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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Now not all stag nights end with a fight ... honestly. And Bethie gets to delve into her chest of treasures. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1135 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
River adjusted Jayne’s collar, smoothing the striped shirt down over his biceps. This wasn’t his old ‘whoring’ shirt – that had finally been relegated to the rag bin after a particularly energetic bout of love-making when he’d ripped it more or less in half in his urgency to get at River’s soft tender flesh. This was new, picked out for him at their last stop by that same loving wife who now stood back to take in the effect.
“So? Will I do?” he asked, noting her critical look.
She closed one eye. “I think …” With a delicate finger she brushed a tiny piece of lint from his shoulder. “You’ll pass in a crowd.”
He grinned, then lifted his head as the rest of the male members of the crew descended into the cargo bay.
“I’d be quite happy to stay behind,” Simon was saying.
Hank grinned, his own crisp white shirt making his grey eyes seem almost blue. “Nope. Be good for you to get out. And I'm not going with Jayne on my own.”
“You won’t be on your own. Mal’s going.”
“Hey, don’t get me involved,” the captain said quickly.
“Besides,” Hank went on, “you need some fresh air. You’re looking pasty.”
“Pasty? I'm likely to be looking green if we have too much to drink.” Simon adjusted the tie Kaylee had made him wear, saying he looked ‘kinda neat’ in it.
“Ain’t there some saying or such about physician heal thyself?” Mal asked, having refused point blank to dress up and was thus more than comfortable in his oldest brown shirt and usual pants.
“Oh, I intend to. Doctor’s prerogative.”
“There can be a bit too much of that sort of thing, if you’re not careful.” His lips curved. “Remember Carson’s Moon that time?”
Simon blushed, just across his cheekbones, as memories of too much smoother before going on stage as an actor almost overwhelmed him.
Freya, following them down, laughed. “Just try and keep them out of trouble.”
“Trouble?” Mal turned to look at her, stopping her on the step above him. “Since when do we get into trouble just going into a bar for a quiet drink?”
She put her hands on his shoulders and kissed him lightly. “When don’t you?”
Deciding it was a rhetorical question, Mal pulled her down for something deeper and more fulfilling.
“Ready?” Matty asked, joining them from the common area.
Simon sighed, Hank rubbed his hands together, and Mal reluctantly let go of his wife.
“Think so,” Jayne said, opening the airlock door onto the dusk.
“Thought you were gonna keep me waiting out here all night!” said a tall, thin man with a shock of bright red hair.
Matty grinned. “Terry, you don’t have to worry. You’ll be getting outside a beer ‘fore long.”
“Thank God for that. My stomach was beginning to think my throat’d been cut.” Terry leaned in the doorway. “Been a while since I seen a Firefly,” he added conversationally. “And now here’s two in as many months.”
Kaylee leaned over the catwalk, as much as the bulge at her waist would let her. “Another Firefly?” she asked.
“Yeah. Newer model, though. I think it was an O4. Had a busted port stabiliser, and we had to fix her.”
“You work in the docks?” Mal asked.
“For my sins.” He grinned, his red hair flaming in the light from the cargo bay. “Kinda like to take a look around your engine room, if I can. You know, see what she’s like.”
Mal could tell Kaylee was getting excited, keen as she always was to wax lyrical about her home. “We’ll see about that. Maybe next week.”
Terry wasn’t worried. “Shiny.” He stood straighter. “Well, if we’re going to eat first, we’d better go. Jason’s meeting us at the diner, and so are the rest of the boys.”
Matty’s brow creased. “Just how many are coming?”
“Only a few. Their wives kinda put their foot down, so it’s just the unencumbered who are joining us.”
“Oh, good,” Matty said weakly. “Well, I’ll do introductions as we go, so … I suppose we’d better be getting on our way.”
“Honey, are you sure you don’t want to go with the rest of the girls?” Hank asked, looking up at his wife on the top catwalk.
“Someone has to stay behind, babysit. And I don’t think an early night will do me any harm.” Zoe smiled.
“Well, if you’re sure …”
“I'm sure. You just enjoy yourselves.”
“Okay.” He grinned, glad she hadn’t reminded him that he wasn’t to gamble, even though he knew it was implicit in her tone.
“So, are you going to be good?” Mal asked Freya, pulling her to him to touch her down his length.
“We’re picking up Jolene and heading straight for the house. I doubt we’re going to be doing any carousing. Not like some.”
“I think carousing’s out of the schedule. Might be on for some quaffing, and maybe some revelling, but I don’t think anyone’s got enough energy for carousing.”
She laughed, and he could feel the vibration running through her. “I’ll have you know Jayne can carouse with the best of them. Just … stay safe.”
She might have been smiling, but he knew she meant it. “Always, xin gan.” One final kiss and he let go, heading out into the cool evening with the others.
Zoe watched them go, shaking her head. “I don’t have a good feeling about this,” she murmured.
“They’ll be fine,” Kaylee replied, leaning into her friend a little. “They’re just going to have fun.”
“Really.” Zoe raised an eyebrow and Kaylee chuckled.
“Oh, I know they could find trouble in the dark with their hands tied behind their back, but this ain't a place like that. Besides, kinda reminds me of home.” She laid her palms on her belly, stroking gently.
“Mal promised he’d get you back to Phoros in time for the birth,” Freya said, climbing the stairs towards them.
Kaylee grinned. “And I’m looking forward to it. As much as I don’t mind being pregnant – least, most of the time – I can’t wait to hold this little baby.”
“Have you thought about names yet?”
“Been talking about it, but we can’t make up our minds. Might not, ‘til he’s born.”
“You’re sure it’s a boy?” Zoe asked.
“I know it.”
“Might be twins,” River said, jumping up the steps and pushing past Freya. “I see twins in the future. And it’s time to get going.” She ran into her shuttle and began throwing things around.
“Twins?” Freya looked at Zoe, then at Kaylee.
“Hey, ain't mine,” the young mechanic said, cradling her stomach protectively. “Simon’s sure about that. Just the one in here.”
Zoe pursed her lips, somewhat thoughtfully. “You know, you were a twin,” she said to Freya. “And Mal’s always said there were twins in his family.”
Freya swallowed. “Yes, but … aren’t there twins in yours? Hank’s?”
“Nope. Not a one.”
“Oh.” She shook herself. “Anyway, this is something of a moot point. There’s no guarantee we’ll be having more. Jesse was something of a miracle. I might not be able to conceive again.”
“But you’ve been trying so hard,” Kaylee said, her brightness dimmed.
“Very hard,” River agreed, sticking her head out of the shuttle doorway. “Sometimes I can’t sleep because you’re trying so hard …” A faint look of disgust flashed across her face before she disappeared again.
The other women looked at each other then burst into laughter.
There were half a dozen men waiting for them in the diner, and between them they more than half-filled the place. Over voices asking questions, and much raucous laughter as Matty was made less than gentle fun of, the waitress took various orders and managed to get them more or less right.
Then, filled with pretty decent food, the group got onto the most important part of the evening – the drinking.
Jayne looked at the name emblazoned across the windows of the saloon. “O’Malley’s.” He glanced at Mal. “Every gorram town on every gorram planet has a place called O’Malley’s. You think it’s the same family?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Gilford laughed. “There’s been no-one by that name working here as long as I can remember, and I think I was about eight first time I stepped through those doors.”
“An early drinker?” Mal asked, looking at the older man in surprise.
“Nope. A dad who liked a bit too much. More’n a bit, truth be told. And that would’ve been the first time I was sent to bring him home.” There was a touch of bitterness in Gilford’s voice. “Long time ago, though.”
There was something of an embarrassed silence, then Jayne coughed. “Yeah, well, families can be …” He stopped. “Anyway, it’s the doc’s turn to buy.”
Simon stared at him. “Who decided that?”
“I did. ‘Cause you’re –”
“Jayne, before you complete that sentence I’d like to point out that I operate on you. With a depressing regularity. I may have promised to never harm you while you were on my table, but that doesn’t mean I might not accidentally reroute something. Something very important. Something River might not like.”
The big man thought for a moment, then what Simon meant penetrated. “You wouldn’t.”
“It would be an accident.”
“But that’d ruin a man’s day.”
“She’d kill you.”
“She’s my sister. I think I could talk her round.”
Mal couldn’t help his lips twitching, particularly as he noted the rest of the men with their hands somewhat protectively cupping their more sensitive parts. “Jayne, we’re all putting into a pool, least for the first coupla rounds. Simon, no emasculating anyone. Not without my say-so first. And no aggravatin’ each other, either of you, dong mah?”
The two men stared at each other a moment longer, then nodded their agreement.
“Good.” Mal wondered why he always felt like he was in charge of a bunch of six year olds when they were all out together, but decided that way madness lay, and instead clapped his hands together. “Then I'm feeling in the need for a drink.”
“Good idea,” Gilford said, leading the way into the smoky, smelly bar.
Finally they’d left her alone. All day she’d been itching to get back to the box, to her treasure chest, but they wouldn’t let her. Instead Ethan seemed intent on making up whatever they’d been fighting about, while Ben, Hope and Jesse just wanted to play, and it felt too rude to not give in. Besides, they might get suspicious.
It wasn’t until after an early dinner – luckily something Momma had left behind that Auntie Zoe only had to stick in the oven to warm through – that she was able to go to her room, close the door, and pull the box out from under the bed. Unwrapping it, she gazed at the metal straps, at the grain of the wood, and let her mind wander over what might be inside.
Bethie sighed. Better to look. Then she couldn’t be disappointed. Lifting the lid, she stared at the contents. Maybe it was treasure after all.
Lying on top of what appeared to be a string of bright red glass beads were two pebbles, one shot through with a vein of quartz, the other as black as space, and shining just as brightly. Lifting them out, she carefully untangled the beads, finding it was a double string with a large blood-coloured stone hanging at the centre. Attached was a small brown label, with faded words written in a rounded script.
To Meg. Happy Birthday. From Jayne.
Something about it, from the simple sentiment to the careful lettering, made Bethie know that Jayne hadn’t noticed it when he handed the box over, otherwise he’d surely have removed it lest anyone believed he was capable of having feelings. It made her chest tighten up and for a moment she considered tearing it into little pieces, then changed her mind. Putting it to one side, intact, she turned back to the remaining contents.
A seashell, perhaps from a long ago visit to the shore, although there was no ocean within several thousand miles. The remains of a flower, crumbling into dust even as she tried to pick it up, making the scent of a far distant summer tantalise her for a moment. A bracelet made from coloured threads, all twisted together, and only just big enough even for her. And that was it.
Only … She peered closer, then reached into the very corner, where something was glittering. Whatever it was seemed to be well and truly stuck, but as she pulled on it gently there was a slight grating sound and it came free to lie in the palm of her hand and wink at her.
“Oh,” she whispered, staring at the coin.
“What’s that?” Ethan said from the open doorway.
She turned blazing eyes on him. “That was closed!”
“So I don’t barge into your room when you’re busy!”
“Yes, you do.”
“Well, maybe I do but … I'm a girl!”
He put his head on one side. “I don’t think that makes it right.”
She was about to agree with him, then realised that meant she’d be saying she’d been wrong to go into his room unannounced, and instead she contented herself with just growling at him. Unfortunately it didn’t discourage him.
“That looks like gold,” he said, moving forward and pointing at her tightly clenched fist.
“Huh. Like it would be.”
“Maybe a doubloon. Or a piece of eight.”
For just a moment she was impressed by his knowledge, then caught herself. “It’s mine.”
“Didn’t say it wasn't. But can I see?”
“Did it come out of that box?”
She glanced down, seeing the pile of treasures on the bed, the open chest … “Maybe,” she grudgingly admitted.
“Please, Bethie. Can I see? I won’t tell anyone.”
She glared at him, seeing nothing but honesty in his blue eyes. “Okay.”
It might have been said with ill-grace, but he didn’t mind. In a moment he was next to her on the bed, staring at the coin. “Are you sure it’s not gold?” he asked, touching it lightly.
Bethie shrugged. “Don’t think so. It was in Uncle Jayne’s box he gave me, and if it had been gold I think he’d have spent it, don’t you?”
“True.” A smile crept across his face. “But we can pretend. Play pirates.”
“I don’t know …”
“Go on. You can be Blackbeard.”
She wavered. As much as she still wanted to be mad at him, for no other good reason than it made a change, she loved playing pirates. And to be allowed to be Blackbeard … “Okay.”
He squirmed a little in excitement. “Shiny.”
“Well, that will have to be tomorrow.” They both looked up to see Zoe leaning in the doorway. “It’s bed time.”
Bethie slid the coin as surreptitiously as possible under her pillow. “Okay, Auntie Zoe.” She smiled widely, showing all her teeth.
Zoe’s eyes narrowed, since it was usually impossible to get the children to agree to go to bed at all, let alone slightly early. “Are you feeling all right?” she asked.
“Yes,” Bethie and Ethan chorused.
“That’s … good.” She obviously still wasn't sure, but decided that if they were in agreement it was at least better than nothing. “Ethan, you’d better go help Jesse get ready.”
“Okay, Auntie Zoe.” He scrambled from the bed, glanced meaningfully at Bethie, then ran out of the crew quarters.
“Do you want me to see to Hope?” Bethie asked, eager to seem helpful.
“No, that’s okay. She’s already tucked up.”
“Okay.” She waited a breath. “G’night.”
“Hmmn.” Zoe gazed at her a moment, then said, “Goodnight,” before closing the door.
Within five minutes Bethie was in her little nightdress, under the covers, and gazing at her pirate ship on the bedside cabinet. Sliding her hand under her pillow, she touched the coin, feeling her eyes beginning to close as sleep overtook her, and her last waking thoughts were of a huge vessel, all metal sides and silent engines, sweeping majestically through the black, her hold full of precious metals and other treasures …
It didn’t take long for the stag party to break into smaller groups, mostly differentiated by those who were planet or ship, although Jayne and Matty stuck together, moving between them with ease.
Gilford had introduced them to the owner, a man called Gideon who looked like Badger’s cousin, and they were promised a night to remember.
“And if you want a last fling, my girls are clean.” He indicated the half dozen women lounging at the end of the long room in various states of undress. “Ain't cheap, a’course, but you pay for quality.”
“Um, thanks,” Matty said, his eyes skittering away from the flesh on display. “But I don’t think Jo’d like it.”
“She wouldn’t have to know.”
“Oh, she would. I’d have to tell her.”
“Matty, that ain't the way to start married life,” Terry said, putting his arm around his friend. “You need to keep secrets. Gives it that extra edge.”
“This from a man who can’t keep a woman for more’n a month?”
Terry shrugged. “What’d I want one for longer for? By that time I’ve done everything I want to, and … things get kinda stale.”
Jayne shook his head. “You’re talking out of your backside. You’re missing out on the best part.”
“What, tied up to the same woman for all my born days? I don’t think so.”
“You know, for once, I have to agree with Jayne,” Simon put in. “Knowing that she’s going to be there when you wake up, that it’s her warm body you’re going to get to sleep next to for the rest of your life, let alone all the fun stuff in between …” He smiled, his pale face giving his thoughts away. “I wouldn’t exchange it for all the gold back on Earth-that-was.”
Jayne slapped him on the back, nearly over-balancing him. “Yep, ain't that the truth.”
Terry wasn’t persuaded, though, and kept gazing towards the whores, surreptitiously counting the money in his pocket.
Gilford glanced at a Tall Card game going on the corner, and looked at the rest of Serenity’s crew. “I feel like a hand or two. Do you want to join me?”
Mal held his breath, but Hank shook his head.
“Nope. I don’t.”
“If you don’t know the rules –“
“Oh, I know them. But I don’t play no more. I promised Zoe.”
“One hand won’t hurt.”
“Yes, it will.” He took a deep breath. “I'm … I've got an addiction to it,” he admitted. “I can’t even pick up a pack, else I might just cave in. And Zoe’d never forgive me.”
Mal smiled. “No, that she wouldn’t.”
Gilford nodded in understanding. “Then we won’t.”
“No, look, you don’t have to,” Hank said quickly. “I can watch, I suppose.” He glanced at Mal. “That ain't gambling, is it?”
“Not really. But it’s pretty close.”
“Then I‘d better not.” Hank took a deep breath, trying to clear the urge from his hindbrain.
“Then how about a game of Eight Ball?” Gilford suggested. “Don’t have to gamble at all in that. And I might just let you win.”
Mal narrowed his eyes slightly. “I’ll have you know I'm considered the scourge of half a dozen systems with a pool cue.”
“Yeah, and that’s without even touching a ball,” Hank quipped, relaxing slightly.
“Which would you prefer?” Mal said in a light but surprisingly serious tone. “Airlock or septic vat?”
“How about a drink?” the pilot asked, pushing through towards the bar.
“Fine. You can bring it to the table.”
Gilford ran a hand across his bald head. “Is he always like that?”
“Sorry to say, yes he is.”
“Still, it must make all those long journeys go by quicker.”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?”
As luck would have it the pool table was empty, and it took only the work of a few moments to rack the balls and choose a cue each.
“You’re the visitor, so you can break,” Gilford said magnanimously.
Mal raised one eyebrow. “Why do I feel like I’m gonna end up without even the shirt on my back?”
Jason Gilford laughed. “”I've got more’ n a few years on you, Mal. It’ll take me all my time to straighten up, let alone fleece an upstanding transport captain like yourself.”
Mal didn’t even deign to answer, just leaned over the table and struck the white ball with the end of the cue, and within just a few minutes knew what he’d feared was true.
Hank, coming back with a tray of beer, was smiling from ear to ear, and even Jayne and Matty were enjoying his humiliation.
“Good job you ain't playing for cash,” the big ex-mercenary said. “Jason’d be the owner of a slightly used Firefly by midnight at this rate.”
Gilford, warmed at Jayne using his given name pointed towards the bottom right hand pocket. “Eight ball,” he said, and, with an ease that spoke of long familiarity with the game, knocked it in. He stood up, with barely a creak from old muscles. “Another?” he asked.
Mal fixed him with a stern eye. “There something in your past you should be telling me?” he asked, leaning on his pretty much useless cue.
“Now, that’d be giving away all my secrets.” Gilford laughed. “Maybe I had something of a misspent youth. Once upon a time.”
“That I can believe.” He smiled ruefully and rubbed the back of his neck. “You mind slowing down a bit so I can actually get to the table?”
“I’ll take it easy on you this time,” Gilford promised, digging the balls out of the pockets.
Hank was about to make some possibly slanderous, and certainly ill-timed comment when he was interrupted by the doors opening and the room suddenly becoming a lot more crowded. Nearly a dozen men pushed their way inside and to the bar, mindless of who they barged into. There was some grumbling from the townsfolk, but one look made them all to decide to mind their own business.
“They’re off that ship next to yours. The Clipper, name of Golden Dragon or some such,” Gilford explained quietly into the sudden hush. “They arrived a few days ago, complaining that they needed their engine fixing. Terry’s been working on it, says it ain't been touched in a month of Sundays.” He leaned closer. “Had some of ‘em in the store today, and I swear they left with more than they brung, and not a penny paid over the counter.”
“Now that ain't nice,” Jayne Cobb, most honest man this side of the Rim, said.
“Hadn’t you better warn your friend?” Mal suggested.
Gilford glanced at Gideon. “Nah. I think he’s keeping an eye on ‘em anyway.”
Indeed, the bar’s owner was loitering by the door to his office, watching the proceedings.
“Beer!” one of the men, a tall individual with short, jet black hair and a Chinese face, demanded, slamming a pouch down on the counter.
“For all of you?” the barkeep asked.
“All of my crew. Had a good day.” He smiled, putting those that saw it in mind of a rattlesnake about to strike.
“Yes sir.” He drew six pitchers, placing them on the bar.
The noise of the patrons increased again as it seemed the newcomers were only interested in drinking.
“He look familiar to you, Cap?” Jayne breathed, one hand still near the gun on his hip.
“Don’t think so,” Mal murmured. “But I’d need to get a better look at him to be sure.”
“Just something about him …” Jayne shook his head, then dismissed the man from his mind. “Not that it matters overly. We’re here to celebrate.” He gripped Matty’s shoulder and squeezed hard. “How about a game o’darts while Mal loses again?”
“Darts?” Matty shook his head. “Now you know my aim is just terrible. I’m just as likely to skewer someone as hit the board.”
“Then you need the practice.” Jayne dragged his brother towards the board, using his intimidating manner to make the current users finish their game as quickly as possible.
“He does that real well,” Gilford said, shaking his head slightly.
“That’s what I pay him for,” Mal explained. “That and public relations.”
Gilford stared at him, then laughed.
Matty was right, Jayne had to admit. He couldn’t hit a barn door if it was closed, and he’d made a nice set of little holes in the wall before they heard the start of the ruckus.
“If she says no, she means no.” It was Hank’s voice, with that odd blend of bravado and fear that he managed to reach sometimes.
Jayne turned around, trying to see through the crowd. At that moment enough people moved out of the way. Hank was standing next to a Golden Dragon crew member who had a hand on one of the girls.
“She’s a whore,” the man sneered. “She don’t get to say no.”
“And you left without paying last time,” the girl said, trying to pull her arm away.
The man obviously tightened his fingers, as she whimpered slightly.
“That’s enough,” Hank said, trying to step between them. “Why don’t you just find someplace else to go?”
The man glared at him. “You telling me to leave?”
Hank swallowed visibly. “I am.”
Jayne tensed, seeing Mal doing the same by changing his grip on the cue, ready to use it as a weapon. That meant he didn’t want guns to be involved if he could manage it. Jayne sighed in frustration, but moved his hand away from Betsey. Still, he wasn't totally unarmed otherwise.
“Make me,” the man said, closing the gap between him and Hank, and clenching a tight fist and lifting it to strike.
“Gorram it,” Jayne muttered, and let loose with one of his darts, his keen eye sending it unerringly into the back of the man’s hand.
He howled, letting go of the woman who scuttled away, and clutching his injured limb to him.
“Why ain't things ever yi fan feng shun?” Mal muttered as the man’s crewmates all stood up. “You’d better stay out of this,” he said out of the side of his mouth to Gilford.
“And let you have all the fun?” Gilford took a step back at Mal’s look. “Although maybe I’ll stay in reserve.”
“You ever had a good fist fight?” Jayne asked Matty.
“Um, no. Not really.”
“Well, that’s one virginity you’d gonna lose today.” He ducked as a chair sailed over his head, crashing into the wall and knocking the dartboard to the ground. With a war cry that sounded like the hellbeasts had been set loose, he charged.
It got fairly confusing after that.
At one point it seemed as if all the patrons were fighting, including Gideon, the owner, who was swinging a wooden bat like he was going for a home run. He got hit in the belly fairly early on, though, and retired hurt.
Simon elbowed the man who was trying to take a bite out of his ear, then stamped on another’s hand, hearing the owner scream in pain. Hank kicked a man in the groin, then winced in sympathy. Matty took out someone about to leap onto Jayne’s back with a bottle, then went down himself under two more men. Jayne, despite having someone land a lucky punch on his face, lifted one adversary into the air, then threw him at two others, noting that Matty’s so-called friends were keeping out of it, and Terry himself was ‘comforting’ the girl who was the start of this. Mal laid about him with the cue, all the while making sure Gilford stayed on the sidelines. Despite the larger numbers of the enemy, Serenity’s crew were holding their own, and might even have won if it wasn't for the interruption.
The door was flung open, and someone fired a shotgun. The blast caused fragments of plaster to filter down from the ceiling, dusting the combatants with a light covering as each of them looked towards the doorway.
“Okay, people!” the gunman shouted over the sudden silence. “You’re all bound by law and required to stand down!”
to be continued
Friday, January 16, 2009 5:38 AM
Friday, January 16, 2009 7:08 AM
Friday, January 16, 2009 8:10 AM
Friday, January 16, 2009 2:39 PM
Friday, January 16, 2009 4:58 PM
Saturday, January 17, 2009 5:38 AM
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