BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

DESERTGIRL

Snowball - Chapter 6
Friday, January 4, 2008

Sometimes long lost family members spell trouble. Simon knows this but can he convince the crew? Can he even contact them? This is the sixth of eleven chapters. You can find out all about it in my blog.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2532    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Set six months after the BDM, with standard pairings: Simon and Kaylee, Mal and Inara angst.

If you haven’t read from the start, I would recommend going back to chapter 1 - http://www.fireflyfans.net/bluesun.aspx?bid=19146

Of course - Its Joss’s world and his characters, but I sure enjoy playing with them.

I need to give many rounds of thanks to Mal4prez for the wonderful beta type advice and thanks to my sweet husband for pointing out my addiction to the word “had.”

My thanks to all the folks who took the time to leave me such shiny comments.

*********

Chapter 6

Simon and Kaylee caught the resort transport shuttle just a few minutes after leaving the lodge. The hover craft was long and narrow with seats for twenty or so people with the driver up front. As it pulled into the transportation kiosk, four stairs descended from the doorway letting them easily scale the large cushion of air and board the bus. Simon selected seats towards the back facing the side window. Five others boarded the hover transport with them, but none chose to sit across from them, allowing him to keep watch out the window for anything unusual. After the second stop, Kaylee asked again why they had to leave, but Simon didn’t answer. Instead, he shook his head and muttered under his breath, “Not here.”

“Simon, this ain’t our stop,” Kaylee said to him in a low voice when he made them get off on the Vail loop.

He lifted both their skis from the rack on the side of the transport and began walking down the short path. Once assured that the bus had left and no one was around, he stopped and turned toward her, finally ready to answer Kaylee’s confused questions.

“I’m sorry I did that to you; thank you for coming without making a scene,” Simon apologized reluctantly before starting his story. “We’re going to lie low for a while and then catch the next hover transport to Serenity. That way, if anyone asks the transport driver where we got off, he’ll give them the wrong answer.”

“Simon?” Kaylee admonished. “I think you’re being a bit paranoid. Just because you saw your cousin, doesn’t mean you’re in mortal danger.”

“You don’t know my cousin,” he replied curtly.

Simon had been underestimating the diminished morals of his cousin for far too many years; he would not fool himself now. Looking back, he could see that her mind held fewer scruples than a dog in heat for far longer than he realized.

Cassandra had frequently come to spend weekends with him while he studied at medicad. It had never bothered him that she seldom brought spending money when she showed up on his doorstep; growing up she couldn’t even dream of having enough money to purchase necessities let alone blow on careless whims. But during these visits, it never occurred to him to ask her just how she was getting the money for the expensive clothes and fancy jewelry that she often wore during these visits.

Somehow, she always talked him into taking her to the most expensive restaurants and the hippest clubs. At the time, it never bothered him that at the age of eighteen she never left those clubs with him. It would certainly trouble him now. If River tried to go home with a ski bum this evening he would be borrowing Vera from Jayne quicker than it would take to unlock the ship.

The last time he saw her was the time she’d gone too far. That time, Cassandra showed him exactly what kind of person she’d turned into. He had been deeply involved in his residency, working repeated twenty-four hour shifts, when she appeared at the hospital unexpectedly. Normally it would not have been a problem for her to hang around the trauma center until he finished his shift, but this shift was different. This was the night Chairman Osangla Chang arrived suffering from a lethal overdose. During the hour prior to his arrival, the state official swallowed so many pills that he would have died, had it not been for Simon’s quick action.

Protecting the Chairman’s identity was of the utmost importance to his aide. The man demanded a private treatment room; he paid cash for the visit and even lied on the official paperwork about the Chairman’s identity. Simon had gone along because he agreed with the Chairman’s politics and knew what an event like this would do to the man’s career.

He had been working on the chairman for over an hour when he glanced up and saw Cassandra in the doorway.

Two weeks later when the pictures appeared on the cortex, he could not deny who might have taken them, especially when all of a sudden Cassandra could afford a town home in downtown capitol city.

When he confronted her she simply responded, “Simon we all make our way in the world the best we can. You’d have done the same if you were me.” Only he knew he wouldn’t have.

Simon walked over to a fallen log lying just off the road under a pine tree. He brushed the snow off it and gestured for Kaylee to sit down.

“Cassandra is the daughter of my father’s brother,” he told Kaylee. “My father did very well in business, so as we grew up we had lots of advantages: private schools, new clothes, all the latest gadgets, you know. Cassandra’s father didn’t do as well. He couldn’t keep a job, he couldn’t keep a house, he….he didn’t look after his daughter all that well.” Simon paused looking at Kaylee. She was staring at him in rapt attention waiting for him to continue.

“Several times during my childhood, Cassandra came to stay with us, sometimes for months at a time. We always treated her really well, spoiled her even, because when she came to us she never came with anything. But, without fail, after a while her father would come for her and she would have to go back to that life of squalor.”

Telling Kaylee this story was more difficult than he expected. Even though he new Kaylee wouldn’t think less of him, taking the family skeletons out of the closet was something he had been trained not to do from a very young age. He wished he could walk a bit as he talked, but there was too much snow. He glanced up at the snow covered trees surrounding them, summoning his courage to continue.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but Cassandra hated River and me. She blamed us for the fact that we had a home, and gadgets and parents that loved us. I realize now that she was always jealous of us. But she took that jealousy and she let it change her. When it comes to acquiring money or assets or positions of power, she has no scruples. She took advantage of me for years before I realized what she was doing. Her greatest desire was fulfilled when River and I disappeared. In our absence, she’s become my mother’s darling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read their names together in the society pages on the cortex. She wouldn’t want us to come back.

“You should have seen the way she was trying to get me to tell her where I am staying. She wasn’t even being subtle about it. I’m sure she was on the cortex with the authorities negotiating a reward for my capture before we even left the lodge.”

“But she’s family,” Kaylee replied. “She can’t be wantin’ to get you in trouble. Besides, the warrants were withdrawn.”

“We think the warrants were withdrawn,” Simon corrected, “just because we haven’t had any trouble since Miranda. But Cassandra knows enough unsavory people to be able to find or pay off someone that would arrest us on an old warrant, just to make trouble.”

“But she’s family,” Kaylee repeated, not understanding.

“Exactly – which makes her twice as dangerous. She’s got more to lose.”

Kaylee thought about this for a few minutes before she spoke again. “Simon, you’re from a different world than I am, ya know?”

“Sometimes, I wish I had been brought up on your world, with a family like yours,” he sighed.

“No, ya don’t. No one in my family could have paid for you to go to a fancy school and become a brilliant doctor.” Kaylee smiled at him.

“Or paid for my sister to go to a government sponsored chop shop,” he mumbled into the snow at his feet.

“Simon, we should call the others and let them know what’s goin’ on,” Kaylee said suddenly. “You have the transmitter, don’t you?”

“Right, although there really is no danger of them being recognized. Cassandra doesn’t know any of them, except River, and River would never go into the lodge. There’s too many people.”

“Do it anyway.”

Simon dug the transmitter out of his pocket and keyed the microphone. “Fireflies: Doc has been recognized. Time to return to the nest. I repeat, code blue.” Simon repeated the message a second time then listened to see if there was any response.

After a few seconds, the transmitter started spouting garbled static. Simon had no idea how much of his message had gone through, obviously none of the return messages were getting to him.

He looked up from the transmitter surprised to see Kaylee with an evil grin on her face.

“Why are you smiling?” he asked. “It sounds like all anyone heard is static.”

“You’re just so sexy when you talk in codes, like you’re a secret agent or something.”

He shook his head. “You’re incorrigible.”

“And, don’t you ever forget it Dr. Tam,” she paused starting at him, Simon felt like she was undressing him with her eyes.

“Simon,” Kaylee said, getting up from the log. “We should go back to Serenity.” She gave him a wry smile before she added, “the transmitter on the ship is stronger, let’s get going.” She picked up her skis from the log they were propped against and walked back toward the transport kiosk. Simon, agreeing, followed.

************

Zoë had just pulled up alongside River when she heard the transmitter’s garbled message. The wide groomed intermediate slope they had been skiing on was steep, but practically deserted. River skied faster than she did, but never went too far without waiting for the rookie to catch up. “……flies……recogni…….nest….” was all Zoë could make out.

She looked at River, hoping for clarification. It sounded a bit like the code they had set up before leaving the ship, but she couldn’t be sure.

“Cassy sees platinum, chance to win the Golden Fleece. Simon’s gone to ground, says to find the nest, the coyote is prowling around the tree. Says code blue.”

Code blue was something Zoë understood; she nodded at River and set off as fast as she felt she could go without falling and breaking something.

************

Mal and Inara were the only people on the quad lift this time around. Perhaps it was because it was lunch time, but the mountain seemed to have cleared out a bit. They were almost to the top of the lift, just above a small snow-covered hill to the left of a bumpy ski run the map called Death’s Door. At this point during the ride, the lift was only about ten feet from the ground, and he could see how an expert skier might be tempted to jump the lift and start the trail from here. They had been engaged in a lively discussion of the social value of tea houses when the lift stopped.

“Ok, this is a bit odd, don’t you think?” Mal asked Inara. “Does this happen often?”

“Not really often, but it happens. Maybe someone fell trying to get on or off.”

“Maybe Kaylee tried to get on the lift,” Mal joked and was pleased to see Inara smile at the thought of her friend trying to stand on skis.

“They were going to the lodge. I heard Kaylee say something about strawberries the last time we passed them.”

Mal was in the process of coming up with a smart crack about the lodge when he heard the radio start to garble. Digging it out of his pocket, he stared at it in hopes that his glare would improve the quality of the transmission.

“….flies….Doc was recognized….nest…code…”

“Tian xiaode jen dao mei, the mountains are playin’ with our transmitters,” Mal said to no one in particular, then he keyed on the microphone and tried to answer. “Doc, your transmission’s scratchy. Did you say you was nesting? Can you repeat the code? Repeat – we did not get the code.”

“I think he said a code blue,” Inara said.

“Feihua. There was nothing after the word code but rocks and gravel.”

“Even so, I think I heard the word blue, we should do it anyway – if we wait it could be too late. We could get caught.” Inara suddenly seemed extremely agitated. “They could be coming right now.” She looked over her shoulder, appearing more tense than Mal had ever seen her.

“And where we gunna go, the top of a tree? You’re forgettin’ we are currently stranded up in the air.

“We could jump.” Inara looked serious as she said it.

“Inara, code blue means get back to the ship; no way am I getting you back if I break my leg jumping from a chair lift. Besides, there’s a big sign right there: Jumping from the lift will cost you your pass.”

“Mal,” Inara said, her voice set just a bit higher than before. It seemed like she was again attempting to cover up whatever had been bothering her lately. “I shouldn’t need to remind you that code blue means return to the ship, as soon as possible.”

“I know what it means ‘Nara. Let’s start by you telling me why you’re so jumpy.”

“I’m not jumpy. It’s us that need to jump before they come after us.”

“No one’s coming after us,” Mal assured her. “Even if the Doc’s been recognized, that don’t link to us. We’ll get back to the ship as soon as this chair starts moving. And yes you are jumpy, have been for weeks. You’ve been twitchy, constantly looking over your shoulder, and jumping down people’s throats. Now it’s just the two of us, stuck here for the duration, so how’s about you tell me what’s eating you?”

“Nothing’s eating me,” she snapped back at him. But he was not going to get in a fight with her, there was no place to disappear to when they both started saying things they didn’t really mean. So instead Mal just stared at her, waiting for her to speak.

For several minutes they stared at each other. Mal finally broke the stalemate not by speaking but by reaching out and taking her hand in his, then turning to take in the sights around them. They were in the midst of a beautiful forest. The sparkling snow rested gracefully on the pine bows of the trees lining the ski run. The slope just to the left of them was steep and narrow; with a name like Death’s Door it was definitely harder than anything he wanted to tackle at this point in his skiing career. To the right of them the trees gave way to a small meadow filled with tracks, rabbit if he was not mistaken, but it was hard to tell at this distance.

“I always see them coming for me.” Mal snapped his attention back to Inara as she spoke.

“Who, darlin’?” Mal asked, sliding just a bit closer to her on the chair, causing it to lean at an odd angle. “Who do you see coming for you?”

Again she took a while to answer; he could tell that this was really hard for her. She didn’t like to appear any less than perfect, but he could see the tears forming in her eyes, and he guessed what she was going to say.

“The Reavers. Since Miranda, they’re always there. I hear them. I smell them. I try to tell myself that they’re dead, that everyone around me is a friend, but they still come after me.”

Mal put his arm around her, causing the chair to lean even more.

“I can’t focus, I can’t meditate, I can’t….”

“Work,” Mal finished for her. “I was wondering why you ain’t been conducting business, lately.”

“The Guild,” Inara sniffled, “They gave me a recovery disbursement. Me.” Her tone told him that she still didn’t believe she deserved such a gesture.

“Sounds like they recognized you were having a hard time. You ain’t the first to have flashbacks after battle, and you won’t be the last. You were never trained to see that, you never should have even been there.”

“No, I was glad to be there, thankful to be helping the people I care about.”

“See, now, that statement’s a first step to makin’ them Reavers slip back into the past.”

Mal was quiet for moment before he continued, just sitting with his arm around her. Talking about his past was hard for him as well, but she needed to hear it. “For me, it’s Serenity Valley. For a long time, the slightest little thing took me back there. The wrong smell, or sound, and there we were, surrounded again, enemy closing in on us.

“It gets easier. I ain’t sayin’ it’s easy. I ain’t sayin’ it doesn’t change a person, living through hell, but it gets easier. And you’re not the only one. Each of them on my boat’s dealing with it in their own way, but they’re all affected by it.”

“It feels good talking about it,” she said tentatively.

He was about to respond when the chair lift began moving again. Unconsciously, he slid away from her, preparing to get off at the top, which he knew from his previous rides was just over the hill.

As their chair cleared the rise, however, Mal’s heart jumped. Surrounding the top of the lift were five men, two wearing the brown ski patrol vests he had seen a few times during the day, three wearing purple alliance uniforms. They wanted someone, someone coming up this chairlift.

“We should have jumped,” Inara reflected.

Mal leaned into her, deliberately making it look like they were lovers. “I’m not sayin’ you ain’t right,” he whispered in her ear, “but the probability that I would have broken my leg is probably higher than the chance that they’re after us.

“Just remember – they’re after the doc, whom we don’t know. I’m your favorite client, who’s not having to pay today because you’re still here as a guest of mister… whatever his name was.” Mal looked at her adoringly, and she gave him a hint of a nod before they both turned their attention to getting off the lift without Mal falling into the arms of the Alliance soldiers.

COMMENTS

Friday, January 4, 2008 2:57 PM

CHARLIEBZ


Nice last line! Liked the M/I time with some honest communication between them. Cassandra sounds like trouble - hope she gets what she deserves.

Saturday, January 5, 2008 4:23 AM

KATESFRIEND


Nice writing on the stress Inara feels after the battle. Very interesting plot you have going here.

Saturday, January 5, 2008 10:17 AM

LEIASKY


Ohh, I'm really hating Simon's cousin! Loved the Mal and Inara discussion as well as Simon telling Kaylee about the type of woman his cousin is.

It's really starting to move along now! Can't wait for next next part!

Thursday, January 10, 2008 8:12 AM

LADYSAGE


All this dialogue in your chapters is spot-on and I love seeing our BDHs in action again. They are as fun to read in relaxation as they are when facing stress. Great stuff.

Thanks for sharing,
:-)


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