Book of Secrets (Part 5)
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.


It was a strange thing, the captain heading off to do business without her. Zoë watched him go with a surge of…

Was it sadness?

She guessed one could call it that. A feeling of emptiness, like she didn't really know what to do or where to go. Back when Wash had been alive she'd loved the rare day off, when the two of them could slip off to somewhere or maybe just lock themselves away in their room. But now when he was gone, she had no idea what to do with her time. And she knew she would have a lot of it in the months to come.

Well, there was always the shopping. There had to be something they needed to stock up on, and she turned to head back inside the ship to find out what. She stopped when Inara called for her. "Zoë, where are you going?"

"Thought I might do some resupplin'."

Inara's smile was mild and friendly as she stepped up to her, but when she grabbed her arm it was quite firmly. "The captain said shore leave," she said, emphasizing the word. "There'll be time enough for chores later. Come walk with us."

Zoë was about to protest, but a part of her didn't really want to, and maybe spending time alone wasn't the wisest thing to do right now, so in the end she relented and allowed herself to be led along.

Kaylee and the Tams were already far ahead. She spotted them further up the road leading into town. The mechanic seemed to heartily and happily greet every other person they met, and Simon looked a little lost, even at this distance, as he tried to keep up with her while at the same time keeping an eye on his sister.

Zoë and Inara were in no hurry to catch up with them. It was Friday morning and the town was buzzing with life. There were roadside stands and little shops to investigate, and colors and sounds enough to look at and experience.

"I love Border worlds," Inara sighed happily as she stopped by a shop to rummage through a basket full of scarves, and when Zoë raised an eyebrow at that remark, she elaborated, "They've got a certain charm. Though I have to admit that at some point they all start looking the same to me."

Zoë smiled. "Guess it's the same way with me and Core worlds."

Inara talked with the shopkeeper and paid for a midnight blue shawl. "This will do," she said as she carefully folded it and put it in her bag.

"For what?" Zoë asked.

The Companion just smiled secretively.

Zoë looked around, taking in the details. It was an old habit of hers; she always had to be in complete awareness of her surroundings, always on the lookout for potential danger. She saw none now, though. But she did see mothers with small children hurry along, and wondered if this was the kind of life she had waiting for her. She had no idea where to settle really, hadn't really though about it all. She just knew that if things stayed the same, she couldn't.

She must have been crazy to actually think she could raise a child on Serenity!

Yes, she'd been raised on a ship herself. But her parents hadn't been crooks (though of course for a lot of people Travelers were just another word for that). They'd made an honest living doing freelance cargo runs.

Legal ones.

As far as she knew anyway.

And as much as Mal wanted to stay under the Alliance's radar, he did have a knack for drawing their attention. Their 'simple' jobs often turned out to be both dangerous and violent. Her unborn child had only her. It was bad enough she had to grow up without her father.

But where would she go? What would she do for a living? She wasn't skilled in any trade.

She suddenly became aware that Inara was looking at her. The Companion was courteous enough to be discreet about it, but she had tilted her head a little to the side, clearly studying her while a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

"What's on your mind?" she asked.

"Nothin'," Zoë waved her off.

Of course she didn't buy it. "You seem troubled."

Zoë sighed. "Just contemplatin' the future, is all."

Inara nodded. "Have you decided where to go?"

Zoë stared at her. "You know I'm leavin'? Did Mal tell you?"

"No," Inara shook her head, "I guessed. So you've told Mal?"

She sighed again. "I've told 'im I'm thinkin' about it."

"I see."

They were quiet for a few moments. Zoë looked away, shifting her attention to the busy street, but she felt Inara's eyes on her the entire time, until she turned back towards her again. "Am I doin' the right thing here?"

"Only you know what's right for you, Zoë. And for your child." She smiled. "And you are talking to the woman who did leave, remember? Who came back."

"Yeah," Zoë returned the smile and then added, "Why did you come back?"

"I don't know."

"Good answer."

They continued on their way and caught up with Kaylee, Simon and River just as a couple of young women came running towards them, shrieking like teenage girls. "Kaylee!"

"Cille!" Kaylee called back. "Lien-Hua!" They threw themselves at each other, making a slightly nervous Simon backstep a little as they jumped up and down with excitement and started chatting like a bunch of caffeinated chickens. The doctor waited patiently though, until one of the girls finally acknowledged him with a curious look.

"Who's this?" she asked.

Simon smiled and gave one of his trademark courteous nods. He stepped forward and reached for Kaylee's hand. "I'm…"

"He's the medic," Kaylee interrupted him, and slightly shied away from his hand as if it was done unconsciously. Then she happily introduced everybody else as if nothing had happened.

A shadow of hurt fell across Simon's face, but he said nothing, only trotted after the girls as they continued down the street.

Behind his back Zoë exchanged a worried look with Inara. She'd seen it too.


Mal hadn't dealt with Mayor Ryan directly the last time he'd visited Iowa, but considering the fact that the man reportedly didn't like Kaylee, he expected him to be an asshole of proportions. Not that it worried him too much; he'd dealt with his share of assholes before, knew how to handle them.

They entered the front office and were met by the mayor's clerk, a young man with curly, red hair who introduced himself as Rudy. Just the first name; apparently things weren't too formal around here.

"I'm Captain Malcolm Reynolds," Mal said, determined to stay formal nevertheless. He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. "This is Jayne and Jo."

Rudy threw a short glance up at them. "Don't you mean Joe and Jane?"

"No," Mal replied, curtly and humorlessly, "I mean Jayne and Jo." He heard a small, growling sound emitting from Jayne, but to the man's credit he stayed quiet. "I sent a wave a few days ago and…"

"Yes," Rudy interrupted him with a bright smile. "You're the fella with the Firefly! Yeah, we've been expectin' ya. Please, take a seat. The mayor'll be here soon."

And with that he scurried out of the room.

Twenty minutes later they were still waiting. Rudy the Clerk had returned, and now and then he would look up from his work behind the desk and smile apologetically. Jo had retreated to a crooked old coach by the wall, legs stretched out in front of her, her hands resting at the back of her head, but Mal knew that even though it didn't seem that way, she was paying attention. He himself refused to sit. He never sat down in a stranger's office as long as he was given a choice not to. And Jayne was prowling the room, sniffing out the corners, clearly uncomfortable and itching for some action, but so far he'd stayed on his best behavior.

Of course he's letting us wait, Mal thought as he glanced at the clock on the wall for the umpteenth time. Asshole that he is.

Then suddenly the door at back of the room flew open and a large, heavy man in his fifties came bouncing in.

Yes, bouncing. In spite of the fact that he was at least a hundred-and-fifty pounds overweight.

His eyes caught Mal's and his face cracked up in a huge grin as he rounded Rudy's desk and approached him with an outstretched hand. "Captain Reynolds? So sorry you had to wait this long. I'm Mayor Lorenzo Ryan. Nice to meet ya."

Mal knew he wasn't doing a particularly good job at hiding the complete shock he felt at this kind of reception. This was the man who didn't like Kaylee? If there was anything asshole-y about him at least it wasn't apparent.

He managed to pull himself together enough to accept the hand he was offered. "Er, thank you."

Jo had jumped to her feet the moment the man arrived, and Mal sensed her and Jayne taking up a protective stance behind his back. The mayor didn't seem intimidated by this, however. He just squeezed his big belly in between them and Mal to greet the siblings as well. "Hello, welcome."

"This is Jo and Jayne," Mal muttered as he turned towards them, still a little taken a back. Jayne's face mirrored his own suspicion, but Jo returned the mayor's smile.

"The girl's Jo, the man's Jayne," Rudy added helpfully from his place at the desk. Jayne threw him a warning look that both the clerk and the mayor either didn't see or chose ignore.

"Come, come," Ryan urged them along. "We can talk in my office."

He shepherd them into the back room and sat down at his desk. The chair seemed dangerously close to fall apart under him. "So you're lookin' for work," he said, but didn't wait for Mal's response before he continued, "I've forwarded your request to my contacts around town. Several have already expressed their interest."

Later, Mal could for the life of him not remember what was being said the next few minutes. All he could think of was the absurdity of this situation, about how this jovial and helpful mayor didn't like his jovial and helpful mechanic. It just didn't sit right with him. Something here was definitely wrong.

Gorram, he wished the man had been an ass!

"…so come back again Monday, and see if we haven't come up with somethin' for you by then," Ryan concluded his long string of words and hence forced the captain back to reality.

"Thank you," Mal said again, forcing a smile.

The mayor rose (and it was as if the chair sighed with relief as he did so). "In the meantime there's the Friday night dance down by the river tonight. We of course hope you'll take advantage of our 'verse-famous hospitality and join us."

Mal forced another smile, perfectly aware that most of the 'verse had never even heard of Iowa, Harvest and its hospitality, then coughed up a few standard polite phrases and scurried his people out of there.

"Well, he was nice," Jo thoughtfully noted as they stepped out unto the street again.

"Yeah," Mal muttered. "I don't like it."

"No?" she frowned. "We don't like 'nice'?"

"He was a little too nice, don' you reckon?"

Jayne nodded his agreement. "I don't trust nice people. Or good-lookin' people. Don't trust them either."

"Is there anyone you trust?" Jo sarcastically asked him.

"There's you," he replied.

She stared at him and stuck to the sarcasm, "My, thank you, Jayne."

Of course he didn't take the hint, only pushed past them and continued down the street. Mal just shook his head and gave Jo a sympathetic shrug behind his back.

"So, too nice, huh?" she said, leading the conversation back on track again. "You always find somethin' wrong with people you deal with?"

"'Course I do. Can't deal with them otherwise."

"Okay, so you are dealing with him?"

"I guess. If he can fix us up with a job."

She stopped to look worriedly at him. "He did fix us up with a job."

"He did?" He contracted his eyebrows in a pensive frown.

"You didn't hear?" She laughed out loud. "Oh man, I'd say someone needs to kick back a little. Lucky for you we arrived just in time for the local hoedown."

"I ain't goin'," he said.

"Why not?"

"I don't dance."

"Really?" There was a teasing gleam in her eyes. "'Cause, see, I got this very vivid mem'ry of you doin' the Fling like a born and bred Invernessian."

"That was your potato wine dancin', not me."

She kept laughing. "Oh, I got alcohol if that's what you need."

"I very much doubt you'll get me that drunk ever again, Miss Cobb."

She winked at him. "Aw hell, alcohol or no, I still got my banjo. Just you wait and see, Cap, I'ma get you dancin', one way or the other."

The woman sure had some nerve! But Mal also realized, there and then, that like her mother she also possessed that rare talent for making him feel calm and relaxed, and much to his own surprise he felt a smile creep across his face.

Perhaps a party wasn't such a bad idea after all?

Not that he was gonna dance.

He was definitely not gonna dance.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012 11:04 AM


The Mayor doesn't like Kaylee? Wow, there really is something wrong! As for Jo determined to get Mal dancing, would like to see that - preferably with a sword fight. I'm hoping Zoe doesn't decide to leave. Don't think she would really be happy away from her Firefly family. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012 7:38 AM


Either Ryan's a consummate politician or there's something a tad more grey-scale going on here, if he hates Kaylee but is nice to others. Marriage contract/agreement go south when Kaylee left on Serenity? Kaylee tattle on him to someone? Secret sexual assault? Something serious is brewing and I can't fault Mal. I mean...she totally make Simon seem like just an acquaintance and not her hard-won boyfriend!


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Angels We Have Heard (Part 5/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 4/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 3/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 1/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

The Night Before (revised and reposted)
It's the night before Christmas and Jayne is having spiritual problems. Literally.

Book of Secrets (Part 8)
Mal drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, closing his eyes for a moment. "Gorram preacher," he muttered.

Book of Secrets (Part 7)
Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.

Book of Secrets (Part 6)
The captain dances, Inara's feeling out the new girl and the first secret is revealed.

Book of Secrets (Part 5)
Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.