BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Jericho Wells - Part XVIII
Saturday, July 11, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. The attack and aftermath on Zoe and Mercy, and maybe an idea of who was behind it. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2054    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“Boys, I don’t know who you think we are, but you’re wrong,” Zoe said, her eyes flicking between the five men threatening her and Mercy, her experience settling on the one in front of her as the leader, but the one at her back as most likely to turn and run if the occasion demanded. She settled herself more squarely on her feet.

“Oh, we’ve got the right ones. Saw you down in the square. Stirring up trouble.”

“We were having a perfectly legitimate debate,” Mercy put in, her voice cracking with apprehension.

“Nope. Stirring things up.” He took a step forward. “Making people question the natural order of things. Making them think maybe there’s another way. That we’re backwards here on Jericho.”

“Well, this ain’t hardly the civilised way of doing things,” Zoe said. “Waylaying two innocent women on their way home? What will the law say?”

“The law?” The man was suddenly in her face. “The law isn’t going to find out.”

The look in his eyes gave her such a premonition that Zoe wondered if she was the one catching the psychic gene now. “Let Mercy go.”

“No!” the young woman in question protested, even though her heart was beating a thousand times a minute.

“Why would we do that?” the man wanted to know.

Zoe’s voice dropped a level as she made the mental leap. “Because we both know I'm the one you’re being paid to rough up.”

He grinned. “P’raps you’re right.”

“Then let her leave.”

“I’m not going anywhere without you!” Mercy shouted.

“You will,” Zoe said.

“Maybe you’ve got us pegged, but the truth is, no-one’s going anywhere,” the man said, his face pulled into a sneer. “Neither of you. You’re both as bad as each other, teasing us, making us think you’re so easy, then not giving it.”

Zoe stared at him. “What?”

He shrugged. “All women are whores.” He flexed his hand inside the knuckleduster.

“We’re not afraid of you,” Mercy squeaked.

He turned on her. “You should be.”

Now, while his attention was diverted, while he was still intent on scaring, not hurting. Zoe pushed Mercy to one side and kicked out at the man behind her, feeling as well as hearing her heel making contact with his crotch. He fell away, keening as he grabbed at the affection portion, out of the fight.

She hadn’t waited, her foot barely touching back to the ground before her fist buried itself in the leader’s belly. Or at least tried to. He was more muscular than he looked, and the impact merely made him stagger, and he brought his own fist down onto her cheek, the knuckleduster splitting the skin.

At first the pain didn’t register, but it dazed her long enough for the others to pile in. There was a kick to her ribs, another to her hip, but she rolled into them, not giving them time to co-ordinate. Swinging her legs out she caught one of them behind the thighs, felling him like a tree into the others, catching him in the temple with her heel and turning his lights out.

As the others disentangled themselves, she took the opportunity to get her feet under her, jumping into a crouch, but she got a knee under her chin for her pains. Her teeth slamming together, she briefly saw stars, then she shook it off, launching herself upwards and feeling her skull make contact. One of her assailants cried out, blood pumping from a shattered nose, splashing her shirt.

“Zoe, down!”

She didn’t think, just dropped, her abused ribs shouting out their discomfort, but the knife meant for her back embedded itself in the wall instead, and she heard the wet sound of a fist getting acquainted with more than one victim. Rolling onto her back, she saw her rescuer, almost blocking the light. “Jayne?”

“Just out for a walk,” the big man explained, tossing the attackers he still held into the wall. They slid down into a heap, out for the count.

Zoe stood up carefully, favouring her side. “Thanks. And couldn’t you have stepped in just a little quicker?”

Jayne grinned. “Nah, you were doing too well on your own. And I'm all for this women’s equality stuff. Means I can just stand back and let you deal.” He saw her wince. “You okay?”

“I’ve had worse.”

“Yeah, some of those hickeys I’ve seen you got from Hank … gorram life-threatening.”

The man on the ground in front of him groaned, and Jayne idly kicked him back into unconsciousness.

Zoe stood as straight as her burgeoning bruises would allow. “Come on. We’d better be getting back before someone calls the Feds.”

“And have them having to explain how come they were lying in wait with guns?”

“Guns?”

Jayne leaned over and pulled the leader’s jacket to one side. “Felt it when I punched ‘im.” There, in a shoulder holster very like Freya’s, was a small snub-nosed pistol. “Just ‘cause he figured he’d rather use his fists on you, don’t mean he ain’t carrying. Something like that’d leave a nasty hole.”

“That it would. And the knife wouldn’t have been much better.” She looked around. “Mercy?”

“Here.” The young woman stood up from behind a trash can. “Are you ...”

“I’m fine.” Zoe dabbed at the blood still flowing down her cheek from the cut under her eye. “You?”

Mercy caught sight of the unconscious and disabled bodies, and her hand flew to her mouth. “I'm sorry. I hid. I didn’t know what to –”

“No, you were right. Best to leave the fighting to them as knows how to.”

She was still looking down. “You said they’d been paid. Who by?”

Zoe and Jayne exchanged a glance, and the big man shook his head slightly.

“Not sure,” Zoe said. “But we appear to’ve upset some folk.”

Jayne looked down at the young woman, seeming to dwarf her. “You’re coming with us,” he said, making it an order and not a request.

“No. I'm going home.”

“It’s not safe for you to –”

She poked him in the chest, feeling the hard-packed muscles not giving an inch. “I said I’m going home. They’re not going to make me leave.”

He was somewhat surprised, if truth be told. She was no bigger than River, even with her extra curves, but she was standing up to him. His lips twitched in respect. “Look, Miss Mercy, it ain’t that. We just wanna make sure you’re still alive to stand against Zoe here come election day.”

“I will be fine. I have my daddy’s old shotgun under the bed, and if anyone comes calling who shouldn’t … well, right now I’m inclined to shoot first and ask questions later.”

He let a chuckle roll around his ribcage. “You got some jing chao on you, that’s for sure.”

She pinked up prettily.

Zoe stepped forward, favouring her ribs. “Mercy’s right, Jayne,” she said. “She can’t let this put her out of her home.”

Jayne stared at her, like the world was upside down. Zoe was usually the first one to offer protection to a body that needed it, male or female, even giving Mal a run for his money sometimes, but here she was being … The penny dropped. Oh, wait. There must be something else. He blinked. “If’n you think so, Zoe.”

“I do.”

Mercy nodded. “Good.” Then her knees seemed to give way, and if Jayne hadn’t caught her she’d have been on the ground next to their attackers.

“Where’s your house?” Zoe asked.

“Not far,” Mercy said faintly. “Up to the end, turn left. It’s got a yellow front door and a Japanese Maple in the front.”

“Jayne.”

“No problem. She don’t weigh much.”

They were almost at the house when they heard running footsteps behind them coming along the alleyway. Jayne was ready to drop Mercy to the ground, albeit as gently as he could manage, equally ready to draw Betsey from under his T, when he saw Freya round the corner, coming to a staggering halt as Mal and Hank almost ran into the back of her. They all three of them looked much relieved.

“Honey, you okay?” Hank asked, hurrying to his wife’s side, touching the graze on her jaw, the swelling already appearing at the corner of her eye, skimming over the cut still bleeding on her cheek.

She winced. “I’ll live.”

“Glad of that.”

She smiled for him. “Just a little bruised.”

“Arnica.”

“What?”

“Arnica. My gran always used to say it was the best thing for bruises. I think there was a year I went around smelling of the stuff every single day.” He was talking too much, he knew, but it was simply worry. “Although it did occur to me that maybe that was the reason everyone kept picking on me, but I couldn’t really tell my gran –”

“Stop.” Zoe’s tone was warm, low. “I'm fine. Honestly.”

“And you’ll be even better once you’ve been poked and prodded by our young doctor,” Mal promised. He looked at Jayne. “Did you do that back there?” he asked, nodding over his shoulder towards the alley.

Jayne shrugged, an interesting manoeuvre since he was still holding Mercy. “Me and Zoe. ‘Bout fifty-fifty.”

“Nice job.”

“Thanks.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Hank was still fussing over his wife.

“I’m shiny. But we’re making something of a spectacle of ourselves out here.”

Mercy fished inside the pocket of her dress, holding out what she found. “The key,” she said. “Let’s get inside. And you can put me down.” This last was to Jayne.

“My missus’d skin me if she thought I was being anything less than a gentleman,” Jayne said, keeping a tight hold. “You just sit still ‘til we’re indoors.”

Freya took the key and opened up. “Come on. Before someone decides to take an unhealthy interest in us.” Everyone filed in and she closed the door after them.

Mercy immediately started to wriggle in Jayne’s arms. “Put me down,” she ordered.

This time he did as he was told, placing her on her feet on the floor as gently as if onto a feather bed. “There you go.”

“Thank you.” Now her entire attitude changed. She became more assertive, making Zoe sit down while she got out a bowl for water, some antiseptic and weaves. As she worked, Mal took Jayne to one side, out of earshot.

“Okay. Tell me,” Serenity’s captain ordered.

The big man nodded, keeping his voice low. “Frey asked me to keep an eye on things,” he explained, glancing at the woman herself, watching as Mercy cleaned Zoe up.

Mal nodded. He’d seen them both, just for a second before Jayne had said he needed to run a few errands, and somehow, after her feeling a mite twitchy previously, it made sense. “Go on.”

“There were five of ‘em. And Zoe nearly had ‘em, Mal,” he said, a surprising amount of admiration slipping from his words. “If there’d been maybe one less, I wouldn’t’a needed to butt in at all.”

“Any idea who they were?”

“I didn’t exactly hang around to go through their pockets.”

“You’re slipping, Jayne.”

“Must be Riv’s influence.” He barely curved his lips. “Don’t mean I don’t have an idea who was responsible, though.” He paused.

“You planning on waiting around until I get too old to care?”

Jayne walked further away, making Mal follow him in order to continue the conversation. When the big man was happy, he spoke again. “As I headed into the alley, I saw someone.”

“Who?”

“That Jarvis woman. The other candidate.”

Mal brought her quickly to mind. Bea Jarvis. Stocky, aggressive, and according to Zoe apparently more than ready to sort most things out physically. “You sure?”

“I never forget a face, Mal.”

“Maybe she was just taking a shortcut herself.”

“Then why was she looking so furtive?” Jayne countered. “Like she was trying to get away without being seen?”

“Do you think she’d pay to have ‘em attacked?”

“I wouldn’t know. Prob’ly have to ask Mercy ‘bout that.”

“Not planning on it.”

“Then I reckon Mercy needs to come back with us. Keep her safe.”

Mal shook his head. “We’ve got things to do she needs not be a part of. She ain’t a member of the crew, Jayne.”

“No. But she’s Zoe’s friend. I reckon that means something.”

“Just like Leo’s little Kaylee’s pal, and they both gotta live here after. Best she don’t get too close.”

“Just don’t feel right, is all.” He watched as the young woman put weaves on Zoe’s cheek. “It’s just a coupla days, I guess,” he added, but he didn’t sound convinced.

Mal gazed at his ex-merc. “You’re really worried about her.”

“She just ...”

“What?”

Jayne lifted his chin defiantly. “Reminds me of my Ma, is all. There’re a couple of captures when she was young. Mercy just ... something about her.”

Mal smiled slightly. “You really are a changed man.”

“Like I said, must be moonbrain’s influence,” he grunted and walked away to stare out of the window.

Mal moved back towards the small group, where Mercy was finishing up. He waited, pondering the situation, until the young woman tossed the soiled water down the sink and stood facing them, wiping her hands on a cloth.

Tucking his thumbs into his suspenders, Mal said, “Mercy, much as it pains me to admit it, but maybe Jayne’s right. It might be you’d be safer coming back to Serenity with us.”

Zoe looked surprised.

“No,” Mercy said. “Like I said, no-one’s scaring me out of my home.”

“There’s no guarantee they won’t come after you again.”

“It wasn’t Mercy, sir,” Zoe put in. “It was me. They pretty much admitted it.”

“And they ain’t under lock and key. I conjure they’re gonna be pretty riled that you got away, and they ended up bloodied. What’s to stop them taking it out on Mercy here?”

“I agree, but –”

“I know we’ve got things planned, but we can make room for one more.”

“Stop talking about me like I’m not here!” Mercy almost stamped her foot in frustration, two spots of high colour in her cheeks. “I’m not leaving my house!”

“Mercy –” Mal began, but she wouldn’t let him finish.

“No. You don’t get it. I have to live here when you’re gone, and I can’t do that if I run off as soon as there’s any kind of trouble.” She shook her head. “I know you mean well, and I am grateful. But this is my home. And nothing and nobody is going to make me change my mind.”

Mal held up a hand, smiling slightly as he recognised his own stubbornness in someone else. “Okay, Mercy. Ain't gonna make you do something you don’t want.”

“Well, good.”

“Except you ain’t staying here on your own.” He looked around. “Where’s Jayne?”

“He ... uh ... had to pop out,” Freya said, then shrugged at her husband’s look. “Don’t worry. I’ll stay until he gets back.”

Mal raised an eyebrow at her, but didn’t comment.

Mercy did, though. “I don’t need a babysitter.”

Freya took the two paces to be at the younger woman’s side, putting her arm around her shoulders. “Honestly? Just say yes. It’ll be easier. When Mal digs his heels in like this it’s better and less messy to go along with it. And Jayne’s okay. Just make sure he stays out of the kitchen unless you want to be eaten out of house and home.”

“Won’t be object?” Mercy asked. “I mean, being ordered to stay here.”

“He does what I tell him,” Mal put in, then added, at Freya and Zoe’s looks, “Most of the time.”

“Then we’d better get you home,” Hank said, putting his hand under Zoe’s elbow.

“I ain’t an invalid,” she protested, but only mildly as she allowed him to assist her to her feet.

“Honey, you get to look after me often enough. Just let me do it this time, okay?”

She smiled at him, the tenderest of expressions on her face. “Shiny.”

“You go on ahead,” Mal said. “I want a word with my wife.”

Hank nodded. “Yes sir.” He manoeuvred Zoe out of the door.

Mal smiled, then slid his arm around Freya’s waist, pulling her against him. “Alone at last,” he murmured.

“Not quite,” Freya pointed out.

“I’ll just ... I’ll make some tea, shall I?” Mercy backed into the kitchen, away from the display of affection that still made her a little uncomfortable.

“Stop teasing her,” Freya admonished.

“She needs to see this is what true love looks like.”

“Is that right?”

“Mmn.” He grinned. “You going to be all right?”

“Jayne won’t be long. Then I’ll be back.”

He squeezed her a little tighter. “Where did he go, anyway?”

“To have a quiet word with those numbskulls who attacked Zoe.”

“They ain’t likely to still be there.”

Freya chuckled. “Mal, you know as well as I do there’s hardly a man around who can out-track Jayne.”

“So what’s he going to do? Put the fear of Cobb into them?”

“Pretty much. Probably suggest that if they even think of coming anywhere near Mercy ever again, he’ll come back and nobody is going to find all the pieces.”

“He really likes her.”

She tapped his chest. “He likes her because Zoe likes her.”

“Should Hank be worried? Or worse? Should River be worried?”

Freya smiled. “Neither. It’s been a very long while since Jayne participated in a threesome.” She extricated herself from his grasp. “I’ll just go help Mercy with the tea.”

“What?” He stared as she walked away. “Wait a minute. What are you talking about? And how come you sound like you know?”

---

Simon was surprisingly complimentary about the first aid done on Zoe’s cheek. “You’re going to ache from the other injuries, probably a lot, but nothing’s broken,” he said after examining her.

“Is it likely to scar?” She touched the skin below the cut.

“I don’t think so. Mercy aligned it well, and if I use some skin sealant straight away, there should be minimal surface damage, if any.”

“No stitches?”

“Not on this. With the swelling already coming up, it could cause distortion, pulling on the ...” He stopped, aware he was about to spout technical terms again. “It will be better and much more to your benefit to use the sealant.”

“You mean I ain’t gonna be able to scare folks with my looks?”

“Not this time.” He smiled slightly, then busied himself cleaning up the detritus of his examination before starting the next phase.

“Damn,” Mal said from the infirmary doorway, having just arrived back and hearing the tail end of the conversation. “And there I was thinking I could use you to be intimidatin’.”

“That’s what you have Jayne for, sir.” Zoe smiled.

“True. Sad, but very true.” Mal’s eyes twinkled as he crossed to the medbed.

“And I for one am very glad that my Zoe isn’t going to be disfigured in any way,” Hank said, holding onto his wife’s hand. “Not that I’d love her any the less,” he added quickly, seeing the expression on her face “Even if she didn’t have all the wonderful bits and pieces God gave her, I’d still –”

“Hank.”

“Yes, dear?”

“Stop digging.”

“Yes, dear.”

Mal sighed at their antics, then glanced at the young medic. “So I don’t need to be looking for another First Mate?” he asked.

“I think you can put it off for a while,” Simon said dryly.

“Good.” Mal leaned down, peered at the cut, then into Zoe’s dark eyes. “Have to say, they looked worse than you, from what I could see.”

“Only thanks to Jayne.” She flinched slightly as Simon wiped at the cut again with another cold steriswab.

“Sit still,” he commanded. “And Captain? You’re in the way.”

“Guess I know when I’m not wanted.” Mal grinned, taking a step back before saying to Zoe, “You can thank Jayne later.”

“Do you think he’s going to be able to get anything out of them?” Zoe asked, noticing Simon take a tiny gun-shaped object from a drawer and slot a capsule into one end.

Mal’s eyes widened, just a fraction. “How did you know that he ... I had to ask Frey myself.”

Zoe shrugged, most of her attention still on the sealant gun Simon was prepping. “I know Jayne.”

“Apparently you ain’t the only one.”

“Sir?”

“Never mind. But to answer your question, yeah. If there’s anything to find out, he’ll find it.”

“So who do you think was behind it?” she asked.

He gazed stoically back. “Who was who?”

“I know you, sir. If you don’t know exactly who paid for us to be beaten up, you’ve got a very good idea.”

“Not sure where you get the idea I have an inkling from.”

“You ever wonder how come I beat you sometimes at poker?”

“You saying I got a tell I don’t know about?”

“Just sometimes. And it’s flashing like a neon beacon above your head right about now.”

He stared at her, but she didn’t back down. “Okay,” he finally admitted. “Permaybehaps I do have something of an inkling.”

“I think it was Cromwell,” Hank put in, watching Simon approach with the skin sealer. “He really hates us.”

Zoe shook her head. “He’s an idiot, but he’s pretty much an honest idiot.”

“Sounds like you kinda like him,” Mal teased.

Chur ni duh,” she said, adding somewhat belatedly, “Sir.”

His lips lifted, even as he ignored her cursing him. “But I agree. He might make life as difficult as possible for us, but it’d be legal. Not something as unsubtle as this.”

“Then who?” Simon asked, checking the edges of the cut were aligned. “This is going to sting.” He adjusted the flow and started to run the microfine nozzle down the raw flesh.

Zoe hissed but didn’t move. “It does,” she commented.

“Sorry.”

“Just get it done.”

Simon nodded, quickly finishing. Handing the gun to Hank, who stared at it nervously, he pressed the sides of the cut together, the sealant bonding the sides until there was nothing but a shiny fine line on the skin itself. “Good, good,” he said, speaking more to himself than anything. “Your body will absorb the sealant over the next few days, so as long as you don’t do anything crazy like getting into another fight, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

“It wasn't exactly my choice this time, Simon,” Zoe pointed out.

He merely raised one eyebrow at her before pressing a clean weave over the top. “Keep it dry as much as possible, and if it starts to hurt, or becomes hot ...”

“I know the drill.” She smiled at him. “Thanks.”

“It’s my job.”

“And I'm not at all sure what we’d have done without you, doc,” Mal added.

“I imagine you’d have been dead a long time ago,” Simon said, clearing up again.

“Prob’ly.” Mal went to leave, but Zoe’s voice stopped him.

“Who was it, sir?”

He turned, looked at them. “It ain’t like I’ve got proof, least not yet, but Jayne thinks he saw Bea Jarvis just about the time you were being attacked.”

“Bea?” Zoe looked surprised, feeling the cut on her cheek pulling slightly. She touched the tender skin around her eye.

“Maybe we’ll know more when he gets back.” Mal strode out of the infirmary.

“Zoe?” Simon had removed her hand, his fingers delicately palpating the area. “Is it painful? I can do a deeper scan, make sure the bone isn’t –”

“It’s just a black eye,” Zoe said, brushing him off. “It’s not the first, and I doubt it’ll be the last. And with skin my colour, it won’t be that bad.”

“Your eye’s already closing from the swelling. I can take that down for you, if you like,” Simon said, already reaching for another piece of equipment.

“No,” Zoe responded.

He stopped, turned back to her. “You might have problems seeing out of it for a day or two,” he reminded her.

“No. At least, not yet. Not until after the elections.”

“They’ll think Hank gave it to you.”

Hank looked affronted, but anything he might have said was stopped on his tongue as Zoe slid from the medbed and stood up.

“No, they won’t,” she said, straightening her clothes. “Because I’m going to make it perfectly clear at the final meeting tomorrow. They’re going to know what their precious Jericho Wells is really like.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Saturday, July 11, 2009 3:46 AM

KATESFRIEND


You sure are softening Jayne. Interesting intrigue with the candidates and the various ways people interpret what equality means to them. Whether equality means repressing everyone who doesn't think like you or just using it to more easily control others - we sure are a crazy bunch of folk. Love this storyline and am looking forward to where you are going with this.

Saturday, July 11, 2009 4:46 AM

NCBROWNCOAT


Zoe with a black eye, at the last meeting. I'm sure there will be words a plenty.

Saturday, July 11, 2009 4:59 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Wow! I hate to be on Zoe's bad side right now. Lookin' forward to the final meeting? Me thinks Jericho won't know what hit 'em...walls are gonna crumble...sort of speak...

Saturday, July 11, 2009 10:11 AM

BRIGLAD


What Angell said...


Top class work as usual.

Saturday, July 11, 2009 11:53 AM

AMDOBELL


I love how Mercy won't back down even if she is a physical fighter she has some steel in her spine which living on Jericho is kind of necessary. I am disturbed though that when Jayne leaves to go and track the *hundan* down and have a word with them Mal leaves Frey with Mercy and goes back to Serenity with Zoe and Hank. I would have expected him to stay with his wife, an extra pair and eyes and gun, until Jayne got back. Don't like the thought that while he is back on Serenity with the others more bad guys could come calling on Mercy and then Frey would be in trouble. I can't wait to see how the town reacts at the next meeting when they see Zoe with a black eye and bruises and she and Mercy tell their tale. Should be mighty interesting. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, July 11, 2009 11:54 AM

AMDOBELL


Ooops, meant to say 'even if she isn't a physical fighter', the isn't got lost among the rest of the gorram keys. Sorry. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, July 11, 2009 2:17 PM

WAKEUPSOON


Go Zoe! She needs to show Jericho the truth of their ways .. my favourite line by far was one of Mal's - “Wait a minute. What are you talking about? And how come you sound like you know?” it made me LOL for about 10 mins straight!!
Anna.x.(:

Monday, July 13, 2009 4:47 AM

FREEVERSE


Oh, I don't know, Anna. I kind of favor "put the fear of Cobb into them," m'self! Beautifully done, Jane!
~freeverse

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 6:28 AM

QUANDOM


"Put the fear of Cobb into them?”

Ah. A nice touch.
Fear is useful.


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“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]


Monied Individual - Part XIV
This wasn’t how an ex-companion did things. Perhaps she’d been hanging around a certain Firefly captain for too long. He listened at keyholes as if it were a competitive sport.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The crew go to the Spring Lights Procession, Mal gives some good news, and Sir Warwick puts in another cameo. Read, enjoy, review!]