The Bouncing Ball Ch 11
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jane and I are here again... hoping that you enjoy our next chapter. Cat argues...


Chapter 10 Six hours later, Cat woke to Declan staring at her. He reached out to touch her face and she stopped him. "I meant what I said before. I can't do this." Looking down at his pants that were still on, he smiled. "Don't think we did." "Declan, I ..." Her voice stumbled and then she took a breath. "This is just complicated." As her words slipped from her mouth, the sexy smile turned into an angry frown. Throwing the blankets from them, he shook his head. "It's always been about Reynolds. Just admit it." "What the hell?" Cat rumbled, staring at him as the cool of the black slid over her scantily clad body. "Your jumps ... always about Mal. Claim to love my dad, yet, where the hell is he? Dead ... dying ... or just an inconvenience?" "You better be glad you're 'Ski's son, Declan," Cat warned, a fury in her eyes he'd only read about. "Thrilled, I assure you." He looked at her for a moment and then shook his head. "You know what I really want to know, Cat? Just this. How the hell can a woman that runs as hot as you be so damn cold?" "What?" The statement took her a second to process, and by then Declan had gotten out of bed. "Need to go for a walk." Cat wasn't used to someone raising his voice in anger at her, at least not when it came to her mission, but for a moment, it felt almost perversely good. 'Ski never fought with her, at least not for real. If anything, they settled their disagreements with a good spar, ones that could have led further, but then her husband always respected her wishes. 'Ski knew her ... like no one else did. No one ... "You don't know me," she snarled, guilt flaring into anger. "Does anyone? Have you ever let anyone inside those damn walls of yours so they get to know the real you?" He glared at her, his hands on his hips. "You wouldn't like the real me." "How the hell do you know?" "Trust me." She controlled her other half, trying to regain her calm. "Those stories they told ... the ones about me ... they've given you this rose-coloured idea of who I am. Well, I'm not. I'm not a hero - that was your father, and Mal ... I'm just a weapon. That's it." "Then why are you here? If that's all you are..." "Because every weapon, no matter how gorram perfect, has flaws..." Standing, she grabbed her clothes from the floor and walked out. Seconds later, a catlike shadow passed by the door following her. ==== "I'm an idiot, Rex, flat out idiot." Cat shook her head as she paced up and down the upper catwalk, making sure she was alone. Batha licked at her paw with that smug look on her features, wanting to talk, but Cat didn't really want to hear what the feline had to say. It would be smart, rude, and, most annoyingly ... true. Exactly what she needed to hear. Just not yet. "Because you almost slept with a twenty six year old man. Ya, Kitten, I can see the problem there." A moment before his voice came back online. "Trying to find it anyway." "I love his father. Ain't fair to the son." "If I remember right, his pa's dead. No walking on his grave or anything, Sugar toes, but you need to face the facts. Besides, you can't tell me his dad was all you were thinking of last night. Even I know you better than that." "I'm here for Mal. Save him, right the 'verse, and then get the hell out of Dodge. Don't need anything else gumming up the works." "Sound like Mal there. Funny thing, he always did get in the way of what he loved too." "I don't love Declan. I love his father, 'Ski. Man you never had the pleasure meeting." "I'm sure he was all that and a bunch of juggled geese ... Kitten, woman can love more than one man and if this husband of yours was around, he'd tell you that. Hell, he got married, had a family, didn't he? Or is Declan a figment of your imagination?" He didn't let her respond, just carried on, "And Mal ... I thought he'd be moping after Inara for the rest of his life, yet here he is, wife and kids. Listen, you just stop being such a gloomy gus and live a little 'fore you die." She wasn't sure if Rex was talking to her toward the end of the statement, but somehow, it still hit home. 'Ski would want her happy and though he'd been gone for so long, her head still rang from his speeches of her being way too uptight. "You're right, Rex." She took a breath and then spoke again. "So, why didn't you?" "Why didn't I what?" "Move on. Been mourning her for years now. Why didn't you move on?" "I haven't found the right one yet, I guess, and then well, there's this redhead who keeps me pretty busy with her calling all hours of the night. Awful hard to explain." She could hear him laugh at her as she leaned against the railing. "Ain't no one I'd rather have at the wheel, Rex," she whispered gently. "You gonna be okay? Knowing he's here with someone else and all." "It's hard to watch. Married and with children ... something I could never give Mal. Part of me wants to walk up and kiss him, tell him I'm sorry ... that I wasn't there when he was shot, but I know ... I KNOW that this isn't Mal, at least not my Mal and this one is happy, fully functional, and now ... fully relying on me to do my job. All the while, I'm having a crisis of conscience about a man who happens to be the son of my husband. I should be concentrating on this mission, Rex." "Damn, Cat, you ought to be on one of those Cortex talk shows, baring your soul to billions," he said, almost admiringly, then went on, "You know not everyone has to think you're some hard ass with claws and fangs." He paused to let it sink in. "In fact, I have it under good authority that one of us actually believes you to be more woman than you let on." "Shut up." But she grinned. "Just don't make the same mistakes twice and do what you're best at, Cat. Save the day." His voice had gotten soft as she wiped a tear from her eye. "And let yourself go for once. You might be well over the seventy mark, but, Kitten, you sure as hell don't look it." "Aye yi, Boss man." "Don't call me that. Besides, if I was boss, there are several different places and times we'd be going ..." She could hear some old Earth music in the background as she shook her head. Words poured over and some she could just make out ... something about love and lonely hearts belonging to a club. "Thanks, Rex." "Anytime, Kitten." The static cleared as their transmission ended and she looked down over the ship. Serenity still felt like home, especially with everyone asleep, even if it was the deep unconsciousness of the drunken stupor. Thankfully, the men had all finally made it to their own beds, though blankets trailed toward the various quarters. A presence by her hand made Cat smile. 'Okay, Bat, what is it?' 'Should tell Reaver Chow truth. Deserves it.' 'For once, stay out of my head.' 'Why? Head confused. I help.' 'Because right now, you're not. What do I tell him? That his father isn't the man he thinks he is? That I tried to save his father first, begged to be returned to that moment to make it all better? He won't understand. No one understands.' 'One moment. Changed much.' 'In our lives, yes. And I made the wrong decision.' 'Not one I speak of. Other.' 'When he chose not to return me to them? The Academy?' 'Yes. That one. Changed lives. Made less monsters. More heroes.' 'Maybe.' 'See? Help.' 'Shut up.' 'Knew reason before you did.' 'What? Why I brought him?' 'Yes.' 'He's good back up. Men that are coming for us are learning our weaknesses.' 'Lie.' 'Fine. I brought him because i have the same problem you do. I can't move on and I can't let go.' 'I can.' 'That's why you cling to Bethie. She reminds you of Kitty before she grew up and didn't need you any more.' 'Cubs grow.' 'Yes, they do. Still doesn't mean we love them any less. Lovers leave, are pushed away, and die. Doesn't mean that we stopped loving them.' 'No goodbye.' 'What?' 'Kitty. No goodbye.' 'We were at war. She had to leave to be safe. Both she and the Seer knew that.' 'Yes.' 'And she loved you with all her heart.' 'I... her. Wasn't enough.' 'Yes, it was, Batha. It was always enough.' Her fingers rolled over the panther's back as she sighed. 'Love was never the problem.' 'Duty. Protect the Pack.' 'Yup.' 'Need him, though. To understand, give hope.' 'How's Declan give hope? The 'verse will continue on even if he leaves us or dies.' 'Not universe I talk about. Know you. Know thoughts.' 'Stay out of my head, Bat.' 'Not in head. In heart. Feel it when you look at him. Even when you hide it.' 'So much like him.' 'Need him to complete mission. Makes you remember.' 'Remember what?' 'Not animal. Not human, but still woman.' Batha purred gently as Cat opened her eyes, just enough to watch a long tail disappear back towards the kids' bedroom. ==== Declan walked into the room, taking another look at the covers still messed up from the night before. He could still feel her in his arms, warm against him and real. It hadn't been just a dream and though he longed for this all his life, the idea of being left like his father frightened him. Unlike his dad, this place wasn't home and he had no one else save for the woman he was mad at, the same one he was fighting to keep from falling for. He leaned to take the top sheet in his fingers and began to make the bed, busying his mind with something other than the smell of her. Shaking out the red comforter, something slid to the ground: Cat's long sleeve shirt. It had been the one she seemed to always wear and, though clearly a man's, Declan couldn't help but think of her as sexy in it. It was soft as he bent down to grab it, his finger sliding through a hole in the shoulder. At first, Dec thought it was a rip, one he had caused, but something around the tear caught his attention. Bloodstains as well as powder burns ... it was a bullet hole. Slowly tracing around, he found another in the left arm. Didn't his father have scars in both those spots? "He left it in his room when we parted ways. Not sure if it was intentional or accidental. 'Nother thing I wanted to return, but never had the chance." It was a lie and Cat knew it, something telling her Declan knew it, too. "You really did love him, didn't you?" It was a gentle voice, but still held the bitterness she knew in her heart she deserved. "Your father? Yes." Taking the shirt from him as if it were the only thing important in the room, her arms clung to it, pulling the soft material tight against her. "Then why did you walk away?" He looked at her. "You were all he had. Mal had all of this." "Because I'm not like you." She sighed. "I'm not human." "Seem pretty human to me." "Really? A human woman would see that this Mal is no different from the one she saw die more times than she can count. The human woman would beg him to take her ... make love to her so she can feel his comfort one more damn time ... most of all, a human woman would have gotten over the mistake she made a long time ago ..." Something flashed in her eyes, darkness as her body flexed in the dim lights. The transformation was only a flash, nothing more. As if for a second, Cat was something else entirely. "So many people mistake me as human and they die because they forget that I'm not." "Dad never did." "No. Of everyone I ever knew, he was the only one who knew what I was as well as who." "The reason you won't let anyone else in ... you're scared to." "I've lost everyone that meant something to me and all this shit they did to me ... I couldn't stop them from dying." Taking a knife from the nightstand, she cut herself and watched it close before she had finished the down stroke. "This is me. Damn near immortal. But immortality at what price? To see every single loved one die." She threw the knife at the wall, watching as it stuck, quivering, in the bulkhead. "Now I know why they made me a weapon and not something more humane." "Dad never saw you as that. Not once ... and I'm sure neither did Mal." It was odd to hear the boy defending the captain, but filled with that same bitterness somehow it meant nothing. She turned on him. "I told you before. I would give anything to go back and change the past. Anything to return to that moment and tell your father that I would never leave his side, but I can't. It was a mistake and I live with that fact forever. No excuses ... I did what I thought was right and I wasn't." "Then go back and make it right." He looked at her, an odd yearning in his eyes. She shook her head. "I'm not allowed to. No second chances in my own 'verse. Besides, you do realize had I stayed with your dad, you'd not be alive, right?" "Yup." It was short, which didn't surprise Cat in the least. Somehow, as much as she wanted to say he was wrong ... she knew she couldn't. "And it doesn't bother you ... not existing?" "It does, but then I wouldn't be standing here wondering why in the hell the woman who claims to be immortal let my father die." Something snapped in Cat, her body slamming against him and pushing them both to the wall as the shirt fell to the ground unnoticed. A growl that shook the very fibres of their beings slid from her mouth, fangs just barely catching the light. "How dare you?" No fear touched his features as Declan stared back into her eyes, his imitating 'Ski's almost perfectly. "Gonna kill me, Cat 1313?" "It would make things easier." She snarled, watching the throbbing of his pulse at the base of his throat. So very, very easy just to bite and tear, feel the blood spatter against her skin ... "Well, you always seem to take the easy road. Kill me and you won't have to live with the reminder of my father everyday. Just ignore those memories, like those tags around your neck, like being in love, but choosing everything before it." His haunted eyes held hers firm and it was Cat who blinked first. "Why do you hate me? What the hell did I do to you? I understand that your father hated me. I walked away from him, but you ... that decision gave you life. You should be thanking me." "You stupid woman," he whispered. "Don't you get it? Enhanced to the Nth degree and still can't cope human emotions. I don't hate you, Cat." Leaning forward, he kissed her, not sure what would happen next. Still, if he was going to die by her hand, he might as well be doing something he liked. Releasing her lips, his head fell back against the wall as his fingers played with the tags around her neck. "And neither did my father." "I ... I'm so sorry." Taking a step back, she drew in a deep breath watching him slowly approach her. His hand slid behind her back and Declan drew him against her before kissing her again, this time without the gentleness of before. Cat returned it for a moment and then pulled away. "Declan ..." "Dec." "What?" "You won't call me Dec. Why?" Because you're not your father. Oh, no, not the right words to use at this precise moment. "It's your name. Declan." "No. That's my father's name. Except you never called him that, did you?" "'Ski. It was always 'Ski." Or Old Man. "Then why won't you call me Dec?" "If that's what you want." She whispered it as his mouth curled in a grin. "Might not be the only thing, but for now, it works." Letting her go, his hand just barely traced her cheek, where her soft hair fell in her face. "We land on Persephone soon. If Mal really does kick us off, we might want to gather our things." He began to walk away, but leaned down handing her his father's shirt. "And you don't want to forget this." "I don't deserve this treatment." She sighed as her fingers took the offered object. "I dragged you here, made you part of this mess, and never once asked how you felt about it." "No, you didn't, but it's how you are. Think maybe that's what caught my dad, too. You're always an adventure and no matter where the road takes you, there is always a good fight to be had." He grinned that crooked smile his father was famous for. "And that, Red, I'm always ready for." ==== "Are you leaving?" Bethie was standing in the centre of the cargo bay, looking up at the mule. Cat leaned over the side where she was repacking her stuff. "Looks like." "Why?" "Because your Uncle Mal doesn't want us on board." "Why?" Bethie started to roll her foot. "I like you." Cat sighed and vaulted to the bay floor, landing with barely a sound. "Bethie ... we're not pets. We're not like Fiddler. You can't keep us." "Didn't say you were." The footroll intensified. So like Kitty ... "Bethie, whatever happens, we'll still be your friends. Dong mah?" "S'pose." She went down onto her heels. "Do you really think Batha will ever forget you?" Bethie's frown turned into a smile. "Batha's fun." Cubs too. Bethie giggled at the panther voice in their heads. "See?" Cat said. The little girl nodded, then threw herself into Cat's embrace. "Love you," she whispered. For a long moment Cat didn't know what to do, then her arms decided for her. They came up, holding the little girl close. "Don't worry," she said softly. "There's a long time between now and then. I should know." The ship shuddered. "Daddy says everyone has a headache," Bethie sighed. Cat couldn't help the smile. "Really?" "Uncle Hank said he was going to ask Uncle Jayne to shoot him." "Is that a fact." Bethie pulled back and fixed the redhead with a gaze that was far older than her eight years. "I'm never going to get drunk," she stated. "Good idea." The little girl grinned widely, adding, "Stinky." "Absolutely." Bethie giggled again, then turned, running back towards the common area, her long honey-coloured hair flying. Cat watched her go, and shook her head slowly. How come Serenity always managed to attract crew who procreated such amazing children? Sighing, she put up her hand to climb back into the mule, but a tugging on her pants made her stop and look down. "Hey." "Hello." It was Hope, her sweet face turned up, having managed to somehow creep up on her. "Here." She held out a folded sheet of paper. "For me?" Cat was surprised. She rarely got gifts, at least those she could enjoy. The little girl nodded her blonde head. "I drew it." "Thanks." Expecting to see the kind of drawing any normal six year old would do, Cat opened it up. And gasped. "You did this?" Hope smiled shyly. "Auntie River's been giving me lessons for a long time now," she admitted. "Do you like it?" "I ... yes. I like it very much." She stared at the page. It was Batha, but this was a Batha about to leap from the paper. Executed in fine black lines, Cat could almost feel the heat of her fur, hear her grumbling. Being Hope, the panther also had a pink bow around her ear. "It's so you don't forget us," Hope explained. "That isn't gonna happen." "Good." The little girl skipped off, joining Bethie and the others hiding not very well behind the common area hatch. Cat's eyes narrowed as the truth began to dawn, and she started to understand just how tricky the Firefly's children could be. 'Want us to stay'. 'Not up to us, Bat.' 'Need to tell truth.' 'That's not up to us either.' 'Don't want to go.' 'I never knew you could be brainwashed.' 'Cubs ... insistent.' 'I know ...' Above her, on the catwalk by the top doorway, Mal took a deep breath before heading to the kitchen, wondering exactly what he was supposed to do now. ==== "People, you might wanna hold on to something," Hank's voice said over the internal com. "We're coming in to land at Eavesdown, and the way I'm feeling I might just crash us, just to put me out of my misery." "Can I kill 'im, Mal? Please?" Jayne begged, his hands making fists as if they were already around a certain pilot's neck. "You'd have to get in line," Simon put in, stepping down into the kitchen. "Here." "What's that?" Mal asked, looking at the two tiny tablets in the young man's palm. "Painkillers. I've run out of smoothers, but these will work fine in a while." "How long?" Grabbing them, Jayne tossed them into his mouth and swallowed. "Thirty minutes or so." He dispensed another two for Mal. The ship jolted as it dropped the last few feet to their dock. "Too long, doc," Serenity's captain said, fighting down a wave of nausea. "Hank ain't gonna live that long." ==== "It's raining," Hank said, walking carefully down the stairs so as to avoid any unnecessary noise. "That we found out." Mal was standing at the open airlock, the colder air pushing past him. Outside people hurried by under whatever they could find, and the ground was churned into a quagmire. "It's the rainy season," Hank went on. "Persephone has a rainy season?" Jayne asked, checking he had the requisite number of weapons on his person. "'Parrently." "Well, I ain't waiting for it to stop." Mal looked at Simon. "You know what you need?" The young doctor nodded carefully. "I have a list." "Sir, shouldn't one of us stay behind?" Zoe asked. "Keep an eye on things?" "Frey's not coming," Mal said, more than a little annoyed that his good lady wife appeared to be none the worse for wear. "She can make sure we ain't boarded." "Kaylee hasn't even surfaced," Simon added. "Nor's moonbrain." Jayne chuckled hoarsely. "Can't take her drink." "Unlike us." Cat watched them, her eyes slitted slightly, not allowing her amusement to show on her face. One of the few things she was grateful for was the lack of hangovers, even if she didn't get the enjoyment of being drunk either. Batha huffed gently. 'Want to come.' "No." Mal shook his head, then wished he hadn't. "You're not." 'Why?' "Because even though Eavesdown is full o' interesting and downright dangerous things, a big damn panther is gonna attract attention." 'Not seen.' "You can guarantee that, can you?" He knew he must look odd, talking to an overgrown pussy, but went on, "Simon's going with Hank to get more supplies -" "Lotsa smoothers," Jayne muttered, but was ignored. "- and Cat can come with us, see if Badger has any info, but you ain't going." 'Not fair.' "I don't particularly care. Stay." 'Not dog. Dog not bite off leg.' "What?" 'Hide it. For later.' Batha swung her tail. 'Captain Man taste good.' "How the hell would you know that?" 'Me know. You find out.' Batha turned and padded away, her laughter echoing in their heads. "Okay," Hank said slowly. "Anyone else feel creeped out by that?" Mal sighed and fastened his coat. "Honestly? I ain't stopped feeling like that for near on a week." "I don't think she meant it," Cat said. "Think?"


Tuesday, November 16, 2010 3:25 PM


Hooray, great to have more! My, poor Cat is really twisted up with competing emotions and then there is Declan added to the mix. I just love Bantha and how the children take to her is wonderful. I wish Cat would tell Mal the truth but maybehaps that would just make the situation worse? Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010 2:14 AM


I sense a visit with Uncle Badger coming up... this should be fun.

- 'Ski


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