BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

TAMSIBLING

SECOND CHANCES: Chapter 21
Sunday, June 17, 2007

The big damn rescue. Violence will ensue ... Simon/Kaylee, Mal/Inara, River/Rafe


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1629    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

A/N: Here it is - the big rescue - will everyone make it out alive? You'll have to read on to find out ...

Thanks to Leiasky for the beta.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Chapter 21
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Inara awoke abruptly, any remnants of her nightmare evaporating into nothing as she did her best to gain her bearings. Blinking rapidly, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly: her shuttle, of course. Wrapping her blanket tighter about her body, Inara scooted up towards the head of her bed, resting her back against the headboard. Tipping her chin back, she took another deep breath.

She’d been dreaming about her son. Or, more accurately, a baby boy who she believed to be her son. He’d been crying and screaming and no one had gone to help him. And Inara, his mother, had been helpless, forced to stand on the sidelines, unable to comfort him, unable to even find him through the inky blackness that had surrounded her. She had been forced to listen to him scream.

Shivering slightly at the memory, she opened her eyes again and slowly swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Rising, she made her way across the shuttle, to the small bathroom. Splashing cold water on her face, she felt a bit better, but not much. Her nerves had been shot since they’d left Sihnon and she found her appetite almost non-existent. Of course, when she attempted to choke down food, she invariably saw it again when she threw it up a few hours later, but at least she was making the attempt. She was actually relieved that this whole business was almost done.

Inara wanted to help Kaylee and her family, but she also felt the strain of being separated from Mal for so long a time. She missed him, in a way she rarely had before. There was so much she’d discovered in the time he’d been gone, so much they hadn’t talked about and Inara found it distancing to know she was carrying such burdensome secrets. Despite what Mal may accuse her of, she did want to share her life – her whole life – with him. They had spent so much time, in the early part of their relationship, hiding, from themselves and each other. Inara was through with it.

The buzz of her shuttle’s comm startled her and Inara hurried to answer it. “Yes?”

“Inara, it’s time.” River’s sure, clear voice rang through her room and Inara felt her lips press into a grim line.

“Of course. I’ll be right there.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Eli knocked once before entering the Captain’s guest room. He had been trying to catch up with the younger man for the better part of a day to check on his healing knee, but had been unable to locate him.

Pushing open the door, the doctor smiled jovially at Mal, quickly noting the other’s scowl at his intrusion. “You are an elusive man, Captain Reynolds,” Eli chided easily, rounding the bed and coming to sit opposite Mal on the window seat he occupied. “I wanted to take a look at that leg.”

With a grunt of acknowledgement, Mal rolled up his pant leg, grimacing as the movement caused him to bend it. As Eli pulled out a few instruments, he asked, “Any word on when I can ditch the cane?”

A pleasant smile still on his face, Eli answered, “Not as of yet. But I imagine with your stubbornness, it’ll be any day now.”

Mal snorted once, and then fell silent as the doctor poked, prodded and examined the inflamed skin. “It is coming along nicely, I must say.” Looking up, he noted that Mal’s gaze was locked out the window, studying the dusky horizon. Taking a chance, he commented, “We missed you earlier today, at lunch time.”

Nothing. Eli turned back to his bag, bringing out fresh bandages to redress the wound. He had no place prying into the captain’s personal affairs. If the man didn’t want to share where he’d gone, then so be it.

“You ever felt your family was bein’ threatened, doc?”

The man’s question was so unexpected, Eli tensed at the words. Pausing in his work, he gazed thoughtfully at Mal’s face, noting the tight lines of worry that crinkled at the corners of his eyes. His normally easy-going face was full of tension and Eli wondered just what kind of threat they were talking about.

Setting back to his work, he talked as he covered the wound. “I suppose, at one time or another, I’ve had the distinct impression something was adversely affecting my family.” Pausing, he added, “Although, considering the kind of work you do, I doubt my family has ever come quite as close to being as physically threatened as yours.”

Mal listened, but did not comment, preferring instead to let the doctor finish in silence. Eli was right, Mal knew that. He’d made enough shady contacts and bad decisions in the past decade to fill Serenity a few times over. Those scenarios he could handle. Mal knew who was responsible or not responsible for his crew’s safety. It was the knowledge of what had happened to Inara and her newborn that now sat heavily upon him. It had all taken place literally a lifetime ago and yet Mal still felt a deep desire to knock somebody’s head in.

“Yeah, that’s true,” he finally admitted. Clearing his throat, he looked back to Eli and asked, “But what happens when you find out somethin’ you didn’t know about? When it’s not somethin’ you can fix?” Shrugging lightly, Eli considered for a second and then answered. “I guess you decide what’s the most important. The desire for retribution or the continued safety of your family.” Squeezing Mal on the shoulder as he stood to leave, Eli added, “Something tells me you already know the answer to that.”

Mal gave the man a tight smile as he left the room, before letting out a heavy sigh. Of course he knew the answer. There was nothing to be done regarding Inara and her lost son, but Mal knew it had to be eating away at her. He could only imagine the pain Inara had felt at finding out such information. It angered him, of course, that she’d been so adamant as to not leave well enough alone. He’d told her something like this was bound to happen.

But right and wrong weren’t so important now either. Since Lili had told him the news, Mal had done a lot of soul-searching and tossing and turning. If he’d had a child and been forced to give it up when he was younger, he’d move heaven and earth to find out all he could. Because that child would be part of him and that made him responsible. Just as he knew Inara felt responsible for her baby as well.

He’d also realized he was feeling a bit jealous, and while the revelation did not sit well with him, Mal was making the effort to be honest about it. The fact was, Inara had a connection to that child, and the child’s father, beyond anything Mal could fathom. True, the baby might have been part of a former life, the life Inara had before she rented his shuttle and turned his life completely upside down, but that experience, with Jeremiah and the pregnancy, was still something she’d gone through, something that had shaped the woman she was – the woman he was in love with.

Mal wasn’t so far gone to not realize that if it hadn’t been for the kid’s birth he never would have met Inara. But he also felt guilt for even entertaining the thought. Was it selfish to be glad Inara had been forced off Sihnon so that he could know her, love her? Mal wanted to believe it wasn’t, but he had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that maybe it was.

Tipping his head back against the wall, Mal let out a slow sigh. “Oh, you are one righteous hun dan, Malcolm Reynolds,” he whispered to no one. “Better shape up for Inara figures it out.”

Chuckling softly as his last statement registered, Mal wondered, “Who am I kiddin’? She already knows.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

River was perched precariously on the ledge of a tall building. She wasn’t nervous about the height or the shakiness of her position – she was by far more worried for her brother and the rest of the crew. They had arrived at the exchange site more than four hours early, being sure to get River in place, and go over the plan one more time. But despite their meticulous planning and River’s gifts, she was still worried. Too many things could go wrong.

In theory, an ambush should work, given that they had the element of surprise on their side. But Harris held sway over too many variables, least of which was the fact that he currently had possession of Kaylee’s family. But River, Zoe or Jayne wouldn’t have agreed to this if they didn’t think there was a better than fifty percent chance of it working. River really wanted to be right about that.

They were all armed, which was also a positive. Even Simon and Inara carried concealed weapons under their finery. They had spent a pretty penny too on the metal alloy, recently developed by some of the best black market traders to make guns impervious to standard weapons scans. With some of the money her father had loaned them, Jayne had made the necessary contacts. The thin shellack on top of their guns affected the grips a bit, and the mercenary had whined about that most of the previous night. However, with one pointed look from Zoe, he’d stopped his bellyaching, choosing instead to forgo sleep in order to practice with the doctored guns.

River gripped the butt of her pistol firmly in her hand, pressing her other hand against the listening device in her ear. She’d told them she didn’t need it – she could just as easily read their minds as listen to their conversations, but Zoe had insisted. The earpiece was a bit discomfiting, but once she’d found the right volume and frequency, the buzzing it had caused seemed to fade away and now she was left with the chatter of pre-meeting nervousness.

“What time did he say?”

“He isn’t late yet, Jayne. Hold yer horses.”

“You realize that springin’ fifteen people ain’t easy.”

“Really? I had no idea.”

River chuckled at the sound of her brother’s exasperated tone. He was more nervous than anyone, but he was also exceptionally good at hiding it. It was a skill he’d acquired in the hospital and in the black. No one had any faith in a surgeon or a medic with shaky hands.

“All that’s important is we get everyone back in one piece.”

Inara’s calm, cool tone soothed the remaining anxiety to a point of non-existence and with barely a grumble, Jayne settled back into his watching and waiting mode. Zoe joined him, the two of them guarding the entrance while Simon and Inara stood towards the center of the room.

Cocking her head to the side, River listened for a moment. In the silence between them there was something else she could make out now, a soft whisper or maybe a rasp. It had no emotion, good or bad, but it was present all the same. Furrowing her brow, River closed her eyes briefly, only snapping them open again as she heard the door across the room bang open.

Laying her pistol down on the ledge before her, River fitted herself securely in the small space between the wall and the sight of her mounted rifle. Lining Harris up in the crosshairs, she rested her finger to the trigger and waited.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“You got my money, boy?”

Harris was even more charming when he was getting paid. Hiding the instant grimace he felt threatening to overwhelm his face, Simon nodded once and answered evenly, “Of course. Now where is my merchandise?”

“Right ‘ere. Keep yer pants on.” Waving with one hand, Harris took a few more steps towards Simon and Inara before pausing to watch as the fifteen hand-selected slaves were ushered into the room. Chen brought up the rear, with two other guards flanking the frightened group.

Simon picked out Kaylee’s mother and older brother, Martin, as well as her two sister-in-laws and one of her nieces. Judging by the rest, he could tell they were all related and looked vaguely familiar. There was an older gentleman straggling towards the back who looked as though he might need medical attention, and a small child, no more than five who looked as though he might collapse at any moment. Other than that there seemed to be no serious injuries, except for the occasional scrape or bruise. Breathing a silent sigh of relief, Simon turned to Zoe and asked, “Is this everyone?”

Rounding the group, Zoe scanned them quickly, and then turned to Simon and nodded. “This is all of them.”

“Well o’ course it is,” Harris commented with a snort. “I don’t gip my customers.” Wiggling his eyebrows at the bag at Simon’s feet, he all but salivated as he said, “’Specially the well-paying kind.”

River kept her eyes trained on the men below as she spoke into the mic attached to the top of her dress. “There are four more men outside. They’re armed and alert.” Her message carried through the comm to all of her crewmates below and she waited for Zoe’s command.

Zoe glanced to Jayne and then back to Simon and Inara. All of them were tense, waiting for the word to draw their weapons or just back away. The odds weren’t good and Zoe silently cursed them. She’d hoped a hun dan like Harris would only have four guys willing to work for him. It had been a gamble and they had lost. Two to one odds just weren’t good enough.

Nodding to Simon, she told him, “We got what we came for.”

Releasing a small sigh, River relaxed her trigger finger. They were going to walk. She could feel her brother’s stomach rumble at the thought of actually paying for people, as if a price could be put on someone’s head. But he would do anything for Kaylee – even if it meant being indebted to their father forever.

Hefting the large black duffel, Simon offered it to Harris as Jayne and Zoe corralled the Fryes behind them. “Here you go. One million – as we discussed.”

Harris, his face almost split in half by a huge, shit-eating grin, froze in his tracks as Simon announced the amount. “One mil? I don’t think so, friend,” he spat, reaching for his weapon. “We agreed on five.”

In the second it took Harris to draw his gun, Zoe, Jayne, Inara and Simon had also drawn theirs. River, her hand back on the trigger of her rifle, flipped on the scope, shining a tiny red dot on Chen’s forehead.

“No, friend,” Simon ground out, taking one more step forward, his gun arm never wavering. “We agreed on one. And one is what you’ll get.”

“You crossed the wrong man, son.” Harris’ eyes blazed even as he stooped to pick up the money, his eyes never leaving Simon’s.

As his gnarled hands wrapped around the handles, Simon shrugged almost imperceptibly and answered, “Maybe, but you still took the bait.”

And within a second the scene exploded. Simon reached for Inara as the flash bomb went off, shielding her body with his own as the explosion sent bits of paper stuffing high into the air. Kaylee’s family, unprepared for the shock was huddled together, crouching behind the formidable barrier that Jayne and Zoe made. As the smoke cleared, the merc and first mate started ushering them towards the exit.

“River?” Zoe’s strained voice called over the comm. “We need a clear path.”

“Coming up,” she reported, pulling the rifle off its mount and running along the roof’s edge. Dropping to her belly, she again sighted Harris’ men through the scope and fired a warning shot, just past the shoulder of one man, startling all four of them. As they ran for cover, Zoe and Jayne burst through the doors, weapons trained at the ready. The street and alley around this part of town were good and abandoned, one of the major reasons Harris had wanted to do the exchange here. There was no collateral damage and River was thankful for one less variable.

She watched through the lens as the Fryes all filed out, looking bewildered and dazed by all that had happened. She counted them silently, waiting until she reached fifteen before beginning to panic, looking for her brother. From this corner of the roof she could not see into the courtyard anymore. She did not have a visual read on him and as the seconds ticked by and he failed to make an appearance, River became more and more anxious.

“Zoe,” she called, still tracking the four armed men as they fired random shots into the crowd. Jayne had already gunned down one, and Zoe was drawing a bead on the second. River fired at the third, and watched with smug satisfaction as the fourth retreated at a run. “Simon and Inara, where are they?” she asked, trying to keep her voice steady.

Cursing under her breath, the second told her, “We got this, lil’ one. Go bail your brother out of trouble. We’ll meet you back at the ship.”

Without another word, River pushed herself to her feet and crouching low, unholstered her pistol from her side. Using every Academy-implanted talent she had, River edged her way back towards the meeting site, muttering a silent prayer to the Shepherd in the process.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Simon’s face was buried in Inara’s hair as he heard the flash bomb detonate behind them. Wrapping his arms tightly about her shoulders, he ducked her head as much as possible. There was a very minimal risk of injury with this particular weapon, but he had no desire to explain to Mal why his girlfriend was injured once they returned to Sihnon.

Counting to five after the detonation, Simon turned back, steadying Inara while keeping her behind him. “Are you all right?” he called over his shoulder, coughing a bit as the smoke assaulted his eyes.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she assured, waving a hand in front of her face to clear the stinging. “Let’s go.”

Agreeing wholeheartedly with that tactic, Simon took her hand, his gun still clutched in the other, and followed the blurry forms of Zoe, Jayne and the Fryes as they made their way out of the small courtyard. Sprinting across the space, Simon froze as Chen’s voice reached his ears. “Freeze, Mister Wu or your wife is dead.”

Turning slowly, Simon kept his face impassive as he caught sight of the other man’s firearm trained squarely on Inara. Gripping her hand a bit tighter in his own, he eased her behind him, saying, “Your quarrel is with me, Chen. Leave her out of this.”

“My quarrel’s with the both o’ ya,” Chen threatened, advancing on the couple. His face was bright red from the blast, no doubt a bit of a burn as he had been pretty close to the epicenter. Harris, lying about ten feet away, was still unconscious. The other two guards were apparently too dazed to do anything, but moan on the ground. Waving with his gun, he ordered, “Move away from the door.”

“We can work something out,” Simon told him, keeping his voice steady. “Let us go back to our ship and we’ll wire you some money.” Lowering his voice, he added conspiratorially, “Harris doesn’t have to know.”

“You think I’d turn on my employer,” the man hissed, all the while getting closer as he spoke. “You prissy boys, you ain’t got no loyalty, no manners. At least we got a code.”

“Honor among thieves,” Simon murmured, glancing over his shoulder to Inara in the process. The woman was pressed up close against him and as Simon cocked an eyebrow at her, he felt the unmistakable poke of a gun in his back. Nodding slightly, he looked back to Chen, shifting his weight to the right and away from the end of Inara’s pistol. “Fine, a little bribe money for you both then. But you’re not getting that five million.” On the last word, Simon lunged to his right, giving Inara enough of a window to get off a shot. Her bullet struck true, hitting Chen just below his adam’s apple, and causing the man to sputter and gasp as he hit the dirt.

Inara and Simon both fell to their sides as another shot rang out. Glancing up quickly, he watched as the other two guards were quickly dispatched. Frowning, he gazed up towards his sister’s hideout, before he heard her voice in his ear. “Found you,” she whispered, drawing a smile to Simon’s face.

“Yes, you did, mei mei.” Inara was slowly rising into a sitting position behind him and Simon turned to help her, ordering River back to the ship. As he reached for Inara’s hand, he winced, letting out a small hiss of pain.

“Simon?” Inara asked hurriedly, rising to her knees, her eyes scanning his pained form for the source of his discomfort. “What-“ In an instant, she saw the bright red patch of blood soaking his upper left sleeve. Slapping his hand over it, she helped him to his feet as she said, “Keep pressure on it. We’ll get you patched up once we’re back on the ship.”

Nodding, Simon grimaced again, his hand pressing on the wound doing nothing to alleviate the pain although it was helping to stymie the blood loss. Leaning on Inara a bit more than he wanted to, he glanced to her as they hurriedly left the area. “You know, the more jobs I do with you the more I can see that you and Mal are made for each other.”

Giving him her own tight grin, Inara told him, “Believe me, I know.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kaylee heard the knock on her bedroom door and she wanted to ignore it. She’d been having the best dream – Simon was there and there were strawberries and a beach and sunshine …

Sighing as the knocking became more persistent, Kaylee rose slowly, reaching for her robe. “Hang on,” she called, wiping sleep from her tired eyes. This was the first full night’s rest she’d gotten in weeks. So exhausted was she that Kaylee didn’t even realize until she opened the door to find the captain standing there that someone might have news of her family – and Simon.

“Captain?” she asked breathlessly, his presence jolting her back into reality and far from her dream state. “What is it? Is it Simon?”

Smiling wide, Mal reached for Kaylee and pulled her into a tight bear hug. “They found ‘em, mei mei. They’re comin’ home.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Chapter 22

COMMENTS

Sunday, June 17, 2007 6:45 PM

SLUMMING


I am in envy of your action scenes! Very satisfying to read, and wonderfully done!

Sunday, June 17, 2007 10:26 PM

AMDOBELL


Oh Wow, LOVED the Big Damn Rescue and River saving the day before Chen could ruin things. This was fabulous and I can't wait to see Kaylee's reuinion with what is left of her family. She is going to be so upset that her father never made it but getting fifteen of them out of that slaver's ring is no mean feat. Now I'm hoping that Inara and Mal will get closer and be more truthsome with each other. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, June 17, 2007 11:09 PM

CHAZZER


Wooop! This was an awesome chapter! Really can't wait for more! Bring it on!!

And Simon is SUCH a gentlemen, the little bit with Inara was cute and kinda funny.

xxx

Monday, June 18, 2007 3:31 AM

JANE0904


Oh, Kaylee, all happy that they're coming back, only they're not all coming back ...

Monday, June 18, 2007 5:23 AM

PLATONIST


Great action sequence. I love the "core kids" (Inara, River and Simon) working together. You don't see that in fics often. And what Simon said about keeping Inara safe for Mal and how they were made for eachother... like duh.

Mal and Inara do seem to have apparent revelations about their feeling for eachother when they are apart rather than together. Giving credence to the wisdom of absence makes the heart grow fonder.

And, Kaylee, poor thing, not knowing all the details yet.

This has come full cicle with the tension, great reading! Thanks

Monday, June 18, 2007 5:39 AM

LEIASKY


So - did they get the money back so Simon doesn't have to be in debt to his father for the rest of his life?

They took a big chance putting their plan into motion with all of Kaylee's family standing right there!

River to the rescue of her brother once again. But he took a hit anyway. Kaylee isn't going to be happy about that. . . well, she can just dote all over him then:)

Simon and Inara's conversation was great.

Looking forward to the reunion.

Thursday, June 21, 2007 2:25 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


An absolutely fabulous chapter here, TamSibling! Definitely chock full of action and angst;D

Have to say that Mal's conversation with Eli was a highlight, though the Big Damn Rescue was the top moment of this posting. Really shows the growth of Mal from where he was in the series to where he is now as he considers all the facts about Inara's situation and, while still pissed she kept looking for her missing child, recognized he would have not done anything differently had it been him with the stolen infant. Just hope Mal can express those feelings to Inara without boobing them up;)

BEB


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