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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
TITLE: Serenity Now: All The Difference - Part 6
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: 815 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Simon couldn't quite hear anything anymore. He was exhausted, having not slept for over a day. He couldn't remember the last time he had eaten, and now some sort of demon was clawing at the inside of his stomach, demanding nourishment. But he couldn't concentrate on that right now. No, all that mattered right now was his patient. The young woman violently thrashing on the operating table before him, panting and coughing as she did. The young doctor tried to focus, try to assess what needed to be done to help his patient.
He had to ignore everything else right now. Had to help her. His sister.
"Simon!" Mal shouted again. He had been trying to get Simon's attention for the last thirty seconds, since River had started convulsing on the table before them. Mal needed to know what he could do, how he could assist beyond separating the back of River's injured head from the steel table she lay upon with his palm. Simon had gotten her broken arm strapped to the table so that she would not smash her cast, but her other arm was still flailing, and the captain had been using his free hand to keep it locked against the table. And once again, he had to admit how impressed he was that a girl of River's diminutive size could possess such unbelievable strength.
Looking up to find the doctor once again, he saw that Simon was struggling to strap her kicking legs to the table. As soon as he had them down, he threw the leather strap over them and pulled it tight. But River still fought against the bindings as though they were not even there. "Doc! What the hell's happenin'?!" Mal tried again, hanging on to River as firmly yet gently as he could.
"I don't know! I think she's having some kind of seizure!" Simon ran around to the far side of the table again, grabbing the arm that Mal was holding down. At least they were both agreed on the first course of action in helping River. Her limbs were deadly, uneven unarmed. There was no way that they'd be able to treat her until they could get her to lie something close to still. Grabbing the arm strap from under the table, Simon threw it over her wrist, grabbing some gauze from the rolling cart to pad where the leather met her skin, to prevent her from breaking her wrist while she raged.
Mal moved around to stand behind River's head, sliding his other hand under her skull with the first, absently stroking his thumbs across her temples as he shushed her. But still, even with her feet and wrists strapped to the table, River continued to slam her torso against the steel, coughing and gasping all the while. "Can't ya dope her or sumthin'?!" Mal asked as he looked over to the counter, trying to find something to cushion her injured cranium. Finding a folded blanket, he grabbed it quickly and tried to lay it gently under her. "A stabilizer, morphine, sumthin'?"
Simon passed behind him as he answered the captain's question. "No! I can't be sure what kind of damage her brain received when she was struck, or when she fell to the deck." He reached under the table again, this time pulling out the longest and thickest of the straps and throwing it over her chest. Circling behind Mal once again, he began to secure the strap to the opposite side of the table. "She could have a concussion, she could have hemotoma. If I give her any sedentary drugs, it could send her into a coma."
"Well, what then?" Mal said, reaching under the table and pulling out the final strap, the one that ran across River's forehead to hold her head in place. He placed a gauze padding under it, just as Simon had done with the one over her left wrist, before tightening it. "What can ya do?"
"Open her mouth," Simon commanded, grabbing a clamp from the table. Mal did as he bade, and the doctor reached into his sister's mouth, grabbing her tongue and securing the clamp around it. The weight of the metal pulled the tongue from the back of her throat, ensuring it would not close off her airway. Turning around, the younger man tore open one of the cabinet doors, taking down a medication from one of the shelves inside. Grabbing his hypo gun, he screwed the bottle onto the gun and set the dosage with the controls on the side. "Move your hand."
Mal immediately took his right hand away, seeing what Simon was looking for. Finding her jugular in a millisecond as it throbbed against her skin, the doctor set the hypo gun against it and pulled the trigger. Mal waited for a moment, but River's convulsions had not stopped. He looked up at Simon. "It's ain't workin', doc! What'd ya give her?"
"Peloziathan. It's a neuron relaxer. It will slow the electrical impulses in her brain without shutting them down," Simon said, setting the hypo gun on the counter and picking up his stethoscope. Placing the ear buds in his ear, he flattened the plate against River's chest. Her heart was still beating at a frightening pace. "It will take a few seconds to kick in."
And for a few seconds, Mal and Simon waited on bated breath as River's struggling continued, then gradually began to slow. Satisfied that her heart was not in danger, Simon moved his stethoscope slightly. She was still panting hard, but the gasping and coughing had stopped. "Her breathing is starting to regulate."
Mal looked down again, then reached over to the counter and found a towel. He took it and began mopping the sweat from River's brow, pulling wet strands of her hair out of her eyes and mouth. As he wiped the moisture from her face, he examined it closely and saw something he could not make sense of. "Doc." Mal said, catching Simon's attention as the young man pulled the ear buds of the stethoscope from his ears. "Whaddaya make of this?"
Simon furrowed his brow, then joined Mal at the head of the operating table, looking down over his sister. Her facial spasms had stopped, but her face did not project the eerie stillness it had previously shown. Instead, though her brow had relaxed and her gasping quieted, her eyes still twitched about wildly, as though she were searching for something frantically behind her lids. Simon reached down to remove the clamp from her tongue, the danger of her swallowing it passed for the moment.
Turning to place the clamp on the counter, he picked up a small penlight in its stead. He reached down, gently opening her right eye with his fingers and shining the light over them. Indeed, River's eyes were darting back and forth as though looking for something. "She conscious?" Mal asked, watching Simon as he examined the unusual ocular activity.
"No dilation," Simon said, letting the right eye slip closed and moving to examine the left. "In either eye. Indicates that she's still unconscious."
Mal circled out of the doctor's way, moving to River's side. "Then what is it?" Glancing up, he caught a glimpse of the dorm corridor through the infirmary windows, and the empty orange chair that sat before it. Damn. He had forgotten all about his shift.
Simon continued to furrow his brow, checking his sister's eyes thoroughly. "I can't be sure, but..." He glanced up, and Mal looked back from the windows to hear his diagnosis. "But it looks like rapid eye movement. REM sleep." Mal cocked his head, not understanding. Simon looked back down at his sister, shaking his head in confusion. "Like she's dreaming."
"DOC!" Jayne's voice bellowed from the general direction of the cargo bay. "DOC!" Exchanging startled glances, Mal and Simon rushed towards the door, and while Mal hit the hard right that took him up the short staircase into the cargo bay, Simon paused, hesitating to leave River here alone. Her spasms had slowed by now, taken over by a slight shivering that ran across her body.
Mal continued on, hearing something in Jayne's voice that always set his hair on end. Fear. "Jayne?" He rounded through the airlock and looked up, seeing Jayne's figure thumping down the catwalk stairs hurriedly, the mercenary's footfalls a little louder than usual. "What's wrong now?"
"Mal, get the doc!" Jayne yelled, reaching the bottom of the stairs and turning towards the infirmary. Mal could see immediately why the man had sounded even heavier on the stairs than he normally did. He was struggling to carry the very pregnant and unconscious woman in his arms. Instead of following Jayne's suggestion, Mal instead rushed forward, seeing that the man needed assistance.
"Com'ere," Mal said. "Gimme her arms." As Jayne acquiesced to this, the captain could see that like Simon's arms had been earlier, Jayne's hands and forearms were streaked with the blood of the fallen woman he was hefting. And as soon as the captain had his arms hooked under Cara's shoulders and began backing her towards the stairs with Jayne supporting her hips, Mal could fell a hot new rush of blood over his own hands. No, Mal thought. Not again.
Simon could see their charge the moment they appeared through the threshold at the top of the stairs. Rushing back into medbay, Simon quickly cleared the right counter, the one they used in the event that there were two people in need of medical attention. Hearing the other two enter the room behind him, he directed them towards the area he had just cleared. "Bring her here, set her down." Feeling a profound sense of deja vu, he wheeled the operating tray closer to Cara's head as the men did as they were bade, then began repeating the same ministrations he had just completed on River.
Mal looked up, backing away to let Simon work and let Jayne hover. Flashing his eyes over to the passenger dorms once again, he began to see doors open and eyes peek out, the occupants presumably roused by this fresh new batch of excitement on the ship. Reaching over to the comm, he pressed the button that connected to his first mate's cabin. "Zoe, we need ya down here. Now."
Pulling on a fresh pair of gloves and palpating the wound on Cara's head, feeling the unmistakable sensation of Jayne peering over his shoulder as he did. Sighing and shaking his head to wake himself, he resigned himself to the fact that tonight was looking to be a busy night.
As Zoe pulled herself up out of her bunk, she looked over towards the empty dinner table in the galley. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen the room so silent. It was odd, really. Mal had only told her to get down to the medbay, he had not said why. But simply judging by the silence in this room, which by this time of the morning should be bustling with the earlybirds of the crew grabbing their breakfasts, something was wrong. In fact, something on the whole ship just felt... wrong.
"Zoe?" The first mate heard Kaylee's meek voice from the bridge, and she turned to see the young mechanic standing in the doorway at the top of the stairs. She looked tired and scared, her eyes bloodshot from staring at the screens for the last few hours. She leaned on the door wearily, clutching a pistol she had found somewhere on the bridge for protection. "What's happenin'? Nobody's answerin' me down in the infirmary."
The first mate sighed, extending a hand to help Kaylee down the stairs. "I don't know, mei mei."
After hesitating a moment to check the screens behind her, the younger woman finally took her cue, grabbing onto Zoe's extended hand with one side and the railing with the other. Easing her sore limbs down the stairs, she let Zoe guide her towards the galley, not knowing why. "I heard Jayne yellin'. Callin' for Simon."
Zoe slid an arm over her young friend's shoulder, guiding her towards the kitchen. "I heard it, too. Mal called me down, I'm gonna go check it out. An' I promise, soon as I do, I'll make sure someone calls up here t'catch ya up, dong ma?" she said gently. She reached out and pulled open one of the cabinets, pulling out the makings of imitation eggs. "'Til then, howsabout you get some food in ya, huh? You been up too long with nothin' t'keep ya goin'."
Absently, Kaylee nodded. Her eyes were off in space until she felt the foodpack Zoe was easing into her hand. "Yeah. Yeah." Shaking her head to clear her vision, she reached up and grabbed a frying pan, then back into the cabinet Zoe had opened to grab a few more foodpacks. "I s'pose I'll rustle up some breakfast. Ev'ryone'd like that, right?" she continued, attempting to sound optimistic.
Zoe shook her head. She had been suggesting that the obviously tired and hungry girl make something for herself, not that she should go to the trouble of cooking a meal for the entire crew. "Naw, Kaylee, I wasn't askin'-"
"It's okay." Kaylee said, now fixing perfectly clear eyes on Zoe. And the first mate, well versed in non-verbal communication, knew exactly what she was trying to say. There was trouble aboard Serenity. Kaylee could sense it, even if she didn't know all the particulars. And with the engine running fine, there was little she could do to ease things. She couldn't wield a gun like Mal or Zoe, she couldn't fix people like Simon, and she couldn't calculate a course correction or pilot the ship like River. But what she could do cook a mean breakfast. "I got it."
Zoe smiled the barest bit, letting Kaylee know her message had gotten through. "Okay, then."
At that moment, they heard a new commotion from downstairs, the sounds of shouting and pounding feet. Zoe looked up, immediately pulling her gun. "Stay here," the first mate commanded quickly before dashing to the corridor and heading down the stairs to the common room.
Kaylee grit her teeth and closed her eyes a moment, tucking her scavenged pistol into the side pocket of her coveralls. Trying to follow Zoe's orders and ignore the ruckus, she reached forward to fire up the stovetop.
Descending the stairs quickly, the scene that had brought the noises up to the galley became quickly apparent to Zoe. Christopher and the children were standing in the corridor of the dorms, the man standing protectively in front of his young charges. And but a few feet away, Jayne was charging at the group, foaming and growling like a dog at the end of its leash. Mal was trying to hang on to him, but each time the brute thrashed he had to readjust his grip, and he was a hair's breadth from losing the larger man altogether.
"Let me go!" Jayne screamed, lashing out at Christopher and the others once more. "You fuckin' freaks! I'll rip out your hearts!"
"JAYNE!" Zoe bellowed in a voice like thunder. She jumped down the last few stairs and positioned herself between the mercenary and the passengers. Looking over, she could see the boys positioning themselves between Christopher and Enida, blocking the crying child completely from view. Palmer was extending his hands, ready to use his powers to protect the group from the raging maniac before them. And though Nye's abilities were far less dangerous in hand to hand combat, the tall young man was bracing his feet against the floor, ready to fight to protect his own. "Have you lost you gorramn mind?!"
"They got her, Zoe!" Jayne shouted at her, still fighting against Mal. "Those sonbitch strays got her! Knocked her out, like the whackjob!" He powered forward again, but this time Zoe raised her gun. The way these kids looked, and the powers she knew they had, Jayne was likely to get himself killed and probably take a few innocents down with him. So she leveled her gun on Jayne's head, if only to help him save himself. Staring down the barrel of Zoe's gun, Jayne was forced to cool his head a moment. Mal finally slackened his grip on the man's clothes, but did not go as far as release them altogether.
Looking down, Zoe noted coolly that Jayne was not wearing any shoes. "What are ya talkin' 'bout?" she asked, looking at Mal to see if he could provide any answers. "Got who?"
"Cara!" the mercenary yelled out instead. Though the gun directed at his head had helped to calm his body, his voice was still as volatile as it had been. "Brained her while she was a'sleepin'. In her shuttle. In her GORRAMN BED!" He reached out, pointing an accusatory finger at the children, which caused Zoe to realize that his hands were covered in blood. "Ya ruttin' cowards! I swear by hell, I will make ya'll pay for this! I will make you PAY!"
"Jayne, THAT'S ENOUGH!" Mal barked, throwing the mercenary back behind him and pushing him away from the children. Jayne, not taking a liking to being manhandled, shoved the captain's hands away, spinning away from his grasp. For a moment, everyone else in the room tensed, thinking the giant might try to charge at the kids once more. But instead, Jayne only stood there breathing hard and shooting daggers at the passengers with his eyes. Mal stepped into his line of sight, holding out a hand to placate him, and lowered his voice to a lull. "Calm yerself a tic. Go an' check on your girl."
The man fixed his angry gaze on Mal a moment, and the captain saw fire within the man, a fire he had seen only once before. At last, Jayne looked past Mal once more and pointed his hand toward the group of passengers. "She dies? I swear, I'm gonna open ya'll up like a-"
"Jayne!" Zoe said firmly but quietly, trying to diffuse the situation. "That's enough." Finally, the mercenary turned with a snarl and headed into the medbay, where Zoe could see the curve of Cara's belly showing through the bottom edge of one of the windows.
As soon as the danger had passed, Christopher looked at the captain, who was running his tired fingers through his hair as he sighed, and then at Zoe, who was holstering her shotgun and securing it into place. "Captain," the man said, briefly checking on the children still behind him. "I believe we've been more than patient. Now, would you please tell us what on Earth-That-Was is happening here?"
Mal sighed, looking down and over at Zoe, who simply fixed a gaze upon him. They may as well know, her face seemed to say. The ones who don't already. Taking a deep breath, Mal rested his hands on his gunbelt and approached the man. "Cara's been attacked, jus' as Jayne says. An' we think it mighta been the same person attacked River earlier."
"You're certain, then?" Palmer asked, picking up the crying Enida and smoothing his palm across her back to soothe her. "You're certain she was attacked? It wasn't an accident?"
"Ain't lookin' that way," Mal said quietly.
Christopher looked over at Zoe. "What about what you said earlier? The possibility of a stowaway..."
"Is lookin' less an' less likely, Mr. DuFresne," Zoe interjected, completing the man's thought. "Capt'n an' Jayne checked the ship over twice. Ain't no one onboard ain't accounted for."
"So, now we're the prime suspects?" Nye asked. Yet instead of showing his usual belligerence, the young man's voice stayed resolute and soft. Apparently, Jayne's violent outburst had alerted him to the severity of the situation. This was no time for sass. No, it seemed that if the crew did suspect them of attacking the two women, at least one of them was more than willing to dole out punishment. A very violent kind of punishment at that.
After a minute of silent conference with Zoe, Mal raised his head. "Sorry t'say, son. But it is lookin' that way." Seeing the group before him inhale sharply and look around at their fellows, the captain continued. "I'm afraid we're gonna hafta tighten security a bit 'round here."
Palmer looked up from Enida as he rocked her back and forth at his shoulder, trying to calm the terrified girl. "How so?"
"Boys, you'll be confined t'your rooms at all times. We'll be lockin' ya in there," Mal said, expecting to get a fight from one or both of the teens. But instead, they both looked at each other, and then at Mal, and slowly nodded. They would do as he commanded. Concealing his surprise, Mal continued. "Enida'll be locked in hers as well. Mr. DuFresne, you'll be allowed t'attend her durin' chaperoned visits."
"I'm gonna be all alone?" the little girl asked, clinging to Palmer for dear life. The screaming man had scared the living daylights out of her, and she could sense the anger, quieter though it was, still permeating the air. "I don't wanna," she began to cry.
Christopher watched her, then sent a pleading look to the captain and first mate. Zoe only turned her eyes away, avoiding his gaze. And Mal held the man's stare with his own, sending the message clearly through the air between them: This is my ship, and these are my orders.
Defeated, Christopher circled around Palmer to left the chin of his youngest charge, trying to smile comfortingly and soften his voice. "Hey, Eenie, look at me." The little girl lifted her dark brown eyes, sniffling back the mucous in her nose and roughly wiping her eyes. "I'm going to come by to check on you, as often as I can. I promise, alright?"
The child bit her lip, trying to be brave. "I reckon. But I don't wanna be alone."
Christopher nodded, holding his smile as long as he could. "You still have that teddy bear that Miss River gave you, right?"
"Nitsy?" The girl asked, mispronouncing the bear's philosophical namesake.
"Right. Well, when I'm not there, he'll protect you." He reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind the girl's ear. "It's all going to be alright. Nothing's going to happen to you."
"Come on," Zoe said, causing the others to look up to the woman's stoney face. "To your rooms." The group stock still for a few moments, first looking at her, then looking at each other. The first mate noticed quite varied looks on their faces. They looked at their compatriots, with concern for sure, but there was something in the eyes of the teenaged boys and Christopher that had not been there before. Mistrust. Zoe cleared her throat, gaining the small group's attention once more. "Please."
As soon as Mal and Zoe had ushered Palmer and Nye into their adjacent rooms and locked the sliding doors behind them, they waited in the hallway, watching over Christopher as he tried to placate Enida into feeling secure enough to be left alone in her room. They chatted at a low whisper, so that even the man and girl in the room they stood beside could not hear their words.
Zoe rubbed a hand across the back of her neck, working at the stiff muscles she found there. She looked across the threshold at Mal. "So, Cara?"
Mal shook his head. "Same as River. Someone got a good shot at the back of her brain." He turned and leaned against the frame of the door, tilting his head back to rest against the steel. "That's the most I got. When Jayne saw the passengers comin' outta their dorms, he lost it. I never got the full report from-"
"Shh." Zoe said, and Mal turned, knowing why she had hushed him. Christopher was approaching, having left Enida on the floor with her new stuffed teddy bear, a coloring pad, and crayons. Exiting the room, he turned and gave the young girl one last smile as he closed the door behind him.
Mal reached forward to lock the door. "Really? Is that necessary, Captain?" Christopher said, beginning to grow snappish with frustration.
"Sorry, Mr. DuFresne. No exceptions. For her safety an' ours."
Christopher snorted at this ironically as he made his way towards his own dorm. "Your safety? I can almost, almost understand your concern regarding the boys and myself, but how in the name of God could Enida have done all this?"
Mal opened his mouth to reply, but Zoe beat him to it. "God?" she asked in a clipped tone, illustrating her lack of sympathy at this juncture. "Mr. DuFresne, we got two of our crew laid out in the infirmary with holes in the back of their heads. One of 'em six-months pregnant. We've got four passengers with a history of keepin' the facts from us. We're tired, we're hungry, an' we've got exactly no patience left. I'm 'fraid you're gonna have to invoke a lot more than God to deter us from keepin' the rest of our crew safe. By any means necessary." She nodded towards the open door to his passenger dorm. "Now please, get in your room."
Mal stared at her a moment, but could not find anything in her tirade that he did not agree with. So he looked back at Christopher, who was staring at Zoe blankly. And without a word, the man turned and ducked into his cabin, Zoe sliding the door shut behind him with a satisfying smack. Mal looked at her a moment as she stared at the closed door. "Feel better now?"
She only shot him an irate look, then turned and started walking towards the med bay. Reaching down, Mal locked Christopher's door and followed.
As he entered the infirmary a moment behind her, he found Simon completing his work on Cara and Jayne pacing in the corner with vexation. Taking a moment to check on River as she lay on the operating table, Mal looked up at Simon, who was removing his gloves and cleaning up after his triage. "How's patient number two, doc?"
Turning, Simon snuck a glance at Jayne before he replied. The man had stopped his pacing, and was now staring at the unconscious pregnant woman where she lay on the counter, his arms folded over his broad chest and chewing on one of his thumbnails. Looking at the others, Simon answered Mal's question. "About the same as River. Except... except she's lost a lot more blood." Pointing at his stethoscope at the opposite counter, Zoe turned and picked it up, handing it to the doctor. "I had found River almost immediately after her attack. But from what Jayne tells me, Cara could have been attacked at any point during the three hours he was on guard duty."
Jayne nodded, affirming the doctor's claim. "An' the baby?" he asked of the doctor as the man put on his stethoscope. "How's the baby?"
Simon held up a finger for a moment, searching for the tiny heartbeat he had found earlier. Heaving a sigh of relief as he did, he turned to reply. "I hear the heartbeat."
Jayne leaned forward, not quite getting it. "An' that means...?"
"It means that as far as I can tell, the baby is fine." At Simon's words, Jayne let out a breath he had not realized he was holding.
After giving Jayne a nod of congratulations, Zoe began mulling over everything Simon had said. "Jayne, when ya got to your shuttle after your shift, were the doors locked?"
Jayne thought about this a moment, clearing his throat before he replied. "Not the outer one. But the inner one was. She always keeps it locked up when she's sleepin'."
"Well, they found someway in. Snuck up on her while she was nappin'." Mal theorized, leaning back against the counter between where Jayne and Zoe stood. He was really starting to grow quite tired.
Zoe seemed to accept this, but Jayne shook his head. "Naw. There's no way. Girl sleeps light as a feather. Near on two years, I ain't never been able to sneak in that shuttle at night without wakin' her."
Nodding his head, Simon seemed to indicate that he agreed. "Jayne's right. Look at this." Laying his stethoscope around the back of his neck, he gently lifted one of Cara's arms from the table, exposing the backs of her forearms and wrists. As the others leaned in closer, they could see dark red bruises beginning to form on her skin. "These are defensive. Perhaps they tried to catch her in her sleep, but I think she woke up. Tried to fight back."
Jayne sounded truly sad as he replied. "That's my Cara."
"But is it definitely the same culprit?" Zoe asked, glancing at River and for the first time noticing that she had been strapped down to the operating table for some reason. "Same M.O.?"
"Same Emmo?" Jayne asked, cocking his eyebrow.
"Modus Operandi, jacka-" Simon started to say, falling into his usual routine of picking on Jayne's lack of intelligence. But suddenly remembering that the man's pregnant girlfriend was lying unconscious on the counter next to where he stood just about sapped the good humor from him, and he softened his tone. "It means mode of operation. And yes. The injuries to their heads are nearly identical in size and shape. I'm almost positive they came from the same weapon. He, or she, even hit them in nearly the same spot on the head."
"Now that's curious," Mal said, leaning forward. The same spot on the head? "Anythin' particularly special 'bout that spot?"
Simon raised his eyebrows. He had not considered that before, but... "Actually, yes. It's right between the right and left temporal bones of the skull."
Zoe quirked an eyebrow. "The what and the where with a who?"
"Right between two of the bones that make up their craniums. One of the weakest parts of the skull. Hitting a person there would almost certainly render them unconscious. Which... they are."
"Efficient," Zoe supplied, looking over at Mal to see if he was thinking the same thing she was.
And of course, he was. "Efficiency in takin' people, even people like River an' Cara, down. Sounds like a hallmark of the Academy." He looked down at the young woman on the table. "And besides River here, we find ourselves with three would-be graduates of Academy training."
At that moment, the legs of Kaylee's coveralls came into view as she descended the stairs, balancing a stack of plates and forks in one hand and a steaming frying pan of eggs in the other. Damn, Zoe thought. In all the excitement, she had forgotten to call up to the girl.
Rounding the corner through the door, Kaylee put on her best happy face for the crew. "Hey, ya'll. Well that's convenient. I got plenty of plates and phony eggs to go 'rou..." She trailed off, seeing the body lying on the counter. "Who's...?" And then, all at once, she saw the figure's round belly and the blood on Jayne's hands. "No," the mechanic whispered, and her grip around the plates and panhandle began to loosen.
"Kaylee..." Zoe said, rushing forward. Simon, seeing his fiancee's reaction the minute she had it, was coming to her other side as well. Between the two of them, they reached out and clasped their hands around hers, keeping her from dropping the plates and the hot eggs. Zoe gently removed the frying pan from her left hand, placing it over a towel on the counter. Simon took the plates away.
Kaylee had not removed her eyes from Cara's still form. "Is she...?" And yet again, tears struggled to well up in her eyes, and she struggled to hold them back.
Simon, having placed the plates safely on the far counter, returned to his bride-to-be. He gripped her shoulders, commanding her to look him in the eyes with his own. "She's alive, Kaylee. She's hurt, like River, but she's alive."
"What happened to her?" she asked, this time looking to Jayne.
He simply stared at the same thing she was looking at, the blood on his hands, and shrugged weakly. Zoe, having averted the possibility of their food splattering on the infirmary floor, answered for him. "Jayne found her like this. Someone hit her."
The mechanic shook her head in disbelief. "No. Again?"
Mal nodded sadly. The next few minutes were spent explaining her condition, as well as the baby's, to Kaylee. Simon and Mal then filled the other three in on why River was strapped to the table, recounting her sudden and unexplainable onset of seizures. After a few seconds of silence, Kaylee realized that once again there was only one thing she could do to help the situation, and she calmly walked over to the frying pan and began doling out the meager breakfast of imitation scrambled eggs to the crew.
Accepting her portion of the meal, Zoe looked over at her captain. "What's the plan, sir?"
Mal took a moment to look at River's face before he answered. Her shaking had stopped completely now, but her eyes were still roaming wildly behind their lids. Every once in a while he could see one of her muscles twitch against the straps, as though she were dreaming, and not at all peacefully. "Kaylee, when last ya left the Markerhart, what was its status?"
Kaylee finished doling out the meals, and lifted a forkful of her own runny eggs to her mouth. "Holding steady just outside Celena's orbit. They ain't moved a muscle in the last few hours."
"Celena?" Zoe asked, and Kaylee nodded to confirm. "That's the case, our flightpath's gonna run past 'em close 'nough to smell 'em in 'bout twenty-four hours."
Simon looked up from his patients long enough to take a small bite of his food. "So... shouldn't we alter course? Go around them?"
Mal shook his head. "We don't know yet if they're there to stay. If they're still there once we're a few thousand miles out, we'll need to consider it. But 'til then, we'd do best not waste the fuel," the captain said sagely, his eyes never once leaving River's closed ones as he spoke and ate. "In the meantime, we got more pressin' issues to deal with. We got at least one unfriendly aboard, possibly with Academy trainin', an' two crew down for the count."
"I'm a gamblin' man, Mal," Jayne said, forking the eggs into his mouth hungrily. "An' I ain't likin' those odds."
Then, just as Jayne spoke, Cara began to turn on the counter. The room froze for a moment, all wondering the same thing. Was she waking up? Mal and Simon, having seen River's unexpected outburst earlier, were rolling that contingency over in their minds as well. The doctor, captain and mercenary all put their plates down on the counter and approached the woman, Mal and Simon ready for the spasms and Jayne hoping for a sign of consciousness.
But neither came. Instead, the woman's eyes began tracking across her closed lids, just as River's were doing still. "What's goin' on?" Jayne asked of Simon. Without realizing it, he reached out one of his large palms and rested it atop Cara's curly crown.
Simon quickly took the stethoscope from around his neck and placed the earbuds in his ears. Slowly reaching forward, for he knew that Cara was almost as deadly with her hands as River was, he placed the plate of the stethoscope over Cara's breast and listened to her heart and then her lungs. He took the penlight from his pocket and repeated the same eye tests he had administered to River earlier. At last, he looked up at Mal. "She's entered REM sleep."
And the very moment he said it, Cara parted her mouth. But instead of the panting breaths that had escaped River's lips earlier, all that came forth from her throat was a sob, and then another. Her eyes squeezed tight, and the others saw a tear slip between them, rolling out of the corner of her eye and past her cheek. She was crying, not out of fear or desperation, but utter sadness.
Jayne repeated his earlier question as he stroked his fingers tenderly through the woman's hair. "What's happenin', doc?"
Seeing that Simon was at a loss for words, Mal ventured a guess. "She's dreamin', like River." The crew watched helplessly as the woman lay on the counter before them, tears rolling past her closed eyelids and into her hair. Every few moments, a quiet sob would escape her lips, but nothing more.
Mal turned around, not wanting to watch the woman any more. It was far too disquieting. In the two years he had known her, Cara had never cried once. "Okay, here's the plan. Kaylee, can you rig something that'll let ya monitor the Markerhart from down here in the med bay?"
After a moment's thought, Kaylee slowly nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I can piggyback the scanner signals to the bridge an' lead 'em down here. Use the display screens to watch," she said, pointing to the screens Simon used to go over his medical files. "If that's okay," she added, looking at Simon. The doctor nodded.
"Good," Mal replied. "I wantcha to do that. That way, you can keep an eye on our Alliance friends an' help Simon at the same time, considerin' his workload jus' doubled." With a nod, Kaylee put down her plate and wiped her hands on her coveralls, heading out the door and up the stairs to the engine room to procure tools. As she was leaving, Mal turned to the first mate. "Zoe. You, me an' Jayne'll continue our shifts guardin' the passengers. We'll extend 'em to four hours apiece so's we can get some-"
But here, Jayne cut him off. "No." At this word, all three of the others stared in his direction. His hand was still knotted in Cara's hair, and he was using a towel he had swiped from one of the shelves to wipe away her fast-falling tears. They troubled him as much as they had Mal, if not more so. He looked up at the others with a defiant look, as though he were daring them to mock him for what he was about to say. "I ain't leavin' her."
Zoe and Simon's eyes tracked over to Mal, fully expecting him to argue with the other man. But after a full minute of silent staring between the two, Mal first flitted his eyes to Cara's face, then to River's. And for the briefest of moments, the look on Mal's face belayed his inner feelings. He understood. "Fine. Jayne, you'll keep watch over these three an' Kaylee, 'case anyone comes 'round."
Jayne raised his eyebrows just a bit, not expecting Mal to concede his wishes so easily. But opting not to press his luck, he nodded. "Jus' lemme grab my gun," the mercenary said, scratching Cara's scalp affectionately for a moment before slinking past to the others and heading towards the cargo bay.
Watching him go, Mal turned to Zoe. It was funny in a strange way, but in all the hubbub he had forgotten about Zoe's personal problem. Making a mental note to ask her about it later, delicately of course, he opened his mouth to speak. "Six hour shifts, then."
Zoe pulled the shotgun from her holster, checking the calibration for a moment to give her an excuse to keep her eyes off of Mal. "I'll take first watch." Sensing that he was going to decline her offer, she quickly added. "You ain't slept in a coon's age, sir."
At her words, Mal suddenly remembered how tired he was. His arms felt like he had been carrying buckets of water on each side, and his sore knees felt as though they would give under him at any moment. Oh, yeah, he thought. Sleep. I remember that. "Right. Good. You'll take first watch." Nodding her acceptance of the "order," Zoe left the room and took her old position in the orange chair, turning it slightly as she did to provide her a better view of the dorm corridor.
Looking over at Simon, Mal could see that he had gone back to work, monitoring his two patients as they lay on their respective beds, dreaming whatever they were dreaming. Knowing that he need not give the doctor an order to care for the women, Mal instead began gathering the remnants of their breakfast, thinking to dump everything in the kitchen on the way to his bunk.
Just as he was finishing this task, Jayne appeared at the door again, this time outfitted with his belt, gun and boots. The captain gave him a nod of acknowledgment, then met him at the door. Dropping his voice low, he addressed the other man. "Keep a sharp eye out," he whispered to Jayne. "For all of 'em."
Jayne nodded once. "Yeah. I got it," he said as he tried to squeeze past Mal, who was now blocking the entrance, and rejoin the weeping Cara at her side.
"No, I don't think ya do," Mal said, not letting him by. He snuck a glance over his shoulder at River. Having watched Jayne and Cara's relationship blossom from its very beginnings, as well as their public interactions of affection over the last few months, Mal knew that the man obviously cared for Cara to some degree. But Mal was worried right now, about more than his other hired hand. He was worried about the remaining members of his crew, as well as the woman he loved, who was laying in that room in the same predicament as Jayne's lover. He looked back at Jayne, holding the man's gaze with sharp blue eyes. "All of 'em," he repeated.
And Jayne, seeing what the captain was getting at, slowly nodded again. "I will, Mal."
"Good," Mal said, looking down. He turned his body to the side, allowing the man to pass, but muttering one last thing as he did. "Wash your hands." And with that, he walked away, heading up the stairs to the galley and his bunk.
Looking down, Jayne saw why Mal had made this suggestion. And had he been the type of man who thanked others for their kindnesses, he would have thanked Mal for this one. Because when he looked at his hands, he saw that they were still coated in something that made him go burning hot and freezing cold all at once.
A red reminder of what had been done to Cara. Her blood.
"Something ain't right here," Nye said. He sat on his bed, leaning up against the wall. He was rolling a piece of platinum, all the wealth he had left in the word, between his fingers. Trying to sort things out. "Ya hear me, Palmer?"
"Yes," the other boy said quietly. They had discovered that the wall between their locked dorms was thin enough that they could hear the other's voice, even at the lowest volume. "I hear you." In more senses of the word than just the one, the younger teen thought.
Nye closed his eyes and leaned his temple against the cold steel fittings of the wall. He did not like being cooped up, no idea of what was happening outside. He felt trapped. "I don't like this. They could murder us in our gorramn sleep. Dump us out the airlock like the big man said. Leave their problems behind."
"You know what I think?" Palmer asked rhetorically. He was leaning against the wall as well, though he sat in a chair. His hand was extended before him as he levitated one of his carefully rolled pairs of socks six inches above his palm. The socks turned every so slightly as he flicked his fingers. "I think we're being framed."
This piqued Nye's interest. "Whaddaya mean?"
"I heard the captain arguing with the first girl, River. Hell, you could hear them all through the gorramn ship." He let the socks fall into his hand. "Didn't you?"
"Yeah," came the interested reply.
Palmer nodded, then tossed the socks across the room. Just as they sailed through the air, he threw up his opposite hand. The socks halted in midair, and he slowly began drawing them back. "I think maybe he pushed her off the catwalks. Heat of the argument."
Nye considered this a moment, and had to admit that it was not outside the realm of possibility. "Yeah. An' the muscle? Did ya see all the blood on his hands?" He rolled the platinum in his fingers over his knuckles, catching it with his thumb. "The two of them was arguin' before, too. Maybe he saw the other girl get it, thought himself to capitalize on the idea."
Palmer nodded. "You saw all that blood on his hands. Hell, maybe they were in on it together."
"I bet you're right. Great plan, right? Get a boatload of patsies no one ain't gonna miss, kill off the thorns in their sides, an' pin the job on us." Nye shook his head, not liking where he and his friend's pondering had taken them. "We gotta get off this ship somehow, Palmer. I jus' know if we don't, they ain't gonna let us off this boat alive."
The younger teen nodded his head, though the other boy could not see him. "You're probably right," he said. As soon as the balled-up socks reached his grasp, he took hold of them again, angrily throwing them across the room and repeating the trick. Since they were imprisoned in these rooms, he thought he had better use his time wisely. Practice. Stay sharp.
Because as Nye pointed out, it could mean his life. All their lives.
"Breakfast," Zoe said, tapping on Christopher's door with her gun. She had the shotgun gripped tight on one hand, and a plate of the same imitation eggs she had feasted on earlier in the other. If trouble came about, she knew which handful to drop.
The door before her slid open slowly, and she raised her gun ever-so-slightly to greet the man behind it. Christopher looked first at her, then at the eggs, then the gun. He chuckled humorlessly as he ran his fingers through his wavy, sun-streaked hair. "My favorite," he drawled sarcastically. "Eggs and firearms."
Zoe fought to hide her smile. As uncomfortable as the man made her, she had to admire his balls. "Guess which ones are real," she fired back, shoving the plate towards him as she raised her shotgun further, keeping a bead on him as he took the eggs from her. Seeing this, Christopher flashed her a sarcastic smile, taking the plate with one hand as he raised the other in surrender.
Turning into the room, he sat himself on his bed and hungrily shoveled a forkful of food into his mouth, trying to ignore the blandness of his meal. Looking up, he found Zoe still standing in the door, holding her gun with both hands, finger still on the trigger. Swallowing his mouthful, he cocked an eyebrow at her. "You're going to watch me eat?"
Zoe nodded. "'Long as ya got that fork in your hand."
"You're kidding!" Christopher said, laughing at the notion. But seeing that Zoe shared none of his humor, he quickly stopped laughing. "You're not kidding."
She shook her head once. After Christopher stared at her a moment in disbelief, she indicated his plate with her head. "Eat your fake eggs, please."
Christopher took another bite and feigned a smile. "Yum."
Zoe was starting to remember why she liked this guy in the first place. At first glance, he appeared so conceded and boring. It had been that way on Boros, when they had first met. At first, she had hated him. Hated the easy grace of his walk, hated his handsomely disshevled appearance. But then he had made her laugh, something she had almost forgotten how to do in the months since Wash's death. He was delightfully wry and clever, not in the way Mal was but in his own... unusual way.
As though he could read her mind, he looked up, offering her a genuine smile. "Tell me. That first night we met, did you ever think we'd end up in this situation someday?"
She thought she might know where he was going, but for some reason, she wanted to play his game. She relaxed just a hair, leaning her shoulder against the open door frame. "What situation would that be?"
"With me, sequestered in a room and eating a..." He sighed. "Pitiful excuse for a meal, while you hold a gun on me?"
Zoe could not help herself. She smiled. "You've jus' described the beginnin' an' end of most relationships I know of."
Christopher smirked to the side, not looking up as he forked another bit of eggs. "Is that what this is? A relationship?"
The woman rolled her eyes. "Oh, shut it."
Eyeing the gun in her hand pointedly, he grinned sarcastically once more. "Yes, ma'am." He moved the utensil full of eggs to his mouth, tilting his head towards the bunk across from his. "I dare not ask about the boys, but may I visit with Enida soon?" There was the barest twinge of hope in his voice.
Zoe sighed, looking over her shoulder. She could see the door of the Enida's room open and Kaylee seated cross-legged inside, trying to coax the little girl to eat. "Maybe. Kaylee's in with her now with breakfast. Maybe I'll take ya over af-"
"Kaylee!" Suddenly, Simon's voice could be heard echoing through the corridor. Immediately following, a clatter of what Zoe presumed to be medical supplies crashing against the infirmary floor. If Zoe had to, she would guess that River's seizures had started up again. But she never liked to guess. "Kaylee, I need you!"
Zoe raised her gun, pointing it at Christopher as she leaned out the door. She could see Kaylee in Enida's room, looking up with a startled expression. But the mechanic was hesitating, seeing the fear in the little girl's eyes. Zoe could read faces, a talent she had picked up over the years, and she could read the faces of Kaylee and Enida as clearly as she could the Chinese language. Enida was afraid, and after all the little girl had been witness to for the last day, Zoe wasn't surprised. Kaylee knew Simon needed her help, but was hesitant to leave an upset and frightened little girl.
Then, more sounds of crashing and River's panting breath. "Kaylee! Please! I need your help!" Simon implored again, now sounded even more stressed. The commotion had even roused Christopher, causing the man to come as far towards the door as the nose of Zoe's gun would allow.
Taking matters into her own hands, Zoe shouted at the woman in the room behind her. "Kaylee, get in there!" she ordered, and that seemed to break Kaylee's hesitation. Zoe could hear the woman attempt to placate the girl briefly as she rose to her feet, then backed out the door and headed towards the medbay. Much to the first mate's annoyance, she left the door wide open behind her.
And then Enida began to cry.
Christopher started forward, ignoring the gun trained on his head. "Enida! It's okay, honey!"
Zoe snapped into action, blocking the man's exit with her body. "Kaylee, the damn door!" she snapped, causing Kaylee to halt and double-back, this time remembering to close and lock the door behind her. This action only incited Enida's fear further.
Hearing Enida's screams of abandonment, Christopher struggled against Zoe. "It's okay, Enida! Don't be scared! I'm right here!"
"Mista DuFresne! Mista DuFresne!" the girl cried.
"It's okay, sweetie!" Christopher called to her, still trying to force his way past the woman blocking the door. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he noted how unexpectedly strong she was. But right now, all that was on his mind was the hysterical child under his care. He looked at Zoe, fire blazing in his eyes. "Let me go!" he hissed.
But she stood firm, summoning her strength to shove him back into the room. "You know the rules! I ain't lettin' you outta this room while there's trouble!"
Hearing Enida's continued screams, Christopher reacted much the way an adoptive father would be expected to. He bluffed. "You're not keeping me here," he said, striding forward. Zoe raised the nose of her gun quickly, stopping him in his tracks. Christopher eyed her angrily. "And you're not going to shot me."
"You best believe I will," Zoe snarled at him. The tousle with Christopher had loosed some of her unruly curls from the clasp at the back of her head, and she shook them out of her eyes, not blinking for a moment. "If you force me to."
"I don't believe this!" Christopher snapped at her furiously. The brown of his eyes came alive with passion as he spoke. "She's upset! She's scared, and needs me!"
"An' I need to protect my crew!" Zoe spat back. "Trust you me, it's the same principle at work!"
Enida's cries could still be heard through her closed door. This was madness, and Christopher would not stand for it. He would not stand by idly while the child he had sworn to protect wailed in pain. "Miss Washburn," Christopher said, eyes flitting first from the source of the noise to the woman standing before him. "Please don't force me to do anything I'll regret."
Zoe eyed the man dangerously as he closed his fist, and wondered if he had been this crazy when they had first met. "You try it, an' I promise you, regret won't begin to cover what you feel."
The two squared off for a moment, the screams of the young child in the other room being the only sound that filled the air. Stealing himself, Christopher charged forward, thinking to shove Zoe out of the way.
Moving faster than the eye could see, Zoe slammed the butt of her gun into the man's shoulder, knocking him off his path and into the chair of his room. The wooden chair broke and splintered the minute the man hit it. Raising the shotgun once more, Zoe trained its sights on his head, standing stock still over him where he had crumpled.
"You..." Christopher said quietly, grabbing his bruised shoulder in pain. "You hit me."
Zoe scowled deeply as she stared down at him, past the barrel of her gun. "You're lucky that's all I did," she said coldly. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement. The noise in the medbay had stopped, and Kaylee was hurrying back towards Enida's room. Opening the door, Zoe could see her take the crying child into her arms quickly, soothing her as only a dear heart like Kaylee could. Within a few moments, the little girl's sobs had slowed and quieted to a dull murmur.
"There, ya see? She's fi-" Zoe began, stopping suddenly as her legs crumpled under her. She hit the floor in a heap and before she could regain her senses, Christopher's body was on top of hers, pinning her to the floor. She struggled against him, but found they matched equally for strength. "Good t'see you ain't above takin' a cheap shot," Zoe whispered harshly, not wanting the crew to find her in this vulnerable position. "Now get the hell off me!
But Christopher's eyes were mad with anger, and his voice was equally as harsh as hers. "Do you have any idea what I have been through for those kids?" He hissed his question at her, locks of hair flopping across his brow. The cultured and polite man who had come to her in her bunk earlier was gone, replaced by a protective ire. "Do you have any idea what they went through before they came to me? Those kids have been through hell, and I swore... I SWORE that I would protect them from it." His body was hot and flush with anger as it pressed against hers. "So I don't care how tough you are, Ms. Washburn. I keep my promises, and I ain't gonna let let them down!"
Zoe stared into his eyes a moment, reflecting his anger with her own. They were both breathing hard, and Zoe could smell mint and pineapple on his lips. A drop of sweat rolled down his temple to his nose, and Zoe found herself following it with her gaze. Searching for something to say, she opened her lips at last. "You said 'ain't'," she said flatly, breathlessly.
And then his lips were on hers, or hers were on his; she couldn't remember. They kissed feverishly, passionately, feeling the fire against each other's bodies. Zoe dropped her gun and ran a hand through his hair, moving the other to feel the muscles of his shoulders and back. Christopher's hands roved over her hips and up into her wild, tightly curled hair.
Easing back on his knees, Christopher pulled Zoe roughly up with him, moving his hands to her lower back and pressing her against his stomach. He could feel her supple breasts pressed against his chest, and he could taste coffee and a hint of whiskey on her breath. Breaking their lips apart at last, he had time only to whisper, "Zoe," before his mouth found the soft mocha skin of her neck.
Zoe could no longer think. Her concentration was on the feel on Christopher's scorching skin against her own, his heat radiating between their clothes and washing over her. She inhaled deeply as he suckled her neck and collar, the scent of sea salt filling her nostrils. "Christopher," she said, sliding her palm up his back and pressing his face closer to her body.
Wait, she thought. Wait, what are you doing? Flashing her eyes across the room, all the things that were wrong with this moment came rushing down on her. The door was open, exposing she and Christopher's moment of passion to the world. Her gun was laying out of her grasp. There was a hidden menace on this ship that had already taken down two of her crew. This was not the time. This was not the place. Though it had been so long...
No! she thought, trying to push Christopher away, trying to deny herself the sweet pleasure of his lips against her skin. "Christopher, no..." she whispered meekly, trying to end a moment she never wanted to end. "No..."
"Zoe," Christopher breathed against her, hearing her words but not want for the life of him to acknowledge.
Zoe wrestled against her emotions, personified by the way she intermediately pulled Christopher's body towards her and then pushed him away. She had to stop this, had to...
Without realizing it, she had reached up over the bed and found Christopher's forgotten plate of eggs with her hand. Shutting down her heart, she grabbed the plate and swung it downwards. It smashed against Christopher's injured shoulder, throwing bits of eggs to the floor and causing the man to back away a moment. This gave Zoe the chance she needed to spring to her legs and grab her gun, making for the door in a hurry.
Christopher fell back onto his seat, clutching his shoulder in pain and watching the woman retreat, causing him another sort of pain altogether. "Zoe, wait," he said, staring at her as she reluctantly paused in the doorway, slowly turning and using her curtain of hair to hide her expression.
Looking back, Zoe found the man she had attacked in two very different ways sitting on the floor, staring at her with a blank expression on his face. After a pause, he reached forward with one hand, and Zoe could see the glint of metal he offered to her. The fork.
In one fluid motion, Zoe reached forward and grabbed the utensil, then turned tail and retreated into the hallway. She closed the door quickly behind her, locking it as she fumbled with the keys. Wiping her mouth, she took a moment to breathe. Looking over, she could see that Kaylee had successfully calmed Enida and left the room, remembering to lock it this time. She could see the woman's light brown hair through the infirmary windows. Shaking off the moment, she approached the med bay as she holstered her gun, empty plate and fork in hand.
"Hey, Zoe," Kaylee said sleepily as the first mate appeared in the doorway, failing to notice that the woman's hair had suddenly come undone. "Boy, Christopher was hungry, huh?"
"Huh?" Zoe replied, shooting her eyes up at the woman. Simon and Jayne looked over from where they tended to Cara.
Kaylee pointed at the empty plate in Zoe's hands. "The eggs. He was hungry?"
"Yeah, uh..." Zoe said, clearing her throat and focusing her eyes. "Yeah. I'm jus' gonna put this upstairs, okay? Jayne, you watch the corridor."
Jayne nodded, taking a moment to stroke Cara's head before moving forward. "Got it."
Nodding, Zoe turned and headed up the stairs, moving into the galley at her left. She dumped Christopher's plate and fork into the sink, bracing her hands against the the edges of the counter and leaning in to catch her breath.
What had she been thinking? Had she been thinking at all? She didn't know which it was. He had just been so close, his body had been so warm. It had been a moment of weakness, that's all.
Except... except Zoe didn't have moments of weakness. Not once in her life. No, that wasn't it at all. It had been the feeling of lying there beneath him, his body upon hers. The words of conviction and protection coming from his mouth. He steadfast beliefs and indomitable will. He had been so strong and brave in fighting against her. Not many men fought back against Zoe, and the most that did were fools. But the others? They were truly the rarest of men.
Zoe reached up to rub her temple, feeling as though she needed a stiff drink. She closed her eyes and rubbed against them hard. She had to clear her mind. Had to get back in the game. Whatever had caused her to kiss Christopher or allow him to kiss her, she could not think about it now.
She needed to focus. Needed to concentrate on the task at ha-
Thursday, August 21, 2008 1:47 AM
Sunday, March 24, 2013 3:33 PM
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