The Bouncing Ball Ch 5
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jane 0904 and I are at it again. Next chapter in our little fanfic tale....Cat gets lost?


Chapter Five "So any ideas on what we're suppose to do? I mean besides stand here looking all ..." "Lost?" Cat suggested as Declan shook his head. "Was gonna say unwanted, but lost works well." Looking down at his clothes, he smiled. "Just realized I left my things back on Hera ... future Hera ..." He sighed. "Where ever the good gorram it was that we just came from. By the way, why ain't I gone? I mean this is obviously a time before I was born and ..." "Never are going be here." She climbed into the mule, shifting the rifles and odd weapons around so she could get to her clothes. "And you can probably bum something from Hank or maybe even Simon. Mal ... when he's in a good enough mood." "Hank and Simon I can live with. Not sure I want to be wearing Reynolds' clothes." "Respect him," Cat warned. "Won't ask you to like him, but you want to stay here, you will respect Malcolm Reynolds. Your daddy always did." "His daddy always did what?" Mal spoke as he dropped down from the steps to the common area, Cat looking at Declan with the order of keep quiet oozing from her eyes. She hoped the boy was a bit smarter than his father. "Thanks ... for letting us stay," Declan managed before deciding whether to go on and brave Cat's wrath or just let her deal with it. "Am I?" Mal asked in turn. "Uh ... you're not?" "Yeah, well, maybe I am." "Then ... thanks." Declan headed towards the back end of their mule, mumbling something about hot tempered women and the trouble they could get a man into. Mal looked at Cat. "Still, it ain't my choice, but the land back there's pretty much burned to nothing. And there are still places we got to go. Badger I'm thinking might know what to do with you. Leave you off at Persephone. Better that way." He cast a glance at her, but didn't hold a stare. Cat could smell the fresh stitches to his bullet wound, relief escaping from her in the form of a sigh. At least, Freya seemed to take care of him well enough. "But, ain't it a pile of rubble too ... I mean the war ..." Declan interrupted and then Cat's hand raised. "Oh ... right. Never mind." "Reason for that?" Mal asked and Cat shook her head. "Jumping universes can throw you, especially first timers." Shaking her head, she sighed. "Wherever you need to drop us is fine. Batha and I are plenty resourceful, and Declan ... him too, I guess." "Ain't gonna fight me? Tell me 'bout that mission of yours and how I got things need doing." "Already made that clear. Can't make you listen. Not my job." Returning to her project at hand, she left the captain standing there for a few seconds before he sighed. "Only got one room open so hope you three don't mind sharing." That wasn't entirely honest, but his conversation with Freya had wound Mal up a little more than anticipated, and while it was true that the other guest rooms weren't made up, it wouldn't have taken much to make them habitable. Still, maybe it made things a little better knowing they were going to be as uncomfortable as he felt. "Not a problem. If it gets too cramped, I'll sleep in the mule." It had been where she usually slept when making jumps. Of course, that was because she and the panther didn't have the option of a bed. 'Like dark.' Batha stated, her green eyes staring up at where their hammock usually hung. 'Like high place.' 'I know, but this ain't our ship and I don't plan on being here long enough to make her ours.' Cat knew how the beast felt, but they were already pressing boundaries with Mal. Didn't need to add any more to the pile. 'Miss home. Miss Kitty.' Walking toward the middle of the bay, Batha flopped down with a flick of her long thick tail. Mal raised his eyebrow in query, and Cat said quickly, "Excuse her, she's just..." "Difficult?" Mal injected as the tail slammed hard on the grates. 'No more than you.' Batha rumbled. 'I listen.' "Batha." Cat chastised. 'No guts. Reason others died.' Closing her eyes, Cat felt the panther bring up her walls, knowing she wanted to be left alone. Looking at Mal, the red haired woman knew the last part of her panther's speech was only shared with her. One less thing right now to explain. "So Badger's still on Persephone?" Cat said, working herself off the subject with Mal, noting both his uneasiness as well as her own. A nod from him made her shake her head. "I'd've thought some low life did him in. Only fitting, mind you." "Believe me, it's been a struggle not to be that low life my own self, but sometimes he comes up with the goods. And since he has a lot of grubby fingers in equally grubby pies, he might know what's going on." "I told you -" "Yes, I know. But I ain't so stupid as to just take your word for it, tattoo or no." "Fine." She exhaled heavily. "It's your funeral." "It usually is." His lips twitched. "And I'm just wondering how you come to know Badger?" he asked casting a glance to one of the heat rifles Declan was stowing out of sight amongst the crates and cages along the walls. "My 'verse, we go back a long ways. Close to friends as one can be with a man who's promised to kill you first chance he gets." Mal made a scoffing noise through his nose. "Badger's not my friend." "Wasn't in my 'verse either. You and he had an ... understanding." She smiled at the thought. "An understanding. Right. That'd be the kind where he tries to sell me out on a regular basis, and I consider hangin' him up for the vultures." He shook his head. "And why did you call him a friend?" "Because for a time before I came to Serenity, I ran in a completely different circle." "Ain't a good one if it had Badger at the head?" Cat could hear Declan huff angrily, but didn't acknowledge it. Instead she said, "Men do funny things when all that's left to their lives is what's on their back. My husband was one of them. He did what was needed even if it wasn't legal, especially if it fucked with the Alliance." "Sounds to me like he was a good man." "No. 'Ski was a great man. There's a difference." Reaching inside the mule one last time, Cat caught the slight grin on Declan's face as she nodded. She then turned back toward Mal with her large bag in hand. "Now, which way did you say that room was?" "Just out the back, through the common area." Mal glanced at Declan. "Except if you're planning on keeping those weapons, you're gonna be putting 'em somewhere a bit safer than in amongst my crates." He crossed to the wall, leaning on a section. Something clicked and a piece slid out. He lifted it free and stepped back. "I'd rather we spaced 'em, but if we run across any Alliance patrols, I don't intend to be caught with my pants down." “You mean like on Bellerophon?" Cat asked slyly. His eyes narrowed. "What do you know about that?" "I thought you understood. The more things change ..." "Yeah." He shook himself, aware of something in her green-eyed gaze that seemed to stroke up and down his spine. "Anyways, I've a notion those damn guns ain't worth the metal they're made of, but you can stash 'em in there." But I just got done hiding them!" Declan protested, but the words died in his throat at a look from Cat. "Fine," he fairly spat. "Like I didn't get enough exercise today anyway." "And when you've got done with that, there's a few rules I need to go over ..." Declan sighed, but grabbed the weapons and headed towards where the Captain stood. 'Reaver Chow problem,' Batha commented from a corner where she had dragged the boar out of sight. 'Reaver Chow? You mean Declan?' Cat questioned. 'Reaver spawn sounds wrong.' 'Whatever. Declan's fine. Just a little too much like his dad.' 'More like mom. Runs hotter. Captain man too.' 'I noticed. Not as calm, but then in our world Mal knew what you and I could do. Not so much here.' 'Must learn. All do. Or mission fail.' 'Yes, Bat. I know. Don't need to remind me. Can't make them trust me. None of them..'. Cat's mind moved to Declan. 'Dad was easier.' 'Reaver had reason. Chow not.' 'Make sure you finish all that boar. Don't need another thing for Mal to complain about.' She changed the subject as a sigh echoed in her head. 'Avoid stupid. Will bite later.' The snap of a leg bone rattled across the bay. 'Not much left. Want some?' 'No. I'll eat what dried meat we have left. Easier on my stomach after the jump.' 'Need human interaction. Dinner.' 'Not yet. Give it another day before I expose myself to this family. Can't keep it, remember?' 'Yes. Remember.' Cat's mind fell silent as the panther went back to eating. ===================== Declan sighed as he headed forward in the ship, looking for a possible clothing donor. His shirt had become rather dirty from moving the rifles and although a good wash in the sink would fix it right up, walking around shirtless while it dried wasn't something he wanted to explain. Glancing up towards the bridge, he could see Mal sitting in the pilot's chair, and, no matter what Cat said, he just couldn't bring himself to ask the captain for a loan. Turning the other way there was movement in the red-hued engine room - Kaylee, most likely - and his feet made the decision as he started towards her. In all the stories, she'd been the most approachable, the one least likely to send him off with a flea in his ear, so maybe she'd be able to help with the shirt problem. He stepped down into the kitchen, but had to stop for a moment, feeling the past washing over him. This was it, the centre of Serenity. The flowers painted on the pipes, the soft glow from the lamp, even the big old table ... He ran his fingers over the wood grain, wondering at the number of plans that had been made here, the meals taken, the laughter and the - "Hey, need something ... Declan, right?" He turned to see the pilot standing behind the counter with a cup of coffee in one hand, a paperback book in the other. Declan nodded. "Ya, that's right. And you're Hank ... Zoe's husband." "Been called worse, but that's me." A smile told Declan the man had only been kidding. "What you need?" "Feel bad asking, but ... think I could get a set of clothes from you? Just a shirt and a pair of pants until we get somewhere I can buy some new." "Sure." Hank grinned. "We're much of a size, but I draw the line at lending you my underwear." "I ... think I can manage on that score." Hank chuckled. "Shiny. Come on with me." He put his cup and book down on the table, and led the way back towards the bridge, stopping at an open hatch. "Give me a sec." Dropping down the ladder, he kept on talking. "We've got laundry facilities, and Simon's pretty good at getting out blood, so you can keep yourself clean, at least." "Thanks." Declan laughed lightly. "I hadn't actually considered I'd be taking a trip when I woke up this morning." Or whenever the hell that morning had been, he added silently. "Kaylee'll probably be getting you out a coupla towels, and there's the guest head just around the corner from your room. We're a little low on water for showering, so I'd stick with a wash for the mo. Soon as we hit Persephone I'll link Serenity up and get the tanks refilled." "That's fine." "Mind, then you won't be able to get away from Jayne in there, singing love songs." "Jayne? Jayne Cobb Jayne?" Hank's head popped back up and he climbed into the corridor. "Yeah. Kinda freezes the blood, don't it?" Remembering some of the tales his father had told, it certainly did. He changed the subject. "So ... what do you do for fun around here?" Declan asked. "You know, in the long evenings." Hank laughed as he handed over two t-shirts and a pair of pants. "Pretty much each evening is long, being out in the Black." He leaned on the wall, prepared to chat for as long as he could get away with it. "You been out for long periods?" "Yeah. My family has a ship." "Oh, then you know all about it." "No kids on board, though. Not since we were young." "No, well, that does make a difference." Hank crossed his arms. "Well, there's the Cortex, a'course. Although Mal don't like us using that too much, in case they've figured a way of tracking us through it. Then I've got my library, and -" "Library?" If possible Hank became even more animated. "Oh, if you like reading you'll love these. I've got hundreds. You ever heard of Milla Cardoza?" "I ... think so." "I've got all her works, right from when she first started out. My favourite's Dead Sea Rising - have you read it?" "Ah, no." "I'll get it out for you." "Oh. Thanks." "And there's always Jayne's weights out in the bay if you get really bored." "Sounds ... good. But don't you ever do anything like, I don't know, play cards?" A shadow passed over Hank's face. "Well, the others do, but I don't. Not no more." "Why not?" "I just don't." Realising this was a touchy subject for some reason, Declan just nodded. "Anyway, thanks for the clothes." "You're welcome. If you need anything else, just ask." "I will." Hank grinned and headed back towards the kitchen, whistling. Declan walked slowly to the stairs, his arms full of borrowed clothes, shaking his head. Just a day before he'd been wondering what he was going to do with his life, about to say goodbye to his parents for the last time, and now ... here he was on a ship that shouldn't be able to fly, with a crew half of whom were dead, a captain who was about as leng xue as they come, and a woman who looked more gorgeous than should be legal ... oh, and a man who liked trashy romance novels. "Ya yu min ren," he murmured to himself. "I'm never gonna make it to Persephone alive." === Batha rolled on her back and looked up into the superstructure. She might have been born in a lab, but her DNA was just calling out for somewhere high to sleep on. And directly above her was a small maintenance platform with a ladder leading right up to ... Something tickled her nose and she was immediately on guard, back on her feet and tasting the air. Something was coming. Her ears pricked forwards as she heard the unmistakeable sound of claws on metal, and she stared at the doorway to the common area. Cat, who had been taking a somewhat illicit tour of the ship, stepped through the top hatch. "Batha?" she said softly, recognising the tension in the panther's sleek lines. "Batha, don't ..." She ran down the stairs. Her companion ignored her as she concentrated fully on ... a dog? A little dog stepping over the sill, legs stiff, back ridged with upright fur. Batha stared at the small brown animal, who growled at her and advanced slowly, head low. One good swipe, that’s all it would take. One swipe and – Something sleek and grey shot between them, and Batha felt half a dozen pinpricks erupt on her nose. Maoli hissed. 'Cousin.' The big cat grumbled as the claw marks on her nose slowly healed themselves. Tossing a look at the dog and then back to the cat, Batha bent her head lower than both, her chin brushing the hull. 'Your territory. Just visiting.' Cat stared down at the pets, placing a hand on Batha's back. It was almost amusing to see the animals in Mal's Serenity, considering his reaction to the panther. Still, they looked right as the pair defended their home from the big intruder. 'Not the only one.' Her thoughts were interrupted by her companion as a wet nose on Cat's hand along with a pair of paws on her leg alerted her to the dog's scrutiny. 'Doesn't know what to think,' she echoed back as the small cat circled them all, even as she absently fondled the dog's ears. 'Not human, not cat. Both.' Batha huffed gently. 'Confusing to small minds.' 'Sadly, big minds have a challenge with the concept as well.' 'Only when not open.' Something moved near the front of the ship, a gasp that made the panther's ears perk. 'Cubs.' 'Be careful. This isn't our home, not our people.' Cat knew Batha would never hurt a child, having seen it first hand on her Serenity, but here was different. These people didn't know her companion and a three hundred pound panther next to a fifty pound kid was more than a little unsettling. 'Never hurt cubs.' It was a statement, nothing more, and Cat took it as such. Arguing with her was of a wall, only thing was sometimes Cat actually won against the wall. A child of about eight years old tumbled through the door to the common area, her long honey-coloured hair caught in a messy pony-tail. She was dressed in a pair of shorts that her mother probably thought she'd grow into, and a t-shirt that proclaimed she was Princess Persephone, however unlikely, while the reason for her sudden appearance clustered around the hatchway. Maybe half a dozen other small children were trying to hide but see as well. "Hi," Cat said. "Fiddler," the little girl said. "What?" "Fiddler!" she said again, this time stamping her foot. The dog whined softly. "Fiddler ..." The small animal almost sighed, but slunk back towards his mistress, who picked him up and handed him to a boy behind her. "Sorry," she said, smiling warily at Cat. "He was just 'tecting us." 'Forgiven.' All the girl's attention returned to the panther, as if she'd known it wasn't Cat who dropped the word into her mind. "Oh." She took a step forward towards the huge feline. "My name's Bethie. Bethany really, but everyone calls me Bethie. Or short stub." 'Or Princess?' She giggled. "Sometimes." Her foot began to roll. "I like you." Cat was amazed. Most children would have run from Batha, particularly having 'heard' her, yet here this Bethie was, being more friendly than anyone yet. 'Like you.' Batha watched the little girl, and something in her twisted. Kitty, she thought, an ache in her belly that wouldn’t go away. She moved silently toward her, her pads not making a sound on the deck grating. It had been years since the big cat had felt little arms around her, had chased down little legs, and heard the squeal of a girl under her as she tickled a face that smelled of dinner with her long whiskers and rough tongue. 'Batha,' Cat warned. 'We can't stay. You get too attached and you know what it's going to be like when we leave.' Batha ignored her as something pulled the big panther to the little girl, and as hard as it would be to say goodbye, she needed this. A sound on the walkway above made Cat tense, turning to the possibility of a new danger, her claws lengthening, fangs ready to bite and tear and ... It was Kaylee. "Bethie?" The young mechanic crossed to the edge. "Come on, it's time for ..." She stopped, her knuckles whitening as she gripped the railing. Now Cat understood. Why Bethie's scent seemed so familiar. "Batha ..." The panther took no notice. Her mind was on the fact that the girl smelled of food, of the medicine man and the engine girl, but it was another scent that caused her to huff gently. She smelled of flowers. Kitty always smelled of flowers from the big merc's gifts. Each quiet step drew her closer, and it was as if no one else was looking as the girl waved at the big cat. “Be my friend?” Bethie said. Kaylee’s hand flew to her mouth. She almost fell down the stairs in her haste, but it was too late. Batha reached out, sniffed Bethie’s hand, then ran her tongue across the back. Bethie giggled at the roughness, and all at once buried her face in the thick, black fur. Nobody could deny the contented and satisfied sigh that echoed in their heads and the deep melodic purr that resounded in their ears. "Ai ya," Kaylee whispered, her knees weak, just managing to hold herself together by clinging to the handrail. After hugging Batha for a little bit longer, the little girl looked up into Cat's green eyes. "Is she yours?" "In a way." Cat smiled, fangs showing. Younger than Kitty, the child looked so much like her mother. Standing for a moment, she held out her small hand. "I'm Bethie." Taking her hand, Cat felt something inside her break. She missed Kitty, the little girl who ran all over the ship driving everyone crazy. "Name's Cat." A small laugh escaped her lips as Kaylee moved to say something to her, but Cat raised her hand. "Something funny about my name?" "Yes." She giggled. "Well, it is slightly funny and 'fore you ask, no, I haven't got a tail." Even Kaylee couldn't help but laugh as her daughter took a look behind the woman, just to make sure. ==== "What's all the fussing about?" Mal asked as he stepped through the top hatch. Zoe and Hank were standing at the railing, both of them looking down. "You might want to take a look at this, sir," his first mate said. He moved next to her. "Look at ..." His jaw dropped slightly. "What the hell ...?" Below them, on the bay floor, Bethie was down on all fours, pretend-growling, while Batha patted at her with her huge paws. "I think it's sweet," Hank said. "Not the word I was looking for." "Didn't you ever want a cat when you were a kid?" "Baby, not now," Zoe murmured, seeing the vein starting to throb on her captain's forehead. "Hadn't you better go check our course?" For once Hank took the hint, and he pressed his lips briefly to her cheek before disappearing towards the bridge. Mal was still staring down, an odd look on his face. "Well, that's ... not something I ever thought I'd see." "Not even when we robbed that circus on Dido?" his first mate asked, smiling slightly. "That girl was a coupla decades older'n Bethie. And she had a whip." He unconsciously rubbed at the faded scar on his thigh. "Damn tiger." "Does Freya know about her, sir?" "The girl? Or the tiger?" "Either. Both." "It was one night," Mal protested, but not loudly. "And I figured you could get the goods while I kept her occupied." "It didn't work out quite that easy, sir." "No, it didn't." He sighed. "Plans have a tendency to make their own endings." Zoe's smile widened a little. "That they do, sir." "I thought I was gonna get eaten." At Zoe's raised eyebrow he quickly went on, "By the tiger." "Of course, sir." "I didn't figure it wanted to play with me." He gazed back down into the bay, and this time his expression had softened. "Every little girl's dream," he added so quietly she wasn't sure she'd heard him right. "You conjure she's safe down there?" he went on in a more normal tone. "With a panther?" "True. 'Cept I don't want to be the one who says she can't." Mal leaned on the railing. "I'm kinda fed up being the bad guy around here." "Sir." Zoe nudged him and pointed down beneath them. He stared through the grating. "Ah. Right." Kaylee was sitting on one of the crates, her elbows on her knees, just watching, a wistful smile on her face. Cat herself was standing close by, her thumbs caught in the top of her pants. She wasn't exactly grinning, but it was close. "If anything was likely to happen, I think Kaylee would throw herself into the lion's den first. Or cat's mouth." 'Not cat.' Mal's eyebrow raised, just a millimetre. "You know, I've gotten used to the Readers on board dropping their little thoughts into my mind, but I still can't adjust to an animal doing it." "Are you afraid of what Maoli might say to you?" Zoe asked. "Nope. Me and her've got a good working relationship." He could have added, but didn't, that he looked forward to the grey cat joining him on the bridge when he had the late watch, laying across his lap and purring whilst he stroked her back. "And I wouldn't worry overly, sir," Zoe added, nodding towards the doorway of the shuttle. "I don't think Jayne's going to let any harm come to his short stub." Indeed, the mercenary was lurking in the entrance to the small craft, as conspicuously armed as he had been since the strangers stepped on board. "Somehow I don't think Cat's gonna be too pleased if he shoots her pet." 'Could try, but fail.' Annoyance followed after. Captain man watch mouth. 'Not pet. Tiger stupid. I eat you.' Mal dropped his gaze again at the mental touch, but somehow couldn't quite equate the description with the animal currently rolling on her back having her chest thoroughly scratched. "I think she's got the measure of you, sir," Zoe said drily. "You can be replaced." "You think?" He narrowed his eyes at her, then sighed. "Go on. Say it." "What, sir?" "Whatever you've been dying to say since you knew they were on board." Zoe didn't respond for a moment, just leaned on the railing next to him, her hands held loosely together. "You don't trust them, sir." He shook his head slightly. "Honestly, Zoe, no I don't." "Even after they saved our lives." "I'm grateful, but that ain't the same as giving 'em free range." "Then you need to talk to Cat." "I have done." Mal's mouth tightened into a line. "Half of what she says I don't believe, and the other half makes no sense either. Jumping from one 'verse to another ... it sounds like something out of one of Hank's novels." "We live in a spaceship, sir." "And you've used that line before. It don't make it any easier." "Sir, the things we've seen, dealt with ... that AI ship, the Anti-Pax, Reavers, Miranda ..." She felt her heart stutter as it always did when she thought of Wash, and she pushed it down, like she always did. "There are more things in heaven and earth ..." He couldn't help it. He smiled. "You been reading Shakespeare?" "I just think Frey's right. Even I can feel it, and no-one's ever suggested I have any psychic potential. They're important to us, just like we're important to them. Especially if it's as an enemy." "So you think I should talk to 'em." "To Cat, yes. I get the impression Declan is just along for the ride." "You know, he reminds me of someone." "A wet behind the ears soldier, up to his pretty neck in something he doesn't understand?" she suggested, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "You think my neck's pretty?" "I never said it was you, sir." She straightened up. "And Bethie's not the only one." "Huh?" She nodded towards the bay floor. "Shit." "Exactly." Below them the little Tam had been joined by the other children, clustered around the panther, obviously dying to touch but afraid to. 'Princess?' Batha inquired. "S'my family," Bethie said, grinning. "Serenity family." 'Cubs.' Bethie giggled. "Cubs," she agreed. 'Play?' Ethan grinned. "Can we?" he asked, his hand reaching out to touch her fur. 'Play!' She grabbed him in her huge paws, claws sheathed, and rolled over, taking him with her until he was lying on her stomach, breathing in her breath as he laughed, and suddenly it was difficult to tell where the panther stopped and the children began. Mal made his fingers relax from their death grip on the railing. "Well ..." he managed to say. "Yeah." Zoe moved her own hand from her Mare's Leg, then glanced down at Cat, and for a moment thought she saw an expression of longing on the beautiful woman's face. Then it was gone, replaced by resignation. "Talk, sir," she added. "And soon."


AN: thanks everyone from both Jane and I. We really appreciate your comments and taking the time to read.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010 12:15 PM


Oooh, I'm thinking it's going to be mighty hard when it comes time for Cat, Declan and Bantha to leave and I just love Bantha with the children! Bethie could melt the heart of a stone lion. Very shiny, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 1:07 PM


So…Cat and Batha and Declan are making friends on another Firefly in another verse…..can’t say that I blame them, though the reoccurring idea from Cat here seems to be “ Don’t get close!”

I do smell blood in the air.. ;) not sure who’s or how much, but certainly enough to make a mess. I like the interaction between to folk aboard Serenity….which makes it more troubling if something were to happen to someone I really like.

Awesome story Angelle and Jane……keep ’em coming…Z-BP

Thursday, October 14, 2010 10:43 AM


Setting up an interesting dynamic between folk... can't wait to see how it goes wrong...


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