BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

CLIO

Something To Think On: Chapter 11
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

M/I. Post-BDM. More on giving, and some punching.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2170    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

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Something To Think On
by clio
Chapter Eleven

Once she’d lost consciousness, they’d moved her, together, from the chair in the middle of the room to the bed at its side, and then he’d sat with her for a long time (after Simon had nodded once and walked out), taking her in with his eyes. If he let his mind wander a bit, he could pretend she’d just fallen asleep, that any second her eyelids would flutter open and she’d catch him watching (and he’d look bashfully away, hoping she couldn’t see in his face what he’d been thinking).

He’d seen her asleep just one time before. He’d been out on the bridge, just sitting, late one night (not that night and day stood much apart in the black), and then she’d been there, a shawl pulled tight around her shoulders. She couldn’t sleep, she’d said. Something about the day (an anniversary of something bad, he’d figured – and he hadn’t asked of what, but it was another little something he filed away to think on), and her thoughts were keeping her up. He hadn’t minded the company – promised himself he wouldn’t pick a fight – so she’d sat in the chair to his left, watching the black, till she’d fallen asleep, cheek nuzzled into the back of the chair, body curled slightly toward him. And, not well knowing how to wake her up – should he say her name? touch her shoulder? none of that seemed right – he’d let her stay that way, and he’d watched her.

Saying her name’d seemed a thing that was hard, then. Wished now waking her up was as easy as just that.

He stood finally, when the movement of her chest, up and down, up and down, became a sight more than he could bear; reached a hand toward her cheek, like to touch her, but then thought better of it, pulled it back, turned, and left the room.

“You didn’t tell her.”

Wasn’t a question; it was an accusation. And it came from the doctor sitting in the chair across from the infirmary’s door.

He fixed him with a glare and kept walking, past him, toward the engine room. “Tell her what?”

Simon followed. “You didn’t tell her we were going to the Core.”

Taking the stairs up the catwalk, two at a time: “Don’t see why it’s any concern of yours.”

Simon followed him through the back hall, his voice loud, now, demanding: “You didn’t tell her because you knew she wouldn’t want you to.”

Something in him snapped, and when his words came out his voice was savage: “If you’re so gorram worried about it, go and wake her back up!”

And then he was face to face with Kaylee, standing in front of him in the engine room (Simon in the doorway behind), her mouth open, her eyes wide.

***

She was about the only person could make him feel guilty with a single look, his Kaylee was. Hell, she may’ve been about the only person could make him feel guilty at all. But that look of hers: all the laughter would go out of her face, and her eyes would go moon-wide, and he’d know he’d disappointed her. He could take just about anybody’s disappointment but hers. He figured it was because, of all of them, she was the only one who still seemed surprised when it happened.

Now, his mind took him back to one such time. Hadn’t been that long since they’d dropped her off at the Training House: a few weeks, at most. The preacher was still with them, but it wouldn’t be long till he was gone, too. Somehow, that didn’t bother him so much.

Haven was dry and dusty and worn, but it was warm and familiar, too. Serenity’d be on Haven plenty, Mal figured, to stop and take her rest for a time. And, even if she weren’t, even if they never saw the man again, it seemed like a place where the preacher belonged. It was a good place, and the Shepherd deserved a good place.

Inara’s world was near opposite. It was lush and green with lakes and mountains, the Training House perched high up on one of them, all gold and glitter. It wasn’t no place for the likes of Serenity. And if that was the kind of place where she belonged, she wasn’t for the likes of Serenity, either. Never had been; he’d just forgotten that for a spell.

The weeks since they’d left her had been low. The showdown in the wreckage of Sturges had left them all uneasy. They’d done a couple low-profile jobs since then but were mostly sitting quiet. Safer that way. But without work, he’d been thinking a mite too much. A man could go crazy alone with his thoughts.

When Kaylee’d found him, those few weeks in from her leaving, he’d been leaning against the door of her shuttle (the shuttle, Shuttle Number One: wasn’t hers no more), surveying what was left of it. Anyone asked, he’d’ve told them he was just trying to glean how much storage space he could make of it. And that was true, mostly.

Most of her things she’d cleared away, excepting some odds and ends (felt about then like he’d like to throw them all out in the black, to clear her from his mind and his boat). Her red curtains and hangings all gone, the walls and ceiling were just plain metal sheeting again. A blessing and a curse: hard to imagine her work happening here, now; but also hard to imagine her here at all.

He reckoned he wouldn’t’ve been so mean to his mechanic if she hadn’t snuck up on him. Or maybe if she’d asked him what he was doing there (he would’ve muttered something about storage space, and they’d’ve been done with it) instead of presuming. But she’d done both of them things at once.

Her tone of voice was hopeful, helpful, like she was just trying to cheer him up. “‘Member when she first came on board, Cap?” He’d started at bit, surprised to be caught; didn’t turn toward her though. “There you were, sayin’ you’d never, ever take a renter. Guess she musta said somethin’ right.”

Closed his eyes, breathing deep to try to keep his temper. Spoke through gritted teeth: “I needed the coin. Ain’t you the one always complaining that we don’t have parts you need?”

Either she didn’t hear the menace in his tone, or she ignored it. (Or maybe she just thought better of him than he deserved.) Her voice now was a bit more hopeful, though more hesitant, too. Speaking slow: “You know, Cap, Wash says we’re going pretty near the Training House on our next run. We could always stop by. I’m sure ‘Nara’d like to –”

And then he couldn’t hold it in any more. His voice nearing a snarl: “She don’t want no part of my boat, and I sure as hell don’t want no part of her. Far as I’m concerned, Serenity ain’t never gonna lay eyes on her again, you understand? And I don’t want to ever hear mention of her again.”

Kept his eyes on the inside of the shuttle; didn’t look back at her. Couldn’t bear to see the disappointment and hurt that would’ve been in her eyes when she turned and ran away.

***

Now, he tried his best to ignore that look, that Kaylee look. If the girl didn’t realize by now that the world could hurt her, that her people could hurt her, it sure wasn’t his job to hide it from her. “Kaylee, I want you to tell me what Serenity needs by way of supplies. What would it take to keep her running for, say, six months?”

She swallowed (swallowed down that look of hers in the process) and shuffled her feet, like she was a mite nervous. “Six months? Aw, Cap, I couldn’t tell you for sure.” She shrugged. “She just tells me when she needs things, you know?”

“No, I don’t know. Six months, Kaylee. And, before that, she needs to be able to get us in close enough to Ariel so we can make it in the shuttle before she gets the hell out of Dodge.”

She nodded, took a deep breath, and it was back to business, back to her girl. “Rush job outta Ariel, and then six months, no problems? Well, we should re-brace the extenders, right off. Motivator could use a tune-up if you’re wanting to get in and out of the Core quick, and we should flush out the primary artery. And probably we should get a new pin-lock and ret couple, just in case.”

Caught a word sounded familiar and held onto it, desperate: “Hold on, hold on. Pin-lock. Thought we just replaced that.”

The look on her face was apologetic, and so was her voice: “We did, right after Miranda. But Cap, things just ain’t meant to last forever....”

He closed his eyes and swallowed. “Well, I can’t do all that. Don’t have near enough coin, nowhere near. Tell me what she has to have done, Kaylee.”

Behind him, the doctor’s voice (he’d forgotten he was even there, but, sure enough, there he was, leaning against the doorway, with his stupid sweater and his fancy hair): “Mal –”

A growl: “Not now.” To her: “Kaylee, tell me.”

“Mal.”

“Can’t you see I’m kind of busy here?”

The boy drew a sigh. “Mal, you don’t need to worry about money. There’s plenty.”

Kaylee’s eyes went wide again, and he swung his head around to follow her gaze. “And just how do you figure that?”

Simon just watched him. “Have you ever asked Inara how much she earns, Mal?”

(Behind him, he heard Kaylee’s voice, just audible, startled and uncertain and maybe a mite hurt: “Simon? Have you?”)

Teeth gritted, eyes narrowed: “I know enough to know she’s outta my price range. Never cared to ask by just how much. She pays the rent. That’s enough for me.”

“Inara was paid per engagement. But her clients also paid a regular, and quite steep, subscription fee to maintain a place in her registry. They paid that fee in credits into a high-yield account maintained by an Alliance-approved bank on Sihnon.”

He smirked at the boy. “Well, thanks for enlightening me on the ins and outs of Companioning for Fun and Profit 101. Now, if you’re finished –”

“Mal, Inara is a very wealthy woman.”

He let out a frustrated breath and shook his head. “That’s just dandy, but if you haven’t noticed –” The boy had already turned and was walking back along the hallway he came from, like he expected Mal to follow, and so he did, talking at his back. “If you haven’t noticed, credits ain’t any good here. We can’t exactly just walk into a bank on Sihnon to exchange them for coin, can we, now?” A beat. “And even if we could, I wouldn’t take her money. I don’t want it, and I don’t need it.” By the time he’d finished, he’d followed Simon clear down to the infirmary (her body, asleep on the bed at the side of the room). The doctor had bent down and was fiddling with a loose floor panel.

Finally pulling it away, the boy eyed him. “Exchanging it won’t be necessary. She already has, and I have it all right here.”

***

In the weeks after she left, he’d come to think more and more he hadn’t been so far off the mark in what he’d accused her of before she left. (“I seem to remember a strict policy about servicing my crew,” he’d said to her. She’d bristled, snapped at him. “You’ve heard all you’re going to.” “Wouldn’t broadwave it to the crew, though,” he’d replied, and she’d made no move to deny it.) Simon’s behavior these days wasn’t doing much to change his mind.

Then, in those few weeks since she’d gone, Simon had been fidgety, distracted. Been spending hours with his sister in the infirmary, but that wasn’t new. What was new was the time he spent there pacing the floor, without her.

He’d come upon him one day, walking back and forth the length of the infirmary, muttering to himself. Watched him for a spell before speaking. “You got something to be nervous about, Doc?”

The boy started and looked up at him. “No, I –” A beat, and he pulled himself together. “No, of course not. I’m just thinking aloud.”

“Well think quiet next time. And just so we’re clear: if I ever start thinking you got something to be nervous about, something more than I already know, there’s gonna be hell to pay.” He turned on his heel and walked up the stairs of the catwalk (just a single glance toward her shuttle).

He’d kept the doctor and his sister on board for a whole mess of reasons, he figured. But not least among them was his fear that, if they left, she’d’ve gone with them.

But now she was gone. And he wished like hell Simon Tam had gone too.

***

Now, standing over where Simon knelt in the infirmary, he thought he might have misheard. “Come again?”

Simon nodded to the space under the panel. “I have it all. Before she left Serenity for the Training House, she converted her credit to platinum – I don’t know how – and she left it all with me.”

“This –” He’d bent down, was looking through the bags of coin, shaking his head. Voice betraying (couldn’t much help it) all his shock and confusion: “Do you know how much this is? This is over a hundred thousand platinum. You can’t expect me to believe this all came from –”

Simon, standing now, looking down at him, shook his head, arms crossed. “It didn’t. Some of it would have come from her father.” He swallowed and looked away from Mal; spoke carefully. “He would have been a client of her mother’s. Companions don’t expect anything from clients in the event of pregnancy – the Guild is very clear that clients bear no responsibility – but it’s not uncommon for – for wealthier patrons, those with a certain social cache, to offer support. To ensure their anonymity.”

“Weren’t you just telling me how you didn’t know anything about Companions?”

“I said I didn’t know any Companions, before I met her.”

He dropped the coin back under the panel, sudden, like it burned him. Taking a glance at her (sleeping in the corner of the room), he shook his head, stood, and walked out into the lounge. Struck him – hard, in the chest – just how little he knew about her. Just how much Simon knew.

The doctor followed him out of the infirmary (Kaylee standing at the bottom of the stairs, eyes still wide). “Well, Doc, this is all shiny. But like I said before: I won’t take her money.” A beat, and he narrowed his eyes. “Or is it your money, now? Whoever in hell that there belongs to, I ain’t never asked for favors, from her especially, and I’m not about to start now –” (nodding his head toward the infirmary) “– when she can’t even tell me yes or no.”

The doctor, his hands pushed down in his pockets: “She left it for you, Mal. She told me that it was for Serenity. That in case anything happened to her, it was for Serenity.”

Shook his head at that. “No. If she’d meant it for me, she woulda just given it to me.”

The boy raised his eyebrows. “Oh, she would’ve, would she? And what would you have done, then, Mal? Would you have taken what she wanted to give you? Or would you have thrown it back in her face?”

He’d been holding back for days, hating the boy more and more every minute (for everything he knew, everything he was) even as he found himself telling him things he hadn’t meant to, things about her, things he hadn’t told to no one. But now, the crack of his fist connecting with Simon’s nose (Kaylee was there, running to him) was just about the most satisfying sound he’d ever heard.

***

Mal himself had been on the receiving end of his share of punches, once from Simon himself. Usually he figured, like the doctor must’ve, that he’d been asking for them. But one punch that had truly surprised him was the one the Shepherd’d dealt him, in the days before Inara’d gone. He’d avoided the man for some time after that, after he announced he was going, too. Avoided him, in fact, for most of the month between her leaving and his. But a few days before he was set to go, he’d found Mal late at night in the galley, sitting at the table over a cup of tea (some vile stuff she’d left in a cupboard), forehead in his hands.

“My, but don’t you seem to be deep in thought. Anything you’d care to share?” He started; looked up to see the preacher leaning in the doorway of the galley.

“Not so much, preacher. No offense, of course.”

“Oh, none taken, I assure you, Captain.” Looked back down at the table. Figured the man had left, until he heard a chair scrape at the opposite end of the table as the Shepherd took a seat. “Captain, you haven’t asked for my counsel, but you seem to have been troubled of late – more so, I’d dare say, than usual – and I’d like to offer you a piece of advice. You’re a man who courts suffering, Mal, like you need it to breathe.” A beat. “But there’s no need. My boy, suffering will find you. Have no doubt. It finds us all. Perhaps you should ask yourself if it’s time you stop looking for it.”

He turned his eyes up toward the man and cracked a wry grin. “Your preaching’s bound to draw one hell of a crowd on Haven, Shepherd. You know just how to cheer a fella up.”

The holy man let out a laugh. “So I’ve been told.”

They sat in silence for some time before the preacher finally stood. Laid a hand on Mal’s shoulder on his way past, pausing. “I’ve been thinking about something you told me, Mal, not so very long ago. You told me that your word was air, worth nothing to no one and not to be trusted. You may tell yourself that, but I don’t believe it. I believe your word means a great deal to you. Use it wisely.”

***

Kaylee was at his side in an instant, but the boy didn’t seem too much perturbed from where he lay on the ground, propped up on his left elbow. (Touched his upper lip with the fingers up his right hand, testing for blood, and nodded with some strange satisfaction, it seemed to Mal, when they came away red.) “I’ve been waiting for you to do that since yesterday. Do you feel better now?”

He looked down at his fist, still clenched. “Can’t say I feel any worse. Might feel even better if I did it again.”

The doctor pushed himself to his feet (Kaylee with her arm around his waist), still with a hand to his nose. “So, are you ready to get to work?”

Eyes narrowed: “Were you or were you not just complaining that I didn’t ask her permission for this little adventure?”

“Not complaining; just making an observation.”

He arched an eyebrow. “That so.”

The doctor shrugged. “Certainly. How could you have done anything else, after all? If you’d told her, she would have said no. And then, Mal, I don’t think you could have gone. Because you’d’ve had to tell her you wouldn’t.”

***

end chapter 11

COMMENTS

Saturday, November 28, 2009 9:27 PM

BYTEMITE


This one has an interesting bit of companion lore. and dealing with Simon coming out of the shuttle in better days. And, of course, the punch.

Monday, August 6, 2012 11:36 AM

AMDOBELL


Much as I like this story you really are making Mal into an extra nasty mean old man, aren't you? That kind of saddens me, as if you are deliberately stripping him of any redeeming features. Good to see Book in there though he would never have called the Captain, 'My boy'. And funnily enough I never got the notion that Mal hated Simon in the series or the film, just that they clashed as folk that see things differently are wont to do. I do think there were things he hated about Simon such as his Core bred upbringing and such but as the series went on you could them come to respect each other and I always felt he let Simon and River stay on his boat for River's sake, as if he saw her as an innocent that needed his protection and by extension included Simon too. It is an interesting take of yours having the reason being his fear that if Simon left so would Inara. And as for her accumulated wealth, I can see that but would have expected her to have left a sealed letter addressed to Mal to explain her gift to Serenity so that he would actually accept it. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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M/I. Post-BDM. In which your author gives you a glimmer of hope.

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M/I. Post-BDM. The journey reaches its end.

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M/I. Post-BDM. Beginning and ending with a kiss. Nearing the end.

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M/I. Post-BDM. On coming full circle.

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M/I. Post-BDM. On lying and learning to let go.

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M/I. Post-BDM. The things we risk and the things we hide.

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M/I. Post-BDM. On Miranda and descending into the dark. Here there be monsters.

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M/I. Post-BDM. On making waves.

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Something To Think On: Chapter 11
M/I. Post-BDM. More on giving, and some punching.