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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Finally things go smooth. That in itself should have been all the warning they needed."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 3505 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Finally things go smooth. That in itself should
have been all the warning they needed."
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.
A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Captain Malcolm Reynolds felt happy. Content even. Not that he liked doing work for Badger but for once they had a decent pay off and the job had not entailed any near run-ins with the Alliance or Badger pulling out on them and leaving them scratching their butts high and dry. No. This time what was said was done. The job had been a simple if heavy cargo run. Parts for farm equipment. Tractors and seeders, even an old ploughshare though he had yet to see signs of a horse to pull it. He smiled. Inhaled the rich loamy scent on the air and took a moment to just feel good. These were decent people. Solid. Honest. Working folk. He knew their like bone-deep. It settled in him like a hush of welcome. A familiarity that touched him with an aching sweetness. Like a memory of home. Not that he would ever mention such things to his crew. Didn't want no one thinking he was going soft. But here, in his private moments, he could luxuriate in the notion of feeling at peace. This planet, Glory, was not simply a world left in some kind of Alliance time-warp. Not some technology poor ass-end of Hell. It was a window to their shared past. When people came before coin. When the land was mother and father to each and every one of them. When neighbours rallied round to defend and to cherish. This was not just some wastehole of a planet. It was a home.
It took a moment for him to realise that Zoe was now standing quietly beside him. Her eyes squinting a little away from him as she gazed out over the trackless rolling landscape. Miles upon miles upon miles of rich open farmland. They watched the last of the farmers drive away from the landing site hauling their newly acquired equipment, tanned arms raised in a brief thanks and farewell as they hurried off back to their hearths and homes. Back to a life interrupted out of necessity not choice. A light breeze fanned her cheek rustling the thick curly locks of her dark shining hair. She took a deep breath. "Feels good doesn't it?"
He did not look at her. "That it does."
She glanced down at her feet. "Good soil."
He grunted in agreement. A whole world of content sat easily between them. Seconds stretched into patient minutes. The others waited back aboard Serenity. A couple of curious pairs of eyes looked down the ramp in their direction then disappeared back inside. "Pity we can't get all our supplies here, sir."
There was a time lag before he responded. "I know."
"Wash says we're no more than nine hours from Porchester."
He grunted. Reluctant to go but knowing he could not drag it out any longer. Setting his shoulders he turned with a nod. "Best go."
The mood on the ship was light, happy and relaxed. They needed supplies of almost everything but at least they had the coin now to buy it. The only thing for which they had no current lack was fresh produce. Shepherd Book was as happy and content as they had ever seen him, his eyes sparkling as he took charge of the fresh fruit and vegetables, his mind already plotting and planning how to cook them and spin them out as far as possible. That next meal was a festive one. The Captain's eyes widened at the sheer volume of food on the table.
"Shepherd, you've done a mighty fine job..."
"Thank you, Captain."
"But it seems to me you cooked everythin' we took on board."
Jayne laughed and helped himself to a mountain of mashed potato. "I ain't complainin'."
A little cry from Wash had the Captain's head turn quickly in his direction. "*Shenme shi*, Wash?"
A big smile swallowed up most of the pilot's affable face. He held aloft the object of his desire and beamed at the Preacher. "Curly carrots! You made curly carrots - for me?"
The Shepherd beamed. "Deep fried just the way you like 'em."
"If I wasn't already married Book..."
The Captain jumped in quick. "Don't finish that sentence Wash!"
Zoe kissed Wash on the cheek. "Are you gonna share that tasty morsal with me, sweetie?"
He smiled and began feeding her between kisses. Jayne made a face. "Ugh, if that ain't enough to put you off your feed."
River poked a finger at him as he stuffed his mouth with pan fried mushrooms and mashed potato. "Hasn't hurt your appetite."
"I just got me a good constitution."
River smiled then turned to her other side to speak to Simon.
Everybody got to the serious business of eating but every now and then Inara would look up from her seat next to Kaylee to watch the Captain's face. He still seemed to be in shock at the sheer amount of food on the table. As the meal wound down it was easy to see why. The table was still half full of uneaten food. "Preacher, that was about the best meal I've had since I can't remember when but I'm thinkin' we wasted a lot of our supplies in one sittin'."
The Shepherd shook his head. "*Bushi*, Captain."
"No. Everything on this table can be eaten cold which is why I cooked so much."
The Captain blinked at him. "Huh? You sayin' you made too much on purpose?"
He smiled. Everybody was listening now. Wash yawned and patted his stomach. Zoe draped an arm around him. They rested against each other like a pair of over stuffed cushions.
"I did. I knew we'd be busy when we got to Porchester and likely wouldn't have time to do much in the way of cookin'. So I made enough that we could eat it cold."
"Don't wanna spoil your thinkin' Shepherd but I like my potatoes hot."
"I can see that but they're just as tasty cold with sliced meats and pickles and so on."
Jayne sat up straighter and wiped a hand across his mouth. "We got pickles? I didn't see no pickles."
"Well, no, we don't have any pickles at the moment Jayne..."
The mercenary began to scowl darkly. "Teasin' a man ain't right, Preacher."
"What I meant to say was everything we've been eating can be eaten cold with meat and pickles."
"Meat and pickels we don't have, I might add." The Captain pointed out helpfully.
"That's true," Said the Preacher struggling on to make his point. "But we're going to be landing on Porchester within a couple of hours and we will be able to get meat and pickles there. As well as the rest of the supplies we need."
"So you were thinkin' ahead?" Said the Captain.
The Shepherd looked relieved. "Exactly."
The Captain thought about that for a moment then nodded, a benign smile on his lips. "Good, then that's what we'll do. I'll put you in charge of getting the meats and pickles an' such."
"Be glad to."
"How we doin' for parts?"
Kaylee began to reel off the things Serenity needed, the Captain calculating costs in his head as Kaylee gave him guidelines for the prices he could expect to pay. Simon had already drawn up a list of medicines and supplies they were growing short of. The discussion took a good half hour then the Captain looked at Wash. "How long to Porchester?"
"About another two hours."
"I want to land as near the market side of town as we can without treadin' on any toes."
Jayne frowned. "Why? There's no Alliance presence there, Cap. We got no reason to tiptoe round."
"No, but I don't want to upset any of the local citizenry either. We've had a real good run, turned a good profit too. Don't want to sour the end of the job by bad manners."
Wash got up to go to the bridge. Zoe grabbed a curly carrot and followed him.
Kaylee and River had dish duties with Simon helping or hindering depending on your point of view. Shepherd Book put the food away carefully, putting the left over mashed potatoe in a tin so he could fry it up for breakfast the next day. Now. If they could just find their way to getting hold of some eggs...
Porchester had a bustling vibrant market as well as a thriving commercial district and various centres of trade. The monied and not so monied brushed shoulders in passing without any obvious signs of discontent but all eyes were wary. Just as it should be. The Captain cast a careful eye around, took Jayne with him to scope the place out then returned to Serenity. "We should be able to get everything we need here. Didn't see no sign of Alliance but we're gonna be careful just to be on the safe side. Never know who's workin' for who, *dong ma*?"
Everyone nodded. Simon tilted his head. "Um Captain, how about letting me and River have a look around the market? It's been weeks since River's been off the ship."
"Okay but keep a close eye on her and don't go far from the ship. A couple of hours no more."
The Captain began to hand out the money making sure everyone had their cut including River and Simon. He kept enough back for the running costs and a little for himself. Shepherd Book could not wait to go off in search of more culinary delights. The Captain noticed a number of eyes had strayed over to look at the women as they stepped off Serenity's ramp and could feel an itch between his shoulder blades. "Jayne?"
"I want you to go with Kaylee."
"Aw Cap'n I don't need no chaperone."
"Not sayin' you do little Kaylee but no one's wanderin' off on their own, *dong ma*?"
She nodded reluctantly but did not argue. Jayne caught the look on the Captain's face and when he turned his head his eyes narrowed with understanding. There were a number of young men wandering around and more than one looked across at the women in speculation. Jayne was determined to make sure they kept right on moving. Nothing for sale at this store. The Captain moved near to Simon so he would not have to raise his voice. Best not take any chances. "I want you and River to stick close to Book."
Simon gave him an anxious look and tried not to turn his head. "Trouble?"
"Just bein' careful."
River smiled brightly at him. "We'll be good Captain, you're the one who has to remember."
He did not have a clue what she meant but she seemed happy and that was enough for him. "Go on, enjoy yourselves. See you back here in a couple of hours."
She waved brightly and slipped her arm in Simon's. They went with the Shepherd and everyone broke up to go their own ways leaving Mal, Zoe and Wash standing at the bottom of Serenity's ramp. Mal was happy to see that the group of young men had dispersed but it did not hurt to keep a weathered eye. Zoe relaxed. "If you don't mind Captain I think I'll stay on board with Wash."
Her husband gave her a startled look. Weren't women born to shop? "You wanna stay on board?"
The look in her eyes had Wash stuttering. He knew that look.
"Um yes, of course, we're stayin' aboard."
The Captain tried to hide his laughter and keep a straight face.
"Things to do." Babbled Wash. "You know. On the ship. Pilot things."
"Shouldn't be late Wash, a couple of hours."
Wash nodded. "Right. Fine. A couple of hours."
He gave them a few more instructions before walking off to take a look around the market. Everyone else had drifted on ahead. He decided not to rush but to enjoy this fine warm day. Behind him he could hear Wash trying to sound nonchalent. "Oh whatever shall we find to do for the next three or four hours?"
Mal smiled and began to weave his way through the stalls, each one a blaze of individual colour so that the cloths on the tables fluttered and danced like confetti at a wedding. He took his time looking at the stalls, just getting a feel of the place. It was a beautiful Spring day and if Glory had reminded Mal of Shadow before the War, Porchester was like a richer version of Persephone. Given the choice he would have let the others stay here on Porchester for the pleasure of spending a week on Glory. Mal trapped a sigh and shut himself off from such thoughts. He could not go back and yearning for reminders of the past would only buy him heartache. Zoe could have told him that. He took another breath. Closed his eyes and let the fresh breeze drift through his lungs driving out the stale ship air he had been breathing for too long. He loved Serenity. Adored the freedom accorded him from being in the Black. But nothing could equal the feel of earth beneath his feet and being open to the elements like this.
He opened his eyes, ducked his head and noticed a bird's nest tucked up in the corner of a stall. He smiled and wished for a moment that Kaylee was with him. It was cool but not cold, bright and glistening with sunshine refracting off the surface tension of the raindrops caught in spider's webs. She would be so excited and happy, her eyes sparkling with the joy of it. Kaylee had a way of making him feel alive as if her enthusiasm intensified his own pleasure. Causing him to see each thing anew. She stopped him taking things for granted and a big part of him hoped that would never change. A soft sound just behind him caught his attention but before he could turn to see what it was something heavy struck him hard across the back of his head. With a soft grunt he collapsed, hands catching him before he could fall to the ground, half carrying and half supporting him as he was whisked away down a narrow winding street off the market. It was dirty and dingy here. High walls blocking out the light. Cool shadows clinging to him as he was lowered to the ground far from prying eyes.
One of the men quickly knelt beside him, hands moving fast and sure, searching Mal's pockets and stripping everything of value off him. An ill favoured youth watched with a sullen expression on his face. The man shoved him. "Don't just stand there get his boots. Good leather's hard to come by."
The traitorous jingle betrayed the last of Mal's coin. The man delved greedily into an inner pocket chasing the sound until he pulled out the cloth purse. He grinned and tucked the booty away. Only when they were satisfied with their haul did they exchange brief nods and melt away, figures peeling off to the left and right so as not to draw a single suspicious eye. The crack from the cut-purse left a trail of crimson matting the tangle of brown hair. The sticky damp pool soaking slowly into the bare earth where he lay like an old treasure map from Earth-that-was with a dull red X marking the spot.
Inara had a number of contacts on Porchester. The Guild had a firm foothold servicing the upper echelons of Porchester society. Every palm greased with gold and precious gems. Every smile paid for with a small ransom. In such wise were the wheels of commerce smoothed. She took her time choosing between clients, each having their singular attractions but none of them creating that spark which from time to time she sought with almost reckless abandon. She wondered whether there was some kind of perverse self destruct mechanism which made her want to seek out the very things she had spent her life running from. Her friend Nandi could have explained it to her but she did not want that. If it was put into words she would have to act on it, even if only by making a determined effort not to act on it. Knowing brought its' own restraints. By not facing her emotions and exorcising the ghosts of the past she left herself free to act as she chose. To revisit all her errors if she so wished or make new ones. She did not therefore turn from the strong handsome face that looked back at her from the cortex link. Meeting him again would likely open old wounds but this time she was in control of her emotions. She wanted to see him again to test that control. This time she would be the one orchestrating what happened next.
A cool, slow, cautious smile oiled its' way across her faultless face. A glide of calculation flickered in her lush eyes. She reached out and touched his image, the other faces all vanishing as his picture enlarged to fill the whole screen. Dark eyes crinkled confidently back at her. His smile, his warm voice, rolled back not only the years but also the emotional distance that had protected her for so long.
"Inara! What an honour and a joy to see you again. How are you, *bao bei*?"
Her smile warmed in response. She *was* glad to see him but not for the reason he supposed.
Jayne was getting frustrated. After the first hour trailing around with Kaylee his limited store of patience had expired. He was now operating on the last fumes of goodwill, especially seeing as the possible threat had vanished within minutes of leaving Serenity. Funny how that had worked out. For a minute there he had apprehended a definite sense of threat. Those boys had sure looked to be up to something, the way their eyes kept flicking over to them. The Captain was right to worry. Young bucks on the lose often could not control their urges enough to look for a willing female. Any port in a storm. A wry smirk twisted his lips as he thought of what the Captain would do to any man who tried to force himself on any of their women. Jayne almost stopped short. Their women. Ho now, where did that thought come from? Since when did he or anyone else on Serenity own the womenfolk on it? He snorted softly. Huh. Truth be told it was more likely the other way round.
They were in their umpteenth store and Jayne was mightily bored, his thoughts turning to a cold drink to wash the dust from his throat and warm thighs to cradle him and work off the excess energy. Kaylee's voice almost made him blush.
"Jayne? What's so gorram funny?"
He tried to mask his momentary discomfort. "Nothin', just want to hit a ruttin' bar before you buy up all the scrap in the 'verse."
She hit his arm playfully. "This ain't scrap, it's parts for fixin' and makin' mend."
"If you say so." He grumbled.
She sobered and regarded him for a moment, her hand lingering lovingly on the parts she had been viewing. "Can't be much fun for you babysittin' huh?" She asked, head tilting to view him sidelong.
He flinched slightly. "Didn't mean it like that, you know I weren't complainin'."
She nodded. "I know, just all this kind of stuff is borin' to you, ain't it?"
He flicked a glance at her, their eyes holding in perfect understanding for a moment. "Aw hell, you know I hate shoppin' an' you take so gorram long lookin' at everythin' again and again."
"Just gotta make sure I make the best choice, you know that Jayne. It'd be like you buyin' a new gun and just pickin' the first one you saw right off the shelf, not takin' the time to feel the weight of her or how she handled an' such. T'wouldn't be right."
He nodded, his scowl clearing at her sound logic. "Yeah." He looked at the parts in her hands. "An' they feel right to you?"
She smiled, that sweet butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth smile and he knew he would spend as many hours as she wanted, in as many shops and parts yards as she needed to ferret through, and not make another complaint. No wonder she had the Captain wrapped around her little finger. Him too if he was a mind to admit it. "This here's a treaure house for parts, Jayne." She whispered in his ear conspirationally. "Just gotta shave a few off the askin' price is all..."
He chuckled and straightened then settled in to enjoy the sight of Kaylee bartering. Underneath all that little girl charm was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. Time enough for a drink and a whore later.
The girl inched closer. Dark shadows sent cool bars of black across her thin emaciated body. Eyes too large and round for the pale dirt streaked face looked out with perpetual fright at a world that had nothing but pain in it for her. Yet there was compassion in her eyes. Sorrow lurking just beneath the surface of her own dull and endless pain. The figure did not move. In fact she had not seen any sign of movement since she had found him. He was a stranger that she could tell without even looking at his face. She would have known from his clothes, read some of his past from the faded dust on his brown coat. The battle stripe down the sides of his campaign trousers. She stole another inch until finally she was sitting cross legged next to him. Able now to see the murky stain beneath his head. A wary hand reached out to touch his face. Still he did not move. No reaction. Concern deepened in her nervous eyes. Not sure what to do. Whether to go or stay.
Then a low soft murmur of pain leaked out of him and she knew she could not leave him. Only one who has known pain for far too long could have such deep and ready compassion for the pain of others. Eleven years old and she was like an old woman. Wise and knowing in all the wrong ways. She peered anxiously down at him. Thought he had a good face. Knew in this dark winding alley no one would find him. Always supposing he had anyone who cared enough to look. She got to her feet and scurried away. It was half an hour before she returned with a cupped bit of metal faring holding the precious water. Quietly she settled beside him and tore a piece off the bottom of his shirt which was cleaner than hers then slowly, gently washed the blood off him. It took her longer than it should of. Every noise freezing her movements, any sound heading their way sending her off into hiding, hand over her mouth and heartbeat thundering with a deep erratic fear. But no one came and night was beginning to draw in. It would soon get very cold. There was no shelter here and she was not strong enough to move him even supposing she had somewhere to take him which she did not. She hurried away a second time. An hour later returning just as the first cold drops of rain began to fall from a muddy sky.
The piece of tarpaulin she pulled along behind her was filthy but it was waterproof. Dragging it over to him she sat down and pulled it up over them. Nothing fancy. Just a bit of rough shelter. He was shivering hard now. She bit her lip and tried not to cry. Terrified that he would die and she would be left all alone. After a moment she laid beside him and burrowed under his coat, drawing it tight around her as she trembled against him. Seeking to share their meagre body heat. So cold, her teeth chattering, she clung to him and tried to pray but she did not know the words and God was a mystery to her. Maybe she could not keep him warm but at least she could keep him dry. And awful as the bleak night was, her fear lessened just a little having someone to share it with. If only for a while.
In the end Jayne not only dispensed with the notion of getting drunk he also gave up on the idea of looking for a whore. It seemed as if Kaylee had bought half the shop and most of it was rutting heavy. He grunted and balanced the heavier items in his arms leaving her to carry some fuel cells. It was starting to get dark and he was worried they would be late.
"Don't worry, Jayne, the Cap'n'll wait. 'Sides, the Shepherd's cookin' a treat t'night and I can't see us leavin' much before mornin'."
Jayne grunted. No way did he want to get on Mal's bad side. Dark thoughts kept him silent. Kaylee was looking around, beginning to frown.
"Where do you suppose everyone is?"
"Back on the ruttin' boat, where else?"
She shook her head. "Not the crew, I mean the *people*. It was packed when we started out weren't it?"
Now she mentioned it he realised it was eerily quiet. He did not like it. "Kaylee?"
"Reach into my right pocket and get the transmitter. Wouldn't hurt to see where everyone else is. Them as is still on the planet should head back to Serenity."
She nodded. Made sense. As soon as she located it she pressed the switch. Wash answered almost before she finished speaking. "Kaylee, where are you?"
"Just headin' back with Jayne. Everybody else okay?"
"Yeah. Captain's not back yet but everybody else is. We were starting to get worried about you. The Preacher's making some wonderful smells in the kitchen so best hurry."
"You got it." She looked at Jayne. "Do you suppose Cap'n's lookin' for us?"
He tried to reassure her. "Nah, probably got hisself sidetracked. Besides if he isn't back at the boat he don't know we're late."
They exchanged a conspirational grin and Kaylee immediately felt better. Quickening their pace as much as they could while laden down they soon came in sight of the Firefly transport. Kaylee felt her spirits lift and could not keep a grin off her face when she recognised Zoe waiting at the bottom of the ramp for them. She gave them a quick smile and a nod then looked passed them, her eyes narrowing in the failing light, what could have been a little tinge of worry furrowing her dark brow. Jayne helped Kaylee get her stuff to the engine room and stood patiently while the little mechanic emptied his arms and carefully stacked the spares.
"Thanks Jayne, I couldn't'a done it without you."
She grinned, stood on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "T'weren't nothin' to me an' if Serenity was able to she'd thank you herself."
A pleased look flashed over his face then he got self conscious. "Yeah well don't expect me to be your beast of burden next time, *dong ma*?"
Kaylee laughed. "Don't worry, next time I'll take Wash and the mule." She pushed him playfully. "Now go on, I wanna wash up before goin' to get somethin' to eat an' don't hog all the tatters this time."
It seemed only minutes later that Book was calling everyone to table. Wash's nose twitched happily at all the enticing aromas but not seeing Zoe he began to hunt for her, locating her in the cargo bay at the top of the ramp. "Hey, *xin gan*, didn't you hear the Preacher hollering? Got us a veritable feast. *Shenme shi*?"
She did not turn her head, eyes facing forward peering into the deepening gloom of night. "Captain's not back."
"*Ni danxin ma*?"
Zoe's frown deepened. "*Keneng*. It's not like the Captain to be this late."
He moved up behind her, sliding his arms around her. "Come on, *bao bei*. Captain can take care of himself. You know how cranky he gets if you fuss."
She gave him a dirty look and he gave her his most endearing smile then kissed her.
"Look, we'll give him another half hour - an hour tops - and if he isn't back by then we'll go look for him. Okay?"
"Okay." She hesitated to close the ramp.
Wash nodded. Arm in arm they went to join the others. A tendril of worry beginning to settle in the back of Wash's mind. For Zoe to be worried was unusual. Walking into the commons and seeing everyone else settled around the table made him feel even more concerned. It was more than an hour after the time Mal had insisted everybody return to Serenity. Book looked up from the hot plate, his hair sticking out in all directions where his band had come undone, face hot and flustered, a hot pan in his hands. He smiled and urged them to sit down. The table already groaning with a wealth of culinary delights.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*shenme shi* - what's the matter? *bushi* = not so *dong ma* = understand
*bao bei* = baby/darling/precious *xin gan* = sweetheart *ni danxin ma*? = are you worried?
*keneng* = maybe
Friday, September 19, 2003 2:53 AM
Friday, October 14, 2011 10:24 PM
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