BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

HERMITSREST

Return to Deutschland - Part Three
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jayne comes up with a good idea and the rest of the crew decide to take a chance on their future. 16th fanfic featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Grateful thanks to BlueEyedBrigadier for the beta and thanks to all those who like my series. Having feedback is like charging my battery, please comment. Part 3 of 3.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2386    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mal’s first impressions on waking was the warm comforting pressure on his chest and by his side. Then geese, gorram rutting loud rutting geese. It could only mean he had not made it back to his bunk, but was still outside. A strange movement made him stiffen and he opened an eye with difficulty, looking down. When he managed to focus, only made possible by opening the other eye as well, he recognised Inara’s dark curly head. The buttons of his shirt were undone and her face and hand were touching the bare skin of his chest and stomach. A wave of desire, followed very swiftly by hangover nausea, washed over him and he took some breaths to steady it. What had he done last night? Wu de tyen ah, it felt good holding her again and feeling her weight against him. He sighed and closed his eyes again, time enough for the day to start and for it all to go back to go se, but at least he would have this moment. Inara woke as a pan dropped onto metal, and winced as the sound seared through her head like an arrow. She did not want to open her eyes, as it would likely cause her more pain. Just sleep. Sleep was the best remedy for a hangover. She only hoped that Ishmael would not come into her room and insist on dragging her out of bed. Son or no, she would throttle him. She frowned as she felt a gentle breeze on her face. She unglued her eyes and found herself starring at someone’s smooth chest, her belly flip-flopping with recognition. Mal, she was lying on Mal, and her leg was curled over his. She wondered if he was still asleep. What had she done last night? She did mental inventory on her clothes and then chided herself, Mal would never take advantage of her if she was drunk. But then she remembered he had been too. There was another clang of metal against metal followed by, she presumed, some German expletives. Inara sighed and lifted her head as gently as she could, bracing her hand on the ground to help herself rise. She dared a look at Mal’s face only to find him looking at her with a boyish smirk. She pressed her lips together, determined not to respond in kind. It was not that easy though, as his face held none of the dark mood that had plagued him since they had renewed their acquaintance. She could get him to listen if only she did not spoil it with the first words out of her mouth. But what could she say? Saniao he xueye, this was so frustrating. Mal’s smirk gradually disappeared and the humour left his face, as he was mentally comparing Inara to Katya and finding himself unable to think straight. In one motion the moment was gone and they both got to their feet. They faced each other awkwardly before walking in opposite directions, Inara back to the ship and Mal over to the Mayor who looked decidedly worse off than him. ~ * ~ “Jayne, what are you doin’ here?! Ain’t you with Esper? Is something wrong?” Jayne felt bombarded and was quick to assure Abe that everything was alright. “She’s fine. Cookin’ breakfast by now I reckon. Jus’ wanted to talk to you is all.” Abe raised an eyebrow and grabbed a cloth to wipe his hands. “Wanted to ask - that is ... I’m in a position to –“ Gorram it, thought Jayne, it had sounded perfectly shiny in his head on the way over here. Abe waited patiently for Jayne to get to the point, although he had a sneaking suspicion he knew what he was going to say. Jayne sighed. “I wanna marry your daughter, sir. I know I ain’t bin what you’d call respectable or law ‘bidin’ in the past – can’t promise ta be the same in the future. But I’ve got the means to provide for her an’ ... an’, well, I love her.” “I’ve no doubts about that son, but like I told ya before, she ain’t my daughter an’ you don’t need to ask my permission – she’s old enough.” Jayne took another deep breath, reddening a little. “When we first met, Esper said she came as a package deal, you an’ her, together. I wanna marry her, but I want you ta ... ta-“ “You wanna marry me too?” suggested Abe, unable to keep the smile off his face. Jayne could neither finish his sentence nor answer Abe’s question, and Abe took pity on him. “I understand you completely, my lad, an’ I’m real touched by your offer - not many people woulda considered my feelings on the matter. However, much as I love Esperanza, I have a job here which I plan on keepin’ as long as they’ll have me, or I’m able.” He held up his hand when he saw that Jayne had opened his mouth. “If you’re lookin’ for my blessing, then you have it wholly and completely.” Abe watched as Jayne’s face broke into a broad grin, and the old man held out his hand to Jayne. Jayne shook it wildly. “Now you better go back to her before she misses you – an’ if she wants ta talk to me ‘bout why I ain’t comin’ along as part of the bargain, then you jus’ send her on over here, I’ll set her straight.” “Thanks Abe,” said Jayne, turning to leave then changed his mind and returned to give Abe a big hug. “I would like to attend the weddin’ though,” shouted Abe to Jayne’s retreating back. ~ When Esper had woken up and found Jayne gone, she had presumed it was on some bidding of the Captain’s, but Mal was now in the galley with everyone else suffering from a hangover due to the night’s excesses. The two of them had not taken part, as they had their own active reunion in Jayne’s bunk. No one knew where Jayne was, except there was a mule missing. She eyed the Captain again, sure in the knowledge that he must know what was going on. Then Jayne entered the galley with River closely behind. Esper had been showing Bane how to make a batter for fish, as well as swapping other recipes. As soon as Jayne came up to the counter Bane snatched the spoon out of her hands, so she could have a go at the mixing – and adding her own touches. Jayne knelt down on one knee in front of her, red-faced and more scared than he had been in his life, Reavers included. Everyone in the galley was suddenly quietly taking notice. “Esperanza Pedrosa Fairly. I love you. I’m a born troublemaker an’ never goin’ ta be worthy, but if you’ll have me, I wanna make you my wife.” He held out the ring and the galley was completely silent, except for the sound of oil spitting on the grill. Esperanza flushed deeply, aware that she was covered in flour and batter mix and then realising that none of it mattered. She held out her hand and cupped his cheek before allowing him to take it, giving him a stern look, which had others in the room momentarily worried. “You say you ain’t worthy one more time, Jayne Cobb, an’ I’ll take Vera and shove her up yer pi gu.” “Is that a yes?” he said grinning. “That’s a yes,” she confirmed and the galley of Serenity erupted. They held each other tightly until they were forced apart by well wishers. Esper hugged everyone, but they were nothing but a blur of faces as tears of happiness had started to flow. Jayne was pounded on the back by Karl, Mal and, not wanting to be left out, Simon. “Are you going to have sex with her?” asked Ishmael loudly. Before Inara could tell him off, Jayne answered. “Buckets of it, midget,” answered Jayne, cuffing his head a little more than gently. “Fact I’m gonna start right now. S’cuse me.” He pulled an bemused Esper out of the galley and down to his bunk, leaving everyone talking noisily in their wake. “Would you like to explain where you’ve been all night?” said Simon to his sister, while the others were still talking loudly about Jayne’s news. “Same as you, ge ge – earning a hangover.” Simon tried not to laugh, but River’s retort was so flippant and adult sounding, he could not help it. She truly was growing up and he either had to embrace it or lose her. “Did you have a nice time earning that hangover?” he asked. River laughed at her brother’s attempt at acceptance, though she did not require it. She took a sip from the mug of strong coffee he held in his hand, before answering. “Lots of shop talk with other pilots. So of course, lots of exaggeration of the truth and plenty of lying. Some drinking and gambling, then late to bed. Tony let me take Esper’s bunk for the night, then kicked me out when Jayne arrived this morning.” She pouted slightly. “Didn’t get any alone time with Stan.” “Never mind, mei mei, that kind of happens when a ship has communal sleeping arrangements.” River stuck out her tongue, taking ten years of her age. “Don’t pretend you’re okay with it, Simon. I know the idea of me sexing it up makes you ill.” Simon pressed his lips together in annoyance. “Allow me a big brother’s illusion then.” In truth Simon was more okay with the idea than he reckoned his sister was aware. She was happy, doing a job she loved, and not sexing it up with a man right under his nose – he could not have asked for more. Granted, she was his little sister and any sexing she might do would never sit entirely shiny, but the bliss of not having to view it with his own eyes, was some comfort. ~ “Is this how it’s going to be?” Inara spoke, jerking Mal out of his reverie. He had not even heard her climb down the ladder to his bunk. Now she was standing there, his room dropped its size by one third. He realised he was holding the capture of her that he had stolen from Kaylee - well, borrowed, but not given back. Too late, she had seen it. Mal put it down and swallowed uncomfortably – she was here in his space and he could not avoid her. “What can I do for you?” he said evenly, and trying to sound business-like. Inara’s head tilted in surprise, her composure stripped. “Wu de tyen ah, Mal! Stop trying to pretend we haven’t anything to talk about.” Mal’s mouth opened to retort and Inara held up her hand to silence him – which rankled more than a bit. “Hear me out,” she demanded, walking towards him. “I know neither of us ever wanted ‘complicated’, but the truth is I can’t see any way around it for you and me. It’s always going to be so, whether we are together or not. I may not be a registered Companion anymore, but now you know I have the responsibility of a child to take care of. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you. There is no one else for me, Mal, despite what you might think of me and my ‘whoring trade.’ The time we had last year was as real for me as it was for you. Since losing my status, I’ve had just one plan; to let Ishmael finish school and to come and find you again. After the confrontation on Persephone, I realised that there was a chance you wouldn’t take me back, but I wanted to you know my reasons for not coming with you before.” Mal’s hangover was causing all sorts of problems for him trying to come to terms with his emotions. The nausea rose again, but he swallowed it. Inara waited for him to respond, but it was awful long in coming. Mal thought about Katya Bishky, and her wild free uncomplicated spirit. Then he thought about Inara and knew that she had indeed invaded his soul, there was never going to be any escape from that. “I slept with someone else,” he said finally, almost in a whisper. “On Boros, during the Quaker job.” Inara observed him silently, still wondering why he always felt the need to do right by every single person in the ‘Verse. She would have laughed, had it not been a deadly serious situation. “Mal you’re not a monk, or a Shepherd. You’re a man. Like I said, we have a knack for making things more complicated than they really are.” She watched his shoulders sag in acknowledgement. If she could be truthful with herself she would wish with her whole heart that this woman on Boros meant nothing, but the reality was she may not be that lucky. They had both made their beds, so to speak. It was time to leave him alone, she had paved the way, and hoped he would be more receptive the next time she came to tell him about Ishmael. She had everything and nothing to lose. Mal watched Inara go, leaving as quietly as she came. He picked up the capture, activating it and watching it for the millionth time, not sure he had the strength to do anything. ~ * ~ “Mal, I wanna word,” said Jayne coming into the cockpit later that day. Mal had wanted to get Serenity into the Black again before nightfall, but Jayne had gone missing again, as well as Hans with baby Marcus, making it impossible for them to leave. Jayne was in fact now carrying Zoe’s slumbering son, which he now handed over. Zoe got up, took him and then made to leave, but Jayne stopped her. “This concerns you as well.” Sounds ominous, she thought. Jayne closed the door behind him, and Mal and Zoe’s eyes automatically took in the fact that he was unarmed and not liable to shoot them. Jayne stood, unsure how to start. “I’ve bin thinkin’.” “Bin doin’ a lot of strange things lately,” joked Mal, easing the tension a little. Jayne raised half a smile. “I got me a reason to wanna settle down now an’ some money to do it. Only I don’t want it to be like my folks, havin’ to scrape a livin’ in the dirt.” Zoe looked at Mal, unsure where this was going. Jayne put forward his idea. “You know how we go to ground after a heist or job? Use friends or pay people?” Mal nodded. “Well, how ‘bout we create our own bolt-hole – here, on Deutschland?” He was greeted by a shocked silence. Zoe spoke first. “Why are you jus’ talkin’ to the two of us?” “Cuz I need ta know whatcha think an’, although I may not have deserved it by some of things I done in the past, I reckon I’ve earned my say.” Zoe looked over at Mal who, she realised, was really still. “You’re awful quiet, sir, somethin’ wrong?” she said. Mal, who had been deep in thought looked up, a hint of a smile forming. “That’s just it,” said Mal, “There’s nothing wrong. In fact it’s a ruttin’ good idea. If there’s land to be had, that is...” If they were going to create a haven somewhere, he could not think of anywhere better than Deutschland, for a number of reasons. Jayne jumped in, quick to press the advantage. “There is, southeast of Hannover, ‘cordin’ to Hans.” “You’ve bin talking to Hans?” asked Zoe, a wary tone to her voice. Jayne shrugged. “I asked for my own self. He said there’s a prime spot that would suit us, long as we agree not to dam up the river.” Zoe looked over to Mal and sighed, he had that glint in his eye again. “I’d like to see it,” said Mal enthusiastically. ~ * ~ Shipping out delayed, four of them walked out of the shuttle and took in the view. It was little more than desert, with the only thin greenery lining the river less than a quarter mile distant, but the land was framed nicely by some hills. “Ziss land iz common land,” explained Hans, “But itz common to Hannover, zo if you agree produce somezing zat zee settlement can benefit from, zen it can be changed - you can buy zee land.” “I was thinking beef, Mal,” said Jayne tentatively. “I was thinking horses,” said Mal, and they both laughed like school boys. Zoe shook her head, looks like it was up to her to bring them to reality. “This is a nice piece of land, but why ain’t it bin bought up before?” Hans looked at her trying to keep the love out of his expression and failing. He looked towards Mal and Jayne who had already wandered off a distance, talking with animation. “I alvays vant it. I used to coom here as kinder. I cannot afford on my own.” “You would be willing to buy into this madness too?” she said astonished. Hans grinned boyishly and Zoe felt the flutter of excitement in her belly. She walked into his large embrace and looked up at him. “One condition,” she said. Hans dropped a kiss on her forehead, uncaring of the condition, just glad that Zoe was in his arms. “We have cherry trees outside our place.” By the time Mal and Jayne returned, heads full of ideas, Hans had conjured up food and beer which none of the others had thought to bring. He told them the cost per acre and the legalities of passing land from common to owned. Ten per cent of whatever they produced on the land would go to Hannover for a period of five years. After that, the land was theirs completely. “I reckon we might be able to get that percentage reduced, if’n we agree to take their goods to Badger for nothing,” put in Mal. Hans followed their rapid conversation as best as he could, learning English on a planet which did not speak it had been a torturous process in the last year or so, as had introducing Marcus to his mother. Although the sight of her dumb struck was a memory that would stay with him for some considerable time. Not only did she have another grandchild, but she could also stop matchmaking. Hans smirked to himself, knowing his mother was overjoyed at the news, but extremely angry that she had no part in the plan. “Do we give the others an option of coming in? I reckon Kaylee and Simon would be game,” asked Zoe. “And Karl,” confirmed Jayne, “Not sure ‘bout River an’ Bane.” Mal was already thinking big. “Reckon you’d have one buyer desperate for your beef,” he said to Jayne. “Who?” he said. “Bane’s brother or their aunt on Persephone. Fresh quality beef that they can preserve to sell on. We know a man who likes to sell cattle as well.” With the credit they had got from the Quaker job they finally had more than one option, and Mal finally had his nest egg. He knew that they could not just sail the Black forever, not with people wanting to make roots and see to the next generation. Now they could do both; have a base, protect it, and still not be beholden to others. ~ * ~ Now that they had agreed to buy the land, Mal had said they would stay a few more days to sort out the purchase, before returning to Persephone. Mal sent a wave to Badger saying they had engine trouble – there was no way he would tell the man the real reason. With Esper back at the Rosalyn, talking to Abe and Tony Pye, Jayne had some more organising to do. Jayne had spoken to the preacher in Hannover, but he did not want a noisy affair like Kaylee’s, just a few people, and quick. Esper, fortunately, had agreed. “There you are,” said Karl, coming up to him. “Wanted to talk to you ‘bout this land.” “Got a few things ta take care of before that,” countered Jayne with a grin. Karl waited for him to continue. “Wanted to ask you if’n you’d be my best man an’ stand up wi’ me in church tonight?” Karl’s mouth opened and he put his hand firmly on Jayne’s shoulder. “You’re really gonna do this tonight?” “We both want to, an’ I wanna get started on buildin’ Esper a house.” Karl grinned, still surprised by the speed in which Jayne was taking things. “I’d be honoured to, my friend.” “Abe’s comin’, but I’d like Bane there too. No one else.” “Sure, but I better not tell her why, as she’ll probably start plannin’ all sorts of things.” Jayne’s eyes widened. “I’d not thought of that. Jus’ make sure you’re at the chapel by six.” “Okay,” replied Karl. He held out his hand, “Congratulations, Jayne.” Jayne shook his hand firmly and grinned. Then he was off, presumably on another errand, thought Karl. He leaned on the fence and wondered if Jayne was planning to take Esper back to his bunk for her wedding night. Probably, he assumed with a grimace. Hmm, I wonder if I can sort something out, Karl thought. He spied Berta Kifelder and marched over to her, figuring she owed him a favour for stealing his girlfriend away last night. As planned, the wedding took place at six o’clock sharp. Esper had her hair down and her best dress on, the one she had worn to Kaylee’s wedding. Abe gave her away, a tear in his eye and spring in his step. He had assured Tony that although he may have to hire another cook, he still had a mechanic. Abe could not be happier for Esper; that Jayne would protect and love his daughter ‘till his dying breath, he had no doubt. He looked up into the eaves of the chapel, offering up a prayer to his wife and sons. She’s going to be okay, Carmen. Whatever happens now, she won’t be alone. When the time comes for us to be together again, my love, I’ll come with a happy heart. Bane was still giving Karl evil looks for not telling her about where they had been going, although she was happy to be present. Jayne had never looked happier and they were both glad for their friend. The ceremony was short but memorable. Karl turned when he heard the church door open and Berta’s head appear. She gave him a nod and disappeared again. He walked up to Jayne to give him a manly hug, as Bane embraced Esper. “Got a weddin’ present for ya.” Jayne look surprised. “I weren’t expectin’ nothin’.” “Well, I figur’d you might make Esper spend her weddin’ night in your smelly bunk, so I arranged somethin’ more fittin’.” Jayne began to smile again, there was a lot of it going around. “There’s an’ empty house in the next street, number three, an’ it’s yours for the night.” Jayne hugged Karl again. “You’re more than a friend, Karl, you’re like my brother,” he said quietly. Karl shrugged, and they parted quickly, both uncomfortable with getting too emotional. “You’ll owe me a lot more now I haveta go back to the rest of the crew an’ explain why you dint invite ‘em to the weddin’.” ~ Esper gasped as they walked into the little house. It was strewn with cherry blossom petals and looked beautifully clean and tidy. “Oh Jayne, it’s perfect.” Jayne agreed wholeheartedly. Esper put the wooden box on the table and went to explore the other rooms. Jayne eyed the box with interest, having seen Abe give it to Esper after the wedding, and lack of curiosity was not one of his traits. “What’s this box?” he called after her. After a pause, she shouted through her response. “It’s for you, from Abe.” Jayne’s eyebrows raised and he fingered the texture of the smooth polished wood before lifting the lid. Inside was Abe’s poetry book. He picked it up and noticed a marker about halfway in. The poem on the page it marked was by that pirate fella, Raleigh, and the marker was a note written by Abe. My love and blessing to you both. I bequeath this book to you, Jayne, for the next generation of Cobbs. I have no doubt you will make wonderful parents and I offer this advice: You won’t always get it right, but it’s always worth the trying. Now stop reading this and take advantage of your new wife! Jayne blinked, not having time to really think about having children of his own yet, things having gone a mite fast lately. Little Cobbs, he smirked to himself, reckoning he could get used to the idea right quick, specially in the getting part. He walked through to the bedroom, pausing there to watch as Esper brushed her hair, her back to him humming. His eyes roved down her body, knowing what lay underneath the dress was all for him for his lifetime. Esper turned around and caught him looking at her hungrily. She swayed towards him, still brushing her hair. “How many?” she asked, already knowing the contents of Abe’s little note. “How many what?” he retorted, still eyeing her enticing form coming towards him. “How many children you fig’rin’ on us havin’?” Jayne opened his mouth and then took the last few steps to grab her. He fondled one of her breasts through the clothing and Esper leaned into him invitingly. “Don’t care,” he said, “I just want a parcel o’ noisy ones.” She gave a low chuckle, relishing in the distraction of his roving hands. “Long as one o’ them’s a girl an’ they don’t all start namin’ their guns, ‘therwise I might start forgettin’ their names.” Jayne laughed and Esper kissed him eagerly. Before she realised she needed to take a breath, Jayne pulled away suddenly. “Guess this means Bert’s outta a job.” “Who’s Bert?” said Esper in confusion. “My contraception doser,” and his faithful companion for nearly twenty years. He looked at Esper and grinned wickedly. “Let’s get biblical.” ~ * ~ Although the rest of the crew were disappointed not to be celebrating Jayne and Esper’s wedding, the fact that they had the option of buying land on which to build homes, overtook as a distraction. Mal had made it clear that they were not grounded, they were just building, as Jayne had put it, a bolt-hole. Kaylee reckoned the whole idea was shiny, as did Simon – conjuring up his own images of a small surgery. Hans had produced some plans and sketched out what they could do depending how much land against how much credit, and so on. Jayne had already found time, between getting married, to draw on a plot for his house, the rear of which faced south towards the river. Mal had drawn on the other buildings they might need to construct to house farm tools, cattle, stables and so forth. “We’re building our own town!” Kaylee said excitedly. Karl drew a plot next door to Jayne’s, and the others were filling in, rubbing out, and filling in again. Karl noticed that Bane had made no such drawings and was uneasy as to why. “Why don’t you want to buy into the land?” Karl asked and Bane shrugged. “I want to make profit from things that can be bought and sold rather than stuck in land. I’m happy to put the majority of my stake in the cattle and horses.” Karl did not like her answer and gave another reason later in her bunk. “It has nothing to do with the fact that you don’t want to get tied down?” Bane gave him a serious look, but did not elaborate further and Karl, disappointed, left to spend the night in his own bunk. Bane could plainly see that Karl wanted to settle down, more so now Jayne had got hitched. She could not bring herself to do it, much as she was attached to Karl. She was going blind and could not accept that Karl wanted to chain himself to a blind woman for the rest of his life. ~ If she had been thinking logically, River would have known she was doing wrong, just like last night. Last night, she had lain in Esper’s bunk on the Rosalyn and invaded and controlled Stan’s dreams with her mind. She forced the images until they had all but climaxed together, though they were in separate beds across the bunkroom. That was until Maloranty had grown tired of Stan’s moaning and thrown a pillow at him. She had an excuse then, she had been under the influence of a considerable amount of alcohol. She had no such excuse now, as she reached out her mind to him again, the distance between them being no effort for her, as long as they were on the same planet. She could picture him shirtless and sweat covered, riveting in metal panelling for the new crew quarters on the Rosalyn. He was alone. Before taking a long drink of water, Stan habitually scraped back his fringe as it flopped into his eyes. He enjoyed this kind of work on occasion, as it was different. Tomorrow, they would be in the Black again, on their way to another planet - a chill engulfed his body and he gasped in shock. He looked around, thinking that the air con might have been activated, but it was supposed to be turned off on account of all the electrical work they were doing. He sniffed in amusement, must be the spirits, he thought. Stan, came a whisper, and he froze briefly, before realising that it was River’s voice and it was filled with laughter. He could believe that she took over his mind sometimes, she intoxicated him so. He flushed when he remembered last night, almost coming on his bed while having an extremely erotic and realistic dream about her, when she was not five feet away - until Mal hit him in the face with a pillow. Just as well, otherwise he would have embarrassed himself considerably further than a few moans. She was a sharp little minx, he could give her that. She seemed to know every move he wanted to make, and some that he didn’t know he wanted to make. His loins felt hot as he thought about it. He picked up the riveter and started work again, more furiously, as the images in his mind burned brighter. Then he could no longer see what he was doing as River’s face and body engulfed him. I’m dreaming again – this is too much, he thought, and the image faded slightly, calmer this time. Stan did not even notice when he dropped the riveter or when he had slumped to the floor. River kissed him, lingering with her tongue as her hands moved over his taut sweaty body. She heard him moan, sounding almost in pain, but she did not want to stop. In her own bunk in Hannover, eyes glazed with concentration, she removed her dress and underwear. In his mind Stan put his hands around her waist and almost bit her neck in frustration. Am I asleep, or awake, his brain wondered? He had never had such vivid dreams before, but neither did he want them to stop. He should stop though, before it had physical consequences. She straddled him, putting a halt to any further concerns. She felt so real, but it was just a brilliant and amazing dream. River arched violently as she came, returning to her own senses and shock at what she had just done. Stan yelled out loud at the loss, opening his eyes, breathing like he had run a marathon, or had actual physical sex. The wetness in his trousers gave rise to the fact that he had indeed let the dream go too far. He felt shaky and all of a sudden sordid, like when his mother had caught him masturbating as a boy. Surely it was not normal to have a dream that intense? He got up from the floor of the old store room, tied his shirt around his waist and went to the showers. River curled up into a foetal position, tears emerging from her tightly closed eyelids. She knew she had done wrong, but she could not help it. She wanted him so badly and not being able to have him touch her body yesterday had been too much for her to bear. She wondered if he would realise he had been controlled and what would his reaction be when he found out. Stan had not yet pieced together that she was a reader and no one had thought to enlighten him. It was one of the reasons why she thought she loved him, because he treated her like a normal girl. But the wanting and waiting to see him again was so hard. River reached down between her legs, feeling the wetness there as if Stan had actually been inside her, in her room and in Hannover, instead of on the Rosalyn in München. ~ It was late, but while the others were still occupied in planning their new venture, Inara finally tracked Mal down to the cockpit. She locked the door and sat in River’s chair, facing him. This time, there was less tension coming from him. She had seen him planning with enthusiasm this evening, planning for the future - something she had never expected him to do and it gave her hope. Inara took a breath before speaking. “I gave birth to Ishmael, but he is not legally my son.” That had his attention. “Guild Law is very complicated. Any child of a fully fledged Companion belongs to a Companion. But when Ishmael was born, I was not a Companion, I was in training – an Acolyte. “I don’t understand,” said Mal, “Surely the child belongs to both parents, just like if you an’ I-“ Mal stopped, eyes wide at what he had just implied. Inara smiled shortly before continuing. “Like I said, Guild Law is complicated. Once registered with the Guild, you give up certain rights, on account of the importance of the clientele mostly. The law is clear; pre-certification child goes to its father, post-certification, the child stays with its mother. I was very young and in love with Ishmael’s father and I didn’t really think about the consequences. As a novice Companion, I should have been carefully monitored, but L – my client,” she corrected quickly, “Was a very powerful man. We managed to keep it all hidden. Please don’t ask me who he was, I can’t tell you. But he was a good man to me and a good father to Ishmael. “Then the fact that Ishmael is here with you now means you have him illegally,” Mal stated. Inara nodded. “Ish’s father always made sure I was involved and knew him, even after I became a Companion. It was easy to hide once Ish was born, as it just appeared he was just a popular client. You can’t bend the law though and when he died, Ish should have gone to his paternal relations, but that would have meant I would never see him again. I kidnapped him – willingly,” she added, “And took him to Persephone, enrolling him in a school under another surname. That was the same year I came aboard Serenity. I haven’t been able to see him much in the last four years.” “What about his relatives?” Inara sighed. “That’s why I was drummed out of the Guild. His lawyers found out that I was the mother of the child and came looking for him, and me. I would never tell them where he was and the Guild needed to avoid a scandal. I left on the first public transport after waving Sir Warwick. He didn’t know about Ishmael, but found me a teaching job so that I could earn enough money to allow Ish to finish his school year. As it was I had to take him out early when Sir Warwick told me that he had enquiries about me from some lawyers. That was two weeks ago.” To Mal, it sounded all very complicated, and he wanted to cut to the chase. “Is he with you for good?” Inara gave him a loaded look, loaded with so many intricate feelings. She could have batted back a question to him, but decided that too many things had happened between them. “Yes,” she answered, and then kept silent. Mal sighed heavily. “Inara. Why must things be so complicated between us?” he was not expecting an answer, but continued straight away. “I love you,” he admitted simply and painfully, making the tears form in Inara’s eyes. “No matter what seems to happen between us, that never changes. The only thing that does change is each time I try an’ forget you, it only brings you back fiercer than before.” He looked pleadingly at her, concluding, “I kept tellin’ myself that the two of us together would never work – could never work on account of us bein’ so different.” Inara knelt before him, placing her hand on his knee. Mal looked down at it and toyed with one of her fingers. “Oh Mal. It doesn’t have to be this way.” “Tell me how it can be then,” replied Mal. “I’m not a Companion anymore, like as not I’ve got my very own wanted poster now. I just want to be able to bring up my son so he can survive in this ‘Verse. But selfishly, I can’t do that without being near you.” “Then why dint you come with me before?” “I needed time, like I said. Ishmael was in school and I had my accounts frozen. I had to work out a way of getting him away.” “You could have just come to me.” “I could have done,” and she smiled, “But I’m as stubborn as you when it comes to these matters.” Mal gave a quiet snort as a response, knowing she was right. Inara took the rest of his hand and squeezed it tightly. “The question is, are you willing to have me now?” “It’s not jus’ you. You kinda come with baggage now.” Inara laughed genuinely, and the sound ran through Mal like beautiful music. “And you don’t? You’ve got way more baggage than me – a whole crew full in fact.” Mal thought briefly about that enlightening statement and closed his eyes. When he opened them, Inara was still there, and looking more than apprehensive. He stood up, bringing Inara to her feet as well. “Could you see yourself living here?” Inara took in the views around her through the cockpit window. They had picked a good spot; slightly hilly, an established river with the mountains nearby for protection. In a few years, with the right care it would likely be beautiful, but now it was still just dirt and scrub. “I just want to be where you are, Mal. This place is as good as any to wait until you return.” Mal kissed her softly, and they both revelled in the reunion. Mal thought fleetingly about the buoyant Katya and then it dissipated from his mind, as he allowed his love for Inara burn fiercely again. This was home, she was home. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Translation: Saniao he xueye – piss and blood

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007 11:44 PM

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