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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. Part III: The deal with Badger is made, but with a catch. Meanwhile, a spat breaks out between Simon and Kaylee. Reviews would be lovely.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 948 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Still Flying - Part III
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.
“Well,” River said, mimicking Badger’s accent flawlessly. “Look who finally went and decided to show up.” She turned to Badger, who was staring at her with a large smile on his face. “Told you they’d be here.”
“That you did, Love. That you did.” He said, fondly. “Captain Reynolds, so good of you to show. I was starting to think that you’d forgotten all about me.” He stood and moved around the desk, trailing a few fingers down one of River’s bared arms. “Luckily your charmin’ little passenger hadn’t. She’s a right pretty peach, ain’t she?” River gave a girlish giggle and flashed a radiant smile up at Badger.
“Yeah,” Mal deadpanned. “She’s really something.”
“Do you have work for us or is this just a social call?” Zoe asked.
“I’ve got a buyer for some artwork done by a local artist here on Persephone. Buyer lives on the Bellephron estates and can’t make the trip here for some reason or another. What I need is for you to haul these bits of precious to her estate, collect the payment, and bring it back.”
“Are they pretty?” River asked Badger.
“Not half as pretty as you, Love.” Bader smiled.
This was seriously starting to creep Mal out. He had no idea why River was acting like this. She knew that he didn’t like Badger and she knew that Badger was a low-life. So why in the seven blue levels of hell was River in his place of business, flirting up a storm?
“So, Reynolds…do you want the job or not?” He asked.
“Bellephron Estates, you said?” Mal asked.
“What are you, deaf?” River laughed. “He didn’t stutter!”
“Yeah, we’ll take the job. Just give us the specs and we’ll get everything loaded up.” Mal said, working to control his irritation at River, Badger, and the entire situation.
“Sure. The cargo is in one of the warehouses over by the Bershers Market. Warehouse 5. She’s not expecting the art to be delivered for at least a week and a half. So, you’d have some time to kill, assuming that new pilot of yours knows what she’s doing.”
“She does.” Mal said firmly.
“The price is 10,000 Credits. I’m just warning you, this lady’s a real piece of work. Hope you can handle her.” Badger grinned and River giggled. “Her name’s Shiloh Wu.” He handed River a small data chip. “Lovie here has the full specs.”
“Well then, we’ll go and load up and be on our merry.”
“After our little outing, you mean.” Badger said.
“What outing?” Zoe asked.
“Your girl and I, of course. The Persephone Ballet Company is performing this evening and I promised her I’d take her. I couldn’t go back on my word; that would be rude. I’ll bring her back as soon as it’s over and then you all can be on your merry little way off of this planet.” Badger said, looking like the scrawny, flee-ridden cat who’d got the cream.
“A date?!” Jayne exclaimed. “Yer takin’ her on a date?” He looked incredulous.
“Yeah, he is.” River said, eyeing the others almost disdainfully. “Kind of nice to meet a man who can appreciate the arts.”
“Right. We’ll be waiting. Have fun.” Mal said tightly. He, Zoe, and Jayne left, shaking their heads. They heard River say to Badger,
“Just have to keep them in line, is all.”
They met the others back on the ship. Inara, Lilah, Simon, and Kaylee were still very worried and upset that they hadn’t found River. Mal assured him that there was no possible way they could have found her. He told them the details of what had happened and had to duck out of the way as Simon lunged for him, swearing.
Zoe and Lilah pulled Simon back, none too gently.
“It ain’t my fault, Doc! She was already there and she seemed to know what she was doing. What’s currently escapin’ my brilliant and criminal mind is just exactly how she knew what the hell she was doing!”
“It was when you had your little spat during that fancy party about two years back.” Zoe said. “Badger was holding us hostage, remember?” Mal nodded warily and absently touched his side. “We were all in the cargo bay and River flitted in for some reason. Badger noticed her and she started talking to him, reading him and copying his voice. He tried to be charming and she gave him a blistering set-down. I reckon he took a shining to her after that.”
“So Crazy decides to whore herself out just so we can get some coin? Stupid little girl.” Jayne muttered darkly.
“He said that he was taking her to the ballet, Jayne.” Inara said sternly. “I highly doubt he’s going to assault her, and if he tried he’d be dead before he hit the floor.”
“Girl’s apparently tryin’ to be useful. She’s got a damn stupid way of doin’ it, but we can’t change what she did. We’re gonna let this play out, and then I’m gonna sit down with our little genius and have some words.”
“What if…” Lilah started, then stopped.
“What’s on your mind?” Mal asked.
“What if she wasn’t just thinking business?” Lilah asked.
“What do you mean?” Simon asked, still being held back by Zoe, even though he’d calmed down. “Please tell me you don’t think she’s actually attracted to him.”
“No, nothing like that, really. She told me that she loves to dance and that she loves ballet. What if she also did it so that she could go and see the ballet?”
Simon was silent and then he hung his head.
“It was her favorite thing when she was little. She used to dance all around the estate whenever she could. Her room was full of ballerinas and tutus, along with her chemistry sets and MD surgeon kit and astro-physics encyclopedias.” He smiled at the memory, picturing with perfect clarity his twelve year-old sister dancing around the estate gardens, pig-tails flying and skirt swirling.
“All of this runnin’ away and flirtin’ with that low-life go se is just sos she can go see a bunch of pansy-ass morons dancin’ ‘round? Girl really is feng le.” Jayne said derisively.
“I think it might be deeper than that, even.” Inara said. “River is growing up and she’s starting to think of herself as a young woman. It’s only natural that she’s going to experiment and flock to others who see her that way as well. She’s trying to be a normal girl and she probably remembered that Badger took an interest in her.”
Mal sighed. “I’m thinkin’ of takin’ back every mean thing I ever said about my ‘Ma when I was a teenager. Poor parents.” He forced a smile. “Right. Lilah, you and Zoe are going coming with me to get this cargo. Everyone else, you’re all on your own time until 2200 Persephone time. Zoe, Lilah, start lowering the mule.”
Jayne immediately left for his bunk. He came back, wearing a clean shirt and looking noticeably less armed than usual. He also appeared to be in a very dark mood.
“Jayne, you got some plans?” Mal asked, as he finally joined Lilah and Zoe in mule.
“Yeah. Gonna go and work off some stress. I’ll be back in time.” He strode down the ramp, muttering to his self.
“That is a very cheerful man.” Lilah remarked.
Mal and Zoe snorted.
“Believe me,” Zoe said. “You have no idea.”
With that, the trio took off and went to pick up their cargo.
Inara, Kaylee, and Simon sat in the mess, sharing a drink. Inara had made tea for her and Simon and Kaylee contented herself with a bottle of water. Though they didn’t say anything along those lines, they were all very worried about what River had done. They wondered if they’d pushed her too far too fast. River had been doing so much better, but they worried that she wasn’t ready to take so big a step. Rushing off like that into a crowded area, even when she wasn’t a fugitive any longer, and to someone who wasn’t trustworthy…it worried them a great deal.
“So, Kaylee, when are you going to ask Mal to take you back home so Simon can meet your family?” Inara asked.
Simon went pale.
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll get around to it sooner or later. Ain’t no need to put us out of our way. Simon’ll meet my folks sooner or later, right Simon?”
Simon gave a non-committal sort of ‘hmm.’ Kaylee frowned.
“What’s wrong? Doncha wanna meet my folks?”
“I…of course I do, Kaylee. But it’s like you said, no rush.” Simon tried for smile and failed miserably.
“I don’t believe you!” Kaylee exclaimed, hurt.
“Believe me, Kaylee,” Simon said quietly. “It’s not what you think.” He stood and walked away, shutting himself off in the infirmary.
“Sometimes I just don’t understand him.” Kaylee lamented.
“It will all work out, Mei mei.” Inara said soothingly.
“I sure hope you’re right. Finally got that boy to propose and I don’t want him screwing it up.” She slumped over her crossed arms, resting her head on the table.
“Oh, Kaylee.” Inara said, gently stroking Kaylee’s hair.
Jayne took his usual path to Miss Ruth’s, his favorite cathouse on Persephone. He was in a foul mood for reasons he didn’t want to think on too hard. Ain’t no use dwellin’ on it. Ain’t like it’s ever gonna change.
He arrived and nearly let out a sigh of relief. He entered the business, grateful that the 24-hour establishment had a structure that always allowed for play, given that Miss Ruth’s girls worked on shifts so that the girls weren’t stuck working dawn until dusk and getting run ragged. If it were otherwise, Jayne wouldn’t have bothered with the place; he didn’t take the mistreatment of women lightly, given that he had two sisters, not to mention a few nieces.
He saw Miss Ruth working the bar and he let out the first real smile he’d had all day. She smiled back at him and nodded to the room, letting him know that he had his pick. He didn’t really get the chance, however. A whore approached him first.
She was tall and buxom, with the kind of curves that he could grip and run his hands over. Her hair was pretty shade of dark blond and extremely curly. She had pretty blue eyes and an even prettier smile. He was definitely interested.
“What’s yer name?” He asked, taking in the sight of her.
“Darlene,” She answered. “What’s yours?”
“Jayne.” He said. “Might as well tell ya, Darlene, I ain’t a nice man and I’m in a powerful bad mood.” He smiled grimly as he let her know what she would be getting herself into.
“That’s fine with me, ‘cause I ain’t a nice girl and I can handle bad moods.” She was eyeing him much the same way he was eyeing her.
“Yes, I do.” He said. “What’s your price?”
She told him very matter-of-factly and he smiled.
“If yer as good as ya say, then I ain’t got a problem paying that.” He said.
She smiled widely and took his hand, leading him to a back room that was very clean and built for comfort. He took off his boots and socks. “I don’t kiss on the mouth.” He warned.
She gave a throaty laugh as she started to pull his shirt out of his pants. “I don’t either.”
They took their time undressing each other, occasionally talking but mostly just wanting to get to the touchy-grabby-groping part of things. When they finally made it to the bed and she kissed her way down his body, he gave a strangled moan and let go, freeing his mind of all the troubles he had and losing his self in the moment.
“They call this go se art?” Lilah questioned. “Looks like it was done by a pack of blind sheep.”
“Well, we ain’t here to critique it, we’re here to load it up and haul it. Lookin’ forward to goin’ back to Bellephron, Zoe?”
“Yes, Sir. And hopin’ that there’s a better chance you won’t end up naked in the desert again.” Zoe said as she lifted up a painting and carefully loaded it into the large crate on the back of the mule.
“I’m assuming there’s a story behind that?” Lilah questioned.
“Nothin’ terribly interesting.” Mal insisted.
“Woman got the better of him and made him strip, leaving him alone in the desert. It was when we stole the Lassiter.” Zoe answered.
“The Lassiter? The very first laser pistol? That thing had to be worth a fortune.”
“If we ever manage to fence it.” Mal muttered. “Damn thing wasn’t worth that much trouble.”
“You ain’t fenced it yet? What? You’re just sitting on it?” Lilah asked, identifying the next painting and gently placing it with the others in the crates.
“We’re considering our options. Ain’t no need to rush a thing like this, Ms. Linn.”
“You mean you can’t find a buyer for it.”
“Pretty much.” Zoe said.
“I’m sure someone will turn up sooner or later.”
“Here’s hoping. The extra coin would be nice.” Mal said.
They finished their work, locking up the warehouse when they were done and heading back to the ship. The talk turned to dinner options, given that there seemed little point in cooking when two of their number was elsewhere. Zoe actually suggested eating out, and to her and Lilah’s surprise, Mal agreed.
“We’ll round up what’s left of us petty crooks and have dinner that don’t consist of protein, protein, and more protein.”
Badger and River sat in a cozy little restaurant, one of the nicer ones on Persephone near the Eavesdown Docks. They were finishing up their meal and talking amicably about the upcoming ballet. Badger wasn’t nearly as bad as River had thought he would be. He certainly wasn’t her dream man, but he was nice enough to talk to.
Badger was currently talking to her about Dyton and his hometown. River was so wrapped up in his story that when she spoke, she forgot her accent. Her eyes went wide at her blunder and she cursed herself when she realized that he had caught her.
“Not off of Dyton, are you, Precious?” He said, still smiling.
“No, I’m not.”
“Figured it out about a week after we first met. Imagine my surprise when a fresh warrant for you and your brother’s arrest came over the Cortex and I recognized you. The Alliance’s most wanted – on the boat of Malcolm Reynolds. I’m impressed, actually. That was a fair bit of acting you did.” He chuckled.
“The warrants aren’t valid anymore. There’s no reward.” River said quietly, somewhat wary.
“What would be the point of turning in someone I like?” Badger asked. “Besides, it ain’t a good thing to cross Mal Reynolds, I learned my lesson the last time I did that.”
“Then why go along with the whole ruse?” River asked. “I don’t understand.”
“It was worth it just to see the looks on all their faces. And I ended up with someone to go to the ballet with.”
“We’re still going?” River asked, amazed. “You really enjoy it?”
Badger chuckled. “Yeah, we’re still going. It’d be a pity to have the tickets and not use them. Besides, you’re pretty and you amuse me. Not a lot of people in the ‘Verse who can amuse me.”
River smiled shyly. “I love the ballet. What one are they performing?”
“It’s called Giselle. It’s one of my favorites.” He answered while looking at his pocket watch. “As a matter of fact, we’d better get going if we’re not going to be late. Did you get enough to eat?”
“Yes, dinner was delicious. Thank you very much. We can leave if you are ready.”
River was enthralled with the ballet. Giselle was actually one of the few ballets that she had never seen or danced in. The story was so beautiful and bittersweet. She imagined what it might be like to dance the part of Giselle. The lead ballerina’s technique was near flawless and her emotions shone through on her face.
She looked to her side. Badger was actually on the edge of his seat, resting his arms on the rail of the balcony where their box was. He was watching the performance intently, a slight smile on his face.
They broke for the intermission between the two acts and River gave a wistful sigh. Badger excused himself for a moment and soon returned with a glass of water for each of them.
“So, what do you think so far?”
“It’s lovely. And it’s so sad.”
“I’ve always thought so. The entire thing of it, the grace and the charm and the beauty of the dancing and the music…it’s enchanting. It should be starting again any moment now.”
They turned back to face the stage and held their breath as the second act resumed and were swept away by the story.
The rest of the crew, sans Jayne sat around a large round table in a quiet little restaurant that Inara had suggested. They were as relaxed as they could be with the circumstances that they were in. Simon was staring at the plate in front of him with an expression that could only be called bewilderment.
“What is this, exactly?” He asked Lilah, who was sitting on his other side.
“It’s food, Mr. Top Three Percent.” She said, looking at him as if he were very strange.
“Food?” He asked, eyeing the strange food in front of him dubiously.
“Yep. Chicken that’s been sliced into strips, coated in batter and deep-fried until there’s zero nutritional value left. And in case you were wondering, the stuff in the little bowl next to them is honey mustard. You dip the chicken strip into the mustard, and then you eat it.” She said, smirking at him.
“Thank you for explaining.” Simon said wryly. “Hopefully I’ll be able to wrap my little mind around such a big idea.”
“You never ate food like this before?” Zoe asked, amazed. “Never?”
“My mother would have had conniptions. We were both on permanent diets, River especially, since she was a girl. Nothing was ever fried and our kitchen access was strictly monitored. And after I left their house I suppose it never occurred to me to break the eating patterns I’d grown up with. I’d never even had protein until I came aboard Serenity. This is completely new to me.” He said, and he was struck by how pathetic he must have sounded.
“Well then, Dr. Tam, no time like the present.” Mal said, smirking. “Might as well try it. I promise, if the overdose of fat kills you, I’ll speak pretty, pretty words at your funeral.”
Looking suspicious, Simon picked up one of the chicken strips, dipped it into the yellow sauce, and took a bite. He chewed slowly, closing his eyes. A blissful look went across his face as he swallowed. He smiled widely.
“It tastes so good.” He half-moaned, amazed.
“Welcome to the food of the common folk.” Mal said.
Kaylee laughed, the first sign of happiness she’d shown since she’d gotten into that little spat with Simon earlier that day. And, hoping to give Simon a reason to look forward to be meeting her family, she spoke to him.
“My Mamma cooks food like this at home all the time. Last time we stopped by my folks’ place, there was this huge spread of all sorts of good food. I was half sure that Jayne wasn’t ever going to leave the table.” She said, and she, Mal, and Zoe shared a laugh at the memory.
Simon smiled slightly, but didn’t comment. Kaylee’s cheerful demeanor deflated a bit, and she excused herself to the restroom. Looking concerned, Lilah and Zoe followed her.
“What in your dear and fluffy lord’s name has gotten into ya, Doc? I thought your days of hurtin’ her feelings were over with. I recall a certain conversation that said as much.”
“She thinks I don’t want to meet her parents, and she’s got it all wrong. I do want to meet them, it’s just…”
“It’s just what, Simon?” Inara prompted.
“It’s hard to explain.”
“Well then, you’d best find a way to explain it to her then, ‘cause I ain’t gonna stand by while she’s all miserable.”
“I will, I promise, I just…I have to figure out how to explain it to her.” Simon said.
Kaylee was wiping her eyes in the ladies’ room. Zoe and Lilah were doing their best to comfort her.
“Is he ashamed of me, or somethin’?” She asked, miserably. “I know I ain’t fancy or nothin’, but I’m not a complete heathen. I have good folks! We’re a good family where I come from!” She said.
“Kaylee, no man ever wants to meet his girlfriend’s or fiance’s parents. It’s a man thing. Wendell was terrified of meeting mine.” Lilah assured her. “Not that I blamed him, really.” She added rather blandly.
“She ain’t lyin’, Kaylee.” Zoe agreed. “Wash was extremely relieved when he found out that my folks were dead and he wouldn’t have to meet them.”
“Yepper. Remember that week when I wouldn’t speak a word to him?” Kaylee nodded, obviously remembering. “That was why.”
“Kaylee, a person’s family is a powerful thing. One word given by a mother or a father or a brother or sister, or any member of the family could change a girl’s mind. Some men get scared that they won’t measure up to her family’s expectations. It’s nerves.”
“He told me that it wasn’t what I thought.” She insisted. “What other reason could he have?”
“I’m not sure, Kaylee, but he’ll tell you, when he’s ready. Just be patient.” Zoe counseled.
“He loves you, Kaylee.” Lilah insisted. “He loves you and he would do anything for you.”
“He does love me, doesn’t he?”
“There ain’t a doubt in all our minds.” Zoe said.
Jayne lay on the comfortable bed, calm and satiated. It was as if all of the tension that had been swirling around inside of him had melted away. He hadn’t been so relaxed since…he couldn’t remember when.
“Feel up to another go-round?” Darlene asked, sitting up on one elbow and looking at him suggestively. Her hair was in wild disarray, something that he took full credit for. Her eyes were twinkling and he couldn’t help but grin.
“I surely do, but I gotta be gettin’ back to my ship.” He said.
“Do you really have to go?” She asked, as he stood up and began collecting his clothing.
“Yep. Captain ain’t gonna be too happy if I’m late.” He started to dress, looking at her while he did it.
“And now your body is covered up. That’s a shame. I got the feeling that it liked not being covered up.” She smiled and let the sheet fall away, causing him to nearly groan as he bent to pull on his socks.
“Yeah, well, next time I get the chance, I’ll come back.” He said.
Smiling, he left the money on her dresser, her fee plus a hefty tip. She’d earned it.
“Thanks, Darlene. Ain’t felt this good a long, long time.”
“You are very welcome, Jayne.” She said, laying back on the bed and sighing.
He hated to leave.
I hope you enjoy! Questions, comments, and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated!
Sunday, May 31, 2009 5:50 PM
Saturday, June 13, 2009 6:29 AM
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