Pandora's Box - Part Three
Friday, February 15, 2008

Zoe has been doing some interfering and for one of the crew it could mean an end to their relationship. No.2 of Series 2, featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Please, please comment as much as possible - I need to know if I've done good, done bad or done just plain ugly. Part 2 of 3.


GANG KOU Bane arrived home at Gang Kou, tired but excited to see everyone again, including Karl. No, especially Karl, as she’d missed him more every day. The Antonia was doing Eatings in München, so Bane had persuaded You Mei, Wang’s sister, to give her a ride back. They had been sharing a bunk for the last month or so while Bane had been on board and got on well, being of a similar age. During the War, at barely fifteen, You Mei had kept their Pye Eatings ship running in the Black while the rest of her immediate family had enlisted. That was until she had been caught hiding some escaping Browncoats – the ship had been confiscated and she had been put in prison for the rest of the war. “You know Wang’s gonna kill me when I get back?” “Just tell him I held you at gun point.” You Mei snorted. Bane was enjoying the breeze on her face. Her cousin noted the way Bane was clasping the edge of the mule, willing it to go faster. “Lookin’ forward to gettin’ back?” “Uh huh.” “Can’t fool me, cous. I know you can’t wait to get back to that Karl Washburne or Jacobsson – or whatever name he’s goin’ by these days.” “I’ve been away for a while, so, yes, it’ll be good to see him again. An’ I’ve gotta get back to work.” “Hell, if I had a man as fine as that…You’re lucky, Bane. You’ve got a home, people who love you. Not many can say the same.” “Not many can,” replied Bane, by way of an answer. “You’ve got a home and family too, though.” They arrived in front of Karl’s house about half an hour later. Bane got out and felt for the porch edge with her foot. You Mei got out her side and they went inside the house. She hadn’t been inside before and was surprised to find it was quite homely and tidy. “This is nice, Bane. Real shiny.” “Glad you like it,” she answered, placing her bag in the hallway next to the bedroom door. Karl wasn’t around otherwise he would have appeared already. “Can you see anyone around outside?” You Mei glanced out of the window. “No. Doesn’t seem to be anyone about. Wonder where they all are?” “Esper’s probably in, she always is. ‘Sides she’s not long away from havin’ Cobb number four.” You Mei sat at the sturdy wooden table, admiring it’s finish. She also noticed that the doorways were carved with patterns, different ones that marked them out. Bane walked into the adjacent kitchen and touched the counters to see if anything was about, indicating Karl’s presence. The place seemed too tidy and too empty. “An’ when are you gonna be addin’ to the numbers around here?” her cousin asked pointedly. “As if that’s somethin’ I’m gonna talk about with you,” Bane warned. You Mei shrugged and got up again, heading to the door. She outta be getting’ back to the Eatings, or her brother would get himself all riled up, she thought. “Fine. I’ll be glad to get my bunk back to myself anyway – be able to get some sleep. You don’t half make a lotta noise.” Bane froze in You Mei’s hug. “What do you mean?” “You moan a lot in your sleep. You better find that man of yours an’ get him to sex you up before somethin’ starts shortin’ out.” Bane was too embarrassed to say anything except goodbye. She was beginning to get a bit paranoid about going to sleep now. She heard the mule drive away and went into the hallway again to collect her bag and unpack. It was nightfall, Bane was just deciding on whether or not to go to bed when she heard someone walk onto the porch and knock on the door, her heart sinking as she realised Karl wouldn’t knock on his own front door. “Who is it?” she asked, walking into the hallway. “Jayne,” he said, as Bane opened the door. “You just got back?” she asked. “Yeh. Been in the south pasture dosing cattle all day with Mal an’ Matt.” “It’s been real quiet around here since I got back.” Jayne followed Bane into the main room. “One of them days, I reckon. Esper said Kaylee and ‘Nara went to – anyway. I gotta get back. Jus’ came over to say that Karl’s not here.” “No kiddin’. Care to tell me where he is?” “He’s gone to learn that woodworking off some crazy fella that lives in the mountains.” “Shuh-muh?” “He wanted to learn proper how to do them chairs and such – so he kin start sellin’ ‘em.” “Oh. Okay. Did he say when he’d be back?” “Dunno. If crazy Willhelm don’t kill ‘im, maybe in a month or so.” Jayne watched Bane’s face struggle with alternate looks of disbelief, disappointment and feigning that she was okay. He rolled his eyes, woman dint know a good thing if it came up an’ bit her on the ass. “I best be gettin’ back.” “Jayne,” she began. “Yep?” “I guess I should thank you for telling Pavel my real name all those years ago.” It wasn’t a question or topic that he’d been expected and he blinked a few times before answering. “Don’t mention it. Wasn’t sure I did the right thing, but it worked out okay. Anyways…” “Yes, you better go. Good night. See you around, no doubt.” “Yeh. You need anythin’, you jus’ holler.” Bane was still standing in the same spot a few minutes later thinking not about Jayne, but Karl. He had left her, she’d finally driven him out with her ways, just as she knew she would. She should never have gone to warn Wladek, that was what did it – but she had to go. Bane went to their bedroom and lay on the bed. Once the house had been built, Karl had made a bed big enough for three or four people. After sharing a single bunk on Serenity, he had argued that he wanted to sleep in a place big enough for them to stretch out in any direction. She stretched out her arms and legs and drew them in again, curling up in a ball, the blankets catching underneath her. She could smell Karl on everything and didn’t sleep either that night or the next. As a very young woman, used only to treating men as marks, her mother had told her that the day would come when she’d find the un-trickable one. At the time, full of wartime fervour and purpose, she’d misread her mother’s reasoning, thinking she was talking about the job they were doing - and Bane had a hundred per cent success rate ‘til Dedham, and that failure was only because someone told him he was being played. It was only later that she realised her mother was talking about one man, her man. The one you could fall on who wouldn’t give way. For her mother, Lyndon Pye was such a man. For Bane, Karl Jacob Washburne was that man. He’d never shied from her as others had, though she had done numerous things to give him cause to. In some ways, he was too good for her and maybe it was best to let him go and create that family he wanted so badly with someone else who would treat him better.

~ * ~ * ~
Londinium: Pavel had met Susan Landerson at a social function six months after the Deutschland incident, seemingly by chance. It was only after Bane’s revelations that he remembered it was at a party hosted by Thomasina Herald and he had been the target. Pavel had little inclination for flings and was therefore very picky in the women he did choose to have a relationship with. Susan had seemed to tick all the right boxes; smart, funny, caring, own career, etc. Finding out that he was her mark was humiliating and did make him angry that he could be duped so easily. But, unlike Dedham’s brutal desire for revenge, Pavel could flip the coin and keep Landerson on a string, though his life was in danger if she knew anything about what he was up to. On reaching the docks he had sent her an audio wave to meet him in their usual restaurant for dinner at nine. Her alleged favourite restaurant, the Liquid Squid, and coincidently his – which of course he knew now to be complete go se. Pavel took a shower and then did a bug sweep of his apartment. Six bugs, he counted, including one in the bathroom. Well, he could certainly play them at their own game – intelligence was his living and they were fools if they thought they could trip him so easily. Pavel sat at the table waiting for Susan to arrive. He knew she hated to arrive first and was her traditional five to seven minutes late, looking stunning in a clingy dress that reached her knees and then sloped down to the floor at the back. She had rich golden hair that hung down to just below her shoulders. He stood up to greet her and kissed her warmly, his hands pressing encouragingly into her back. She broke away, surprised delight showing on her face. “Why Pavel, it’s not like you to be so public with your affections. What’s brought this on?” He sat down again, feigning a little awkwardness. “You look beautiful and I missed you, Sue. In truth, I couldn’t wait to get back.” She smiled at him warmly, leaning forward over the table so that Pavel could see the delicate curve of her breasts, deepening into darkness underneath her clothing. He had to admit, spy though she was, he was attracted to her. The moment, and their eye contact was broken, as the waiter appeared. “We’ll have the usual,” Pavel said quickly. “So did you miss me?” “Oh yes, Pavel. As soon as you left I wanted to go over to your apartment and start wearing your shirts so I could be close to you.” Pavel smiled, thinking I bet you did, you lying bitch. “How was the fishing with your friend. Did you catch anything?” she asked politely. “Had a few bites, but mostly we talked.” “About what?” she asked curiously. Pavel now deducted that if she was particularly interested in an answer of his, her face tilted and she looked at him askance. He paused dramatically while the waiter served the drinks. “About you mostly. Laurence is an old friend and I wanted to tell him about you.” “Really? What did you say?” Pavel leaned in over the table again. “I said I’d met this woman who I had a lot in common with, who was beautiful, smart and funny.” He watched Susan preen in front of him like a bird fluffing her feathers. “And he told me I’d be a fool not to come home and ask you to be my wife.” Susan Landerson’s façade momentarily slipped and Pavel saw the uncertainty. “So here I am, asking you to be my wife.” Tell me you have to think about it, he predicted her to say. “I-I-this is so sudden, Pavel. I have to have time to think,” she stammered, making an admirable effort to recover. “You take all the time you need, jinsede toufa. In the meantime, there’s this.” Pavel passed over a tiny box. “It was my mother’s, passed down through the family.” He could spin a lie as easily as her. Susan took the box with hopeful eyes and opened it, trying not to let the disappointment show on her face. To her mind Pavel’s mother could keep the cheap piece of zao gao. “It’s lovely, Pavel. I promise to let you know my answer as soon as possible.” Pavel kissed her hand and then sat back to enjoy the meal, and in all honesty, he really was enjoying himself. He made the dinner last no longer than normal and then, as was customary in their two year relationship, invited her back to his apartment. Susan, instructed to be his consort until ordered otherwise, went with him. But for the first time since they had met, she was hesitant about sleeping with him. Dealing with a mark was one thing, marrying one was altogether something else. He wasn’t the worst assignment she had, but he was certainly the most difficult in terms of gleaning information – the man was more tight lipped than a statue.
~ * ~ * ~
Proximity sirens sounded at Gang Kou signifying unauthorised entry into the atmo of Deutschland. It happened now and again, but not often enough for people to be used to it. There were two types of siren; the long continuous one for general intruders, then four short blasts for Alliance - so people have time to hide all the contraband. Ships illegally breaking atmo were monitored and then the law appeared in force wherever the ship landed. The reaction at Gang Kou was swift and simple: continuous tone – those with guns made ready just in case, short blasts – they hid anything incriminating and then went back to bed or work. This time it was a continuous tone. Bane, still alone in the house, gathered a couple of EMP grenades and made her way to the Cobbs. It had been difficult to accept she was as vulnerable as the smallest babe in these kind of situations. She could fight, yes, but she couldn’t see anything coming and though it didn’t frighten her, it did make her angry – angry that she couldn’t do anything about it. Fortunately this scare was over quickly, indicated by a short siren burst of two tones. Bane been holding Young Matt with the twins leaning against her on either side, while Jayne and Esper waited with loaded guns. Now they were taken from her and the Cobbs settled back into the business of going back to bed. Back in Karl’s house, she couldn’t bare the silence and couldn’t get back to sleep. Instead she turned on some music and tried to continue the new batch of munitions. He would come back to her, she was certain. He would come back, if only to collect his stuff. Karl wasn’t the kind to just run away. She was the kind to run - she would run to the ends of the ‘Verse to avoid admitting she needed anyone. Bane swiped a tear off her cheek roughly and put down the piece of metal she was holding, unable to focus on her task. She moved over to the armchair and covered herself with a quilt, willing and trying to sleep.
* * * * *
GANG KOU, December 2525 Marcus Washburne, most of the time thought of as a bright and well behaved child, was currently disputing that long-standing theory by having a tantrum on his fifth birthday. Abram and Arran Cobb had ruined his party by charging into the table and overturning the cake which Auntie Kaylee had made specially for him. Their fourth birthday had been last week and he had behaved at their house. It wasn’t fair, especially as all the adults were laughing - though it had been funny when Bane had slipped on the cake and fallen on the floor - he’d almost forgotten that he was supposed to be upset and angry. Across the room, Inara sat in Zoe’s armchair watching the chaos from a distance with Serra on her lap, sleeping at usual. “How’s the little one?” Mal asked. “I don’t know how she does it, sleeping through all this racket.” “I meant the other little one,” he said, putting his hand gently on her stomach. Their little surprise addition – a result of some mistimed loving at the Landing Day celebrations back in June – would likely be arriving next April. The Landing Day celebrations had a lot to answer for when the Doc’s surgery ran low on contraception; April Tam included. “Quiet too. I think I satisfied the bump with plenty of those tinned peaches.” Mal leaned on the arm of the chair, comforted by the view of Inara and Serra together. The last few years for him had been filled with hard work and happiness and he wouldn’t change it for anything. It was a new life for him, a new ‘Verse. Zoe helped Bane up to standing, trying to keep a straight face at the sight of her covered in Kaylee’s best chocolate frosting. Normally a good sport, she didn’t look too happy and, wrapping up while muttering her excuses, Bane left the house. Zoe looked after her for a few moments thinking that maybe she should tell her about the conversation she had with Karl – she felt a little guilty as she knew she’d been avoiding Bane since she and Hans got back from their ‘honeymoon.’ Unfortunately, her attention was quickly diverted by another scream of protest from her son. Jayne fished his sons off the floor, one in each hand, and carried them into another room. He could admit that they were little bastards when it came to disrupting other people’s fun, but he couldn’t take them back home just yet though, as he had promised Esper a restful afternoon alone in their house. Neither could he dump them outside as the snow was deep enough to bury them without supervision. Derry was now about four and a half months and a bit of a screamer. In fact Jayne could hear him now. Gorram it, one thing at a time, he muttered. He dropped both sons to the floor. “Now listen here, boys. You gotta behave. This is Marcus’ birthday an’ he’s a right to enjoy it without you two bringin’ the house down round his ears. I git anymore trouble outta you, we’re goin’ fishin’ an’ I’m usin’ you as bait.” “Yes, Pa,” they said in unison, faces innocently contrite. “Yes, Pa, my ass,” Jayne muttered. “You stay out here a while, but don’t go doin’ anythin’, or I really will whup your behinds.” Jayne strode back to the next room to take care of baby Derry. Sometimes he really did wish they were all as well behaved as young Matty.
“Bloody ruttin’ gorram…,” Bane stamped her feet free of snow as she walked into the house, cursing Jayne’s eldest offspring. Though the snow was deep, someone had cleared a path so she could walk across to the house unaided – it didn’t mean that she didn’t fall over a couple of times though, leaving a small trail of smudged chocolate. She stripped off her top and started to undo her pants, freezing when she heard another sound in the house. “Who’s there?” but her question was already answered because she could smell Karl, and considerably more pungent than usual. Karl smirked as he watched Bane’s nose wrinkle, taking in her own appearance covered in bits of birthday cake, with some of it collected in her hair. “I’m hoping I don’t smell as bad as you that time we picked you up on Deadwood.” Bane didn’t answer, she was too afraid he was standing in front of her with his bags all packed. “How’s tricks?” asked Karl. Bane shrugged, trying to calm her thumping heart. “I - I ain’t made much in a while. Dint have the inclination….Look, Karl. I’m real sorry about goin’ off to warn Pavel. Please know that I didn’t mean to- well…I don’t know…I dint mean you to feel not wanted.” Karl could see she was struggling with a lot of pent up emotions. “You survived without me,” he stated, taking a look around at the still neat house. He had already deduced that Bane had been sleeping on the couch for some time. “Survivin’ ain’t livin’ an’ I don’t want to go back to that - an’ I don’t want you to go. Please, Karl…I love you.” He stood there, wanting to put his arms around her in comfort, but for the minute she was too far across the room. “I ain’t goin’ anywhere, Bane. I just wanted to go learn something – jus’ like you had to learn to find your way blind. Din’t Zoe explain?” “Zoe? No, I ain’t spoken to her hardly at all. She an’ Hans were away when I got returned. Then they were caught up with Marcus when they did get back. I thought she was mad at me cuz you left.” Karl cursed Zoe silently, knowing she was fully capable of making Bane think that way. Bane had her ways, true, but he loved her in all the ways she was. If that meant never having children or marrying, then he guessed that’s they way it would have to be. Bane sighed, the picture of Karl’s desire strong in her mind. “It’s not that I don’t want children, Karl. I don’t want you to have the additional burden – takin’ care of me an’ a child.” Karl stiffened – he’d not said a word and Bane had spoken about what he was thinking. “I didn’t say anything, Bane. How’d you know what was on my mind? Are you a reader now?” Bane’s hand flew to her mouth in shock. It wasn’t the first time she’d read his thoughts, but it was the first time she failed to notice that Karl hadn’t spoken vocally. She left the room and Karl followed her. “How long’s this bin goin’ on?” He noticed Bane’s panic as she hit her shoulder on the doorway to the bedroom. There was no way out from there and he closed the door behind them. “How long?” he asked again. “I don’t really know,” she said in a quiet voice, unable to face him. “It’s come up so gradually, I dint notice it at first.” It was Karl’s turn to sigh, especially when he realised what had been on his mind since they’d settle at Gang Kou. He’d effectively been bombarding her with his wants, never asking her what she would like. Bane carried on talking. “River told me that since my eyes have gone, other senses have been exaggerated.” “Like that ability you had to guess what people’s favourite food was?” Bane nodded, sitting on the edge of the bed trying to stop herself running away, knowing that if she tried it would be like a fly constantly hitting itself against the window. Karl went over and sat beside her, taking her hand and squeezing it in reassurance, feeling the trembling subside. “These images that you see in my head. They’re only in there cuz of you. I don’t want none of it if you don’t come as part of the deal.” “Even though I won’t be able to do my fair share?” “You’re dummer’n wood if you think that, Bane. You do triple the work of most - why on earth would you think raisin’ a child would make you act any diff’rent?” Bane admitted defeat and came to the real reason she was so afraid of making that step. “I won’t be able to protect them from harm on account of I won’t see it comin’.” “You leave that part to me. We’re in this together, ain’t we?” They were silent for many minutes until Karl spoke again. “Truthfully, Bane,” he said. “If you weren’t blind, what would you want for us?” Bane let tears flow, she had been keeping it all in for a long time. “I’d want the same as you,” she said miserably. “Except I don’t what to be in competition with Jayne an’ Esper,” she added, with a hint of her normal humour. “You read that in my mind too?” Karl asked, a little embarrassed. “Kind of. It’s more like a tiny capture I see, only they’re like fragments of a dream. I see you kissing a child, hugging it to you, but it doesn’t have a face. That’s the one I see most. That, an’ the one where you’re sittin’ by the fire at Jayne’s house smoking cigars,” she sniffed, recovering a little more. “When I get that one, I send you over there. When you’re mad at me I see an image of myself with a red glow. I know when you’re hungry, an’ I know when you’re horny. Sometimes it gets too much an’ I have to go outside for some quiet.” “Can you read others else as well?” “Not so much. It’s more…well, the only way I can describe it, is as smells. I smell happiness, sadness…fear. But again, it’s mostly with people I know well. Strangers are like big black walls. I asked River why it was different with you.” “What d’she say?” Bane didn’t answer right away, she squeezed his hand. “She said it’s because you’re so important to me, an’ I’m with you twenty-four seven.” “Like a bad smell,” he finished. Bane smiled, looking across at him. “Yes. And you smell particularly pungent today. Like you ain’t had a bath in months.” “More like a week.” He pulled Bane onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her. He’d done a large amount of physical labour in the last few months, only letting Bane permeate his mind at night, when he couldn’t prevent it. Now he couldn’t think of anything he’d rather do than lick off all that birthday cake like she was ice cream. That picture appeared in Bane’s mind and she arched against him, letting out a little gasp. Karl’s grip tightened, as he kissed her roughly. He then stopped and before she had a chance to protest, he grasped her by the hair at the back of her head, pinning her. “Now tell me what you want for us. As we are now.” Both of them knew that to carry on as they were was only living in limbo, between the world of what they could have, and what Bane was denying them for the sake of mistaken guilt. “I want what you want,” she answered, voice cracking.
Karl found himself riding out to the north range with justZoe to check on the cattle, making sure none of them had gone themselves in trouble with the weather being as bad as it was. It was the first time he’d seen or spoken to Zoe since getting back from his apprenticeship. And seeing as Jayne had to virtually kick him out the door to do some work, he’d been spending the last few days in bed - re-acquaintin’ himself with his woman. Zoe saw Karl’s far away look and decided to interrupt it. “You dint make it to my son’s birthday – though Mal says you came back in time.” Karl looked across at her briefly before again facing ahead, but smiling at the memory of what Marcus’ birthday had meant to him. “Sorry ‘bout that – I kinda got distracted.” “No kiddin’,” Zoe retorted. Some of the cattle came into view and they altered the direction of their horses slightly. Zoe spoke again. “So, are you an’ Bane back on track?” “No thanks to you, Sis. You had Bane almost believin’ you wanted her dead.” Zoe shrugged without guilt. “You seemed to have worked things out. Either that or you’ve killed her an’ spent all this time tryin' to bury her under the house.” Karl snorted, unable to keep from being nonchalant about it. Zoe saw the monkey grin under the large moustache and he reminded her so much of Wash at that moment that she couldn’t help grinning in response. “So…?” “So now I really am gonna tell you to mind your own,” said Karl, still smirking.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For a quick OC character description go to


Sunday, February 17, 2008 9:58 PM


Can't believe no one's commented on this yet. Brilliant - lots of twists and turns. Definately like the new title better than the other - lends an air of doom!


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