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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Third in a short series. What is Saffron up to? As it's Friday, you get a second bite, so be nice and leave feedback!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1060 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The jailer opened the door and stuck his head inside. “Reynolds. Your wife’s here to see you.”
Mal stood up, but wasn't surprised as much as resigned when the redhead swept in. “Hello, hubby.” She crossed the cell to kiss him, but he stepped back. She made a moue of annoyance.
“Saffron.” Mal crossed his arms. “What brings you to this neck of the woods?”
“Oh, just luck.” Her irritation of a moment ago was forgotten as she looked around the cell, glancing up at the recording device in the corner. “There I was, looking for my husband, and I hear a certain Captain Reynolds is going to be in town. Better yet, he’s going to be married. Well, I just had to come along and lend my support.” She smiled sweetly.
“Try to feng le things up, you mean.”
“Depends on your point of view.” She stepped closer to him, close enough so that he could smell the perfume on her skin. “Now, are you coming or not? Judge said I was your wife.”
“You’re not. Freya is.”
She smiled again. “Prove it. And I don’t think you really want to stay here, do you?” She swept her arm around to indicate the room. “I mean, it’s lovely, but …”
“Okay.” Mal stepped past her to the door. “But just so I can ditch you first moment I can.”
“Oh, I don’t think the judge would like to hear you say that, honey.” She took hold of his arm. “On this planet, marriage counts for a lot.”
“Pity it doesn’t with you,” Mal said, pulling free and walking out.
They sat in the hover, heading, Mal noticed, away from the docks area.
“So, want to tell me the truth about what’s going on?” he asked, turning to look at her.
“Didn’t you believe me?”
“No. And I’m kinda finding it hard to believe that you ain’t in on this chalice thing either.”
“Maybe Badger did me a little favour,” Saffron agreed.
“Saffron, if you’re about to tell me that you’re married to him too, I'm gonna …”
“What, sweetie?” she asked, all innocence. Then she smiled. “And no, even I don’t sink so low. But I might have let him think I could.”
“Because I can.”
“No, I mean … why all this? Just to get your own back on me?” Mal stared at her.
“Not quite. I wouldn’t go to all this trouble just for that.” She stroked a hand along his sleeve, then sat back when he didn’t react. “No, I need your help.”
“My help.” Mal took a deep breath, thinking murder probably wasn't the right thing to be adding to the list of crimes he was currently accused of. “You get me arrested, my ship impounded, you ruin my wedding … and you want my help.”
“Sweetie, I couldn’t see you marry someone else. And ruin our perfectly good relationship?”
Actually, maybe murder wasn’t such a bad idea. It could even be worth it. “What do you want, Saffron?”
“There’s a little job I plan on doing, and I need a partner.” She smiled at him.
“And you couldn’t just ask?”
“I got thrown in jail because of you.”
“My recollection is that you disabled Serenity and left me in the middle of a desert. Naked, I might add.”
“You took the Lassiter!”
“You were planning on doing exactly the same.”
“No-one got killed.” She sighed. “But I thought you might not want to help me.”
“You’re right – I don’t.”
“That was why this little charade was planned.”
“Little …” Mal was speechless, for a whole ten seconds. “Do I need to remind you this planet has something of a quaint legal system? They’re as likely to hang me if they find me guilty!”
“Only a little bit.”
Mal stared at her, wishing he had his gun at his hip right now. Then he smiled. A bit like an alligator seeing someone treading water, but he smiled. “So you did all this just to get me to help you take down some poor slob?”
“I like you,” she said.
“Right.” He looked out of the hover window. “I’m so glad to say the feeling ain't mutual.”
“Oh, come on, Mal.” Saffron put her hand on his knee. “When I was standing there in your bunk, naked …” Her fingers started to walk up his thigh. “I know you wanted me. I could tell. It was so … obvious.”
Mal grabbed her hand. “It ain't no more, Saffron.”
“That’s a pity. And I rather liked you naked. Great … legs.”
“Can we get on with this? I kinda want to get back to my wife.”
“But you are, sweetie.” She laughed. “And you aren’t going anywhere near Serenity. Part of the deal for me getting you out of jail is that you are in my custody.”
“That ain’t gonna –“
“But it is.” She glanced outside as the hover slowed. “And we’re here.”
Here turned out to be a smart town house, with three floors and a red front door. Most appropriate, Mal thought. “Who’d you steal this from?” he asked.
“It belongs to a friend. I'm borrowing it.”
“Does he know?”
“I don’t think I mentioned it to him, no.”
“You don’t change, do you?” There was almost admiration in his voice. Almost.
“Come on,” Saffron said, opening the door to the hover. “I'm sure you can use a drink.”
“Only if you drink it first.”
“I'm not going to poison you, silly.”
Hank hung out of the bridge doorway, looking down into the galley. “Frey, Jayne’s on the com,” he called.
She put her cup down and ran along the corridor, jumping the steps. “Jayne?”
The big man’s voice was tinny but clear. “Yeah, Freya. She’s taken him to a house, 245 Charleston Avenue. Big place, expensive.”
Freya smiled. “Thanks. Keep an eye on him for me, will you?”
“Sure thing.” He signed off.
“You’ve got Jayne shadowing Mal?” Hank asked in amazement.
“Just in case,” Freya said, squeezing his shoulder.
“What do you suppose they’re doing there? I mean, Jayne’s right – that area … well, their outhouses are worth more than Serenity.”
“Something we’re going to find out.” She slid into the co-pilot’s seat. “Bring me up the Cortex, will you?”
“I’m out on bail and you expect me to help you break the law?” Mal sat back and gaped.
“You do this and all the bad stuff will go away.”
“Since when was I bad stuff?”
“Since the first moment I set eyes on you on Triumph.” He stood up and walked to the window, looking out on the town. “I've been scared of girls with wine ever since.”
“You? Scared?” Saffron laughed. “The big Malcolm Reynolds would never be scared of me.”
“Wary, then.” He turned to her, crossing his arms. “And I can’t help feeling that’s exactly the way I oughtta stay.”
Saffron glared at him but continued, “There’s this man, who has something I want.”
“There’s a surprise.”
“He’s having a party.”
“Good for him.”
“You’re not making this easy, you know,” she said accusingly.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to.”
“At least come and sit down again. You haven’t touched your drink.”
“And I don’t intend to.” But he sat down.
“I told you, it’s not poisoned.” He just stared at her. She sighed. “This party, it’s for couples, and I immediately thought of you.”
“Sweet.” He flashed a dead smile.
“I thought so. So I have this invitation …”
“Saffron, I’m an almost-convicted crook!” Mal pointed out. “You made sure of that! You think I'm gonna be able to even get past the door?”
“You won’t be going as Malcolm Reynolds. A little creative disguise and you’ll be my rich, but boring, husband, Abraham McGregor.”
“McGregor.” Mal shook his head. “You think I look like a McGregor.”
“I don’t even think you look like an Abraham, but that’s how it has to be.”
“Don’t tell me. He’s another husband of yours.”
She smiled. “Of course.”
Mal leaned forward, unable to keep away from the subject any longer. “Saffron, just tell me. How many men have you married?”
She took a breath to answer, then paused. “You know, this is going to sound terrible, but –“
“You can’t remember?” Mal supplied.
“I can give you a rough figure.”
“Forget it. Forget I ever asked.”
“They all sort of blend into one another,” she explained. “All except you, of course.”
“Well, you are the only one who ever got the better of me.”
“Out of all those hundreds?”
“You should feel proud.”
Mal glared at her, then exhaled loudly. “Okay, so what is it you’re after?”
“It’s a statue.”
She shook her head. “No. But it is old. Earth-that-was old.”
“Do you need to ask?”
“No.” He glanced around the room, wondering whether he could make a break for it, and deciding that, with Serenity land-locked, there was no place to run. “When?” he asked resignedly.
“The Cortex is amazing,” Freya muttered. “You can find almost anything.” She tapped the address in and the information came up immediately.
“Abraham and Lucy McGregor,” Inara read over her shoulder. “Do a cross-search.”
Freya nodded, touching the screen, and a moment later a picture flashed up. “That’s her,” she said. It was a picture taken from a Cortex report at the time of their wedding.
“It most certainly is. Not quite like the last time I saw her, but it’s her.” Inara smiled a little, recalling the redhead covered in garbage, standing in the waste disposal bin searching for the Lassiter. Oh, but that was fun.
“Another of her husbands?”
“Must be. I don’t know how she keeps track.”
“Must keep a little notebook.” Freya sat back and ran her hand through her hair. “You know, age, height, weight, sexual preferences …”
“I wonder what Mal’s entry would be.”
“I hate to think. Gullible, easily manipulated, prone to being honourable, except around naked women.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes as Hank, still in the pilot’s seat, stifled a laugh.
Inara glared at him and he subsided, making like he was busy with something else. She leaned over Freya and touched the screen. “Wait, there’s more.” She scrolled down. “They’re on an invitation list to a party.”
Freya sat up. “Whose?”
“Killian Ornstein.” She shook her head. “Now how did she manage to get one of those?”
“You know him?”
“I've contracted with him before. He’s rich.”
“Have to be,” Hank muttered.
Inara raised an eyebrow but forbore to comment. “His parties are famous, but only for couples. No single people allowed.”
Freya thought for a moment. “Might be the reason Saffron … or Lucy … wants Mal. But why not her husband?”
“Perhaps he doesn’t like her breaking the law.”
“Or he doesn’t know she’s in town. The wedding was over a year ago.”
Freya brought the picture back up of the wedding. “You know, this Abraham McGregor looks a little like Mal.”
Inara studied the face more closely. “Hmmn. I think you might be onto something. Blond, a bit heavier around the middle, but … definitely a resemblance.”
Freya gazed at her friend. “Are you thinking what I'm thinking?”
“That she’s going to use Mal to get into the party?”
“What do they do at these parties, Inara?” Freya turned so she could see her friend better. “I mean, why only couples?”
“Because they … they swop.”
Freya’s eyebrows threatened to disappear into her hair. “You mean so they can …”
Inara nodded. “There is an entire floor of the house set aside for just that purpose.”
“It doesn’t mention anything like that in the party list. Except that it’s today.”
“Well, maybe not everything gets onto the Cortex.”
Freya bit her lip. “We need to talk to Mal.”
“Frey, you heard the judge. We can’t go anywhere near Mal until after the trial.”
“I can’t.” She looked Inara up and down. “You got something pretty to wear?”
“I'm not going.” Simon stood firm, his arms crossed, defiance oozing from every pore.
“Simon, please.” Freya was smiling, willing him to change his mind.
“I've heard about the kind of thing that goes on in those parties.” He shook his head. “No.”
“Look, it’ll be simple. Just go in with Inara, then when everyone pairs off, make sure you go with Mal and Saffron.” Freya patted him on the arm. “It’ll be easy.”
“It will be. Because I'm not going.”
“Simon, she doesn’t know you.”
“And she’d not going to. I'm an almost-married man with a baby, Freya!”
“And Mal’s a just-married man who needs your help.” She gave up being nice. “And you’re going to help.”
“Why? Or you’ll shoot me?” He sniffed. “That threat comes along so often I’ve got so I can ignore it.”
Inara hurried down the stairs. “Killian was more than happy to extend an invitation to me,” she said, stepping into the common area. “He’s delighted I can attend.” Then she saw the look on Simon’s face. “Oh.”
“He won’t do it,” Freya said, dropping down into one of the easy chairs and covering her face with her hands. “I know he’s right, but … I want to … I mean, Mal … it was our wedding night!” Her shoulders started to quiver.
Now? Inara thought. She breaks down now? Oh, no. Surely he’s not going to fall for that. It’s not even very convincing …
“Frey?” Simon asked, uncrossing his arms slowly. “Are you …” He knelt down next to her. “No, don’t. Please don’t cry.”
“It’s all right,” she said from behind her fingers. “I understand. Maybe Hank …”
“No, I’ll do it.” He patted her knee. “Don’t worry. I’ll go.”
Freya sniffed, keeping her face down. “Thank you.”
He stood up. “I suppose I’d better go and tell Kaylee. I'm sure I have something suitable to wear.” He glanced down at her, patted her once more awkwardly on her shoulder, and hurried to their room.
Inara waited until he had gone inside, closing the door, before turning to her friend. “You are shameless!”
Freya looked up, her eyes dry, her mouth smiling. “Worked though, didn’t it?”
“And when he finds out?”
“He isn’t going to. He’s going to think he’s doing the right thing. Isn’t he?” She grinned.
Inara shook her head. “Oh, you would have made a jen duh sh tyen tsai of a Companion.”
“Thanks.” Then her eyebrow raised. “And that gives me an idea.”
“Why am I not liking that look?”
Freya gazed into Inara’s dark eyes. “You said you always thought she was an ex-Companion.”
“Maybe not quite a Companion, but she’s had training. In a House, yes.”
“Could you … is there any way you can find out? Maybe wave Sihnon? Check if she really was?”
Inara stood thoughtfully. “I don’t know. Saffron isn’t her real name, nor any of the others we know she’s gone by.”
“But we’ve got a picture. And I think she’s a natural redhead.”
“How do you know?” Inara asked curiously. “I mean, I'm not disagreeing, but …”
“Her skin tone. Colouring. And she knows the effect it has on men.”
Inara smiled slightly. “I think you’re right.”
“I just can’t help thinking it might give us an advantage.”
Inara nodded. “Sweetie, any advantage we can get with Saffron is always a good idea. I’ll go and wave Sheydra now.”
Mal looked at the chemicals laid out for him. “No,” he said firmly. “Ain't gonna happen.”
Saffron leaned in the doorway. “Zhangfu, there’s not really a choice.”
“You want me to be blond, buy me a wig. And why do I have to be anyway?” He glared at her.
“Because Abraham is.”
“So he really exists.”
“Of course. Did you think I made him up?”
“Well, let me see … you’ve had me arrested, lied to the courts, now you’re trying to get me to swindle a poor slob out of some macguffin … no, of course, what could I have been thinking?”
“Don’t be sarcastic, sweetie,” Saffron reprimanded. “It doesn’t do your looks any favours.”
He stood up straight. “I am not dying my hair for you.”
“A wig won’t work,” she insisted, stepping closer and picking up the bleach. “With these kind of parties, if it should come free, it will cause no end of problems.”
“What kind of parties?”
She smiled at him. “Let’s just say they’re … boisterous.” She held out the bottle. “Or were you wanting to go back to jail?”
He stared but she didn’t back down. Eventually, he let her put the bottle in his hand and close his fingers over it. “Fine,” he ground out. “Just … go away and let me get on with this.”
“Can’t I stay and watch?” she asked, looking at him from under her bangs.
He didn’t answer, just glared at her until she pouted and stalked out of the bathroom.
He looked at himself in the mirror over the sink. “I’m sorry, Frey,” he said softly. “Ain't exactly how I planned this to go.” He sighed and ran water into the basin.
to be continued
Friday, November 24, 2006 2:43 PM
Saturday, November 25, 2006 2:34 AM
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