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Antebellum - Book I: Chapter Three
Friday, December 30, 2005

Third chapter in a Big Damn Sequel series. Behold!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1823    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Book One – Chapter Three

Mal knew that he was going crazy. For a second, he swore that the stegosaurus was shaking its head in disappointment.

It had been almost nine years since he had bought the Firefly he was sitting in. Back then, it had never occurred to him how far this bulky ship would take him. It never occurred to him that he would one day be risking everything he had, not to mention everything his friends had, just to keep a mode of transportation. It really never occurred to him that he’d be risking everything just to save a collection of plastic dinosaurs.

Mal preferred to keep the specifics of that particular incident as vague as possible even to himself. The memories were pretty embarrassing, but in the end he was rewarded with the dinosaurs and a week lying down in the infirmary. It was a story the rest of the crew was polite enough not to repeat, but they all were glad of what he did. They all would have done it.

But despite his daring rescue of the dinosaurs, bringing himself to look at the stegosaurus was more than Mal could manage right now. He broke the plastic dinosaur’s gaze and lowered his head into his hands.

“Sir?”

Only maître d's and Zoe ever called him “sir” anymore, so Mal went to the latter option. She had snuck up on him on the bridge. Mal was losing his reflexes.

“Sir, is everything all right?”

“Soon will be. The boys back yet?”

“Not yet. They’ve still got a couple minutes left.”

“Yeah. Kaylee’s got the ship prepped?”

“She does.”

“Ship fueled yet?”

“Fuller says it’s another twenty minutes. What’s the hurry? We leavin’ Jayne and Simon behind again?”

“No, not this time. Jus’ want it so that when they get here, we’re just a couple button-presses from leavin’ atmo.”

Zoe looked at Mal deeply. People usually credited her for knowing the Captain best, since she had known him the longest, but it worried her to admit that there were several times that he wouldn’t show even her what he was thinking. Those times were getting longer and closer together lately.

“Captain, what did Fuller say--?”

“We’ll… We’ll talk about it when we’re in the air.”

Zoe did know him well enough to know when to push and when to concede. So, without a word, she left the bridge. And Mal returned his head to his hands.

Minutes later, he felt his reflexes coming back at him. He sensed someone had come back to bridge. It relieved him somewhat, but it still didn’t put him in the mood for his crew to come barking at him.

“Zoe, seriously. When we’re—,” Mal began, lifting his head. But when he did so, he found that it wasn’t his tall, dark-haired first mate, but rather a small, fair-haired six-year-old boy.

Shamus stood unfazed by Mal’s slight confusion. Mal had met Fuller’s son plenty times before, but for about three seconds he didn’t seem to recognize the boy.

“Hey… kid. What’re you doing up here?”

“Miss River was scarin’ me.

“Yeah, she’ll do that.”

Shamus looked slightly at the toys on the consoles. He had learned before not to touch them.

“Are you sad, Cap’n Reynolds?”

“Uhm… not really. Jus’… contemplatin’ is all.”

“Huh?”

“I’m thinkin’ ‘bout stuff.” Mal looked to the entrance of the bridge to make sure none of the women were on their way up. He needed to unload a bit. “You wanna know a secret?

Shamus nodded his head rapidly.

“You know how your daddy always tells you to never let no one know me ‘n my crew’s here?”

Shamus nodded.

“Well, that’s because we’re wanted by the government.”

“Wanted?”

“Yeah. You see, couple years back, we uncovered a secret that proved our fuzzy little leaders were hurtin’ people without their consent. So we felt compelled to share this info with others. Be li’l good-deed-doers. Well, soon as that happened, the big wigs began to hunt us down, tryin’ to do it all silent. We got used to that for ‘bout a year, then they released official-lookin’ warrants that said we was criminals of peace. Don’t get me started on the irony.”

Shamus kept staring back at Mal blankly. So Mal continued.

“So they were scourin’ half the Border planets for us so-called ‘fugitives,’ so we had to lay low. Then we had to lay lower. Then lower. Jobs kept gettin’ scarce for us. But we got by on God’s—or whoever’s—own mercy. Now…” His voice trailed a bit, then picked up. “Now they’ve upped the warrants on us petty criminals. Sayin’ we’re terrorists an’ such. Not to mention that ‘stead of bein’ simply wanted, we’re now wanted ‘dead or alive,’ which isn’t really an option to choice, since most who see us will probably lean toward the first one more’an the second. So as if we thought that livin’ on the verge of extinction wasn’t bad enough, we now got most the system lookin’ to push us right on over, permission granted by the almighty gorramn Alliance.”

Mal looked over at Shamus, who was backing at toward the exit slowly, his eyes wide and watering slightly. Mal got the feeling he had somehow spooked the boy.

“Uh… but we’ll be all right. I mean, it’s not like you’re gonna turn us in, right?” He chuckled a bit, hoping to relieve the child. “Right?”

Shamus blinked twice. He then bolted out the door. “Daddy! I found da fugitives!”

Mal jumped from his seat, starting after the boy. “Shamus! Be quiet, you little—!”

***

The sound of Shamus running out the cargo bay hatch with Mal following was echoed through the ship and into the dining room where Inara and Kaylee were having tea.

“What’s all that noise about?” Inara asked Zoe, who was walking in to join the other girls.

“I’m pretty sure that Shamus is going to turn us all in for a tricycle,” Zoe replied calmly.

“Hm,” Inara said dismissively. “Did Mal happen to mention why we can’t leave the ship?”

“He usually lets us go into Fuller’s store at least,” Kaylee spoke over her mug.

Fuller’s shop wasn’t the best place for shopping; everything gained was from the occasional Convoy shipment, which didn’t seem to hit the Border moons as much anymore. But still, it was a way to change surrounding, and as much as Kaylee loved her ship, she liked feeling ground beneath her feet ever so often.

“You don’t think there’s Alliance on Three Hills, do you?” asked Inara incredulously. She knew that although they were wanted, it was highly unlikely they’d land on Three Hills and start searching through Bingham Colony for them.

“No,” Zoe confirmed. “Captain would’ve told us if that were the case. And we’d be out there getting Simon and Jayne back.”

“But you think that Mal’s holding something back,” Inara stated, not asking.

“He said he’d tell us when we’re back in air.”

“I still don’t know why Simon has to go out,” Kaylee muttered. “I miss it when he an’ River couldn’t leave the ship on account they’d be snatched up by feds or hillfolk.”

“Yes. The ‘good ol’ days,’” Inara smiled her perfect smile at Kaylee, who sipped slowly from her mug. “But I am glad you two are back on the horse, so to speak.”

Kaylee lit up and smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, me too.”

Zoe, not unkindly, arched her eyebrow. “Yeah, what is this? The sixth time you two have gotten back together?”

“The fourth!” Kaylee protested. “Been so for five months now, pretty much unhindered, so I don’t see why you’re all actin’ like it’s all such a great feat an’ all.”

“Down, girl. Down,” Zoe laughed. Kaylee joined her.

“It’s just… it’s been so rocky lately.”

“Rocky? I was under the impression, sweetheart, that you two were pretty… smooth lately.”

“That’s not what I mean. Me an’ Simon been like dandelions an’ such. When he’s here. Which ain’t any time lately, you know? Just a weekend on Persephone would be good enough for me, but no… Nowadays, it’s always ‘steal this,’ or ‘hold up them.’”

“Mal is just—” Inara began.

“I’m not mad at the Captain. I’m mad at the situations we been in. We can’t step foot on practically any place we get to. An’ on Serenity… there’s only so much a guy an' girl can do,” she looked sadly up at her friends. “I think I’m losin’ Simon’s attention again.”

“Kaylee, you know Simon cares for you more than he could ever show,” Inara said. “You never have to keep his attention. You know this.”

Kaylee glanced up at Zoe, who looked back at her with a very caring look in her eye. Kaylee felt crazy moaning over her love life in front of Zoe, with all she’d been through, but Zoe never showed any offense.

“Things… just seem harder now,” Kaylee sighed. Her grin quickly returned though at the thought of her Simon coming back to her any minute now. “I do like being with him, though. So I can’t get all moody out here in the black.”

Inara giggled. Dispositions had been lowered over the past couple years, and rightfully so, and Inara loved to hear that certain consistencies remained despite circumstances. One of those consistencies was Kaylee’s bounding optimism within the darkest periods of times. When Kaylee was happy, you knew that something was still right in the ‘verse.

“So the Surgeon’s Hands haven’t lost their charm?” Inara asked with a sparkle in her eye.

Kaylee’s wicked grin spread across her lips. “Oh, not by a long shot.”

Zoe chuckled, relieved just as Inara was. “So, the sex is good, I take it?”

***

“Why. Would you ever. Think. I would answer. That?” Simon said deliberately, making sure that Jayne caught the full meaning of the question.

Jayne didn’t catch the full meaning, so he continued on. “It’s an honestly fair question, doc. There’s no reason for you bein’ so curt wit’ me all-a sudden.”

“I don’t find your clever little double entendres to be at all endearing, so I’m perplexed as to why you’d think blatant questions would warm me all up.” Simon called out to the crowd he was in the middle of, gesturing to the small cart he and Jayne had brought with them. “Linens for ten platinum! Dresses from the Core at discount prices!”

Simon knew that he had changed. He hadn’t changed quickly, but it happened nonetheless. He learned how to shoot all types of weapons, how to fight with various blades, and had become very skillful in running away exceptionally fast. There were even days, like this day, where he wouldn’t even bother buttoning his top collar button. He thought it made him look more dangerous. Strike that, he knew it did.

“You’re right,” Jayne said. “Y’know, when you’re right, you’re right. And I respect you for it.”

Simon stared at Jayne a bit, then excepted it. He could see that this big brute had too been changed over the last two years. “Thank you.”

“I just wish, someday, that I can find that kinda love, y’know? To look at a woman, beautiful an’ attractive-like, and not to see her as a body, right? But… as a soulmate, like you look at Kaylee. To be able to treat her, even when she ain’t around, with complete dignity and resp—HA HA HA!” Jayne broke down laughing so hard he clenched his eyes together to keep them from watering. “No, no, I’m serious. I’m serious, doc. Tell me. What’s she like in the sack? ‘Cause I always imagined she’s a bit of a freak in bed, am I right?”

Simon physically felt like vomiting, and he contorted his face in every way he could to express it to Jayne. “You disgusting, stupid, piece of—!”

“Why the discount?” a woman at their cart asked.

“Huh?” Simon was knocked out of his sickness-induced rage.

“The dresses. These are worth more. Why you sellin’ them so low? They plague-ridden, what?”

“Discounted on account of the smell, ma’am,” Jayne said.

“Smell?”

“They smell kinda funny.”

The woman smelled the dress. It smelt fine to her.

“I’ll take this one.”

“Green, fantastic. Goes with your eyes,” Simon spilled out eagerly. He never really even looked at her eyes.

Jayne turned back to Simon. “Sorry to bring it up, li’l man. What’s the problem anyways? You two back each other’s throats? In the bad, not-kinky way?”

“No! And stop it! We’re fine, all right.” Simon turned to the woman. “We’re fine.”

“Son, I’m handing you money,” the woman pointed out. “Can I have the dress?”

“Yeah, all right. Here.”

The exchange done, the woman disappeared back into the crowd.

“Kaylee and I are fine, all right?”

“Then why don’t you like talkin’ ‘bout it?” Jayne countered.

“It’s just none of your business, Jayne. Never has been, never will be. I’m happy, we’re happy, and everything is fine. And I’m not going to try to ruin that by talking about it with you again.”

“Aw, why not?”

“Because this is about trust, Jayne. Not something you have a strong grip on. I trust her, and she trusts me. And we don’t talk about these things to people just looking for a laugh!”

Jayne felt he had to break his eye contact with Simon and stared at the dirt for a little while. “All right.” He sighed slowly. “What does Kaylee look like naked?”

***

“Simon has a great body! I mean, stone-carved, top to bottom here!” Kaylee announced over the sea of laughter coming from Inara and Zoe.

“Oh, see, I kinda remember, honey,” Zoe got out between breaths, “from when I walked in on you two in the engine room those months back, remember?”

Kaylee tossed her face into her hands, trying to breath and laugh at the same time. All that came out were high-pitched squeaks as she rocked in her chair.

“I still say… I still say that all those ‘barrassments coulda been avoided if Cap’n had sprung to get a door installed on that room!”

“Yes, yes, that would have fixed everything!” Inara raised her voice to top the laughter of the other two.

Kaylee picked up on her friend’s sarcasm. “What is that supposed ta mean?”

“Kaylee, if you were any less subtle with your moments of intimacy with Simon, you’d be doing it on this table!”

Zoe and Inara broke into another string of cackles, but stopped when they noticed that Kaylee wasn’t. Instead she was looking down at her lap, straining her face to keep from smiling.

Inara caught on. “Oh, my God! You have, haven’t you?”

Kaylee sheepishly let her smile out and slowly raised three fingers, her eyes pinched together.

Simultaneously, Zoe and Inara pushed their chairs away from the contaminated table. Kaylee continued laughing.

“Oh, like you’re one to talk, ‘Nara!”

Zoe chuckled, seeing where Kaylee was heading. Inara, however, was a bit confused.

“What—what are you talking about?” Inara asked with chuckles still in her throat.

Kaylee rolled her eyes. “Oh, you know.” She could see now that Inara had no idea what she was hinting at. So she explained: “You know… You an’ the Cap’n. Bumpin’ not-so-uglies.”

Zoe couldn’t control her giggles any longer. Inara, on the other hand, went completely still, all the blood drained from her face.

“What?” she asked, quivering. “What?” she rephrased.

“Come on, Inara,” Zoe said. “It wasn’t as if you two were keeping it a secret forever.”

“Yes, it is! I mean—There’s no secret to keep. We’ve never…done…that!”

“Seriously?” Kaylee asked skeptically. “What about a year an’ a half ago on Auguine? I mean, we all just assumed that—”

“Who’s ‘we all’?”

“Well, the guys, an’ River, an’ Shepherd Redding, an’ Fuller, an’ Shamus—”

“Fuller’s son!?” Inara was quite understandably aghast.

“Easy does it, Inara,” Zoe said, still chuckling. “Not to put it too bluntly, but you’re really not that great of an actress in this particular subject. If you haven’t yet, then you’ve definitely come close, right?”

“Nothing has ever happened between us! That’s final!”

“Oh come on, ‘Nara!” Kaylee laughed.

“Nothing!”

“Please! I hate to say it, but it is pretty obvious!”

***

“What do you mean, ‘painfully obvious’?” Mal shouted at the six-year-old boy.

“Mal! Quit yellin’ at my boy!” Fuller called from the back of the shop.

“He’s going off nothin’ but unsubstantiated assumptions!” Mal turned toward River, who was gazing off into the distance outside. “River,” Mal called, “help me out?”

River looked over her shoulder at Shamus. The boy gasped quickly and ran hurriedly to his father in the back.

Mal joined River outside on the wooden porch. She didn’t look like she had been blinking for a while, and that made Mal’s eyes ache.

“Can you believe that kid? I mean, ‘Nara’s great an’ all, but—”

“Captain.” River looked at Mal with an arched eyebrow. It was still a habit for him to think she wasn’t what she was.

“Right.” Mal looked for something to change the subject. “So… any disturbances in the Force yet?”

“No.”

“Good. Simon an’ Jayne should be back any minute now.”

“You haven’t told them yet. About the warrant.”

“When we’re off this rock.”

“Why are you so afraid to tell them?”

“Why does a psychic ask so many questions?”

River smiled, but it faded pretty quickly. Mal knew he wasn’t as sharp as he used to be, but he caught that.

“So you gonna tell me what’s wrong?”

“I’m fine.”

“Hey,” Mal said with a tone that forced River to look back at him. “I don’t need superpowers to know somethin’s up. So spill it.”

River hesitated, her breath shaking. “It’s not relevant.”

“River.” Mal looked at River with an arched eyebrow. She still had a habit of trying to keep things from him. “You got something you don’t want your brother to know, or any of the others, that’s fine. But you’re on my crew, you hear? So you better tell me.”

River swallowed hard and looked back into the distance. “I haven’t slept.”

Mal tried his best not to look relieved. He honestly thought she was going to say she was knocked up by some backmoon dirt farmer or something. “For how long?”

“A week.”

“What happened?”

Tears began to form in River’s eyes, so she instinctively blinked them away.

“I’m feeling sick again.”

“Sick? You’ve had your check-ups, haven’t you?” Then it hit him. “You’re not talking physically sick, are you?”

River shook her head. “I feel like I’m going back to that place again, and I don’t want it. I’m better now. I want to stay better.”

“How do you feel sick?”

“Seeing things. Hearing things. I don’t want them, but they’re there.” River looked at Mal. He could see his own reflection glistening in her brown eyes. “Something very bad is about to happen.”

Mal didn’t know what to say about that. He knew that he couldn’t say anything to be of any help to this little girl. He didn’t want any of this. He wanted to be in the air, in one piece. He wanted to be flying again, where no one could touch him.

He just hoped to God that Jayne and Simon were laying low. And on their way home.

***

“Hey, doc! Simon!” Jayne shouted over the din of the market to Simon who got attracted to one of the many jewelry stands. “Simon! We gotta get back to Serenity ‘fore Mal throws a connip-fit!”

“Excuse me.”

Jayne turned around to see a small tan-skinned man with Chinese characters written across his face.

“Yeah, whadda you want?”

“You Jayne Cobb?”

“Yeah, sure, why?” Jayne crossed his arms and flexed his biceps. He wasn’t too afraid to let his presence known to this little stump of a man. He could definitely take him.

“We need to talk,” the man said, pulling out a small, silver pistol and placing the barrel a couple inches from Jayne’s nether regions.

Jayne deflated his muscles. He may have overstepped his boundaries.

COMMENTS

Saturday, December 31, 2005 11:59 AM

AGENTROUKA


Oh, a new chapter! Yay!

This didn't read as fluidly as the other two, but I loved the humor!

Little Shamus is such a bundle joy... not. Simon and Jayne were the most hilarious, and really, it's just plain refreshing to see an entire story dedicated to making Mal squirm, hee!

Auguine, you say? Either Inara is lying or Mal was a busy man on that planet...!

Much looking forward to the next part!

Sunday, January 1, 2006 4:06 AM

AMDOBELL


Very good and little Seamus made me laugh out loud but I am very worried about River's presentiment of doom. And Jayne just not getting it when Simon tries to give him a ticket for the Clue Bus. Very much fun. Don't like the look of that tattooed *wangba dan* that got the drop on Jayne though. Definitely not his best day ever. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, January 4, 2006 1:30 PM

BELLONA


“Oh, my God! You have, haven’t you?”
Kaylee sheepishly let her smile out and slowly raised three fingers, her eyes pinched together.
Simultaneously, Zoe and Inara pushed their chairs away from the contaminated table.

eeew...

b

Saturday, May 6, 2006 6:13 AM

LEIASKY


ROTFL!

Simon refusing to talk about his sex life and Kaylee just spilling it all!

On the table ...bwahahaaha!

great stuff here. Every character seems spot on!

Saturday, May 6, 2006 9:54 PM

LEIGHKOHL


“No! And stop it! We’re fine, all right.” Simon turned to the woman. “We’re fine.”


“Son, I’m handing you money,” the woman pointed out. “Can I have the dress?”


“Yeah, all right. Here.”

When I read this I laughed so hard, the image was so perfectly formed in my head!!! Awesome job!!! I love it!



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