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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Things are about to get very interesting, and River's plans are revealed...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 535 RATING: 0 SERIES: FIREFLY
Firefly, Serenity, and all related proprietary characters are the intellectual property of Joss Whedon and corporations with whom I have no affiliation. Said property does not belong to me, and the fictional story below is of my own creation. (I don’t own ‘em, just like to play with ‘em!)
River woke early the next morning, as was her custom, and the rest of the crew was predictably still fast asleep, including her temporary bunk-mate. After staring in curiosity for a moment, she was unable to discern a reason for Inara’s presence. Stifling a giggle as she thought of what Jayne might assume and say to such circumstances, the teen donned some clothes and slipped out of her bunk, quietly making her way to the cargo bay. Half an hour later, she had gathered everything she had seen on the table in her dream, and hidden herself away in one of the smuggler’s caches with the items. The MREs and water were in the storage locker at the back of the bay, the syringes and calendar she had taken from the infirmary, and the rest she brought from her bunk.
Taking a moment to study the calendar with her flashlight, she finally understood the exact meaning of the colors, and the full extent of what she was going to do, when she read her brother’s pristine handwriting. Slipping from her hiding place, River returned to the infirmary, replacing the calendar on the desk before opening the second drawer of her brother’s medical supply cabinet. Finding two full but unlabeled syringes, she switched them with the water-filled ones she had prepared earlier. The ones containing medicine she placed in the back of the auxiliary drug cabinet, careful to remember exactly where she put them.
Returning to her hiding place, fully aware that the crew would wake soon, River began writing on her pad, her smooth handwriting flowing across the paper.
Gē ge and jiě jie,
By the time you read this, you will be enjoying a small vacation from the horribly difficult life of the space pirate. Please take pleasure in the opportunity for isolation from the other crew members as a couple, and celebrate your relationship. Please find enclosed nutritional sustenance and water supplies, which should be sufficient for the duration. And gē ge, before you bother jiě jie to try to override the lock I placed on the bunk hatch, she will be unable to remove it, so the two of you may as well forget that anything exists outside of your bunk. I send my best wishes to both of you, as well as full enjoyment of this rare occurrence.
Love always… xiăo hè.
Carefully detaching the note from her pad and folding it in half, River set it aside and began to write a second letter.
Hù wèi zhĕ,
You’ve been temporarily locked in your bunk. Please trust me, and don’t try to get out, even though you can’t. I would much rather you enjoyed your time alone, and you don’t need to worry, as I have secured the ship’s safety. With this note, you should find enough water and food to last until you can come out of your bunk if you ration it.
Your partner… xiăo hè.
Repeating her earlier actions, River began to write her third note, and the one she feared would be most difficult.
Nǚ zhàn shì,
As you have probably ascertained, the crew has been sequestered in their bunks, the com units in each bunk have been altered to receive only, and the bunk hatches have been sealed from the outside. To that end, I have provided you with supplies to ensure your continued health. Please enjoy your break from the tireless job that is looking after chuán zhăng. The ship is secure, and I anticipate this vacation will last approximately 48 to 72 hours.
Your protégé… xiăo hè.
River smiled just a little as she finished her note and set it aside. The last was the most difficult, given she was unsure if she could successfully get both into either Inara’s shuttle or Mal’s bunk. Nonetheless, half an hour later, River was finally satisfied with her effort. Dividing up the contents of her hiding space into four piles, and setting a note atop each, River smiled as she slipped out of the smuggler’s hatch and replaced the cover panel.
Walking back to the kitchen, she passed Kaylee and Simon entering the infirmary, and smirked as she thought of what would result. Entering the kitchen, Mal greeted her with a warm smile as he handed her a cup of coffee. “Mornin’, Albatross. If yer brother asks, ya didn’t get it from me.”
“Gē ge has better things to do this morning. In any event, he is not my keeper, so his opinion on my choice of morning beverage is irrelevant.” River was about to say more, but the simultaneous arrival of Inara and Zoë caught her attention. “Good morning. Are you both well?”
Zoë simply nodded as she made her way over to the stove to get coffee. The first mate was not a morning person in any way, shape, or form. Inara, on the other hand, smiled warmly and brought the teen into a hug. “Of course, River.” That may be the most bold-faced lie I’ve ever told. I pray to Buddha she’s not listening to my thoughts. Directing a cold stare over River’s shoulder to Mal, Inara scowled. “A nice relaxing morning in the black. What more could I ask for?”
River knew the former companion was trying to hide something, so she withdrew to avoid accidentally finding out. Instead she stood up on her toes and whispered in Inara’s ear. “What did chuán zhăng say?”
Turning her head to return the favor, Inara frowned just a little despite efforts to hide her emotion. “Not to worry, mèi mei. All is under control.” Looking to Zoë for a moment, she decided it would be better not to wait. “Zoë, would it be too much trouble to take River to the bridge with you? I know you normally like to sit there with your coffee, but I think she might like to join you while I speak with Mal.
Zoë yawned as she stirred sweetener into her coffee. “Not at all. C’mon, River, I think it’s about time someone started to teach you how to fly. Inara and I can’t do all the flying, and I ain’t lettin’ Mal anywhere near the pilot’s chair after last time.” Taking the teen’s hand, the first mate ignored the captain’s vehement protests as to the nature of his piloting skills as she made her way to the bridge.
Once the pair was safely out of ear shot, Inara glared at Mal as she poured herself a cup of tea. “Well?”
Mal immediately stopped shouting after Zoë and turned to face his newest official crew member. Much to her surprise, his face showed humility. “You were right. She needs me.” Mal paused, seemingly waiting for Inara to make a witty remark, but none came. “Can we just agree that I’m a moron an’ get on with things?”
Inara’s features softened as she put her tea down on the counter and walked over to Mal. “You are not a moron. You are usually stubborn as a mule and far too cynical, but that’s something I’ve come to accept.” Taking Mal’s hands in hers, Inara stared deep into the captain’s eyes. “I am so happy that you are not being stubborn on this particular issue. This will mean so much to River, I am not sure I can even explain. After what her own parents did… and learning about Jayne’s parents… I grew up much like Simon and River did. My parents have not been part of my life since I was ten years old.”
“I’m awful sorry about that, ain’t right. If there was anything I could do to fix it, I would.” Mal looked down at his boots, unable to maintain eye contact with Inara’s intense gaze. “But you really think that the two of us are gonna make up for everything that’s happened to her?”
Inara let go of Mal’s hands and grabbed his face, forcing him to look up at her. “No one will ever make up for everything, but the two of us? We are going to do our best to make up for some of it, and we are going to spend the rest of our lives making sure that nothing so terrible happens to her ever again, if it can be prevented.” Seeing the understanding in his eyes, Inara stood in silence for a moment, not wanting it to end. And for the second time in as many days, she gave in to impulse, and pulled Mal into a kiss.
Caught slightly off guard, it took the captain a few seconds to realize what was happening. Carefully pulling back, Mal gently pushed Inara’s hands to her sides, holding them in place. “Not that I ain’t appreciative, but maybehaps this ain’t the best place an’ time to be… umm…”
“Kissing you like I should have months ago?” Inara smiled as she grazed her fingertips over the edges of Mal’s hands. “In my view, the two of us have some serious makeup work to do on that account, and I could not care less if someone should see. We are among friends, and they will not judge us. In fact, I believe they will be highly in favor of positive developments in our relationship.”
Mal stared dumbly at Inara. “Oh. Umm… alright?” She only continued to smile, so he concluded there was something else he was supposed to say, but he was at a loss for what it could be. “Is this the part where the charming brigand asks the beautiful lady what he’s supposed to be doing?”
Inara closed her eyes and shook her head. “No. This is the part where the lady asks the charming brigand if he would be hers. When she hopes with all her being that they can be something great, and that he wants to be a part of that.” Inara opened her eyes, her eyes piercing Mal’s. “What does the charming brigand think of that?”
“He thinks that’s the best idea he’s ever heard, and prayin’ this ain’t one of his stupid dreams.”
Inara’s light laughter seemed to permeate the kitchen. “No need to worry, Mal. This is no dream. Now there is one thing we need to do before anything else. Do you suppose we should tell River now, or at lunch?”
Mal contemplated the question for a moment, staring towards the bridge. “Reckon this boat is almost a family now… soon enough gonna be all but Zoë and Jayne that are related some way or another. Lunch’ll be soon enough, an’ that way I don’t gotta repeat myself.” Switching his gaze back to Inara, he grinned amiably as he picked her up by the waist and slung her over his shoulder.
Inara shrieked with laughter. “Malcolm Reynolds, you put me down this instant!”
“Not on your life, Inara Serra. You can’t get rid of me that easy, now you’ve claimed me.” Mal’s good mood flowed in his voice. “Now I’m ‘bout to take you to my bunk, an’ we ain’t comin’ outta there for anybody, ‘ceptin’ our new rú nǚ ér zhĕ. An’ if she gets us out of there for somethin’ and she ain’t dyin’, I’m gonna be mighty riled.”
And so it came to pass that Jayne woke up three hours later, a few minutes before lunch was supposed to start, and upon arriving in an empty kitchen, started noisily barging around the ship in search of an explanation. After being waved off by Simon and Kaylee, who claimed ignorance on account of having spent the entire morning in the infirmary, Jayne stormed onto the bridge to find Zoë talking with River. “Hey… why ain’t there any lunch?”
Zoë glanced at the intruder and raised an eyebrow before turning back to the console. “Ask the Cap’n. Believe it’s his turn to cook.”
“If I could gorram find him, I would! An’ speakin’ of people I ain’t seen, where’s ‘Nara? She ain’t in ‘er shuttle.”
River shook her head and giggled. “Silly hù wèi zhĕ, did you check his bunk?”
“For which one?” Jayne’s face echoed the puzzlement in his head.
River rolled her eyes. “You, Simon, and Kaylee aren’t the only ones that occasionally wish for company of the opposite sex. Now do you mind? It’s hard enough to not listen to the two of them and simultaneously concentrate on flying the ship without explaining such inane things verbally.” Apparently the blank look Jayne gave was too much for the teen, so she poked the first mate in the ribs.
Such an invasion of her personal space would normally be a death warrant, but Zoë felt sympathy for the poor girl, so she decided that just this once it was alright. Turning around and grabbing Jayne by the shoulders, Zoë looked the mercenary straight in the eyes. “She’s tryin’ to tell you that Cap’n and Inara are in his bunk, engaged in some form of romantic activity. And if I were you, I would carefully consider exactly how much you value not being on septic duty until the end of eternity before you bother’em.”
“You gotta be kidding… Inara and Mal? They finally figured out what we all did six months ago?” Jayne was completely stunned by this revelation. Gŏu shĭ… well, maybe this is good. Mal can’t hardly argue ‘gainst me if ‘Nara’s takin’ care of him and she’s on my side. Maybe he’ll be a little less ornery now he’s gettin’ attention from somethin’ ‘sides his hand.
Jayne’s musings were interrupted by an odd noise from River, something between a moan and a scream. “Need to go, can’t stay here, too close! Wŏ de mā! Too loud!” And a second later, the teen was flying off the bridge and past the crew bunks towards the cargo bay at top speed.
Jayne turned around and looked after the retreating River. “Ya think she’s actually feelin’ what Mal and ‘Nara are—”
“You finish that thought, and you will be on septic duty for at least a month. It ain’t funny, Jayne. Girl’s probably never even kissed a boy before, much less know what exactly all those thoughts goin’ through her head are about.” Resetting the auto-pilot, Zoë got up from her husband’s former chair and started towards the door, but stopped in the entryway. “If it isn’t too much for you to handle, try to be nice to River? I’m going to see if I can get some lunch together.”
Jayne scowled. “Since when ain’t I been nice to her? An’ she’s old ‘nough she oughta at least be interested. Ain’t natural, girl gettin’ to her age, not knowin’ the wonders of gettin’—“
“That’s another sentence you ought not finish.” Zoë’s mare’s leg was instantly aimed between the mercenary’s legs. “I had been thinkin’ you were a changed man, Jayne, someone we could be proud of. Don’t make me reconsider.” Holstering her weapon, Zoë glared at Jayne one last time before heading off to the kitchen.
Gorram it, she’s in a bad mood. Gonna be hard enough dealin’ with Mal and her brother, don’t need her ‘gainst me too! Jayne looked out the door, hoping against hope to find River standing at the end of the hall, but he knew he would have to go find her. Prob’ly hidin’ somewhere in the bay… it’ll take all afternoon if she don’t wanna be found. Hmm, this could be interesting… This last thought was prompted by Simon’s entrance into the corridor. “Yer sister’s off playin’ hide and seek ‘gain, if that’s who yer lookin’ for.”
Stunned by the helpful nature of Jayne’s unsolicited comment, the young doctor simply stared at him for a moment before speaking. “Actually, I was looking for Inara. Do you know where she is? I already checked her shuttle.”
Hook, line, and… “Gee, Doc, I couldn’t say. Ask Mal, he might have some idea.” Pointing to Mal’s bunk, Jayne smiled. “Think he’s in his room. I’m gonna go see if I can find yer sister, make sure she ain’t tearin’ the cargo bay apart.”
Simon’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the two of them were best friends. “Just don’t aggravate her, please. River can be rather unpredictable when she’s angry, and I’d prefer to avoid that.” Jayne only nodded as he passed by, and Simon felt a twinge of guilt for being impolite, so he called after the mercenary as he was exiting the hallway. “Thank you, Jayne.” Receiving no response, Simon walked over to the hatch of Mal’s bunk and knocked. After almost a minute with no response, he knocked again. “Captain?”
Meanwhile, inside of said bunk, Mal and Inara lay side by side on his bed, clothes strewn haphazardly across the floor and furniture. Mal wore his typical grin, immensely satisfied with his performance. “You think there’s any chance he’ll go away if we ignore him?”
Inara rolled her eyes in annoyance. “That’s not very nice, Mal. Besides, he’s probably looking for me, not you.”
Mal rolled over on his side. “Now why would he need you? Is a perpetually happy Kaylee not enough that he needs to have you too?”
Inara laughed and swatted Mal’s arm, which had encroached over her flat stomach. “Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m supposed to see him today in his professional capacity. You know, the part where he’s a doctor?”
Mal frowned. “What’s wrong that you need a doctor? An’ why ain’t ya tellin’ me these things?”
“Relax, Mal. Typical monthly visit, nothing to worry over. In fact, Kaylee usually has her’s just before mine.” Sliding off the bed, Inara pulled on Mal’s robe, which had been left hanging on a chair. “You stay here and relax, I’ll be back in ten minutes or so.”
Mal collapsed back onto the bed. “Whatever you say, dear.”
Inara had been almost to the ladder, but the resigned note in Mal’s voice changed her mind. Gliding back over the bed, she leaned over and kissed Mal’s forehead. “I love you, Malcolm Reynolds.” Then as quickly as she had come, Inara was gone, leaving the captain lying on the bed. Opening the hatch, she met a gawking Simon who had clearly been expecting Mal. “Come now, Simon. We should be able to finish before lunch if we do not dawdle.”
Simon looked quizzically at the former companion as she climbed out of the bunk and shut the hatch behind her. “Lunch was supposed to start almost ten minutes ago, which Jayne was none too happy about. And it was Mal’s turn to cook, although I guess now I know why he was preoccupied.”
“I hardly believe you are in any position to criticize, as I seem to recall Kaylee coming to visit my shuttle one night last week so focused on singing your praises that she failed to remember it was her turn to make dinner.” The smug look on Inara’s face dared Simon to challenge her, but for once, he wisely kept his mouth shut. “Well, I suppose I should tell Mal to start lunch then, and we might finish in time to join the others.” Kicking the hatch open again, Inara bent over to stick her head inside. “Sorry, change of plans. Apparently we lost track of time, and you need to start lunch now if you wish to avoid a mutiny.” Getting back up and pulling the hatch closed, Inara could distinctly hear grumbling from the bunk below. “Shall we?”
As the two made their way to the infirmary, Jayne found River sitting on a crate at the far end of the cargo bay, staring at the opposite wall. As he walked over, River turned to look at him. “Not your fault, just a bad day. But you should be more careful what you say near nǚ zhàn shì. Very temperamental, and concern for my well being is paramount. Thinks it is her responsibility to watch out for me because he would be doing it if she had died instead.”
Jayne nodded in understanding and complete agreement. Odd ‘nough, think he’d’ve actually shot me after that, if he could find a pair to go ‘long with Zoë’s gun. Seemed like he had a soft spot for her. Guess I oughta be grateful Zoë’s got more control. “Mind if I sit with ya?” The teen slid over to one side of the crate to make room, and the mercenary took the proffered position. “So does it make you happy? Mal and ‘Nara, I mean.”
“Not about my happiness. Needs to please them to be right. But yes, I would much prefer they be a couple than continuing as they were doing previously.” River looked back to the wall she had been staring at. “Did you speak with either of them?”
“Haven’t even seen ‘em. But when yer brother asked me if I’d seen ‘Nara, told him he oughta try Mal’s bunk.” The wicked smile on Jayne’s face was enough to know exactly what he’d hoped would happen. “He had absolutely no clue.”
“That wasn’t very nice of you. But I must admit, the idea of gē ge walking in on chuán zhăng and piào liang fū ren is very amusing. Hopefully chuán zhăng had the good sense to make sure his bunk hatch was locked.” The teen smiled for a moment, but it quickly faded, replaced by a far more serious expression. “I asked piào liang fū ren if… if she and chuán zhăng… would be my parents. Only now I’m not sure if it would be right.”
Jayne’s smile disappeared just as quickly as River’s. “I know, she told me last night. Sounded like a fine idea to me, two of ‘em be good for ya. Why ain’t ya want that?”
“That is exactly my dilemma. I do want them to be my parents. However, I am soon to reach my eighteenth birthday, when children become emancipated from their parents, and in most cases look forward to doing so. Also, assuming responsibility for my person would require significant labor on their parts. Comparatively speaking, my wants seem childish and unimportant, and I do not wish to be a burden.” River fought mightily to restrain tears. “I realize chuán zhăng says it in humor, but I do not wish to become an albatross, not a real one that would drag him down deep. But my heart conflicts with my brain, and I cannot choose between them. What should I do, hù wèi zhĕ?”
Jayne pulled the teen into his lap and a hug. “Nothin’ at all. Whole thing ‘bout havin’ parents is that they make choices they don’t want their kids makin’. So ya just let ‘em make up their own minds ‘bout what is an’ ain’t the right choice. Ya just gotta understand whatever they decide, they still love ya, just like the rest of us.” Pushing River back a second to look in her eyes, Jayne studied her for a moment. “All six of us. Dŏng ma?”
River nodded in affirmation. “Yes, I know. Like Robin Hood, from Earth-that-was, Serenity is united against the Sherriff of Nottingham. Common goals and struggles strengthen the love for each other of the group.”
Jayne raised an eyebrow in question. “Ain’t Robin Hood the guy that had his woman taken and he had to steal her back ‘fore the Sherriff made ‘er marry ‘im? If the boat’s Robin Hood, who’s the woman? Some ship somewhere?”
River smiled, her giggle distinctly that of a young girl unworried by the troubles that followed her. “We haven’t found Maid Marian yet, and no, she is not a ship. The story is still beginning. Besides, you completely missed the greater moral point if your first thought when you hear ‘Robin Hood’ is that the story revolves around his relationship with her. Robin Hood stole from the exorbitantly rich nobility and gave it to the poor farmers who could not afford to feed their families.”
Jayne frowned at this bit of information. “Ya ain’t about to start in on that thing with the mudders an’ Canton, are ya?”
“Silly hù wèi zhĕ, Serenity is Robin Hood. The crew is his band of merry men.” River lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, which was completely unnecessary as there was no one around, but she thought it would be appropriate. “But that particular incident was something he would have happily endorsed, accident or not.”
Jayne scowled as he got up. “I hate that gorram moon, and all them stupid mudders. Ain’t gonna bother me none if I never set foot there again.” Offering River a hand to get down, Jayne nodded towards the kitchen. “Gonna go see ‘bout lunch… ya comin’ with?”
River took the hand to get off the crate, but shook her head in response. “Not hungry, things to do. Perhaps I will come to the table when I finish.” Jayne shrugged and headed off for the stairs, but River’s voice interrupted him. “Perhaps after lunch, the crew could play hoop-ball? I would enjoy watching, and as there are seven of us, one would need to sit out to make even teams.”
“You don’t wanna play too?” River’s shake of her head in the negative was all the response Jayne was going to get. “Alright, suit yourself. Good idea though, think a game’s a great idea.”
An hour later, the whole crew was in the bay, all but River having had a very light lunch, thanks in large part to Mal’s decision that he did not wish to exert energy in actually cooking a meal. It was just as well since nobody wanted to have a full meal before partaking in strenuous exercise, and a good game of hoop-ball definitely qualified. So the crew had mostly snacked on some fruit and crackers, with the exception of Jayne, who had rolled his eyes and made himself a bowl of soup when he heard “Mal was being lazy.”
In the interests of fairness, River announced that she would make the teams to ensure a good game. To that end, it was determined that Mal, Zoë, and Kaylee would play against Jayne, Simon, and Inara in a game to ten points. After a few minutes of intense action, neither team had scored a point, mostly due to good defense by Jayne and Zoë for their respective teams. So nobody noticed that River slipped away from her position on the catwalk overlooking the game for about ten minutes. By the time she returned, Jayne’s team had scored three times, and Mal’s team was still trying for its first.
It was a hard fought game, and scoring was very difficult. But Jayne’s team had discovered that Inara had an advantage over Kaylee, and since Mal and Zoë were already finding it hard to keep up with Jayne and a surprisingly quick Simon, neither of them could switch with her. So Jayne and Simon developed a strategy of giving Inara the ball and moving away from her, allowing the former companion to take advantage of the smaller and slightly less athletic mechanic. What had been a close game at six points to four quickly turned into a rout at nine to four before Zoë realized the problem. The next time Inara caught the ball, the first mate sprinted across the bay at her, leaving Simon wide open in the hopes of using a double team to steal the ball. But she wasn’t fast enough, and Inara saw her coming. Rather than let Zoë get close enough to pressure her, Inara turned and ran to her right, away from the hoop in the center of the bay, but a little closer to Jayne. Simon saw this and instinctively ran directly under the hoop. When Inara feinted to throw to Jayne, Mal predictably jumped in front of the mercenary, but in doing so left himself out of position to stop a throw to the uncovered Simon. Inara simply lofted the ball in the doctor’s general direction, since there was now nobody within five yards of him, and a moment later Simon tracked down the pass and put the ball up and in to win the game.
River clapped gleefully from the catwalk. “Good job, gē ge!” Rushing down the stairs, she raced across the metal decking to catch her brother in a tight embrace, laughing the whole time. “Just like in secondary school, right?”
All eyes that weren’t on the siblings already changed their focus in an instant. Simon gently pulled River off. “That was basketball, River. Not the same thing, and besides, I wasn’t really that good.”
River waved her hand dismissively as she went to give Inara a congratulatory hug as well. “Same basic principle, get the round ball through a circle more times than your opponent. And you should not be so modest, you know as well as I do that you were selected to the all-city team three years in a row.” River looked around to see most of the crew looking a little astonished. “Gē ge was quite the athlete before he went to medical school. He was also proficient in soccer and baseball, but our parents said that athletics was for the lower class to participate in and for the upper class to watch as spectators.”
Simon rolled his eyes. “I was better than average, River, but there was no way I could have played for a professional team. How do you remember all of this anyway? You would have been just starting to go to school when I was still playing.”
River smirked and pointed to her head. “Before I was informed that it was impolite to intentionally listen in to other people’s thoughts, you were one of the few people I saw on a regular basis that had anything of interest to listen to.” Turning to Kaylee, River paused a moment before continuing. “Jiě jie, I realize that it is your turn to prepare dinner, but I would like to try to make something if that is alright with you?”
Kaylee looked skeptically at the teen. “I don’t mind none, but do ya want some help? I mean, first time cookin’ a meal for everybody can be kinda tough.”
River smiled cheerfully. “Thank you for the offer, but no assistance is required. If you all wish to go shower and change clothes, I’ll have dinner ready in an hour. Is that all right, chuán zhăng?”
Mal could find no fault in this plan, so he raised his hand in surrender. “Fine by me, Albatross. Just yell if ya change yer mind.”
But River’s planned dinner was only a rouse. As soon as everyone had exited the showers, and all were in their respective bunks, save Inara who was in Mal’s bunk where she had left clothes, River skipped to the control panel at the end of the hall near the crew bunks and overrode all of the locks, sealing all the bunks from the outside, and changed the password Kaylee had been using to ensure they stayed that way. Settling herself in at the kitchen table with some food, River sat back with a grin of satisfaction.
At about this time, Inara was about to exit Mal’s bunk to check on River when she tried to open the hatch and found she couldn’t. Looking directly up, she found a note with River’s handwriting taped to the underside of the hatch which read “Look under the bed.” A little confused, the former companion turned around to find Mal sliding a fresh shirt over his head as she walked over to his bed. Sure enough there was a little crate, inside of which was a note, six plastic bottles of water, and a pile of plastic containers she didn’t recognize. Holding one up, she stared at it with curiosity. “Mal, what is this?”
The captain turned away from his mirror, where he had been combing his hair, and immediately frowned. ‘That’s an MRE. Where’d you get that?” As Inara pointed to the crate, Mal walked over with a scowl as he picked up the note and began to read it out loud. “Chuán zhăng and piào liang fū ren, please excuse my deception, but do not be alarmed. For the general mental health and well-being of Serenity’s inhabitants, I thought that perhaps this trip to Greenleaf would be improved by allowing them to enjoy a brief respite from each other. Such that crew often spends extended periods of time with no other individuals for company, tensions can become strained without proper time for individual reflection and enjoyment of significant others. Please find enclosed nutritional sustenance and water supplies, which should be sufficient for the duration of this break, and please enjoy your time away from everyone else. Lovingly yours, xiăo hè.” Mal could only stare at the note, not exactly sure what to make of it. “Did the nī zi just lock us in my bunk and tell us to have sex for some indefinite period of time? Did she think this would be a good idea for a practical joke?”
Inara sighed in exasperation. “I have not the faintest idea, Mal. And as blunt and non-tactful as your first assertion might have been, yes, I think that’s what the note is implying.”
Mal frowned. “Well, think she’s gonna be a mite disappointed then. Even if we… umm… wanted to, I ain’t got any… umm”
“Contraceptives?” Mal nodded, not wanting to verbalize that particular thought, which Inara thought was highly amusing, but she hid it well. “No need to worry on that account, Mal. That was the purpose of my visit with Simon today, to get my monthly injection.”
Mal could only say one word. “Oh.”
Inara set the crate on the floor, and took the note from Mal, setting it on top. “Now if you are not yet ready, I can understand. We do not need to progress further than we already have with any great speed. But…” Inara stopped for a moment and shed her shirt, tossing it on a nearby chair. “I have been looking forward to the prospect of uninterrupted time with you since lunch, and I think our new daughter may have done us a favor.”
That was all the invitation that Mal needed, and moments later the pair were lost to passion. Unbeknownst to them, the other couple on the ship had made a similar discovery of a crate, leading to much the same result. Jayne had passed out on his bed after his shower, and would not discover his package for hours still, while Zoë had simply shook her head and settled into bed with a book.
Over the rest of that day and the next, River heard repeated banging on the bunk hatches from her place in the common room, but she simply ignored them. She knew they were anxious to get out of their bunks and question her as to her motivations, but wasn’t time to let them out yet, and she knew there was no emergency to warrant aborting her plan. She had diverted all incoming waves from the bridge to a hand-held device that Kaylee and Simon had been making, but had not gotten to work perfectly yet. River saw their mistake after a few moments, and minutes later, it worked like a charm. So it was early in the second morning after her plans had begun that she got a text-only wave from Badger. Curious as to its contents, she began reading it, until she felt something odd in her mind and she grew excited. Examining the feelings very closely, to make sure she was not mistaken, River sat in silence for almost ten minutes before she was absolutely sure.
River enthusiastically hurried to the bridge and grabbed the com piece. “This is your vacation planner speaking. We have successfully completed our mission in aligning all the planets properly! Everything will be good now, so I can let everyone out. I’m coming to do that as soon as I finish changing our course heading back towards Persephone to go see Badger. Wants to see us dirt-side for some reason, right away. Hope everyone enjoyed the trip!”
River finished changing a few dials at the helm and engaged the auto-pilot, then leaped from the pilot’s seat. This is what it feels like to do something good! Everything makes sense! Scampering through the hall, River skidded to a stop in front of the control panel and flipped the switch back to the unlocked position, and hurried over to Mal’s bunk. River unlocked it, and stuck her head down. “Chuán zhăng, you can—”
“ETA KOORAM NAS SMECH!” River never got to finish her sentence. She was unconscious before she even saw the furious look on Mal’s face or hit her head on the ladder.
gē ge – brother (older); jiě jie – sister (older); mèi mei – sister (younger)
piào liang fū ren – pretty lady; chuán zhăng – captain
nǚ zhàn shì – female warrior; hù wèi zhĕ – bodyguard
bǎo bèi – precious; nī zi – little girl; xiăo hè – little lotus
mŭ qīn – mother; fù qīn – father; rú nǚ ér zhĕ – daughter
Qĭng jìn lái – Please come in; xiàng zhū yī yàng yú chŭn – stupid jackass
Dŏng ma? – understand?; gŏu shĭ – shit; wŏ de pì gu – my ass
pō fù – bitch; fēng kuáng dì – crazy; bèn lǘ wú zhī – stupid-ass ignorant
mă shàng – now; Nĭ míng bai wŏ ma? – Do you understand me?
Shén shèng dì pái xiè wù – Holy excrement; Wŏ de mā! – My god! (lit. My mother!); Réncí de Fózǔ – Merciful Buddha
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