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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Hidden treasure trove brings the crew a tense confrontation and an unexpected new face.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 587 RATING: 0 SERIES: FIREFLY
"Kaylee?" Mal complained, making me look up from my own digging. "Gorram dirtblower's cut out, and this time I can't start it by bangin' on it."
I considered for a moment. "Wouldn't it be faster for you to just join us with old-fashioned hand tools, sir? We're almost finished, after all."
Zoe cocked her head at each of us in turn. "Actually, I think you're both right. Mal will keep working while you do your magic, of course... but you'd better take a look at the thing. Mal's done more than the rest of us put together, using that contraption - and anyway, we probably can't cover up this hole believably without it. More than speed, that's the important point."
"Alright, I'm on it," I said, handing my spade to Mal and accepting the 'blower in exchange. Now, did I bring out a tool-belt? No, I guess it hadn't occured to me that I might need one. The dirt blower was a fairly simple contraption, with a battery-powered mower that ran both the digging blades and the blowing fan. Dead battery? Wouldn't Mal a- checked on that before he started? Well, knowing Mal, maybe and maybe not. Considering the sort of conditions we were using the thing in, was quite possible that something had gotten badly jammed, or maybe a connection had come loose...
Not sure if you'd figured this out by now, but we were in the middle of burying the silver hoard - had already dug out the hole and put the loot inside, and were trying to get it well covered up now before anybody spotted the whole business. Mal and Zoe had picked a deserted patch of the moon for this, plenty of fine white sand, which hadn't been too hard to dig through and hopefully would be easy to spread out without leaving any sign of where it had been disturbed.
Oh, one small point I wanted to mention - it's surprising how small a hundred and eighty cubic feet worth of solid silver looks when it's at the bottom of a ten foot deep hole.
So, I brought a tool kit outside so that I could at least keep Wash and the others company as they kept digging away, and I hurried to service the blower just as quickly as I could. (Now, why does that seem dirty when I write it down?) Mal was makin' pretty free with the Cantonese, and even Wash's very calm termper was starting to fry away when I finally got the last of a dozen big grains of sand pried out of the fan axle. "There you go," I said, reaching out to hand it down to Mal. "Normally I'm a supporter of the 'whack it one until it starts working again' approach, but this time I think it was slowly making things worse and worse."
"Hmm." Mal considered the implement and shook his head. "Nah, let Zoe take over with it now."
"What makes you think I want to bother with that thing?" Zoe asked, but from the half-smile on her face, (she almost never bothered with a full one,) she was gently teasing him. "You just want to stay in on the viscerally satisfying muscle work."
"You've got the light touch," Mal put in. "That's what we'll be needing now."
So Zoe took the blower, and sure enough it wasn't time before everybody was satisfied with the job. "Alright, now we're off," Wash said with relish.
"So, we, umm... we just leave it here?" I asked, feeling a bit foolish. On the one hand, there didn't seem to be much point in burying the treasure unless we were going to leave it. That had already been sort of explained. Somebody was probably trying to find us already, and we couldn't hide ourselves by burying the entire ship nearly so easily. Someone who could out-shoot Mal and Zoe, even, though it would probably take more than three of them. So we had to hide the treasure while we could, and even though it was buried now, staying in the area might draw attention to it. But still... "I mean, if somebody finds us, what good is the silver to us if we get shot?"
"Not much," Zoe admitted. "But it won't be any good to whoever shoots us, either. The only people who will find it if we're dead will be Niska's crew - eventually. This has been worked out with them, as an insurance policy."
"Great plan," I muttered. "Wish we could pick another beneficiary."
"Don't know Niska," Mal said severely. "He's a good businessman, if nothing else, and is taking a flyer on us by offering us this sort of work. Even if the percentage is low enough to give me pause, our share of this take will be quite a lot." He smiled slightly. "And don't worry too much about anybody shooting me dead. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve."
"Right, yeah," I muttered, not too impressed. "Well, never mind that. We're going to get going already, so no point in waiting around 'til I've accepted the necessity and so on."
"Good attitude," Zoe muttered softly, and we all packed up our stuff, making sure that the vicinity was clear, and headed back into the ship.
"It's the waiting that always gets to me," I complained about two hours later.
"Let's hope that's the only thing that gets to any of us," Mal muttered in reply, taking a bite of a particularly stale and dry looking ration stick. "Yeah, I have a hard time with patience too, even back in the war. But being bored means generally that you're not in real trouble, so it's much the lesser of two evils."
"Patience apparently has a hard time with you," I replied. "Judging from her shooting you and all." Mal shot me a mean look. "You know, patience the scary lady who runs Whitefall?"
"Yeah, I know who you meant," Mal said, still staring.
"Okay, apparently that play on words isn't funny any more," I said out loud. Zoe and Wash nodded, so I filed the tidbit away to hopefully remember when the opportunity next came up. Then again, sometimes things that aren't funny anymore become funny later on, especially when somebody keeps harping on them. Did I want to try again? No, I don't really have the nerve to keep trying something like that just to get a laugh.
"Anyone up for chore poker again?" Wash said, pulling out the small stack of circular cards. Zoe shrugged, and Mal nodded after a moment.
"Sure, let's have a deal or two," I said. "Does everybody still have their stakes from last time?"
"Yeah, but the cockpit head HAS been cleaned already," Mal said, shuddering slightly with the memory of the task he'd finally taken on while we were still at the Dyton Colony spaceport, "and it won't need it again for a while, so no sense playing for it again. Any other changes we need to make?"
There were a few, as usual, but it didn't take long to get the little slips of paper sorted out. Wash started handing out cards, just to see who would be the first to get a proper deal, which was the first person who got dealt a heavenly beast. Mal got the banana Phoenix, and he shuffled again and dealt out.
Apples were tall, and I had a pair of tortoises and a pair of sevens, with one of the sevens being an apple. Decent hand, but not too likely to improve with a draw or a... well, if Wash didn't take the tall card, I could get it and move up to three tortoises. Yeah, that would be worth a try. But Wash *did* swipe the tall apple. I stayed in for a few rounds of betting before the draw, throwing in dishes and sweeping up the cargo hold, and then dropped it out when it became clear that Wash and the captain were in a serious bidding war, and I didn't want to trust in my lousy two pair.
I was still down slightly, though I'd managed to win two small pots, when the explosion sounded and Serenity shook slightly. Mal and Zoe were immediately up and muttering to each other about how they each KNEW that somebody should have stood on guard. Things got very crazy. Everyone was sent running around the ship to look out windows and report back on Serenity's built-in intercom system, which was more awkward but had the advantage of being much harder, if not impossible, to eavesdrop on compared to the personal communicators. I gathered that from the sound and the impact, it had been some sort of light grenade exploded against the side of the hull as a warning message, nothing more - that whoever it was WANTED us now to know that they were out there.
The news wasn't particularly good. Confident in Wash's flying, we'd relaxed while some group of competent bounty hunters or a competing criminal gang had arranged the upper hand. The main exits from the ship were all covered at gunpoint, and explosives had been laid underneath the thrusters so that we couldn't take off without getting in trouble.
"So, what's the plan?" I asked, as Mal and Zoe exchangd dark looks. "Sneak out through some hatch that they'd never have expected, and get the jump back on them?"
"Well, there's the top airlock," Zoe said to Mal, sounding doubtfully. "I could try to do some quick shooting from the top of the boat."
"They hear gunfire coming from up there, and they'll try something desperate, I wouldn't doubt," Mal muttered. "They'll have hardware that'll do sufficient damage to keep us from being spaceworthy anytime soon, and if pushed to it they'll use that. May profit them none, but it'll fair wreck the plan." He paused for another moment, then came to a decision. "I like our odds better trying to talk our way out of it."
"Talk, sir?" Zoe said, with a hard to read expression on her face. (That was weird, because usually her expressions do tell more than her words will say.)
I sidled over to Wash as Mal considered how to reply to this. "What do you think?" I whispered.
"Not sure," he admitted. "Like the notion of Zoe *not* shooting at mercenaries or other people who could shoot grenades back at her... but Mal's often not as clever as he thinks he is. Could go either..."
"They're not here to shoot us," Mal put in. "They want the silver too. Could be Badger got wind of the heist and sent them over from Persephone, or maybe this MingoJerry that we've heard whispers about."
"Mingo *and* Fanty," Zoe corrected. "From Beaumonde, or based there. Twins, running the outfit together."
"Whatever, it doesn't matter," Mal said irritably. "The point is, they want to find out where it is from us. That gives us leverage. They won't shoot anybody straight off - not even as motivation, not if they know anything about us."
"That we're stubborn ex-Army liou mahng who'll tend to shoot back if someone from our unit is shot, no matter what the consequences are?" Zoe filled in. "Yeah, I guess that there's that. If they already found out where we made the dig, they'd have just taken it and left without bothering us, aside from laying those mines and posting a guard. But if we *don't* tell them where the loot is, and I know you don't intend to do that, then... things will still get stickier than they are now. Just how do you expect to get out of here with our lives and the payoff?"
"I... I don't know, Zoe," Mal admitted, and his face looked tired and a bit worried, though his voice was level. "Maybe I'll figure it out when I meet these guys. Figure out what makes them tick, and there'll be some weakness. Hopefully we'll be able to make use of it."
"What about us?" Wash asked. I knew that he didn't really want to let Zoe walk out of there into danger, and yet wasn't quite up to volunteering to go too, even if the captain would be likely to let him come.
"Hmm... not much sense in having you in the cockpit, if we can't take off without going boom..."
"I can prep up for a running start, using the thrust boosters," Wash asserted. "Not that much of a chance, but... but if talking to them flops, and one or both of you are hurt, then it might be the only chance we've got. Angle the engines so far forward that they won't be burning on the mines, at least."
"And we probably wouldn't even get off the ground like that," Zoe put in. "And they can still take potshots at us as we go. Well, you're right - it's a hell of a plan B, but all we might have." She looked at me. "Kaylee, you can help get ready for that, right? Making sure that the boosters give us as much oomph as possible and so on?"
"Yeah, sure," I said. "And - and what if the other guys - get on board the ship?"
"We don't mean to let that happen," Mal said. "Especially not without one of us being here. They might want to search for our loot, and - well, anyway. If you do see someone unfamiliar, then something's gone badly wrong, and..."
"Do you want guns?" Zoe asked both of us pointedly. "You shouldn't have to use them, but just in case - I've got a small derringer that you could take, Kaylee."
"Umm... no, I think maybe I have less of a chance of getting hurt if I don't look like I'm a threat," I muttered. "Never could stand the thought of holding a piece anyway..."
"You might get..." Wash started, and then trailed off. I knew what he meant.
"Even so. I'll keep something heavy and blunt within reach - if a body tries, he'll likely find himself with a goose bump on the back of his head. But not a bullet-hole."
"Alright," Zoe said softly. Wash ended up taking a pistol from Mal's collection, and Zoe showed him how to arrange the shoulder holster so that it wouldn't be immediately obvious that he was packing.
I worked hard on the thrusters that could point down and give Serenity some extra lift in case we needed them, trying to lose myself in the process of servicing the ship and not let my mind dwell on wondering what was happening outside the cargo bay ramp. Didn't have much luck at that, especially when I could just catch voices, Mal, Zoe's, and other men's, without making out what they were saying. There was a loud gunshot, and I cringed, but neither Mal or Zoe called out an agreed on code word, so I was left wondering what had happened. Then, finally, I heard the ramp closing up again, and Mal was calling for Wash. I crept closer without coming into view.
"Okay, so, what happened and... who's that? Is he... is he here to search the ship for loot?"
"Not yet, I think," Mal answered our pilot. "Wash, this is the newest member of our merry band, and... I didn't quite catch your name, friend, actually."
"They call me Jayne," a rather deep, gruff voice replied. "Jayne Cobb. And no cracks of wise about that first name - my momma gave it to me, after all, and you do NOT want to say anything I'd find offensive about my momma."
"You know, I think I'll actually like working with you, Jayne," Zoe put in.
"Wait a second, you've actually HIRED him?" Wash said incredulously. "If I might be so bold as to ask, for what?"
"Well, as a hired gun to start off with, I suppose," Mal said evenly. "Suppose we should introduce you to our mechanic too, Mister Cobb. Kaylee?"
"Yeah, I'm here," I said a little too quickly after hearing my name, and stumbled a bit awkwardly into view. Smooth. If they hadn't guessed that you'd been listening in already, that little performance probably clinched things. "Umm..." I wasn't sure I wanted to go over asking the same questions as Wash, or to let on that I already knew some of the answers that had been given, so I stayed mum and waited to see how Mal would play things.
"This is Jayne," Mal put in. "We took the weapons off of his friends, so I don't think that they'll be at all inclinded to hang around for long. We'll check in a bit, still need to clear away those mines. But unless it seems likely that they'll be bringing in others, we're in no hurry to move. Meanwhile, I guess we should settle you in your bunk, Jayne?"
By this point, Jayne had already cast a long hard look in my direction, then turned away and wandered off to examine the mule where it was parked at the side of the cargo bay. He was tall and very muscular, looking rather handsome with his short brown hair and beard, a somewhat clasiccaly chiseled face, (is that how you spell clasiccaly?) and was still carrying lots of deadly weaponry. I wasn't at all sure what I thought of him joining 'the crew.'
Mal, meanwhile, was speaking again, but not for Jayne to hear - he was whispering in just a quiet enough voice that the rest of us, all standing fairly close to him, could hear, but Jayne couldn't unless he had ears as sharp as a dog's. "I just wish we had something better to offer him than the spare bunk; it's a bit - well, cramped, for a man that tall, for one thing. Not really that impressive, considering that was our biggest recruitment pitch..."
"It might have been a clincher, but I think the as-yet-unspecified percentage was at least as important," Zoe replied, a bit louder, so that Jayne could maybe listen in or maybe not. "And if it would make things easier with the room assignments..." She shot a meaningful look at Wash, that bless his heart, the meaning must have entirely passed him by, because he just shrugged a bit awkwardly. Zoe sighed. "Wash, how'd you feel about bunking in with me, so that Jayne can take your old digs?"
"I, umm, uhh..." Wash seemed very confused at this, and not that eager to move out for the benefit of the new guy. Then the possible perks of living with Zoe must have started to occur to him. "Uh, yeah, I think that would work out just okay. It's a good bunk, and I'm sure... Jayne - will like it."
Mal was looking back and forth between the two of them with a startled look on his face. Jayne, at this point, had started to realize that the conversation might be more interesting than the mule and was wandering back. "The two of you, just out of the black... no, it wouldn't be entirely without preamble, would it? Things like that never are. Which means, I suppose, that I just managed to miss the signs." He looked over at Zoe. "For how long?"
"Oh, not that long," Zoe admitted. "You know how much he used to bother me, especially with the mustache." This was said with the air of a tender joke between herself and her new guy, now. "I guess it would have been starting... on Ezra or maybe just a day or two before we landed."
"That's not so long," Mal said. "I do appreciate the gesture under the circumstances, but... are you sure that bunkin' down together is the right move to be making?"
"Wait a second... her, and him?" Jayne pointed at Zoe and Wash in turn, and seemed to be asking the question of me. "Huh, wouldn't have thought of that one. Total opposites - but I *have* heard some say about how those tend to attract. In the meantime, I guess it goes to show the advantage of working on a crew that isn't all just fellas."
I really didn't like the way he looked at me, (and especially at my front,) when he said that.
Zoe, meanwhile, had started talking over Jayne's sidebar without really noticing him. "...but when something is really right, you just know it." She stepped over to Wash and took his left forearm in her right hand. "I've never been in love before, pretty sure, but I recognize it now, and I know well enough that life in this 'verse is short enough to not wait for the things that matter." Something else seemed to occur to her as she heard her own words. "In point of fact - you wanna maybe make it all official when we get to Persephone, Washburne? Marry off?"
"I... are you asking me to marry you?" Wash had to ask, looking even more bug-eyed. I had to feel a bit of sympathy for how many buttons of his Zoe was pushing in this scene without even realizing it.
"Well, I was bringing up the subject for conversation," Zoe replied, backpedalling just a bit. "And I guess I did ask if you wanted to. Not like I was making a formal proposal or anything, but... is that terrible important, who asks?"
"Um, no, I guess not," Wash admitted. "It's slight important. No more. But I guess my answer is... I would love to be your husband, Zoe Alleyne, but not in a week when we get to Persephone. All that stuff you said about not waiting for our life to start is well taken, but... there's a point where it gets to be ridiculous, and more than I can deal with." He had turned to face her by now, and reached up one hand to stroke her cheek in such a gentle way that it made my knees weak. "Part of it is the way I was brought up, honey. I just want a slightly longer engagement... and maybe a chance to track down my family and see if they want to be at the wedding, wherever and whenever we have it."
That made Zoe smile broadly. "Yeah, okay. Come to think of it, I could try waving to my father... though it might strike him as somewhat funny if I actually ask him to walk me down an aisle, and give me away. He'd say that in his heart, he gave me away to the Army years ago."
"Then maybe I could step into his place," Mal mumbled nervously. "I mean - well, I'm your oldest friend, I'm your captain, and was your superior in the Army. Would that seem too weird?" He thought of something else. "Or did you want me to officiate?"
"Captains of smuggling ships can't really officiate weddings," Wash said quickly.
"Or at least, not according to the *Alliance*," Mal rattled off, rolling his eyes upwards.
"Well, I think we'll pick someone landside," Zoe said mildly. She also shot Mal an odd look that I couldn't make much of at the moment, except that maybe she was surprised that he was taking all the news so well.
That was pretty much all of the drama that we got at the time. Mal, Zoe, Wash, and Jayne all went out to clear away the mines just so that we could take off in a hurry if we needed to, while I stayed behind to 'mind the boat' - basically, as long as I still wasn't ready to hold a gun, I wasn't let outside while Jayne's old compadres might still come back. Afterwards, the threesome of Mal, Zoe, and Jayne were almost constantly watching out the windows for any sign that somebody else was sneaking up on us, and Wash spent a lot of time at the comm board in the cockpit, listening in on just about every frequency on the band, trying to figure out what was going on.
At one point, I was in the cockpit with him, and a greenish-yellow light lit up on the board. "That's Inara callin' us, ain't it?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said shortly. "Can't come on and answer her - especially not after the close scrape we had."
"But she'll get worried if the shuttle can't raise us," I said. "Nobody warned her about having to put up with this sort of thing, did we?"
"Well, no," Wash answered. "But, well - I did prepare for it. If we don't answer in sixty seconds, then a recorded message at the spaceport will come in, explaining how we've been called away and might not be able to get her transmission, or might have to keep silent on the radio, but that we still mean to make the rendezvous and that she has all the info on it. That's as much as I could think of to explain without involving a serous risk of someone else overhearing it."
"Okay, yeah, that does make some sense," I said. "Of course, if somebody does know that Inara was attached to us, in the shipwise fashion, then it probably wouldn't have taken any message at all to think of following her to us."
"Yeah," Wash said. "I think that my fiancee has planned something to prepare for that possibility... but I don't know any of the details."
"You just love being able to call her that, don't you?" I said, swatting him lightly on the shoulder. "Well, congratulations, anyway. One of the oddest engagements I've ever witnessed, not that there have been many, and most of them were in my small town back home, so - well, you know." I had to pause, trying to think of what to say next. "But I think that Zoe and you will be really happy together."
"Thanks, me too," Wash agreed. "And, what do you think of this new guy, Jayne?"
"Oh, come on, no, nothing could ever happen between me an' Jayne," I quickly assured him. "He's handsome and all, but - well, really not my type of character, you know."
Wash turned a startled stare at me. "Methinks the engineer does protest too much," he said after a short moment. "Especially since I wasn't asking you about hooking up with Jayne, just your general impressions on the newest member of Serenity's crew."
"Oh," I muttered, seeing it. "Yeah, umm... do you really think it sounds like I'm... like a part of me wants to..."
Wash waited again as I trailed off, and then answered me seriously. "I'm not completely sure. That's up to you to decide, I'm fairly sure. I don't know anything about the guy aside from first impressions, and neither do you. You'll have a chance to learn more for yourself, I think, and decide for yourself. Clearly there's a few - obvious mismatches, but then, as he pointed out, you could say the same about Zoe and I, definitely. And... and I know how much you'd love to have some sort of company who you aren't just dallying with on a particular world, or for the length of one particular trip. Seems like Jayne may be with us for a while, so this might be your chance."
"Yeah, I suppose so," I said, not quite sure what to think anymore. "So, what's your family like, anyway?"
"Hmm? What brought - oh, because I mentioned them when saying that I wanted to wait a while to get married?"
"Yeah. Do you come from a long line of flyboys?"
"Oh, heck no. My father, is actually a bit phobic about any form of transportation except walking. He can more or less keep it under control with private groundcars and such, but aircars, or planes, or spaceships? Not even a chance. So if he's going to be there for the ceremony, we'd have to hold it back on Beaumonde. But... but I'll never forget the way he looked at me when we found out I'd been accepted to flight school. I - I think that he regretted all the places he never got a chance to see, the things he never got a chance to do, because of his - problem. He was so PROUD of me, that I'd get to live those dreams that he couldn't, and not even jealous a little bit." Wash smiled fondly. "He's a REALLY smart guy, my Dad, and he's probably read and viewed about more places than I've even flown to, or will... but it's just not the same."
I smiled too, touched by the affection in Wash's voice when he'd been speaking. "What's his job involve? Some kind of desk work, or..."
"Yeah, pretty much. Sales and management - he drifts around a bit, always learning and trying new challenges in the business world. And then, my Mom... well, this actually sounds a bit weird, 'specially under the circumstances, but I guess Mom is sort of a bit like an older version of you."
"Sort of. You have that same cheerful outlook as she does, and the talent for keeping things organized and working right. With her, it's not quite so much mechanical as you... at least, I think that's something that's true about you at this point in your life and not just how I'm seeing you because it's your job. She's handy with a wrench and a pair of pliers, Ma is, but also - well, a great cook definitely, and just... well, she's great at organizing things... homey things. Doesn't just keep our own house running perfectly, but last I heard she was also helping a few of the neighbors out with theirs... at the neighbors' request."
We chatted for a while longer about families and home life, and then I went back to the engine room, wondering if Jayne would come poking around and find me there. (I might have been safer from that kind of thing if I'd actually gone down into my bunk, so I'm not quite sure why I didn't.) But he actually didn't show up, and I spent most of the evening reading in my hammock - more technical specs, which might sound dry and boring to you, but I just get lost in some of the case studies - and also one of those sword and sorceress fantasy romance tales.
When I finally left the engine alone, I cut back through the dining room - and there he was. The new guy, Jayne. Paused a moment, then sat down at the table, nearly opposite him, as he put the final touches on what obviously wasn't his first sandwich of the night. "Hey, there... Kaylee, right?" he said, considering his handiwork before taking a first bite. I nodded but didn't answer out loud. "Listen, I wanted to apologize if I... came off a little too crude or anything this afternoon. I know I get like that, but... well, I'm not used at all to the idea of working with ladies on the team, and..."
I had to chuckle. "Not quite sure if either Zoe or I count as ladies, actually. Women, yes, but not high-class enough for that other word." Jayne laughed agreeably. "And then - well, there's Inara, and she's certainly ladylike, but I don't think she's really part of the team as much as... a permanent passenger of a sort, or at least I hope that she's pretty permanent." Jayne was looking oddly at me. "Nobody mentioned Inara? Well, she rented out shuttle one as of Ezra, and she's a registered Companion."
"Don't let her call you that," I said, but didn't really want to get into the bigger issue. "Anyway, the apology is accepted. It isn't easy just coming aboard Serenity - though I guess the adjustment will be easier for you, since you're used to doing this kind of work and so on. Just, different people and so on."
Jayne considered that. "You've never worked as a mechanic on a ship since... just how long ago was it that Reynolds recruited you?" He sounded worried.
"Umm..." I thought about it. "Around a month and a half, standard time. Don't worry, I've gotten pretty good at tending to Serenity's engine and all. Why, how much experience did the mechanic on your last crew have?"
Jayne shrugged and chuckled. "Didn't exactly have one, though Rafe was reasonably handy with a wrench. But whenever we were in Eavesdown docks or some other major port, we'd have a professional check the shuttle over."
"Hmm... well, to each team their own. I think that you're in better hands with me," I admitted.
"Starting to see that," he muttered, though I thought that he wasn't really only talking about me - or certainly not about my mechanic duties. Like he was realizing that this really was a different kind of crew from any that he'd been in, that Mal was a different kind of leader.
"Well, I guess I'm off to bed," I said, getting up.
Jayne lifted an eyebrow. "Wanting for company?"
"Not tonight, I think," I shot back, with a bit of a flirty air, and made exit on that line - before I anything happened that might change my mind.
I slept late - partially because I hadn't actually been able to get to sleep early, wondering if I was actually hearing noised from Zoe's bunk - now Zoe and Wash's - and also was devilled by surprisingly passionate thoughts about Jayne, wondering if he was lying awake himself in the next bunk over. Those notions followed me into my dreams at least partway, and when I finally woke up and emerged, (wondering if I'd run into Jayne in the hallway,) Wash cheerily called out that I'd missed the takeoff from Dyton moon, and we were already on our way to Persephone without any sign of pursuit or trouble.
Smiling a bit sadly, I headed up to the cockpit to sit next to Wash. "Was it exciting and all?"
"Hmm... maybe somewhat. Precise timing and all - and rather impressive to see the detection net just die off all at once like someone closed a switch," Wash said. "Five days now to make Eavesdown docks."
"What's Persephone like?" I asked. "And this Badger character that Mal mentioned?" Jayne had confirmed, I gathered, that the crew he'd been on had been assigned by Badger to steal the silver from us and ransom it back to the Dyton authorities we'd stolen it from. But Mal had also worked jobs for Badger himself, and expected to do so again, and I had to admit I wondered if the Persephone crime boss would hold a grudge for this job we were doing for Niska, and the fact that we'd stolen Jayne from the other crew leader.
"Persephone is an incredible place," Wash admitted after a moment. "A land of contrasts. The capital city - Lethe - has beautiful buildings - and some very rich people, who've settled it as a new beacon of civilization on the border. Some of the most powerful lords of the Core planets even have summer or winter estates on Persephone." He sighed. "And then, the slums are places of terrible poverty, right next to such wealth. In some ways, it'd be a great place for Zoe and I to start the next part of our life together."
"Even if your Dad wouldn't be able to make it there?" I asked, and Wash nodded. "What about Zoe's father? Has she ever mentioned him to you? Sounded yesterday like he was all the family that she had left."
"I've heard a little," Wash admitted. "Works on a ship too, actually - personnel officer, supply officer, adjutant or some such. On a big merchant marine freighter based out of Hera."
"I wonder if they had a scrap when she told him she was joining the Independent army," I said thoughtfully.
"I don't know that," Wash said. "She did mention that she grew up mostly on a spaceship."
"Okay." That seemed to wind up the Zoe conversation for now. "Oh - if we've left Persephone, then Inara is back again?"
"Well, yeah." That didn't seem to require any other comment in Wash's opinion.
"Has anyone introduced her to Jayne?"
"Oh, that was a fun moment," Wash agreed. "Too bad you missed it, and I didn't think of using a video capture."
"Boo," I said, and got up. "Well, maybe I'll go and see if our Companion wants for some company."
"She put up a do not disturb flag on the shuttle," Wash told me. "Took a client along with us."
"Oh." Somehow I hadn't thought of that. "Is that covered in the deal that she made with Mal?"
"I don't think he realized it back then either," Wash admitted. "But Inara pointed out that the shuttle is hers to do with as she pleases, to see clients in whenever it doesn't interfere with our schedule, and this doesn't. She stocked up especially so that Mal couldn't say that the guy was eating our food - Inara's got kitchen privileges, but not her clients, and she doesn't want to seem to overstep her bounds by bringing anything of ours to them."
"Okay, that makes some sense, though it might be being overly careful." I just felt disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to spend more time with Inara, or to seek refuge in her shuttle from Jayne, if I decided that I needed refuge. A scene from one of the hottest dreams last night suddenly flashed into my mind - both Jayne Cobb and I completely bare, him licking and kissing my nipples, and whispering something that I might do to return the favor...
"So, umm... we don't need to worry about flying under low power from here all the way to Persephone?"
Wash grinned. "Nope. We were on low up until a few minutes ago, actually. Zoe turned things back on. Might have been what finally woke you up, the sounds of most of our systems starting up again."
"Hmm... I suppose that's possible," I admitted. After a moment's pause, I waved at Wash, and then left the cockpit.
I managed to avoid Jayne for most of the rest of that day - tinkering as usual, dealing with a few malfunctions in the port maneuvering jets, and the starboard wing engine, and a heating circuit in Inara's shuttle that refused to admit that it should turn off, which was apparently ruining the mood. Inara caught my eye at one point and nodded apologetically, so I guess she had been able to pick up that I was upset the guy was monopolizing her time. Seemed a bit on the heavy side, though I guess she doesn't always pick her customers based on the superficial elements of attraction.
Had a chance to ask Zoe more about Badger, since Wash and I had gotten distracted by other things, and hadn't really gotten that far. Apparently he was a Dyton colony native himself, though he'd lived on Persephone for years at least. "Little guy, a bit ugly - actually reminds me of a storybook goblin or such," Zoe said offhandedly. "Doesn't always treat us fair, but still far from one of the worst men in his line of work. Fairly plain and comfortable with calling a spade a spade, at least, and that endears him to me a bit."
And then, as the 'day' drew to a close, it happened, just like I'd been sort of wondering if it would. I'd already gotten changed for bed, and then been called up to tweak the containment regulator just a tad, and when I got back to the forward hall, there was Jayne. Wearing nothing his own self but tight black shorts and a white singlet top.
"You know, it's a bit foolish to keep denying it," he drawled, with a twinkle in those deep eyes. "You're hot for me, and I definitely like what I see. Why make a big deal out of it?"
"Well, it's no fun if it's only a little deal," I said, gesturing with a pinky finger in a way that I hoped I could pull off.
"I, umm... I didn't mean that, just..."
"Yeah, I know what you meant," I insisted. "Really I do. And I'm not one of those girls who expect to be whisked away to a marshmallow palace and a bed strewn with rose petals, but... as much as I'm tempted, there's a part of my brain that still says it wouldn't be a good idea.
"Oh, you know what brains are like," Jayne scoffed.
"I do - but I'm not sure if you've had much experience with one," I shot back. "Anyway, bottom line, even if things were falling into place otherwise - tonight's not the right time. It just isn't."
"Hmm." Jayne seemed to consider his options. "Do you wanna meet up for breakfast in the galley? Not a big deal, just - I dunno, we could talk about whatever."
I sighed and tried to consider just what Jayne was sincere about, if anything. He was the kind of guy who probably had a lot that he wouldn't be comfortable saying - unless he wasn't even thinking of any of it. "Okay, sure, I'd enjoy the company I guess."
"See you at 0800?" I thought about that. Usually I was up a bit earlier by ship's time, but there wasn't much to worry about doing, so sleeping in again a bit would be nice.
I waved as I opened the hatch to my bunk, and Jayne waved his hand back, a bit bemused at the gesture on both our parts. Once again, I had a hard time getting myself to settle down to sleep, though it wasn't quite the same way as I'd felt the night before. All of those things I'd been feeling before about wanting a particular guy, a mister Right, to come aboard Serenity, were running through my head. Jayne wasn't anything like what I'd been expecting, and really, even once I adjusted my preconceptions, it seemed quite unlikely that he'd ever be that forever kind of man, or even one who'd want to stick with me long. But still... nobody was quite who they seemed on the surface. Was it even possible?
TO BE CONTINUED...
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