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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Inara displays her acting talent. There's an honest brawl between folk, a few deaths and differences are patched up.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2004 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer: Firefly is Joss' baby. I just want to hold it sometimes.
HAWKS AND DOVES (final part)
* * * * *
Jayne twisted his lip and muttered a curse. “Wo cao!” Unable to decide whether this unpleasant turn of events was Simon's fault for screwing up or Mal's for trusting him in the first place he decided to apportion blame equally.
The smile Simon had been giving Marlon froze on his face, turning into a grimace of shock and fear. “What?..What's the meaning of this?” Despite a valiant effort, his voice had lost its authoritative edge.
Marlon gave him a sardonic grin. “For you the meaning of this is probably a cell much like this one. For me, it'll be promotion and a big fat pay rise.”
“The Inspectorate will never...” Simon tried to threaten him, but Marlon silenced him with a dismissive wave of the hand.
“Stow it, sonny. You ain't with the Inspectorate. Otherwise you wouldn't be telling me Trautmann's seriously ill as though it was a big suprise. The man is terminal.” Marlon paused, savouring the satisfaction of the moment. “It's in all the court papers. Bowden's. Seems he hid out in the mines in the Georgia System for a while. Kind of gratifyin' to know that when browncoat scum go to earth, even the earth can't stomach 'em. So the court decided to commute the death sentence to life. Which ain't gonna be long for him. Although it will be unpleasant, see'n' as how we don't get no pasquilin out here.”
“Ta ma de hun da!” Mal exclaimed. “Zhen daomei. Hear that, Zoe?”
“Hard not to, Sir,” she replied. “What with me sitting right here. Looks like we got complications.”
Mal eyed her warily. “You sayin' this was a xi niao plan?”
She stood up. “Not sayin'. Mostly jus' thinkin', Sir.” Nothing about her tone or face indicated that she was anything other than calm. The way she was hooking grenades onto her belt and loading gun after gun suggested otherwise.
Mal began picking up firearms as well, chambering bullets and testing triggers. “Time for some thrillin' heroics,” he sighed. “Again.”
* * * * * *
Marlon's disclosure left Simon stunned. The sheer cruelty of it sickened him. He realized with horror that at some stage a doctor must have been involved in designing this particular torture. And for the first time he was grateful not to be a high-flying physician in Alliance employ.
Meanwhile Wash's nerves had got the better of him. “Curse this sudden but inevitable change in the landscape,” he joked feebly, only to be answered with a sharp punch to the guts from one of the wardens, followed by a kick to the ribs as he fell over.
Jayne stood stock still as his mind raced through their options. Mal and Zoe would be there within minutes, but he would need to take action before they arrived in order to maximize the wardens' confusion and improve the crew's odds. He was trying to identify which warden he should take out first when suddenly Inara spoke.
“Oh, thank God! I can't tell you how I've suffered with these.... beasts. They kidnapped me on Persephone and have been forcing me to service them ever since. I'd be so grateful to you, Governor, for any help in getting free of them.” And she took a step towards him, looking up from under her lashes and turning on a slow smile. “Is there anything I could do to prove that?”
Taken aback, Marlon cleared his throat and pulled his collar back from his thick neck. He was congratulating himself on being far too worldly to fall for an act like this, even as Inara lowered her voice to ask “Anything in particular, I mean?” She put the index finger of her right hand to her mouth and drew her tongue up it slowly from base to tip. There was a sharp intake of breath from the younger wardens as she puckered her lips around the top knuckle, before withdrawing her finger from her mouth sharply with a small pop. Still gazing intently into Marlon's eyes, she raised her chin slightly and ran her forefinger down her throat to the top button of her crisp white shirt, leaving a wet trail that glistened like sweat.
For a moment, even Jayne was mesmerized by this distraction. Then he shook himself and pretended to make a lunge for Marlon, prompting the warden behind him to reach forward to try to restrain him. Thrown off-balance, he was easy to deal with. Jayne twisted round and brought his right elbow up hard under his chin, knocking him unconscious with one blow. As he fell to the floor, Jayne whipped his pistol from his holster. He weighed it appreciatively in his hand. It felt good to be holding a gun again.
His joy was short-lived. All the wardens' revolvers were now trained on him as they awaited Marlon's order to fire. Jayne growled low in his throat and pointed the pistol at Marlon. If he was gonna die he was takin' that qingwa cao di liumang with him.
“Drop the weapon,” Marlon commanded, turning his own gun on Inara. “Or I shoot the whore.”
Even it she'd felt so inclined Inara would not have had time to point out “The correct term is Companion”, before a bullet whizzed across the room and hit Marlon square between the eyes. His lifeless body fell backwards onto the floor with a thud.
Framed in the cell doorway with Zoe at his side, Mal shrugged. “Man di'n't show no respect,” he said, as though his action required explanation.
Then Zoe began firing, providing Mal with cover against a stream of wardens who, alerted by the gunshot, were pouring down the corridoras. Mal gritted his teeth and began picking off wardens with deadly accuracy. The wardens fired back wildly, bullets ricocheting off walls. It was clear none had ever been involved in a real gunfight before.
Simon threw himself to the ground, tackling one of the wardens around the knees as he did so. The man loosed off a couple of shots by accident into the ceiling, bringing down a hail of plaster and brick.
Trautmann groaned painfully as some of the debris fell onto him. Still shooting from both hands, Mal threw himself over his old commanding officer, using his own body as a shield against the continuing shower of masonry.
“Soon have you out of here, Sir,” Mal told him. “My medic'll have you fixed up in no time.”
Suddenly the shooting stopped.
Mal scanned the room, checking off each of his crew one by one.
Inara was getting unsteadily to her feet, brushing dust from her clothes and coughing a little, but otherwise unhurt.
Simon was moving swiftly from one fallen warden to the next, checking their pulses, driven by his physician's instinct to preserve life at all costs. From the set of his mouth, Mal knew they were all dead.
A little blood was trickling down from a cut above Wash's eye onto his cheek and he flinched as Zoe hugged him fiercely. Mal diagnosed a minor rib injury.
Two surviving wardens – scarcely more than boys – were on their knees, facing a wall and babbling fervent prayers to an indifferent God. Behind them, with a pistol in each hand, stood Jayne like a colossal avenging angel. Sweat was running down his face and he was panting slightly, but he looked like a man in his element.
He caught Mal's eye and grinned broadly. “Hell, Mal! That was fun! Want me to finish these two?” And he punctuated the question by jabbing a pistol barrel into the nape of each boy's neck.
“No, Jayne.” Mal shook his head. “There's been enough killin' for one day. Just cuff 'em and let's get off this planet.”
* * * * *
“Gently now,” Simon urged as he, Mal, Jayne and Book lowered Trautmann onto the operating table.
There was no need for Mal's “Easy”, but he was suddenly painfully aware that this was the last service he could do his old comrade before relinquishing control to Simon. In the heat of the gunfight and the urgent shuttle flight back to Serenity, Trautmann's condition had hardly impinged on Mal's consciousness. Here in the infirmary, it was clear he was very sick. His skin was waxy and clammy and his every breath a rasping struggle for life.
Jayne shifted uneasily. Sickness filled him with dread. Better a quick, violent death than the slow slide into decay and helplessness brought by disease.
Mal couldn't help but notice his discomfort. “Best you go clean yourself up, Jayne.” He turned to Book who was standing at the foot of the table, eyes closed and holding his Bible to his breast. Mal clenched his jaw as he battled to suppress a stream of bitter invective. “You too, Shepherd. Doc's got this covered.”
To his surprise, Trautmann raised a feeble hand. His voice was barely audible as he asked, “You...you got a Shepherd, Reynolds?”
A flush of shame spread across Mal's cheeks as his bent down to answer, “Well, yeah...But more by accident than design...”
“Let him stay.”
Mal narrowed his eyes at Book but nodded his agreement and Simon set about his work. He was amazed at Mal's ability to find just the instrument he needed before he even asked for it. How quickly he read a look and how eager he was to help. He realized with a smile that it had been less than seventy-two hours ago that Kaylee had stood in exactly the same spot, assisting him with the same commitment and belief. They had a lot in common, Kaylee and Mal. She had a core of strength under that soft, warm exterior whereas Mal had a much softer centre than the hard-edged facade he showed to the world would ever indicate.
At last Simon turned to Mal. “We're finished in here. We should let him rest now.”
“You did good, Doc,” Mal said in a low voice, avoiding eye contact, as they exited the infirmary.
“Just doing my job, Mal,” Simon replied simply.
“That wa'n't what I was talkin' about. Earlier, I meant. Good work.”
Simon smiled ruefully.
“How long till he's on his feet again?” Mal asked. Simon followed his gaze through the infirmary window and for the first time realized the Captain was full of hope for Trautmann's recovery.
He touched him gently on the arm. “I thought you knew. It's too late, Mal.... It's gone too far.”
Mal brushed the comforting hand away and turned on him angrily. “Don't you say that! He's still breathin', ain't he? There's still hope....”
Simon shook his head sadly. “No, Mal, there isn't. I've made him comfortable but he's not got long left...”
He broke off, unable to bear the look in the Captain's eyes.
The infirmary was eerily still. Even Trautmann's breathing had quietened some. Mal stole in as noiselessly as he could, afraid to sully what felt like a sacred moment.
“Reynolds? That you?” Trautmann's voice was little more than a rasp. “Can't see you.”
“Yes, sir,” Mal answered, moving forward and taking his commander's hands between his own. “I'm right here.”
Trautmann let out a long breath like a sigh. “See you ain't forgotten the old sayin'....”
“Wa'n't never gonna let you crawl sir,” Mal struggled to reply, the pain of the moment clutching at his throat.
Trautmann managed a brief laugh. “Not me, son.” A long pause. “You found some mighty fine people to carry you....”
Now it was Mal's turn to pause as the faces of his crew flashed before his eyes. Solemn-eyed Zoe. Clown-faced Wash. Beautiful Inara. Pious Book. Earnest Simon. Crazy, genius River. Treacherous, dangerous Jayne.
And Kaylee. With her heart-melting smile. And this new way of challenging him.
“Think I did,” he answered quietly.
The corner of Trautmann's mouth twitched as though he were about to speak. Instead two, maybe three, odd noises issued from his throat and his hand went limp between Mal's. He was gone.
Mal paused outside Kaylee's bunk, taking in the ridiculous fairy lights and hand drawn nameplate. He sighed heavily, kicked the door open and descended the ladder.
He'd never had a real confrontation with Kaylee before and had never expected to. There was no way of telling how she'd react, but he feared tears might figure large in it. Not the full-on wailin' a lot of women went in for when they were tryin' to manipulate some poor sap into doin' their biddin'. Kaylee wa'n't that sort. No, she was the sort who'd cry because she had a soft heart, and that same soft heart would make her pretend she wa'n't cryin' just to save a man's feelin's. Gorramit, this was gonna be hard. Mal's day was about to get even worse.
She was lying curled up in the foetal position on her bed, face to the wall. He knew she knew he was there, but she didn't move.
“Kaylee,” he began, only to be annoyed by the hesistancy he heard in his voice. “Kaylee,” he said again, louder and firmer. “You an' me need to have a serious talk.”
No reply. Well, maybe it was better that way. He'd give her his decision, she'd accept it and they could move on.
“I can't be condonin' mutiny. Specially not from you. You ignored my orders and you encouraged Simon to do the same. Can't just let that slide. Gotta be consequences. So, next job, you only get half your usual cut.”
Still no reply. “You hear me, Kaylee?”
She rolled over, still curled up, hugging a pillow against her chest. When she looked up at him her eyes were damp and shining, and her cheeks flushed. Been crying already.
Mal sat down on the edge of the bed next to her, inexplicably feeling all manner of mean. He reached out to pat her arm, but she pulled away, taking up a sitting position so that she could meet his gaze.
“No need for cryin', Kaylee,” he said gruffly. He gave her a weak half-smile. “I ain't thinkin' of firin' you jus' yet.”
She pressed her lips together and looked at him solemnly. “I ain't cryin' for me. I'm cryin' for that poor beautiful bird. It died....”
Might've known, Mal told himself. Might've known Kaylee wouldn't be indulgin' in self pity. He tried out a little I-told-you-so and Should-have-done-as-I-said-in-the-first-place speech in his head, but it sounded crass and unfeeling. “Sometimes when a thing's broken, it can't be fixed...” he said to himself, so quietly she couldn't catch his words.
It suddenly dawned on Kaylee what Mal had been thinking. “Oh!” she said. “You think I was cryin' because I was afraid you might yell at me!” She gave a dismissive little snort. “I ain't afraid of you, Cap'n. I don't obey your orders out of fear. None of us do ... 'cept maybe Jayne. We follow you 'cos we know you. We trust you.” She waited for her words to sink in. “An' 'cos we love you. Even Jayne.”
This wasn't going at all the way he'd anticipated. She'd knocked the wind right out of his sails. He raised an eyebrow. “That so?”
“Certainly is.” The calm, matter-of-fact way she said it filled him with an unexpected warmth.
The sensation made him strangely uncomfortable. He stood up and tried to sound composed and business-like. “Good. Well.... that's settled then. You won't be doin' anythin' like it again...”
“Can't promise that, Cap'n,” she said, slipping off the bed and reaching up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “Can't tell you I'll not try to fix a thing that broken just 'cos it seems hopeless. Can't tell you I won't wanna care for a creature that's in pain.”
She really is impossible, Mal thought. Won't be told. Won't learn that life ain't all sunshine and flowers. Never sees the glass half empty.
He shook his head resignedly and went over to the ladder. As he put a foot on the bottom rung, Kaylee asked brightly, “How's your friend, Cap'n? Simon fix him up good?”
The question broke over him like a wave of painful despair. He couldn't even bring himself to look at her as he mumbled, “He died, Kaylee. Trautmann died.”
There seemed to be no time between his uttering the words and Kaylee's arms fastening tight around him. He sagged into her, worn out by the effort of the past few days. She reeled a little under his weight, but stood firm.
“I'm too heavy to be leanin' on you,” he said, embarassed at almost having given in to his grief as she steered him to the bed and sat next to him.
He is really is impossible. Always shoulderin' everyone else's troubles and never sharin' his own. Tryin' to be a superman as if jus' bein' himself wa'n't enough.
She put the palms of her hands flat against his chest and pushed him gently back into the pillows. “You need to rest.”
She ain't wrong about that, he thought, still fighting his exhaustion but with less determination. “You tryin' fix me now?”
Kaylee looked down at him and smiled. “Maybe. Just a little.”
* * * * * *
Malcolm –[Celtic] a follower of Columba; a dove.
Tuesday, January 6, 2004 12:18 PM
Tuesday, January 6, 2004 3:54 PM
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