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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Post Serenity. The past year has been hard for Zoe. Life without Wash seems empty, and just when she is ready to leave the ship. A man from her past comissions the crew to be his transport, but can they trust him?
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 919 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
AN HUGE thanks to Wanmei for being my wonderful beta on this. Also thanks to everyone who reads this. Any crit you have is MUCH appreciated.
Chapter 4: Come Clean
Eight years earlier
Zoë followed Kyan to the ship feeling more awkward than she’d felt since she was a teenager. As a soldier, she rarely thought of men sexually. She’d spent too much of her time in the company of men to gravitate toward one or another. It would be irresponsible of her to get involved with another soldier. But Kyan was most definitely not a soldier. He wasn’t like any other man on the base. There was something unpredictable about him. She knew he watched her, but she could never really get a feel for what he was thinking. It was plain enough that he wanted her. That in itself was downright odd. Men respected her. They saw her as an equal, or they were intimidated by her. Zoë didn’t know what Kyan thought.
Once inside his ship, Zoë glanced around the cargo hold. A man in his fifties sat on top of a huge crate looking of a big hunk of metal. She’d caught glimpses of the mechanic before, but never been introduced. He smiled at the pair. “Knew you didn’t have the sense to stay dry, boy, but did ya have’t drag the gel along?”
Kyan let out a deep laugh. “I’ll have you know I saved this fair damsel-in-distress.”
Zoë cocked a brow. “You picked up a crate…I wouldn’t go too far with that.”
He laughed again. “I have to make myself look good somehow,” he told her, before turning back to the man. “Captain, I offered Zoë the use of our washer and dryer. Is that alright?”
“Watcha askin’ me for? Ya already know it is.”
Zoë was smart enough to see the tension between the pair. She wondered who resented who more for the mechanic’s promotion. Then again, it wasn’t her place to care.
Kyan led her first to his bunk, and handed her a set of his own clothes to change into. “These will have to do for now. You might as well take advantage of a hot shower while your clothes are washing.”
“Thank you,” she said taking the clothes.
In the bathroom, she took the time to strip down, and admire the latest batch of bruises she’d racked up. Even her dark skin couldn’t mask the purple marks. She almost winced when she touched on her upper thigh. A hot shower would feel wonderful after all of the time she’d spent just wiping down or spraying off. A rap at the door caught her off guard. “Yes?”
“If you hand your clothes out, I will take them down with mine and get them stared,” he told her. It wasn’t a military style order, but it was still clear Kyan was used to being in charge.
Careful to remain hidden, Zoë slipped her clothes out through the cracked doorway. “Kyan?”
“What can I do for you, love?”
She groaned at the endearment, but she just HAD to ask. “Is it alright if I use some of your shampoo?”
She thought she heard a soft chuckle. “No, of course not…What kind of a question is that? Use whatever you need.”
His sarcasm would have been more annoying if she wasn’t already used to the Sergeant’s odd humor. “I appreciate it.”
The water felt wonderful! Zoë’s aching muscles relaxed under the steaming stream, and washing her hair was heavenly. It had been forever since she had really been able to wash her thick mane of curls. She helped herself to a second handful of shampoo, and worked it through the strands lovingly. Oh, she could get used to this—she shouldn’t, but she could. Being out here so long made even a simple shower feel like she was being spoiled.
When she was done, she put on the borrowed clothes and marveled at how big they were on her. Kyan Zol was an exceptionally tall man. He made her feel petite, something very few men did.
Kyan was waiting for her in the galley with a cup of coffee. She watched his gaze fall over her. “I may never wear that shirt again.”
Zoë rolled her eyes, but accepted the coffee. She had always been leery of people who were too nice. It seemed they always had the most to hide.
It was nearly dark when Zoë finally got Kaylee and River back to the ranch. Kaylee was practically squealing over the roses out front, and River was off in her own little world as usual. “Sure is a nice house,” Kaylee said wistfully.
“Uh-huh,” Zoë replied unenthusiastically.
Kaylee was undaunted by her friend’s obvious disinterest. “When I was a little girl, I always said I wanted a place with roses out front, and a swing on the porch. Now it don’t much look like Simon and I will ever leave Serenity….not that we’d really want to.”
“He doesn’t like the roses. They’re only there because SHE wants them,” River said moodily from the back.
“Who doesn’t like roses? Kyan?” Zoë asked.
River looked thoughtful. “That is his name now.”
“You mean it wasn’t before?” Zoë had a strange feeling about this. She had to admit to being more than a bit curious.
There wasn’t time to ask River anything more. Sly Glass appeared almost out of thin air flanked by another rough looking man. “Ladies,” the rancher said tipping his hat. “Joey here, and I are gonna get your things for you.”
Kaylee smiled at them. “T’ain’t really much to carry.”
Sly grinned back. “Don’t look to be, but Mara Lee’ll have my hide if’n I let yall carry those bags to yer rooms. She’s had a bee in her bonnet all week ‘bout gettin’ all the guest rooms ready for women folk.”
“She knew we were coming?” Zoë asked cautiously. Just how much did Zol know about them?
“Everything,” River whispered. “He knows everything about us.”
A chill ran up Zoë’s spine. Zol had been an odd man before, but now he was just plain creepy. He wasn’t this cold before either, but Zoë guessed that having his eyes torn out might have changed him.
They met up with Mal, Simon, and Jayne in one of the parlors. The look on Mal’s face said it all: This situation was getting even more complicated than they’d ever imagined. She’d known Mal long enough that he didn’t have to say a word. When they’d come up with this plan, it had been a last resort. There really wasn’t anywhere else to go. Kyan had been straight forward and fairly pleasant when they had known him, but now he seemed to be nothing but deceitful. Was it better to try their chances on another planet, or stay the course?
River was studying a vase in the corner. Her shoes had disappeared, and she was crouched over it seemingly untouched by the tension in the room. “It’s real! I’m touching the past.”
“Real?” Simon inquired
“Eighteenth Century French,” a voice announced from the door way. They all turned and saw a beautiful older woman standing there. “I’m Marielle Nanders, but most people around her call me Mara Lee. Welcome to our home.”
Mal stood up. “I’m Captain Malcolm Reynolds, and these are the members of my crew: Zoë Washburne, Jayne Cobb, Kaylee and Simon Tam, and River Tam.”
Mara Lee smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all. Mr. Zol does not have guests often, and I assure you it is quite a gift to have people in this old house besides Sly and Thalia. I hope you all enjoy your stay here.”
“We are appreciative of Mr. Zol’s hospitality,” Mal said with a straight face, but he couldn’t hide that edge from Zoë. Mara Lee was nearly as strange as Zol was.
“I have prepared the guest rooms for you. Mr. Zol was quite adamant that you are all to be made very comfortable here. If there is anything you would like, just let me know. I will show you to your rooms.”
They all followed Mara Lee up a spiral stair case. Every so often River would wander off toward a painting or statue, and Mara Lee would make a comment or two about the piece. One by one, the crew members were shown to their rooms, and Zoë’s was the last.
Mara Lee spared her a pensive glance. “I thought this room should be saved for the two newlyweds, but Mr. Zol seems to think that you will appreciate this room. He can be very thoughtful.”
Zoë let out a grunt that would have put Jayne to shame. “I’ll bet.”
‘There is no need for hostilities here, child. If you only knew what Mr. Zol has been doing all of these years, you might think differently about angering him.” The woman threw open the door to the room.
At first, Zoë’s breath caught. It was massive. The room was entirely open feeling with a four poster bed in the center with filmy fabric hanging down over it like a canopy. On the far side was the most luxurious bathing area Zoë had ever seen. A marble tub sat against the wall with giant mirrors behind it. Candles were set along the edge with bottles of scented oils and other bottles. Near it sat a vanity table with a parcel sitting on its top.
The thought that Zol was trying to buy her entered her mind. She wasn’t a whore, not for any man, and Zol was the last man she’d ever sleep with. Anger replaced the awe she’d felt only a second before. “Simon and Kaylee should have this room,” she said coldly.
Mara Lee laughed. “Darling, do you really think that their room doesn’t have it’s own little perks? Just because you slept with him once, don’t think that he’s going to try and seduce you again. His needs are well seen to. Kyan Zol doesn’t need to coax little soldier girls to his bed.”
Now, Zoë was pissed. She stood up tall and looked the bitch directly in the eye. “And who sees to his needs? You?”
“Heavens, no. I left the life of a companion behind many years ago.”
“A companion? I should have known. I always did wonder where you went when you got old and dried up. Now, I guess I know,” Zoë commented acerbically.
“Yes, now you know.” Mara Lee gave no sign that Zoë’s words had gotten to her. “I really must go down stairs and make sure everything is ready in the kitchen. The help these days isn’t what it used to be. I can barely trust the girl with the simplest of tasks. You understand? Dinner will be served in about half an hour. Until then, child.”
Zoë wanted to drag the old crow back by her hair, and smack her. Still fuming, she ignored her own bag sitting on the bed, and tore open the thin paper on the parcel. Silk caressed her hands as she pulled a midnight blue robe and slippers out. She inspected him coolly, and tossed them on the bed.
Zoë hadn’t gotten a chance to speak to Mal since they’d been back. His room was just two doors down from hers, and she knocked. “Sir?”
Mal opened the door and motioned her in. “Things are not going well.”
“You think, sir?” Zoë quipped.
“Trust me you don’t know the half of it.” Mal sat down on the edge of the bed. “Kyan’s got himself another one like River.”
Mal sighed. “He claims that was the job that made him quit doing the runs to the Independents. He was hired to get the girl out and hand her over, but didn’t do so well with the handin’ over part. They ripped his eyes out for it, or so he seemed to be hintin’. Now, a shady boss I can handle, but another weapon? Kao! This was not supposed to happen.”
“Where’s this weapon now?”
“He said she was on some sort of errand, and won’t be back til tomorrow. Simon thinks this girl might help him find a way to help River. I told him we’d stick it out.”
“This just keeps gettin’ better.” Zoë stared at her boots for a second. “I don’t trust him and I don’t trust the situation, sir.”
“Neither do I, but you got a better plan?” Mal asked “Love to hear it, if you do.”
Zoë shook her head. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Dinner was served in the dining room, and Mara Lee had once again become the gracious hostess. “I hope you are all hungry. Please, take your seats.”
Kaylee’s grin was ear to ear, as she looked at the fare before them. Zoë almost hated to think about what she’d say about this whole mess. Beside her, Simon looked tired. After talking to the captain, she knew why. The doc had a lot on his plate with River on a normal day, and this certainly wasn’t normal…not even by their standards.
Jayne took a mountain sized helping of everything as it was passed. “Sure glad you ain’t tryin’ to feed us none o’ that gourmet shit.”
A vein in Mara Lee’s forehead looked about ready to burst, and Mal gave the mercenary a well earned glower. To Mara Lee’s credit, the woman didn’t let her mask slip for long. Every bit the trained companion, she lowered her head a tad. “I am very glad that you like it. The cook even cut fresh strawberries to be served over ice cream. I’m afraid there’s nothing gourmet there, either.”
“Oooohh, did you say strawberries? From the pretty room and the sexy robe to the food, I think I might never leave! Simon really liked the robe, too,” Kaylee added with a mischievous grin.
Her husband nearly choked. “Kaylee!” he hissed.
“It’s not like there’s anyone around who doesn’t know you have sex,” River told him in defense of her sister-in-law.
Simon’s face was scarlet. “I’m very sorry, ma’am.”
It wasn’t like Zoë to be catty, but she couldn’t help it. The words were out of her mouth before she could stop herself. “But it wouldn’t bother you, would it? You were a whore for…how long?”
There was a dangerous gleam in Mara Lee’s golden eyes. “I was a companion on into my early forties.”
All eyes were on Zoë, with the exception of Jayne who was too busy eyeing Mara Lee. “Really? You been out of it that long?” he asked scratching his goatee. “Will say I never seen a women in her sixties as good lookin’ as you.”
Mara Lee let out an outraged gasp. “I’m nowhere near my sixties!”
“Ya know, I was wonderin’: is this table an antique? Sure looks antique,” Mal said with false enthusiasm.
The rest of the meal was painfully silent. Even Kaylee’s excitement over the strawberries was dimmed. When they’d all finished, Mara Lee excused herself politely, and the “girl” came out of the kitchen to clean up.
Zoë sat at the vanity table for a long time that evening staring at her reflection. She hadn’t changed too much since they’d met last. Funny, she’d never really been vain about her looks until she met Wash. Her husband had a way of making her feel like a goddess. She loved the way he would take the time to appreciate every aspect of her. Her strength was sexy as hell to him, and he never let her doubt that. God, she missed him! Turning away from the face in the mirror, Zoë tried to block out the pain.
She picked the robe off of the bed, and admired it. Kaylee was right about it being sexy. It had been years since she had owned something that fine, but she didn’t want a damn thing from Zol. Wash had shown her what a man should be, and Zol was the polar opposite of Wash. There was a dirty feeling that came when she’d compared the two. No man would ever be Wash. No one could take his place.
In that instant, she truly hated Kyan Zol. He was toying with them—him and his old whore. Zoë wanted to scream. Instead, she strode down the hall to Zol’s office.
The door was half open already, and she pushed it just a little farther. Kyan was seated at his desk facing a roaring fire. The light in the room was dim—not that it would matter to him—and the flames cast an eerie glow about his strong features. His brows were knit tight in thought, and she could see the play of frustration across his face. “Who’s there?”
Zoë took a deep breath. “Listen, Zol, I don’t know what you are up to, but don’t you dare play games with us…any of us.”
He simply shrugged. “Are you sure the games aren’t necessary?”
“Tah mah duh hwoon dahn! I should have known.” Zoë stared at the flames. “Everything is a game to you.”
“Is that what you think” Kyan asked.
“I haven’t seen anything to prove me wrong.”
Zol stood up behind the desk, and ran a hand over his face. “I do what I have to do, Zoë. Can you really blame me? With all that I’m sure you and the rest of the crew have done over the years, can you really be that hypocritical? It’s all business.”
“I don’t trust you, and I don’t think there’s anyone else her who does either.”
“You’ll either learn to trust me, or I will give you a reason not to. Either way, things are going to happen the way they are going to happen. Zoë, if you believe anything about me, believe this: I will never do anything unless there is a damn good reason. I’ll do my best to keep you out of harm’s way, but I can’t promise that.” Zol said sincerely.
Zoë swallowed hard. “It would help if you would let us know exactly what’s going on.”
“I’m sorry, Zoë, but that’s just not possible yet. There are a few things I want to iron out first.”
“That’s not good enough, Zol,” she told him quietly.
“I know it’s not.”
Zoë nodded unconsciously. “If Mal says we’re doing the job, we’re doing the job, but I’m not for this. Not in the least.”
A wry smile came to his lips. “You’d be a fool if you were, and I know you well enough to know that you are no fool. I respect that about you, Zoë. You truly are an amazing woman. Your husband was a very lucky man.”
“I don’t want to talk about Wash,” she told him.
“No, I didn’t imagine you would, but for what it’s worth, you have my condolences.”
“It’s not worth a damn thing, Zol.” With that, Zoë left the room with a tight feeling in her chest. This job was a nightmare.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006 9:32 PM
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