Delia Cycle # 2 - And Dream of Sheep...
Sunday, June 5, 2005

Mal and Delia's relationship continues as an old enemy rears his ugly head.


And Dream of Sheep... "So, I figure if we keep our heads down until Persephone and get this in Badger's pocket, he'll make the sale." Mal said. The bridge of Serenity was crowded. Mal, Zoe, Wash, Jayne and Kaylee were all in the tiny space, when they heard the Captain tell them what he had planned with their latest acquisition: 220 ounces of pure filbidium. Enough to power a small town for a year. So, if we're hauling for Persephone, will we be stoppin' at Europa on the way back?" Kaylee asked expectantly. "Well..." Mal said "We haven't been there in near 4 months. I could use a day or two." Wash said, as he lightly touched Zoe's rear. Zoe smiled at Mal. "I'm gonna go wave Miss Delia!" Jayne yelled, and raced off to his bunk. "I haven't said yes yet!" he yelled after Jayne. "Gorram idiot. Ok, Persephone for 24 hours, then we head for Europa. Go on, send your waves. " Kaylee ran off the bridge, clapping her hands excitedly. ----------------------- To: from : kwfrye@serenity.firefly.shp re: We're coming!!!!! Delia- Guess what! We'll be on Europa in about 48 hours! We gotta get to Persephone for a quick visit then Capt. says we'll be headed your way! I am so excited to see you again! I was wondering if you would give me a couple lessons on shooting a gun while I'm there. I feel so stupid that I can't do it while everyone else can. But I'm a real quick student and I really want to! Please??? Cap says that he don't want me in a gunfight, but after the skyplex incident, I know I gotta learn. Can't wait to see you, XOXO Kaylee ----------------------- TO: FROM :verasdaddy@serenity.firefly.shp RE MY DEAR MISS DELIA- I WILL BE ON EUROPA ON TUESDAY. I WAS HOPING YOU AND I COULD GET TOGETHER AND TALK FOR A BIT. YOU ARE THE PRETTIEST PRAIRIE FLOWER THERE EVER WAS. YOUR, JAYNE ----------------------- Delia read her waves with a smile. She hadn't seen the crew of Serenity in a long time. It would be nice to have her new friends (and lover) around her yet again. They had been there 3 times in the last 8 months, and each time, they grew dearer to her. She loved Kaylee's enthusiasm and positive outlook. Zoe and Inara meant a chance for real, intimate conversation with women her own age. Wash and Book's senses of humor drew her to them. She felt a strong connection to Wash in particular. Zoe's husband made her laugh, and he was a good husband to her old friend. Jayne was just plain old sweet. Simon was a chance to feel normal. The shot he gave her last time they were there helped a whole bunch. And Mal? Mal was...Mal. Mal was spicy sweat, hopped up adrenalin, and a chance to glimpse the Gods themselves. She found herself longing for their time together. Delia reached over to the com and buzzed the market. "Hank, you there?" "Yes, Miss Delia?" "Hank, have Aaron get that angus ready for tomorrow afternoon. Serenity's comin' and I wanna put on a big barbeque. That would be barbeque for 9, 10, 13... 13 plus the boys, so barbeque for 19. " "You got it. You need Trudy to fix up stuff too?" "I'm gonna go find her now and discuss it. And tell the boys to bring their music too. I want a nice lively party. "Yes, ma'am!" Hank said with a smile. If there was one thing Miss Delia was, it was generous with folks she liked. ----------------------- Serenity touched down at the Eavesdown docks on schedule. Notified, Badger and his boys were there to meet the crew. "'ello, Captain Reynolds." Badger said, in his Cockney lilt "Badger." he replied with a nod of his head. Mal never trusted Badger to mean what he said. They were always on guard with each other. "'ou got the goods?" he nosed. Mal nodded once. "My man will be pleased. Very pleased indeed." Jayne hefted a small yellow crate out of the cargo hold. "Got it." "Let's walk" Badger said. They entered a bar, The Pomegranate a few blocks away. Inside the smoky, low lit room, Mal, Jayne and Zoe sat with Badger and two of his men at a small table. "The money?" Mal inquired. "Oh, yeah, that little thing." Badger said sarcastically. He handed over a small cloth bag to Mal. Mal peeked inside and saw what he something he liked. He nodded to Jayne. Jayne pushed the small crate across the floor with his foot towards one of Badger's men. He silently picked it up and walked out of the bar. Drinks arrived and Badger lifted his glass. "To honest businessmen." he cheered. "Where?" Mal joked. They laughed, and the tension over the transaction was broken. Mal realized Jayne was staring pretty hard at the pretty bartender behind the main bar. "So, where are you all headed now?" "We're off to see my girl." Jayne said boastfully. He liked the sound of that. Mal and Zoe exchanged a glance. "Well, well, our Jayne has a bird. She must be blind and lost her sense of smell." Badger joked. Jayne reached across the table and grabbed Badger's lapels. "Don't you never speak of Miss Delia like that." Jayne growled. He let Badger sit back down. "Miss Delia? Miss Delia? I know a Delia, on Europa. You ain't sleepin' with Delia Hammond!" Badger crowed incredulously. "She ain't blind nor senseless." "Jayne" Mal said sharply. "Nobody sleepin' with nobody. Good doin' business with you again, Badger. " Mal and Zoe knew the time had come to go. They downed their drinks and led Jayne out of the bar. "Have you lost your senses, Jayne?" "What?" "You never tell Badger anything more than he needs to know. What would happen if he needed some sorta leverage over us?" Jayne stared dumbly. "He'd go straight for your Miss Delia." Zoe explained firmly. "I'd blow his head off." Jayne said Mal just stared at Jayne then shook his head. All three walked the few blocks back to Serenity at dock. "Did you hear what I heard? Mal said softly to Zoe. "Yeah. Badger knows Delia. Maybe she's not as above board as she seems." ------------------------ Later that night, the crew sat down to dinner around Serenity's mess table. Small talk filled the room as they talked about their most recent adventure: Skimming 220 ounces of pure filbidium from a cargo shipment headed for the Dortmunder. It had been a risky job, but they had been well compensated. All were happy it was over and they looked forward to their next stop. They were eager for the chance to eat Delia's cooking. Notably absent from the table was Jayne. "Where's Jayne at?" Mal asked halfway through dinner. "Haven't seen him in hours." Kaylee said. "Nope " said Wash, Zoe shook her head. "Well, if he ain't here, where is he?" The question answered itself, and floated somewhere mid table. "The Pomegranate." Mal and Zoe said at the same time. Either there, or in the bartender's bed, Mal thought. Mal and Zoe loaded two weapons each. As Zoe put her duster on over her shoulder holster, Wash started to object. "I don't want Zoe on the streets after dark. It's not safe. Hell, it's not safe in the daytime." he whined. Mal and Zoe shot Wash the same withering glance. They walked silently off Serenity and up the street to The Pomegranate. ---------------------- Inside, the bar was rougher than during the day. Louder, smokier, and much, much more crowded. They scanned the bar. No Jayne. They walked to the back of the bar and had turned to walk back out when Zoe spotted Jayne talking to the blonde bartender at a corner booth. "There, Sir." she said. As they walked up, Mal could only catch a snippet of his drunken conversation. "Thaz why I got the best prizes in the 'verse. I've the best." Jayne moaned. --------------------- Zoe and Mal got on either side of Jayne and hauled him from the bar by his shoulders. They walked / dragged him back on board Serenity without incident from the locals. They dropped him in the cargo area, and Mal let him have it. "You must be the stupidest goh-suh in the 'verse. I got such a notion..." "Wha? Whaz wrong? Just when for a drink with that pretty bar girl." Mal threw up his hands in frustration and walked away. He walked back, gave Jayne a swift kick in the shin, then walked away. "You're lucky he's in a good mood." Zoe observed before walking away herself. 12 hours later, Mal's temper improved significantly as Serenity lifted off Persephone and headed towards Europa. 6 hours to go. --------------------- To : from : captmreynolds@serenity.firefly.shp re: D- Counting the Hours . -M. ---------------------- "But please, Captain." "Kaylee, I said no. No is no. You ain't takin' shootin' lessons from Delia. I won't let you take up arms so there is no use even tryin' to talk me into it. The answer is no." "Cap, I need to learn. There's been plenty of fights aboard Serenity. I coulda helped." "Kaylee this discussion ended when I said No twenty feet back." He held up one finger. Kaylee wisely held her next sentence. She turned and angrily walked away from him. ---------------------- The rest of the flight to Europa was uneventful. Chores on board were completed, and each member of the ship thought about their impending visit to Europa. Wash and Zoe planned a visit to the mountains. They planned a private picnic for two. Kaylee packed some clothes in her small bag. She wanted Delia 's help altering some of her clothes. Mal stayed in his quarters, trying to get some sleep. Of course, it wasn't coming easily. Jayne wasn't helping things any. He could hear him through the bulkhead, saying the same thing 80 different ways. Mal rolled his eyes and put the pillow over his head. This wasn't going to be the easy trip he was anticipating. "Miss Delia, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" "Will you marry me Miss Delia?" "Miss Delia, can we go get hitched?" "I love you Delia, Be my wife." Mal rolled over and fired a quick wave Delia's way to warn her of this impending development. ---------------------------- Touchdown at Stapleton occurred 2 hours later. The crew tumbled out of their quarters and into the clean, fresh air of Europa. All breathed their first breath deeply. Fresh air sure beat recycled air, any day. The prairie was abloom in light pink flowers, the air scented with their subtle perfume. They walked the short distance to Hammond's. Mal moved to stow their weapons but Buddy was sitting outside, and held up his hand to Mal. "Miss Delia said Serenity has an A+ pass. Y'all can carry weapons into Hammond's now." "Hmmm." Mal said, and put the key back into the little locker. "But she ain't here." "Show mu?" Kaylee asked. "She ain't here. Her and Hank got a buzz from Mercy Hawkins, over the next valley. Her husband broke his leg two days ago and she needed some help on their farm. They left about an hour ago." "Did they say when they'd be back?" "Naw. But prolly for the night. Big party planned. Kaylee clapped. "Oohh, a party! Maybe I can wear my dress!" "Somehow, I don't see it bein' a fancy dress party." Zoe said. "Can you buzz Mrs Hammond and ask her if she needs any help? Either from us or a doctor?" Mal asked. Buddy waved them into the mart. "C'mon" He punched a few buttons on the com and said "Miss Delia" into the speaker. A few seconds later, her drawl came over the com "Yes, Buddy?" "Miss Delia, Serenity is here, and Cap Reynolds wants to know if you are needin' help from his or a doc." All can hear a slight scraping noise as Delia covers the com with her hand to muffle her question. Mal knit his brow a bit. "Yes, tell Captain Reynolds to bring the shuttle East about 2 miles. He'll see a small house, large red barn and silver silo. We could use the medicine, yes." Walking out of the mart with a wave to Buddy, Mal discussed the next few hours with Zoe. "You stay here with Jayne & Kaylee. I'm gonna go with Wash and Simon out to the farm." "Ok, Sir." she complied ------------------------ The shuttle hopped the 2 miles in less than a minute. Landing carefully so as not to crunch the field, the crew hopped out to discover a beehive of activity. Delia was directing men from where she stood, chopping wood. "Hank, make sure you take 10 bales down from the loft. That'll feed the animals for at least three days." Thud went the ax. "Get the key to the tractor. I wanna haul this wood closer to the house." Thud " No, no, make sure it's stacked on the tarp so it doesn't get wet." Thud. "Well hello, gentlemen. Thanks for the help. Captain, can you and Wash help Hank in the barn? I'm gonna introduce the Hawkins to the Doctor." With a thud, Delia buried the ax head into the stump. She and Simon turned and walked the short distance to the house. "Mercy? Mercy? I want you to meet my friend, "Dr Ssss...." she realized quickly she shouldn't use his real name. "Dr Sam Johnston." Mercy Hawkins shook Simon's hand "Oh, thank you for coming, Doctor Johnston. Since Dale broke his leg he's been in a powerful 'mount of pain. I only had one pain stick left, and I gave that to him right after he first broke it. " Mrs Hawkins led Simon to a small wooden bed in the back of the house. Dale Hawkins' leg was in bad shape. Without pain medication, or proper treatment, Simon saw Dale needed help. "Hi, Mr. Hawkins, I'm Dr. Sam Johnston. I'm going to give you some pretty strong pain medication, and you're gonna sleep for a while. While you are out, I'll set and cast your leg in a splint. Stay off it, follow your wife's orders and it should be healed in a few days. "Days?" Mercy said incredulously. "Yes I've got a shot that will speed the bone's healing. What used to take weeks now can take a few days." "'mazing." "Ok, Mr Hawkins, here we go. Ma'am, I'm gonna need your help." Simon says to Mercy. Nodding to Delia, he set to work. Delia walked out of the farmhouse and into the warm May sunshine. Mal had taken her place at the stump, and with easy, fluid motions split the remaining wood. She watched his arms, up and down. "Thank you for coming. Means the worlds to these people." "We were in the neighborhood- thought we'd drop on by" Mal said, leaning against the ax handle. They stood there, regarding each other for a moment, when Wash's groans gained their attention. He had a hay bale on his shoulder and was walking with Hank and one of the Hawkins' hired men toward the animal shelter. "You get to talk to the pretty girl. I get to shlep hay. Just great." Wash complained. "Does that man ever do anything but complain?" Delia wondered aloud. "Guess what you do well, you do often." Mal thought aloud. "That so?" Delia said in a very suggestive manner. Mal picked up the ax and swung at the stump, so Delia wouldn't see his slight blush. --------------------- "Doctor Johnston, thank you so much for your help. I...I.. Have no money- but would you take a goat in trade?" Mrs Hawkins asked. Simon held up his hand but Delia interceded. "Don't worry Mercy, I've got this one. " "Delia, if you aren't the kindest woman I ever met" Mercy said. "Don't tell anybody, k?" Delia teased. "Remember, the longer you keep him in bed, the better that bone will heal. And here's 3 pain sticks. Give him one tonight, one tomorrow afternoon if he needs it, and an extra for the future. Take the splint off in 3 days. " Simon instructed. Mercy shook his hand vigorously. She was clearly grateful. "How can I repay you Delia?" "You can tell Dale to buy his seed from me this year, 'stead of getting it from Persephone." Delia smiled. ---------------------- "Hank, load up- let's go. See you back at Hammond's" Delia and Hank mounted the horses nearly simultaneously, and turned them West. Delia turned her head and watched shuttle 2 take off just as Mal looked down at her and their eyes met. --------------------- When the crew spotted the two horses coming across the prairie, their mood turned from excitement to jubilant. Everyone was glad to be on Europa again. It meant both well deserved shore leave, and another chance to reconnect with their new friend, Delia. The reunion between Delia and the rest of the crew was joyful. All on board hugged her. Mal observed that she clearly got along with everyone on board. It made him happy to see that the woman with whom he had chosen to be with had also been chosen by his crew. Zoe's wartime friend meant something different to all on board, but perhaps the most to Mal. "I've a barbeque planned in a few hours. Come to the back of the house at 1700 for steaks and ribs on the grill. " "Hot damn!" Jayne exclaimed, then realized what he said "Oh, excuse my language, Miss Delia." he said meekly. Mal just shook his head. "We'll see you later" Mal said. "Wait, I got some business." Delia said. "Simon, I owe you some money. I want to pay you for fixin' Dale's leg." "Oh, ummm. Ok." As Simon had no money of his own, he was more than willing to accept something on the side. "Hello? We worked too." Wash said, pointing to himself and Mal. Mal just looked at Delia. "What Simon did was doctoring. What you and Captain Reynolds did was bein' a good neighbor. I don't get paid, you don't get paid. Simon- he gets paid. You want coins, credits or credit at the mart?" Simon smiled gratefully. "Can I get some coin and some credit at the mart? That way River can buy something for herself." "Done. I'll see you all later." --------------------------- The crew walked back to the ship. Zoe was the last to board. She looked back in time to see Mal was not behind her, but was turning the corner beside Delia's house, his arm around her waist. Zoe smiled a small smile. She was glad the captain had found someone. Everyone should have someone. She walked onboard to find her someone. ------------------ Turning the corner, Mal wrapped his arms around Delia as she reached up for his neck. They kissed passionately for a few seconds. God, he missed her so much. Her body, her face, her smell.... "I've missed you too." she breathed onto his lips. 'Let's go upstairs." he urged, touching her waist, then hips, then back up to her breasts. "No, the boys need directing. I got work to do. Ohh, yeah. Keep, right there, yeah." They groped a few more seconds before Delia came to her senses first. "Mal!" "Ok, ok." he said, hands in the air. "Let me get my work done before we get our work done. 'Sides, how'd you like it if I came a gropin' while you were doin' something a bit criminal? She smiled. Mal contemplated this for a second with a stroke on his chin. "Hmmmm." She gave his chest a thwack before walking away, hips swaying. --------------------------- Later that afternoon, Delia sat behind her desk in the market and entered invoices into her tablet. She was distracted; she knew Serenity was right outside, and it held Mal. Delia flipped the paperwork on her desk upside down and got up. The invoices would have to wait until later. As she rose, she noticed the hem of her skirt had fallen. Delia lifted the hem and saw a few quick stitches would solve the problem. "Hank, I'll be right back." Delia called into the market. "Right-o" Delia went through the doors that led to her home from the market. On the second floor of her house, she entered the spare bedroom that served as her sewing room. She sat on the edge of the couch that filled the far wall, and threaded a small needle with black thread. She had completed a few stitches when Trudy 's voice filled the stairwell outside the door. "Miss Delia? You've got a visitor!" "Who is it?" "It's Inara" a second voice called. "Inara, come up. I'm on the second floor." Delia responded. A few moments later, Inara appeared in the doorway. She looked quizzically at Delia, who had her head bent to the hem of her skirt, and was biting it. Delia looked up at Inara and laughed slightly. "Just fixing my hem. What can I do for you?" "I was wondering if we could talk for a moment." "Of course." Delia said graciously. "Sit down. Is everything okay?" Inara walked into the sewing room and perched on the edge of the couch next to Delia. "" "What is it?" Inara hesitated a long moment. "It's you." "Have I done something wrong?" "No." "Have I offended you?" "No." Delia observed Inara for a second and realized from her facial expression that whatever she had come to say clearly pained her. "Ok, I'm lost." Inara looked down at her hands, then directly at Delia. "I like Mal." Inara said softly. "And?" "No, Delia. I like him." "I know that. It doesn't bother me." Delia said matter of factly. "But it bothers me." Inara said, anguished. "Why?" "In my line of work, having relationships is difficult. Especially with the Captain of the ship you are on. So, I've not let it happen. We've not let it happen. Strictly business. So coming to Europa is difficult for me. I...know he's here for a reason. You." Inara said. "I'm sorry, Inara. I sensed you and Mal are attracted to each other, but I hadn't thought of what this must be like for you." Delia said. "Nothing has ever happened between us. Just chemistry. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I can't deny three very important things. One, I like you very much. I can't not like you. Two, Mal is happier than he had been in years. He's so much easier to live with now. And three...If Mal and I got together, we would flame very hot for about five minutes, then we'd have to kill each other." Inara said cheerlessly. Delia smiled warmly at Inara's confession. This must be very hard for her. Delia reached over and took Inara's hand in her own. "You are a very beautiful woman. Inside and out. I hope you will consider me your friend, and not your rival." Delia said softly. Inara and Delia hugged spontaneously, and their friendship was sealed. "You know, Europa might not be a Core planet, but there are some respectable gentlemen here. You could do business. Use your time here to build a client base." Delia said gently. "You don't disapprove of my work?" Inara questioned. "No. A woman should be able to do what she wants with her body." "Mal calls me a whore." Inara said. "That's Mal's way of telling you he loves you." Delia said seriously. The two looked at each other and burst out laughing at the stupidity of Delia's words. ------------------------ That night's party was just what the crew needed after nearly 16 weeks in the air. A half steer on a huge spit in the backyard, beer, sweets. Chinese lanterns were strung up on the back porch. Flowers decorated the table. Zoe and Wash sat in the corner with Inara and Book. They laughed loudly, drank fully, and enjoyed the food immensely. Delia always provided a groaning table whenever Serenity came to Europa. For this alone, they were grateful. Toward the end of their last job, all anticipated eating real food, and had lost their appetites for the food in the Mess. ------------------------ Simon and Kaylee danced to the music Delia's men played on their few instruments. River swayed slowly to the music, lost in her own world. Mal and Delia sat with Hank and Trudy, eating barbequed ribs and enjoying he music. Mal was so engaged listening and laughing to those around him, he was able to lay aside his urgent need for Delia. He knew their time would come, soon. Delia's men put aside their instruments for a few minutes so they, too could eat. They were a hard working, hard playing bunch. They ranged from teenagers to men in their thirties - all grateful to have a job, all grateful they had an employer as good as Delia Hammond. ------------------------ Later, the party started to wind down. Zoe and Wash got up and said goodnight to everyone. "We've got a room in town. We'll see you in the morning." "Zoe, are we on for the morning?" Delia called after her. "Bright and Early" she called back. "Not too bright and not too early." Wash said over his shoulder. "Uh, Miss Delia, will you walk with me?" Jayne asked hopefully. Delia smiled at Jayne. "Not too far. I've got guests!" Mal watched Jayne and Delia walk off then into the dark. He slapped his forehead. He had forgotten to ask Delia if she had read his wave about Jayne. Oh, no. This should be interesting. "I wanted to ask you something, Miss Delia" Jayne said plaintively. "What is it, honey?" Delia asked. "Well, I, uh..." "Jayne, is there a problem?" "I...uh...I mean, you and me. Uh, I was ..." Oh, Damn! Jayne ran off into the night, leaving Delia standing there utterly confused. ---------------------- Wash and Zoe walked up the stairs of the hotel in the middle of town. Hand in hand, they looked forward not only to the love they would make, but time away from Serenity and the sometimes chaotic life they had chosen. The couple had been together long enough that time together no matter what they were doing - was just as healing, just as special, as time relaxing by yourself. Once inside their room, Wash eagerly unbuttoned Zoe's shirt She picked up on his greedy lust and they left a trail of clothes as they made their way towards the bed. --------------------------- Delia walked back to the party. More people had left. Simon and Kaylee were sitting on a single lounge chair , snuggled close. Mal was sitting with Book at the small deck table. "That was the strangest thing I ever saw. He stumbled and bumbled then ran off." she said. "I'll tell you later." Mal put his hand on Delia's. Preacher saw this was his cue to go. He stood up, kissed Delia's unoccupied hand, then walked off in the dark to Serenity with Inara. Mal stood up holding Delia's hand and she rose gracefully off the chair. He started walking with Delia into her house past Simon and Kaylee. "Goodnight you two." Delia said. She leaned down and kissed their cheeks. "Goodnight" they said in unison. "Where's the Cap goin'?" Kaylee asked Delia and Mal continued into the house as Simon clued Kaylee in on what nearly all the crew already knew. "Cap and Delia are courtin'? Oh my God!" She said excitedly. --------------------------- They walked into the house hand in hand and burst into giggles at Kaylee's drunken surprise. Delia drew the curtains and they kissed passionately in the living room. Mal pulled her down onto the couch and on top of himself. Rosie fell out of her holster and onto the floor as his hands roamed her lower back and hips. ---------------------------- Wash and Zoe knew their parts well. What worked, what didn't, and how best to make the person next to them groan. Zoe straddled her husband, long legs on either side of him. "Zo" he said in a soft voice. " I need to tell you something." "What?" "You are my mate. There will never be another. " he said "Mated for life." she agreed and bent at the waist to kiss him. Her hair fell in a fan around his head. He reached up and hugged her upper body close to him. --------------------------- Simon and Kaylee walked back to Serenity holding hands. Kaylee was so happy - the party, just enough wine in her system, the fresh air on Europa just like her parent's home, the man she liked was holding her hand. She didn't notice at first Simon was leading her away from Serenity and towards the foothills. "Wait, the ship is over there." Kaylee protested. "I know where it is." Simon whispered. They stopped walking and Simon turned to face Kaylee. He put his hands around her waist. She smiled at him in the dark. "Simon..." she said gently and she put her palms on his chest. They had never been in this position before. Totally alone, Simon wanted her so badly. He leaned and brushed his lips to hers. She grabbed his neck and her kiss back to him was ardent and passionate. He answered back, touching parts he had always wanted to touch. Kaylee kneeled down and sat on the grass. Simon realized what she was doing and hesitated a moment. He knew if he sat down, they wouldn't get up until they had consummated their untried relationship. Kaylee reached up and pulled Simon by the hand but he pulled her back up. "I want to sit down with you but I ...not like this." Simon said. Kaylee didn't say anything. She stood up and leaned in, kissing him as gently as he first kissed her. ------------------------- Lying on top of Mal, Delia realized she had forgotten something. She lifted her head for a moment. "So, what was that Jayne business all about?" she asked. "He was going to ask you to marry him." Mal said. "What? You're joking." "No, I'm not. I heard him practicing saying it a dozen different ways. Didn't you read my wave?" "No. Didn't get to it. What am I gonna do? " "You'll tell him no." "I'll tell him no? Who are you to say I'll tell him no?" Even though she was kidding, he heard something behind her voice. "Somehow, I don't see you as Mrs. Jayne Cobb." Mal said. "I kind of like the sound of that...Mrs. Jayne Cobb. Delia Cobb." she joked. Mal rolled his eyes at her. "Okay, enough." she said as she swung herself off Mal. She stood over him for a second and Mal was momentarily caught off guard. For a second, he thought she was really mad at what he said. "What?" Mal asked. "If you don't take me upstairs right now I'm gonna pop some buttons. " With a giggle, Delia raced up the back stairs, Mal trailing at her heels. Clothes peeled off as they ran, so by the time they reached the bedroom, Delia was topless and Mal's suspenders were almost tripping him. Delia reached over and unbuttoned his pants slowly, one by one. She looked up from his pants and saw his eyes glued on her chest. She eased his pants down as they kissed. It had been far too long. --------------------- "What do you mean it broke?" "I mean, it broke." "Those things never break." "Well, this one did." "This is not happening" "Don't worry. Do we need to worry?" "Hope not. No, I don't think so." -------------------------- Mal knew by the silence in the room that he was alone. Opening an eye, he saw daylight. What time was it? Was it early or late? He didn't rightly care to find out just yet. He lay on his back, arm under his head and listened to the silence. He smelled her perfume on the sheets. He rolled his head into the pillow to burn the smell into his memory. He didn't want this moment to escape him. Lying in bed was a luxury he didn't have often. Lying in Delia's bed was a luxury he wanted to have more often. ------------------------- 25 feet below him, Delia and Zoe were preparing to do something they hadn't done together in years. Tai Chi. Delia ordered matching white tunics and pants in anticipation. Like riding a bicycle, each woman was confident of the other remembering the sequences. This was an exercise they had learned together in the Army. They had practiced together for months before they had gone their separate ways. Delia's hair was braided in a neat plait down her back. Zoe had clipped hers back so the gentle breeze wouldn't waft her hair in her face during the movements. A few yards away, Wash stood leaning against one of Delia's apple trees, arms across his chest. Kaylee and River sat on the grass, waiting for the women to begin. After last night's embarrassment, Jayne was still in his bunk on Serenity. Simon stood near Wash. "Ready?" Zoe prompted. Each one stepped a foot to her right and started the sequence of movements. Slowly, meticulously, each raised her right hand and began the ritual dance. They moved independently, but also as one. Each a carbon copy of the other's movements. They felt the power gathering within them as their fluid moves gave way to a ballet of energy and grace. Wash had seen people on the vid doing tai chi, but not in person - and that person being his wife, it was the most elegantly divine thing he had seen in a long time. Instantly, he wished the women were doing this in the nude. Ugh, he hated his libido sometimes. Kaylee was captivated. So many new things were opening up to her since they met Miss Delia.. Guns and Fighting, Cooking and Sewing, and now Tai Chi. She could see why Zoe and Delia were such good friends. Both strong, both beautiful. They had so much in common. This saddened Kaylee for a second. She realized she didn't have these things in common with the beautiful strong women in front of her, and she couldn't be like them. The first cycle of 24 movements lasted for 3 minutes. Zoe and Delia had a good rhythm now, and they began a second set. Mal had snuck out onto the upper deck in the middle of the first cycle. Wearing the robe Delia had bought for him, he leaned on his arms against the upper rail and watched two of the three most important women he had ever known dance their exquisite exercise of strength. Suddenly, River got up and began the movements exactly in tune, and the two became three, perfectly synchronized. Two from years of practice, but River sensed, she knew what the next movement should be. Feeling the energy, she danced with it. Simon watched in awe of the three. Very little River did these days surprised him. Her intuitive nature was perfectly expressed by this bizarre yet fitting performance. River had been getting better lately. Simon didn't know why. He suspected that time and distance had started to repair the cut connections and sometimes, she was even lucid. Zoe and Delia didn't react when River got up and joined them . Each was channeling the energy they were creating. Though their eyes were open, their trance like state made them not see. As the third cycle ended, they stepped out of the movements the same way they had stepped in. Their eyes met and they hugged. Zoe had never had much to say to River, and she still didn't, but took a step and hugged the intuitive young woman. Delia smiled. --------------------------- The crew gathered in the back yard for the breakfast Trudy had prepared. Eating good food, outside in the clean, fresh air was an energizing event. They had not had such a meal in a long time. It was these times that made Europa so special, so different from their normal existence on Serenity. ----------------------- Delia negotiated the metal grating on the stairs carefully. She felt closed in when she was aboard Serenity, and didn't want to tumble into the cargo hold behind Mal. "It's smelling... better in here." Delia observed, as she walked across the cargo bay. "Guess we need to air her out more often." Delia turned and sat on the low wooden crate behind her. Mal leaned against the crate next to her. Now was as good a time as any. "Can I ask you something?" "Sure" Delia said, smiling up at Mal. "How did you and Tommy meet?" Delia's smile faded slightly. This wasn't the topic she had anticipated. "I'm sorry. You don't have to answer that." "You're right. I don't. But I will. Tommy and I met at the Indie headquarters on the Capital Skyplex. Right before the Autumn Push on Hera." "Was it love at first sight?" "Nope. I thought he was a pompous pile of go-suh." "What changed?" "He was...persistent. Asked me out a dozen times before I said yes. Three weeks after that first date, I realized he was my pompous pile of go-suh. The Padre of the 121st married us six weeks after we met." Mal quietly studied Delia for a long moment. "Why do you ask?" "I'm...curious." Wash and Zoe entered the cargo hold from the forward door, and interrupted Mal's train of thought. They had returned from their picnic near the foothills. Delia smiled as she noted a few blades of prairie grass stuck to the back of Zoe's head as they walked by. "I'm gonna be on the bridge." Wash said. He squeezed Zoe's hand as he let it go, and climbed the stairs at the rear of the hold to the bridge. "Y'all have a good time?" Delia asked. "It was wonderful. Europa smells so good this time of year." Zoe said. "You should be here in the summer. The prairie is alive with flowers and the grass is so sweet you could eat it." Delia said. "So, do we want to go to the Range Bar for dinner tonight?" Mal asked. "Sounds like a plan." Delia said. "I think that'll do just..." Wash's heavy footsteps on the catwalk distracted Delia. All three looked up at Wash, his hands on the railing above them. "Sir, we've gotten a wave from Oscar. He wants us on Greenleaf, yesterday." "What for?" "A haul. Greenleaf to Stonechapel." "Yesterday?" Wash nodded at Mal lightly. Mal looked at Zoe, then at Delia. Zoe's arms were crossed over her chest, and she was studying her boots carefully. Delia was expressionless, waiting for Mal to reply. He was caught between Serenity's need to be on the job, and his own need to be on Europa. "Wave Oscar back... tell him we're on Europa. We'll be there in 36 hours. " "I'll go collect everyone." Zoe said. She turned and walked back out into the brilliant sunshine, and into Stapleton. "I'm sorry." Mal said sadly. "Don't be. You gotta make a living, same as me. " Mal reached over and rubbed Delia's arms. She smiled up at him, and as his hands slowed she felt for his hand. Grasping it, she led him up the metal stairs to the crew's hallway.. "We've got 30 minutes, right?" --------------------------- Seven weeks later, Delia walked through her market. Surveying the scene from her office sometimes wasn't enough. She often walked the floor as a shopper would and tried to see things as they did. So, her walking carefully through the market gathered no notice from the staff. She wandered for a moment, then carefully made her way down the medicine aisle. Picking up a box, she nonchalantly walked out of the mart and into her private residence with it. She shook her head. Shoplifting from her own store! Delia made her way to her bathroom upstairs. She locked herself in the room and sat down on the toilet. She opened the box. She read the instructions for a quick second, then pressed the plunger on the lancet to get the blood sample she needed. She tried to distract herself for the two minutes by thinking about the chores still to be done today. She had to pay some bills, she needed to bake a cake for Buddy's birthday tomorrow, she wanted to take Rosie apart and see if she could find out what was making her occasionally misfire. She also wanted to finish the skirt she had made for Kaylee. Like her own blanket skirt, it was a brownish gray with stripes at the bottom and fringe in the front. She had also wanted to send off a few waves. Definitely had to answer Zoe's, and one to the planet authority complaining about raised taxes on Alliance purchased fuel rods. Oh, shit, no amount of stalling would change the reading on the end of the lancet. She knew it, the walls knew it, the lancet knew it. A bright green baby glowed in the results window. She hung her head. Delia put the lancet in the trash and left the bathroom. She had waves to send. ------------------------ To captmreynolds@serenity.firefly.shp from : re Space Man, You and I need to talk about Kaylee. She told me you forbid her from learning how to shoot a gun. I think this is a mistake. Teaching her good habits and proper technique just may make you last another day. I understand how protective you are of her. But the time has come for her to grow up a bit. She's telling you she's growing up 'cause she's interested in defending her ship. At least let me show her basics. It can't hurt, and you can forbid her to carry a weapon unless you yourself press it into her hand. Please think about it, for me. Zoe and I have also want to show her some basic self defense and being able to hold a gun without shaking will boost her confidence. Thinking of you - on the table, in the bathtub, in the grass, Prairie Chicken --------------------------- To : from : captmreynolds@serenity.firefly.shp You + Kaylee are in cahoots and I told Kaylee very clear she has no business with a gun. I don't like you fiddling with my crew's business behind my back . We are just leaving Stonechapel and Kaylee is confined to quarters for going behind my back. I'll let her out in a few days and she'll ignore me for the next 3 weeks while we steam your way. And then, you can give her a gunning lesson. But I get final say when she gets to carry a weapon. Why do women always get their way? - M. ( I was thinking of you on the kitchen table too) ---------------------------------- To: from: Badger- I'll be on Persephone Tuesday and Wednesday for a short business trip. Let's get together Wednesday and discuss something mutually beneficial. Wave me back with time and place. - Delia Hammond ---------------------------------- "Trudy? Trudy! Hey, there. I need you to get a bag packed. You're going to accompany me on the red eye to Persephone. We'll get there tomorrow, stay overnight, and return on the Wednesday flight . No, I've got some business in town. A taxi shuttle will be picking us up in 2 hours." Delia said. ---------------------------- To : aniska@niskainc.bartonskyplex.shp from: Mr Niska- I just found out Jayne Cobb's girlfriend will be on Persephone for 48 hours If Cobb knows about what I told you, he's probably blabbed to her. Again, sorry about our misunderstanding -Badger -------------------------------- Niska smiled at his computer screen. This would work out well. Revenge on Serenity. He reached over and touched the ancient glass lamp on his desk. He would have a nice start to his burgeoning collection of antiquities once Serenity arrived for the exchange. ---------------------------- Trudy was excited. She hadn't gone to Persephone in over 2 years. She ran to tell Hank where she was going. Oh, she had some money saved up. Maybe she could buy some clothes that didn't come from the mart. Oh, she'd better find Connie too. Connie would want clothes too. Trudy was grateful to be getting off Europa, even for 24 hours. She understood why Delia needed to go, and would faithfully help her prepare for the adoption procedure. She was sad Delia was doing this. A baby at Hammond's would be joyous. But, she admitted to herself that if it was her, she would probably be doing the same thing. ----------------------------- Hank hugged Trudy and Delia as they boarded the shuttle. Take care of yourselves. I'll see you Wednesday." Trudy turned and kissed Hank. She had never done that in front of Miss Delia. Delia smiled and walked up the shuttle stairs. "Hank, we'll see you soon." Delia said. ----------------------------- The shuttle rose when Trudy and Delia had their seats. Neither liked the feeling at take off, and they sat silently waiting for their lunch to return to its proper position. 15 minutes later, the shuttle was docking at the space port orbiting over the Europan Northern hemisphere. Trudy had a huge smile on her face, but Delia was on guard. This wasn't the open prairie, it was a gorram space port where bad things could happen. Delia went into defensive mode because it was clear Trudy's grin gave her away as ripe pickins. They waited only 20 minutes at the gate for the transport to Persephone. The huge transport ship ran under Alliance authority. Once Delia and Trudy found their seats, they settled in for the 6 hour flight to the Persephone space port. Delia closed her eyes and relaxed. This time tomorrow night, Delia would no longer be pregnant. She had decided a few minutes after discovering the babe' s existence to give it up for adoption. Contacting an adoption agency with their own doctor on staff was the easy part. She wasn 't nervous or upset about having the pregnancy removed and put up for adoption. She was sad because she couldn't , and wouldn't, tell Mal. It was easier this way, and she knew it. Their arrival at the space port was almost a disaster. The transport was late to dock, so they nearly missed the connecting shuttle down to the surface. Luckily each had only a small bag and ran to catch the shuttle. 30 minutes later, Delia and Trudy were walking down the Main Street of Persephone Prime. Trudy was enthralled by the shops, the street scenes and the throngs of different people clogging the streets. "Miss Delia, we got 4 hours before your appointment" Trudy said. "Can we go look at clothes?" "Sure!. If I remember rightly, there's a nice shop right down this..." Delia's guard had been down, thinking about the procedure, buying a nightgown for Mal to see, and the excitement of being in a strange place. Once the men blocked their path in the street, it was too late and her moment to react was gone. Trudy's eyes got big but Delia kept her cool. Someone behind her relieved Delia of Rosie strapped to her thigh. They hadn't been on the planet ½ hour and they were being robbed! "Mrs. Delia Hammond? Come with me. Someone wants to talk with you." one of the men said. He had a peculiar accent- she couldn't place it. They were led into an adjoining alley. "What about this one?" Delia heard. "Only Hammond" the man replied. Suddenly, Delia realized Trudy was being led off in an opposite direction, a hand over her mouth. Delia tried to gain the upper hand and gave the man in front of her a swift kick to the groin. Her spin around wasn't fast enough, so when the butt end of Rosie connected to the back of her skull, she collapsed to the ground. The men picked her up and put her in a shipping crate just for this purpose. They walked with the crate the two streets towards the Eavesdowne docks. ---------------------------- "Stick it up your pigu!" Kaylee screamed, running away from Mal "You show me some respect!" Mal yelled back, chasing her down the corridor towards the mess. "Stick it up your pigu, SIR!" she hissed as she jumped the stairs down into the mess and ran to the opposite side of the table. Most of the crew was in the mess, eating lunch. This scene caught them by surprise. They knew Kaylee had been mad at being confined, but they didn 't realize it had gone this far. "You can't tell me what to do" she yelled. She was on the verge of tears and seeing Inara, she collapsed into her lap, crying hysterically. "Oh, yeah? I pay you to be here. I'm the captain, and what I say goes." he yelled, and pointed his finger at her. "If you continue to act like a baby, you'll never even see Europa again." "Mal, what is going on here?" Inara asked. "Miss Kaylee T. Tantrum here wants to learn to shoot a gun. Well, I say no. She ain't got no business with a gun in her hand.. " "Sir, I don't see what teaching..." Zoe interjected. "You of all people should see... Kaylee, guns kill people. People WITH guns kill people. You don't want to be on the trigger end of a gun when that happens. 'Sides, I promised your folks. No guns. " "I'm not a baby no more, Cap. I just wanna help." Kaylee said through her tears. "Your help is in the engine room. Not boosting things, not actin' crazy with a gun. You leave that to me, Zoe & Jayne." He started to calm down. "No more talk of guns till I say you are ready. And you ain't ready." Kaylee buried her head in Inara's shoulder. With that, Mal ran his fingers through his hair and turned to Wash. "How far out of Whitehall are we? " "'Bout 1 day at this speed. uh.. Sir." he said. "Fine .We'll be stopping there to see that rancher fellow and then back to Persephone. We ain't stoppin' at Europa this time through." He didn't mean that. He desperately wanted to see Delia again. He would let that sit with Kaylee for a few days till she followed his orders. With that, he turned and left the Mess for the cargo hold.. ----------------------- Inara smoothed Kaylee's hair. Kaylee was more collected than before but in between breaths she said "Has anyone heard from Delia?" "Naw" Jayne said sorely. "I waved her twice this week and I ain't heard a peep." "That's funny. I waved her a week ago asking for some special face cream and she didn't reply to me, either." Inara said "She normally responds within a day." "Come to think of it, we haven't gotten anything, not even spam in the general mailbox." Wash said. That sunk in for a moment. Something must be wrong. ------------------------ Kaylee got up and walked towards the bridge. She wiped her tears as she walked. The rest of the crew followed her and as they all passed Mal in the cargo bay . He looked up at them on the catwalk.. "What is this, a mutiny?" he yelled, arms in the air. Kaylee looked down and stuck her tongue out at him. They continued down the wire walkway above the cargo bay and up into the bridge. Mal walked up the stairs, following them. He found everyone in the bridge watching Kaylee lying underneath the ship's communication . She was disconnecting things. "What is going on?" he demanded. "Kaylee thinks something might be wrong with our communications. Have you gotten any waves in the last week or so?" Wash asked. "Kaylee doesn't think, she knows" Kaylee interrupted. She held up a small chip about the size of her nail. "Waves go out but they don't come back in.. It's burnt up." she said. "Hmmm. Fixable?" Mal asked. She was driving him to drink, but he had to respect her technical know how. "Yep. We've got that crate of old parts in the hold. I think there's another chip in there that will do." Simon reached out his hand and Kaylee scampered to her feet. She ran out of the bridge to fetch the chip. " Well" Mal said rather humbly. Kaylee returned with the chip. She got back into position and inserted the new chip into its place. "K, turn it on." she said. Wash turned the com box on and the screen rippled to life. Within a few seconds, 35 message popped up all over the ship for the different mail boxes. One by one, the crew sat down at the com to look at their message. Most got just spam, or inconsequential messages. But of the 35, 3 stood out. -------------------------------- To: captmreynolds@serenity.firefly.shp from : re: Delia and Trudy Capt. Reynolds- its Hank, Delia's foreman. I got bad news. My Trudy is dead and Delia is missing. Both went to Persephone for an appointment. Should've returned 24+ hrs later. That was 3 weeks ago. 2+ weeks ago, I contacted authorities on Persephone. My Trudy was in the morgue. No Delia. I went there myself to collect Trudy and find Delia but no luck. Please help ASAP -Hank Michaels Mal was ashen and put his face in his hands. ------------------------------- To : verasdaddy@serenity.firefly.shp from : aniska@niskainc.bartonskyplex.shp re: A Trade Mr. Cobb - I have something you want. You have something I want. Come to the Barton Skyplex with your best prize and I will give you what you hold dear. Mr Lassiter for Mrs Hammond. -Adelai Niska ---------------------------------

"Niska has Delia." Zoe breathed. ."And Niska knows we have the Lassiter.. " Mal said. "We'll all be killed if we go back there." Wash quaked. He would never go back to the Barton Skyplex. ------------------------------------- to: captmreynolds@serenity.firefly.shp from : spaceport3@niskainc.bartonskyplex.shp re: I dream of sheep. ---------------------------------- "What does that mean?" Kaylee asked, her face wrinkled. Rocking slightly back and forth, Mal told the crew. " You all know Delia was a POW at Carthage. Well, she and her roommate were continually monitored so they spoke in code to each other. When the torture got too bad, and they couldn't take no more, they would say this rhyme 'Let me Be Weak, Let me Sleep , and Dream of Sheep." That message is from Delia and it says she's being tortured and can't take it much more." "If Niska has her and is torturing her, how did she get this message out?" "Don't know" Mal admitted. "When is it dated?" Kaylee asked. "10 days ago." Wash said sadly. Unspoken was the fact she was probably dead by now. "Ok, listen up." Mal put aside his sorrow. "I'll give him the Lassiter for Delia, but you gotta know the money we coulda got for it was important. New parts. Wages. Food. We have a..." "All those in favor of giving Niska the Lassiter?" Book asked the group. A unanimous vote had Wash at the helm, heading Serenity to the Barton Skyplex. Mal knew what his next move would be. ----------------------- A few minutes later, Zoe and Mal confronted Jayne near his bunk. Mal shoved Jayne to the bulkhead. "And how is it, do you suppose, that Niska connected us to the Lassiter, and Delia to Jayne?" Mal asked Zoe. "I'd say we got us a rat, or we got us a drunk rat." she said, hand going to her holster. "I swear, I didn't." "Yes, Jayne you did. You got drunk at the Pomegranate and started bragging to that pretty bartender. You probably told her about the Lassiter You may have even told her about Delia. Somehow it got back to Niska. You stupid goh-suh." Jayne hung his head. Hearing Mal say it, he remembered and knew it was true. "You and I gotta have a talk." Mal said bitterly as he dragged Jayne to the Mess. "Don't kill him, sir. I wanna do it." Zoe called after them. -------------------------- "Sit down. Now. I'm gonna tell you a few things and you're gonna listen. You ain't goin' to be drinkin' again, not for a long time. You're stupid enough as it is without drink in you. Second, if Delia is dead when we get to the Skyplex, I will kill you. With Vera. You can bet on it. " Mal paused before delivering the next part. Jayne looked up from his hands. He had caused Miss Delia to be hurt and he was heartsick. "Jayne, take a deep breath, k?" "You know that I'm in a lot better mood these last months, well, except for Kaylee." "Yeah." "You know we've been to Europa a lot, too." "Yeah." "I ain't been with Kimi and Karen." "No?" " I've been with Delia." Jayne sat completely still. "I shoulda told you long time before." Jayne was silent. "Jayne?" "I was wondering how long it was gonna be before you broke down and told me" Jayne finally said. "You knew?" "Course I knew. Worst kept secret on this boat. Sure, I was mad. Miss Delia is so nice to me. Feels good havin' a woman's attention like that. Didn't say nuthin' cause you havin' a girl makes you lot easier to live with." Jayne said. "Me easier to live with?" Mal said. Just then, Wash and Zoe walked into the Mess. "I just told Jayne the truth 'bout me and Delia." Mal said. Both Zoe and Wash took a few steps backwards. Mal held up his hand "He knew - he's okay with it." ----------------------------- Zoe and Wash updated Mal. 2 hours to the Skyplex at full power, Wave to Niska telling him we are coming with the Lassiter, and a Wave to Hank. Mal nodded his head. Jayne stood up and extended a hand to Mal. While shaking Mal's hand, Jayne crossed with his left and punched Mal in the eye. "Said I knew- Didn't say I was okay with it." Jayne said evenly. With that, Jayne walked out of the Mess. Zoe helps Mal to his feet, and no one mentioned the punch. --------------------------- "Are you sure you wanna go back in there Mal?" Zoe asked. "No, but Niska wants what he wants. He wants the Lassiter. This gives us some leverage." "I'd be more comfortable with more leverage, sir" "So would I Zo, but we gotta get Delia back- one way or the other." "We'll be docking in about 2 hours." Mal nodded his head. "I'll go get the Lassiter. I got a plan. Where did Kaylee get off to? Kaylee! " ------------------------------ Mal, Zoe and Jayne entered the Skyplex. They were escorted to Niska's office. He was sitting behind his desk when they entered, but rose to greet them. "Hello Captain Reynolds, Miss Zoe, Mr Cobb. How good it is to see you accepted my trade." Niska gloated. "I was unsure I had the right information. I didn't hear from you for so long." "Our wave compiler was down. You wanna do this?" Jayne said angrily. "Just a moment., please. Mrs. Hammond was my guest here for a week before I got concerned. I had to begin coercing Mrs. Hammond to talk. So strong! I ask her about the Lassiter - nothing! I beat her - nothing! I cut off her hair, starve her - nothing! She did not whimper! She was a very beautiful woman, Mr Cobb. Then, my man punches her in the stomach in anger. I am sad to say, Mr Cobb, baby is no more." Niska said triumphantly. Jayne rushed Niska but Mal held him back. The look of pure anger in Mal's eyes was palpable, and Niska realized his mistake. "Oh, of course. She is your woman, Captain Reynolds. Yes, of course she is. This makes me very happy to know. I think you and I must be even now, no?" "But I continue, just for fun. It was when I discover her secret that I nearly broke her." Niska took something out of his coat pocket and flipped it onto the table. It was a patch of skin; Delia's tattoo, excised from her shoulder blade. Zoe's lip curled in distaste. Mal focused not on the tattoo, but on Rosie sitting on Niska's desk. "This is when I started treating her like a man. But you know what she did? She spat on me. A most unique woman, no? Then you contact me. So lucky for us all." "Is she alive?" Mal asked tentatively. "Yes, alive." "We'll give you the Lassiter when Delia is back aboard Serenity." "Show it to me." Mal pulled the gun briefly out of his coat pocket. "Good, good. Show these people out. Release her to them." As Niska turned, Mal pocketed Rosie. They followed some men to the cell where she was being held. The door glided open to reveal Delia on her knees in the middle of the room, her arms tied to a post behind her at an unnatural angle. Her hair and clothes were matted with blood. Her head was down. "Jayne" Mal said, eyes fixed on Niska. "So I lied about the hair." Niska giggled. Jayne went into the cell and untied Delia's hands. Her arms swung down and she collapsed on the floor. She was unconscious. Jayne picked Delia up and put her over his shoulder. Her arms swayed with his every move. The group walked to the docking area, where the crew waited. Jayne handed Delia to Wash, Simon and Book who hustled her to the Infirmary. Mal turned to Niska and handed him the Lassiter. Niska cradled the laser in his hands as if he had been handed a first prize trophy. " I hope it was worth it." Mal hissed as he closed the hatch door . "Wash, get me outta here!" Mal called. Wash sprinted out of the Infirmary and to the bridge. A few seconds later, disengagement from the Skyplex was starting. Mal, Zoe and Jayne ran to the Infirmary. Simon was hanging an IV bag. Mal stayed just outside the door while he waited for Simon to examine her. He listened to Simon reel off Delia's injuries with his face in his hands.. "Both arms dislocated, cuts, burns, a deep injury to her shoulder. Maybe internal injuries too. See these burns on her chest? They revived her, at least twice. Both eyes black. Her hair is wet. Why is her hair so wet? Simon continued to examine Delia as he spoke. Moving her shirt up, he saw something he didn't like. A lot of blood. Bruising. "Out, everybody out. Zoe, you stay. I need your help. Everyone else out." Simon closed the door and drew the shades. Kaylee rocked back and forth on the couch, holding her arms. Mal paced back and forth, looking to the Infirmary every few seconds. Wash came down from the bridge. 15 minutes later, Zoe opened the door and walked out of the Infirmary. She looked at Mal, then went to her husband. Mal entered to see Delia half covered by a sheet. She was still unconscious. "Close the door" Simon instructed. "When I was examining her, I saw a large bruise on her lower abdomen - tremendous force caused that. A lot of blood on her belly, legs and thighs.. So Zoe stayed while I gave her a pelvic exam." "Was she raped?" "Hard to tell. But, probably." "Was she pregnant?" "Yes, she was. She miscarried I'd say no more than 5 days ago." Mal's tight lip confirms Simon's suspicions. "I'm sorry, Captain." "Will she live?" "She's been badly hurt, and is very weak, but yes, I think she'll live." Mal nodded with a heavy, angry heart. "I need some skin- I need to close the wound on her shoulder. " "It'll come from me" Mal said firmly. "No, you don't have any extra. You gotta have extra. And it's the wrong color. She's so fair. She'd never forgive me if I put your ruddy skin on her shoulder." Simon opened the door to the Infirmary. "Wash, come here. I need skin." Wash grimaced a bit but walked without complaint into the surgery. "Skin? Good thing I'm flabby" Wash cracked nervously. Simon sat him down on the bench. Wash took off his Hawaiian shirt. Simon touched his back, stomach and side before deciding on the side. He cleaned the skin, then gave Wash an injection. "Ready? Look at Zoe, don't look at me." Slowly and carefully, Simon cut a 2 inch oval from Wash's side, then repaired the gap with small stitches. Simon turned to clean the piece of skin. "Someone hold her up, please." Simon asked. Mal moved to do this, but Zoe intercepted him. "I'll do this for her, sir.." Zoe said. Zoe pulled Delia to a sitting position and draped her left arm over Zoe's left shoulder. The right dangled unnaturally down. "Uh- " said Mal , pointing to her arm. "Captain, you don't die from a dislocated arm. You can, however, die from open wounds, blood loss and infection. I will fix her up in the order she needs to be fixed up, and not before." Mal walked out of the Infirmary and sat on the couch next to Kaylee. She turned and hugged him. He put his arm around her. Simon sewed the clean skin onto Delia's back with minute stitches. "Okay, now Jayne. Come here. You are strong enough. I need you to pull Delia as hard as you can opposite me while I rotate her arm back into its socket. Can you do it?" Simon asked. Jayne nodded grimly. Simon gave Delia an injection in each armpit. Jayne wrapped his arm around Delia's upper body and opposite shoulder. "Ready." "1, 2, 3, pull Jayne!" Simon yelled. Simon pulled with all his strength on her arm as Jayne pulled her body the other way. With a quick twist, Simon rotated the bone into position with a sickening popping, crunching sound. Kaylee covered her ears in horror. Simon rotated the joint several times, satisfied it was back in its socket. "Again, on the other side." Simon and Jayne reverse positions and attempted the same with her right arm. It wouldn't budge. They try several times before Simon realized he needed to get the arm further away from the scapula. It was stuck. "Ok, nobody freak out." He said, as he took off his right shoe, put his foot in her armpit to brace it and said "Okay, again!" Simon's leg was too short and her arm too long. Not enough leverage. "Ok, Mal. You're turn. You're tall enough. Foot in armpit, pull out against Jayne till you feel the end of the joint pass the scapular. Then, rotate the whole arm counterclockwise. You'll feel it engage in the socket. Captain. Captain? Can you do it?" Mal nodded and shed his duster and boot. He put his foot in her armpit and Simon counted. "1, 2, 3, go!" Mal pulled hard on the arm and just as Simon had said, he felt the bone move past something and he rotated her arm. He knew the arm was back in its socket as it settled comfortably in. Simon's fingers felt the joint during the procedure and knew it was in. "Good job, both of you." Simon said softly. Jayne carefully lay Delia back down on the exam table. He smoothed Delia's hair, kissed her forehead, and walked wordlessly out of the room. "We need to give her time now." Simon said. ---------------------------- 1 hours later, Mal was still in the Infirmary, holding her hand when Inara came in. She put her hand on Mal's shoulder and moved to the other side of the table. She had a brush in her hand. "I don't want her to wake up to matted hair." she said simply. Mal nodded. He left the Infirmary, Inara was now watching Delia. Inara slowly and carefully brushed Delia's hair, removing bits of blood as she went. ---------------------------- 1 hour after that, Simon chirped the crew over the ship wide intercom. "Delia is awake." The crew gathered to welcome her back. Simon motioned them to keep their voices down as Mal turned the corner and looked at Delia. Her open eyes inside the dark circles of bruise were painful to look into. Delia saw their pained looks and said "I must look as bad as I feel." Jayne looked at her and said "You are the prettiest prairie flower there ever was." She smiled at him. "I feel so stupid. I got ambushed and didn't even get a shot off." "Don't worry, you're safe now." Book said "I can't move my arms." "They were dislocated. You won't be able to move them for a few more hours at least. I've immobilized the joints. Hey, Kaylee? Run to the mess and make Delia a drink. Orange juice, chopped protein, a banana. - put it in the blender. That's about all she can handle. Delia, how long has it been since you've eaten? Simon asked. "Maybe 12 days." "Kaylee, go." Simon ordered. Kaylee ran off to make the drink. Mal was still lingering in the back but Delia saw him and croaked "Mal." He came forward and took her hand in his. Delia looked him in the eyes and with much drama said "Nice Shiner." He reached up and remembered his own black eye from Jayne. " I guess I got what was comin' to me." he said, looking at Jayne. "Way to go, Inara." Delia moaned. Everyone laughed quietly. Inara stepped forward and kissed her forehead. The crew then approached, some touching her foot or leg and congratulating her. Zoe approached her friend last. "Way to go, soldier." "Live to fight another day." Delia whispered. Zoe kissed her fingers and touched Delia's lips. They slowly dispersed through the ship, leaving Mal and Simon alone with Delia. "It's gone, isn't it doc?" "Yes, Delia. I'm sorry." "Why didn't you tell me?" Mal asked. "I'm sorry. I thought I should handle it myself. Never got to the appointment. I'm sorry." Delia started to weep softly. "Don't be sorry. I'm just sorry it ended this way." Mal said, wiping her eyes. Delia nodded. Kaylee entered, drink in hand. Mal held it as Delia slowly drank a small amount. "Feels good. Thank you, honey." Delia said to Kaylee. "Okay, both of you out- she needs to rest before we get to Europa." Simon ordered. Mal leaned over and kissed Delia on the lips. She raised her arm from her chest just enough to cup his chin and return his kiss. Kaylee stared at the sight of her captain showing this much affection to a woman in anyone's presence, but Simon steered her out of the room and once she got outside, Simon embraced her against the Infirmary door and kissed her. --------------------------------- On the bridge, Wash flicked switches and pressed buttons. Zoe sat partially on the com. They sat looking at each other. "We have only a few fuel rods left. We'll be lucky to make it to Persephone from Europa. Now that the Lassiter is gone, I don't think..."Wash said. "It ain't gone." Mal said, entering the bridge. "Dong ma?" Zoe said. "Since there are only two known to exist, I figured he had no idea what it looked like. I had Kaylee do a quick retrofit on my old Colt. We gave him a fake copy with some boxes of circuitry welded to the top. From now on, we'll be wanting to give him a wide berth. " Mal said slyly. " There's definitely reason why you're the Captain." Wash said. "Delia is better off healing here with Simon than on Europa without a doctor. Let's head for Persephone and see if we can make some money on that hunk of junk. The quicker we lose it the better. . Besides, I wanna have a chat with someone. Zoe, wave Hank . Tell him we have Delia and we'll be bringing her back in a few days." "Yes, Captain." Zoe said.


Sunday, June 5, 2005 10:25 AM


Absolutely excellent! I am surprised though that the Lassiter was switched. That shiny piece of *goushi* has been nothing but bad luck. Very good chapter and I loved how it all came together. Surprised though that Mal didn't do Jayne some serious harm for getting Delia into all that trouble because he couldn't keep his trap shut. But bless him, he hadn't done it on purpose. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, June 5, 2005 11:52 AM


Simon opened the door to the Infirmary.

"Wash, come here. I need skin."

Wash grimaced a bit but walked without complaint into the surgery.

That killed me, I just found that funny. Nice story so far, but more River... yeah she's my fav character.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 8:44 AM


The cycle continues...and I'm loving this series.
The bit about the arms made me a bit ooky. Always the mark I'm being pulled in!


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Delia Cycle # 6- Desperate Times
After a risky job for Patience, Serenity is shattered by news from Europa.

Delia Cycle #5 - A House Divided Cannot Stand
After months away from Europa due to snowbound conditions, Serenity's crew regards Stapleton as home away from home.

Delia Cycle # 4- The Box
Serenity gets a job from Delia and enjoys some much deserved shore leave on Europa.

Delia Cycle #3 - A Body in Motion Stays in Motion / A Body at Rest...
Serenity goes to the Outer Rim while Delia heals.

Delia Cycle # 2 - And Dream of Sheep...
Mal and Delia's relationship continues as an old enemy rears his ugly head.

Delia Cycle #1 - Saving Graces
Serenity lands on Europa for repairs...and Mal gets a little more than he bargained for.