BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

HERMITSREST

Return to Deutschland - Part Two
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Serenity lands on Deutschland and there are several people wanting to renew acquaintances. 16th fanfic featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Grateful thanks to BlueEyedBrigadier for the beta. Having feedback is like charging my battery, please comment. Part 2 of 3.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3128    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

With Mal playing Cap’n Grouchy, Kaylee was happy to renew her friendship with Inara. And if she was totally honest with herself, Inara was happy to be distracted. She had never expected it to be easy, but at the moment Mal had put the walls up completely and there was no way in. She guessed perceptively that he was the one who needed time and she had all the time in the world for him now. “I’ve really missed ya, ‘Nara,” said Kaylee, in complete bliss as Inara brushed her hair. “Missed you too, mei mei.” Simon opened the door to their quarters, stepping in, and was greeted by the two women. Kaylee gave her husband a welcoming smile. “Not had the chance to say, Inara, but it’s good to see you,” he said. “Well at least some of you are,” she could not help responding. “Don’t you worry ‘bout the Cap’n, ‘Nara – he’ll see reason.” Simon was not so sure about Kaylee’s optimism, neither was Inara. She put down Kaylee’s hairbrush and made to go. “I’ve tried talking to him again today, but he’s still not listening.” She was trying to keep the levity in her voice, and the young couple could both tell Inara was hurting. Kaylee did not like seeing anyone hurting, but both Inara and Mal confounded her sometimes. It was so obvious they loved each other, why didn’t they just stop all the dancin’ and admit it? Inara took her leave from the Tams’ quarters. Being back on Serenity gave her more pleasure than she would be willing to admit to anyone, including Kaylee. She could not stop touching the bulkheads or the rails and had missed her dearly, like a long lost relative. Inara had missed Mal as well, though she would not admit it to him. She still remembered his anger and pain that last time on Persephone when he had come to ‘rescue’ her. His stinging words could still make her body flush with heat: …I would have preferred a bowl of fruit by way of a thank you. It may not last as long, but at least I know when it’s finished. Inara sighed softly and sadly, walking slowly up the stairs towards the galley and then hearing her son swear loudly and eloquently in Chinese. Jayne, Inara thought, pursing her lips in annoyance. The man may have a ‘sweetie’, but as far as Inara could see he had not changed that much. She was therefore surprised to enter the galley and find no evidence of Jayne. “Liu mang!” “Ishmael!” Inara exclaimed. Ishmael looked up and blushed guiltily. “Sorry, mother,” he muttered. “What are you doing?” she asked. Bane answered for him. “I’m teaching him a secret code – River as well. He doesn’t like it when she gets it quicker than him.” Bane was chuckling at them both. Ishmael was smart and a quick learner – River was competitive too, as well as being a genius. “Get used to it, midget,” said River to him kindly. Inara knew her son well, and his annoyed glower brought an amused curl to her lips. “I would get used to it, Ish. River is somewhat more advanced than you.” Ishmael pursed his lips in an exact copy of his mother’s, if he had only seen it. Inara looked at what they were trying to do. “That looks interesting.” “Ish said he wanted to learn it, I hope that’s alright?” asked Bane. “It’s fine. Gives him something to keep him occupied and I’d prefer it to Jayne’s lore on knives.” “I’ve got that later,” answered Ishmael flippantly. “Don’t sass your mother,” Mal said sternly, no one had heard him enter the galley. Mal wandered through and peered over Ishmael’s shoulder, standing beside Inara. Almost everyone in the room could feel the palpable tension between them. Or electricity, thought River, rolling her eyes. “What’s that say?” asked Mal, pointing. “My name is Ishmael. Welcome to my house,” Ish translated proudly. Mal nodded sagely, not understanding how the squiggles translated into words, but it did remind him of something. “Can you write down them Deutschlander words that they ask for?” he asked Bane. Bane smirked, remembering the last time, and the consequences of ignoring the hail. “Nothin’ fancy. Just the words we need to gain entry to the planet.” “Shi, Captain.” Bane grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the words phonetically for Mal, explaining the meaning of the words he would get. Then she spoke the Deutschlander words and Mal answered using her written responses. “Yes, that’s perfect. Have you speakin’ the lingo in no time,” Bane said confidently. “What’s this word – booda – sounds like Buddha?” Mal asked. With a perfectly straight face, Bane looked over his shoulder, examining closely. “Oh – it means gracious. Thank you for your gracious entrance. It’s just the traditional welcomin’ words. Means you won’t get arrested this time.” Mal walked away from the table and the galley, studying the paper seriously. After he had gone, River turned to Bane, eyes wide with astonishment. “You can’t let him say that, he’ll kill you.” “What?” asked Inara, picking up on Bane’s mischievous expression. Bane looked around at her. “What’s he gonna tell them, Bane?” Ishmael asked, eyes as wide as River’s. Bane bit her lip, trying to chew her smile away. “Nothing, just possibly something about Buddha,” she replied, dashing from the room before they could press her further. Inara turned to River. “What’s he going to say?” River herself made a move to go, laughing. “Bane’ll tell you later. I’ve gotta make sure we get there.” ~ * ~ With an impressionable child on board, Mal had found it quite difficult to tell the crew that their payoff from the Quaker job had come through. Luckily one evening, after Ishmael was sleeping off an exhausting game of hoops, he spoke to them all around the table. It was their last night before they were due to arrive at Deutschland. “Our pay off finally came through.” Mal placed the purse onto the table with a reassuring thud. “How much?” asked Jayne, eyeing it almost in awe. “As agreed, twelve thousand.” Mal saw Inara’s eyes widen. “Split in the usual way, still gives us a considerable tidy sum.” All of the crew were doing the calculations in their heads, just over a thousand in platinum each. “I’m guessing this was no wobbly-headed doll caper,” put in Inara, surprised that Mal had managed to pull of such a lucrative job. “Flash rods,” explained Bane, and they all watched her eyebrows raise considerably. Inara looked over at Mal and he could feel the palpable disapproval in her expression. “Flash rods will get you in a lot more trouble than a laser pistol,” she said carefully, addressing him. Mal shrugged carelessly at her as if there was no one in the room but them, then gave a boyish grin, making Inara break eye contact as a flush of heat ran through her body. “’Bout the most enjoyable heist I’ve ever done,” put in Jayne, breaking the moment. “Dint even get to shoot anyone neither.” Composing herself, Inara turned her attention to him. “That must really have turned your stomach,” she said. Jayne snorted. “You woulda thought it, but no. Reckon it might be turnin’ the stomach o’ the Alliance some.” Inara swallowed, now not as comfortable as before. “Took ‘em two weeks to discover the theft, an’ by then we were long gone,” Mal said proudly. Jayne gave her the cut-down version of their escapade, yarn spinning a little himself for the benefit of a good story. Although in the case of the Quaker heist, it needed very little embellishment. “What will you do with the money?” she asked them all afterwards, but none of them were willing to voice their private thoughts out loud. * * * * * * * * * * * * * “Willkommen nach Deutschland. Kennzeichnen sie sich bitte. Andernfalls werden sie festgehalten.” The familiar recorded message sounded. Bane had told him what it meant. Welcome to Deutschland. Identify yourselves please. Otherwise you will be arrested. Mal took a breath and read from his piece of paper. “Dieses ist Serenity, Firefly-kategorie transport behälter. Wir haben geschäft mit Major Kifelder im Hannover.” A human voice replied back to him. “Danke, Serenity. Sie können überschreiten und land am ankerntorof Hannover.” Mal’s finger moved to the next words on the paper. “Danke. Ich bin ein grosses fettes Buddha, komme fühlen mein bauch,” he finished, waiting for the acknowledgement. There was a pause before Mal heard sounds of laughter over the com, as well as River snorting at the controls beside him. He slammed off the connection. Gorram woman and her pranks. “BANE!” he shouted into the com. “What the ruttin’ hell did you get me to tell them?!” Mal could hear the laughter coming from the galley and swore again, realising that whatever it was it had been broadcast over the ship. “You fuchou de shanyang!” River could no longer hold in her giggles. Mal glowered at her, getting up and stormed into the galley. Zoe, holding Marcus, was wiping a tear of laughter off her cheek. Even Inara was laughing, though she had the grace to try and hide it behind her hand. “Where is she?” he growled, glaring at Karl. Karl shrugged, still laughing and unable to respond. Mal looked at them all accusingly and Inara swore he almost pouted. Mal stormed back towards the cockpit, but instead of going back in there, he opened his hatch and climbed down to his quarters. “He’s gonna be pissed for hours,” sniffed Jayne, himself wiping a tear away. “She shouldn’t have done it,” said Inara, her smile belying how funny she found it. “Hell, the man needs to lighten up,” defended Karl. Bane popped her head up from behind the kitchen counter, where she had dived as soon as she heard his feet on the gangway. “Has he gone?” she said, wiping her own tears of laughter away. For a beginner, Mal had an excellent German accent, and he had been word perfect in his pronunciation. “You’re in so much trouble,” said Kaylee, wide-eyed with respect and awe. Bane shrugged, still grinning. “Don’t expect nothin’ else. But it was worth it.” “What did the Captain say?” asked Ishmael, the only one not let in to the secret, still wondering about the strange behaviour of adults. Bane said nothing, but Jayne filled him in. “’I’m a big fat Buddha, come feel my paunch.’” Ishmael looked at Jayne, tilting his head, and then back at his mother, puzzled. “But the Captain doesn’t look anything like Buddha,” he stated. Kaylee started giggling uncontrollably again. ~ * ~ On landing, Mal had a wave from Hans to say welcome, as well as have a laugh, and to inform him that Pye Eatings was in his town. Still smarting from the humiliating prank, and wanting to wring Bane’s neck, he liked the idea of giving the crew shore leave away from sniggering in his presence. He allowed some of them to take one of the shuttles to München. Several people had reasons to be going to München; Jayne for Esper, River for Stan and Zoe for Hans, and at the moment, he was entirely comfortable with the notion. As soon as the shuttle arrived at the München docks, River jumped out and ran off to find her pilot, followed at a slower pace by Jayne. The Rosalyn was parked much further down the busy industrial dockyard. River could already picture where Stan was, in the cargo bay getting ready to go out to a bar. Well now they could go out together. She ran up the ramp and then slowed to a walk as she spied Stan talking to Tony Pye. “-can go only if you help me out later with the panelling.” “Sure, Tony. There’s little else for me ta do round here,” replied Stan eagerly. Tony caught sight of River and sighed. There goes his help, he thought with annoyance. Stan turned and his mouth erupted into a smile. As soon as River was in touching distance, he reached out his arm and encircled her waist. She filled him up and he no longer took notice of his surroundings. River held onto his shoulder and pressed up against him, touching his mind as well. Tony tapped Stan on the shoulder when he did not respond. “…Stan!” “Huh?” he jerked back to look at Tony. It was like someone had muted the volume on the com. “I said, seeing as you have company, I’ll let you have the rest of the day. But startin’ tomorrow, I want you on those panels all day.” Stan barely acknowledged his words, before walking off with River down the ramp. Tony watched them go with a thoughtful look and a niggle of concern. “Something wrong, my love?” asked Anna softly. Tony looked down at her, smiling, before he reached to take his seven month old daughter out of her arms. “Not sure. I think Stan may have his hands full with that Tam girl.” Anna looked over in the direction of their exit. “He’s considerably older than her, I think he can manage,” she replied with humour. “It’s not that,” said Tony, “I’ve seen him with girls before, an’ I’ve never seen him so caught up.” Anna placed her hand on his chest, sneaking her fingers under the buttons of his shirt. “May be it’s just his time…” Anna said in a low voice. Tony’s attention wavered and he looked down at his wife’s hypnotic smile, feeling hot all of a sudden. In a cargo bay full of family and customers, he guessed it was possible to get completely diverted, given the right persuasion. He kissed Anna briefly on the lips. “I only wish it was as easy for us to slip away.” Anna’s hand ran over his shirt and across his hardened nipple before moving away to carry on working. He sucked in his breath, it was one of her seemingly careless gestures, but Tony knew that every minute action his wife did was with a purpose, one of the things he deeply loved about her. Hitching up Rosie, he walked purposefully towards Maloranty’s counter. Tony then rolled his eyes as he saw Jayne Cobb walk up the ramp. I ain’t runnin’ no gorram love boat, he thought angrily. Jayne saw Esper straight away. She looked busy, but happy in her work and she had a queue of people at her counter that nearly went out of the ship. He sat down at one of the benches, happy to watch her and wait until the crowds had died down. The last five months had been the longest of his life, all that waiting, the nights being the worst. He had done a whole lot of weight-lifting in their time apart, as well as other stuff to try and soothe the ache he felt, knowing she was not just around the corner. Jayne had found himself feeling jealous of those on Serenity who did have someone they could sleep next to every night, and he admitted with a rueful smile that Vera just wasn’t doing it for him anymore – nor any of his girls. He could see the sweat on Esper’s brow and smiled to himself, thinking that he would like to work up another kind of sweat on that brow, as well as his own. She looked like a queen, he thought, swallowing and shifting uncomfortably on the bench. “I can’t let her go yet, things are too busy.” Jayne looked up in surprise at Tony Pye observing him, his daughter in his arms. “That’s understandable,” Jayne replied smiling. “I got all day, Tony, an’ nothin’ else ta do.” Tony eyed him thoughtfully. “Do me a favour, an’ I’ll let Esper have tonight and the whole of tomorrow off.” Jayne’s eyebrows raised and he grinned. “Name it,” he said eagerly. Tony smirked, and passed his daughter over to the large former mercenary. “’Its’ name is Rosie – and thanks,” he added, before wandering off. Jayne still had his mouth open and Rosie reckoned that was a good place to stick her hand. He closed it gently, sucking on her little fist, causing the little girl to scream loudly in delight. Jayne pulled the little hand out of his mouth and studied her. “You gotta pair o’ lungs on ya an’ no mistake. Bet you drive your parents moon-brained, huh?” “Ba,” answered Rosie in agreement. “Now, me,” continued Jayne, “I ain’t bothered ‘bout a bit of noise…” Jayne talked to Rosie Pye like she could understand every word he said. Esper used her sleeve to wipe the sweat off her forehead and glanced up. She gasped, Jayne was here. Her face erupted in such a look of joy that it caused her immediate customer to blink in shock. She wished she could run over there to him, but there were still a cargo bay full of customers to deal with. He looked like he was coping quite well with baby Rosie, and Esper thought how Jayne would make an amazing father. It would be tempting fate to think that far ahead about anything, she thought, blushing a little, she might scare him off, for one thing. She caught his eye at last and blew him a kiss, making him grin devilishly, and causing Esper to become even hotter. ~ Kaylee had come along in the shuttle, offering to look after Marcus while Zoe went to find Hans and give him the news. It was a kind gesture for which Zoe was grateful. Leaving Kaylee back at the shuttle, Zoe went to find the Mayor’s office. She walked up to the building, which looked like it was undergoing a little makeover. There was scaffolding on the outside and lots of noise, including some singing, emanating from the inside. She could not help raise a smile when she spotted Hans, sleeves rolled up, helping with the decorating while singing a tuneful duet with the man next to him – a rude song by the sound of it. He looked just as he did the last time she saw him, ruddy cheeked, strong and handsome, with added splashes of paint. He really was a giant of a man, and she could not help have a sense of pride that her son could one day be of the same build. It was not her way to be nervous, as she lived on the edge everyday, but she could not be entirely sure that he would accept her child, or even her. It had been a piece of time in between and they had spent just one night together. Hans saw her and stopped work immediately, a wide grin forming on his face. It had been a long while, near a year since he had seen his laughing goddess, and now she was standing in front of him. When he had waved Captain Reynolds, he had really hoped that Zoe was still with him and would come and see him. And here she was. They had been shy with each other before, but now he scooped her into a warm hug, unafraid of rejection. Zoe giggled, unable to keep the happiness inside. She had not imagined feeling this way, even when she had been trying to work out how to tell him about Marcus. She tried to speak, but Hans kissed her soundly and she responded with enthusiasm. It had been too long, she thought, and her body and mind cried out for his touch. They broke apart when Hans’ colleagues started to clap and cheer and, red-faced, he took her hand and led her outside. Once outside, Zoe composed herself and prepared to tell him. Hans surprised her by speaking first, in English. “Itz gut to see you, liebshen, I haff missed you.” There was no guile or pretence in his words, they were genuine and from the heart. Zoe braced herself, took a deep breath and touched his arm, speaking in German so that he could not mistake her words. “Ich habe ein baby gehabt. Er ist ihr sohn.” Hans looked stunned, and then blinked himself out of it. “Kinder? Mine kinder?” he asked in an astonished voice. Zoe raced for the translation through her head. Child, yes. She nodded. “Sein name ist Marcus. Marcus Kifelder Washburne.” Now was the hard part. “Wurden Sie mögen ihn sehen-“ Zoe found herself engulfed again within Hans’ strong arms. He was talking too fast for her to understand. He broke away, but only to take her face in his hands and kiss her again. Zoe’s eyes filled with tears, as she realised she did not have to explain whether he would accept the child or not. The busy street was just a blur to them both. “Vhere ist he?” Hans finally said, face full of joy and hope. Zoe, feeling happy and light headed, took his hand and they walked to the docks. As soon as she slid the door to the shuttle open she heard the screaming. Marcus had hardly been out of her sight since he was born and it looked like Kaylee was at the end of her tether with him. Zoe took him quickly out of her arms and turned around to Hans. The shuttle all of a sudden seemed much smaller with him in it. Kaylee, now freed of the responsibility, was already grinning from ear to ear at being able to view Hans seeing his child for the first time. Hans reached for the baby, his eyes asking for permission from Zoe. Zoe gave it and he picked him up and held him aloft at his own head level. Marcus stopped crying and looked into the identical blues eyes of his father. Hans spoke several phrases of German that Zoe did not understand, but it almost looked like her son did, so entranced was he by the face in front of him. He swiped at his father’s nose and Hans chuckled, and responded by kissing him on his own nose. Hans settled Marcus on his shoulder and looked at Zoe again. He reached out his hand and brushed her cheek softly. Kaylee slinked back into the cockpit to give them some privacy. “I vant mine son to meet you. He ist a gut boy.” “What is his name?” asked Zoe. “Lukas,” Hans replied. “Coom zis night wiz zee baby - vee shall tell him.” “Will he be alright with Marcus?” asked Zoe slowly, knowing that while Hans may be over the moon about the news, a new brother would be a bit of a shock for his son. Hans chuckled, kissing the baby’s head again, before handing him back to Zoe, and said something about ‘romance’ and ‘the housekeeper’ that Zoe did not understand. She tried to remember the phrase though so she could ask Bane later. Hans left them shortly afterwards, and Zoe and Kaylee walked over to the Pye Eatings to see what the others were doing. Jayne hailed them and they squeezed in on the bench beside him. “Looks like you’ve got your hands full,” stated Kaylee. Jayne eyed his charge, who had been pulling hard on his short beard - making his eyes water - but they had temporarily worked out a truce. “We’ve got an’ understandin’. How’d it go with your Deutschlander?” he asked Zoe, already figuring the answer from the wide smile on her face. “Better than I could have hoped. He’s invited the two of us for dinner tonight. I’ll stay here tonight and come back to Hannover tomorrow. What about you?” she asked, looking over at Esper working hard at the counter. Jayne grinned, also looking and giving Rosie an affectionate cuddle. “Tony’s let Esper off tonight an’ all tomorrow, if’n I watch this midget for the rest of the day.” “Ahh, Jayne’s babysittin’,” cooed Kaylee, and Rosie screamed at her in vocal response, making her wince as the piercing noise bombarded her ear drums. Jayne laughed as if him and Rosie had some conspiracy on the matter. “What about River?” Zoe said. Jayne shrugged. “Went off with Stan soon as we got here. Figur’d to leave her to her own. Soon as Esper’s done I was gonna take the shuttle back ta Serenity an’ have my own reunion.” “I’ll come back with you,” stated Kaylee. “Is this the new addition?” exclaimed Anna, referring to Marcus and holding out her arms. Zoe smiled proudly and handed her son over. “It is. I’ve just introduced him to his father.” “And who would that be?” she asked politely, already knowing the answer, as the Pyes were always up-to-date on the gossip. “Hans Kifelder,” Zoe answered, just as politely. Anna grinned and stroked Marcus’ cheek. “Well you certainly have the chance to grow up big an’ strong like your Pa.” Zoe glanced over at Kaylee and Jayne, who were momentarily engrossed with Rosie. “You speak German, don’t you?” she asked. “Not as well as my husband. Why?” “Something Hans said, but I didn’t understand. I don’t think it was bad,” she added, “I just caught the words ‘housekeeper’ and ‘romance’.” Anna’s eyebrows raised and she turned to look for her husband, before waving him over. “No,” said Zoe, getting embarrassed, “It’s alright, I don’t need to know that bad.” “Nonsense,” said Anna. “It’ll niggle atcha, otherwise.” Tony approached them looking hassled. Anna pressed a hand against his chest to calm him, and it worked, as always. “Zoe wants you to translate somethin’ Hans said to her, but she dint understand.” Zoe coloured a little, wishing she had remained silent. Finally she came out with it. Tony waded through her accent and then his face broke into a smile. “Something about people, no, his son and mother, thinking you were a figment of his imagination, an’ tryin’ to set him up with their housekeeper, as well as every other single woman on Deutschland.” Anna giggled and Zoe felt her own smile forming. ~ Stan walked into the bar and bought River a drink, before they sat down at a table. For about the fifth time in the last hour, he wished that the new private crew quarters on the Rosalyn were finished. He had all these visions in his head about what he wanted to do with her, some of which he did not even know he was capable of. River smirked at Stan’s flushed and frustrated face. Had she been thinking with rationality and distance, she would have realised that what she was doing was wrong on so many levels. But she was not anywhere near that zone. She wanted Stan to take her again, but there was nowhere in which to do that, so the next best thing was to fill their heads with what they could do together. “Stan! Hier kommen!” came a loud voice across the bar. Stan grinned, his friends were in town and he had not seen them for ages. Before River could protest, he took her hand and they walked over. “Lorcan! I ain’t seen you fer over a year,” he exclaimed, shaking his hand warmly. He stood aside and introduced River. “This is River, she’s the pilot on Serenity.” Lorcan shook River’s hand, surprised at her firm handshake, as she looked like the wind could toss her a distance at a single gust. She was then introduced to the others at the table; Dieter, Dolf and Elsa. River was aware that she was being scrutinised, and in turn did her own assessment of Stan’s friends. Lorcan and Dolf he had not seen for over a year, having been on a mining tour. Dieter did short range trips to the Rim and back, as did Elsa. River frowned, reading from Elsa’s mind that she and Stan had slept together at some point. “So your Capitan’s zee von who sinks hiz Buddha?” said Dolf with a grin. River found it easy to grin back and she replied in German. “Little trick played on him by one of our crew. She’s doing her punishment right at this moment. Does the whole planet know?” “Pretty much,” answered Lorcan, reverting eagerly to his own language. “Gossip round here spreads quicker ’un spit.” River could not help smiling again. Seemed like the whole of Deutschland would get to know about Bane’s prank, and that meant Mal would not be in a shiny mood for some time. Lorcan told the story of one of his own pranks and the ice was broken, although River still begrudged them for not having Stan all to herself. They were all very tight and all around similar ages. She found out during the course of the day that all their fathers had been killed in the War and she realised why Deutschland’s population had never grown much. Of the two regiments, totalling some five hundred men who left to fight for the Independents, only eight came back. The War had caused more than a dent in a generation, likely it wiped out two generations, and seemed to have come close to decimating the whole planet. In the ten years since the War had ended, they had all had to grow up very fast. Once River had got over her own peevishness at not having Stan to herself, she enjoyed the company of the other pilots, swapping stories, and drinking what was probably far too much. She could be normal, just like everyone else, and it was at times like this that reinforced that possibility. ~ * ~ Back in Hannover, Mal was busy overseeing the loading of the goods; twice as much as before, all going into compartments on account of being contraband goods. Now Serenity’s smuggling compartments were stuffed to the brim, but since Abe’s tour, he had discovered a few more. Mayor Kifelder was even more friendly than he remembered, but he still kept hearing the word Buddha followed by laughter every where he gorram went in the town. Although he enjoyed laughing at pranks played on other people, he disliked being the butt of one himself. At least he had found out what Bane had made him say, though he had to corner Simon to get him to spill it, as no one else would oblige. A shocked laugh had emerged from his mouth when he had, and once again he was amazed at Bane’s audacity – and coolness. He would have his revenge though, he just had to pick his moment. Mal observed that Inara was hovering close by, clearly wanting to speak to him, but he kept Bane beside him as translator so she could not get a private word, as well as not allowing her any shore leave in punishment for her prank. He knew he could not put off his talk with Inara indefinitely, she had not changed and he doubted he had too. Inara may not be a Companion anymore, but there were a sight more other complications involved now. Mal watched out of the corner of his eye as Inara gave up trying to talk to him and walked down the street. As soon as they had landed, Inara had lost sight of her son, who had never been to a planet with so many live animals, especially one where they juggled geese. Although Inara was desperate to talk to Mal, she could not help being happy that her son was able to run free and safely. This was what she had wanted for him, not to grow up amongst the closeted Core boarding school, but to learn how to survive in the outdoors; the real ‘Verse. As the day grew to a close, she watched the women set up a communal meal, lighting a great fire and setting up a large pig to roast. “They did this the last time we were here,” stated Bane, jerking her out of her thoughts. Inara then realised she had been sitting in the sunlight all day and her forehead was feeling decidedly hot. “You’ve finished your translating duties for the day then?” Bane grimaced, she was exhausted, but still certain in the knowledge that Mal would pay her back for the prank. She did not regret it though. As with all pranks, never pull one unless you are willing to receive in kind. “For now. The Mayor’s bought out the brandy, so I ain’t needed anymore tonight.” Inara’s lips tightened, now Mal had another excuse not to talk to her. “Hello, mother,” said Ishmael. Both women did a double take as they viewed him, covered in mud and, they sniffed simultaneously, shit. “What on earth have you been doing?” she said horrified. Ishmael grinned. “Mucking out the pigs, having a go at juggling some goslings ...” Inara took him by the ear - the only clean part of him - and led him back to Serenity for cleaning up. Bane laughed at them both, apparently Ishmael was not a fastidious as his mother in appearance. She rubbed her eyes then turned at the sound of her name and saw Berta, the Mayor’s wife, waving her over to the fire. She soon found out that they were roasting the pig in one of the Pye recipes that Bane had given her the last time. Bane forgot her tiredness, rolled up her sleeves and started to help her and the other women out. ~ * ~ It was dark when Jayne, Esper and Kaylee walked out of the shuttle into the ship. River had not returned with Stan, so they had left without her. They had joked about it on the journey back and Kaylee said that she would keep Simon’s mind occupied elsewhere, to the point that he would not even remember he had a sister. Esper paused on the gangway, letting Kaylee walk ahead, opened her bag and pulled out the parcel and the capture maker, handing them to Jayne. He took them, puzzled. “I met your Ma, Jayne,” she said. Jayne, who already had one idea of what he could use the capture maker for, looked up blinking. “Huh?” “I met your Ma. The Eatings went to the docks on Muir. She found me on account of the letter you wrote her ‘bout me.” “You saw my Ma?” he asked, sounding a lot younger all of a sudden. Esper smiled lovingly. “Met your whole family – Matty as well. Heard about Beryl too.” Jayne’s face turned to awe. “You saw Beryl?” he said in such a way that made her laugh. “Not in the flesh, no – but your Ma told me all about her and your Granny. She wrote you too and passed on the capture maker.” Jayne held the items closer to his chest. “Come on, let’s go look at these in my bunk,” he said holding out his hand. She shook her head. “I ain’t intrudin’ on a letter from your Ma. You go read it an’ I’ll make you somethin’ ta eat in the galley. I know you’re hungry cuz I heard your belly rumblin’ over the noise of the engine.” Jayne snorted and they walked to the galley before separating. Alone in his bunk he ripped open the small package, reading out loud. My dear son, As you will know when you read this, I have met Esperanza. I wish I could tell to you how much I have missed you over the years. This woman you have chosen has helped me see that I brought you up right. It has also eased my guilt some for kicking you out of that church vestry when you were 17 – as I often wondered if I did the right thing, worried that you would fall in with criminals, rather than those good people on Serenity. I don’t expect to see you anytime soon, I gave Esper and her father our capture maker so that you could send us some captures of yourself. We filmed some for you as well before they took it. There is so much I want to say and I wish I was there in person to say it, my precious child. Instead, I send you the enclosed with my blessing and hope you will be very happy. Your Ma. Jayne ripped open the tiny parcel. It was his Grandma Jayne’s ring, the one his mother had always worn on the finger next to her wedding ring. He scrubbed at his eyes, glad now that he was alone, and picked up the capture maker, pressing it to play. There were his parents and brother, old and grown up, and he realised just how long he had been away from them. They were all laughing and waving at him. It then cut to a shot of his mother and Esper washing up, their backs to the camera, chatting as if they had known each other for years. He had no doubt she approved of Esper, she would not have sent the ring otherwise. Jayne had never actively sought her approval in anything, but it eased his mind some to know that she liked her. The next capture activated and it was Esper on her own, in the bunkroom of the Rosalyn. She was talking to him about her day’s activities while unbraiding her hair. He could not stop grinning and was more than a little aroused as well, knowing he had the same thing coming to him tonight. Then the capture started to tilt, making Jayne unconsciously tilt his own head. She ran towards the camera to stop it falling over, her hair floating wildly around her. It was her crowning glory and it was all for him – the luckiest rutting bastard in the ‘Verse. ~ * ~ Bane leaned her head comfortingly against Karl’s shoulder. She had a full belly and was more than a little drunk from the ale being passed around. She was also aware that Karl’s hands were getting more and more daring, something she was not minding one little bit. “Do those two hate each other?” asked Berta next to her. Bane tried to un-fog her mind to translate what she was saying. She could barely make out her form, as her eyesight was somewhat cloudy, she was seeing everyone in a kind of brown shadowy haze. She answered her back in German, slurring. “They’re sweet on each other, but stubborn,” she replied, a little dreamily. Berta rolled her eyes, seemed like Captain Reynolds was as bad as her son in not sorting himself out. She had hoped Hans would make it over to Hannover tonight, as she wanted to set him up with Tomas’ daughter, admitting the housekeeper idea being a real bad one. But he was not here, so she turned her attention back to Captain Reynolds. He seemed to have set his sights high, as the woman seemed of noble birth. Berta took Bane’s hand and spoke in broken English. “Coom, you help.” She pulled Bane to her feet, but Karl held her other hand, pulling her back. “She’s mine tonight,” he protested, also in English. Berta apparently had the stronger grip, and Bane was in no condition to argue, feeling very fluffy and pliable. Berta picked up a bottle of port that a careless friend had taken their hand off, as she marched Bane over to Inara. Her husband sat between Mal and Inara, already well on his way to rolling off unconscious into the darkness. Berta jerked Bane down to the ground beside her and opposite them, speaking rapid German. “What did she say?” asked Inara, a little worried at the determined look on the woman’s face. “Sh…She wants you to take a drink of port,” Bane answered. Inara shook her head and smiled kindly at the Mayor’s wife. “Tell her I’ve already had enough of that ale. As well as plenty of sun.” The combination of a sunburnt face and several cups of ale was already making Inara feel decidedly fuzzy. “Me too, but I wouldn’t disagree,” Bane said seriously, not entirely sure she was looking directly at Inara. “It might mean Mal doesn’t get a call back to deliver their goods the next time.” Inara could see that Berta was still eyeing her seriously. If she had not been looking so serious, she might have thought is was some kind of trick. Bane took the bottle from her hand and lifted it to her lips, enough to make it seem like she was drinking. She wiped the top and handed it to Inara. Inara looked across at Mal, wondering if he knew the public relations efforts she was making on his behalf. She took a sip. It was fine port, warm and moreish. Inara handed the bottle back to Berta who took a quick gulp and handed the bottle to Bane. Bane spoke to her in German before taking another sip. “I don’t think she’s gonna fall for it.” Berta waved her hand at Bane, unconcerned. “She just needs to loosen up.” Bane shrugged and took a real drink; in for a penny, she thought, before handing it to Inara. “How many times do we have to do this?” Inara asked. Bane hoped that she had her lying face on, as she really could not see more than shadows against the firelight. “Last time it took a while. I reckon sshe thinksh you are someone important.” Inara took another swig, not understanding these Deutschlander customs, but then again they did juggle geese for a hobby. It did not take long for Bane to pass out, narrowly missing the dying fire. Inara had got to the giggling stage when Berta decided her work was completed for the night. She got up and pulled her husband from between the two people, making Inara fall sideways onto Mal’s arm. Job done, thought Berta. Karl, having watched the whole scene, wiggled his moustache in annoyance, picked up the unconscious Bane and took her back to Serenity. It was alright for Berta to do her petty matchmaking, but that left him with a girlfriend who was likely to have a massive hangover in the morning, as well as leaving him all kinds of frustrated. Unfortunately, given Mal and Inara’s history, it was not that simple to just get them sitting next to each other. Mal viewed Inara leaning on his arm with interest, but his brain could not piece together anything more as the Mayor had ensured he was well watered. He really had to stop the man getting him drunk every time they came here. Last time his hangover had taken days to ... Mal passed out before he could finish his thoughts.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007 11:45 PM

HERMITSREST


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