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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - SUSPENSE
Mal, Inara, Kaylee, and Simon prepare for their undercover mission at a scientific conference, while Book and Jayne find a new calling as hostager/babysitters.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 952 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
"Well, that was a mighty kind reception," Mal allowed, once everyone had had their fill of the turkey, and the roast tubers and other fixings. The Marens had broken out wine, but Mal had been careful not to take too much himself or let his crew overindulge, using the scientist couple's own drinking as a baseline to compare against. He'd also done his best to take precautions against any kind of poisoning or drugging of the food, or anything added to the drinks, though once he started on that track his brain got paranoid enough that he had to accept that there was little chance to be sure that Juli hadn't tried something.
Since she had free access to the food in the midst of helping to prepare the meal, his strategy had been to block her from her most likely accesses to any toxins - refusing on any account to let her enter her own laboratory, without saying why when she insisted, and still keeping the backpack that she'd been carrying on her hike away from her. He supposed that she'd probably known why he was acting that way, but things had gone smoothly enough once the meal started.
"Are you sure that I can't prevail on you to tell me anything more about this plan, Captain?" Rickard asked, in a louder voice than his usual friendliness. "If my dear bride is correct that you're actually trying to steal a Baty prototype, then just getting the two of them on the conference grounds won't be enough. Security will be tight - not that they'd really be expecting people like us to steal something, but still - the regulations don't make enough exceptions."
"I... I think not," Mal muttered. "The less you know, the better for you, I think."
"Yes, perhaps," Rickard said, disappointed by that. "I've been wondering if, when the all-clear has been given, and the caper is over for best or for worst, it might be better for Juli and me to also arrange to be somewhere that the authorities cannot immediately find us."
"Wouldn't say no to that," Zoe said, "but it's up to you at that point. I'll wish you luck, but that's all."
"And we should be leaving now," Inara said. "Most of us, that is. The time is nigh upon us."
"Right," Juli muttered. "And who's staying behind to be our guardians, anyway?"
"That would be my friend and I," Book said, indicating Jayne. "Hopefully that will be acceptable to you?"
"And what if it's not?" Jayne muttered. Juli didn't seem at all displeased, though.
Mal took Book and Jayne aside before they left the cabin, though there wasn't really much in the way of last-minute instructions to give them. He'd been especially careful to not let Jayne indulge himself freely on the wine, and Book never drank anything stronger than tea. Probably because of all those warnings in the Good Book about wine and such. As he, Zoe, and Inara stepped out of the cabin, Zoe activated her communicator wristband. "How's it going, honey? River still accounted for?"
"Oh, sheesh, I haven't checked her in about a half an hour. I'll go now."
"No," Mal put in, speaking from his gut. (Metaphorically.) "You've got a pre-flight checklist to go through, mister. We'll go to River's room first thing when we get in, or at least..."
"I'll handle that," Inara said.
"Good enough," Zoe agreed.
"What was all that?" Wash asked. "I can't hear you if you don't speak right into Zoe's wrist."
Mal sighed slightly, and Zoe gave Wash the recap. "Okay, and what if Inara *doesn't* find River in her cabin?"
"Then we pause the takeoff countdown until we find her," Zoe said. "But if she hadn't snuck off earlier, then it seems unlikely that she'll be off in the forest this time."
River wasn't in her room, and there was a bit of panicked searching before she was eventually located in the number two shuttle, drawing surreal pictures on the walls with a graphit stick that she'd found somewhere. Mal called Zoe back in when he found her there, (Zoe had started searching the woods,) and went over to the dining room, collapsing into a chair.
Inara came in a few minutes later, after Serenity's decks had bumped and swayed a little. "We all accounted for?" she asked Mal.
"Yeah, I... I found River." He waved over to the vague direction of the shuttle in question. "And Wash wouldn't a taken off if he hadn't heard that Zoe was back, and had sealed up the cargo bay doors."
"I suppose not." Inara sat down next to him. "Alright, now that Whittier seems taken care of, I suppose we need to prepare for our own phase of the mission."
"Oh, right," Mal said, sighing. "You need to teach me about being a proper gentleman and all that."
"If only I can, in the time we have," Inara intoned dramatically. "Well, before we get to the general basics, a few specifics about the cover identity that I arranged for you. Like Simon and Kaylee, you'll be taking a real person's credentials, though he isn't of so much note. That's the only way to be sure, since the Alliance security will be checking all guests against some central database of registered persons back on one of the Core worlds. If we make up somebody from whole cloth, that name and code won't appear in their files."
"Makes some sense," Mal agreed. "But - what if a real scientist that the guy organizing all this wants never got registered? There are a lot of people out on the rim worlds, and even some in the borderlands, who never did get their birth credentials in."
"I imagine that those pursuing a career this high in the sciences will have made a point of registering, Mal," Inara told him. "If there's somebody who hasn't, they might be able to get a temporary pass, but only if there are a lot of other people already present - registered people, who know them and will vouch for them."
"Right," Mal agreed glumly. "So... Nathaniel Hammond. Exactly how did you get Master Nathaniel's info, and does he know about our ruse?"
"He hasn't objected," Inara said with a sly smile. "Mostly because I gave him an extension on his overdue invoices."
"Really - a deadbeat customer?" Mal asked. "Somehow I always figured that paying a companion was BEFORE the appointment."
"We generally prefer it that way," she admitted. "Keeps us from having to work as debt collectors - or hire them. But there are always exceptions."
"Okay, then tell me more about Nathaniel."
Kaylee made a huge stretch and dropped the white blouse into a tiny little pile on the bunk beside her, hoping that Simon would turn around or at least look into something that would give him a reflection, but as far as she could tell, he was being all too vigilant about the space-sled's course. Oh well. There would be other opportunities - and this sort of thing wasn't what the trip was about, right? That was what she'd told Inara... but it was much harder to pretend, even to herself, that she was all about the heist now that she was alone in space with Simon. At least this wasn't truly deep space - not that the sled would really have been up to a trip like that. Whittier wasn't that small behind them, and gashious Georgia loomed large, though Bellerophon was still only a tiny coloured dot far ahead.
She stopped showing off for the guy who wasn't even looking, finished undressing and dressing as quickly as she could. Simon did turn around a little bit early, just as she was finishing pulling up the light tight-pants, but probably didn't even see anything good. (Darnit, an opportunity missed after all.) "Okay, so what now?" she asked, heading up to the free co-pilot's chair. "Do you want to share more memories of our childhoods?"
"No, that's probably enough unburdening of our early personal traumas for now," Simon joked. "Actually, I've thought about it, and if you still wanted to teach me how to actually steer the sled, I'd like to learn."
Kaylee blinked in surprise. She'd thought that Simon's statement that he would 'think about it' had been a polite brush-off, not a serious statement of weighing the possibilities. "Okay, sure. Let's see... first, there are the gravity lenses. This sled has three of them, and each can be set independently... so that you could completely nullify the gravitational pull of one body, partially moderate that of a second, and increase that of a third." She started to show him the controls. "Each has its own spherical gyro-control to identify a particular direction, an intensity lever, an aperture dial to specify whether the effect should be wide or narrow, and a control to indicate whether it should stay locked to the main gravitational source as we move and reorient. Got that so far?"
"Umm... yeah, I think so," Simon said, gulping slightly. "Is that it? I understand the principle of gravity lensing, but if we have to intensify gravitational sources in the direction that we're going to accelerate..."
"No, we do have manoeuvring thrusters too," Kaylee said, showing him where to find the controls for those as well, and continued with the lesson, Things were just wrapping up - she had led Simon through several fancy manoeuvres, and he seemed to have enjoyed himself - when a radar alert popped up, and zeroing in on that spot with the optical sensors, Kaylee got a sinking feeling. That familiar dark-blue institutional shape... "Okay, we've got an Alliance patrol boat coming on over to take a look-see. Hit the blue X in the upper left corner, that'll transfer all control back over to my station."
"Alliance?" Simon asked, gulping slightly. "What would they be doing here?"
"They keep an eye on space traffic all over the place, and a little sled like this, way out in the middle of planetary space, far from any moons, doing zigzags and loops probably struck them as unusual," she pointed out. "Don't likely mean any more than that. But I ain't ever been pulled over in something like this raft, and they might get pissy about the formalities."
"Why is this any different from... oh," Simon muttered. "If we were in Serenity, they'd be asking to board through an airlock, or at least they might, right?"
"Yeah," Kaylee told him. "Be quiet - they're making some noise."
She took a moment before pressing the blinking red button indicating an incoming call on standard ship-to-ship channels, and waited for the official on the patrol boat to speak first. "Virgo 3 class gravity sled, state your designation and the name of your complement." That wasn't the same formula that 'Serenity' got, but maybe they just figured that a little sled wouldn't have such a large complement that it could be stated straight out.
And suddenly Kaylee realized a problem - she hadn't asked the Marens what designation the sled was registered under, and didn't know where they kept the black slip for it. (They had to find that, just in case! Surely it would be kept aboard the sled, and not in the cabin. Or had it been packed in the luggage?)
"The Camelot Blackbird," Simon whispered to her after a second, and somehow that phrase did sound familiar. Had Rickard told it to Simon while she'd been busy trying to get Juli to say something about her old colleagues who would be at the conference? Well, there was nothing but to try it. If it didn't match up with anything in the official registration database, there'd be more trouble, but... he'd already be wondering at the delay.
"Hello from the Camelot Blackbird, sir," she said with polite blandness. "I'm Juli Maren, and my husband Rickard is the only other person on board."
"Are you under any technical difficulties? When we spotted your vessel, it seemed to be under unusual acceleration manoeuvres."
"No, just... just breaking the monotony of a long trip to Bellerophon, sir. We're not used to traveling this much."
"Hmm." The Alliance official considered. "This is Commander Payton, from the Alliance patrol ship 'Great divide.' On the basis of a random selection, and the circumstances, regulations demand that we board your vessel via airlock and make a personal inspection. However, visual inspection of your craft, and the manufacturer's specifications, indicate that there are no airlock facilities available. Is this true?"
"Yes, sir," Kaylee admitted honestly. "What do you intend to do about that?"
"I haven't decided. All vessels without airlocks are specifically required under local regulations to file flight plans for trips outside atmospheric limits. Were you aware of this?"
"Um - no."
"I see. And what is your emergency protocol in the event of a hull breach?"
What did that matter, Kaylee wondered. "We have an emergency patch kit, two pressure suits, and distress callers. I figured that we'd decide what order to use them in based on the circumstances."
"Where are you bound to on Bellerophon?"
"The Bentley conference, sir."
"You've got invitations to that deal?"
Commander Payton sighed. "I'm sending along a summons to appear for these regulatory violations in three week's time, back on Whittier. That will be all for now."
"Very well, sir." As Kaylee closed the video communicator window, the little summons popped up in a corner of the screen. One more thing that they'd be putting on the real Marens, it seemed, since certainly neither of them would be able to show up for the Whittier court. Probably wouldn't matter that much. She turned to Simon. "Okay, lesson is over, I guess. What next?"
"Umm, I don't know," Simon said. The close call with the Alliance, (at least, it could fairly easily have gone worse,) had squashed his good mood as well. "Maybe grab some food? I know that I'm kind of hungry. There wasn't time to grab more than a bowl full of dry breakfast cereal back on Whittier."
"Okay, yeah." She got up and went to the supply cupboard. "Won't be much great food on this trip, I'm afraid... I've seen sleds like this that actually have a heating unit, but it just means more that you have to wash out in the bathroom sink and so on."
"That's okay, I don't have great expectations," Simon laughed. "Just something filling, that I can munch on and not have to think too hard for a while."
"Oh, right," Kaylee said, the mention of 'thinking' making a mental connection. "We're supposed to be coaching each other on our specialties as we go, aren't we? I mean, it doesn't have to be now, but..."
"Yeah, we can leave that for a while," Simon said. "Not too long, I suppose. Are we going to have to sleep in shifts?"
Kaylee turned from the cupboard with two handfuls of likely-looking packages and shot him a look. "Well, I'm up for sharing the bunk, if you are. It ain't any smaller than the one Wash and Zoe have."
"Yeah, but... well, we'll see," Simon said, and Kaylee tried not to let disappointment show on her face. "These chairs are more comfortable than some places I've slept actually - I could probably try getting some rest right here."
"Rice krisps, peanut butter cracker sandwiches, and chocolate caramel bars?" Kaylee offered him. "There's actually a freezer compartment with some iced treats, but I wasn't sure how fresh they would be."
"I think that Rickard restocked everything before we left," Simon pointed out, taking the chocolate and some of the rice krisps. Kaylee snatched one chocolate bar back. "It's not very nutritious sounding, but I'm not complaining right now."
"Yeah, well, they've probably got all the alliance good health supplements built into them," Kaylee answered, looking at the ingredients list of the mini sandwiches, and then shrugging. "Food should be better when we land at the conference, right?"
"Oh, I'd be surprised if we don't get sumptuous banquets or buffet dinners the whole time," Simon said, smiling. "I hope you really enjoy it."
"Ehh." She opened up her chocolate bar and attacked it with some gusto. "That sort of thing is nice for a change - like the Shindig back on Persephone, but I don't know, might be feeling homesick for some down-home food by the time the conference ends." Simon nodded. "So *where* have you slept that's less comfortable than these chairs?"
"Well - the ones in the hospital on-call room when I was going through my intern year, back on Osiris, for one," Simon said. "Very severe wooden things - I don't know if they'd been put in specifically to torture us lowliest of the low or what. Residents got bunks, and occasionally we'd try to sneak into them to get a little decent rest when none of the Residents were around."
"Yeah." There was some more silent munching. "But I do feel like I want to get some shut-eye after we've eaten, and I won't say no to the bunk, if... if it's available."
Kaylee grinned. "Half of it is - take it or leave it."
"Might as well, I suppose. If we're posing as a husband and wife, we may need to share a couple's bed when we get there." He considered for a moment. "No teasing, though - I do actually want to get some sleep."
"Teasing? Who, me?"
Simon just shot her an unimpressed look. "As in letting your hands wander, or pushing - anything enticing - against me harder than is really necessary."
Exasperated, Kaylee rolled her eyes. "There are sleeping pills in the cupboard, too, I noticed, actually. Serious stuff. If you do want to sack out and get a few hours interrupted shuteye, then maybe you should take one."
"Hmm." Simon considered. "What if there's a crisis and we both need to be completely alert?"
"Oh, brother. The chances of something that bad happening are about a hundred thousand to one against, and the shock of losing any breathing air or whatever would probably be enough to wake you up anyway. But take it or don't, as you like. I just wanted to let you know that the option was there."
"Hmm... are you going to use one?"
"I think so, yes. If we're going to sleep on the way there, I feel like I might as well make it count."
Simon considered that silently until the junk food was all gone, with the wrappers fed into disposal, but when Kaylee dug into the cupboard and fetched out the bottle of sleeping pills, he held his hand out for one. They each swallowed one with water, and quickly arranged themselves on the bunk, Simon spooning her from behind. And it hardly seemed like even a minute before she finished drifting off to drea--
"You know, I don't think that we can keep saying 'hey you' and 'the other one', if you might be staying here for weeks," said Rickard to Book and Jayne. The three of them had been playing Tyzicha Odin for a few hands, while Juli worked on a protein modeling computer simulation on the other side of the cabin's spacious living room. "How about making up other names that we could use?"
"Hmm... don't you think that we've got enough alternate identities floating around?" Jayne muttered, and Rickard shrugged. Probably it didn't seem so bad to him. "Well, huh. I'll have to think about that one for a little while, anyway."
"How about calling me Don?" Book suggested with the trace of a smile.
"Sure, Don." Rickard considered the cards. "It's your lead."
"Oh, right." After a moment, Book put down the King of beasts. "Marriage."
"Tza-jiao hoe-tze lah doo-tze" Jayne grumbled. He'd made a modest contract on the basis of the points for his marriage of worlds, but making a new suit trumps would probably keep him from getting enough capture points to make good on one-seventy points. "I figured that if anybody would call a new marriage against me, it would be the hostage. Oh well."
"There's little loyalty when it comes to cards," Book said mildly.
Eventually the hand was settled up - thirty-five points in captures and forty for the beast marriage to Book, thirty to Rickard, and fifty-five in captures plus one hundred for the world marriage to Jayne, which meant that he'd lose one hundred and seventy for failing to make good on his mortgage. "Okay, that's my fault for reaching beyond my grasp," he groaned as Book put down the scores, this one failure overtilting the minor gains he'd made over the first three hands and putting him underwater. "And call me Charles - so you can put a big C at the top of that column."
"Charles?" Book repeated with a trace of a smile. "Very well." He marked his own score with a D as well.
The card game continued for a few hours, with Jayne never really having a chance to catch up. Book did somewhat better, but in the end could not match the incisive mind of their captive, who seemed to have no problem weighing the odds of a needed queen being found in the blind, or the best way of managing his trumps in the play of tricks. "Well, I think I'll have a coffee cream as a late night snack with my pills, and then turn in," he said. "Darling?"
"This thing will keep me up late," she muttered darkly. "Estimating an hour and forty minutes until this batch is complete, and then I'll take a few minutes to work out the next one and leave it running all night. With the workstation LOCKED UP, just in case."
"Well, if it'll be that long, then would you like to join me in having a drink?" Rickard asked mildly. Juli looked up and her face softened into something that might almost have been a smile.
"Okay I guess."
"What kind of meds are you on, anyway?" Jayne asked suspiciously.
"Nothing too serious," Juli answered as she got up from the computer desk. "When he was fourteen, his father got a particularly nasty kind of leukemia. Cancer in the bone cells that manufacture blood, right?"
"Yes," Book said mildly. "I do know what leukemia is."
"I actually hadn't," Jayne admitted. "Heard the term, knew it was bad. Might have made the connection with cancer, or not." He considered for a moment. "Blood comes out of your bones? For serious??"
"It's a bit more complicated than that, actually," Juli admitted, half-choking down a giggle. "But the blood cells that carry oxygen and fight disease - yes, they're made in the marrow inside your bones." She shook her head and returned to the subject. "Rickard had his genes tested, and he carries a factor that increases the chance of developing leukemia or lymphoma himself by a substantial amount. So he's on a kind of a protein therapy, designed to keep that gene inactive, so that he has no higher risk of cancer than any other man."
"Interesting," Book said. "How do you stay supplied with the pills?"
"They keep just about forever - I've got a carton half-full, with still a year's supply in it," Rickard told him with a smile. "We get refills delivered up from Jantor, that's a small town, around nine thousand people, a hundred miles to the south of us."
"Alright," Book said, and held up his hand slightly when Jayne was about to ask some other question.
"What do you expect in terms of the sleeping arrangements?" Juli asked Book directly. "Is one of you going to be staying up through the night on watch, to make sure that neither of us try to kill you, or slip away."
"I don't think that'll be necessary," Book mentioned.
"On the other hand," Jayne put in - well, maybe it's the ship's schedule getting to me, but I just don't feel at all tired." He grinned a big grin that was just slightly scary. "I'll probably prowl around all night; build myself a house of cards or something. Won't disturb your sleep none, I promise."
"What can I do with the boy?" Book said, sliding into the role of 'good cop' with no trouble at all. "They never want to go to bed at a reasonable time." Rickard laughed appreciatively. "In any event - I noticed that there were several beds available throughout the building - what would your own preference be?"
Rickard then shot Juli a look, and she squirmed uncomfortably under it for a moment. "We don't really have a fixed arrangement ourselves, but... I'll be in the master room."
"As will I," Rickard agreed.
"If none of this had happened," Juli, as Rickard started to prepare the drinks, "I might have been on my way to the door right now, tired from walking all day... and very glad to see you again, darling."
"Well, in that case... I can take the convertible couch, if that's alright," Book suggested. "That's probably less intrusive than using the facilities in your work spaces, yes?"
"Sure, whatever you like best," Rickard said. Juli nodded - probably in response to Book's question instead of her husband's blanket approval. Book looked over at Jayne.
"I can sleep anywhere," he muttered, "and don't see any particular need to go bunk down in one of the laboratories.... Don, would you mind sharing the convertible, in shifts?" There had been a pause before Jayne used his assumed name.
"No, come on, Charles, no need for that," Juli said, shuddering slightly. "There is an actual guest room, and somebody might as well use it."
"Oh, alright then."
"You're well known as hermits," Book pointed out. "What do you use a guest room for?"
"You know, he asked me something like that, when I insisted on putting one in the cabin that we were building out way in the middle of nowhere so that we could be alone together," she said, nodding her head towards Rickard. "I didn't have an answer then, so maybe the reason all along was: For the convenience of the armed gang that would come along and steal our identities."
She grabbed a small glass flute of blue liquid, spun around on her heel, and walked to the far corner of the room. Rickard raised an eyebrow in surprise, and Book decided that maybe they'd better give the Marens their space. "Come on, Charles."
"Oh, okay." But Jayne insisted on hanging around well within earshot - not that anywhere in the cabin was really too far away to let something be heard.
Inara woke in her shuttle feeling bright and full of energy, which she supposed meant that a life of crime was having a positive effect on her in some way. According to the briefing from Wash, they would be entering a parking orbit, where Mal would join her in shuttle one and they'd fly down to the surface, around mid-afternoon, perhaps 1420 ship's time, with a final arrival of 1510 at the mansion's landing field, which would be much later in the day by Bellerophon local time.
After sponging herself carefully down and dressing, she still didn't feel particularly hungry, so headed forward to the cockpit. Wash wasn't there, but as she was heading back down the crew's hall, he emerged out of the ladder-hole that led down to his shared bunk. "Good morning, fair companion. How goes it?"
"Fairly well, as far as I can tell." Wash headed back up to the controls, so she followed him uncertainly. "Was just wondering how things were doing in terms of our trip."
"Quite well," Wash assured her eagerly. "I stayed up at the controls last night until I caught a brief sensor lock off the Maren's gravity sled, and then corrected off in another direction. That's why I slept somewhat late. Hope you weren't too startled to come here and not see anybody."
"No, not really," Inara said. "I was wondering if somebody should check on the engine room, just to make sure that everything was doing okay without Kaylee's special touch."
"I think that Zoe's doing her best to cover, and of course Kaylee did go over everything before she left, just in case," Wash said. "But you can take a look yourself and see if you spot something that Zoe missed, sure."
"Okay, I guess that I will," Inara said. "The ship seems rather empty, doesn't it, going somewhere with just the five of us on board."
"Yeah, I suppose it does," Wash agreed. "Of course, I was the fourth to sign on, so maybe it's just a bit like the old days - before we had permanent passengers, or a companion renting out a shuttle... or Jayne." Inara smiled slightly.
"I haven't had breakfast yet," she mentioned. "Do you want me to grab you something from the kitchen?"
"Hmm, actually, yeah, thanks for offering," he said. "Some of those crunchy yellow things, and the closest thing you can rustle up to being actual coffee!"
After bringing up some food and beverages for the two of them, Inara asked Wash if he'd mind her sitting in the co-pilot's chair. "Oh, of course not. You're probably the best qualified person for it, honestly."
"Alright." She took a moment about arranging herself. "So, what's the plan for getting us, and the engine, out of Dodge safely? Wherever Dodge is? I gather that you don't want to get Serenity too close to the mansion."
"No, for two reasons - that if somebody actually makes a visual identification of a Firefly '03, it'll probably make our escape the harder, and also, they just might have some kind of defensive systems that would have a serious effect on us - ground to air missiles, for instance."
"But would they use them?" she asked. "So there's an unidentified vehicle approaching the conference site - that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a threat."
"Not coming, no," Wash said. "Leaving, they probably have a notion that we'd be up to no good - and would probably rather see the engine wrecked than let us get away with it."
"Actually, this is where it gets awkward," Wash mentioned. "The best plan I've heard has the shuttle as the immediate getaway vehicle - for you and Mal, Simon, Kaylee, and the engine. That's not really enough to put it overweight, even. If you can leave without getting shot or anything, fly a few miles away from the mansion, and then we should be able to rendezvous with you. Looking for a small shuttle, they might not make the leap to suspecting a firefly climbing up into orbit."
"Right, it does make some sense," she said. "But my shuttle had better not get wrecked because of this."
"It's not yours, you're just renting it," Wash said, but Inara glared him down. "We could use the other one, maybe."
"No..." Inara tilted her head from side to side a moment, and then shook that thought off. "It wouldn't seem right somehow. I'm arriving here as a Companion, and that is MY shuttle. There might be nobody who would tell the two of them apart, and probably nobody from the conference is going to see inside it, but we'll still go with the one I rent. This is what I get myself in FOR, when I volunteer for a new crime."
"Not all the time, but yeah, it's the sort of thing that might come up at any time," Wash admitted with a sigh. "And I'm sorry for saying that, that the shuttle wasn't yours. I might not have the papers for Serenity, but I know how I'd feel if somebody said that about myself and her."
"Don't worry about it," Inara told him. "So, when all of this cashes in and we're rich, what are you going to do with your cut?"
"Wake up honey." Kaylee blinked her eyes, groaned at the brightness of the light outside them, and retreated behind her eyelids again for a moment. "We've got another whiteboard session in less than half an hour."
"Huh?" Confused, Kaylee reverted to basics. She was lying on a comfortable bed, and there was a man with a familiar voice next to her. Simon. Right... with that, the memory of her heist plan, the Maren's cabin on Whittier, and leaving with Simon in the gravity sled came back to her. Of course.
But there were a few things that didn't seem to quite add up. For one thing, she and Simon were lying in a different position - she was facing Simon's hair, spooning him from behind, not being the spoonee. But she was still lying on her left side - had they switched sides of the cot in the night? That didn't seem to make much sense. And the mattress of the cot didn't feel quite right. For that matter - hadn't she been wearing clothes when they went to bed? And hadn't he??
That much of a realization had been enough to get her to sit up in the bed and force her eyes wide open - when they forced themselves closed despite all that she could do, Kaylee rubbed her knuckles into them and tried again. They definitely were NOT inside the ship - it was a fancy room, with tiled white walls, a desk and other fancy appliances around the richly covered bed. (Although her bottom half was still under the sheets, it was quite evident that she was definitely bare otherwise - and the same for Simon.)
"Okay, just what did I say to get that reaction?" Simon asked with one of those slightly self-mocking smile, sitting up halfway himself and reaching out to take her hand in his. "Is this a case of delayed morning after regret, or something?"
"Huh?" Kaylee decided to tackle the situation from the principle of first things first. "Where - where are we? Is this our room at the conference?"
"Well... yes. Where else would it be?" He considered. "Did you have a dream about being back on Serenity, or home on Three Hills?"
"No, at least, not really. The - the last I remember, we were still on our way here, in the gravity sled."
Simon blinked in surprise. "Really? Totally a blank? But - but we've been here for nearly a week and a half now." His face had a gravely concerned look. "What could this mean, amnesia in this circumstance? You weren't exposed to any radiation or energy discharge yesterday as far as I know - maybe security dosed you with something - but a memory loss drug doesn't make sense either. They can't have thought that would make us give ourselves away, and if we're already under suspicion there'd be easier ways to..."
"I have other questions," Kaylee told him. "You and me, did we... you know? I mean, I thought that the sleeping arrangements were going to be somewhat less - bare. Even if it looked suspicious."
"Well, yeah, but since we... oh, yes, I guess that would be what you were trying to ask about," he realized. "Yes, we - we did consummate the pretend marriage - but not for the sake of staying under cover. I... I suppose it was just a case of mutual attraction being given a chance to express itself naturally. I... I'm not sure what you were expecting or planning on, before you lost your memories of our affair, but I was just enjoying myself tremendously, using the excitement and energy of a new physical relationship to feed into our little playacting engagement, and giving you what seemed like an appropriate mix of closeness and space, waiting for you to send another signal." He shook his head. "Guess that won't really get us anywhere now."
"No." Kaylee slid back up the bed so that their faces lined up, with her being somewhat above him because she was still sitting up more, and kissed him tenderly. "Glad to know I was making things fun for you, and I guess the same probably went vice versa. (Especially if I was satisfied for it to keep happening again and again.) But there isn't time to worry about that, or my memory, at the moment, right? Assuming that we weren't dilly-dallying, by fooling around together right now, what would we be doing?"
"Shower of course, and dressing," Simon said, his eyes twinkling with a kind of passion that she'd never really seen there before. He pointed to a door that Kaylee hadn't seen before - a bathroom of their own? Ooh, what luxury. "Then probably going to the Paris hall for a continental breakfast."
"Alright." She pulled him off the bed, and delighted, he led the way to the bathroom, Kaylee still clinging onto his hand. They climbed into the shower-tub together and he twisted the shiny silver knob - but instead of hot, (or cold, or lukewarm,) water, a cloud of tiny little blue moths emerged from the nozzle. "What the heck?"
And - and once again Kaylee sat bolt upright in bed, eyes wide open, but this time she was back where she should have been - that cramped narrow bunk in the gravity sled, BEHIND Simon, who was still fast asleep, with the lights turned down low except for a few key indications on the pilot's screen. It had all been... been one heck of a dream. Even though the amnesia stuff had been a bit scary, there were definitely parts of her mind and body that regretted the notion of Simon and herself together wasn't real.
The sleeping pills had mentioned that strange and vivid dreams could be a side-effect. Boy, they hadn't been kidding. She checked the pilot's screen once, still nothing that seemed like trouble, and then was yawning again. Even the fact that she didn't want to let herself in for another dream like that one probably couldn't keep her awake, so Kaylee crawled back onto the bed. Just managed to clue in that she hadn't taken the same position, but was face to face with Simon, but by that point she was really too tired to care.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Wednesday, May 27, 2009 6:06 AM
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