BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - MYSTERY

WYTCHCROFT

Bell, Book and Candle - pt 1
Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Fic. Pt 1. The Serenity crew at work and... not so much, serious and - not so much. Easing myself back into the game with this curio.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2420    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bell, Book and Candle.

disclaimer - none of the characters here are mine and the whole shebang is owed to Joss and co... This story is set just prior to Those Left Behind.

part one: bodies at rest and in motion.

It was the sort of scene that needed music, demanded music and hell, perhaps there was music but it just couldn't be heard. Either way, the tiny figure of the old man stepped forward and flipped upside down, the kilt around the scrawny legs dropped in ungracious fashion, covering the wrinkled face completely. It was perhaps fortunate for all that what the kilt left exposed was nothing more or less than a brand new head; tussled, youthful and impossible - but a head nonetheless, grinning wildly and moving from side to side. The thin legs slowly easing from their straight up position to fall to the sides of the body - to become arms finally. In a wicker chair, the wizened form of an old woman clapped at the trick with jerky halting hands and, at the last, the dog by the hearth let out a yap and circus-style somersaulted on the spot.

There were witnesses to these improbable actions - and their reaction was mixed. "Au - to - ma - ta." Scowling fiercely, Jayne Cobb leant his bullhead close to the smeared and greasy glass of the window, reading the fancy sign writing with difficulty. Jossiah Bell's Emporium of fine handmade implements, diversions and automata. "Auto-mata," he repeated. "Hell is that?" "Clockwork," the man beside him explained. "It's really quite ingenious." "Clockwork?" "Machines." "I know what CLOCKWORK means, gorram it - I aint slow. Why they always gotta use some fancy name? Don't look much like the kind of robots we could use,” he added thoughtfully. "These aren't robots, Jayne - just toys." "These creepyfying things are toys? What kinda place is this? What kinda young gets raised with - what kinda place..." he repeated mournfully. "Kinda place we're meant to be working Jayne - as I recall." A third voice. Cobb turned from the window and peered instead through the sunlight at the newly arrived Serenity Captain. "Done deal?" "Deal done." Mal sounded relieved. "We got a cargo ready to move soon as the last bits of paperwork are in." Reynolds leant forward now himself and gazed through the heavy framed decoratively leaded window and into the shadows within. "Aint toys we're looking to shift." He shook his head. "And I'm glad of that." Simon Tam had been paying little attention but he pointed to a frozen figure - one in the display. "Actually these are remarkable Captain, handmade if the sign is to be believed. The detail is excellent - it's a shame you didn't get to see them in motion." "I know what you mean," Mal muttered pointedly. He turned back to Jayne. "Ok, we better get over make sure we're ready for the cargo - might be that we need to clear some junk from the bay." Jayne snorted. "Doubt that. Belly's empty as a - well, hell, it's empty." "Best to check though." Mal made to depart but Simon was not quite finished. "You know Captain these would be worth money - if you were to make cargo of them." Reynolds froze. "These? I aint too clear on how - you think people wanna buy this... stuff. Don't see the shop's open even- and who wants their young playing with these?" Simon grinned. "They're not for children Captain." "Hell!" growled Cobb. "You told me they were toys - you just lyin' for fun now?" Simon took a cautious step away from the man. "No - no. I'm sorry - these ARE toys, just not for children." Cobb looked bewildered. "You mean grown adult folk want - not just Wash - and they aint Bots even?" The young Doctor Tam sighed. "Hobbies, Jayne - collections. People have collections. Ships in bottles, soldiers, train sets..." Cobb was beginning to really laugh now. "In the Core maybe..." he chuckled. Mal decided to intervene. "Well they aint toys for us - nor cargo, so let's get lively with the job in hand." He gave Cobb a meaningful pat on the shoulder whilst looking still at Simon. "And aint you got places to be - spooked sisters to calm down?" "River..." Simon said quietly. "Yes... she's sleeping right now." Mal frowned. "She's seeming mighty sleepy of late." Simon tensed. "Well Captain - after all the fun of the Bounty Hunter are you surprised? I'm sorry, but it would appear that saving everyone on the ship proved a little tiring." Mal was never over fond of sarcasm unless his own tonsils blessed it. "Really?" he asked his face a picture of mock sincerity. "Only to me - more like you might be to blame there. Ever since that gao yang tried to make away with your sister, seems you can't let her out of your sight." "River's very vulnerable right now," Simon said with some asperity. "She needs care." "'Cept when you fancy a stroll round the terra firma..." Mal argued. "I told you Captain, River's sleeping." Simon shrugged finally. "But you're right. I should be with her." And so saying he tucked his hands into the pockets of his waistcoat and made to leave.

...........................................

Inara Serra was trying to kill time - but time was refusing to go down easy, to go down without a fight. Seated at her personal computer the hard glow offset by the soft shades of her lamps - she was doing her best to stay calm through the wait. Waiting for the crew to return - waiting for the ship to take off - waiting for the Captain to finally set the course she needed. She needed... yes she needed - she needed to leave. Not for the first time, Inara wondered if Mal was delaying her departure with deliberate cruelty. If - if... IF. If was a weapon time seemed intent on defending itself with - each minute, every hour, dragging out slow and pained and hammering at her with if-if-if.

Bee-jway Inara! You're being ridiculous - melodramatic. Just place your attention elsewhere, stop making a scene.

Music played low through the compartment.

It was true that the speakers were old and cheap - a last minute addition to the shuttle compartment, her choice - and hidden under veils of scarlet and pearl, but the tinny sound, the thin music with all its lacy frailties, Inara enjoyed it. It soothed away in the background as her restless fingers toyed with the keypad and screen; she was connected to the Uni-Web - and her client base. Faces flickering brief into life - smiling or frowning into the camera as they relayed their courteous entreaties.

Rodney. Inara knew him well - a good man, kindly. No, that wasn't - her attention was not resting where she wanted, she was distracting herself with her own layered thoughts. Kindly. Not a Core word. A Rim word. A Malcolm Reynolds word. She didn't want them in her head - not now, not right now. Of course the Core had its equivalents - 'a kind man', Rodney was a kind man. Interesting though that one had to search the phrase out - not something that came readily, a phrase rarely bandied about. To Mal, no doubt that would say much about the Alliance, it was telling, she had to admit. Rodney - she tried again to focus. Rodney was... he was one of those men who existed in the hinterland between youth and age. He kept his child self alive. Had done so with a will, with a purpose. Looking at the grey of his eyes she knew why. Without the sparkle of animation they were melancholy, defeated, old. In person he was engaging, energetic and youthful - the bland tan of his face, adding to the effect. He was intelligent and lively in conversation with a generous humour and a slender lanky frame that in stooping brought out the maternal in most women.

Please. Inara was not looking to mother anyone. She clicked across the scanner. A young man, keen looking. Was he...? No, Inara would not be his first Companion. Elspeth Lars and Jacinta had been engaged before the lad had come for Inara's attentions. She studied the bright shock of his hair - flame red it tapered to a fine down of yellow to form his brows. The eyebrows were very fine indeed. But really - another boy?

Inara wondered sometimes whether her former reputation was to blame, for in the early days of her trade - fair fresh from the Training Halls - Inara had been decisive about her clientele and what could be negotiated. She loaned herself out primarily as a Muse - a vessel for the mental as much as the physical. Indeed from that point of view it was a shrewd move... painters and sculptors would not despoil so inspiring a muse, musicians were rendered inarticulate, writers ham-strung by their own repression and scientists too gentlemanly or too awkward.

Yes... That was the thing - Inara had gained an undue reputation for snobbishness and ambition by virtue of her intelligent choices. If she had been either - truthfully - she would be, even now, gracing the arm of a Blue Sun Corporate Manager, a Parliamentarian or some rich dilettante like the solar racer Hearsh.

There had been another problem too - and it shocked her - Inara had become bored. Bored beyond endurance finally. It was a cold lesson - but she had learnt it; the finest of minds left her ultimately unmoved. She didn't want second-hand knowledge - she wanted, craved - experience. Curiosity. It was a lot like heartburn really. Constant and unpleasant, invisible but rising without warning to irritate her throat, her senses, leaving a bad taste in her mouth and acid on her tongue. Bitterness. Such a thing was... unbecoming. She had sought a cure - really, it was for her health - for her health that she began taking herself off to the less salubrious denizens of Persephone and such. Her first taste of life beyond the Core. Not many Companions ventured from the Core and almost none took on the kind of Independent-minded distances covered by the ships Inara took passage on - ships like Serenity. Most Companions saw the Rim as ugly, chaotic and dangerous - where working women had little support structure, even less likelihood of control and where most, so it was whispered, ended up as chattel; strung out on drops, used and left to rot finally. That kept them in the Core for sure. Not Inara. Curiosity. Well, perhaps there had been other reasons too...

She was wandering again. There must be somebody she could pick... or not. Most of those currently flagged were anonymous looking Commanders and the like - hoping to enhance their credentials, their careers.

Inara looked for a moody moment through the cockpit windows wishing she were looking out into space. The blue sky held nothing but frustration, to sit here in an unmoving shuttle when she could be out there in the voluptuous dark among the whirling of stars, their keen glitter, all the majesty and chaos and mystery. Hmm. Of course any Priestess of Sihnon worth her sari would raise a scornful eyebrow at that. Stars were simply gas and dust and fire and chaotic only to the eye - there was order to the Heavens - and besides, ultimately stars were simply an illusion, a distraction of matter. Maya.

Inara preferred Mystery. She often wore silver in her hair, a thin net weaving tiny beads through the dark of her hair. Stars within the dark. If the Guild scorned mystery - well, Inara would do otherwise. She would embody mystery. Sometimes anyway. If she was in that kind of a mood. Then she felt like a Priestess for real.

Well, except... Perhaps it was merely the decoration she liked. Inara liked to be respected but all too often Companions were like to find themselves gazing down on their clients from the vertiginous heights of an unwarranted pedestal... and Inara had no time for them. That was one of the reasons she had stayed so long on Serenity. Pedestals on Serenity? Hardly. Unbidden, she had a comic vision of Mal peering with mock intent under her bed. "You sure? Thought one of your gratefuls mighta left one hereabouts!" Inara quickly wiped her own grin away.

With a swift hand she clicked from those vying for her favour - to the client history record - an accurate log, her health insurance, her license demanded no less. The past flowed across the screen in lazy ripples. There was another voice looped now in her mind, her memory. "Have you ever wondered if you select your clients to fill a need? I mean a need of yours? That's not a method your tutors would have recommended." Sheydra.

Sheydra always meant well. Inara knew the truth of that - valued it even - and Sheydra was one of the very few friends Inara had that worked as Companion - most of those friends she had made during training had opted finally for other professions within the Guild. Inara had been grateful for the time they had shared together recently - by chance, while Serenity was busy on raiding hospitals, busy stealing drugs. Yes, their sudden re-acquaintance had been a happy accident... but Sheydra's well-intentioned truths were not always welcome. Sheydra could go too far.

Inara sighed, looking down the faces of her regular clients. Sometimes Serra you can't see the wood for the trees, she berated herself. Well, that was a truth. That was - it was - a - (Well now...) It was a rare thing - a moment of growth - subtle, small, no external crisis, no life and death adventure - no provocation - just a woman, a screen and a flow of faces... but real nonetheless. All those faces, the ones that meant anything, they were so... similar. Merciful Buddha, how could she have been so blind? Atherton, Nathaniel, Titus, Ephraim et al - every one was a braggart of sorts, individual minded - a danger, a strength or a brute depending. Each of them had a warm manner, a certain charm and yes - a boyish quality beneath the rugged flesh. Well, well. Every one of them was alike - and each one built upon the last, like the letters in a sentence. You put them in a line and the meaning was plain - what they spelt could be read in a moment. Just such a moment as now. You put them in a line and what they spelt was: Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds...

Captain Malcolm Reynolds!

Gorram it! The smug pe-goo's ears would be burning bright as his grin. Captain Malcolm Reynolds. With a groan, Inara clicked off the monitor, stood up a little uncertainly and then, with growing purpose, backed off and across to the bed. She lay down as if swooning, in a heavy limbed sprawl, her eyes half closed for moment, her arms wide, her long fingers feeling the delicate edges of the covers, the mattress and the base of the bed. Those fingers closed finally on what they were seeking - and with a profound sigh of relief Inara drew the book from the floor and close to her face. Scowling determinedly she began to read. Han Jin Tao, Economic Fallacies of Corporate Disharmony. It would be a victory of sorts. Three hours until Serenity was due to depart. Three hours of Han Jin Tao. She would be HIS companion for the time. And no sight nor mention nor need - of any other.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds indeed!

Scowling Inara turned the book the right way up.

...........................

"So this is Candle." Serenity's Shepherd gazed from the shadows of the landing ramp out the summery scene spread before him. Beyond the gates could be seen the broad sweep of the town. Bright painted and picturesque from porch to timber yard, from the freshly creosoted fences to the wide windowed banks the elaborately fronted shops and saloons. Above the wooden width of the high street the wide blue sky smiled down with a flashing mouth of white cloud teeth. Perambulating folk responded in kind or tipped the brims of their hats. Large drays clattered past hauling wagons and carts, laden with goods and sundries - as well as passengers, many of whom seemed to have taken to the road for the sheer enjoyment. There was a merry jingling from the polished saddles, spurs, bridles and blinkers - all the fine and necessary accoutrements for a grand day out. Men were dressed in stilted fashion, suits new pressed and shirts starchy stiff, women were clad in fine dresses looked like they had been fresh woken from a wardrobe of hibernation. "We've certainly visited less attractive seeming places," he noted. His manner was cautious as ever - but Kaylee could see the twinkle in Book's eyes. Mind, she could feel her own face split wide with grinning. "Aint that the bible truth," she said.

Book made to reply - then studied Kaylee's face for a moment instead. Ah, he thought - I know that smile. That's not for the planet or me. He turned his gaze back to the town and was not surprised to see the figure of Simon Tam walking towards the port. "I dunno," Kaylee sounded wistful, "He's looking kinda hunched to me..." "A mite careworn perhaps," Book purred obediently. "Shouldn't ought to stoop like that - bad posture, it aint good for you, not in the long run." Simon had caught most of that and he paused for a moment as he drew close. "You're right,” he said. "You'd think being outdoors... but spend time with Jayne and the Captain... I can still feel the metal over my head." Ruefully shaking that very head, Simon moved past them and into the ship. "Did that make a lick of sense to you?" asked Kaylee of the Shepherd. Book said nothing for a moment simply carried on admiring the scenery. After a spell he turned almost formally and said. "Ms Frye - would you care to take my arm and explore the rest of this sunny afternoon?" "Why Shepherd," Kaylee replied with mock girlishness. "Believe that'd be delightful."

.................................

"When I told you to find us some place quiet where a man could do some serious humpin'... I weren't meaning - this!" Jayne let out a groan and shifted another heavy barrel into place. Mal gave the briefest of smiles - a swift flickering from the crinkles around his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said, deadpan, "was I misunderstanding my instructions Sir?" Jayne didn't bother to reply - just made sure his gloves weren't like to slip any - and that he had a good purchase on the next weighty barrel, wouldn't want to be dropping one of these on a foot - or a Captain's head. Mal could read Jayne easy - sometimes. "Hey this is wine at least - and coin for it. I don't see no reasons for complaint." "Well how 'bout not being able to drink any of it?" Cobb's eyes were round balls of accusation. Reynolds sighed. "We get paid for the load - aint no two ways. You done?" He cast his eyes around the loading bay. "Almost," Jayne conceded. "Shiny. I'll go see if my pilot's in the mood to fly." "That kinda depends on Zoë don't it." Cobb emitted another oomph! as he hoisted the barrel. "Jayne..." Mal growled even he hit the stairs with well-planted feet. Watching the disappearing feet, Jayne couldn't resist the question; "Hey Mal - tell me again why you gotta wear them bitty suspenders - seem kinda sly to me." If he was hoping to rile the Captain he was to be disappointed. "Gotta be someone on this boat don't need their socks pullin' up," Mal said without looking back. "Huh." Jayne turned to the next barrel. "Fine words from a man shy to do the liftin' round here," he grumbled. No use in that though. Just me and the cargo and the loading bay again. "Gorram it," he muttered into the dusty metallic silence of the hold. With a black look he yanked the hefty barrel up. "Mass, weight - pressure exerted per inch, inefficient," said an unexpected voice at his elbow. "You lift like a girl." "GAH!!!" Startled completely out of his skin, Jayne jumped a clear inch and flung the barrel into the air. River Tam watched it rise and spin - calculating its speed and likely descent velocity with a half smile. Also, the point of impact - she seemed to fly almost in leaping so quick onto the safety of a large crate. Jayne was not so agile.

"Has anyone seen -?" breathlessly running into view on the catwalk above, Simon Tam knew the answer to his question before he had finished the asking. He looked down into the laughing eyes of his sister. "Oh no," he said.

Beneath him - and building to an incandescent boiling point of rage - Jayne Cobb stood waving his arms and his broad knuckled fists. Like some primeval beast he howled long and loud from under the thick black swampy coating the barrel had disgorged. River was giggling out loud - Simon was readying himself to run - and Jayne was... well, Jayne was - he was doing a great of nothing much, truth be told - except standing and dripping and looking disconcertingly thoughtful. For some reason this unsettled Simon more than the wrath he'd been expecting. Slowly, Jayne wiped the gook from his face and eyes. He looked up at Simon. "Hell, this aint no wine," he said. "This is ruttin' oil! ."

end of pt 1 ...............................................

up next - part two: several elements of strangeness begin to emerge as Book and Kaylee explore, Mal and Zoë investigate the truth about oil, Jayne takes a bath, Wash takes a deep breath, Inara makes plans, Simon makes house calls and River - well, that would be telling... .................................................. hope this made for an interesting opener. i want to explore some of Book's experience on Serenity - before the next shiny comic series makes anything canon.

all feedback appreciated, digested, mulled over obsessively and then - ok, i'm kidding. slightly. (can you tell i'm nervous yet?)

special thanks to - Out2theBlack and SpaceAnJL. and to all who have been boosting my morale of late:)

COMMENTS

Thursday, April 24, 2008 6:10 AM

JANE0904


Great opening! I think of it all, my favourite line has to be:

>Mal was never over fond of sarcasm unless his own tonsils blessed it.

Ah, you know our dear captain. And so good to have you back with us! Hope things are so much better than before, and just look on writing as a form of therapy. It's not because we want you to update quickly. No, not that. No, sirree.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 6:23 AM

2X2


*Claps wildly*

YAY! New Wytchcroft fic!!! :oD

I love Love LOVE the Inara bit to pieces!!!!! *SQUISHES IT TIGHT* and you said you had trouble with Inara! *tsks*

*Happy sigh* I do so love your style, darlin'... I can just slip into your words and let them glide over me like a nice warm bath, mmmmmmmm.... Wonderful read!

I am certainly interested to see more, this was excellent, wonderful voices, beautiful descriptions, I'm so excited!!! Can't wait for more!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008 8:16 AM

LIBRARYGIRL


Really good job. I hope we get to see some of Mal and Inara in the next one. You did a fantastic job writing her character and expressing her boredom.
I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 2:58 PM

CHARLIEBZ


OK, so I'm trying to remedy my bad non-commenting habits so I'm going to give you a blanket comment on your writing.

You have a distinctive voice which I like very much. I love that you include all our beloved BDHs and pay careful attention to their characterizations. Also, you seem to have quite a grasp on the Firefly world. By this, I mean you take elements from the show and expand on it. You don't retread the scenarios from the show. Through your writing I really feel like I'm back in the Verse. Which is so what I'm looking for in fanfics.

P.S. I'm also liking this story. Great start!

Thursday, April 24, 2008 10:18 PM

SPACEANJL


Is it bad that the words that really stood out to me for the next chapter were 'Jayne' and 'bath'?

*grin* This is going to be good. You nailed the voices perfectly. Of course, this means I have to up my game to compete, doesn't it?

Friday, April 25, 2008 3:03 PM

PLATONIST


This is some of your most brilliant work, Wytchcroft.

Very nicely developed and insightful.

And you used references to "Better Days"; I think you are the first Author here to do so.

Saturday, April 26, 2008 3:19 AM

SAFEAT2ND


There are so many good lines it's hard to pick just one.

Excellent work on Inara!

Good to see you back at it! But then, I'm one to talk...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 1:15 AM

AMDOBELL


I loved this and especially love how each of the characters are drawn so true. When I first saw the title I immediately thought of the film of the same name and that made me think you came up with the title first then wrote the story to fit it. Whatever, it is just wonderful and River playing about and causing Jayne to break that barrel was both funny and typical behaviour plus now our heroes are faced with a mystery. Why the good gorram is there oil not wine in them there barrels? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, November 15, 2009 12:40 PM

ANOTHERSKY


Found this by browsing. I love your style--it works the same way as the shots in the show, building on what you've just said with a revelationary detail.


Some really, really good moments--from the beginning I particularly like "own tonsils" and "scowling, inara turned the book the right way up."


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