BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

STINKINGROSE

Pinkish
Thursday, October 12, 2006

Post BDM. The latest installment, this time not a script! 12 pages of unrepentant fluff. Kaylee and Simon's wedding, and wedding night.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1550    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer: Whedon and associated owned. No financial gain on my part.

Jayne liked how Jazmine fussed over them. Him. Familiar, like having Mom or a sister around. Good cook, always trying to make sure everybody had something they liked, least ways once in a while. The thought started to ravel on its own, and he followed it unwilling. Something was up though, not sure what. Just a little .. not quite all there was to it. Not much in a fight, but better than nothing. Kept her head and used it. Still didn’t know what she saw in the captain, but if she kept Mal off his back he was all for it. Gettin’ a touch waddly now. Like Zoe. Zoe was gettin’ unsettlin’ large. Didn’t do to make jokes in ear shot of her. Not if you was fond of your man parts. Didn’t like the idea of all them kids underfoot. Ain’t right to be raised like that on a little ship. Kids need room to tear ass around. Accidents just waiting to happen. Zoe’d purely go berserk if anything happened to one of hers. Wouldn’t want to be on the business end of that one. Only a matter of time ‘fore Kaylee started in with the breeding. Dozens of little Simons running around knowing everything at you. Enough to shrivel your cod. Maybe it was time to start thinkin’ about jumping ship. Best berth and cut he’d found so far, though. When they had work, that was. Been steadier lately. Shanty seemed to be good luck, mostly. Could almost forgive her the bees. “Where we gonna put em all any ways?” he wondered out loud. Conversation at the table stopped. Implements paused in mid shovel. Zoe’s eyebrow raised, waiting for clarification. “Beg pardon?” asked Mal. “I said where we gonna put ‘em all?” repeated Jayne. Simon looked around. “Who?” “All the kids comin’. Gonna get ruttin’ crowded, this keeps up.” Jayne continued. “He’s right.” admitted Jazmine. “We’ll make room.” said Mal. “Ship’s still not that big.” countered Jayne. “We’ll stop dirt side and let ‘em run around.” Mal said, with a look that indicated further discussion was not welcome just at present. “Gonna be hard to keep ‘em safe on board” continued Jayne, either oblivious to the looks he was receiving or trying to follow the thought to the bitter end like a terrier with a dead rat. “We’ll make it safer.” bit off Mal. “And when we’re workin’? Who’s gonna keep ‘em out of harm’s way then? What if Alliance decides to take care of us once and final?” At this point Jayne was quickly progressing to retriever that has rolled in a dead skunk and wants to share. “They’ve got other things to fuss on.” “We keep tuggin’ their beard they’re gonna start takin’ notice.” River managed to derail further indigestion with a well timed “Maybe they’ll shave. Banana pudding tonight?” Jazmine nodded. “Your request if I recall.” After a few moments of silent chewing previous conversations resumed, though the laughter did not.

*******

Mal was still turning it over in his head later. He knew Jayne was right, it just irritated him that it had been Jayne pointing it out. Meant it had gotten pretty obvious to everyone and he was going to have to actually do something about it soon. Only problem was he wasn’t sure what that something should be. As usual. Lying with his head on Jazmine’s ever enlarging bump and listening to her heartbeat, he knew he wanted her close. Wanted her out of harm’s way at the same time, and that was a sticking point. Wanted to keep them safe on Serenity, but also wanted them safely tucked away somewhere unlikely to be bothered overmuch. Couldn’t have it both ways with what he did. A declaration from Jazmine was what finally broke his meditation. “Creche”. “What?” he sat up, not quite sure he’d heard her. “We could set up a creche in a safe place. I’d have to leave the ship to stay there and mind them. It would free up Serenity for more work and riskier. Don’t know if Zoe’d be willing to do that though. Not sure I could no matter how much I trusted the caregiver.” He thought a moment. “Could always ask, I reckon. She said anything?” Jaz shook her head. “Just a thought. Probably not the ideal solution.” Mal decided to let it drop for now. “Keep thinking at it. Bound to percolate something. “ “We could keep you so busy you won’t have time to miss us.” she said. “Sleep on it some. Can’t fix it right now.” from him put it to rest. He kissed her forehead then went back to concentrating on heartbeats and the sound of her breathing until he drifted off to face the dreams.

*******

“So he could hide in the jellybeans!” Groans echoed through the cargo bay. Kaylee grinned, that one had always been a favorite of hers growing up. Work resumed. Inventory and inspection tended to the boring. Punch line tag made the work go smoother. She didn’t mind so much, but it was always better when everyone else was less grouchy. Over the com “He would have been fine if the ice cream wagon hadn’t come by.” was met with laughter. Simon stored that one away for later, wondering where his sister had come by it. Maybe Jayne, probably the Shanty. She was a little loose with her humor around his sister for his taste. She was up in the kitchen checking stores or he would have asked her to pass the saline and made some comment about salty jokes. “I don’t know what they’re wearing, but it sure needs ironing.” from Inara stopped him. He’d never heard that one. A few others admitted to unfamiliarity, so Inara had to tell the joke in its entirety. Work continued until someone else remembered a joke, then the next punch line came over the open channel. Sometimes you barely had time to remember the joke before the next one came, other times it could be several minutes. “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana again?” That was the Captain in the cargo bay. “Oh come on Mal, Kaylee gave you that one.” came Inara’s voice. Mal sounded almost offended when he answered “I actually had a childhood you know, corny jokes and everything”. Kaylee piped in “Cap’n needs to brush off all those poor limping jokes that Dads tell”. Jazmine’s voice filtered down from deep inside a cupboard somewhere “Here’s one for him then. A white horse fell in the mud”. Silence. “Nobody’s ever heard that one?” General no’s from everyone led her to ask the question: “Want to hear a dirty joke?” Deeply satisfying groans floated back to her. “Yep, that’s a Dad joke sure enough” Kaylee confirmed.

********

Jazmine and Inara were in the kitchen later that night, talking and plotting over tea. Inara had been musing on the strange mixture of crew members, wondering how it all worked, not for the first time. “What do you think, Jazmine? By your official title you are the one who keeps them working together.” “Chief cook and bottle washer? I didn’t realize it held so much weight.” Jazmine parried, not willing to bite and letting Inara know it. She truly hoped this wasn’t going to turn into a snark fest. She was too tired to put up a decent fight. The companion was out of her league anyway, and they both knew it. The blade hidden in the velvet, trained from nearly childhood in language and its many uses. Inara looked at her for a moment, then tried again with “The way Jayne tells it another title is Chief Bed Warmer to the Captain, so since you have his ear perhaps you have his inmost thoughts as well”. Jazmine retorted “I’ve got more than his ear, dear.” Inara smiled at this one glad someone was willing to play, even if it was a little like beating a five year old at chess. “I don’t think anyone has his inmost thoughts, possibly including Himself. I’m not sure why we work together at all let alone so well. Malcolm has a way of drawing the people he needs to himself. We’ve each of us been to our own Serenity Valley one way or another. This ship’s full of hidden topography. I don’t know whether I want to level mine and plant it over obliterating it entirely, or fence it in and let it serve as a dire warning. Depends on the day. Mal seems to have decided the best way to deal with it is to take up residence and slowly inhabit the entire place. Spread out by the roots and fill it slowly, year by year one thin layer at a time like a bamboo grove dropping leaves and covering the landscape. I think Zoe’s just happy not to be there anymore.” Inara’s next thought held interesting options. “Should we dam it then, and make a lake, with summer homes and recreation opportunities? Perhaps diving expeditions. Come see where thousands of unremarkable people fought, suffered, and then died under extremely unpleasant conditions. Visit the unexploded ordinance! Bring the children, it’s an excursion for the whole family.” Jazmine peeked into Inara’s cup. “Have you been slipping something into that tea?” Inara regarded her with some suspicion. “No, why?” Jazmine waited a moment. “I’m not accustomed to macabre humor from you, though the thought has merit. Perhaps an interpretational museum to round things out. Themed dining?” Inara smiled in return “I’ll see if we can find any backers when I return to civilization. Are there any other messages I should be bringing with me, or is your list complete?” Jazmine paused and thought. “No. No, that should be all of it for now. I may be out of touch for an indefinite period. I’ll wave Petra if I can.” Inara set her cup down and folded her hands palms up. “Please keep me informed as well.” Jazmine folded hers palms down and covered the other woman’s gesture in acceptance. “Of course. Your involvement will be welcome”. They parted hands, agreement complete, and returned to their tea. “You know” began Jazmine “River mentioned something the other day I hadn’t really noticed before.” “What, pray, was that?” Inara queried. “Take the menfolk away and the ship still flies.”

********

Mal woke from his nightmare with a start. It was a new one. The novelty was not necessarily welcome, though. He’d been back in Serenity Valley. The rats were crawling over everything looking for a meal on anything that didn’t move. He had been immobile, couldn’t budge and inch to shake them off. Waking was a relief. Then he realized that it hadn’t been a dream. He flung his arm out with a yodel of surprise and disgust, turning on the light almost before the echo had died off. That it wasn’t hungry rats was offset by the fact that it was rat, singular, Kaylee’s to be specific. Which was even now slipping through and impossibly small space in a great hurry to be elsewhere. At least the rutting thing was white. Easier to spot that way. Since killing it was no longer an option only one decision remained: to roll over and yell at Kaylee in the morning or to go start a hunt immediately for a 6 inch long menace in the middle of ship’s night. Mal decided to roll over and deal with it in the morning, or rather his brain decided that it hadn’t really roused itself enough to qualify as being awake and slipped back into default mode before he could stop himself. Next morning Mal was in the galley drinking coffee in an attempt to offset the complete lack of quality of his slumber. Kaylee came in stealing furtive glances around the corners of the room. Trying to look under the table without looking under the table. “Lose something?” Mal asked, and got a rewarding guilty jump for his effort. “No, no. Why d’you ask?” Kaylee replied just a little too breezily to pull off a convincing show of nonchalance. Mal sipped at his coffee and succeeded where she’d failed. “You’ve the appearance of looking for something. Thought maybe that rat had gone wandering in the night”. Kaylee tried her best to lie. “No, Ratilda’s right where she ought be”. Kaylee was one of the worst liars he’d ever seen. She’d never make it gambling. He had to put in some effort to keep the grin off his face while he said “Thought so. That’s why I know the critter as crawled ‘cross me in the night couldn’t be yours. Took the liberty of setting a trap for it. Mannerly is not this particular rodent’s strong point”. With this he pulled a thread to set off the trap he’d placed by the stove with a loud snap. “There it is now”! Kaylee squeaked and blanched, hand to her mouth, and ran to where the noise had originated. “That’s not funny, Cap’n!” She held up the sock with the trap dangling from it. “Neither’s having that thing loose on my ship chewing holes in things and getting over familiar in my bunk. Soon as everyone’s up we’re searching one end to the other. We don't find it: I’m setting out bait. End of discussion. I know you’re fond of her, but I can’t have her gnawing through the wires. You know that. You promised you’d keep her in her cage.” Kaylee looked like something expecting a kick. “Sorry, Cap’n. I was holding her, then I just kinda fell asleep. Didn’t mean for it to happen.” Mal pondered on why he always turned to fluff when Kaylee went all apologetic on him, then gave up wondering. He tended to turn to butter around womenfolk generally despite his best efforts. Wouldn’t do to let them know that or he’d have footprints on his forehead. “Don’t let it happen again. She’s in her cage rest of the trip. She gets out again she’s off at the next stop. Or sooner. Last thing we need’s to find a hole in one of the suits when we’re outside, even Jayne’s. You follow?” Kaylee perked up a little. “We’ll find her soon. She’s prob’ly hungry by now, she’ll start looking for water too”. She added a silent I hope to herself. Captain had it dead to rights and she knew it. She grabbed a quick bite to take with her on her search. Simon was already awake and checking near the Infirmary. She snatched up a little something for him and scooted off to go start in the engine room where she kept the cage. Mal nodded and went back to revivifying himself. He tried to recall just how The White Menace had made it on board in the first place. It had started with an argument. The best entertainment usually did. Jazmine was beside herself, Kaylee was nearly burbling over her new love, Mal was just watching for signs of bloodshed before weighing in. It tickled him to watch Jazmine getting angry at Kaylee. She was almost stomping her foot. He just loved that crease in her forehead when it wasn’t directed at him. “Get it out of my kitchen before it... Your pet, your mess. Disinfectant’s over there.” “Aww, c’mon Jaz, isn’t it just the cutest little thing? Look at those big shiny black eyes, those little whiskers twitching away. How can you not love it?” “I didn’t say I don’t like rats, I just said I want it out of my kitchen. That is the place you traditionally do not want them. I have no problem with them in a lab where they belong. Ever hear the saying breed like rats?” “ I thought that was rabbits” “Them too. You never wind up with just one of either”. “Don’t be silly, it’s not pregnant. The man who sold it to me said so.” “Does it have testicles? No? Then it’s pregnant.” “He swore they had been kept separated since birth. Besides, Simon bought it for me”. Simon tried to become one with the wall at this point, under a withering glare that accused him of Knowing Better. “Have you ever seen the damage they can do? Take it back and trade it for a tarantula or something” “But it’s so little and soft and furry”. Jayne chimed in “You want a little somethin’ soft and furry? I got it for ya..” “Takes a brave man to admit to that.” Mal had decided it was time to speak before crockery became airborne. Doc looked like to pick a fight, and there might not be anyone able to patch him up after Jayne got done with him. He turned to Kaylee. “I’ll not pitch your pet out the airlock, just so’s you promise it stays under lock and key, dong ma?” “Thanks Cap’n!” she burbled. “Didn’t say it could stay permanent. We have any problems account of that overgrown fuzzy it’s off the ship at next port. Shanty may well be overly cantankerous at present, but she’s got a point.” This garnered him the same look Simon had received, or a close relation. “It stays out of her kitchen” he amended and was relieved to see hackles lower, “starting now. Off with the both of you.” Prickly women. Why did he always end up feeling surrounded by the prickly ones? Kaylee scurried to secure her new acquisition. “And no more bringing livestock aboard without I say so!” he called after her. “That goes for the rest of you” was addressed to the room in general. He got general nods as assurance that there was no further inclination to smuggle furry things aboard. “Should’ve named the ship No Pets. Painted it in plain sight, letters three feet high.” he muttered to himself as he wandered off toward the bridge. Simon looked at Jazmine and offered the closest thing to an apology he could muster “She said please...”.

********

“Decided you all need to know a bit more about our present situation” Mal announced to the assembly seated around the table. “River and Zoe sussed it out on their own in their own time. Jaz knows on account of it’s her doing. Inara winding up in the middle of it all was a surprise to everyone. That leaves the three of you. I made a decision to keep things quiet so’s not to ruffle any feathers sooner than was needful. Chance is things may get a little rough sooner or later. Wanted to give you opportunity to think it over and take your leave if you’re inclined, case it proves sooner. You want to tell them Shanty?” Jazmine, startled, blinked for a moment. “Not really, but it makes sense since it’s my fault if they get involved.” It looked as though the Captain had decided that now was the time for full disclosure to the rest of the crew. He’d promised her secrecy until he deemed it necessary and no further. Hers was not to argue. If she was honest with herself she’d have to admit it was a bit of a relief to finally be able to relax fully with everyone on board. She turned to them ”Let me start by saying that I requested the Captain withhold information from you not because I do not trust you, but rather that you cannot tell what you do not know, even under duress.” This sufficed to get the attention of everyone in the room. She continued. “I am involved with a group of people who are smuggling large quantities of goods to locations outside the Core. Many citizens are concerned about the stability of the current government and are trying to prepare for its eventual demise. We are attempting to prevent chaos and needless suffering for those who would be hurt most by a lack of communication and supplies from the Central Planets.” “I’m not sure I’m followin’ ya there, Shanty” said Jayne under hooded eyes. Simon added “A little clarification and more detail would be helpful”. “Let me try to explain” requested Inara. Jazmine acquiesced with a nod. If she’d lost Simon already she was probably doomed, of course a little warning to get her thoughts in order would have been nice. Inara began in the didactic “Imagine two competitors playing a game with a tower of sticks. Each takes turns pulling out one stick, then another, until the construct collapses. The winner is the one with the biggest pile of sticks at the end.” Kaylee asked “The ones left over don’t count?” “Never do.” answered Mal. Inara continued, “Now imagine there are unseen players inserting invisible sticks to prevent that collapse. Eventually the main players will wonder why it hasn’t fallen and will start looking for answers. If they look hard enough they will begin to notice patterns. The question is whether or not they are willing to halt the game to hunt down those interfering with it.” “Quite frankly I’m hoping for a nice little bloodless coup.” opined Jazmine. “I think we all are but the likelihood of that is in some doubt, as you well know.” Inara reminded her. Mal grinned. “Fortune favors the prepared, but she’ll still give a lucky bastard a tumble now and again.” “What’d she just say?” whispered Jayne to Kaylee. “Not a ruttin’ clue.” She whispered back. Zoe summed it up for them. “Shanty and her friends think the Alliance is coming down: hard, fast, and probably soon. Inara’s trying to stop it falling all at once. We’re hauling supplies out to stow away for just in case. Most of the work we’ve had the last few months has been from Jaz. Captain conjured you needed to know now so’s you can bail if you want”. Jayne and thought a moment “What’s the pay like to be?” Jaz offered “Same as you’ve been getting. Overall take may be higher as it gets uglier and we start moving more.” Jayne sniffed, shrugged, and said “Stayin’.” The last piece of the puzzle had dropped into place as far as he was concerned, and he saw no reason to change ships at this point. It was still the best berth he’d found, the food had improved markedly, and the pay was looking to get even more reliable. He wasn’t afraid of ugly. Mal looked at Simon. “How ‘bout you Doc? You thinking ‘bout taking my mechanic away from all this right about now?” Simon met his gaze. “I’m going wherever Kaylee goes, especially after the wedding. I’m still persona non grata so far as we are aware. This would give me the opportunity to practice medicine wherever we land. I’m not happy at the potential for getting shot again, but at least I’m familiar with the ship’s ricochet patterns at this point. “ Mal’s wry grin assured him the humor had not gone unappreciated. “It’s something I’d like to discuss with Kaylee before giving you my final decision, unless you need to know right now”. Mal shook his head in negation. “Got ‘till at least after the honeymoon. Though if Kaylee’s jumping ship I’d purely appreciate enough heads up to find another mechanic” “Maybe Bester’s still around” Kaylee said with a grin. Both Mal and Zoe looked ready to choke on their tea. Simon was oblivious. “Don’t you worry Cap’n, I’m not leaving Serenity in anybody else’s hands. She wouldn’t stand for it.” “Good to know” said Mal. “Looks like we’re hanging together ‘stead of separately then. Jazmine, if you would please to sum up what all’s like to pass, adding in the forsooth and folderol as you go?” She went to put the kettle on. “Get comfy folks, this could take a while”.

********

She liked her. Really. Still wasn’t willing to trust her further than she had to. ‘Course she felt that way about most everyone. So when her Captain came to her with Jazmine in tow to discuss child rearing on board a small ship that tended to be in trouble, she was as predisposed to listen as she was ever likely to get. “Still not happy about it , Sir.” “Could get risky for them” Mal continued. “The thought had crossed my mind. Several times.” she answered. “I could just order the both of you off my ship and keep you all safe” he said with the tone of someone who had actually considered it a time or two. Zoe advised him “Your head is looking something fierce like to your pi gu today, Sir. Might want to get that checked.” ”He’s so cute when he’s needlessly overprotective.” Jaz added in a stage whisper. “Reminds me of a dog as can’t decide whether to gnaw his favorite bone or hide it.” Zoe replied. Mal ignored the barbs and attempted to return to the topic at hand. “Already decided to stay put after the wedding ‘till you’re both done birthin’. Not too hard to turn that to staying put a touch longer.” “There’s nothing says Serenity has to stay grounded just because I can’t work” Zoe Pointed out. “Truth enough. We could keep working, maybe take a few shortish trips while we wait you out, see how much distance River gets on that noggin walking.” Mal suggested. “We could just wave if anything happens.” Zoe reminded him. “More fun my way” he said. “Jazmine had a suggestion. Only one made so far. If you come up with better, offer it.” “And that would be?” Zoe asked, looking at Jazmine. Jaz took a deep breath and plunged in. “I could leave the ship, set up a creche somewhere safe, but not too far off from where you’re likely to be flying. I am the most expendable member of the crew, Simon’s cooking non withstanding, and I’ve got experience raising children. It would keep them safe while Serenity’s engaged in risky work. You and Mal would be able to focus on the task at hand, knowing that at least your children were not at direct risk. In return I would rest easier knowing that Mal had you at his side. It would give the ship somewhere to use as safe harbor between jobs. I know it’s not the ideal solution. It would take a lot of trust in me to raise your children when you can’t be around. I’m not sure I would be willing in your place. Just a thought. Best I could do so far. I’m going to be a little busy soon. Won’t be able to put much effort into the effort anyway.” Zoe gave it a moment, turning the thought over in her head. “Body’s more like to keep fighting if they’ve got something worth fighting for. Not sure I’m in love with the idea, but it’s not a bad one. Landing day after tomorrow. We’ve got time to think it over.” Mal demanded ”Will you stop being so confound reasonable and understanding about this?!” Zoe retorted “Can’t help it if you make sense.” Jaz jumped in “Well why didn’t you say you wanted a fight? How dare you push me away like some....” Mal stopped her in mid appeasement “No, it’s no good now. You spoiled it. Anybody comes up with a better plan we go with it. Till then we start looking for nesting places. Head still look like a pi gu?” Zoe gave him a level gaze “Always.”.

******** They had landed without incident at the docks. Then they got off the ship. Actually they hadn’t really gotten quite off the ship entirely. There was a delegation from Kaylee’s family there to meet them. Thirty or so members of clan Frye whooping and hollering like it was a parade and you got extra points for loud. Kaylee was smiling fit to outshine the sun at the sight of her kinfolk. She was calling out greetings to them when a voice caused her to stop, the smile fading like a cloud had rolled in where the sunshine had been. “Kaywinett! How can you do this to me?! You can’t marry that sorry piece of le se. You’re promised to me!” Kaylee called back “Carson, I told you before and I’ll tell you again I ain’t marrying you. You’re too close kin and you’ve got the brains of a duck.” “You’re the one who asked me in the first place!” Carson shouted back. “I WAS FIVE!” she screamed at him. An older man stepped into the fray. “ I seem to recollect she got engaged a lot that year. Delivery man, dock workers, bus driver, the neighbor’s dog. Actually married the dog, but ‘twarnt legal so we had it ‘nulled. Turns out a seven year old can’t perform a wedding. Good thing on account of it turns out you *can* marry a dog on this moon.” “Thanks Pop. I had almost managed to forget that.” she shouted over the laughter. Carson ran up the ramp, scooped Kaylee up over his shoulder and started spinning her around, declaring he wasn’t going to stop until she agreed to wed him or puked, whichever came first. Mal and the others stood around looking at each other. None of them were quite sure if they should rescue her or sit back and enjoy the show. Actually Jayne had decided pretty quickly that the entertainment value was too good to interfere. Simon decided to let valor be the better part of discretion and walked up to the screeching human whirligig. “Excuse me, but would you mind putting her down?” He shouted over the din. “Who in the gorram ‘Verse are you?” Carson spat, not stopping his revolving. “I’m the le se” Simon stated. Carson stopped at this. Looked him up and down for a moment, then addressed Kaylee who was still slung over his shoulder. “You’re leaving me for this thin drink of water? I don’t think so.” and with that he started walking off with her. Simon turned over his shoulder and stated quite clearly “Jayne, can I borrow a gun? I think I can take him out without hitting her”. The mercenary decided to play along. Even he wasn’t quite sure why. “Naw, you’d just miss ‘em both. Better let me do it!” and cocked the loudest piece he was carrying. Kaylee shrieked at this, which let her cousin know playtime was over. He dropped her flat on her backside and melted into the crowd, throwing a “No harm, you can have her!” as he ducked behind some aunts. Pop broke in and gathered the crew up. “Come on folks, you must be fit to fall over. Ma’s got the coffee on and the pies are cooling at the sill. We don’t hustle along she’s going to be the picture of sore.” Pie is one force guaranteed to get people slinging their packs and heading in whatever direction a body’s just pointed. Mal was walking with River and Jazmine, keeping an eye on his crew. “Five will get you ten Jayne and Zoe get into a foot race if it’s berry.” River fixed him with a look and declared “No takers here, try up ahead”.

********

Kaylee’s parents’ house was less than a ten minute walk away. Her mother had insisted that everyone stay with them until after the wedding. Captain Reynolds had demurred, pointing out that he would not want to overburden the household with guests underfoot while wedding preparations were underway. Ma Frye had been impressed with his manners and let Kaylee know the next time they were alone. She declared he was handsome and mannerly, which was high praise from her. Kaylee was relieved to hear her crew had passed muster. Even Jayne had been on best behavior. They were making alterations to the dress Kaylee was to wear, and planning the menu. It would be potluck, but tradition held that you had to make sure there was enough for all to take a plate home regardless. “That young doctor’ll make pretty babes. Any proof to his puddin’?” Kaylee nodded. “Lost it , Ma.” “Poor girl. You’re not the first, won’t be the last. Hurt fades with time.” “Been over a six-month, Ma.” “Your age six months still seems like a long time. Blink of an eye when you’ve my years. Don’t be all a hustle. Enjoy the span you’ve got together by yourselves while you’re young. Time before and time after to rest, years between that fly. Make sure you’ve got something worth having at the far end.” “Ain’t easy watchin’ the others. I don’t wish ‘em ill or nothin’, just kind of hard is all sometimes.” “Kaywinett Lee the day you wish someone ill’s the day a chicken crows. Be happy for them as can, and kind to them as can’t.” Kaylee put on her best cheering up even if she wasn’t feeling it face. “I’ll try.” “That’s my girl. May want to not talk about it overmuch around the neighbors. That old Mavis has a tongue to peel paint off the barn. Woman could gossip the goat to death and scald the feathers off the geese at the same time. Tain’t her business anyway.” “Thanks Ma.” Her mother let out an inarticulate grunt while she wrestled with a sleeve. “Don’t know which is going to be frillier, you or the cake.” Kaylee looked up from the cookbook. ”Thanks, Ma”. Her mother just leaned over and kissed her cheek, then went back to cussing at ruffles.

********

Two days later there was a welcoming party. A veritable potluck feast. It was a chance to see if life in space had changed little Kaylee, and see if she was expecting. Meet the strangers she flew with and gossip about them. It was a chance for dancing, drinking, music, eating, drinking, gossip, eating, bickering, eating...and drinking. Inara was quite a surprise. Most people on the moon had never seen a Companion before. Many had never even heard of one. She was viewed with mixed understanding. Granny Frye was of the opinion that if you were going to pay good money and plenty to bed her the least she could do was have a womanly figure. “Gram, she’s more than just a whore. She’s a counselor. Companions offer advice to highly placed people. ”Kaylee advised her. Granny countered this with “Not so high when they’re lyin’ down, now are they?” Kaylee tried again. “She gets the pillow talk of Parliament”. “That so?” said the old woman. Light dawned in several sets of eyes, truth be told. She sniffed. “Still say she’s got no ass.”

The topic of their conversation was attempting to deal with sticky, drooly, wet babies and maintain the Guild image of composure and grace. All the children wanted to see the pretty lady, and the mothers seemed to be enjoying her fussing over each. It was later in the evening. The party was still in full swing. She was on her third wardrobe item seven hours into the party and ready to burst into tears. First one of Kaylee’s cousins’ teething infants had salivated on the front of her gown, turning it instantly to watered silk, the dye running as she handed the drool monster back. That was within the first thirty minutes of the afternoon. Next she was handed a newborn. She had held it on her shoulder as she’d seen the mother do. She was repaid for her efforts with something akin to yogurt down her back. Two hours, two outfits. The day was not going well. Three hours later she had a 6 month old sitting on her lap. This was better. The child smiled and made noises at her as she bounced it on her knee. Then there was an odd noise, and an unsavory smell. She returned the offending creature and went back to the shuttle yet again. Late at night, a boy of approximately six years ran up to her offering a pastry. Keener eyes would have noticed that he seemed to be vibrating with sugar and it was clearly past his bedtime. Distracted by the festivities this went misread. Inara was touched by the gesture. “And how many have you had? “ she asked in that voice grownups will use, noting the gooey mess around his mouth. At least he showed no signs of wanting to kiss her and ruin her makeup. “Seven!” he beamed at her. “Gracious, that many?! I’d have such a tummy ache if” and then she was left holding seven pastries and who knows how much punch in her lap, with a small crying boy at her feet and a mother apologizing profusely. Inara assured the mother that accidents happened, and not to worry about it. She carefully held her skirt as she made her way out to the bushes and back to the shuttle. “Going to be on a first name basis with the local cleaners at this rate” she muttered to herself through her teeth. She managed to avoid children for over an hour after that. This was no easy task as there seemed to be an endless supply and they were everywhere. Jazmine had bumped into her on the porch and asked her how she was finding the party. Inara had given her a brief description of her evening while Jaz made sympathetic clucking noises. Inara was near the end of even her ability to cope with social missteps and had drunk a bit more of the local fermentable than was wise. “They’re doing it on purpose! They’re sending these explosions waiting to happen over to me and then laughing, I just know it!” Jaz tried to pacify her. “Well if they are you’re handling it much better then anyone would have expected. This is basically just...what it’s like until they can fetch their own mop. You learn to dress for disaster.“ She patted the discomfited courtesan on the shoulder and went back into the house. She found a cluster of mothers in the kitchen and mentioned as she passed through the room without pausing “She’s on to you”.

*******

The night before a wedding on Kaylee’s moon there are two traditions. The men go off to sauna, get the groom drunk, and mourn the impending loss of a free man. The women take a ritual communal bath in an enormous tub and get drunk with the bride, it is a way of mourning the loss of a girl’s freedom until her children are grown. They also discuss sex a great deal. Zoe and Jazmine were Kaylee’s official attendants that evening as the steaming water was not good for pregnant women to stay in for prolonged periods. Their duties were to keep her glass filled, have soft towels and oils ready, pamper her generally, and make sure she did not pass out and drown in the tub. The aunties were speculating on the groom, trying to get the bride to blush. It was not working. “You know what they say: Big head big...brain.” “Long on brains, long on thinkin’.” “Hell, I’d just settle for long on!” Zoe leaned across Kaylee to Jazmine, who was massaging Kaylee’s head “How long are they going to keep this up?” Kaylee turned to her with a big relaxed smile and said “All night or until I’m too drunk to answer”. Zoe quietly topped off the younger woman’s cup. Ma called over to Jazmine “Jaz! You like to splice that captain of yourn?” Jaz called back “Been married. Don’t want to be widowed again.” Granny nodded sagely and observed “Once is bad luck, twice just looks careless. You’d need at least two, three more after that ‘fore anyone’d take you serious again.” This was met with roaring laughter. Everyone knew what was and was not off limits. They had been warned that Zoe’s loss was fresh, and looking at her girth people assumed it was quite recent indeed. Zoe therefore was off limits on the topic of widowhood. On matters of pregnancy and sex however, she was fair game. Inara was much more comfortable with the topic at hand and was holding her own. The other women were picking up ideas like a camel picked up fleas. The men were likely to have several surprises and unexpected requests over the next few months. Granny had once again proved entertaining when, after Inara had explained a rather complicated and gymnastic maneuver guaranteed to produce surprising and pleasant results for both parties, the veteran of life had declared “Tried that. Twice. Didn’t work.” The laughter took several minutes to die down, as no one could look at anyone else without bursting out with gales of hilarity again. The men could hear the women laughing from their own secluded area several houses away. It was making them nervous.

******** “We dropped him ten miles away off the road, drunk as could be!” guffawed Carson the next morning. Kaylee was not as amused as Carson had expected her to be. “Of all the dumbass stunts to pull! He’s from the Hub, barely been off the ship the last year. How well do you think you’d fare if I dropped you off in the middle of Londinium in nothin’ but your britches?” “Oh, he ain’t wearin’ britches!” At this Jayne fell out rolling with hilarity. Mal was desperately trying not to. Kaylee started beating on her cousin, smacking anything that came within reach as she chased him around the room. “Carson, You festering idiot!! Oh! Stupid hun dan! Yu ben de! AAAAAgggh!!!” Kaylee’s father chuckled, then chimed in “Good thing she ain’t got a wrench boy. You git him darlin’. Ooh! That hurt. All right, that’s enough girl. Carson, you round up the others. Gentlemen we got us a stray to find ‘fore Kaylee kills her cousin.” “Solve several problems at once if we let her.” opined Ma. Pop thought about that for a few seconds. “T’would. Sister’d never forgive me.” “Point.” said Ma. Pop got up to go find his nearly son in law. “Wedding’s at six. You get into your dress and be waitin’, we’ll fetch the boy.”

********

They had found Simon twelve miles off the road in the wrong direction. He had woken up a few hours after sunrise, chilled but unharmed apart from a hangover unlike any other he’d ever experienced. He’d diagnosed himself with acute alcohol poisoning and dehydration, and given up a silent prayer of thanks that it was a warm summer when he’d noticed what he was wearing. Then he’d promptly begun walking in large circles. For six hours. He’d covered a lot of ground before he realized it was the same ground he’d covered at least three times already and sat down to think. After the initial panic wore off he’d decided to go with sitting in despair and hoping someone came looking for him. He’d never been so glad to see Jayne in his life. They loaded him onto the mule and headed back to town to clean him up and get him dressed before all..Kaylee.. broke loose. Everybody agreed it wouldn’t do to have their mechanic locked away for murder.

******** The ceremony went off without further incident. Several cousins had been told off to sit on Carson and keep him out of the bride’s sight until she was too drunk to care. Kaylee was beaming and crying. Inara had done her hair and makeup for the occasion, and managed to make the pink layer cake that Kaylee’s mother had spent so much time reworking fade into the background by comparison. It was generally agreed that she looked absolutely beautiful. Simon was just staring at her and had to be nudged a few times during his vows by his sister. River found it ironically amusing that she was Best Man. Mal was sitting between Inara and Jazmine. “Groom look a mite pinkish to you?” he whispered to them. “Ow!” Nearby heads turned. “Shhh.” Zoe leaned forward at him and poked him in the back. “They pinched me!” he hissed to her. “Then behave” she whispered. Jayne just smiled and chuckled to himself. He figured that he might never be accused of an embarrassment of book learning, but he still had better sense than Mal sometimes. He’d picked a seat not within arm’s reach of the women. In the reception line the bride’s parents were the first to greet the newlyweds. Ma looked Simon in the eye and the smile she’d been wearing disappeared. “You put my daughter on a pedestal and you keep her there, or I break your legs.” The smile reappeared as quickly as it had vanished.” Welcome to the family.” she declared as she gathered him in for a hug. He replied the only way he could at that moment. “Ow.”

******* Finally, sometime after two in the morning Kaylee and Simon were lying in bed. Simon had just been slathered with some home remedy of Ma’s which she had guaranteed would alleviate his suffering. “Funny, I’d never envisioned spending my wedding night with a sunburn. “ he winced. “So what on you doesn’t hurt? “ Kaylee asked hopefully. “My lips I think”. She gingerly kissed him to test the theory. ”No, they hurt too.” “Carson’s going to pay for this.” she growled. “I won’t tell anyone where you hide the corpse” he assured her “on the condition that I get to help dig”.

COMMENTS

Friday, October 13, 2006 5:19 AM

BORNTOFLY


The word 'Perfect' comes to mind.

Saturday, October 14, 2006 6:41 AM

STINKINGROSE


Shucks.

Saturday, October 14, 2006 5:13 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh stinkingrose! This was freaking brilliant! I was totally laughing my ass off at this installment, especially when you have Jazmine confirm to the readers that Inara's assessment was correct and Kaylee's family and friends were sending their messy kids over to the Companion to see how she handled little children:D

Gotta say though...wanted to give ya a 10, but you lost pointage with how you had Mrs. Frye come off during her conversation with her daughter when Kaylee's miscarriage came up. To me, it was way to trite and cruel in his nature than it should have been. I can't imagine someone like Kaylee's mother treating the loss of a grandchild like that:(

BEB

Monday, October 16, 2006 3:46 PM

DOCTROID


Beautiful! I still like my Firefly with action rather than... well, since I'll probably offend someone if I say "soap opera" I'll just say "________" and fill in the blank later when I come up with a more flattering term. But given that it's _______, this is really well done. And I'm not just saying that because I'm biased.


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