Sign Up | Log In
BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
TITLE: Serenity Now: All The Difference - Part 3
AUTHOR: The Irish Cowgirl
PAIRING: Mal/River, Kaylee/Simon, Jayne/OC
SPOILERS: Post-BDM, also spoilers for "Serenity Now," "SN: After The Storm," "SN: Nightmares," "SN: The Thin Line," "SN: A New Life," "SN: The Means To An End," & "SN: Onus"
NOTES: Mal, River and crew take on a passengers as a favor to an old acquaintance, but soon begin to question their motives when they find out that one of them may be a mole, and their greatest nemesis is on their heels. Feedback is greatly appreciated!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 888 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The Tahoi Sea was a blue that could not be captured. There was no colored pencil in River's box of art supplies that could hope to transfer its brilliance to paper. There were no lovely words in Mal's books of poetry that could attempt to ensnare it to the page. No, the Tahoi, the swirling, twinkling body that hugged the globe of Boros like a luxurious cloak of blue, would not be tamed by any means.
RIver marveled as she made the descent over the southern hemisphere of Boros. She loved this planet more than she could say. When Boros had been terraformed, the atmosphere had been hydrated heavily to counter the effects of the planet's orbit being so close to the central sun. But the planners overcompensated, and the result had been a damp, ever-moist sort of oxygen. It had created an ocean that dominated the planet and jungles on the inland, so thick with lush greenery and soaked soil that it was nearly impossible for civilization to encroach upon its unspoiled ways.
And so, the settlers of Boros were forced to the edges of the land and water, building their cities and communities and ports along the long stretches of beaches that were the only fertile land the planet had to offer. However, there were few complaints. After all, nearly every denizen of Boros had an ocean view, the gentle sounds of the waves in their ears, and the soft scent of fresh sea salt in their noses. It was a popular place to hide for the less-than-legal set, a paradise where the Alliance could not fully police every mile of the beach-towns.
It was where Serenity had come after River's broadcast. The small fortune of Simon's bounty had afforded them rental of a small, private hideaway where they could shower, rest, and enjoy the quiet island lifestyle for a few days. River fondly remembered afternoons on a sun-soaked beach, looking for seashells with Kaylee, swimming with Simon and Cara. Lying and basking in the sun in Mal's arms, the feel of his hot skin on hers, the way his hair smelled of jasmine. They were some of the last truly happy days in recent memory, and they had been over half a year ago.
Before this whole problem with Mal started. Before Osiris and her father and the wall that kept them separate had been built in Mal's mind. River longed for those simpler times now, longed for a time when Mal had simply loved her, and she had simply loved him, and there was nothing more to be concerned with.
Feeling herself being dragged into another spiral of self-pity, River shook her head and cleared her mind, preparing for the task ahead. Land the ship, get the passengers, get to Willowsrun, and stay far away from the Alliance. It was the one thing she and Mal could agree on right now, and she would take it.
Entering Tigress' airspace, she spied their docking area and prepared to set Serenity down. She could feel them already, waiting quietly in the crowd. Looking at the people around them as though each one could be a danger. She could sense their fear, their trepidation, nerves firing in their bodies, ready to make their escape.
River smiled warmly as the Firefly's landing gears touched earth. Have no fear, she thought. Serenity is here.
Kaylee sat on the counter of the infirmary, using a rag to shine the engine grease off her engagement ring, willing it back to its former glory. Her ring was the one piece of finery that she wore, and she wanted to make a good first impression. After all, Serenity had not had new passengers in some time. The mechanic was positively giddy over this development. New faces were always welcome additions to the familiar ones in her life. She loved hearing their stories and sharing their dreams. Travelers always had the very best dreams.
Furthermore, these new faces would be children, and Kaylee had always loved children. She had loved visiting Jamal on Haven, before his horrible and extremely unjust demise. And Hank Sissack, the young pyrokinetic boy that Serenity had occasionally shuttled back and forth to the Willowsrun Temple, she considered him to be one of her good friends. She had high hopes for the day that she and Simon would be able to start their family. She thought that she would make a pretty good mother, and looking at Simon now, she knew that he would make a wonderful father.
The doctor looked up from his work as if he knew that his betrothed had thought of him, and they exchanged a loving smile before his eyes drifted back down to his patient. "How's the morning sickness?"
"Mostly gone," Cara replied, grinning at the two lovebirds. "Purdy much died down once I hit the second trimester."
Simon nodded, taking this in, and guiding his stethoscope over to another part of her belly. "You must be glad of that."
Kaylee let out a laugh, and even Simon smirked a bit before continuing. "Any discomfort? Pain, swelling?"
Cara shrugged. "Eh. Got pains in my back from haulin' this 'round, and my feet are swellin' up a bit. But that's all normal, yeah?" Simon nodded with a reassuring smile.
"Come'n, sweet," Kaylee said, bouncing in her seat. "Ya found it yet? I got stuff t'do 'fore we hit planetside."
Simon gave her a scolding look, but it was mostly in jest. "Kaylee dear, if you had anything to do, you'd be doing it. Besides that, you don't exactly have to be here for this. This moment is really more for Cara and Jayne." He looked back up at the mother. "Is he coming, by the way?"
"Naw," she replied. "Jayne ain't really into the prenatal stuff. 'Sides, he actually does have stuff t'do. Last I heard, he an' Mal are packin' away anythin' worth stealin' 'fore the passengers get here."
"Trustin' folk they ain't," Kaylee grinned.
"Well," Simon said, finding his target with a smile. "This would be a little more impressive if I had a sonogram on hand, but this will have to do." He held the stethoscope stationary over a spot on Cara's stomach, plucking the earbuds from his own ears and handing them to Cara. She accepted them excitedly, and Kaylee hopped off the counter and rushed over to take the one that was being offered to her. As she and Cara each placed one in an ear, Simon continued. "This is your baby's heartbeat."
Through their separate earbuds, Kaylee and Cara could hear a distant thump-thump-thump: the slow and steady thump of Cara's own heart. But further down, inside the woman's belly, was a much faster beating, a higher-pitched and more persistent thumping. "That's...?" Cara asked, her heart suddenly leaping to her throat.
Simon nodded happily. "That's it. That's the baby."
Kaylee grinned like a monkey, turning her eyes up to the mother. "Shiny! Listen to him go."
Cara barely heard her for the thundering in her ears. Like a flash flood, love had poured into her heart the moment she had heard the beat of her unborn child's heart. Choking back tears of joy, she corrected Kaylee with a smile. "Listen to her go."
The mechanic took her friend's free hand and squeezed it in congratulations, then turned to her fiance. "We can't-?"
But Simon shook his head, reading Kaylee's mind in the way that two people in love were apt to do. "Sorry, bao bai. I can't determine the sex of the baby without at least some ultrasound equipment."
"Well," Kaylee said with a shrug. "It will just have to be a surprise, then." Her eyes flitting to motion at the door of the infirmary, she called out. "Hey, Zoe!"
The first mate, who had been passing by, paused and took a few steps back, leaning her head in the door. "Yeah, mei mei?"
"Simon found the baby's heartbeat," the young woman replied. "Where's Jayne?"
Zoe leaned on the doorframe, crossing her arms and giving the mother-to-be a warm smile. Cara returned it for a moment before losing herself in the steady pounding her in ear. Looking once more to Kaylee, the older woman replied. "He an' Mal are gettin' things prepped in the passenger dorms for the new arrivals. Somethin' I believe you said you'd be helpin' with, lil' Kaylee," Zoe added with a sideways smile.
Kaylee sighed, taking the earbud from her ear and turning her eyes to Simon. "Told ya I had stuff t'do." She held the earbud out to Zoe in offering. "Wanna hear?"
At the question, Zoe shifted on her feet, leaning away from the threesome sitting before her almost imperceptibly. If one had been careful enough to see it, she may have appeared nervous. "Uh.. no thanks." Much to her silent relief, the corner of her eye spied a passing figure. "Jayne."
"Yeah?" The man sidled up to the entrance, balancing a crate full of supplies they had been storing in one of the vacant passenger dorms on his hip. "Shén shì shàng?"
Kaylee looked at the load with curiosity. "What's all that?"
Jayne turned his eyes to her, shifting the crate to keep it from clattering to the floor. "Coupla meal packs we was hidin' under the bed in dorm 3. Mal don't want the 'passengers'," he spoke the word with a sneer and a roll of his eyes, making his feelings on the idea of having new faces aboard the ship quite clear, despite the sizable fee that came along with them, "breakin' into 'em for a midnight snack." He eyed his woman and the doctor a moment, adding, "An' what's all this?"
Cara smiled, still delirious from the swell of motherly pride she still felt. "We're listenin' to the baby's heart."
"Ya'll can do that?" Jayne queried, cocking his head. "Baby ain't due for 'nother four months."
"Three, smartypants," Kaylee corrected, leaning her brow towards the man with mock scorn.
Jayne snorted disdainfully. "Whatever. Kid won't be here for awhile, s'all I'm sayin'."
Simon's gaze fell to the ceiling with frustration. Talking to Jayne about medical matters was like trying to explain astro-propulsion to a squid. "Yes, but while the baby is developing, we still have to monitor its vitals. It may be the size of a dinner roll-"
"Well, see, there ya are," Jayne replied in a patronizing manner. "Guess I jus' don't get gaga over sumthin' that small I can't even see."
"Like your brain?"
"Simon," Cara interrupted, smiling warmly at their exchange. As much as she hated to admit it, it was always a little fun when her boyfriend and best friend got into their little tiffs, particularly when she was ringside. But if they went unchecked, the boys would undoubtedly be boys. Turning to Jayne, she indicated the free earbud in Kaylee's hand. "You wanna hear it or not?"
Jayne seemed to consider it a moment, then shrugged, having to rebalance the crate into both hands as he did. "I vote not. I'll see the kid when it comes out. Jus' don't see much point in gettin' all fuzzy over it now."
Despite the disapproval in Simon and Kaylee's faces, Cara nodded. "Go on, then. I'll be up in a sec to help ya'll stow those." At her words, Jayne gave her a smile, believing she had understood, and started up the stairs towards the galley. After watching him go, the woman closed her eyes and smiled, wrapping herself in the soothing sound of the little life that echoed through her ears.
Kaylee shook her head, looking up at Cara. "Jerk."
"Aw, neveryoumind him, Kaylee," the woman replied, never opening her eyes as she reached down and pushed the earbud in Kaylee's hand back towards the mechanic's body. "Let's jus' listen."
Watching down through the infirmary's upper windows, from just beyond the cargo bay's entrance to the common area, Zoe folded her arms a little tighter across her body. Jayne's arrival had provided her a much-needed opportunity to slip away from the happy mother-to-be and her court, though she hadn't slipped far.
It wasn't that the first mate wasn't happy for Cara; she was as vicariously happy as one woman could be for another's bundle of joy. But still, as she watched Cara slide her hand over her swollen belly, a sharp pain of sorrow hit Zoe in hers. Watching this woman in all her excited joy just reminded Zoe of what she would never have, of what she no longer had.
This, as so many other little things continued to do, just reminded her that her Wash was gone. That the child they had hoped to have together one day would never be. Zoe sighed, more disappointed in herself than anything else. She had been so good lately, doing her best to let go of her loss as she knew Wash would have wanted her to do. But in the past day, every moment was suddenly becoming a little harder than she had prepared herself for.
Maybe it was just this place. Turning from the door and heading up the catwalk stairs, she amended that thought. It was definitely this place, Boros. She didn't expect the others to pick up on it; after all, none beside Mal had known, and hiding her emotional side was certainly a talent of hers. No one could possibly know that she and Boros shared a secret: one night of drunken weakness that had resulted in waking up beside a man she barely knew and a very unexpected pregnancy a few months later.
She had lost that baby in a fight with the Reavers, just like she had lost Wash. And like Wash, the child that may have been was never far from her mind. And here she was, returning to the planet where that baby had been conceived, and doing her damnedest not to betray the discomfort that she felt to be setting foot on it once again.
As she paused in the entrance to the upper corridor, she took a deep breath. This was just another planet, just another job. Her past experiences on this world didn't matter. All that mattered was the job. She was being needlessly nervous, and she knew it. After all, Mal had kept her secret well since that time, and she knew the crew would never know. No one ever would. The repercussions of her one night stand were known only to she and Mal.
Well, of course, with the exception of the man whom she had had her brief affair, a man named Christopher DuFresne.
Christopher DuFresne stood at the entrance to the alleyway, watching the crowd pass him by. A bright dance of colors shifting in every direction. It was enough to make a man nauseous. But he stood vigilant, watching all the while, despite the blur of madness that surrounded him. He had to: he was the only one not wanted by the state.
In the alley behind him, three smaller figures cowered behind a rather pungent waste receptacle. "You really think they're coming for us?" the younger of the two boys asked, tucking strands of his long and dirty blonde hair behind one ear. He was thin for a young man of fourteen, growth spurts shooting him upwards before his body weight could have time to catch up. His eyes were a sharp and piercing blue, his mouth was full and soft, all accentuating the boy's pale skin and its dusting of freckles. Long, artistic fingers wrung together nervously before one hand rested on the shoulder of the little girl at his side, checking to make sure she was still there. "I mean, you really think they're coming this time?"
His older companion shrugged, leaning back against the receptacle and turning his head to the side, just peeking around the corner to view their chaperone where the man was waiting on the street. "Mista DuFresne said so." His tones of his accent were harsh and deep, like those who had hailed from the Earth-That-Was city of New York. He was the tallest of the three by at least a head, even taller than Christopher thanks to the spiky twists of his black, kinky hair. Bright amber eyes stood out against medium-dark mocha skin and a tight, terse mouth. "Ya think he's lyin'?"
"He wouldn't do that, would he?" the youngest of their group asked meekly, prompting the older boys to look down at her. The rail-thin child rubbed one of her dry palms over the olive skin of her upper arm, clutching her stuffed dog in the opposite hand. "He promised me, Nye."
The oldest boy shared a glance of indecision with other boy a moment, then faked a smile and leaned over to bring his face close to the little girl's. "No, Eenie," he said, dropping his voice to a kind whisper, "I'm sure Mista DuFresne's gonna make good on his promise. Ya know, it's jus' that me an' Palmer, we wanna be careful." He reached out a hand and tweaked Enida's nose. "Ya understand, dontcha?"
The seven-year-old gave him a shy smile, rubbing her nose. "I s'pose."
"Good girl," Palmer said, sliding his hand across her shoulders comfortingly. But the moment he was through, he brought his hands back up to wring together, despite his claims of confidence in their chaperone. "Now, why don't we all just stay quiet 'til Mr. DuFresne gives us the signal?"
Nye nodded once, peeking his eyes around the corner of the receptacle again, no longer pretending to be at ease. "Yeah. Good plan." From his point of view, he could still spy Christopher waiting, watching the milling crowds, trying to pick out their contact. Suddenly, Christopher's head whipped to the left, as though someone had caught him off-gaurd. Nye could feel his body tensing as the man spoke to an unseen person, someone hidden by the edge of one of the buildings that bordered the alley. "Hush, now," the teen said, and the other two sensed the tension in his voice. Nye's instincts had gotten them this far; they had learned to obey him when he told them what to do.
The eldest boy watched carefully as Christopher continued to speak to the mystery contact, the man trying to appear casual as he continued to watch the marketplace. After a few moments, the man nodded, and Nye could pick out a flash of brown clothing as the figure DuFresne had been speaking to darted back into the throng. After a few more minutes of waiting on bated breath, Christopher turned aimlessly back towards the alley, wandering towards the hidden trio as though he held not a care in the world. When he reached the waste receptacle, he quickly peeked over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching, then darted behind the cover with his young friends.
Nye measured his face with his eyes, trying to gauge the man's emotions. "What's the word, Mista DuFresne?"
"Okay," Christopher said quietly, instinctively taking Enida by the hand, which she readily accepted. "They're going to meet us around the back of those buildings." He indicated a cluster of warehouses half a block away with a nod of his head. The three children followed his gaze a moment, then turned their eyes back to meet his. "From there, they'll guard us all until we reach the ship. He said for you three to keep your heads down, in case there are facial scanners they haven't seen yet."
Palmer nodded and collected the small rucksacks for he and Nye, then handed a slightly larger one to Christopher. "Did they notice any problems on the way in?" the young teen asked as the foursome headed towards the back end of the alley, the two boys following behind Christopher and Enida in the lead.
Christopher shook his head. "Not that they told me, but we can't be too careful at this juncture. As soon as we get to their ship, we can let our guards down, but until then-"
"No offense to you, Mista DuFresne," Nye's voice clipped in as he eyed both ends of the alley. "I ain't lettin' my guard down 'til we're sleepin' sound in our beds on Willowsrun."
The man smiled sadly at his ward. "Yes, of course. It never hurts to be vigilant." Seeing that Nye barely heard him, he reached out and gently rested his palm on the young man's arm, capturing his attention. "But Nye, you must trust me. I would never allow harm to come to any of you."
Nye's mouth flickered into a smile for a moment, but just as quickly as it had come, it was gone. He started towards the end of the alley, peering around the corner. "You jus' get us to Willowsrun, Christopher." After a quick scan of the alley that ran perpendicular to their hold point, he signaled the others across. As the older man passed, he could hear the oldest boy mutter, "Then we'll talk about trust."
The four darted through the next alley as stealthily as possible, making their way to the warehouses that Christopher had pointed out earlier. Turning a corner into a shadowy alcove, Nye could make out three partially obscured figures at the end, presumably their contacts. But he would take no chances. Maneuvering Enida out of Christopher's grip, he signaled Palmer to stop and wait beside him. As Christopher turned back to see that cause of their halt, Nye simply nodded him on. "You go first."
Setting his jaw grimly, the man nodded, understanding the young man's caution. He took a few more steps into the alcove, leaving the children no more than a few steps behind him. "Captain Reynolds?" he called softly to the three figures, alerting them to their presence.
One of the male figures turned, and after a moment's examination of the foursome, started towards them. As he stepped into the light, Nye instantly recognized the reddish-brown he had seen just a flash of before: the heavy fabric of the man's long coat. The man wearing it was tall and lean, with icy blue eyes and a rakish mouth. Nye appraised his visage quickly, from the well-worn calf-high boots to his mussy brown hair to the gun that was strapped to his thigh. Behind him followed his two companions: a mountain of a man with a five o'clock shadow on his hard face, whose loose army jacket did very little to conceal the small arsenal of weapons clipped to his belt, and a smaller, sprightly woman with a kind smile that sparkled against the drab gray coveralls she wore open over a pink and green shirt.
The leader, "Captain Reynolds" Christopher had called him, took in the sight of the children quickly, then addressed Christopher. "Mr. DuFresne, these are two of my crew. This here's Jayne," the giant grunted a greeting to the others before setting his sights back towards the exposed edges of their alcove, "and this is Kaylee."
The young woman extended a friendly handshake to Christopher. "Pleased to meetcha," she said brightly.
"The pleasure's mine," Christopher replied, relieved to at last find a friendly face among the group. He gestured the children forward, and they inched closer at his look of assurance. "This is Nye, Palmer and Enida," he said, quickly indicating which face belonged to each name.
Kaylee waved at the children. "We'll have time for all the proper intros later," she said, smiling to each face in turn.
Mal noted this, and mentally reminded himself to thank Zoe later for suggesting Kaylee come along for the pickup. The young woman's natural geniality seemed to balance out he and Jayne's taciturnity, and he could see the children ease up a little when presented the girl's warmth. Continuing Kaylee's thought, he said, "But for now, I reckon we'd best concentrate on gettin' back to Serenity, an' quicklike. Now, we can't all go together; a group this size's more like to draw unnecessary attention. So we're gonna do this in shifts." He pointed to the oldest boy. "Nye, was it?"
"Yessir?" Nye replied sharply, straightening.
The side of Mal's mouth tugged slightly to the side, pleased by the young man's businesslike attitude. The boy seemed to have a cool head about him, which boded well for their impending escape. "You an' Jayne'll head out in the first pair, pave the way back to Serenity."
Kaylee leaned over to grip her knees, taking gently to Enida. "Serenity, that's our ship." The little girl nodded, smiling at the woman's attempt to include her in the conversation.
Mal continued. "Kaylee, you'll join Mr. DuFresne and the little one in the second group. And Palmer?" He tried to recall the second boy's name. The teen nodded the affirmative. "You an' I are gonna bring up the rear." He looked over the little group, catching the eyes of each person in turn, trying to impress upon them the severity of his words. "Heads down, now. Don't want no facial or retinal scan pickin' you up. Don't get no more'n thirty paces apart, but don't get no closer'n ten."
Nye raised a hand. "Mista Reynolds, sir?"
"Captain," Palmer corrected quietly, leaning over.
The older boy rolled his eyes. "Captain, whatever." Mal raised his eyebrows, waiting for the question. "What 'bout the purplebellies? Won't they be watchin' the crowds?"
Mal nodded. "Most like. But they're lookin' for three kids. We keep ya'll separate 'nough, hopefully we'll slip under their radars."
Nye snorted and shook his head. "'Hopefully?' We're supposed t'be placin' our faith in your 'hopefully?'" He turned his eyes to Christopher and tightened his hands protectively over Enida's shoulders. "Mista DuFresne, are you serious with this guy?"
Christopher looked bashfully over at Mal, who straightened with surprise at the question. But before the man could reply, a deep voice interrupted from behind him. "Well, we could jus' go with Plan B and leave your bratty arse on this dustbowl, skeedattle outta here, and skip riskin' our necks t'bring you to Freakville," Jayne spat brusquely, his precious payday forgotten for the moment due to the young man's insolence. Nye glared at the man, doing his best to look menacing in the face of the behemoth.
Kaylee took Enida's hand comfortingly as the little girl shied away from the intensity of the giant man's voice. The mechanic turned her eyes reproachfully to her crew member. "Jayne, manners!"
The man opened his mouth, but Mal cut him off. "Kaylee's right." He stared daggers at the mercenary until the the man broke his gaze from the teenage boy's, causing a smile of victory to creep across Nye's face. But Mal turned on him next, and the smile slipped away quickly. "An' so's Jayne." The captain took a step forward and indicated the other two children with a nod of the head. "I get that these are your folk, kid, and that you feel a mite protective of 'em. But we best get this out into the clear right now." He stopped before Nye, lowering his voice. "Ya'll are gonna be travelin' 'board my ship, beddin' down in my cabins, and eatin' my food. Add all that up, an' the sum comes out to followin' my orders. Now, I realize that you ain't got more'n that to go on in terms of trust, but I don't much care. You'll do as I say, now an' in the near future, or we'll turn right 'round and head back the way we came, dong ma?"
The young man received his talking-to in silence, then held his tongue a moment before turning up angry eyes at the captain. "An' give up the load of plat Mista Rahjiong's payin' you for ferryin' us?"
Now, how did he know about that? Mal thought, but he hid his surprise well. "Got more'n a few aboard my vessel wouldn't argue 'gainst doin' jus' that."
"Ironically, I ain't even one of 'em," Jayne snarked, joining Mal at his side.
Nye examined their faces a moment more, then turned to look at his charges. Palmer was looking at the ground, his jaws locked together, his feelings unclear. The look on Christopher's face was silently urging the young man to do as he was told. And little Enida still held the hand of the lady in the coveralls, staring up at Nye with the pure and utter trust that only a child could possess.
The boy turned back to the two men before him, looking very much unlike a boy of his young age and more like a man forced to grow up too early. He fixed his gaze on the mercenary. "Lead the way."
A few minutes later, Kaylee loped easily beside Christopher and Enida as the trio weaved their way through the marketplace, sticking to the places where the crowd was the thickest, hoping to hide their presence in the madness. She could see the peak of Jayne's crown over some of the people before them, and she trusted that Mal was close behind. She tried to keep the peripherals of her vision trained on the crowds around them, but she could not help but sneak a glance at the face on the man who walked beside her. There was a familiarity about him she couldn't quite place. As he made to speak, she quickly turned her eyes back to the marketplace. "So," Christopher said, also keeping his gaze on the throng. "How many ship out with The Serenity?"
Kaylee smiled at the mistake that people so often made. "Oh, she's jus' 'Serenity.' An' there's seven of us, in all. Capt'n, Jayne, and me. We also got Simon, he's our doctor." She smiled slightly at the thought of her betrothed. "An' Simon's sister's the pilot, that's River."
Christopher's eyes widened instantly at the last two names. "Simon... River? River Tam?!" he whispered, suddenly even more vigilant than he had been before. River Tam's name was best kept on hushed lips. While she was a folk hero of sorts, there were still consequences heaped upon those who spoke of her without caution. "You mean, you're THAT Serenity?"
"What Serenity?" Enida asked quietly, her eyes never leaving the ground that passed quickly under her small feet as he struggled to keep up with the adults, nor the stuffed dog she clutched close to her chest.
Kaylee's chest swelled with pride. Obviously, Christopher had seen one of their broadwaves. Most likely the one River had sent across the 'verse from Osiris, the one that had impugned the Alliance for some of their most vicious acts. "Oh, you've heard of us?" Kaylee asked coyly.
Christopher smiled at her, seeing through her false modesty. "Miss, I don't believe there's a man or woman this side of the galaxy that hasn't heard of you folks. My, this is quite an honor."
Enida scowled, feeling left out of the conversation. "Who're the other ones?" she ventured, not liking to be ignored.
"Hm?" Kaylee asked, turning her attention from the man to the little girl between them. "Oh! Well, there's one more hired hand, like Jayne."
"Just like Jayne?" Christopher ventured cautiously.
"No," the woman replied, laughing slightly. "She's a fair bit nicer. An' lastly, Capt'n's first mate. She's purdy nice too, one she warms to ya." She thought a moment, then lowered her voice, sighing. "Though that can take a spell. But they's all good folk, Mr. DuFresne."
"Please, you must call me Christopher, Miss Kaylee."
"Well, that don't seem rightly fair. If you're gonna be callin' me 'Miss' all the gorra-," she replied, but suddenly cut off her words, glancing at Enida. Clearing her throat, she chose a less coarse phrasing for her words. "-goshdarn time. Tell you what. You drop all the 'Miss' malarky, an' we'll call it even?"
"Deal." The man turned and smiled at her, liking her easygoing nature. As he saw her face clearly for the first time, out of the shadows of the warehouses and in his full field of vision, he suddenly felt a flash a memory in his mind. He furrowed his brow, examining the young woman's face a little longer. "Miss- I mean, Kaylee?"
"Hm?" she replied, turning her face quickly towards the crowd.
"Have we met before?"
"Shh," the girl replied, bringing her hand to the commpiece in her ear. "I wasn't talkin' to you. Say again?" Christopher realized that she had not been addressing him, and watched her with scrutiny as she listened to whomever was contacting her through the transmitter.
"I said, 'I think we got company,'" Mal's voice whispered through the receiver, and Kaylee fought the urge to dart her head reflexively.
Jayne's voice was the next she heard. "Where?"
"My four and seven. Don't look, they're tryin' to blend in."
"Yeah, wouldn't wanna ruin that for 'em," Jayne growled back.
Christopher watched Kaylee's face with concern. "What's happening?"
Kaylee hushed her voice to the barest of whispers, placing one hand on Enida's back to hurry their trio along. "Capt'n thinks we mighta picked up a pigtail."
"Pigtail?" the little girl at her side asked, hopping along to keep in step with their quickened pace.
But Christopher had deciphered her meaning. "Alliance?" he asked to confirm, and Kaylee nodded gravely.
"We's almost there," Jayne's voice informed the other two.
Mal's eyes flickered around the crowd at their sides, seeing the Alliance troopers' approach in the actions of the people around them. It was subtle, but Mal knew the looks on those people's faces. He could see the ones with guilty eyes disappeared into the crowds, and the ones with clearer consciences stiffening with anticipation. Palmer watched his face carefully, obediently following his lead. "Okay, everyone keep calm. Long as they don't single us out, we don't gotta-"
"YOU THERE! IN THE BROWN COAT! HALT!"
"Run!" Mal hissed to the boy next to him, and they were both off in a flash.
Kaylee heard the order, too. "Pick up the pace, Jayne!" she cautioned into her commpiece, simultaneously grabbing Christopher by the arm and rushing forward into the milling crowds before her. Christopher reached down to grab Enida, knowing that she would not be able to keep pace with their speed, and pulled her up to his chest quickly.
Enida latched her arms around his neck, unintentionally jostling the stuffed dog from her grasp. She cried out as she watched the toy hit the dust behind them and disappear into the crowd. "Barkley!"
Christopher paused a moment at her exclamation, turning to see that her stuffed animal had been lost. Kaylee felt his arm wrenched from her grasp, and backed up to catch it in her palm again, this time urging him forward with a hand at his back as well. "No time! Go!" Regaining his senses, Christopher followed her command, reluctantly ignoring the cries of the small child at his ear as her beloved toy disappeared from sight.
Mal could hear the hurried bootsteps of the officers behind them over the beating of his heart. By sound alone, he could count four men chasing them, presumably all Alliance. His mind scrambled to work as his eyes darted over the terrain before him. "River!" he called out, with both his voice and his mind.
And it was but a heartbeat before he felt her in his head and heard her in his ear. "There's six, Mal," came the calm and calculating reply. "Two in the textile shop, coming up on your right."
Mal pulled the gun from his hip as he ran, scanning the vendors he approached on the right side on the lane. After a moment, he spotted the sign that read "Murphy's Textiles" in both English and Chinese, hung over a canopy that protected the open storefront from the sun. Taking a moment to aim, he set his sights on one of the ropes that held the canopy in place.
He heard a gunshot behind him, and felt a laser flash whiz by his ear. One of the troopers behind him had seen him pull his gun. Guiding Palmer with one hand and aiming the gun with the other, he darted to the side, taking cover behind a group of shoppers who had panicked at the sound of gunfire. As soon as he felt their protecting bodies at his back, he fired, and heard the satisfying snap of one of the ropes. The canopy swooped down, crashing over the storefront's opening as people scurried out of the way. The two Alliance soldiers inside fell back into the shop, ducking from the heavy fabric as it fell. "Nice shot," River said, and Mal could not help but smile in response as he continued to drag Palmer through the streets.
Dodging the people before them, they soon caught up to Kaylee, Christopher and Enida, and the five plowed through the crowd before them. "What'd you do that for?" Kaylee panted as she ran, keeping an eye out for the people in her path.
"Two at our side I didn't catch 'til jus' then," Mal huffed, his knees screaming in pain as he ran. "We still got four on our backs."
But River's voice and the sound of her firing up Serenity's engines from the cockpit were comforting noises as they heard them through transmitters in both their ears. "Not for long." She quickly shifted her attention to the man in the lead. "Jayne."
"There's a wagon coming up on your left, full of barrels. Do you see it?"
Jayne grumbled at the eeriness of her prediction as the wagon came into view. "Yeah."
"Think you could knock it over?"
The mercenary grinned at the question, more than willing to do some damage. "River, you really gotta ask?"
River smirked at the reply. "The rest of you, be ready. Duck behind those fruit stands on the right, and that will feed you right back out into the street."
Mal and Kaylee passed the orders on to the rest of their group just as Jayne reached the wagon in question. He grabbed Nye and halted the boy in his tracks, pointing to him as he doubled back the few paces to the wagon. "Stay," he barked in a patronizing tone, causing the young man to scowl with contempt even while he obeyed.
Jayne snuck up between the wagon and the wall of the building it was parked against, bracing his shoulders against the bricks. He could hear the bustle of the others and their pursuers closing in to his right. Lifting his leg, he braced it against the side of the wagon's bed, testing it's weight and smiling as it gave slightly under his boot. As the group behind them grew nearer, he suddenly heard River's voice once again in his ear. "Now!"
Jayne set his other leg against the wagon and, using the wall behind him as leverage, shoved with all his might. As his body crashed the short distance back into the dirt, the wagon topped over, spilling the barrels onto the ground. Some burst open on impact, showering the street and its occupants with a sweet and sticky brown substance: molasses.
Christopher shielded Enida from the splashes as he darted behind the fruit stands Mal and Kaylee had indicated to him, with Palmer close behind him. As the captain and his mechanic followed, Nye rushed over to help Jayne from the ground, and the two took off with the others as they emerged from their shelter. Looking back, both Jayne and Mal snickered to see the first of the soldiers that had been following them slip and fall in the river of molasses that now ran the width of the street. As the other three Alliance troopers looked up from the man and the distraction of the crashing barrels to find their quarry once again, they could only see the angry merchants and pedestrians closing in around the wagon's dumped contents, shouting and yelling at the tops of their lungs.
"Well, that was bracing," Mal said as the group rounded the corner, the shipping docks coming into view. Their Firefly was berthed at the far end, and they were able to slow their pace as they neared it, the danger passed for the moment. "Serenity prepped, Riv?"
"Of course," came the reply. River turned slightly in her pilot's seat, entering the last of the ignition sequence into the control panel before her. She could spot the rest of Serenity's crew and their soon-to-be-passengers making their way down the docks. "We're green for takeoff, as soon as I have my mechanic up in the engine room."
Kaylee grinned over at Mal before moving to the front of the pack, leading the way. Mal smiled back as he replied to the girl on the other end of his commpiece. "An' you'll get her soon, albatross." Checking to make sure his pistol was securely holstered at his hip again, he snapped the leather strap that held the gun's grip into place. "Nice work back there."
River smiled, and a flush of pride rushed to her cheeks. Compliments from Mal these days were rare, and she would take them when she could get them. "Thank you. You too, Captain."
Mal switched off his transmitter, turning his eyes to their passengers as they arrived at Serenity's ramp. "Okay. Everyone still in one piece, I take it?"
Christopher, Enida, and Palmer all nodded, but Nye looked over at his chaperone, who was walking a bit stiffly after his fall. "I think Jayne-"
"I'm fine, kid," Jayne interrupted gruffly, unwilling to show any signs of weakness in front of strangers. "T'ain't nothin'."
Mal bobbed his head once, but all the same, caught Jayne with a whisper as the man passed. "Check with Simon, see what he's got to ice that down in the infirmary." The mercenary grunted some sort of reply as he passed. Checking to see that Kaylee was already on her way up to the engine room, Mal pounded the ramp's withdrawal button and backed into the cargo bay with the newcomers. "Well then, welcome aboard Serenity."
The four faces that stared back at him were blank and somewhat shocked. It was a moment before any of them spoke. "Um," ventured Christopher, looking at his charges, then back at the captain. "That was... does that happen often?"
Mal furrowed his brow. "Pardon?"
Another moment of silence ensued. Then suddenly, Palmer's face broke into a wide grin. "That was so shiny." The others looked at him. "I mean, did you see that? With the barrels?" He imitated the sound of the molasses containers breaking open and spilling out onto the streets. "BOOM! SPLOOSH!"
Nye shook his head and quietly added, "An' that one guy fallin'? Splat. He's gonna feel that one tomorrow." He let out a gentle chuckle as the memory of the spectacle hit him.
"An' you guys kept it so... together. Honestly, Captain, when you first noticed those purplebellies behind us, I near about needed a new set of trousers," Palmer said. "But you folks were cool as cukes. Like you'd done this a hundred times. A thousand, even."
"Well, we do get our fair share of 'xcitement 'round here," a husky female voice said from the rear of the cargo bay, and the group looked over to see Cara emerging from the common area, one hand supporting her belly. She braced herself on the threshold as the engines hummed louder and the ship quaked slightly, lifting off the ground and heading toward the stars.
As the artificial gravity shifted on, Christopher looked up from Enida's face, which still looked slightly forlorn over the loss of her stuffed dog. "Well, Captain Reynolds, I must say, the reasons Master Rahjiong had for hiring you are becoming more clear with each passing and heart-racing moment."
Mal shot him a questioningly grateful glance, then turned to address the woman approaching from behind him. "Passenger dorms all made up?"
"Yessir," she replied, stopping at Mal's side and taking in the sight of the three exhausted children and the equally weary adult before her. "And these must be our guests."
Mal nodded, hooking his thumbs into his gunbelt. "Ya'll, meet Cara. She'll show you to your rooms." He indicted the direction from which Cara had just come with a nod of his head.
Cara leaned forward to shake the two boys' hands, an unexpected kindness in her eyes. "They ain't 'xactly 'lap o' luxury' material, but I'm sure you'll find 'em a comfort for the time bein'."
Christopher was the last to shake the woman's hand. "You would be the first mate, then?"
Mal and Cara exchanged a quick expression of confusion. "Well, no I would not," she replied, cocking her head slightly.
"Oh," the man said, slightly embarrassed. He gently set Enida on the ground and took her hand, allowing the little girl to take a look around the cargo bay. "I'm sorry, Kaylee mentioned that your first mate was a woman, Captain. I guess I just assumed..." He glanced down at Enida as her young eyes wandered across the steel beams of the ceiling and over the catwalks.
Mal shook his head. "No, but don't worry, you'll meet her soon 'nough. Her name's-"
But Christopher cut him off, his eyes following Enida's gaze towards the catwalks, where stood a tall, dark woman. Their faces were mirror images of shock. "Zoe."
Zoe's eyes were wide, but her voice did nothing to belay her utter surprise. "Christopher."
Her glance moving back and forth from the two, Cara leaned over to whisper to Mal. "Thinkin' they might've already met."
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 2:58 AM
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 4:45 AM
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 6:31 PM
Thursday, May 22, 2008 5:55 AM
Sunday, March 24, 2013 12:25 PM
You must log in to post comments.
OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR
All FIREFLY graphics and photos on this page are copyright 2002-2012 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.
All other graphics and texts are copyright of the contributors to this website.
This website IS NOT affiliated with the Official Firefly Site, Mutant Enemy, Inc., or 20th Century Fox.