BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MAVOURNEEN

Delia Cycle #1 - Saving Graces
Sunday, June 5, 2005

Serenity lands on Europa for repairs...and Mal gets a little more than he bargained for.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2410    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Saving Graces

by Maura F. (Standard disclaimers on infringement apply to all of my Firefly works...they're written out of love, not for profit...Of which I'm sure Delia would disapprove!) Mal sat on a crate in Serenity's cargo hold. He was watching Jayne play horseshoes with Zoë when he first noticed something was different. His mind must be playing tricks on him. Kaylee was getting taller. She stood on the other side of the bay, leaning back against a shipping crate. She, too, watched the game. He had a feeling like he was falling backwards. Am I gettin' sick? He thought to himself. He glanced down and noticed the glass of water next to him. The surface of the water wasn't flat. It leaned just slightly to the left. "Kaylee, c'mere" he motioned to her, watching his cup. Kaylee began to walk to him when she noticed the slope in the floor. She was walking down to Mal. She looked back to where she had been standing, then followed Mal's finger to the slanting cup. "Something's not right." she said. "I'd say. " Wash's voice came over the com. "Cap, Kaylee to the bridge" Mal and Kaylee walked up the stairs and through the quarters hall up to the bridge. Wash turned in his chair to talk to them. " We've got issues." he said simply. "Think we're losing the aft stabilizer. I'm havin' problems keepin' Serenity level." "How bad's the list?" Kaylee asked. "Right now, 8 degrees to port." he answered. Zoë and Jayne entered the bridge. They, too, had noticed the listing of the ship. "And that is..." Mal asked them to finish his sentence. "It's the mechanism that keeps Serenity on a 0 degree flat surface at all times. Like a construction level - the little bubble of air inside the tube of water. You gotta keep the bubble inside the lines to be flat. Serenity ain't keepin' the bubble inside the lines." Kaylee explained. This Mal understood. "If the starboard side calibrator blows, she'll go port, and vice versa. If one blows, the other's soon to follow. " Kaylee said. "So we can..." he asked. "I think we got three choices. Right now, we're 4 hours outta Persephone. We could try and fix her out here..." Wash began. "But we gotta turn off the engine, let her cool down, and try and fix her with parts we don't got. " Kaylee finished. "We could turn around, go back to Persephone, buy a new stabilizer, and start off again." Wash continued. "Or, we could set for Europa. It's 'bout 2 hours off. Several medium settlements, and a decent trading post. More than likely they'll have what we need. " While Mal contemplated the options, Serenity's list became more pronounced. "Well, I guess we gotta choose. How long we got before it fails?" Mal asked. "No way to tell. 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days...but it'll fail if we continue on to Lansdowne.." Kaylee said. 'We 'll be walkin' on the bulkhead and sleepin' on the ceiling if nothin's done." "Wash, set for Europa. Let's try there. Least we got some funds." Mal said. An hour later, Mal reentered the bridge. He was antsy, and the ship's list was now at nearly ten degrees. "Wash, see if the trading post has a homing beacon." Mal said. Wash reached for the com and pressed a few buttons. Within a few seconds, the calm, sensual voice of a woman filled the bridge. ...you for visiting Europa. We welcome you to visit Hammond's Trading Mart, located at 467.443 on the Europan landscape. We offer the finest in food, clothing, settler necessities, souvenirs, and have quick access to parts for nearly every model of ship flying. Hammond's also has great prices on fuel rods. Easy in, Easy out at our landing pads located behind the Mart. We are open 22 / 7 for your shopping convenience and look forward to your visit. End of Message. The message repeated in Chinese. --------- Nearly one hour later, Serenity entered the atmosphere of Europa. From the darkness of space, Mal could see this moon was different from most they visited. From horizon to horizon, he saw green. "Everyone hang on" Wash called. "It's not gonna be pretty." Wash used all his skills to keep the ship upright during the five minute flight to Hammond's trading post. The crew disembarked in a fairly lush valley with a thriving boomtown, Stapleton. Hammond's was a large building on one end of the town, with vast landing pads behind it. In the ten years of its existence, Hammond's had become an important stopover point for settlers, travelers, and all manner of people needing items without returning to the relative civilization of Persephone. Europa was one of the handful of terrraformed moons that had thrived environmentally, and green meadows, forests, and prairies covered the surface. "Smell that." Zoë noted to Wash, as they crossed the landing pad and onto a path that lead to Hammond's. "What is that?" he asked. "Clean, fresh air." she said. ---------- At the entrance to Hammond's, the sign above the door reads "No Guns Inside" in English, and Chinese. They must release all weapons- no guns or knives in the building. Jayne, Zoë and Mal locked their guns in a little locker outside the front, and Mal took the key in his pocket. The crew entered Hammond's and they were mesmerized by the sight. Rows of merchandise, shoppers, and racks of clothing confronted them. A whole aisle devoted to candy and sweets. An eye-catching array of fruits and vegetables filled the far wall. Inara saw a refrigerated case containing fresh flowers - a rare sight. Toys, games, and assorted souvenirs occupied another aisle. They immediately dispersed amongst the goods- fingered clothing, smelled perfume bottles, and eyed the produce longingly. Soon, they counted the credits in their pockets. Mal and Kaylee approached a front counter labeled "Mechanic" in English and Chinese. "Do you got an aft stabilizer?" The gruff man behind the counter looked behind him at the Firefly. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at Serenity. "What model?" he asked . Kaylee piped up "0425-03" "Don't got one. There's a parts trader up the road might. I'll go get the owner. She'll get ya what ya need." Wash and Zoë looked around. He saw the breakdown as a time he and Zoë might have some time alone, maybe in one of the local hotels. She put her hand on his chest, knowing what he wants. "I'll ask him for some time." Zoë said simply. Wash smiles a small smile. They both knew the answer. Inara and River came around the corner toward Zoë and Wash. Both had clothes and fruit in their arms. The gruff man came out from the back room and returned to his seat behind the counter. He nodded his head to the back and said "Mrs. Hammond will be out in a sec." Mal hung his head, he wanted to get going and prevent the crew from spending too much of their hard earned cash at this post. Jayne walked to Mal with a grin on his face. "Capt., you should see the gun case. Awesome shiny guns they got here. " "Oh really?" Mal suddenly perked up. He followed Jayne to the gun case and they pressed their noses against the glass. A woman walked into the main market area. Of average height and weight, a pretty face but with ample breasts, waist length auburn hair, and exuding self confidence, she drew attention wherever she went. She wore a cream wrap shirt that tied on the side and tight fitting black pants similar to Zoë 's, but with a red stripe down the leg whereas Zoe's stripe was brown. On her thigh was a holster which housed the gleaming end of a silver Smith and Wesson Laser Revolver. "Who wants the aft stabilizer?" she asked. Gruff man nodded toward Kaylee. Mrs. Hammond walked toward Kaylee but suddenly saw Zoë over Kaylee's shoulder. She put her hand to her mouth to try and stifle the smile coming upon her. "Zoë Bishop?" she asked. Zoë turned to face her, eyes wide, smile broad. "Go-Mah, see tse te, mei-mei." Zoë exclaimed. The two women embraced and laughed. Mal and Jayne looked up to see this curious sight. Wash was a little surprised himself. No one expected to know someone in this town. The two women finished embracing and pulled away to look each other up and down. "Well, it's not Bishop anymore, it's Washburn - I've married." Zoë said. "Married? I didn't think you were the marrying type." "I wasn't, till the right man came along. " By now, the whole crew surrounded Zoë and Mrs. Hammond. "Well, is he here? Yes? Let me guess which one. Hmmm, well, I guess I can strike out the preacher. You aren't married to him." Mrs. Hammond nodded toward Simon. She gave him a small, knowing look. "And I think you'd snap him in half - no, it isn't him" Mal, Jayne and Wash all stifled their guffaws at this slight on Simon. "So, it must be one of these three. Hmmm. Well, knowing you like I used to, I'm gonna chose the red head. He looks your type. " Zoë and Wash moved together to form the pair they are. "This is my husband Wash." Zoë said. Wash shook hands with the woman. "I'm Delia Hammond. Your wife and I were in training together during the War." "Oh, great. Another war buddy." Wash said sarcastically. "It's nice to meet you." This piece of info raised Mal's eyebrow a millimeter. He thought he knew all of Zoe's friends. Apparently not. Delia Hammond is definitely someone he would have remembered. Then, Mal realized something else. It was Delia's warm, inviting voice they had heard on the homing beacon. "Well, let's get business out of the way first. We can catch up in a minute. You need an aft stabilizer...for that Firefly?" Delia asked . Mal approached Delia, taking over the situation. "Yes, I'm Captain Reynolds. We need that stabilizer. Can you get us one?" Delia shrugged her shoulders once and said "Let me make a call to a parts dealer I know. Buddy? Get Bobby on the line for me." Buddy punched a few buttons on the telofonix next to him "Line 4" Buddy the gruff man called out. Delia pressed a button on the console nearest her "Bobby, sweetheart" Delia crooned suggestively. "I've got some needs you could satisfy" The man on the other end of the line clearly was influenced by this tone. So were the crew. Mal looked at Jayne who waggled his eyebrows. "Uhh, Miss Delia, what can I do you for?" Here is someone that would do anything for this woman to be in her good graces. Delia raised a finger to her lips, silencing the crew around her. "Bobby honey, I need an aft stabilizer for a..." Delia glanced out the window over Mal's shoulder at the ship. "Runner class Firefly, model 0425-03." Kaylee smiled at Delia. This woman knew her ships. "Sorry, Miss Delia, I don't got one. I do got a stabilizer from a Liberty Runner I'm takin' apart. With a few modifications, it'll do you. Hey, I didn't know you got a Firefly." he stammered. "I don't ." Delia smiled at the crew. " I got a shipping crew here who needs one. How much for the part and when can I get it?" "Well, we're disassembling it now, prolly get you the part tomorrow, or day after. Maybe, uhhh 300 credits?" " 300? Oooh, that's steep. How'm I sposed to profit on that? Make it 250 and you got a deal." "K, Miss Delia. I'll run Phil out with the part soon as I get it out of the ship. " "Thanks Bobby, I owe you..." "No, thank you Miss Delia." Mal nodded his head. 250 credits was a reasonable price for the part, seeing as Kaylee would have to modify it. " Excellent. That'll put us at least two days before we can launch. Not bad. Thanks, Mrs. Hammond." "Call me Delia. " Zoë suddenly turned to Delia. "Mrs. Hammond? You married too?" "I was, he's gone now." Delia said. She shrugged it off with a wave of her arms. " Any friends of Zoe's are friends of mine. Make yourselves at home here. We'll have a good time while you wait for the part. Now, Zoë, let's catch up. Connie? Bring tea and food to the upper deck please?" Delia called to a woman on the far side of the post. Zoë and Delia walked away arm in arm, small laughs in their wake. Mal, Jayne and Wash watched them walk away. Their eyes were on Delia's rear end underneath those black pants. Jayne's lustful remark broke the silence first "Man, Wo xiang xingjian ta." ---------- On the upper deck, Delia and Zoë sat basking in the sun, food on the table. Zoë sipped her tea as she and Delia recalled the past 8 years. "After basic training, and you left for the front, I was sent for more training. Intelligence, language, techniques...and went into the field - a spy for the Independents. I met a man, Thomas Hammond. We married and spied for eleven months, twelve days, until I was caught with some very important documents. And... I spent the rest of the war at the Carthage POW camp." Zoe's face wrinkled in horror at those words. She had heard of the atrocities in those camps. She closed her eyes and listened to the remaining sentences. " I was beaten, tortured, raped, and starved. But I survived. When I was released, I came back to discover Tom had been killed just a few months before, at the Battle of Serenity Valley." "Capt. Reynolds and I were there. At Serenity Valley." Zoë said. "But I didn't know your husband..." " Well, I left New Horizon, where we had been living, but with an Alliance record I decided to settle somewhere else. I got to Persephone, lived there for a month, then heard about Europa. I've been here for over 6 years. Made myself a very wealthy woman. A very influential businesswoman. I live for profit . What's in it for me. And some days I'm even at peace. But some days... well. What about you? Tell me about Wash and Serenity." The two talked of Zoe's meeting Reynolds in the war, buying Serenity, and marrying Wash. "So what kind of work do ya'll do?" Delia inquired "Mostly what we can get. Some above board, some..." "Some not as above, huh? Well, we all gotta make a living. Nothing wrong with money, no matter where it comes from. " Delia said. "We have a pretty good life. No one really to answer to." Zoë said. "I'm glad . You seem happy" Delia remarked. "I am. Wash and Capt. Reynolds are the reason I go on. For different reasons, of course. " "Do you trust him?" Delia asked. "Who?" "Captain Reynolds. Ding dong, of course you trust your husband." "With my life." Zoë said simply. "Then I do too. So I won't mention to anyone you have Alliance fugitives on board. You and your Captain must have your reasons." "How did you know?" "Bulletins all over the place with their names and faces. Be careful, keep them hidden." Their conversation is interrupted by Mal's appearance on the deck. "Sorry to interrupt, ladies. Zo, your husband is spending all your money and I think you better come." The three walked through the main house adjoining the market. The house is luxurious by local standards but spacious and clean. Once they reached the main market, Wash had toys and sodas on the counter, about to pay. "Oh, no you don't" Zoë reprimanded Wash. "We can't afford that." "C'mon, honey. Look at this great dinosaur." Zoë pulled Wash out the front door. Mal and the others followed, with Delia trailing. Mal unlocked their guns and returns them to Jayne and Zoë. Most of the crew had begun walking towards Serenity. "Thanks for getting the stabilizer for us." Mal said to Delia. "It's my pleasure. Y'all be here for a day or two. Meet me at the Range Bar in town tonight at 8. Dinner is on me. " Delia said. The crew turned to wave at Delia in agreement. Jayne's lingering hand in the air and glance at Delia told Mal all he needed to know. He pulled Jayne's arm to get him back to reality. -------------- Back on ship, Zoë and Mal had a few minutes alone on the bridge to go over the day's events. "We'll be here a few days. Let's use the post to restock what we need. Even some luxuries. Maybe we might be able to rustle up a job." Mal said. "She reminds me of Nandi." "Don't never say that name to me again, hear?" Mal muttered. "Well, Delia knows about Simon and River . Says there are bulletins. Says to keep them hidden." "She won't turn us in for the reward?" "No. While Delia's main reason for living these days is profit, she won't say anything." "You sure? You trust her?" "Funny, she asked me the same thing about you." Mal smiled. They would be okay. ------------- Later that night, the crew (minus Simon and River) were around a table at the Range Bar, laughing, talking and reminiscing for Delia. She laughed in delight at their tales of misadventure and running afoul of the Law. Jayne clearly lusted for Delia. He said nearly nothing, just watched Delia with a smile on his face. Mal was drawn as well. But he observed her surreptitiously. He noted how Delia's hair swung as she moved, and her honest, open laugh made him curious. "I'm gonna get us another round." Delia announced with a smile. She had a slur in her voice that betrayed the amount of alcohol in her system. "I like her soo much! What an amazing woman. What a life she has!" Kaylee said once Delia was out of ear shot. "She was a good friend to me, coming into the military. We taught each other a lot. " Zoë said. Mal observed two men approach Delia at the bar. She said something to them and they nodded in agreement. He noted her easy smile, her infectious laugh, and the way her right hip jutted out as she rested her foot on the brass bar railing. Delia returned with four pitchers of beer, two in each hand. She sloshed a bit onto her pants but paid it no mind. As long as it didn't get onto the Laser strapped to her thigh, she's okay. They spent the rest of the night eating, drinking and listening to music in the bar. Mal continued to observe her through the night. Their eyes met several times, but he glanced away each time, trying to be casual. A few hours later, the crew dispersed quietly. Inara, Kaylee and the preacher bid everyone goodnight. Kaylee was clearly drunk and needed help getting back to the ship. Then Zoë and Wash got up hand in hand and moved to the other side of the bar. They weren't leaving just yet. Delia stood up and wished everyone goodnight. "I'll see y'all in the morning." she said boozily "Can I walk you home Miss Delia?" Jayne piped up. Mal turned to look at Jayne in amazement. His civility was disconcerting. "No thank you, Jayne. I can get home just fine. But I'll see you in the morning." She reached out and cupped Jayne's chin. He grinned - just drunk enough to stay put and not walk her home. Delia waved to Zoë and Wash, kissing in the corner. But Mal wasn't so sure. He bid her goodnight and watched her uneven gait out the front door. --------------- Moving along Main Street towards the market, Delia hummed a soft, happy tune. A very good night, indeed. It was dark, except for the glow from the houses along the street. No streetlights illuminated the shadows. The dirt road was wide, and a strip of darkness hid the center of the street. Mal followed her quietly through the shadows. Delia turned a corner and was out of sight. Mal turned the corner a few seconds later but Delia was nowhere to be seen.. He took a few running steps and turned around near the side of the street, looking for her. The hum of an automatic laser pistol warming up next to his head stopped him dead in his tracks. A much more powerful weapon than his own revolver. "I can take care of myself, thank you." "Umm, can you please put the gun down?" "Why did you follow me? " Delia asked. "Just wanted to make sure you got home safely. You've had a powerful lot to drink." She powered down the weapon. She had turned it on just to scare him. She knew who had been following her. Delia smiled up at Mal. "Well aren't you the gentleman. I'm fine. 'Sides, I only had to go a few hundred feet to the main house. Ok, walk with me." Mal and Delia walked and talked down the dusty street. "No, we've been a team since the War. After Serenity Valley, I bought my Firefly and Zo and I work for ourselves. Built our crew, made money- we aren't under anyone to tell us what to do or where to go. We like it, made ourselves a good living and a good life. What about you? Life on Europa seems pretty good." Mal said amiably. "It is. I love the wide open space. Green grass, clean air, Halfway between a backwater moon and steaming metroplex. I've got good help in the mart and we treat each other okay. I think most people are good here, I wear a gun mainly 'cause its habit. Haven't needed to pull it for real in years. Creep traveler tried to hold up the mart. Anyway, here's my gate." She turned to face Mal and looked up at him with a drunken little smile. "You wanna come in for a nightcap?" Mal stammered...he hadn't anticipated being so nervous when she said this. "Ummm, no I don't think so." "Oh, c'mon." Delia grabbed a suspender and Mal allowed himself to be pulled into the main house. "Trudy?" Delia called through the dark house "Trudy? I'll be out back. Bring a bottle of that whisky Hank brought home. And bring two glasses." "Who is Trudy?" Mal whispered in the dark. "She's one of my maids." "You own slaves? " Mal recoiled. "No, they were owned by the previous owner. When I bought him out, I freed the lot of them. Most stayed on and work for me. I'm the best employer in town." Delia realized she still had Mal's suspender in her hand. She let it go with a small snap. "C'mon, you're gonna love this." Mal followed Delia through the house. He was beginning to realize his loins were leading him - a feeling he despised. He knew he should return to Serenity, but he followed her. They walked outside to a small, low deck. It faced the foothills and the night sky. Private and silent. Out in the distance to the left, he could make out the dark lines of Serenity, partially hidden by the privacy hedge. On the right side of the deck was a huge wooden tub of water. He could see the steam rising into the cool night . "What is that?" Mal marveled. "You bathe outside?" "Sort of. It's called a hot tub. They were real popular at the turn of the millennium. I got it in trade for a few cases of food. Most folks don't have room for this much water now. I gutted the electricals and it works great. Watch this." she said boozily. Delia ran her hand along the front of the tub and it bubbled to life. Mal walked over to it and stuck his hand in the swirling water. "Wow, it's hot." he observed. He turned to look at Delia but she was in the process of taking off her shirt. Mal quickly turned his back. He saw her holster and pants hit the floor near him. "No clothes allowed in the hot tub. See?" Delia said. He turned slowly and she was sitting in the tub already. "See? You can't see nothin'. C'mon. I'll avert my eyes. Just wanted to share the tub with you. Nothing else. " She had twisted that long beautiful hair into a bun behind her head and secured it with, what was that a chopstick? Mal hesitated for several moments. Did he really want to do this? Skeptically, Mal unbuckled his holster. So far, everything he saw made him feel he could trust her. He certainly did want to see where the night would lead. Mal froze when the maid Trudy walked out onto the deck with the bottle and glasses. She put them on a side table near the tub, then left without glancing at Mal. Oh, no. Is this a common sight in this house? Strange men with her mistress? A few seconds after Trudy left the deck, he realized his shirt was off. He was taking off his boots when her last words echoed in his head. "Nothing else." She didn't want him? She didn't want him? Mal eased himself into the steaming tub. Her eyes had been closed when he stepped into the tub but now she was looking a little further south than she should be. He quickly plopped into the tub. "Mo fwa we za doe" "Told ya" They sat on opposite sides of the tub and silently enjoyed the moment. The stars twinkling above, the crisp air and the hot water relaxed them into a reverie. Then, Delia spoke softly. "Zoë is a fine woman. A fine soldier." "That she is." "Can't believe she married." "Wash is good to her." He said, a little ruefully. He quickly added "They are good together." Delia smiled at Mal. "And you?" "What, Married? No, I'm not married. " He looked up at Delia and said "But you are." "Was. I'm a War widow. But he was a good man, too." "I hear you are a woman after my own heart" Mal said amiably. Suddenly, he realized what he had implied. "How's that?" she said coyly. "You live for profit." "I don't do anything where's I don't stand to gain." she said. Delia suddenly stood up, splashing water about as she leaned out of the tub and reached for the glasses and whisky. Mal's eyes widened as he saw her rear in the moonlight, shedding water back into the tub. He shifted uncomfortably. Delia filled the glasses and handed one to Mal. The bottle went onto the edge of the tub. "A toast" she smiles. "To our friend Zoë." They downed the whisky silently. Mal refilled their glasses and they continued sipping and staring at each other for another few minutes, enjoying the night. Delia seemed to be studying Mal. Searching his face for something. "You were watchin' me in the bar awful hard." she said. "No, I wasn't" he said quickly. "Oh, really? Every time I looked at you, you were lookin at me." "That might be overstatin' things." he said. Delia reached behind her and grabbed a towel off the rack. Deftly, she wrapped the towel around herself without allowing Mal a second glance at her body. She stepped out of the tub and walked over to his pants. "Hey, leave those alone." He started to get a little nervous. Would she take his clothes? Instead, she had his communicator in her hand. "You better call over to Serenity. Tell 'em you're spending the night in town." "Oh, I don't know. The hot tub sure was fun, but Jayne'll be powerful sore at me." She stopped for a moment, her back to him. He could see in the low light she had a small tattoo on her right shoulder blade. "I think you can handle him." She said as she walked to the house. A brief millisecond passed before he said "I'll be there in a minute." He wanted her badly but knew this was a mistake. He hated this weakness. Mal pressed the com's button. "Serenity? Anyone awake? ------------------ Inside Serenity, only Simon heard the call. Everyone else was in an alcohol induced sleep. He pressed the com button on the wall of his bedroom. "Yes Captain?" "I'm getting a room in town tonight. Tell Zoë and Wash I'll be back in the morning." "Okay Captain." ----------------- Mal wrapped a towel around his waist. He left his clothes on the patio but took his holstered gun. She had left hers there on the ground without a second glance. He looked down and followed the wet footprints up the stairs to Delia's room. She was in the bathroom. When she heard her door open, she said "I'll be there in a sec." And indeed, she was. She walked to him, naked. He was sitting on the bed. She had a lovely body and breasts a man could lose himself in. Mal got very excited, and very nervous. Something in him made him speak up. " I'm not looking for a girlfriend or nothing." Delia softly snorted out her nose and said "Don't remember asking you to be my beau." She cupped his elbow and he stood up. The towel would have dropped to the floor but got caught on his erection. "Now that's a good sign" she said as they came together and kissed. ------------------------- The next morning at sunrise, Mal awoke to find himself alone in her bed. Looking around, he saw his clothes folded neatly on the sideboard, his holstered gun atop the pile. Her room was sparse and not decorated like Mal had seen of the rest of the house. Entering her private bathroom, he was overwhelmed by the sight of a huge bathtub in the corner of the room. It was easily big enough for two. Next to it, a separate shower stall. Opening the cupboard on the other side of the tub, he saw perfumes, towels, soaps. A drawer held hair clips and combs. He used the shower, dressed and went downstairs to find Delia eating breakfast in her kitchen. Unlike the rest of the house, the kitchen was state of the art - the newest electronics and gleamingly clean. "Good morning." Mal said cordially. She was dressed in a jade green robe and her hair flowed in ribbons down her back. Delia was reading something on a hand held tablet computer. "Good morning" she replied. "Help yourself." In front of him was a feast he hadn't seen for some time. Real bacon and real eggs - not powdered! Pancakes, syrup and orange juice. He ate, heartily at first. He couldn't remember the last time he had eaten real bacon. Delia said very little to him during breakfast. She barely looked at him as she ate and drank her coffee. He became a little concerned. Things had gone rather well, if he did think so. Maybe she didn't. Maybe she was disappointed. Maybe she didn't like him once she was sober. Damn, she had been drunk. Maybe she regretted last night. Damn! He finished his breakfast in silence. Mal felt a hasty retreat was in order. "Umm, thanks umm, a lot for everything. I better be getting back to Serenity before I'm missed." "No problem. I'll see you later at the market. Hopefully the stabilizer will come today." she said simply. Getting up from the table, her robe flowed on the ground as she walked out of the room. "Besides, I got work to do" she said over her shoulder as an afterthought. Damn, what a fool he was. He swore he'd never drink again. During the walk to Serenity, he kicked the dirt on the path.. Not a word of this would pass his lips. Dumb pigu. ------------------------- Kaylee was up and outside the ship, inspecting the broken aft stabilizer. Tools in hand, she was preparing to remove the damaged part. "Need a hand with that?" Mal asked as he approached "Thanks Cap, I will in a second, soon as I cut this bolt. Stand back." Kaylee stood off to the side and with a turn of the wrist used the blowtorch in her hand to cut the bolt. The stabilizer fell to the ground. "Help me try to roll this off to the side." Mal and Kaylee got behind the stabilizer and tried to push it behind Serenity. It was really, really heavy. They couldn't move it. "Boy, you smell all clean and shiny. Where you been?" Mal realized he might a little too clean after last night. "Oh, I , uh, got a room at the local hotel. Nice to sleep in a real bed." "You were smart." Kaylee said. "Stapleton is a great place." Mal relaxed a bit. She was simply too innocent to read too much into his "staying in town." ---------------- Inside Serenity however, Zoë sized the situation up pretty quickly. She would talk to Mal later about this. Right now, they needed to determine what supplies to bring on. Hammond's had fruit and vegetables, things they had not been able to afford on Persephone. They had a job to do, and while she was mildly amused that Mal had perhaps bedded Delia, she needed to keep her focus. "Captain, we have 3400 credits in the ship's purse right now. Deducting the stabilizer first, of course. I'd like to go get fruit, maybe some sweets, coffee, and a few other things. Preacher said he would buy some herbs and spices. Kaylee is going to buy chocolate. Jayne wants alcohol. You want anything special from Hammond's?" From the tone in her voice, he knew she knew where he had been. Damn! "No, I don't think so." Mal cringed. "I'll be on the bridge. He sprinted up the stairs and towards Wash. He was sitting in his seat, typing into the computer. Wash sniffed the air as Mal approached. "Well, don't you smell all fresh and revitalized." "Leave it alone, Wash." "Yes, sir. .. I just received a wave from Badger. I told him our stabilizer problem and he told me the deal is off unless we get to Landsdowne by Tuesday." "Gorram jerk. Why are we still dealing with him? Will someone answer me that?" "Because he has money." Zoë answered, as she stepped onto the bridge. "Oh yeah, that. " Mal replied sarcastically. --------------------- Mal went to get himself coffee in the Mess. Zoë had followed him and broached the conversation he did not want to have with her. He did not want to have this conversation. She knew he had slept with Delia and he certainly didn't want to talk about it with her. "Mal, umm, last night..." "Last night was last night, okay. Too much beer, too much whisky, not enough thinkin'." "I'm not judging you, sir. It's your business. Delia is a very attractive woman. I just hope you weren't expecting too much. " Live too long with a woman and she begins to read your mind. After a bit of a pause, he said "Maybe I was just expecting I don't know, some appreciation?" Mal's head hung low as he regarded his coffee. "Not like any morning after I've ever had." "You're right." he added. " She looked a little too much like Nandi." Mal said bitterly. " From what I've gotten out of her, the last few years have been prosperous but lonely. I didn't tell you this before. She told me in private- but seeing how you are in a bit of a different position now..." Mal pursed his lips at Zoë. She realized she needed to be straight to the point and avoid being a smart mouth right now. "Mal, she was an Alliance POW for two years at the end of the war. " Mal's head snapped up at this. This explained a lot of things. "Her husband was at Serenity Valley with us, died there." "Hammond? What was his first name?" "Thomas, I think. Tom." "I don't remember a Tom Hammond." "Neither do I. But she was used and abused at the Carthage camps. She probably doesn't have much to offer. Except herself." Mal nodded his head slowly. Thanks, Zoë. I appreciate you telling me that. I won't let on that I know. It explains things some." "You're welcome. I just thought...you should know." Mal stood up to walk to his room. Without turning to face Zoë, he asked "Why was she at Carthage? Was she a soldier?" "No, a spy." Mal walked silently out of the room, digesting these new developments. ------------------------- Later, the whole crew reconnected at the market. Supplies were bought and paid for. Kaylee bought a new shirt and some chocolate. Jayne eyed the guns again, but decided against it. He bought alcohol, some comic books and candy. Wash and Zoë bought candy too, but also some music discs, candles, and clothes. Mal decided to use his money to buy an upgrade for the handheld computer he had. It would allow him to connect to the cortex wirelessly, instead of plugging in at a port. He didn't have a working port in his room. He had to use the bridge port to send messages. Simon was there, head down. He wanted something, but had no money. "Captain, I was wondering if I could borrow some money. I want to buy something." "Don't have to borrow. I figure I owe you about 150 or so platinum. Will that get you what you want?" "Yes, I want to buy River some shoes. I lost her shoes when we escaped.. When she leaves the ship, she's been wearing a pair of Kaylee's old boots." "I thought she just liked being barefoot." Mal said with a bit of a grin. Just then Delia turned the corner and greeted the crew with her broad smile. She was wearing a crisp white shirt and tight tan pants, her Laser Revolver strapped once again to her thigh. Her auburn hair still fell loosely nearly to her waist. Both Mal and Jayne had an instant response to her appearance. Jayne in reaction to what could be, Mal in reaction to what had been. ------------------ "Hello, everyone. Getting what you need? Anyone want anything else?" She lowered her voice to mention the black-market goods she also proffered. I've got laced tobacco. Some explosives, but nothing too crazy." Jayne perked up at the explosives part. Delia looked at Mal but said nothing. Then, she smiled and looked at the Doctor. "What would you like? " "I'm just gonna buy these shoes." "How would you like to make a call, off cortex? I have the ability to make a call anywhere in the 'verse, totally untraceable. Interested?" "That's not possible!" Simon exclaimed. "Alliance runs all interplanetary communication." "You just need to know the right people, my dear Doctor." "You know who I am?" "Yes, but your secret is safe with me. With one call, I can place any call off cortex for about two minutes, tops, before the override is detected." "You would do that for me? Is it expensive?" "300 credits for 2 minutes. " Simon looked at the shoes in his hands "I'm sorry, I can't afford that." "You're a Doctor, right? Maybe we can trade. Come with me." Simon followed Delia out of the market and into an adjoining office. Through the glass, the crew could see Simon and Delia talk for a minute. First Delia, then Simon, then Delia, then they shook on it and walked out of the office. "Come to an agreement?" Mal asked suggestively.. "Yes." said Simon. "But you are a pig" he hissed at Mal as Delia walked to the Com box . "Give me a second while I get my connection." Delia said aloud. Delia punched the number of a certain Alliance Communications Officer who was on her payroll. "Jonathan, it's Delia. I need an Outside Line please." "Delia, this is the third time in one month! I can't keep doing this." "Sure you can. Besides, Kimi was saying how long it's been since you've come to see her. She sure misses you. Let me set up a weekend for you. Please?" "Kimi is a good girl" the officer sighed. "A very good girl." "So you'll do it? "Delia asked "What about Karen?" he whispered. "What about her?" Delia was confused, but then she got it. He wanted them both. "Both? Jonathan? Gee, I don't know. I can promise Kimi, but Karen is quite another thing all together. " Mal, Jayne, Simon and Wash all looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Zoe's hand covered the smirk on her face. "Can you hold the line for a second? I'm gonna call them and clear it with them first. Can't promise something I don't got." Delia said Delia muted the line and punched up Kimi's extension. "Hey Kimi, it's Delia. Is your sister there? Can we talk, all three? Ok, I'll wait." "Sisters?" Jayne moaned Suddenly, the twin sisters Kimi and Karen filled the monitor. Mal coughed. Jayne nearly had a fit. "Twin sisters - both whores? " he shuddered. Delia shot him a quieting glare. "Ladies, I need a favor. Would you both be interested in servicing that Alliance officer Kimi sees sometimes? "Separate or together?" Kimi knew what was going on. "Together. " Delia admitted. The twins looked at each other and then at the monitor. Karen spoke for them both. "We'll do it, just for you, but he's gotta pay us 250 credits a piece extra." "You girls are the greatest. I'll set it up. Thank you. Hammond's Out." "This Alliance officer has certain um, requirements, he generally can't receive in his normal situation at home. He comes to Europa on 'business trips' every 4 to 6 weeks. " Delia explained. "Oh, great." Simon wheezed. "In order to get a phone call home, twin whores are gonna have a threesome on my behalf." "It could be worse." Mal poked at him. Delia might be a bit cold this morning, but the woman could get things done. Delia de-muted the com. "Okay Jonathan, they said yes. Pick your time and date, and they'll be here for you." Delia smiled at the officer. "And they want an extra 1000 credits. " The extra 500 credits made Mal nearly forgive their current situation. His smile back told Delia she was back in business. "What planet you going to?" he asked. Simon whispered "Osiris" which Delia repeated. "Okay. Give me a minute. Hang up, dial me again and you'll be on an unsecured line. I'll patch you right through to Osiris and you know the rest." "Thanks, Jonathan." Delia followed his instructions and stepped away from the com to let Simon approach. "Once you hear the number's announcement tones, you have two minutes. I'll count it down for you and you will have to hang up before 1 minute 55 seconds. Okay?" "Yes." His fingers dialed the number and he held his breath as the com lined buzzed at his parent's house. He was deflated when his parent's computer answered the line. Leave a message? Well, he had come this far. "Hi, Mom, Dad? It's me Simon. I wanted you to know that I am okay, but River... isn't . She is under my supervision. I've determined the Academy that had her did experiments on her brain and she has paranoid schizophrenic tendencies now. I have her medicated and we are working on getting her back to normal. I'm sorry I missed you, and I probably won't be able to call back. I just wanted you to know that we are both safe now. I made the right choice, you know. I gave everything up but gained my life back. I hope you understand. I love you both. Goodbye. " The crew silently regarded Simon as he punched the com button off. "Less than one minute. Very good. I'm glad I could get you what you wanted." Delia said softly. Mal put his hand on Simon's shoulder then walked out of the office and into the mart. The rest of the crew followed. Simon turned to Delia. "Thank you. When do you want to complete our trade?" Simon asked. Just then, a large hovercraft pulled alongside Serenity. "The Stabilizer!" Kaylee clapped her hands in glee. " I guess now, seeing as the part is here." Delia said. Delia followed Simon out into the street and towards Serenity. Mal was looking at the hovercraft and at Kaylee talking to the driver, her motions indicating where she wanted it. When Simon and Delia walked past him towards Serenity, he was suddenly very curious about their trade. Mal watched Delia' s swaying backside for a moment as she walked past him and away. He casually followed them into the ship and watched them climb the far stairs towards the infirmary. They didn't see him as he watched from above as Simon drew three vials of Delia's blood. He listened to her heart and started pressing her abdomen. Then, he handed her a small cup. Confused, he watched Delia walk towards the bathroom. Then he realized what he was watching. Simon was examining her. She had risked an untraceable phone call for a physical? He walked away from the infirmary, but not before Delia opened the bathroom door and caught sight of Mal walking away, scratching his head. ----------------- As Mal walked back into the brilliant sunlight, Kaylee motioned him over to the stabilizer. "Captain, it's in good condition, but it will take Wash and I several hours to modify it . It'll be dark before we are done, but we can get it mostly hooked up and ready to be hoisted into place first thing in the morning. One more night here, sir." "Okay, that puts us back in play with Badger. Wash, wave Badger and give him an update. Landsdowne by Monday night, I'm thinkin'." "You got it, sir." Wash hurried away to send the message. He passed Delia coming out of the side loading dock, rolling down her sleeve. "The rest of you can have the day off. We'll be needing you all tomorrow morning. This thing is a heavy sucker." Mal called to the crew. "I'll send a few of my men over to help lift the stabilizer into place." Delia offered. "I don't think we'll be needing any help, thanks." Mal said curtly. Delia nodded her head at Mal and walked back to the mart silently. Zoë shot Mal an angry look and Mal instantly regretted his tone. She followed Delia to the mart, and catching up with her, put an arm around her shoulder. "Why are you so ma ning kwa so?" Kaylee muttered. She didn't understand at all. --------------------- "I thought everything was okay. It was just sex, you know? Sometimes, your hormones just get the better of you. Why are men so difficult? I didn't want complications. I only wanted him. For the night" Delia plopped onto her sofa. She was suddenly very tired- a feeling she didn't have very often. Zoë regarded her friend and chose her words carefully. "I think Mal has had some ,well, interesting run ins with women and he is more than a little wary. You're reaction this morning threw him off. You also remind him a bit of a woman he knew." "What , did he want me to throw myself at his feet and tell him how fabulous he was? How much I adore him? How good it was? Be her?" Delia asked. Zoë shrugged. She had never figured out Mal's inner workings, and would probably be scared of herself if she did. "Maybe Mal was looking for some respite, maybe someone to stroke his ego a bit. I don't know. Maybe he was looking for a companion for the night." "Mal has a professional on board. He didn't need me for the night." Zoë instantly regretted using the word companion. "He and Inara aren't like that." "So he used me for the night? He didn't leave money on the dresser...I don't think." she said sheepishly. "No, when I said companion, I meant someone to share a bed with. Maybe he was just looking for the same thing as you but he read you wrong this morning. Maybe he expected you to have, well, a more normal reaction post uhh, activities. I guess you were a little standoffish. I did tell him about Carthage, though." "And what did he say?" "He said it explained a lot." Delia nodded and said, "Well, maybe he and I need to have a little more talking. On opposite sides of the table." Zoë rose and hugged her friend. Maybe there would be more to this than a two night layover, after all. ---------------------- Mal stood behind Kaylee and Wash. He watched them work but his mind was elsewhere. Kaylee dropped a bolt behind a box and leaned over to retrieve it. Instantly, Mal saw her backside and saw himself behind Delia, her over the couch, pulling on her hair. Running his fingers through it. He shook the image from his mind. Disgusting old man, seeing Kaylee and thinking like that. He stood up and walked towards the ship. He ran into Zoë in the cargo hold. She was adjusting the straps of a shoulder holster over her chest. He saw himself cupping Delia's breasts in his hands, kissing her , touching her. What was his problem? This was ridiculous! He had spent one night, one lousy (well, not lousy at all...) night with a woman and now these hallucinations? "Captain , you okay?" Zoë asked. "I'll be in my bunk." He muttered. As he walked past the infirmary, he spied Simon punching buttons and making notations. Mal remembered the physical and entered the room. "Whatcha doin'? " Mal asked. He wanted to see if the Doctor would be evasive, but he wasn't. "I'm doing blood work on Delia. It was our trade." Mal nodded and played along. He said "I know. Did you find anything yet?" "No, but the complete blood panel isn't back yet. I expect to get it in..." Simon glanced at the computer. "Twelve minutes." "Keep me informed." Mal said impassionedly and casually strode out of the room. Maybe he wouldn't go to his bunk after all. -------------------- On opposite sides of the ship, Wash was on the bridge, and Kaylee was in the engine room. Testing the aft stabilizer's connection to the computer was the first step before going on. If it couldn't understand Wash's commands, it was useless. Mal walked in just as Wash and Kaylee fired up the connection and with a firm nod, Wash saw the connection was perfect. It understood. They could be on their way. "Kaylee, we're shiny." Wash said to the engine room. "Power down" "Powering down. Meet you outside" Kaylee answered. --------------------- "Wash...Can I ask you about something?" "Sure, Captain." "Can you keep this between us? Not tell Zoë?" Wash nodded but was surprised the Captain wanted to talk to him about anything that Zoë didn't know. "Well," Mal said with a slow breath out "It's Delia." "She's some woman. That hair is incredible. And her chest ,...whoa!" "Stop it, Wash" "Sorry. Actually if you don't mind me sayin' she looks a little like..." "Enough. I know that, now. When you first realized you had strong feelings for Zoë, but before you and she were, uh, together, how did you deal with it? How did you keep yourself together?" "Together?" "You know, keepin' your mind on your work. Not on Zoë." "Oh, well.... the truth is..." Wash looked around the compartment to make sure they were alone. "I visited my bunk. You know. Took care of myself. A lot. More than you want to know." Mal wrinkled his face. This was not the advice he was hoping for. "Wash! ...uh, did it help? Keep your focus?" "No, but it sure felt good." Wash smiled at the memory. "I'm seeing things. Things I best not be seeing over women I best not be thinking about. Dong ma?" "Are you kidding? One night Inara bent over to give me a pen - perfectly innocently- and I had to run out of the room. It was her perfume. To this day, I can't be around her right after she puts on perfume. Another time I saw Zoë rubbing oil into her gun's stock. I nearly ruined my drawers on that one, let me tell you." Mal smiled. He knew Wash knew exactly what he meant. "Did it stop after you two were together?" "No." "It didn't go away?" "No, but at least I was able to keep it in check." "How?" "I married her." Wash said, laying his hand on Mal's. Mal's eyes closed slowly. Again, not what he wanted to hear. ------------------------------ Zoe's voice came over the communicator from the main house. "Captain, Hammond's has just received a call from an Alliance ship needing something. They're sending a landing party down now to buy it. " "How long do we have Zoë?" "Maybe 5 minutes, sir" Mal opened the intercom through the ship "Folks, Alliance are on their way. They have no reason to board the ship, but lets not give them anything. Simon, get your sister and prepare to get in your hidey-hole. That's all." The Alliance ship arrived and left without incident. Soldiers disembarked, waited for their landing party, then left the moon without so much as a backwards glance at the disabled Firefly on the surface. The crew breathed again as the Alliance shuttle thrusters eased off the planet. Mal watched this unfold out the bridge window. "We're clear. Alliance have left." he said over the com. Seeing this, he realized the time to talk to Delia was now, and he needed to screw up his courage and see this thing through. "Go get 'em tiger." Wash said to Mal as he exited the bridge, passing Zoë on her way in.. Zoë sat in Wash's lap and gave him a hug. "What's he going to get?" Zoë asked, as if she didn't know where he was headed. "Delia" Wash said, with a shrug of his shoulders. Only they knew of the Captain's current situation. Only they knew that again, he would not be home tonight. Even before he did. --------------------- Delia was in the market talking to Buddy the Gruff man. "Can I talk to you?" Mal asked. "Of course. My office?" "No, somewhere a little more private." "Okay. Buddy, I'll be in the main house. Follow me." Delia said to Mal Mal followed Delia into a greenhouse on the side of the house. It was lush - small fruit trees bearing fruit, flowers blooming and steamy fogged windows. Delia closed the door behind Mal. They were alone in this glass house. "Yes?" "Delia, I've been thinkin' bout last night. I'm glad it happened. You were a little cold to me this morning and I think we might have gotten things off on the wrong foot ." Mal said, hands clasped together behind his back. "Do you want it to be something more than what it was?" "What do you think it was, Delia?" Mal asked. "It was boozy sex between two lonely strangers. It was good. It was good. And I thank you for the company. I..." Delia trailed her words. She didn't know what he would say. "It was that, you're right. "Mal said. "But maybe for me it 's become something a bit more. I'm not saying I want to be in your back pocket...well, uh..you know. You live here and I live" Mal pointed to the ceiling "up there. I won't leave my ship, and I don't think you'd leave Europa. I would like to see you again. Even if we never lay together again, I want to see you . We come through here every so often. I hope I would be welcome. That Serenity would be welcome here." Mal reached and touched her arm. She looked at his hand and looked into his eyes. "You're right. I won't leave here. I like you well enough. You and your crew will always be welcome here. At my table. In my bed...you, I mean, not your crew in my bed.." Mal smiled at her and she answered his smile. "I haven't had a man around in a long time. Maybe I wanted it to be just sex. Looks like maybe I got more than I bargained for. " "You are a very interesting woman." he observed. Mal reached for her cheek and kissed her softly on the lips. They were about to leave the greenhouse when Trudy opened the door and announced a visitor in the front parlor. "A visitor? Did he give his name?" Delia asked. "Yes ma'am. His name is Jayne.Cobb." "Oh, gohsuh, if he catches me here, with you, like this, I'm a dead man." "Let me go and see what he wants. Go out this door and around the building. See you later." she said, kissing him quickly. Mal wasn't a sneak out the back kind of guy, but he had to live on the same ship as Jayne and if Delia came between them, it could be bad. Jayne owned some very large guns. Delia entered the back parlor and Jayne stood up, bearing a bouquet of flowers . Over Jayne's shoulder she saw Mal walking away from the main house and towards Serenity. "Why Jayne, so good to see you again. Flowers for me? So thoughtful. Thank You." Delia recognized the flowers as those sold in the market. She smiled at him and sat on the sofa next to where he stood. He sat down. Jayne was wearing as nice an outfit as he could muster - clean pants and a long sleeved button down striped shirt. She saw he had borrowed a tie from Simon and he had slicked back his hair with some pomade. Delia smiled at his effort. For a man like Jayne, this was fancy dress to impress a lady. "Miss Delia, I was hoping you and I could spend some time together before I leave." Jayne said bashfully. He had never done this before, trying to court a woman. He felt embarrassed but knew he would kick himself if he didn't at least give it a try. "Jayne, if you aren't just the sweetest thing this side of the 'verse. " Delia drawled. She wasn't sure if she should lie to Jayne and make him think he had a chance with her, or tell him about Mal. "Miss Delia, would you have dinner with me tonight at the Range Bar? I've got enough credits for dinner and drinks..." "Oh, Jayne. I think we are all getting together at the bar. I will sit with you, if you fancy." "Miss Delia, it would be my honor to escort you there. " Jayne said proudly. Just the thought of Delia on his arm puffed him up a few notches. "I ..uh. like your gun." he said, motioning to her thigh. "This is Rosie." she said, unholstering the laser. Jayne turned the weapon over in his hands. It was a standard Smith and Wesson laser, but it was equipped with a sight, and it was etched with small flowers on the side. "My gun's named Vera." he said, handing Rosie back to her. "Vera?" "She's a Callahan full bore autolock." he said proudly. "Single or double cartridge?" she asked sweetly. The fact she knew the Callahan was made in both single and double made his flesh ripple. "Double." he replied shyly. "Very nice! I'd love to see your gun sometime." Delia rolled her eyes slightly at her remark. Dummy! Jayne blushed. He was aching for this woman. "I will see you at the Range Bar tonight. Thanks for stopping by, the flowers are beautiful." Delia sniffed them for effect. Jayne smiled at her broadly and walked back to Serenity floating a few feet off the ground. Delia watched him walk away. She knew she would have to be evasive to duck out of this one. ------------------------ That night at the Range Bar was nearly identical to the previous night. A raucous meal, drinks going around, jokes and reminiscing, but this time Mal watched Delia out of the corner of his eye, Zoë and Wash watched Mal, and Jayne continued to moon over Delia. He dripped on her every word. He was still wearing the outfit from earlier in the day and the crew had teased him unmercifully. He didn't care, though. He was sitting with his Miss Delia. He never saw Delia's look at Mal, or his back at her. Nor did he see Zoë nod at Mal when he stood up and walked to the bar for another round. Zoë whispered to Wash and he stood up to stretch his legs. He walked casually to where Mal stood at the bar waiting for the next round. "Jayne sure is loopy for Delia" he remarked softly. "Yeah, but what Jayne don't know won't hurt 'im. Mal said . He glanced at Wash and made a face that told Wash he was seeing Delia now. "I'm glad for you. Everyone should have someone. Maybe letting Jayne think he has a girl on Europa isn't the worst thing. " Wash said. "Maybe it'll even civilize him a bit" Mal nodded and shrugged. Maybe Wash was right. He'd talk to Delia about this before they left tomorrow. An hour later Delia announced she had to go home. Jayne stood up and asked if he could escort her home. He stuck out his arm and she clasped it. She thanked everyone for a lovely evening and they walked out of the bar. "Now I've seen everything" Kaylee exclaimed. Mal, Wash and Zoë shared the same smile. ------------------------ Walking down the street with Jayne, Delia smiled at him when he glanced down at her but they said nothing. Jayne was too dumbstruck by her presence on his arm to be impressive with conversation. Delia was trying to concoct a way to keep him from her bed tonight. At her front door, Jayne turned to face her . "Jayne, thank you for escorting me home from the bar. There are some really rough people in this town. " she over exaggerated her concern for the crime rate. Make him feel like the conquering hero and send him on his way. "Ma'am, I'm just happy to be in your company. I was, uh, hoping you'd invite me in for a spell..." Jayne said shyly. Neither saw or heard Mal slinking through the shadows behind them. "Jayne, I think that might be a bit , premature, shall we say. I need to tell you that I am seeing another man and things, well, things need to be finished with him before I can turn my attention to you. Do you understand?" Delia said. Jayne understood what he heard. Delia had been involved with another man but since meeting Jayne she had decided to break up with him and would be able to sleep with him the next time they were on Europa. When Jayne nodded, Delia smiled broadly. "If you aren't the sweetest thing." she exclaimed and kissed him softly on the cheek. "Will you write to me?" Jayne asked. "I'd sure like to hear from you now and again- till Serenity comes back." "Of course I will. Now you scoot along home now. Bye, Jayne" Delia said --------------------- In Serenity's infirmary, Simon remembered the abandoned blood test from earlier in the day. He looked down at the screen and read a repetition of the words Delia had whispered to him in her office. She had been right. He tore the paper from the printer and tucked it into a file on the counter. He would tell her in the morning. -------------------- Delia climbed the stairs to her front door and waved at Jayne by the front gate. Still swooning from his kissed cheek, Jayne stayed at the gate until her door swung closed and the porch light went out. He slowly walked back up the street, hand occasionally brushing his cheek. When Jayne was well out of sight, Mal waited a few minutes longer then hopped the gate and walked to the back of the house. He couldn't see anything and walked directly into a small hole, twisting his ankle. Yelping in pain, he hopped around on one leg for a few seconds, then tested the joint. Smarting, he gingerly picked his way to the back of the house. He looked up to the back of the house and saw the bedroom light was off. All lights in the house were off. A few seconds later he heard the strike of a match. Then, he spied a small glowing light moving slowly on the highest deck. He realized he was looking at the glowing cherry end of a lit cigarette. Delia. Mal walked up to the house and climbed the short two flights to the third deck. Delia was sitting on a tall chair, feet on the railing, smoking a cigarette. She was dressed in a long flowing robe. It was too dark to tell the color. Was it the jade one from this morning? "Hi there" she whispered to him. He took the matching chair next to hers and put his feet up on the rail. He reached out and took a cigarette out of the pack on the arm of her chair and lit it up. He coughed lightly- he wasn't a smoker. She smiled at him in the dark. Side by side they sat in silence for a moment. " I heard you found the hole Hank dug for my rose bush." "Yeah, my ankle found it." Mal said, reaching down to rub the offending pain. "So sorry- I'd 'ave warned you." Delia said. "Did you follow Jayne and me back here?" she asked. "Yep." "Do you think I should have been honest with him?" "Nope. Talked to Wash about it and we believe if Jayne thinks he's got a girl on Europa he might just be bearable to live with.." "So what am I going to do if and or when Serenity returns? Take him to my bed?" "Let me figure that one out if and or when the time comes." Mal smiled in the dark. A light turned on in the room behind them, and a knock on the glass door turned their heads. Trudy poked her head out the door. "Miss Delia, if you don't need nuthin' else, Hank and I are gonna go out this evening. " Delia looked at Mal, who shook his head. "Thanks, Trudy. Have fun tonight. There's a card with 50 credits on it in my purse. Take it with you and have a good time. " "Thanks Miss Delia. Goodnight Captain Reynolds." Trudy squeaked. Mal was surprised he had been acknowledged. "Goodnight, Miss Trudy." he called after the closing door. Looking at Delia, she said simply "I had to tell her. For pity's sake, I had a man I'm not married to in my bed last night. A man who was there for breakfast the next morning." "Listen, I'm sorry if I've put you in a bad position. I didn't mean to cause trouble. I just wanted... "What did you want, Mal? 'Cause I wasn't looking for a beau, like I said ." He looked at her, unsure how to answer. As she stood up, she answered it for him. "Did you want this? She asked, guiding his hand to her breast. He looked her in the eyes as she said "How'd you like to put me in a better position?" she teased. Delia walked into the house , leading Mal by the hand. He shook his head. He didn't think this was the smartest thing he'd ever done. But he sure didn't have the willpower to make it stop. The room they walked through off the deck connected directly to Delia's bedroom. She said "Light On" and it flickered on. "Why is this room so sparely decorated? The rest of the house is so fine looking, and this room kind of looks like mine." he asked. "Well, I don't sleep." "Huh? You don't sleep?" "Off and on. Usually I go two or three nights then I'll sleep for 5 hours or so." Delia looked him straight in the eye as she said "It's a holdover from Carthage. Torture by Sleep Deprivation. People kept up 5 or 6 nights until they went mad or broke. Somehow, I adapted. My cellmate and I had to speak in code. We had a saying - when things got too bad. Let me be weak, let me sleep, and dream of sheep. Sleep made the pain go away. What doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger - and keeps ya from sleeping. So... on that happy note, why decorate a room you're never in? " Mal's pained face made her stop explaining. "I'm okay now, Mal." she said as she pretended to have a severe tic. This made him laugh. "Sides, its only me uses this room." "C'mere, you." he breathed as he picked her up and carried her to her bed. They made love in with a slow, unhurried pace. They both knew that getting it over quick would be a sure way for tomorrow to come sooner, and Serenity's departure time. "By the way, make sure you wake me before sunrise." Mal said. -------------------------- The next morning, Mal awoke to a very unfamiliar sensation. There was something on his face. What was it? He swiped at his face and realized it was hair. Lots of hair. Delia's hair. He glanced over to see her snoring softly next to him. It was just sunrise, and he knew he had to go . He didn't want to leave. Mal glanced over at Delia sleeping on her stomach next to him. He lightly traced the tattoo on her right shoulder blade. Chinese. Mal saw it was the pictogram for "Strength of Heart , or Endurance." A POW tattoo. A sad look came over his face. What she must have suffered. He slowly got up so as not to wake her during this rare sleeping event. He crept out of the house and walked back to Serenity. He saw a half full whisky bottle on the ground near the front gate. What fool would leave 20 credits worth of good alcohol on the ground? Turning the corner behind the market, he saw someone sitting on Serenity's lift gate. In the rising sun, something glittered in their hands. Soon, he realized he was looking at Jayne. Oh, God. Jayne was holding Vera. "Hey there, Jayne. What woke you up on this fine, fine, morning?" Mal called cheerfully. He swallowed his fear and kept walking towards Serenity. If he was going to get shot down by Jayne in the field behind Delia's house, he sure was going down without fear. Mal put his hand down to his gun but felt nothing. It wasn't in it's holster. Damn, Damn, Damn. Where the xingjian is my gun? "Captain, I went walking during the night and went to Delia's house. I was drinkin', and thinkin' , and thought just maybe there'd be space in her bed for me. I went on her deck and called to her. She wasn't alone though. She was moaning. Delia was with a man." Oh God, he knows. "So I got to thinking, I'd get Vera and blow the son of a bitch's head off. I waited outside the front gate but he never came out. So I came back here. I was just figurin' I'd go back when you walked up. Where were you, anyway.?" Quick lie, Quick lie... "I was uh, with Kimi and Karen." Mal said guiltily. "You dog, you! You gotta tell me how it was! Jayne whooped. "How do you think it was? It was worth sneakin' away from the ship for." Mal said Whew. Dodged that bullet. "Let me in... I gotta get some sleep. I was up all night." Mal explained. " Up all night? Oh, man you are the gohsuh You are the gohsuh." Jayne had momentarily forgotten Delia's indiscretion. Mal slipped past Jayne and walked aboard. He walked to his bunk, slipped down the ladder and walked to his bed. He took off his boots and shirt Mal melted into his own bed. He could get another hour sleep if he tried. But he lay there, unable to sleep. Eyes open, feet moving, unable to sleep. Delia. She complicated things. He didn 't like complications. ---------------------- Kaylee got up relatively early, for her. She walked to the side gate to open it, but feeling a draft, looked up to see Jayne sleeping on the aft lift gate. He was cradling Vera. This crew is nuts she thought as she jumped down to the ground to inspect the stabilizer. She had covered it with a tarp to prevent morning dew from collecting inside. Her forethought had paid off- the stabilizer was bone dry. ------------------------ The morning brought a group of men approaching Serenity. Kaylee watched them walk up to the aft stabilizer. Delia's foreman Hank and some hands were there to help hoist the stabilizer into place. They were towing something behind them. "Captain, we're ready to install the stabilizer." Kaylee chirped into the com. "On my way" Mal replied. He got up and buttoned his shirt. Pulling on his boots, he sat on the side of the bed for a moment. Running his fingers through his hair, Mal realized he had made two big mistakes. The first one had been following Delia home the night before last and bedding her. The second was following Delia and Jayne home last night and bedding her again. Maybe the stabilizer would be in place before she woke up. Maybe Serenity would be half way to Landsdowne before she woke up. Maybe he was just a stupid idiot. A final brush through his hair and he was up the ladder and walking outside. "Okay, keep it right there" Kaylee said as she and Wash riveted the stabilizer into place. "Zoë, flip that red switch please, just inside the door." Mal walked outside to find a portable anti-grav lifter hoisting the 1 ton stabilizer into place. He had not been looking forward to lifting that stabilizer.. "She's in place. Power up, yup. Flow good. Yup. Cap, she's shiny. We're back in business." Kaylee said happily. Hank approached Mal. "Captain Reynolds, glad we could help. " The two men shook hands. "Where did the lifter come from?" Mal asked. "Miss Delia owns it. Said you would need it. There she is, now." Off in the distance, a figure approached Serenity. Cupping his hand over his eyes, he saw Hank was right. She had on the same white crisp shirt, but this time she had on a blanket skirt. Something gleamed in her hand. She walked up to Zoë and hugged her warmly. In her left hand was a gun. A dark steel revolver. Oh, crap. My revolver. Damn! "Zoë, you left your gun at my house." Delia smiled. "How careless of me" Zoë exclaimed, looking at Mal. "Captain Reynolds, you and your crew are welcome back anytime. Wave me and let me know you are comin' by. Would you?" "Thank you for your hospitality, Mrs Hammond." Mal said with a little too much emphasis on the cheerfulness. "Zoë, keep in touch. All of you, write to me. 'Specially you, Kaylee." she said Kaylee hugged Delia. Delia spied Simon in the main cargo hold. "Got something to talk to me about?" she asked, as he walked down the liftgate to her. "Yes. Let's go over here for a moment." He said. Mal and Zoë watch the two talk a ways from the ship. They walked and talked at the same time, walking in a large circle back to Serenity. She nodded her head. He pointed his finger at her. She nodded again. Delia and Simon shook hands and Simon climbed aboard Serenity without a word to anyone else. -------------------- "Uh, Miss Delia, can I talk to you too?" Jayne asked. "Of course, Jayne." Delia said as he leads her over to the side of the ship. Mal bugged his eyes at Zoë. Oh, no, he's gonna ask her... Mal leaned over to Zoë and whispered last night's events into her ear. Zoë rolled her eyes and put her hand on her holster, readying herself. "Miss Delia, last night I came to you house. Real late. I was, well. I heard some things. Some uh, loud things. Some loud, moany things." Mal and Zoë watch as Delia and Jayne talk. He has his thumbs in his belt loops. Delia put her hand on Jayne's cheek , hugged him, then walked back to Zoë and Mal. Jayne smiled at her and sprinted on board. ---------------------- "What did you tell him?" Mal asks. "I told him it was Hank and Trudy makin' those moans." Delia said with a smile. Mal and Zoë smiled at her. "Well, it was." Zoë put Mal's gun back in its holster. "It was so good to see you again, jei-jei." Delia said simply. "I'll wave you soon." Zoë said Zoë gave Delia a quick hug and boarded the ship, leaving Mal and Delia alone. "This is good bye" Mal said to her. "For now." she said, and rested her hand on his. "You sure you want me back here?" "For now." Delia smiled and gave his hand a quick squeeze. Mal leaned over and kissed her tenderly. She turned and walked away from Serenity. Mal hit the button and the lift gate slowly closed. A most remarkable woman. He had had a most remarkable woman. ------------------------ Serenity lifted into the sky and Mal ambled slowly though the cargo hold. Up the stairs, to the back, he caught up with Simon. "So, doc, what's the word?" Mal asked. "On what?" "Delia" "Can't tell." "Whaddya mean? Can't tell? You're a great doctor." Mal said. "No, you misunderstand. I can't tell you. Doctor patient confidentiality." "So you found something." Mal said seriously, folding his arms on his chest. "Captain, please..." "You can tell me so I understand, or I go to MY infirmary - that I OWN, and rip it out of the gorram computer." Simon contemplated the potential of losing the medical computer for just a second. "Well, Delia was pretty sure what she had, so I was able to perform the right tests." "And..." "And she has Barett's Syndrome." Mal gave him that "I have no clue what that means" look. "It's a neurological condition, usually from Profoscacil poisoning. " Before Mal could even touch that one, Simon explained. "Profoscacil is a strong neurostimulant. In small doses, like one or two shots in a week, it helps people in fugue states - amnesia. But during the War, the Alliance used it on prisoners and such. Delia received massive doses. At Carthage. She has some of the symptoms. Sleep disturbances, numbness in her arms and legs, trouble feeling cold weather." "Is there a cure? "No cure. Just gave her the regular don't drink, don't smoke thing. I can prescribe drugs for the sleep, painkillers, but they usually throw the body for a loop. She turned them down, anyway." "Will it kill her?" "We don't know enough about Profoscacil poisoning long term. I can't say. Probably not." "Thank you, doc" ----------------------------- Mal walked down the hall to the bridge. Zoë was standing behind Wash, rubbing his arms. "Friends all over the place, don't we?" Mal remarked, staring out the forward window. The scent of her was still on him- and in the small enclosed bridge, Zoë and Wash felt like Delia was standing right there too. "Landsdowne?" Wash said, to noone in particular. Kaylee entered the bridge. "Cap, will we be going back to Europa anytime soon?" "I "spect maybe every 4 to 6 weeks" Mal said, looking at Zoë and Wash

COMMENTS

Sunday, June 5, 2005 9:15 AM

AMDOBELL


Very good and while it was funny Mal and Delia sneaking around and lying to Jayne it also felt wrong and not for the morality side of it. I can't see the Captain being that much of a coward or Delia being that cold and heartless to Jayne, leading him on even in the pretence of letting him down gently. Hopefully one or other of them will find a way to tell Jayne that won't hurt him too much. Must admit at one point I thought Delia was setting them all up now I am worried about her condition after being in the torture camps. Hope Simon can find a way to help before they next visit in 4-6 weeks time. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, October 21, 2005 9:39 AM

BELLONA


mal an' delia sittin' in a tree yadda yadda etc etc...

love this fic, so shiny to have our cap'n in love!!!

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 8:27 AM

NOTMANDATORY


*I wrote this after reading this entire Delia Cycle...*

This series one of of the best examples of a "Mary Sue" like character actually working out to be a real Original Character. I liked this series a lot. A whole lot.
The whole series is highly rated- most are rated 9 or 10, for good reason.
Mavourneen, are you going to write any more? I saw in your profile you promise for a Delia #7. Anytime soon?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 9:15 PM

VERASAMUELS


Good start! Don't know how Delia could choose Mal over Jayne in heat <G>, but I suppose it takes all sorts!

I'll console him <BEG>.

Vera


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Delia Cycle #3 - A Body in Motion Stays in Motion / A Body at Rest...
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