the ice cold mortuary he was unable to hide a shiver. General Franks nodded to the soldier just inside the door and it was closed and locked behind them. Foster tried not to dwell on the possibility that he could end up on the slab next to Shair if he was not very careful. And why, if Niyan Shair's death was through natural causes was his body being guarded in the first place? Was the guard on the door to keep people out or lock them in?

"I confess to being surprised that his wife didn't come, Captain."

Foster did not have to feign the sadness and sense of loss that welled up inside him. "She wanted to, *shifu*, but someone needed to stay with the children. As I had served with her husband Mrs Shair asked if I would do this last service for him."

The General eyed the bundle in Foster's hands. "What's that?"

"Clothing."

"No offence to you or Mrs Shair but the mortician washed an' bathed the body. We had his clothes laundered then redressed him for his casket."

"*His wife was very clear, sir. She pressed his dress tunic and slacks specially. I think it helped her to feel she was doing something constructive."

Franks stared at him a moment without blinking then gave a nod. "I'm sure we can do that for her."

When Captain Foster did not offer up the clothing, Franks' demeanour stiffened. Foster gave him a small apologetic shrug. "I'm afraid Mrs Shair was most insistent that I perform this last courtesy. I was also asked to enquire whether the Commandant had been given the last rites as per the instructions in his will."

General Franks looked startled. "I was not aware Commandant Shair was religious."

"There is a notorised request amongst his personal papers and the will specifies that he be buried not cremated."

"You know that land is at a premium, Captain?"

"*Qu, shifu*, but the Shairs have a plot. It is on consecrated ground."

The General's expression grew steely. "I was instructed that he be cremated and his ashes interred, with full military honours, at the Alliance Memorial Cemetary."

"Minister Rosenbaum made it clear to me before I left to inform Mrs Shair of her husband's demise that he would ensure her wishes were carried out with regard to any funeral arrangements." Foster paused, looking so weary that the General was surprised the man was still standing. "Perhaps he did not anticipate she would prefer burial to cremation? I assure you I do not wish to be here or have to carry out this sad duty but I could not refuse. The Minister furnished me with his own personal flyer. I believe Mrs Shair will wish to kiss her husband goodbye before the coffin is placed in the family plot."

It was almost amusing to see the pinched look on the General's face and the way his mouth sagged open, flapped then closed without any sound coming out. Obviously this turn of events was unexpected. "I will need to check with the Minister, *dong ma*?"

Captain Foster nodded. "*Wo dong*. With respect, sir, is there somewhere I can go to freshen up? I have not slept in 36 hours."

The General's eyebrows rose in surprise and his stiff manner eased. "*Dang ran*, I apologise for not offering sooner. Do you wish to leave the change of clothing here?"

"That won't be necessary, sir. I seem to have crumpled them in the journey and will have them pressed."

"As you wish." Franks turned to the guard. "Accompany Captain Foster to the guest quarters. See to it that he has everything he needs. I will make sure the commisary remains open so that you may obtain a hot meal when you are ready to do so."

Foster came to attention and snapped off a sharp salute which the General returned. "*Xie xie ni, shifu*."

The General watched Captain Foster turn around and leave, the guard leading him across the exterior courtyard towards the senior officers' guest accommodation. Pursing his lips together thoughtfully, General Franks closed and locked the door then turned and walked towards the cold storage drawer where Commander Shair's body lay washed and tagged for disposal. While Franks could not fault anything Foster had said something felt wrong, off. It sat ill with him and was a feeling he could not shake. Deciding to sate his curiosity before contacting the Minister, Franks slid the drawer open and took his first good look at the body of the deceased Commandant. Steeling his resolve, the General unbuttoned the man's tunic and shirt and peeled the clothing aside. With a frission of shock he stared and gave an involuntary gasp, the chilled body discoloured from the neck down by a myriad of bruises and cuts. The mortician had done an admirable job stitching him up again but nothing could hide the fact that whatever the death certificate said, Commandant Shair had not died of natural causes.

* * * * *

Gorramit it hurt like the *guai* but the Captain relished having any feeling at all. Simon carefully put the left leg down and picked up the right, flexing the joint with care but giving the limb a full and extensive work out. It amused the doctor that the Captain would bitch and complain about insignificant things but grow silent when it came to major injuries. Maybe his sister wasn't the only tweaked one?

"Wrong supposition. Captain Daddy's damaged not *huai le*, Simon."

The Captain huffed, his face and neck bathed in sweat from exertion but his ears working fine. "*Wei*! That ain't no way to talk to your Cap'n."

River and Simon ignored him. It seemed to be a habit that was beginning to grate on Malcolm Reynold's nerves - just a little bit. Couldn't get too mad though at the man whose skill and dedication had saved him once again from a messy premature death. Didn't make no never mind how annoyafying the man could be when he got on that soap box of his. And that was without mentioning his sister.

"The Captain is responding well to physiotherapy, River."

River shook her head and sat on the chair next to the infirmary bed, her legs swinging to and fro', a speculative look on her face as she watched the Captain huff and puff as Simon continued working. "Not that kind of damage."

"You wanna tell me what you're talkin' about?"

She ignored the Captain and turned her attention to her brother. "I'm more worried about how we're going to repair you, Simon."

Her brother's hand almost slipped, had to pause in the final leg extension. The Captain watched Simon's expression close up, his breathing steady again and the controlled way he brought the exercise to an end. It was neat, dignified and professional. Was amazing how much a man could hide behind his gorram skills and that veneer of civilisation.

"I'm not broken, *mei mei*."

"Yes, you are but you keep it hidden. Better than me. You have control."

For a moment that famous control seemed to falter but Simon's recovery was so swift the Captain almost got whiplash trying to follow it. Simon shot his sister a hurt look. "*Hen hao*, River."

"*Fang xin*. They broke you but family will put you back together."

"*Shenme*? River what are you talking about? We can't go back to Osiris."

She shook her head. "That's the past, Simon."

River stood up with the kind of effortless grace that was poetry in motion. Stepping right up to the infirmary bed she locked eyes with the Captain, smiled, then patted his hand. "New family now."

Simon gaped then tried to recover. "I'm sorry, Captain, River was doing so well..."

The Captain waved his other hand. "*Mei shi*." He paused a moment, sorting his thoughts carefully, not wanting to set either sibling off with a poorly worded comment. "How we gonna do that, little one?"

"Stability. You keep us safe, give us a home."

"River, we can't stay indefinitely, you know that."

Her head whipped round and she stared at her brother. "It's the only way, Simon. Hard to hit a moving target."

Alarmed the Captain began to sit up. Without taking his eyes off his sister Simon pressed firmly but carefully on the Captain's chest until he was laying flat again.

"River, we're not having this conversation, *dong ma*?"

The Captain wheezed. "Actually River's right."

Two pairs of eyes turned and drilled into him. With a bit of effort the Captain sat up. This time Simon didn't try to get him to lie down again.

"You're safer on the move an' Serenity's always flyin'." The Captain paused to get his breath. "Not sure what they did to you doc but there must be some way to find out."

"Really, I'm fine Captain."

The Captain's eyes narrowed. "Don't take this the wrong way, Simon, but those *tamade hundan* were programmin' your sister to be a gorram assassin. Don't you wanna know what they had planned for you?"

He could see the boy begin to tremble and felt sorry for being the cause but regret was something they could tangle with later, when all the messy bits of discovering what the good gorram had happened had been unravelled. Didn't want no ticking time bomb to blow up in their faces and he wasn't of a mind to leave Simon and River alone on some planet to fend for themselves. They were crew now and crew was family. Wasn't no one on his boat he wouldn't fight to the death to protect. If Simon hadn't learnt that by now he was gonna have to shake him until the truth finally sunk in.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book stared at the wave. He didn't have a cortex link in his bunk so when Wash called he made his way to the bridge. Wash began to get up to give the Preacher some privacy but Book shook his head. A smile forming on his lips as the brother came into view.

"Ah, Shepherd Book, it is good to see you again! I send my good wishes to you and your flock."

Book was pleased the Captain was not on the bridge. He could imagine the kind of rebuttal that would have flown swiftly in denial. Oddly enough, the more the Captain denied his faith the less Book was inclined to believe him. God did not enter into one sided conversations. "We are well, Brother James, and how is everyone at the monastery?"

Brother James beamed though Book was sure he detected some shadow of sadness in his eyes. His heartrate quickened but he let nothing show on his face. "Well enough. We would however look forward to a visit. It is a long time, my friend, since you have walked in the monastery grounds and broken bread with us."

A twinge of regret tugged at him but Book was used to reading between the lines. Something was wrong. Naturally they could not openly talk about Simon and River's parents. "I have missed sharing mass. Perhaps I can persuade the Captain to drop me off for a visit the next time we are passing?"

A troubled look flitted across Brother James's weathered face. When he replied he made no attempt to smile but let Book see that this was not the answer he had been seeking. Keeping his voice light and allowing none of his reservations to filter though to his voice the monk stared hard at his old friend. "All are welcome, Shepherd."

It was formal but politely couched. They were needed at the monastery. Book nodded to show that the message was received and understood. "Please give my love and blessings to you all. Perhaps we can make Candlemass?"

The tall sparse monk nodded back, gave a brief sad smile then broke the connection. Spinning his pilot's chair round, Wash couldn't hide his curiosity or concern. "Is it just me or was that one unhappy monk?"

It took a moment for Book to respond, his mind flying in several different directions, trying to juggle priorities in a way that would not leave them vulnerable. "I need to speak to the Captain."

"Book, *shenme shi*?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but we need to find out."

"Do you think somethin's happened to River an' Simon's parents?"

The Shepherd's frown deepened. "I heard the same conversation you did, Wash."

"*Duibuqi*..."

"No need to apologise." The Shepherd patted Wash's shoulder. "Stay on course for now. Where's Zoe?"

"What do you want her for?"

Book spun round at the sound of her voice, the weight he was carrying suddenly halved. "We got a wave, from the Monastery of Joseph of Aramathea."

She frowned. "That the place we sent Mr and Mrs Tam?"

"The very same. Brother James extended an invitation for us to visit."

She stared hard at him. "You got somethin' to say, Preacher, better spit it out."

"I just did." He waited but when it looked as if Zoe hadn't picked up the full meaning he elaborated. "ALL of us."

Seeing the dime drop was more relief than satisfaction. "You think somethin' is wrong?"

Book nodded. "Oh, I know it is."

"What else you know?"

"Only that we won't find out any more until we get there."

A look of alarm flashed across her face. "Is it safe?"

"I don't know what has happened but this much I do know. The monastery would not have sanctioned contact if there was any danger to us but that is not to say that we should not be very careful. I'm thinkin' we need to approach this indirectly."

"Couldn't we just find a secure channel an' ask?"

Book shook his head at Wash. "There are no secure channels, Wash."

"I'm sure we could rig somethin' up."

Zoe put a hand on Wash's shoulder. "Shepherd's right, *bao bei*. For all we know the monastery is bein' watched. If that's so then you can be sure every transmission is being monitored an' picked apart."

Wash looked baffled. "Wow, that's...serious." Zoe nodded. "What're they lookin' for?"

Zoe looked at the Shepherd. Book pursed his lips into a thin unhappy line. "Us."

* * * * *

Liam took a moment to absorb what he was hearing. Staring at his half brother with barely disguised revulsion. "You wanna turn in a couple of folk on the one ship that helped keep you safe from the Alliance?"

Badger flushed, anger rising swift and fast. "Not like I got a lot o' choices,"

"Sure you have." Liam's voice had dropped to a soft whisper. He had leaned so close to the screen that his eyes seemed huge. Badger could see the shadow of an old pain in them. "Same as you had a choice when you up an' left me to die."

"On'y you didn't."

"No thanks to you!" Liam growled.

"*Wei*! Ain't my fault. Had to scatter, see? Soldiers everywhere, would'a caught us all had I stayed. You know that."

"I know that my *brother* cut an' ran leavin' me to get caught. I was your get away plan."

"Didn't plan it, Liam." Liam laughed but it was a bitter painful thing and made Badger wince. "An' is that the excuse you'll give to them as saved you? When you set the ruttin' Alliance on 'em an' slink off to count your blood money?"

"It ain't like that!" Badger paused, his heart racing and thudding like a jack hammer in his chest. "I don't want this, didn't ask for any of it *dong ma*?"

"An' they did?" Asked Liam softly.

All the bluster seemed to go out of the little king-pin. Badger sighed and ran a hand over his head, realising he was still missing his hat. Someone would pay for that. But right now his very shiny plan had lost its' allure. When he looked back at the screen there was a weary worried look on his face. "What am I gonna do, Liam?"

For a moment Liam didn't speak, he was watching his brother like a hawk. Noticed he was no longer carrying on the fiction that biting the hand that had fed you when you had nothing was a good idea. "Need to find another way, bro."

Suddenly Badger's look brightened. Liam's eyes narrowed, wary and suspicious. Anything that put that look on his brother's face was like to be bad for everyone else. "Just 'ad me a thought." Badger took a moment to roll it around inside his head then smiled. "Cyan's dead."

"You already told me, Steph."

"Nah, nah, *ni bu dong*. She's dead, see? An' left me her son an' heir."

Liam blinked. "Surely you're not thinkin'..."

"Oh ain't that shiny?" Badger laughed, cleared his throat as his brother glared at him and tried to explain. "She was House Mistress, see? Place called House Madrassa on Sihnon. Big job, ran the ruttin' place an' such."

"How does that help us?"

"Not you, me." Liam opened his mouth to protest but Badger raised a hand. "My *muqin* not yours, either that or you're another gorram lie but I'm not insultin' you this time. What I'm sayin' is that they don't know she's dead yet but if we take the body with us, reckon they'll be wantin' to bury her decent, see?"

"Thought the Guild already knew?"

"Yeah, but I'm guessin' House Madrassa don't. Not yet."

"What good does that do you with her already dead an' buried? Not like she can die twice."

"Nah, place we was hidin' out put 'er in cold storage. Waitin' for me to pay expenses, see? Can't get buried unless you pony up an' I'm outta coin."

"If you're broke how you plannin' on gettin' to Sihnon?"

Badger broke into a grin, blackened teeth showing as he stretched his lips in self congratulation. "I'll wave 'em, see? Be all tearful like, tell 'em just before she passed she was wantin' to return to the House. I'll ask what to do, throw meself on their mercy an' such like. If I'm right they'll send Guild transport to pick up the body, bury her decent. Probably in one o' their own fancy plots."

"How does that help anythin'?"

Badger paused and regarded Liam for a moment as if deciding how much to tell him. In the end it was simple. He was tired of being on his own and with no one to back him up he could do worse than relying on family even if his was more twisted than most. And if it turned out he couldn't trust Liam? Well. He was sure the Companion Guild had a few spare plots he could make use of. All unofficial, of course. What the eye didn't see the heart wouldn't grieve. Or better yet he could open an old grave, add a body. Who'd know? "You let me worry about that. Now. You with me or not?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*deng* = wait *jianyu* = prison *diyu* = hell *shifu* = sir *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dong ma* = understand? *wo dong* = I understand *dang ran* = of course *xie xie ni* = thank you *guai* = devil/ghost *huai le* = broken *wei* = hey! *mei mei* = little sister *hen hao* = very good *shenme* = what *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *duibuqi* = sorry *bao bei* = precious/treasure *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *muqin* = mother

COMMENTS

Sunday, April 26, 2009 6:45 AM

JANE0904


I love the conversation between Simon, River and Mal. The latter two are right - Simon needs family right now, and he has that in abundance on board. Blood family, though, are going to cause a problem. As for Badger ... as much as I want to see him come to a very sticky end, he's very human in his desire to play both ends and be left the winner. And unfortunately, in the real world, that's often how it turns out!

Sunday, April 26, 2009 8:34 AM

KATESFRIEND


Nice to see Simon gets the heads up that he is family now. Badger needs to learn the first law of Karma - what goes around comes around.

Sunday, April 26, 2009 9:22 AM

AMDOBELL


It's taking Simon a while to get the message that he is family now as well as crew but the dime is dropping. As for Badger and his scheming that is one leopard who won't be changing his spots. Thanks for the shiny feedback! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, April 26, 2009 2:29 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


I also loved Simon's conversation with Mal and River. Especially reflecting back to some of the scenes that have been in the series between them. And I like that Badger is still being sneaky, even in lue of his mother's death.

Sunday, April 26, 2009 4:28 PM

SLUMMING


That Badger is just full of mischief, isn't he? Always working the angles in the slimiest way possible! Well done, as always!


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