BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Masks - Part II
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Introducing the crew of Cherokee, to help make up for Road Runner! NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2161    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Cherokee, this is Serenity. How can we be of assistance?”

The screen sprang to life and a man’s face appeared, the worry lines disappearing as they watched. “Mal?”

“The very same.”

“Damn, but I'm glad it’s you!” Noah Thacker half turned his head, yelling over his shoulder, “Jez, get your ass up here!”

Mal grinned. “As subtle as ever.”

“Well, you know what it’s like,” Noah said, leaning forward and lowering his voice. “Jez’s been acting like a bear with a sore head ever since we lost power, and she’s … being Jez.”

“Meaning she won’t ask for help.”

“’Xactly. Wouldn’t even let me beam a distress call until two days ago, when Ida threatened to up and quit if she didn’t.”

“No, she didn’t,” came another voice, a woman this time.

“She did too,” Noah said to the person off screen. “Then who would have cooked?”

“I'm not that bad.”

“I'm not even going to dignify that with an answer.” Noah rolled away from the com, his wheelchair making a slight squealing noise on the deck.

A woman came into view, tucking her shoulder-length black hair behind her ears, her high cheekbones and long, straight nose giving her something of a look of disdain.

“Mal.”

“Jez.”

They stared at each other, wondering who was going to break first.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Freya muttered, stepping onto the bridge and pushing her husband out of the way. “Jez, it’s good to see you.”

“You too.” The woman on the screen suddenly grinned, and it was like she was a whole different person. “It’s been a long time.”

“Nearly a year.”

“I thought it was longer.” ‘Jez’ Thacker, born Jezebel Youngblood, pulled out the stool kept permanently under the console and sat down. “It’s always too long.”

“Always.” Freya smiled. “How are things?”

“Oh, you know. Same old same old.”

“That good, huh?”

“Well, it would be, if Marcel could keep from breaking my engine every five minutes.”

“Oh, I'm going to tell him you said that,” Noah commented from the background.

“Go ahead,” she threw over her shoulder. “I’ve said it to his face. And worse.”

Freya couldn’t help grinning. “I take it you need some assistance?”

“Just a tad. You still got that little wonder with you?”

“If you mean Kaylee, she’s still on board.”

“I’d’ve thought Mal would’ve scared her off by now.”

“Hey!” the man in question complained behind his wife.

“No, not yet. In fact, we’ve had another little addition to the family.”

Jez grinned. “Yours?”

Mal moved in closer. “No. Not this time. Kaylee, in fact. Just a month since.”

“So her and Simon are pretty much worn down to nothing?”

“Pretty much,” Freya agreed.

“Crying, puking, throwing things …” Mal added. “The baby’s almost as bad.” He winced as Freya elbowed him in the belly.

Jez laughed, her whole face lighting up. “I'm sure that ain't the case. But the truth is Marcel’s having the devil’s own job fixing whatever it is that’s blown this time, and he says we don’t have the parts. Something to do with a power router. We’ve been running on batteries since it went, and our auxiliary life support’s playing up too. You think maybe Serenity might be willing to see if she’s got something that’ll do us?”

Mal smiled back. “Considering that mechanic of mine was hoarding parts like they were going out of fashion when we were on Jericho, I think maybehaps we do.”

“Jericho?” Jez grimaced. “Pretty enough, but the folks there …”

“Some of ‘em are okay.”

“I’ll take your word for that.” She looked expectantly. “So you’ll help?”

“A’course. Can’t leave a fellow Browncoat floundering around with their ass hanging out of their pants, can I?”

“Malcolm Reynolds, I’ve never floundered in my life. And my ass is not hanging out of my pants, or anywhere else.”

Noah rolled up behind her, and from the yelp she gave, he’d stroked that particular portion of her anatomy. “Which is a pity for me,” he added.

Snorting back on a laugh, Mal glanced at Hank. “How long ‘til we get there?”

His pilot scanned the details on the screens. “Five hours?”

Noah couldn’t have looked more pleased. “That’s great. I’ll tell Ida to do us a meal. I remember the things I’ve had to eat on board your boat before.” He mimed having indigestion.

“We’re a lot better now,” Freya put in. “Simon’s getting really good.”

“Really? I thought the only decent cook was Kaylee.”

“Just because Hank can burn water and Frey ain't that much better …” Mal rubbed his stomach. “Do you have to keep doing that?”

“Yes,” his wife said.

“I keep tellin’ folk I'm a battered husband, but nobody ever believes me,” he grumbled.

“Prob’ly ‘cause of that look you have on your face when you’re with your better half,” Jez suggested.

“Better half?”

“Well, she sure ain’t the worst.”

“I’ll have you know –”

“You’d better come to us to eat,” Freya said quickly before an argument developed. “If you’re running on reserves, you won’t have enough power for Ida to do anything justice. Besides, we only left Kaylee’s family a couple of days ago, and they made sure our larder was full.”

Noah’s jaw dropped slightly. “Real food?”

“Real food,” Freya confirmed, grinning.

“Do you hear that?” he said to his wife. “Real food. I don’t think we’ve had that for … years.”

Jez slapped him lightly on the arm, then looked back into the screen. “That isn’t right… you’re the ones coming to help us.”

“So?” Freya asked.

“We should be the ones going to the trouble.”

“Next time. And I’m sure Mal will let Ida cook over here if she wants.”

“With real food?” Noah laughed. “She’ll have your hand off in her haste.”

“I’ll get Jayne to set up a table in the bay,” Mal put in. “Seeing as we’re not rigged for chairs.”

Noah patted his wheels affectionately. “That’ll be shiny, Mal.”

Serenity’s captain paused, then asked, his tone just a little off, “You … ain’t carrying anything explosive, are you?”

“Nope. Not carrying anything at all. Why?”

He didn’t answer, his mind involuntarily going back to Road Runner, and the memories of picking up the pieces of his friends after … Freya leaned back against him, her warmth and comfort in his mind, dispelling the images with ones much more pleasant.

He put his hand on her shoulder and smiled. “Nothing. Never mind. See you in a few.”

“Will do,” Noah said. “And Mal … thanks.”

“Hey, it’s what old pals are for.”

---

“There she is.” Hank adjusted their trajectory so they could come up behind the other ship, allowing a hard lock-on with her airlock at the rear.

Mal shook his head. “You know, every time I see that thing, I wonder how it ever gets off the ground.”

“Prayer,” Hank said succinctly.

Cherokee was a converted Alliance transport scow, Pelican-class, bought for almost nothing at an auction after the war by a man who had more money than sense. He’d changed her specs out of all imagining, giving her an overhaul that would have made any other captain green with envy. He’d then gone very publicly bankrupt, and she was sold for running-away money to Jez Thacker, using the last of her inheritance.

Dwarfing the Firefly by about two to one, she had no real space for passengers but could haul bigger loads in the bay on her back. Noah always joked that class should have been called Camel, the way she just sucked up cargo like water. She also had two railguns mounted front and rear, but they were more for show than anything. No-one had been able to find new ammo for them for half a dozen years, so what they had was very precious.

And nobody could doubt the name, either, not with that painting.

Jez claimed she could trace her ancestry back to the Cherokee Indians from Earth-that-was, and nobody disagreed. Mainly because when she claimed it, she tended to be drunk, and have a gun in her hand, waving it around erratically. It was the reason her ship had a full blooded Native American in a magnificent feather headdress adorning her prow.

“Just get us snuggled up all nice and tight,” Mal ordered. “And less of the philosophy.” He walked off the bridge, but there was a smile on his face.

It stayed until he reached the cargo bay, at which point it expanded into a grin. He leaned over the railing and gazed down. “I take it no-one’s in a hurry to meet their friends, then.”

His entire crew – Hank being the only one missing – lifted their heads to look at him, and even David Gabriel Tam, in his sling across Simon’s chest, was quiet, as if he too felt the anticipation in the air.

Zoe chuckled. “I told ‘em to wait in the kitchen, but then again, I ain't the captain.”

“It wouldn’t make any difference,” Mal said, descending the stairs. “It ain't like they listen to me anyway.”

“It’s like you said,” Kaylee put in. “They’re our friends.” She glanced down at the toolbox at her feet. “’Sides, the sooner we get on board, the sooner I can fix her and the longer we get to jaw.”

“Kaylee, this ain’t a proper visit. Just a bystop to help ease their distress.”

“You really think that’s likely?” Simon asked, looking down at the children, all waiting in a group. “You try and drag Bethie away from Laura too soon and you’ll have a fight on your hands.”

Bethie nodded firmly, her eyes fixed on the cargo bay doors.

“Reckon maybe you’re right, there,” Mal allowed, walking across the floor to stand next to Freya. “So maybe we’ll hang around a few hours.”

Kaylee grinned widely and blew him a kiss. “I love my captain,” she said.

“Better be careful how often you say that, darlin’,” he added. “Might get my wife here all jealous.”

Idiot, he heard in his mind, a contented warm glow around the word, even as Kaylee snorted, and he slipped his arm around Freya’s waist.

He chuckled even as he felt a slight vibration run through the deck, knowing that Hank was using the manoeuvring thrusters to get them into just the right position so that from the outside it looked like his Firefly was trying to mount the Pelican-class, and his mind skittered back through the years to the first time he’d met Jez.

Monty had introduced them, at least in a roundabout way. It wasn’t long after Mal had bought Serenity and hired Wash, when Kaylee was still sniffling in her bunk from homesickness.

“Can’t make the drop-off, Mal,” the old walrus had said, stroking his beard.

“Monty …” Mal felt the exasperation building up as he stared at the man on the vidscreen.

“Thought I could, but there’s this sha gua chun zi who thinks I ain't finished a job I did six weeks back, and he’s insisting I come there in person and prove it. Only that’s way over the other side of the system, and there’s no chance of me getting the goods to you.”

Exasperation was rapidly turning to anger. “Monty, from what I hear tell that stuff ain’t gonna last. The vaccine’s time stamped, and the folks on Paquin ain’t gonna be too pleased if we get it there and it doesn’t work. If I can’t get it from you and deliver it safe in plenty of time –”

“Just hold your horses,” Monty said. “I got me a substitute.”

“What kind?”

“A Browncoat. Like us.”

Mal was wary. “Can’t say that makes me feel all kinds of warm and cozy.”

“Just wait ‘til you meet her. Just you see.” Monty had smiled into his beard, like he knew something Mal didn’t.

He had met her, in a bar on St Albans, snow swirling in from outside as she came in from the cold, her brown coat buttoned up to the neck. She’d got another woman with her, introduced only as Laura, and for a long time Mal thought she was sly, with theirs being something more than just captain and gunhand relationship. It wasn't until she propositioned him some time and a few meetings later that he realised he had been very much mistaken, around about the time she bit him on the chest and made him yelp. They only went to bed together a handful of times, both realising it was just a physical thing between them, and it tailed away to a lasting friendship that had somehow managed to survive his marriage, and actually thrive.

That night, though, sitting in the smoky heat of the bar, enlivened by an occasional fight over by the pool table, they sized each other up, and luckily found neither wanting. It turned out Monty wasn't the only acquaintance they had in common, either, and as they enjoyed several, more companionable drinks they not only made the arrangements for handing over the vaccines, but began to relax and maybe even trust.

Standing here and now in the cargo bay, though, Mal could feel a low laugh running through Freya’s body, and he knew she was listening in on his thoughts as he pulled her in tighter to his chest. “Can’t stop peeking, can you?” he whispered.

“With Jez?” She shook her head. “I have to be on my toes, even more than with Kaylee.”

“Now you know I never even thought of … you know … with Kaylee.”

Freya grinned. “I know. You’re too honourable for that. Jezebel, on the other hand …”

He kissed the nape of her neck. “Not a good idea to call her that, least not when she’s within hearing.”

No-one called her Jezebel. At least, no-one other than Noah, and even then only when he was really, really angry with her. It was very rare, because he had such a forgiving nature, but it had happened on at least one occasion that Serenity’s crew could remember.

It had been about two weeks after he’d been shot, something that was entirely his own fault, going into that place looking for trouble because of a row he’d started with her, and finding it in the worst possible way. At least they’d got to him before he bled out, but there had been times in the following few days when he’d almost wished they hadn’t.

They’d met up with Serenity so Simon could take a look at him. The young doctor had said that, if a decent surgeon had got to him immediately, he might have still had use of his legs. He’d stressed the word might, but Jez had only heard the first part, and her guilt grew exponentially. She’d decided to take that job, against his advice, and they’d ended up on a moon with no hospital, no doctors, and no cargo. She was the reason he was confined to the wheelchair because that’s what they’d been fighting over, and nothing and nobody was going to change her mind.

Noah didn’t argue any more. He used to, at first, lying in the bed unable to move below his waist, hearing her ranting, seeing her throwing things, and he tried. He used his not inconsiderable oratory skills to make her see reason, to tell her to stop, to … but she wouldn’t listen.

“How do you put up with me?” she always sobbed out later, when they were alone.

“Not sure.” His always-reply.

“I’m sorry.” She would touch the wheelchair.

“Not your fault.” He’d say it every time, and wondered whether she’d ever believe it.

“I wasn't there.”

“And if you had been, you’d have killed the hwoon dahn before he shot me.”

“My fault.”

“No.”

Eventually she’d fall asleep, and next morning have no memory of the conversation, or at least claim she couldn’t remember. Noah never wanted to try and find out if she was lying or not, mainly because it was easier not to.

In the end, though, one warm spring evening on Calliope some two months after, when they’d set down so that the crews of Cherokee and Serenity could swap stories, and Simon could make sure he was healed properly, he told her to leave him.

In fact, what he’d said was, “Jezebel, just get out. Find someone else to obsess on, because I need a gorram wife, not a madwoman who only stays because she feels guilty.”

She’d hit him. Hard. Enough to make his teeth ring and his jaw ache for days. Then she walked out.

It was Mal found her, sitting in the corner of a bar, her brown coat wrapped tightly about her as if she was cold, stinking of cheap whisky, and crying into her crossed arms. He’d paid the bill, picked her up and carried her back to his Firefly, letting Frey take her in hand.

Mal would never tell him what happened on board that night, nor what was said, but Noah could guess. It was enough that she’d walked back through that door the next morning, having told Marcel to start adapting Cherokee for a wheelchair, and announcing that she wasn’t going anywhere, that he was stuck with her.

And the night they first had sex was mindblowing, when they realised Noah could still feel

Jez had Marcel putting up a complicated pulley system in their cabin almost as soon as the ship woke next morning, and the engineer complained for weeks that he felt like he was colluding in some kind of fetish.

Shaking his head slightly, Mal sighed, making the short hair above Freya’s collar move in the breeze. “It’s amazing the number of people you’ve managed to put together,” he murmured in her ear.

“What?” She glanced at him over her shoulder.

“Breed and Dillon, Noah and Jez …”

“I didn’t put them ‘together’, as you so delicately put it. That was Wash.”

“Yeah, but the way I see it, you put Wash together with Zoe, seeing as you persuaded him to come see me about being my pilot, so I conjure you’re to blame. And you can’t say it wasn't you encouraged Hank to go after her, either.”

“So it’s all my fault, is it?” she asked, as a dull thud reverberated through the cargo bay.

“Surely is.”

“I’ll remember you said that.”

He smiled into her hair. “You do that,” he said so quietly she wasn’t sure he’d spoken.

Hank’s voice over the com broke into the anticipation. “Mal, there’s an odd group of folks want you to let them in,” he said. “You want me to tell ‘em to go –”

River, standing next to Jayne by the door controls, pushed her hand down on the big red button.

“Ah,” Hank went on, used to being pre-empted. “See you’ve already opened up. Be down in a sec.”

There was a groaning sound as the inner doors slid back. Mal let go of Freya and walked past her, past the vibrating children, past his crew, and put his weight behind the small door. With a barely audible popping of his joints, and idly wondering if it was the seam in his pants tearing or a muscle in his back, he tugged it open.

Jez Thacker was leaning nonchalantly against the wall on the other side, and more figures were clustered at her back. “Permission to come aboard?” she asked, a wide grin on her features.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:15 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Great new characters....don't you be killing these... ;)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:40 AM

AMDOBELL


Loved this and nice to have that background to Jez and Noah too. I winced my own self when Mal asked if they had anything explosive on board. Well, can't blame him for being a mite wary. I'm thinking the two crews are going to have one mighty fine feast! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 4:27 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


I really like this new crew and the back story of Jez and Noah. Just don't kill them, please?

Thursday, September 17, 2009 8:02 AM

SLUMMING


Well, it's taken me awhile, but I've caught back up with your story. Very interesting new set of folks here. Eagerly awaiting more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:57 PM

KATESFRIEND


Great new characters that you PROMISE you won't be offing - right? Like the history behind them very much. These are definitely characters with a few miles on them. Glad to see that Simon gets to practice his valuable skills on Mal's Browncoat friends. So what's the story between Mal and Jez? Why the staring contest? Glad to see more story - was starting to get itchy!

Monday, December 21, 2009 6:03 AM

MAINEAXE


Jezabel.. Im likeing her already.. Mal and Jez and ?? Freya?? could be interesting!!
Wonderful storytelling..


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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.

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