BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

MARKOMI

Book of Secrets (Part 2)
Monday, July 23, 2012

While on Beaumonde to pick up their new member, the crew find something else waiting for them there as well.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2933    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Decent kinda planet.

That's how Mal used to describe Beaumonde. As the capital of the Kalidasa system it was far enough away from the Core for him not to feel too trapped there, but modern enough to fit other people's definitions of 'decent' as well. Like on most border worlds the landmass consisted mostly of farmland and smaller industrial towns, but the big cities were populous and well developed, and even though the Alliance presence was heavy, it was easy enough to avoid if you stuck to the right places. The docks were always swarming with people looking for a boat to hire or for a boat to hire them, and like Persephone and Boros it was a great place to stock up on fuel and supplies and look for work and manpower.

The crew had already assembled in the cargo bay when Mal arrived from the bridge, looking alarmingly eager to get off the ship. Jayne was pacing the floor like a caged animal, but paused long enough to throw a look at his captain as he came down the stairs.

"Nice landin'," he declared. "You gettin' better. Hardly felt it this time."

"Yeah," Mal muttered. "It wasn't me."

He sidestepped and allowed River, who'd followed him from the bridge, to pass him. Jayne's face darkened as the realization hit him. "I can't believe you're lettin' her fly the boat," he snarled.

"You just said it was a nice landin'!" Kaylee protested, earning herself a glare from the mercenary.

"It's not unsupervised," Simon added and then threw a worried look in Mal's direction. "It's not, is it?"

"It's not," Mal assured him.

It wasn't that River wasn't able to pilot the ship. On the contrary, she was probably a better pilot than he was. But there were still times when he questioned her sanity. Miranda had changed her somewhat, made her psychotic moments less frequent and violent, but her puzzling comments and irrational behavior was still very much part of their daily life, and he wasn't even going to think about what would happen should she fall into one of her fits of crazy behind the stick. But often when she joined him on the bridge – uninvited and mostly without even talking – and slipped into the co-pilot's seat to use the instruments to override him and then fly the ship for him across particularly tricky parts of space, he let her. It didn't harm anyone, and he guessed it made her feel part of the crew. Gave her purpose, so to speak.

There it was again, that word.

Purpose.

Maybe he was the only one lacking it?

But now Zoë opened the cargo bay door and the sounds and scents of the busy street outside came swirling in and awoke him from that particular trail of thoughts.

"Alright, people," he addressed the others. "Don't stray too far, we ain't stayin' long. We just gonna pick up Zoë's equipment and our new crewmember."

"We ain't lookin' for work?" Jayne asked.

"Nope, this is Fanty and Mingo's territory," Mal replied. "And I'm afraid our reputation precedes us. We are, quote, 'dangerous people to know', unquote. Ain't nobody in these parts willing to trade with us these days."

Jayne raised his eyebrows, but didn't ask any further questions. He just huffed and strapped on the last of his guns.

Mal's eyes strayed to River who was staring at the outside world through the now open door with great fascination. She had that far-off look on her face, as if the machineries of her brain were churning out crazy ideas even faster than usual. "What about you, lil' albatross?" he asked her mildly. "You goin' with your brother?"

Kaylee's reaction to this didn't go unnoticed. Sweet as always she didn't voice any complaints, but it was easy to see she hadn't planned on River coming along today. She and Simon had spent the last months caught in that weird state between the agonizing grief of losing dear friends and the mind-blowing euphoria of being in love. Afraid to cause Zoë further pain they'd gone to great lengths to hide their flirting from the others. That and the strange habit of River's to walk in on them while they were having sex, had somewhat prevented them from spending much quality time together, and the mechanic had undoubtedly looked forward to having her boyfriend to herself for a few hours. Mal's heart went out to her and he opened his mouth to tell River to come with him instead, when Inara luckily beat him to it.

"River can come with me," she said and smilingly draped an arm across the girl's slender shoulders. "I have a special mission she can help me with."

Special mission… Huh?

No, Inara wouldn't bring River to one of her appointments! Mal knew that. And he hated himself for even thinking along those lines. Inara had stayed with him, and she'd made it pretty clear that this was where she wanted to be. As far as he knew she hadn't served a single client since her return.

So why on Earth-that-was was he still thinking this?

She walked by down the ramp, steering River along, and threw him a smile as she passed him. "Stay out of trouble," she teasingly admonished, while a relieved Kaylee happily pulled Simon with her in the opposite direction.

"Three hours!" Mal called after them as they disappeared in the crowd, then turned towards the last two members of his crew. "Okay, let's go pick up our girl."

****************

Zoë moved slower than before. And despite the fact that Mal had always preferred to move fast (land, find a job, move on, get it over with), he found himself being absolutely fine with that. Moving slowly had its benefits. You noticed the details, had time to read the faces, the body language of the people passing you in the street. Time to separate foes from friends… or rather people looking to hurt you from people not giving a damn.

Most fell into the latter category. A perfect example of the kind of things you noticed when you moved this way.

Jayne walked on ahead, but paused at every street corner to allow the other two to catch up with him. Mal saw how his eyes constantly scanned the crowd, always on the lookout, ever alert, and how easily his big body zigzagged its way between the people in the buzzing street, like a predator on the hunt. It was a fascinating sight. He'd always known Jayne to be tactile – gorramit, the man could smell danger in the air like a hound! – but he'd never really seen it displayed like this before.

He frowned. What the hell was this now? Was he admiring his crude, rude, monkey-brained mercenary?

He felt the scrutinizing look Zoë sent him and turned to smile reassuringly at her as they rounded the last corner and approached their destination, a small Asian bar located in a dark and narrow backstreet. The unmistakable sounds emitting from within the building immediately killed any further conversation, though.

Yelling and shouting and breaking of glass…

"A tussle!" Jayne needlessly declared, sounding just a little too happy.

Mal glanced over his shoulder at his first mate. "Don't tell me she's causin' trouble already?"

Jayne threw open the door just as a man came stumbling out through it and collapsed unto the street. Mal had to sidestep and pull Zoë along for them not to get hit, and he more or less unconsciously pushed her in behind him to protect her.

They entered the room and instantly spotted the dark-haired woman in the midst of the fight. She was taller than most people there, the men included, and her long thick braid whipped through the air whenever she spun around to land another blow at some unlucky fellow. Several others had already received their share of beating and lay strewn across the room, whimpering and cussing.

Jayne grinned broadly and started pushing his way through the cheering crowd. Mal decided it was best to stay back. Not that he couldn't do some damage, and not that he didn't want to, but leaving Zoë unsheltered in all this was just out of the question.

He watched as Jayne grabbed a couple of men and quite easily tossed them across the bar, forcing the bartender to scurry out the way. Very soon he'd cleared a path and stepped up to the woman just as she spun around to face him with a shrieking shout.

"Hey, friend!" he yelled and managed to grab hold of the chair she'd picked up and was about to hit him with.

For a few moments she just glared at him. Then her face broke into a big smile. "Jayne!"

Together they dropped the chair at a man approaching them from the side, and then Jayne spread out his arms and scooped her up in a firm, probably painful and yet somewhat tender embrace. He put her down, then kissed her cheek and pulled her braid at the same time. "Good to see ya, sis."

Another patron of the bar tried to have a go at them, but Jayne just knocked him to the ground without even looking at him. "Gettin' to know the locals, I see," he told his sister.

"They gettin' to know me," she replied.

Around them the fighting seemed to be dying away, and Mal decided it was safe for him to step forward and make his presence known. "Miss Jo Cobb," he dryly saluted his new crewmember.

"Captain Reynolds," she straightened and greeted him back.

He glanced around. "You already in the habit of startin' bar fights?"

"Oh, I didn't start it, sir," she said, glaring at a man tending to his bleeding nose in a corner. "He did."

The man scowled back at her. "Ni you bing. Feng-nü."

"Yeah?" Jo raised her fist against him in a threatening move. "You ain't had enough? You want more o' this?"

"Okay!" Mal broke in, grabbing the woman by her arms. "Let's just get outta here before the Feds show up."

She allowed herself to be lead away and picked up her gear by the door; a couple of rifles, a carpet bag and a banjo case. As soon as they were outside and in safe distance from the bar, though, she dropped the bag to pull Zoë into a hug. "Zo'," she whispered, her voice laden with love and empathy. "I'm so sorry. And so happy for you."

A small smile caressed Zoë's lips as she returned the hug. "It's great to see you again, Jo."

Jo returned the smile, stroked her cheek and then went after Jayne. Mal and Zoë stayed behind for a moment to observe them as they made their way down the street. "Really?" Mal said, throwing a questioning look in Zoë's direction. "This is what we want? Another Cobb?"

"Well, I figured since we already had a pair of Tams…" Zoë joked, but then her face turned all serious again. "No, seriously, sir, be fair. Jo ain't Jayne." She watched as the siblings disappeared in the crowd and then added, "Hell, even Jayne ain't Jayne anymore. He's come a long way. Still got a lotta learn when it comes to manners, for sure…" She turned to look him in the eye. "But I trust him. And I trust her."

"And I trust you," Mal said."Come on, let's go get your stuff."

They caught up with the Cobbs at the post office down by the docking area, and as Zoë went up to the front desk to collect her crates, and Jayne came with her to help her carry them, Mal used the opportunity to pull Jo aside.

"Just to make sure we're clear," he said, "you know why you're here and what your job entails?"

"Sure. Zoë'll be off duty for the next six months or so, and I'm fillin' in."

"Hrm, yeah, that's pretty much it." He looked her up and down for a moment. She was wearing combat boots and a grey jacket that had probably once belonged to a man. "You ain't a mercenary in the strictest sense," he told her, "but you know your way with guns and, as you've just demonstrated, how to hold your own in a fight. You haven't seen much of the 'verse and the nasty things it can throw at you yet, but you hunt wild dogs, so I know you don't flinch easily – and you're a familiar face to the crew. The main reason I picked you, though, is because Zoë recommended it. Just wanted you to know that."

"Yes, sir."

"Alrighty then, here's a few ground rules: I'm the captain, Serenity's my ship. You work for me, not Jayne."

She snorted. "You really think I'd be here it was the other way 'round? No boat would run with him in charge. That much I know."

He smiled a little. "I suppose. Just… stay back and watch and learn for a while."

"Yes, sir."

"And don't start any more fights."

"Yeah, he likes to do that himself," Jayne, who just then walked by with one of the crates, teasingly chipped in.

Mal threw him a warning look and then looked back at Jo, extending his hand. "Welcome aboard." She smiled and took it; her handshake was just as agonizingly strong as the first time they'd met.

"How's your Ma?" Mal asked after a moment's consideration.

"Good," she replied, and her face turned grave. "All things considered. Mattie's death hit her pretty hard, even if it was expected."

"I'm sorry."

"Thank you. She sends her regards."

He showed his appreciation by nodding. "She okay with you leavin'?"

"She wasn't thrilled. But she's got Jude and Fergus there to help her out, and other neighbors as well." Jo smiled mischievously. "Town's improved a lot since your visit. The time was right. And I kinda got the feelin' she felt like she owed ya."

With a wink she moved in to help with the packages, and Mal shook the memories of Paquin and Radiant Cobb off his mind and stepped up to Zoë, who was crosschecking the labels on the crates and the stack of receipts in her hand. "You get everythin'?"

She nodded. "It's all here." She stepped back to calmly study the pile of boxes for a moment. "I tried to stick to the bare essentials."

"Yeah, who's payin' for all this?" Jayne grunted.

"Not you," Zoë snapped at him. "So don't you worry."

Jayne chose to ignore the remark. He picked up another box. "Hey, this ain't heavy," he declared. "What is it?"

Zoë threw a quick glance at it. "Diapers," she replied, causing Jayne to look at the box as if it was already filled with poop. "Reusables, which comes in handy when…" She abruptly stopped midsentence and paled. "Oh God…"

Mal frowned with worry. "What is it?"

"I'm buying diapers, Mal!" she exclaimed. "I'm gonna be a mom!"

Zoë losing her cool? This was new!

"Hey, now." He stepped forward to grab her shoulder and look her directly in the eye. "You'll do just fine. I know it."

"What's up with her?" Jayne asked, sounding both bewildered and annoyed. Jo flicked his forehead with her fingers. "Ouch! Hey!"

"Just get the crates," she said, rolling her eyes.

"Don't forget the last one," the postal worker called out to them, gesturing to a package about the size of a shoebox still left on his cart.

Zoë glanced over her shoulder at it and frowned. "I didn't order that."

Mal mimicked her grimace. "Jayne?"

"Me neither," he said.

For a moment they all just stood there just looking at it, a little wary. "Well," Mal eventually said, "at least this one ain't big enough for a body."

Jo's confused "What?" was immediately answered by Jayne's "Tell you later."

"It's been here a while," the postal worker said, and then assured them, "It's addressed to you. To the crew of Serenity." He frowned. "That is you, right?"

"Is there a return?" Mal asked while Zoë stepped up to the package to investigate it more closely.

The man flipped through the sheets on his notepad. "Yeah, … Southdown Abbey, Persephone."

"It's for Book?" Jayne mused. "I'd say that's a little late."

"No," Zoë said. She'd picked up the package and read the sticker attached to it. "It's from Book."

They all exchanged puzzled looks, and as always it was Jayne who eventually said out loud what everyone was thinking.

"How come we gettin' mail from a dead guy?"

*************

A/N: ni you bing – you're sick

feng-nü – crazy woman

Thanks to Alex for the translations :)

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COMMENTS

Monday, July 23, 2012 12:01 PM

AMDOBELL


Love Jayne's comment right at the end, he really knows how to cut to the chase! Also fun to see them meet up with Jo, predictably in the middle of a gorram fight. Can't wait for more. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012 7:14 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Well...at least it's MAIL from a dead guy, rather than the dead guy himself. Though Tracey wasn't dead...right away ;P

Still! Jo's back and she's gonna fill in for Zoe, huh? Well, unless Inara wanted to take over - which I could see if Mal and Inara decided they were better friends and Inara went a bit more pragmatic/ruthless - Jo would be an excellent choice :D


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