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AMDOBELL

HOPE SERIES: 21. "The Plan"
Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Inara returns to Serenity. Natalie goes into labour. The Captain's plan comes together."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2294    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "THE PLAN" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "SIDEWAYS". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "Inara returns to Serenity. Natalie goes into labour. The Captain's plan comes together." 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 PLAN"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Inara smiled when she saw the two of them waiting outside her shuttle when it docked, even happier to see they had the children with them. Kaylee no longer asked if she'd had good sex. Since getting together with Serenity's Captain, Inara spent more and more time on diplomatic missions for the Guild. Whether sex was any part of the negotiations Kaylee didn't ask, mainly because Simon threatened to take a vow of chastity if she did. Kaylee didn't believe him but that small tiny part of her back brain that wasn't a hundred per cent sure wasn't about to risk it just in case.

Simon Tam Frye was more pleased than he could put into words to see Inara again. With the Captain, Zoe and River off to see Badger he had been left wound as tight as a watch spring and that tension had been picked up by the twins. Even Kaylee's considerable charm could not get him to relax and consequently they could not quiet the thin wailing of the babies' cries. Inara immediately plucked little Sam from his father's arms, the baby's crying breaking into little jags that tapered off as he started to settle in her arms. Kaylee smiled happily as she rocked little Daniel who calmed as soon as his brother did. Simon still could not stop worrying obssessively over his sister whenever she went somewhere without him. It made no difference that she was a full grown woman or that she was with the Captain and Zoe. She wasn't with *him*. Anything could happen and his agitation had transferred to his children. Luckily Kaylee wasn't jealous nor did she demand his constant undivided attention. From a big extended family her own self she appreciated her husband's protective instincts. *Diyu*, she felt protective of River herself even if his obssession sometimes drove her to the brink of frustration.

"Hey, 'Nara, good to have you back. We missed you!"

The Companion's smile was a luxury that doubled the value of her beautiful face. A deep contentment seemed to bring a glow to her skin as she fussed over Sam. "I missed you too, *mei mei*, but where is everyone?"

Kaylee's eyes twinkled. "Ya mean the Cap'n?" Inara didn't blush just waited. "He's gone to see Badger 'bout a job."

Immediately the Companion's serene countenance clouded over. "*Renci de fozu*, I thought we weren't going to take any more jobs from him? At least, that was my understanding."

Simon made a face. "That was the plan but you know how well Mal's plans work out."

Kaylee swatted her husband with her free hand. "That ain't fair, Simon. Ya know he ain't askin' for work."

Inara was intrigued as the three of them walked towards the commons room. "I think you should tell me everything - from the beginning."

* * * * *

It felt good. More and more it felt as if his brother was trusting him with the business and now he had something meaty to get his gorram teeth into. Badger had said it would be a big payday for both of them. Something about untold riches and such. Liam took most of his brother's posturings with a big pinch of salt but knew that somewhere hidden in all the bragging would be a kernal of truth. Long as it paid well he was happy. His only complaint was the ship he was forced to make use of. The new fancy vessel he had bought with his share of the money left by Cyan would stay docked and idle while he ran this scruffy workhorse of a transport. Even Reynolds' old Firefly looked *shuai* next to this flying brick.

"This had better be worth the trouble, Steph."

Badger's grin over the aging cortex screen did little to reassure his brother. "Trust me, this is a piece o' cake."

"Then why aren't you doin' it?"

"She knows me, see? Don't wanna give the game away, show our hand."

"So while my arse is wavin' in the wind what's Reynolds gonna be doin'?"

"*Fang xin*, I'll be keepin' an eye on 'im. What could go wrong?"

Liam could list the ways in alphabetical order but knew nothing short of a shot to the back of the head would change his scheming brother's mind once it was made up. Still, they had done alright so far. Trouble was, Cyan's money wasn't infinite and they had been spending heavily. If what his brother said was true they wouldn't have to work again unless they felt the urge to revisit their dim and distant pasts. And the more money Liam had, the more he wanted. "You better be right, bro', or you an' me are gonna fall out big time."

Badger stepped right up to the screen, his face filling the cortex and showing just how unamused he was. "I'm hurt by your lack o' gorram faith."

"It's called experience. I *know* you, Steph."

His brother's face hardened into a look that made Liam quail just a little inside. "Then know this. You doubt me again an' I'll be thinkin' twice about our little arrangement."

"*Shenme*? You wanna do this by yourself be my ruttin' guest!"

Liam always did have a fiery temper. Made Badger look almost laid back in comparrison. Badger's voice softened with an underlying edge of steel embedded slyly into his voice like a tripwire to a self immolating bomb. "Not the arrangement I was thinkin' on."

Behind him, Liam could sense Badger's bully boys stirring as if their boss's words held the code for his own destruction. The knowledge that the mercenaries were not just his muscle for the job but also Badger's guarantee that he wouldn't double cross him cooled the anger but tripled the resentment. Forcing calm into his voice and demeanour, Liam tried a smile on for size. "Just makin' sure, is all."

Badger tipped his hat back an inch with the tip of his forefinger, the glint in his eyes saying that he knew exactly what was running through his dear brother's mind. "Must run in the family. See to your end an' I'll see to mine. Have to go, ta for now."

The blanking of the screen was a temporary relief. Inwardly he sighed and wished he could learn when to keep his fool mouth shut. It was just that his brother always brought out the worst in him. Turning round Liam braced himself and rubbed his hands together. "Okay, let's get this bloody plan off the ground."

* * * * *

The one good thing about the mine was the temperature below ground. Not too hot, not too cold. It never varied and gave an unchanging consistency to life on White Sands. Chin also liked it for another reason. Not only were they out of the blistering heat and sheltered from the sudden fierce sandstorms that plagued this miserable world, they were also out from under Patience's sharp eye most of the time. Might have been with her years but that only made him keenly aware of her capacity for distrust and spite. Didn't matter who in the nine hells she was mad at whoever her eye fell upon would get the brunt of it and it was never pleasant.

Chin watched An-li with the children. Felt pride in her but also worry. His daughter was getting too attached and that was a mistake. Some emotional distance would be needed he could tell but for the life of him he would rather tear his own tongue out than say the words. They had to keep the children healthy and quiet but slowly creeping into his consciousness was the determination to keep them safe as well. How they would do that he did not know but seeing the little ones reminded him of his own children when he had first come to Whitefall hoping to carve out a new life for himself and his family. Patience had seemed stern but kindly enough, put them up and gave them food. He had been grateful and thanked the ancestors for finding someone to take pity on him in his newly bereaved state. That illusion vanished like a bitter betrayal when he found out the truth. Once indebted to Patience he was not the only one paying back the debt. His children and his children's children all followed him into the mine on White Sands. Some weeks they never saw the sun nor felt the wind upon their faces. And now more children were facing a future he had grown to hate even as his spirit was crushed by the knowledge that there was no escape. Even if the opportunity presented itself he knew he could not take it. He owed Patience and honour would not allow him to walk away from repaying that debt but his children were a different matter.

The sound of someone coming bent the old man's back, the small pick chipping carefully away at the rock face, his bony fingers catching the gems as he worked them out of the rock. The basket at his feet was filling slowly but not fast enough to outpace his quiet dispair.

* * * * *

On hearing that Natalie was close to giving birth Inara wanted to help but Simon asked her to stay with Kaylee and the twins. He would call them on the intercom if he needed any help. Not pleased but unable to come up with any viable argument, Inara agreed. Kaylee didn't say anything, her bottom lip caught between her teeth as she watched her husband rush off to the infirmary.

Sitting like an old man hunched over the chair by the bed Paul felt his fingers crush but managed not to cry out. This was the third spasm in as many seconds and Simon said the baby would come any time now. Natalie's face was a mask of sweat soaked concentration, her breathing raggedly regulated by the doctor's calm voice guiding her through the quickening contractions. Outside Hope stared with her nose pressed against the infirmary window, torn between wanting to be as far away as possible from the impending birth and the need to see the child born. Anxiety flowed through her edged with excitement then she held her breath as Simon crouched ready with a warmed towel. Seconds later it was all over. Simon caught the baby, Paul yelled then kissed his happy but exhausted wife. Then everyone was babbling at once as Simon straightened, carefully trying to clean the baby with the edge of the towel once the umbical chord was cut.

In the adrenaline rush of the moment, Paul's babbling voice and Simon's soothing tone, Hope was too overcome with emotion to realise that she had yet to hear the baby cry.

* * * * *

The Captain had to admit that Badger certainly had his uses even if they were usually confined to the shallow end of the gene pool. This time the man had come up trumps. "Where did you get the map?"

The little king-pin gave a disingenuous grin, inordinately pleased with himself for getting one up on Malcolm Reynolds. Oh, how sweet that was! "That's for me to know. Got a plan, see? An' not that *shenjingbing goushi* notion you came up with, neither."

Mal's eyes narrowed, his voice dropping. "Badger, that ain't what we agreed."

Rather than seeming put out, Badger beamed. Zoe had never wanted to put a bullet between the slimey king-pin's eyes more than right now but it was the Captain's call. Badger wanted to make sure that Mal wasn't lying about the mine. Didn't trust them not to cut his share down to a paltry minimum. No. If he and his brother were taking the risk then they would get the lion's share of the spoils. Was only fair. Behind him, six big burly mercenaries backed up just how seriously Badger was taking this. The Captain held back a sigh of exasperation while realising he should have seen this coming.

"Way I see, Patience is waitin' for you to contact her. Arrange a face-to-face then use them kiddies to get you to do her biddin'. An' I know you, Reynolds, you'll fold. One look at their little faces an' what backbone you got'll melt into a slick little puddle. Me? I don't give a good gorram about any o' that *goushi* which is why my plan'll work."

"Badger. Patience knows you."

"Which is why I ain't meetin' her."

"Then why...?"

"Am I here?" Badger had pulled himself to his full height but was still a head shorter than Serenity's Captain, though he somehow managed to act as if he were looking down on Malcolm Reynolds not up. "'Cos I don't trust you. I'm here to make sure you don't cut us out o' this deal, see? An' if all goes well? Then you'll need someone to load the gems."

* * * * *

The baby was quiet, too quiet.

"She ain't movin'. Why ain't she movin'?"

Simon cursed under his breath. There was a reason that he had left Kaylee with the twins but now here she was seeing something he would have saved her from. A stillbirth was nothing to be taken lightly and there were no words to make it less tragic than it was. As Kaylee stared wide eyed at the unmoving child she thought of her own babies, tears quickly pooling and running unchecked down her cheeks etching a river of sadness upon her face. She hardly registered the sounds of weeping coming from Paul and Natalie, everything muffled by shock. Simon had tried everything but to no avail. Natalie had been carrying a dead child in her womb for the last week at least. The contractions hadn't been so much giving birth as the body ejecting the life that had been lost. The emptiness of the womb now echoing in the ship's infirmary in a way that physically hurt everyone in it.

After several minutes of stunned inaction Kaylee looked at Simon. Her mouth opening and closing but no sound coming out. He moved towards her but not quickly enough. With a final sad look towards the little corpse, her body wrapped in a soft white towel that would now be her shroud, Kaylee turned and fled. Simon blinked and held a tight rein on his own emotions knowing that for now at least he had to be strong for Natalie and Paul. Whatever differences they had in the past grief was something that united them all and he still had a duty of care to the newly bereaved mother.

* * * * *

Kaylee ran into the commons room, just registering that Inara and Hope were tending the twins together. Not yet seeing the tears on their faces, the red eyes from crying. "The baby's dead, 'Nara! Born without breath, how can that be?"

Inara bit back a sigh and glanced at Hope sitting next to her on the couch a couple of steps down from the eating area. The girl sniffed back a dry sob and visibly seemed to pull herself together. Kaylee was in a terrible state. Without a word, Inara shifted Sam to her right arm and held out her left. It was all the invitation Kaylee needed to run into the comfort of her friend's arms and bring her own children close where she could see their little chests rise and fall and drown herself in the animation of their living, breathing faces. Hope said nothing, her arms cradling Daniel and holding him close as if the prayer in her heart could keep all those she loved safe from harm. From smallest to biggest, all were precious to her. All were family.

It was hours later before any of them moved out of their huddle. Carefully Hope eased herself to her feet, gently passing a now sleeping Daniel into his mother's arms. The tears were gone but not the sadness. Hope met Kaylee's eyes. "Someone needs to check on Uncle Jayne."

Inara blinked. Hadn't Jayne gone with Mal? "Jayne?"

"Yeah, he got shot by some of Patience's men." Kaylee explained, bending her head to place a gentle loving kiss upon her son's forehead.

"Wait. Patience shot him?"

Hope shook her head. "*Bu qu*, it was some of her men but it's alright Aunt 'Nara, River an' me took 'em out."

The look on the Companion's face was priceless. Horror heaped on top of horror reflected on her face, an expression which was slowly morphing into anger. "I can't believe Mal took you..."

"Didn't." Said Kaylee quickly cutting in. She gave Hope a sorry look then turned back to her friend. "I'll let Hope explain. Daniel needs changin' an' I'm guessin' Sam does too."

Inara's eyes narrowed but she kept her mouth shut, her powder dry. With a nod she waited for the explanation, a look in her eyes that made Hope dry swallow and wish she were a million miles away.

* * * * *

Whitehall was one of the those worlds you registered in the back of your head as places to plot in the sky and avoid unless desperate. Malcolm Reynolds didn't have the same revulsion for benighted worlds as some folks knowing them as lived out on the Rim had little choice but to make the best of poor conditions. Had the planet been fully terraformed it might have been a different matter but it was livable, had a breathable atmosphere and was inhabited by people closer on the evolutionary scale to cockroaches than real people but hey, who was counting? It was Patience's hidey-hole. Her planet. Her gorram world and folks shouldn't be surprised if it kind'a took on her own unseemly aspects.

Right now he was trying not to twitch, the feel of cross hairs on his back so strong that he wanted to peel off to one side, roll over and fire at the unseen threat. That he didn't was more a poker move than instinct. This was, after all, Patience and no one on her world took a breath without her say so. He hoped to *diyu* the plan would work.

"Well, well, you really aren't very bright are you, Mal?"

The Captain stood with his hands hooked into his gunbelt, brown coat flapped back clear of his holster. Clear enough for all to see that he was not going for his gun. He felt rather than saw Zoe off to his side. Knew her mare's leg was calling out to her to wipe the reptillian smile off the old woman's face. It was a face with a slight droop to the left eye, a drag on the left side of her lips. A permanent reminder of how close she had come to a premature death after their last run in. The stroke had frightened her. Fear had turned to anger and then revenge. And, as the history books told, that was a dish best served cold. Right now she needed something from Reynolds and his crew but after that all bets would be off. Both knew it and both of them aimed to used that little bit of wiggle room to their own exclusive advantage. He was on Whitehall. Her world. Her people. Mal knew their position wasn't ideal but when was it? Might be the underdogs but that was what made them mighty. Their ability to rise up and come out on top against all the rutting odds. Even ones as stacked against them as this.

"About the children."

Her eyes glittered. Alive and active with a deep inner glee that was as far away from something wholesome as it could get. Malice didn't get much darker than this. The children were her ace in the hole and Malcolm Reynolds' achilles heel. Gorramit, it had been a mistake to come but how could he not? They were innocents in all this, mere pawns.

"They're safe."

"I wanna see 'em."

She raised her eyebrows. "Don't you trust me, Mal?"

"Not even as far as I can see you."

She chuckled. A dry dusty sound that ended with a creak as if her throat was siezing up. "Play nice, Mal."

"Or what? This ain't a game, Patience."

All humour fled her face leaving only the cunning that was the true rotten heart of her. "Where are Natalie an' Paul?"

"Safe."

"You mean hidin'."

"I mean safe. 'Bout now Nat should be givin' birth." A tiny little gasp some distance behind him almost made the Captain turn but he couldn't afford to break eye contact with Patience. She would think he was about to do something then her men would start shooting. He didn't like to think what had made River gasp.

Patience shrugged. "Then why all the fuss? They can always make more children."

It was on the tip of his tongue to rant and rail at her but it would be counterproductive and he was on the clock. "Let's cut through to the deal. You want me an' mine to transport your goods off planet, get 'em to your buyer or somesuch. We want those kids back, safe an' unharmed, *dong ma*? How much you payin'?"

A look of surprise flashed on her face. "You think I'm gonna part with good coin?"

"Just want fair payment for the job."

The old woman narrowed her eyes, her head tilting back a little as she viewed him under the wide brim of her hat. It was hot outside and Patience had not invited them in out of the sun. Probably had a whole passel of sharp shooters hidden round about. "The children *are* the payment, Reynolds. Take it or leave it."

And there it was. The knotty crux of the problem. "How'd I know you'll honour your part of the deal?"

"You don't."

The Captain waited a heartbeat. "Then the deal's off."

Immediately the sound of rifles and guns cocking filled the air. Patience's men surrounding them in a loose circle. Patience actually smiled. "Mal, Mal. You honestly didn't think I'd let you just walk out of here, did you?"

Instead of putting his hands up or showing signs of consternation the Captain smiled back. Slow and smug, his eyes hardening into that deadly place that meant he was done humouring her. "You didn't really think I came without any back-up, did you?"

Her eyes widened as shots rang out from a distance. Mal, Zoe and River dropped to the ground, rolling and clearing their guns from their holsters to take aim on those not taken out by Badger's men. It was fierce, a deafening staccato of exhanged fire, the dust whipped up as everyone scrambled for some kind of cover but there wasn't any. Patience had chosen the site well but this time she had been outplayed. When at last the ambush of the ambush was over and the dust began to settle, the Captain rose to his feet and shoved his gun in the old woman's face.

"Why couldn't you just be peaceable, just once? You would'a got what you wanted an' the children would be goin' home to their mama." "You have no idea what I want, Malcolm Reynolds!" Patience spat.

He tilted his head. "No? I'm bettin' a bullet in my brain pan is top of your list."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *mei mei* = little sister *Renci de fozu* = merciful Buddha *shuai* = handsome/snazzy *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *shenme* = what *goushi* = crap/dog shit *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand?

COMMENTS

Sunday, January 31, 2010 8:42 AM

AMDOBELL


Sorry for the delay in getting this part up - Real Life kept getting in the way! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, February 1, 2010 8:16 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Very shiny and well worth the wait. I do love the way you make Patience.We didn't really get to know her in the series and you capture the way I could see her in real life. Well done. Last lines are the greatest, and I love the tension building, Can't wait to see where your mind is going with this. Bravo!!


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